Tag Archives: Bill Briggs

“38 Minutes Of Sheer Terror”

The alert blared on Anthony Dohanos’ phone a few minutes after 8 a.m.

It was a false alarm. Still, for more than half an  hour Anthony Dohanos — former Westporter, longtime resident of the big island of Hawaii, and son of famed illustrator Stevan Dohanos — had no reason to disbelieve the alert.

Instead, he had every reason to believe he — and everyone else in the state — would die.

“We all said our goodbyes,” he told “06880” this afternoon. He expected the missile — or missiles — to hit within 15 minutes.

It took another 20 minutes or so before the 2nd — and astonishingly more reassuring — message came through.

I spoke with Anthony a few minutes ago. It was 4 hours since the petrifying ordeal. He — and nearly everyone else in Hawaii — was still shaken up.

Another former Westporter — Bill Briggs, 1964 Staples High School graduate who earned fame as the Remains’ keyboardist — is vacationing in Hawaii.

He posted on Facebook:

I’m a little bit of a “prepper.” I says to myself, “We’re screwed!”

No shelters. No civil defense instructions. No nothin’! I had a little bit of extra medication and a really good flashlight but that’s it.

People were freaking out! We kept our cool and figured if it was true we were screwed anyway, so why panic. Incredible degree of ineptitude.

Anthony sent a GIF that’s making its way around Hawaii:

But it may be quite some time before he — and everyone else — can truly relax.

Beatles’ Final Tour Remains In Westport’s Memory

Today marks the final concert of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last US tour.

Also, the Remains’.

For local musicologists — and fans of the regionally famous band that included 2 Westporters, and lives on in the hearts and souls of anyone who heard them — that 2nd fact is as least as important as the 1st.

Fred Cantor — the band’s Boswell, who makes sure his fellow Staples High grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs (plus Vern Miller and Chip Damiani) “remain” alive, with an off-Broadway musical (“All Good Things”) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“) — sent along a reminder of the legendary summer of ’66 tour.

By then the Remains had already appeared on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” They’d relocated from Boston to New York, and had a contract with Epic Records. But they had not yet broken into the big time, when they got the offer to tour with the Beatles (along with the Ronettes, the Cyrkle and Bobby Hebb).

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Tashian — the front man, just 3 years out of Staples — remembers not being able to get out of their car, on the way to their 1st concert in Chicago. Screaming fans thought they were the Beatles. He found it funny — and scary.

They could not use their own amps there — and did not even have a chance to try out the ones they were given. To musicians, that’s like walking on a tightrope without a net.

Indoor arenas — like Detroit, where the band could see the crowd — were excellent. “They were digging us,” Tashian told Cantor. “We were saying, ‘This is great. This is elevated to another place.”

But in large stadiums like Cleveland, the audience was too far away to make the connections the Remains thrived on. After that show, they met with their road manager. They second-guessed everything they did wrong — and right.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot.

Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, on stage. Drummer ND Smart (who replaced Chip Damiani on the tour) is hidden. Keyboardist Bill Briggs is not in the shot. (Photo/Ed Freeman)

Their interactions with the Beatles were limited, but memorable. Tashian says they had tons of energy, and great senses of humor. They did not take things too seriously.

Tashian learned a lot. “The world was a different place when you were with John Lennon,” he says.

The Westport guitarist also listened to Ravi Shankar with George Harrison. Indian music was a revelation. So was a new invention Harrison had gotten hold of: tape cassettes.

Six days before the end of the tour, the Remains and Beatles played Shea Stadium. Tashian calls it “an emotional moment.” The lights were the brightest of any place they played. With a rare break the night before, he felt rested, “a little more balanced and grounded.”

The Remains, back in the day.

The Remains, back in the day.

In California, near the end of the tour, Harrison sent a car to pick up Tashian. Meeting the Beach Boys, Mama Cass Elliot, Roger McGuinn and others, he was “speechless.”

Briggs — the Remains’ keyboardist — recalls the final concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park:

“It just seemed like you were playing on a mountaintop and there was nobody there. They shut off the lights, all in the stadium proper and they just left a row of the lights on the top. It was like we were playing there by ourselves.

“I really enjoyed it. That was probably the most relaxed I was on the whole tour.”

What came next was tough. “It was like being dumped from a dump truck down over a ledge into a quarry or something, just left down there in the dust,” Tashian says.

He realizes now that his band had been breaking up — for various reasons — even before the tour began.

The Beatles kept recording, until they too broke apart. Today, of course, they’re still big — perhaps bigger than ever.

The Remains are just a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history.

But to anyone who heard them play — particularly at small clubs, not the big arenas and stadiums of that 1966 tour — what a footnote they are.


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Remains Drummer Chip Damiani Dies

Chip Damiani — whose pounding drums helped drive the Remains to cult status in the 1960s, and who still played as energetically 5 decades later — died today, of a massive brain hemorrhage.

The Remains — who besides Chip included Staples grads Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs, plus Vern Miller — had been preparing for a special show in Fairfield in April. It was scheduled for the end of the Fairfield Museum and History Center‘s current exhibit saluting area musical legends.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield History Museum's opening reception for its rock 'n' roll exhibit. He posed in front of posters of his legendary band, the Reamins.

In January, Chip Damiani attended the Fairfield Museum and History Center’s opening reception for its rock ‘n’ roll exhibit. He posed in front of photos of his legendary band, the Reamins. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The Remains were — quite simply — America’s best rock band.  Ever.

Jon Landau said they were “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

Unfortunately, they broke up — right after touring America with the Beatles, a bit after performing on “Ed  Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.” 

It took them decades to get back together. When they did, they picked up right where they left off. In fact, they were better than ever.

Chip Damiani, doing what he loved most.

Chip Damiani, doing what he loved most.

I was fortunate enough to be in Gail and Terry Coen’s Westport basement studio the 1st time they rehearsed for a European reunion tour, a decade or so ago. It was one of the most magical moments of my life. And no one was happier to be back than Chip.

The Remains got together regularly after that. They were the subject of an off-Broadway show (“All Good Things”) and a documentary (“America’s Lost Band”).

They all had separate lives, of course — hey, they’re in their mid-60s. Barry has had a long career as a musician in Nashville. Bill is a luxury automobile dealer. Vern is a high school music teacher. Chip was a roofer.

But at heart, Chip was a drummer. He played regularly with any band he could find. And every summer, he was at Gail and Terry’s 4th of July party on Soundview Drive. The food and fireworks were fun. But the highlight of the night — for Chip, and anyone fortunate enough to listen — was the midnight jam session that followed, down in the basement. As his bandmate Barry Tashian marveled, “He still played like a teenager.”

“All good things don’t have to end,” the Remains sang.

For Chip Damiani, the life he loved ended far, far too soon.