Above Photo:

Front row:  Thom Jett (Dad) - Bass/Vocals; Chery Eichar Jett (Mom) - Keyboards/Vocals
Back row:  John Crouch - Guitar; Joe Libbra - Drums; Clay Tefteller - Vocals

Photos by Harley Logsdon, circa 1968

In the late winter of 1967, during a time of unrest over the Vietnam War, excitement over great music was coming over the airwaves, while miniskirts and bellbottoms were seen on the young people, and the new popularity of color television was unfolding.

Chery Eichar was recruited to play keyboards by The Rogues in the summer of 1965 in Litchfield, Illinois. During the summer of 1966, the band's bassist quit. Chery knew another bass player, Tom Jett, from high school and knew he had a new bass guitar and amp, purchased from Chery's parents' music store. Chery and The Rogues invited Tom to join the band. For years afterwards, Tom's mother always reminded Chery and Tom that the first thing Chery said was, "Tom, I've had you in mind all summer."

Tom and Chery were not satisfied with the older style of pop music that The Rogues wanted to play which included songs like, "Misty," "Wipe Out," and several polkas. During this time, Tom and Chery were listening to the The Doors and Jefferson Airplane's first albums and wanted to play cover versions of those instead. Tom's friend Joe Libbra also was into the new music and the three decided to form a new band. Dennis Roach joined them on guitar, and a distant cousin of Tom's, Clay Tefteller, was rounded up to sing lead vocals. Tom, Chery, and Joe had all graduated from high school in 1966. Dennis and Clay were still in high school when they joined the band - in fact, Clay was only 14 years old, but looked older. Eventually, Dennis was replaced by John Crouch, a guitarist from Springfield, IL. The name, "The Hugging Pillow" was chosen for the band.

That spring, Jimi Hendrix' and the Grateful Dead's first albums were released, and songs from those two records were added to the play list.

Those were the days of a "garage band" on every block, and virtually every band had the same problem - namely a place to rehearse where they wouldn't get shut down for rehearsing too loudly. The Hugging Pillow was lucky - Tom was a member, director, and builder of the local gun club. The board granted permission for the band to rehearse there. It was an ideal rehearsal space with no nearby neighbors, allowing the Hugging Pillow to crank it up with complete privacy.

The Hugging Pillow played at schools and clubs in Litchfield, Marine, Greenville; Decatur; Springfield, and Jacksonville, Illinois. The teen club in Greenville booked the Hugging Pillow for only one date. Even though the kids there loved the band and wanted them back, the woman who ran the club refused to book them again because their band name was "too obscene." In August 1968, The Hugging Pillow entered the Battle of the Bands at the Illinois State Fair, and won 2nd place out of hundreds of entries, performing "Light My Fire." The band "Hot Ice" took 1st place, and disbanded a week later.

In typical fashion of the time, the band members assembled an array of stage wear. Tom's favorite pieces included a leather rodeo vest that had belonged to his dad, and a black felt top hat. Chery designed and sewed some of her stage wear, and usually wore a variety of bellbottoms, vests, poet shirts, and an olive green suede belt that went with almost everything (which Erica now wears with almost everything). Joe's mother sewed him a big selection of flowered bellbottoms. Clay favored band uniform jackets, ala Sgt. Peppers, and "borrowed" band uniform jackets from several high schools to keep up his fashion habit. John was undoubtedly the most conservative dresser in the band, favoring shirts and jeans, but was never seen on stage without his burgundy velvet coat.

During the two years that the Hugging Pillow was together, Tom and Chery, occasionally accompanied by other band members, went to concerts by and met many of the great bands of the time, including Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Bob Dylan and the Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and others such as Chicago, Iron Butterfly, Little Rascals, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

Play lists included many songs by the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Cream, Country Joe and the Fish, with only a few Beatles and Top 40 hits. For the most part, the Hugging Pillow held to its goal of playing music they loved the most. At that time the Grateful Dead was not played on Top 40 radio and were not as well known as they are today. The Hugging Pillow's decision not to play a long list of Top 40 songs cost them jobs at some of the clubs and venues. Some songs usually on the Hugging Pillow play list were the popular "Light My Fire" and "Hello, I Love You" by the Doors, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and "Viola Lee Blues" by the Grateful Dead, "Tax Man" by the Beatles, and "Purple Haze" and "Foxy Lady" by Jimi Hendrix.

