Spazz & the Electric Circus
Mark B
Mark Boehm: Guitar, vocals
John Burt: Bass, vocals (1971-73)
Philip Dorner: Bass, vocals (1968-71)
Tom Carpenter: Guitar, vocals
Mark Ohlson: Drums
Date formed: Fall 1968?
Date disbanded: late Spring 1973
This band started out with Mark Boehm and Larry Litchleiter getting together. They were both learning guitar and got together to jam on what songs they both knew. About the same time Larry’s older sister, Cheryl, was child and house sitting for Mark Ohlson and his sisters during the summer–Mark being in 4th grade at this time. Cheryl mentioned to Mark O. that her brother played guitar. So the next time she was over Larry came along and jammed with Mark O. Eventually Mark B. was invited over and the beginnings of a band were much in evidence. Mark B. and Larry had been getting together with Phil Dorner occasionally and Phil was asked to join.
   It was about this time that Mark B. approached Ron Carlson to help the band out with songs and other things. Ron had just come out of the Agency and was between bands. He brought a bunch of albums over to Mark O.’s house to play the guys some tunes he thought they might like to do. For whatever reason nothing ever came of his visit.
The band was still looking for someone to mentor them and be their manager. Carl Dorner–Phil’s older brother–was also between bands. He wanted to be involved with music, but was not wanting to play in a band at that point. Carl was teaching guitar lessons at Klocksiem’s in Ogden at this time and Mark B. was one of his students. Carl accepted the offer from the band and became a guiding force for the band–introducing songs, running practices, helping with jobs.
   As the members worked on songs it became clear that Larry was not able to keep up on the more difficult songs. It was most likely a situation of Larry not being as sold out to playing as the rest of the band members. Carl was able to help out by suggesting Tom Carpenter as a replacement. Everything clicked from there on out.
   Phil Dorner left the band in 1972. His interests had changed and the band was not as prominent in his life by that time. John Burt, who was a classmate of Mark Boehm’s, was asked to join and was with the band until they broke up.
   Carl gave the band their name. There was a club in New York City around that time known as the Electric Circus. Mark Ohlson had picked up the nickname of Spazz–as he is still known–due to his hyperactivity and wild playing style. Carl, wanting to cash in on the little 4th grader playing drums as Mark put it, came up with the name.
Mark Boehm played a Framus single cutaway acoustic/electric guitar with two pickups. The guitar had what was called a red “star burst” finish. At first he shared amps with Tom or Phil. He eventually bought a Jordan amp. The Jordan amp had 2 12 in. speakers arranged vertically and was solid state with reverb and tremolo. It only put out around 45 to 50 watts of power and stood about 4 feet tall.
   John played a Fender Precision bass which had a yellow finish. It is thought that he had a Jordan amp also.
   While with the band Phil played his brother’s Epiphone Wilshire bass guitar. It had a cherry finish and two pickups. For an amp Phil had a Standell bass amp with 2 15 in. speakers, easily the biggest amp on stage for this group.
   Tom played a Framus double cutaway acoustic/electric with two pickups. It was finished in a yellow to red sunburst. Tom also bought a Jordan amp like Mark’s to play through. Tom did most of the lead singing for the band
   Mark O. started off with a Kent snare that his mom bought from Rich Robinson. Along with the snare he had a wood block, cowbell and two of his grandfather's pre–1900 Zildjan cymbals. Through money earned from mowing yards he was able to purchase a inexpensive Whitehall kit which had a 16 in. kick, 8 in. rack tom and 10 in. snare. The Kent snare became his “floor tom”. The Whitehalls were finished in white pearl. He later upgraded to an Apollo kit which were finished in red with black tiger stripes (see photo to the right).
   The band usually plugged into their own amps for PA, not having the money to afford a dedicated system. Occasionally when they played out they rented Denny Allen’s Kustom PA. When they used their own amps many times they would put an auxiliary speaker out in front of the band to help get the vocals out better.
The band practiced in Spazz’s basement at least two nights a week at the start. After about a year they moved to Phil and Carl’s house and used a room on the second floor that had been used by Carl’s previous band, the Agency. Still later the band used an empty building in downtown Ogden. It had previously been the home of Rector’s TV store (just west of Gleim’s Newsstand) and would later become the short-lived Ogden Teen Center. The group paid around $20 a month rent for the facility.
   Carl directed many of the practices as mentioned earlier. Usually he had a list of the songs they were to practice and critiqued their progress. He made the final decision as to which songs worked and which ones didn’t. Carl would also give them a list of tunes for the next practice so the individual members could work on their parts at home.
   Spazz and the Electric Circus did many of the popular tunes of the day leaning towards the lighter, bubblegummy songs at first. Songs like “Crimson & Clover”/Tommy James & the Shondells, “Wipe Out”/Surfaris, “In–A–Gadda–Da–Vida”/Iron Butterfly, “Good Times Bad Times”/Led Zeppelin, “Come On Down To My Boat”/Every Mother's Son, “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”/Monkees, and “Born To Be Wild”/Steppenwolf were in the group’s repertoire. When Phil left the band and John joined they moved into more album oriented songs.
Spazz and the Electric Circus played in the Ogden area for the most part. This was most likely due to the age of the members. With Mark O. being in 4th grade when the band started, school dances were what the band played for most of the time. They did put on a dance at the Ogden City Hall building. They also played for a homecoming dance in Boxholm for Grand Community Schools.
   For their stage show they had some lights that were just free standing bulbs with colored lenses. Later they got some light “columns” with 5 bulbs in each column that could be switched off and on by foot. The band also wore rather eclectic outfits with no two members dressing alike. This was under Carl’s direction who suggested how each member should be attired.
   The first gig the band played was a birthday party. The connection was made through one of Spazz’s classmates for his big sister’s birthday. They each got a crisp, new $5 bill each for playing–which was also the least they ever made–and were on top of the world. It was, by all accounts, a success for this young band.
   Another high point for the band was playing for the Ogden Fun Days celebration in 1970. Besides playing to an appreciative crowd, the band made $250 for the evening which was the most they were ever paid for a performance. The battle of the bands that Spazz and the Electric Circus participated in over Christmas vacation in 1969 is a fond memory also. The dance was held at the old Ogden High School gym and besides Spazz, Jury and Road also played. It was the group's first big audience and was a bit overwhelming for them–tons of equipment, scores of lights and over 140 people. The band took second place in the voting which left a lasting impression in the minds of the group.
   Another performance experience that Mark B. remembered was a time when somehow or other they made Mark O. mad and he tipped over his drum set in the middle of the gig. After they all had a good laugh the kit was picked back up and the band played on.
The first one to leave the group was Phil Dorner. He had developed other interests as mentioned earlier. John Burt was his replacement until the band came to an end. The breakup occurred due to everyone graduating from high school and going their own ways. Mark Boehm and Mark Ohlson continued a relationship musically for a while, putting together bands to play for Ogden Fun Days in 1972, ’74 and ’76.
   After the band broke up Mark B., Phil, Tom and John did not play in any other area bands. Mark Boehm lives in Mapleton Iowa as of this writing. John’s current situation is not known, but he stills lives in the Ogden area. Phil worked for the railroad–the Chicago Northwestern–for awhile. Due to health problems he was in a care facility in the Omaha area. On September 5, 2013 Phil passed away from complications related to these health issues. Mark Ohlson went on to play in several other bands. He had worked several years for Rieman’s Music in Des Moines. Tom passed away on July 9, 2009 from leukemia. He was living in Omaha at the time of his death.
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