Initially a product of Beatle-mania, the British Invasion, and the liberal youth movement of the 1960's, The Haymarket Riot rose to the top of the local scene at a time when rock music was a defining element of American culture. The group developed quickly from high school band to a staple of the local college circuit, and evolved into a regional powerhouse that played more than 100 shows a year across the Midwest.
In 1974, the group was signed to a recording contract with London Records, the British mega-label and home of The Rolling Stones and The Moody Blues, among others. The Riot continued through the 70's and into the early 1980's until the band members finally went their separate ways, many enjoying continued success at various levels within the music industry. A performance in 1994 at the Ludlow Garage Reunion in Eden Park created a spark that led to informal jam sessions and parties in recent years, and culminated in the Grand Reunion on August 20th.
The original Haymarket Riot lineup was formed in 1965 when G. Parker and Steve Helwig, both students at McNicholas high school, became acquainted though frequent meetings in the principal's office for violating the school's dress code on hair length. They discovered a shared enthusiasm for the Beatles, the Who, and other British rock bands that were breaking onto the American music scene, and started playing music together. With the addition of Jerry Peeno and Rick Somboretz, two Anderson high school students with similar musical influences (and disciplinary problems), The Haymarket Riot was born.
After some practice in garages and basements and parties around Mt. Washington, the band got its first paying job in early 1967. They became a regular at high school and teen dances around town, and eventually began playing regular gigs at college bars in Clifton - despite the fact that they were under the legal drinking age (18 at the time) and much younger than the audiences there.
Success came quickly, and they soon were playing several shows a week at popular Clifton clubs like The Ludlow Garage, The Round Table, Reflections, and Alexander's Tavern. Their popularity spread throughout the tri-state area, and they began traveling to play in front of college crowds in Oxford OH, Lexington KY, and Bloomington IN, and clubs in nearby cities like Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland.
As the 60's turned into the 70's, the group experienced some turnover and introduced new members including Wes Boatman, Tom Vogel, Mike Cornett, and Gary Griffin. They moved into a house together and continued to perform several nights a week, while also concentrating on writing their own original material.
All the hard work paid off in 1974 with the London Records contract. Although the label did not promote the Haymarket Riot as heavily as some of their other acts, the signing is considered a professional high-point for the band and an important recognition of their talent. One 45 was released as part of the contract.
Another highlight for the band, on a more personal level, came at a Vietnam War protest rally on the University of Cincinnati campus in the spring of 1970. The event took place in a charged atmosphere just weeks after the infamous shootings at Kent State University, and drew a crowd of thousands of UC students and local activists. The Haymarket Riot was part of a bill that featured several local bands and a host of political speakers, including a young Jerry Springer.
Since leaving The Haymarket Riot, most band members have remained in the music business in one way or another, and achieved considerable success.
Wes Boatman became a member of The Ohio Players from 1980 to 1984, and co-wrote songs with funk pioneers like Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, and Junie Morrison. More recently, he formed his own company and writes musical scores for films and television programs. He has won seven Emmy Awards for his writing in daytime drama's, including Guiding Light, Another World, and Passions. Wes currently lives in Los Angeles but will return for the Grand Reunion concert.
Gary Griffin joined the Beach Boys as a touring member of the band through the 1980's, and also had stints with The Turtles and Jan & Dean. He performed with Brian Wilson on The Tonight Show in January, and currently works as music director of Disney's California Music Adventure Theme Park.
G. Parker moved to New York in 1980 to work with members of Todd Rundgren's Utopia, and worked there as a guitar player and singer through the early 90's. He now lives in New Richmond and manages Susan's Natural World with his wife (Susan).
Steve Helwig works for Sony BMG and is currently one of the top music promoters in the Midwest. Tom Vogel is a professional photographer in Cincinnati and performs locally with his band, "Toast". Mike Cornett manages a horse ranch in Georgia while writing and performing faith-based music projects internationally, and Rick Somboretz lives in town developing his hand-made line of "Mirage" guitars.
Jerry Peeno has branched out the farthest, spending half the year in the former Soviet republic of Estonia with his wife, Maige and her family. In summer '06 The Haymarket Riot plans to continue their reunion tour, dust off their rendition of "Back in the U.S.S.R.", and travel to Estonia for a concert in the capitol city of Tallinn.
Thanks to G. Parker, Tom Vogel, and Steve Helwig