I don’t remember if Walt Disney Music Company went to Disneyland with the idea – or if it was the other way around. But the concept was to put a sci-fi rock band on the Tomorrowland stage for summer entertainment. (This was 1981: post “Empire Strikes Back”) MIKE POST (famed composer and songwriter) was brought in to produce the music. You’ve gotta remember, Disney Music back then wasn’t the Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers/Cheetah Girls company it is today. We mainly released soundtrack albums from Disney films, story records, and the occassional sing-along type album. So putting a rock band together was a learning experience for all of us.
We posted a notice in Variety or wherever for music performers, and tons of gals showed up for the lead singer role. Some were good, some weren’t. Like an American Idol audtion, only twenty years earlier. The funny thing is that after listening to dozens of singers, we ended up picking the very first girl who walked in – Lora Mumford. Killer voice. I remember writing on my audition sheet: “Great. Like a punk Snow White.” (So sad: We lost Lora a half year ago.)
The band started coming together, and Mike rehearsed them in an empty sound stage at the Studio lot. We added a bass player, lead guitar-singer, keyboard guy, a back-up singer or two, and a percussionist (who had to be able to do acrobatics – more on that later). So while Mike and his partner STEVE GEYER (remember “Greatest American Hero”??) gathered music and rehearsed the band, we record company folk started to work on costumes and instruments and such.
An early name for the group was “Starfire” as you can see from enclosed pictures. Another name we kicked around was “Strike.” And I threw “SKWAD” into the mix at one point. (The “SKyler Ward Aid Defense” or something like that). But nothing stuck. I don’t remember who came up with it, but “Halyx” was suggested – and we all kinda nodded and said, “Yeah, that sounds outer space-ish.” And that was that.
Here’s the final color version of the Starfire art, painted by Disney poster artist, Paul Wenzel.
I’ve already discussed the keyboard player and his light-up keyboard cart. Today I’m going to mention our “wookiee” character. Because Halyx was a show band, it had to have a lot of theatrics. We wanted something with a lot of levels (as they say in theatre), but we had no risers or stands. So we had to give the performers different heights. The wookiee (Sorry, I don’t know how else to describe him. I don’t think we had names for any of the characters, except the percussionist.) was going to be tall, so we had to cast a tall bass player. Enter ROGER FREELAND. A likeable guy with a mean bass. Many of the performers had costumes to endure, but Roger had the toughest. He was not only on platform shoes (like Boris Karloff in FRANKENSTEIN), but he was covered in fur! Working under stage lighting. Hot. Jungle hot. Tarzan hot.
I worked a bit with famed Disney makeup man, BOB SCHIFFER on the wookiee’s costume. (Bob was a nice guy. He owned a sushi restaurant in Burbank and would send over free apetizers when he saw me. I also used Halyx as an excuse to go over to the makeup department one day so I could meet my lifelong heartthrob Hayley Mills – who was working on a TV special. Sigh.) Bob looked at many different furs, but decided that yak fur (an expensive thing) would be the best.
I mentioned that the Record Company had never put together a rock band, so when it came to conceptual art, we went to the closest art department we could find – the Consumer Products division (comic books, toys, etc.) And, landagoshen, THEY had never put together a rock band either. However, they came up with some really fun art. Here’s a lookiee at the wookiee…..
Somebody has posted an online copy of Orange Coast Magazine from Sept. 1981, and Halyx is mentioned in the Calendar of Events section. Check it out! Orange Coast Magazine – Google Books
Well, that’s all for today, sports fans. Look for part 3, coming soon.