The Morning Reign interview
It does not happen very often anymore that unreleased music from 50 years ago surfaces.
This is the story of The Morning Reign, a band of young fellas who could have become famous and mentioned in the same breath as The Doors, Eric Burdon & WAR, and all the other music legends of the Garage-Rock era – if their songs had been released back in the day. Surprisingly, they have released only four 45rpm singles during their existence although they had recorded enough material for an entire album. Order your copy from Perfect Toy Records.
Where and when did you grow up? Was music a big part of your family life? Did the local music scene influence you or inspire you to play music?
Ric Seaberg: Greetings and thank you for your interest in our newly released music from 50 years ago! I was born in Chicago. Where the weak are killed and eaten. Grew up in Portland, Oregon. Went through grade school and high school there. I’m sure my mother, rest her soul, would agree that my interest in music started at a very young age. In fact, on one of my personal CDs, “A Thousand Songs”, (2009) there is a short track of an actual statement by my mother, after I sing a little ditty, at 2 years old, where she says, and I swear it’s really her, “ I thought you’d like to hear what’s going on around here all the time. Ricky is always singing songs he makes up out of his head”. Back in those days our family had a little “wire recorder”, which was how you recorded before tape. That’s how mom’s statement was preserved. I cherish it.
When I was in high school, The Beatles broke out. I loved their music. But I was also a person to be especially taken in by more lyric driven music, Dylan, Ochs, Barry McGuire, Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian. Always with the lyrics.
When did you begin playing music? What was your first instrument? Who were your major influences?
Yes I was even crooning as a toddler. Music struck me very early. My mother had a large collection of LPs, some albums from shows, like “Oklahoma”, “The King and I”, Donald O’Connor, tracks, and lots of pop music like Guy Mitchell, Disney records, and the recordings and lyrics of Johnny Mercer. Johnny was always a bit of a hero to me. When we started The Reign, of course all these influences came through in my writing. But also, bands of the day who really impacted me were rockin’ local bands The Kingsmen, Don and The Goodtimes, Paul Revere and The Raiders. On the national scene, I loved The Doors, Crosby Stills and Nash, and stuff coming out of England. And just for fun it’s notable that I knew Don Gallucci of Don and The Goodtimes in high school, his bands were awesome. I looked up to him. Well except he wore those super sharp toed black leather shoes. I started playing guitar at around age 14. I have never been a great guitar player. But I use the guitar to write my songs.
What bands were you a member of prior to the formation of Morning Reign?
We had a little band in high school, Hamlet and The Dudes, (I was Hamlet haha!) me ‘n Danny Haapala, Bruce Hofer, Eddy Nylander, Ken Holstrom, and a guy from another high school whose name I don’t recall, and we actually recorded a few songs at a Portland studio, my songs “Make Her Your Own” and “Second Love”. Which fortunately for you, you will never hear. Another song Danny had written, “Have You Been Listening”, was the A side. Though these recordings may still exist somewhere at the bottom of my closet, I think it’s interesting to note that many many years later I recorded “Have You Been Listening” with my later and awesome guitarist Timmy Ellis, we rocked it, here’s a link.
Can you elaborate the formation of Morning Reign?
The booklet that comes with the new Morning Reign CD contains a lengthy passage I wrote which pretty much describes the band formation:
“In the summer of 1966, before Ric Seaberg would be entering Willamette University In Salem, Oregon, he was slated to attend a new student “campover” orientation that would last for several days. On the very first day he met Gene Heliker, since he had seen him slingin’ a guitar around the campground. It took maybe 10 minutes for them to start crooning together and from that day and for the next five years, Gene and Ric would be playing music together.
In time Gene and Ric fell in with Willamette students Craig Chastain and Doug Heatherington. The four formed the nucleus of The Morning Reign, and over the years The Reign experienced several personnel changes, closing 1970 with Gene Heliker on lead guitar and vocals, Doug “Shadow” Heatherington on bass, Craig “Cac” Chastain on rhythm guitar and vocals, Jay Steven “Little Stevie” Tate on drums and vocals, Larry Sieber on organ/keyboards, and Ric Seaberg on guitar and vocals.
