The greater Youngstown, Ohio, metropolitan area served as a frenzied breeding ground for rock music from the mid-1960s 'til about the mid-1970's. Popular music, particularly rock music, underwent a rapid succession of overlapping mutations during this particular span, as did the music business itself -- from the emergence of underground FM stations to the eventual disappearance of local and regional air play; from the existence of literally dozens of small venues (mostly bars) to the eventual popularity of very large and more sophisticated clubs which required as much of a "show" as it did a strong song list from the bands they hired. Situated as it is between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, metropolitan Youngstown has always had its share of visiting musical talent. But it has, simultaneously, produced its own form of working class rock!
During the ten years we're focused on, Youngstown, itself, watched as the 'Human Beinz' shot to stardom in the pop music world with their huge hit, 'Nobody But Me,' while 'The Volume Four' (later called The New Hudson Exit and featuring Phil Keaggy on guitar) scored a regional hit with 'Come With Me.' To the northwest were Joe Walsh and 'The James Gang,' to the southeast, Donny Iris and 'The Jaggerz.' By 1970 Youngstown's club scene was literally awash with dozens of club bands - and very good ones at that - all working hard to develop somewhat definitive identities, to graduate to larger venues and, perhaps, to eventually find themselves with a national hit!
Local/regional bar and club bands, like internationally famous bands, generate fans and followers in several ways: a stand-out member; a unique (or at least discernibly different) musical offering of original material; a notable line-up (particularly if the members had been pulled together from other popular groups, i.e., a "super group"), etc.. But historically, a band's strongest and most loyal fan base accumulates from its live performances, for it is here, during this exchange, that no two bands can be mistaken.
Fast-forward to the mid-1990's - 2002. For those who left the area three decades ago, metro-Youngstown, in the physical sense, has a different look and feel. Musically, too. From a look through the local newspaper one finds it difficult, of late, to locate many clubs with live bands made up of young musicians driven by dreams. Instead, the past several years have spotlighted reunion concerts featuring a number of the area's most popular groups from the past, with Akron, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Morgantown, and Erie doing much the same.
The Youngstown area's premier band of the early 1970s was a group called 'Brainchild.' Originally consisting of members from groups like The Insights, The Ronnie Lee Thing, The Citations, and Roadshow, and later ingesting members from Left End and The Three Rivers Blues Band, Brainchild was the region's first local "super group," the region's first genuinely popular, racially integrated rock group, the group with the most equipment, the largest truck, the greatest number of employees, and the most extensive collection of original material of all the bands within a five-state area that seemed, at the time, to be its peers. This group of blue collar artists, with no single stand-out member, collected a huge following across an area ranging from Indiana to Michigan, West Virginia to Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. Live, Brainchild was very good, remarkably original and different, big and loud, and unpredictably fun. Always!
Within about three years, the six-piece Brainchild had gone from predominantly playing small, local clubs to playing large, multi-state venues; had evolved from playing cover songs to mostly original material; had accrued most of the trappings of rock 'n roll significance (financial incorporation, large sound system, multiple roadies, a road manager, etc.); and had flirted with genuine recognition as a result of the growing number of international groups and record personnel they performed with (a list that includes, for example, Yes, Sly & the Family Stone, Leon Russell, Uriah Heap, Three Dog Night, Ted Nugent, Procol Harem, Edgar Winter, Moody Blues and Ike & Tine Turner). While seeming "on the verge" of something or other (fame, fortune, a record contract. etc.?), Brainchild played its last date together on New Year's Eve, 1972.
Though short-lived, Brainchild had, it turns out, served as a sort of junior college experience for the majority of its members, most of whom walked away from the group having earned an MMB (major in the music business) degree. Of the band's eight members during it's relatively short life, only one (Danny Marshall) retired from music altogether, while another (Odie Crook) continued playing music locally and regionally through the 1970s before leaving the business to find other work. Two other members, John Grazier and Larry Paxton, eventually headed to Nashville after Brainchild, where they spent years touring as sidemen, writing songs, and playing studio dates. Grazier remained an active musician until the late 1990's, while Paxton continues to record and perform.. While remaining connected to the greater Pittsburgh area, Dave Freeland spent a good deal of his time in the Nashville area as well following Brainchild, eventually retiring from his full-time music career in the mid-1990s. Three former members, Bill Bodine, Ronnie Lee Cunningham and Joe Pizzulo, eventually made their ways to the Los Angeles area following their time with Brainchild, and all three remain closely affiliated with the music business to this day.
After 30 yrs., this collection of "local boys" (Dave Freeland was the only non-Youngstown-area member) has decided to re-group - not for the money (theirs will be a charity concert), not for the musical possibilities (they have no intention of recording or playing together after this particular event), and not for the sake of hitching themselves to any prolonged reunion trend - but rather to have fun together, again, and to hopefully illustrate to their own children, nieces and nephews that dreams are as important to hold on to as good friends. Dreams carry us through the hard times of life, and good friends help to make one's dreams come true, and, more importantly, to sustain one's balance along the way.
©2002 Brainchild Reunion. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.