“If You Were Disappointed Last Year When You Heard The Band COKE Would Not Play Again, I Have GREAT News For You Today!”

by Frank Prieto on April 22, 2012

The boys of COKE (Opus) are back for a mega Open House with Mantrap on April 28 at the Elk’s Club in Miami.

Frankie B (Opus lead singer Frank Batista)

Frank Batista

I sat down with COKE lead singer Frankie B (Frank Batista) a few days ago to get the scoop, and the conversation turned into a nostalgic recollection of anecdotes going back to 1972-73.

At it’s inception, the bands’ name was not COKE. The original name of the group was “Instant Garage Band.” The name COKE emerged later during a rehearsal session when the original members decided they needed a catchier name. Those founding members were Ariel Hernandez (bass), Paul “Polito” Garcia (guitar), Ruben Perez (drums), Gary (lead vocal), and an Italian fellow by the name of Tony (keyboard) who was sipping a Coca-Cola during rehearsal and said “why don’t we call it COKE.” As they say, the rest is history. From that day on “Instant Garage Band” was COKE – short and sweet.

Miami 70's BandSo sweet that the Coca-Cola Bottling Co., got a whiff of it when the band started getting noticed outside of Miami and didn’t like the idea. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute, but first I want to share with you how the group morphed into the COKE we remember as fans. By the way, I apologize for excluding the last names of some of the original members (Instant Garage Band,) but it’s been so long since the remaining members lost touch with them that memory escapes them. If you happen to know or have kept in contact with them, please feel free to leave your comments in the comment section below. (Please read comment policy first.)

When Gary (lead vocal) left the group to join a recognized band that was touring on the national scene, they brought in a Puerto Rican fellow by the name of Will to replace Gary as lead vocalist. The  members that followed next – to either add instruments to the band or replace other members – were in this order; Joe “Tito” Rubio (keyboard), Victor Rodriguez (alias “Pink Panther” on trumpet), Cesar Godinez (trumpet) and Peter Fernandez as lead singer. These four members along with original members Ariel Hernandez (bass), Paul “Polito” Garcia (guitar), Ruben Perez (drums) became COKE as we knew them.

COKE Takes Miami By Storm

Miami 70's Band - AntiquesOne of the most recognized local bands in Miami at the time were the Antiques. The Antiques were in high demand for Quinces, Open Houses and private events, but that was about to change. You see, in 1971 a “Battle of the Bands” event took place at Dinner Key Auditorium. Much to everyone’s surprise, including the Antiques, little known COKE played so well that day the crowning Antiques had their work cutout for them. Lead singer Frank Batista of the Antiques – who later went on to sing for COKE remembers this…

“It was surreal. These guys (COKE) came out of nowhere and where now challenging us for first place. At that moment I realized the big prize was up for grabs because these guys were playing like pros.”

The Battle of the Bands first prize winner (or winners I should say) turned out to be both COKE and The Antiques. It became a three way tie between COKE, The Antiques and 2 Plus 1 (if I’m not mistaken.) The award ceremony took place at Salon Sophia, and the trophies were presented to the bands by “La Gorda de Oro.” Do you remember “La Gorda de Oro?” She was Mirta Silva, the Puerto Rican singer, composer and television producer who was affectionately known as “La Gorda De Oro”.

Los CokeThat event put COKE on the local map and it set the stage for a recording opportunity that allowed the band to get recognized in other markets like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico. That’s when the Coca-Cola Bottling Company steps in and stops the boys dead on their tracks. In order to protect its brand, the company served them with a legal letter to cease and desist from using the Coke brand as their name. Ouch! This put a dampener on things for sure. By now the band had already established an identity and had carved a niche for itself with its fusion of Latin rock, psychedelia, and funk that was part of the Miami Sound.

