The troubling thing about Mourning Dayze’s initial album release was that the band’s members didn’t know it was coming. When a book about the psychedelic garage band’s 1960s exploits hits amazon.com this month, they’ll be ready to savor the moment.
Baraboo retiree Doug Henry helped start the band — first known as the Coachmen before becoming Mourning Dayze — in 1965 while attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Mourning Dayze went on to tour across the country, playing bowling alleys, teen clubs and colleges. In later years, long after Henry left the group, Mourning Dayze went on to become the house band at Alpine Valley Resort in East Troy.
“People liked that we did current stuff,” Henry said, noting the band covered hits by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Cream. “We were doing a lot of West Coast stuff nobody in the Midwest was doing.”
It was an early recording that in a manner of speaking got the band back together decades later. Guitarist and singer Rick Pfeifer searched Google for the band’s name on a whim one night in 2005, and found its single “Fly My Paper Airplane” had been published in a collection of songs by little-known psychedelic garage bands of the 1960s.
They had released a CD, and didn’t even know it. “We were so happy,” Henry said.
He got in touch with Gear Fab Records, and found the company was compiling a recording of songs by 1960s Wisconsin bands. Henry sent a reel-to-reel tape of original songs recorded 40 years earlier in a small studio outside Janesville. Gear Fab produced a CD of Mourning Dayze music, releasing “The Lost Recordings” in 2007.
These developments prompted band members to collaborate on a book about the band’s colorful history. They pulled their trailer with a 1957 Cadillac hearse. They were represented by the same agency that helped Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs and Cheap Trick find fame. And they played gigs all over, including Mike’s Teen Bar and Fischer’s Teen Bar in Baraboo, as well as the Hiway House.
“We think it’s a great story,” Henry said. “It would be fun to get the story out.”
“We never doubted finishing this project,” Pfeifer said. “It was just a matter of figuring out how and how long it would take.”
They spent a decade writing the book, with band members and relatives and fans contributing first-person accounts. “Mourning Dayze: A Wisconsin Garage Band” was produced by McIver Publishing. Its 300 pages include vintage photographs, and the book comes with a commemorative DVD.
Readers will learn Henry grew up in South Milwaukee, where in 1963 he bought an electric guitar for $100. He went to UW-Whitewater hoping to form a band. Soon the Coachmen were born, playing bowling alleys and “beer bars” for teens back when the legal drinking age was 18. One of the band’s memorable gigs took place at the Hiway House, the bar and restaurant now operating as Chaser’s, where 23 half-barrels of beer were consumed in one night.
Just as the Beatles went from mop tops to Sgt. Pepper’s suits, the Coachmen evolved into Mourning Dayze. The group was known not only for its music, but for its psychedelic light shows. Mourning Dayze used strobe lights and other effects to complement their music. The band performed at a youth center in Prairie du Sac, a Portage roller rink and teen dance hall called the Roost, and several venues in Wisconsin Dells.
Henry left the band after about five years and went on to enjoy a long career in hotel management. Mourning Dayze carried on, with a variety of lineups, and continues to play today.
He thinks back to when his band’s agency represented star rockers like Cheap Trick, Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs. “Three are well known, one isn’t as well known,” Henry said.
With the release of two CDs and now a book, that may change.
“Just like our music, we’d like to share our story,” Pfeifer said, “because we enjoy working at connecting with people in a heartfelt, meaningful way.”