By GREG WILLIAMS
REEDSVILLE — At a time when The Beatles were international stars and had achieved unprecedented levels of critical and commercial success, young Don Kline was just trying to pay for college by playing bass guitar with a local band.
A music student at what was then called Mansfield State College, Kline would return home on weekends, summers, and even weekdays to perform with The Dimensions and The Yellow Brick Road, performing for teen dances and more. late in the bar scene.
“We kicked ass back then” laughs Don, now 73, about his old band days that spanned 1965 to 1970. “The Beatles got us going. It was amazing what happened. There were so many bands that came out of that era. In Mifflin County alone there were The Ivies, Joker’s Wild, The Marauders… there were so many talented bands.
“They were all playing because they liked it, and also because they were making decent money,” he adds. “It was just an amazing time when people loved to dance and listen to music.”
Don’s adventure in local garage bands began in 1965 with his first band, The Dimensions. He formed the band with his cousin, Danny Kline. Don played bass, while Danny was the lead guitarist. Vocalist and lead organist Chet Selfridge and drummer Danny Wilson round out the band members. The four teenagers were from Reedsville.
A hugely popular teenage band, The Dimensions have performed in dances at Kishacoquillas High School, the Old Lewistown High School Cafeteria, the Lewistown YMCA, onstage for John Miller at Kish Park and on the concert stage at Miller Theatre.
Reedsville Youth Park held dances at least once a week and other music competitions. “The place was packed every Tuesday night or any other time there were groups there,” Don remembers.
In 1967, The Dimensions won a Battle of the Bands at Youth Park and were crowned Mifflin County Rock ‘n Roll Champions.
“It was the night I knew something special was happening,” Don says. “There were a few other great Mifflin County bands competing that night. There was so much Mifflin County talent on display over those years.
“We were a good group, but maybe we won having the hometown advantage,” he adds. “The kids at Youth Park that night voted us champions. He just seemed to gel after that.
The Dimensions mostly played local venues at the time since Don was the only one in the band with a driver’s license.
Don graduated from Kish in 1967 and decided to attend Mansfield. The band didn’t miss a beat, especially Don, who was going back and forth according to the band’s performance schedule.
Don thinks the band got even better when Roger Niman joined as lead singer.
“We went to play weekend after weekend, making a lot of money,” Don says.
The group made their first big break when they were discovered by Gene Kaye, a famous DJ from Philadelphia.
“He invited us to play on his huge and famous bandstand Saturday Night Notre Dame in Allentown”, Don explains. “We’ve played live radio on WMRF before, but never on a station as powerful as WODE from Lehigh Valley, 99.9 FM.”
Kaye also helped Allentown band Jay and the Techniques go big, with two hit records and an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. “We were to be his next big discovery,” Don says.
Former publisher Dave Semler followed the band in their performances.
“I was kind of their roadie in those early years,” said Semler, a cousin of Don and a Kish graduate in 1969. “The guys had first-class Fender guitars and amps. Chet was a good lead singer, but when Roger Niman became the new lead singer, the band was just awesome.
Niman was a hugely popular member of the Kish class of 1968, while Wilson and Selfridge were graduates of 1969.
“I remember the trip to Allentown,” Semler adds. “The invitation to play there came when Don’s mother (Aunt Florence) saw Kaye’s name on the back of the Jay and the Techniques album,”Keep the ball rollin.’“She wrote to him asking how new bands could take a break.
Kaye thought The Dimensions had potential, but said the band needed their own music. The covers were great, according to Kaye, but the original music was key to making them successful.
At that time, band members bought sheet music at Frank’s Music Shop or Kauffman’s Music and Furniture, Semler says.
More likely, they listened to 45s over and over to figure out lyrics and guitar chords.
“Today, lyrics and chords are free everywhere on the Internet. How to play guitar licks are available on the internet instructional videos… free”, he says.
This was not the case in the 60s and 70s.
“Though I doubt bands today are having more fun than those high school kids in The Dimensions or the young adults in The Yellow Brick Road,” Semler adds.
Semler recalls other milestones, including a New Year’s appearance at Green Gables.
“One of our secondary school teachers booked the group for the Armagh-Brown Kish Alumni Association New Years party that year. Although alcohol was served, it was basically a private party… so the appearance of the group was not an issue. It was the band’s first time playing for adult audiences rather than schoolchildren. We really enjoyed seeing the adults having a good time,” he says.
“Don and I drove through State College, Philipsburg, Punxsutawney and Altoona looking for potential bookings,” Semler adds. “That’s how the Philipsburg appearances came about. We searched high and low for potential reservations.
However, tragedy struck when Niman was killed in a freak car accident on his way home from a performance at a festival held behind the Brooklyn Fire Company.
“We still played many gigs, but it was never the same without Roger,” Don remembers. “We have lost a great singer and musician.”
The Dimensions broke up the following spring after Selfridge and Wilson graduated and went to college.
Follow the yellow brick road
Norm Garlock and his friend Jeff Maurer formed The Yellow Brick Road and asked the Klines and drummer Doug Myers to join. The group has changed members over the years. Keith Bailey, a 1969 Kish graduate who played trumpet, joined. Myers was replaced by Gus Haake; and Gary Starr joined as keyboardist after organist Brian Wagner left.
Maurer was also drafted and had to go to Vietnam soon after. Billy Zeigler also filled in when Danny or Don Kline couldn’t do a gig. The Yellow Brick Road picked up where The Dimensions left off.
“I was rocking and loving it again” Don said of the group, who rode around in a signature black hearse with his name written on the side in big yellow letters. “We made a lot of money. Once our group rented the Youth Park. Over a thousand children showed up that night to dance to our music.
“I paid for my university studies” he said, thinking back to his band days. “That garage behind our group photo was a place where we practiced a lot. Kids from Lumber City and the surrounding area came to dance in the driveway while we practiced.
End of the road
The dream ended for good in 1970 when The Yellow Brick Road broke. He turned out to be a bit more involved with that. Don, who had changed his major from music to special education, graduated early and got a teaching job. He went on to play with a band in Mansfield, White Spider Blues.
The U.S. Army also planned to recruit him, but he got a deferral that allowed him to finish the school year. Before the Army could deliver his papers, Don enlisted in the Air Force.
Making music after all these years
Don, who now lives in Nippenose Valley near the Jersey Shore, still plays in a band and performs occasionally. In 1984 band members The Dimensions and The Yellow Brick Road got together for a reunion of sorts.
“It was a great ride with both groups,” says Don. “We played a lot of neat places. The Allentown show was one of the biggest gigs we’ve ever had. We were playing in very big outlets. There were a lot of good memories. »
Don picked up a guitar for another band performance in 2016 and played at nursing homes in the Williamsport area in 2019 with a new band, Kindred Spirits.
“I had so much fun playing music again and making people happy” Don says. “It’s very nice to play for residents of nursing homes and bring them a little joy. After playing a song, a lady sitting in a wheelchair said to me, ‘It was the song of my husband and my favourite. This nice lady made my day.