Figure 1 - Click to Enlarge

In March of 1973, COKE was #14 in Chicago in the Latin Billboards and #12 in Los Angeles (see figure 1 on the right.) They were still climbing the charts and the record promoters had a lot of money at stake, so they replaced the K with Q (COKE to COQE) to stay under the radar of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Two months later in May of ’73, COKE had climbed to #2 in Miami with the Antiques trailing close behind at #4 (see figure 2.) The following month COKE had dropped to # 6 in Miami while the Antiques hit #1 with “Dias Como Hoy” sung by Eddy Diaz.

Figure 2 - Click to EnlargeThe demand from the Coca-Cola Bottling Company to cease and desist came the following year in ’74. That very same year, the band officially changed their name to “Opus” upon the release of their second album entitled ‘Opus’ featuring Frankie B (Frank Batista) as lead singer.  The album included popular hits such as “Beware”, “Marta” and “Get Yourself Up”. Shortly after, the band recruited saxophonist, Chester Rosas-Guyon. Months later Peter Fernandez joined the Antiques as lead singer and Joe “Tito” Rubio on keyboard and were part of the “Antiques Experience” – the album with the hit song “Cuando Vuelva a tu Lado.

The Comeback of the Miami Open Houses.

In March of 2009 there was an event put together by Maria Martinez from Execumar at Alcazaba in Coral Gables called “Old School”. Performing that night were Carlos Oliva, Frankie Marcos, Peter Fernandez and Frank Batista with Luis Serrano. It was a great evening of Miami old school music. Then a month later Cindy Cutler organized a High School Alumni Dance at Immaculata-La Salle High School which set the stage for what was to come by the end of the year.

On December 11, 2009 the band Mantrap reunited to officially mark the comeback of the Open Houses in Miami. It was a memorable evening with a packed house at The Club at Renaissance. From that day on a number of band members have made an effort to reunite and take us back once again to that youthful era in Miami we loved so much.

There was a reunion concert in February of 2011 with World of Matter, Hemlock and The Warlocks. El Conjunto Universal reunited to perform with Mantrap at a huge Baile Cubano/Open House that was out of this world. Another great event was the August 14, 2010 Open House with COKE and Mantrap. Then the following year, COKE teams up with The Warlocks to what became known as the mother of Open Houses.

Manny Salas from the Antiques organized a concert event at Belen Roca Theater that ended with a grand finale of fellow musician coming on stage and jamming with the band like there was no tomorrow. Then COKE teamed up with Queen’s Kids for another great Open House benefiting Toys for Tots. And last but not least, the still popular Peter Fernandez organized and promoted his Open House event at Magic City Casino that left the crowd yearning for more.

Opus - Tu Amor No Esta, Martha, Man of Many Words, Won't Cry, Sin Ti, Beware, Get Yourself Up, Go Away, Tu Retrato.Opus LP Back Cover

It’s happening again on April 28, 2012 and this time it is Mantrap and Opus (COKE) at the Elk’s Club in Miami. Opus will feature four of it’s original members; Frank Batista (lead vocal, percussion) Ruben Perez (drums,) Ariel Hernandez is flying in from Houston (bass,) and renowned UM Jazz Band member Chester Rosas-Guyon (on saxophone.)

Joining the boys will be Chuchi Jorge (the talented trumpet player who’s played with Arturo Sandoval and Carlos Santana,) Luis Perez (formerly Miami Sound Machine on trombone,) Danny Peña (who’s played with Tito Puente Jr., on Congas,) Manny Miranda (who joined Tito Puente, Jr., in Puerto Rico for a USO tour on bass,) Carlos Valdes (who recorded with Jose Jose and toured with Roberto Jordan in Mexico on guitar,) and lastly Israel Diaz (founding member of MainStreet band and graduate of Amadeo Roldan music conservatory in Havana on keyboard.) Wow, that’s a mouthful!

Save The Date!

If you want to enjoy an evening of nostalgic Miami sounds of the 70’s with the Opus songs you remember like, “Beware”, “Get Yourself Up”, “Marta”, “Bang Bang” and the all popular rendition of “Sabor A Mi” with Chuchi Jorge on trumpet, make it a point to join your contemporary party animals for a night you won’t forget. You’ll hate yourself if you miss this Open House.

