Haze reunites over funky mystery record

Discarded album revives forgotten chapter of Minneapolis music history

Their California adventure lasted just six months before they decided to head back home. They saved up enough money to record again, this time at Sound 80 Studios with producer David Rivkin. As Haze recorded their second album, Rivkin was working with Prince to create the demo that got him the deal with Warner Bros and his debut record.

"Haze did have potential, and we were just hoping their timing was right," Rivkin says. "Either way, they were setting the stage for what was to come in Minneapolis music."

Haze pressed 3,000 copies of the record, but a company in Delaware contacted them before they could officially release it. They had heard the recording, loved the band, and wanted to sign them on a multimillion-dollar contract.

There was one stipulation: They had to leave their just-recorded album behind.

The company's top executive, Harry Geisler, wasn't a negotiator. Nicknamed "The Bear," Geisler resembled Jackie Gleason in a thousand-dollar suit.

"I don't want yous to do anything with those recordings," he yelled at the band during their first meeting in Delaware. "They gonna come back and bite yous."

Hoping this was their big break, the band left their album to rot in a Minneapolis basement in exchange for a lavish musician lifestyle.

They had it made. Geisler's company, Factors, Etc., had acquired the rights to Elvis Presley and Star Wars merchandise and now had more money that it could spend. Haze moved into a secured mansion in Bear, Delaware, with more than seven bedrooms and land that included a volleyball net, basketball court, and three-car garage. They had a weekly allowance and a limousine to take them to their practice space and studio.

Every morning Hughes and Peter Johnson would get up to practice their martial arts moves while other band members took on the punching bags and weights. Maids would carefully place their clean clothes on the edges of their beds and ask what they wanted for breakfast.

Factors, Etc., transformed Haze into Crystal Haze. Cosmetologists cleaned up their faces, hair stylists groomed their afros. Each member was outfitted in custom-made knee-high boots and long, flowing white jackets. It was like they had stepped off a disco spaceship, awaiting superstardom.

In 1979, the band had just finished a performance when the Factors execs called them into a large conference room for a meeting. Seated on one side of a long glass table, the company leaders had a change of plans for Crystal Haze. Fifties teen idol Ricky Nelson was trying to make a comeback, and Geisler said they were going to be his backup band.

Peter Johnson didn't hesitate to speak up against the plan.

"Well, I wish him luck," he said. "That's not us."

The next day, Geisler and his entourage marched into the practice space and interrupted the band's rehearsal. He gave them an ultimatum: "Yous going to do it our way, or yous guys aren't going to do it at all."

Peter Johnson turned off his keyboard and walked out of the room in silence. One by one, the other members followed.

Haze packed up their belongings and flew back to Minneapolis. They never officially said it, but Haze was done. The members went their separate ways, forced to make a living and become adults instead of rock stars.

   

Susan Green had a free Saturday afternoon ahead of her and couldn't resist vanity searching her husband's band. It had been 35 years since Haze played together, but Egge had mentioned that he found their first record selling online around the world. Copies of their second album that snuck out of their manager's basement were selling for hundreds of dollars.

Susan Green had been married to Janelle for more than 30 years and was fascinated by this part of her husband's past.

She typed "Haze LP 1970s" into Google, and search results started popping up. There were a number of sites, written in Japanese, selling the first record. Ebay turned up a number of records selling for between $13.99 and $100. She kept digging, scribbling down notes to pass along to her husband.

Then she came across one link that grabbed her attention: "Pop Music as Pornography: CASE CLOSED." It was a blog post with the Haze album cover centered on top.

"Honey, come here!" she yelled, trying to get her husband's attention. "This lady in Mankato is looking for you guys!"

"What?" Janelle Green seemed baffled. Mankato? Looking for us? What do they want from us? "Email her!" he said.

So she did:

Ran across your article about looking for info on the Haze album from 1974 Minnesota-based group. I am married to one of the band members for over 30 years, and the band just had a reunion-type get together Aug. 2009. Not all of the band was present, but it was a great time, and a lot of pictures were taken, and old photos from the band. If you are still interested in contact, please email me.

In Mankato, Pierce checked her email and found the message she had been waiting for. Finally, someone knew Haze.

Hello—You just made our day!!

I would love to get in touch with the band, and possibly even do an interview for us to air on our radio show. If you saw the blog, then you probably have heard the long search that we've undertaken trying to figure out who the band was on our test pressing album. We never thought it was a Minnesota band—primarily because it is so amazing!!

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