In early 1967, a promising 45 by a Northern Kentucky band got called up to the big leagues, as reported by Billboard in its February 11, 1967 edition:
“Col. Buys ‘That Girl’ Disk by New Lime“
NEW YORK — Columbia Records has bought a new single, “That Girl,” by the New Lime. The recording was initially released on the [Cincinnati-based] Counterpart label.
Columbia’s acquisition of the record is an example of the label’s effort to encourage independent producers to submit masters for consideration. The single was acquired by Columbia a&r man Gene Weiss from Shad O’Shea of Counterpart after the disk broke out in Ohio. Ray Allen produced the record.
Released by Columbia on Jan. 30, 1967
Written by Mickey Foellger & Mike Boyd — Arranged by Jim Geyer
The Buckeye Beat website informs us that The New Lime “were one of the biggest bands in SW Ohio and northern Kentucky for years, keeping on top of the dance scene with several local hits and tight, professional sound.” As Cincinnati historian and music writer Randy McNutt recounted to Zero to 180 in 2015 —
[Shad O’Shea]’s records were played on WSAI and other [regional] stations. He broke many good rock-band records. Then he’d sell them to larger indies or the majors. He had a wall in the hallway office at [Counterpart] studio with nothing but 45s that he produced or released over the years, including ones on Mercury, RCA, Columbia, Laurie, Monument, SSS International, and other labels. There must have been 50 records on that big wall. He recorded groups such as The New Lime, which went from Counterpart to Columbia under his guidance; the Mark V out of Dayton (‘Hey Conductor‘), and other groups.
Follow-up 45 to “That Girl“
To Sally — Love, Mickey
According to drummer Mickey Foellger, in a phone interview with Zero to 180, the band originally started out as Gary Lee Fausz & the Savoys. The groups’s first single — recorded in 1964 at Cincinnati’s King Studios — features a “hot rod” instrumental B-side written by Foellger entitled “Barracuda“:
Gary Lee Fausz & the Savoys (1964)
45 images on the 45Cat website affirm Foellger’s assertion that “Shad [O’Shea] saw money in royalties, so he looked for bands to record his songs at no charge.” As was the custom at that time, instrumentals were relegated to the flip side, while vocal tunes would be the featured A-side, in this case “Only You” — an original the band would re-record two years later. [Note: 45Cat has mis-identified the A & B sides.]
Both 45 sides published by “Shad O-Shae”
[in contrast to 45 label shown in YouTube clip above: “Pub. Gary Lee Fausz”]
Songwriting credits show the majority of New Lime songs to have been written by vocalist Gary Lee Fausz, keyboardst Jim Geyer, and drummer Mickey Foellger (who also wrote 1967 B-side, “Perfect Girl“), with contributions from guitarist Mike Boyd, bassist Fred Stanger, later keyboardist Ed Wilbers, and, of course, Shad O’Shea (under his birth name, Howard Lovdal), who financed the band’s singles. Buckeye Beat identifies Counterpart as “one of the most prolific Ohio labels” and also goes on record as saying that “few local bands have recorded as many quality original songs” as The New Lime.
Feb. 18, 1967
The group’s own list of jobs and professional engagements speak to their popularity throughout the OH/KY/IN tri-state area in the 1960s:
- live events at the University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky, Xavier & Miami Universities
- radio exposure via WSAI & WUBE (Cincinnati), WING (Dayton), WONE (Akron), WCOL (Columbus) & WAKY (Louisville)
- sock hops sponsored by WKLO (Southern Indiana)
- proms, formal events & wedding receptions
- fraternity, debutante parties & CYO dances
- private & corporate affairs, including rallies for Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey
According to Foellger, some of the more prominent local disk jockeys would sponsor teen sock hops and church hall dances, with half the proceeds going to the DJs and half going to the band. Shad O’Shea, of WCPO’s popular “Shad & Mike” show (with Mike Gavin), was one such radio personality, whose drive-time Top 40 playlist included disks by local bands, such as The New Lime.
The group was making good money primarily as a covers band working on weekends while still living at home with minimal expenses. Foellger tells Zero to 180 that when his brother moved out of their shared bedroom, his mom was flabbergasted to find that Mickey had bought an entire furniture set that was paid in full with cash earned from the band’s professional engagements.
