Up front, I have to confess that I didn’t get The French Lenards back in the late 80’s. When I really started taking an interest in rock music at age 13, I started with arena rock (Journey), moved onto what we now call classic rock (Zeppelin, Boston, Bad Co., et. al.) in high school, and discovered the Beatles and power pop along with college radio in the late 80’s. My writing was influenced by all of that music but nothing I listened to was in the same realm as The French Lenards.
A big part of this project is researching and listening to the music released by NE Ohio bands from 1985 to 2000. Deep in the Jim Benson Archives, I found three French Lenards cassettes: what appears to be an early promo release, a full length album titled “After Saturday Night,” from 1987 and an EP, “Relations” from 1989. Maybe it’s the thirty year gap since I last heard the band, but after listening multiple times, the French Lenards are certainly one of the best NE Ohio bands in the late 80’s and rate up there with The Adults, The Mice, In Fear of Roses and Terrible Parade in respect to the quality of songs. What I realized after a number of listens is that the roots of the French Lenards actually lie in a lot of the music I grew up with.
The band was the musical vehicle primarily for Tom Jares who played guitar in the final version of the legendary Wild Giraffes. The influences are widespread – new wave, soul music, old time rock and roll and a little jazz, too. And, as with the above named other bands, Tom’s voice is unique giving the songs their own character. Oh, and the band rocked their live shows making them an incredibly popular draw. The core of the band consisted of Jares, sax player, Michael Scherma and drummer, Jerry Gaviak. Guitarist Jeffrey “Hal” Cope who appeared on “Relations” would later surface with Jares in the avant garde/acid jazz group Coltrane Wreck in the mid 1990s. The French Lenard’s song, “Like A Wrecking Ball” appeared on the Jim Clevo Presents compilation, “Clearing The Air” in 1991 which I believe was the band’s swan song, however, Jares, Scherma and Gaviak reunited in 2017 with Jares’ stepson, Skylar Keffer on bass and performed an almost two hour French Lenards show at The Symposium. Click here to view the video of a band who successfully brought the crowd back to 1987.