So join your host Mike InTheNight and DJ Alex Gutierrez for an unforgettable evening of music and dancing. Mantrap’s Miguelito Martin and the charming Jackie Molinares will thrill you with romantic melodies of the 70’s. Your spouse or significant other will think you’ve fallen in love with them all over again when you hold them tight to the songs of Mantrap. These two bands play music for everybody – whether it’s a romantic tune or a funky beat, you’ll love an evening with Opus and Mantrap.

Opus and Mantrap - Together on Saturday, April 28, 2012.

DJ Alex GutierrezSave the date because on Saturday, April 28 there’s an Open House dance that just won’t be the same without YOU!

For more information on COKE/Opus and many other Miami Bands of the 70’s, please visit DJ Alex Gutierrez’s website.

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Opus/Mantrap Open House

[UPDATE]

Here’s the review of the April 28th Open House in video form. It was a funky night full of energy and FUN, and the icing on the cake was meeting Facebook friends in real life who I only knew on Facebook. Enjoy!

 
Copyright © 2011-2012 All Rights Reserved. MusicMiami.org, Music Miami and Frank Prieto

 

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

NELSON CORREA April 23, 2012 at 11:34 am

THANK YOU FOR THIS IN DEPTH CHRONICLE OF ONE OF THE GREATEST BANDS TO EVER PERFORM IN MIAMI. COKE WHO LATER CHANGED THEIR NAME TO OPUS LEFT THEIR PRINTS IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO HEARD THEM PERFORM IN THE 70’S. NOW, THEY ARE BACK TO BRING US THEIR MUSIC AND GREAT BEAT ON SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2012 AT THE ELK’S LODGE. OPUS AND MANTRAP WILL DELIVER THE BEST SHOW IN TOWN ON THIS NIGHT THAT EVERYONE WILL TALK ABOUT FOR YEARS. COKE’S ORIGINAL BASS PLAYER ARIEL HERNANDEZ IS COMING FROM HOUSTON TEXAS TO JOIN HIS BAND. THIS IS SOMETHING HISTORIC IN ITSELF. ARIEL HAS NOT PLAYED WITH COKE SINCE THE 70’S WHEN THE BAND DISBANNED. THIS OPEN HOUSE PROMISES TO BE ONE OF THE BEST EVENT EVER.

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Maria April 24, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I am so proud to have my friends and my brother Ruben Perez once again making the Miami Latin sound for us at the elks. I remember having art class with Ariel Hernandez, I have pictures with him in our class at Miami High, as we were talking up COKE and the music. I am the artist that designed the cover of the COKE record, which incidentally it was supposed to be “just an idea” now still a visual artist and art teacher, I smile at that image. It is great to be a part of that innocent time with COKE and Opus and some of the good people that made up the group. Today as we watch the passing of time it is so great to know that once in awhile we can once again feel the excitement of our music, get dressed up for the Open House, wonder who will be there and make our grand entrance into the hall. Thank you guys for putting it all together for us, for taking the time to practice, for setting up the show, I can not say more for Mantrap and Nelson Correa than what a wonderful professional group of musicians. each time they do one of their venues, we all ask for more. Their sound is wall to wall excellence, their fans contagious with excitement, we love what you guys are doing and we plead for you to continue. Let the good times roll at the Elks Saturday April 28, 2012.

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LEO FROM THE ELECTRICIAN April 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm

ANOTHER AWESOME SHOW COMING UP, that is so nice to see that we keep our memories alive, even though time has taken a toll on all of us, but deep inside we are the same still, i hope and pray god grants us many more years to enjoy the music of our youth and to remember those days fill of joy and being carefree waiting on fridays and saturdays for an” open house ” to go to i remember it all as if it was yesterday FRANK THANKS FOR THE E MAIL and say hello to Frank B and ARIEL and Ruben and the rest of ” COKE” GOD BLESS

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Frank Prieto April 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I certainly will Leo. Thank you for stopping by and touching base.

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chester guyon April 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Frank I hope to see you and Mayra tomorrow night.

