101: Intro to Southbound
By Mark, Brian, Ron and Perry
Like many college “garage bands” of its day, Southbound had very humble origins and a history that preceded a band that would, one day, fail to be recognized as a serious contender for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
In its first iteration, the pop band had its roots in a pep band that played in support of the Chaminade Eagles, the football team representing one of Southern California’s finest Catholic preparatory schools.
It was in a makeshift music room, and on the sidelines of the football field, that Perry Voogt, Ron Insana and Sean Stewart first came together. Lacking either athletic skills, or parental permission, to carry their talent to the grid iron, the trio, (although others would come and go in the early days), formed a separate pop band with the enigmatic moniker, “Yellow Snow.”
With Mike Kellogg on bass, as well, “Yellow Snow” gave its first live concert on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1975, before, at most, dozens of screaming 7th, 8th and 9th graders at Chaminade’s middle school campus. While the original cassette tape of that monumental performance has been lost, or destroyed by the attending audience, (music historians have not reached a conclusion about this point) …the band’s rendition of Bread’s, “If,” reduced Ron’s mother to tears, leading the band, incorrectly, into believing that it had a future in music.
However, with a reorganization of the band into a trio shortly thereafter, Ron, Sean and Perry managed to find weekend work playing cover tunes at The Stage Coach Inn, a restaurant owned by Sean’s late, great, dad, Big John Stewart. There they played three nights a weekend for many months, building a repertoire of cover tunes that appealed to anyone between the ages of 65 and dead.
The band’s rendition of Bread’s, “If,” reduced Ron’s mother to tears, leading the band, incorrectly, into believing that it had a future in music.
Wedding gigs also became commonplace, earning the boys a rather hefty sum of money during their high school years. Ron, ultimately, did manage to gain parental accession to play football in his junior and senior years, where his record as a back-up quarterback earned him a reputation as one of the Santa Fe League’s slowest, and shortest, signal callers in the San Fernando Valley. His contemporary, John Elway, who played across the street from Ron’s apartment, at Granada Hills High, wore the same number, and often, it was said, modeled his style after Ron’s. As the winners get to re-write history, it was John who went on to win two Super Bowl Rings with the Denver Broncos and is currently their General Manager. He has never contacted Ron to offer thanks for that important inspiration.
They played three nights a weekend for many months, building a repertoire of cover tunes that appealed to anyone between the ages of 65 and dead.
But we digress. Playing cover tunes that ranged from Andy William’s “Moon River,” to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” “Quantum,” as “Yellow Snow” would subsequently be re-named, became a staple of the San Fernando Valley wedding scene. Known, also, for playing Morris Albert’s “Feelings,” and Debbie Boone’s “You Light up My Life,” more times than is humanly possible to withstand, the band managed to enjoy a 4-year journey of musical mediocrity which was eclipsed only by its red Spandex jumpsuits, white shirts and shoes. Again, thankfully, there is no visual record extant, as it could affect the on-air career of one of the band’s founding members.
As college approached, rhythm guitar player and back-up vocalist, Sean Stewart, left Southern California for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, following in his father’s footsteps, majoring in hospitality management. Sean’s grace, dignity and support, while on the lam for running numbers in Vegas, allowed “Southbound” to flourish without him.
However, in the immediate aftermath of Sean’s departure, Ron and Perry were without a fully functioning band for the first time in four years.
While they had written some songs together during their years as a cover band, from Ron’s uniquely depressing “Lonely Hearts and Empty Faces,” to Perry’s equally mordant, “Rain,” (which would later actually become a signature tune of Southbound), Perry and Ron were uncertain about their future as performers.
Perry and Ron planned to attend Loyola Marymount University together, Perry studying business and Ron, music. Indeed, they roomed together for their first semester in college, although some highly distinct, and intimately personal, habits would, eventually, lead them to live separate lives, even as they forged a deeper bond in the newly formed “Southbound.”
In the fateful summer of 1979, just prior to Ron and Perry’s college departure, Brian Cieslak and Mark Hollingsworth, two Chaminade classmates, hooked up with Ron and Perry in Perry’s living room in Granada Hills, California, in an effort to forge a new sound, with both cover tunes and original songs. It would eventually become apparent that Brian’s tasty guitar licks and Springsteen-like ability to manufacture toe-tapping tunes would add a radically new dimension to the emerging group.
