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Band Members

Mike Dugan


Mike Dugan

Mike Dugan was one of the mikes on stage along with racky, shure and electrovoice. He is the foremost rust belt blues guitarist in the past 100 years.

Dugan jammed with Jeff, Rich and Racky in the summer of 1972 in a Montclair State dormitory and lent his name to the original band. Dugan's Boy . They played one gig under that name at Dempsey's in the Oranges. The bartender, who had a dubious reputation, asked if he could provide the band with musical equipment. "Just write down what you want and my friends will take care of it. It's how Sinatra got his start."

Mike had previously played with Spence in a lounge band in the greater Philadelphia area.

Besides instrumentation excellence, Mike penned several of the Mad Fables songs, among them Bad 'Nuff Boogie, Pimpin' Down Pine, and The Autumn Song.

Mike enjoyed playing different styles and he sometimes switched to mandolin in their countrified music selections. He is a quintessential lead guitarist and a seasoned performer. Mike has been playing throughout the United States for over forty-five years. If you have the chance, do not miss this guy in concert.

You can visit Mike's fantastic web site at mikedugan.com to learn more about his incredible career.

Jeff Hays


Jeff Hays

Jeff Hays is a force to be reckoned with. His bass playing demonstrates this.

Jeff, bass guitarist for Mad Fables, was described by a radio announcer as the Abraham Lincoln of the group. He alluded to Jeff being the link between the North and South New Jersey cultures. Jeff had previously played in a band with Rich Rheiner (Pygmailion) and along with Mike Dugan, the three had their roots in Gloucester County.

The Mad Fables bassist contains a well of energy from which the Fables music often dipped its cup. Jeff's upright bass is larger than the Hammond organ, and he attacks it with the ferocity of a conquering hero. He wrote several songs (Cold NJ Night, Thunder 747,etc.) and collaborated with other Fables on some (Dewey Dilton,Never flown South,etc.)

Someone once said that if you liked a band, it meant you liked the playing of the bass player. (It wasn't Jeff who said this). But whoever said it was right on -- the bottom is the core, the essence. A career bassist, Jeff has played across the United States, most recently playing with Racky in California, 2011. If you live where Mad Fables played during the seventies, you can still experience the Hays machination at special events in your area. The rest of the world has to wait.

Jeff Hays


Jeff Hays

Spencer Hill


Spencer Hill

Spencer Hill is a multi-talented individual, playing drums, keyboards and clarinet.

When he was with the Fables, Spence provided the steady beats and driving rhythms, and sang harmony on many of the tunes.

He was the only non-New Jersey member of the group (from Bethesda, Maryland). Having previously played with Mike Dugan, he immediately clicked with the original sound of Mad Fables.

Once, after he showed up more than an hour late for the very regular practice session in Blairstown, he was surrounded by the other peeved band members. Each grabbing one of his limbs, they carried him over to the side of the stagnant pond on the property. And, on three, he was heaved into the green water. Spence said it was a waltz since they counted to three.

Post Fables, he bought a classic XP-80 synthesizer and composed a wide genre of music. Spencer is active in the Washington, D.C. area music scene. You can visit his web site at The Unforgiven to learn more about his post Fable doings.

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Mike Radtke


Mike Radtke

Mike Radtke , keyboardist, was on the left side of the stage (from his recollection) -- if you viewed it from the right side. In that corner was the bionic Hammond organ and a Wurlitzer electric piano, and at times, a ventriloquist dummy.

Mike finished a college degree during the first four months that the band lived together. Eight people shared the Belleville house known as the Enchanted Castle. That winter was brrrr cold -- everyone huddled around the oven to keep warm after there was no more furniture to burn in the fireplace.

Radtke was the most prolific songwriter of the band, but truth be told he had a head start -- writing some thirty songs before the band was formed.

At one time or another, Radtke was also seen playing a harmonica, banjo, accordion and sax; probably all at once. He says he knows cowboy-chords on guitar, but if you look at his fingers, no cowboy played chords like that.

Radtke has so many nicknames it's hard to google this guy. He might answer the call of "Michael", "Mike", "Mick", "Racky", and "Hey you". He currently performs as the Multiple Personality Quartet.

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Mike Radtke


Mike Radtke

Richard C Rheiner


Rich Rheiner

Rich Rheiner, guitarist, was doubly blessed with talent and wielded a artistic pencil as well as his singing Telecaster. He used his exceptional graphical ability to draw all the backdrops, the album covers,some mailing list flyers, and even the side of the mail truck turned equipment carrier.


With Mad Fables, Rheiner played the Telecaster and shimmied the hawaiian steel guitar. His fast-paced licks and/or ethereal slide tones in all of the songs engaged the listener beyond the scope of the song's enhancement.

Rich's original songs were uniquely adventures into the sound spectrum: Night Noise, Bone Dry,Tune Changer. His original songs are all beyond top notch, ready for assimilation.

You can hear some of Rich's latest stuff on Soundcloud

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Dennis Alichwer


Dennis Alichwer

Dennis Alichwer was not on stage. It's somewhat unusual for the sound engineer to be included in a band's lineup, but Dennis was extraordinary at his job and had much to do with blending the musical performance into a coherent sounscape. He is more than the sixth Mad Fable since he has been the archivist who stored boxes of magnetically coated plastic tapes over the past thirty years.

Dennis created the Live 3 CD boxset in 1997 (see production notes) while he was head engineer at Fantasy Records in Berkeley. He has been the integral impetus for changes and fresh material on these Mad Fable sites for the past twenty years, and was instrumental in publishing four concerts to archive.org. He currently hosts the YouTube channel to which this site links its videos

Contrary to rumors, when this picture was taken, Dennis was not portraying the werewolf for "I Was a Teenage Werewolf". Instead he was doing the Wolverine for X-Men.

Dennis Alichwer


Dennis Alichwer
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Producer's notes

these production notes were included in the release of the 1997 Live CD collection.

This project was undertaken in an effort to preserve some of the music contained in a rapidly deteriorating collection of old tapes I'd been moving around with me for nearly 20 years. Some restoration work was required just to play many of these tapes, and many hours of listening and searching through hundreds of hours of recordings brought together this collection. Many songs are obviously missing, as acceptable versions could not be found, as well as the limiting factor of time, space , and production costs.

The songs are of varying quality due to the original recording and equipment limitations and current tape condition. Most tapes were used to record many times over and show their wear.

There were two basic techniques used to record the live shows. The earlier recordings were made using the mono output of the big-knobbed Peavey PA Mixer on one channel of the recorder. This contained three vocals and one organ/leslie mic. The other channel of the recorder was fed by a room mic which picked up the rest of the instruments. This technique yielded a very weird out of phase sound but still presents most of the instruments audible in the mix.

The later recordings were made with the Yamaha PM1200 mixer and more mics were added to cover guitars and two drum mics. Some of these, when the situation permitted, were even in stereo!

Tape machines varied from cassette to open reel 1/4 " 1/4 track with a mix of tape speeds, mostly very slow to use less tape.

All recordings are presented in their complete original form, unedited, except The Other Side and Sea Hunt . All late starts, chopped tails, dropouts, buzzes, hums, distortion, wow, flutter, hiss, noise, clicks, pops, crackles and Racky's organ getting unplugged in the middle of Alnashar, are on the original source tapes. No processing, denoising, equalization, compression, or expansion was used in this assembly due to the time and budget constraints of handling this bulk of material.

All editing and assembly done at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA using Sonic Solutions system.

