THE BAND:

The Chateaux started out as the Shattoes in Vermillion, South Dakota in 1963. The band was founded and lead by singer and bassist Bob Ellison, the only constant member until the band broke up in 1972. Members included:

The Shattoes First Lineup 1963
Bob Ellison: bass, vocals
Howard Ernst: lead guitar
Willard Ernst: rhythm guitar
Terry Romey: rhythm guitar
Roger Purcell: drums
This lineup recorded the “Surf Fever” single

The Shattoes Late 1965-1967
Bob Ellison: bass, vocals
Larry Halverson: guitar
John Hasse: keyboards
Roger Purcell: drums

The Chateaux 1967
Bob Ellison: bass, vocals
Larry Halverson: guitar
Tommy Bolin: organ and later guitar
Roger Purcell: drums

The Chateaux Late 1967
Bob Ellison: bass, vocals
Gary Knutson: guitar
Doug Test: drums
This lineup recorded the "Reference Man" single

The Chateaux Final Lineup 1972
Bob Ellison: bass, vocals
Roger Rothwell: guitar
Jim McCollough: drums

Other Notable Members:
John Bartle: guitar during the latter part of Tommy’s tenure in The Chateaux. He later played guitar in DVC with Johnnie Bolin on drums, who had a regional hit with a cover of “Teaser” in 1981.
Bobby Berge: drums, played in The Chateaux on and off from 1967-70. Later played with Tommy Bolin in Zephyr, Energy and on the Teaser and Private Eyes albums.
Mark Craney: drums, played in The Chateaux after Tommy left, but in 1976 joined the final lineup of the Tommy Bolin Band as well as with Jean-Luc Ponty, Jethro Tull and more.
Dan Donahoe: guitar
Mike Miller: guitar

TOMMY’S SHIFT TO VERMILLION

After Tommy left Patch of Blue he stayed busy playing with other bands, not committing to a firm lineup. Somewhat surprisingly, Tommy started playing a Hammond B-3 organ with rotating Leslie speaker during this period. He also started playing a lot in Vermillion, South Dakota, 40 miles northwest of Sioux City.

On one trip to play at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion he met lyricist John Tesar for the first time. Tesar was visiting a friend named Jaime Kibben at the school who played keyboards in a band that had songs on regional radio. Tesar had been writing lyrics without a musical partner and Kibben hooked him up with Tommy. Kibben had heard Tommy on guitar and had been impressed, but when Tommy came over to meet them he played on Kibben’s own Hammond B-3 organ and blew them away. Tesar and Tommy hit it off well and exchanged phone numbers, but the partnership wouldn’t bear fruit until after Tommy moved to Colorado and formed Zephyr in Boulder. Tesar transferred to the University of Colorado at that time and they began to get together to write songs, some of which would find a home with Zephyr. He would continue to work with Tommy for the rest of his life, co-writing beloved favorites such as “Wild Dogs” and “Lotus.” It was also in Vermillion that Tommy became involved The Chateaux. Tommy is in the photo seen above with them at age 15.

THE CHATEAUX

The Chateaux were formed as The Shattoes in 1963 by lead by singer and bassist Bob Ellison and had a lineup that featured many of the area’s rich field of players until the band ended in 1970. They remained a popular Midwest show band throughout those years, but released only an handful of live recordings. The Shattoes first lineup with Howard Ernst on lead guitar recorded the popular “Surf Fever/Do You Love Me” 45 released in 1964 on Studio City Records. By 1968 they were in a power trio lineup with Bob Ellison on bass and vocals, Gary Knutson on guitar and Doug Test on drums. This lineup released the noted “Reference Man” 45 on Eye Records which they traveled to Memphis to record. It has been speculated that Tommy Bolin played on “Reference Man” but he did not, he had moved to Denver by then.

Tommy Bolin joined at age 15 in 1967 as they were changing their name to The Chateaux. He didn’t play guitar at first, rather he was playing a Hammond B-3 organ into a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet. This setup was incredibly hard to move around with Tommy lugging his own gear. This lineup had Larry Halverson on guitar, Bob Ellison on bass and vocals and Roger Purcell on drums. Tommy always brought a guitar to shows though and sometimes Halverson would walk over to Tommy during a song and Tommy would pick up his guitar and play it. Sometimes he would play his guitar through the Leslie cabinet and blow everyone’s minds. His playing was really starting to stand out. The late George Larvick, who played bass with Tommy on guitar in Patch of Blue, said he felt like he saw the biggest jump in Tommy’s playing during this period.

After some months Halverson left and was replaced by guitarist John Bartle, who Tommy had known since they met at the United Teachers of Music store in Sioux City at age 12 or 13. They would remain lifelong friends, playing together for their final time at the Jet Bar in Sioux City on November 22, 1976, less than two weeks before Tommy passed away. In The Chateaux Bartle and Tommy switched back and forth from guitar to keyboards. Their sets consisted of popular hits of the day like “Here Comes My Baby,” “Higher and Higher” and “Midnight Hour.” Organist Jimmy Smith, a jazz organist who was able to chart on Billboard, was a huge inspiration as Tommy started listening more to jazz.

