BRUNSWICK

Walk onto a high school dance floor in the mid-1960s with the band playing The Who’s “The Kids Are All Right,” and there was a good chance The Royal Knights were on stage. The drummer did his best to keep up.

If “Gloria,” by The Shadows of Knight, was blasting, you probably were listening to Terry and the Telstars, or the InnKeepers. All the garage bands of the era, of course, played “Louie, Louie,” but the Kingsmen’s smash hit was a Moon Dawgs staple.

These bands had several other things in common when the pop music scene exploded after the Beatles came on in 1964. They were high school kids — if that. Most of the bands came from Lewiston. And as they honed their skills, these garage bands played high school dances, proms and YMCA dances across the state — and, indeed, the Northeast.

TERRY MCCARTHY, lead guitarist and founder of Terry and the Telstars strikes a pose, above, and lead singer Nick Knowlton belts out a tune during the 2010 Pal Hop Rocks Again Reunion show. At top, the then-teenaged Telstars, from left, are Terry McCarthy, Peter Nadeau, Danny Caron and Nick Knowlton.

TERRY MCCARTHY, lead guitarist and founder of Terry and the Telstars strikes a pose, above, and lead singer Nick Knowlton belts out a tune during the 2010 Pal Hop Rocks Again Reunion show. At top, the then-teenaged Telstars, from left, are Terry McCarthy, Peter Nadeau, Danny Caron and Nick Knowlton.

It was infectious. The British Invasion changed everything.

 

 

“Everyone wanted to be the Beatles,” Terry McCarthy, lead guitarist and founder of Terry and the Telstars — who still lives in Lewiston — said recently. “We had a very heavy Beatles list on our repertoire. The British Invasion really kicked it off.”

McCarthy, lead singer Nick Knowlton, keyboardist Peter Nadeau, drummer Danny Caron and the other original Telstar — who prefers not to be mentioned — were in their early teens when they formed soon after the Beatles changed the world. McCarthy, who organized the band, chose the name “Telstar” for the satellite of that name built in the early ’60s in Andover, near Bethel, after the Soviets built Sputnik.

A POSTER promoting the March 16, 1968, Jimi Hendrix concert in Lewiston featured a local band to open, Terry and the Telstars.

A POSTER promoting the March 16, 1968, Jimi Hendrix concert in Lewiston featured a local band to open, Terry and the Telstars.

Mike Asselin of Lewiston is the band’s current bassist.

ORIGINAL Telstar Peter Nadeau, who now lives in Brunswick, plays keyboard during the a 2010 reunion concert. The band still performs during the summer months.

ORIGINAL Telstar Peter Nadeau, who now lives in Brunswick, plays keyboard during the a 2010 reunion concert. The band still performs during the summer months.

For a while, Terry and the Telstars opened with music from the 1960s song “Telstar,” — not exactly a rock classic — until thinking better of it.

“There were over 40 rock bands in Lewiston at the time,” recalled McCarthy, now a shipping and receiving supervisor at Alliance Press in Brunswick. “I grew up in an apartment where there were musicians all around. They were all playing

PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL shows the current members, who perform during the summer months when their lead singer is back from Florida.

PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL shows the current members, who perform during the summer months when their lead singer is back from Florida.

Ventures music and surfer music. Then the Beatles came, and we had a new direction to go in.”

The Imposters, a Waterville band, were an exception to the Lewiston rule.

Nadeau, a real estate appraiser who lives in Brunswick, recalls hitting the road when the band members were just babes.

“We were so young,” Nadeau said. “We were 13 to 16 years old. We were just soaking it all in. We were just caught up in that and we got swept away in it.”

Nadeau recalls hitting the road for gigs every weekend, throughout high school and college.

“We were like 13 years old and playing college frat parties,” he said. “Danny’s father had to be the chaperone.”

At the time, Nadeau remembered, Royal Knights founder Eddie Boucher built a recording studio, and booked bands. Terry and the Telstars won a battle of the bands, and earned a recording contract in Boston.

Nadeau started with a cheaper keyboard, but as he honed his skills, he was able to purchase a Vox. Much of the pop music of the era was infused by a heavy keyboard influence.

“I liked playing the Rascals, and The Doors,” he said. “We still do all that material. Steppenwolf comes to mind.”

McCarthy recalls The Royal Knights doing their early concerts wearing Beatles wigs.

It took two or three years, he said, for Terry and the Telstars to really gain respect.

“We traveled all over New England,” he said. “Danny’s father bought a van and a trailer. The Royal Knights leader booked us all over New England and Canada. On the weekends, we were traveling. We were high school kids during the week; our weekends were all traveling.”

As ’60s music evolved from Beatlemania mop tops to the Sgt. Pepper’s era and harder work, so too did the Telstars change. In one of the band’s brochures, they are pictured in an orchard with their paisley shirts and dark glasses.

“We began doing the heavier stuff,” McCarthy said, like “Ina-Gadda-Da-Vidda” (Iron Butterfuly), “When the Music’s Over,” (The Doors) and “You Keep Me Hanging On” (the Vanilla Fudge version, not the Supremes).

Next to that photo is a poster from the March 16, 1968, Lewiston Armory appearance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Yes, Hendrix played Lewiston, not Portland. Beneath the photo of Hendrix and his band on the poster, there they are: Terry and the Telstars, listed as “special guests.”

Talk about a night to remember. The Telstars were advised not to horde around the superstar.

“We were told not to speak to him,” McCarthy said. “He was tired. It was just a quick ‘hello.’ But he did shake the drummer’s hand and told him, ‘Keep up the good work.’”

Terry and the Telstars also opened for The Cowsills, Tommy James and the Shondells, and The Blues Magoos. That particular show was at Old Orchard Beach.

“They took us in like brothers,” McCarthy said of the band that was at the forefront of the psychedelic music trend, beginning as early as 1966. “They took us to Palace Playland.”

The Blues Magoos’ signature song was “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.”

McCarthy, Nadeau, Caron and Knowlton certainly got their most out of the ’60s. When the last band member graduated high school in 1970 and they went their own ways, that could well have been the end of Terry and The Telstars.

In 1987, however, the group’s original members reunited for a PAL Hop Reunion. In 2010 Nick Knowlton Productions organized another reunion, entitled, “The PAL Hop Rocks Again.”

Knowlton winters in Florida now, but the band plays gigs when he comes back to Maine — May through September. Knowlton promotes them as a classic rock band that plays music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. McCarthy goes along.

“I like blues — being openended,” he said. “But the Telstars are a rock band, so we play classic rock.”

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GREAT FALLS BALLOON FESTIVAL

Terry and the Telstars, who still feature four of the original five band members, will entertain at the Great Falls Balloon Festival on Saturday, Aug. 17, in the city where the great garage band explosion of the mid-1960s was centered. Terry and the Telstars will play at Simard/Payne Park on Lincoln Street at 7:15 p.m.


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