All original recordings engineered by Dennis Alichwer except Get Over Man recorded at Back Shed Studios, Paterson, NJ. All of volume 1 except Looks Like You Lose , Tune Changer, and On the Cusp recorded at Ramapo State College 2/10/78. All of volume 3, except Alnashar, Mountain Peak, and Sea Hunt were rehearsal recordings on the front porch of the Schnecksville, PA farmhouse 7/25/78 and 8/2/78. All other songs recorded at various live shows from Ramapo S tate College, The Hainesburg Hotel, The Stables, The Pittstown Inn, The Blinker Inn, Bottom of the Fox, and the Red Oak. Most record dates were 1977 and 1978.

The intent of this project is solely to preserve some of the memories of these times and provide all those closely involved with Mad Fables (at the time I worked with them, 1975 to 1978) with copies to stir their own memories.

All songs Copyright 1979 Racky Rhapsodies. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced in whole or part in any form without written permission of the publisher.

Hope you all enjoy!

Dennis Alichwer,

Berkeley, CA 1997

Band Bio

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MAD FABLES Biographical Synopsis

Active as a full-time band: 1974-1980

Members:

  • Mike Dugan: Vovals, guitars & Mandolin
  • Jeff Hays: Electric & acoustic bass
  • Spence Hiller: Vocals, Drums, Clarinet
  • Mike Radtke: Vocals, Piano,Organ,Accordian, Harmonica
  • Rich Rheiner: Guitars & Lap Steel
  • Dennis Alichwer: Mixing Engineer
  • Musical Style: Eclectic original music. Mad Fables music was the result of a process that nourished and drew upon their collective experience, fusing the music with whatever emotions arose while playing. This audio alchemy unleashed an energy that enveloped those tuned to this type of frequency, and drove all to a joyful madness. Most closely associated with music of the Grateful Dead.

    The unwritten rules of Mad Fables music:

    • Create - do not recreate - Songs are structures thru which music flows.
    • Nothing is certain
    • If you are not playing what you feel, why are you playing?
    • Why can't you play Rock,Country,Jazz,Blues, Bluegrass music in the same 40 minute set?

    Annual highlight: The feast. Every year Mad Fables would celebrate the end of winter and arrival of Spring, by throwing a huge party to which the entire world was invited. Attendees were asked to bring their signature dish or beverage and the group would play spirited sets of music. The leftovers usually fed the group for a month. After the group disbanded around 1980, the feasts continued as a type of once a year reunion. Shockingly enough, the Feast was held for 30 consecutive years.


    Biographical Narrative

    October 1974 Belleville NJ

    A hush fell over the room as all eyes traced the upward trajectory and downward splatter of the sticks that fell to the floor. Moments earlier, Mike Radtke, the oldest and far and away most learned of this band of musical seekers had instructed the group on the nuances of assuming the proper state of mind in which to consult the I Ching oracle. Empty, watching, feeling the transcendental interconnectedness thru which the oracle reveals all things, the agreed upon question was uttered. "Will Mad Fables make it?"

    The book of changes was quickly thumbed thru until a pattern matching the seemingly random arrangement of sticks on the floor was located. Mike Dugan, handsome and boasting a confidence borne of the guitar mastery he had already achieved read aloud:

    "The goal will be reached providing that the rope does not break before the bucket pulls the water from the well."

    Again the quiet .Those in the room appeared to recede back into the womb of contemplation at the meaning of these words. The emptiness and gloom of the room, with its lone lamp perched atop a wooden crate and decrepit couch and arm chair abandoned by prior tenants, who must have realized that the dry rotted fabric would not withstand the rigors of transport, only added to the gnawing feeling that they had plunged into a mysterious current that they did not understand. The house, already cold and drafty against October's benign chill, served as an eerie reminder that despite the exhilaration and certainty that exploded when the five members re-charted the course of their lives to pursue this musical adventure, that hard times lay ahead.

    During a winter where three week spans of heatless days and nights were common and the erratic wheezing and coughing from bass player Jeff Hays' five month bout with bronchitis rattled the bare walls, the Fables were exposed to the hardships of hunger and desperation. While the unemployment benefits that two members were receiving helped the others along, had it not been for kindness and generosity of loyal fans, Mad Fables would not have survived Belleville.

