Gary James' Interview With
Dave Moziak and Dave Usiatynski Of
The Monterays

One of the most popular bands to ever come out of Syracuse, New York was The Monterays. In 2012, The Monterays celebrated their 50th anniversary as a performing band. Two guys who were with The Monterays in the 1960s where rhythm guitarist Dave Moziak and drummer Dave Usiatynski.

Q - Dave Moziak, we'll start with you. What are you doing in Florida? I believe John Wisniewski told me you are a professional photographer. Is that correct?

Dave Moziak - No. I was a professional in Syracuse, but I'm kind of retired from that.

Q - So, you're just retired, period?

Dave Moziak - Yeah.

Q - Do you play in a band in Florida?

Dave Moziak - No. I'm not playing at all.

Q - Dave Usiatynski, do you still play?

Dave Usiatynski - No.

Q - And so, you make your home in Fairport, New York?

Dave Usiatynski - Yes.

Q - Is it true that an ESM band director name of Mr. Barry taught you how to play drums?

Dave Usiatynski - Well, John Barry was the director and I did take some lessons from him, yes. I took private lessons before that to get started in drums. So, when I was in high school I did have drum lessons with John Barry. That's right.

Q - Was it a little bit of exaggeration on his part then to say he taught you how to play drums?

Dave Usiatynski - Well, he did give me drum lessons. That's true.

Q - Dave Moziak, I recall walking through the halls of the new ESM and hear people screaming "Moziak". As I look back on it, the way it was said, you were treated like a Rock star. Do you remember that kind of thing happening?

Dave Moziak - (Laughs). Well, I remember people saying "Moziak". (Laughs). I don't know if they would relate to me as a Rock star.

Q - You were treated back then as a local Rock star, an East Syracuse Rock star. How does that sound?

Dave Moziak - That's great! I love it.

Q - But, you do remember that kind of thing happening, don't you? I didn't make it up.

Dave Moziak - Oh yeah. I remember. (Laughs). We had a lot of fun back then.

Q - How many groups were around when The Monterays were starting out? Did East Syracuse have a lot of bands?

Dave Moziak - I don't remember. There were a few, right?

Dave Usiatynski - As you know, Dave and Dan (Elliott) and I had been in The Dimensions. Sy Sifer, Ron Lauback and Gordie Simons had a band, actually a little before us, but I think they were still playing then. My cousin Steve Usiatynski and Brad Wilson were in a band. So, there were a number of bands.

Dave Moziak - Yeah, all East Syracuse kids in the '60s.

Q - Where did The Monterays perform in those days?

Dave Usiatynski - It seems like we used to play every high school and every Catholic school that had a rec kind of dance. I used to say that when I was 17 or 18, I knew how to drive from Syracuse to every high school in the county, but if I had to go for instance from Westhill to Solvay, I didn't know how to do it, because I was always driving to the gig to some school. All of the schools. Hewitt's (a bar) out in Fairmount was running bands then. Fayetteville Inn of course.

Dave Moziak - Holiday Bowl. Didn't we play Holiday Bowl?

Dave Usiatynski - Holiday Bowl a few times. That was in '68, '69 I think. All of the clubs. The Red Dog. We played a lot at the Scotch And Stein quite a bit.

Dave Moziak - Yeah. That's right.

Q - Where was it that?

Dave Usiatynski - It was right off of James Street, where Carl's used to be. It used to be underneath.

Dave Moziak - Wasn't it called The Grotto too?

Dave Usiatynski - Yeah. It was called The Grotto too.

Q - How big of a role did Dandy Dan Leonard play in the success of the Monterays? What exactly did he do for you guys? Was he your booking agent?

Dave Moziak - Yes. He was our booking agent.

Q - Who was getting the gigs for the band before Dandy Dan Leonard?

Dave Usiatynski - When me, Dave and Dan went with Jack and Johnny, Dandy Dan was already booking the band.

Q - Dave Moziak, when did you join The Monterays?

Dave Moziak - I joined the same time Dave Usiatynski and Dan Elliott did.

Q - What year with that have been?

Dave Moziak - I believe it was late '65.

Q - You were playing rhythm guitar.

Dave Moziak - Correct.

Q - That was popular at the time because of John Lennon and Brian Jones, wasn't it?

Dave Moziak - Right.

Q - Were you always playing rhythm guitar?

Dave Moziak - Pretty much. When I was in The Dimensions I was playing lead guitar and then when I went with The Monterays I was playing rhythm guitar.

Q - And John Wisniewski was on lead guitar.

Dave Moziak - Exactly.

Q - In the mid-1960s, The Monterays were playing a lot of vocal oriented material like Jay And The Americans.

Dave Moziak - That's right.

Q - Did you also play material from the British Invasion groups?

Dave Moziak - We did some, but we didn't do a lot of Stones. We did The Zombies. We did The Hollies.

Dave Usiatynski - A lot of Hollies.

Q - Did you guys go out to watch other Syracuse groups perform?

Dave Moziak - Not too often for me.

Dave Usiatynski - We did some, but we were playing quite a bit. We did like to hear other bands. The Night Caps. Wilmer And The Dukes. Otis And The All Night Workers were playing in Syracuse at that time. There's probably others, but that's just what's coming to mind right now.

Q - Did you guys ever cross paths with Ronnie James Dio?

Dave Moziak - Didn't we play with him?

Dave Usiatynski - I don't remember.

