Ray Biersner ~ Bass
Steve DeMaris ~ Keyboards, Vocals
Mike Minkler ~ Drums
Hank Unck ~ Lead Guitar
Tom Watts ~ Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
In Memory of
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Formed by Tom Watts and Steve DeMaris, classmates at Walla Walla High School (WA-HI), Tommie & The Turn-ons added WA-HI classmates Ray Biersner on bass, and Hank Unck on lead guitar. Mike Minkler, who was still in junior high school, rounded out the band on drums. Tom contributed rhythm guitar and vocals, and Steve was lead vocalist and played keyboards (electric piano in those days). The group was a typical Top-40 cover band of the day. Likewise, the band’s name was in keeping in the style of band names of the day, by featuring the first name of a founder or front man such as Freddie & The Dreamers, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Hawk and The Randellas, etc.
Although a homegrown Walla Walla band, they rarely played in their hometown. The few times they did, they appeared at school sock-hops, dances, and one time at the Walla Walla YWCA lounge, to see if there was enough interest for Pasco’s Mario’s Teenage Nightclub to open a similar venue in Walla Walla. Mario’s Teenage Nightclub was a popular teenage hangout located in the basement of the old Lewis Hotel in Pasco.
The performance photos shown here are from an October 1965 Saturday night gig at Mario’s Teenage Nightclub in Pasco. The hand-painted poster was one of many placed at retail locations in Walla Walla, advertising the YWCA gig.
Shortly after Tom, Steve, Hank and Ray graduated from WA-HI in 1966, tragedy struck when a drunk driver killed Steve DeMaris in a traffic accident on I-5 in Seattle. A few years later, Tom Watts was killed in a traffic accident near Pasco. Ray Biersner made the Greyhound Bus organization his career, and has since retired. Hank Unck, whose current license plate reads “GTARMAN”, worked in radio and television broadcasting until the late 1970’s at stations in the Tri-Cities and Spokane, followed by a 30-year career as a manager and executive in business. He is now retired in Tempe, Arizona. Although no longer playing in a band, he plays guitar for enjoyment almost every day. The whereabouts of Mike Minkler is unknown.
Hank Unck, November 2009