West Michigan Mid-Sixties Bands


From Grand Rapids

From Dennis Smiertka of the Chentelles (November 2001):

Your site was forwarded to my by my cousin in California. My name is Dennis Smiertka I was a member of the Chentelles band from Fennville, MI. The picture you have includes most of the original members. From right to left: William Dalton (organ and vocals), Dennis Smiertka (accordian and vocals), Gary Adkins (drums), Bruce Smiertka (guitar), and Mark Adams (bass guitar). Missing from this photo is John Willerton (guitar).

We had a great time playing high school dances and frat parties at Western Michigan University. My brother Bruce was the youngest member of the band. He started at age 14.

When we recorded our record at Fenton, we were naive enough that we had not timed either song. Time as it turned out was over 5 minutes long in its orginal state. The studio cut about a minute out, so there is a noticeable skip near the end of the song.

Only 200 hundred records were ever pressed. I have record collectors calling me about once a year looking for copies. The last offer I had was $500.00 for a copy. The funny thing is that I don't even own a copy of our record.

Interview with Dennis Smiertka of the Chentelles

The Chentelles' "Be My Queen" is one of the most loved songs of the garage rock era. The scream in that song that fades into the organ is one of my personal favorite moments in any recording EVER.

What were the ages of the members of the group and did you all go to the same school?

We were all students at Fennville High School except for my brother Bruce who at the time we formed a group was still in Junior High. None of us could drive at the time we orginally put the band together. Our parents had to drive us to the various practice sites and dances that we played at.

When did you get together? And when did you break up? Why?

The group formed in early 1966 went through a couple of personnel changes and became the group that recorded the record in 1967. We played together until 1968 when we broke up. Why--differenced of views, at that age we got tired of each other and our individualities and two of the members graduated in 1968 Dale Adkins (I called him Gary in my note yesterday) and John Willerton. We tried some new personnel, but it wasn't the same.

Who paid for recording your single? How much did it cost? How long did it take?

Our parents paid for the recording beyond what we had in the band's kitty. Our parents were very supportive of the group. Even though they didn't like the music we played, they liked the effort and it kept all of us out of trouble.

Why did you call yourselves "The Chentelles"? Who came up with it?

Bill Dalton came up with the name as I recall. It was just a good sounding name and similar to so many others of the time.

What songs did you guys play at shows? Who were your favorite artists? Were there any other West Michigan bands that you liked?

We played all of the normal stuff for the time. Louie Louie, several of the animals numbers, beatles songs, stones, the typical garage band songs. Our list would cover 2 hours after that it was repeat time. No particular favorite that I can reall.

What are the members doing now? Are you in touch with anybody?

We had a reunion last summer at Lake Michigan it was great. Bill Dalton is an editor for the Kansas City Star. I am a Farm Bureau Insurance agent in Allegan. Bruce Smiertka is the farm manager for Moneys Mushrooms at Brighton Indiana. Dale Adkins is an engineer for the state of Michigan in Lansing. John Willerton lives in Wisconsin not sure of his proffession, and we have lost track of Mark Adams.

Did you record anything other than the Time/Be My Queen single?

Be My Queen/Time was our only recorded effort.

Are there other photos of the band?

Actually I have no photos of the band. At our reunion no one could come up with any photos.

I've heard that you originally had a girl drummer. Is that true?

Yes, when we orginally formed the group our drummer was Barb Overhiser. She bowed out fairly soon as she was uncomfortable being on stage and playing rock & roll

Any good "rock and roll" stories?

As I mentioned yesterday we played high school dances and Western Michigan Frat parties. Our parents would take us to the frat house and help us set up then they would leave until we were done. Remeber we were all underage, playing at frat parties where the beer flowed freely. We would have to husstle our stuff outside after the gig because if our parents saw the condition of the house and residents we would have been all done. At one of the parties Bill Daltons dad car was creamed by a drunken guest. What an introduction to college life!

Last updated on May 17, 2004.

This is the long lost Mark Adams of the Chentelles, co-writer and who did the scream in Be My Queen. About a month ago I got in touch with Bill Dalton, Sr. by phone and got the phone numbers of Bill Dalton, Jr. I tried several times by phone and text but it was about a week later when Bill, Jr. finally called me back because of service issues for his cell. We have talked several times since and I tracked down Dennis' number and talked to him for the first time in like 46 years just a week ago. I have Bruce's number but have yet to call him and Dennis said he works very long hours.

