Northeast metro area band with one 45 on the Twin Town label
The Bad Omens
1964 – 1967
Fall, 1963: Two students from Columbia Heights High School are playing with school band members who play big band music in the attic of the home at one of the band members. Bruce Edwards plays the bongos and Larry Hotchkiss plays a coronet. Bruce discovers that Larry also plays guitar and Bruce decides he wants to play drums and buys a drum set. Bruce and Larry start playing rock music, along with another student from Columbia Heights High School, Mark, who also plays guitar. In addition to playing guitar, Larry is also the lead singer. The three students play music in the family room of the Edwards residence located on the corner of 41st Avenue NE and 6th Street in Columbia Heights. After a month or so of playing together, Mark leaves the group.
Early, 1964: Bruce and Larry decide to look for a new guitar player. Denny Sibinski, another student at Columbia High School auditions for the group and Bruce and Larry ask Denny to join them. Denny’s twin brother Russ tags along for the audition and also for the practice sessions.
Shortly after Denny joins the group, Denny makes a suggestion to Bruce to let Russ try playing the drums. Bruce is hesitant but decides to go ahead and let Russ play the drums on a song. After a quick lesson from Bruce on the correct way to hold the drumsticks, Russ plays the drums for his first time ever. Bruce has taken drum lessons and owns his own drum set, but half way through the song, Bruce realizes that Russ is a superior drummer and would take over on the drums for the group. Bruce, sitting on the bench at his father’s Thomas organ, gets up and opens the organ bench where he discovers a chord chart for the organ. Bruce asks the group what the chords are for the next song on the list of songs to practice, “Louie, Louie” (Kingsmen). Since the song only had a few chord changes, Bruce decides to play the chords on the Thomas organ and makes the switch from drums to keyboards.
September, 1964: Bruce informs the band that his friend Steve Christenson from Fridley knows a bass guitar player and singer, Mike Flaherty, from Fridley High School. Mike had just transferred from Elk River High to Fridley High and has a new Kay bass guitar and Silvertone Amp, thanks to his dad, who purchased the gear for Mike to “aid” in the relocation. Mike is invited to audition for the band. After playing “Ain’t Got No Home” (Clarence “Frog Man” Henry) at the audition, Mike joins the group on bass guitar and vocals.
The group is now set to play live and Bruce comes up with a band name: The Bad Omens. The original lineup is: Larry Hotchkiss on rhythm guitar and vocals; Denny Sibinski on lead guitar and vocals; Bruce Edwards on organ; Mike Flaherty on bass guitar and vocals; and Russ Sibinski on drums.
The new band starts out playing for private parties and then gets their first paying job at the Fridley Youth Center, thanks to Mike being President of the Youth Center. The band also plays at high school dances (mainly at Columbia Heights High School and Fridley High School). Mike Flaherty’s father (Terry) volunteers to manage, promote, and book the band and prints up flyers with the band photo on the front side and the band schedule on the back side. In addition, he suggests to the band that they need to think about getting a record out. Terry Flaherty rents out the Fridley VFW, where the band plays for a cover charge. Once the VFW saw how many people were paying to see the band play they wanted a portion of the cover charge but the band declined the offer and eventually moved on to other venues.
The band members join the Musicians Union and are now able to play at the local ballrooms. The first job as union members is a Battle of the Bands at the Marigold Ballroom in Minneapolis with The Castaways. The group decides to play The Castaway’s national hit song (“Liar, Liar”) during their set. Later on, Mike Flaherty is invited to join The Castaways on a trip to Chicago to do some recording.
The band plays Top-40 cover songs, but likes to find songs to play that other local bands are not playing. The group has an inside track to the songs being played and recorded by British bands. Mike Flaherty has a pen pal named Gloria who lives in England and she mails Mike early recordings of British bands including Them, The Hollies, and The Alan Price Set. The Bad Omens are playing “Gloria” one year before The Shadows of Knight cover the original version by Them (with Van Morrison on lead vocals) and score a national hit.
The Bad Omens discover that “Gloria” goes over very well with their audiences and they decide to record their version of it. The band goes to the studio of KUXL, a local radio station and records the song, however they are unable to find the time to return to the studio to do the mix down. The song is never completed and never pressed up as a vinyl record.
Bruce decides to purchase a new Farfisa organ from B-Sharp Music in Minneapolis, as the Farfisa is lighter and easier to transport compared to the heavier Thomas organ. Russ buys his own drum set.
Bruce has a fondness for munching on cookies during the band jobs and discovers a way to heat the cookies up by setting them next to the warm lights used for the rotating light show. Word gets around about Bruce and his “on stage cookies” and fans start to bring cookies to the shows to give to Bruce. In St. Cloud, a female fan of the band bakes up a ten pound chocolate chip cookie and wins a contest, sponsored by a local radio DJ, for bringing the biggest cookie to the show.
