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WE HAD

IN THE BEGINNING - 1981

Back 40 years ago this month, 3 McCarty boys had a dream to create a band. Larry, Kelly, and Jerry realized that there was one main problem... None of them knew how to play an instrument, and Jerry, who was going to be the singer... well, he couldn't sing! Jerry used to tell the story of Christmastime at Parkman Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan. The music teacher, Mrs. Collins, would have the class sing Christmas carols around the school going classroom to classroom. She told Jerry just to stand in the back and move his lips!

That did not deter any of them though. First things first... Think up cool stage names! Kelly came up with Brad Savage, Jerry came up with Eric Swan, and Larry came up with Lake Speed. Check that off the list!

The next thing was to open up the JCPenney catalog and pick out our instruments with Kelly's ... er... Brad's employee discount. They bought guitars, drums, maracas, kazoos, harmonicas, tambourines, and even a cowbell (I got the fever! And the only prescription is more cowbell!) While waiting for those to come in, the boys went to Radio Shack at Lakeside Mall to buy a PA, microphones, and column speakers (along with a soldering iron... you never know when you'll need one). Check That Off The List!

Next was to come up with a name for the band. They were thinking seriously taking the name Tilch (which was the weird street name in our subdivision among other more normal names like Goldridge Lane, Buttercup Circle, Shangri La, etc.) Jerry came up with the idea to have something similar to Paul Revere and the Raiders or Buddy Holly and the Crickets or Mac & The Lost Cause??? He thought that the band name should be have Brad Savage's name in it (since he got the employee discount) and we toyed around with some names. Jerry said "Why don't we just pick a name at random out of the dictionary?" So he brought out the 1000+ page Merriam Webster dictionary. Larry feathered the pages, and Jerry plopped his finger down... And we really didn't want to be called Brad Savage & The Cocks, so we moved it down a couple to Cockroaches! Check That One Off The List! 

Within a week, the boys were jamming in the basement with their brand new equipment, although they had to compromise and only play the music loud when Mom was out of the house at Bingo (you know the old saying... When the cats away, the cockroaches will play). The boys were teaching themselves to play which was kind of fun but frustrating, because none of the songs they were trying to cover actually sounded like the original records. But that didn't deter the brothers, as they made an executive decision to not play cover music, but they would actually write their own songs. Brad & Eric co-wrote their first songs "Three Stooges Rock & Roll", "Cockroach Party", "Swimming In The Secretarial Pool", and "Bad Reputation". They knew they were onto something, so they hired their younger brother to be their business manager (after all, he WAS taking business classes in high school!). He also changed his name from Steve McCarty to Paul Stevens. The first order of business for Paul was to have us buy some cool band jackets! Check, Check, Check, and Check!

 

Brad, Eric, and Lake continued to collaborate and write music for each other, and, as their library of original songs continued to grow, so did their playing abilities. They got to the point that they wanted to cut a record (vinyl will never die, right?) So Brad talked to his friend Bob Dantzer who was in a band called 'The Boys' and asked him for advice. He listened to what we had with just a guitar, drums, and vocal, and he thought the songs were good, however, he made the suggestion that we needed to add bass, lead guitar, and keyboard to the songs to complete them. He had experience in recording, so he offered to add the bass tracks, his keyboard player Carl would also help out with his talents, and Steve his lead guitarist would add some cool licks to the songs. It was also discussed that my beginning crude guitar ability could work on the recording, but suggested that although Lake was a very good live performer on drums, we should try to find a professional drummer for the actual recordings (as that dictates the entire pace of the songs). That was a gut-check time as we 3 started this just less than a year prior, but Lake understood (like Pete Best understood I'm sure) that if it was best for the recordings, and best for the Cockroaches, that he would step aside, but stayed with the project offering his advice and support. Luckily, Brad did know a drummer who had played for several local bands in the past... Lance DeVous, and he eagerly accepted our proposal to play on the recordings.

So Brad and Eric rented late night recording time at a recording studio in East Detroit called "The Disk". The entire band showed up, along with a couple guests (Cassy Harlo from the band Baby Jane, and Mike Novak from the band Jim Gold & Gallery) that were not credited on the recordings, but added their talents to the songs that were recorded over several nights. They decided to record those first 4 songs that Brad and Eric wrote and they all were very happy with the finished product. They got the master recordings and then sought out a record distributor who pressed the records and Brad, Eric, Lake, and Bob added some artwork in the way of a photo on the dust sleeve from a few photo shoots prior.

Brad and Eric sent out records locally and nationally. They got write-ups in local newspapers, along with national publications like Goldmine magazine. They even heard back from the brother of Larry Fine of the 3 Stooges who bought records to sell through their Three Stooges Fan Club. The records were already out and selling locally, and the Cockroaches had done some promo work for them prior. They got their first live gig in the late summer of 1982 as a special appearance, playing to a packed house at the Wooden Nickel Saloon in East Detroit. They played a 10 song set of the 40-50 that they had written. It was received amazingly well by the crowd which was a boost to the boys that their idea from a year ago was a good one. It was a great night to be a Cockroach!

One cool highlight that happened about that time was when Brad and Eric got interviewed on a local TV talk show with host 'Rockin' Rob'. The pair got to talk in-depth what the band meant to them, how they got started, and the process they went through to make a record. The band mates are still friends with Rob to this day.

Brad Savage & The Cockroaches never toured heavily together as several of them were still in different bands at the time and had other obligations, but they did make a point to stay in touch and play together when asked or needed (usually a holiday concert at a smaller bar, an anniversary show for the band, or other appearances over the years. Brad comments "What was cool was when someone says 'Let's play', all the others dropped what they were doing and made time for getting together and performing as the Cockroaches!"

A few Cockroaches were having dinner at Andiamo Restaurant, when this broke out

The McCarty boys kept on writing, but that tailed off when Larry (Lake) moved down to Tennessee, and Jerry (Eric) got married and his day job took him to sunny California, where he stayed very active in the entertainment field. That was until about 2000 when Jerry wrote a screen play that was going to be a musical version of the Archie comic book. He knew who to call... Jerry sent a copy along with words to songs he had written, and asked Brad and Bob if they could put together a sound track album while he continued to tweaked the screen play.

Brad and Bob dove into the project and over the next several weeks, wrote an entire album's worth of music which in some cases were totally different than anything written prior, but went along with the screen play that Jerry was writing beautifully. Jerry flew into Detroit to listen to what they had. He thought it was great, so they recorded all the songs and put the album together. Unfortunately, Disney who Jerry pitched the screen play to with the music said it was great, but there were 2 things wrong with it. #1, it was about high school, and #2, it's a musical. They weren't interested in anything that had to do with high school musicals..... AND WHAT HAPPENED A FEW YEARS LATER... DISNEY CAME OUT WITH HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL! Rat Bastards!

Anyway, the story goes on until Jerry is diagnosed with meta-static bone cancer in 2015. He went through chemo, radiation, and all types of experimental procedures, but was not given a lot of hope. Not to let cancer keep him down and feeling sorry for himself, Jerry kept really active, and also wanted to do some things that he loved to do in the past. One thing Jerry really loved was being a Cockroach. So in the summer of 2016, 35 years after starting this whole thing, Jerry turned back into Eric Swan and brought out his leather pants, and the band got together again for a 35th Anniversary Show in front of another packed house in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. The Cockroaches totally rocked the house that night. It was bittersweet as we could all see the pain he was in, but it didn't stop his performance as he gave it everything he had. He even wrote 3 new songs for the event (Back in the 80's, She's Not Right, and On The Lips) which were awesome. Jerry even flew back to Michigan several weeks later to record the song 'Back in the 80's' to help raise money to find a cure for cancer.

The best part of the whole night was getting up on stage with the band, and all who had a part of it over the past 35 years got a chance to sing with Jerry. Brad Savage, Lake Speed, Bob Dantzer, Carl Rollin, Lance DeVous, Adam Allen, Paul Stevens, Eddie Stein, and Todd Rambo, all who played important roles in the band over the years, were playing and singing with Jerry to the song "Saturday Matinee" together one last time.

All the Cockroaches come on stage for the song Saturday Matinee

Jerry passed away on December 17, 2018. He left behind his wife Kathlene, and kids Dana and Evan. He is greatly missed by anyone and everyone who knew him. Over the years together, Brad, Eric, Lake and Bob penned and performed 158 original songs for the Cockroaches, including his final song he co-wrote with Bob called 'Liquid Vacation'. After a total of about 37 years from when it began for him, it turned out Jerry's voice actually was his trademark. Take that, Mrs. Collins!

The last Cockroach song that Jerry co-wrote was Liquid Vacation

ED NOTE: This article might be timely as it is now 40 years since the Cockroaches first got together. Brad and Eric made sure to get the band together for an anniversary concert every 5 years to perform their songs for old and new friends and fans alike. Question... Will the tradition continue this year? Check???

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The McCarty Metro - 9323 Sussex Avenue - Detroit, Michigan 48228

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