In 1968, T.H.E... was Mark Winkle on Organ and Vocals, Karl Sjodahl on Guitar and Vocals, Tom Bruckmann on Bass, Jeff Willis on Drums and Percussion. While not always a part of the group, Don Schenk added Lead Guitar and Vocals at many of the band's shows during their last year.
Karl (and Tom) started the group in 1964. He played lead and rhythm guitar, wrote songs for the band and served as lead vocalist on most of the group's pop covers until Mark joined in 1965.
Tom started out as one of three guitar players (with Larry and Karl). His switch to bass happened a few weeks before the group's first public performance, a birthday party in a neighbor's basement. For some reason, Tom stopped singing in 1965 and didn't sing with the group again until 1995.
First discovered in the pit band for a local musical theater production, Jeff was the first accomplished musician to join the group. His metronome steady rhythm moved the group to a new level of professionalism, and, with Tom, he provided the group's rhythmic foundation.
While still in High School, Mark joined the group in 1965. With his tenor voice and Hammond organ, Mark sparked the group's move toward blue-eyed soul with covers of the Young Rascals, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & The M.G.s, Little Anthony, Percy Sledge and others.
Don played on many of T.H.E...'s shows during the band's last year together, adding his unique vocal and guitar work to the group. With his natural skill as a teacher, and years of performing with Little Don and the Contentions, Little Caesar and the Romans and other local bands, he also dramatically increased the size of the group's repertoire.
- The Aiken Sound Album...
Tom Bruckmann, Karl Sjodahl and Larry Swan, "hard at work" on the Aiken Sound Album.
The guys met at Aiken Senior High School in Cincinnati, and decided to put together an audio picture of life at the new high school during its first years of operation. The first Aiken Sound Album (ASA) was produced at the school and pressed at King Records in Cincinnati. It was the only annual available to Aiken students in 1963. A second ASA was produced in 1964. The albums have become collectors items for some who attended Aiken in its first few years.
The ASA production team functioned virtually without faculty supervision while assembling their annual recordings. They learned how to write, record and edit the records, as well as to sell and distribute them to the students. Two Cincinnati DJs, Bob Braun from WLW and Dick Wagner from WSAI, were enlisted to narrate the albums. To generate interest at the school, the team created a series of recorded commercials, which played over the school's PA system as part of the morning announcements.
For the ASA in 1963, local music groups were recorded at school dances, pep rallies, and in classrooms and living rooms, For the 1964 edition, The Teesians (with Senior Class President Rich Beziat on lead guitar and fellow classmate Jack Richardson on drums) provided the musical continuity.
The guys created or modified much of their own equipment, including multi-turntable sound systems capable of providing non-stop recorded music for dancing. Local DJs, like Bob Braun, liked what the guys were doing and had Karl and Tom create custom systems to their specifications. Karl occasionally served as an engineer on Bob Braun's live appearances. The skills the guys developed working on the album projects, as well as producing their own record hops and live music shows, led them to start the band in the Summer of 1964.
In late 1964, Karl and Tom were still doing more record hops than live shows. They worked with Don on several occasions when Don played at Aiken with various groups. At Aiken's Senior Class Christmas Party in 1964, Little Don and the Contentions provided live music, Karl and Tom played records and held dance contests while the band took its breaks. Aiken's annual, The Peregrine '65, featured several photos from that event.
The group started out with Karl Sjodahl, Larry Swan and Tom Bruckmann on guitars and Tom Allgeier on drums. Tom B. switched to bass shortly before the band's first paying gig, a birthday party in a neighbor's basement. Most of their time together was spent rehearsing or playing small private parties. The group began to take itself more seriously when Jeff Willis joined in 1965. Jeff met Karl while he was playing drums and percussion for a community theater production of "Little Me." Karl was providing sound effects for the show, and asked if Jeff would be interested in playing with the group. He was, and the band then had two guitars, bass and two drummers.
The group photo was taken with their "white Levis and short sleeved striped shirt" look. Other stage outfits of the period included plaid dinner jackets from a band that was no longer working, and an unusual combination of red pajama tops and black ascots. (Jeff and Larry are wearing those outfits in the pictures below.)
The equipment was basic. Larry had a Cherry Red Pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster, Karl played a Gibson Les Paul SG Junior and Tom had a powder blue Hagstrom Bass. The guitars, bass and vocals all ran through several PA amps which Tom and Karl used frequently for record hops. The money made doing record hops and building equipment for local DJs helped upgrade the band's equipment. Note the "coffin" speaker cabinets which they built themselves. Each cabinet contained one 15" speaker for bass, one 15" for the guitars and one 12" speaker for vocals. It was a REALLY bad idea, and fortunately didn't last more than a few months. When they moved up to "real" guitar amps, they rebuilt the speakers into smaller cabinets and sold most of the system to a local church. The small Realistic PA amp, barely visible on the left coffin in the group photo above, found a second life as a booster amp for Mark's organ several years later. (You can see it in the picture of Mark at the top of the page.) Surprisingly, the old amps don't sound bad on tapes from the period. Virtually all of the equipment used at this time (and two of the guys) would leave within the next few months as the band evolved into T.H.E...
Jeff had only been with the group for a few weeks when these photos were taken, and had not yet upgraded his drums to the Silver Sparkle Ludwig set he has used since 1965. In the beginning, Jeff and Tom both sang at rehearsals (as above, with Larry). For some reason, they both stopped singing when the band started working regularly, and concentrated instead on delivering the group's distinctive rhythm.
Singer Sherry Pickett with The Commands at a show rehearsal in 1965. Larry and Karl provide harmonies.
Karl, Larry. and Jeff were Freshmen in college. The two Toms were still finishing high school. Larry's girlfriend, Sherry (also in high school), became an occasional performer with the group, providing lead vocals for songs like "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and "Woolly Bully". Sadly, Sherry passed away, due to complications from childbirth, in February, 1983.
The original drummer, Tom Allgeier, was the first to leave the band to focus on his school work. They were down to a more traditional two guitars, bass and drums lineup. Larry came in from Ohio State University in Columbus for weekend rehearsals and gigs for a while, but it soon became difficult to maintain the travel schedule and his visits became less frequent. Sherry continued to work occasionally with the group for the next year or so. Even after they stopped performing, Larry and Sherry remained close friends with the group. They even showed up at the band's first "Farewell Show" in Dayton, Ohio, in 1968. You can see them both in one of the photos from that show at the bottom of this page.
(Photographs of The Commands by Dan Dryer)
One day, in the basement where the band usually rehearsed, they decided they wanted a new name. "The Commands" now seemed lame, and they thought they could do better. A number of new names were discussed when somebody said, "Why don't we call ourselves The..." Somebody else (probably Larry) said, "That's a good idea. Let's call ourselves 'The...'" So the band became "The..." (Pronounced "The"), and they made up a new logo for the drumhead.
The new name turned out to be a problem for local DJs who complained that saying the name made them sound stupid. It was a little hard to say, "Friday night at Greenhills High School join Dusty Rhodes with The Trendells, The Explosions and The..." without sounding a little strange. Their agent said that if they didn't change the name, the DJs weren't going to include the group in their promos of local events. The guys asked if a change to "T. H. E...", listing each letter separately, would work. The agency thought it would, and it must have, 'cause the DJs stopped complaining. And again, the guys created a new logo...
Several TV shows in the 60s used single letters, like The F.B.I., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., and Mayberry R.F.D., so it didn't seem out of place at the time. At about the same time as the band's name change, NBC launched a short-lived series called "T.H.E. Cat," starring Robert Loggia as Thomas, Hewitt Edward Cat, a retired acrobat and former thief. Some thought the name of the band came from the TV show, but the group had the name first. England's The The was still over two decades away.
Dan Dryer took these pics of Jeff, Karl and Tom rehearsing at the Bruckmann farm.
Karl, Tom and Jeff, with Carolyn (Karl's sister and Jeff's girlfriend) sitting in on drums. The guys built a VOX Amp out of snow in front of the Sjodahl house In early 1967. The amp looked pretty cool. The snowman and snow guitar didn't turn out quite as well.
