- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — In a dim bar on a cramped stage, the Invictas are getting ready to rock.

Twanging and tuning are a band of rockers in khakis with white hair, day jobs, grown children and — improbably — plans to keep playing power chords when their cohorts are fine-tuning golf swings.

“I’m pumped,” drummer Dave Hickey jokes as he walks in. “I took my Geritol, I took my vitamins.”

The Invictas made their bones in this city by packing houses and ripping through “Louie, Louie,” “Satisfaction” and their own hit, “The Hump.”

That was in the ‘60s, though. Reunited band members are now entering their 60s.

This is geezer rock at the other end of the spectrum from Mick Jagger prancing around stadiums for fat paychecks. This is what happens when a garage band refuses to die.

Is there a statute of limitations for singing “Sweet Little Sixteen”?

The evening before the Invictas’ show, Herb Gross, 62, drives to practice in the band’s ‘84 hearse. It has a rumbling exhaust and “The Invictas” painted on the side, just like the hearse from the band’s heyday. Passing drivers stare. This is OK by Mr. Gross, who aside from being the Invictas’ singer is a professional ad man.

Mr. Gross put together the band’s summer tour of local bars and festivals from his home in Charlotte, N.C.

Also practicing is bassist Jim Kohler, 63, the oldest Invicta, who also looks the most rockerlike with shoulder-length gray, curly hair. He calls himself the Keith Richards to Mr. Gross’ Jagger, and like the famous duo, they are both wiry men with big personalities. Dave Hickey, 59, a grandfather, plays drums. His brother Bruce Hickey, 57, plays guitar.

The band came together at Rochester Institute of Technology in 1961. The eventual four-man lineup consisted of Mr. Gross, Mr. Kohler, Dave Hickey and Mark Blumenfeld, who now lives in California and is not involved in the reunion.

The Invictas caught fire playing at a local joint called Tiny’s Bengel Inn. Though homegrown, they looked like a British Invasion band with their long hair and riding boots.

Their breakout single, “The Hump,” was recorded in 1963 in a studio packed with pals, cases of beer and a keyboardist they bailed out of jail. The song is not lewd, technically, but urges listeners to do a somewhat suggestive dance .

The tiny-label single got some play on the East Coast and was a hit in western New York, leading to the still-repeated claim by the Invictas that they outsold the Beatles locally.

“Girls were chasing us. We could play pretty much wherever we wanted to play,” Mr. Gross says.

An album, “The Invictas a Go-Go,” was hastily recorded during a weekend in New York City in 1965. The band hated the slapdash album. Worse, the grind of touring around New York and the Northeast started to wear on them.

With Mr. Kohler facing the draft after graduation, he joined the Air Force. Dave Hickey enlisted, too. Mr. Gross reconstituted the band with Bruce and other replacement players, but the Invictas fizzled away by the early ‘70s, re-forming once more in 1980, but only briefly.

Then two years ago, Dave Hickey and Mr. Gross were watching a blues band perform in Rochester when the singer invited them on stage. Mr. Gross, a few beers in, came up and sang. To his surprise, the crowd yelled for “The Hump.”

Mr. Gross had a Blues Brothers moment. He told Mr. Hickey: “We have to put the band back together.”

Being in a garage band is complicated once you’re AARP age. It takes longer to recharge batteries after late-night shows.

They say the reason they do it is simple: It’s just so much fun.

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