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Beyond a Song (Series)

Produced by ISOAS Media

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Beyond a Song: Rex Bundy (Part 2)

From ISOAS Media | Part of the Beyond a Song series | 01:00:00



Beyond a Song host Rich Reardin interviews Chicago singer/songwriter Rex Bundy from the 79's progressive rock band 'Gabriel Bondage'.


The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show, and that was the end of any ambitions I might have had to become a cowboy, a fireman, or soldier. It was of course Sunday night, and my brother, three sisters, and I sat on the floor around the roasting pan of buttered popcorn that was a weekend night ritual in our house. My father, during one of his rare appearances in Chicago, sat on the couch with my mother. He wasn't around much when I was a kid. He spent his time in Southern Indiana, trying to establish a farm he was buying from his mother.

As I was watching the television screen, I was keenly aware of the effect the band was having upon the audience. It was having the same effect on my sisters. This set my imagination and ego on fire; it spoke directly to my unquenchable thirst for attention and approval. Thank God, this was before the advent of the televangelist or I might have gone in that direction.

The first stumbling block that I found in my path to fame and fortune was that I couldn't play an instrument, but I didn't let a little thing like that, plus the fact that I had absolutely no ability, sway me in the least. I took my life savings of $60 and went downtown to the pawnshops in search of my future.

In my innocence, I reasoned that the only musical instrument that required no talent or ability was the drums. So with money in hand I bought a bass drum that sported an adjustable rod that extended from the top and held a small tarnished and battered cymbal. In addition, there was a matching snare drum on a floor stand. I took my prize home on the bus and proceeded to bang away happily to the horror of the neighbors.

Not too long after this my father announced our permanent move to Indiana. I was devastated; this, or so I thought at the time, was the end of my musical career, not to mention civilization itself as I knew it. I had put together a band of neighborhood guys and we were attracting the attention of the neighborhood girls. We weren't any good at all but hey, we were attracting the attention of the neighborhood girls. In Chicago I was a star, in southern Indiana, I knew from the infrequent visits to my father's farm, I would be a hayseed farm-boy. I pictured myself in bib overalls and a straw hat, complete with a sprig of wild grass dangling from the side of my mouth.

The one bright spot about the whole affair was that the night before we moved my father agreed to drive us all out to the airport to see the Beatles land for their first concert in Chicago. Totally out of character for him but a vivid memory of mine none the less.

It was about two in the morning and so we were slightly surprised to find ourselves surrounded by an estimated 2000 Beatles fans barely controlled by about 20 of Chicago's finest. The plane landed and taxied to within 50 yards of the fence, but then just sat there on the tarmac. The fans were close to frantic, the cops had their hands full.

Eventually four long black limos pulled up to the planes' ramp and the Beatles ran down the steps and jumped into their respective cars and the caravan began to pull away. The cops went down...the fence went down...and the chase was on.

Herded back to our car by my father, we started back to the apartment to hook up the moving trailer in preparation for the next days' trip. While stopped at a red light however, I looked over at a Yellow cab idling next to us and saw the Beatles crowded into the back seat. George Harrison looked at me through the window and I waved, he returned my wave. I wonder if any of those 2000 kids ever found out that they hadn't really seen the Beatles at all. It had been a ruse.

The next day, after my sister came home from the Beatles concert (I never bothered to get a ticket, due to jealousy I threw my allegiance to the Fab four's competition at the time, the Dave Clark Five), we set out for the end of the Earth.

In Mitchell Indiana we moved into a restaurant on the highway, out in the country. The family lived in a huge back storage room. My mother ran the restaurant and my father worked on his farm. I eventually got a proper set of drums and started a band with some school friends called Unit 6. We even wrote and recorded a 45 that we had absolutely no idea what to do with.

Eventually our lead singer quit which was a shame cause we all thought he looked like Mick Jagger. He couldn't sing but he looked cool as hell. I started singing and our friend Darrel took over my drum kit, and this was the incarnation that finally went into the recording studio.

It was one of those package deals. For a fee you were given 8 hours of studio time and 500 copies of a pressed 45. The package was paid for by our rhythm guitar player, so the copies were his and I think he believed that this was the start of his music business empire.