In May 1969 Tom was drafted during the Vietnam War era and went to Fort Leonard Wood for basic training. The band tried to keep going, but there were difficulties. Joe wouldn't play without Tom, so both bass guitar and drums were missing. Chery filled in on bass on the organ, and a drummer from Springfield, Bob Schultz or "Schultzy" that John knew began to play with the band. Medical issues surfaced while in basic training, and Tom was eventually given a medical release. Soon after, Tom and Chery were married and moved to Springfield, going to work and beginning a family. The Hugging Pillow never got back together.

Tom, Chery, and Joe never played in any other bands, although Chery did teach piano for a number of years and also played for weddings and banquets on Irish harp. Dennis and Clay both went on to play and sing for other bands, while John played for awhile with other musicians in Springfield.

Below Photo:
Chery Eichar Jett (Mom), Clay Tefteller, Joe Libbra, John Crouch, and Thom Jett (Dad)


Above Photo: Frank Eugene Eichar (Gramps) and Charlotte Eichar (Gram)

Above Photo (left to right): Louis St. Pierre, actor Henry Armetta, Charlotte Eichar (Gram), Gene Eichar (Gramps), & Lawrence Welk.

Gene Eichar was born in 1892 and began his musical career at the tender age of seven years old. A piano teacher came to the Eichar home in Clarksville, Iowa, each week to give lessons to Gene's older sister, Hazel. Gene would listen to the lesson and then head for the piano to practice as soon as the teacher left the house and Hazel left the room. At the age of 14 he left home to tour Iowa and the Midwest, playing piano for silent movies in the grand old theaters of that era. When the "talkies" came in around 1930, he moved on to vaudeville shows, accompanying various acts, including Jack Benny and Jimmy Durante. He also spent time in Chicago, attending VanderCook College of Music and working as an orchestral conductor. After Gene's brother-in-law, Clem Fields, moved to Hollywood to become a stills photographer at Paramount Studios, Gene soon followed in attempt to present Bing Crosby with a composition he wrote about him. While in Hollywood, Gene added dance skills to his already long list of talents by attending classes at the Fanchon & Marco Dance Studio, who help start the careers of Judy Garland, Doris Day, & Bing Crosby.

Upon returning to the Midwest, Gene opened an accordion and dance studio in Beloit, Wisconsin, teaching accordion, acrobatics, tap, and ballroom dance. He presented annual recitals of his students at the Majestic Theatre in Beloit.

Charlotte Hanson was born in 1919 into a musical family in Orfordville, Wisconsin. Her father, Arthur, and her aunts and grandfather were all singers. Charlotte's mother, Hazel, had a pump-style organ and later an upright piano, on which she taught Charlotte how to read music and how to play the hymns in their hymnal. Charlotte especially loved singing and playing the harmonica and knew every song in her harmonica book. Her Aunt Henrietta was a fine singer and piano player and encouraged Charlotte's love of music. Whenever Charlotte learned a new song, she would call Henrietta and sing it for her.

In November of 1936, Charlotte signed up for ballroom dance lessons at the FernanGene Studio in Beloit, where she met Gene Eichar. After the first class, Gene asked Charlotte for a date. Soon after, Charlotte took Gene out to the farm to meet her parents and siblings. Gene never failed to rise to the occasion when there was an opportunity to entertain. With the upright piano still in the Hanson parlor, Gene played piano and sang, and eventually climbed up to sit atop the upright piano, still singing. Charlotte's family loved him. Charlotte and Gene married in 1937. Charlotte began to work in their music studio doing secretarial work and assisting with classes, as her own musical talents continued to grow.

