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the Bittersweet

Dayton, 1966-9

The Bittersweet was an all girl band formed by Judy Rogers in Dayton. The group decided to take their show on the road and found their way to Cleveland where they recorded a 45 for Tema. They cut a charming version of the Tulu Babies "Hurtin' Kind" at Audio (a song choice that must have been made by Jimmy Testa) and performed it on Upbeat. Somewhere along the line their name became plural. For the rest of the story, Penny Cash, formerly of Vicki and the Rest, tells it in her own words.....

"I had been contacted by the group leader, Judy Rogers, asking if I would be interested in taking the place of their bass player, Chris, who was quitting to get married. They had seen me play before with Vicki & the Rest and thought I could fit right in. The Bittersweet had a great booking agent and had them working in Greenwich Village, New York. As I had just been pondering what to do with myself after my H.S. graduation day in June 1967, it was a welcome relief to realize I could make some money doing what I loved. Judy(lead guitar/vocals), Louie Dula(drummer), Rosie Hollo(guitar/vocals) and I became friends instantly and we began playing locally on weekends until my graduation day (my parents gave me a set of luggage). That night we were off to NYC pulling a U-Haul behind an orange Renault listening to Aretha belting out "Respect" on the car radio.

"Our home base was a suite in the old Hotel Albert where many other bands and artists stayed in 'The Village'. They let us set up our equipment in the ballroom for rehearsing and it was a lot of fun to look out the windows to the street below and watch the people trying to figure out where the music was coming from. Pretty soon I started dressing like the other girls in the band and it wasn't long before some young cute guy called us 'Hippies.' We were highly insulted and commented to each other how rude he had been to make fun of our butts like that! Living at that hotel was culture shock for a naive Ohio girl like me. I had suddenly been tossed into the gritty world of sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Although we acted cool and didn't judge others, the Bittersweet stayed on the straight and narrow path. Judy, Louie and Rosie (being Catholic) used to drag this non-religious late sleeper out of bed every Sunday to attend Mass. The closest friends we had at the hotel were the L.A. band, Clear Light, who lived directly below us on the 6th floor. They used to climb up the fire escape and crawl through our kitchen window to visit. Sometimes they would bring groceries and they were always respectful.....most were very successful. The singer, Cliff DeYoung, has made a career as a movie actor, Doug Lubhan played studio bass for the Doors and told us many a tale about Jim Morrison (including the time he tried to drag Tiny Tim off the stage and pummel him), Ralph Schuckett played piano on Carol King's Tapestry album and the drummer, Dallas Taylor went on to play with Crosby, Stills and Nash and has written a book called "Prisoner of Woodstock.' The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mothers of Invention lived at the hotel too and I had many times been on a very quiet ride down the elevator with one of them. Rosie and I, who shared a room, used to see an exhibitionist in the adjacent apartment building. He would walk from room to room with his shades partially drawn so his audience could view him only from the waist down...we would literally roll on the floor laughing at him!

"During the summer of 1967, The Bittersweet played in NYC clubs. I remember a place called 'Barney Googles' where the owner was always trying to get us to play with our tops off....promising to double our pay. Then he would point at my (less than ample) chest and say, "Except for Penny....she's already topless!" Girl bands had to put up with a lot of that stuff back then. Most club owners wanted us to dress sexy, but we wouldn't.

"My favorite club we played was called 'Vito's' on Staten Island. We used to love riding the ferry past the Statue of Liberty to and from work (a little scary at 2:30 AM) every night then stay awake and watch the sun come up. One night en route to the subway, Louie and Judy stopped to talk to some older guy with greased back hair and all black clothes.....a far cry from the colorful clothes and flowing long hair we admired. I stood off to the side with Rosie and asked her, "Who is that greaser?" She couldn't remember his name. It was Neil Diamond, just before his huge success, trying to give us tickets to his show. "Thank God we have to work that night," I remarked. Boy was I stupid!

