THE ROYAL KNIGHTS PLAY THEIR LAST HURRAH AT PAL HOP REUNION

Aug 2, 2010

It was the mid-60s. The world was ready for a musical sensation. The band members were all in place, donning their trademark matching suits, ready to release a new style of rock (and haircuts). As the well-known disc jockey announced “This band needs no introduction,” the curtain finally raised to reveal a star-striking quartet that immediately began singing “She Loves You, yea, yea yea” and sending the crowd of young people into a craze.

The Beatles at Shea Stadium? Nope, The Royal Knights at The PAL Hop, Lewiston City Hall.

The Royal Knights was a quartet of wide-eyed and talented young musicians from Lewiston, Maine, who formed in 1958 and sparked an equally powerful music explosion and whose talents and inspiration left behind an amazing legacy in its wake.

More than 50 years since they formed in the basement of the then-popular mecca of a music store, Maurice Music Mart on Lisbon Street in downtown Lewiston, The Royal Knights are making their last hurrah, a rare live appearance in a concert that will feature many of the local bands whose careers they helped spawn.

The Royal Knights will be headlining The PAL Hop once again, this time a Reunion 2010 extravaganza at the Colisee in Lewiston on Saturday, August 14, that will also feature The Rockin’ Recons, The Travelers, The Moondawgs, Terry and The Telstars, The Innkeepers, and special guests Bob Elie, Pat Pepin, LA Fab Four, Birdie Googin (a.k.a. “The Marden’s Lady”) and more.

The last time The Royal Knights got together was for a reunion in 1993, but this coming reunion is being billed at the band’s final performance.

“This is our last hurrah and we want to go out with a bang,” said Eddy Boucher, the band’s leader, lead guitarist and songwriter. “These reunions always go over the top, with thousands of people, our age, screaming just like they did at the PAL Hop in 1964.” The band is also planning to perform two new originals—“Paperwork“ and “The Last Hurrah” written specifically for the occasion.

Having thousands of screaming fans and constantly working on new songs was always just part of the job for Eddy and his fellow Knights— his brother Paul Boucher who played drums, Guy Mathieu who played rhythm guitar and Ronnie Morin, bassist.

“As soon as one show was done, we couldn’t wait til the next one,” said Morin. “We may not have had internet and cell phones back then but everyone had a transistor radio and the word got around.” The result was 2,000 loyal fans packing the next venue, Morin added.

It was undoubtedly the support and investment of the Lewiston Police Athletic League that led the way for The Royal Knights, and other bands, to become shining stars. On one fateful morning in 1964, Lewiston Police Officer Herve Gendreau came to Maurice Music Mart to buy guitar strings. A simple request from salesman Paul Boucher for the PAL to rent City Hall for a battle-of-the-bands was confirmed within 30 minutes.

After that initial PAL Hop, another show was confirmed for a month later, and because of its success the PAL Hops became a weekly ritual that drew kids from 70 miles away. “Every kid looked forward to it,” Eddy said, “that’s all they talked about.”

The Royal Knights “single-bandedly” put the L-A music scene on the map. They became the official House Band on Club 13, a popular weekly teen dance program televised on WGAN and they played regularly at The PAL Hops, The Rollerdrome in Auburn, and colleges, arenas and battle-of-the-bands throughout the tri-state region.

“My first musical epiphany was seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. The second was seeing a band actually do this rock and roll thing live…The Royal Knights,” stated Michael Flanigan whose own band from his Thomas College days would often play with The Royal Knights.

“Seeing the Royal Knights in 1965 was a major influence on my life and career. The Royal Knights were as good as any band could be. We were just in awe of their musicianship and stage presence,” Flanigan added.

Flanigan subsequently pursued his interest in the music business, at one point as an agent representing Johnny Cash, Steve Martin and Tony Bennett, among others. He currently produces events for New England Country Music Productions and books and markets concerts at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

What made The Royal Knights so contagious? Quality musicianship, a great sound, custom costumes and a secret weapon: Records.

“We made a big impact on the local scene because we were one of the very few bands to make records at the time,” noted Boucher. The band’s first record was a 45 rpm released on their own record label, The Fireball Record Company, and featured “Chief Whoopin-Koff” b/w “Long Long Ponytail,” two covers by their mentors, The Fireballs.