Later that year, Gene and Charlotte moved to the resort town of Williams Bay, where Gene, with the help of his father, had built a large house in a neighborhood that included the Yerkes Observatory and an exclusive girls' camp, Camp Eleanor. They used a part of their new home as a music studio and music summer camp.

After Gene's father Frank died in 1940, they moved, taking Gene's mother Eva with them to Springfield, the capital of Illinois. Here they built up a full-time accordion studio. With accordion being all the rage then, they soon they had 100 students and an accordion band that practiced at the YMCA and performed at many events. The band was usually accompanied by an upright bass, a bass drum, and one or two marimbas. In addition to the accordion band, Gene led a group of elite male accordionists, The Accordion Aces, while Charlotte led the advanced female group, The Accordionettes. Both groups played professionally for events and gatherings around Springfield at various venues, including the fine old hotels of Springfield that are now gone, like the St. Nicholas.

Although Gene had attended the VanderCook College of Music in Chicago and had played professionally for years, both he and Charlotte had a strong desire to attain college degrees in music. They moved to Jacksonville and attended MacMurray College. In a rather unique arrangement, Gene became employed as a music teacher at Illinois College, also in Jacksonville, while taking classes (and testing out of many) at MacMurray College. Also unique was the fact that MacMurray College at that time was a women's college (it did not become coed until the early 1950s); however Gene was allowed to study, test out, and earn his degrees there. Gene, always ready for another project, began to build a new building for their home and music studio.

The late 1940s were an eventful time for Gene and Charlotte. They moved into their new home and studio, built up a clientele of students, and in 1946, both of them graduated from MacMurray with their Bachelor of Music Education degrees. In 1947, they each received a Master of Music Education, Gene specializing in piano and Charlotte in pipe organ. The following year, Gene's mother passed away and their daughter Chery was born. Armed with their education degrees, they went to work as band director and vocal music teacher in the Mason City school system. Soon deciding they liked working for themselves best, they moved back to Springfield and again began teaching private accordion lessons. Gene built another house, again with studio space.

As the accordion craze began to fade, they began to think about opening a retail music business. Springfield already had several established music stores, and in 1958 they found a little town, Litchfield, about 50 miles away that was in need of a music store. They started small, with a tiny building on a side street and an even smaller inventory of music and accessories. Litchfield welcomed them and over the next twenty-five years the Eichar Music Centre grew and thrived through the electronic organ craze and then the "garage band" years of the late 1960s and 1970s. The store inventory included pianos, organs, band instruments, guitars, amplifiers, drums, music, records, and musical accessories. On the second floor, a variety of teachers offered lessons on piano, guitar, drums, harp, and other instruments. Gene continued to play piano and organ, providing music for programs, events, and beauty pageants at local fairs and festivals.

Gene and Charlotte's daughter Chery worked in the store for many years, as eventually did their son-in-law, Thom Jett. Erica and her older brother Tom practically grew up in as well as "worked" in the music store. Both Tom and Erica began piano lessons at an early age with both Mom and Grandma. Eventually Tom moved on to guitar, taking lessons for a number of years, and Erica continued on piano with one of the studio teachers, while adding on percussion at age thirteen.

In 1983, Gene passed away at the age of 90. He had continued an active role in the music store and music studios until the last several years of his life. Together, Gene and Charlotte had completed all their required coursework for their doctoral degrees in music, stopping short of writing their dissertations, while operating the music store. In his later years Gene had studied violin and harp. Gene was an accomplished musician, composer, conductor, dancer, educator, and also carpenter; he was truly a Renaissance man. He was witty, clever, generous, kind, and funny. At any given moment, until his last few years, he was ready at the drop of a hat to do a brief soft-shoe routine or sit down to the piano for a tune or some arpeggios. He was always ready for a new project and ready to share musical dreams and goals with students, family, colleagues, and friends. Music and family had been his whole life.

A few years later, Charlotte retired, selling the store. Charlotte, always a fine musician in her own right, continues to play the organ for her own enjoyment, and applauds and enjoys the musical talents of her grandchildren, Erica and Tom.