1971-1976

The history of a great hardrock band, excelling in the 70s

It really was a long time ago and for this reason it wasn’t so easy to figure out in detail how things got shape. If only one of us had realised that the history of LAVA would be of interest to so many people … almost 40 years later! I’m sure all of us would have paid more attention regarding the facts and how things really went. It might even have been documented properly.
Looking back now, we wish we would have done so. Life in the fist half of the 70s really was unconcerned and uncomplicated. The world just had left the sixties behind, the most colourful decade of the 20th century. At least. The Rolling Stones said it already in 1968: “You can’t always get what you want.” Well, the opposite was closer to the truth! We’d never heard of an oil crisis, or any other disturbing phenomenon destroying pleasant economic predictions and expectations.
Useful tools like PCs, electronic agenda’s and Internet were simply unknown. Bad luck. More saved newspaper and magazine clippings, more saved pictures and a few released long play records would have done justice to LAVA, a fabulous and extremely popular hardrock band. The following is a brief, but complete and true, sequence of happenings.

The very first contours
John Mendels finished his two years job as stand-in guitarist in the Musical Hair in the summer of 1971. Jan Akkerman was one of the leading instrumentalists in the musical. Just because Focus got increasingly famous and, consequently, busier by the day, Akkerman had to be replaced. Hans Hollestelle took over his duties. Both Hollestelle and Tymen Hoolwerf, the second guitarist and John’s guitar teacher, were well known and very popular studio musicians who often had to cancel. John gladly replaced them whenever required. Two years and many performances later he found himself unemployed.
In those days his home was a kind of Artists Clubhouse. Anyone who thought it would be nice to drop in, never was disappointed.
It was at this place, somewhere in August 1971 when Frits Korff (not only one of John’s friends, but also a popular Roady owing his own van!) pronounced the legendary words: “My brother is looking for a bass player, can you handle a bass guitar?”
In this way John, who never played a four stringed guitar before, met Constant van Loon and Leo Nagglas. Together with Gerard Korff, they were busy creating LAVA. The band was newly formed and yet had to perform on stage. Before this even could occur, and for different reasons, both Constant and Gerard Korff quit, leaving John and Leo crippled. Well, as far as LAVA was concerned.


1971
L2R: John Mendels, Leo Nagglas, Constant van Loon, Gerard Korff

They left an ad at Servaas. Although located in The Hague, Servaas was in those days the most important and influencing retailer of musical instruments in The Netherlands. In Nico’s Shop all kinds of artists showed up. If you didn’t show your face in Nico’s shop regularly, your musical career wasn’t worth a dime.

Getting Shape
Meanwhile, John and Leo received an offer to join Ilja Gort, who just had left ‘After Tea’, in order to form a new band. There and then, they met Aad Versteeg, who was applying for the vocals vacancy.
The same week Ger(rit) Crama turned up. After the message that LAVA was now also without a drummer, he replied to know one who could join instantly. Consequently John and Leo decided to leave things with Ilja Gort in the way they were and combined forces with Ger and John Groen instead. The latter being the referenced drummer.
LAVA now seemed to have gotten some kind of shape again. Not for too long, however. After only a couple of months and one gig, John Groen had enough and retired.


This time a replacement was found very quickly. In December 1971 they traced Gerard Haitsma. Young and ambitious, but most important of all, he fitted in the Team perfectly and rehearsing became a lot of fun. In less then no time LAVA now developed an own and extensive repertoire and were ready to show off.

What you need to know….. at this point in time, Gerard Haitsma introduced his buddy Han Hijzelendoorn to the lads. He teamed-up with Wim de Jong as ‘The’ Roadies. Their presence increased the fun factor and soon they would have to conduct all kinds of logistical miracles on behalf of the band.

Founding Fathers
It is without exception that all judged this Team as the founding fathers of the band. At the beginning of 1972, LAVA had completed a number of gigs, where sound and show developed quickly into a solid foundation for performances on larger stages. An army of faithful fans started to follow the band wherever it went.



December 1971
Left picture, L2R: Leo Nagglas, Gerrit Crama, Gerard Haitsma en John Mendels

At that point in time the quest for serious management started. Ger Reitsma was approached. He had various acts in his portfolio. After Tea was one of them. Reitsma insisted to have Gerard Haitsma replaced by Ton Matser. The substitution didn’t result in an increase of work. On the contrary.
Still early 1972, Reitsma (Zwijndrecht) was replaced by Hugo Gordijn, at that time a very successful promoter of Group 1850. It could be that expectations were beyond reality but, for whatever reason, Gordijn unfortunately couldn’t invest the time required to build on LAVA.
The solution was on hand. Aad Versteeg, a good friend of John and Ilse Mendels, was regularly to be found in LAVA’s dressing room. Although very busy in the world of medication and doctors, he was simply asked if he could take over management responsibilities. Versteeg claimed a few days in order to have the idea sunk in. Next he wanted a probation period of a couple of weeks. Within that time span he challenged his own target set; ten gigs in one month. He must have had an extremely well informed and settled network in place, because Aad Versteeg succeeded brilliantly.
We are writing summer 1972 and LAVA now had to deliver. It did, it did very successfully. LAVA became a well known and popular hardrock formation. In fact, the band became world famous in a few months ….. in The Netherlands.


