documenting the optical sounds of '60s pop, Acid Punk & Psychedelia

The Avengers: An interview with Gary Bernard

Interview originally posted on my old blog ‘Flower Bomb Songs’ – November 2007

01. What kind of songs were part of your live set. Gerry Blake told me you were all digging The Beatles, Animals and most of the other Brit Invasion bands. Did you cover any English beat songs?

Well, we played mostly copies, what ever was popular on the radio we played. Because it was still the early 60’s we did some instrumentals to. I personally was into all types of stuff.

I was like a sponge soaking up everything I could get my hands on and ears to listen to, being that I had just started to learn how to play drums. Anything new that came out, “I listen to It’. Henry Gonzales and I used to go downtown to a music store (Booths) and listen to 45s. 

They had small booths, hence the name, where you could stand in and listen to any records in stock. You do have to remember we lived in a somewhat small town and very conservative. So most songs took at least a month or two before we got to hear them. 

We did the “Batman Theme” as a break song. I think my favorite song we used to play was ’Help I’m A Rock’ recorded by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

Others included Dick Dale and the Deltones, The Buckinghams, The Kinks, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, The Safaris, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Mitch Ryder, The Troggs, ? and the Mysterians, The Knickerbockers, The Kingsmen, The Young Rascals, of course several groups like The Beatles, Dave Clark 5, Rolling Stones and The Animals all had songs we played.

02. Did you play on all of the Avengers recordings?

I played on drums on every song but Shipwrecked. Kenny Johnson who wrote the song played drums. He was an awesome musician.

03. As a drummer did you have any influences?

I just watched The Beatles film Help! last week and Ringo may not have been the best drummer around but he certainly had that Star quality. He’s probably my fave drummer along with Michael Clarke from the Byrds (purely for his outrageously cool mop top)

Well of course you can’t take anything away from Ringo. He receives credit for almost everything a new drummer wanted. The hair, the matched grip, the new and different beats on every song. But to think back what got me into music were two people.

One being my sister Rosalie, one day she had some type of song festival she needed to act as a manager of something so she got Gerry Blake, Henry Gonzales and Dennis Farral (not an a Avenger) all maybe 12 or 13 years old, to sing “You Are My Sunshine” in a contest. 

Plus she always had her girl friends over playing songs and dancing in the late 50’s sorta introduce me into music. Wow she did have some pretty girl friends to, I might add.

Second was Henry Gonzales, while we both were in the 8th grade we used to go to the dances and watch Marco and the Sultans perform (same age as us). For some reason there was a rivalry between Henry and Marco so Henry decided to find a way to compete on the same level as Marco.

He went out and bought a Fender Strait and Alamo amp, so he could then start up a band. Henry had already been playing marching music in the school band as a trumpet player. 

Of course not to be left behind I needed to find a way to play to. I ended up taking my money I receive thru my 13th birthday and bought my first set of tubs.

I remember the first week I had them, bought them on a Saturday the following Friday asked Henry and several others to come over and play, I didn’t even know what I was doing. How to hold sticks or what a beat was, nothing.

To name one real influence would take away from all, but to name the first I realized what all my tubs where used for was a drummer from England in an awesome group, The Hollies. Bobby Elliott was awesome, the first time I heard “Look Thru Any Window” I said that’s what these are for.

He really opened my eyes, hey we did a song called “Open Your Eyes”. His plays on that song all his fills and accents just were awesome. What a great drummer. I guess he was the real first player I tried to copy.

04. Can you recall any interesting facts about gigging with the likes of The Beach Boys, Paul Revere and The Animals? How many songs were in a typical set?

Actually Gerry Blake told you about the Vox organ thing, which was funny, damn thing never worked. I guess the strangest thing that ever happened was the night of The Beach Boys concert we were not scheduled to play. I was out with my older brother and my mom and dad having dinner.

Only reason I can remember is that it was my mom’s birthday October 17th. Now the crazy thing is no one from the band knew where I was, so here I am eating dinner and the waitress comes over ask me if I was Gary Bernard and I said ”yes” she says you have a phone call?

Well its was our Manager Dave Lee telling me to get my tubs and get to the Civic Auditorium we are the opening act for the Beach Boys. 

To this day I don’t know how they found me. There are 3 other interesting facts not many people know about. When playing at one of the high school gigs they had a couple come from L.A. to showcase a few songs along with us. They were just 2 singers and where called Anthony and Cleopatra, later to become Sonny and Cher.

They only bought an organ player with them who played bass on a keyboard and I got to play drums for them during their set. I can’t even remember what songs we played. Also during our concert with Paul Revere and the Raiders they had 2 other singer song writers on the Bill… Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy.

It was quite funny cuz in the dressing room they all spoke with a heavy English accent and was hard to understand them. They tried to explain to me just keep your hi-hat semi closed ride it and play boom boom bop a boom. I would never have traded those days for anything.

We had some 50 songs we used but if we only played a 45 min. set I think we just used our best stuff, maybe 10 songs.

“The Avengers perform on the Sandra and Jimmy Bayes Show January 1965”
The Avengers on their Beach Boys support slot
The Avengers on their Paul Revere & the Raiders support slot
This collection of photographs were sent to me by The Avengers drummer Gary Bernard October 2010. The logo on the drum kit was designed by Jim Robesky.

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