HYBRID ICE HISTORY- 1969-2006
WebSurfers, Fans and Collectors take note: This is an official and sanctioned biography of a rock group whose career spanned nearly three decades. The longevity of this band was unprecedented. The history of the band unique. The people they met might surprise you. The story itself is long. You might want to save it as a file or print it for reading offline.
Hybrid Ice was once described by bassist Jeff Willoughby as,"The most famous, unknown band in the world." Famous, in the sense that, it seems that everyone has heard or heard of them from Pennsylvania to Florida to the Midwestern States to Stockholm, Sweden to Sofia, Bulgaria (more on that later). Unknown, in the sense that, despite their independent success, they were never signed to a major label.
1969-1970 - The Starting Lineup
Hailing from Danville, PA, Hybrid Ice started their long, musical career together as most bands do; high school buddies getting together to jam. Rusty (Galen) Foulke and Jeff Willoughby had played together in a band called Stratus, with guitarist John Roberts, guitar/vocalist Libby Kough and drummer Rob Morse in 1967-1968. (Morse, Foulke and Willoughby later released BRIGG, an album which Hybrid Ice performed on and sold copies worldwide. When Morse moved on to another school (Webster Academy, Webster, MA), Foulke and Willoughby teamed up with members of another local band, The Outer Five. The other members included drummer Rick Klinger, keyboardist John Hartman, (John's brother Dan quit the group), and bass player Jim Bower (who became their soundman/roadie). A name was given to the group; Part Two.
The group played mostly private parties and local dances during this time period. They would take any job that would come their way, usually on the average of three to four dates per month. The going rate for the band at this time was around $80.00-$100.00 per night for a four hour show, although they would take anything that people would offer them. And they often played for a lot less.
The group was already forming an entrepreneurial nature during these early days; renting the local YMCA (if they didn't have any jobs) and splitting the take with the Association. They also designed and printed their first T-shirts and posters at this time, under the name Part Two. None are known to exist today. (This begins a pattern of self-assuredness, confidence and creativity that the group would carry with them throughout their career). They also did their first recording, albeit a terrible-sounding cassette, at a local YMCA dance. That cassette, as well as other taped rehearsals, still exists today. Having no money to purchase new equipment, Foulke and Willoughby would visit the local dump to strip television sets of speakers (at that time, radio and television cabinets contained speakers of 12" or greater in size) or tubes or anything else that might be of value to them. They would bring home their take and, working in their parents garages and basements, would construct cabinets to house the components in an attempt at building their first sound system.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
In the age of psychedelia, as this was, a light show was a necessity. Most groups at the time could not afford one. Part Two, soon to be renamed Hybrid Ice, was no exception. So they did what they had learned how to do; they pooled their resources. It is unclear how they "came across" an overhead projector (like the ones used in high school...hmmm), but armed with that, a clear Pyrex baking dish, some white sheets sewn together as a backdrop, a blacklight, a couple of outdoor colored floodlights, and one, yes one, industrial dimmer that looked like something from Frankenstein's laboratory, the band had their lightshow. Here's how it worked; the overhead projector would be set up to illuminate the sheets. The Pyrex dish would be placed on the projector and drops of food coloring dripped into the dish. The result would be "explosions" of colored blobs that would swirl and flow on the backdrop as the band played. During one show, a roadie filled the dish with water and a live goldfish was dropped in for maybe what was the first use of non-electronic animation ever seen at an area concert. It must have impressed people at the time, because in certain cases, employers would actually advertise "Hybrid Ice, with Light Show."
Rick Shaffer joined as a guitarist/vocalist briefly in 1970 before being replaced by guitaristsWoody Wolfe and Tom Harvey. Later the band would add keyboardist Webb Kline and move Hartman to frontman. They were very close to performing their first backup slot in a series of concerts with a then-undiscovered powerhouse of a band whose members would later achieve success in a some very big ways.
The average age of the band members at this time was 15-16 years old. Their transportation at the time consisted of a mini-fleet (3) of Volkswagen buses and one 1964 Chevy Nova station wagon. Repertoire during this period included songs by Big Brother and The Holding Company (Janis Joplin), Iron Butterfly, Jimi Hendrix, Bubble Puppy (Hot Smoke and Sassafras), Spooky Tooth, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Grand Funk Railroad, The Animals, James Gang and Nazz.
1971 - A NEW NAME AND ROLLING GREEN PARK
At some point in 1971, the band decided that a new name was needed. One of the most difficult things a band has to do is come up with a name that is catchy and that every band member agrees on. At the time, many popular groups had chosen names that sounded interesting but didn't necessarily mean anything or had nothing to do with music. This type of moniker added a mystique or air of mystery to the group. Names like Strawberry Alarm Clock, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago Transit Authority, Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge were all popular bands of the day. There also seemed to exist, at the time, a pattern of three words to each name. (In later years, single name groups would be predominant, such as Boston, Wings, Kiss, Kansas, Genesis and Foreigner. Still later during the New Wave/Punk Movement, bands with "The" in name would be back in vogue again as they were in the '50's and '60's, such as The Cars, The Police, The Talking Heads and The Clash.)
The band tried many names, all but one,"Mother Grebe and Her Water Babies," have now been forgotten, until drummer Rick Klinger came into a rehearsal with the name "The Hybrid Ice Company." Rick claimed that he had read it in an article in Reader's Digest. It was later revealed that the actual name that he had read was "The Harbor Ice Company," and he had inadvertantly made a mistake. The group decided to keep the name, since it qualified for all the above-outlined parameters. They dropped the "The," and years later the "Company." Still later in their career, they would be known to their fans as simply "The Ice," but never adopted it as an official title. Interesting to note is that, in a press release the band drafted after the release of their first album, they attempted to add meaning to the name; that perhaps it was well thought-out and was derived from something meaningful . The word "hybrid," the release said, was a composite, or the combination of the best of many things. And "ice," as everyone knows, is a slang term for diamonds which are the hardest "rock" in the world. It made for interesting reading but it wasn't the truth.
