Kurt Cobain didn’t know it but there was Nirvana in Schaumburg Township long before his band came on the scene. In August 1972, seven local guys began meeting in the houses and garages of their parents, jamming and kicking around various songs as well as a possible name for their new band. With the early working name of Nirvana, they played for as long as each set of parents could take it before they moved on to the next house.
By September not only were they scheduled to perform at Schaumburg’s back-to-school dance, but they had also settled on a new name for the group. Calling themselves Leviathan! after the large sea monster from the Old Testament, they fittingly told the press they were a “monster of a rock band.” Roy, one of the band members said, “Back then we tried to make sure Leviathan always had an exclamation point in print –i.e. Leviathan! But it didn’t always work so well, and it was often misspelled too.”
The group of seven consisted of both current students and graduates of Conant, Schaumburg and Palatine High Schools. They were:
Greg Pasek (Lead Guitar, Vocals)
Jim Polecastro (Lead Vocals, Guitar)
Steve Polecastro (Bass)
Irwin Rudolph (Tenor Sax, Flute, Vocals)
Hermann Schneider (Keyboards)
Roy Vombrack (Alto, Soprano, Tenor Sax)
Greg Walsh (Drums)
Jim and Steve, the two brothers, founded the group with Greg Pasek and Hermann Schneider. Not long afterwards Irwin, Roy and Greg Walsh joined, bringing their prior experience and talent.
In the nature of a lot of bands, some members came with formal experience and some were self-taught. Hermann, Irwin, Roy and Greg Walsh played in their high school bands while Steve, Jim and Greg Pasek had taken up the guitar after seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Their sound, according to a local article, focused on “powerful saxophone arrangements and gut vocal. The gentler side of the band create[d] flute duets and acoustic guitar work.” Roy said, “We played mainly fairly progressive music… a huge range, from popular music by Loggins & Messina, Jethro Tull, and Stevie Wonder to lesser known performers like Johnny Winter, White Trash, Jack Bruce, and Gypsy. We mixed in a few originals by several of the guys, too.” Steve also noted that Roy did some rearrangements.
Following the Schaumburg High School dance they were invited to perform at Schaumburg’s annual Septemberfest (where they also played in the fall of 1973.) Their next date was on October 14, 1972 at the Rally Dance for the Democratic team of George McGovern and Sargent Shriver in the St. Francis de Sales school gym in Lake Zurich. “Dancers…worked up an appetite grooving to the hard rock sound…” [The Frontier Enterprise; October 19, 1972]
After playing at a number of colleges, high schools and teen centers, they were written up in Carpentersville’s Cardunal Free Press. On Saturday, February 3, 1973 they made their debut at “The New Expression” teen center in Carpentersville at a dance held from 8 to 11:30 p.m. The band was described as having “eccentric vocal and instrumental talent” and playing music from Edgar
White [Winter], Jethro Tull, Traffic and “hits like ‘Superstition’ and ‘Mama Don’t Dance and Daddy Don’t Rock n’ Roll.” They also mentioned that Leviathan “is best known for their own arrangements of rock n’ roll hits.”
Leviathan followed this up with a mention in NIU’s Northern Star on April 27, 1973 detailing the fact that they would appear as part of the Student Association Concert Committee’s May Fete in front of Douglas Hall on April 29, 197 at 7 p.m.
They also had the opportunity to back up Styx at Jane Addams Junior High on August 1, 1973 and later at Papa Joes in Park Ridge. Another date at Papa Joes found them backing up “Rufus,” a Chicago area funk band.
The band continued to perform for a few years, playing their own style and getting gigs. They remain friends and sent me the articles that I used to write this posting.
When things were rockin’ in the 70’s, the sky was the limit in the music scene. The seven band mates of Leviathan! took full advantage of that opportunity and turned it into something special. As Hermann said, “[It was] a small but fun part of our past.”
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
[Roy Vombrack remains part of the local music scene with The Roy Vombrack Orchestra. Everything came full circle when his orchestra performed–fittingly–at Schaumburg’s 50th Anniversary Gala in 2006.]
[Leviathan’s photographs were taken by Roy Vombrack’s father, Paul, who was a professional news cameraman for WLS and WGN as well as a movie cinematographer.]