Though not earthshattering on the scale of The Beatles breakup, the end of The Queazles is giving its dedicated Long Island following the blues.
“Not only is it going to be the last Queazles concert, but half The Queazles are going to be moving away, and we’re going to miss them as friends, too,” said Gerri Farrell, 69, of Huntington Station, a fan who is a retired special-education teacher’s assistant. “So, it’s going to be very heartbreaking.”
After 15 years of performing at Long Island venues, The Queazles, a five-member rock/ pop/doo-wop cover band, will play their last gig July 31 at the United for Ukraine Fundraiser, a daylong concert at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington.
“It’s kind of sad — it just seemed like they would go on forever,” said Sue Rubenstein DeMasi, 64, of Greenlawn, a retired Suffolk County Community College librarian.
“It’s the end of an era — and we had a wonderful era,” said Queazles guitarist George Murphy, 73, of Huntington.
“We lasted longer than The Beatles,” quipped the retired middle school science teacher.
A MUSICAL FELLOWSHIP
Around 2005, the band began as a trio. Richard Hyman, director of the choir at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington, and Murphy and Erich Josenhans, both choir members, would play during worship services and at open-mic nights at the fellowship.
At several events, where the yet-to-be-named trio performed the music of Crosby, Stills & Nash and other
harmony-rich tunes, Harvey Balopole helped the band set up its sound system.
“They were doing a lot of Beatles stuff. And I said you really need a bass line in that Beatles song [‘Nowhere Man’],” explained Balopole, 73, of Huntington, who is a retired electrical engineer. Shortly after that, he started playing bass in the band.
Searching for a name, the bandmates said, they would jokingly refer to themselves as “The Weasels” and “The Queazy Weasels.” Finally, a friend said, “You guys make me queasy. How about The Queazles?”
The name stuck and before long, each member gave himself a Queazle name, said Balopole, whose stage name is Harvicle J. Queazle. “And that’s really what we use in concert, and we introduce ourselves that way.” Hyman performs as Queazle Schmeazle, Josenhans as Erich von Queazle and Murphy as Qgiorgio.
After about a year of playing with a drum machine to keep the beat, The Queazles were approached by David Karp, another UUFH congregant. A singer-songwriter, Karp pointed out that the band could use a drummer; they agreed and Karp took his place behind a drum kit as Queazle Diesel.
After performing at the fellowship, the band’s first real engagement was at Just Kids Nostalgia, a shop on New York Avenue in Huntington.
The front window of Just Kids Nostalgia had a raised platform that seemed like a natural stage, which they dubbed In the Window, according to Gerri Farrell, whose husband, Ken Farrell, owned the memorabilia and collectibles shop, which hosted countless Friday night performances. The couple, also UUFH congregants, knew a lot of musicians and started asking them to play there with shoppers and audience members casually gathered around the store.
“We played there like a million times, and we loved it and people loved it,” said Balopole. “And that’s how we really got our act together, because we were forced to learn lots and lots of stuff.”
Music at the shop started out low-key in May 2005, with smaller acts, like The Mudcats, a blues band, and Sweet Action, a trio of female singers, and grew over time with The Queazles drawing the biggest crowds and headlining the shop’s closing party in November 2009, said Ken Farrell, 72, of Huntington Station, who now runs Just Kids Nostalgia online.
“They were just fun, fun, fun,” he said.
In their early days, the group played almost exclusively Beatles songs.
“So, when we came up with The Queazles, we fashioned the word so that the vowels were in the same place: e, a and then l, e, s at the end. So, it kind of looked like Beatles,” Balopole explained.
Over time, they expanded their repertoire to the music of the mid ’60s, incorporating Rolling Stones, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Beach Boys. Later, they added standards and doo-wop and often performed in coordinated black shirts and brightly colored ties, or they wore shirts that when combined spelled out Q-U-E-A-Z-L-E-S.
“We really tried to stay away from the overplayed stuff, the hits. We would pick the B-sides; we would pick the album cuts,” Balopole said, giving the example of “If I Needed Someone,” from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album.
Beyond the Huntington fellowship’s Last Licks Coffeehouse and In the Window, The Queazles played at libraries in Nassau and Suffolk counties, private parties and benefits, including Island to Island, a fundraiser for Haiti in 2010 at Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington organized by Patricia Shih, co-producer of the upcoming Ukraine benefit.
A longtime fan of The Queazles, Shih, a singer-songwriter of mostly children’s music, was eager to enlist the band for the upcoming concert.
“They are so fun and funny, and excellent musicians,” said Shih, who’s in her 60s and lives in Huntington. “And, they have a very large following.”
Among the other artists appearing will be the St. John’s musical director, Alex Pryrodny, who was born in Kyiv, Ukraine. He will perform piano improvisations based on Ukrainian folk themes and “U Cry In,” an original composition. Five other acts will perform Ukrainian, blues, folk and world music, Shih noted.
