Boston-based Ill Wind was a familiar band on the college and teen dance circuit in New England and New York during the sixties and early seventies. The first incarnation featured Ken Frankel on lead guitar, Richard Griggs on guitar, Carey Mann on bass, local folksinger, Judy Bradbury, on lead vocals and Dave Kinsman on drums. The band originally mixed folk/rock and bluegrass. As the band evolved into psychedelia and blues, Judy left the band and was replaced by Conny Devanney who had been singing in New York City and Jersey Shore clubs. The band had three lead singers, three songwriters and their songs started to feature complex three part harmonies and long instrumental jams.
The first gigs were at college mixers and frat parties in the Boston/Cambridge area. After recording a demo tape at Hanley Studios in Medford, the band got their first gig out of the Boston area at a CYO dance in Stoneham. The young kids were so enthusiastic about the new sound that Ill Wind began playing at other CYO and teen dances around New England.
Soon the band attracted the attention of booking agencies and started playing colleges around New England and New York at the time when colleges had large entertainment budgets. They also started playing at the Boston Tea Party, where they made regular appearances, plus many of the big ballrooms where the big bands of the 30s and 40s played. The band was working full time now and brought in Ken’s brother, Tom, to help manage the band and do sound levels at performances. Soon after that Richard “Berred” Ouellette joined the band as road manager. Over the years, Ill Wind performed with many well known bands including The Who, Fleetwood Mac, The Byrds, Moby Grape, Van Morrison, The Rascals, The Buckinghams, Jethro Tull, The Youngbloods, Mitch Ryder, Vanilla Fudge and also backed Chuck Berry.
In 1967, the band recorded five songs for Capitol Records at their studios in New York, produced by Dick Weisman, formally of the Journeymen. Although months of negotiations ensued, no record contract was signed and the songs were never released. The band started working with the William Morris Agency and was booked on a West Coast tour.
Upon returning from California, the band spent two weeks playing on Long Island and New York City where they met Tom Wilson. Tom had just formed his own production company after producing albums for Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and The Mothers of Invention. The band signed with ABC Records and in 1968 the album, Flashes, produced by Wilson, was released as well as a single, “In My Dark World” b/w “High Flyiing Bird”. The respected British music magazine Mojo noted that the album included “some of the finest psychedelia conceivable”
Unfortunately, ABC did not press enough albums to meet demand, and many stores couldn’t stock them. Nonetheless, Flashes was fairly well received and was played often on the radio across the country including WBCN and was “pick of the week” in several markets.
The original band broke up in 1969 and reformed in 1970 with Conny Devanney, Dave Kinsman, Michael Walsh on bass, Walter Bjorkman (formerly of Cloud and Swallow) on lead guitar and Bryant Thayer on piano. Featuring Conny’s strong vocals and Walter’s blues guitar, Ill Wind was a big draw at colleges and concert clubs until disbanding in 1973.
Ironically, more has been written about Ill Wind since they broke up. Richard, Walter, Judy and Tom have died. The other members reside in New England and California.
In 2009, the British label, Sunbeam Records, re-released Flashes as a double CD and double vinyl album that included the five previously unreleased cuts from Capitol as well as other earlier recordings.