The Electras began in 1961 when Ely, MN transplant Bill Bulinski put an ad in the Ely Memorial High School paper that read, "Attention all bass players, please call Bill Bulinski. He wants to start a band." Bill and his brother Earl had began playing guitar in 1957 when Bill was ten years old and Earl was 8 years old, with Bill lifting rock melodies and chord progressions off 45 rpm records by the time he was 11.
The first to answer the ad was Gary Omerza, who was not a bass player, but an accordion player. Bill and his brother accepted Omerza's offer to joing anyway, ultimately rounding out the band with Fred Godec playing upright bass. They began playing at John's Bar in Ely, performing two-steps, polkas, waltzes, and fast songs that had a rock and roll flavor. The gig ended when the local priest complained about teenagers playing at a bar. The band's next gig was for junior high kids on Halloween, 1962 at the John F. Kennedy school cafeteria. The band had made personnel changes by this time, and now featured Bill on lead guitar, Earl on rhythm guitar, Len Erickson on drums, Gary Omerza on bass, and a female singer - Kaye Spalj, and were playing Venture and Brenda Lee songs.
The Electras went through several more personnel changes during the next few years, with Jerry Fink taking over the drums from Erickson in 1964 and Tim Elfving joing as lead singer in 1965. This became the classic and best-known line-up of the band. Additionally, they had hired a manager and Bill had convinced Gary Omerza to learn and play the the Farfisa organ, allowing the band to incorporate songs such as those by The Animals and Paul Revere and The Raiders, who relied heavily on the organ.
By the fall of 1965, Chuck Novak, the band's manager, had contacted Dove Recording Studio in St. Louis Park to line the Electras up with writer/producer, Warren Kendrick after he had agreed with the band that they needed to cut a record. Kendrick listened to the band, loved them, and started writing songs for them. The band recorded "'Bout My Love," which spent a week at #39 on the top 40, then quickly disappeared. Undaunted, Kendrick signed them to his Scotty label, and his "This Weeks Children" went to number 12 on WDGY in Minneapolis, MN. Their third release, "Dirty Old Man", with its menacing unison Fuzz guitar and Farfisa Compact Organ lines, became a regional hit and would be their best selling single, selling about 6,000 copies locally.
Unfortunately, it would also be the beginning of the end. First Bill Bulinski was drafted, and by the end of July 1966, he had left for the Army, while manager Chuck Novak had left for the Navy. Bill was replaced by Ely native Harvey Korkk, and Gary did double duty, managing their bookings as well as playing in the band. The fall of 1966 found Kendrick shopping around the country for a national label for "Dirty Old Man." Kendrick had numerous offers, but all wanted publishing rights to the songs, something that was common at the time, but which he refused to do. After "Dirty Old Man." made the Billboard charts, Columbia records contacted him and negotiations began. A deal was finally struck with Kendrick keeping his publishing rights and recieving some front money. But this was followed by a one-two punch that ended the Electras career.
First, Kendrick discovered that the name "Electras" had been copyrighted by a prep school band called "The Electras" who had pressed 500 copies of a "vanity" album in 1961 (and featured bassist John Kerry, who would go on to be Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry.) Kendrick changed the band's name to "'Twas Brillig" without even discussing it with the band, and it was under that name that Columbia put "Dirty Old Man." out on one of their subsidiary labels, Date Records (the second incarnation of the label which had been relaunched just that February, and best known for Peaches & Herb and The Zombies.) Date obtained the masters for two hits they had in the Minneapolis area, "This Week's Children" and "Dirty Ol' Man," putting them back-to-back as Date 1550 in February, 1967. The label didn't put much effort in promoting it, and shortly after, lead singer Elfving was drafted, ending both Columbia's interest in the band, and the Electras broke up.
On September 18, 2010, the Electras were inducted into the Mid America Music Hall of Fame.
The Electras play "Action Woman" at Dee's Bar in Ely, MN August 28, 2010
"Listening to these tracks from 1966-67 by Minnesota's Electras is a little like dipping your finger in water then putting it directly in a wall socket. This stuff is shot through with enough electricity to cause your hair to stand on end and your toe to tap uncontrollably. Recorded at Dove Studios in Minneapolis under the auspices of Warren Kendrick, these ten tracks show the Upper Midwestern group was way ahead of it's time." - Radio host, producer, musician and Duluth News Tribune critic John Ziegler. Includes six bonus tracks by The Greaseballs, Bill Bulinksi's surf rock band with a contemporary edge, including two unreleased songs.
CD Price: $14.97