“The outpouring of support for Ukraine around the world has been nothing short of incredible, but we need to sustain the pace,” said Pryrodny, 38, of Harlem. “Because as long as the war is going on, these humanitarian needs are not going away, and neither should our support.”
‘A NICE VIBE’
Though they’ve been paid nominal fees for their gigs — except for benefits, where they appear for free — The Queazles said they played for the joy of playing.
“We did it because it was fun — and it was,” Balopole said.
Besides their musical gifts, The Queazles would often entertain the audience with interesting music tidbits and history, recalled fan Rubenstein DeMasi.
“They looked like they were having fun, and it made it fun for the audience,” she said. “There were times when people were holding ‘We Love The Queazles’ signs up.”
“It’s always kind of a nice vibe,” said her husband, Jack DeMasi, 75, a retired Nassau Community College communications professor. “They’re not just a band, they’re a happening for a lot of people. . . . And they’re terrific musicians.”
For his part, Hyman, 69, of East Northport, a retired high school music teacher who is the conductor of Northport Symphony, has appreciated the receptive audiences.
“We have really, really loyal and great people in the fan base,” he said.
The Queazles are coming to an end because two bandmates are moving to Arizona: Balopole to Tucson in September and Murphy to Flagstaff later this fall.
Even if band members weren’t relocating, The Queazles probably would have called it quits soon, Balopole said, explaining that without roadies, the band lugs, sets up, sound-checks and tears down its own equipment.
“It’s kind of like an Olympic event,” he said. “We loved doing it, but I think at this point, it was enough.”
Still, Balopole sounded wistful about the band’s final act. “I’m going to miss that thrill of being up in front of a crowd and having them going crazy,” he said. “It’s been great.”
Looking back on their run, Murphy, who had a year of piano lessons as a child but mostly learned music as an adult singing in choral groups, said he accomplished what he set out to do: working with others to create great music.
“Practically all of our repertoire, which is over 100 songs, we have really nailed each of those songs at one time or another. . . . And that, to me, is very satisfying and very thrilling to do,” Murphy said, adding that he believes they’ll all continue to play music in one form or another.
Karp, who for the past two years has also been playing rhythm guitar in Live Vinyl, a dance/rock/funk/R&B band, said he’ll particularly miss performing Beatles songs with The Queazles.
“Everybody in the band is a good musician and everybody sings, so we were able to do lots of multi-vocal harmonies — which is relatively rare these days in a band — that everybody can sing,” said Karp, 54, of East Northport, who works in business-to-business sales.
Describing the “looming end” of the band as “very disquieting,” Erich Josenhans recalled one of the highlights of their decade-and-a-half run was playing “All You Need Is Love” at Cinema Arts Centre at the 2017 fundraiser Shih organized to benefit Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria in September of that year.
“All the other acts that had been there came up on stage with us, and the entire auditorium stood up and sang along with us,” said Josenhans, 72, of Huntington Station, a valet at Huntington Hospital.
Leaving the stage is sad, said Hyman, who started playing rock as a young teenager, stopped to study Classical music and picked it up again as a Queazle.
“Playing the guitar loudly is always a lot of fun. It was like reclaiming my youth. But we did take it seriously,” he said.
“We have five voices and we’re very careful to make the harmonies just right, and we challenge ourselves with pretty tough pieces to do,” Hyman said, noting songs like The Mamas & the Papas’ “Dedicated to the One I Love” and “Along Comes Mary,” by The Association.
Among the three members left on Long Island, Hyman said he plans to take time off from playing to compose and record.
He added, “But if somebody asks me to be in a group, I would check it out.”
Queazles talked about their favorites:
Harvey Balopole, electric bass: a medley of The Shirelles’ and Mamas & Papas’ versions of “Dedicated to the One I Love” because it “allows us to use our five voices to respectfully recreate both incarnations of the song. I still get chills each time I’m singing it.”
George Murphy, acoustic rhythm guitar: The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You” for its “romantic, gorgeous, reverberating harmonies.”
Richard Hyman, lead guitar and keyboards: a medley of “Catch a Wave,” by The Beach Boys, The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out,” Del Shannon’s “Runaway” and Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari” because “it gives me a chance to play a lot of guitar.”
David Karp, drums: The Beatles’ “Golden
Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” medley from the Abbey Road album because “to mesh them all together, it’s just a lot of fun to be able to play that.”
Erich Josenhans, electric rhythm guitar: “I always liked the nice, vocal, simple arrangement songs, like ‘Nowhere Man,’ by The Beatles.”
United for Ukraine
•The United for Ukraine Fundraiser, to benefit World Central Kitchen and Direct Relief in Ukraine, is happening from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 31 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 12 Prospect St., Huntington. There will be live music and an arts, crafts and jewelry marketplace along with food and drinks. The suggested donation is $30.
•At noon and 7 p.m., there will be screenings of “Olga,” a film about a Ukrainian gymnast in exile, followed by a recorded talk with the filmmaker and star, at Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington; admission is $15.
•To donate to World Central Kitchen, visit wck.org; to donate to Direct Relief, visit https://www.directrelief.org.