The Shondells reunite for one final performance.
June 12, 2002
Skip Stewart hasn’t touched his bass in more than a decade. Rhythm guitarist Rod Bernard says if he forgets the words to the songs, he’ll just make them up as he goes along. Drummer Warren Storm says, “Yeah, it’s our 100-year reunion. It’s been a long time. I don’t know if those dudes can still play, but I know I can.”
The Shondells are reuniting for a performance Saturday, June 15, at the Ville Platte Civic Center. Bernard says the band won’t rehearse. “Rehearsing is for amateurs,” he says. “That’s how confident I am.”
The show is part of a swamp pop series presented by the city of Ville Platte and KVPI 92.5 FM and 1050 AM. Swamp Pop Nights is a monthly show that has featured musical legends like Cookie & The Cupcakes, Dale & Grace, The Boogie Kings, Johnnie Allan and now The Shondells.
Bernard is adamant that The Shondells are not re-forming. This is not the group’s first leg of their comeback tour. This one-time performance is merely a reunion and possibly the last one ever. The Shondells will not be following in the footsteps of The Rolling Stones or even KISS. It’s The Shondells for one night and one night only.
For a group that has had three talented vocalists and musicians with separate and distinct musical careers, the reunion will be bittersweet, wrapping up a collaborative effort that formed some 40 years ago.
In 1962, Stewart and Bernard worked together as disc jockeys at KVOL. Bernard also had a television show on KLFY, titled Saturday Hop. The show mirrored the format of American Bandstand but showcased local musical acts as well, while including performances by Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and B.B. King. Bernard had left his group The Twisters and Stewart had left The Boogie Kings. They wanted to start another band to play rock ‘n’ roll and approached Storm to play drums.
Storm says, “All three of us had fairly good names, so we put all the names together and it was a drawing card.”
The trump card was named The Shondells. Bernard had always liked the name when he had first met Troy Shondell who had a hit with “This Time (We’re Really Breaking Up)” in 1961. He thought the name had a musical ring to it and since neither Stewart nor Storm offered any alternatives, he named the band. The Shondells were also playing before Tommy James & The Shondells had national hits with “Hanky Panky,” “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Mony, Mony.”
The Shondells performed on the weekly Saturday afternoon episodes of Saturday Hop and played every Saturday night at the Southern Club in Opelousas for nearly a decade. The band performed seven nights a week during that time. In 1964, they recorded an album of popular cover tunes for La Louisianne Records. Stewart says that all 12 of the songs on the record were recorded in only an hour and a half. Today, At The Saturday Hop is out of print.
The Shondells still deal in South Louisiana rock ‘n’ roll, but don’t use the term swamp pop within earshot of them. Stewart and Bernard aren’t too sweet on the term.
“I hate the words ‘swamp pop’,” Bernard says. “I don’t even know what that means. It’s just rock ‘n’ roll.”
Stewart says, “That’s some term a guy in England gave our style of music. We always called it Louisiana rock ‘n’ roll.”
Whatever you want to call it, they’ll be belting it out this Saturday night in Ville Platte.
Storm says it will be “three old guys playing the music we played in the ’60s. It’s old Louisiana rock ‘n’ roll. We’re going to have a good time. It’s going to bring back a lot of memories for our fans who used to come out and see us at the Southern Club. It’s going to be a reunion – for us and the fans, too – if they’re not too old to come out and see us.”