Nuggets: Romeo and Juliet by Michael and the Messengers

Before he became Patti Smith’s lead guitarist, Lenny Kaye compiled Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Released in 1972, the two-LP set covered American garage rock and psychedelia from the years 1965-1968 and was a major influence on punk rock. Rhino Records reissued an expanded version of the set in 1998, with 118 tracks in total. I’m profiling and rating each of these 118 tracks, working backwards.

Track 18: Romeo and Juliet by Michael and the Messengers
From: Winona, Minnesota
Rating: 6/10

ROMEO & JULIET – Michael & The Messengers [2:06]
(Robert Hamilton/Fred Gorman)
Personnel/WAYNE BECKNER: vocals * TOM FINI: guitar * JACK DeCAROLIS: organ * RON GAGNON: bass * PAUL COSENZA: drums
Recorded in Chicago, IL
U.S.A. single #874 (6/67); Pop #129

The Messengers have an extremely convoluted history, featuring three almost entirely different lineups.

Winona, Minnesota

The Messengers originally formed in Winona, Minnesota. They became known for wearing matching olive-green blazers. The original lineup released one single, 1965’s ‘My Baby’, but broke up when bassist Greg Jeresek moved to Milwaukee for college.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Jeserek formed a new lineup. They recorded a version of ‘In the Midnight Hour’ in their living room studio. It became a top 5 hit in Chicago, and the band signed to Motown Records.

Michael & the Messengers

Because the “Milwaukee” Messengers were now signed to Motown, they had no interest in promoting ‘In the Midnight Hour’, recorded on a different label. So USA Records formed a new band to promote it, naming them Michael & the Messengers. They recorded a soundalike version of ‘In the Midnight Hour’, followed by a cover of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

‘Romeo and Juliet’ was first recorded by the doo-wop group The Reflections in 1964. It’s a fun melding of music worlds, sitting between a soulful Motown sound and a raw garage sound. There’s a busy arrangement with frenetic organ and lead guitar.

It didn’t chart in the top 100, perhaps not surprisingly as the music world had moved on by mid-1967. It’s one of the weaker cuts on the first disc of Nuggets.

Michael & the Messengers broke up after a couple more singles. The Milwaukee Messengers soldiered on for longer, touring a rock opera, The Evolution of Love.

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  1. I do like the organ because I’m a sucker for that. Wow…what a journey to take. I just heard their version of Midnight Hour….not bad at all.

    • I just listened to the Midnight Hour cover, it’s pretty good. I was expecting something more garage-rock.

      • It’s much more professional than I would have thought…
        Because of work I will only post on weekends for the next few weeks.

        • I have been terrible at keeping up with blogs. Normally I do it on the commute to work but I keep missing my office days. I’ll come for a catchup visit.

          • You are fine…I haven’t been great either…I’ll get 3 behind on you constantly…I’ll come by next weekend.

    • Agreed. The original wouldn’t have fitted onto Nuggets, but this is one of the weaker Nuggets tracks for me.

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