They worked hard, attempting to make a go of it. For several years, with nearly non-stop gigging across the Pacific Northwest and California, even venturing as far as Aspen, Colorado, they each collected a paycheck on Monday, written by their leader and banker, Cac. During their last couple years, with the players mentioned above, they lived in Seattle and practiced almost everyday they weren’t on the road, learning covers, and writing, arranging and recording original songs.”
When and where did Morning Reign play their first gig? Do you remember the first song the band played? How was the band accepted by the audience?
After we Willamette University students formed the band, we practiced in the basement of “Delta Tau Delta” fraternity for a short while, then I am pretty sure we played our first dance in The Willamette U. gym, which was well attended by students, doing songs like “Gloria” and “Louie Louie”. Then, after we formed a friendship with Oregon Music Hall of Fame promoter Ed Dougherty, we began playing dances and concerts all over the northwest, in armories, high schools and colleges, bars, halls, you name it. Once we played a free afternoon concert for Ed, at an Oregon school/ home for women who had been in trouble with the legal system. The stage was close to the audience and the hall was crowded. That was the first time I ever saw two women kiss passionately. It was awesome.
What sort of venues did Morning Reign play early on? Where were they located?
We played in every armory and Odd Fellows Hall and Elk’s Club and on and on for our first couple years. We were traveling every weekend and sometimes during the week. Going to college at the same time was difficult to say the least. Cac (rhythm guitar and vocals) was slightly older, and would soon graduate, which he did! Doug (bass) was a year younger than Cac but he also graduated before we hit the road full time. But Gene (we were even younger!) and I eventually left college at that time. Cuz rock‘n’roll!
So I guess every band is different as far as what kind of show they have, or how they behave while playing a gig. I do not think one could describe The Reign on stage as “reserved”. I think maybe a better term would be, hmmmm, “an explosion of motion and sound”. We got into it. We had a blast performing and playing. Raucous. Loud. Electric. I think that’s fair.
How did you decide to use the name “Morning Reign”?
Cac came up with the name. We had some other possibilities on the table, but they all paled in comparison. (“Peanuts and the Warm Puppies”?!!:). Later, maybe a couple years into it, we discovered that there was a popular band in California going by the name “Mourning Reign” spelled with a “u”. We had heard they were damn good. However, in a rockin’ battle of the bands, jus’ gonna say right here, we would kicked their sorry ass.
What influenced the band’s sound?
We were 6 musicians from different backgrounds, all coming of age in the 60s. We all had our personal favourites, but the thing we all had in common was a love of a strong backbeat and solid rhythm. Whether we were playing a cover or an original, we were rockin’ the house. Our “original sound” was due to so many influences, not just other bands. By the time we quit playing live we were doing around 75% original tunes. As the main lyricist I was influenced by everything from a bad relationship to a bad pizza.
You released four singles. Would you like to tell us about those four singles?
When recording covers, like “Anyway That You Want Me”, and “Lucille”, we tried our best to give the song our own special treatment that emphasized our strengths, change up the arrangement, maybe add some vocal harmonies. The first single we released featured 2 originals, “Please Stop” and “Say It Once Again”, both written by Geno and I, and recorded at a small Salem, Oregon studio.
We released it in Salem on our own label and it received some airplay in the Pacific Northwest. Sales were brisk at gigs. In 1968, we traveled to LA to do some recording, and while there, played a gig for Casey Kasem. When we were on break, Casey came into the dressing room and said ”Guys, I heard you do that song ”Anyway That You Want Me”. Guys, that is a hit right there. You need to record that song ASAP!” Then he says, “The last time I told anybody to record a song I told Cannibal and the Headhunters to record “Land of a Thousand Dances!”, which, you may be able to imagine, pretty much blew our collective minds off the map. So we rushed home to Salem where we still lived and recorded that song immediately. The B side was our own strange psychedelic version of The Four Tops “Reach Out I’ll Be There”. My late son Blaine, who was an expert on all things Motown, used to love to tease me about how we had bastardized that song haha! To which I would reply STHU! Turns out, our recording of that song has received many positive reviews over the years. Next up we covered a couple more songs, at Garland Recording Studio, in 1969, putting our own twist on J.J Jackson’s “But It’s Alright” and Tommy Roe’s “Everybody”. Both sides garnered some airplay in the Northwest. Remember, this was in the days where a band could arrive in a town in America to throw down a gig, but before you go to the venue to set up, you stop by the teeny radio station in Colfax, Washington, or The Dalles, Oregon, or Great Falls, Montana, or Pochatello, Idaho, shake the deejay’s hand, give him a 45, and then you leave the station. But before you get to the hall, you’re listening to the damn record on the radio! Those were the days!! Our 4th single “Can I Believe in You?” was a Dennis Lambert (“Ain’t No Woman Like The One I’ve Got”, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “One Tin Soldier”, many others) penned song. We were asked by Dennis to work with him, and got ourselves to L.A. pronto. Gene sang lead on that record, and did a great job. I sang the flip side of that record, “Tomorrow Morning’s Love”.