In 1975 the band went so far as to getting cards printed with a different name, "XYZ," which they abandoned (The name was eventually used by Foulke and Morse in late 1976 when Foulke quit Hybrid Ice for a one year period). In the late '70's to early '80's, just before the band was getting ready to tour the East Coast, they would again consider changing their name to "Mad Anthony" or "Mad Anthony Wayne," which sounded more metal or heavy and was easier for employers to spell. Obviously, they decided against it. But more often than not, the marquis in front of a club in some remote town in some part of the South would read," Tonite - Pennsylvania's Finest - HY-BIRD ICE," trying to make their own sense of a meaningless name.
Just outside of Selinsgrove, PA in the Central Susquehanna Valley region of Pennsylvania, there existed a small amusement park known as Rolling Green Park, or simply The Green, as it was known to the locals. The park was a kiddie park with an assortment of small rides for toddlers and grade-schoolers, picnic tables, a small pond and an old style ballroom. The ballroom, at one time played host to Big Band Era bands such as Fred Waring. During the '50's and '60's roller skating was in vogue and the ballroom accomodated that as well. But the most significant events to happen there in the early 1970's were rock concerts. Many years before MTV and VH1 would happen on the scene and make viewing a band's performance a common occurance, the only way for kids in the rural regions, such as this was, to see a band was to actually go to the event. Sometimes concerts would take place at high schools and colleges or at ballrooms. Attendance was usually high, sometimes filling an entire gymnasium or ballroom to capacity, as the concert-goers would drive for great distances to see these live shows. Later in the decade, television would dabble at bringing rock concerts and videos into the home with shows like "Midnight Special" and "Don Kirchner's Rock Concert." But these shows were only airing one night a week, not twenty-four hours a day like the present barrage of music channels. So attending these live concert events made them all the more special, because they were rare occurances for the area. And even more special when certain bands performed.
There were a lot of talented groups coming into, or out of, the area during that time such as Ralph, The Wool, Fred, The Whazoos, The Buoys, The Other Side, Steam Machine and The Sundae Train. But none had the impact, the look, or the sheer decibel force of a band called The Electric Elves. The Elves, as they would later call themselves, were five musicians who hailed from the Ithaca/Cortland, New York area. They were a visual and musical power that was unmatched by anyone at the time. They would roll into town several times in a season (the park was only open in the summer) with their studded denim jackets, hair to the waist, walls (literally) of Marshall and Sunn amplifiers, and a sound that would shake the embroidery from your torn bell-bottomed pants, part your shoulder length hair down the middle and leave your ears ringing for days afterward. It was magical. Their effect on the crowd was...well...mesmerizing. The group would perform seemingly impossible covers such as Jethro Tull's, "Crosseyed Mary," Derek and The Dominos' "Layla," The Who's,"Won't Get Fooled Again" and a tight, blistering "All Right Now" that would have the crowd staring up at them from their seated, cross-legged position on the floor (no one danced in those days, we listened to the music and watched the performance) knowing that they were destined for bigger and better things. And they were. After releasing a few albums on Epic Records, under the name Elf, the group split up. The bass player/lead singer, Ronnie Padavona, went on to be known as Ronnie James Dio. The rhythm guitar player, Doug Thayler, went on to become the manager for Motley Crue. David "Rock" Feinstein played with a band called The Rods. I have no definitive information as to what became of the remaining members of the band.
Hybrid Ice would again that year put their entrepreneurialship into gear when, taking advantage of the popularity of The Buoys' hits "Timothy" and "Son Give Up Your Guns," hired the local (Wilkes-Barre, PA) band to perform. Once again, a venue was booked (The Capitol Theatre, Danville, PA) posters designed and screened by the Danville High School Art Department, tickets presold, and radio advertising purchased. Of course the band set themselves up as the opening act. The show was a huge success and a second show was booked six months later.
Author's Note: I have spent a lot of time describing The Elves because their professionalism and overall musicianship was an early barometer or standard by which the members of Hybrid Ice used to gauge their own group over and over again. Bands such as the Elves, The Sundae Train, Roadapple and The Other Side were all popular area bands and had all achieved a level of success, musicianship and respect that Hybrid Ice knew they needed to survive. Major label acts such as the Beatles, Cream and The Who of course were inspiration as well, but these "local" bands were more accessible. And, in a way, they were extensions of the major acts by emulating their sound so closely it was difficult to tell the difference with your eyes closed. Hybrid Ice realized the importance of this. And consequently, the influence these groups had on them was an integral part of who and what Hybrid Ice would become.
1972 - HIGH SCHOOL, A NEW SINGER AND A FLOOD
In 1972, Rick Klinger and Rusty (Galen) Foulke graduated from Danville Senior High School leaving John Hartman and Jeff Willoughby to tough out one more year. It was tough because the group was starting to attract attention from booking agencies who wanted to place them in week-long engagements at points along the New Jersey and Maryland coasts. Also, playing music on school nights two to three days per week was taking it's toll on the two remaining students. At one point, Jeff consulted the guidance counselor about quitting school and immediately taking the Equivalency Test, thereby earning his diploma. Parental pressure and also the chance of being drafted (when he turned 18) swayed him against this decision. So Hartman and Willoughby resigned themselves to one more year of school. They made the best of it by organizing a Music Theory class and convincing the band director into teaching the class during his free period.
