By Todd Houston
Following is an interview with John Furland, an original member of The Paegans.
Rockford Rocked Interviews (RRI): You have been a part of some pretty amazing local area bands throughout your musical career. Let’s first start with where you grew up here in Rockford.
John Furland (JF): I grew up on the east side, went to school at Highland, Lincoln, Jefferson and East. Rock Valley and Beloit College, out in ’74.
RRI: How did you get involved in playing music?
JF: I messed with my dad’s guitar in grade school, then bought my Hagstrom bass in ’65 with paper route earnings. The British Invasion got me going — Beatles, Yardbirds, Animals, Ventures. I quit the oboe in Lincoln band and took bass lessons from Kay Koster, playing in her guitar orchestra at Sinnissippi Band Shell shows.
RRI: Do you come from a musical family?
JF: Yeah, my dad plays guitar and my brother Jerry plays guitar and piano. My late brother Jim was the powerhouse drummer in the popular Rockford band The Daze of the Weak. The Furland Brothers recorded an album’s worth of originals between ’88 and ’92 — never released. Maybe someday!
RRI: Tell us about your first real band.
JF: My first band was The Paegans, 1966, with Rick Schneider (sax, organ, vocals), Steven C. Carlson (guitar, sax, vocals), Brad “Bun” Carlson (drums), Jerry Parlapiano (guitar, vocals). After The Paegans disbanded, I formed Probe in early ’69 with Dave Nelson (guitar, vocals), Mike Pettersen (guitar, vocals), Henry LaMarca (drums, vocals). Mike Olson (guitar, organ, vocals) replaced Pettersen fall of ’70. We recorded an album, Probe Direction, that winter and released it in April of ’71. It was bootlegged many times, starting in the mid-’80s, and has become highly collectible. One original pressing went for $1,200 in Austria a while back! When Olson left the band in fall of ’71, we played as a trio until bringing Randall “Xeno” Hogan (guitar, vocals) and Robin Zander (vocals) into the group. After a few practices, we decided to keep it a four-piece and kept Hogan till disbanding.
RRI: I was told that your father operated/owned a teen club in Rockford back in the ’60s.
JF: My dad leased The Ing Skating Palace and named it “Second Street North” in early ’68. He had band battles and dances there for a couple months. All of the local bands played, as well as some from Champaign. My parents were very supportive of me and my brothers playing music. All of the dads drove us to and from our gigs and pulled the equipment trailer when we were too young to drive. Don Furland dragged The Paegans all over the Midwest!
RRI: What were some of the other hot spots for teens in Rockford during this time?
JF: We cruised for burgers at The Alps, Hollywood Drive-In, and sometimes Top Hat on the west side. There was also a long list of others including Don Carter’s, Fairview Lanes, Highcrest (pinball and pool), The Rumpus Room, Ken-Rock Center, Ice Chalet, Sherwood Lodge, dances at The YWCA, etc.
RRI: Where did you guys go to buy guitars and equipment?
JF: We bought gear from Kay Koster, Ralph Nielsen, Joe Paluzzi and Wolfe Music. Joe Paluzzi (Mr. Music) sold me my ElectroVoice W-30 30-inch speaker. HUGE sound! (Laughs)
RRI: Tell us why you ended up leaving Rockford.
JF: Probe disbanded in May of ’72 when guitarist Dave Nelson was drafted. My dad took a position in Chattanooga, and I wanted to give Tennessee a shot. I played with some great bands there, and eventually moved to Atlanta. Florida in ’79 (QuadraGram Studio, Orlando), St. Louis ’92-’97 (Jacob’s Ladder Productions). I am a Nashville cat again now. (Smiles)
RRI: Who are some of the people you have worked with over the years?
JF: I’ve been blessed to work with quite a few artists/bands, live and in the studio. Tommy Cash, Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent), Magic Cat, Confederate Railroad, Margo Smith, Martin DelRay/Johnny Cash, Helen Cornelius/Jim Ed Brown, Charlie Walker, Tommy Tutone, Artimus Pyle (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Whooping Crains, Ronnie Prophet, St. Louis era, the late, great Jimmy Lee Kennett with Pavlov’s Dog and Mama’s Pride members. Chuck Berry also used us on local shows, etc. Of course, my own bands Talisman, Georgia Power, etc. Scores of sessions, I produced Kevin Black (Clint’s Bro) EP and nationally aired commercials.
RRI: Artimus Pyle? Lynyrd Skynyrd’s former drummer? He’s one of my personal favorites! What’s he like?
JF: Artimus is very intelligent and a great drummer. We played mostly originals in APB from MCA albums. “Sweet Home Alabama” was a must do. I sang that. We avoided “Free Bird’ and responded to shouted requests by flipping off the audience (which they loved). Skynyrd fans are unique, you gotta love ’em! MTV Spring Break ’89 was awesome to do, when MTV still rocked.
RRI: What are your thoughts on the current state of the music industry, or lack of?
JF: The industry has certainly changed. If I never hear another auto-tuned song, it will be too soon. Now, they are doing it at live shows regularly. Puke! I am glad to see vinyl coming back in a big way.
RRI: The Paegans reunited for a show recently. Tell us about that.
JF: I’m on the reunion committee, Rockford East Class of 1969, had to find a band for our 45-year party in August. I enlisted the help of former Paegan Bun E. Carlos. Bun E. made calls to local bands. There were conflicting dates, etc. Committee chair Karen Mahieu Lyddon asked me, “Why don’t The Paegans play?” A few calls to my old bandmates, and we were rolling! John Bishoff and Grant Carlson joined us for a Mary’s Place gig and E-Rab reunion. Bun E. and the Rockford guys put a LOT into it, ready to go.
Posted Nov. 12, 2014 Issue.