Although you had recorded enough material for an entire album, back then you didn’t manage to release it.
You know I am just gonna say there’s 2 reasons. The first is, in the 60s and 70s, it cost a lot of money to do a full blown LP project. So a band liked the Reign, basically living from paycheck to paycheck, and without any day jobs, was probably going to have to get a sizable record deal from a company like Capitol Records to do an LP project, and that just never happened. When our fourth single release “Can I Believe in You?” was picked up by Paramount, we were pretty close to getting an LP project deal. But the single, though it reached ‘bubbling under’ status in Billboard, was not a major hit. And we never got that record deal. Also, to have financed an entire 15 song LP project by ourselves, back then, would just be too costly!
Now it’s finally released on Perfect Toy Records!
All of us in the Reign are a bit awestruck and even emotional about the fact that Perfect Toy discovered this music and has been so enthusiastic about it. To us, it’s nothing short of a miracle!
How do you feel that after so many years your music will be available?
We are all so very grateful to Perfect Toy. We think the songs that they selected and the mastering work is just excellent. They’ve taken our old tapes and dusted team off and turned them into gold as far as we’re concerned. We couldn’t be happier!
Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?
For starters, Geno and I were the main songwriters in the group. For certain, my main contribution was the writing. When I listen back to the songs after all these years, I know exactly which lines I wrote. And I will never be able to thank the guys enough for agreeing to learn my songs and play them with such creativity, enthusiasm and conviction. And soul. OMG listening back to these music tracks, those dudes could blow. With the ear buds on, I am transported right back onto that stage, standing solid with my brothers, dancing, working hard for our audience. And killin’ it.
What happened after the band stopped? Were you still in touch with other members? Is any member still involved with the music?
Yes, still in touch with the guys, we occasionally find a way to get together to talk, get something to eat, attend a concert. Both of our keyboard players, our first, the amazing Bob Baker, and our later keys player, Larry Sieber, have slipped this moral coil. Five of us communicate regularly by email or messaging. It’s great!
Looking back, what was the highlight of your time in the band? Which songs are you most proud of? Where and when was your most memorable gig?
Tough question. I think the guys would agree with me that, coming of age together, traveling together, rehearsing, creating and doing shows together, all of it. Wow. It was an amazing time for all of us. Here is a list of the bands we opened for or shared the stage with in the 6 years we were together:
The Dave Clark Five
The Young Rascals
Buddy Miles Express
Three Dog Night
Dino, Desi and Billy
Spencer Davis Group (with Winwood)
The Guess Who
1910 Fruitgum Company
The Liverpool Five
The Hudson Brothers
Elvin Bishop Band
The Box Tops
Th American Breed
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
Chad and Jeremy
Paul Revere and the Raiders
Don and the Goodtimes
Jay and the Americans
Gary Lewis And the Playboys
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
To me, the best thing about being in The Reign, during our 20’s, was how much we loved and supported each other in our work, traveling together, living together. We had a mission, a common goal, to be a great rock band. Along the way we experienced so much together, created original music together, broke bread together, played the lowliest venues in the Northwest, and the biggest. We all think back in our time together with total fondness. These guys are my brothers. To have our music finally put out on an international label is an amazing feeling. We shall forever be grateful.
– Klemen Breznikar
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