I CANNOT STOP YOU: First generation garage rock legends the Cherry Slush recently returned to the recording studio to record the Darren Dowler-penned When We Were Young, their first single since 1969. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher has the story below. Pictured above in August 2017 are Cherry Slush co-founders Charlie Woodward (guitar) and Dick Coughlin (drums).  (Click on above image to enlarge).

SINCE 1969
By Michael McDowell

Composer, vocalist, producer, multi-instrumentalist and Archies front man Ron Dante once told the story of how, during his tenure with the vocal trio, the Detergents, he took exception to what he perceived as insufficient compensation for the group's efforts by the group's label. The Detergents were signed to Roulette Records, and were enjoying considerable success in late 1964 with their single Leader Of The Laundromat, a variation on the Shangri-Las' acclaimed Red Bird label single, Leader Of The Pack.

An album for Roulette would follow shortly (The Many Faces Of The Detergents), along with other singles for Roulette and Kapp. But for the moment, the Detergents were in the middle of a demanding schedule of live appearances. In the short term, Dante did not see that as being in the group's best interests. 

On one particular afternoon, Dante approached Roulette's late founder and president, Morris Levy to express his concerns. A man who had a long standing reputation in the industry of being somewhat set in his ways, Levy in a rare moment of benevolence nonetheless granted Dante the forum to state his case.

Upon reflection, Levy looked at Dante and offered him in return a bit of sage advice that, given the circumstances, was ultimately in the latter's best interests. In short, Levy advised Dante to focus his attention on live performance as the group's primary source of income, and to continue to let Levy oversee such matters with respect to their studio work. 

Finally realizing the reality of that unlikely exchange, Dante heeded Levy's advice, with the group persevering for a little more than a year before finally calling it quits. Of course Dante eventually returned to the studio in a variety of capacities; not just as the front man of the Archies and the Cuff Links, but as a composer and as producer of such vaunted artists as Barry Manilow and Bette Midler. Suffice to say that by that point, Dante's earlier concerns had finally been realized in the manner that he initially envisioned.

However, over the past fifty years or so, many a veteran artist has inadvertently followed the Detergents' lead and has devoted the bulk of their energies towards live performance. In the process, not only have the relentless demands of the road presented greater challenges for such artists who have more than a half century of such work to their credit, but their recorded legacies have inevitably suffered due to a lack of new studio material. 

Thankfully (and however unintentionally), one legendary first generation garage band has taken that option into consideration and elected to go against the grain. Rather than hitting the road, the Saginaw, Michigan band, the Cherry Slush instead headed for the studio, where they recently recorded their first single in a half century, When We Were Young.

Composed by Darren Dowler (a long time part of the final incarnation of Paul Revere and the Raiders), When We Were Young is not so much a documentation of the band's career as it is an all encompassing celebration of bringing out individual and collective full potential, irrespective of geographical and chronological circumstances. Sample lyric: "As life passes by, you've got to grab a hold; You've got to live every moment, girl, or you'll find yourself out in the cold".

"This song is going to be a runaway hit for the summer", said Cherry Slush drummer and co-founder, Dick Coughlin.

"Darren is very impressed, as is Hal Blaine".

Endorsements from fellow veteran visionaries such as Blaine are not surprising, given the Cherry Slush's modest yet impacting and enduing legacy. The band made their debut in 1965 as the Bells Of Rhymny with their She'll Be Back / The Wicked Old Witch single for Dicto Records.

As the Cherry Slush, the band signed with the Mount Morris, Michigan-based Coconut Groove label, where in November 1967 they released their debut single under the new band name. The dynamic and stupendous I Cannot Stop You was composed by Bossmen co-founder, lead guitarist and front man, Dick Wagner, and went on to become one of the definitive masterpieces of first generation garage rock. 

In early 1968, the Chicago, Illinois label, USA Records (recording home of Tobin Matthews, Junior Wells, J.B. Lenoir, Gary And The Knight-Lites, Michael And The Messengers, the Skunks, the Bondsmen and the Buckinghams) reissued I Cannot Stop You to widespread acclaim. The Cherry Slush followed I Cannot Stop You with the lavishly orchestrated, high drama gem, Day Don't Come, also for USA. A cover of the Underground Sunshine's Birthday was recorded for the Chivalry label in 1969, after which the Cherry Slush embarked upon a protracted sabbatical.

Ongoing interest in the band's legacy prompted the release in 2001 of Looking Back, a CD compilation on the WMG label of their Bells Of Rhymny and Cherry Slush singles. In the wake of its release came a reunion concert in Freeland, Michigan, which drew an audience of more than two thousand people. Sadly, long time Cherry Slush guitarist, Gene Bruce (whose mother, Vivian Bruce was the band's manager) passed away in 2009. 

However, interest in the band has not wavered in the twenty-first century. Drummer Coughlin (whose curriculum vitae also includes work with the veteran surf/hot rod band, the Rip Chords) had long envisioned subsequent projects for the group, as did Cherry Slush guitarist Charlie Woodward. 

"It's all us", said Coughlin.

"I'm amazed at how good this whole project turned out".

Also on board for the When We Were Young session were lead vocalist Dan Parsons (who has been with the band from the onset, when they were known as the Wayfarers), who also contributed guitar. Parsons was joined by co-founder and bassist Art Hauffe, as well as guitarist Mike Parsons. Dick Coughlin of course reprised his role as drummer, with Charlie Woodward on vocals and guitar.

"The lead vocal is primarily Dan", said Coughlin.

"Charlie, me and Charlie's son, Mack did all of the background vocals. Jimmy Hollywood has been named as executive producer on the project".

The When We Were Young session was co-produced in Atlanta, Georgia by Woodward and Coughlin, with Woodward's son, Mack Woodward serving as engineer.

"My son Mack has worked with some of the giants of the industry", said Charlie Woodward.

"He really touched me when he said, 'I'll always have the memory of working with my dad's band' ".

Dick Coughlin concurred.

"We were amazed at how good and professional this project turned out", he said.

"Four radio stations have it in their rotation. I'm still a pro, as is Charlie. We wanted to get our sons into it to make the project generational. With Charlie's son, Mack having won three Grammys for engineering, you can't lose!"

The immediate success of When We Were Young has seen the band's support base grow exponentially.

"Most of our fans have stuck with us throughout all of these years", said Couglin.

"Our new fans are jumping on board in droves!"

As was the case with the aforementioned Detergents, circumstances pretty much necessitate a return to the recording studio for the Cherry Slush. Happily, that is a possibility that the band has strongly considered.

"I agree with that", said Coughlin.

"If you have a good product, it will sell, even without touring."

But would touring still be feasible for the Cherry Slush at this stage?

"I'd have to talk to the guys about it", said Coughlin.

"The chemistry that we had in the '60s is still there. Danny is a busy attorney, and Art's health isn't all that good. That's something I would have to ask them. But we'll see".

Meanwhile, the success of When We Were Young has increased the demand for more new original material.

"We won't do any covers", said Coughlin.

"That's bush league. When we have writers like Darren Dowler and (fellow Paul Revere And The Raiders veteran) Ron Foos, why do anything else? Ron told me on the phone that he has a bunch of songs just sitting inside of his computer."

"The door is still open for future projects", said Coughlin.

Charlie Woodward readily concurred.

"That could happen", he said.

"How great it was to work again with these guys after all of these years. Dan Parsons and I have extensive backgrounds in acoustic music. We have already discussed doing something in that vein together. We'll see what happens!"

And to paraphrase the band's 1968 signature single, in that respect, do what you want to do. We will not stop you.