* The untold story of Pieces of Eight *
Written by Dan Hannan, Layne Kendig and Bob Matzen

It was a dark and stormy night in 1978 when the Bee Gee's topped the charts with
"Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever", and the view of college fraternities forever
changed after the release of the movie "Animal House".  At the same time, a group
of friends from Wickliffe, Ohio, finding themselves date-less and bored of traditional
Friday nights of bowling, playing pool, and political sign hunting, decided to test
their musical talents. Realizing that disco would soon meet it's long overdue
demise, the "Blues Brothers" made up of Saturday Night Live's John Belushi and
Dan Akroyd released a recording that was gaining popularity.

Rob Vincent, Bob Matzen, Jeff Strauss, Al Widmer, Joe Blatnik, and Mike Sosic,
grabbed their instruments (musical, that is) with a few cool, refreshing beverages
and headed to Jeff's house. There, they attempted to play along with the Blues
Brothers album. As this weekly Friday night gathering continued, and the music
actually starting to sound like recognizable songs, the circle of friends realized that
additional members would be required to complete this ensemble. Joe Blatnik,
having made acquaintance with Dan Hannan through the Wickliffe High School
marching band, asked him to join in as the trombone player. Knowing that his long
time friend and guitar player, Kurt Kendig and his keyboard playing brother Layne
had recently severed ties with a band called "Destiny", Dan suggested that they be
asked to join in on the musical endeavor.

After practicing for weeks, the band decided in March of 1979 to take its repertoire
of 5 songs, if 5 songs can be considered a repertoire, to perform at a Wickliffe High
School Recital. After the overwhelming success of this debut performance, the
band, still called "the band', performed two additional High School recitals. Over the
next year the band concentrated on practicing and eventually ventured their new
songs on unsuspecting patrons of backyard barbecues and graduation parties thus
forming memories and relationships which still remain intact today.

The band landed its first public bar gig at the Flipside, a small bar in Cleveland
Heights, on October 9th, 1980. At the time, Kurt and Dan were merely juniors in
high school although the legal drinking age in Ohio was 18. In order to advertise
the band it was felt that the group needed a name. In a pitiful attempt to coerce
patrons to the bar, the band thought the name "FREE BEER" would work quite
nicely since advertisements in local weekly publications would read, "Free Beer at
the Flipside". For the sake of professionalism and an attempt to establish some
sense of integrity, the band searched for another name, finally deciding on "Pieces
of Eight".

Logo T-shirts were printed, jackets were made, and plans to conquer the music
world were initiated as Pieces of Eight began performing at the Flipside on a
regular basis establishing itself as a ‘bar band’ - not really performing for financial
gain, but purely for self-amusement and an opportunity to spend a night out with
the guys. This philosophy became evident early on. Practices typically lasted 6
hours yielding only one new song learned but a far greater yield of hangovers and

In an attempt to perform beyond the sticky, smelly confines of the Flipside stage,
Pieces of Eight competed in a city-wide Battle of the Band's contest at a west side
night club, the Cleveland Connection, and won first place out of more than 20 other
bands. The band used this opportunity to associate with the underworld of booking
agents, management types, and local talent scouts. This association resulted in a
long run of engagements at various venues around the Cleveland area and many
performances at colleges and high school dances.

In 1983, the band was invited by the Rascal House, a popular college bar at which
the band played frequently, to provide poolside entertainment in Daytona Beach,
Florida during Spring Break. A land speed record from Cleveland to Daytona Beach
of 36 hours was set due to numerous vehicular breakdowns. These included a
broken brake line discovered as the band truck rounded a freeway exit at 55 miles
per hour and a transmission which ceased to transmit while crossing the South
Carolina border

To this day, a majority of the band members do not recall ever eating any meals in
Florida, but have vivid memories of rising in the morning with heads pounding like
the previous nights drums, and gingerly crossing the street to the convenience
store to purchase a twelve pack of cool refreshing beverages and fruity ice treats,
both of which were consumed pool-side prior to the days performance. Nor do
some band members remember how their friends expressed their love and
compassion for them as they wallowed in a semi-conscious state of inebriation. Joe
Blatnik was turned into a fresh fruit basket, and Kurt was forcibly and repeatedly
injected in the mouth by a syringe full of rum while he protested "It Burns." To the
amusement of his previous night's attackers, Kurt slept through his alarm the next
morning, missing his flight home to sing with the Cleveland State Chorus.

