It seemed like destiny when the phone rang at Jimy Rogers's Lake County home last March and a voice on the other end asked if Rogers could put the Mauds together for a gig in July. The Mauds were Rogers's hot 1960s R & B group; the gig was the Cellar Blast reunion, a nostalgia party for the Arlington Heights teen club where they'd been a house band. "I thought, 'If I have to bring a guitar and stand there by myself, I'll do it,'" Rogers says. Then he started to wonder if he'd still be able to make the gut connection with the audience that had been his stock-in-trade. It was so long since he'd performed in public. With a couple of exceptions, he'd been playing for the walls of his own house since 1983.
The Mauds were born in 1965, several years after Rogers and a few buddies from Highland Park High School first ventured down to Chicago's legendary Regal Theater and caught the fever. "I was fascinated," says Rogers, the group's vocalist. "That period was very conservative, but at the Regal they would get wild--people would jump out of their seats and scream. It was wonderful." While other teen bands were doing Beatles imitations, the Mauds were taking their cues from Ray Charles and Otis Redding and were one of the first white Chicago-area bands to do R & B, Rogers says. Cellar owner Paul Sampson became their manager. Along with groups like the Buckinghams, the Cryin' Shames, American Breed, and the Shadows of Knight, they rode the crest of the 60s music scene in the north and northwest suburbs. "There was no music scene before that," Rogers recalls. "Then all of a sudden, there were high school and college concerts, and clubs opening up all over. Places where they would put these acts in, sometimes three in one night: the Pink Panther in Deerfield, the Wild Mouse in Waukegan, the New Place in Algonquin, the Green Gorilla in Des Plaines. People would follow their favorite groups from one place to another."
The Mauds had a couple regional top-ten hits, "Hold On" and "Soul Drippin'," and recorded an album, The Mauds Hold On, on the Mercury label. Rogers says those recording sessions gave future members of the band Chicago their first studio experience (sitting in on horns and keyboard). He also says the Mauds were a likely inspiration for The Blues Brothers. "I've been told Belushi and Aykroyd were in the audience at the clubs," he says. "When I saw that first Blues Brothers movie, it was like watching my life." The band broke up in 1970, and a few years later Rogers moved to California to try his luck--"the worst place in the world to go to put music together." He toured with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, did studio work, went to barber college, and wound up making haircut house calls on Rock Hudson, Barry Manilow, and Harrison Ford. In 1983 his father died and he came home to care for his ailing mother. He built a studio in the garage, telling himself, "I don't need to be out in front of people to do what I love." When his mother's illness progressed from emphysema to lung cancer, he continued to nurse her. One year turned into another in a grim regimen of pills, diapers, and oxygen tanks. She died last February.
Onstage at the packed Cellar reunion last summer, Rogers's alter ego--the one that comes out with a rush in front of an audience--was back and in fine form. Just like the old days, the introverted, soft-spoken Yanni look-alike became an uninhibited conduit for the band's infectious beat and growl. "When we started playing, it was like a magnet," he says. "Everybody crowded into the place. The energy was so great, the whole room was animated. The people just went crazy. After that I knew I'd have to keep going." Since the reunion Al Ciner, a former member of American Breed, Rufus, and Three Dog Night, has joined the Mauds along with former Flock bass player Jerry Smith. Other members are Mauds originals Sam Alessi (on keyboards) and Denny Horan (drums) and longtime associate James Scalfani (vocals).
Jimy Rogers and the Mauds will record a new CD at a holiday dance party tonight at the Beale Street Blues Cafe, 1550 N. Rand Road in Palatine. The cover is $12. The Mauds go on at 10. Call 847-776-9850. --Deanna Isaacs
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.