From a 4-piece rock band to a 8-piece horn band
The Sir Raleigh’s
(and The Casualties and The Jagsmen)
February, 1964: Three high school students in South Minneapolis get together and form a band called the Casualties. The lineup is: Mike Comer on guitar and vocals; Mike’s cousin Johnny Elms on bass guitar and vocals and Mike Johnson on drums and vocals. The group plays popular songs on the radio with a focus on songs by British Invasion bands: the Beatles; The Kinks; The Animals; and The Zombies. The band plays private parties, church events; and high school dances. Johnny and Mike Johnson are at South High School and Mike is at Roosevelt High School (Mike transfers to South High for his senior year, 1966/1967).
Early Summer, 1964: The band discovers a newspaper ad announcing auditions to be held for bands to play at the State Fair in St. Paul. The fair decides to open up a Teen Fair for the first time, an area within the fairgrounds designated for teenagers to congregate. The group shows up at a warehouse on the fairgrounds and play for the audition. The group is later informed they are one of the bands picked to play at the fair, in fact they will be the very first live band to play for the new Teen Fair, however, there is a condition with the offer… the band must have another guitar player on stage when they perform. Mike enlists his younger brother Kenny to play guitar for the event, although his amp will not be turned on, as he is still learning how to play the instrument.
August, 1964: The Casualties play at the new Teen Fair, opening up their set with “Hello Josephine” (Fats Domino). The event is recorded for posterity on 8 millimeter color film (with no audio), filmed by the mother of Johnny Elms. Kenny eventually joins the band on rhythm guitar.
Summer, 1965: Johnny and Mike get together with drummer Dave Prall and start a new band called The Jagsmen. The lineup is: Mike Comer on guitar and vocals; Johnny Elms on bass guitar and vocals; and Dave Prall on drums. The band plays for local parties and dances.
Fall, 1965: Mike Comer and Johnny Elms join The Sir Raleigh’s, another South Minneapolis band with students from South High. Both Mike and Johnny had watched the band at rehearsals, with the lineup: Mike Johnson (from The Casualties) on lead vocals; Wayne Cafarella on guitar; Lenis Hedlin on rhythm guitar and vocals; Mike Shellkoff on bass guitar; and Jim Daniels on drums. Mike, Wayne and Lenis had left the band, so the new lineup is: Mike Comer on guitar, keyboards and vocals; Johnny Elms on bass guitar and vocals; Wayne Cafarella on guitar; and Jim Daniels on drums. The prior lineup had been working with Marsh Productions and the new lineup maintains the relationship with Marsh Edelstein.
Early, 1966: The Sir Raleigh’s play a school dance at South High, wearing marching band uniforms. The group plays a mini-set of four or five songs.
The band plays the local hot spots in town including the Marigold Ballroom, the Prom Ballroom, Marion Hall, Pudge’s; the Bloomington Roller Rink, Mister Lucky’s, Magoo’s, New City Opera House, the Burnsville Bowl, The Prison and Danceland. In addition the band plays for college dances at Coffman Union on the University of Minnesota campus. The group plays a variety of music styles from the Top-40 songs played on the local radio stations.
1966/1967: The group becomes influenced by a number of show bands (and horn bands) that come through town including: Joey Dee and the Starliters (New Jersey); The Fabulous Flippers (Concordia, Kansas); The Mob (featuring “Big Al,” from Chicago, Illinois); The Magnificent Men (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania); The Red Dogs (Lawrence, Kansas); and Wayne Cochran and The C.C. Riders (based out of Miami, Florida). The band decides to add three horn players to the group: Dick Burt on trombone; Tim Vick on trumpet; and Bob Mikkelson on saxophone. Motown songs and James Brown songs are added to the group’s set. The band takes on a new look with matching tuxedos. In addition to playing guitar and keyboards, Mike Comer has picked up the bass guitar and also the trombone. In addition to playing guitar, Wayne Cafarella has picked up bass guitar, trumpet and lead vocals.
The song list for the band includes the following songs:
“Feel a Whole Lot Better” (The Byrds)
“Mustang Sally” and “Midnight Hour” (Wilson Pickett)
“Peace of Mind” (The Magnificent Men)
“Summer Time” and “Secret Love” (Billy Stewart)
“Good Lovin” (Rascals)
“Show Me” (Joe Tex)
“The Harlem Shuffle” (Fabulous Flippers)
“But it’s Alright” (J. J. Jackson)
“Unchain My Heart” (Ray Charles)
“I Thank You”, “You Don’t Know Like I Know”, “I Take What I Want”, “When Something is Wrong With My Baby” (Sam and Dave)
“Heat Wave” (Martha and the Vandella’s)
1968: Jim Daniels leaves the band is replaced by Del LaFave on drums. Bob Mikkelson leaves the band and is replaced by Steve Junker on saxophone.
October 18, 1968: The Sir Raleigh’s open up a concert at the Met Center in Bloomington… on the bill are: Joe Tex; The Young Rascals; Tiny Tim; and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The Young Rascals are the headlining act.
Late, 1968: Mike Comer leaves the band to join The Marauders and is replaced by Chuck Dahle on guitar and vocals. Johnny Elms gives up the bass guitar for lead vocals and Wayne Cafarella switches from guitar to bass guitar.
Summer, 1969: The Sir Raleigh’s come to an end. The final version is: Johnny Elms on vocals; Chuck Dahle on guitar and vocals; Wayne Cafarella on bass guitar; Del LaFave on drums; Dick Burt on trombone; Tim Vick on trumpet; and Steve Junker on saxophone.
June, 2011: Mike Comer reports a memorable job with The Sir Raleigh’s… playing with The Fabulous Flippers at The Prison in Burnsville.
June, 2011: Johnny Elms reports that the 8 millimeter film of The Casualties has been preserved… transferred to VHS at some point in the past.
June, 2011: Mike and Johnny report The Sir Raleigh’s never recorded any songs in the studio and no audio tapes of the band playing live are known to exist.
March, 2014: In a phone conversation with Mike Comer, Mike stated that he wrote an original song called “Never Leave Me” that he had hoped would be recorded by The Sir Raleigh’s, however the song was never recorded. Mike also stated that he sang lead vocals on “Feel a Whole Lot Better” by The Byrds.
Photos (Click a photo to see it full-screen, then click the arrows to see the next one.)
Sir Raleigh’s BAND TREE
Sir Raleigh’s 1966 to 1969
Johnny Elms Bass Guitar / Vocals 1966 to 1969
Suzie Q and The Originals
Mike Comer Lead Guitar / Keyboards / Vocals 1966 to 1968
Wayne Cafarella Guitar / Vocals 1966 to 1969
Steve Junker Tenor Saxophone 1968 to 1969
The Shamrocks Combo ‘62
Bob George Band ‘63
Bobby Thomas Orchestra ‘64
Eddie Emerson Band ‘65
Bob Seth Band ‘65
Jules Herman Orchestra ‘65
In Mates ‘66
Sir Raleighs ‘68
Swing in the Sonshine ‘08
Johnny Elms: Living in Minnesota
Mike Comer: Living in Tampa Bay, Florida and playing with Errol Wise and Friends
Wayne Cafarella: Passed away, was living in Florida.
Lenis Hedlin: Unknown
Mike Shellkoff: Unknown
Jim Daniels: Unknown
Steve Junker: Living in Minnesota, playing with Swing in the Sonshine.
Interview PART ONE