Fifty-three years ago, a group of high school kids calling themselves Shagg performed as the warmup band for the bubblegum hit machine The Ohio Express. What a contrast in musical styles, and whiplash for the audience, who’d come to hear the Top 40 classic “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and got Hendrix, Cream, and The Who. (“Yummy” hit No. 4 on the U.S. charts in April 1968. Although we eyed fortune and fame, our band never had a hit, or a recording contract. As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, So it goes.)
The date was Saturday, June 22, 1968, the venue the Hullabaloo Club in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, a pole building off a four-lane highway that looked like a World War II bivouac and felt the size of an aircraft hanger. Concrete floor, metal walls. I doubt anyone heard anything except a wall of noise. It certainly sounded that way from the stage.
Shagg’s original lineup consisted of Chip Decker on bass, Bob Dittman on rhythm guitar, John McAllister on drums, and me on lead guitar. The band expanded with the addition of Joey Raynock on keyboards, Gene Gorse on the Hammond B-3, and Ron Oney and Don Chase on vocals.
As for the poster, yes, it is the original, on neon cardboard, with additional styling by Chip, the artist in the band. He added the flowers, the smoke streaming from the locomotive, and a girl with kaleidoscope eyes (it was the Sixties). Oh, yes, and the most important element that was missing from the original: our name.