Early, 1965: Larry Hotchkiss departs the band.
The band releases their one and only 45 which consists of covers of two Dylan songs: “He Was a Friend of Mine” (Side A) and “Chimes of Freedom” (Side B). The band learns both songs from recordings by The Byrds. A third song recorded at the same session, “Mister You’re a Better Man Than I” (Yardbirds) is never released. Denny and Mike sing harmony lead on both songs on the 45. Denny sings lead vocals on The Yardbirds song. The cost of the recording and pressing (500 copies) is around $500 and the band is able to sell enough records to cover the costs involved. The record, pressed on the local Twin Town label gets some airplay on local radio stations WDGY and KDWB. The local radio stations play both sides of the 45.
May, 1965: The Bad Omens play for the Prom Dance at Fridley High School.
June, 1965: The band members all graduate high school and the bookings start to pick up as the band gains in popularity. The band keeps up with the latest clothing trends and have a number of matching suits they were onstage, along with their black Beatle boots that zipper up on the side. At Dayton’s Department Store the band members buy bell bottom style plaid pants and striped velour shirts (green and blue stripes).
August, 1965: The Bad Omens win two trophies at the Teen Fair (part of the Minnesota State Fair), coming in third place for the Fender sponsored band contest (250 bands entered the contest) and second place in the Gibson sponsored band contest. Following the two contests at the Teen Fair on the same day, the band plays a job at the Fridley Youth Center and after that job plays at a Fraternity party at the University of Minnesota, racking up four band jobs in one day.
At the Teen Fair, Dick Shapiro and Bill Diehl take note of the band and decide to sign the group to their roster at Central Booking Alliance. Also at The Teen Fair, Mike Flaherty meets Mike O’Gara from St. Paul who is playing guitar and singing with The Frenchmen. The Frenchmen are winding down and The Bad Omens are doing well so Mike Flaherty invites Mike O’Gara to join The Bad Omens and he accepts the offer.
The new lineup is: Denny Sibinski on lead guitar and vocals; Mike O’Gara on rhythm guitar and vocals; Bruce Edwards on organ; Mike Flaherty on bass guitar and vocals; and Russ Sibinski on drums. Bruce covers the lead vocals on a couple of songs that are hard on the vocal cords: “Do The Crusher” (by local band The Nova’s) and “The Jolly Green Giant” (Kingsmen). This allows Denny and Mike to save their voices for the non-screaming/shouting songs. With Mike O’Gara able to sing the low notes and Mike Flaherty able to sing the high notes, the group covers a wide range of material with their harmonies. Among the songs being covered by the band are:
“Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” (Rascals)
“My Little Red Book” (Love)
“Mystic Eyes” (Them)
“Hazy Shade of Winter” (Simon and Grafunkel)
“I Call Your Name” (Mama’s and Papa’s)
“Somebody Help Me” (Spencer Davis)
“Sunshine Superman” (Donovan)
“Shakin’ All Over” (Guess Who)
“Make it Easy on Yourself” (Walker Brothers)
“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” (Walker Brothers)
“Boom Boom” (Animals)
“We Gotta Get Out of this Place” (Animals)
“Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” (Four Tops)
“Stop! Get a Ticket” (Clefs of Lavender Hill)
“Time Won’t Let me” (Outsiders)
“I See the Light” (5 Americans)
The band is soon playing five to six nights a week, traveling in their 1951 black Cadillac Hearse. Central Booking books the band in the popular ballrooms, armories, clubs and other venues including the following:
Twin Cities, Minnesota:
Mr. Lucky’s, Minneapolis
Safari Club – Bobby’s, Mendota Heights
Dayton’s 8th Floor Auditorium, Minneapolis
Marigold Ballroom in Minneapolis
Prom Center, St. Paul
Lion’s Den, St. Paul
Bel-Rae Ballroom, Mounds View
Albert Lea Armory
Fairgrounds Garden, St. Cloud
Interlaken Ballroom, Fairmont
George’s Ballroom, New Ulm
Pla Mor Ballroom, Rochester
Raindow Garden, Rice Lake
Richard’s Pavilion, Clayton
1966: Following a car accident with the 1951 Cadillac Hearse, the band purchases a second band vehicle, once again a Cadillac Hearse, this one a 1956 model that is beige colored and is a combination hearse and ambulance complete with a roof mounted police style flashing light and a high powered hand operated spotlight.
Bruce comes up with a little trick he plays on the band while they are playing live. With an extra long electrical cord on his Farfisa, he moves the organ (and himself) behind the stage curtains or moves out into the audience… the other band members unaware of his location. At one venue, Bruce is located playing behind the cage of one of the two Go Go dancers.
Through Mike Flaherty’s British pen pal, the group learns “I Put a Spell On You” after hearing the song by The Alan Price Set which was a Top Ten hit in the UK. The song was written and first recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956 (produced by Alan Freed). The version by The Alan Price Set made it to number 80 on the US charts.
