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.