|Clyde Snyder Recalls The Beach Nuts
I’ve fooled around on my mother's piano since I can remember and then started taking tenor banjo lessons in the seventh grade. Two other guys in my grade at Point Pleasant Beach Jr. High School also played guitars. We started playing together and found a drummer in our grade. I bought a bass guitar (the tenor banjo has fours strings and bass guitar has four strings; it was a no brainer.)
Our name from day one was The Beach Nuts; two of us surfed and we all hung out at the beach and the boardwalk. Keith came up with the name. The Beach Nuts was the first band for all of us. We formed in....oh…about the fall of 1963 and broke up when two of the guys, who joined a little later, a year older than us, went to college in the fall of 1967. In 1963 Keith MacGregor played lead guitar; Bill Ross played rhythm guitar; Clyde Snyder played bass and John Scanlan played the drums.
We were originally an instrumental band. We played a lot of Ventures songs. None of us sang and we didn't have a PA. We played parties, school dances, dances at the recreation center, etc. We won a local talent contest given by the Junior Woman's Club and one of the prizes was to play at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City at the New Jersey exhibit. Then we started singing - some Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, a lot of Chuck Berry stuff. Poor John was the Pete Best of the group. We replaced him with a drummer that Keith's guitar teacher recommended. And he had a friend who played saxophone and had a good, booming voice and a front man personality.
The evolution of our equipment was interesting. Back then PAs were almost non-existent. You have to get an amp head (maybe a Bogan amp with four or five inputs) and speakers. Atlas sound made a column of 4” or 5” speakers in a metal case and you could buy metal stands for them. Once in a while they would overheat and crap out (it happened to us at Teen Day Vue one night). We ended up with a 100 wall Danelectro DS 100 head and two DS 100 speakers (six 10" speakers in a cabinet with wheels! They’re made right here at the Jersey Shore in Neptune City off Sylvania Ave. I went there a couple of times for parts). Shure mikes were always the best with a high impedance input.
I started out with a bass amp and bass guitar from Montgomery Ward. Mom then bought me a Gibson EG bass and I went to an Ampeg bassman amp, then a Fender Jazz bass with a Vox bass amp and finally a Hofner single cut-away. Keith started out with a Premier guitar, to a Fender Jazzmaster, to a Rickenbacker six string. Bill had some Japanese six-string, then went to a Fender Mustang and ended up with a Rickenbacker 12-string. Bill and Keith shared Keith's Premier amp, then shared a Danelectro DS 50 and then got separate Ampeg Gemini's. Keith was the first guy at the Jersey shore to get a Gibson Maestro fuzz tone. His father picked it up for him at Manny's in New York City. A couple times a year we would drive into the city with Mr. MacGregor and hang out at all the music stores on 48th street. When they tore down the original Manny's, Mr. MacGregor paid one of the workers to pry the letters off (“M A N N Y S”) and he gave them to Keith. We met The Standells there while they were loading up a van with all new amps.
I can't remember any of the bands around playing in bars. We played at school dances, the Fort Monmouth teen club; there was a teen nightclub in Shrewsbury called Teen Day Vue or something like that. I remember playing on the average twice a month and practicing on the weekends in between. We'd take turns practicing at our different houses with the parents sharing the driving to and from the gigs and the practices.
We did three battles of the bands, one early in our existence at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey. I think Sonny Kenn's band won that one. And then a few years later we did one at a swim club in the Atlantic Highlands on Rt. 36. Cousin Brucie was the emcee and he stole our tambourine but we did well coming in second. The last one was in Asbury Park in the outside arena above Howard Johnson's on the boardwalk but our PA crapped out and we stunk.
We never had a manager but Keith’s phone number was on the business cards. His father was in advertising in New York City and he got us in the recording studio and on the local channel 5 TV show Just For Fun with Sonny Fox. I remember playing for that! We recorded the show during the week (it was on TV on Saturday mornings) and we met Soupy Sales in the lobby. Our big feature song was the instrumental "Out of Limits" and it was horrible. We also played a few lead in songs: "I Should Have Known Better" by The Beatles and the instrumental "Tequila". That was in April of 1964. I don't know of any video existing but I have the audio on tape somewhere.