“We recorded those two songs at Maurice Music Mart one night after they closed. Robert Langlais had a professional tape recorder and two Altec microphones and off we went. You couldn’t fix anything after the fact, you had to get it right in one take,” explained Eddy. That record sold 1,500 copies.

“We wrote vocal songs that were easy to relate to—high energy music that was fun to dance to,” said Eddy. Later recordings featured all original songs that combined their trademark instrumental surf sound with catchy pop vocals: “Forever Little Girl” b/w “Knight-Mare” and ““Sweet Revenge” b/w “Yes It’s Me.”

“Of all the garage bands that came from the L-A area, none was more renowned or in demand than the Royal Knights,” stated Bill (BC) Cloutier who was a curtain boy at the PAL Hop and whose job it was to pull one side of the curtain shut during the set changes.

“I recall a near-riot the first time the band appeared in costume and the local press began referring to the band as “Lewiston’s own Beatles.” When the band took the further, almost unheard of, step of introducing a record—an original composition, no less—it was nothing short of mind-blowing,” Cloutier stated.

BC later become a popular disc jockey who at various times worked at all four L-A radio stations—WCOU, WPNO, WLAM and WBLM. “I had the opportunity on rare occasions to play “Forever Little Girl” and perhaps a couple of other of the Royal Knights’ regional hits— always breaking format to do so,” he added.

But like all good things, they must come to an end. One night Guy Mathieu announced that he just been drafted to go to Vietnam. Within two weeks, Ronnie Morin told his band mates that he had joined the Marines and was also off to serve in Vietnam. A year later, their dear friend and “fifth Knight” Paul Langelier was drafted and “that was really the end of the Knights,” Eddy said. “The dream was dead.”

But the impact the band had on young musicians prompted many bands to rise up and inspired hundreds of young people to play music. Eddy continued to book and manage bands and EAB Studios became another music mecca and springboard for hundreds of artists.

“When I saw The Royal Knights, I said ‘that’s what I wanna do, I wanna be in a band like that,’”

said Ron Bouffard of band’s appearance at the Cony High School sock hop in Augusta. “They weren’t just going through the motions, they sounded like the real records.”

“Later, as I progressed in the music scene, I became aware of Eddy Boucher’s studio and had the opportunity to record back then,” added Ron, a well-respected and busy musician who shares his drumming talent with several musical projects in the Augusta area, as well as several EAB recording sessions for other artists.

“Wow, wow, wow, these guys were such a major influence on my life,” proclaimed Tom Nickerson who first saw the band perform at the Rockland Community Center when he was 12. “I really can’t say enough about The Knights, I am rich to know them. Now I am 61 and I’ve just started my 4th CD project at Eddy’s studio. He is like a brother to me.”

“I discovered that many lives were changed because of our band,” noted Eddy. “I’ve come to the conclusion that when you use a God-given talent to the best of your ability, it blesses you while blessing others.”

“To the average teenager back then, we were television and radio stars, they looked up to us, we were an example to be emulated. Many kids followed in our footsteps, we just didn’t realize it until many years later,” he added.

“The band nearly achieved stardom several times,” said PBS Producer Bill Maroldo and record collector aficionado. “They were offered a recording contract by a Swedish label and turned it down, only to find out later that some of their music from their session at Ace Recording Studio in Boston was issued in Sweden anyway.”

Maroldo’s research also revealed that the songs “Sweet Revenge” and “Yes It’s Me” were released without the band’s permission on a Pepsi-Cola flexi-disc. “The story behind it is unknown,” the producer noted.

Maroldo was living in Seattle in 1982 and attended a record show where he discovered a section or indie releases divided by regions. He decided to check out the “Maine” section because his wife was from Maine, and found The Royal Knights’ first record. “I bought it, I listened to it, I loved it,”said Maroldo. Years later he and his wife had moved to Maine where he was working at a record collectors event and was approached by Eddy and Paul who brought him The Royal Knights’ records for his appraisal.

