Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Maximum Schlock & Roll

Drummer Keith Bortz of The Max – formerly Max and the Bluegills – was instrumental (so to speak) in getting permission to stage a concert in the group’s high school auditorium on a Friday afternoon in April, 1981.  Students were gouged at the door — one-dollar admission!  Cannot recall whether band members received a cut of the gate (not to mention whether the boys even divvied up the proceeds with pre-headliner, Trilogy).

The Max – WHHS Auditorium – Cincinnati, Ohio – April 24, 1981
[photos courtesy of Chatterbox photographer, Doug May]

Max & the Bluegills (live)-a

The previous year, the group secured its first paid gig as entertainment for the bar mitzvah party of our high school counselor’s son (again, entirely due to Keith Bortz’s negotiations).  $225 divided by three players — never again would The Max even come close to earning that much money in a single engagement.  Although it wasn’t for lack of trying:  the band once placed an ad in The American Israelite as a bar mitzvah rock band – only to discover their name misspelled as Max and the Gluegills!

Newest Bluegill, Rick Mosher, at left — 1981 High School Concert

Max & the Bluegills (live)-bNo doubt about it, The Max (as the school paper’s arts critic would note) would suffer from “intonation” problems, the group’s vocals would be “mediocre,” and tightness, indeed, “did not abound when outstanding rhythms were attempted.”  Fortunately, the audience managed to enjoy itself (i.e., inmates running the asylum) despite the band’s failings.

Local press yawns:  Concert review in school newspaper

Max & Bluegills @ WHHS-1Max & Bluegills @ WHHS-2

And yet one magical evening, the original power trio would channel the spirits and rise above their youthful inexperience for an extended moment in time.  The three musicians would exult in triumph later when they played back their home-spun recording, assured that (for once) the band had something fairly worthwhile on tape … only to discover that the tape had run out prematurely!  The boombox, alas, would only capture 2 minutes 20 seconds of an especially inspired Max & the Bluegills performance:

[Pssst:  Click on triangle to play “Unnamed Instrumental” by Max and the Bluegills]

This unnamed instrumental would be used by the group as a yardstick against which all future endeavors would be measured.

Photo of The Max in Color – one of few in existence

Max & the Bluegills - Chez Mosher

Interestingly enough, “I Think I Love You” — the Max & the Bluegills song featured in the previous post — had already been recorded the year prior at the (no-frills) sound facility inside classical radio’s WGUC-FM, located on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. The 2-hour recording session had been a birthday present from the station’s public relations director and mother of Zero to 180 founder, Chris Richardson.

Shh!  Carol Richardson at University of Cincinnati’s WGUC-FM —
historic site of Max and the Bluegills’ 1st recording session

Carol Richardson @ WGUC FM

Link to the next chapter in the Max and the Bluegills saga.

4 Responses

  1. I was showing my wife some old pictures and the memories made me decide to do something I’ve never done before. I googled “Max and The Bluegills”. Lo and behold…I arrived here.

    Chris, you haven’t changed a bit….I love it! I’ll probably comment again at some point after I re-read this post (and the follow-up), but I did want to comment on the WHHS gig.

    The purpose behind doing the show was to try to help raise money so we could afford to have The Modulators play at our senior prom. Our principal, David Shepherd (did I spell his last name right?), was not at all excited about letting us do it…probably because of me. If it wasn’t for my friendship with Sr. Class President, Jim Schwartz (and him going with me to talk to Mr. Shepherd) we never would have gotten permission. I distinctly remember him saying, “I’m going to let you do it, but I don’t think you can pull it off.”

    Anyway, after the show was over, I walked into the principal’s office with my purple Crown Royal bag full of money from the ticket sales, dropped it with a thud on his desk, turned around and walked out without saying a word.

    Not only were students gouged at the door, but for a month before the show they were harassed in the main hall as well. I don’t remember the exact amount of money raised, but I want to say it was somewhere around $600, much of it coming by generous five or ten dollar “ticket purchases” from teachers like Mrs. Conver and Mr. Shuttlesworth.

    Not only did Trilogy (my cousin Brad’s band) get stiffed but we didn’t keep a penny either.

    Grinning ear to ear.

  2. RIP Keith Bortz. You, like Chris were more than just friends, you were family. You introduced me to golf ️ and patiently tried to teach me the game. I’m still not a good golfer, but I love the game, and I love you. You will be missed by many. I can’t believe you’re gone.

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