School wasn't all bad. As a matter of fact, before the older band members graduated, the group had almost free reign. They played for assemblies at their and other area schools, thereby allowing them to get out of class. They produced American Federation of Musicians contracts as being the basis for a "work release" that might take them out of the classroom for a day or two. The class of '72 was also the first class in school history to completely eliminate the dress code (long hair on boys, jeans and pants on girls were forbidden). Keeping with the rebellious times, they challenged the school board and the administration citing the Constitutionality of the codes and regulations. They staged walkouts in protest of one thing or another. With the help of some influential parents (whose kids had long hair and burnt their draft cards) the school board eventually backed down. They grew their hair long. Girls wore jeans. They had a jukebox installed in the cafeteria. Then they had a school store which sold everything from notebooks, pencils and candy to...record albums.
A NEW SINGER
Scot Adams was a tall, blonde singer from nearby Shamokin, Pennsyvania. He had an incredible vocal range and an imposing stage presence. At 21, he was asked by Hybrid Ice to join them. Hartman went back to keyboards/rhythm guitar and Adams became the front man. His stay with the band didn't last long, but what was important was that the style of music the band chose to play (because of Adams' vocal range) required that every member concentrate on their vocal abilities. Eventually, Hybrid Ice would become well known and respected for their vocal abilities, in that every band member could sing lead, in their own respective ranges. The "training" for this could arguably be traced to this period, as the songs they played required a good ear and careful dichotomies of multi-layered vocal harmonies.
The jobs that the band played during this time included strip clubs, frat parties and some small bars in New Jersey. One particularly memorable night at The Hearth in Bartonsville, PA was capped off with the band members watching from the stage as two rival motorcycle gangs, The Warlocks and The Pagans, beat up on each other. The fight ended with intervention by the local police and Galen accidentally got sprayed in the face with mace.
Just when things were getting interesting for Hybrid Ice, Hurricane Agnes decided to visit the East Coast of The United States. Many areas, including Danville, suffered great losses as unceasing rains turned the town's streets into swiftly moving torrents of water. The members of the band fortunately lived a few miles outside of town and didn't incur the devastating losses that the townspeople did. But the widespread devastation brought a halt to their performances. Not to miss out on an opportunity, and at the same time do some good for those who lost their homes, Hybrid Ice agreed to perform live from the studio of a local radio station. The radio show featured a call-in program to donate money to the flood victims and the group of course, performed gratis. Lugging their equipment up to the second floor of WHLM, Bloomsburg, PA, the band set up and performed a set of cover material and urged listeners to pledge whatever they could to help the area flood victims. With limited mixing capabilities, the station engineers set up one microphone in the center of the studio. To ensure a proper sound, friends and girlfriends of the band would run down the flight of stairs to their cars, tune in the radio station and listen to the group's performance. They would then run back up the steps and, through hand signals, indicate to each band member to turn up or turn down the volume of his respective instrument. They would then run back down to their cars, listen and run back up again and signal the musicians with another set of instructions. Not an exact science of audio engineering technique, but it seemed to work at the time. The show went on without a hitch.
After the rains stopped and the water levels subsided, drummer Rick Klinger got a job shoveling thigh-deep mud from the streets of his hometown...and from the halls of his alma mater.
On a tragic note, one of John Hartman's older brothers, Jim ("Beatle") dies of a brain aneurysm on Thanksgiving Day. "Beatle" was an excellent drummer in his own right, performing with the local group, T.H.E. Roade.
Covers played during this time included songs by Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Badfinger, The Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin. Average age of the band members was 17-18 years old.
1973 - GO SOUTH YOUNG MAN, A GAS SHORTAGE AND AN ACCIDENT
With John Hartman and Jeff Willoughby now out of High School, the band was free to pursue their dream, or at the very least, just expand their playing territory. Acting on a tip from ex-Sundae Train drummer Steve Fecker who was in the Stone Mountain, GA.-based band Roadapple, who had a solid following in the South, Hybrid Ice left for Atlanta. The band had no jobs booked and took no equipment. They simply went to see the sights, check out the clubs and take in the scene. Having little money, the group booked space at a KOA campground close to the city, some members sleeping in tents, others in a van, "borrowed" electricity from a neighboring site and cleaned up in the public shower and swimming pool. They hooked up with a few friendly native Georgians who showed them around town; underground Atlanta, the clubs and the nightlife. Atlanta was a very happening place at the time and the tour proved very valuable research. This was the group's first foray south of the Mason-Dixon line. They would, in future years, go back to Georgia, and the Southeast in general, many times.
Also, at this time, the album BRIGG was released by Rob Morse, Rusty Foulke and Jeff Willoughby, with Hybrid Ice playing on three tracks. The group made a brief trip to Henniker, NH where Morse was attending college to deliver the albums and place them in the local record stores. Galen and Jeff also made a trip to New York City, and having no money for a cab, walked all over the city and dropped one off at every major record label. No one responded. The recording experience was the first real recording experience for the band. "Real" in the sense that what they recorded actually went to press. They had recorded a couple of songs at a radio station's studio prior to recording the BRIGG project and, just to be official, let it be known that the first two songs Hybrid Ice ever recorded were "One Last Thing" and "Took It Away" both written by Foulke. The first original song ever performed by Hybrid Ice (1970) was a forgettable Hendrix-like tune called "Agony In The Garden" written by Willoughby. More originals would be recorded in the years to follow but none went to press again until the release of Hybrid Ice's first album in 1982.
Sometime after recording and releasing the BRIGG album, the band booked a job (or jobs) in Atlanta, GA. Having no truck to haul their gear, the group rented a U-Haul trailer and used Rick's 1969 GMC van to pull it. The van was a white "tricked-out" hot rod complete with shag carpet interior, paneled walls, modified engine, mag wheels and a United States flag painted on the ceiling. Very cool for the 1970's. Shortly before the boys packed their gear and filled the van with whatever else it would hold, Rick made the final payment on the financed vehicle.
