Poor n Reign's Complete History
|Here's the story:
In two separate home studios located just three streets apart in the southern section of Lawrence Massachusetts, four musicians who crossed paths many times but never actually met would one day come together to form Poor n Reign. It may get confusing as we describe the relationships and explain how they finally came together. But, if you stay focused and read this all the way through you will understand how Poor n Reign came to be.
Pay close attention to the Musical Notes. They explain the reasons behind the band's material.
Tim Croteau is the type of person who knows everyone. If he doesn't know you directly, he knows someone who knows you or is related to you. You can't be with Tim for ten minutes without someone either stopping by or calling him on his cell phone. Now, ironically Mike Perron and Tim crossed paths thousands of times in the early 80's but never actually met. They even played the same clubs but always at slightly different times. Sometimes missing each other by just minutes.
Tim played in several bands over the years. One of the more popular bands was named Foreplay. Foreplay did rather well on the local cover circuit in the early 80's playing all the local hot spots. But like most popular local bands of that era, they eventually broke up over some stupid irreconcilable issue.
In early 1989 Tim ran into Alex (the former guitar player for Foreplay). They chatted about the shit that happened in their lives since the breakup. You know, the usual stuff. After a few hours of reliving the old times Alex and Tim decided to regroup. They placed an ad seeking a bass player. Bassist Andy "Stich" Stachura from Methuen answered the call.
A few weeks later the first jam session was scheduled and Andy arrived at Tim's studio to see if there was a chance for the three of them to gel. After a couple of weeks of working out some ideas (riffs & such) Alex decided that he was not up for the task of playing original music. Andy saw that Tim was very interested in persuing the orginal scene so Tim and Andy said their goodbyes to Alex and set off to complete the lineup with musicians that had the same common goal - Original Artistic Freedom.
Musical Note: The basic riffs for Cornershelf and Long Gone were worked out during this time.
Tim and Andy start to formalize their work. They were recording their material in Tim's home studio located in the basement of his mother's house. Tim was a carpenter at the time and built a studio in a small section of the basement. Tim made sure that the walls were soundproof so his mother wouldn't be disturbed too much and throw him out of the basement.
Video Note: You can see the studio in the Channel 7 News clip (click here)
Tim and Andy placed an ad for a guitar player in the local music stores. For weeks they kept jamming, recording and working out beats and drum lines. One night after practice, Tim's sister Robin decided to see what the vibrations in the floor were while visiting her mother. She ventured down stairs and started chatting with Tim and Andy. "Hey...I might know of a singer that would be a great addition to the band. I met this guy at The Front Row Sports Bar. When I finish with Ma let's head down there!"
Robin went upstairs and finished her visit. They climbed into Tim's Ford Pickup Truck (Tim is not a big drinker so he was the logical choice to drive). They settle in with a few beers and as luck would have it in walks Jim Garrity. Robin does the intro's and as usual Tim knows everyone Jim knows. After several beers and hours of conversation Jim agrees to a Saturday afternoon jam session.
Tim and Andy are feeling good. They may have just landed a potential singer for the band. On the way home while they're talking they decide to place a new ad in some of the Boston area music stores since they haven't heard anything from the local ads they placed for a few weeks. Tim drops Andy at his car and parks his truck. He heads upstairs throws his key's on the table and checks his messages. "Hi, this is Jim Black, I'm responding to the ad for a guitar player. You can reach me at 469-3021." Tim gets goose bumps. Wow, now we have a singer and a guitar player. Tim smiles as his head hits the pillow.
Musical Note: The Front Row Sports Bar served as the inspiration for the song "The Row."
Tim calls Andy the next day and let's him know "We got a response to the guitar player ad. I set him up for Saturday. "Cool" Andy replies.
Saturday arrives and the jam went very well. They put together the basic riffs and the words for "The Row." Things are looking great. After putting together several more original ideas the session ends. As Jim Black is packing up his stuff Andy asks "What do you think?" Jim Black responds "I think it sounds great! When's the next practice?" Meanwhile, Tim is talking with Jim Garrity..."What do you think?" This was fantastic! When do we get together again?"
