Dr Specs Optical Illusion

New Orleans' Garage Gawds Reunite to Mess Up Your Mind for the First Time in over 30 Years


Listen to Dr Spec's Optical Illusion - Tryin to Mess My Mind and She's the One

Ask any serious garage band enthusiast about Dr. Spec's Optical Illusion and watch the frenzied reaction. Wide-eyed, twitching uncontrollably and frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of this very obscure, short-lived band from New Orleans, one has to wonder: for a band that released only one record during their entire career—a band many people either never heard or cannot even remember—it must've been one hell of a mind-melting disc.

Pressed in a very limited run and never put on sale to the public, Dr. Spec's two-sided monster, "Tryin' To Mess My Mind" backed with "She`s The One," is a scream-o-rama of crunching, organ-driven insanity so quintessential in the world of '60s punk that it alone grants the band status as dyed-in-the-wool legends.

But just who are these mysterious marauders and where did they come from? Why, the nice quiet neighborhood of Gentilly Woods, of course.
Legend holds that the first car port jam session between brothers Kris and Scott Sherman—who played guitar and drums respectively—and childhood friend/ lead guitar man Marshall Clyburn took place on Halloween night, 1965. With the addition of Brice "Pinky" Hatchett on bass and Rick Stelma on organ, they christened themselves the Illusions and began making a name for themselves on the CYO dance and college fraternity circuit. They also won most every Battle Of The Bands that they entered. While their long hair and wild fashion sense was hardly appreciated by the Crescent City's large greaser contingency, the fact that the Illusions beat out many greaser bands became the point of contention where push often led to shove.
"The greasers didn't like the fact that we beat their bands sometimes," Scott recalls. "And, anyway, their big thing was like, 'Let's beat up the band after the gig!"

Or sometimes even before the gig, as was the case at the San Raphael Battle Of The Bands where Rick got sucker-punched before the Illusions had even played a note. "This guy acted like he was gonna request a song, and when I leaned down there was some comment like 'Ya fruit!'—they really didn't say 'queer' back then too much—and then he whacked me across the jaw!"

"It was a rough crowd," confirms Sherman. "The greasers didn't like the Frats—the guys with the British hair dos—because they wanted to keep their old tradition alive. They ended up losing in the long run I guess, because a lot of those greasers, I saw 'em with frat hair cuts later!"

Growing up surrounded by such teenage melodrama did wonders for the Illusions' set list, however, as they didn't develop along the lines of a typical, British-Invasion influenced garage band. While they played a mix of so-called "English" music, they also delved heavily into the R&B that they'd grown up with, songs like James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy" and Curley Moore's "Soul Train."

Hanging out at the Mardi Gras Bowling Alley in their neighborhood, the Illusions had been digging local R&B stars such as Moore and Irma Thomas since their early teens. James Migliaccio, who ran the joint, approached them one night as to just what in the hell they were doing there. Upon finding out they were a band, James signed them to his brilliantly-monikered Flambeau label, taking them down to Cosimo Matassa's Jazz City Studio where they laid down their masterpiece, along with two additional songs (titles: "The Undertaker" and "Too Busy Laughing"!!) for a proposed second single that never materialized. Despite the fact that they had never set foot in a recording studio before, the resulting clamor was some of the most snarling rock 'n' roll ever committed to tape. While Kris was the band's usual vocalist, Scott's screaming wail was put to good use on their originals. Indeed, his bloodcurdling roar would've made Gerry Roslie himself proud.

Changing their name to Dr. Spec's Optical Illusion—a handle dreamed up by Migliaccio's wife, local R&B singer Joyce Harris—their reputation as the loudest band in New Orleans was solidified when the New Orleans States-Item reported that the director of the city's Speech And Hearing center measured their rumble at 140 decibels.

Accurately described as a "genre-busting cauldron of crunch," Flambeau 103 began gaining airplay but stalled when some of the guys' parents refused to sign contracts with Migliaccio, who responded by pressing no additional copies, thus ensuring its mythical status.

After being bootlegged on Eva Records' Louisiana's Punk compilation, the previously unknown record changed hands for astronomical sums if you were lucky enough to pry it out of somebody's collection without risk of serious bodily injury. The band recently found "She's The One" used in a European television commercial, and best of all, Crypt Records legally reissued it in single form with a beautiful color sleeve and full liner notes by Spec's specialist Andrew Brown. Grab yourself a copy at www.cryptrecords.com and get ready to mess your mind too much!!

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