John Doyle didn’t think his little local band from the ’60s really mattered. Until we met, he thought no one remembered a group called EVIL and their Miami top 10 hit “Whatcha Gonna Do About It”.
Up until his death on February 14, 2013, John still had trouble believing anyone cared enough to continue to write about the band, and continue to want to issue their once-forgotten demos. He refused to believe anyone appreciated the way he sang, and could possibly be influenced by him. To tell him that the long-forgotten acetate of “I’m Movin’ On” ranked the highest of any ’60s garage demo in the TeenBeat Mayhem! rankings would bring self-deprecating comments. That was John — happy to be remembered, but always unsure of whether he was worthy of the attention.
Oh, but he was. In so many ways.
“He used to follow us around,” remembered Jeffrey Allen, the late drummer of the Montells, who would join John Doyle in Evil in 1967. “He even wanted to know what we had for breakfast!”
The Montells were a huge influence on Doyle, and countless others who lived near Southwest and Coral Park high schools in the mid-’60s. Doyle and his Evil bandmates embraced the Montells’ bad boy image, and kicked it up a few notches. Amazingly, they managed to win the Youth Fair Battle of the Bands in 1966, after destroying just about everything on stage, a la The Who. (It helped that WFUN disc jockey Dutch Holland was a strong believer in the group.) Their prize for winning that contest was a recording session at Bobby Dukoff’s studio, a session that resulted in five amazing songs being recorded in a single afternoon — “I’m Movin’ On”, “Always Runnin’ Around”, “I Know I’ll Die”, “From A Curbstone”, and “Short Life”. From a ’60s garage band standpoint, that may have been the most phantasmagorical afternoon of music ever laid down. One wowsville, jaw dropping song after another. For John Doyle, lead guitarist Stan Kinchen, drummer Doug Romanella, rhythm guitar player Al Banyai, and bassist Larry O’Connell, it was just another day, and one they’d just about forget through the years. More on that a little later.
Evil (named for an old blues song, not a comment on the band’s demeanor) went through a lot of upheaval in late ’66 and early ’67. Banyai, O’Connell, and Romanella split, joining bands such as the Shaggs, Kollektion, and Aboriginal Missionary. Replacing them were the aforementioned (and much missed) Jeffrey Allen on drums, Mike Hughes (from the Cliques) on bass, and John Dalton on rhythm guitar. Together with Doyle and Kinchen, they created a masterpiece of controlled distortion, in their remarkable reworking of the Small Faces’ “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” (a record Jeff Allen brought back from one of his trips to London). Unlike the marathon Dukoff session, where five songs were completed in a single afternoon, “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” was recorded at Criteria by Jim Sessody, the former Canadian Legends drummer, who knew exactly what he wanted, and made the band deliver maximum energy throughout a 13-hour session. Once rock ‘n roll perfection was achieved there was no time to record a B-side, so “Always Runnin’ Around”, from the year-old Dukoff sessions, was used for the flip — even though three of the guys on the recording were no longer with the group. Former pop singer turned entrepreneur Gary Stites issued the 45 on his Living Legend label, and managed to get Capitol Records interested in it. That was the beginning of the end.
All of the guys were minors, so their parents had to sign the Capitol contract. When some of them refused, that put a strain on the band. So did the need to tour to promote the record, which not everybody wanted to do. Finally, club owner/manager Steve Palmer called Jeff Allen a bad name, which was the final straw. Evil broke up.
A few months later, the original line-up reunited for a one-time show at The Place, the 17-and-older club on Northwest 7th Avenue. Some of the guys were tripping before the show, and decided to stop at Army Navy on the way to the club. Someone had the brilliant idea of buying mini-skirts , and wearing them on stage! So here it was, 1967, years before David Bowie and glam, with the guys going up on stage in drag. As an extra added bonus, Doug Romanella wasn’t wearing underwear, so anyone looking toward the drums from a certain angle might have gotten to see a little more than they’d expected!
With the reunion done, Evil was done. What they didn’t know was Gary Stites went ahead and made the deal with Capitol — without their knowledge — even though the band was no more. Capitol made the foolish decision to edit out the glorious feedback portion in the middle of the song, pretty much destroying a lot of its sonic impact. John Doyle was floored to learn that his song actually appeared on the same label as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and was issued in countries such as Thailand!
