It was 1964 and a win at a local “Battle of the Bands” got this group of six young Northern Virginia musicians some studio time at a DC recording studio. Surf music was big and surf music was the kind of music they liked to play.
The band was called the Apollos.
Apollo was the Greek God of Music and masculinity too. But the name also came from the space program that had recently been designed to land humans on the moon. What a crazy idea that was.
Their demo consisted of four songs including That’s the Breaks their most popular song and a version of the Beach Boys Dance, Dance, Dance with drummer Wayne Groves also providing lead vocals on that track.
Fast forward fifty three years or so and Wayne Groves stands by his workbench in Berryville Virginia, his work apron on, looking a bit older than those Apollos days yet still with the somewhat familiar look of a musician who had grown up in the 60’s. His voice is soft and his demeanor calm. The drumsticks he relied in those early battles now replaced by leather tools.
“I brought you something special” I said to him on the day I brought in my early 70’s blonde square toe Frye boots, “these are old.”
Wayne had already been tested on three other pairs of my cowboy boots by that day, some of those going back to the mid 80’s.
“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way” he responded, “but everything you have brought me so far has been old!”
I laughed, but he was right about that. I’ve walked a lot of miles in those boots.
His hands moved over the skin of my boots like Baffert checking the ankles of his new Triple Crown prospect or Clapton sizing up the neck of a fine new Telecaster for the first time.
“These boots have a story” he said as his hands skillfully pulled back the leather and he examined the challenge I had just placed in his care.
He was right about that too those boots did have a story. I was in high school when I got those boots; hopefully he’s not “the boot whisperer.”
“What did you want to do when you grew up?” I asked Wayne one day.
“A musician,” his wife Barbara chimed in before he could respond.
“Really” I said “tell me about that.”
And so that’s when I learned the story of the Apollos, and the battle of the bands, and how they almost made it. Wayne played the drums, but did also get to do that lead vocal on Dance, Dance, Dance.
He learned to be a leather craftsman by apprenticing sort of in the early days with Georgetown Leather. He learned to restore boots and shoes from a third generation Italian shoe maker.
As for my early 70’s blonde square toe Frye’s:
“I picked all these stitches out by hand, you can see where others before me had chewed up the edge” he told me one day when I stopped in to check on his progress.
“I almost didn’t want to do them” he confessed the day I went to pick them up, “but the further I got into them, I had to finish.”
They looked fantastic, almost 45 years of abuse by me and some less talented and surely less concerned leatherworkers, now restored by a true artisan.
When I asked Wayne about retirement he just laughed a little.
I think I understand. How do you walk away from something that’s been so much a part of your life, like music I guess, you never just put it down. Great artists don’t retire they just get older and keep creating.
And as the Apollos song says, that’s the breaks.
But I don’t think those breaks were anything regrettable.
As for that music, old dreams don’t die easy and those drumsticks weren’t put down either. In August Wayne will be attending a music camp down south with some of his old band mates from the Apollos.
Wayne and Barbara’s shop is called Tricks of the Trade. Originally located for many years in Great Falls Virginia, it now resides in Berryville Virginia at 101 East Main Street. If you have something leather that needs created, repaired, or restored I recommend you make the trip to Berryville. Or maybe you have some new patches for your motorcycle jacket or vest; or a pair of vintage cowboy boots that need servicing, or maybe five pair like I did. Stop in and see Wayne and Barbara then go down the road a bit and have a glass of wine at the Veramar Vineyard and winery.
Then wait a week or two and do it again when you go pick up item.
You won’t regret it.
If you don’t live in Northern Virginia, call Wayne or send him an email, maybe you can ship your treasures.
And if you want to hear some vintage Apollos and Wayne cooking on the drums, just google The Apollos, garage band, you will find some of their music on YouTube or look them up on Ebay.
The mailman just delivered my vinyl copy of Round 2 The Battle of the Bands with The Apollos Live, 1966.
Tricks of the Trade:
101 East Main St.
Berryville, VA 22611