Picture the scene: it’s 1958 in Rochester, New York. A young rockin’ guitar picker named Dave Casperson is handing out business cards to promote his band. They boast, ‘The Tempests - For the WILD SOUND!’ And they weren’t lyin’!
‘We named ourselves The Tempests because we played like a wild storm!’ exclaimed Casperson, who reverted to the original Norwegian spelling of ‘Kaspersin’ in 1983. Today Kaspersin and his original Tempests aren’t the wild bunch they once were. But in their minds the memory lives large.
Kaspersin’s first group was the Echo-Trons, which formed in 1956. He had started playing guitar during the early ‘50s. ‘Rock ‘n’ roll was my whole life back then,’ Kaspersin said. ‘I hated school, was ugly, and the guitar let me fly away.’
The group’s name reflected Kaspersin’s fascination with reverb and electronics. ‘I was Nicola Tesla in my last life,’ he quipped. He built the band’s PA system, as well as a portable light show. ‘I hated playing under white lights, and somehow I knew the importance of colors to music. I also controlled the lights myself from foot switches.’
Before finding fame with the Young Rascals, Gene Cornish played a role in the Echo-Tron/Tempests saga. ‘Gene was trying to make it and his family had money, so I hated him,’ declared Kaspersin. ‘Once at a park pavilion hop we (The Echo-Trons) had done everything we knew twice - we were doing strictly instrumentals at the time. A band - Gene Cornish and the Satellites - was making fun of us.
‘I told everyone to follow me in an ‘E-A-B7’ progression and went up to the mike and composed a song. We became singers after that.’ Kaspersin added, ‘Gene would show up at a lot of our gigs to push his own records. He was a pain in the ass!’
The Echo-Trons broke up in 1958. The Tempests then formed around the nucleus of Kaspersin (lead and rhythm guitar, vocals and screams), Ken Stewart (rhythm guitar, vocals and screams), and Jim Herney (bass and backing vocals). After going through a few drummers whose names are lost in the mists of time, the band settled on Jim Collins. To this day Kaspersin applauds Collins as one of the best drummers he has ever worked with.
The Tempests practiced literally anywhere they could find. They used the basement of the Kaspersin residence until, according to Dave, ‘My dad had enough.’ Next, they talked the owners of a local bowling alley into letting the group use their banquet room. When they got thrown out of there, they commandeered a huge garage where Ken Stewart happened to work. ‘It had great reverb!’ recalls Kaspersin.
Live gigs found the Tempests performing at high school dances, radio station sock hops, bars (once they were old enough), gas stations, pizza parlor openings, weddings and frat parties. Kaspersin remembers the frat parties with particular fondness, ‘Many of them were just like ‘Animal House!’’ At a gig at Cornell University the band got a chance to meet their hero, Bo Diddley. ‘I had every album he ever did,’ said Kaspersin.
Kaspersin and Herney both cite Chuck Berry and Little Richard as major influences. Kaspersin even used a Hawaiian guitar because Berry played one on some of his early flip sides (‘Deep Feeling’). Other Kaspersin favorites included the Del-Vikings and the Gladiolas. The band started having problems when they played the Maple Leaf New York Night Club for two years straight and it became too much like a job,’ related Kaspersin.’
The actual split occurred when Tatlock’s wife Gloria made him quit. ‘We were at the Mapleleaf (aka The New York Night Club) on Ridge Road in Rochester and they had a go-go stage,’ said Kaspersin. ‘We shared the same dressing room with the girls and Gloria didn’t like it. She actually started a fight with one of the girls and pulled her hair out.’ Later, the aforementioned Gloria turned Tatlock’s guitar into a planter, which may have been a factor in their subsequent divorce.
Note: The last years The Tempests were together,
they changed the name to
"Casper and The Ghosts"
Kaspersin started a new combo right away and continued to perform at The Mapleleaf. But the project, dubbed The Main Object, just wasn’t the same. Kaspersin cannot even remember the names of the participants. ‘I think I had become burned out,’ he admitted.
After they parted ways, some of the former Tempests stayed in music. Ken Stewart appeared all over the country, billing himself as ‘The California Troubadour.’ He still plays the occasional solo gig. Jim Collins got involved in country music, although he currently works in the vending and gaming machine industry. Lee Tatlock is in a band with his son. They recently did some recording behind Dave Kaspersin.
Jim Herney moved to California and left the music business. He currently works for a distributor in the bicycle industry. Herney’s son Steve had a band of his own called the Rockits. And, of course, they performed pop’s ‘Rockin’ Rochester U.S.A.’
Dave Kaspersin stayed in music. He bought out Les Osband’s Lifetime Records operation, eventually starting up his own studio, Dynamic Recording, circa 1974. He runs a record label and has produced over 300 albums for various artists over the past 10 years, in addition to thousands of demos. He runs the enterprise in partnership with his wife, Jackie.
The Tempests’ ‘Rockin’ Rochester U.S.A.’/’Lemon Lime’ single stands out in an era dominated by much softer sounds. The fact that such a wild disc saw the light of day in 1960 attests to the band’s determination to capture themselves the way they really were, commercial consideration be damned. Judging from the recorded evidence, the Tempests were indeed one hell of a rockin’ combo.
Dave Kaspersin’s email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may peruse his Dynamic Recording site at http://www.dynrec.com.Tempests
Lifetime 1010 ‘Rockin’ Rochester U.S.A./Lemon Lime’ 1960 (250 copies pressed)
Half Life HL100 ‘Rockin’ Rochester U.S.A./Lemon Lime’ (RE) (PS) 1985 (?) (1,000 copies pressed)
Link LR-4 Strummin’ Mental, Volume 4 (RE) 198? (Various artists, includes ‘Lemon Lime’)
Time Bomb Records - 19 The 18.104.22.168'SLP 1998
Female Japanise Group LP
Includes Rockin' Rochester
Related 7-inch singles, EPS
Dynamic DRVC-133 ‘Karrousel/You Haven’t Seen My Love’ (PS) 1987
Award SH1001 ‘Cruisin’ All Nite/Two Timin’ Baby/Stood Up’ (PS) 1988 (Pink vinyl, features Jim Herney’s son, Steve)CD
Dynamic DRKCD-150 Tramper’s Dynamic Christmas 1995 (3-CD set, includes ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ by Dave Kaspersin).