The History Of “The Other Side”
According to Vince Kalochie.
It all started when Vince Kalochie was eleven years old and discovered Elvis Presley. With a stringed instrument made by his father, Vince would dress up like Elvis, beat on his guitar (he couldn’t play it yet), and sing Elvis songs in his living room to entertain his relatives. Seeing his obvious enthusiasm, one of his uncles bought him a real guitar, and Vince began what was to be a long musical journey to the edge of stardom and back.
While in high school, Vince and some friends (including Eddie Frank, who was already a terrific guitarist) would hold teenage dances in a garage on Saturday afternoons where they charged twenty-five cents admission and actually drew some pretty good crowds. Although it was all well and good to be playing in front of people, Vince wanted to get into the bar band that Eddie was playing in, but the band already had all of the guitar slots filled. Undeterred, Vince approached his best friend, Jimmy Siemanis (who didn’t play an instrument at the time), and told him to go buy a bass guitar because “We’re starting a band!” The next day Jimmy bought a bass, and thanks to some tutoring from Vince and a record album called “Learn to Play the Bass with The Ventures”, was on his way to becoming an accomplished bassist. Although there were only two members, the band was starting to take shape.
Another friend, Tony Vicic (who played piano since he was a child), bought an organ and also joined the band, but they still needed a drummer. Tony’s cousin, Steve Pizzico, had asked Vince to teach him to play guitar, but he couldn’t hold it correctly because of an injury to his left thumb, so Vince convinced him to buy a set of drums instead. The band, now complete, chose the name “The Vipers”.
“The Vipers” played their first job at a graduation party for Tony and Steve’s cousin at a restaurant in Llewellyn, Pa and were paid the grand sum of a spaghetti dinner for their performance. It was during that show that the members learned that Steve’s thumb injury was more severe that they thought, hampering his drumming enough to force the band to begin the search for a drummer all over again. But as luck would have it, Vince met drummer Charlie Kerschner at a Minersville-Schuylkill Haven football game a short time later. After an audition, Charlie became a permanent fixture in the band. (Throughout its twelve-year history, band members were changed 42 times, so only the vital members are mentioned here.)
The Band Gets Its Name
Unlike today, there were hundreds of places for a band to play in Schuylkill County during the high-flying 60's and 70's, and sometimes when the band was already booked, an opportunity to play a better gig would arise. In order to be able to take the better job, Vince would call the club and tell the owner that the band broke up, then change the name of the band in order to play the better gig undetected. One Friday night the band got a chance to play the premier Minersville hotspot, “ Rokosz’”, which meant that a job at the Top Hat in Deer Lake had to be cancelled and the band renamed yet again. Trying to come up with a new band name (which is never easy), Vince suggested that since the band was playing the “B” sides of all the Top 40 records as well as the hits, perhaps a good name would be “The Other Side”. So in late 1967 the band adopted the name that their many fans would later identify with.
The Band Evolves
During the performance at Rokosz’, a local Minersville luminary, Jim Kimmel, asked if he could get up and sing a song with the band. After the group saw the crowd go wild, they immediately asked if he would like to be the band’s “Front Man”. At almost the same time, the bar band that Eddie Frank was playing in broke up, and the group immediately carved out a place for him on lead guitar. Now the band finally had a combination of musicians that wowed crowds at every performance.
With all the needed elements finally in place, the band entered a battle of the bands competition in the summer of 1968 that was being held at the Pottsville High School Stadium. Blowing away the other bands, they received a standing ovation from the crowd as Jim Kimmel danced to the music of the next band on top of the roof of the equipment truck as it rounded the track to leave the stadium. This seemingly small event had the county abuzz and soon after, the band became so in-demand that it started playing every night at every affair that it could fit in its schedule. There were weeks where the gourp sometimes played as many as twelve jobs, playing in bars during the week and on weekends, a wedding on Saturday afternoon, and a teenage dance from 8 to 11 at the “Go-Go” club in Minersville, followed by carrying their equipment piecemeal down Sunbury Street to play at the Minersville Legion from 1AM to 3AM in the morning. Then doing it all over again on Sunday.
Things were going well for the band. Perhaps too well - because to everyone’s utter dismay, Vince was drafted into the U.S. Army in May of 1968, forcing the search for a replacement. After weeks of auditions, Frackville’s Freddie Dengler was chosen to replace Vince until he returned. Good fortune continued to smile upon “The Side” since not only did Freddie play guitar but he was also an excellent vocalist, so the band continued to prosper and started playing higher profile gigs out of the area. But the strain of so much traveling was taking its toll on Tony and Jim’s daytime jobs as teachers, so they decided to leave the band for the security of a career, a scenario that was to play out many times in the future. Without a suitable keyboard player available, the band looked for another guitarist with the idea that Freddie just front the band. From Shenendoah came Freddie’s guitarist friend Frank Arant, who soon joined the latest version of the group.
