Robbins said the band members' collective goal was the secret to their success. "The situation was unique," he said. "We had a couple of chances to be big stars, but we turned them downbecause we had to get back to school. The band was the means to achieve an end. That's how we paid for our college educations. The band was also our job and it was a highly professional business. The mentality of the band was different. It wasn't like the kids getting together and having a wahoo kind of a time. We never did dope and we didn't drink. We had a rule: We didn't play and drink at the same time."
In 1963, Robbins was 15 and rock and roll was fun. But by 1969, the course of rock and roll had changed irrevocably. When bands like Gary Lewis and the Playboys stopped playing songs like "This Diamond Ring" and the American Breed abandoned tunes such as "Bend Me, Shape Me," the Jesters began to fade and the holiday was over. One era ended as bands like Cream, Led Zepplin and the Butterfield Blues Band stepped into the spotlight.
"We basically packed it in at about the same time Jimi Hendrix died," said Robbins. "I remember the night. We were in Millinocket. We did Purple Haze or one of those garbage things. We'd use a little feedback and one night on a break we just cranked everything that we had just for laughs and let it all feed back. We watched it wave back and forth and in the midst of the noise we saw that the kids were just totally gonzo and unaware of what it was we were doing. I turned around and looked at the guys and we all shared an instantaneous conclusion: We quit. The band had ceased to become entertainment. Maybe we outgrew it or maybe we just couldn't crossover from the '60s into psychedelic mood that was moving in on what remained of our type of music."
It took great disc jockeys to push the bands of the '60s and it's by no coincidence that an Old Town disc jockey who played with Ronnie and the Road Runners is behind the WLKN feature presentation.
In the Bangor area there are many disc jockeys with smarts. Some know how to make a few bucks and hang onto them, too. Among them are the "Humble-But-Mighty" John Marshall and George Hale.
Then there's Lee Rand. The Bangor disc jockeys have gotten to know Rand a lot better for the way he's been grabbing jobs away from them off the air. But that's show biz.
Rand is one of those disc jockeys who takes his records, turntables, amplifiers and speakers off to the hinterlands for the right price. He's a regular at the Union River Oyster Bar in Ellsworth with his "Lee Rand's Solid Gold Show". If the economy keeps putting the crunch on the dwindling number of working bands, he can probably hope to keep playing records for people who like listening to them as part of their "night on the town".
One of the things that separates Rand from the rest of the pack is a conclusion that he reached a long time ago: Every year that goes by, his listeners get a little bit older.
"I provide a special type of service," he said. "I can go into a hall and I can have up to 1,000 selections. Every record is in perfect condition. I can do music from the '30s and'40s, right up to the latest: country, western, disco, rockyou name it. There's no band that has a repertoire that matches what I can provide. A disc jockey may lack the varying degrees of excitement that a band can produce, but a good disc jockey can still produce his own type of excitement. If he does, he's successful. I did 41 weddings last year. A disc jockey has got to do more than sit and play one record after another."
Rand says that anyone who liked the music that Maine bands produced during the '60s, probably will enjoy the show. After all, it literally drips with local nostalgia.
The Barracudas, the Early Train, the Dolphins, the Village Green, the Jester Holiday, the Eccentrics, the Blues Alliance, the Chancellors, Cherry Opera, Lee and the Levitations, Ronnie and the Roadrunners, the Plague, Gary Mitchell and the Marauders, Dick Cotter and the Triumphs, Mike and the Miracles, the Mainiacs - anyone who can remember who these bands were is probably 27 to 43 years old and has been hanging around Bangor too long.
Whatever was going on in life 15 years ago, Rand hopes listeners will join him for a trip back to the music that they probably listened to. The show will include several interviews with members of the bands in a sort of "Where are they now?" segment featuring Robie Robichaud of the Barracudas, Robbins of the Jester Holiday and Mike Trudell of the Eccentrics.
Rand said he was able to reach at least one member from many of the bands in Maine during the '60s and they all agreed on one thing: "Given the chance, they all said that they would do it again," said Rand. "They all said that they learned a lot about life and growing up along the way - good times and bad."