Cool Blue Sky was formed in 1988 by Andy (A. C.) Arnold and Jim Behrens. Andy is a poet and graduate of the University of New Hampshire while Jim is a guitarist with many years of experience in the Boston music scene with The Memos. Originally formed to write songs and see what direction it took them, CBS eventually became a live band with a set lineup.
The early stages of CBS found Andy and Jim writing and recording demos on an 8 track Tascam deck with the help of many friends and colleagues including former members of The Memos and Kangaroo Kourt. Most notably at this time was the contributions of Dana Schmitz, former lead singer of The Memos and Kangaroo Kourt who lent his voice to numerous tracks as well as his guitar skills. Another contributor in these early days was Glenn Aarlequew, drummer from Kangaroo Kourt who played on most of the earliest recordings. It was in this formative period that Andy and Jim decided that many of their songs required a female lead vocalist. Dana Schmitz brought in a singer that he and Jim had known from their early days together in The Memos. Dana Maguvero provided lead vocals on 3 tracks and also introduced them to Annie Smith, who would eventually become the full time lead singer for Cool Blue Sky.
After releasing a self titled cassette in 1989, CBS moved forward with Annie as the lead singer and recorded two new songs for radio release titled “You”/”Fire out of Control”. “You” was submitted to a songwriting “contest” being hosted by ASCAP and it was chosen as one of eight songs to be showcased at a live workshop in Boston. The song was warmly received by the audience and panelists. This led to an invitation to join ASCAP. “You” went on to receive airplay on WFNX in Boston. These earliest recordings were produced by Alex Rodriguez, former guitarist and bass player with The Memos.
It was at this time that CBS made a decision to also become a live band and begin playing clubs in the Boston area. The band was formed by using the current studio lineup of John Riccardi (formerly of Kangaroo Kourt and Slab & the Tablets) on bass, Mike Mears a veteran of many Merrimack Valley bands on drums and backing vocals and Aram Krausen a student at Berklee School of Music on keyboards. Their first gig was at “Grovers” in Beverly, MA to an enthusiastic crowd including many friends and family who had never heard the band play live.
CBS continued to record and went into Rick Asmega’s “Reel Adventures” studio and put down two tracks titled “Pitcher of Milk”/ (It isn’t) Fair for radio release. This was the first set of recordings done outside of the 8 Track unit all previous songs were recorded on. Rick was easy to work with and many other sessions were done throughout the years. During this time the band became a cohesive group and began collaborating together musically and lyrically with a combined vision for the future. One of these first collaborations was a song titled “Tomorrow” with lyrics by Annie and music by John and Jim and was recorded at a studio in Worcester, MA. Another piece of music created at this time was “Skin of the Flea” with music by Aram and lyrics by Andy. This was Aram’s first song written specifically for CBS.
Annie had to step away from CBS for a period of time to deal with medical issues affecting her voice. During that time Nancy Brock was brought in to take over the lead vocal spot. Nancy had been vocalist for a Boston band called “Agint 99”. She also wrote many of her own songs and the band tried to find the right niche but in the end the chemistry wasn’t right and they parted ways. It was during this time that Jim, John, Mike and Aram began to hit their stride as a band and were creating new interesting music for the future.
In 1993, Annie came back to the band but unfortunately Aram had moved on. Paul Palumbo joined the band as a second guitarist and 6 new songs were recorded as a demo. The reunion would be short lived as Jim and his family made a career decision to move to Sacramento in late 1993. CBS last gig was played at “The Grog” in Newburyport, MA. In the years since, the core members have kept in touch and have had a couple of reunion jams where many memories and songs were played again.
Playlist: Click on song titles to hear music by Cool Blue Sky
In 1992 while CBS was on a bit of a hiatus, Mike and I dabbled around a bit in a cover band with a guy that i worked with named Dick Bousqet. Dick and his sister had been doing some shows as impersonators with a hypnotist named Don Williams. Don had actually been one of our booking agents back in 1984 with The Memos although there was no connection here. We were joined by guitarist Paul Palumbo who also played bass and we would switch back and forth between sets. Dick had an idea to put on shows at local halls with he and his sister and then the band to fill in the rest. They sang to prerecorded backing tracks. So, we set out to play the gig and enlisted Dana to be our lead singer and guitarist along with Paul. We came up with a list of predomninantly 50’s and 60’s songs since the target audience was in their 40’s and 50’s. We rehearsed 2 or 3 times and did the show. It was a successful event, but we never did another one. Below are selections from one of our rehearsals and I believe we went under the name of “Past Tense” which is what we called ourselves with Dick singing.
No matter what-
Jim & Annie 1989/1990
Click on the links below to see the documents
ASCAP Songrwiting workshop. The song “You’ was one of 8 chosen out of over 100 entries.
Gifts of Rain
(It isn’t) Fair