The Chocolate Watchband

Chocolate WatchbandFrom: San Jose, CA, USA

The Chocolate Watchband, was a psychedelic rock and garage rock band formed in San Jose, California in 1965. The band had finally broken up indefinitely by 1970 but then reunited in 1999 at a 66/99 show Mike Stax organized in San Diego. They continue to play today at garage rock shows in Europe as well as the States with Little Steven and the Electric Prunes. The band’s music was largely described as a blend of 1960s-style garage rock with a distinguishable rolling San Francisco Sound. The group’s early music appeared to contain blues influences, and later it developed psychedelic elements through use of instrumental experimentation. Ed Cobb was well known as their producer. The band also appeared in the 1967 film Riot on Sunset Strip and the 1968 film “The Love Ins”.


Early line-up (1965)

The Chocolate Watchband was formed in the summer of 1965 by Ned Torney and Mark Loomis, who had previously played guitar together in a local band known as The Chaparrals the previous year, 1964.

The Chocolate Watchband’s founding line-up consisted of members:

Ned Torney – guitar
Mark Loomis – guitar
Rich Young – bass
Pete Curry – drums
Jo Kemling – vox organ
Danny Phay – vocals.

Phay was well known for his on-stage presence as a charismatic frontman.

This line-up quickly dissolved after a number of factors that included the draft; which claimed Rich Young, then the departure of their drummer, Pete Curry, who was replaced by Gary Andrijasevich, a jazz drummer from Cupertino High School. The final blow to the band came as a result of other bands around the area, fond of the Watchband, successfully attempting to poach some of the group’s members. A San Francisco-based combo known as The Topsiders offered Ned Torney a position as the band’s guitarist. Torney’s departure coincided with that of frontman Danny Phay and organist Jo Kemling, who also left the Watchband in order to join The Topsiders. As a result of their departure, Torney, Phay, Kemling, as well as Ken Matthew and Tom Antone (members of The Topsiders) formed a new band called The Other Side.

Instant success – Loomis–Aguilar line-up (1966–1967)

Mark Loomis started to play guitar for a popular young local band known as The Shandels, but quickly became bored with playing for a target audience of pre-teens. Loomis decided to recreate The Chocolate Watchband with The Shandels’ bass player Bill ‘Flo’ Flores, and former Watchband drummer Gary Andrijasevich. They enlisted the help of former Topsiders guitarist Dave “Sean” Tolby, and the charismatic frontman of a local band known as The Early Morning Reign, David Aguilar.

The Watchband’s next incarnation consisted of:

Mark Loomis, as lead guitarist.
David Aguilar, who served as vocalist, as the group’s lead singer and frontman.
Gary Andrijasevich, as the group’s drummer.
Sean Tolby, as a guitarist (usually serving as rhythm guitarist).
Bill ‘Flo’ Flores, as a bassist.

Mark Loomis acted as somewhat of a leader during this time, although the band never really had a definite leader. Sean Tolby obtained the latest in Vox equipment while Mark Loomis provided the space for daily rehearsals. The band performed at various places in the teen-circuit in San Francisco’s South Bay, playing a range of blues cover songs and even more obscure import tunes cranked up to a level even the original writers never imagined. Very different from the jam bands they were playing with (Grateful Dead), led by Dave Aguilar, the Watchband had a knack of instantly splicing different songs seamlessly on stage in real time. One night at the Coconut Grove in Santa Cruz, “Season of the Witch” turned into the full 8-minute version of “Going Home”. Other bands in the Bay Area covered popular Stones songs but nobody had the gravitas to pull off “Going Home”.

The Chocolate Watchband’s success and popularity was beginning to pick up at the same time as an interest in signing the band began. The band were offered a management deal by Bill Graham after a show in which they opened for The Mindbenders at the Fillmore in San Francisco. However, having signed with their new manager Ron Roupe a week earlier, the band eventually secured a deal with Green Grass Productions and began working with producers Ray Harris and Ed Cobb. Cobb gave the band a song he had written called “Sweet Young Thing”, which was recorded and released in December 1966 on Tower Records, which featured the group’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” as the B-side.

The Watchband began to experiment with writing their own material around this time, with Dave Aguilar penning originals like “Right By My Side”, “Gone & Passes By”, “Don’t Need Your Lovin’ Anymore” and “Sitting There Standing”; however, the producers had other songs they wanted the Watchband to record instead. Although “Sweet Young Thing” gained strong airplay around San Francisco during the Spring of 1967, and has since been covered by the Australian band JET, it was poorly promoted by Uptown Records. Too busy playing in the Bay Area, the band preferred to perform cover material of obscure British songs, although Their signature “Let’s Talk About Girls” was penned by Manny Freiser of the Tongues of Truth, an Arizona band. To the Watchband, the show was the sport. Many times, they thoroughly intimidated headlining acts by blowing them off the stage with their wild and driving music. The Watchband’s second single was a commercial-sounding “Misty Lane”, released with an orchestrated ballad, “She Weaves a Tender Trap”, as its B-side, a choice that the band absolutely hated. When the 45 was released, the band took boxes of them and used them for skeet shooting targets thrown off the back porch of Sean Tolby’s house in the Santa Cruz mountains.