Traveling at night to avoid heavy traffic and gas lines (there was a fuel shortage going on at the time), the group left on a rainy evening in the van and trailer and a car with members of the band and crew following close behind. On I-81 near the Woodstock, VA. exit, a tractor-trailer passed them at a high rate of speed. The combination of the resulting "wash" of wind and slick road surface caused the U-Haul trailer to sway side to side. First a little, then more and more as the driver of the van (Hartman) tried to gain control. Unable to do so, the U-Haul trailer jack-knifed violently at a right angle to the van. The momentum caused both van and trailer to spin out of control. As the other members of the band and crew watched in horror from the vehicle travelling behind them, the van and trailer spun across the roadway, the trailer snapping from the hitch. Both rolled several times before coming to rest upright on their wheels.
Willoughby, who was driving the car behind them, brought the car to a stop and approached the van with Woody Wolfe and Webb Kline. Quick-thinking road crew member Steve Prosetta, immediately ran back down the highway to avert any oncoming traffic and avoid another potentially deadly collision. Originally, Hartman was driving the van and Foulke was riding "shotgun." Klinger was sleeping on the floor in the back. As the other band members approached the van they could see no one in either the passenger or driver's seats. There was no indication of movement of any kind save for the windshield wipers swooshing back and forth across the dashboard. The windshield was completely gone and lying on the ground and the front of the van was rammed into a bank. Expecting the worst, Willoughby, Wolfe and Kline began looking for and calling out to Foulke and Hartman. To their amazement Foulke jumped up several feet away from the wreck indicating he was all right. Hartman crawled up and over the bank. Both had been thrown completely clear of the van, with Hartman being propelled through the windshield. Klinger was found in the back of the van trying to fight his way out of a sleeping bag. He was covered with cymbals, boxes of food, drum cases and 8 track tapes. He was informed that there had been an accident and everyone was all right but the van was totaled. With a pained look of grief and helplessness on his face, shaking his head he sighed,"I just made the last payment on it Wednesday."
Hartman was treated for facial cuts at the only hospital the band could find nearby: a veterinary hospital. Miraculously, Foulke was uninjured.
The band eventually made it to Atlanta and got an interview with GRC Records. They, of course, gave them the BRIGG album for consideration, owing to the fact that Hybrid Ice performed several cuts on the record. The label listened to the album and expressed interest in the song "New Found Rain, written by Rob Morse. It seems the label wanted material for an up-and-coming artist. (It is unclear whether the artist was signed to the label or they were considering signing him.) Representatives at the label suggested changing the lyrics to suit the artist's style. Morse was called in Massachusetts, but declined the offer. The artist's name was Sammy Johns. A short time later he released "Chevy Van." It was a huge hit.
Music played during this time included songs by Elton John, Savoy Brown, Rare Bird, and The Allman Brothers.
1974-1975...INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER
By now, Hybrid Ice had had a taste of the rock and roll world outside of their hometown...and liked it. With the new experiences came a new boost of confidence. They decide to fly a booking agent, Bob Holiday from Atlanta, to a "concert" they were playing in Philadelphia. Actually, the "concert" turned out to be more of a carnival than anything else. Arrangements were made for Holiday and the band left for the job in a caravan of cars and an equipment truck. Willoughby and soundman Jim "Karl" Bower were travelling in Bower's Opel GT. Somewhere on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Bower asked Jeff the address of the job. Assuming he is kidding, Willoughby answers with a "Yeah, right," or something to that effect. It didn't take long to figure out that each thought the other knew where the job was - both didn't. After numerous calls home to establish an information "base" in case anyone called, the two sought out the local police. The police escorted them to every, yes, every concert in Philadelphia that day, until they finally ended up at the correct location. Of course, it was the last place they tried. Holiday had gone back to Georgia. The rest of the group was, to say the least, mortified. It finally turned out that the band couldn't play anyway, because the electricity was supplied by a generator that wasn't filtered properly. The resulting hum in the PA was louder than the stage instruments.
Later that year Webb Kline left the group and was replaced by keyboardist Kit Kelley. Woody Wolfe and Jim Bower left to join the Air Force, and the band was written into "My Danville," a book about the town's history, complete with photo.
Covers by Todd Rundgren, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Edgar Winter, Procol Harum, Beach Boys, Wings.
1976-MATRIMONY & DEPARTING MEMBERS
The year 1976 was full of dramatic changes for the group. Jeff married his high school sweetheart and built a house. Rick married a girl he had been courting for some time during her high school years. A short time later, Galen informed the group he was quitting. Citing creative differences, but parting amicably, Foulke left Hybrid Ice to play with the Atlanta-based, Oz. Foulke was replaced by a raw, but talented 16 year old guitarist, Joe Lapetina. Also, after Foulke's departure, Chris Alburger was persuaded, after many coercing phone calls by Klinger, to join as lead singer. Chris also brought to the group an ability to play rhythm guitar and keyboards, as well as an incredible vocal range.
The days and months after Foulke's departure proved difficult for the group. Adding two new members meant learning new cover material and restructuring the material they decided to keep. The members wanted to continue performing but decided to be a little less "visible" until the band's sound came together. They accomplished this by performing at frat parties, private parties and high school dances, for the most part. The band dabbled a bit at writing some original material; Willoughby's "Seeing You Here For The First Time" and "Get Into Gear." But it was only an exercise in diversion and the songs were recorded only as demos.
JUST GIVE ME SOME KIND OF SIGN!
