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Authorized History of the Guise

Editor's note: The Guise was the precursor to the rock group Rollo.

written 4/7/80

The Guise as we now know it came together in the spring of 1978. In small, ill-equipped rehearsal studios, at loud, almost deafening volumes, the songs of Dan Smullyan emerged and were slowly formed and reformed by the group psyche.

Not many of the first tunes survived, except on the cassettes that were often brought along to rehearsals. Listening to some of those early tapes, one is still struck by the lyrical soul and structural sophistication that would become the hallmark of the Guise's middle period: "Please stay, you'll say it was surely worth the waiting/ You'll see if we make it through today/ Tomorrow is on me." [© 1978 Dan Smullyan]

The Guise's first big break occurred just a few months later when they were brought into New York's legendary C.I. Studios to make a 16-track "demo."

The demo generated a lot of interest in the band and, by all accounts sealed the fate of the first Guise drummer and bass player, Ed Graves and Steve Stevens. "We felt they were holding us back musically" was the group consensus.

The first of a series of grueling auditions then took place, with some of New York's finest musicians vying with each other for a place in the band. Selected for the first Guise gig on September 24, 1978 at a small east-side club called "Eric" were bassist John Caruso and drummer Frank "Boom Boom" Marcario. This gig was followed one week later by two performances at New York's Trude Heller in Greenwich Village. Although the response was enthusiastic, the Guise decided to seek a more stable situation by once again auditioning drummers and bassists, hoping to form a tight "rhythm section."

"I remember," said Guise keyboard wiz Jonathan Ochshorn talking about the group: "One night we printed up some signs — something about looking for a drummer and bass player — and pasted them up and down Bleeker Street." Bleeker is a well-known street in New York's Greenwich Village.

Responding to one of the signs, long-time Guise drummer Marty Stein auditioned with the group and, as long-time Guise guitarist Mike Meltzer described it, "just kept on showing up." With Stein on board (and a few months later his Brooklyn buddy, bass wiz Michael Antellis joining), the band was ready to break on the scene again. Selected for their comeback was the club Eric which had sponsored the first Guise gig. Two months later came a benefit concert at Brooklyn's Unit Coffeehouse. Then, on August 10 and 11, 1979, the Guise opened for the Eve Moon Group at Bleeker Street's Kenny's Castaways. Things were really happening for the group. They had made another demo at C.I. Studios which was played at some of New York's major record companies. And they headlined at New York's Tomato Nightclub.

Then, the sky fell in. With a huge three night gig scheduled for Kenny's on October 4-6, Mike Antellis left the group to play with a Brooklyn-based fusion band. Guitarist Meltzer brought in his friend Russel Brodsky, who was under contract with Great Neck's Dave Alpert Group, as an interim replacement for bass wiz Antellis.

Meanwhile, with increasing pressure from the rhythm section for a more charismatic lead guitar presence, a new guitarist, Peter [last name unknown], was added to the band and lead singer Dan Smullyan devoted his full energy to the vocal performance.

Up to this point the Guise had been rehearsing at the 14th Street loft of New York's rock group Wonderland, paying a low hourly rate and using their own equipment. With Wonderland's signing of a record contract with Polydor (becoming "3-D") they no longer needed the extra income and the Guise were forced back into the marketplace studios.

Having Brodsky on bass and letting Peter alternate lead guitar chores with Meltzer, the Group made the October 4th deadline at Kenny's, trading off sets with Great Neck's Larry Estridge and his band Nightwatch. Nightwatch's guitarist Dave Achelis had engineered the two Guise demos at C.I. Studios and in fact was instrumental in introducing the Guise to New York's Pat Kenny, owner of the Castaways. One month later the band was invited back to Kenny's to share the spotlight with the Jotters, a group that included Broadway drummer Mike Epstein. Epstein was later to join the Guise after the Jotters broke up. But before all this could occur, two events had to take place which were to transform the group. First, Michigan studio-wiz Kurt Ochshorn joined the group, playing bass. He and keyboardist Jonathan Ochshorn began advocating a sparser, more contemporary approach to the music; shortly thereafter they became brothers. The second key event was the departure of long-time Guise drummer Marty Stein, after the death of his father, for California's Lake Tahoe. Epstein filled the void, bringing a cohesive, disciplined backbone to the new Guise sound.

But with barely a month to go before their scheduled March 27, 1980 gig at Kenny's, Epstein suddenly left the group to pursue his own musical identity. At his suggestion, the band contacted Broadway drummer and veteran pro John Melscher who, after hearing the tunes, agreed to rehearse with the band. The second guitarist, Peter [l.n.u.] had been eliminated so Dan Smullyan was back on rhythm guitar for the gig. Sharing the stage with Mark Johnson and the Wild Alligators, the Guise were at their best. New Jersey's Paul Mendolsohn came up for the last songs of each set to add some memorable sax solos to Smullyan's "Can't Hide the Fire" and "Shoot the Moon." One week later, studio-wiz Kurt Ochshorn had finished the Guise's third demo — this one completely engineered and produced by Kurt in his own basement studio in New York's New Rochelle. Using such things as foam rubber in the saxophone bell and dim room light ambiance for the lead vocals, Kurt achieved a really great sounding tape.

Rumors are flying about long-time Guise guitarist Mike Meltzer being released from the band. If true, it adds but another stormy chapter to the history of the Guise, one that will undoubtedly leave them even stronger than before.

J.O.