The Mystics began in 1961, when 15-year-olds Tim Woodward and Justin Bonner began practicing with a $50 Silvertone guitar and a beginner's drum kit in Justin's back yard in Boise, Idaho. Hoping to draw a crowd, they came closer to clearing the neighborhood.
It was every Boise rock group's goal in those days to be good enough to play at the popular dance halls like the Miramar Ballroom, where bands like Dick Cates and the Chessmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders drew huge crowds. That meant lots of practice - and frustration. The very first Mystics group - Tim on guitar, Justin on drums, Dennis McCarthy on piano and Gary Grove on bass - was short lived and never played outside of McCarthy's basement.
Half a dozen Mystics bands came and went before the group found a solid lineup. The first Mystics band to stay together more than a few months and play publicly was Tim, Justin, bass player Dean Jackson, piano player Vance Shirley and saxophonist Scott Eberhart. They played at teen dances in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon, traveling to their gigs in a 1956 Chrysler Crown Imperial limousine painted cherry red with the name of the group in gold-leaf on the side and a U-Haul trailer full of gear bringing up the rear. Friday night regulars at Boise's Tracadero Ballroom, they were together a little less than two years.
It wasn't until the Beatles revolutionized popular music in 1964, however, that the group realized its dream of being the top-drawing group in town. With two new members - John Hynes on bass and Tom McMeekan on rhythm guitar - the band reopened and operated the Fiesta Ballroom in downtown Boise, playing for up to 600 teenagers there every Saturday night. McMeekan presently left to start his own group, the Quirks, eventually recruiting Bonner to join them. They were replaced by drummer Rich Smith and vocalist Dennis Schaffner.
Those Mystics played at the Fiesta Ballroom in downtown Boise in 1965 and 1966 and recorded the band's only record, in 1965 in Lodi, Calif., for the Frantic label. The A side was titled "Weekend People," the B side "I Get So Disgusted." "Weekend People" was a five to one hit on a Los Angeles rock station's hit-or-miss segment. That led to its producer asking the group to tour California with another band, the Golliwogs, whose records he also produced. Based on audience reaction, he would decide which group to promote.
Just when the big break seemed within reach, college, military and marital commitments forced the Mystics to disband. The Golliwogs changed their name to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and, well, you know what happened to them.
"Weekend People, though, acquired a mystique of its own. So few copies were made due to the group's breakup that it became a collectible. Only four copes are known to be in existence. They command a price of up to $1,000, depending on condition.
In 1969, Woodward returned from the Navy and joined Smith and Schaffner at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Shirley joined them in a group they called Hope. They played weekly at a club called the Alley and at college functions. The group disbanded in 1971, when its members graduated.
Careers and families followed, but what seemed to be the end was far from it. In 1982, with enough former Mystics living in Boise again for the first time in a decade, the group went on the proverbial mission from God and put the old band back together. What began as a one-night stand in a packed church basement has become nearly three decades of playing at festivals, private and company parties, reunions, wedding receptions, cruise nights, fund-raisers, benefits, the governor's ball, Alive After Five, Nampa Nights, the Western Idaho Fair, Boise River Festival, Boise's Fourth of July Celebration, the Idaho Botanical Garden's summer concert series, and other events. The band has opened for the Guess Who, Rick Nelson, Chad and Jeremy and other names.
Players have come and gone during this time, with most of the early members being replaced by some of the area's best professional musicians. Longtime Mystics since the group reunited in 1982 include Woodward, Lawson Hill (21 years), Russ Martin (15 years), Bill Liles (11 years), Rico Weisman (11 years), Don Cunningham (five years) and the late Robb Campbell (four years).
The current lineup is Hill, drums and vocals; Cunningham, bass and vocals; Weisman, lead guitar, and Woodward, guitar and vocals.
Two things haven't changed. The Mystics are the only Treasure Valley classic rock group with an original member and are still playing the music they love - classic rock from the Sixties, plus some older and newer tunes to keep things interesting.
Except for Paul Revere and the Raiders, no other Boise area rock group has been together as long. The Mystics -- four decades and still rockin'.