Foulke meanwhile, had terminated his membership with Oz and returned home to Pennsylvania. At some point in time, he made an excursion to New York City where he took up residence at a YMCA. The purpose of the trip was to shop his original tunes to record labels. After many unsuccessful attempts at garnering some attention, he decided to take a soul-searching walk through Central Park. At the same, so did his boyhood idol-John Lennon. They happened upon each other quite by accident. Lennon was walking with Yoko (who was pregnant with Sean) toward Foulke. He followed the couple for a few blocks just to get up the nerve to talk to Lennon. And later recounted, "I just wanted to see what a Beatle did on his day off." He finally got up the nerve and approached Lennon and Yoko. Not wanting to draw a crowd, Lennon suggested they keep walking as Galen paid him all the appropriate adulations a fan would. After receiving his autograph, Foulke asked if he could shake the Beatle's hand. Still walking, Lennon replied in typical Lennon humor,"No time for that...here's me (sic) elbow." To which Foulke promptly latched onto and shook as any fan would. Interesting to note, Foulke left a tape with Lennon that included some of his originals. One of them was called "Walking On Thin Ice."
Later, Yoko would record a song called,"Walking Thin Ice." The two sounded nothing alike. Nothing implied here. I'm sure it was all just a coincidence.
Foulke later that year again joined up with ex-Brigg member Rob Morse. The two, along with bassist Shane Kelley formed XYZ. The group performed and recorded mostly original material including Foulke's "Wishing Well," "1979," and "Company Time," as well as some of Morse's tunes including "The Elf Song."
Kit Kelley would leave the group in the months to follow.
Covers at this time by Kansas, Boston, Doobie Brothers, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Aerosmith, Queen.
1977- A TRAGIC ACCIDENT
Galen (Rusty) was asked to return to Hybrid Ice and Joe Lapetina was let go. At the time, most band members found it necessary to supplement their band income. Rick was working construction with his uncle. Jeff took a job installing aluminum siding. Hartman worked for his father-in-law's auto body shop. It was necessary, as the band's club dates were not enough to sustain them. Having day jobs and performing is a double-edged sword; you have the money you need but you can't put a full time effort into a part time (band) job. After a time, it shows in the performance. Realizing this, Hartman was considering quitting the body shop and going full time with the band. But having a wife and a 2 year old son, the decision was a difficult one for him to make. Jeff's decision was made for him in the form of a construction accident. Installing siding one day in Hazleton, he sliced off the end of his finger with a utility knife. As he lay in a hospital having a piece of skin grafted back onto his finger, he made the decision that playing music was more important to him. Hartman's decision was made for him also, but resulting in much more tragic consequences. He was killed in a car accident following a performance at The Rendezvous in Milton, PA. He was twenty-two years old. The accident happened on Thanksgiving Day, five years to the day his older brother Jim died of a brain aneurysm. His death devastated the other band members and his missing presence was felt thereafter by all who knew him.
Kit Kelley was asked to temporarily fill in for Hartman until a replacement was found. He agreed and remained with the band until Bob Richardson was introduced to the group by their sound man, Keith Hummel.
Richardson hailed from Cross Fork, PA and was a drummer by trade. He performed with the local groups August and Uncle Dirty and The Beans. Having little-to-no keyboard experience, Richardson was a long shot for the job, based on his keyboard playing alone. However, he had determination, a likeable personality and experience as a front man. For his audition, the group gave him the task of learning Bohemian Rhapsody. He showed up at his audition (in Jeff's unheated basement), in the middle of Winter, in sewer boots. He had learned the song as the band requested...but in the wrong key. He got the job.
Hybrid Ice was now Galen Foulke, Jeff Willoughby, Rick Klinger, Chris Alburger and Bob Richardson. This combination of players would remain intact for the next thirteen years.
1978-1979 GOODBYE, PENNSYLVANIA...HELLO, EVERYWHERE ELSE
Along with roadie Steve Strausser, Jeff and Rick formed SKW Builders, a construction company, to help supplement the band income. The business built custom homes in and around Danville. And it was a financial boon to not only the partners but the other band members as well. SKW would hire the other band members to help with various construction projects on a "as needed" basis. But over time, the late night band hours and the early rise construction hours created conflicts. It was apparent and imperative that the group needed to go full time. So, Klinger and Willoughby turned the business over to Strausser and declared themselves full time musicians.
Rick contacted Century Artists, a booking agency in Atlanta. Run by Ron and Kathy Hyde, the agency agreed to take a look at the group. A complete promo makeover was in order. So, new photos were taken. A full color poster was designed and pressed. The poster itself garnered a lot of attention, in that it was a unique look in an age of two color and cheap black and white promotional material. It was something different to look at. The group had clothes made for them by wives or girlfriends. But not only a visual makeover was in the works. A musical makeover was also taking place. Cover material that was chosen to be played became more intricate. More challenging, progressive, instrumentally intricate and vocal-oriented music became the music of choice. All five members could actually sing lead in their respective ranges and that ability was put to good use. Alburger could handle lead vocals that most singers couldn't even touch. His extreme vocal range actually gave him the ability to sing female leads. The group put this talent to the test with covers by Heart and Linda Ronstadt as well as Boston, Kansas and Queen. They would jokingly introduce Chris as "the man who can sing like a woman." And watch the audiences shake their heads in amazement. Added to that were songs that would break into four and five part harmonies.
If that was the finesse side of things, there was also an "in-your-face" side. Richardson would come out front and work the audience with covers by Van Halen and ZZ Top. Always the showman, he would get women up on the stage and involve the audience. As if that weren't enough, Willoughby would come out front for what was to become a novelty Jethro Tull impersonation complete with flute. Still more tricks up their sleeve, Klinger would leave the set of drums behind and front the band as the other members would trade instruments. The look was there. The music was there. All they needed to do now was to work to polish the show. That came in the form of bookings along the East Coast . A first outing of thirty-six days straight. A second of forty-two days with one night off. Some clubs were open till 3:30 am, so the group performed sometimes four to five sets a nite. The tours proved to be a "musical bootcamp" for the group. Trying new things and constant repetition. It was tiring, but it worked.
