The Courteous Drivers were a band that utilized a unique blend of “long form” rock, by bands such as Pink Floyd, and turned that trademark sound into a formula that made them one of the biggest bands on the Jersey circuit in the late ‘70s. “We played cover songs, and they were tight covers,” says bassist Peter Myers, “But we added a dimension to them. We would do 10-minute arrangements of songs.”
Joining Peter in the group were guitarist and vocalist Billy Morris, drummer Peter Gaygen, and keyboard player Tommy Jones. The band started out at a small club in Sea Girt called Joe Crines. After they packed the place, they started playing other venues all over the Jersey Shore. Clubs such as the Shipwheel in Brielle, and the Silver Dollar in Pt. Pleasant played host to the Drivers. Soon the band was picked up by Art Stock, who not only put the band into his well-known Royal Manor, but also sent the group down to Florida.
“We were doing rreally well,” remembers Peter. “We had a big van with the logo on the side. We had t-shirts, bumper stickers, everything. We had a really loyal following, about 50 fans followed us down to Florida. I still sometimes see bumper stickers on cars.”
Some of the more popular songs performed by the band included “Have A Cigar” by Pink Floyd, “Midnight Rambler” by the Rolling Stones, and originals such as “I Care” and “Last Call For Alcohol.” They would orchestrate the entire set, so they could play without stopping for a whole 50-minute set, segueing one song right into the next. That quickly became the trademark for the group.
With the members’ musically diverse talents, they could also give the material different types of instrumentation. Peter often added fretless bass, and they made extensive use of percussion, as well as incorporating different sounds into the songs. “It was orchestrated rock,” says Peter. “Billy would use slide guitar, and different kinds of chorus effects to get a really full sound. Pedals were a new thing,” adds Peter. “Billy was really on the cutting edge with the signal processors, although they didn’t call them that then.”
The group was able to incorporate their original music into the set, but knew that becoming a totally original band would hurt them on the club scene. “We were struggling with our desire to do original stuff,” says Peter. “Eventually that’s what I think broke the band up.”
Peter was the first to leave the band, and it was a very hard decision for him. “I hated to leave the band,” he recalls. “But my real desire was to pursue a songwriting career.” He left when the opportunity came in the form of a songwriting contract with MCA Records. He soon formed a group named “PMB” (for the “Peter Myers Band”), and released a single through MCA that garnered airplay on stations such as WNEW in New York. Since that time, he has had over 90 songs published, and had songwriting contracts with MCA, CBS, and Warner Brothers.
Tommy Jones has stayed a part of the New Jersey music scene as a present day member of the Party Dolls. He is not only a classically trained musician, but was considered by Peter to be the glue that stuck everything together in the sound of the Drivers.
Billy went on to found the Intoxicators, who made a name for themselves as a Grateful Dead cover band. Today he still plays in clubs as part of a duo. Peter Gaygen has gone on to run his own transportation company. Peter Myers has fond memories of his days with Courteous Drivers. “I hated to leave,” he says. “It was a real fun band.”
Copyright © Hal B. Selzer/The Aquarian/East Coast Rocker and transcribed with permission.