"I really loved it when Vicki and the Rest visited us that summer....I remember how they wouldn't drink from an open soda can or bottle saying someone might have put LSD in it! Also, the new Pictorian Skiffuls came for a couple of days. Later that summer, we were invited to take part in the Teenage World's Fair in Chicago (The headliner was Neil Diamond wouldn't ya know). We were to participate in a huge nationwide Battle of the Bands. As the four of us were strolling across a large grassy area on our way to play, two uniformed police officers signaled for us to stop. "We need to look inside those guitar cases to see if you have rifles." Nervously, and quite puzzled, we placed our cases on the grass and fidgeted with the locks. I don't know how long those cops had been laughing, but they were both wiping away tears and could hardly stand by the time I realized it had been a joke. Imagine rifles in a guitar case at a big public event....unthinkable in 1967, but not so far-fetched now! The Bittersweet made it all the way to the top two bands. Rumor had it that it was all fixed for us because our photo had been featured in the event brochure. If we had played "My Back Pages" (Byrds version) and our best song, I think we would have won. I was outvoted by the others and we played that crap song, "If You Go to San Francisco"....YUK!!! So the coveted prize of all new band equipment, cash and a USO tour went to the Rock-A-GoGos who won with a rousing version of the Youngblood's, "Grizzly Bear."

"After Chicago, we headed to Cleveland where we played at a few clubs and stayed at the Hotel Versailles (probably long gone). We ended up at a party with Herman's Hermits, only Herman wasn't around and the guitar player with glasses kept calling me Pocahontas (I was wearing a headband) so we left....and to think that I had chased them around the block in Dayton just a few years earlier! Just next door to the hotel was a TV studio where performers went on the air live. The Bittersweet had already been on and we were in the audience watching an up and coming comedian named George Carlin. I felt bad for him because he was completely bombing on live TV....nobody was responding and he was begining to break out in a sweat. Judy, Rosie, Louie and I decided to give him sympathy laughter so we hooted it up. We spoke with him for a few minutes after the show thinking he would never make it in comedy.

"After that, we were booked at a big dance/concert hall in Kalamazoo, Michigan to open for the Blues Magoos (who we already knew well from NYC) and Jefferson Airplane. It was steaming hot that night and I remember how nice it felt to be done playing and inside the air-conditioned tour bus. We had played first, then the Blues Magoos and when they were finished, I sat in their tour bus learning the bass part to 'We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet' from the bass player while listening to a muffled Grace Slick singing 'Somebody to Love' from inside the sauna-like building and wondering if people were fainting from the heat.

"Later that fall, the Bittersweet shared a huge house in Cincinnati with a band called 'The Village Idiots' and I can say the name was very befitting (the drummer wore a dead alligator hanging from a rope around his neck). We played mostly college clubs and a nightclub called the Apartment. The GoGo dancers there would always ask us to play "Ban Won't Wear Off as the Day Wears On" from the deodorant commercial and people were outraged because the cost of cigarettes from the machine had risen to 50 cents!

"While living in Cincinnati, we commuted to Louisville, KY and played at a club called The Jewel Box where most of the customers were men dressed as women. I never saw so many gorgeous ladies the night of the drag ball! It was hilarious when a hypnotist put Rosie under and caused her to forget her lyrics when she stepped up to the mike....I'll never forget her horrified expression!

"In the winter of 1967, I left the Bittersweet. I ended up in New Bedford married to a drummer I had met in New York the previous summer. That's a whole other story, but the best thing was I met some terrific people....one of whom is still a friend. Also, my ex had jammed with Jimmy Hendrix before in the Village, so I got to meet Jimmy and shake his hand after a concert in Providence R.I.

"In January 1969 I received another invitation from Judy to rejoin the band who had jobs lined up in Florida. I was grateful once more for the opportunity because my 13 month marriage was coming to an end. By this time, the only original member was Judy. The Bittersweet had a new drummer named Marcia Bayles and Judy's older sister, Marilyn was playing keyboard. Our first job together was during spring break in Fort Lauderdale at a club called SHE. Everyone in the crowd was so young (I was 20) and I kept watching Marilyn at the keys and wondering why at her advanced age of 28, she would want to play in a band! We also played at Trude Heller's in West Palm Beach where 50 something Trude didn't think there was anything at all wrong with Marilyn....if you get my drift.

"For some reason or other, Marcia and I became disgruntled by the end of summer and after finishing out a contract, rented a U-Haul and headed for Dayton leaving Judy and Marilyn to fend for themselves. I wish I could remember why because now I feel bad about how it all ended."