Local audiences were becoming aware that Hybrid Ice was no longer in their area. And even though there was no local (musical) press in the area at the time, there was a buzz in the air. The group agreed to perform at the first annual Battle of The Bands, held at the York Fairgrounds. The band stunned a capacity crowd of several thousand and the next day were front page news back home as the show's winners. Crowds turned out in droves to hear and watch what was once their favorite local human jukebox. The audiences became dedicated fans, sometimes traveling many miles, and even following them out of state to see them at one venue after another. And the group always gave them what they wanted; good music, a good show and more importantly, they were always one with the crowd. Unlike other bands who touted a star mentality, Hybrid Ice always made you feel that they were your friends onstage just doing something they loved to do. And it showed.
By design, the group would play only select rooms for a pre-determined time period, so as not to over-saturate the local club market. Then they would move on, usually South, and disappear for a few more weeks or months. This strategy proved very effective in keeping the audiences' appetite for the band fresh. Forays into the Midwest, Northeast, as well as the Mid-Atlantic region was building a very large and much needed fan base for what was about to come.
1980-1981 - WE'VE GOT ONE ON THE WAY...UH, AN ALBUM, THAT IS.
It is inevitable that a group express themselves by way of recording their own music, sooner or later in their career. Hopefully sooner, rather than later. The stage was set, (pardon the pun) so to speak, for Hybrid Ice to show the crowds that they could produce their own music. But it couldn't be just any music. The music had to be on a par with what they had been covering. It had to be on a level with the music they played on a nightly basis. There is a misconception that once a band releases an album, that the album is competing only with itself. That it should be accepted (or not accepted) on it's own merit. That is partially true. But when a group decides to make the material commercially available, the misconception proves itself when that album is placed in retail outlets alongside of other artists. At that point, like it or not, you are in direct competition with those other artists.
Galen had been honing his craft (songwriting) for quite some time. Actually, the group had been experimenting with a very complex progressive writing style. Songs like "Hands of Man," "Surface of The Sphere," and "The Calling," were recorded and even played out at performances on occasion. But the style, albeit musically challenging, didn't have the commercial hooks that a song needs for radio play. Styx was a band that Hybrid Ice respected for their ability to write and sing. And they were also a commercial powerhouse at the time. Hybrid Ice would be accused many times in their career of emulating Styx in their own original style. This was never intentional, but rather a by-product of a similar sounding vocal structure. They could harmonize like Styx and Alburger's clear, pure vocals reminded people of Dennis DeYoung. At one point Rick was in contact with Styx's manager Derek Sutton. Sutton had requested a tape of Hybrid Ice's music. He called to tell Rick he liked the music very much-and that he had thought that it was Dennis submitting it under another name. The sound may have been similar, but the songs were not. They had a style all their own.
GETTING IT TOGETHER
It was Rusty (Galen) who suggested that the band do an album. Citing the 1973 Brigg release, he suggested they could do the same. But on a much grander scale. Brigg never performed a single show as a live band. Hybrid Ice had a huge following that was continually growing. That may not sound like an earthshaking, innovative suggestion in these times of home studios, specialized recording software, Internet sales and websites. But in 1981, costs for doing such a project were much higher. A studio had to booked, cover designed and distribution setup. It was almost unheard of for an unknown, unsigned act to release their own album. And it was next to impossible for an unsigned act to get airplay. At least in rural Pennsylvania.
Hybrid Ice found such a studio in Northumberland, PA. Actually, it was the same studio (Susquehanna Sound Productions) where they recorded the Brigg album. Only it was much more refined and now touted state-of-the-art equipment. It was a far cry from the primitive four track deck they used eight years earlier. (The group had, in 1978, built their own studio for the purpose of rehearsing, on a wooded lot in Danville owned by Foulke. Dubbed "Magnetic North," it was outfitted with it's own recording equipment and was used for the purpose of pre-production and group rehearsals from 1979-1999. It is now operated as a commercial studio, "Saturation Acres," by The Badlees, another local band.)
As a side agenda, the group had a desire to break into the Baltimore club market. Baltimore was a rock-heavy club market with venues located at every exit on the beltway. John Palumbo, of Crack The Sky, who based themselves in and around Baltimore, had parlayed his band's popularity to cult status with a few releases. The Ice band members respected what he had done and recognized the similarities between the two groups' agendas. And, it was reasoned, that it certainly wouldn't hurt their position to hire him as a producer. Which they did.
1982 - HYBRID ICE'S FIRST RELEASE
For four weeks they blocked time at Susquehanna Sound to cut tracks, foregoing performances in order to stay focused. After the basic tracks were cut, months were spent overlaying and mixing. During one session they were called away to perform at the largest venue they ever performed; coincidentally, The Baltimore Civic Center. They performed to a capacity crowd of over 25,000, opening for Hall and Oates, who were on their Private Eyes tour. The show was a huge success, with members of Hall & Oates standing in the wings cheering them on. The group finished the forty minute set with a rousing rendition of Yes' Roundabout. The crowd cheered for more.
Back in the studio, an appropriate cover was chosen; an original painting showing the East Coast of the United States being struck by lightning bolts. Each hit approximated an area in which the band performed. A poster was sent out to retail outlets and the vinyl record (pre-dating CD's) was released on December 17, 1982. Not by coincidence, one week before Christmas. The record sold out in every retail outlet in forty-eight hours.
