Denny Carleton

Interview by Lance Records (appeared April 2001)

About the Lost Souls 60's Band

Q) What was your musical experience prior to joining the Lost Souls?

"When Larry Tomczack and I (the drummer for the Lost Souls) saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, we decided to start a band. So we asked our friends if they wanted to join and we all took lessons up a Sodjas music - a local store. Nine months later, after two of the friends had dropped out, we started the Lost Souls and I have been doing music ever since."

Q) Who formed the Lost Souls? What year was this? Please list original member's names and instruments.

"If I remember clearly it was Larry Tomczack and myself. The original lineup was Larry Tomczack - drums, Chuck Mckinley - bass, Rich Schoenaur - sax and flute, Denny Carleton - rhythm guitar and Ed Gazoski - lead guitar. Ed played lead for about three months and then Denny Marek joined us as lead guitar. Denny had been playing since he was about eight years old and helped the band grow very quickly. We all attended the same high school, (St. Joseph High School) in the same grade, and Denny knew us and could see that we were going to be good and wanted to be in the band. Ed played for about another year and then left the band with Denny being the only lead player."

Q) It's well documented in Cleveland music history that early, pre-British Invasion bands were comprised of either "Greasers" or "Mods". In 5000 (just kidding) words or less, could you elaborate on this? How significant was the division between the two band types (any feuding, or snobbery)? Could each group's sound be generalized? Did the Lost Souls consider themselves "Mods"? Or didn't it matter?

"It has become apparent to me that when I try to describe greasers to some of my younger friends that they think this species of human beings do not exist anymore. They always ask me when they read about greasers what they were like. I try to tell them, but they don't get it and I have realized that greasers are extinct. Greasers were not like Fonzy on happy days although they did dress like that. They put grease in their hair and pushed it back like James Dean. They usually were prejudiced but liked soul music a lot. They enjoyed fighting, and shining their shoes with shoe polish. At St. Joes they played some kind of game called rock-paper, scissors. Paper covers rock, scissors is smashed by rock...I never did get it. One on one, most of these guys were OK - but get them in a group and these dudes were scary. Mods on the other hand had long hair, peace, love etc.. When long hair first came out, it seemed to mean something like you were into peace.

So there was a big cultural and sociological change happening - '60s long hair etc. And the greasers were out to stop it. There was a total division. I mean Mods and long hair people and the world and things we take for granted now did not exist before the '60s. I think the greasers had the older view of the world saw the long hair counterculture as a dangerous and bad thing.

What was unique about the Lost Souls is we were able to cross over a little. I was a mod big time all the way. Mod was stamped on my forehead when I was born. If you wanted a textbook study I was it. I like the music the clothes the attitude evrything. The other guys in the band, Rich, Chuck and Larry were nice guys and had long hair, but were able to relate to all the styles of people. Denny Marek was a unique person and a good musician. So basically I didn't get beat up as much by the Greasers because of the other guys contacts and friends. The attitude towards me was, hey you may be a blankety blank blank no good long hair, but your friends with Chuck and Rich and Larry and any one tries to beat on you we will protect you. Most of the time that was the attitude, although one time I was sucker punched by a guy at Bob's Big Boy..I found out recently that fellow is in prison."

Q) Cleveland's garage band scene in the '60's was almost unrivaled in terms of the number of great bands. Aside from the Lost Souls, which bands were your favorite, or which bands did you consider the best of the best? Which bands were your "rival" bands?

"When I was a teenager and all during the 60s there were man rival bands but most of it was friendly and brought out the best in all of us. The Mods who became the Choir were a great band. Ironically, I have a radio program about * Cleveland Music 6:30 EST Friday nights on WELW (7PM Sat), and some of those greaser bands that I have reissued Cds of were great, especially Bocky and the Visions. I always like Wally Bryson. Double Neck guitar doing Byrds - he was great. This was a very good time in Cleveland musical history.. You had a young Joe Walsh playing with the James Gang, Eric Carmen with the Cyrus Erie, The Damnation of Adam Blessing.. I may be biased but bands were just better. I have thought a lot about this and I think one of the keys to creating that environment, with bands and musicians like Phil Keaggy, Eli Radish etc., was that almost every band did originals and covers. The covers made you mainstream and the originals kept it real and important. Now, bands seem to be either a cover band or an all original band."

Q) The Lost Souls became one of Cleveland's best known bands, and played a gig at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. What year was this? What were the circumstances leading to the gig? How did a band without any singles releases get added to such a major concert event? How popular was the band locally?

"The band was unique because we were able to be popular in some places where other bands couldn't go. The Lost Souls could play for and average High School dance for a mod thing and also a greaser types of functions. We had a horn so we could do Motown. I do not remember how we got the stadium gig 1967, but I know we played three times a week for about three years and held attendance records at may clubs. We finished fourth in the Teen Fair voting in 1967 out of all the bands that competed.. Deanna Adams told me that as she was writing her book about the history of the Cleveland music scene, many people she interviewed said that she had to have a special section on the Lost Souls as one of the major Cleveland bands of the '60s. I think that's true."

