Mike Christie Interview
(Ed Wool and the Nomads)

In the early 1960's, Ed Wool and the Nomads were one of the most popular bands in all of Central New York.

The highlight of their career occurred on October 30, 1965, when they opened for the Rolling Stones here in Syracuse at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

Mike Christie was a member of Ed Wool and the Nomads. We spoke with Mike about that concert with the Stones and what it was like to be a rock 'n' roll group in the sixties.

Q - Mike, what instrument did you play in Ed Wool and the Nomads?
A -I played bass.

Q - When did the band first form?
A - Oh, Ed Wool and the Nomads were around long, long before I ever joined. That would be difficult to say. Ed formed the group I believe, in high school. I joined the band in the summer of 1965. I was with another local band here ( Watertown, New York). Phil Udaskin was the original bass player. Ed and I graduated together, so I remember the band I was a late-comer. The only reason I ever learned to play guitar was because of The Beatles. I heard them and just went nuts.

Q - Like so many other people.
A - Yeah. I played with a little local group called The Triumphs. When Ed's bass player decided he just didn't want to do it anymore and left. Ed called me one Sunday morning and we got together.

Q - Ed was the singer?
A - Ed was a singer and lead guitarist, and leader of the group. Extremely talented guy. Had a tremendous pitch. Originally there were five in the group, but finally whittled down to four of us. The old bass, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, drummer. We all sang which was kind of neat.

Q - What kind of material were you playing?
A - Well, when I joined they did a variety of things. I used to go to Clayton, New York, on the river to listen to The Nomads and they were stunning for their day. They could mimic The Beatles and all of the new Beatle songs. It seemed as if every weekend at O'Brien's in Clayton they had new Beatle songs that had just come out, that week or the week before. It was incredible to hear. First time I heard "A Hard Day's Night" they played it. That's why I was thrilled to join the group, as you can imagine. They mimicked everything, The Stones, The Beatles, any new group that came out. Ed had a tremendous ability to do that.

Q - Did the band ever do any originals?
A - Yeah they did. I learned some of the material. The only song that really sticks out in my mind is "Hardly Bad". The only reason I say that is because we did that at The Stones concert.

Q - Was that the one and only original song you did?
A - Yeah. In fact I can tell you what we played. We played "High Heel Sneakers", "Hardly Bad". Then the last second before we went on, we were informed we would be backing up Monte Rock the Third. You remember that screwball?

Q - I do indeed.
A - Didn't have much talent, but he had a lot of personality and kind of came across. Kind of goofy. Made a lot of money I guess. I don't even remember what he sang. But at the last minute we kind of got together and backed him up.

Q - That's strange that Monte Rock would he on the bill.
A - He kind of came in at the last minute. All of a sudden he just sort of floated in. It was a huge surprise to us all.

Q - Mike, there's a new book out on The Rolling Stones. It's called "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" by James Karnbach and Carol Benson (Facts on File - publisher), are you familiar with it?
A – No. I’m really not.

Q - They list all of The Stone's gigs including that October 30, 1965 appearance at the war Memorial. They have Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles on the bill.
A - Right. She was there.

Q - And The Rockin' Ramrods.
A - The Ramrods. Now see I was right with The Ramrods. For years I could never remember their name. They were from the Boston area.

Q - But, it doesn't mention Ed Wool and the Nomads.
A - Well, what's interesting is, we opened the show. There was a local group called Sam and the Twisters. They were scheduled to do it. I don't know what happened. To this day I'd never be able to tell you. I don't know what happened between Dan Leonard (WNDR/WQLF Radio) and Sam and the Twisters and Dan Leonard and Ed Wool. But, all of a sudden we were in. I don't know what the deal was. I can't tell you.

Q - There's no mention of Monte Rock on the bill either. Why do you think you were excluded?
A -I don't know. The only thing I can possible come up with is we were kind of last minute. But, we had enough information ahead of time that we were gonna do it. We had posters all over Watertown. We were playing at a place called Pine Lodge out here in Black River, which was a huge draw for the young folks. Monstrous. Especially when kids came home from college for the holidays. We were playing out there and got a lot of advertising around the city because the guy who ran Pine Lodge put out the posters. Of course, Ed was always big on self promotion, and advertising. And even though it was last minute, we still had enough time to get out advertising. Why we're not in there, I really don't know.

Q - Who was the "hottest" band in Watertown and the North Country at that time?
A - Ed Wool and the Nomads. There was one other guy who was a whale of a musician, Bobby Kissell, from up north here. He is just one of the best guitarists you'd ever hear. He's doing a solo routine today. At the time, he and his brother Dick, Bobby Lawlor and Chuck Martuzes had a group, Dick And The Knights. They went down to Texas from Watertown. And when they came back to Watertown, they came back looking just like The Beatles. Suits, boots, hair, the whole bit. So, they were fairly hot.

Q - Did you guys ever perform here in Syracuse?
A - Oh, nothing that I remember, that I did. Now they may have. I remember a lot of college fraternities particularly up north here. St. Lawrence. Clarkson. Potsdam. What we did, just as kind of a sidebar here; Ed and I drove on Labor Day weekend, 1965, just before the concert, talk about youthful energy, drove from Watertown to Wichita, Kansas with a borrowed station wagon and came back with Vox Beatle amps. All the stuff that The Beatle used. We traded all of our Fender stuff in, and came back with those big Super Beatle amps. That's what we used in the concert.