Video Note: Check out the Video for the song The Row ( click here )
In the early 1980's Mike Perron and Keith David played in a cover band called Arson. Arson was a well known local "biker bar" band. Arson broke up after several bar fights (which the band members themselves were involved in) had taken its toll. Mike Perron (guitarist), Danny Thomas (singer), Bob Turcotte (bass player) then went on to form Trezon.
Trezon was an "80's" cover band that did well on the local cover circuit for several years. One night while returning from a show Mike was seriously injured in an automobile accident. It took Mike over a year to heal from the injuries to his wrist, collar bone and face. Trezon had to cancel a year worth of shows and understandably broke up.
Mike, however, was determined to continue playing. So after essentially learning to play guitar all over again Mike called Keith to see what he was up to. After catching up on the old times they decided to start jamming again. They hooked up with Kenny Fields, an aspiring guitar player and the owner of Al's Diner. Kenny offered his basement as a practice studio which was just three streets over from Tim's house. Al's Diner was located around the corner from Kenny's house. It was also just around the corner from Tim's house.
Tim would stop at Al's Diner almost every morning on his way to work for breakfast. So of course, Tim knew Kenny. Kenny would discuss his project and the guys he was jamming with. And, Tim returned the favor by discussing his project and the guys he was jamming with. These discussions went on for months.
Andy knew Keith (because Keith's younger brother went to the same high school as Andy). Sometimes Andy would hangout at Keith's house after school. He would hear Keith practice. After several weeks Keith convinced Andy to check out the band he was jamming with. Andy secretly felt the project with Tim wasn't really going anywhere so he decided to take Keith up on his offer. Andy came down to Kenny's house and started listening to some of their practice tapes. Keith stated, "You have to meet Mike." The following week Andy, Kenny and Keith were at the rehearsal space. Mike walked in and Keith introduced Andy. Andy stated he liked what he heard on the tapes and wanted to start working together. Since they needed a bass player desperately Mike was all for it. Now Andy playing in both projects.
Musical Note: The tapes Andy heard included the songs RainBow after the Storm and Did You.
Okay, a quick recap: We have Tim, Jim Garrity, Andy and Jim Black jamming together. Three streets over we have Mike, Kenny, Andy and Keith jamming together. Now Andy is two timing everyone (but not really meaning to). Andy felt the pressure and knew he had to make a decision. Andy rationalized in his own mind that the gig with Tim had promise if Mike was the guitarist. But Andy was still hesitant. Meanwhile, as luck would have it, Jim Black left the band for personal reasons. That made Andy's decision to approach Mike a no brainer.
Little did Andy know that Mike was frustrated. Keith wanted to play some cover tunes along with the originals. Mike wanted to do originals only. Mike really wanted to get back to playing live shows again but this time on the original circuit. Here's the conversation between Mike and Keith:
"I've already played the cover circuit and did well there" Mike explains. "I want to see if our original music can make it. I don't want to play other people's shit. I want to play and sell my own shit. Playing in a cover band is what I plan to do in my retirement man! I've been off the cover circuit long enough now that the copy cat label for me is gone and I DON'T WANT IT BACK!" Keith responded; "I want to get back into the clubs and make money. The fastest way to do that is to add our originals to a cover list and get back out on the circuit!" Mike said; "No Way!"
Suddenly Andy entered the room. The conversation stops and the band starts rehearsing. After a better-than-usual session, Andy stopped Mike outside, "I heard what you and Keith were talking about outside the door. You guys were loud enough "
"You shouldn't eavesdrop man, it's not cool."
Andy stated "Mike, I have been jamming with some other dudes. They think like you do. They want to go all originals."
Mike snapped back, "So you have been two-timing us you piece of shit?"
"Yes, I have a habit of leaving my options open"
"I should open something else on your head!"
Andy went on, "Look, Mike I think these other guys are what you're looking for. You should check them out."
Mike asked, "When?"
"We are meeting tomorrow."
