The Mother Witherspoon.     Poster
was a colorful place full of life, where the Mind Garage started. It was owned by John Keester and Bob Reiger. The small club was always packed. John Vaughan sums it up, "The best in terms of pure, abject pandemonium was definitely the Mother Witherspoon's". It was closed at the end of 1967 or very early in 1968. The beer license wasn't renewed because of an alleged underage person being inside. Yet we continued to pack the club for a few months before we started playing at the Olympia. If you understand that WVU was probably the heaviest drinking party school you can understand that pulling a crowd into Witherspoons without alcohol was an awesome feat

I remember graffiti at the top of the stairs, "Keep the baby, Faith". It was a play on the cultural revolution phrase, "Keep the faith, baby". John Keester wrote the poem that appeared in the ad below.

No story about Morgantown would be comlete without mentioning the Bonnevilles. They were one of the greatest pre-psychedelic bands anywhere, and even entered into that realm a little before they were gone. The Bonnevilles loaned us their strobe light one night. It was a home made plywood box painted black with a hole in the front and a light bulb and a fan inside. As the fan turned the blades blocked the hole off and on to create the strobe effect. The Bonnevilles were THE band in Morgantown and had been since the late 50s. The Fraternities loved them. It was a real surprise when I learned that the Bonnevilles liked our music. But I should have realized they were real musicians, and respected other good musicians. Thanks to the fabulous Bonnevilles: Dave Coombs, leader and bass player, Malcolm Swisher lead singer, guitar, Johnny Barrille lead guitar. The Bonnevilles' drummer with Dave and Malcolm was Rob Dosier, and Mickey Finn played guitar before Malcolm. Harry Fuller, the former drummer of the Glass Menagerie replaced Rob Dosier. Sadly Dave Coombs has passed away from cancer. Twenty years later I saw Johnny Barrille on a hotel Marquee from I-95 while in Palm Beach, Florida. I called the hotel and eventually spoke with Johnny. He said "hey babe! That's the way he talked, with a Hollywood flair like a star, but then Johnny was a star. It was an honor talking to him. We spoke a little about Morgantown. I had left music and moved on long ago, never dreaming it would come into my life again. Johnny and I never met and never talked again. I'm not sure why or whatever happened to him. He had a wife and children I think they moved north again.

Another great band from Morgantown is Elderberry Jak with singer Joey Cerisano.
I never saw EJ because by 1970 when they were hot, the Mind Garage had left the scene.

Joey says:
The basic story goes like this. When I was 17 I replaced John Braille in the Bonneville's. I spent the summer with them in Somers Point, NJ. When I came home I was a crazy 17 year old and quit because I wasn't able to sing more leads. So I started my own band for a while then in the summer of 1969. Dave Coombs the bass player and leader of the Bonneville's called me to start another group which eventually became EJ. Joe Hartman was EJ's drummer. We played all through West Virginia, Ohio and Pa. We were the house band for The Castle in Morgantown. It was the old Olympia night club. We made what was considered a lot of money for a club band at the time. We peaked when we got to warm up Three Dog Night in Columbus. After that EJ broke up and I went to NJ and NY. All I can say is that you guys getting your record deal showed Dave and I that we could try to do it too. And that's what we did. Hey, you guys were really different back then. We were just a bunch of hillbillies. When I first heard you it was like you were from another planet. At the time the biggest city I'd ever been to was Pittsburgh and that was only for a few hours. If you remember, back then there wasn't even a finished interstate at the time and it took us almost 2 1/2 hours to get to Pittsburgh! We were living in a time wrarp... joec

The Mind Garage played Witherspoons from 1967 to 1968.

note from John:

Back at ya John! Mother Witherspoon forever
The Mind Garage

1967 was the Summer of Love

The photo above and below are from the same roll.
The first is inside Witherspoons and the second photo was taken outside, between songs. Its fuzzy, but you can see hundreds of people. They are on High Street, waiting to get into the alley where Whitherspoons was located. I had never seen this photo before which was in Jack's collection, and had never stepped out of the club during a show. Norris and Jack often had, and to my surprise, told me this happened for every show. Witherspoons was always packed.

© 1967-2005 Mind Garage