The Road Years
Brooklyn/ US Tour
- Sari Morninghawk — vocals, percussion
- Kevin Amos — vocals, percussion
- Herman Pearl — guitar
- David Soule — bass
- Charles “Chuck” Sullivan — drums & percussion, vocals
- Richard “Dick” Vitale — drums & percussion
- Summer 1983 – the band membership changes yet again – with the departure of John (who, not in the best of health – is unwilling to move to Brooklyn – where Richard thinks they’ll find their natural audience), the arrival of two new vocalists: Sari Morninghawk (then Jozokos) and Kevin Amos, and a new guitarist (Herman Pearl) – the group moves to the edgy Bed-Stuy neighborhood. At a concert in Baltimore, the group Bad Brains’ then roadie Alvin Robertson tells the band they have a place to stay in Brooklyn anytime they want. However, Alvin doesn’t manage to tell Bad Brains themselves of this offer. After some tense negotiations – they are allowed to stay. All summer, they share a warehouse practice space with Bad Brains – with the band sleeping in a 25’ yellow schoolbus (purchased by their friend Jeff, son of a senior Westinghouse executive) that they’ve converted to a living situation.
- Fall 1983 – the band gets paid (a meager amount) by the Yippies to play on the fall ‘83 leg of the national Rock Against Reagan tour (which was inspired by Britain’s Rock Against Racism concerts). Rock Against Reagan was organized by the NYC-based Youth Party International, also known as the Yippies. Based loosely on the Rock Against Racism movement and concert series in the UK and Europe, the Yippies borrowed the concept and applied it to creating a political youth movement in the U.S., with the intent to recruit young punk and alternative bands to play left-leaning political rallies in cities across the country, well in advance of the 1984 Reagan/Mondale Presidential race (and culminating in performances at both the Republican National Convention in Dallas, and the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco). Like a post-punk reggae funk version of the Merry Prankster’s bus Furthur, SAS is the one “road” group of the fall ’83 tour – with shows quickly organized to play with local punk bands in college and alternative towns such as Oberlin, OH; Madison, WI; Olympia, WA; Portland, OR; and Eugene, OR – where they are seen by producer Will Kreth – then a 19 y.o. college dropout who recognizes something special in the group. They go on to play shows in San Francisco (opening for the Dead Kennedys and MDC), Los Angeles (opening for Minutemen); ending up in San Diego, where the show was canceled. At this point, the school bus is breaking down from the long trip, and they can’t afford to fix it right away. The long time away from Brooklyn and Pittsburgh, with no money and living on rice, beans and little else – has frayed nerves and created tension amongst the group. Within a week, though – the bus is repaired and they drive it to Olympia, WA – where their bus-purchasing friend Jeff is now attending college (at Evergreen). During all this time, the band writes a few new songs, but records no new music.
Eugene, Oregon – 1984 -1985
- Sari Morninghawk – vocals, percussion
- Daniel Ramirez – guitar, vocals
- Robert “Xeres” Sheppard – sax, vocals
- David Soule – bass, vocals
- Richard “Dick” Vitale – drums & percussion
- Spring/Summer/Fall 1984 – change is the only constant, with drummer/ percussionist Chuck leaving the group with guitarist Herman to start a new band (Medicine) in Portland, OR. The remaining members settle in Eugene – where they bump into Will Kreth again – who volunteers to be their soundman and help them get gigs. Geraldine flies out from Pittsburgh to give the band another chance, but is soon disillusioned with the chemistry and decamps to Portland as well. With a new guitar player (Daniel Ramirez) and sax/flute player (Robert “Xeres” Shepard) – the new line-up sets to writing and rehearsing new material over the course of the summer and fall – gearing up for re-introducing the band in Oregon. Discarding nearly all that came before – the new songs are funkier, darker (even a bit industrial), leaner and more political in their lyric content.
- Spring/Summer 1985 – after the long Oregon winter rains spent “woodshedding” the songs in their basement, the band has nearly 24 new songs written and is ready to reveal them to the world. With demo tapes in hand, they start to show off the new material and gig start to emerge. Sadly, that April – due to a known heart defect – John Creighton dies of a heart attack back in Pittsburgh. He is just 30 years old. His community of friends, co-workers and former band members are devastated.
By May, the band is playing local gigs regularly and a buzz is starting to grow. At Will’s urging, they head to a local home recording studio (one of the first local digital tape recording facilities) to make a 4 song cassette EP – dedicated to John’s memory. In July, the band is invited to play the main-stage at the counter-cultural Oregon Country Fair – to a crowd of approx. 500 enthusiastic hippies, punkers and tripping freak-flag flyers. At the then height of their newfound local popularity in Oregon, they make the mistake of deciding to move early to San Francisco, where they hope to become part of the nascent “World Beat” music movement/scene happening there.
San Francisco Bay Area
- Fall/Winter 1985/1986 – Relocated to San Francisco, the band finds an apartment – where 6 people, a large dog and a cat try to co-exist in one space. A rehearsal space is offered for free by a friend, but gigs are hard to come by. The Bay Area “World Beat” music scene has started to fade. Tensions flare after a few months, and little new material is written – nor any existing material recorded. Without an album and only the old 4 song cassette for sale, the band has a hard time getting across to a larger following. Having had enough drama, Will decides to leave the group to their own direction and devices.
- 1987 – Pushing on, the band keeps 4 members together (David Soule on bass, Dan Ramirez on guitar, Richard on drums and Sari on vocals/percussion). Remembering their friends in Bad Brains – they reach out to vocalist HR (“Human Rights”) to ask to him to guest on their first full album. Remarkably, HR says yes and flies out to S.F. to stay and record with the band. This particular “lost album” was very well-recorded but poorly edited, with dated electronic drum sounds and HR’s non-sequitur Rastafarian homilies obscuring the established Stick Against Stone energy, message and song craft. On top of it all, (and reminiscent of a similar scene with Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly in the movie “Boogie Nights”) the band runs out of money to pay for the master tapes – and the recording studio owner refuses to release them.
- 1988/1990 – HR-free and back to writing songs, the band plays a show in SF that Will attends, and they discuss recording an EP’s worth of material (once again) at their practice space – direct to 2 track. Will helps out, but without proper multi-track and separation of tracks – the quality is compromised and never released. At this point, the guitarist Dan has had enough and moves to Tennessee.
- 1991/2004 – Will loses touch with the group and eventually, the band breaks up for good – with David and Sari going on to form the group Mental Block Party (and putting out a CD under the same name), and Richard making a CD with the band Body Rhythm. Will moves to New York in 1995. Somewhere in the late ‘90s, Richard becomes addicted to heroin, and after losing his job – he eventually retreats to his hometown of Indiana, PA to dry out. Sobered up, he returns to Oakland, CA in 2003– but unfortunately, while going out to get a meal late at night, he is attacked and brutally beaten by a gang of youths who fracture his skull in 2 places and break his jaw – losing 2 teeth. Richard has suffered a traumatic brain injury, and with a severe concussion – he is in a coma for days. Lucky to be alive, Richard’s jaw is wired shut for 3 months and he slowly recovers from the assault on a liquid diet. As a result, he will begin to suffer from occasional epileptic seizures, for which he’s prescribed medication – but doesn’t always take.