Fifty years after, The Ogres to rock the Lampost

The Ogres as teens on the Vineyard in the 1960s. — Nancy Safford

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. But sometimes it’s better. On Saturday, July 9, at the Lampost in Oak Bluffs, Sixties teen rock band the Ogres will reunite on the Vineyard, where they got their start 50 years ago.

As teenagers in the Sixties, the band members played gigs in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs. They covered songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, and other popular groups from the time. Several of the band’s members worked in other bands during the Seventies and Eighties, the most notable of which is the group Fountainhead, formed in 1974 after several members of the original Ogres returned from college. Fountainhead will also perform Friday night.

Fountainhead, who are still booking shows once or twice a month (mostly in Connecticut), is still a local favorite, but there was a time during their early years when they thought they were just a step away from commercial success. They rubbed shoulders with fame, opening for groups like the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jefferson Starship, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Outlaws, Link Wray, Pure Prairie League, and Dickey Betts.

Fountainhead released two albums of original material. Their first, the 1981 album “Live at Toads,” is thought by many fans to be a classic. They recorded tracks for another album at major record label, RCA in New York. They were expecting a record deal, but the studio changed directions, moving toward new wave and disco and away from the country-blues sound the band had perfected. Their second album, “Straight From the Source’s Mouth,” a collection of demo tapes recorded in several studios, was released in 1982.

“We loved the music of Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson,” Ken Griffen, an East Chop summer resident and a key member of both groups, said. “Nobody else even knew who they were, but we played this Texas music and spread the word. We also loved the Grateful Dead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, and the old blues songs the Rolling Stones had played.”

Mr. Griffen grew up spending summers on the Vineyard. In 1966, when he was 17, he talked his Connecticut buddies and fellow band members into spending a summer on the Island. The Ogres played four nights a week for 10 weeks at the Island a Go Go on Beach Road, a dance club for teens in Vineyard Haven. “We got an allowance of $5 a week and meals at the Art Cliff Diner next door,” Mr. Griffen said. “We got to live above the Island a Go Go. We each had our own room. Seventeen years old and living on Martha’s Vineyard for the summer without adult supervision. It was like we died and went to heaven. It was a great time.” They repeated the gig the following summer before breaking up when they headed for college.

The name, the Ogres, came to them in 1965, after Mr. Griffen’s girlfriend was wooed away by a member of another band called the Trolls.

Mr. Griffen, who once played keyboards on tour with Island-based singer Kate Taylor, said that Kate’s brother James would sometimes stop in on Ogres rehearsals.

Holding down a day job for over 30 years in spite of his rock ’n’ roll tendencies, Mr. Griffen is a senior vice president at Merrill Lynch. He now owns his own house on East Chop, and has returned to the Island most summers of his life.

Fred Domont of Edgartown, the original Ogres bass guitar player, will be coming out of musical retirement to join his old buddies. He liked the Island so much in the early days of the band that he never left. Grayson Pelletier, the band’s drummer, is a lifelong Islander who lives with his family in Edgartown.

“There’s no substitute for the magical energy of the young,” Mr. Griffen said of the reunion. “The players in Fountainhead are all musically better than ever, as I know I am. All those extra years of practice and experience on stage do count for something, and the love of playing together in a band still is the highest high ever. It transcends all other experiences to me. But give me just one night as a mad, driven 18-year-old boy. There is no substitute.”

The Ogres 50th anniversary show: Saturday, July 9, at the Lampost in Oak Bluffs. Show starts at 8 pm. Tickets are $10 at the door. 21-plus.