In 1966, music was changing. Bands with keyboard players were becoming increasingly popular. With Larry around less often, the guys felt they needed to expand the group, and an organ player might add the touch they wanted.
Waddell had worked one summer with Jeff, parking cars at the
Zoo. Jeff remembered that Rick could sing and play keyboards, so they
if he would like to give the group a try. Rick bought a Farfisa Combo
organ (very popular at the time) and an amp, and the new group was
The revised group took on it's first (and only) regular bar gig, playing every Friday and Saturday night at The College Inn, a bar in Clifton near the University of Cincinnati. Unfortunately, Karl was working as a DJ on the early shift (weekends, 7 am to Noon) at WJBI-FM, WSAI's "Easy Listening" station. After several weeks, singing for four hours every Friday and Saturday night, then working five hour shifts at the radio station took a toll on his voice. Combined with the fact that the guys were also carrying a full academic load, something had to give.
The band realized that playing in the same place two nights every week wasn't as much fun as facing a new group every time. They went back to doing one night stands.
Why Sherry is holding a tambourine and a bird feeder is a total mystery.
Larry, Karl, Rick, Sherry and Jeff with Dan Dryer's Mustang.
Due to a work conflict, Tom missed this rehearsal and photo session.
(These photos were also taken by Dan Dryer for use in promoting the group.)
Shortly after these photos were taken, Rick went on to other opportunities, Larry stopped performing with the band, and Sherry's appearances became less regular. T.H.E... was now, officially, a trio with Karl on guitar and vocals, Tom on bass and Jeff on drums. This group did mostly private parties, and appearances in student film and video projects at UC.
Roger Trauth got to know the guys in the band when he and Karl met at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. Roger and Karl started driving to the same early morning classes together several days a week, and found they had a lot in common. The band always thought of Roger as a more "serious" musician. He played bass and guitar on regular gigs almost every Friday and Saturday night at clubs in the Cincinnati area. One of those groups, The Joe Dixon Trio, had a regular gig for a year at The Cincinnati Playboy Club. While Roger never worked a paying job with T.H.E..., he often joined the band for rehearsals, parties and recording sessions, and became a very good friend, He provided vocals on the band's first recording project in 1966. In 1972, Roger, Jeff and Karl created the P.O.S. Symphony, an experimental studio band, which worked together, sporadically, over the next decade or so. After a successful career in the banking industry, and raising a family, Roger lost a three-year fight with cancer and passed away on January 3rd, 2004. The band lost it's best friend and biggest supporter. Karl, Tom and Jeff attended the funeral in Cincinnati. Roger leaves his wife Debi and his son Danny. His support, talent and sense of humor will be greatly missed by all of us.
T.H.E...'s first venture into professional recording started at a rehearsal in the Parish Hall of Grace Church in Cincinnati. The guys really liked the sound of the room, and decided to set up a temporary studio and record the basic instrumental tracks in the hall.
Karl had an original song he wanted to record, and they had worked out new arrangements on a few of their regular show pieces. These new arrangements needed a fuller sound than they could create as a trio. They were still looking for an organist, and had not yet found someone who fit in perfectly with the band.
Paul Yulig was a talented local organ player, working with The Corvairs at the time. He was also dating Karl's next door neighbor. Paul agreed to bring his Hammond/Leslie setup and sit in with the group for the recordings. Dave Trathen was the guitar player for The Casinos Band, and a college friend of Karl's and Roger's. He agreed to add a lead guitar part to the tracks. He also added some valuable experience and professionalism to the session. Roger Trauth also added guitar on a few of the band's warm-up cuts. E. T. "Bucky" Herzog, a veteran broadcast engineer and owner of Audiocraft Recording, a local two-track studio, brought two really expensive German microphones and a large Ampex two track tape recorder and set up a temporary studio in the Grace Church Parish Hall (shades of "That Thing You Do").
The songs for the session included Karl's original composition, "Say You'll Be My Girl"; a new arrangement of Neil Diamond's "The Boat That I Row" (the B side of his "I Got A Feeling" single); and an up-tempo arrangement of "Midnight Hour." To get used to playing together, the group warmed up with "Soul Serenade," "Money" and "The Only Thing To Do," a relatively unknown song by the Us Too Group, a local band, whose lead singer lived across the street from Jeff.