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Frank Prieto April 27, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Chester, God willing we’ll be there. Wouldn’t miss a chance to see Opus together again.

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Jack Torano April 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

No time on the poster, no time in the article. What time does this start???????

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Frank Prieto April 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

John thank you for pointing that out. I asked the same question yesterday and should have posted the answer here. The doors open at 8pm with DJ Alex Gutierrez spinning some awesome tunes and Opus takes the stage at 9pm. The event will probably be over by 2am. Hope you can make it.

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Luis Serrano aka Mr. Galaxy May 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Dear Frank. Congratulations once again for a job well done. Maria and you are doing a tremendous contribution to Miami’s Music and The Arts,in general !!! Please keep up the good work,it’s greatly appreciated !! Blessings. Luis.

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NELSON CORREA May 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm

GREAT JOB ON COVERING THIS HISTORIC EVENT THAT INCLUDED A FULL JAM WITH BOTH BANDS SHOWING UNITY AND MUSICIAN BROTHERHOOD. THE JAM WAS SPONTANEOUS AND UNREHEARSED. EVERYONE ENJOYED THE EVENT AND ALL WE WOULD HEAR IS, “WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE?”. AS LONG AS YOU, THE FANS, SUPPORT AND ENJOY THESE OPEN HOUSES, MANTRAP WILL CONTINUE TO PERFORM IN THEM. AFTER ALL, WE DO THIS FOR YOU THE FANS. THANK YOU TO ALL THE 500 OR MORE FANS THAT ATTENDED THIS OPEN HOUSE AND WE HOPE THAT IT EXCEEDED YOUR EXPECTATIONS.

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Stone Promotions May 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Another great performance by two of the true Miami-Sound bands.

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NELSON CORREA July 12, 2012 at 1:13 am

DUE TO THE OVER WHELMING RESPONSE TO THE APRIL 28, 2012 OPEN HOUSE FEATURING OPUS AND MANTRAP, WE ARE DOING IT AGAIN ON JULY 27, 2012 AT THE BEAUTIFUL CLUB RENAISSANCE. 2340 SW 32 AVE. THE EVENT WILL FEATURE THE SAME TWO BANDS AGAIN PLUS THE GREAT CIRO LLERENA AND JIMMIE E DISCO SPINNING YOUR FAVORITE TUNES FROM THE OPEN HOUSE ERA. DON’T MISS THIS GREAT OPEN HOUSE EVENT. FOR TABLE RESERVATIONS, CONTACT NANCY LLERENA AT 786 768-1555. TABLES ARE GOING FAST SO GET YOUR TABLE RESERVED ASAP. SEE YOU ON THE DANCE FLOOR.

ANOTHER STONE PROMOTIONS EVENT.

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Gabe Collazo July 20, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Retro! What a blast! From how far back! Its amazing the passing of time and the old guard “STILL!” at it! All my admiration! You still got it! The passion and persistence to go along with it! Hey Ruben good to see after all this years since I last saw ya at Miami Sr HS ; in 1970. Loved playing along your side in the Million Dollar Band back then.I remember the battle of the bands in 1971; I was there playing with Sound Display Band along side of the antiques, Coke at DInner Key; Proof: Johnny Ventura was there too ! Lets keep the craft and enforce it!!! Let music ring!!!!!!!

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NELSON CORREA July 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm

DUE TO THE GREAT SUCCESS OF THR APRIL 28 OPEN HOUSE, BOTH BANDS MANTRAP AND OPUS REUNITE AGAIN THIS FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2012 AT THE BEAUTIFUL CLUB @ RENAISSANCE 2340 SW 32 AVE. FOR TABLES PLEASE CALL NANCY AT 786 768-1555. $15.00 PER PERSON DOOR COVER CHARGE. THIS IS GOING TO BE A GREAT NIGHT OF MUSIC. MANY MUSICIANS WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE. EL GRUPO ALMA, CLOCKWORK, PEARLY QUEEN, THE LIVING END, PLUS MANY OTHERS. DON’T MISS THIS GREAT OPEN HOUSE.

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