The Bandits Live at the Battle of the Bands, Orpheum Theater, where the Westin Hotel now stands, Summer of 1965
The Bandits
(Reformed as Chicago Express - June 67)
Mercer Island, Washington
1963 - 1967


Gregg Bigsby ~ Bass
Dan Bonow ~ Keyboards
Tom Dietz ~ Bass
Steve Heard ~ Keyboards
Dave Hendricks ~ Saxophone, Guitar
Dave Johnson ~ Guitar
Russ Kammerer ~ Drums
Bob Perry ~ Guitar
John Simpson ~ Drums
Scott Strong ~ Bass


Vaughn Peterson - Roadie
Peter Simpson - Band Boy

In Memory of

John Allen Simpson
Steve Heard  d:  5 Mar 2017

Deets, Heard, Perry, Simpson, Hendricks

The Bandits at Central Washington State College - 1966
From the 1966 Hyakem yearbook, Central Washington State College.  Courtesy of Gary Behymer

The Bandits - Image Courtesy of Christin P.
John Simpson did some studio work in LA between his stints with Calliope and Bitteroot, and he played on an LP with a Texas group called "United Gas" in 1969. That LP came out in 1970 (label Metromedia) but with the name "Christopher", as the label thought that United Gas sounded too much like Pacific Natural Gas (or similar, I can't remember exactly, but they were an important west coast group.

GearFab Records recently released a newly mastered version of the LP and evidently being bought by collectors as an overlooked gem of the period.  I've got a copy and although I'm biased, I must say that it's exactly what they say, an overlooked gem.

Peter Simpson, November 2003

The late John Simpson of Mercer Island was the original, and long-serving, drummer for "The Bandits". They won the KJR "Battle of the Bands" at the old Orpheum Theater (where the Westin now stands) in 1965, thereby earning a recording contract with Jerden Records.  They released, a Carney Barton production as I recall, "Little Sally Walker" with "Tell Me" as the "B" side during the Fall of 1965.

Rob Simpson, January 2004

I was in The Bandits starting in '62 with Gregg Bigsby, Bob Perry, Steve Heard, and John Simpson.  We won the KJR first Battle of the Bands in Seattle, summer of '63.  We played the roller rink circuit until '67.  It was great fun for us.  We were 15 at the beginning, and playing with established groups like The Dynamics, The Sonics, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Kingsmen, The Viceroys, and The Wailers.  It was a real thrill for us kids.

Tom Dietz replaced Greg on bass, later Paul Burleson.  John Simpson, who later drummed with Danny O'Keife, died in the 60's in an Alaskan plane crash.

David Hendricks, December 2003

I remember playing many times at Normanna Hall. We'd be upstairs in the caverous wooden room that would boom bass in such a cool way.  Downstairs was a veteran's hall with a swing band.  They had a bass sax there--the only one I'd ever seen.  A basketball would fit in the bell of that beauty!  We played throughout high school, '64-'67.  The place was always packed with well behaved kids dancing their shoes off!!!

David Hendricks, June 2006

Pat O’Day booked us to back Lou Cristie (or was his name Luke Wristie?- we never knew for sure) during a big Seattle Center Arena show/dance.  There were several bands on the show, Paul Revere among others, but as I remember Lou Cristie was the headliner.  Pat told us that we had to buy Lou's records and learn his hits so we could back him flawlessly. We were getting to add this gig to our resume and if we did a good job we might be getting an opportunity to add more backing gigs to our resume.  Only one problem; we never bought any of Lou's crappy records because we didn't particularly like Lou's music and besides we had better things to spend our money on, if you know what I mean.  To make a short story long, Lou showed up late to the gig because his flight from Honolulu was late arriving at Sea-Tac.  He barely had enough time to slap on his stage makeup and put on his Tux.  Lucky for us the other four players in our band we actually musicians (I was just in the band to get girls).  Lou's tunes seemed complicated with sound effects, girl backup singers, full orchestral arrangements, horns, strings, tympani...serious studio pop instrumentation.  Lightening was really going to strike at our Monday morning meeting with Mr. O’Day.  It may not have been as bad as I remember because we kept working for Pat but, never backed any recording artist again.  Life was so complicated in those days.

Unless my memory is failing me, the above is all true.

Tom Dietz, November 2008

Dave Hendricks, of "The Bandits" stated that my brother died in the 60's in an Alaskan Airplane crash.  That is incorrect.

He lived through the plane crash 300 feet from the top of Mt. Adolph, 30 minutes north of Juneau, Alaska, in the polar ice caps.  He was only survivor, and only for so long...

He tied a tourniquet around his dead little brother's leg that had a compound fracture (my twin).  He went for help and fell down a crevice to his ultimate death despite his courage and bravery.  The searchers said he must have been injured terribly in the crash too.  He was just too strong and too amazing for anyone to grasp in my eyes!

John Simpson played in the Juneau Symphony Orchestra in Juneau, Alaska for numerous years after The Bandits/Calliope/Bitteroot bands ended.  He also played with Bill Wentz in Juneau, among other bands.  He died in August 1975.

I did my best, but I never became the drummer he was.  We made runner up for best unsigned band in the United States in 1991 (Somebody's Daughter).  He was just special, anybody who knew him probably saw that.  I was a shadow of what he was...  It's humbling to know how special your brothers are.

David Simpson, October 2012

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Last Update:  26 March 2017
Credits: Darryl Riffero, Dave Hendricks, Dave Baroh, Fuzz, Acid & Flowers, Dave Johnson, Peter Simpson, Tom Dietz, Rob Simpson, Gregg Bigsby, David Simpson, Christin P., Gary Behymer
Band # 227