After the session, the band was hooked on the sound of the group with the Hammond organ. They needed a full time keyboard player, and a second lead vocalist. Paul Yulig said his next door neighbor, Mark Winkle, might be the guy they were looking for. He had his own equipment, and Paul thought he might be able to handle the vocals on "Midnight Hour," which were out of Karl's range. Vocal and percussion overdubs were added several weeks later at Bucky's studio. Karl sang lead on "Say You'll Be My Girl" and "Boat That I Row." Mark, Roger Trauth and Larry Deis (another UC classmate) provided backing vocals on "Say You'll Be My Girl." Mark handled lead vocals on "Midnight Hour."
Although still in high school, Mark Winkle had already played in several local bands. Karl and Mark first met at Mark's basement, and both were a little cautious. There was a four year difference in their ages, and they came from different musical backgrounds. Still, it seemed like it was worth pursuing. Mark agreed to supply vocals on the unfinished "Midnight Hour" and Karl's original number, "Say You'll Be My Girl".
Once they all got together and started working on arrangements, they found they had a lot in common. Mark and Jeff shared a passion for blues and soul, and Tom and Karl loved adding distinctive touches to popular three chord garage band rock. Their shows combined a mixture of styles and arrangements, often departing considerably from the original compositions. The music was always danceable, and usually very loud.
In the beginning, Mark played a Farfisa Combo Compact organ into a small Leslie speaker. It sounded good, but they wanted a bigger sound. It wasn't long before he traded up to a Hammond M-1 organ and a full size Leslie cabinet. Karl and Tom got matching Mosrite guitars and VOX and Sunn amps. Jeff upgraded his drums to the silver sparkle Ludwig set he still uses today. (For more on their equipment, check out the GEAR page.) T.H.E... had found its "Soul" ... and its "Sound".
For two years, the band played a lineup of one night shows for dozens of different groups, fraternities and sororities. They became a regular staple of the party scene at Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, and were featured regularly at Junior Officers and Professional Association (JOPA) events in Cincinnati. They played shows at the Roundtable and the Mug Club near UC, played parties at the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, WSAI DJ appearances, and "Battle of the Band" shows sponsored by local radio stations.
Don Schenk was a highly accomplished musician in the Cincinnati teen dance scene. He had been the leader of several popular groups, including Little Don and the Contentions and Cincinnati's Little Caesar and the Romans. Don first heard T.H.E... play when they were rehearsing new arrangements for a New Year's Eve performance, including "I Think We're Alone Now" (imagine Tommy James' hit with a Vanilla Fudge style arrangement). Don liked what he heard, and asked if he could sit in with the band. He joined the group frequently during their last year of active playing.
The guys loved the sound of the second guitar and the third vocal part, not to mention Don's extraordinary talent and experience. He added several of his best numbers to their set list, including "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love", "Soul Serenade" and "Comin' Home Baby".
Don also worked with the band to tighten up their sound, by playing simple songs until they found themselves in the groove, playing as one rather than four or five. One song they could easily "groove" on was "Good Guys Don't Wear White", a mostly three chord number recorded by The Standells. The song became their kickoff number for over a year. They found they could start out strong and tight, put a lot of energy into the room, and adjust the levels on their instruments and vocals at the same time... from zero to sixty in the first few seconds.
T.H.E... actually gave three different "Farewell" performances in 1968. What was planned as their final show was a private party for JOPA at the Christopher Club in Dayton, Ohio. The final images on this page (and the shots at the top of the page) were taken at this show.The photos were taken by Robert G. "Bob" Fries III, a college friend who went on to produce films and sound for John Lennon, and for The Rolling Stones. In 1997, Don used his photo lab contacts in Cincinnati to have the five rolls of film printed to 4x6 black and white prints. The scans come from these prints.
Karl, with his "Ventures Model" Mosrite guitar (and VOX Super Beatle Amp).
Mark, his Hammond and Leslie are in the background.
Tom, with his "Ventures Model" Mosrite bass.