The record went into numerous pressings, each time with same result. The stores couldn't keep them on the shelves. The band members themselves were taken a bit by surprise. They had ordered conservatively on the first pressing, not knowing what to expect. Each pressing doubled in quantity, but the sales were the same. They were outselling major label artists, in some cases, on the order of three-to-one. They had a hit on their hands. And then the radio stations got hold of it, playing the cut "Magdelene." Sales again climbed and the song eventually charted to number two status in most markets and holding most "popular request". The album peaked at number five. The usual release parties, radio interviews and autograph signing sessions followed. Several radio station program directors wrote to major labels apprising them of this new phenomenon. One particular DJ, Jeff Kauffman of WTPA, in Harrisburg, PA impressed the boys with his show of support for what they had done. Upon arrival at the station, Kauffman took the album from their hands, opened it and asked the group what song they wanted played. They told him Magdelene was the prefered track, and without previewing it, he immediately introduced them and the song on the air. WTPA, Kauffman and Chris James went on to feature and support Hybrid Ice then and in the years that followed. WHLM's Kim Rodkey, and WSQV's Frank Bell actually broke the song in the Northeast. Magdelene was also featured on compilation albums from WIYY (98 Rock) Baltimore, MD and WSQV (Jersey Shore, PA.)
1983-1984 A FAN CLUB'S REQUEST "GIVE US ANOTHER ONE!"
The group spent a lot of time on the road following the success of the first release. They were also signed to a management contract with National Entertainment Group, based out of Manhattan and a publicist was hired by their manager, David Segal. They also found time to publish their own semi-monthly newsletter; a four page newspaper-size mag (fans & collectors: a few copies still exist) with an emphasis on road photos, interviews, schedules, merchandising and road anecdotes. A website in paper form, so to speak. A short time later, The Pennsylvania Musician was founded by Whitey Noll, and Hybrid Ice appeared on the cover of the second issue. They also found time to start putting together album number two, albeit in short practice runs and during daytime club rehearsals on the road. Predating Email, there was a lot of fan mail. And the fans wanted another record.
Although they worked on new songs from time to time, the recording of the second album took a backseat to performances. Shows were booked in New York, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, The Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. Local (Pennsylvania) venues also were added. The band's popularity was at a peak and the shows were needed for promotion as well as income.
The band could claim some groundbreaking "firsts" after the release of their first album. A large fair (Bloomsburg, PA) booked them as the opening act for Greg Kihn ("Jeopardy"). Not particularly impressive in itself except for the fact that a local act never performed this fair in it's 120 year history. All acts previously booked had been major label country artists or comedians such as Bob Hope. A rock group never performed The Bloomsburg Fair, the largest fair in the state - until Hybrid Ice. The two shows sold out. Known for their professional performances, they were also put on the bill in other cities with Kansas, Foreigner, Bad Company, Joan Jett, Toto, Steppenwolf, Edgar Winter, Todd Rundgren, The Beach Boys, Ted Nugent, Lita Ford and many others.
Prior to the release of the first album, Galen had submitted "Magdelene" to the American Songwriting Festival in Los Angeles. Ultimately, the song received an honorable mention. But what was more important was that on the panel of judges was Tommy Shaw of Styx. Somehow a copy of the song made it to Tom Scholz of Boston. Scholz liked the song and eventually called Foulke at their studio during an evening rehearsal. An agreement was formed for Boston to record the song on their (Boston's) next album, Third Stage. Part of the agreement was that Hybrid Ice not release any more copies of the first album with Magdelene on it. Third Stage was released but with another "girl's name song," the hit "Amanda." An apologetic Scholz assured Foulke that Magdelene would be on their next release. It was. But not until 1994.
The second Hybrid Ice album was to be delayed for another four years while the group continued performing.
WARP SPEED TO...1988
Having put together enough songs for the next record, the group "field tested" a lot of them by performing them at their gigs. Satisfied that the new material would work, they decided to record again. A producer, Bill Grabowski, was hired and the band laid basic tracks at Warehouse Sound In Philadelphia, with Lance Quinn overseeing the project. The basic tracks were then brought back to Susquehanna Sound for vocal, guitar and keyboard overdubs and mixing. Their own record label, Pilot, was formed to handle distribution and the resulting release was "No Rules," Hybrid Ice's second (and last, to date) full album release. The album received a fair amount of attention from radio stations and fans alike. But the music scene was changing, and the keyboard/vocal rock of the Eighties was giving way to a much less refined, much less melodic style of music. The album was well received however in Europe and the group shipped quantities to England, Spain, Sweden, Germany and Denmark. In fact, just as the cold war was ending, a program director from Sofia, Bulgaria requested copies for his AOR format station. More interest in Europe developed and the group was eventually given a write-up and review in AOR Classics, a "pomp rock" magazine.
1989-1990 A NEW SINGER COMES, AN OLD FRIEND GOES
More road work followed. Some interest was generated at certain record labels. But the group was becoming a victim of a new popular musical movement. Chris Alburger's voice, although melodically and sonically superior to most, was not getting the attention of A&R people. Since the lead vocal sound of a band is it's unique signature, it was obvious that a change was imperative. A very difficult decision was made by the other members of the band to let Chris go. They had come a long way together and had been friends for the last thirteen years. At his last performance at The Avenue Cafe in Lock Haven, PA, the other members of Hybrid Ice and a capacity crowd of longtime fans said good-bye to Chris Alburger.
A new singer, Keith Hutcheson, was found in Louisville, KY. Keith had been in the Louisville music scene for some time. He had met some of the Ice guys at The Toy Tiger, in Louisville during one of Hybrid Ice's shows. Keith was contacted by the band and had recorded his versions of "Scars On My Heart" and "It's Only Love," from the "No Rules" album, as an audtion tape. The group was so impressed with the tape, they hired him and flew him to Pennnsylvania. A short time later, Galen drove the band truck to Louisville to move Keith and his belongings to Pennsylvania, and Keith took up residence in Sunbury.