Dave Moziak - It seems like we just didn't overlap or something at that time.

Q - What do you guys remember about opening for The Beach Boys in 1966 at the Onondaga County War Memorial?

Dave Moziak - I remember going over to Carrier Circle and having dinner with a few of The Beach Boys.

Q - That was after the show?

Dave Moziak - Yeah. Correct.

Q - Did The Beach Boys ask you questions about The Monterays?

Dave Usiatynski - They didn't ask us too many questions. Brian Wilson wasn't there. Dennis Wilson came over and talked to us a little bit. Al Jardine was there with his wife. He was kind of aside with his wife.

Dave Moziak - We did get to sit at the table and talk with them a little bit.

Q - What do you remember about the actual show itself?

Dave Moziak - Dan Leonard had us start with just like a bumper of "They're Coming To Take Me Away" and I think we were a little embarrassed about doing that. We didn't really think it was our kind of song, but we did 30 seconds of it at the most or something. So, I remember that. It was a huge crowd at the War Memorial.

Q - Were you nervous about playing to such a large crowd?

Dave Moziak - Yeah.

Dave Usiatynski - Yes. (Laughs). It was a huge crowd.

Q - John Wisniewski said The Monterays went on to play on the same bill as Canned Heat. Was there anybody else you performed with?

Dave Usiatynski - Sure, we opened for Sly And The Family Stone up at Oswego College and thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

Q - What year was that?

Dave Usiatynski - It had to be either '68 or '69.

Q - Anybody else you can think of?

Dave Moziak - Well, there was a number of those shows. We were on a bill with Spirit. We were on a bill one time with The Outsiders, in '65 or early '66. In the same evening on the same stage, although after him, instead of before him because it was 2 AM or something, with The Buddy Rich Orchestra one time. That was down at Cortland College.

Q - You guys got around!

Dave Moziak - (Laughs). Yeah.

Q - I heard a rumor that back in 1967 The Monterays were scheduled to leave Syracuse for Los Angeles, but the girlfriend of one of the members threatened to leave him, so the band never left. Is there any truth to that rumor?

Dave Moziak - Not that I know of.

Q - Was there ever a plan in the works for the group to go to Los Angeles?

Dave Moziak - No. Other than some talk of we should take this national, but that is as far as it ever got as far as I can recall.

Q - By national, you mean you were looking for a record deal, weren't you?

Dave Moziak - Well, we were hoping.

Dave Usiatynski - We were hoping.

Q - Was Dan Leonard the guy who you were counting on to come through for you on that?

Dave Moziak - Well, we were kind of hoping he would.

Dave Usiatynski - Yeah.

Q - But of course, it never did happen.

Dave Usiatynski - No, it didn't.

Q - Dave Moziak, when did you leave The Monterays?

Dave Moziak - I got drafted in the middle of '69 and then I was coming back after basic training and I was actually coming home and playing with the band until I went to Vietnam, which was the beginning of '70.

Q - Dave Usiatynski, when did you stop playing in the band?

Dave Usiatynski - After Dave (Moziak) went to Vietnam, I think we continued playing until April 1970 and then just kind of dissolved. I stopped playing then. My first daughter was born in March 1970. I had gotten a job, third shift as a computer operator, so we just kind of dissolved at that point. We started practicing a little bit after that with Ronnie Lauback, but like I said, I was in a regular job by then.

Q - Have you guys ever seen the current lineup of The Monterays?

Dave Usiatynski - Oh, yes.

Dave Moziak - Sure.

Q - As you see it, should The Monterays be remembered as they were in the 1960s or should they have continued on?

Dave Moziak - Oh, I think it's okay. I don't see why not. Dan's still been there to provide the continuity, the same kind of songs, the same kind of fans. I don't see why not. I don't see why people shouldn't enjoy the same music.

Q - Ron Wray is writing a book on the history of Syracuse music. Has he contacted either of you guys?

Dave Moziak - No. I haven't talked to Ron in years.

Q - I find that kind of strange. John Wisniewski seems to think that Dan Elliott is providing him information.

Dave Moziak - I think Ron Wray was around quite a bit. The first history of Syracuse album, the first three or four, I guess there were Monterays' songs on. I think Ron was around seeing what was going on and living it as we were. I'm sure he spent a lot of time speaking to Jack Albert.

Dave Usiatynski - He was close to George Day (another Monterays member) and Danny.

Dave Moziak - He probably had a lot of firsthand knowledge of the band that way.

Q - Were The Monterays ever inducted into the Syracuse Music Hall of Fame?

Dave Moziak - Yeah, we were. In the mid-'90s.

Q - You were all in town for that?

Dave Moziak - Yes.

Q - Do you ever think about your time with the Monterays?

Dave Moziak - Oh, sure. We think about them all the time.

Q - Was Tommy Forest singing for The Monterays at one point?

Dave Moziak - Yes.

Q - So, what happened to him?

Dave Moziak - What happened was, Tommy and Larry Landry got drafted or Tommy enlisted. I can't remember. That's when me, Dave and Danny went with Jack and Johnny, The Monterays. Then, Tommy didn't last long in the service and he came back home. In the meantime, George (Day) came with us because we wanted a keyboard player. Then Tommy came back home and we ended up having two front men, Tommy and Danny.

Q - Where's Tommy Forest today?

Dave Moziak - Tommy's in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Q - And George Day?

Dave Moziak - He's a mailman. He's living in Florida.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.