Rockicks: (From left) Jerry Zubal, Rick Altschuler, Sammy Pate and Brian Naughton. Photo by David Hall.
By Jim Newell
Not many people get to live their dream, and even fewer get to see that dream revived more than 40 years later.
For Jerry Zubal, being in a rock & roll band in the 1970s may have been a short-lived dream, but now an independent record label has picked up his former band’s – Rockicks – tracks and released a double CD, Keep On Rockin’.
Zubal, who lives in Lake Orion, was on vacation in July with his wife when he got a Facebook message from Joe Romagnola, owner of Grooveyard Records in Rochester, New York, saying he would like to re-release the band’s songs.
At first Zubal was shocked that someone even tracked him down, but after back-and-forth communications with Romagnola he agreed. So did bass player Sammy Pate and the sons of guitar/vocalist Brian Naughton and drummer Rick Altschuler.
“I’m thrilled, and so is Sammy. And so is Brian’s son and so is Rick’s son. The fact that it’s a reality now. It’s like, old has become new. It’s hard to believe that it’s actually happened,” Zubal said.
Rockicks double album was released on Nov. 23. The CD is available at Grooveyard Records’ website, grooveyardrecords.com, and Amazon, or digitally on Spotify , iTunes, CD Baby and Apple Music.
“Grooveyard Records has international distribution, and we’re already getting sales from various countries,” Zubal said. A fan from Vienna, Austria even contacted him to say he bought the CD and “he loves it.”
A message on Grooveyard Records website about the album’s release praises the rock heritage of Rockicks: Grooveyard Records is proud and honored to release the Rockicks “Keep On Rockin'” double disc retrospective anthology. An amazing ‘musical document’ that includes 29 tracks of excellent, vintage, blues-based, heavy guitar rock music by this awesome band from the 70s. A deep and introspective musical glimpse into all the studio recordings by Rockicks.
The origins of Rockicks began when Zubal, who grew up in Rochester, packed up and left Michigan back in the 70’s.
“I went to California in 1974 and took a guitar with me,” Zubal said. “After playing with a couple other bands, I eventually met Sammy Pate. And he had met Brian Naughton and the three of us just started rehearsing together. We were working on cover songs and searching for the right drummer.”
After trying out different drummers and playing in a clubs and bars, the trio found Rick Altschuler and the four young musicians formed Rockicks, a blues-inspired hard rock band, heavy on the guitar.
“We started working on original material. We became the house band at a club in Van Nuys called The Rock Corporation. A lot of groups played there, a lot of name groups, but we were the house band,” Zubal said. “In L.A., if you know anybody at all you eventually get a little bit of free recording time here and there and we did some recording and used some copies of that to start researching some (music) labels.”
Eventually they met up with some producers – Zubal didn’t want to use any names – and recorded an album with eight songs. “And it was released by a well-known label. The album came out in 1977.”
The record label, however, was making a lot of money on Disco and released Rockicks about a year-and-a-half later, Zubal said.
“We recorded a few more songs after that and did some searching and we did get some interest from a couple of labels. One in particular wanted us, but they wanted us to be a backup band for a signer they had on their label. We didn’t want to do that,” Zubal said. “We were rehearsing one day and said, ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing this?’ And we just quit.”
Zubal packed up and headed back to Michigan in 1978. Today, he still plays guitar and sings in the duo Catching Fire with John Heaton, including a regular gig at The C-Pub. He’s also been a guitar teacher and currently teaches at Limelight Music in Rochester Hills, where he grew up.
“It would be an impossibility to put the band back together because Brian and Rick are gone. It would be tough to put it together because they were both great musicians,” he said.