It was during the time the group was working on their sophomore 45 release — recorded for Harry Carlson’s Fraternity label — that the musicians learned of another ensemble who called themselves The Savoys (possibly the Newark, NJ group who released their original doo wop ballad “Gloria” in 1965). Given the British influence evident on “Whenever I Look In Your Eyes,” their next A-side, Shad O’Shea and Harry Carlson together hatched The New Limeys as the band’s new name before cooler heads amended it ever so slightly to The New Lime, according to Foellger.
The band recorded its third single — “Only You” b/w “It’s Your Turn to Cry” — in 1966 for Ray Allen‘s Louisville-based Boss label before hitching their wagon to Shad O’Shea’s Counterpart Records the following year. Allen produced many of The New Lime Counterpart 45s at his Allen-Martin Studios, Louisville’s oldest sound facility until 1999, when the studio “moved to a new state-of-the-art location in Versailles, Kentucky,” as reported in Louisville Music News.
O’Shea — who would later write a hilarious how-to guide for navigating the music industry Just For the Record that enjoyed endorsements from Shelby Singleton, Dr. Demento, Grammy Magazine, and Goldmine‘s Larry Stidom, among others — managed to get Big Red‘s attention a second time, when the group’s “Donna” single, a new take on the Ritchie Valens hit backed with “The Gumdrop Triology,” an original by Mickey Foellger, got picked up by Columbia for national distribution in 1968.
July 27, 1968
A few times each year somebody records a golden oldie with a fresh arrangement and makes it BIG.
Here is the Ritchie Valens hit “Donna” with a new flavor … by The NEW LIME.
WE HEARD IT.
WE LOVED IT.
WE BOUGHT IT.
Cash Box published a review of this 45 (as well as a curious one-off release by The Cincinnati Music Co.) in its July 27, 1968 edition:
The old Ritchie Valens hit has been revived successfully before, and this new version by the New Lime, featuring 1950s harmony and arrangements, could sneak in. Watch it closely.
B-side of “Donna”
O’Shea would also go to work on the group’s own version of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” backed with “I Still Remember” — an original attributed to O’Shea, Fausz, and Boyd — securing a deal with Shelby Singleton to distribute the single on Minaret, (Nashville soul label founded in 1962 by Herb Shucher and then sold five years later to Singleton). Cash Box filed this brief news item “New Lime to Minaret” [below] in its November 9, 1969 edition:
New Lime to Minaret
NASHVILLE — The New Lime, a five-man singing group from Cincinnati, has been signed to an exclusive recording contract with Minaret Records.
Bob Alou, Minaret general manager, negotiated the arrangements and reports the act’s first release – entitled “Sunny” – hit the airwaves last week.
“Produced by Howard N. Lovdal for Shelby Singleton Productions”
1970 would see The New Lime’s final two releases on Counterpart — a reworking of Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog” b/w “Meant to Be” (an original by Fausz, Stanger, and Geyer), followed by the seriously rare 45 “Part-Time Friends” (written by Foellger and Wilbers) b/w “Circle For a Landing” (originally recorded by Three Dog Night). By this point, with the band’s radio hits behind them, Foellger was already enrolled as an undergraduate at Xavier University – his first of two degrees – but still playing gigs on the weekends, mostly weddings.
Investment Advice: The Value of Vintage Vinyl
Would you be surprised to learn that New Lime 45s sometimes trade hands for three figures?
