Kenn Ellner - Lead vocals, harmonica
John "Sean" Byrne - Lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Roy Chaney - Bass guitar, background vocals
John "Mouse" Michalski - Lead guitar, background vocals
Rocky Astrella - Drums, background vocals
Phil Indovina - Rhythm guitar
Music in general - and Sixties rock in particular-lends itself to easy mythology and active imaginations. What else could explain the volumes of strange stories surrounding five teenagers from San Jose, California who released only one album and a few singles?
Perhaps it is simply that lead vocalist and producer Kenn Ellner, rhythm guitarist and vocalist John "Sean" Byrne, lead guitarist John "Mouse" Michalski, bassist Roy Chaney and original drummer, the late Craig "Butch" Atkinson, created a ground-breaker in the sensational single "Psychotic Reaction."
Whatever the reason, stories abound. For instance, a well-known rock critic once suggested that Count Five never got out of its own backyard, when in truth, the band played across the nation. The seed for this and other misconceptions might have been planted when the San Jose News reported (correctly) that the band rejected a $1 million tour offer so its members could stay in college. Commenting at the time, parent and supporter Sol Ellner espoused mixed feelings. "As their business agent, I think they're crazy. As one of their fathers, I couldn't be happier."
So Count Five toured on weekends and holidays, flying back and forth for dates with the likes of the Byrds, the Hollies, Peter and Gordon, Sonny and Cher, the Beach Boys, and the Dave Clark Five. Looking back at the days on the road, Kenn recalls one especially memorable evening supporting a band called Them. "We were sandwiched between two Morrissons -underneath Van Morrison (of Them) and on top of Jim Morrison (of the Doors)."
Of course, "Psychotic Reaction" became a smash single, reaching No. 1 on the Cash Box chart and selling over a million copies. The song has since been featured in the films "Drugstore Cowboy" and "Less Than Zero" as well as 2002's "Auto Focus" (which starred Greg Kinnear and Willem DaFoe). Label and producer difficulties prevented a timely album, and all five agreed that the singles that followed never quite captured the excitement and energy of the band. They proceeded to concentrate on the other side of their lives.
The summer of 1966 saw Atkinson, Byrne, Chaney, Ellner and Michalski graduate from San Jose's Pioneer High School together. Little did they know then that, some two decades later, high school would bring them together again. In 1986 the band stunned their old Pioneer classmates by mounting the stage once more at their 20-year reunion. While Atkinson remained at home in Texas, veteran Kevin Madsen's hands drove the band from behind the drumkit. This led to a second reunion show for the band on April 11, 1987, at One Step Beyond nightclub in Santa Clara, California.
Inspired by recent reunion performances by fellow San Francisco Bay Area musicians Syndicate of Sound, and renewed interest from music fans in the Sounds of the Sixties, Count Five have reunited.