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Michael & the Messengers are best remembered for their version of the Reflections "Just Like) Romeo and Juliet."
Originally dubbed simply the Messengers - - there was never a "Michael" -- the group was founded in Winona, Minnesota in 1962 by Greg Jeresek (aka Greg Jennings), also featuring guitarists Greg Bambenek and Roy Berger, keyboardist Chip Andrews, and drummer Jim Murray. Winona's very first rock & roll band, the Messengers were also notable for their on-stage apparel -- matching olive-green blazers -- and quickly earned a devoted local following, releasing their debut single "My Baby" on the Soma label in 1965.
Bambenek soon left the group to attend college, and with new guitarist John Cader, the group continued until Jeresek likewise relocated to Milwaukee to persue his degree. Here he formed a new Messengers with singer Jeff Taylor, guitarist Peter Barans, keyboardist Jesse Roe, and drummer Augie Jurishica.
On the recommendation of DJ friend Paul Christy, the group recorded a rendition of the Wilson Pickett classic "In The Midnight Hour" in their living room studio -- Christy then managed to get the single released on the USA label in early 1967, where it cracked the Top Five in Chicago.
While opening for the Dave Clark Five, the Messengers were spotted by representatives from Motown, ultimately becoming the first white rock act signed to the label -- as such, they no longer had time or interest in touring behind "In the Midnight Hour," so Christy and USA hatched a plan to recruit a new touring lineup, hiring a Leominster, Massachusetts-based band called the Del-Mars, consisting of vocalist Wayne Beckner, guitarist Tom Fini, bassist Ron Cagnon, keyboardist Jack DeCarolis, and drummer Paul Cosenza.
Rechristening the group Michael & the Messengers, this second lineup cut their own soundalike rendition of "In the Midnight Hour," issued on USA later in 1967 -- this version reached as high as Number 116 on the national pop charts, while the original Messengers (colloquially known as the "Milwaukee Messengers" signed to Motown's Soul subsidiary to release "Window Shopping," which got as high as Number 13.
Michael & the Messengers returned to USA by that summer with "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet" -- this single only hit the Number 129 spot, but was later immortalized via its appearance on the original Nuggets compilation.
Two more singles followed -- "Run and Hide" and 1968's "Gotta Take It Easy" -- before the recording career of Michael & the Messengers came to an end, although various iterations of the group toured the Midwest well into the following decade.
The original Messengers, meanwhile, toured in their own rock opera, The Evoltion of Love, next resurfacing on wax in 1969 with a privately pressed single, "I Gotta Dance." A self-titled LP soon followed on Motown's Rare Earth imprint, but despite reaching the Number 62 spot with the 1971 single "That's the Way a Woman Is," (I played the b-side on MRP radio) the Messengers dissolved not long after.
Also, "That's the Way a Woman Is" was an even bigger hit in Japan (under the title "Ki ni naru onnna no ko". The song is having a small revival since being used in an Ootsuka Seiyaku's "Amino Supply" sports drink commercial.
Information by Jason Ankeny and Tim Noble. Posters submitted by Tim Noble.
My Baby Promo Poster
Photo Poster Signed by the Messengers
"Circus" Promo Poster Note the Contemporary Talent Agency info.
Motown Promo Poster
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