Novato Frank Band

Frank Bonomolo  The Novato Frank Band existed from 1977 to 1989 and featured many musicians - complete list underneath. They did record but some thought these recordings would never see the light of day - while others thought Frank Bonomolo (picture left) would continue for the next twenty years adding more and more sessions until the tapes wore out or Frank lost his mind. Happy to say that didnít happen. In 1994/5 Legend Records released the sessions on a CD, which is dedicated to the memory of John Cipollina, Nicky Hopkins, Jim McPherson and Foster Orr, who all died in the recent years.

The Novato Frank Band Story
by Mike Somavilla

Well, if anybody could take the blame or credit for the start of the Novato Frank Band, the honor would go to the Greatful Dead's drummer Mickey Hart.
In 1977 in a recording studio in a converted Barn, on a ranch in Novato California, the Novato Frank Band was born. The studio and ranch belonged to Mickey Hart- known as "The Barn" or "Rolling Thunder Studios". It was fast becoming notorious for the various sessions and musicians who were taking part in the mad musical hijinx that was unfolding, including Rolling Thunder, Teacher, Sound Hole, Darlene DeDominico and other sessions, featuring John Cipollina, Jim McPherson, Barry Melton, Norton Buffalo, Terry Haggerty, Sam Andrew, John McFee, Bob Weir and countless others.
It really began in 1966 when Frank Bonomolo owned an auto repair business in Novato. It was around this time that the small coutryfied horseman town of Novato was being infiltrated by hordes of long hair hippie types.
One group in particular were all driving Ford Cortinas and would stop by the shop for repairs. As it turned out they were musicians which was right up Frank's Alley actually as it turned out it was the Grateful Dead, eventually they became friends, and Frank would join their exteded family. In fact it was the Grateful Dead who gave Frank Bonomolo the handle 'Novato Frank'. Mickey Hart and Novato Frank really hit it off. Later when Frank approached Mickey about recording some songs Mickey gave Frank an ultimatum. You take me hunting for a wild pig and I'll give you a session. Well with the help of their half man half Hound Dog Pal Johnny Pine. Their hunting trip was a success. Mickey got his pig, Frank got his recording session and that was the beginning of his long addiction to the recording studio. Frank's first assault in the studio ended up with Mickey firing Frank's band with the exception of Bill Middle John Wilmes, his guitar player.
From there, Hart said "So you want to play music Huh" and as rumor has it Hart at that moment appointed himself the drummer under the alias Professor Leadfoot made a series of phone calls to bring some serious musicians to come over and do things right and called the project T.S.O.N. (The Sound of Novato). Frank thought to himself "How can I say no", and within two hours the N.F.B were ready to roll.
The legendary Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina was the first to join in, bringing with him Nicky Hopkins - keyboards man from the Rolling Stones for the ride.
Soon Jim McPherson, Steven Schuster, members of the Diga Rythm Band and asorted family & friends from Mickey's ranch lent a hand and they went for it. The end was a limited edition single on green vinyl.
John Cipollina did the caligraphy & design on the label and the lettering on the sleeve. The single "Marijuana" and "Grow Your Own" received zero attention from the major labels, reasons cited being "No Commercial Potential" but that didn't deter our heroes they kept it going "Novato Style" for 12 years.

Besides, Mario Cipollina plays bass on a few songs of the 1995 Legend CD release. The CDís credits include Huey Lewis, among others, as a friend of the band.

Personnel included (1977-1989):

Frank Bonomolo, John Cipollina, Mario Cipollina, Middle John, Greg Anton, Greg Douglass, Nicky Hopkins, Collene Callahan, Greg Elmore, Hutch Hutchinson, Scott Joss, Steve Kimock, Jim McPherson, Barry Melton, Ben Perkoff, Max Perkoff, Greta Rose, Chris Templeton, Ray Isley, Foster Orr, Linda Howard, Mickey Hart, Steve Schuster, Larry Rucksnaitus, Tor Dietrichson, Martine Fierro, Spencer Dryden, Doug Kilmer, Bobby Vega, Buddy Gage, Don Gaynor, Kathi McDonald, Allen Wientraub, Steve Wolf, Tif Garcia

  Novato Frank Band
Bottom to top: Buddy Cage, Frank Bonomolo, Larry Rucksnaitus, Foster Orr, John Cipollina, Middle John, Greg Antone, Greta Rose


  • 1977 Single: Grow Your Own/Marijuana (Private Stash Records 0002)
  • 1995 CD: RockíNíRoll Heaven (Legend Records 101)

    Grow Your OwnGrow Your Own/

    (Private Stash Records 1977)
    Side A - "Grow Your Own" Side B - "Marijuana"

    Musicians: Frank Bonomolo, John Cipollina, Larry Ruksnaitus, Steve Schuster, John Wilmes, Jim McPherson, Tor Dietrichson, Mick "Professor" Leadfoot

    Out of print!
    Rock'N'Roll HeavenRock'N'Roll Heaven
    (Legend Records 1995)
    They're Playin' Rock'n'Roll In Heaven -- You're Cheatin' Heart -- Ride Out -- Honky Tonk Jekyll & Hide -- Baby Please Don't Go -- I'd Do It All Again -- Short Time Fever -- Tired Of Giving My Loving All Away -- Searchin' Blues -- Who Do You Love

    Musicians: Frank Bonomolo, John Cipollina, Bill Middle John Wilmes, Greg Douglass, Nicky Hopkins, Jim McPherson, Hutch Hutchinson, Greg Anton, Scott Joss, Max Perkoff, Ben Perkoff, Greta Rose, Colene Callahan, Greg Elmore, Barry Melton, Mario Cipollina, Steve Kimok, Linda Howard, Chris Templeton, Ray Isley


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