Teenage garage bands in Portville have been a rare entity over the years. But
during the late 70s, one group of rockers took it to the next level in town.
In 1977, five young dudes formed Zeus, a collective vision of Mark Bowen,
Todd Reynolds, Pres Van Curen, and the DeAngelo brothers, Roger and Don. Originally dubbed The Obi Dirt Band,
practices were held in a variety of settings and focused on cover tunes of BTO, Kiss, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath,
and other classic rockers.
Their first break came at the 1977 Homecoming Dance, when they took the stage for
an impromptu rendition of "Takin' Care of Business" during Freeway's intermission. Young girls swooned and fainted,
as lead singer Donald shook his hips and pointed to the crowd. With Bowen on rhythm guitar, Todd on lead, Roger on bass,
and Preston manning percussion, Zeus soon became local heroes.
Dozens of roadies and fans jumped on the bandwagon, and the boys began playing gigs
at various parties in the area...Rocks parties, blowouts at the Scout Camp, and others. After several months, Greg Nothem
replaced Donald, and they changed their name to Starlift. Somewhere along the line, they added Jim Wilson's
guitar and voice
The garage practices continued well but sporadically, and the group took first place
at the 1978 Gong Show in the school auditorium, playing straight-ahead rock. The crowd shouted for an encore, and
the band obliged with a Kiss tune.
Also in 1978, Starlift headlined a dance in the gym, a concert that would prove to
be the zenith of their career together. Soon, the band broke up, and members drifted into adulthood.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Bowen formed a new band called 305,
fusing tunes from the past 4 decades and performing at numerous local bars and music joints.
The Jordan Family Singers
Brooklyn Street brothers Jerry, Jeff (pictured above), and John Jordan started playing together
at a young age. By the time Jeff graduated in 1979, they had formed a classic garage band that occasionally crossed
paths with Starlift.
After the band officially broke up, Jerry launched a solo career that eventually landed him
in gigs throughout the Portville region. He continues to perform in local venues.
Pan-Con was a local filming crew and comedy troupe that accidently stumbled into the
music scene. Created by Jerry Pancio and Boomer Connell in 1978, Pan-Con's first 8mm film was one of the first
music videos ever produced and entitled The Beatles Film, a lip-synced version of "Get Back".
Their second project was a silent film called Project Tigger and had no musical
accompaniment, but the group decided to tap into Pancio's guitar talents for their next hit motion picture.
"Yes, I'm a Possum" featured a number of original tunes, including the title cut,
"I'm Here in Vietnam", and "It Was So Cold".
The crew's final 8mm film, 1979's Nova Scotia, produced one of Pan-Con's
most beloved songs, "Macbeth", which accompanied the movie's intro, A Date to the Prom.
Several instrumental pieces also featured the talents of other Pan-Con members and
friends from the music world.
During the 80s, Pan-Con moved into the videotape universe, and continued to expand
their musical horizons. Unfortunately, the crew slowly dissipated and almost disappeared into retirement.
In the year 2000, as 70's nostalgia penetrated the nation, Connell rescued the mothballed
tapes and sounds of the poor old filming crew and produced a music CD of Pan-Con's Greatest Hits. The digitally
mastered project was critically acclaimed but a financial disaster, and only 10 units were sold worldwide.
Undaunted, Boomer and Jerry returned to the studio in 2001 and digitized Pan-Con's
infamous concert in California, putting out Pan-Con at the Hollywood Bowl. Another technological success, the
CD was given out free of cost, almost bankrupting the company.
Resisting the urge to rest on their laurels, Pan-Con has launched into the World Wide
Web with a renewed vision. They hope to take advantage of the new downloading services, spread their artistic creations
in a marketable way, finally become stars beyond Portville, and take over society.
Jerry Pancio (of Pan-Con fame) was voted "Most Creative" among the PCS Class of 79ers for a good
reason. As a young resident of the Haskell Parkway, Jerry was bred in a haven for budding musicians, which also included
singer-songwriter Max Kayes, trumpet man Herb "Alpert" Todd, and others. But his biggest influences were his older brothers,
who fed him a king's portion of Beatles, Stones, and Hendrix.
It was Pancio's brilliance that propelled Pan-Con into movie and music fame during high school.