Saturday, 15 April 1972
REHOBOTH, Berkel & Rodenrijs
L2R: Leo Nagglas, Willem de Jong (Roady), Gerrit Crama, Han Hijzelendoorn (Roady), Ton Matser and John Mendels


11 June 1972
The well-known LAVA transport vehicle (Ford Transit, double air) at Don Bosco, Rijswijk, Open Air Festival
L2R John Mendels, Ton Matser, Gerrit Crama and Leo Nagglas

More Line-up Changes
At the end of 1972, another change in the line-up was about to take place. Mutual misunderstandings and developed differences with respect to musical tastes created food for agitation and hassle. In that period, John Mendels was invited to join Cobra. Another hardrock band from The Hague. Although rehearsing with his new friends a lot, John had left all LAVA options open. The Cobra adventures finally ended nowhere, but the extremely gifted guitarist from that band, Joop van Nimwegen, was prepared to take over Leo Nagglas’ duties in LAVA. Early 1973 that became a fact.

 
1973
These are rare; pictures with- or of Joop van Nimwegen

The next staff changes came rather sooner then later. Van Nimwegen already left LAVA in the summer of 1973. His skills were replaced by two (not so new) kids on the block; Frank de Vries and Aad Kreeft. Apart of having now two talented guitarists in the line-up, Aad Kreeft also had excellent vocal qualities. All this opened up new challenges and musical opportunities.


1974
L2R: John Mendels, Ger Crama, Frank de Vries, Aad Kreeft en Ton Matser


Frank de Vries is an excellent (graphic) designer as well.
At that time, he 'signed up' for this logo too.


When Ton Matser was replaced by Jay Quee, at the end 1973, LAVA stretched its wings beyond its home country. Especially Germany was visited frequently. The band performed, for example, on the same stage were the fame of The Beatles once started; The Top Ten Club in Hamburg.


1975
L2R: Frank de Vries, Jay Quee, Gerrit Crama, John Mendels and in front Aad Kreeft


The Final Stages
Also the style slowly, but securely, changed. New songs were less heavy then everyone was used to. Regrettably recorded and possible hit singles like ‘Run baby Run’, ‘Sea of Sadness’, ‘I’ve got a feeling’ and ‘Move’, due to various reasons, never were released.
Early 1976 things started to fall apart. Aad Kreeft was a very active and successful businessman as well. Because of the number of customers to be served then, the Saturdays turned out to be more and more the most important day of a given week for him. Crisscrossing The Netherlands, starting late on these Saturdays, to various podia spread all over the country was no longer an option. Kreeft had to retire. Although a shy attempt to hire a keyboard player to replace him, this decision proved to be the final stage of the band’s continuation.
After an, in many ways, very exciting period LAVA ceased to exist – in the autumn of 1976 – officially.


may 2008
Han Hijzelendoorn

 

Line-up Summary

Period

Guitar

Guitar

Vocals

Drums

Bass

Aug 1971 - Oct 1971

Leo Nagglas

 

Constant van Loon

Gerard Korff

John Mendels

Oct 1971 - Nov 1971

Leo Nagglas

 

Ger Crama

John Groen

John Mendels

Nov 1971 - Apr 1972

Leo Nagglas

 

Ger Crama

Gerard Haitsma

John Mendels

Apr 1972 - Dec 1973

Leo Nagglas

 

Ger Crama

Ton Matser

John Mendels

Jan 1973 - Jul 1973

Joop van Nimwegen

 

Ger Crama

Ton Matser

John Mendels

Jul 1973 - Oct 1973

Aad Kreeft

Frank de Vries

Ger Crama

Ton Matser

John Mendels

Oct 1973 - Oct 1976

Aad Kreeft

Frank de Vries

Ger Crama

Jay Quee

John Mendels


Management Period

Ger Reitsma Feb 1972 - Apr 1972
Hugo Gordijn Apr 1972 - Jun 1972
Aad Versteeg Jun 1972 - Oct 1976

LAVA_07_cropped

Business card of Aad Versteeg.
You might have guessed it already; those phone numbers aren't existing anymore.