Maroldo worked for WCBB at the time, as a producer and reporter for Maine Watch, and recommended that the Maine Public Broadcasting Network feature The Royal Knights on its debut of the magazine show True North. Maroldo produced the piece, a music video of a song the band never released entitled “It’s a lie.” The segment aired in 1996 and earned rave reviews (www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7Ob14I7qKc)

“I truly believe The Royal Knights should have achieved stardom,” declared Maroldo. “Music poured out of garages all over America in the 60s and Lewiston is a microcosm. But what set Lewiston apart was a higher level of talent, an abundance of original material, and musicians who took their calling more seriously.”

Today, Maroldo is convinced that the story of The Royal Knights holds appeal both nationally and internationally and so he is producing a full-length documentary about the band and the music scene they helped create. He aims to capture that cultural and community spirit with a film that could be marketed internationally, perhaps in indie film festivals, wherever there’s an interest.

“The goal of my documentary is to do my part to allow these bands to achieve their rightful place in garage band history. Musicologists generally follow the top bands, but original new groups that never achieve stardom are going to appear in other ways in history…particularly if they have recordings and exposure on the internet, music sites, social media sites, etc.”

“Even though The Royal Knights missed their chance to reach the brass ring back then doesn’t mean you can count them out. Their day isn’t over.”

So will the PAL Hop Reunion 2010 truly be “the last hurrah” for The Royal Knights or perhaps another beginning? “I want to leave there that night knowing the dream never really died,” said Eddy.

“There’s one wish that I’ve been praying for: That Almighty God would bless a new music revolution like we experienced in 1964, that would spread throughout the world and music would fill every ear, heart, mind and soul of every man, woman and child, and it would be so encompassing that every kid would want to get a guitar, horn, tambourine, drum, keyboard, whatever, and no Vietnam would ever break up a band again.”

Doors open at 7 PM. For ticket information, contact the Androscoggin Bank Colisee at 783-2009 ext 208, or online at http://www.thecolisee.com.

###

Advertisements

21 Responses to “THE ROYAL KNIGHTS PLAY THEIR LAST HURRAH AT PAL HOP REUNION”

  1. Ron Landry Says:

    This is as concise and accurate a piece of jounalism as I have seen to date of those historical events known as “The Pal Hops”

    Being an original member of “The Rockin’ Rekons” playing at that first Pal Hop , April 10th, 1964 I can’t begin to explain the impact on my life from those historic nights.

    The music continues to move not only our generation, but our children and grandchildren to the healing power of music.

    Thank you Ed, Paul, Guy and Ron for mentoring the younger musicians, and creating a musical mecca 2nd to none, “The Pal Hops”

    Thanks Again,

    Ron Landry

  2. Pauline Renaud Pirrone Says:

    “THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES MY FRIENDS”

  3. How very proffessional.i will be sending this to all my friends.You guys are all blessed and your talent also.I have loved you guys from the first time i saw you and love and respect you today also because music keeps us young.You are the best and have fun on the 14th.

    Love, Joline Ten Eyck

  4. Debbe Long Says:

    Awesome job and the memories are amazing !! Loved the prayer as well and Amen !!! Give God the glory with Praise and music !!

  5. PAUL BOUFFARD Says:

    ED JUST WANTED TO SAY WHAT A FANTASTIC ERA THIS ALL WAS I HAD (2) MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY IN THOSE BANDS ROGER MICHAUD OR AKA ROGER LEWIS &THE MOON DAWGS HE CUT SEVERAL RECORDS WITH VAN TREVOR IN N.Y. BUT I DONT KNOW IF YOU KNEW OF MY BROTHERS ROGER BOUFFARDS BAND LITTLE CEASAR & THE ROMANS THEY COMPETTED @ ST JOHN’S TERRELLS CIRCUS WORLD IN NEW JERSEY IN THE SEMI FINALS THEY TOOK 4th PLACE &were illiminated from finals first round BUT AN ALL BLACK BAND DROPED OUT CAUSE THEY GOT A RECORDING CONTRACT &LITTLE CEASER CCOMPITED IN FINAL ROUND &TOOK 4th PLACE AGAIN IRONICALLY ONE OF THE JUDGES WAS JAMES MITCHNER MUSIC DIRECTOR OF ADVENTURES IN PARADISE &HE WROTE AN ARTICLE IN READERS DIGEST ABOUT SMALL TOWN BAND MAKES IT BIG LITTLE CEASER &THE ROMANS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO AUG 14TH

  6. Thank-you for all the fond memories. Remembering when my Dad, Tony Emmi, took me with my friends to the Pal Hops which we enjoyed so much and Dad would say “Oh, that music, how can you listen to it?” Well, I told him that I would like to go to the 40 reunion Pal Hop if I could get out of a company meeting here in N.H. and he said ” I’m getting a headache just thinking of it” Nothing has changed. LOL Thank-you again.

