The Day – Your Turn: Looking for Rainbows

Great music is distinguished by the quality of its construction; expertise. He is imbued with integrity, he inspires others, he is beautiful and, above all, timeless.

Such was the music of the Rainbows Band, which began in 1957 under the leadership of Bob Brouillard (trumpet, vocals) with Dick Tarryk (accordion), Larry Brisson (guitar, vocals) and Charles Thorpe (drums).

The group was reorganized in 1958: Bob, Dick, Jack L’Homme (guitar, vocals), Henry Lucas II (sax) and Hank Schaeffer (drums). In 1959, the band consisted of Bob, Dick, Jack, John Seybolt (sax) and Clayton Ford (drums). I had the pleasure of speaking with several musicians:

Bob Brouillard — At age 14, he was the first trumpeter of the Dick Pillar Band. Bob graduated from Sprague School and performed at all their school dances; he performed at many NFA dances, after football and basketball games. They donated their music to many social organizations in Norwich, New London, Westerly and Willimantic.

In 1959 they performed in a social organization in New London; owner said “we love your band, but you need to find another drummer”; Clayton was black. The Rainbows never played there again. Bob credits much of who he is today to Larry Seybolt, head of the French department at the NFA. It was his first experience as a jazz musician. Bob spent 36 years in Connecticut; he became a successful music teacher and soloist, was St. Bernard School’s first music director, involved with the Willimantic Theater School, and his last 15 years were at Griswold High School.

Bob lives in Ocala, Florida and is now a featured soloist with two bands: Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band (100 musicians) and Southern Express Big Band (18 musicians). Bob has performed all over the country; he and his wife formed The Rainbow Connection, an alliance.

Summing up his life, Bob said, “It’s been a great ride, with so many great experiences.” He cherishes every moment with his lifelong and faithful friends. He praises Dick Tarryk for keeping the band connected.

Dick Tarryk – Around 1975 the band reorganized as the Graduates Band under Dick Tarryk, with several different musicians involved, playing until the 1990s. Dick became a medical technician at Uncas on Thames and continues to performing as a soloist/singer in nursing homes and other venues. He maintains good relations with all the members of the group. They had a lot of fun and people enjoyed their music.

They are well-known musicians in the region and are part of Norwich history. Some of her favorite songs were “Mack the Knife”, “Misty”, “In the Mood”, “Proud Mary”, “Joy to the World” and many more.

Reverend Clayton Ford – Clayton started playing drums at a young age and joined the Dick Pillar Band, his first professional job. He joined the Rainbows while in the NFA and also played with the Robert O. Fletcher Drum & Bugle Corp and NFA Drum Corp. He played drums with the Rainbows from 1959 to 1961. He then served 8½ years in the US Marine Corps. Clayton joined a New London gospel group, the Sensational Londonaires, who performed in Connecticut and New York.

Clayton is currently assistant pastor emeritus at Christ the Redeemer Missionary Baptist Church in Bridgeport. Since his spinal injury in 1979, lower back surgery, Agent Orange and associated health issues, Clayton has not been able to play the drums. Clayton is the nephew of Norwich baseball great Burchard Marshall.

Henry Lucas II — Henry began playing sax at age 15; he became the Rainbows’ first saxophonist. After graduating from the NFA in 1960, he attended St. Francis College in Massachusetts, majoring in economics. When he married in 1964, the wedding band, of course, was The Rainbows and their wedding song was “I’m in the Mood for Love”.

He served in the US Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970, then went to law school; he is a lawyer in Salem, Mass. Their group, Jack, Hank, Dick and Bob got together before Jack died.

“They started together, went different paths but spoiled at the reunion.” Henry currently plays in five different bands, two of which are his own: an 18-piece swing band The River Side Swing Band and a jazz band. He said “music is the most wonderful thing.” One of his favorite songs is naturally “Over the Rainbow”. Henry resides in Peabody, Mass.

Hank Schaeffer – Hank started playing drums when he was 14, earning $3 for a gig. He played drums throughout high school and with the Dick Pillar Band. He attended Texas Tech University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and dairy. He played western swing music to pay for his studies.

After returning to Connecticut, he played 10 years on and off with the Rainbows and Graduates. One of their signature songs was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. For the past 7-8 years he has performed with Tish Rabe & Friends, private jobs, around the shore, Enders Island and midtown Manhattan.

John Seybolt – He was the Rainbows’ saxophonist in 1959, college professor and dean, currently residing in Arizona. Unfortunately, I was unable to reach John for an interview.

Jack L’Homme — Jack was an elementary school teacher for 38 years. Guitarist and singer, he began his musical career in Norwich, with the Rose City Trio at the age of 14. He continued for the next 50 years with The Rainbows, which would become The Graduates, with his best friends Bob, Hank and Dick. He often sang in the Naples, Florida area, his winter home. He passed away in 2019 and is missed by many.

Larry Brisson and Charlie Thorpe, who debuted with The Rainbows in 1957, are both deceased.

Rainbow Band members have remained loyal friends over the years. Their bookings have included school and church dances, weddings, birthdays, fraternal clubs, banquets, couples clubs, Mallon Chevrolet Christmas parties and many more.

Tonight, when you reminisce about music from the late 50s and early 60s, always remember, “And the dreams you dream of, dreams do come true.

Roberta J. Vincent lives in New London, where she is president of the St. Anthony Chapel Foundation. She is also a board member of the Norwich Arts Center, the NFA Alumni Council and the Norwich Lions.

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