Monday, March 8, 2010

The Triumphs - Late '60's N.E. Ohio Garage / Psych Rock

The Triumphs were a Geneva / Ashtabula garage rock band that my uncle Roger Miller played bass for back in the late 1960's. Yes, coincidently he had the same name as the famous "King of the Road" country singer. Their first single, "Lovin' Cup" b/w "It's So Easy" is a Miller family artifact that I have kept in my record collection ever since the day, way back in 1968, that he visited us with a copy of it. I was only 10 years old at the time. I'm not sure my parents were all that enthusiastic with the actual SOUND of the record. Garage rock was not really their sort of thing. I was greatly impressed, though. Someone in my family actually made a record? How cool is this?

To me, my uncle was a mysterious guy. He was never around much when we went out to Geneva to visit my Grandparents, and when he was, he never talked a lot. The quiet type. Mostly he was always off somewhere, doing things that I could only imagine. I do know he raced stock cars; he had 10 or 12 silver and gold trophies on a shelf that I used to play around with when no one was watching. There was often a car or two of his in the driveway, like a Corvette or something, all in various states of being worked on for the next race. He also had a guitar - a really strange looking one with big fat strings. It was a bass, the first one I ever saw up close.

Unfortunately I never got to see his band play. Not long after these singles were made, my uncle quit the Triumphs - or maybe they broke up, I don't know which. After that he gave up on his music career and lived the married life, with two kids and a job. Many years later I found out that he was playing music at his church. During this period I finally heard him sing a few songs, with his acoustic guitar at some family gathering. He was actually quite good, although it was light-years removed from the sound of the Triumphs.

This turned out to be the last time I ever saw him. He died very suddenly when he was only in his early 50's. A heart attack, I think it was. By then I was playing in my own bands and putting out my own little records. I never got to know my uncle very well. Hardly at all, actually. Maybe if he had lived longer, I would have eventually. One thing I have learned over the years though, is that "eventually" sometimes has a way of never arriving. You wait too long and the opportunity passes you by, never to return. Still, perhaps he had an influence on me. It is not out of realm of possibility that the little round piece of plastic he gave me back in 1968 was a nudge, no matter how small, to the trajectory that my life was taking. So thanks Uncle - you never said much, but as the old saying goes, actions speak much louder than words.

"Lovin' Cup" is a Paul Butterfield song, but in the hands of the Triumphs, sounds much closer to the COUNT FIVE'S "Psychotic Reaction" than it does to blues-rock. The b-side, Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy," is a pretty straightforward cover of that, perhaps slightly more rocked up. Maybe I'll add that one to this post, eventually. According to the "Ohio Sounds" blog, "Lovin' Cup" was "recorded in Chicago at CHESS and got some regional play." I did not know this before. Chess Records studio: Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones and...the Triumphs? Hey, getting to record at a place like Chess is a HUGE accomplishment in my book.

Speaking of "Ohio Sounds," I stole the mp3 and photo of the 2nd Triumphs single from their blog. I think "People Try My Mind" is an original song, although I'm not sure. I never owned a copy of the 2nd single, nor do I know anything about the other members of the band - or even if my uncle actually played on the second 45. I'll just say that he did and wait for someone else to come along and prove otherwise.

Triumphs - Lovin' Cup
Triumphs - People Try My Mind
Listen to more cool Ohio rock singles at: