Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Kenn Eliner, Roy Chaney, Craig Atkinson,

Sean Byrne, John Michalski)    Double Shot 104

No. 5    October 15, 1966




They only recorded one album and six singles; nationally noted only for the frenzied rave-up and freak out

“Psychotic Reaction.”   But, that was near 50 years ago!    And Count Five are still spoken of  reverently and

adored by legions of garage rock freaks, worldwide.   “Psychotic Reaction” is an ’60s-weekend radio staple;

repeatedly used by movie makers as a time and tone-setter, as in Drugstore Cowboy, and Less Than Zero.


So overly impressed and needy for yet more of their mind­ altered mess of music was rock historian Lester

Bangs that he devoted a whole chapter of his critical tome Carburetor Dung to a factious cut-by-cut review

of Count Five’s non-evistence follow-up album.   Devotees have searched for the band; one published

speculation was that members were incognito in Ireland making rebellious music as Public Foot The

Roman and/or Legover.


Rolling Stone in the ’90s referred to the Count Five as the premiere “psychedelic garage band.”   “A

garage band, well, that we were, said Sean Byrne, the groups’ primary songwriter and vocalist, in an

exclusive interview.  “Psychedelic, I don’t know where they get that. There’s no drug connection in that

song.  That was the furthest thing from my mind.  I was taking a health class–health, you understand–

when the guy sitting next to me gave me the idea for the song.   We were clean college students, we didn’t

do drugs; none of us.   Everybody just assumed that we did, but if drugs were brought out, we’d leave.

‘Psychotic Reaction’ is just about a love that’s gone bad.   Okay?”


Five teens  from San Jose, California–Keno Eliner (b.1948/vocals, harmonica), John “Sean” Byrne (b.

1947/vocals,rhythm guitar), Craig “Butch” Atkinson (b.1947/drums), Roy Chaney (b. 1948/bass) and John

“Mouse” Michalski (b. 1949/lead guitar)–donned Dracula capes and formed the group in the aftershock of

the British Invasion.


“We literally worked out in the garage, until we got good enough for the clubs,” said Bryne.  “It was Roy

and John who first got it together in ’65, with a drummer named Skip Cordell and this piano guy, Phil

Evans.   I had just moved to San Jose from Dublin.   I came over one time when they were practicing and Roy

 let me use his guitar.  We were the Squires, then.   We this local school dances and this club called What’s



Soon, Phil Evans was gone.   “It was a real hassle hauling a hundred pound piano around.”  Then Skip was

gone.  Kenn’s neighbor was Butch Atkinson.   “He could play like Michael Clarke of the Byrds and we had

been writing these Byrd-like things, so he fit right in; besides he had red drums.”


At this point, they became Count Five.   “We had been thinking of band names like the Dave Clark Five.  I

just happened to say Count Five and it stuck.”   Looking for a Count Dracula association, the band would

often appear at concerts and in publicity photos in floor-length capes.  “Those things got in the way when

we were performing.   One, two, three songs later and those things were off.”


Their big breakthrough came by way of a lawman–Lt Robert Podesta, an officer with the San Carlos Police

Department.   He ran a youth club weekends at a place called the Cinnamon Tree.   Mouse and Roy had

been ready to take a walk; the time between gigs seemed to long for their teenage patience to tolerate.


“Once we got connected with the Cinnamon Tree things got smooth.   We were so big there that they did a

full length painting of us on the wall; capes and all.   Primarily, we had girl fans.   I don’t know why but at

the time guys didn’t hang out with us.   After the shows, the girls would come by to talk and request songs.

And ‘Psychotic Reaction’ stood out as everyone’s fave.,” said Byrne.


Kenn’s dad was functioning as the band’s manager.   He was sure that “Psychotic” was a hit to be.   “He told

us that he was gonna get us a record contract in six months and that within ayear we’d have a hit on the

charts.  And that’s just what happened.”


While playing an opening spot for the Dave Clark Five at West Valley College in San Jose, Kenn’s dad

approached KLIV DJ Brian Lord.  Lord liked the act and got them an audition for Irwin Zuckner’s Double

Shot Records.     “Lord got us the shot at it.  Six record companies turned us down; Capitol twice.  ‘There’s

something missing,’ they said.”   Zuckner signed the group and waved “Psychotic Reaction” as their first

release.    The flip side–“They’re Gonna Get You”–was an ode to that terrible  place, the barber shop.

The reaction was immediate–though short-lived.


Word is that Mouse and Roy hated “Psychotic Reaction.”   “Yeah, they were more into the blues and R&B

stuff.     We’d get into fights about doing that song.   Kenn’s dad said that we had to do it twice each show, to

open and to close the set.   And they didn’t want to do it.”


Once on the charts, Zuckner and crew were wanting an albums worth of stuff; and wanting it fast.   “We

had some originals, but they wanted a lot.  They had us holed up in a hotel, in LA, solely to create new

material.   This one time we were sittin’ around and Mr. Ellner yells out, ‘Their coming down over to listen

to what you got.   What’ve you got?’   We had nothin.’   So we faked something on the spot, where I hit these

chords and sang ‘Some nights I’m alone … Some nights I’m alone” Hal [Winn, the producer] comes in and

says, ‘I like it.”‘    That made-up on the spot became “The Morning After” [“B” side to their second single,

“Peace Of Mind”].


“Things just didn’t turn out right for us, says Byrne.  The San Jose News reported and Byrne confirmed that

the band was offered a million dollars to tour, but turned it down to continue their educations.


“We could’ve done the ‘Ed Sullivan Show,’ but they turned us down as too weird.    We could’ve done the

‘Milton Berie Show,’ but nobody wanted to take off a week from school to go there to do this skit he wanted

to do with us.


“We were young.   What did we know,” said Byrne.   “We didn’t get any support, or direction.   The success

caught us off guard.   The album was rushed.   We figured that the engineer, arranger and producer didn’t

know their asses from a hole in the ground.  They wouldn’t let us get controlled feedback or to develop our

sound.   When we weren’t looking they changed everything.   They actually changed the tapes.   Even

‘Psychotic Reaction’ got messed with.  Kenn still feels that it sounds like crap.   None of us liked the album.”


Within 18 months, Mouse and Ron were gone; replacements were temporary and from the SYNDICATE OF

SOUND.   By the close of’ 68, Count Five were reduced to none.  “It got hard, when none of our other singles

got noticed.   We got regular jobs, got married, had kids.”


Due to unrelenting  interest, the Count Five–all original members–in 1986, reformed for their high school’s

20th anniversary reunion.    An album, Psychotic Reunion: Count Five Live!,  soon after was cut and

issued in 1993.