This marks the only time of his life where Tommy drove a car with some degree of regularity. At age 15 he didn't have a drivers license, but was in the position of having to make longer trips to make it to rehearsals and gigs. Bolin friend Harlan Busch remembers seeing Tommy drive an old purple Cadillac or Chrysler Imperial. After Bartle joined they were both forced to skirt the law as he did’t have a license either. In Greg Prato’s excellent book, Touched by Magic, Bartle relates how he and Tommy each chipped in $7.50 each for a 1937 Plymouth and took turns driving it. They would also take turns parking it around the corner from their parents’ houses. They were eventually pulled over by police and made to sell it. Johnnie Bolin remembers the car having no seats, they used a couch in front for a seat and the back open for gear. Johnnie also remembers their father Rich buying Tommy a 1959 Edsel that only lasted for three weeks. After he moved to Colorado Tommy stopped driving completely, Johnnie says he just didn’t like it.

Tommy was really starting to focus on making it in the music business. Tommy thought The Chateaux were good, but that he was going to have to move on to get next level. He had stayed in touch with Brad Miller, second guitarist with Tommy in Patch of Blue, who had moved to Denver after leaving that band. Miller said that Denver had a happening music scene and there were lots of opportunities for good guitar players. Tommy began talking with family and friends about moving there.

He was 15 years old and still attending Central High School in Sioux City. It is impressive to think of someone his age balancing school with working bands, especially when he lugged the B-3 and Leslie cabinet. Trouble was brewing at school, however, as he was subject to frequent reprimands from school officials, primarily for grooming violations. When asked to get his long hair cut up to his collar he did, then when they subsequently told him that he would have to cut it above his ears and give up music he left school for good. This opened the way for him to leave The Chateaux and make the move to Denver. Richard and Barb had given Tommy all the support possible to fulfill his dreams as a musician, and they continued to do so until the day of his passing. With their blessing he left Sioux City for Denver.

The Chateaux were more than just a band Tommy passed through. They deserve a full biography of their own. The competition between bands and players in the Sioux City and southern South Dakota scene was hot. Out of that cauldron Tommy hit the ground running in Colorado, easily keeping pace with or surpassing players that were invariable older than he was. Many great players like guitarists John Bartle and Mike Miller and drummers Bobby Berge and Marky Craney passed through the band. Berge and Craney were in The Chateaux after Tommy left, but Berge joined Tommy later in Colorado in Zephyr and Energy and played on Tommy’s legendary Teaser and Private Eyes albums. Craney would play drums in the final lineup of the Tommy Bolin Band.

REFERENCE MAN

It has been speculated that Tommy Bolin played on The Chateaux’s 1968 single “Reference Man,” but it was recorded after he left the band. The lineup on “Reference Man” are Bob Ellison on bass and vocals, Gary Knutson on guitar and Doug Test on drums. Harlan Busch provided the scan seen below of a page in Issue #4, December 1995 of Lost and Found magazine which discusses the recording of the song and included photos of the recording lineup. Busch notes that the two photos in the article were taken in front of his home in Prentis Park in Vermillion, and the wall is the same one they used for a background in the promo shot with Tommy where they are climbing the wall.

BOBBY BERGE REMEMBERS

I first heard Tommy Bolin play in Patch of Blue. I wasn’t in The Chateaux when Tommy was in the group, when they all wore turtlenecks and checkered coats like you see in that publicity pic where they are hugging the wall. I played in The Chateaux off and on 1967-69, maybe a little in 1970 before I went to Boulder and joined Zephyr. I joined after Tommy had left them, a guy named Larry Halverson played guitar and a guy with jet black hair named Milt played keys. At some point The Chateaux played the Varsity Club and Tommy came and did that gig on keys. I don’t remember much else about that. Then in the 1968 The Chateaux became a three man power group in the likes of Blue Cheer, Cream, etc. It was Bob Ellison on bass and vocals, Gary Knutson on guitar and vocals and me on drums for a while. Then sometime later John Bartle played guitar and sung. We played Vermillion and some small town dance halls, like Centerville and Beresford. One of last gigs was in Sioux Falls at the Mocambo Club in December 1969, a real hot spot. That was Bartle, Bob Ellison and me. I don’t remember any gigs after that in first part of 1970 but its possible.

Copyright ©2018 John Herdt.

SINGLES

Surf Fever/Do You Love Me (Released in 1964 on Studio City Records)
Reference Man Part 1/Part 2 (Released in 1968 on Eye Records)

LINKS FOR THE SHATTOES/CHATEAUX

Memories of The Shattoes/Chateaux By Their #1 Fan by Harlan Busch

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