Ebay auction results (courtesy Popsike)
This early 1970s period found Foellger hanging out with fellow musician Danny Morgan in Mt. Adams, Cincinnati’s hilltop hippy enclave, across the street from where future members of Pure Prairie League would often congregate. The Apple Butter Band, initially a trio — Foellger (drums), Morgan (guitar), and Danny’s wife, Jo Morgan (vocals) — released a single “Farmer Lee’s” b/w “I’m Coming Home (To You)” on Ft. Thomas, KY-based indie label Wildflower that was produced by Panny Sarakatsannis, one-time member of James Brown backing band, The Dapps (Foellger and Sarakatsannis would both be inducted into the Northern Kentucky Music Legends Hall of Fame in 2014). Before long, however, the musicians got the itch to carve out a new musical path in the American West and lit out for Colorado. Foellger recounts the history —
Apple Butter Band was formed after Danny Morgan graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1969, with his first wife, Jo, and I entered law school at the University of Kentucky. Dan & Jo set up shop in a bar in Mt. Adams. Dan had a band in college called The East Orange Express (psychedelic) and the other guys in that band were then hired by Craig Fuller and set up shop across the street in another Mt. Adams bar as Pure Prairie League, and Craig (and PPL) had signed with RCA Records. The Apple Butter Band single was recorded in Cincinnati at 5th Floor Studios. That 45 was probably released in 1971 or 72. The PPL album, Bustin’ Out recorded around the same time in Toronto. I graduated law school in 1972, and ABB headed to Colorado, where we thought it was “happening.”
Apple Butter Band 45 — c. 1971-72
[L to R: Mickey Foellger, Jo Morgan & Danny Morgan]
Danny Morgan was the “taskmaster” of the band who insisted on daily rehearsals, says Foellger. Joellen Morgan’s sparkling vocals were the key to Apple Butter Band’s appeal, asserts Foellger and were what led directly to interest from The Beach Boys in having the group join them for part of their 1974 tour (for instance, June 20, 1974 in Bangor, Maine). The Apple Butter Band would also get a chance to play three shows that same year as opening act for John Denver, whose backing band included the legendary drummer, Hal Blaine. Foellger remembers what a gas it was when the two bands enjoyed an after-show jam in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The Apple Butter Band were then joined in Colorado by Mike Reid, star defensive player for the Cincinnati Bengals (celebrated here in 2015) who was now interested in pursuing music full-time after having some solo success, especially as a guest pianist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The Apple Butter Band, believe it or not, was the first time Reid had ever worked in an ensemble, notes Foellger, who recalls the particulars:
After Apple Butter Band’s “success” of ’74 (touring with The Beach Boys and John Denver), and a dire need for a fourth musician/songwriter, and Mike Reid’s frustration with the pounding of the NFL, Reid joined ABB after the ’74 season and we four headed to Vail, Colorado and other ski resorts to play folk rock and write music. Mike lasted about 5 or 6 months.
Reid informed his bandmates that he was ready to strike out on his own, later making the big move to Nashville to try his hand at songwriting. Years later the November 23, 1990 issue of R&R would post a “New Artist Fact File” on Reid that recalled this early period in wry fashion:
Reid turned his attention to music, playing Colorado ski resorts with the Apple Butter Band. He then formed his own band and played a Cincinnati club, where curious football fans came to the shows. “They’d leave saying, ‘It’s so sad that he gave up a great football career to play lousy music,'” Reid recalled.
Mickey Foellger tells Zero to 180 that he initially met up with Mike Wheeler, when the guitarist was with the house band headed up by Wayne Newton’s former bandleader at the Drawbridge Inn in Fort Mitchell, KY (future home of the famed Herb & Helen Haydock beer memorabilia collection, now located at the Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, WI). Time-wise, this would be sometime after Wheeler’s brief stint with Starday-King that produced one single released on the Agape subsidiary label in 1972 – “Rocky Forge” b/w “Worn Out Leather” – plus nine unissued song demos recorded the previous year that remain in Moe Lytle’s vault. Wheeler’s previous band Whalefeathers, according to Buckeye Beat, was “one of Cincinnati’s biggest bands of the late 60s and early 70s.” Whalefeathers recorded a pair of LPs and a handful of 45s for Nashville-based Nasco, owned by Ernie Young, founder of Excello.
1972 single on Agape
When Starday-King was co-owned by Leiber & Stoller
Craig Fuller, who left Pure Prairie League sometime after their second album, 1972’s Bustin’ Out – with its big hit “Amie” (that garnered so much radio airplay as an album track that RCA saw fit to release it as a 45 in February, 1975) – had meanwhile recruited Mike Wheeler and Mickey Foellger to record demos of new material during this intervening period. Foellger recalls the summer of 1975 as playing in matching leisure suits, three different color options, at the Drawbridge Motor Inn & Convention Center:
After Mike Reid left the ABB, I was ready for a change myself, and about that time an old friend called, who played sax and was Music Director for Wayne Newton in Las Vegas. Said he was putting the house band together for the new huge motel complex and lounge being built in Ft. Mitchell [pictured below], and asked if I’d play drums. His name is Bill Reder, and he and I both wanted to go “home” for awhile. That was summer of ’75.
