Class of ‘68 ‘Reunion Jam Band’ to perform

The Reunion Jam Band will put on a one night only performance today during the Gloversville High School class of 1968 reunion at the Hales Mills Country Club. The Reunion Jam Band includes Rick Armstrong and Dominic Priolo from the class of 1968, Lisa Staley, Mark Van Holmes and Michael Tremante who graduated within a year or two of 1968, and Fred Tripp, a capital region native. Pictured are members of the band. (Photos provided by Rick Armstrong)

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville High School class of 1968 will have the chance to see some familiar faces and hear some familiar sounds at the Hales Mills Country Club today during their 50th high school reunion and a one-night only engagement of the Reunion Jam Band, featuring their former classmates.

John Ackernecht, chairman of the reunion committee for the class of 1968, said the idea to form a band featuring members of the class came about two years ago due to the reaction people had to photos of former high school bands posted on the class Facebook page.

“Everybody said they loved them and we wish we could hear them again,” Ackernecht said Thursday.

During the late ’60s, Ackernecht said there were a number of popular local bands composed of GHS students that performed at school dances, the YMCA and veterans halls. Although he wasn’t in a band himself, Ackernecht said he often went to see bands play in his high school days.

“People would just go wild over it, so I think they’re going to really enjoy it,” he said.

While bands were once in abundance, Ackernecht said it was difficult to put together a band from the class of 1968 despite a lead time of nearly two years.

Eventually, after the idea seemed like it would have to be abandoned altogether, a band came together of former GHS grads from the late ’60s and early ’70s.

The Reunion Jam Band includes Rick Armstrong and Dominic Priolo from the class of 1968 and Lisa Staley, Mark Van Holmes and Michael Tremante who graduated within a year or two of 1968. Also included in the group on drums is a current bandmate of Tremante’s, Fred Tripp, a capital region native around the same age as the other band members.

“I would have loved to have a Gloversville drummer, we just couldn’t find one,” Armstrong noted.

Putting the band together wasn’t the only obstacle as the band members live all across the country. The group developed a set list together, so they could practice the songs on their own, coming together for the first time to practice on Thursday and today.

The practice sessions were the first time most of the reunion band members had played together, as they were all in different bands in high school.

An image for the group posted on Facebook read, “No rehearsal, no problem!” Yet, after the first practice, Armstrong said he was encouraged.

“I’m feeling more confident, especially after yesterday. We did pretty well, it sounded good,” Armstrong said.

The group will play two 40-minute sets today during the reunion featuring songs by bands like the Young Rascals, the Bee Gees, The Righteous Brothers and the Rolling Stones.

“We’re playing music from our time period, the music you would have heard on a Saturday night at the YMCA or at a dance after a football game,” Armstrong said. “It’s like a trip back in time.”

He fondly remembered playing in the local battle of the bands and the large crowd of teenagers packed into the Gloversville Armory to hear the competitors play.

“There were so many kids, I’ve got to believe we were violating fire codes,” Armstrong joked.

“It was an exciting time and we had our own little music scene,” he added.

Armstrong played bass and guitar in a number of bands in his youth with names like the Lyvin’ End, Kids These Days and Poor Richard’s Almanac which Tremante was also a member of.

Armstrong is now a videographer who no longer owned any instruments when he agreed to perform in the band.

“I went out and bought a bass and amplifier,” Armstrong said. “I haven’t owned a bass for decades, John said you’ll have to come out of retirement.”

Although Armstrong has had to bone up on his musical chops, he said the other members of the group are accomplished professional artists who perform regularly and both Tremante and Tripp are inductees into the New York Blues Hall of Fame.

“A month ago I was pretty nervous, because I just started playing again,” Armstrong said. “But I’ll be surrounded by amazing musicians, so how bad could it be?”

“I think it’s going to be great,” he added.