One of the best known of the early Boston groups, whose popularity has endured into the Twenty-first Century, was the soft-rock quartet Orpheus. This is a part of their story.
The original Orpheus included (name deleted), first guitar; Jack McKennes, second guitar; Eric Gulliksen (a.k.a. the Snake), bass guitar; and Harry Sandler, drums and percussion. All contributed to vocals, with leads shared between (name deleted) and Jack. Unlike many artists, Orpheus didn't rise to fame through the “gin mill” circuit. All four Orpheans (?) (Opheusans? Orpheites?) had “paid their dues” in other groups. Orpheus was formed for the express purpose of landing a record contract, and spent many months writing songs and rehearsing in Jack's cellar. It paid off.
It was the summer of 1964, and the height of the “folk era”. Two young men from Worcester, MA, (name deleted) and Jack McKennes, both already veterans of the local folk scene, decided to try playing and singing together. They found that their voices blended perfectly, and their guitar styles complemented one another. In short order, they were booked at a small coffee house in Yarmouth called the Villager, where they became the “house band” and took the club's name as their own - the Villagers.
Although originally the Villagers were an OPS (Other People's Songs) group, during the fall and winter of '64-'65, as they polished their act, they began to incorporate some of (name deleted)'s original songs, and even tried their hand at some non-commercial recording. By the summer of 1965, they had matured into a real “class act”, and had a regular stint at the Carousel in Hyannis.
The Carousel was one of the best-known folk venues on the Cape - a family restaurant by day, and a “music Mecca” by night. One fan remembers “The Villagers weren't at all what I expected, not at all like the Kingston Trio. They were regular guys with sand in their hair who loved what they were doing and sounded great.” Another fan recalls that the two came across as two distinctly different individuals: “Jack was the handsome, carefree, bronzed guy with the sports car that always wore a rugby shirt with the big wide stripes (he still does, by the way), and joked and kidded with the audience, especially the ladies. (name deleted), on the other hand, was more 'ultra-cool'. He'd be just as likely to show up wearing an Oxford shirt and a necktie.” Despite these differences, they were one with their music, and gained a large and very loyal group of fans that followed them for the next twenty months or so.
In 1962 and 1963, Jack and Eric had played together in a Worcester-based folk trio called the Wanderers. This group had cut a budget album called Folk Festival for Strand records under the name of the Minute Men in April of 1963. Unfortunately, Strand ran afoul of the IRS, and all of their assets were seized before the record was released. A battered test pressing was located in December of 2000 and, after 37 years, was the subject of a CD “archival release” on Cricket Power records. Several tracks received air play in Europe.|
Eric had also recorded three singles with a wildly popular Central Massachusetts rock trio called the Blue Echoes. One of these,