Interview - Rich Circell
Honey was a band Ace played with around 1968/9 which included lead singer Rich Circell. Little was known about it... Until now! Initially uploaded 10/18/08, this Q&A was expanded on 11/5/08.
Photo courtesy Rich Circell
KF: Tell us a little of your background and how you became interested in performing?
RC: Like many others it was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan that turned my life upside down. I had never heard music like that before. I imagined what it would be like to have those girls screaming for me, and decided then and there to form a band.
KF: What was the first record you bought?
RC: I remember buying Runaround Sue and then Four Seasons records. I loved the girl groups too, like The Ronettes. I loved all the early R&B records also.
KF: What was the first band you saw live?
RC: I saw The Beatles at Shea Stadium but I was very far away and could not really hear them. When I was older the one show that stands out in my mind was seeing The Who and Cream at a Murray The K show in New York. Mitch Ryder and Wilson Pickett were also on the bill. I also saw Jimi Hendrix open for The Monkees at Forest Hills-that was a classic. All those Monkey fans did not know what to make of Hendrix.
KF: You were the vocalist in Honey. How did you become a singer and did/do you play any instruments?
RC: I just picked it up on my own and by listening to records. I would say I was most influenced by The British Bands. One major regret I have was never playing an instrument. Of course I fooled around with tambourines, cowbells, conga drums, etc
KF: What do you recall of your first band?
RC: My first band was called The Wrong - I never liked the name, just as I never liked Honey as a name either. If I remember correctly Honey was Paul's idea and everyone kind of went along with the name. Getting back to my previous band, my drummer ended up in Honey and on certain dates my keyboard player also. We played all the British Invasion stuff and did write several originals. We did some recording with the person who was handling The Lemon Pipers and Steam. To my knowledge none of those demos exist. I would love to hear them today.
KF: From first becoming active in bands, what was the sort of timeframe prior to Honey and when was that band active?
RC: I was in several bands right up to joining Honey, but I must admit the timeframe is a bit of a blur. The Wrong was my band right up till the time of joining Honey - I hope that helps.
KF: Had you known Paul Frehley prior to being in Honey? If so, how?
RC: I had heard about him through other musicians but had never met him. He did have somewhat of a reputation around The Bronx.
KF: What do you recall of your first encounter with Paul Frehley?
RC: It was very interesting to say the least. I had heard through the grapevine that a band in The Bronx was looking for a singer, so I showed up for an audition in somebody's basement. I dragged a friend George, along with me because I did not know what I was getting into. Paul asked me to sing a few Rolling Stones songs and maybe even A Humble Pie tune although I'm not sure on that last one. At the end of playing together for awhile he turns and says to me- we are playing in a club on Friday and that was pretty much it. I guess that was his way of saying I was in his band. I do remember my friend George asking him to play a certain obscure song by a British group called the Move, and after a quick listen he said he had it down. We both listened in amazement as he played it perfectly. The funny thing is it was a song called Hello Susie which Honey ended up playing later on.
KF: Did you have any lasting first impression about him?
RC: He was a man of few words, but his guitar playing was awesome. He could play any lead or solo note for note. He would always stand close to me onstage with his guitar slung very low. He had the look of a rock star, and the chops to back it up. He always had an innovative side about him. For example he would have foot switches near him and something strange would always happen when he used them. You might hear the Johnny Carson theme only instead of Heres Johnny, it would be Heres Honey. Sometimes he would put his foot on the switch and the theme from All In The Family TV show would come on. Quite frankly, there was never a dull moment with Ace.
KF: What happened to Honey's second guitarist?
RC: I think we pretty much phased him out, although I liked the sound of the 2 guitars.
KF: What sort of music and where did Honey play?
RC: We played many local clubs in the New York area. Our set consisted of many British bands music. Here is a list as I remember it. Jumping Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Street Fighting Man and many other Stones tunes. Several Jethro Tull songs, I don't remember the exact titles. Zeppelin, The Who and Hello Susie by The Move. We did an Alice Cooper medley featuring Be My Lover and Eighteen. One of our favorites was Come On Up by The Rascals, of course we did our own version. We also did some Nazz including Not Wrong Long and Under The Ice. Vanilla Fudge-Keep Me Hanging On. A few clubs that stand out in my mind are The Rustic Pub in the Bronx. Fantasy East which was near 238 St in The Bronx, and The Fore and Aft in New Rochelle.