After returning from 1984’s Dayton Beach Spring Break - round 2, which still
resurfaces memories and somewhat disturbing visuals of Devo dancing, tattered
undergarments, and impromptu self-exposure, Mike Sosic left the band in June of
1984 to pursue a lucrative career in the research of Three Stooges history. Joe
Blatnik took over on drums and Randy Coumos, another Wickliffe High graduate,
known for his vocal prowess became lead singer.

Two performances at the Richfield Coliseum and years later, a back fence party at
Cleveland Municipal Stadium would be just a few of the accomplishments the band
members would look back on as early highlights of their career. Although, it would
be erroneous and irresponsible to give the impression that all performances were
worthy of receiving a thumbs up.

1984 also saw the beginning of several long running traditions; playing a few songs
at band members' weddings, annual performances at Willowick Home Days, Huron
Jaycee's Boppin’ in the Basin, and performing at the Boat House at Put-in-Bay.

The summer of 1985 saw a band metamorphosis - (Now pay close attention) Layne
left the band and Joe Lazar, yet another Wickliffe High School grad, took over on
keyboards. Randy Coumos‘ departure returned Joe Blatnik to vocal duties. With
the drummer's throne again vacant, Mike Sosic returned to his seat behind the
cymbals. Laura Porter joined the band to share her melodious voice and precision
saxophone abilities. Also in 1985, despite now having nine members, the name of
the band was converted to "Pieces of Eight Featuring the Lakeside Brass" as a
cheap marketing ploy in an effort to describe the type of music the band performed
as well as to pacify the brass section by making them feel somewhat significant.

At the end of 1985, Kurt continued to drool on stage and Band metamorphosis Part
2 took place: Al Widmer left his long-time musical comrades and was replaced by
Dave Krew. Bob Matzen converted from bass guitarist to sound man. Joe Lazar
moved from the keyboards to the bass guitar and Layne returned to the
keyboards. Bill Sekelsky, affectionately known as Mr. Bill became the lighting guru
and assisted Bob with the sound responsibilities, while Mike Casadonte remained
perched behind the speakers in monitor mixing anonymity.

At this time the band began to play regularly at the Sahara Club attracting throngs
of fans, along with the usual suspects known as the Fish gang, and a one-time
appearance on stage by Cleveland Indians then second baseman, Julio Franco. By
the end of 1987 "Metamorphosis, the Sequel" would begin. (Here goes) Dave Krew
vacated his Rock and Roll trumpet position and referred his long time friend, George
Holobinko to the band as the new trumpet player. Meanwhile, Layne Kendig, still
upset that his antique stool had been purposely and vindictively run over by the
truck years prior, left the band again to pursue a career in antique stool
restoration. Mike Butzback, another Wickliffe High graduate, joined the band,
bringing technologically advanced keyboard equipment with him and a fear of bees
which would forever amuse his band-mates.

Laura Porter's musical career expanded beyond the limited talents of Pieces of Eight
in 1987 to the point that she would ultimately produce recordings of her own music.
To fill this brass void, Jim Wilson began to share not only his saxophone, but also
various other reed instrument and vocal talents with the band on a full-time basis.

Membership in the band remained consistent for the next 2 years which witnessed
a variety of band related injuries, including such mishaps as falls from ladders,
windows, trucks, and stages and numerous smashed fingers, large splinters, and
electrical shocks.  While all of these calamities occurred on the job, they
mysteriously weren't covered under the Workman's Compensation clause of the
band's benefits package.  In fact, on most occasions, such injuries were met with
malicious taunting and uncontrolled laughter from “concerned” band mates while
the semi-conscious victims tried desperately to regain their composure and restore
some semblance of their dignity.

In 1989, Pieces of Eight released a 6 song cassette entitled "Room at the Top"
made up of original songs. A 10-year anniversary party was held at The Wickliffe
Community Center, complete with a Blues Brothers set with all past and present
members performing. Shortly thereafter, George Holobinko puckered his lips the last
time as the trumpet player of Pieces of Eight, and Al Widmer, bored to tears at
reorganizing his underwear drawer, rejoined the band playing trumpet. Joe Lazar
relieved himself of bass guitar duties and was replaced with Wickliffite-by-marriage,
Dave DeWalt.

