Gerry Michael and The Bummers

March 28th, 2013
Performance flyer for The Bummers circa 1968.

Performance flyer for The Bummers circa 1968.

Gerry Michael, a drummer and an alum of Group 212, arrived back in town in 2004. He still drums, but during the day he paints houses—and he is damn fine painter at that.

Back in 1968 Gerry was the drummer for The Bummers, a circa 1880 Commedia dell’Arte style group of cowboys and Indians. The performers numbered 14 and included a five-piece rock band who in addition to Gerry featured his brother Kevin on lead guitar, Tom Sankey on tenor guitar, his wife, Janet, on autoharp and Frank Thumbheart on bass. The previous year Tom Sankey had enjoyed success with “The Golden Screw,” an off-off Broadway folk rock musical at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village. The  show’s cast album was recorded by ATCO and was the first rock theatrical recording of its kind.

To promote their area debut in July 1968 some of The Bummers went to Saugerties dressed in western gear and the following took place: “A tall young man strode along the street. He wore a wide brim Stetson hat, cowboy boots, blue jeans, and a gaudy western shirt. A six-shooter was at his side. One of the local lawmen moved in for the showdown, “What’s that you got strapped around your waist?” A smile pulled at the stranger’s lips. His clear blue eyes bored into those of the concerned official. “Why it’s just a cap pistol, officer,” the young cowboy replied. “I’m a bummer.” This was account was written up in the Woodstock Week.

The Bummers staged a show at Group 212. It included improvisations—of which some were suggested by the audience—and a short play. The musical section also played the Soundouts at Pan Copeland’s field. In addition, the musicians jammed with other Group 212 faculty like Juma Sultan and Sonny Terry. Gerry remembers the Soundout crowd as being very mellow. Everyone was there to help everyone else out.

In early 1969 The Bummers rock group scored a contract with RCA, received an advance of $12,000 and relocated to Ohayo Mountain. They were two doors down from Billy Batson, another RCA recording artist. Unfortunately their album never saw the light of day due to their smutty lyrics. The band drifted apart and Gerry and most of the band left town. However, Gerry returned in 1970 and married Tom Sankey’s wife, Janet. She soon endeared herself to readers of the Woodstock Times as Arabella Faunstock. Gerry became a contractor and jammed around town on the weekends with local music talents like Bonnie Raitt and Paul Butterfield.

 

 

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