“Six nights a week of leisure suits” got old quick, especially with the schmaltz rock we were playing. But the good news is he also hired Mike Wheeler, who was considered the best studio guitarist in Greater Cincinnati at the time. Wheeler worked in the studio almost everyday, and at the club every night. Turned out he was doing tracks for Craig Fuller (demo tapes at 5th Floor) and so was I. A few of those demos made their way to LA (Craig had a good manager) and Craig got hooked up with Eric Kaz, Steve Katz and Doug Yule (same manager) which resulted in American Flyer [celebrated here in 2013]. And by some miracle, the label retained George Martin to produce.
When Craig asked Wheeler and I to be in the “band”, we thought we had hit the jackpot! But that was 6 months later, early 1976. Wheeler and I headed out to LA in the summer of 1976, and returned to Cincy after we didn’t play on the album(s) by year’s end to put the “tour band” together. He and I auditioned bass players every weekend until around May of 1977 when we decided on Michael Bany and Jeffrey Seeman on pedal steel (who turned out to be even more fantastic on slide guitar).
While Craig remained in LA, we started going into the studio with our own songs written by Wheeler and Bany, and calling the group Wheels, which was Wheeler’s nickname that people automatically yelled from the audience. Thus, four WEBN album projects, and many demo tapes to be rejected by the major labels in LA. By 1978, Craig Fuller and Eric Kaz finally called back to say we’re going on tour…with Little Feat. It was worth the wait. Craig and Eric came to Cincy to rehearse and put the tour together. Got a tour bus out of Nashville.
Ira Mayer and Roberta Skopp‘s report in their “New York, N.Y.” column for Record World‘s November 29, 1975 issue alerted the music community to a promising new aggregation that threatened to be a “supergroup”:
There’s a new band that’s playing in upstate New York and looking for a label deal. Eric Kaz is on keyboards, Steve Katz on guitar, Velvet Underground-er Doug Yule on bass, and the vocalist from Pure Prairie League, Craig Fuller.
This new outfit American Flyer ended up signing with United Artists, who had secured the services of renowned Beatles producer George Martin and were initially rather optimistic about the group’s prospects. As Gerry Wood reported in a September 11, 1976 Billboard front-page piece about major labels launching new acts in smaller markets as opposed to the traditional centers of NYC and LA, United Artists declared “significant success in its national breakout campaign for the new group American Flyer.” UA president Artie Mogull noted, “We sent a task force into the field to hit 19 cities a week,” adding that “this is one of the best jobs in breaking an act I’ve seen in a long time.”
Billboard — Aug. 28, 1976
Cash Box — Sep. 11, 1976
Unfortunately, despite United Artists’ cutting-edge, multi-market promotional campaign, American Flyer’s debut album, which entered the Billboard LP chart at #120 (Sep. 4, 1976), peaked at only the #88 position (Oct. 2, 1976), having spent just ten weeks on the chart. Because the album was considered a commercial flop, the tour was subsequently called off, says Foellger, who does not recall American Flyer ever touring, despite having recorded two albums for United Artists.
Foellger and Wheeler subsequently left the West Coast and returned to Cincinnati, where they holed up in the basement of a club in Clifton near the University of Cincinnati — acoustic guitar accompanied by quiet drums. The two musicians then proceeded to audition a different bass player each weekend. Things proceeded somewhat fitfully as a trio for five months or so — including gigs at Shipley’s with Albritton McClain, per Wheels’ Facebook page — until Foellger and Wheeler were introduced to a pair of musicians from another group who meshed perfectly — pedal steel guitarist Jeffrey Seeman, whose reputation locally was “exploding,” and bassist Michael Bany, whose precise high harmony vocals were informed by a perfect pitch that later enabled him to enjoy steady work as a piano tuner at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center. As an inducement to join, Foellger and Wheeler told Seeman and Bany that they were expecting to go out on tour with Craig Fuller.
This new band Wheels became, as WCPO’s Rick Bird witnessed first-hand, “a huge regional success” from 1977-1982 in the Ohio Valley area. Jeffrey Seeman’s trademark slide guitar sound, Bird points out, was inspired by seeing Duane Allman warm up with “Trouble No More” at a sound check in 1970 with his fellow Allman Brothers at Cincinnati’s Ludlow Garage. Seeman notes in his website bio that the band’s friendship with Barrere led to Wheels playing behind Fuller-Kaz as the opening act on Little Feat‘s national tour.
Promo 45 — Australia
Excerpt from Kip Kirby’s review in Billboard‘s November 11, 1978 edition of the Eric Kaz-Craig Fuller Band‘s opening set for Little Feat‘s concert at Nashville’s Vanderbilt Gymnasium —
Backed by members of former Cincinnati band Wheels, Kaz-Fuller cranked out a churning eight-song set of original material, half of which was culled from their recent album on Columbia.
The group’s sound, earmarked by tight four-part harmonies and a solid rhythm section, is country-flavored rock ‘n’ roll reminiscent of Fuller’s prior association. This is not surprising since steel player John Call is another one-time Pure Prairie Leaguer.
Members of the group include Michael Bany on bass and high vocals, Michael Wheeler on lead guitar and vocals, and Mickey [Foellger] on drums, with Call on pedal steel, Fuller on lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, and Kaz handling keyboard duties.
Highlights of the 39-minute segment were “Annabella,” “Feel That Way Again,” “Fool For You” and a powerful number titled “Let the Fire Burn All Night,” which ably demonstrated the vocal and solo talents of the band.
Fuller obliged the crowd with a rousing rendition of his “Amie” and the group had no difficulty keeping the energy high or the audience attentive.
Little Feat guitarists Paul Barrere and Lowell George joined Kaz-Fuller onstage for some instrumental theatrics that had Barrere trading riffs with Wheeler, and Call’s wailing steel matching George’s slide licks note for note.
It was a promising debut for this group, and with the combined writing talents of Kaz and Fuller to supply fresh material, the band should do well.
Snippet from full-page ad
Cash Box — Nov. 18, 1978
“Their current tour with Little Feat is a big hit“
Foellger remembers the feeling of divine intervention when Craig Fuller called to inform the Cincinnati musicians that rather than tour with 10cc, they would instead be joining Little Feat on the second leg of their Waiting For Columbus tour. The musicians in both bands got along like family and often joined each together on stage throughout the tour.
In 1980, Wheels experienced a hefty boost in popularity when they played an hour-long live set that was simulcast locally in stereo on television (WCET) and radio (WEBN). As Victor Harrison reported in his piece “Cincy Stations Link to Beam Rock Gigs” for Billboard‘s March 1, 1980 edition, “The Rock Around the Block series premiered Jan. 30 with one of Cincinnati’s hottest rock groups, Wheels” (the 9-week program would also include storied sets from The Raisins, Rockduster, and The Modulators). Harrison noted the following year that “Rock Around the Block was reportedly the highest viewed program in the television station’s history,” in Billboard‘s March 31, 1981 edition.
Simulcasting live in stereo on TV as well as radio may not seem like that big a deal, but this was a major technological accomplishment, Foellger emphasizes. Unbeknownst to viewers (and listeners) just minutes before showtime, Foellger remembers an audible hum caused by improper grounding that was provoking considerable consternation amongst all involved. By fortunate circumstance, a visiting sound man who worked for the band Chicago – an electronics and audio engineering wiz by the name of Harold Blumberg – managed to locate the source of the dissonant thrum and rectify the situation just in the nick of time, thankfully.
“Heaven Help Me” by Wheels
WCET’s Rock Around the Block (1980)
Introduction by Cincinnati’s one-time Mayor
Foellger sings the praises of Harold “H.” Blumberg’s contributions to Wheels’ live sound, as well as noted engineer and producer, Bill Halverson:
Yes! That’s him. “H” — J. Geils Band, then Chicago. And Wheels recorded LIVE in November of 1979 at our “home club” in the Clifton (UC) area of Cincy, when H was off the road for 2 weeks and brought in his top notch (24-track) mixing console and other toys, and we had met our “new” producer, Bill Halverson, who mixed us then and who was recording Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and had done Cream, REO Speedwagon and others.
Up to this point, Wheels had featured prominently in the early WEBN Album Project compilations that highlighted local talent in the Cincinnati tri-state area:
= WEBN Album Project #1 (1976) includes Mike Wheeler solo recording, “Mexican Highway”
= WEBN Album Project #2 (1977) opens with “Keep Movin’ On“
= WEBN Album Project #3 (1978) kicks off with “Heaven Help Me“
= WEBN Album Project #4 (1979) includes “Just Like Always“
= WEBN Album Project #8 (1983) includes “If You Really Love Her” by Jeffrey Seeman (and friends)
Cover art by Charley Harper
As Britt Robson wrote in Cincinnati Magazine‘s August 1982 issue for a piece entitled “Anatomy of an Album” —
Back in 1979, the rumor was that Wheels would become the first Cincinnati rock band since Pure Prairie League to land a major recording contract. The group had just completed a nationwide tour backing the now defunct Fuller-Kaz Band and had jammed with tour headliners Little Feat in coliseum-sized settings, coast-to-coast. As Wheels arrived back in Cincinnati to work on some original material, it seemed only a matter of time before the offers from out-of-town record labels would come rolling in.
According to Foellger, recording sessions for the self-titled Wheels album – released in 1982 – largely took place in 1979. Friend of the band, Paul Barrere, who stayed for a spell with Foellger at his Ft. Thomas, Kentucky home during this time, ended up producing the album — but only because Lowell George, the band’s first choice for producer, died unexpectedly in June of that year. Foellger recalls accompanying Paul Barrere on a West Coast scouting trip, armed with early demo tapes of the band, determined to get a bite from one of the major labels but, alas, without success.
Wheels, still unsigned, would next augment their sound with additional guitarist Steve Lester, who was part of the Bloomington, Indiana music scene that revolved around John Mellencamp‘s band, according to Foellger, and later pianist Kevin (Casey) McKeown plus percussionist Mohammad Monsoor of beloved Cincinnati dance band, The Modulators.
Plans for a proposed EP were scrapped in lieu of a proper album, under the advice of Barrere, who was reasonably confident Wheels could sell it to a major label by piggybacking off Barrere’s industry connections, notes Robson. Unfortunately, those opportunities dried up when the record industry experienced a major contraction in late 1981. Nevertheless, the band pushed through. Having the opportunity to play with the Allman Brothers at the Agora in Columbus was a career highlight for the band and particularly poignant for Seeman, who also praises Foellger for his “never-ending promotional creativity” and organizational savvy that led to the “investment-driven” financing strategy (à la GoFundMe) that underwrote the recording of the Wheels’ self-titled album. released on Foellger’s EMS (Entertainment Management Services) label.
Guitar Player Magazine album review
[courtesy of Jeffrey Seeman]
Wheels, a five-man group from Southern Ohio, plays tight rock and roll in the tradition of the Allman Brothers, Little Feat, and other boogie bands. Slide guitarist Jeffrey Seeman is Mr. In Control, forging a little of Duane Allman and David Lindley into a style identifiably his own. Prominent on every track, he’s tasteful in his understatement and sure-fingered in his upbeat climbs and descents. His acoustic bottleneck “Railway” carries on in the tradition of John Fahey and Leo Kottke. Kudos for guitar work also go to Mike Wheeler, who adds rhythm tracks with presence and finesse. An emotional soloist, Wheeler stretches out on “Heaven Help Me.” Working together, the guitarists glide through seamless unison lines and fight it out in call-and-response passages. As important, they both know when to lay back. Producer Paul Barrere (formerly of Little Feat) guests with Seeman to turn “Lobelia” into a bottleneck extravaganza. Slide fans, this one is worth sending away for.
- LINK to 9-minute local news clip from 1982 that includes a promo video for “Amaretta” by Wheels
Did You Know?