Musical Note: The better-than-usual session is where they created the riff's for Flying and In the City.
Video Note: Check out the Video for the song Flying ( click here )
The next evening Mike went to Andy's house and together they headed over to Tim's to talk. As they neared Tim's house Mike said,: "What the hell is this? This is just up the street from Kenny's house." Andy produced a wry smile. Andy introduced Mike to Tim and Jim Garrity in front of Tim's house. Outside they spent several hours talking. Mike and Tim connected immediately. They were on the exact same page and knew this was what they both were seeking.
Here's a few interesting things that they discovered about how close they were to each other without ever actually meeting:
Tim's best friend is Danny O'Carrol. Danny is the cousin of Jim Spaziano. Jim Spaziano was the drummer in Trezon.
Jim Garrity went to high school with Mike's sister and they were in the same classes together.
Tim's mother was a teacher at the Bruce School in Lawrence Massachusetts. That's where Mike went to elementary school.
Jim Garrity's older brother was a customer at Tim's Autobody Shop.
Tim's mother was friends with Andy's mother.
Andy worked at Raytheon and Mike's Uncle Jack was the corporate trainer there while Mike's cousin Mark Harrington worked in the same department as Andy.
Mike's Aunt Irene lived 4 streets over from Tim.
Mike was good friends with a girl named Linda who worked 1 aisle over from where Andy worked at Raytheon.
We could go on for ever.....but let's move on.
Musical Note: Poor n Reign got its name from a comment Jim made this night..."We're poor now but some day we'll reign!"
Jim, Tim and Andy already had roughed out CornerShelf, The Row, Long Gone, Loser, ABC (America the Beautiful which appears on the second album) and a real basic version of Long Distance. Long Distance turned out to be Jim's resignation letter but the band never knew it until it was too late (that will become clear in Chapter 11).
Together they reworked the songs into what they are today. Mike brought in the licks for Flying and In the City while Jim penned the words. Collectively they created Crazy Little Hot Top (which was only played a few times and does not appear on any album). Mike wanted to add Rainbow after the Storm (which Mike, Andy and Keith were working on in the other project) and with an album's worth of material the band decided to hit the recording studio.
Poor n Reign went into Double Edge Recording Studios in Haverhill, Massachusetts and tracked The Row, Loser, CornerShelf, Long Distance, Long Gone and Flying. The band took a break to collect their thoughts and formulate an entry plan into the original circuit (plus they needed more money to finish the album). When what seemed to be a negative thing for America was occurring (Desert Storm), an opportunity presented itself for the band to get some quick exposure. Mike's wife, Tammy, came up with the idea that Poor n Reign should send some tapes to the soldiers stationed in the Persian Gulf.
The band decided to go for it and cut a 3 song EP that was sent to the Persian Gulf. Luckily, Jim Garrity happened to know Steve Whipple. Steve was a staff writer for the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. Jim dropped the word to Steve. Steve wrote the story and the article ran on the front page of the Eagle Tribune (click here to view). This was more than the band had ever hoped for..........or was it?
Musical Note: Steve Whipple joined the band as media consultant. Steve wrote and created the band's newsletter called "The Forecast" Check it out here
The Lawrence Eagle Tribune is a Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper and being one it had local TV media giant (Channel 7 News) based at their corporate offices in North Andover, Massachusetts. Jerry D'Amico of Channel 7 News got word of the story and decided to do a TV News article on what Poor n Reign's plans were.
Channel 7 showed up at the practice studio and shot 2 hours worth the footage that was edited down to a 2 minute news clip (click here to view). It aired the following day. The band had more publicity than they could possibly had hoped for. The band followed through and sent the tapes to the Persian Gulf via the military base at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Note: The whereabouts of those tapes today are unknown.
Now instead of immediately jumping on the original circuit Poor n Reign decided to take a different route. They decided to coordinate and play charity fundraising concerts. This way the band could continue the media exposure and help others at the same time. The band started with The Lawrence Eagle Tribune Santa Fund.