    Throughout the entirety of their career, the helping hands extended by fans made Mad Fables a "Peoples Band" where like- minded souls were welcome to join this unpredictable musical excursion. And join they did, providing food, vans, equipment, light men roadies, managers, agents, libations, entertainment, art, money, love ,enlightenment and encouragement. All that was ever needed was always provided by their fans. They were treated like musical mendicants, and that's exactly what they were.


    Genesis: Montclair State College jam sessions 1973-1974

    Mad Fables music was characterized by an organic intertwining of parts. Each player's music bonded to the other's into a free flowing gumbo of Ideas and emotions spontaneously created and delivered. Bass player Jeff Hays and guitarist Rich Rheiner had been playing together in a band professionally since age 15, when Jeff moved 100 miles north from his South Jersey home to Montclair State College. The very first person he encountered at Montclair State College was an impossibly tall (6'4" at least) oddly dressed fellow with long shaggy long hair, suspenders wearing an Appalachian style hat that resembled a small sombrero. Fixing his eyes on the bass case dangling from Jeff's hand, Mike Radtke loped across the room and without hesitation looked Jeff straight in the eye and asked "Do you play the Blues"?

    Mike was not only a piano player who loved the Doors and John Sebastian, he ran the place! The following year after completing his undergraduate studies, he would become a dorm director and use his pull to secure lounges and recreation rooms to host jams. Whenever Rich Rheiner and the fellow he was jamming with, virtuoso guitarist Mike Dugan could make the 100 mile trip north, Mike would not only find a place on campus to play,but would cook delicious meals of beef stroganoff, or hot dogs boiled in Knickerbocker Beer. In short he "wowed" the South Jersey guys.

    The reaction of listeners who happened across these jams and early gigs was the element that convinced the members to give full time music a try. From Montclair State dormitories, to its outside amphitheater to a festival in Passaic Park listeners were wildly enthusiastic and drawn to the free-wheeling musical expression that exploded from these encounters. In October 1974, the stars aligned and Michael Radtke, Rich Rheiner, Mike Dugan, Jeff Hays, and Spence Hiller left whatever life's path they had been following and moved to Bellville NJ to make a career out of performing original music.


    Mad Fables Thru the years

    The harshness of the Bellville winter finally relented and spring brought renewed hopes for the group members. Living eight people in a three bedroom house, whose make shift furniture was burned for heat and the oil tank painted like a pig, the group practiced individually and collectively on a near continual basis. In the cement basement whose coal bin served as drummer Spence Hiller's bedroom, the group poured over original compositions that were rock symphonies, blues, jazz, acid rock, swing, country rock and rolled all into a repertoire that each night took on a life of its own.

    When the group briefly became homeless in September of 1975, the shelter afforded them by their friends and fans were a step up from Bellville's bleakness. When fate smiled upon them in the form of a publishing deal that would pay half their rent for six months, the group rented a house 50 miles west in pastoral Hampton NJ and the musical madness spread.


    Western New Jersey

    Moving to the country provided more space to practice and access to a whole new fan base, as dedicated and kind as those in eastern NJ. Mad Fables playing circuit expanded and new original music was constantly being added. By osmosis, it appeared that Michael Radtke's song writing brilliance infected the others as did Mike Dugan's drive to improve upon the mastery that he had gained over the guitar. As a result of this move, the group found more venues to play and while commercial success would always remain elusive, the group was earning enough money to survive.

    Before long, the group began playing in Oak Valley, the Southern NJ town in which Rich, Jeff and Mike Dugan had grown up. Familiar to listeners from former bands, Fables kaleidoscope of sound caught fire with the locals who embraced the band as their own. From this new bastion of fans emerged managers and investors who would help finance equipment and a mail truck to haul it around. Fans met fans from other areas and Mad Fables grew beyond the musicians into a grass roots movement of openness. Somehow the freedom and energy gained from bucking "conventional" thinking that would require narrowing its musical vision to a marketable subset of styles, served as beacon and a magnet for those who continued to embrace the ideals of the 60's.