Three of the guys who appeared on “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” went into law enforcement — Jeff Allen, John Dalton, and John Doyle. Doyle was injured on the job in the ’80s, and was forced to switch paths once again. He became aware of several bootleg releases that his songs were turning up on. He also discovered the two missing acetate discs from the Dukoff sessions, one of which was hiding in a hat box! That enabled some of the songs to be heard for the first time. Some appeared on a split LP with the Montells, which came out in the ’90s on the Australian label Corduroy . “From A Curbstone” and “Short Life” were issued for the very first time on a 7″ single, by Florida Archive Recordings (a division of the Swiss label Feathered Apple) in 2012. John Doyle insisted that every one of the guys on the record be contacted, to give their approval. He was the one that brought them all together, got them on board, and made sure everything was done right.
Next month (March 2013) will mark the first release on a 45 of the band’s most amazing two-sided demo. “I’m Movin’ On” and the super-moody flip “I Know I’ll Die” appeared back-to-back on an unreleased acetate in 1966, and will soon appear back-to-back on a legally-issued single — the first-ever release to bear the Limestone Records name. (Feathered Apple is actually putting it out, but is using the Limestone name as a tribute to the Limestone Lounge, which has played a huge role in bringing so many friends and former bandmates together.) Doyle was also the guiding force behind this project, but unfortunately he won’t be around to see it become a reality. He learned he had pancreatic cancer, just four days before Christmas 2012. Eight weeks later, he was gone.
John Doyle was a highly-sensitive man who’d survived some childhood traumas, which meant there were times he could be misunderstood… or could misunderstand others. Underneath it all was a heart of gold. When Jeff Allen could no longer care for himself, and lived out his final months in a nursing home, it was Doyle who would go and visit him, bring him music, and send him money for some basic needs. It was Doyle who drove all the way from his home in Northern Florida to Boca Raton last September, just because he heard I was invited to sing at the While We Still Can reunion. There Doyle had a chance to connect with many old friends, including Evil bandmate Mike Hughes. The highlight for him came when Jim Sessody — the guy who produced “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” — came up and said hello. “I can’t believe he remembered me,” Doyle told me. He was blown away that Sessody recognized him. In his mind, Sessody was a somebody, and Doyle was a nobody. That could not have been farther from the truth.
I used to tell Doyle that he’s a legend, whether he wanted to believe it or not. Maybe not a Cover Of The Rolling Stone legend, or a guy that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would ever contact, but a legend just the same — one of the guys that took the groundwork that the Rolling Stones, Kinks, Yardbirds, Small Faces, and Pretty Things laid down, and shaped and molded it into something distinctly American, distinctly intense, and distinctly immortal. Listen to “I’m Movin’ On”, “I Know I’ll Die”, “From A Curbstone”, etc., and feel the power, the energy, the youthful abandon. Feel the power that the unsung heroes of rock ‘n roll such as John Doyle brought to their music. Realize that the loss of John Doyle is a huge one, from many different perspectives… but also realize that the beautiful noise that he left behind will ensure that his memory will live on. For a long, long time.
After my book, Savage Lost: Florida Garage Bands of the ’60s was released in 1992, I had a chance to appear on TV to promote it. I was a producer at the old Channel 6 in Miami, WCIX, and one of the shows that I did was Insight, a little-watched public affairs program. Host Dave Game decided to feature my book on an episode that he hosted, so I stepped out of the producer’s chair and went on camera to talk about Miami garage bands. In addition to helping Dave with the taped segments (which mention many local bands, and the WFUN-WQAM radio wars), I booked John Doyle to appear on the program to talk about his days with Evil. John appears in the third segment, but the band is also mentioned in the first (where you can hear a small portion of “Whatcha Gonna Do About It”.) I’d suggest that you watch all three segments in order, to really get the impact of what we were trying to do.
If you love South Florida bands of the ’60s, or the local radio stations of the day, this is definitely for you. This show only aired once — early on a Sunday morning — and has not been seen since. Watching it again brought some sadness for me. Not only did John Doyle pass away recently, but host Dave Game, my colleague for 14 years, died just a week earlier. I originally digitized this show as a tribute to Dave Game. Now it stands as a tribute to both men, who left this world way too early… during the very same week.
(Note: The program is in three segments, presented here in order)
Now that you’re here, check out the other posts on the Savage Lost blog.