He got airplay for us once on the local radio station, and sold 10 copies to a guy who maintained a route of local juke boxes. So I got to hear myself on the radio for the first time (and last time with Unit 6) at the tender age of 15. I did get to hear it on the juke box at the local pizza parlor however, and I'm sure the juke distributor thought he had a local hit based on the coin me and my band mates and friends fed into his machines.

After high school I eventually went back to the drums and played with various pick up bands in the area to earn a meager living. I became interested in song writing about this time as well but soon realized that it was difficult to write a tune on the drums so I picked up the guitar. “Island”, “long Time”, and “Babylon” were written in this time period.

Once I determined that Capital records wasn't going to discover me while playing country covers in Southern Indiana, I moved back to Chicago, and my old neighborhood of Bridgeport.

It was here, while playing around the neighborhood on my 12 string guitar that I met an extraordinary bass player named Tony Stram. I was playing “long time”and he joined in, naturally and seemingly effortlessly applying the bass part that eventually made it onto vinyl. Needless to say that level of musicianship blew me away and I knew that someday I would be in a band with him. You have to keep in mind that there were no trained musicians whatsoever in my past. Everyone I had known up to that point was self-taught.

Two years later, out of desperation, I placed an ad in the Chicago Tribune looking for a manager or producer. I got a call from Perry Johnson, who expressed interest in hearing the tunes I'd written thus far.

Perry had played in a band that had, eight years earlier, warmed up for the Dave Clark Five and others. Now however, he had discovered one of the two secrets to success in the music business. I used to think that the primary requisite was talent, I was wrong. Talent helps of course, but more important is the quality of persistence combined with the realization that this was the music business. How many great bands and songs have fallen by the wayside because the business was not handled correctly, Gabriel Bondage among them.

Perry, with the financial support of his family, had incorporated a holding company by the name of Saturn industries. It's immediate subsidiaries were the Amalgamated Tulip Corporation, a publishing company, and the Dharma Records label . At the time I met him he had accomplished his first release by Andrew Blueblood McMahon, a side man in Howling Wolf's band, and was finishing up a rock album by Ken Little.

I met Perry in his cluttered office, located above a bank in Niles, Illinois. I played him every song I had written up to that point and every scrap of song that I was working on at the time. He liked what he'd heard enough to arrange an audition at Streeterville recording studios in an attempt to get studio time fronted to me as a single artist. They declined, at which time Perry suggested that I form a band and get back to him. I was dismissed, and no doubt immediately forgotten.

I placed another ad in the Tribune looking for musicians interested in forming a band. The ad was answered by a guitarist named Larry Biernacki, and a saxophonist named Bill Wisniewski. I contacted Tony, and he agreed to play bass. The four of us played together acoustically for the first time sitting on the floor of my living room. For me, it was a magical moment; Songs that I'd written, simple tunes made up in my head and usually banged out on my guitar alone were being played by a group of trained proficient musicians. I was ecstatic!

Larry, a slightly built, long-haired hippie type with a baby face played acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, and sang background vocals. Bill, a stocky music teacher in the public school system, played saxes and flute. All three of these musicians were college graduates with degrees in music. Despite the fact that I was the only amateur in the group they took me seriously and respected both myself and the songs that I'd written. To this day, although we haven't seen each other in years, I love those guys like they were three more of my brothers.

With the addition of Tony Antinarelli, a friend of Bills, on drums, and my brother Don Bundy on sound reinforcement we became a band initially called Gabriel.

The band's name was inspired by the notion that as the Angel Gabriel was the messenger of God, The band Gabriel would bring a spiritual message to mankind with our music. Granted, this all sounds a bit pompous after-the-fact, my only defense being innocent naïveté, after all it was the early 70's.

When finally ready to record our first album we were informed that a horn group called Gabriel had just signed a record deal with a major label. We had to change our name. Perry came up with the concept of spirit trapped on the material plane, and we became Gabriel Bondage.


Musical selections include: The Island, Ladies and Gentlemen, Birth of the Unconquered Sun, Take it on a Dare, Fallen Angels

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