During this period The Watchband also starred in two films: Riot on Sunset Strip and The Love-Ins. The latter film inspired The Watchband’s next single; “Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In)”, which was written and recorded in one day, the single was released with the B-side “No Way Out”, an instrumental that spawned from a studio warm-up with spontaneous vocals that Ed Cobb later took credit for.

The band broke up in mid-1967, shortly after the release of their single “No Way Out”. Mark Loomis, a critical member and somewhat of an acting leader for the group, began delving in psychedelic drugs and decided that he was tired of the band’s punk/hard-rock direction. Loomis quit the band to form a psychedelic/folk-rock band known as The Tingle Guild (which would featured ex-Watchband frontman Danny Phay as lead singer). Loomis’ departure sparked the departures of drummer Gary Andrijasevich, and then the group’s frontman, David Aguilar.

Continuation – Tolby–Abbott line-up (1967)

After the departure of Loomis, Andrijasevich and Aguilar, Tolby and Flores were left with the duty of fulfilling a month’s worth of bookings. They decided to enlist the services of Tim Abbott, Mark Whittaker and Chris Flinders, members of the San Francisco Bay Blues Band.

The Chocolate Watchband’s resurrected line-up (after their breakup in mid-1967) were:

Sean Tolby, as a guitarist (handling lead guitar).
Bill ‘Flo’ Flores, as a bassist.
Tim Abbott, serving as a guitarist.
Mark Whittaker, as the group’s new drummer.
Chris Flinders, a “Paul Butterfield disciple”, served as the group’s new frontman.

The band still maintained a level of success, but nowhere near the level of the previous line-up. The sound was different – the energy was different, to the fans, it wasn’t The Chocolate Watchband. They managed to secure a place as the opening act for The Doors and also performed at the KFRC Magic Mountain Festival. In late Autumn of 1967, Abbott and Flinders had a disagreement with Tolby and manager Ron Roupe over financial matters, which ensured the indefinite break-up of the Watchband in December 1967.
Reformation – Break-Up (1968-1969)

The Chocolate Watchband was reformed in Autumn of 1968; its line-up consisted of:

Sean Tolby, as a guitarist.
Bill “Flo” Flores, as a bassist.
Mark Loomis, as a guitarist.
Gary Andrijasevich, as a drummer.
Ned Torney, as a guitarist.
Danny Phay, as the frontman and singer.

The Watch Band recorded with Cobb to produce their third album, the relatively original One Step Beyond.

Ed Cobb’s influence and disputes

The band was involved in disputes with their manager Ed Cobb, because they were presented as being more instrumental on record than they were live due to Cobb’s vision of what a psychedelic band should be. Never taking the time to see them perform on stage, he had no idea of the talent he had at his disposal. In later life, he would publicly lament this lack of curiosity or foresight on his part. In addition, Cobb recorded parts of the Watchband’s albums without them – in fact, less than half of The Inner Mystique was originally recorded by the band, with many of the instrumental songs performed by session musicians. One Step Beyond was to be a fresh new direction for the band but nonetheless completely unsuccessful except for the songs written and sung by David Aguilar that were put in on the album from past recording sessions. The difference was remarkable. Rambling, low energy folk tunes interspersed with rolling in your face rock and roll of the popular earlier band. Before the recording session could really get underway, Mark quit and was replaced by Jerry Miller.

The Chocolate Watchband recorded a Cobb tune already done by The Standells, “Medication” (on The Inner Mystique). ~ Wikipedia

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1967 album No Way Out
No Way Out

  • Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love In)
  • Dark Side Of The Mushroom
  • Expo 2000
  • Gone And Passes By
  • Gossamer Wings
  • Hot Dusty Roads
  • Let’s Talk About Girls [Album Version]
  • Misty Lane [Alternate Version] (1993 Bonus Track)
  • No Way Out
  • Gossamer Wings

From the 1968 album The Inner Mystique
Inner Mystique, The

  • Baby Blue
  • In The Past
  • The Inner Mystique
  • Voyage Of The Trieste

From the 1969 album One Step Beyond
One Step Beyond

  • How Ya Been
  • Uncle Morris

From the album Melts in Your Brain Not on Your Wrist: The Complete Recordings 1965 to 1967
Melts in Your Brain Not on Your Wrist The Complete Recordings 1965 to 1967

  • Baby Blue (Stereo)
  • Loose Lip Sync Ship (The Hogs)
  • Let’s Talk About Girls
  • Medication
  • Misty Lane
  • Psychedelic Trip [Backing Track]
  • She Weaves a Tender Trap
  • Sweet Young Thing