Fresh out of the Army in 1970, Vince rejoined the band, forming a lineup that now had 3 guitar players with Vince playing along side the powerhouse duo of Eddie and Frank. Influenced by the edgier music coming out of England at the time, the band now adopted a much harder sound as compared to their Pop-oriented beginnings.
Even though they continued playing out of the area in South Jersey and Maryland, the band still managed to play a few more or less local gigs in all parts of Eastern PA. While playing in Harrisburg one night they met their first manager who promptly got them their farthest and longest road job (3 weeks) at the Nightbeat Lounge in Key West, Florida. It was during this stint that the band learned the first of many fateful business lessons when they looked for their pay at the end of the first week only to find that their “manager” had used it to pay for a luxury suite at a major hotel while the entire band and two roadies were stuffed into a two room shack on the beach.
The Big Break, Almost
Returning to PA, the group met an agent from Harrisburg who began to book them as an opening act for a number of major touring acts. One of these jobs was opening for the Everly Brothers at a club called “Gilligan’s” in a suburb of Buffalo NY. It was here that they met Jackson Armstrong, the hottest DJ from one of the biggest AM radio stations in the country, WKBW. Armstrong absolutely loved the group, and his strong industry connections led the band to the doorstep of Columbia Records, but after recording only five songs in Columbia’s studio in Woodstock, NY (with Janis Joplin in the next studio), Armstrong accepted an offer to host a music television show in California, and the connection with Columbia was somehow lost. Dealt a body blow, Freddie became disenchanted and relocated to Florida and Frank left the band to stay closer to home to help his ailing father.
Even though great lead singers are hard to find, Charlie knew one from Lebanon, and soon after Kim Burns became the band’s new front man. But instead of getting another guitarist to fill Frank’s role, the remaining band members decided that another singer with a completely different style than Kim’s would be an interesting twist, and Kenny Staller from Pottsville also joined “The Other Side”.
The Right Combination
The new version of the band was as resilient as ever and soon attracted a top booking agent (Jack Fisher from Hillside, NJ) who kept them constantly on the road, traveling from Vermont to Florida and as far west as the Mississippi, playing ski areas during the winter and South Jersey Shore clubs in the summer. But bands rarely maintain a stable lineup for long and while playing at BayShores in Somers Point, NJ in 1973, Eddie decided to leave the band to attend Berklee School of Music (with an appearance on The Gong Show along the way), and Kenny left to record with a band in Florida. At this point, the band asked Frank Arant to return and play guitar, and soon afterwards recruited Bobby Owsinski, also from Minersville, to play keyboards. This combination of band members soon proved to be the magic one!
Jack Fisher now suggested the band start playing more in North Jersey, since he felt there was a better opportunity to get discovered by playing in places closer to New York City. Shortly thereafter, The Other Side became the hottest club band in North Jersey and Staten Island and began to rub elbows with the musical elite. Bruce Springsteen, members of the E-Street Band, Southside Johnny, Bon Jovi and KISS became frequent visitors to the now famous Stone Pony club in Asbury Park to see the band play. Bruce even had breakfast at a local diner with some of the band members after a performance one night. Vince says he ate eggs, but didn’t pay for theirs (he was pretty humorous about it though).
Soon after, a friend of the band brought Billy Terrell, Frankie Avalon’s producer, to see the band one Saturday afternoon while the band was playing a matinee at The Osprey Hotel in Manasquan, NJ (a house gig that they maintained over several summers). Billy loved the band and immediately signed them to a record deal with De-Lite Records of New York City, a label that was very hot at the time thanks to one of their artists (Kool and The Gang) being on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The magic combination of Vince, Jimmy, Charlie, Frankie, Bobby, and Kim recorded their first De-Lite album in Kool and The Gang’s studio in Philadelphia. The album was titled “Rock X-ing” because De-Lite was crossing over from releasing records from black Funk and R & B groups to a white Rock and Roll group. The album was released nationally and eventually sold about 50,000 copies.
All Good Things Must End
Early in 1978 the band was recording their second album and getting booked to open for the likes of Peter Frampton at The Spectrum, the Eagles at Giants Stadium, and were scheduled to appear on the top music television show at the time, “Don Kershner’s Rock Concert”. But once again the lineup changed as Kim and Jimmy left for the security of day jobs and Bobby left for Berklee College of Music. With some crucial elements now missing, every time the band went back to the record company with a new sound, they were told that, although good, it wasn’t the same sound as the band they originally signed.
After three more years of trying many different players in attempts to recreate the excitement that once existed, the remaining two original members, Vince and Charlie, realized that the magic was gone, and “The Other Side” played its last gig in May of 1980.