Five members of the Penns Grove High School marching and concert band form a "garage band", initially named Southern Cross. On guitar is 16-year-old Paul Bakan, with Skip Hurst (also 16) on bass, Jim Johnson (19) on keyboards and lead vocals, Rick Miller (16) on drums, and Dan Ford (16) running the sound system. The band's repertoire includes songs by the Beatles, Deep Purple, Elton John and Grand Funk among many others. The members, however, prefer the more progressive music of ELP, Yes and Led Zeppelin. The band is soon renamed Phalanx.

The band's name is changed to Phantom Lake. "Phalanx" has turned out to be too esoteric: the audience can't pronounce it and they don't know what it means. The new name is chosen because it sounds somewhat mysterious and vaguely reminiscent of the old one.

Drummer Rick Miller leaves the group in December after enlisting in the military.

Daryl "Moochie" Robinson replaces Rick. Although more oriented toward Disco and Funk, Moochie fits right in. He picks up the heavier styles we've been doing and we begin to pick up Disco and Funk.

A three-piece horn section comes on board: Craig Garner, Randy Kelley and Steve Silvestri. Craig writes the horn arrangements and our repertoire expands to include current Funk/Disco hits plus a few Chicago numbers. Moochie sings lead vocals on much of Disco material. Also that year, Phantom Lake enters a "Battle of the Bands" and wins! Or, the audience thought we won, and so did we. The band that actually wins has a ringer on the panel of judges: their manager. The audience boos and shouts their disapproval, but the decision stays. The "winners" slink away quietly.

Phantom Lake is dissolved after the brass section goes off to college and everyone else's work and family situations make it too difficult to continue. Paul and Skip later briefly play in a local band. Skip continues to play in a couple popular Delaware-area bands. After his discharge, Rick briefly plays in another band, then ultimately sells his drums. Jim plays occasional gigs with his father, a bluegrass/country-western fiddler, and Al Smith, a well-known banjo player and recording artist. Paul joins a dance band which works mostly in southeastern PA, in which he continues to play.




After about four years of sporadic phone conversations and e-mails, Paul, Skip, Jim and Kevin Jordan decide to get togther for a jam session -- A.S.A.P.! But nobody knows where Rick is, so we fruitlessly search for another drummer. Jim unexpectedly locates Rick, who buys a new drum set the next day. Then suddenly, we're not just jamming -- we're putting a working band back together! On 9/20/04, the original members reunite, adding guitarist and fellow PGHS alumnus Kevin Jordan. We practice in his Carneys Point office. It's just shy of 28 years since all four original band members last played together and 25 years since the breakup of Phantom Lake.

Kevin has never played in a band before. Although Jim hasn't seen Skip or Paul in several years and no-one has seen Rick in more than twenty years, there is surprisingly little talk. Everyone is more interested in playing than in catching up. This first session is rough, but most of us are surprised at how much of the old material we actually remember.

Our target audience is Boomers, and the ostensible format is late '60s and '70s dance music (unlike Phantom Lake's Prog/Art Rock). But old habits are hard to break. By November, we're working on Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd and other music outside of the "format".

On 10/22/05, we play the Fox Tale Follies, our first public gig since 1979. The band plays three songs: Don't Dream It's Over, Spooky, and Money. We're just one of several acts performing that night at the YMCA in Penns Grove, NJ. Although the audience seems to be made up of more people over 60 than under, the band's performance is met with enthusiastic cheers and applause, with much of the crowd even clapping in time to the jazz section in the middle of Money. People come up to us afterwards, asking, "When's your next gig? Do you have business cards?" A professional musician who performs at the Atlantic City casinos insists that we're better than most of the bands he's heard playing there! We take that as an indication that we're ready to play in public again.

Due to a shift change at his day job, Rick can no longer play with the band. So, with leads on summer and fall gigs coming in, history repeats itself as we search for his replacement. We will all miss Rick's humor and upbeat personality.

On 3/31/08, Loren Chard is welcomed into the band as our new drummer. He easily picks up everything we play, and we should be ready to play again soon. Although we weren't specifically looking for one, Loren turns out to be yet another fellow PGHS alumnus.

On 9/13/08, we finally play our first gig with Loren, and it goes even better than we'd hoped. At this hot, muggy outdoor event, people are on their feet clapping and singing along and business cards are in high demand. Tin Whiskers is back in business.