  7. Linda Beaulieu Says:

    Great write up on you guys. You started the ball rocking. Thank you for all the fun times and nights we danced away.

  8. Richard Horton Says:

    Eddie, A great piece of history that I am proud to have been a part of. As an original “Rockin’ Re-Kon”, I will always remember going to the Auburn Rollodrome to watch you guys play. I especially remember watching and listening to Ronnie Morin playing bass.I got more ideas and inspiration from watching Ron than any other experience as a young musician. I still think of those days often. I see Ron every once in a while when I am in town. We love to chat about “the days”, and I still remember when Ron told me that he had gotten inspiration from ME later on. That, to me, was a compliment of the highest order. Again, thanks for all you did then, and are doing now, for the musicians of Southern Maine.
    Sincerely,
    Richard “Dick” Horton

  9. I was at the Knights rehearsal tonight, August 3rd, at Eddy’s studio charging up for August 14th Last Show. It’s gonna be hot. So many years have passed and I never forgot the Knights. I’ve been influenced by many but those at the very top are: The Beatles, Lenny Breau and The Royal Knights. It’s amazing seeing them all together again and they are sounding awesome. What a gift from God to allow me so much with music. I am a lead guitarist so Eddy’s style, sound and ability on his old jazzmaster are a huge influence. It’s been almost 50 years since I saw them together last so this is a rare treat for me. The Knights are all such great guys. Nice job on the article Louie, you did a great job.

  10. Denis Aubin Says:

    Simply great

  11. Judi Bartlett Says:

    I know that my friends and I always made a point to have a ride to the Rollerdrome back when I was 15,16 and we LOVED the Royal Knights.
    We also would go to the Pal Hop..I would like to mention one of the musicians that passed on years ago…Willy Willette. I hope no-one ever forgets their music either. I think Eddy wrote Little Willy’s Monkey and recorded it for the then Black Ravens.. Thank you all for the fond memories..you’ll always be remembered.

  12. Therese Asselin Says:

    You’re looking great, Uncle Guy. 🙂 Wish we were in Maine…we are sad we will miss the Royal Knight’s last hurrah. We hope you all have the times of your lives. 🙂

    “If music be the food of love, play on.”
    William Shakespeare

    Best Wishes
    Love, Ronnie and Terry Asselin

  13. Terri Forgues Says:

    You guys are the greatest , Thanks for the memories.

  14. Trying to get in touch with Ed Boucher…does anyone have a phone number or email address?

  15. Dennis Gervais Says:

    Great movie, this past Sat. Pal Hop Days brought back flood of memories and emotions.
    Those days really were special. The movie is like capturing lightning in a bottle.
    Thanks again.

  16. johnny d Says:

    without the royal knights i would never have had such a fun life in music. from the original mischief at the pal hop makers to concerts.
    i followed the wisdom of ed and his crew. thanks and god bless you all , johnny d

  17. You actually generated a lot of remarkable points in ur post,
    “THE ROYAL KNIGHTS PLAY THEIR LAST HURRAH AT PAL HOP
    REUNION Reindeer Press Releases”. I will wind up coming back again to your web page in the near future.
    Thanks -Leola

  18. Bill Poulin Says:

    I remember those days well as I was a member of the Liverpool Gas Company which played the PAL HOPS many a time.

  19. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this outstanding blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed
    to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook group.
    Chat soon!

  20. Those were the best times and the best memories to hold on to!!! Too bad the now generation cannot experience those days….. Although I did not go to the Pal hop my brothers did!!! I did all the city park dances! I guess i was too shy at that later age? But i sure did catch up and enjoy you later!! When’s the next hop? Bring it on never say no, as long as your heart is ticking and you feel the vibes!!!! WE LOVE YOU!!!! THANK YOU FOR THE MEMORIES……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: