Here’s the story of a group of guys who all had a love of 60’s music and thought they’d put a band together just to play songs they liked. Back in the year 1980 it was kind of an odd idea since New Wave and Punk were all the rage and the thought of a band playing strictly 60’s music was, well, crazy. Nevertheless, five fearless young men went into the basement to rehearse all the stuff they had been itching to play throughout the “disco era” but were simply unable to. These brave men were:
Sam Donato-Lead Vocals
Ed Dupont-Bass & Vocals
Mike Femino-Keyboards, Sax, Guitar, Flute, Kazoo, Spoons, etc.
Brett Gordon-Guitar & Vocals
Joe Donahue-Drums & Vocals
There were no gigs booked yet but as fate would have it Peter Dawson, a friend of Ed’s, called him up to tell him that he was opening a club in Nahant named Seagaels and would like to book his new band to play there on Sundays. The Class of ’66 (named after Sam’s Saugus High school graduating class) quickly became the primary house band and ended up playing there as much as 5 nights a week for 2 years. What started out as a part time thing turned out to be a full time job and there WERE people out there who wanted to hear 60’s music. Nobody could have suspected how long it would actually last.
During this time a guy named Al Goddard approached the band and convinced the members that they would look a whole lot better if they had a good light show. Most of the “higher profile” clubs required some kind of light show and “Uncle” Al was just the guy for the job. He carried around a truckload of lighting gear and set it up himself every week at whatever club the band was playing. He was a large part of the early success of the Class and had a knack for setting up scenes for every song, sometimes including flash pods (uh, explosions) at the end of the ever popular Who medley. Al passed away in September ’84 but his spirit remains with the Class today.
In 1982, Mike Femino left the band (much more on him later) and was replaced by Mark Feller on keyboards. The band continued to grow in popularity and played all the big rooms on “the circuit” at the time, including One Newbury Street, Club 93, and The Pier. The band was also starting to add larger events to the schedule like the Wakefield 4th of July celebration and an annual “Booze Cruise” (that term was later deemed taboo) in which they annually sold out the 1100 passenger boat, Provincetown II.
There was a mutiny in mid-’83 in which 3 members decided to leave and form their own band. Sam and Ed were left behind to pick up the pieces and see if they could keep the momentum going. They had already selected their old friend Richie “Big Bucks” MacPhee to be the new drummer and then placed ads in the Boston Phoenix for a new keyboard and guitar player. The grueling audition process produced John Schulte on Keyboard and Ray Zerkle on Guitar.
An immediate bond was formed between all 5 members and there was a feeling of excitement in the air as they rehearsed at Sam’s house on Richardson Ave in Wakefield for two months in the fall of ’83. The band had already been established so agents, clubowners, and fans skeptically awaited the arrival of the “new” Class of ’66.
Phase two of the Class began quietly enough on the first week of November at the Nan King in Hudson, New Hampshire. The band picked up steam that winter as it played various North Shore hotspots like One Newbury Street, Club 93, and the infamous Rockefellers. The following summer included a triumphant show at the Wakefield common, opening for Roy Orbison at Club Casino in Hampton Beach, and one heck of a boat cruise. The summer ended with the first in a long string of appearances at the now legendary Octoberfest in Ipswich.
John Schulte lasted until ’86 and so began the quest for the ultimate keyboard player. It has been said that the Class is tough on keyboard players but that might also be a rumor. Alan “Skid” Rowe was the first victim. Skid could torch songs like “Whiter Shade of Pale” but he only lasted six months.
Bryan Petroccia turned out to be much more resilient and helped carry the Class into the 90’s. He formed his own sound company called Sona Audio and eventually left the band to take care of the business.
Darren Muise took over the keyboards in the early nineties and although he claimed that he would only be a temporary member, he stuck around for five years (most bands don’t even last that long). Darren also formed his own business called The Music Connection in Beverly and eventually left the band to take care of the store, which has expanded and may someday take over the North Shore and beyond.
FACT: No Class of ’66 keyboard player has ever spontaniously combusted.
Mike Mazolla took over on the drums for two years in the mid-nineties while Richie took a leave of absense. The ever-popular Mazolla was a youthful shot in the arm for the Class and fans requested his songs every night. His vocal performance of Knights in White Satin combined with Darren’s keyboard arrangement made the song a staple during that time.
Richie returned to the band with renewed enthusiasm and showed everybody why he was dubbed “the backbone” of the Class of ’66. Since then, as he would say, THE HONK WAS ON!
Mike Femino, remember him? He came back in all his multi-instrumental glory, 16 years later. He hung in there until 2002, and fufilled his promise to be be the only keyboard player to have joined and left the band three times.
Then came Doug. Doug Tybor, that is. For the final two years of the Class he proved to be the perfect fit for band. An accomplished musician and piano tuner, he came in when he was sorely needed and once again, the Class carried on.
Carried on,that is, until both Richie and Ray decided that it was time to move on to greener pastures. That left Ed, Sam, and Doug with a big decision. To play or not to play. The desicion was made to carry on for one more year until Sam would retire to Florida. Gary Brewer on guitar and Mike Pohas on drums jumped on board and carried the band through to the end of 2004. At that point in time,Ed,Doug ,Gary and Mike formed "the Classmates" and are still playing today. Check out their website. www.classmatesband.com to find out where they're playing.
In May of 2009, nearly 30 years years after that first gig at Seagaels, Sam, Ed, Ray, Richie, and Doug got together for a Reunion Show at the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, MA. and we're happy to say it was a total sellout. The band has had a tremendous local following and is viewed by many as a North Shore “institution”. So, Class fans, this website is for you. We of the Class love you, and thank you for your years of support.