The Origin of Unity Band

The Origin of Unity Band

by John Woodall
(from Facebook)

John Woodall August 26 at 7:28am
Hey Adrian,

You look great! I resisted being on Facebook for ages thinking it would be a waste of time. But, it is exactly things like finding you that make it so worthwhile. What an effort you've put into the Unity Band site!

A few points. Hayden was the engine of the forming of the band. He signed us up for the Northwestern gig that I think the Northwestern Bahá'í Club sponsored. I had gotten back from a travel teaching trip out east and learned the Unity Band song from a young woman in Schenectady, New York the previous August. We played it at the gig.

After the show, we were very excited that people actually liked what we did, (we had practiced once or twice, to say we were raw would be kind). Anyway, we were all crammed into someone's car really up from the gig when we though, 'hey, maybe we could form a real band!." Then, the question was what do we call it. We were puzzled for about 2 seconds when Hayden, the legend, the man, started laughing and, I think his word was, "Duh!" Then, he quizzed us, "What was our first song tonight?" The rest is history.

We always started with "Unity Band" I sang lead, Hay and Janie back-up. Then, more often then not, we sang "A never ending love." (We sometimes sang that one twice.)

That's enough for now. Once again, Adrian, great to see you and nice work!


John Woodall August 26 at 7:48am
Hi Adrian,

A couple more thoughts. David Neidig was an astoundingly good guitarist when he joined the band. I seem to remember he could already play the mandolin. Hayden may have encouraged him. But, if he learned after he joined, he quickly, very quickly learned. I think he took lessons from Earl Scruggs* who, unless I'm delusional, was living in the north shore somewhere. Is that right? Anyway, Dave took over my pathetic mandolin playing and the band was better for it. He also added some real musicianship along with Dave Bragman's ever better banjo playing. Mark and I held down the rhythm. But the 2 Dave's were the flavor.

I remember also when you first played. Ron Johnson had been playing gut-bucket until then. For pure visuals, Ron was all of that and, next to Dave Neidig, could claim the music was his culturally. You added, again, someone who actually knew how to play.

I remember Doug sitting in the first time. It seemed like a logical fit. The band was taking on a real quality. I played guitar, mandolin and dulcimer. "Stony River" was the tune Hayden brought that I played dulcimer on.

We played for 4 years before the 1977 Green Lake gig. Initially, just firesides. But, the Spot and I can't remember the name now, but THE club** for folk music in the north shore as well. A place in Evanston whose name escapes me. We played alongside Brian Bowers who was a sensation on the autoharp.

I had left for college in the summer of 75. That was the summer "Getting a Round Tuit" was cut, right after I went off to school! My sister Laurie was a back-up vocal. (Her name is misspelled "Laura" on the cover.

The Unity Band experience was a blast, every part of it. So, glad to see you keeping it alive. Any word what ever happened to Dave Neidig? Dave Bragman? Ron Johnson? Mark Harries? Janie Frye?


*Actually it was Jethro Burns from the duo Homer & Jethro that David Neidig took Mandolin lessons from.
**Turns out John was trying to remember the club "Amazing Grace".