The Jades were an American garage rock and band from Sparta, Michigan who were active in the 1960s (not to be confused with several other bands from the period also named "the Jades"). They were one of the most popular bands in Sparta and West Michigan and cut two singles for Fenton Records owned by Dave Kalmback, who eventually became the group's manager. They are remembered for songs such as "Please Come Back" and the topical "Confined Congregation", and their work is highly regarded today by garage rock collectors and enthusiasts.
The Jades formed in the fall of 1965 by students from Sparta High School in Sparta, Michigan. Their original membership consisted of Rich Seigel, who was blind, on vocals and rhythm guitar, Craig Clarke on vocals and bass, Phil Succop on lead guitar, and Roy Johnson on drums. Siegel and Clarke usually handled the vocals. Drummer Johnson left the band six months later and was replaced by Dan Preston. Floyd Johnson, a country music fan, would occasionally play on the piano located on the stage in the schools' gym while the band was practicing there in hopes that they would ask him to join, which they eventually did--he later became their official keyboard player. The Jades' primary influences were British Invasion bands such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds, and Them, featuring Van Morrison. Clarke was fourteen when the band formed and, unlike the other band members who were self-trained, he had taken lessons in classical guitar, but switched to bass. Lead guitarist Phil Succup had a truck and provided with transportation. Sparta High School's choir director Bob Stiles and Arnie DePagter, a Spanish teacher and coach, helped the band get gigs. The Jades first performance was at the Spanish Fiesta event held at the Sparta High School gym. The band worked occasional parties and became popular in the Tri-County region, regularly playing at high school dances in Rockford, Sparta, Rogers, Cedar Springs, Coppersville, Lowell, and other elsewhere and eventually toured statewide. For two summers they performed three nights a week at a club in Hess Lake and competed in a several Battle of the Bands contests, winning one held at the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium (also attended by the Quests form Grand Rapids) and coming in second in another held at the Black & Silver Room to a crowd of over a thousand, where they reached the semi-finals in the playoffs and were awarded $150.
Eventually their touring itinerary came to include the entire Michigan area. In 1965 the Jades' bassist Craig Clarke got job working at the Great Lakes recording studio, which was located in the Sparta Theater, an historic palace theater, which served the dual purpose of movie venue and recording studio. It was owned by Dave Kalmback, who was the proprietor of Fenton Records and with its high ceilings, was known for having spacious acoustics, which can be heard on many Fenton recordings. The studio also had an eight-track source tape machine, which was ahead of its time for the mid-1960s. Clarke initially landed the job there to assist Kalmback in re-installing pipes to the theater's antique organ, but later began helping around the studio during sessions. Clarkes assisted on the session for the Woolies' recording of Bo Diddley's "Who do You Love", which became a national top twenty hit. Keyboardist Floyd Johnson worked at the theater selling popcorn. In exchange for pay, Clarke made an arrangement with Kalmback to let the Jades use free studio time to record for the Fenton label. In 1966 drummer Dan Preston left and was replaced by Bill Alexander, who initially lied to the members of the group claiming he had played drums when he had not. He bought a drum set at Middleton Music, and joined the band. According to Alexander, "It's the greatest thing I ever did and would do it again."
The band's first single featured two songs written by guitarist Rich Siegel: the moody "Please Come Back" and the flip-side "Confined Congregation", a protest song aimed religious hypocrisy amongst the older establishment. It was released in February 1967 and was followed in June with "Surface World", another protest song, this time written by Siegel and Clarke, backed with "We've Got Something Going", a catchy dance number. The group recorded several unissued songs, such as "Backlash" and "down Home" which are believed to be lost. After the release of their second single, Dave Kalmback became the group's manager, and he attempted to secure the group with bigger and better-paying live dates, but by 1968 Clarke, Siegel, and guitarist Phil Succop enrolled in various colleges, diminishing the group's productivity. The Jades played their last performance in late 1968. According to Jayne Paasch writing for the Sparta Township Historical Commison:
Rich Seigel attended University of Michigan and, because of his blindness, studied in braille. In the early 1970s Craig Clarke and Bill Alexander played for a few years in a local three-piece country rock bar band. Clarke continued to play in a series of rock bands over the years, and has more recently played in a blues band, Blues Stew, with his son who is the lead singer. He became a sales consultant of industrial equipment for warehouse and storage systems.
Marking the 50th anniversary of their founding, in August 2015 the Jades (Craig Clarke, Rich Siegel, Floyd Johnson, Phil Succop, and Bill Alexander) reunited for the "Celebrating Sparta Alumni Artists" as part of the "Town & Country Days" event held by Sparta High School.
The Jades work has come to the attention of garage rock collectors and enthusiasts and has been included on several compilations. All four of their songs released on single are included on Scream Loud!!! The Fenton Story. "Surface World" is featured on Teenage Shutdown! Nobody to Love. Regarding his time with the Jades and his indoctrination into a life of playing music, Clarke recounts: