The summer of 1968, South Hampton, NY. – a new band – Far Cry, becomes the house band at Long Island’s newest biggest dance club – the Alley, a converted bowling alley. For about 6 weeks they played for a young audience, some hip, some straight. Being a spacey blues rock band that would some times play only 3 songs in an hour set, the fit was not good. The two club managers loved the band and got them signed to a new label in NYC – Vanguard/Apostolic, an off-shoot of Vanguard that wanted to jump on the rock bandwagon, having been, as Vanguard, a rootsy Americana label.
The band went into Apostolic Studios on East 10th St for about 10 days and recorded their one album Far Cry. They then packed up and headed back to Boston, some to school, some to work. The packaging and promo was left to the label and the managers.
David Perry, guitar, went back to Harvard, Paul Lenart, guitar and Sean Hutchinson, bass, went back to Tufts. Larry Luddecke, keyboards, was just starting at Harvard. Dick Martin, sax, was a graduate student at Harvard while Jere Whiting, the lead singer, was the son of a Harvard professor. The rhythm section was Victor McGill on traps and David earl Johnson on congas and percussion.
The band was all over the map in terms of influences, from outside jazz sax and drums to cover rock from Sean and Larry who had gone to high school together. Jere and Paul came from a more traditional blues background, with people saying Jere was a mixture of Howlin’ Wolf and Captain Beefheart. It was new and free-form and varied night to night from brilliant to disjointed, but it seemed to be working and between all the colleges in New England, the festivals and the protests going on, work was plentiful on the weekends. The band also had a large following at the Electric Circus in NYC as well as playing in Washington Square and outdoors at Lincoln Center.
In Cambridge and Boston the band developed a loyal local following, both from playing clubs and the very popular free concerts Sundays on the Cambridge Common. The other regulars there were more representative of the emerging “Bosstown Sound”…Ultimate Spinach, Beacon Street Union, Ill Wind, Listening, and even a young Jonathan Richman often played solo in between set changes. Throw in out-of-town bands who might have played at the Tea Party the night before, like the then-unknown Allman Brothers and each week was a very solid show.
During the school year the students in the band had dorms or apartments in Cambridge. The others ventured up to Greenville, NH and found half of a huge old farmhouse to call home. During the summer of 1969 the rest of the band moved up to the farm/commune. There they lived, farmed and jammed endlessly while usually leaving on weekends to play gigs from upstate New York, Connecticut and back to NYC.
Two weeks before Woodstock neighboring Mason, NH threw its own festival, “Hilltop Pop”, with The Velvet Underground and Far Cry, Country Funk and the Wild Things headlining. At the last minute Van Morrison signed on to complete the bill. It was a great gig on a beautiful day with an infamous after-party at the farm, with Van stalking around the house most of the night.
After a break when some of the band went to Woodstock, the band resumed their routine. One day the band got a call from the Boston Tea Party saying that Arthur Brown was booked that night but he had been tripping for 3 days and fired his whole band. Would Far Cry come down and back him up? Sure, why not? The band loaded up the rusty old step-van and rumbled down to Boston. The band knew his hit “Fire” and played that, and then a blues, and then it all fell apart as Arthur invited the whole crowd on stage. In another 10 minutes it was over.
As the students went back to school in September the farm was more than the others needed so they found a smaller house with a barn over in Mason. The barn was unheated save for a wood stove so rehearsing was often difficult. Gigs were still there but the music was stagnating. Then what was going to be the “big break” came in November 1969 – a slot at the Fillmore East on “new music Tuesday”. Off to New York!
They rumbled down to New York with their gear and best stage clothes. After a sound check and some nervous hours of down time, it was show time. The house was pretty empty but a bunch of “big cheeses” were supposed to be there. It was not a particularly inspired night musically, and then Sean broke a bass string in the fourth song. That NEVER happens, so he didn’t have a spare. Far Cry’s manager managed to rent/bribe a bass from the next act after a plea to just borrow it was turned down. The show went on but a good portion of the band’s allotted time had been lost on bass negotiations.
The “big break” was essentially a big flop. The big cheeses had not shown up so the band rumbled back to the farm, not in a good frame of mind. As the Winter of ’69 wore on there were still some college gigs, long drives to Syracuse through blizzards in a van with dodgy heat at best.Then home to weekend rehearsals in a freezing barn, no matter how hard the wood stove was working.
Those still living in town had started playing his with other local musicians. Whatever momentum there had been was dissipating and by Spring it was clear that the end was near. The band members still got along fine but the weekend rehearsals had stopped. The music was stagnating, with no light at the end of the tunnel.
In June of 1970, two years after that first gig at the Alley Discotheque, Far Cry decided amicably to disband. Some are gone, some are off the grid and some are still in touch, “band chicks” and “old ladies” too. Paul Lenart and Larry Luddecke are still playing and writing music together 52 years later.
Published on July 15, 2020