Prior to a job at the Stillwater Armory, a member of The Del Counts warns the band that there is a guy in town who has a girlfriend who enjoys hanging out with band members from twin cities bands. The boyfriend and his “gang” decide to make things difficult for all bands that travel to Stillwater to play. Mike Flaherty decides to bring along a friend (Barry) who played on the football team in high school as a precaution. During the last set of the night, the Stillwater guy and his “gang” decide to confront the band while they are on stage. Barry steps in and fends the “attackers” off. Mike Flaherty swings his microphone stand in circles in self defense to keep anyone from getting near him. Things get tense but the band gets out of town safely thanks to an escort provided by the Stillwater Police.
The band is filmed playing live on two separate occasions for the local TV show called “Up Beat” which is hosted by Dino Day.
Spring, 1967: Bruce Edwards, Mike Flaherty, and Mike O’Gara decide to leave The Bad Omens to make up the third version of The Escapades, with drummer Ron Butwin and guitar player/singer Dale Menten (from The Gestures). The original version of The Bad Omens comes to an end.
Fall, 1967: Denny decides to start up a new version of the Bad Omens. The new lineup is: Denny Sibinski on lead guitar and vocals; Bill Davis on guitar (lead and rhythm) and vocals; Bobbie Jones on keyboards and vocals; John Gilliver on bass guitar and vocals; and Steve Johnson on drums and vocals. The band plays primarily Motown and Beatles songs and plays a number of private parties including at fraternities and sororities at the University of Minnesota. Russ Sibinski is in the military service at this time.
Spring, 1968: Denny is called up for military service and the new version of The Bad Omens comes to an end.
In July, 2014, Mike Flaherty recalled that during the month of October in 1965 the band played 28 dates, all one night stands driving from one end of the state to the other. Mike stated: “The ballroom circuit on both sides of the river was really thriving then. One of the many places we loved was the Interlachen in Fairmont. Denny remembers playing there one time when they kept requesting “I’m A Believer” (Monkees) we must have played it at least half a dozen times.”
Mike also reported: “The Dayton’s 8th floor and the Aquatennial gigs at Theodore Wirth Park were always memorable. Once we were booked to play after a showing of “A Hard Days Night” at the Anoka Theatre. We were only several songs into the performance when the crowd of mostly teenage girls, obviously intoxicated with freshly infused Beatlemania, stormed the stage. We ran out the back doors and were chased down the alley with the girls ripping locks of our hair, tearing patches of our herring bone suit jackets and we lost a few neckties. We all agreed our little taste of Beatlemania was not as fun as we had imagined.
We played a benefit at the Columbia Heights Fieldhouse for a family that had lost everything in a house fire. The union told us we couldn’t play for nothing but could play for minimum and then sign our check over to the family. We were on the road a bunch so a benefit in our “back yard”” was so well attended that the Fire Marshall closed the doors after the first hour leaving several hundred people standing around outside. It was a very rewarding gig as the family was overwhelmed with the money we were able to raise for them.
We had several T.V. appearances and were on the Upbeat show with Dino Day a couple of times. There were other appearances where we were interviewed and the played live as well.”
Regarding the date when the band played four jobs in one day, Mike stated: “I guess you could say we were hungry.”
Written by Tom Campbell
Version 1: December 1, 2013
Version 2: December 2, 2013
Version 3: December 8, 2013
Version 4: June 23, 2014
Version 5: July 26, 2014
Version 6: August 17, 2014
Copyright by Thomas R. Campbell, 2014
45 Record Side ONE
45 Record Side TWO
The Bad Omens_____________BAND TREE
1964 to 1967
Denny Sibinski Lead Guitar / Vocals 1964 to 1967
Larry Hotchkiss Rhythm Guitar / Vocals 1964 to 1965
Bruce Edwards Organ / Vocals 1964 to 1967
Old School Rockers
Mike Flaherty Bass Guitar 1964 to 1967
Seraphic Street Sounds
Easy Rider (WI)
Flair Cats (WI)
Fat Chance (WI)
Mike and the Meteorites (CA)
Mike O’Gara Rhythm Guitar / Vocals 1965 to 1967
Seraphic Street Sounds
Russ Sibiniski Drums 1964 to 1967
Bad Omens Where Are They Now ?
The Bad Omens 1964 to 1967
Denny Sibinski ………. No longer active in music, living in Minnesota
Larry Hotchkiss ……… Unknown
Bruce Edwards……….. Playing keyboards in a worship band, living in Minnesota
Mike Flaherty………… Playing in Mike and the Meteorites, living in California
Mike O’Gara ………….. Passed away at age 69 in December, 2015
Russ Sibiniski………… No longer active in music, living in Minnesota and Florida
Interview Part One _ Time = 25:47
Interview Part TWO – Time = 26:10
Interview Part THREE – Time = 28:06