Mark Loomis was the co-founder of the Chocolate Watchband, both in its original 1965-vintage Los Gatos, CA-based version and its later, much better known 1966-onward incarnation featuring David Aguilar as lead singer. Loomis had been a member of a surf band called the Chapparals in the early '60s -- in 1965, he and fellow former Chapparals' guitarist Ned Torney formed the nucleus of what became the original Chocolate Watchband, based at Foothill College in Los Gatos. When that band split, Loomis hid out for a bit with a surf group called the Shandells before organizing the second, much more successful version of the Watchband. His playing was nearly as prominent as Aguilar's singing, and he and rhythm guitarist Sean Tolby made a great duo. Loomis left the group late in the summer of 1967 in favor of working with the more folk-oriented Tingle Guild. He later returned to the Watchband fold in their final incarnation, organized by Tolby and bassist Bill Flores at the behest of their management, playing a folkier sound that was apparently very close to the Tingle Guild's sound. Loomis initially intended to participate in the late '90s reunion of the group but pulled out and was replaced by his 1967-vintage successor, Tim Abbott. Loomis' playing, as captured on the songs credited to them that actually feature the Watchband (which was always a matter of bitter contention where their albums were concerned), was prodigious -- he showed a command of various styles and idioms, including blues and folk, in addition to basic rock & roll and R&B, and was a commanding presence on records like Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-in) and I'm Not Like Everybody Else. He was only aced out once from an actual Watchband track (according to manager Ed Cobb, because of momentary incapacity due to over-indulgence of controlled substances), and that was on Devil's Motorcycle from their final album, on which Jerry Miller of Moby Grape provided the lead guitar part. Loomis' influences included Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Steve Cropper, and Dave Davies, but he incorporated them into a style all his own. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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