After we replaced John with Marv Gellman and Lowell Stanley joined, our playing area increased and with that our popularity. Marv went to Ocean Township High School and Lowell went to Asbury Park High School and they were Jewish so we pretty much had all the bases covered for gigs! We did a great gig at the armory in Jersey City one night. The place was wall-to-wall kids and it was a blast. We played once or twice out in the Trenton area and as far south as Barnegat.
With Marv And Lowell our repertoire expanded radically and over the years if it was in the Billboard Top Ten we would try to play it; not too much Motown but stuff like Mitch Ryder, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Stones, some Beatles, a couple of Doors (no keyboard) and a few hundred one hit wonders. Keith would get the 45, figure out the chords and give us the lowdown at the practice. He had a guitar teacher from Asbury Park, Mr. Greer who had a studio on Main Street. (He’s the guy who hooked us up with Marv and Lowell) He was affectionately re-named "Greerbottom" by Keith’s father. He thought we were great and he got us a bunch of gigs. Actually he took us to lunch one day and talked about this wacky plan he had: He was friends with Huntington Hartford, the heir to all the A&Ps (grocery chain) and he wanted us to go to Europe and play for all the Grand Openings for a string of A&Ps being built there. Wow!
We recorded an album on January 3rd, 1966 of five cover tunes at the Gotham Studios in Manhattan (Two West 46th St.). Keith's father arranged the whole thing. I think it was meant as a gift (spoof?) to the band. He may have done it for Mr. Greer as a demo to hand out. Side one was "Hang On Sloopy", “High Heel Sneakers” and “Whittier Blvd.” Side two was “It's Alright” and “Club A Go Go.”
Keith's father (later) arranged for the Showcase recording (“My Iconoclastic Life” and “Nature’s Company”) and the printing and release of the 45. I think we recorded that at Majestic Studios in Manhattan in the same studio the Lovin’ Spoonful recorded "Do You Believe In Magic." Keith, Marv and Lowell wrote the songs and Bill and I filled in our parts. We all thought that the flip side, "Nature's Company" was the better song. We worked on that one a lot longer. We wrote and recorded that as the A-side. “My Iconoclastic Life” was just thrown together as a filler to put on the flip; we were in shock when the record company picked it for the A-side. They also cut out Keith's killer guitar solo. The original recording is at least a minute longer with this fantastic guitar solo in the middle.
We broke up in the fall of 1967 when Marv and Lowell went to college. Keith, Bill and I reformed a new band, The Experience, with a B3 Hammond organ player (Frank Rustano), Peter Geghen on drums and two lead singers doing Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Doors - all these other wacky songs. We lasted a little less than a year,but were approached by a guy who was a song writer and he wanted us to record one of his songs. I think his name was Rich Berardi and he had something to do with the hit, "Green Tambourine". He taught us his song, we learned it and recorded it in a small garage studio on Route 34 in Wall Township, New Jersey. Beradi then arranged an audition with one of the partners of Koppelman and Rubin, managers of The Lovin Spoonful. We played for him in a rehearsal hall on Broadway in New York City but never heard from either one of those guys again. Then there was The Electric Bob Dylan Memorial Band and a bunch of other bands too numerous to mention.
Bill stayed with playing in bands longer than anyone else and he was in Sunny Jim, a warm up band for Springsteen. He drove Bruce home a couple of times from Ocean County College. I ended up playing ‘40's and ‘50's Sinatra-type songs on the piano in Elks Clubs, etc. and Keith plays occasionally in Colorado with a band. I recently went back to the bass guitar to fill in for a guy in a cover band—Carbon 14—and we play out about ten times a year. It's a lot of fun.
We had a reunion and played at a local bar back in 1981, and the four of us (minus Lowell) got together for dinner last year. Everyone in The Beach Nuts agrees: it was the best time of our lives.