Strongbow 1972-1978 (Axis)

Columbus, 1972-78

Top row L-R:Bill Bendler, Michael Shortland Bottom row L-R: David Smith, John Durzo, John Stelzer

The second version of Strongbow started when Dave Smith met Bill Bendler when both were playing in the Rhodes Brothers touring band. David (drums) and Bill (vocals, trombone) wanted to play in a progressive hard rock band, so they left and got together with Sandy Edelstine (formerly of the Jaguars/Baroque Montly) and Bud Fowler to form Axis. Later in 1972 "Buzz" Ashton replaces Edelstine on guitar, and Mike Haines returns on bass. The band resurrects the Strongbow name and plays a lot of gigs in Michigan. Ashton departs, to be replaced with Michael Shortland (guitar) and John Stelzer (organ, sax, flute, synth, and vocals).

In the summer (likely July) of 1973 Strongbow went to Cleveland Recording and cut two original songs - "If You're Going to the City" (by John Stelzer) and "Change" (by Bill Bendler and Mike Haines). The 45 was released on the band's own Epodus label with the songs published under "Pizza music" - "If You Don't Like it, Eat It"!

John Durzo provides a first hand account - "I joined in October 1973. Mike Haines had just quit. The line-up was Bill Bendler, John Stelzer, Michael Shortland, and David Smith. It was an INCREDIBLE band, a musician's band. We toured throughout Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, Georgia and Florida. We opened for Ted Nugent at Alex Cooley's Electric Ballroom and then six months later came in as the opening act for Elvin Bishop. We opened for Bob Seger, Cactus, Thee Image, and tons of other national and regional acts. The writing of the band was definitely edgy, but the covers we played ranged from Iron Man to Can't Get Next To You. We kind of had a Uriah Heep/Deep Purple sound, due largely to the Hammond B3, but also had horn arrangements in some songs and straight forward driving rockers. We had a LARGE following who would pack every show we did, especially after the album was released. The disolution of the band was mainly due to poor management and the record company going belly up. I left in 1976 to play with a group called Tyler, and Mike Shoaf (ed. note - Mike had been in local bands in the 60s, including the Gears) took my place. I believe that Strongbow lasted until 1977, or there about."

Strongbow released an LP in 1975 on Buddah's Southwind subsidiary. The band had recorded a demo LP of seven original songs at Owl in Columbus, but re-recorded them at Buddah's request. John Durzo - "The reason for re-recording was the record company (Southwind) didn't like the sound quality (or they wanted to be able to fleece more money from us somehow). Mega Sound Studios in Bailey, NC, was - as I recall - a rat-infested little dump out in the middle of a field, miles from civilization. It sounded okay there, and there was room to spread the equipment out and isolate big amps (Ampeg SVTs) with fans from the speaker cabinets and mics, etc. The album kind of got wimpy-ized during the mastering or pressing. That's why I prefer the Owl demos on Con Carne to the actual album. It sounded more "Strongbow." In 2001 the band released a CD of the Owl recordings entitled "Con Carne" - a meatier sound. "We played all the album songs live. Our concert sets were usually 95% original. When we were on the bar circuit, we had a pile of covers that we used to fill the 4 or 5 sets per night."

"In 1975, Strongbow went on a western jaunt, playing in Sioux Falls, SD on our way to California. We went to the Starwood in LA, where we opened for Lydia Pense and Cold Blood for 3 nights, then opened for Ruby Starr and Grey Ghost for another 3 nights. One of Michael Shortland's old girlfriends was living out there and brought in her boyfriend to see a show. It was John Mayall of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers fame He actually got up on stage with us and jammed for 40 minutes. What a set! Boy, was Ruby Starr's entourage pissed off! Oh, well. We went back to his house and helped him celebrate his son's 16th birthday party. Quite a list of Rock'n'roll Who's Who there as well. Joe Cocker, Richie Blackmore, then I passed out.....from there, back to Columbus for a couple of months of sold-out shows."

thanks John Durzo, David Smith and Sterling Smith