The band's first show was sold out. There was such a demand for tickets the band had to hire a cop for the event. The first show was a complete success. The band made a large donation to the Santa Fund and got plenty of publicity from the show. Then Poor n Reign suffered its first setback. Bass player Andy Stachura left the band.
Musical Note: The Road Less Traveled was the band's musical response to Andy's departure.
Mike went ballistic! "What the F*&# do you mean you quit? We had the best start an original band could ask for. Are you out of your mind? Fine..F*&# You!" Andy never offered a reason why. After auditioning 20 or so bass players they decided to go with Mike Dore'. Mike had extensive cover band experience and a sound that fit. Mike quickly mastered the material and the band booked its next gig - Battle of the Bands at the Granite Rock in Manchester, New Hampshire.
One of the ways Poor n Reign tried to distinguish themselves from other bands was by never hanging around at the clubs/venue's that they were playing at. That was completely forbidden. Call it a pet peeve if you will. This applied for both before and after a show (their philosophy on this was "you never eat where you shit" for lack of a better analogy). The band would rent a motel nearby the show, arrive 15 minutes before having to hit the stage, play the gig and get out. The roadies would handle the setup/breakdown and the road manager would deal with any and all issues with either the club managers or promoters. Their formula proved to be quite successful at creating an "aura of being untouchable" and proved quite intimidating for other bands that played with Poor n Reign.
At the Granite Rock Battle of the Bands, Poor n Reign won the first, second and semi-final rounds. The grand prize at the finals was a $5000.00 recording package, air play on local radio stations and the opportunity to open for National Recording Artists - The Fools.
On the night of the finals, the Granite Rock was completely packed. Poor n Reign pulled the all important 11pm slot. You know, the time when everyone is just starting to feel good, loose and ready to party! As they arrived at the show there were so many people outside the club that the band had a hard time getting in for the show. But once they hit the stage Poor n Reign played their hearts out. After the set the band felt they had battle won. But there was one more band to go. A thrash metal band (we can't remember their name). Their crowd made a make-shift mosh pit in the middle of the dance floor. People were doing full body slams into each other. In fact, two people were knocked unconscious during their set! When it ended, the time came for the final decision. And the winner was...............
Musical Note: The song Breakout was written while Mike Dore' was learning the material and debuted as the opening song at the first show for the Battle of the Bands.
Disappointed, the road crew started packing up the vans. As the last of the gear was loaded, an agent (who's name will stay anonymous) who attended the show approached Poor n Reign's Road Manager, Danny Marchand, and asked if she could contact the band for future bookings. Danny responded "Sure" and said that he will give the band her card. She went on to state she was sure the Fools did not want a thrash band opening for them and she would see to it that Poor n Reign got the gig. She added that she felt Poor n Reign would do very well in the Boston Club scene.
When Danny finally got back to the motel room he informed the band about the conversation and handed Mike the card. The next day Mike called the agent and sure enough she had already set up the Fools gig for Poor n reign and was also in the process of setting up a few more shows for the band. Man, things were starting to happen. Albeit Poor n Reign lost the finals to a thrash metal band, they won the best prizes of them all. A chance to open for a National Act (The Fools) and an agent who wanted to book the band in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
The night of The Fools gig went fantastic. As usual, the club was packed. Poor n Reign hit the stage at 9pm and cranked out their best set ever. The Fools came on and finished off the crowd and it was a night to remember.
After their experience at the battle Poor n Reign decided it was time for a manager. A promotional front man so to speak. Jim was good friends with Mike Van O' and Mike had the look and the charisma the band was looking for. Van O' was a GQ kind of guy. He always dressed in 3 piece suits, drove the best cars and always looked successful. Van O' took over representing the band and started to do some bookings. Under Van O's representation the band was playing live almost every week.
