The Invictas are back


Bruce Atchison is one of my Yahoo Group best members and he wrote this great article. Bruce is a legally blind freelance writer and the author of two books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School). The first memoir is about his fascinating experiences and discoveries made while living with rabbits in his home. The second is a chronicle of the years he spent in an institution for blind children during the sixties, hundreds of miles from all he knew and loved. More information, and free samples from his books, can be found via links on the Deliverance and When a man pages. Bruce lives in a tiny Alberta hamlet with his house rabbits, Neutrino, Sierra, and Deborah.

The Invictas are back

There seems to be a trend in the music industry where once-popular sixties acts are reuniting, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Herman’s Hermits being only two which are currently touring. A lesser-known but just-as-good group which reformed recently is The Invictas. With their garage band sound still relatively intact, the four original members and two new musicians toured in 2005 and 2006, delighting rock music fans of all ages.

It all started during 1960 in Rochester, New York when Herb Gross heard a group of older teens practicing rock music instrumentals in the basement of the house next door. He and a few local friends decided they should form a group of their own. After doing a bit of brainstorming with school friends, they named the band after Buic’s car called the Invicta. A local college bar, Tiny’s Bengel Inn, was looking for a house band and hired Herb’s group. As they perfected their sound and changed a few band members along the way, The Invictas began playing gigs at colleges up and down the east coast and even in Canada.

The Invictas’ provocative single hit song, The Hump, was inspired by a couple of dancers in front of the stage at Tiny’s who were “humping,” as they called it, to the music. Herb thought the idea was so interesting that he wrote lyrics and the tune in one week. A record producer from Buffalo, Steve Brodie, heard the song and asked the band about recording it. Since the band members were accustomed to live performances and playing The Hump in the studio made the song sound uninspired, Herb invited 30 friends, bought several cases of beer, and The Hump was recorded. In fact, their first album, Invictas A Go-Go, was completed in one weekend and released on the Sahara Records label.

Radio stations were rather prudish in 1966, refusing to play the hump because of it’s title and suggestive lyrics. The record was even banned in Boston, a fact which the band members still treasure. After hundreds of fans flooded radio stations with requests, the record was allowed on the air. It went to number one in Miami and made the top one hundred in America during August of 1966. In Rochester, some record stores were reporting that The Hump was even out-selling The Beatles. The Invictas also appeared on some local TV shows and played at the Watkins Glen Race Track. It was around that time when the band started driving a 1955 Cadillac hearse on stage as a promotional gimmick. The members, aping the British groups popular at that time, wore English riding boots, turtlenecks, fur jackets, and grew their hair long. They also played with famous acts as The Young Rascals, Gene Pitney, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Shirelles, and Otis Reading. Later, they opened for The Beach Boys.

The invictas became so popular that they required police escorts, had their own fan club, and attracted plenty of eager female fans. Girls waited for them on their front lawns and called them on the phone at all hours of the night. Bass player, Jim Kohler, came home late one evening to find that some groupies had actually broken into his apartment and prepared a meal for him. Herb was once chased by a crowd of girls across a street and into a department store, where he hid in a ladies’ changing room. Their hearse, which sported gold racing stripes and the band’s name in bold yellow lettering on the doors, proved to be unreliable, breaking down often on the way to gigs. Then the Vietnam war caused the band to break up.

The Invictas did reunite in 1980 for a festival tent gig. Then again in 1995, they played another gig, recording Long Tall Shorty and The Hump 95. Throughout the years, Herb had established his own advertising agency and was earning a substantial income. While he visited Invictas member Dave Hickey, Dave’s wife Marilyn suggested they go to a blues club called The Dinosaur and see a group named The Mary Haitz Band. Mary heard that the two Invictas members were there and asked them to play a number. Dave declined but Herb performed Long Tall Shorty. The crowd became excited and called out for him to play The Hump. Herb, having a Blues Brothers moment, realized that he had to get the band back together one more time.

The Invictas toured in 2005, launching their ’60s’ tour at a bar called the California Brew Haus. The members enjoyed the experience and crowd reaction at various venues so much that they toured again the next summer and recorded The Skip ‘N Go Naked tour live CD, named after a popular Tiny’s Bengel Inn drink made with gin, beer, and lemonade. Herb also found a 1984 model cadillac hearse for sale in Oklahoma City and had his friend Dan Parsons customize it to look like the original Invictas vehicle. The ’60s tour covered the northeast states and parts of Ontario while the Skip ‘n Go Naked tour happened in upstate New York. The Invictas played various northeast U. S. gigs in 2007 as well. Though the band lost money, they all plan to continue rocking into their retirement years.

For more information regarding The Invictas, and to download a free song called Red, White, Blue, and True, go to the www.theinvictas.com website. On this site is some band merchandise, including their 2 CDs and Banned In Boston, a DVD of them playing live. Herb also wrote Rock Till Ya Drop, a coffee table book about his group, featuring many photos of the band and their gear.

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