Keith's stay with the group opened the group's repertoire up to some of the new music that was happening at the time. The group also started working on a third album. "Madison," "Call Girls," and "Shadows of Victoria" were some of the titles recorded at The Ice's Magnetic North studio. But Keith's tenure with the group lasted only two short years. And by 1992 they were looking for another voice to front the band. Richardson also left the group at the same time, leaving Foulke to assume a dual role of keyboard/guitarist.
On a tragic note, on June 15, 1991, Jeff's five year old son Nathan died of complications following heart surgery. He would, in later years, tell friends that he never felt the same about performing again.
1991-1992 - NOT THE BEST OF TIMES
After Keith and Bob's departure, for the first time since 1978, Hybrid Ice was not performing. With the exception of Christmas, studio time and an annual week's vacation, they had performed every week since 1978. Now they were in the studio auditioning singers for over a month. Many talented singers were tried, but the band's style warranted one (a singer) with an extreme vocal range. To make matters worse, Keith also played rhythm guitar. So, they would have to hire someone who did both or look for another guitarist as well. The latter came to be.
David Lee Kennedy was flown in from Atlanta to audition for the vocalist spot. Chris Silvagni was slated for the guitarist's position. But, at the last minute Silvagni decided to go with Harpo, a rock group from Sunbury. John Harman was eventually added as the second guitarist. Lee fit in well with the group at first. He fronted the band, which was something Hybrid Ice didn't have since Scot Adams in 1972. Lee worked the crowd well and the group was performing material that had a much harder edge to it. The audiences seemed to like him. But his vocal ability was suffering from the range of material and frequency of performances. It was also during this time that Jeff expressed an interest in leaving the group. Lee, who was also a bass player, started rehearsals with the other members, taking on both duties. But his heart wasn't in it. And by 1993, David Lee Kennedy's time, as a member of Hybrid Ice, was over.
1993 - ANOTHER SINGER
Kevin Collins joined the group as lead vocalist in 1993. Kevin had performed with 12 O'Clock High, a group specializing in the kind of music Hybrid Ice was used to performing. He had the range the group needed, but in the beginning, was uncomfortable with his role as a front man. In time, however he became more secure in the role. The group was stable enough now to perform the music they were accustomed to. And they eventually expanded their performances into total acoustic sets, which were growing more and more popular with audiences.
1994 - A PROMISE FULFILLED
In June, 1994 Boston released "Walk On." And keeping to his word, Scholz included Hybrid Ice's "Magdelene" on the release. The song had been modified however; specifically the verses. But the chorus was identical to the Hybrid Ice version. In fact, Foulke had been to Scholz's studio several times and had heard the Boston version before it's release. Another interesting note was that Scholz had inquired about having the members of Hybrid Ice sing the choruses to the song on the Boston album, so as to ensure the choruses would remain unchanged. But time would not permit the ever-working band to make the trip to Massachusetts for an undeteremined stay. So copies of the masters were sent in their (the band members) place. Members (and former members) of Hybrid Ice were invited to shows as guests of Boston when their (Boston's) tour got under way. One particularly satisfying "singer's moment" came when Brad Delp and Chris Alburger met. The singer of the original Magdelene was wearing, of course, a Hybrid Ice T-shirt. Delp noticed the shirt and remarked to Chris that he had the album. And that he "really liked the harmonies." Chris replied, in typical Alburger fashion,"Your's aren't so bad yourself," or words to that effect.
1995 - 1996
By 1996, Jeff's interest in performing waned. He wanted to record again. But it was not to be. And on July 31, 1996, at The Fuzzy Bunny in Gratz, PA, Jeff Willoughby played his last job with Hybrid Ice. John Harman and Kevin Collins also left the group at the same time.
1996 - 1998
Bernie Garzio replaced Willoughby as bass player and filled in the lead vocalist spot left vacant by Kevin Collins. After a brief stint with The Badlees, Richardson returned to keyboards. The group was now four piece and back to performing...and recording. Tracks were laid down in Hybrid Ice's studio for what was to be the long awaited third album. Richardson's "Looking Glass" and Foulke's "Test of Time" were two of the tracks. And Foulke's "Madison," a tune going back to 1990, was (and is) purportedly slated for another future Boston release.
But declining club attendance and the need to make a living intervened once more. The recording was put on the shelf, Rick went back to construction and Richardson went back to Harrisburg. And in July, 1998, Hybrid Ice played their last job. Galen and Bernie, now a duo continued on as Sky-Hy.
Author's Note: It is my understanding that there was no fanfare. No publicized "farewell tour." Not even an advertised "last job." In fact, to this day many people think that Hybrid Ice is still out there performing somewhere. And in a way, they are. In memories of shows we all remember. You can take away the stages, the clubs, the band members. But you can't take away the memories. And more importantly, you can't take away the music.
2000 - HYBRID ICE RELEASES IT'S FIRST ALBUM...AGAIN
Just as the New Millenium was coming to be, the members of Hybrid Ice decided to re-release it's first album, including Magdelene, on CD. Also included on the album were the recordings of Richardson's "Looking Glass" and Foulke's "Test of Time" as bonus tracks. A copy was sent to England to the same label who distributed "No Rules." A short time later, Hybrid Ice inked a deal with the label, Escape, for distributing the digitally re-mastered disk in Europe and Japan.
2000 - ADDENDUM - ONE MOR FOR THE ROAD
In October of 1999, former members and crew of Hybrid Ice attended a birthday party for Galen. Klinger, Willoughby, Foulke, Richardson and Alburger came to the conclusion that, depending on the outcome of the upcoming re-release, the possiblity of performing again could be a real possibility. There were no final decisions or arrangements made. But, they did agree on one thing; that, if called upon to do so, they would reunite in support of the new re-release. A limited number of select dates were discussed and the five musicians parted company agreeing on this: They never turned their backs on their fans before. It was the fans who supported them through the years. And if the fans want them back (even if only briefly), then so be it. Stayed tuned...more to come.