One night Mike Van O' got a call from the Boston Agent. She had a gig opportunity at the NightStage in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mike grabbed it immediately. The band arrived at the club and went to the dressing room immediately. They stood in awe as they gazed upon the walls. Pictures and signatures from acts like Eric Clapton, B.B. King, The Kinks, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, Pat Metheny, The Cars, Aerosmith and others. This, by far, was the coolest gig booked. Poor n Reign added their names to the wall and went on to crank out a 2 hour show that should go down in rock history as one of the best shows ever performed (at least in their minds). It was phenomenal.
The band took a few weeks off to rest and write some new material. They had been extremely busy under Mike Van O's efforts. The band hired a bookkeeper to keep track of the money and put the numbers together. Meanwhile, the Boston Agent was setting up what would be the band's most important gig ever, 3rd billing (the all important 11pm slot) at the Paradise in Boston. She stated......."Guys...this is a big one. There are some major record label representatives that are scheduled to be there that night so do your best. This could be your big chance!" The band was ecstatic. This is what all original bands strive for. A chance to showcase for the labels and hopefully land a recording deal. The road crew was ready, Tim was ready, Mike Dore was ready, Mike Perron was ready..........but where was Jim?
Musical Note: Merchant Train and Wishes were written during the break. Wishes was a Christmas song originally written to be given to Mike Perron and Jim Garrity's parents as a Christmas gift.
Mike called everyone but nobody knew where Jim was. Not even Mike Van O'. Mike ended up eventually calling Jim's parents'. Jim's father said...."he's in New York visiting Kathy's parents." Kathy was Jim's fiancée'. Mike pleaded with Jim's father to have Jim call him as soon as he heard from him. Later that evening Mike got the call from Jim. Mike stated urgently, "Jim, we got the the most important gig of our lives coming up in 2 days at the Paradise in Boston. Record label people are going to be there and everything! We need you to come back ASAP!" Jim responded, "No can do. I'm marrying Kathy and this is the weekend we are breaking the news to her parents. I can't make it." Mike begged, pleaded and begged some more, but Jim would not budge. He was not coming back in time for the show and Mike sensed Jim's days of being lead singer for Poor n Reign were over.
Musical Note: The solo in Long Distance is one of Mike's favorites. He received standing ovations at several shows for this solo including The Haverhill Massachusetts Elks Lodge and The Battle of the Bands shows.
Mike thought long and hard before he placed the cancellation call to the agent. He knew exactly what she was going to say. It was over. The dream opportunity for the band, the opportunity that Mike and Tim lived for and all the hard work that the road crew and the fans put in was about to crash and burn. And it would be a cold burn. The type you get when frostbite sets in except it will be against their souls, their dream and their lives.
The agent answered the phone and Mike broke the news. She stated; "If you cancel this gig you are through. You know that...right? How could you screw up this opportunity? Obviously you are not serious enough about your music. Don't call me again." Mike hung up the phone, closed his eyes and felt his dream slip away into darkness. He loaded the band's most recent demo tape and hit play. Long Distance was queued up. As he drifted off in thought, trying to rationalize what just happened, he suddenly realized that the lyrics Jim penned for Long Distance was in fact, Jim's resignation letter (click here for the lyrics).
Musical Note: Precious Time was written in response to Jim's departure from the band.
For the next few years Mike and Tim toiled away at jobs and focused on raising their families. In the summer of 1997 Andy Stachura, out of the blue, stopped by Mike Perron's house. "Yo, What's up! I'm jamming with Keith David again. We are working on some really cool material and we could use your guitar work." Having been idle for a few years and musically hungry Mike agreed. Andy, Mike and Keith were jamming again! Keith's house was the practice studio. They got together and resurrected some of Poor n Reign's material and some material Keith had from previous bands. It was sounding pretty good!
When it came time to talk business Mike wanted to continue using the name Poor n Reign. Mike and Keith got back into the same argument they had 8 years ago. Mike wanted to stay on the original circuit and Keith wanted to do covers and originals. Mike explained to Keith again, "I'm not interested in covers. That's my retirement." The conversation went nowhere and Mike left. Outside, Andy said to Mike "I've purchased a ton of new equipment and we can do this from my house." Mike said he'd think about it and left.
