June 11, 2013

THE MYSTIC FIVE (Hope/Scituate, RI)

Singer Al Cloutier immortalized in the 1966 Scituate High School yearbook. (Click for full-size view.)
On their lone 45, the Mystic Five from Hope, R.I., (part of Scituate) showcase their adeptness at tackling both the quintessential New England moody jangler and the struttin' instro. Luckily for us, they waxed two ace sides as the only proof of their existence. "It Doesn't Matter" was compiled on the New England Teen Scene Vol. 1 LP back in 1983.

The band was formed in 1965 by Michael Moan (drums) and Alan Cloutier (vocals), who at the time were playing in a band called The Probes in West Warwick along with Tom Jorgensen (bass). Moan and Cloutier found 14-year-old lead guitarist Ricky Haslam, and the Five was rounded out with rhythm guitarist Joe Maraia. A recent transfer to the Scituate school system, Maraia was hired on the spot in the locker room after basketball practice when he announced he was selling his amp since he couldn't find anybody interested in playing!

All members were students at Scituate High School; Cloutier and Moan graduated in 1966 and the rest of the band in 1967. A popular combo, the Mystic Five won four out of five of the early battle of the bands contests throughout the state. They played mostly covers including many Rolling Stones songs. During school vacation in February 1966, the Five piled into a car and drove 100 miles south to Wallingford, Conn., on a cold, rainy Sunday morning. The destination was Syncron Studios (which later became Trod Nossel) to lay down tracks for a 45. Mike Moan's older brother financed the recording. Al Cloutier remembers: "We paid him back at about a nickel on the dollar from our record sales out of our trunk at shows. He lost money on that one." The session was performed "off the books" at the studio by a couple of engineers looking to make a few extra bucks. (This explains why the Mystic Five tapes did not turn up at Trod Nossel when recordings were being excavated for the "Don't Press Your Luck!" retrospective LP.) The band actually put the finishing touches on the original tunes — with Al writing the lyrics to "It Doesn't Matter" — over the course of the car ride. In all, five songs were laid down: the two tracks from the single; "Just Like Me" by Paul Revere & The Raiders; "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris; and an original ballad called "All Alone." The tape was recovered and transferred to digital in 2014 — hear all five songs at the bottom of this page.
"With a beat like that, who could sit still?"
The Mystic Five are declared champions at Scituate High School's battle of the bands. The competition included the Wanderers from Scituate and the Druids from Smithfield, R.I. (Click for full-size view.)

In spring 1966, the Mystic Five auditioned for a summer gig in Cape Cod at a Jewish hotel/resort. It was a sweet deal: the band would be put up for the entire summer, provide the entertainment for the teenagers staying at the hotel with their parents, and get paid $200 per member each week. As usual, the crew was chosen — but the deal fell through when the hotel partners got into a disagreement and cancelled the gig altogether.

The Mystic Five also appeared live on the "Dialing For Dollars" television show on WPRI Channel 12. And in true rock and roll fashion, they got suspended for skipping school to tape the episode!

It is important to note that the Mystic Five were part of a vibrant teen music scene, and ran in the same circles as a few bands profiled here on this website. With not much for a school-aged rock and roller to do in rural Hope, R.I., the band hung out in the nearest city, West Warwick — home of the Idols and Satan's Breed. "We all lived in Hope and were a lot closer to and hung out in West Warwick, not Scituate," Al says. "There was a rockin' teen center in West Warwick and that’s where most of us cut our teeth in music … We also knew and competed against the Petrified Forrest on many occasions. They were our neighbors on the other side of town in Coventry." (Cloutier also remembers slightly older Scituate High School students Mark and Eric Sampson, who formed the Act Of Creation and the Buzzards. Watch for a Rip It Up RI entry in the future.)

Sometime in early 1967, Mike Moan left the band and the Mystic Five changed their name to the Questionaires. One impetus of the name change was to end the frustration of being mistaken as a band from nearby Mystic, Connecticut. And moreover, the group would now contain six members.

Mike Moan was replaced by Ray Martin from Coventry, a "wild man," according to Al. "If we had pictures, we probably couldn't post them." (Ray passed away due to a work-related accident in 1968.) As the Questionaires, they also took on Joe Truppi as a second vocalist. Al recalls: "I needed help. I was the only one who could hold a tune (not saying much) and to get to the next level we needed better back-ups and harmonies. Joe fit the bill perfectly. He had a naturally higher voice than me and it worked together well."

Crumpled, but not forgotten: the Questionaires. Front row, left to right: Joe Maraia (rhythm guitar), Joe Truppi (vocals), Rick Haslam (lead guitar) and Tom Jorgensen (bass). Back row: Ray Martin (drums) and Al Cloutier (vocals).
The Questionaires, under the management of overnight WPRO disc jockey Bud Williams, recorded at a studio in Massachusetts (possibly Fall River or the New Bedford/Dartmouth area … says Al, "All I am sure of is that it was in the basement of a little white house on a hill."). In March 1967 the band recorded seven covers including the Searchers "Sugar And Spice," Rolling Stones (Rufus Thomas) "Walking The Dog," Blues Magoos "Ain't Got Nothin' Yet," Young Rascals "You Better Run" and the obligatory "Midnight Hour." The two surprise treats here are crude versions of the Animals covering John Lee Hooker's "I'm Mad Again" and the Warmest Spring's "Hard, Hard Girl." Bud Williams had set them up with New York City producer Warren Schatz (see the Petrified Forrest entry), who provided the sheet music and demo cassette for "Hard, Hard Girl." Schatz came up to Rhode Island and met with them at a rehearsal, as they were covering the song for a possible release on his label, but ultimately the New York recording session never materialized. (Schatz wound up releasing "Hard, Hard Girl" under the band name the Warmest Spring on the Cameo-Parkway label in August 1966, presumably with studio musicians.) Thankfully, Joe Truppi hung onto the 12" acetate that these tunes were pressed up onto — we've added them at the bottom of the page.

Al Cloutier joined the Idols for their last gig in July 1967 before he and Idol leader Bob Antonaccio went into the Navy together the following month. He has been living in the Washington, D.C., area since 1969, his last stop while serving in the Navy. Mike Moan lives in Connecticut and is director of security for a school district, and also has run a karate studio for the past 35 years. Joe Maraia still resides in Rhode Island and owned a convenience store on Thayer Street in Providence for 25 years.

It Doesn't Matter / Walk'n The Nose
Mystic Records
(MR1 / MR2) 1966

Syncron Studios Master Tape (Feb 1966)

It Doesn't Matter

All Alone

Walk'n The Nose

Wipe Out (The Surfaris)

Just Like Me (Paul Revere & The Raiders)

7-song demo LP
Presto Recording Corporation acetate

Recorded 3/5/67 (incorrect year written on the label)

In The Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett)

Sugar And Spice (The Searchers)

Walking The Dog (Rufus Thomas via The Rolling Stones)

Ain't Got Nothin' Yet (The Blues Magoos)

Hard, Hard Girl (The Warmest Spring)

You Better Run (The Young Rascals)

I'm Mad Again (John Lee Hooker via The Animals)


  1. the recording wasn't made in fall river it was dartnouth ma. and thats the one Joe Trippi we records hard hard girl on and our virson of walking the dog Bud Williams made a radio hard copy try reaching Joe at 4012580235 he may have the collectors name or number

  2. My brother n law