Q) In a 1967 Cleveland-area Battle of the Bands, the Lost Souls finished fourth. Do you recall which bands finished ahead of you? How many bands entered? Any specific recollections of the event?

"The band that beat us out was called the Penny Arcade. They had their amplifiers made to look like Sergeant Peppers and did all Beatles songs.I don't remember who else competed. There were hundreds of bands that competed. The next year, we entered again thinking we might win and we changed our name to Miniver Cheevy for only that gig. We were disqualified because we entered twice. Im not sure how all that happened and I was bummmed out."

Q) Did the Lost Souls make any local TV appearances? If so, on which shows? Does any 8mm or 16mm footage exist of the band?

"Lost Souls, I believe, was on TV once but it wasn't The Upbeat Show. I don't remember the name of the show. One time I saw at my brother house some footage that he took of us at the Teen Fair. I'll ask him if he can find it."

Q) Though the Lost Souls never released any singles, at least 10 songs have survived. Where were these recorded? What year(s)?

"These songs were recorded mostly in 1966 and 1967. 'My Love I Won't Admit' and 'Look At Me" and "Walkin' Out On Me' was recorded at an audio recording. 'Things That Are Important' and 'Josephine' were recorded on a Teac 2 track recorder."

Q) The band recorded many original compositions. Did the band share equally inn the song writing area, or was there a primary songwriter within the group? Which bands-- national or local--were considered influences?

"I believe I was the primary songwriter, although Denny and Chuck also wrote, and wrote the more unusual Lost Souls songs. I was influenced by everything British and melodic, while Denny Marek loved the Ventures and Chuck loved big vocalists. But I don't know if you can hear those influences.. Their music sounds Asian to me, and I have no idea where that comes from. You should listen to their music and you tell me what influenced it."

Q) The Choir reportedly performed one of your original compositions, entitled "Whatcha Gonna' Do?" How did this come about?

"I went to Cuyahoga Community College with Dann Klawon and Jim Bonfanti from the Choir and every one in Cleveland seemed to like The Small Faces. My song 'Whatcha Gon'na Do' was influenced by the Faces and I shared the song with Dann (which has become a time honored ritual), and he liked it and asked if the Choir would do it and I said yes."

Q) Were there any circumstances at the time that prevented the band from releasing a single?

"Our manager, I think just didn't know how to get the band on the next level. Our families were all blue collar in a blue collar town with a blue collar manager didn’t know how to do it, and we didn't believe in ourselves quite enough. The lost souls somehow lacked a little confidence…Looking back it was regrettable but I think somehow we lacked a savvy."

Q) Do any live recordings exist of the band?

"Yes, Denny Marek recorded many and I'll send you a couple cuts. They are very unique. I may include them on future releases."

Q) Did the Lost Souls ever develop a signature song, such as the Choir's "It's Cold Outside", or the Outsiders' "Time Won't Let Me"?

"Obviously, none of the Lost Souls' songs had the national impact as the two listed above, but were any of the band's songs identified locally with the band? I think my first song 'I Want You' was known as a Lost Soul song and, probably more than other song, 'My Love I Wont Admit' could be known as a Souls song; but not on the level as if we had been on a 45."

Q) The Lost Souls started as a somewhat typical "British Invasion" garage band, but shortly added a saxophone, a flute, and a mandolin. Whose decision was it to add these non-typical instruments? What direction was the band heading in at the time? How many years after the band's formation was this change?

"The band always had a sax and flute, but played sparingly on Paul Revere and the Raiders covers and Motown songs. After being together for a while. we tried to do our own music..I know that's whatI wanted to do. You have to remember this was the '60s and very heady times..Frank Zappa was new as well as Seargeant Pepper etc.. There was lot of experimintation going on, in all forms of music and life. We were part of that scene not pretending or wishing to be all. So we were part of that period and we experimented with different instruments. We were also going to college and Vietnam was going on.. so as I said very heady times. The band changed direction after two and a half years and started doing originals."

Q) What was the reaction by Lost Souls' fan base to the band's new sound? Did you note any popularity change--either more or less--due to the change in sounds?

"By the time we started sounding different, we were out of high school and were playing farther and farther form our home base. So basically, most people didn’t care for the new sound. They couldn't dance to it and it was not familiar enough."

Q) After the Lost Souls, you were approached to join the Choir. Was the Lost Souls still an active band at the time you left? Did the band continue on without you? What spelled "the end" for the Lost Souls?

"The Lost Souls getting ready to go into their second year of college, did not seem to be interested in practicing or playing as much as they used to be. I am a serious person (for better or for worse) and I often stayed home and practiced while the other guys went out for fun..the band basically broke up because every one went on with their lives. The Lost Souls could have been a lot more, but we didn't know that and no one was really serious about keeping it together. When I was asked to join the Choir was basically the same time the Lost Souls ended ..I joined the Choir right after the Lost Souls dissolved." *Denny is no longer at WELW

Lance Records Magazine focuses on '50s, '60s and '70s garage bands, but also follows some new bands