A full decade before the Sex Pistols, Dunwich Records had unceremoniously ushered in punk in all but name. The record was “Project Blue” by the Banshees; a purely primal slab of howling vocals and nerve-shredding, totally original guitar. Rather than sounding like another suburban Stones knock-off, the Banshees on “Project Blue” almost telepathically mined the same territory as the Velvet Underground of ‘White Light/White Heat’, only a full year earlier.
This Chicago group started out as the Fugitives (circa ’62), comprised of Frank Bucaro (lead vocals), Jack Smead (lead guitar), Rick Nadolini (bass) and Tom Lito (drums). A crucial addition was Ronnie Rouse on lead guitar, requiring Smead’s move to rhythm guitar, followed by a name change to the Prophets. They toured the tri-state area of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, even opening shows for the Dave Clark Five and Yardbirds. As legend has it, Dunwich’s Bill Traut just happened to be in the studio on the day that the Prophets were demoing “Project Blue”.
As recounted by guitarist Smead in Kicks Magazine, Traut was enthusiastic enough to sign the young group, change their name to the more appropriate Banshees, and relieve them of their non-musician bass player, Rick Nadolini (“Rick couldn’t play at all – ‘Project Blue’ was three notes and he couldn’t even play that”, Smead told Kicks). The Banshees new bassist was Peter Sheldon, an English musician left high ‘n’ dry in Chicago. The only other surviving Banshees track is the “Project Blue” b-side, “Free”; a less ear-assaulting ballad in an Everly Brothers vein. Like so many sixties garage bands, the Banshees broke up at the end of high school (in ’67).