A true story that was not revealed by Dennis is that I left the band and left Michigan about a week after we recorded at Fenton Records which was Thursday, January 19,1967, because my dad was transferred back to the Chicago area. We moved right in the middle of the blizzard that hit Michigan, Indiana and the Chicago area with 26" of snow.
Another true story which I need confirmation from other band members on is that in the summer of 1966 we were the front band for Tommy James and the Shondells in Saugatuck. Bill,Jr. didn't remember that.
I have some original newspaper photos of the band when Barbara Overhiser was our drummer in both photos.
As for "The Scream", Bill,Jr. says it is one of the 3 great screams in rock and roll history-Roger Daltry of the Who (I forget the name of the song), John Lennon on Revolution, and me on Be My Queen.{Pretty good company,huh?) Bill,Jr. also says it was my idea for the scream.
I can be contacted at my email address which is SirScream67@gmail.com. I have other Chentelles info to share if interested.
P.S. I am also looking for an original copy(where they spelled my name, WRONG)of the Fenton 45
and a copy of the album Back From the Grave Vol.3.

Posted by: Mark Adams at August 23, 2013 07:13 AM

One other thing I forgot real quickly-Tom Wolters,the manager of the Chentelles is deceased I am sorry to report (as told to me by Bill,Jr.)

Posted by: Mark Adams at August 23, 2013 07:35 AM

Correction: That is TERRY not Tom Wolters. Forgive me.

Posted by: Mark Adams at August 24, 2013 06:20 AM

I found a NEW copy of Back From the Grave Vol.3 on E-bay this morning and ordered it, so the only thing I really am looking for now is a copy of the original Fenton 45 of Time/Be My Queen which I know is very scarce. Some of the copies are in the Chicago area which I gave away when I moved back in January 1967.. I know Dennis is also looking for a copy and we discussed an idea that may work and we may do together.

Posted by: Mark Adams at August 24, 2013 06:07 PM

Well here we go again! I was checking out Scream Loud!!! The Fenton Story to see if the flip side of Be My Queen, "Time" was on the album, which it was not. I found the track listings for the two CD set and BMQ was track 8 on CD 1. Here is the MAJOR problem I have and I don't even know who to blame. They list the composer of the song as M.L. Adems and the song length as 2:08 instead of the correct 2:05 on the Fenton label. It was one thing to get my name spelled wrong on the original Fenton 45 but the NO research was done for this project. Also, does anyone know if this works was produced by Tim Warren of Crypt Records. I am going to do some more research on this.

Posted by: Mark Adams at August 27, 2013 09:35 AM

I received my Brand New, still in plastic copy of BFTG Vol.3 on Friday and I was VERY disappointed that the pic on the back is NOT the ORIGINAL Chentelles that even did the recording at Fenton Records on January 19,1967. I am not in the pic, another bass player who replaced me is, and John Willerton, guitar player is not in pic either. The Chentelles were a 6-piece band when we recorded at Fenton. I just wanted to set the record straight.

Posted by: Mark A. Adams at September 1, 2013 09:32 AM

This is a warning to ANY AND ALL 60's garage bands that recorded at Fenton Records. The Chentelles were told by Bob Irwin of Sundazed Records that he would like to reissue Be My Queen on their label back in the late summer early fall of this year. I was warned that Bob Irwin was VERY slow in his process of getting a record out. I exchanged several e-mails with him and sent him one of my last ones on December 11th wishing him and his family Happy Holidays and which was nearly TWO months from our previous e-mail exchanges on October 16th and which I think was being VERY patient on my part. It was certainly NOT Bob Irwin keeping his word to me since he had stated to me in his last e-mail that he was in the middle of his year end but would get back with me at the beginning of the next week which was just a few days away. To me, and I think quite logically anybody, this implied that his schedule would slow down enough for us to further discuss the license agreement and the royalties and all that would be legally involved for the rerelease of Be My Queen. In his response back to my December 11th e-mail, he accused me of wanting "FAST" answers to my questions, said he was still in the middle of closing his year end, that he had not done ANY license agreements and that he thought it would be best to just drop the rerelease of Be My Queen. He is making ME and THE CHENTELLES pay when in FACT he is the one that did NOT keep HIS word. I do NOT take being falsely accused lightly and I do not think anyone else in their right mind would either. The crazy thing is that in ALL of his e-mails to me he NEVER ONCE gave me any kind of time frame for how long ANY of this would take, which I think is ONLY being up front and above board about your full intentions. Number one is that waiting virtually TWO months for someone to get back to you when it was suppose to be ONLY a FEW DAYS as per HIS words is nothing but a LIE. And it is my belief and the way I was brought up that a liar is usually a thief or crook also. My only purpose in ALL of this is to WARN other bands of all of this and how Bob Irwin tries to make ALL of this MY fault which it definitely is NOT. I would certainly caution anyone in a similar situation with Bob Irwin of Sundazed Records to definitely beware. Personally, I will NOT do business with anyone who in my opinion is the "slime of the earth" and CANNOT be trusted. I would be glad to discuss this further with anyone who is interested and I can be reached at sirscream67@gmail.com.

Posted by: Mark A. Adams at December 13, 2013 01:11 PM
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