Jazz, rock, folk, heavy metal, punk, classical, a cappella. In the 1970s, live music flourished on the Hill. Students formed all-Hamilton, all-Kirkland, and intercampus bands, many of which performed at a variety of frat parties, outdoor festivals, and other local venues.
Rogue formed toward the end of the 1970s, just as the two colleges were merging. The band included Hamilton musicians and Kirkland’s Rene Don.
Here is their story, as recalled by Rogue’s guitarist Brian Middleton.
Rogue was a motley cross-campus crew of rock & rollers who flourished at the tail end of Hamilton/Kirkland’s funky, tumultous 1970s. Members included 1979 graduates Kevin Barry (vocals), Bob Kinkel (keyboards) and Brian Middleton (guitar), along with 1980 grads Rene Don (vocals), Tom Porter (bass), and Dave Scofield (drums).
Although it lasted just one year, Rogue was the final stage of a three-year metamorphosis. The organic, cage-free eggs were laid in ’76-’77 when Brian and Tom played with Land’s End, a beatnik outfit with strong ties to the Keehn Co-op, featuring gifted singer-songwriter Robin Wright and the impeccably hip German Bosquez on vocals, live wire Vince Leone on drums, and future Grammy-winner Bill Harley on acoustic guitar and Vox organ.
Our next larval phase was Cruel Shoes (’77-’78). German gave way to Kevin, a golden-throated tenor already legendary for his portrayal of Jesus in a campus Godspell production, while Bob (now famous as a founding member of Trans-Siberian Orchestra) not only continued the band’s tradition of keyboardists who would go on to have their own Wikipedia pages, but also brought powerful musical chops and technical know-how to the mix.When Robin left the Hill in 1978 to follow her muse at Berklee College of Music in Boston, she was thoughtful enough to recommend Rene as her successor. Rene brought a new, urban sensibility to the band, with a powerful, poignant voice that recalled Carole King and Laura Nyro.
With Dave’s arrival, Rogue was complete. His tight, nimble groove made us a group capable of playing Steely Dan or “Wipeout” with equal aplomb, and his clear acrylic drum kit was the coolest thing any of us had ever seen.
Naturally, most of our gigs were frat parties. We were regulars in the smoky, sweaty depths of Psi U’s Gote Room, and survived a Chi Psi gin & juice where we used rolled-up batts of carpet as levees to protect the equipment from the flood tide of spilled cocktails.
We did manage to find off-campus gigs, once making it as far as the Four Acres, a regional club a few miles northwest of Utica, where we were starstruck at the chance to walk the floorboards that had hosted Elvis Costello and the Ramones.
But our high water mark was our final show, the 1979 Commons Carnival. On a supernaturally lovely May afternoon, we set up at the south end of the central Hamilton quad. Rene had recently sustained a broken foot, and took the stage on crutches, but nothing could cripple the vibe of the day. Sporting freshly minted “Love a Rogue” T-shirts, we presided over an epic bacchanalia. Beer flowed freely, peasant skirts twirled gracefully, and Bob’s “Voice of the Theatre” speakers flung our sound all the way to Burke Library and back, until the final strains of “School’s Out” died in the late spring dusk.
And that was that.
Come hear Rogue play together again on the Hill at the 2012 Bicentennial Reunions on Saturday, June 2, from 10pm to 2am at—where else?—Commons.
Click on the links below to see more images of Rogue and to listen to their renditions of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, “Secret Agent Man,” and other tunes.
by Brian Middleton H’79 and Rene Don K’80, with Jo Pitkin K’78
In subsequent posts, we hope to feature Hamilton/Kirkland musical groups of the ’70s, including Steaknite, New Breed, Special K, and Uhuru Players. Contact email@example.com to contribute recollections, photos, audio clips, or memorabilia.