It was his guitar and access to Olean's G+G Music Store that enabled the film crew to expand their horizons.
After graduating from PCS, Pancio continued to hone his musical craft, helping to found another
local band, The Phones. Taking cues from the growing punk scene, the group produced their first and only album
in the early 80s.
The Phones were one of the few bands to shed the classic rock dinosaur that ruled the region, opting
for a new wave sound that was fast and fresh.
Jerry moved to St. Louis in the late 80s in order to be closer to the jazz and blues atmosphere
along the Mississippi. There, he joined a string of musicians and bands, performing gigs throughout the Midwest.
In 2001, Pancio reunited with Boomer Connell to record and produce Pan-Con at the Hollywood
Bowl. The duo hope to collaborate on future projects for the rest of their lives.
THE ST. LOUIS QUARTET
Another band arose from the 1970's Pan-Con music scene and consisted of
Mike Milne, Boomer Connell, Moke Jaekle, and Dave Rutterman. Around 1983, Boomer and Moke finally mastered three chords
on the guitar and without any planning, they started showing off their talents at various drinking parties throughout the
During the 80s, the unnamed foursome never officially practiced or rehearsed, but
by showing up at the same parties on a regular basis, each of the boys eventually became quite familiar with the various
drinking tunes that one of the others had introduced.
By 1993, a 10-song repetoire had evolved between them, and they decided to officially
call themselves The St. Louis Quartet, while visiting St. Louis together.
"I hitchhiked all the way from Kentucky to St. Louis that weekend," noted Milne at
a recent party in Portville. "We partied continuously, and we struck up the band numerous times. I didn't want
to go away from the trip without establishing some sort of formality and purpose to our musical leanings. I think Rutterman
came up with the name. Since then, we've been hauling the guitars to special events, waiting to see what happens," he
Rutterman has been quoted as saying, "Since so many people were coming up to us and
asking us to play some tunes, we saw the need to organize a little more. We still don't practice, and Mike and I just
pretend to play instruments - picking up fruit and other objects that are lying around. Our main role is to sing back-up
to Boomer and Moke."
Class of 79 graduate, Tim Griffin, started picking up the banjo and whiskey jug at a young
age, up on Lillibridge.
During high school, he became quite proficient in using both to entertain small crowds of
kin folk and neighbors, eventually adopting the Banjo Griff moniker.
After graduation, Griff mosied out of the valley, tackling gigs throughout the town.
Encouraged by family and friends to take a stab at the Nashville scene, he made several trips to Tennessee, where he spread
the news about Portville.
Unimpressed with the bright lights of the big city and New Country sounds, Griff headed back
home to stay.
The Boomer Connell Project
In one final (and futile) attempt to prove to his Jr. High band teacher and bandmates that
he is not a complete failure as a musician, Boomer Connell called in a couple of favors from Jerry Pancio and Chuck Berry
to form The Boomer Connell Project.
Back in 1974, Connell did not do well as a percussion student in the PCS Jr. High Band.
"He wasn't very good," said fellow Jr. High drummer Kathy Banton. "We always put him on bass drum
for the school concerts. He couldn't handle snare. You should have seen him try to do a 17 stroke roll. It was quite sad."
Today the newly formed group features Connell on drums, Chuck Berry on guitar & vocals
and Jerry Pancio on fuzz bass.
"I'm not happy with being forced to play fuzz bass," said a pissed-off Jerry Pancio. "I'm a
guitar player, man. Boomer not only told me that I had to play bass, but it had to be fuzz bass! I haven't heard a fuzz bass
since The Beatles' Rubber Soul album! This is f----ing bull----!" Pancio then threw and broke a full bottle of Jack
Daniels against the wall and was quickly escorted out of the interview by his handlers.
"What the hell am I supposed to do?..." responded Connell, "...tell Chuck Berry that he is going
to have play bass? I don't think so. And as far as the fuzz bass edict, I happen to be a big fuzz bass fan. It's that
simple. If and when Jerry forms The Jerry Pancio Project, then he can play whatever he wants. I would hope it would
be the fuzz bass though, but that will be up to him. Yeah, you gotta love that fuzz bass."
When asked what kind of music the group plays? Connell said, "Oh, we play a lot Chuck Berry music...
only with some fuzz bass worked in there."