Q - Why'd you have to go to Kansas to get that?
A - (Laughs). You'd have to know Eddie Wool. It was the closest place they were available. They were there. They had them on the floor. They were willing to trade. So, we went to Wichita, Kansas. As the bass player, oh God don't I wish I had it today, an original Hofner Beatles bass, the violin shaped bass. Eddie was playing a red Rickenbacker just like George Harrison had, real thin one, real beautiful instrument. Tommy the rhythm guitarist had a Gretsch Country Gentleman, all black and trimmed in gold. It was absolutely gorgeous. But, we looked pretty snappy. When the curtain opened, we all had suits on, and Beatle boots, suede Beatle boots, the whole nine yards. We were cool. (Laughs).

Q - Do you know who called who about that Stone's gig? Any idea?
A - That would've all gone through Ed, and to this day it's kind of a mystery. A bit foggy. The business part of it was all Ed. How we did come upon that I will probably never know. Ed was pretty good friends with Dan Leonard. Dan Leonard was the master of ceremonies that night. He introduced us on-stage. I can remember that clear as a bell.

Q -You were on stage for how long?
A - It seemed like 30 seconds. We blistered through the first song High Heel Sneakers. Then Eddie introduced Hardly Bad, as one of our own is what I think he said. We had Al Grant, the drummer, up on a riser. We got down there real, real early. (Laughs). We arrived early that day at the War Memorial. We managed to dredge up some kind of a riser, from somewhere, and we had him up in the air. It was cool. Al was so fired up, that in fact it might have been the first song, he was working so hard on his ride cymbal that it came crashing down to the floor. I jumped aside. I can remember that like it was yesterday. But then suddenly it was over. There we were backstage and The Rolling Stones were mingling around. What did Andy Warhol say, everybody's famous for 15 minutes? That would be our claim to fame I guess.

Q - What time did you have to be at the War Memorial that day?
A - Well, I don't know what time we had to be there, but I can tell you we were there way, way too early. We went down early in the morning.

Q - And the show started when?
A - Eight o'clock. We were there at 9 or 10 a.m. and had to practically beg some guy to let us in.

Q - And what did you do all day?
A - Diddled around. It was like, what in the world are we doing here? When the Stones came in, the roadies dropped the amps on the stage, here's the guitars. It was incredible. They hit like a blitzkrieg. It was nothing like today's concerts where they come in with tractor trailer loads of equipment, lights, special effects.

Q - Did The Stones arrive in a limo?
A - We were still inside and backstage. My understanding is, they arrived and left, and I'm only telling you what I heard in a bread track. My thought is probably a van of some kind that came in under the War Memorial, and they came upstairs. They literally dropped their guitars and ran and they were gone. They were out of that building so fast you couldn't believe it. The poor kids out front all thought they were still there of course. Tried to rush the stage and all that. They were long gone. You have to remember that Brian Jones was still in the group as well.

Q - He was The Rolling Stones.
A - Really. And you know, you could tell. We kind of got a real feel for that, that he really was the leader, at that point.

Q - Did you meet all of The Stone's?
A -I spoke with Brian Jones. I said hello to Mick Jagger. No response. Hello to Bill Wyman, the bass player, who I think was pre-occupied. He was talking to someone else. Charlie Watts was standing nearby and we have pictures. Charlie may have been pre-occupied at that point. He was a bit wide-eyed at that point. He was a bit spacey looking. But, he kind of has that appearance anyway. I probably shouldn't say that. Brian Jones made some comment about fashions, and about the clothes that Americans were wearing. I think it was distasteful to him. I don't know whether it was us or The Ramrods or whether it was just in general. He made some remark. And that's about all I remember.

Q - What kind of a guy was Brian Jones? Did you find him to be sarcastic? Shy?
A - I got the impression that he was probably quite intelligent. Definitely had his own opinions about not only the way he looked but the way he felt about things. It was 1965, he's in a pair of wool plaid pants and a great big wool sweater type thing, and this perfect little girl haircut. He was a little, tiny, petite thing. He wasn't very big. But, he was a bit sarcastic. I got the impression that you might have a hard time knowing him and understanding him. But, I think he probably had quite a bit on the ball.

Q - How about the concert itself? Were there a lot of screaming girls?
A - Oh yeah. As I remember, a lot of noise. A lot of flashbulbs. For me, at that point in my life, it was a brand new thing. (Laughs). It really was kind of neat.

Q - So you were able to watch The Stones after your set?
A - Oh yeah. We stayed right on-stage and stayed back behind the curtains.

Q - What happened to Ed Wool and the Nomads after that concert?
A -I didn't stay only until the next summer, and I went on and did something else. Chuck Martuzes took my place and they continued to do well in this area. The drummer was replaced as well. The drummer, the bass player and the rhythm guitarist all left Ed and joined Bob Kissell who I mentioned earlier, and formed The South Shore Road Band. That was probably one of the premier bands that ever came out of the North country. Horns. The whole nine yards. It was quite a band. They sounded a great deal like Chicago. They really were good. They were marvelous. They had harmonies. They had keyboards. They had brass. To get back to Ed Wool, right after that concert we came back, and needless to say we were in demand. High schools. Colleges. We did little shows and made it a concert type thing. If we went to a high school we always wanted to be on a stage where there were curtains, so that the curtains would open. We kind of rode the crest there for awhile. It was pretty neat, especially with the equipment we had. It was pretty stunning, especially to young people. Look at the amps. Look at the guitars. They're all dressed in suits. Holy cow! We did all the stuff that kids relate to.

Q - Whatever happened to Ed Wool?
A - He's still performing. I have not heard him in years. I haven't seen him in years. I do talk to him from time to time. He tells me he writes. He plays everyday. I think he's playing more of a jazz thing.

Q - What did you go on and do?
A - After I left The Nomads, I went with a group called The Vibrations. They were a pretty good band. Eddie Wool's group and The Vibrations opened a concert in Watertown, for The Rascals. The Rascals were passing through. That was kind of neat as well. So, it continued on over a period of time.

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