Enjoy this brief history of the band! If you have more historical details on the band, please send them to
me, along with any other info you might have, to the e-mail address below. I will be up-dating this history
The History of the Connells
The Connells began to come together as a group in the Spring of 1984. Mike Connell was in his second
year of law school and his brother David in his last semester of college, both at the University of North
Carolina in Chapel Hill. The brothers, David playing bass and Mike guitar, rented a practice space and
began working up several of Mike's songs with a friend, John Schultz playing drums. John was a junior
at UNC and was from Raleigh, where the Connell brothers' home base now was located. The band tried
a few singers that Spring before settling on Doug MacMillan, a childhood friend of Schultz's and a
swimmer at East Carolina University.
At the end of the school year, the practice sessions moved to John Schultz's basement in Raleigh. They
played at one spur-of-the-moment party that summer, for no compensation. As the summer wore on, the
members decided to replace John. He went on to become director of independent films, "behind the
scenes" documentaries, and music video (including "Get a Gun" for The Connells).
The new drummer was Peele Wimberley, who was playing in a locally-successful Raleigh band, Johnny
Quest, that included friends of Mike and David's. Around the time that Peele was brought in, Mike
officially asked Tom Carter to be the band's manager.
Immediately upon Peele's joining, the band made great strides. Within a few weeks they played their first
real show in September 1984, at the long defunct Cafe Deja Vu in Raleigh. The band all lived in Raleigh
now, except Mike, who had returned to Chapel Hill for his final year of law school. David lived in his
grandmother's house in Raleigh. The garage of that house (in which the grandmother did not live) also
became the band's practice space.
Many of the first few shows were at the Cafe Deja Vu and other clubs in the Cameron Village
Underground. The underground was so close to the band house that some of them would walk to
shows, carrying the equipment. This was fortunate, since the largest vehicle owned by the band
members was an aging station wagon.
That fall the band recorded a 3-4 song demo at a studio in Chapel Hill. One of the songs, "Darker Days,"
was included on a compilation of North Carolina bands, More Mondo, released by Dolphin Records.
Dolphin was owned by the Record Bar retail chain and had released an earlier album on the same
theme entitled Mondo Montage.
George Huntley had grown up around the corner from the Connell brothers' grandmother and had
known the boys since childhood. He had played with The Connells at a few parties, opening as a solo
act and performing a variety of originals and covers. As 1984 drew to a close, he expressed interest in
joining the band. Based on his talents as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter; his offer to purchase a
keyboard; and his VW van, he was added to the lineup. This five-man lineup has remained intact for over
In March 1985, The Connells recorded another demo tape, this one intended to be of release quality.
The tape was produced by Don Dixon and Rob Abernethy (then known as Rod Dash), former
bandmates from an early 80s Raleigh band called Arrogance. Recent UNC grad and friend Ed Morgan
took the tape to London, where he spent the summer.
Ed had interned at Dolphin Records and learned something about the music industry. He shopped the
tape to several labels, including Demon Records. Demon agreed to pay for an additional studio session
to record additional songs to fill out an album, which they would then release in Europe. The band went
to a different studio to record additional songs with Steve Gronback and Dave Adams at the helm.
The resulting album was Darker Days. Upon Ed's return from England, he started Black Park Records to
release the album in the United States in Fall of 1985. Operating out of his bedroom, Ed and Tom
Carter, who handled booking and legal matters, got some independent distribution for the record and
began to book the band on tours throughout the country. Friends made videos for "Seven" and "Hats Off"
that recieved some airplay on MTV, which at that time was much more open to low budget independent
Incidentally, the title for "Seven" is a holdover from the early days when none of the songs had titles, just
numbers according to when they were worked up. "Take a Bow," from One Simple Word, was originally
"Two," and "In My Head," from the UK Darker Days, was "Six." After "Seven" most songs were given titles
when written, except "Elegance," "If it Crumbles," and "Try," from Boylan Heights, which were "New One,
Two, and Three."
Those three songs were recorded in the winter of 1985-86 at a demo session at Fort Apache, a new
studio started by some friends in Boston. The lyrics and resulting titles were written during the session.
This sitar-laced version of "If it Crumbles" can be heard on the flip side of the Hats Off 12" single. The
only other Connells record released on Black Park. Fort Apache later moved from dicey Roxbury to
comfortable Cambridge and has become one of Boston's best studios. It was here that Fun and Games
Most of that winter was taken with touring. The band began to develop followings throughout the
Southeast and in Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago. By this time they had toured the Midwest
several times and the West Coast once. Touring was bare bones at that time. Sometimes They would
go for weeks without getting a motel room, sleeping in the van or on the floors of kind friends and
strangers. It has been suggested that the band's primary sustanence was tuna fish salad, yogurt, raisin
bran, and canned beans. The large cooler that had been given to the band served as their kitchen, table,
and bed, bridging the front bucket seats of the van.
Although these were trying time, they were the source of many of the band's fondest memories. Because
the tours were so sparse, they had plenty of time to see the sights and stay with people long enough to
get to know them. The highlights of the band's first trip west were visits to the Grand Canyon and Crater
Lake and a week in Chico, California.
In the Spring/Summer of 1986, The Connells signed with TVT Records. That summer they recorded
Boylan Heights with Mitch Easter (of Lets Active). The album was released in the Fall behind the full
force of TVT's promotion and distribution staff. Another friend made a video for "Scotty's Lament" that was
picked up by MTV, and a more established director taped "Over There." Around the time of the TVT
signing, The Connells also signed with a professional booking agent. This meant that the band could
now afford to get a motel room or two while on tour.
