The Clefs were a band from the Fort Wayne area in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The members of the band were Kenny Pancake (guitar), two brothers, Steve & Lani Hathaway (drums & guitar), Jim Marker (accordian), and Jack McCormick (guitar).
Jack McCormick relates the story of the band’s genesis:
It was my junior year in high school, 1958. My cousin, Kenny and I, had been fooling around with our dad’s guitars for a while, and Kenny knew of a couple of guys at school that liked to play, so thats how Steve, Jim, Lani, Kenny, and I got together. We started playing in a lot of places around town at record hops and the roller skating rink during most of 1958.
In 1959, the group hired a manager, D.D. Douds (Dave Smith), a.k.a. “the Rock and Roll Rampager.” In the very early spring of 1959, Douds got the Clefs a gig to go to New York city to record a new song called “Roll Over Beethoven”. The group was very excited.
At that time in Fort Wayne, drive-in theaters were a big thing and one of these theaters, stayed open all year round. They had to heat the bathrooms and concession stand with gas heaters. Right after the group got the news about New York, the drummer, Steve, and guitar player, Kenny, went on a double date with their girlfriends to that drive -in.
What they did not know was that the gas company had come to the drive-in that morning and removed the gas heaters out of the bathrooms, but forgot to cap the gas line. So all day the bathroom was filling up with gas.
That evening, Steve, Kenny and the girls went to the drive-in early, so the girls went up near the screen where they a swing set, while Steve and Kenny went into the bathroom for a smoke. As soon as Kenny flicked his lighter, the place exploded with such force that the bathroom door blew off of its hinges, sailing straight out 40 feet, hitting a speaker post and breaking it in half. Somehow the guys survived, and were taken to the hospital.
Kenny told me that when they got there the doctors decided to cut off their arms because the flesh was just hanging there. But both Steve and Kenny pleaded with the doctors not to do it, because they played in a band. Finally, the doctors decided not to do that, and just wrap up their arms.
The Clefs lost the New York job. Douds dropped the Clefs and took another group, Misty and the Green Men, to Las Vegas where they became a lounge act.
The two band members were in the hospital for many months, but eventually recovered enough to continue playing. Because of the pain in his fingers, Kenny put bandaids on all of his fingers so he could press down on the strings. Steve took large balls of cotton and taped it around his sticks, and that’s how he played for months.
In 1961, the group walked into the radio station WOWO in Fort Wayne with D.J. Bob Sievers as the group’s engineer. They recorded “Don’t Cry” and “The Dream Train Special”, later released on Red Bird records.