Ron and Brian, unbeknownst to Perry, had played together before, in the garage of Brian’s house … feeling each other out and trying to determine if they should strike out on their own, with Ron leaving “Quantum” behind. That break did not materialize, but the jam session, in many ways, laid the groundwork for another attempt, a year or so, later.In the spring of 1979, Ron, Perry and Brian discovered Mark, as the four were featured players in Chaminade’s spring musical, “The Pajama Game.” Mark’s controlled and creative vocals were quite complimentary to Perry’s “Barry White” baritone … with an emphasis on white. By the end of the semester, the four decided to join forces, just as soon as Sean left for college, and they were sure he was truly out of town.
The four gathered in Perry’s living room in June of 1979. After a run through of Chicago’s “Beginnings,” the quartet realized they might have found a sound that could take them to another level. And so they began to work diligently on perfecting the sound, matching cover tunes and originals that would lead to some local notoriety in relatively short order.
After spending a semester at Loyola, Ron moved back to the Valley, as “Southbound” became a more important element of his life, joining Brian, at California State University, Northridge. Mark, finishing his senior year at Chaminade, while playing acoustic guitar, bass and backing vocals, would join them a year later.
With three out of four members in the Valley, Perry made time to come home, more than weekly, to continue perfecting “Southbound’s” rather unique style.
The “fad four” quickly found that they wrote well together and began compiling a library of original tunes, from Ron and Brian’s catchy “Connecticut,” to Mark’s bouncy “Watching the Sun,” to a much more highly produced version of Perry’s, “Rain.” Brian’s barrage of “hate songs,” like “I Can’t Wait for You Forever,” “Losin'” and “It Takes Two,’ gave the band a harder, edgier, and borderline-misogynistic flavor that would not be terribly helpful in the group’s futile efforts to woo women.
Family members and classmates frequently came to rehearsals held at Mark’s house, where his father, Don, a patient, warm-hearted soul, had built an 8-track recording studio.
Using “Southbound” to de-bug the studio, the group was able to lay down numerous track, all now included in our 30-year delayed, debut album, “Southbound – World Tour.”
While the tour was limited to two performances in 1980 and ’81, at Chaminade’s junior-high campus, exactly where its forerunner, “Yellow Snow/Quantum,” had gotten its start, the impact of “Southbound’s” music was almost immediately forgotten. However, the band played on until creative differences, as they are wont to do, lead to a break-up in late 1981. Many of the recriminations during the now infamous break-up, remain unprintable to this day, despite the successful use of those self-same words being used regularly by the likes of Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj.
Ron and Brian tried to form a new band, without success. Perry finished business school and promptly married his high-school sweetheart, as did Mark. Today, Perry runs his own industrial equipment company, while Mark has become a noted intellectual property attorney in Minneapolis, and was instrumental, if you will, in making sure we didn’t get screwed signing our first record deal.
Brian received a Master’s Degree in English, from CSUN, and has been writing and playing since we broke up. After many years on the circuit, Brian re-invented himself, choosing to serve others, taking on the strenuous burden of a firefighter and engineer for the LA County Fire Department. Brian is also currently working on a new set of songs whose influences may, or may not be, rooted in “Southbound’s” efforts.
After majoring in film production, Ron Insana accidentally got a job as a business journalist, and spent the last 29 years as both an observer and participant in the field of financial services. He still plays drums, alone in his basement, to reduce stress and torment his 3 children.
30 years later after the break-up of “Southbound,” Perry noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal, highlighting the efforts of CollegeBand.com. Informing Ron of the opportunity to bring “Southbound” back to life, in an era overflowing with Zombie apocalypses and the undead, Ron reached out … a meeting was taken in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and a deal was struck.
Thanks to CollegeBand, “Southbound’s” music would, at long last, be made available to the public, decades after that unique sound was forged in the living room of Perry’s house and in the Hollingsworth’s studio.
For this, we are ever grateful to CollegeBand, though the world may never forgive them.
And while we often joke about our early delusions of grandeur (I should note that Brian’s subsequent band, “True Confessions,” was quite a hit on the L.A. club circuit), we are happy to have the opportunity to share our version of ‘70s and ‘80s pop, that we hope, at the very least, will make you smile, if not reminisce … just a little.