Denver Overland Pony Express
Denver Overland Pony Express (1966-1968)
Tom Groves – Guitar, vocals
From Monterey/Carmel, CA
Three pals started a band in late 1959 at a neighborhood garage in Carpinteria CA , two guitars and drums (Tom, Steve [Beaver] and Ralph), learning to play ‘surf’ rock. Fast forward to summer 1964 - Tom Groves & Steve ‘Beaver’ Bliss (guitars) moved to Monterey to enroll at MPC. The following year, Ralph Walsh (drums) and Bob Groves (bass) joined them, to also go to school (and play music). They played a few gigs as The Continentals, at youth dances mostly. In the summer of 1966, those 4 guys rented a house in Carmel Valley , intent on improving as a band. With assistance from Chuck August (guitar) and Jay Killen (band name), both new friends they had met at MPC, Denver Overland Pony Express became the band name. This group would see multiple personnel changes in the coming year and a half.
After the summer, Beaver went sailing to Peru ; Ralph returned home to Carpinteria and the Groves brothers moved back to Monterey . Don Garl (drums), also from MPC, joined for a short period (version #2), and still a few more gigs. When Don left in early ’67, they enlisted Jim Winterbotham, at a party in Carmel Valley , to play drums (version #3). Bob left the band in May for active Navy duty, and Kit Snow became the bass player (version #4). Kit had been in a rehearsal band that included future D.O.P.E. drummer Alec Axt. The lineup now was Tom and Chuck on guitars and vocals, Kit on bass & vocals, and Jim on drums (Beaver was in and out of the band due to his love of sailing). At this point D.O.P.E. began playing more frequently around the peninsula, at club dances and parties, and they became one of the rotating bands at John Smithback’s Bull’s Eye Tavern in the summer of ’67. Their musical style was influenced somewhat by the San Francisco music scene, and included rock, R&B, blues & “quasi” jazz.
In the autumn of ’67 Jim left the band, and Kit mentioned that Alec Axt was interested in the “drum chair” (version #5). During a gig at The East-West Sandwich Shop in Monterey (early 1968), the band was approached by an A&R manager from Fantasy Records. He had a proposal for a “breakout debut” show at the Family Dog Ballroom in Denver CO , to promote the band’s name. However, some members of the band felt that they (Fantasy) just wanted “to sign us and shelf us so that we would be prevented from signing with anyone else”. Unfortunately, the group disbanded a short time later due to diverse priorities among the remaining members. (Tom and Chuck later teamed up with Hugo Napier in the spring of ’68, and began performing as the trio Nepenthe.)
The songs included here were recorded in 1967 (band version #4) at Jim Meagher’s Monterey studio, as a demo tape.
Special thanks to Tom Groves
Click on a song title below to hear that song.
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