December 9, 2012

THE MODS a.k.a. MARDS (Cumberland, RI)

The moptop craze hits Cumberland, R.I. From left: Mike "Squeaky" Quinn, Bill Large (rear center), Tom Langlois (front center), Joe Simanski. Courtesy of Bill Large.

I wish I could say that my initial reaction to the Mards 45 was that its loud, raw recording nicely captured the sound of the first wave of U.S. teenage garage bands. While that is true, alas, the first thing that came to mind was: What the heck is a mard?

That burning question — as it turns out, the product of a regional malapropism — as well as the rest of the story behind the cryptic band's lone single, is now answered.

The Mods were formed by Bill Large (vocals, sax), Tom Langlois (bass), Joe Simanski (lead guitar) and Paul Gadoury (drums) in the early 1960s, playing all instrumental covers such as the Ventures. They migrated to vocal tunes, and, inspired by hearing a record by local Woonsocket stars the Mondos on the radio, said, "Hey, we can do that!" The guys, about 15 years old at the time, each pitched in $100 to record at RLM Studios in North Attleboro, Mass., (same studio as the Mondos as well!) and have their single pressed up. For the session, the Mods chose Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and Tommy Tucker's "High Heel Sneakers," credited to Jerry Lee Lewis, who also performed a version. Tom Langlois sang lead on "Johnny B. Goode" and played rhythm guitar, with Al Donati on bass duties. Bill Large sang lead on "High Heel Sneakers" and Langlois played bass while Al Donati manned the organ. And yowza — check out Bill Large's primitive caveman growl on "You know you're really gonna knock 'em dead!"

So, about the band name: With the tracks layed down, the band was asked for the information to put on the upcoming record's label. Well, in classic Rhode Island accent form, the word "Mods" was misconstrued as "Mards." (For the uninitiated, if one was to say "Mards" in this state, it would be pronounced as "Mods," or, more appropriately, "Mahds" … kind of a cross between Massachusetts and New York dialects. And apparently, the recording engineer was oblivious to the youth phenomenon going on over in England.) But despite the band's sole vinyl appearance listing an incorrect moniker, they indeed soldiered on as the Mods. The label was named for the Cumberland High School music teacher, Mr. Carney, as an inside joke.

The Mods were awarded the distinction of being the first rock and roll band to perform at the Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket, in 1963. (See article below.)

In a brief brush with fame, the Mods played at Lakeview Park in Mendon, Mass., with the Ronettes. Phil Spector was in attendance since his wife Ronnie Spector was performing, and he took an interest in the Mods, saying they had a good look and a good sound. Some demo recordings were made at WNRI radio's studio in Woonsocket, but nothing ever came of it.

Along the way, Mike "Squeaky" Quinn took over on drums, and the band continued for about a year after high school until the usual culprits — college and the draft — caused the band to wind down.

Joe Simanski later joined Woonsocket-based Northeast Expressway with the late organist Paul Charron. The Expressway, another all-cover band, kept it up through the 1970s and released one single on the Arco label from New Bedford, Mass., covers of "Groovin' Is Easy" (Electric Flag) and "Have You Noticed You're Alive" (the Buckinghams). Al Donati joined another Cumberland cover band, the Sigma IV, which played Newport often in the late 1960s. He currently plays in the Mid Life Crisis Band in Massachusetts. Tom Langlois joined the Marines after high school and now resides in North Carolina after a career in the military.

Woonsocket Call article before the first Stadium Theatre gig, circa 1963. Courtesy of Joe Simanski.

Johnny B. Goode / High Heel Sneakers


  1. they use to practice in paul Gadoury's basement in gadoury play. Listen to them rehearse every saturday morning. Remember them trying to cover Paul revere and the raiders kicks

  2. I still have a copy of their infamous single. It's been well-loved, shall we say.