KF: What sort of guitarist was Ace at this time?
RC: I will say that Ace was a super guitarist even then. Very innovative and he would hear something once and play it perfectly. Even then he marched to his own drum. He showed no interest in singing back then. He was certainly the best guitar player I ever had the privilege of playing with. He was very fluid, clean and melodic.
KF: Who else was in Honey?
RC: On band members I remember we originally had a second guitar player named Tom, but I can't recall his last name. Our bass player was Tom Stella. Our drummer was Angelo DiGeronimo and I sang lead- my name is Rich Circell. We were joined for a while by a keyboard player named Lee McNulty. Angelo and Lee were with me in my previous band The Wrong.
KF: What do you recall of the first Honey gig?
RC: I felt at the time like I was just along for the ride. We went over well but we knew we had to tighten things up. We had a limited set list at that time. It was really enjoyable and we all felt good things were ahead for us.
KF: Describe Honey's best gig? Where/how/what/why? I guess this means most memorable!
RC: I would say one we did at the Fantasy East in The Bronx was the one I really remember. The sound and song selection was great. We did our usual stuff but with some James Gang thrown in. I remember the crowd was really into it and lots of people took pictures. The funny thing is the owner wanted people to dance and we were not really that type of band. By the end of the night we had won over the crowd.
KF: Did Honey ever open for bigger bands or play gigs with other acts?
RC: We always played alone. I will add that friends of mine who were there to see Honey still talk about it with fond memories. It was a very special band and it was nice to read that Paul remembers Honey as one of his favorite club bands.
KF: Do you recall any disasterous Honey gigs?
RC: It seems Ace wanted to be in a new position on stage and had moved his own equipment to Tom's usual spot without asking anyone. Ang, our drummer, and myself were told by Tom, and all three of us kind of shrugged and knew it was simply Ace being Ace. Still that did not go over well, and even though it was a minor annoyance, we all decided it was the professional thing to do to go with the flow... I do not mean to imply in any way that Tom Stella our bass player threatened to do bodily harm to Ace. He was not that type of person who had a violent nature. The sheer size of Tom as compared to the rest of our band was enough, without any violence being implied. Despite the friction and tension, we did play the gig despite all the confusion and Tom and Ace remained close even after the incident.
KF: Did Honey ever record any of their gigs?
RC: Maybe on some old cassete players but I have never heard any of them if they exist.
KF: Did the band write any original material? If so, what sort of material was it and who were the primary writers?
RC: I wrote original material along with the keyboard player but we never performed it with Honey.
KF: What happened to Honey? Did the band break up, or Ace leave?
RC: I remember it getting to the point where nobody liked each other much any more and things really seemed to fall apart. After that we all kind of lost touch and everyone went their own way. I would love to hear from any of the former band members.
KF: Did you continue in bands?
RC: That was it for me. The music business had left a sour taste in my mouth. Thinking back I wish I had continued because music is in my blood till this day. Just recently my daughter and son in law who both have great voices coaxed me into singing at their home. It was a lot of fun but it was like learning all over again.
KF: What word pops into your mind the moment you hear "Paul/Ace Frehley?"
RC: Unique - Strong willed and a non conformist. Head and shoulders above all the other guitar players I had known or played with.
KF: Did anything Ace later did in Kiss remind you of him in Honey?
RC: The way he held his guitar and some of his solos. Even his overall stage demeanor was pretty much the same of course without the makeup and costumes.
KF: Did you follow Ace's career and/or keep in touch with him?
RC: I had a conversation with him at a party about music and he was telling me about a new band that he would be getting involved with. He talked about high heels , makeup, spitting fire etc. These were just some ideas they were tossing around at the time. The next time I heard about Ace was when I saw his name listed on the Kiss Album. You can only imagine my surprise when I realized he had made it big. If only they had needed a singer at the time, who knows what might have been. I have not seen or spoken to Ace since that time.
KF: Any last words!
RC: It has been a blast reliving these great old memories. I would not have traded the experience of playing with Honey for anything. It was a great period of time for me. Thanks for giving me the chance to share my story.
Thanks to Rich for taking the time to read let alone answer this long Q&A!