    The Sixth Mad Fable.

    In 1977, the group moved 20 miles north to Blairstown NJ, just outside of the Delaware Water gap. Once again expanding its playing circuit and fan base, the Blairstown house was spacious, beautiful and situated on a land parcel with its own pond. While playing a gig at The Bottom of the Fox just over the NJ border into Pennsylvania, a slight soft spoken fellow asked if it would be OK for him to keep an eye on the PA levels. The moment his hand touched the dial, Mad Fables had found its missing ingredient, and its sound.

    Dennis Alichwer was educated in electrical engineering and shared the Fables love for roots and eclectic music. His acceptance into the band was instantaneous and total. Working with Mad Fables new manager, he ordered equipment and parts to build a high quality sound system. Manning the controls, Dennis shaped each night's music, adapting it to whatever audio challenges the room or venue presented. Dennis also began taping the shows and crates and cartons began to fill up, silently sleeping as if in a time capsule.


    The Last move.

    In 1979, Mad Fables said farewell to the Blairstown house and moved 40 miles south to Stockton NJ, just outside New Hope PA. The group and its fans were inching towards the symbolic 30 years of age, and the free spirited 70's were about to give way to recession and the hard line policies of Ronald Reagen. Mike Radtke announced that he would be leaving the band and following his heart and his destiny to California. Spence Hiller opted for the promise of steady employment in a "Disco Band", and Mike Dugan, Jeff Hays and Rich Rheiner began playing with other drummers, keeping Mad Fables music alive.

    Playing as a quartet provided opportunities to find and work with space within the music. The group proved viable and was carried forward by virtue of its stellar musicianship and close knit chemistry. While its music would always be interesting and fun, the loss of its creative songwriting dynamo imbued on it a sense that its best days had passed. In 1980, Mike Dugan who had been handling all the vocals and business dealings for the group announced that he was leaving to go it alone as a blues artist. With this announcement, Mad Fables disbanded.


    The significance of Mad Fables

    Mad Fables music was never destined for commercial acceptance. In its best years, its members' incomes would never rise to the poverty line. But for those who were touched by it, the music burns brightly even today. But brighter still, burns the memories of a time when logic was thrown out the window and openness and creativity were celebrated, by the band and their fans, who joined in the fracas. People helped each other. For the better part of a decade, ideals still held sway, as if riding on the tail of a wind.


    The bucket reaches the well

    All of the above would have made a nice little fable, told by the boomers that are inching towards their retirements. No doubt that those who would hear such tales would nod and acknowledge the tendency of memory to kindly fill in the blanks from a view distorted by rose colored glasses.

    But in 1997, Dennis Alichwer, the sixth Mad Fable, once again blew a gust of wind into Mad Fables sails. A successful sound engineer who worked at Electric Ladyland studios and recorded the likes of the Brecker Brothers, Dennis had access to state of the art technology. Reaching into the crates of live tapes from past Mad Fables gigs, he began a project to re-master and clean up these old tapes. What has emerged, and continues to grow is an archive of musical performances that captures the essence of Mad Fables eclectic style and its improvisational approach. To this day, the music is fresh; mind bending and each rendition exhibits a life of its own unfolding in a way that was right, but right for that moment alone.

    Michael Radtke had created a Web site (www.madfables.com. your on it!) in 1999 telling the band's story and making much of the original music available thru free downloads. The availability of the music is sparking interest around the globe as Internet surfers discover this unique musical art form. And with its inclusion into the American music archives, comes the fulfillment of the I Ching's parable, an opportunity to recognize that what really happened with Mad Fables was borne of the love and spirit from its fans and its members. In a time when hearts were more open and a bunch of twenty something's followed their collective heart. Their collective heart.


Jeff Hays

Montclair

2009

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