“Nobody Pushes the Kid“
Wheels track written by Steve Lester
Included on Dayton, OH‘s WTUE Homegrown II
Recorded at Cincinnati’s QCA Recording Studios
Then came the big break, seemingly, when Los Angeles-based Boardwalk Records — whose talent roster at that point included Harry Chapin, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, The Ohio Players, Mike Love, Ringo Starr, Curtis Mayfield & Carol Bayer Sager, among others — issued the single “Amaretta” b/w “Heaven Help Me” in October 1982.
But that initial optimism turned to disillusionment, when label executives began asking the band to re-fashion Wheels tracks for broader commercial appeal, and worse, record other artist’s material whose song publishing was owned by Boardwalk. As Foellger acknowledged to Cincinnati Magazine’s Britt Robson shortly before the Boardwalk deal came through —
The [country-rock] style “has hurt us,” [Foellger] admitted. “That is certainly the reason nobody has jumped to sign us. Some people say the music is going to swing back around and we’ll have our chance. But we may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.“
Paul Barrere & Mike Wheeler in Cincinnati
Cash Box — Apr. 16, 1983
* * *
The passing in 1982 of Foellger’s father, Mil Foellger, who experienced the crushing professional setbacks of the Great Depression first-hand as a one-time bandleader on the Island Queen steamboat, caused Foellger to re-examine his career goals. Furthermore, Boardwalk’s proposal to put Wheels out on tour with Kiss – an idea considered repellent by all the band members – became a tension point for the group over its future direction, as was Jeffrey Seeman’s health status, which limited opportunities for live engagements.
Tin Rims –
Mil Foellger And The Music Masters
Rosemary Clooney once danced to this band
In 1983, Foellger made the big decision to begin practicing law as a solo attorney. It was slow going initially. An old law school roommate, who had always liked juvenile law, planted the seed for Foellger to begin doing work as a public defender for children. Foellger’s diligent efforts along those lines would get the attention of the county attorney, who recommended Foellger for a juvenile prosecutor position that was about to be vacated.
For the next five years, Foellger served as juvenile prosecutor for Campbell County, Kentucky. Over time, Foellger worked his way up from municipal court to district court, where an opening led to twelve years service (1990-2002) as district court judge. Foellger tells Zero to 180 that former Apple Butter Bandmate Mike Reid was gracious enough to play a fundraiser for an early judge race. Foellger’s expertise in juvenile law would eventually lead to high-level work teaching other juvenile prosecutors.
In 2002, three-fourths of Kentucky voters approved a ballot measure that asked in (relatively) straight-forward language, “Are you in favor of family courts in Kentucky by amending the Kentucky Constitution to allow the Supreme Court to designate a division of circuit court as a family court?” Foellger, therefore, became, as Northern Kentucky Tribune noted in its May 3, 2016 edition, “the first Family Court Judge in the 17th Judicial Circuit serving Campbell County.” Additionally, Foellger has also served as assistant Commonwealth Attorney, President of the Northern Kentucky Bar Association, and President of the District Judges Association of Kentucky.
WEBN Riverfest fireworks
(image courtesy WLWT)
More recently, Foellger’s musical membership in The Lusters — “a mainstay at WEBN’s Riverfest for many years [who] also opened for A-list acts playing at Bogart’s” — earned him a place in the Northern Kentucky Music Legends Hall of Fame, as reported in The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s May 24, 2018 edition. Foellger stays active musically today through his participation in “Suits That Rock” — an annual musical fundraising event that raises money for arts education programming connected to Covington, Kentucky’s Carnegie Gallery Education Theatre. You can find a nice blurb about Foellger (along with one-time Ferns drummer, Bob Mitchell) on Carnegie Theatre’s “Meet the Suits” page.
Zero to 180 Dares To Ask
Q = Did your many years as a professional musician in any way prepare you for life in the judiciary?
A = Tough question. Obviously, two very different worlds. But I’ll say this. You meet a lot of VERY different people, possibly, probably “not normal” people in both. So, maybe I was less shocked by what people did when I was a judge who had performed at Rock arenas.
Bonus Bengal Bit:
Mike Reid’s Football
Country Music Hall of Fame – Nashville
[Photo — Melanie Sargent Richardson]