422 West Sandusky Street Findlay, Ohio
419-423-4433

 

The Nite Watchmen

As remembered by Dave Phillips:

“I began playing drums in popular music bands shortly after The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. My first ventures were with a nameless country music group and instrumental music bands. I was only 12 or 13 years old when I had my first experience with a country group. It was a good band, but I can’t recall any of the songs we played. The other members of the group were much older than me. Alas, I never performed with the group (my mother thought I was too young). Afterwards I played in small groups with local players such as Bob Dyer, Terry McClanahan, and Floyd Dillinger. I played drums with Bob and Terry in the instrumental bands and sang with Floyd’s band.

By the time I was in the 8th grade I was able to join The Wanderers. The line-up of that band included Bob Nash (vocal), Percy Davis (bass), Ed Lowe (organ), and Mark Mitchell (guitar). The Wanderers played a lot in those days, mostly performing for after-game dances and other school functions, private parties, teen clubs, and college fraternity parties. It was all pretty eye-opening for a 14-year old, I learned a lot then. I played drums with The Wanderers for almost two years. When I joined The Wanderers they were playing a mix of standard late 50s/early 60s pop (The Kingsmen, The Beach Boys, various instrumentalists). By the time I left the group we were playing more contemporary rock (The Beatles, The Rascals, various chart singles) and rhythm & blues (mostly the hits from Motown, Atlantic, and Stax/Volt).

During my years with The Wanderers I began to play the guitar seriously. By the time the band dissolved – the other members graduated from high-school and moved on in their lives – I had decided to focus my music work entirely on the guitar. After the band’s demise I played guitar and sang with a few other local groups – notably The Raging Storms and The Variations – and maintained a working musician’s lifestyle. There was a lot of work for bands in those days. The drinking age was 18 (for “low” beer), the club scene was thriving, and the pay-scale was good enough that I didn’t need any other work.

By the time I was a junior in high-school I had joined The Nite Watchmen, a popular local group founded by my friend Denny Miles. At that time the group consisted of Roger Merchant (vocals), Denny Miles (keyboards), Percy Davis (bass) and Benny McCoy (drums). The Watchmen worked constantly, mostly at night clubs in northwest Ohio but occasionally reaching into lower Michigan and the southern parts of Ohio. Club gigs then were booked usually for two to four weeks at a time, playing from three to five nights per week. Playing hours varied between three to five sets a night. The group had already recorded once before I joined, we recorded once again while I was in the band. That second single was recorded by Bob Brown who owned a small recording studio located then in Fremont.

The experience of playing with The Nite Watchmen was formative. I learned a lot by considering how Denny managed the group, and I gained an enormous amount of practical performance knowledge through the hundred of gigs we played. The band’s musical evolution is of some interest. When I joined the band it had as reputation as something of a Rolling Stones cover band. By the time I left the group we were still playing a lot of music by The Stones, but we’d added Cream, Pharaoh Sanders, and The Velvet Underground to our repertoire (to the dismay of some of the club owners).

I left the band when I graduated from high school. I moved to Cleveland then, but after a short while there I returned to Findlay to rejoin The Watchmen for a brief time as lead singer. Roger moved out of the state, leaving Denny with a few months of gig contracts to fulfil. At that time Terry McClanahan was playing lead guitar, so we exploited the dual guitars and expanded our repertoire to include showcase pieces by The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers.

When I left The Watchmen after those contracts were filled I had determined that I wanted to pursue music as a career. I returned to Cleveland and eventually became a serious student of the classical guitar. There begins a whole other chapter in the story of my musical life, beginning in Cleveland, moving to Washington DC, and ending up in Los Angeles, but that’s another story for another time.

Some band line-ups when I was a member :

The Wanderers
Bob Nash – vocal
Ed Lowe – keyboard
Mark Mitchell – guitar
Percy Davis – bass
myself – drums and vocal

The Raging Storms
Tom Autieri – vocal
Mike Johnson – guitar
Ted Johnson – bass
Benny McCoy – drums
myself – guitar and vocal

The Variations
John Decker – vocal
Denny Loveridge – keyboards
Jim Hafferkamp – guitar
Alan Love – drums
myself – bass and vocal

The Nite Watchmen
Roger Merchant – vocal
Denny Miles – keyboards
Percy Davis – bass
Benny McCoy – drums
myself – guitar and vocal

We had a lot of fun back then. Deepest thanks and a bow from the waist to the players in those bands. All blessings upon them all.”

Dave Phillips
13 September 2021