“That’s when and where the idea to change the name of the band to Tank germinated” says Bob Leonard. “This was the summer of 1969 and we were really into Frank Zappa, the Vanilla Fudge and Traffic. We decided to change the name of our band to Tank with the idea that we would make a record, disappear for a few months and then reappear as a totally different band called “Bazooka”. We would then proceed to play totally different versions of the Tank tunes.”
“By the time we got into Tank” Robb says “we had to do a lot of covers in order to survive. We went into doing FM album versions. We did a lot of obscure stuff by Procol Harum and Traffic. Not the top 40 stuff, but stuff that other people weren’t doing. We would do whole album sides.”
Again Duane Verh remembers, “I was doing my first hitch as Mr. Stress’ bass man (’68-’70). [The Mr. Stress Blues Band, led by harmonica master and lead vocalist Bill Miller, were a seminal Cleveland area band. They were formed in 1966 and opened for Led Zeppelin. The caustic harp master is still active in the local blues scene in Cleveland] We were one of a handful of groups that worked D’Poos Tool & Die Works on Columbus road in the flats. Sometimes we would just hang out there as well and I caught the Tiffany Shade in their post-Vermont incarnation as Tank. They were doing some way cool covers (Airplane, country-era Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Randy Newman & what completely sold me on them-Mothers of Invention covers!!!!) That made them instant compadres as far as I was concerned. Every now and again I would rap with Bob Leonard about Zappa and music in general.”
As Tank the band drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a three week long engagement at an area club. When they arrived in Michigan they saw much to their dismay that their promoter, Marty Kahn, had billed the group as an “R&B” band! Of course this was a disaster as they were not an R&B band. After 5 days a union rep came out to the club and brokered a deal that allowed the band to leave.
Tom Schuster says, “they would send us to these uh greasy places ya know, where they were expecting us to come out in suits and slicked back hair and we’d come out all stoned & beads and long hair & jeans. We were lucky to get out of some of those places alive. They didn’t like us. It was kind of tough. We went to Lawrence Kansas and thought we would be playing for the University of Kansas. There we were playing some country bar with a cage I think. We were lucky to get out of there alive too. We were supposed to be booked there for a week and we made it through one night. They told us not to come back.”
Upon their emancipation from the Grand Rapids contract the band very unceremoniously threw a dart at a map. The dart landed on St. Louis Missouri so that’s where they went. They loaded up their checker station wagon/airport limo and split for St. Louis, where, according to Bob Leonard, “the polarity wasn’t right so we left for Kansas City, where the scene was a little better. We played some gigs in KC and in Des Moines, Iowa.
Robb Murphy adds “we were trying to book our way across the country to get to Colorado and the ski areas in that vicinity. We had connections from the people we met in Vermont. We had a Checker station wagon that broke down in Independence, Missouri -home of the Minute Men. The last place we wanted to be. At this time we had hair down to our asses and ran into every kind of problem you might think of. We just got stuck in Kansas City. We were trying to get things together and that meant that all of us would have to go work, I eventually ended up working for the Frisco Railway. We were going to try to get the car fixed, get the band back together and get moving towards Colorado. But it took too long and the band broke up.
In 1969 Tank broke up because as Mike Barnes puts it, “we had had enough of each-other at that point. Several of us had some serious relationships with women. It was enough ya know.”
After the break up of the band Bob Leonard took a break from music for a while. However this did not last very long. In 1970 Bob teamed up with guitarist Duane Verh, and along with Tiffany Shade alumni Tom Schuster on drums and Robb Murphy on bass, formed the band Frigate. Leonard describes Frigate as being a “free form jazz band”. The group played around the University Circle area in Cleveland for a while.
According to Duane Verh, “the band was formed when Charlie Drazdik aka Pontiac Slim, Mark Herzog and I left the Mr. Stress Blues Band because we were stoked on Zappa, Captain Beefheart & Miles Davis’s electric stuff.
While we were still in our formative days of God knows what kind of band, a girl I was fond of mentioned that Bob Leonard was back in town. I called him and he brought his spinet piano over and down into my basement. As a group we proved to be very proficient at getting stoned and jamming totally freeform for hours at a time, five nights a week. Robb Murphy would blow into town a few months later and he would play upright bass with us. Tom Schuster jumped in and we met a wacky sax player who loved Albert Ayler. [Ayler is heralded as one of the greatest proponents of free form jazz]
Bob, Charlie, Tom and I wrote some originals that would get woven into our handful of live gigs. We christened our outfit Frigate most likely because it sounded artsy and had the double meaning of FRIGG-IT! We played University Circle, a couple of outside gigs and once atop a parking garage at the Commodore Hotel. No one invited us we just set up and played. Our most formal and final gig was a benefit at the Agora Ballroom. We were the openers for the Flamin’ Groovies and Glass Harp. After that Bob Leonard returned to Vermont with his wife and son and Robb Murphy moved into my place. We played stoned crazy music with some kindred souls for about a year before re-joining Bob Leonard in Vermont at the end of 1972. We tried to put something together with Michael Barnes who was also in Vermont, but it didn’t work. It sounded really good when we got together but as I remember Michael couldn’t rehearse with us on a regular basis so we called it quits. I got restless and moved back to Cleveland and Robb went back to Newport, Rhode Island.”