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** THE HEATERS STORY **
by William Stout

The story of The Heaters is the tale of a band who at their peak was suddenly the hottest live band in Los Angeles, performed the same hat trick across the nation and then just as instantly disappeared, their potential sadly unfulfilled.

THE HEATERS!

The initial seeds of what would become The Heaters were sown in 1967. I was a seventeen year old singing drummer living near Culver City while attending the CalArts (aka the Chouinard Art Institute; alma mater of Scott Walker and Jackie DeShannon) in downtown Los Angeles. I'd been in bands since I was fourteen. Through trial, error and postings at local music shops I put together a band I christened Bedlam (not to be confused with Cozy Powell's decent English band of the same name) during the Summer of Love. Bedlam also included Don Lame-o on lead guitar, Norm Something on bass and the talented Danny Galipeau on organ. We initially practiced in a room my father built for such purposes in our backyard.

Danny worked in a Westwood gas station owned by his father. A kid about my age named James Demeter worked there, too. Jamie lived with his parents, sister and little brother David in a two-story house behind the station.

Jamie was a guitar player more interested in folk stylings than rock 'n' roll. An electronics genius, Jamie became Bedlam's soundman. He provided our P. A. system, let us practice upstairs in his house and accompanied us on our gigs where he created amazing live tape loop sound effects for our show.

Bedlam lasted for about half a year --- a pretty good run for a garage band back then. We got gigs playing Knights of Columbus(!) gatherings, weddings(!) and high school dances from Norwalk to Newbury Park (actually, only in Norwalk and Newbury Park). We were pretty inappropriate for most of our jobs but we had great fun. We thought we were terrific! Over time, as we all became consumed by jobs and college, the band drifted apart. Dan Galipeau later played keyboards for one of the incarnations of Beatlemania! and for Celine Dion (on an "I'm Alive" remix). He also engineered a remix of Pink's "Don't Let Me Get Me".

In 1968, out of the blue, I got an excited call from Jim Demeter.

"Do you wanna start a rock 'n' roll band? I play electric guitar now and a chick from New York just moved in across the street. She plays and she's amazing!"

"Saturday?"

"Saturday!"

I called bass player Norm; we all met upstairs at Jamie's house on the Sabbath. The girl was Melissa (Missy) Connell . She came from an illustrious show biz family. Her mom and dad, Gordon and Jane Connell, were both actor/singers who were in constant demand on Broadway and in film musicals. Missy was no musical slouch herself. She had the voice and dynamite stage presence of a female Steve Marriott. Missy had grown up in New York; she attended the High School of Music and Art (one of the two schools merged to create the school in Fame) with Janis ("At Seventeen") Ian. Missy had recently been approached by Warner Bros. Records. Van Dyke Parks was set to produce her first record. For her debut he chose an old Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg (the song composers for the 1939 MGM musical The Wizard of Oz) show tune from entitled Bloomer Girl"The Eagle and Me". But Missy was a rocker at heart; "The Eagle and Me" ended up being a Van Dyke Parks-produced solo single for…Van Dyke Parks.

Missy became our rhythm guitarist but after a few months she was itching to play bass. She told me she loved the bass, that it was a sexual thing; she got turned on producing that big rhythmical, sensual, tactile, sub-woofing throb.

Norm didn't quite fit our style; neither musically, philosophically nor visually. He was soon ousted from our midst. I think we used the fake break-up ploy. The band got back together the next day with Missy on bass.

Jamie's fourteen year old brother David was at every rehearsal. He loved to watch me drum and soon acquired his own set. As a result of constant practice his abilities soon exceeded my own. We agreed he should take over on drums. I embraced being the front man and harmonica player. The band was set.

We briefly called ourselves The Silent Majority and then settled on Mad Fat ("A Powerful and Amazing Group" as it proclaimed on the business cards my girlfriend and I had designed). We practiced individually every day at home and together on the weekends.

Missy's bass playing stunned me. She played Paul McCartney style --- the most difficult (and beautiful) style of bass playing: melodic, simple, surprising, and powerful. Her playing was never lazy or predictable; it was always thoughtful. She was also a wizard at creating our vocal harmonies and song arrangements. And man, could she belt!

Despite Missy's song writing talents (and perhaps because she was probably saving her songs for her own solo LP), we mostly played rearranged cover versions of material by The Who, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Missy brought in some Stax-Volt and Etta James material as well.

Those years as a finger picking folkie had paid off; Jamie had become quite the lead guitar player. Because we were essentially a power trio with a singer he became adept at rhythm fills as well. Both Jamie and Missy continued to take lots of music lessons. He eventually surpassed his teachers (maybe not technically but certainly within the areas of substance and feeling, which have always been more important than technical facility). And, sound whiz that he was, he had a guitar tone to kill for.

I got us gigs. We played at Battle of the Bands contests, dances at my art school and parties. At one outdoor gig in the middle of downtown Westwood we were offered a spot on a Los Angeles television show. TV! Our star was now on a fast rise!

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The Heaters Story © 2007 William Stout

 
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