Sure, John came with some baggage, as do we all. I remember at least two occasions where I bemusedly had to act as an “intermediate” ’cause John was pissed off at the other party for one reason or another. We’re of course talking about the misunderstandings mentioned here. Needless to say, it always worked out perfectly in the end though, and always on the behest of John and his humonguos heart of gold. And…we don’t need to “realize” that the loss of John Doyle is a huge one…we can all “feel” it, because of that devastating emptiness that radiates from where this lion amongst men once was. It’s nigh impossible for me to ponder a world where I won’t be hearing from him anymore. He was part of that dying breed, a true-blue original, or to put it simply; a friend that never lets you down. Walk easy, John my bro; and I’ll catch up with you later. And Jeff…I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the best hommage I ever saw.
Thank you for keeping the flame of this genre alive and paying homage to the legacy of Evil and to John Doyle.
I have known John Doyle since 1975 when he began dating my sister Shelley and have been kept informed by John of the various Evil resurrection efforts over the years – he had invited me to play lead guitar at the 1998 Evil reunion but was unable to particpate after relocating to Atlanta, something I will always regret not being involved.
Strangely enough, I have so many connections to items in this blog… Rick Shaw was my boss for a couple of years when I worked at WAXY-106 in the early ’80s, I worked a few sessions at Criteria with Sessody when I was briefly employed by Mac Emmerman in the , Dave Game was a fellow board member in the So. Florida MUG (Macintosh Users Group).
Rock on, John Doyle – “If there’s a rock’n’roll heave, you know they’ve got a helluva band!”
Jeff, thanks for honoring John’s life and legacy is this masterful article. I really feel that you captured the essence of my brother’s role and relationship to Evil and the garage band culture of fabulous Florida in the 60’s.
As you know Jeff, John was and remained until his death, first and foremost an artist. Whether through his drawings, his music or his humor he had an amazing ability to invite you into “Johnny World”…a land of many wonders!
While the subject of his art touched upon many motifs, it was one subject that became his driving passion during the last quarter of his life, namely his Savior Jesus Christ. Below is a poem John wrote during that period:
the how and why,
I cannot conceive,
if I could,
would I believe
is my own craft,
and Jesus Christ,
a mere life raft?
to sink or swim
to bear the wind
and call it fate
those many years
with no sight of shore
the trembling heart
at nature’s roar
the comfort of His light,
on this lonely night
His grace, my guide
to His Harbor’s rest,
the Host of Host,
and lowly me,
His honored guest!
So when you hoist,
your anchor in,
and set your course
away from sin,
think a moment,
of wind, weather and tide,
and if cast adrift,
where would you hide?
that dot of land,
to which you swim,
that island of salvation,
Again, thank you for this article…a real labor of love. It brought back memories of being a kid and calling WQAM and asking them to play, “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?”….
Blessings, Dave Doyle
Greetings! Jeff. What a nice tribute to my best friend from HS and fellow band member. This is Stan Kinchen, the lead noisemaker from Evil. As I recall, the band was sitting around brainstorming one day trying to latch on to a name for the band. One of us commented that it had to be something that sounded “evil”. There was a pause as all of us realized that was going to be the name! What an amazing turn of events: a group of rebellious, lost kids looking for truth would one day have John and I discover that Jesus was the answer to what we were all looking for. Mike Hughes, our second bass player, also has been born again! Who would have thunk it?! It was wonderful for you to take us down memory lane even if it was at a terrible occasion – although John is now in Heaven waiting for Mike and I and the rest of the band!
We knew each other almost 40 years John, even though we lived on opposite ends of FL, we sent our music back and forth. You and Shelly came to my wedding back in ’94, and I’m looking at the photos. Our hearts are broken and tears may flow but it’s God. plan and we will see each other again and we’ll still play blues and some real hard rock. God Bless you and Shelly, R.I.P. my brother.
I had the privilege of knowing and working with John in the ’90’s when he & Shelley lived in Ft. Lauderdale. John came wandering in to my office one day carting along a whole bunch of super-creative illustrations and drawings – he called them his “doodles”. I knew in an instant that he was a special, kind, talented & creative guy. He worked with me (not “for” me) on our ad agency’s marketing campaigns, creative idea development (he’d come up with absolutely whopper-winning slogans, taglines & jingles… and more) and was a brilliant designer. His illustrations often just plain ‘ole blew me away. Mostly, we had a ton of laughs that I so fondly remember. Everyone who met John knew he was special. He exuded a magnetic energy that was delightfully ‘contagious’, had a huge heart, and plenty of soul. John touched so many people’s lives. Way cool, he was… I’ll see you on the flip side, John.