Jeff, with his Silver Sparkle Ludwig kit in an early set (the only time they ever wore jackets).
Two former group members, Larry Swan and Sherry Pickett (on the left behind Jeff's cymbals) attended the show, thinking it was their last. They fooled everyone by doing two more.
Mark... singing "When a Man Loves a Woman"
Don, with Sherry obviously enjoying the show.
Tom, Don and Karl...
A typical arrangement of guitar, microphone, speaker, lighting and control cables.
Not too neat, but it worked. The pedal is for Karl's VOX Super Beatle.
Their Second "Farewell Show" was a party beside an indoor swimming pool at the Forum Apartments in Cincinnati. Dave Berry (a fraternity buddy of Jeff's) supplied third vocals that night, since Don was not available. Concrete, water and glass surfaces provided an unbelievable echo, which made the simple cassette recordings of that show sound HUGE! It was a pleasant surprise for all of them to hear their version of "Light My Fire" with that amount of natural reverb.
One final show, at Anderson High School produced some of the most relaxed "home recordings" of the band. Dave Berry, again, supplied third vocals that night. Live recordings of "Monkey Time," "Shotgun," and "Midnight Confessions" from this show are being considered for inclusion on their upcoming CD.
Life moves on...
Jobs took up more and more of their time. Karl and Jeff finished up at UC in 1968. Karl worked at WSAI/WJBI radio, WCET-TV and later, WXIX-TV, Cincinnati's first independent TV station. Jeff worked for Baldwin Piano, and Tom worked part time at Schoenling Brewery while he finished up his last year of school. Mark got involved in drama at Colerain High School, and continued to play regularly with the Checkmates and other Cincinnati groups.
Jeff and Karl received their draft notices for the Army on the same day, and joined in 1969. After the Army, and tours with AFVN and the US Army Recruiting Command, Karl resumed his entertainment career. Jeff was in the Fife and Drum Corps (and appeared with them on the Ed Sullivan Show), then worked in Washington, DC, before moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he still works in consumer electronics. Tom was in ROTC during College, and started his career as an Army officer when he finished at UC in 1969. After high school, Mark moved to Maryville, Tennessee for college, and eventually became a pharmacist, husband and father of two. Don became a successful photographer, with a studio in Mount Healthy, Ohio, and has become a recognized authority on small business marketing. Music has remained a part of ALL of their lives. They have stayed in touch over the years, finding or creating opportunities to get together whenever their busy schedules allow. (See the Reunions page.)
Two groups grew out of the band. Your Friendly, Neighborhood, All American Seventeen Piece Co-Ed One Night Band was formed in Hampton, Virginia in 1971, and featured Jeff on drums, Karl on guitar and Tom on stage crew. The group was started to allow a bunch of dislocated rock musicians, now serving in the Army or Air Force, to play for... well... one night. The POS Symphony started with Roger, Jeff and Karl goofing around in the studio after a Lonnie Mack recording session in 1972. They started adding layers to one of Roger's original composition at around 10:00pm... by 8:00 the next morning, "The Friday Night Thing - Part One" was recorded. Additional recordings followed over the next two decades.
In the early 70s, Karl was the recording engineer for numerous projects in New York, Cincinnati and on the road with the Butterfly Studios truck. His assignments included projects with guitarist Lonnie Mack, football player / songwriter Mike Reid, composer Philip Glass, jazz composer Carla Bley's epic work, "Escalator Over The Hill." recordings of the "Concert for Bangladesh" at Madison Square Garden in New York, the "Free John Sinclair" concert, featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bob Seeger, Stevie Wonder and others at Crysler Arena in Ann Arbor in 1971, and The Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1973. Also in 1973, Karl resumed his broadcasting career as a producer-director at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, before heading to California, where he would spend the next twenty years... at KPIX Television, Telesound/SjoCom and Walt Disney Imagineering. For more details, check out Karl's web site.
The December 2001 edition of Lance Monthly (an electronic publication focusing on garage band music) featured an interview with Karl focusing on the band. Here's a link to the article.
T.H.E... Website Content and Images © 1998-2004 Karl Sjodahl - All Rights Reserved