Arant ~ Bass
Mike Carney ~ Drums
Dick Cates ~ Vocals
Darrell Francke ~ Lead Guitar
Daryl Jacobs ~ Saxophone
Jerry Labrum ~ Drums
Bob McCarty ~ Saxophone
Dick Mooney ~ Lead Guitar
Ken Reynolds ~ Lead Guitar
David Welch ~ Piano, Keyboards
In Memory of
Cates (d: 19 December 2005)
John Arant ( b: 1941 d: 2 December 2011)
Consider the garage out back, generally unfinished, cement floor and lucky to have one electrical outlet, or the dark, basement recreation room with its tile floor, fireplace and piano, the weekend entertainment inner sanctum of its parental owners. Such environs were the breeding ground for the many hopeful “rock n’roll” bands of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Blessings should be awarded to the many parents and neighbors who mustered the patience to endure these strange and alien wailings and rhythms emanating from within these gratefully provided locations. Needless to say, The Chessmen had no such different beginnings. It is difficult to say who actually named the band, but it seemed popular at the time to use the word ‘men’ in band names. I assume now the name, “The Chesspersons” would chime less sexist. Anyway, in early 1960, Dick Cates (vocals) and Daryl Francke (lead guitar), who had been playing in a band called “The Nameless Ones” (why not?) approached John Arant (bass guitar) and David Welch (keyboards, no make that piano, too early for keyboards), who had been practicing for a year or so in the tile floor basement, to start a new band. John Arant was in the Squires with Mike Carney, thus drums and Daryl Jacobs the original sax player. Later, a great find and talent, Bob McCarty was added on saxophone. With one practice session and a full repertoire (twelve numbers) the new band was ready for its first paid engagement, a sock hop at the Mountain Home, Idaho High School.
Dick Cates & The Chessmen
Sufficiently launched, The Chessmen began business by both contracted bookings as word spread, but more interestingly, by renting their own dance venues, purchasing advertising and happily splitting the proceeds less expenses. What started out to be great fun was also becoming a viable business. IOOF halls and National Guard Armorys were usually interested in a little extra revenue at a reasonable figure and provided plenty of room for the “Saturday Night Stomp”. Other great dance halls and venues became the home base for the Chessmen such as The Mardi Gras, The Fiesta Ballroom, The Trocadero, The Cinnamon Cinder, Wimpy’s, The Rollerdrome, Seven Mile Danceland, The Cellar in McCall, and Casey’s Corral in New Meadows and Lewiston. However, perhaps the hallmark of the Chessmen venues was “The Mirimar Ballroom on Fairview Avenue in Boise, Idaho.
The Chessmen became the house band for several years at Wally Allington’s legendary “Miramar Ballroom”, which was built with a special spring loaded hardwood floor enjoyed by “the older crowd” on Saturday nights dancing to the sounds of Ken Bort’s Orchestra. The Miramar became the Friday night gathering spot for the young crowd as the Chessmen had an annual contract and played on Wednesday nights in addition in the summer months. It was here that The Chessmen were scheduled to back up Jerry Lee Lewis who disappointedly was a no show. Boise was in the interior Northwest and was not an easy tour point to schedule so it was hard pressed to attract national musical talent. Never the less, some did arrive. Our experiences, although exciting, were only brushes with others fame. At the Mardi Gras we played in front of Conway Twitty and The Ventures.
In 1963 The Chessmen were the warm up group for Wayne Newton, quite young then and always accompanied by his father/manager. In 1965, we were warm up group for The Beach Boys, for a personal appearance at the Grand Central Store before their concert at the Boise High School Auditorium. We played on a flat bed trailer campaigning for the Governor of Idaho, at the State Fair and anywhere we were appreciated. Colleges became another source of revenue and adventures in Idaho and Oregon, traveling further north to play frat dances at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. The all night drives with a trailer full of equipment was becoming an occasional reality.
In 1964 The Chessmen recorded their only “45” entitled “Just Like A Man” written by David Welch with the standard “Jambalaya” on the flip side. But The Chessmen loved to play music together, each reading the other member’s next chord, bridge or cue and always looked forward to the thrill of a trip and a brand new place to play for a totally new audience. It seemed like the band’s 6 year tenure had produced twice that many years of wonderful fun and memories and relationships.
Out of the blue, in 1970, The Chessmen played a reunion dance at the Mardi Gras. In 1994, at the persuasion of Ross Miller, The New Chancellors, The Chessmen would reunite again on stage at the Boise Centre on the Grove to a crowd of 1,100 former fans and friends. And once again the next year in the summertime at the historic Mardi Gras Ballroom. We have talked of yet another reunion dance in 2004. Nostalgia is “in”, from cars, clothes, furniture, classic guitars and music being the ultimate form of this for us in reuniting on stage and reliving that particular piece of history. How fortunate we were to have experienced the late fifties and sixties, let alone in this way, playing music---rock n’ roll---from the beginning!
John Arant, December 2003My grandfather was Dick Cates. He had a band called Dick Cates and the Chessmen. Unfortunatley I'm writing cause Dick Cates passed away 12-19-05. To all his fans. thank you for all you had done for my grandfather, and may his music live on
The Chessmen at the Miramar - 1960
Taucia Cates, December 2005
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Last Update: 16 December 2011
Credits: John Arant, Mike Barriatua, Taucia Cates, Tom Hogard, Robin Shelton