EUTAWVILLE – Musician Don Bochette of Eutawville knows what it takes to rock his way to the top.
Bochette is a founding member of The Chaps, which once held a spot on the “Top 30” weekly radio “Billboard” list in Arkansas with their hit, “Maybe I’m Amazed.” On June 26, 1970, the band’s song went from No. 18 to No. 5 on the charts.
The top four hits for that week included: “Love You Save” by The Jackson Five; “Mama Told Me,” Three Dog Night; “Band of Gold,” Freda Payne; and “Turn Back the Hands of Time,” Tyrone Davis.
Bochette, 67, who is originally from Hartsville, said he became interested in playing the guitar when he was 8. His father bought him a Gibson and taught him a few chords, he said. In high school, he started playing in talent shows, regularly taking home first-place prizes. After graduating from high school, Bochette enlisted in the military, where he befriended a bass player. After he left the military, he received a call from his old friend asking him to fly out to Texas to be the front-man for a band they were trying to start.
“It was the perfect opportunity, because I am a front-man by nature,” Bochette said.
The band played under the name, The Chaps, and signed with Paula Records, a division of Jewel Records, in 1964. Other notable artists on the same label were John Fred & the Playboys and The Uniques. The Chaps released seven records in their 12 years together.
Recently, Bochette discovered that a record collector on eBay valued a 45 rpm recording of The Chaps at $19.95.
“It was only a dollar back then,” he said, chuckling.
Three years ago, the members of The Chaps reunited after four decades.
The Chaps have recorded a few songs together since then, and Bochette now plays lead guitar and harmonica and sings in the local band, Circa 56, which formed about a year ago. Circa 56 members in addition to Bochette are bassist Rich Hippey of St. George, drummer Corky Winters of Ladson and rhythm guitarist David Smith of Eutawville.
Circa 56 may be ready to release a single by the end of September, Bochette said.
During the early years, Bochette said he and The Chaps were influenced by singers like Chuck Barry and Bo Diddley. While touring around the country, he said he sat in for a jam session every now and then with notable musicians, including Gregg Allman, Duane Allman and Eric Clapton.
For six months, Bochette lived in a Memphis, Tenn. apartment directly across the street from Elvis Presley’s home, “Graceland.” He said he had a few brief encounters with Presley. He also met a young singer and entertainer by the name of Michael Jackson.
“He (Jackson) was still with The Jackson 5 then,” Bochette said, describing Jackson as “one of the best entertainers that ever lived.” He said news of Jackson’s death earlier this month was upsetting.
With the explosion in the number of pop bands and artists in the past 50 years, the creation of a successful, chart-topping band today has quite a few challenges, including the stiff competition, Bochette said.
“It’s way more difficult today than when I started, and there are so many bands,” he said. “There are a dozen bands right here in the Santee area.”
For novice musicians aiming for success, Bochette says, “Stay with your music. Constantly practice. You have to play what they want to hear, not what you want to play. That’s the only way you can make it,” he said.
Bochette is a retired operational vice president for Citigroup and lives on Lake Marion in Eutawville. He has a daughter in Charleston and two grandchildren.