I came here today having thought of John. May every one who thinks of him be comforted by knowing that memories of friendship do survive us. John inspires me. Knowing that he was loved comforts me.
I just heard recently that John had passed away. I am so deeply saddened. EVIL rehearsed in my house in Village Green many years ago. John was a neighbor and classmate while at Southwest.
We reconnected a few years ago and spoke on the phone a few times about the “old days”. John told me he never pursued music after EVIL which I found sad since he was such an awesome entertainer. He was quite impressed that I became a professional violinist.
I will miss him always but have some great memories of him.
RIP my dear friend…….RIP…………………….
It has been one whole year since John Doyle went to be with his Lord! We miss him but he is far better off than we are. No more tears, no more pain or disappointments! He cannot come to us but we can go to him” like King David said in Samuel. Valentine’s Day will never be the same again for me. There will always be a little sadness but will provoke some fond memories of years gone by.
I’m very saddened to hear this. I remember when I met John probably about 8 years ago when I was still in college. I met him at the DC Big Flea and he was such a cool person to talk to about music and vinyls. I remember the first one I bought from him so well — it was Rum Sodomy and the Lash by the Pogues. I think the first thing he said to me was “You know who the Pogues are?!”
Every time my mother and I went to the DC Flea, we’d all hang around and talk (my mother and I tend to meet people anywhere we go). We emailed a few times about music. He’d tell me about his old bands, the people he’d met and known, and things like that. So amazing. He was always so kind. Although I didn’t know him nearly as long as the people here, I will miss him a lot. My heart goes out to his family and friends, and everyone who knew him. He was a really great friend.
Was thinking about Johnny Doyle today and decided to do something I very seldom do (surf the web). I miss him a lot and wish he was still here. I recently retired and moved back to FL from Indiana and was looking forward to hanging out with him once again but the Lord had different plans. Thanks to all of you who recorded your memories and affection for this wonderful guy. He was a lot more talented than he would ever admit or perhaps even realized. He was EVIL… (That’s a compliment.)
I would also like to mention the passing of Doug Romanella since I do not see his death referred to on this site. He suffered a heart attack in January 2014 in Augusta, GA. He was my best friend, bandmate (in 5 different groups) and college roomie. John and Doug were the energy sources for EVIL. Al, Stan and I fed off of them. RIP guys.
Great to hear from you! Every time I listen to our old records, I cannot help but notice your astounding bass runs and creative genius. You and Doug generally led us from one segment of a song to the next. You were greatly under appreciated and no one ever quite filled your place. One can only wonder what would have happened if you and Doug had not left the band when you did. Would love to reconnect, old friend.
I heard a song tonight that reminded me of the wonderful times at The Place listening to The Shaggs. My twin sister and I were such fans! It was a pleasure to have known you, Doug and Cleve. We have often reminisced of those times in our lives. So very sad to learn about Doug passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends.
What a sad afternoon just surfing the web came about information that three of my SW High School clasmates had passed away. Chuck Guy ( Saxon Brother’s) John Doyle,and Doug Romanella both of the 1966 Class of 66′, R.I.P my friend’s Tim Judge
In 1966 John and I sat next to each other in an auditorium class, maybe Civics at Southwest High School. Hard to believe it’s been fifty years. How odd that sounds because certain memories are so clear. I would love to listen to him talk. He was either doodling or writing poetry, or philosophizing about corruption. I had never met anyone so interesting and cerebral. He made a comment to me one morning that I never forgot and never understood. Out of the blue he said when he hears the phrase ” Where all the lights are bright” from the song Downtown sung by Petula Clark, he thought of me. I asked him was it the song, he said no just those words and he couldn’t explain why. The mysteries in Johns mind. John and I sat in the right front of the auditorium and Doug Romanella sat in the back caddy corner to us. I spent a lot of time during class looking over my left shoulder looking for him. He was the love of my life for many years even after we broke up. He would show up at UF and UWF to say hello and of course that made my day. It is hard to believe they are both gone. I would have liked to see them again.
I heard a song tonight that took me back to The Place. I decided to search The Shaggs and came across this memorial. My thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends of John and Doug. My twin sister and I often reminisce of our years growing up in North Miami. Many fond memories of you, Doug and Cleve.