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1-Hit Wonders: Count Five

The year was 1966 and the Summer of Love was still in the future. Yet, the first inklings of what became known as “psychedelic rock” were beginning to be heard on U.S. radio stations. One of those early hits was “Psychotic Reaction,” a bluesy, sonic assault on our eardrums by a band known as Count Five.

The group was based in San Jose, California, but its members came from all over. Lead singer Kenn Ellner was originally from Brooklyn. Lead guitarist Johnny “Mouse” Michalski was from Cleveland. Bassist Roy Chaney was a native of Indianapolis and drummer Butch Atkinson was from Springfield, Massachusetts. Topping it all off, rhythm player Sean Byrne was actually born in Ireland.

The boys' gimmick was to dress in Dracula drag as they gigged around Southern California’s teen clubs and sock hops. Local DJ Brian Lord thought they had potential, so he alerted Irwin Zucker who ran the independent Double Shot label.

Count Five auditioned with a tune the band had written for themselves. Zucker liked that song, titled “Psychotic Reaction,” took the group into the studio and came out with a song that made it all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in fall of that year.

Alas, the group was never able to get any of their follow-ups to chart and soon fell apart. But like Dracula, the song itself refuses to die and continues to haunt oldies stations to this day.

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