As thirteen months of bar, school, festival, and benefit jobs continued to forge
additional memories in the minds of the current band members, the band truck did
its part to baffle, confuse and aggravate each and every band member. In
December of 1990, Mike Sosic left his throne. Joe Blatnik again became the
drummer and vocal responsibilities were divided among those band members who
were willing to sing.

In 1991, Desert Storm brought the country together as a cohesive unit with a
common goal. This was best reflected by an entire bar standing and saluting the
band as they performed an impromptu rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at
Tommy's Bar and Grill. At the end of the evening, certain pseudo-athletic members
of the band would seriously injure the establishments' conveyor belt by pretending
to ski up and down it rather than loading equipment. This demonstration of
athleticism is just one example of the many sporting activities undertaken by
various band members over the years in times of extreme and overwhelming

From 1991 on, Pieces of Eight continued to play at Put-in-Bay on an annual basis, a
variety of local bars and night clubs, an occasional gig in the Flats in Cleveland, as
well as regular Christmas and New Year's Eve Parties. In addition to a one-time gig
at the Cleveland IX Center for an indoor amusement park, (at which the Brass
played an entire song on a revolving Ferris wheel) Pieces of Eight began to play an
occasional wedding to take temporary refuge from the smoke and alcohol-induced
antics of night club patrons.  One such marital celebration at Put-in-Bay saw
prominent Hollywood actor, William H. Macy, join the band on stage to “assist” with
background vocals.

In 1995, as the bond among these friends continued to strengthen and their
relationships matured, guitar player Rob Vincent's health began to fail. Since his
birth, Rob fought a life-long battle with hemophilia. Although his condition was
known only to his family and close friends, Rob had always tried to live a normal,
unrestricted life; participating in sports and sky diving out of planes. But years
earlier, Rob was diagnosed with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome from a blood
transfusion he received in the treatment of his Hemophilia. The disease had now
manifested itself in the form of an acute bout of Pneumonia. Because of the close
friendships developed by the members of Pieces of Eight, the thought of performing
without Rob on lead guitar was of great concern. While Rob was in the hospital, the
band took 4 months off from performing. Rob returned to the stage to perform for a
brief time, but his condition worsened. Although his technical abilities on the guitar
and his will and determination never faltered, Rob found himself no longer physically
able to perform. After much thought and discussion, the band decided to continue
to perform and sought out Ken Cali as the new lead guitar player. Ken, an
acquaintance of light man Mr. Bill, had performed with several area bands including
Wild Horses and Tymz Up over the previous years.

Rob succumbed to his illness and passed away on July 29, 1996 at the age of 37.  
In tribute to Rob, a guitar stand attired with bow tie and Cleveland Indians cap
continues to accompany the band at every performance since his brave journey

After finally recovering from Pieces of Eight’s 1999 20-year anniversary celebration,
attended by nearly 800 family members, friends, fans, and former band members,
Dave DeWalt left the band in December 2002.  As the search for a new bass
guitarist ensued, Joe Lazar was sighted in the vicinity perched atop and
neighborhood barstool and agreed to end his self-imposed 13-year musical hiatus.

As 2002 turned miraculously into 2003, some of the band members joined a few
well-known Cleveland musicians and The Drew Carey Show’s “Oswald” in
developing a re-make of the old favorite “There’s No Surf In Cleveland.”  This
project was developed and produced by long time Pieces of Eight fan and
supporter and Wickliffe graduate turned Hollywood comedy writer and producer,
Terry Mulroy, whose credits include “The Drew Carey Show”, “According To Jim”,
and “Still Standing”, among various other projects.  While lots of fun was had
during studio production, it is doubtful that this surfing event will ever amount to
much more than a fart bubble in a bathtub.

2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the band - still performing for the sole purpose
of self-amusement, with the pleasant side effect of offering its audiences
entertainment. The band's longevity and accomplishments are attributable to those
friends, fans, and families of Pieces of Eight who have endured many of the same
songs, jokes, antics, and whimsical mischief since 1979 and who continue to be the
foundation of the band's success.