In 1967 I was a senior at Newport Harbor High in Newport Beach and playing in a band called "The Rhythm and Blues Workshop". As the name implies, we were a bunch of white kids from the beach who loved black music. Playing lead guitar in that group was a fellow named Mike Carouselle. In 1968 a new band moved to the area from Fresno called "New Life". That group was made up of previous members of a band called the "Cindermen" and included Don Whaley on bass. New Life was more of a show band but they were not living at home and were therefore a lot more serious about working as much as possible and were pursuing record contracts in Hollywood and even had a grown-up manager! I was asked to join that group and we worked steady at the Cinnamon Cinder in Long Beach (another story entirely), provided music for a classic "B" motorcycle movie called "Five The Hard Way" and released a couple of 45's.
Every so often we would have jam sessions with other popular Orange County bands, often at my place in Laguna Canyon. One of the bands "Yessco Train" had an amazing drummer named Tris Imboden. After one of these get togethers it dawned on me that with a little cherry picking we could form a very strong band. Don Whaley and I tossed the idea around and asked Tris if he was interested and his enthusiastic yes set us off. Mike Carouselle was chosen to play guitar and we immediately started rehearsals in Dudley Folks' all glass living room up in the trees in Laguna Canyon. However you might imagine an idolized picture of a hippie paradise around the summer of love, that was it. We set out to play nothing but original material. Everyone wrote and sang and along with songs by high school pal Mark Turnbull, we had a couple of sets of pretty polished original songs. We were coming up with something that really reflected our time and place.
As to the origination of the name "Honk" I'm afraid there is nothing romantic there. I remember a fairly focused day or so of tossing around thousands of names (harder than naming a kid I think). I believe Mike came up with the idea of Honk in passing. This was around the time of The Rolling Stone's "Country Honk" which, though I don't believe was the inspiration, at least informed our concept of what a honk was. As is often the case I think the final decision was based on the least worst idea. I'm embarrassed to say I think I favored "The Jackals".
Within several months, Mike Carouselle unexpectedly quit the group. He never directly gave us a reason but through the grapevine I heard that he had strong objections to a vintage sweater that I wore that had a big goose on the front. At that point I realized it was time to go for my first choice, a guy I had seen playing an SG when I was in high school in the house downstairs from Dudley. The initial problem with asking Richard Stekol still remained however. . . he was in Viet Nam focused on a very different vibe. What the heck, I wrote him a letter and told him there was a good band in California that had a spot for him when he returned if he was interested.
To find out more about my subsequent history and music, check out my website, stevewoodmusic.com.