It all started - or RE-started one might say - back in 2005, when Herb Gross was catching up with an old friend in Rochester, New York. He and Dave Hickey were longtime pals; in fact, Dave had been the drummer in their band, Herb Gross & The Invictas during what seemed like many moons ago. The group had started around 1960 as a street band originally named The Furies. Playing the fun, be-bop style dance music of the day, the band had grown in popularity in and around Rochester and the eastern seaboard with the hit song and dance, “The Hump.” Radio stations were in an uproar over the immorality of such a thing (“The Hump” was even banned in Boston!) but record stores couldn’t keep the song on their shelves, and 1,000s of people attended the dances they played.
Being part of a band during the British invasion was an exciting time for rock n’ rollers like Herb and his friends. With a little luck The Invictas could have been the Rolling Stones or the next Beatles. Sadly, though, it was not meant to be. By the early 1970s the band had dispersed. The war in Vietnam was on and two of the guys went into the service. Herb continued playing with other musicians for a few years, but it was never the same as it was with The Invictas. He went on to a successful career in television, radio, and music broadcasting while the others chose their own. Visiting with Dave and his wife Marilyn in New York opened the floodgates on all those fun, young adult memories for Herb … what a time they had back then! Little did Herb know, his days of rock ‘n’ roll would return, and soon!
After an enjoyable dinner and stroll down memory lane, Herb, Dave, and Marilyn headed out to a local blues joint called The Dinosaur for a few drinks. A band was playing and they settled in to enjoy the show. As luck would have it, somehow the band caught wind that two of The Invictas were in the crowd. Herb and Dave were invited up on stage to join in on a song. Being up on that stage with Dave felt like old times to Herb. Man, it was fun! Reveling in the good times and thinking they’d sit back down and enjoy the rest of the show Herb was shocked to hear the crowd calling for “The Hump.” It couldn’t be … but it was. They still remembered The Invictas’ song! Herb couldn’t believe it. What a thrill! In an instant, he knew. The band had to reunite.
“Herb was shocked to hear the crowd calling for ‘The Hump.’ It couldn’t be … but it was. They still remembered The Invictas’ song!”
Dave’s response to Herb’s suggestion that they put the band back together wasn’t as enthusiastic. In fact, it was something more like, “Yeah, right.” Yet, six months later Herb & The Invictas were practiced and ready to hit the stage for one more go-around. When they had named their band after a Buick Invicta back in the ‘60s, the guys didn’t realize that the word “invicta” meant invincible in Latin. Yet, decades later, that’s just what they were proving to be as a group - invincible.
With all the time that had passed, some of the band members had changed. One of the original crew was in California, much too far away to join up again. However, with the return of three of the four original band mates, the reunited Invictas become not only one of the few classic rock ‘n roll bands in the country but also one of the few ORIGINAL classic rock bands. And they were ready to rock! (The new Invictas are now: Jim Kohler, who was the original bass player; Dave Hickey, who was the original drummer; Herb, the original lead singer and rhythm guitarist; Sam Gruttadauria, a new member and keyboardist; Dave Profeta, a new lead guitarist; and Dick Callari, another new lead and rhythm guitarist.)
The band started out slowly by playing some local gigs around the area. As they generated a little steam, the Associated Press decided to do a feature story on The Invictas, a bunch of older guys looking to rock. The article appeared in some fifty newspapers across the country. After that, Herb received a phone call from NBC studios. They wanted Herb Gross & The Invictas to come on “The Today Show.” In the end, the show wound up doing a whole segment on them. The band was back! But this time around would be a little different. When the band had dispersed in the 70s, Herb never thought they’d get back together again. Yet, here they were, rocking it as hard as ever. And, with all the life these guys have lived thus far, they are also spreading an important message to the masses. No longer were they young kids on a wild ride seeking musical fame. These days they are a group of older guys who understand the true importance of living life to the fullest and enjoying every moment.
For now, Herb and the other original members pay their own way and forgo gig payments so that the newer band members can be paid, particularly when it comes to out of town gigs. The band isn’t a career choice and it’s not about becoming millionaires. It’s truly about following one’s passion. Herb and the others just aren’t in it for the money. They are doing it because they love it.
As Herb himself says, “We’re just a bunch of older guys out there doing our thing -rock ‘til ya drop! When I sit down with the guys we all understand that this is it. This is our last chance to do this, to entertain a crowd and have fun.” With their infectious “rock ‘till ya drop” attitude and their “no slow songs; we just want to dance” musical mantra the band is attracting baby boomers and young people alike, something that has floored Herb. He knew that the boomers would be into it, after all this is their music. But young kids, who knew?
“We were at a festival last summer and a bunch of teenagers were screaming at us. I was like, ‘what the hell are they doing? We’re a bunch of old grey haired guys!’ There used to be a day when we’d take a towel and throw it into the crowd and girls would fight for a piece of it. It’s not quite like that, but we are having fun!”
Even though they aren’t looking to become rock ‘n roll superstars, Herb and the others are still thrilled that they can make people smile and give them one hell of a good time. Driving around in their hot rod hearse Cadillac with flames on the side (their Big Caddy Hearse is possibly the only hearse to have its own song!), the band intends to do just that for many years to come. “I’ve had many people come up to me and say that you make me feel like I’m 18 again. We are having an effect on people and it’s wonderful! “We played at this place called ‘The Villages’ in Florida. It was our first time in Florida and we had over 2,000 people there. They had a blast! We’re being told by others that we’re inspiring them to follow their passion and dreams … you should rock until you drop.”
Herb & The Invictas are always looking for big events where they can rock the house and show a crowd what old guys can do! Visit their website to learn more about the band and their music at http://theinvictas.com/.
Thank you Herb, for sharing your Story with us.
Our Stories and pictures are the sole copyright of their Authors and may not be reprinted or used without their permission.© 2009 by Tamar Burris and Story of My Life