Fariview Park/Parma, 1965-7
L-R: (top) Mike Kaminoski, Thom Prendergast, Gary Harrington (bottom) Rob Ruzga, Russ Koberna
Formed by former Tree Stumps member Gary Harrington, Kicks, Inc rose quickly to one of the top teen bands in Cleveland. Gary recruited keyboard player Russ Koberna who Gary had met when Russ was playing in the Montereys. Also brought in were drummer Thom Prendergast, guitarist Mike Kaminoski, and bassist Rob Ruzga, the first two (and probably Ruzga) were from the Parma area.
Kicks, Inc played their first real job at the Note in Huron and were an immediate sensation - their combination of 'mod' British sounds and for the times, a wild stage attitude were new for Cleveland - and the teens loved it. Walt Masky became their manager and got them gigs at clubs like the Chagrin Armory (which he booked) and huge WIXY Superstar teen shows at the Hippodrome theatre and Akron Civic Theatre with Terry Knight and the Pack, the Happenings, the Rationals and the McCoys. The band could easily draw 1000 teens to a performance on their own as their popularity quickly increased. The biggest Kicks Inc audience was in Toledo where they opened for Paul Revere and the Raiders. Detroit faves Tim Tam and the Turn-Ons were also on that bill that drew over 8000 fans. The band also performed with the WHK Good Guys at area mall teen fashion shows, The Galaxy of Stars Teen Fair at Chippewa Lake Park, and local clubs like The Rolling Stone and Otto's Grotto.
The next step to breaking the band would have been a record, and the group went to Cleveland Recording and cut "Substitute", a live favorite that was still pretty unknown (the Who had recorded the original which got a few spins on Cleveland radio in early '66). For the flip side, Kicks Inc recorded a song called "She". It was a Boyce & Hart tune which automatically brought an upside for marketability. As Russ Koberna recollected, "We heard the Boyce & Hart demo that Walt Masky obtained in New York. He (Masky) made an effort to select songs which had potential to become hits". Regarding the mod feel and rock sound used by Kicks on the recording, Russ said, "it was a combination of us playing our own style combined with what we heard from the demo. The mod feel was our style and we picked songs in that mode." Either side could have been a hit if promoted. It sounded much different from 95% of Cleveland bands at the time, but for some reason Masky didn't get the sides placed to a record company.
The group performed each of the songs on two seperate Upbeat shows. Per Russ, the shows aired October 29, 1966, and either February or March '67. Russ has a clipping from the Plain Dealer, Fridays - "The Happening section, written by Jane Scott announcing the lineup for Saturday's Upbeat Show - which was: The Youngbloods, Sam the Sham and the Pharohs, Eddie Rambeau, Kicks Inc., Lou Christie, The Dovels, B.B.King, The Rare Breed, and Tomeiko Jones. Russ said BB King played live, which in hindsight was a really cool thing to see. All in all a good lineup - no wonder so many people watched the show".
Shortly after the second Upbeat show appearance, Rob Rugza had some personal circumstance that forced him to leave the group, which marked the beginning of the end for the band. Former Choir bassist Dave Burke came in. Russ recalls, "Dave stepped in like he always played with us - but unfortunately it didn't last long". Internal strife and power struggles brought an end to the band in April, as Gary and Russ quit and the other guys threw in the towel shortly thereafter. Russ was quickly recruited into Renaissance Faire, while Rob Ruzga embarked on a wild rock-n-roll life which included a fill-in stint with Tiffany Shade before some time in Detroit with a couple bands prior to joining Ted Nugent for his 1970 "Survival of the Fittest Live" LP. Ruzga has continued to play in bands up to the present. The post-Kicks, Inc career, and whereabouts, of Prendergast is unkwown, while Kaminoski surfaced in the 1980s band Vacant Lots, who were an offshoot of faux-punks the Baloney Heads.