Tracking down The Savages — after 46 years
There are fans, and then there’s Peter Zitz. He might just be the biggest follower of The Savages, a Bermuda band that was popular in the 1960s.
The Texas resident recently made a public plea in hopes of fulfilling his dream of getting an album signed by Savages drummer Howard Rego.
The 70-year-old was shocked when the entertainer responded to his letter, published in The Royal Gazette.
And he was thrilled when he mentioned an upcoming trip to the Island — and Mr Rego said members of the band would meet with him in person.
“I was very excited and nervous because they were the number one band here at that time and I didn’t expect to be called by them,” said Mr Zitz, here for a two-day visit on the Norwegian Breakaway last week.
“I was very happy to hear I would get my CD signed and it really made my day to meet these three gentlemen. I listened to them and heard them play constantly for three years. That was back when Bermuda was one big party and to see them in person has made me very happy.”
Mr Zitz was a waiter at Miramar Restaurant on South Shore, Warwick in the 1960s.
He had fond memories of his time here and dreamed of returning with his wife, Gail.
He recalled how lively Bermuda’s nightlife was then. He’d finish work and listen to The Savages and other bands while socialising, until the wee hours.
“I remember that the nightclubs were always packed when The Savages played and we had a hard time getting in,” said Mr Zitz, who lives in Round Rock.
“I originally came from Europe and planned to only stay one year, but ended up staying three or four. To this day, 46 years later, Bermuda still hadn’t changed in my mind. I have a record player in my office in Texas and The Savages is one of the records I always come back to.”
Mr Rego said friends of his read Mr Zitz’s Letter to the Editor.
“I got half-a-dozen phone calls saying, ‘Hey, Howie there’s a guy trying to get a hold of you. He wants to come to Bermuda and wants you to sign his album’.
“I was quite thrilled and had a sense of accomplishment about it — that we actually still had fans and people who fondly remembered our music. For me this confirmed that our music was something that lived on and brought a lot of joy. We were as close to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles that you could get in Bermuda.”
Mr Rego got two of his old bandmates — singer and guitarist Jimmy O’Connor and bassist Bobby Zuill — to join him when Mr Zitz visited his Paget home last week.
“When we started playing in Bermuda in 1965 we didn’t realise we would be so popular here,” he said.
“We were just four kids that put a band together not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into, but it took off and was very popular. Outside the club we would play at [located where Hog Penny is now] there would be a line down the street and around the corner of people waiting to get in to hear us play.
“We had something that few bands today could even dream of. We were able to make a good living from playing music. We could play live six nights a week and managed to turn pro when we were only 15, 16, 17 and 18. We were full-blown professionals and that’s what doesn’t happen today.
“It wasn’t because of our talent or ability, but just the access we had.”
The music scene on the Island was very diverse in those days, he said.
“These days when you think of Bermuda’s entertainment you think of the Gombeys, the Bermuda Regiment and the calypso bands, but back then there was a contemporary, young vibe. There were rock bands, R & B, jazz; just so much more to Bermuda than what they have today.
“We had everything necessary to become an international act because we had the look, the original music and the support of thousands of American college kids who came here on spring break. We got to pick and choose everywhere we went and were never concerned with there being an empty club. It was always full.
“These days our album is a collector’s item and sells from anywhere between a £200 and £1,000. We were on stage with Jimi Hendrix and The Doors and played at one of the most famous nightclubs in the 60s, Steve Paul’s The Scene.”
The band also found success in parts of the Caribbean.
“One of the biggest surprises was how popular we were in Barbados,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We had no idea they would know who we were down there.
“Our manager, [the late] Eddie DeMello, made an arrangement for us to go to the Caribbean to do a tour.
“We were shocked by how many came out.”