Also around this time, Black Park Records licensed its products (except Darker Days) to a new label,
Mammoth Records. The other bands in Black Park were The Downsiders, from Chico, California, and A
Picture Made, from Pittsburg, Kansas. Ed Morgan and Tom Carter started Black Park, Inc. as a
management company, with Tom focusing on The Connells and Ed taking on other acts. They shared
an office space in Raleigh with Mammoth.
With the release of Boylan Heights, The Connells became a full-time touring unit. The album performed
well on college and alternative radio charts and was on a number of critics' best-of-the-year lists.
The rest of the history is pretty well documented and dates gets fuzzy. In 1990 Ed Morgan made an easy
transition into full-time manager. Sometime that year or the next Steve Potak began touring with the band
and playing keyboards. Eventually he became an official member.
In 1995 TVT licensed Ring to Intercord Records in Germany. The song "74-75" became a hit in Germany
and spread throughout Europe. It reached number one on the sales charts in several countries and
went gold or platinum in a few more. The band spent a good part of that year touring throughout Europe.
On April 12, 1996, George Huntley released his first solo record, Brainjunk. The song freeman was
originally recorded during the Ring sessions.
After an initial tour of Europe the band came back to the states for a rest and to begin writing new songs
for the follow up to Ring. Weird Food and Devastation was released in 1996. Weird Food was produced
by The Connells long time soundman, Tim Harper. The title was based on a comment that Steve made
about taking pictures of "weird food and devastation" while on tour in Europe. "Fifth Fret" and "Maybe"
were released as singles.
On May 26,1998, The Connells released their last album for TVT Records, Still Life. TVT distributed the
record in the United States. The band co-produced the album with Jim Scott and their long time sound
man, Tim Harper. They are currently playing selected shows, primarily in the Southeast, but they will
support the new album with full-scale touring in the U.S. and elsewhere after the record's release.
Check this web site for updates!
The Connell brothers moved around in their early years, as their dad was in medical school and getting
a degree in cancer research at Duke. Mike was born in Georgia, and David was born in the Raleigh
area, while their dad was working under a family practice physican. Some have said that Doctor Connell
candy instead of shots, and he was much better-looking (and younger) than "old Doctor Moore. Later, the
family ended up back in Macon, Georgia, where all except David graduated high school. Most other than
David went at least one year to Mercer College, where they had family connections. They moved to
Raleigh, where their mother was from, just in time for David to go to Broughton his senior year, and
graduate in 1979. Mike was 47 on March 15, 2006, and David will be 45 on May 27, 2006. Doug
graduated from Sanderson in 1981, and attended East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, and N.C.
State University in Raleigh.
Old School Dropouts...
An interesting Side Project... well, sort of: The April Fools
The April Fools consisted of Doug, George, Peele, Dana Kietter (Black Girls, etc), Jeb Barlow (horns on
"Sat. Nite USA" from Fun and Games), and Mike Carter. During the summer of 1989, they recorded
several Burt Bacharach songs with the intention of releasing an album. Some of the songs recorded
were "Downtown", "One Tin Soldier", & "This Guy's in Love" among others.
The rumor is that TVT said "no", and the songs were never released on Black Park as intended. The
April Fools played one show live.
Raleigh Musical History
The Connells are based in Raleigh, North Carolina. So, as I get information about the Raleigh music
scene I will add it to the history:
The Sex Police
The Sex Police are an offshoot of The Pressure Boys, one of the great Chapel Hill bands of the early to
mid '80s. When they broke up, John Plymale (the lead singer) formed the Sex Police with some of the
guys in the horn section. Interestingly, Jack Campbell, the bassist for The Pressure Boys, joined Johnny
Quest (who Peele drummed for before The Connells). But none of the Connells actually played in the
Sex Police. The Sex Police were around concurrently with the Connells. The band had kind of a Red Hot
Chili Peppers/Fishbone sound.
The trumpet player from The Pressure Boys, Stacy Guess, is now playing with Squirrel Nut Zippers. And
the P-Boy's drummer, Rob Ladd, is playing with Hobex, which is what is left of Dillon Fence. As you can
see, Chapel Hill, NC is a musically incestuous town.
Please send questions, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Band formed Spring of 1984
UNC – Chapel Hill
Band member, College/Post
undergrad., HS, Birth Month,
Connell, D. UNC – Chapel Hill,
Broughton High School, May
Raleigh, NC, & UNC-Chapel
David Connell was in Sigma
Alpha Epsilon fraternity at
Mercer, phi alpha, and the
student center at mercer the
Connell Student Center, is
named for a relative of theirs
who donated to the school.
Connell, M. UNC & UNC law
March, Macon, GA, Mercer
College then UNC-Chapel Hill.
Ayers, M. N.C. State Rocky
Mount Rocky Mt., NC
MacMillan, D. East Carolina
University. Sanderson March
& North Carolina State
Potak, S. Southern Appalachian
State University, Broughton
High School, Sanderson June
Broughton, Stevenson, C.
(new drummer), New York
Morgan, E. UNC-Chapel Hill
College/Post undergrad., HS,
Birth Month, Hometown
Schultz, J. UNC-Chapel Hill
Wimberley, P. Broughton High
School, April Raleigh, NC
Ritter, S. ?, Missouri
Huntley, G. Sanderson, March
Raleigh, NC (1984-2001) or
Carter, T. UNC – law
(1st MGR. 1984 - ?)
Record labels, etc.
Black Park Records (1985 –
1986) changed to a new label,
Mammoth Records and Co-
managers, Morgan & Carter
started Black Park, Inc.
In 1998, the Mammoth Records
was purchased by Disney.
TVT Records (1986 – 1998)
Black Park Records (2000)
Rykodisc or Rhino Records
(Fall of 2006)