MUSCATINE, Iowa — Forty years roll back in a fast wash of memories and laughter when Muscatine musicians Max Allan Collins and Chuck Bunn recall their early years in rock ’n’ roll.
It is and always was all about the music for Bunn and Collins, both age 60, since establishing their band, The Daybreakers, in 1966.
Through the years, the band continued performing an unwavering salute to the rock ’n’ roll music they and other artists wrote and composed in the 1960s.
Their dedication is being recognized by their peers as Collins, Bunn and their bandmates are inducted into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 30, in Arnold’s Park, Iowa.
Collins was a Muscatine High School senior when he began putting the band together with the assistance of local guitar teacher George Dunker.
Dunker introduced Collins to three junior high school students who, along with Collins and Bunn, became The Daybreakers.
The group included Mike Bridges on lead guitar, Denny Maxwell on rhythm guitar, Buddy Busch on drums, Collins on keyboard and Bunn on bass.
Collins sang lead, but the members shared vocal duties, which Collins said was unusual in the mid-1960s.
They practiced in Collins’ parents’ basement, refining a sound that put them on par with other successful regional rock ’n’ roll bands of that time including Wilton’s XLs and the Quad Cities’ Night People.
Their first year out, The Daybreakers, dressed in sparkling gold shirts, outshined 30 competitors from all over the Midwest, including Minneapolis and Chicago, winning the Carnival of Bands competition at the Col Ballroom in Davenport.
Collins and Bunn say Collins’ father, former Muscatine High School music teacher Max Allan Collins Sr., helped the band maximize their vocal sound.
The senior Collins, who died in 2000 at age 78, also served as a bridge to the mainstream market.
Jack Barlow, a popular area radio personality and country western recording artist for Dot Records in Nashville, Tenn., had been a student of Max Allan Collins Sr. Barlow, who speaks fondly of his former teacher to this day, asked his producer, Buddy Killen, to oversee a recording session for The Daybreakers in 1967 so they could produce a record for local release.
Collins played Killen six of his original songs, including a song titled “Psychedelic Siren.”
The band had been performing the song live with a siren effect generated by a mysterious three-knobbed black box which Collins describes as a primitive version of a synthesizer. The box was built by Collins’ college classmate and operated on stage by Maxwell.
Killen brought the Daybreakers to Nashville’s Columbia Recording Studios where they recorded “Psychedelic Siren” and four other numbers, including guitarist Bridges’ original composition “Afterthoughts.”
Killen offered the band a three-year recording deal with Atlantic Records through its Dial label and signed them to five-year songwriting contracts.
Collins said the only other recipient of a similar deal at that time was a band called The Allman Joys, now known as The Allman Brothers.
Back in Iowa, the single “Psychedelic Siren” with “Afterthoughts” as the flipside, received big play on Davenport’s KSST radio station and became a regional hit. Collins said the song is still played on radio shows devoted to 1960s garage band music.
The Daybreakers went on to provide opening acts for the Young Rascals, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Buckinghams and the Strawberry Alarm Clock.
In 1969 they won the Iowa State Fair Teen Town Battle of the Bands.
But nothing more came of the deal with Killen and Atlantic Records. Collins said Killen was pleasant when he spoke with him on the phone, but the group was never invited to record more music on the label.
“I think the contract came just as music was changing,” said Collins, who recalls hearing music by Jimi Hendrix and The Doors on the car radio as the group drove back from the Nashville recording session.
Collins now has a successful career as an author and film maker and Bunn retired from Muscatine’s Grain Processing Corp. last week.
But their careers never kept them from their music for long.
Over the years, the band has played under other names and has included Thom Hetzler on bass, Bruce Peters on bass and later guitar, Terry Beckey on bass and vocals and Paul Thomas on bass and guitar.
They have provided opening acts for various rock ’n’ roll acts including Herman’s Hermits, The Turtles, The Young Rascals, The Four Seasons, Iggy Pop and the late Stevie Ray Vaughn.
In the early 1970s the Daybreakers evolved into Rox and began creating more of a pop music sound reminiscent of the 1960s Beach Boys and early Raspberries.
In the mid-1970s, Collins, Peters and Thomas became one of the first 1960s revival bands, and took the name Crusin’.
“The interesting thing about our band is, it’s always stayed 1960s,” said Collins. “We were a ’60s garage band when we started.”
Collins and Bunn are still with Crusin’, and Maxwell has played too. Thomas continued playing until his death in 2004.
Peters and Beckey are also deceased.
But the original Daybreakers will all be together for their induction into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame, and will perform a half-hour set.
Bunn and Collins said the music will be varied and include original music.
Their only regret is they only have half an hour to play.
But local audiences can catch the band in a longer show in Tipton at the Cedar County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Sept. 13.
Collins said the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association asks bands inducted into the Hall of Fame to keep the music alive by performing local shows. The Tipton show will include performances by another 2008 inductee, the Enoch Smoky band, and 2003 inductees, The Rock’N Flames.
Reporter contact information
Cynthia Beaudette 563-262-0527
Friends/Family/Fans Of Max Allan Collins
Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association
http://www.iowarocknroll.com/ Once on the home page, click on “inductees” and then click on “The Daybreakers.”
What: Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association presents “Rock the Roof Road Show” featuring The Daybreakers along with Iowa bands, Enoch Smoky and The Rock’N Flames.
When: Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13. Show begins at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Cedar County Fairgrounds in Tipton.
Admission: $10. Tickets available at Citizens Bank, Family Foods, the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Association Website or at the door.