1979 - The Undertones


In January 1979, the Ramona Hillside Playhouse presented a production ofThe Drunkard. Wayne Winstead appeared in the cast along with John Cox, whoplayed piano to heighten the action of the melodrama. During rehearsals forThe Drunkard, the director of the show, Emily Anderson, announced that she wanted to include Olio Acts during intermission and she invited members of the cast to perform.She particularly wanted a barbershop quartet. John had performed with a quartet a few years before. With his experience, John wrangled the male lead of the show and one of his and Wayne's high school friends, Mark Beisner; another cast member and college friend of John's and Wayne's, Stanley Meyer; and Wayne, as well.

Undertones (4)

During their college years, Mark, John, Stan and Wayne all appeared in many stage productions at Mt. San Jacinto College and in local community theatre. They also performed with the College Singers, so they were used to singing with each other. With John singing Lead, Wayne as Tenor, Stan as Baritone and Mark as Bass, they formed what would soon become “The Undertones.”They premiered in The Drunkardduring intermission and were a big hit in the show. Immediatedly after, they began receiving offers to sing at retirement homes, mobile home parks and festivals throughout the San Jacinto Valley.

After a few months, tension developed between John and Mark, and Mark left the group shortly thereafter. The Undertones were faced with either breaking up altogether, or John, Stan and Wayne would have to find a new bass.Ronald Hoffman expressed interest in joining the group. But, it was decided that Arthur “Sparky” Johnson,a Hemet High School senior, who was recommended by the Music professor at the college, would join the quartet. Though Ron was passed over by The Undertones, he would play a pivotal role and become the driving force for bringing 976-SING together years later.

Undertones (2)

The (new) Undertones was up and running strong in no time and was soon playing the Riverside County Fair and numerous other larger venues.They eventually auditioned forThe Gong Showand were invited to the studio for a taping, only to have the rug pulled out from under them when the show was suddenly canceled.The group continued for a little over a year, but fragmented as each of the members started following career choices. By 1980, John had moved to San Diego to finish his BA in Theatre.Stan went to Rutgers University to major in Design.Wayne moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.Unknown at the time, John and Wayne would sing together again.And, Sparky would later play a part in 976-SING under unusual circumstances.

More photos in The Undertones photo album.

976-SING 2012