A few weeks later Andy called Mike and said "Grab some beers and come over. You have to check out my new setup." Mike hit the local liquor store and shot over to Andy's house. "F^%&ing Wow! You got got some really cool shit!. What's you credit card balance?" Mike joked. "High man, really high!" After reliving the old times and spinning pipe dreams they agreed that they would start working together again. Mike and Andy both agreed that they should call Tim. "I'll call him." Mike said.
The call was made, the deal worked out and a month later Mike, Tim and Andy were back in the saddle. This time everyone had families so it was really tough to schedule practice sessions. So given the problems with getting together they decided to take a different approach. They would use the power of the internet to record, write and share material. This effort actually got Poor n Reign some really cool local front-page exposure (click here to check it out). Here we go again. Some great exposure and the adrenaline starts running.
Mike was all fired up again. He wanted to finish the albums and with Andy's new equipment it seemed well within grasp. They jammed for several months and created new songs. Including Coming Home, Legal or not and Down but not Out. Things appeared to be going well again. Mike, Tim and Andy were back at it.
Suddenly, and without notice, Andy appeared to have other plans. Andy was jamming with some other musicians. Mike found this out through Andy when Andy asked if he would be interested in checking them out. Mike declined. It happened again. Mike thought to himself "Jesus Christ! I'm reliving this nightmare all over again!" Mike told Tim and both decided to call it quits with Andy.
Musical Note: During this time in the band's history Mike insisted that they record the music for In the City and Rainbow After the Storm. This recorded material is what's used today on the first album.
Mike and Tim had enough with relying on other musicians who would first show interest and then quit. They decided that this time they don't want to pursue permanent members just people to come in and drop tracks so they can finish the albums. Since most of the material was already recorded they decided to pursue a singer. They put an ad on the internet and interviewed/auditioned several people. They finally decided on Jay Telles. Jay had that raspy voice that they were looking for (what they always thought Poor n Reign's singer should sound like). They re-recorded several tunes with Jay on vocals and wrote a new tune called Truth. With Jay's help they re-wrote Did You and Down but not Out. Man, things were clicking again. Not only was there enough recorded material to finish the first album the second album was completely roughed out as well. They had just a few more things to record and the first album would be complete. This was great! Poor n Reign had a new singer, a new voice and some new material. Things were looking good. Or were they...................
Out of nowhere Jay dropped off the face of the earth. The band could not locate him. After several calls to Jay's wife he finally called from Vermont and stated he had too many troubles at home and he would not be returning to the band. Mike's only words were "What the F*&^."
Discouraged, but unwilling to give up, Poor n Reign went after a bass player. Mike put out another ad on the internet and joined up with Mike Landry from Mad Cafe. Mike was a very accomplished and seasoned bass player As the band struggled between the need to maintain a good income to support their families and recording the conflicts just couldn't be worked out. The band fell apart and once again Poor n Reign was on hold.
Musical Note: Mike Landry's bass tracks are recorded on the song Truth.
That brings us to today. Man what a story! The band's albums are still unfinished. Mike and Tim still have this burning desire to fulfill their dream of making and selling original music. They will pick Poor n Reign up by the boot straps and trek on once again. Although Mike and Tim have suffered some serious setbacks over the years they are determined and committed to finishing/publishing the first two albums and writing new material. As Mike reflects on the history he recalls one of Tim's many profound statements, "Poor n Reign is forever. There is simply too much time, effort and energy put into this band to let the music just fade away."
And with that said Poor n Reign Rocks On.
The band's history appears to be one of constantly getting close but never going over the top. Poor n Reign would like you to understand 2 things; 1 - Poor n Reign is forever and will continue and 2 - You cannot let set backs and disappointments keep you from your dreams. Drive on, no matter how hard or how long it takes. If you believe in yourself and in what you're doing you will make it! Poor n Reign suggests that you Ride the Lightning and Roll with the Thunder and above all else keep pursuing your dreams........Poor n Reign is.
To be continued...............
|© 1998 - 2008 Poor n Reign Productions
All rights reserved