Once upon a time in the snowy kingdom of Binghamton New York, a band without a name was booked to play the student union hall at Harper College. Signs were posted around the campus announcing that "Just Water" would be playing. The band's bass player, Craig Pelkie, always wore a shirt that read "Just Water" to rehearsals and auditions, and it was assumed it was the band's name. Craig said very little, and when asked what he wanted to eat or drink, his only reply was "Just Water". His friend's Mom decided to give him the T-shirt, so he wouldn't even need to speak. He could just point to "Just Water". The next time the band played on campus, they might have had a proper name, but no one would get to hear it, because the signs went up again as "Just Water". The band eventually gave up on naming themselves, and Just Water is now recognized as the first band to have a T-shirt before a name.
Mitchell Dancik (guitar), Danny Rubin (guitar), and Ira Bernstein (vocals) were students at Harper College (which is now known as SUNY Binghamton). Craig Pelkie (bass) was a working musician from the neighborhood, and on drums for a short time was a guy they think was named Dave. Dave was far too polished on drums to last. He could play Jethro Tull songs drum for drum. So Mitch got Marty Guskind (drums) to move to Binghamton from their home town of Brooklyn. Marty was unpolished, unemployed, and unmanageable. He was perfect.
Every band has a moment when it really starts. A musical moment that sparks the courage for kids to tell their parents "I'm dropping out of school to play rock 'n roll". During an all-night jam session Mitch and Danny started noodling around with guitar passages where they each played in opposing chords, keys, and patterns. A tape recorder was turned on, and the "5 AM Sessions" were recorded. These simple recordings were the seeds to many of Mitch's and Danny's musical collaborations. The song "Mean And Rotten", which opens The Riff album, uses the same "2 chords at once" style that started in a dorm room at 5 AM in 1973.
Mitch and Ira were best friends living across the hall from each other at SUNY Stonybrook. During the summer of 1971 Mitch, Ira, and a Spanish guitar traveled through Europe, with Mitch writing songs and Ira singing them. During that trip Mitch, Ira, and another friend Eli wound up working as roadies for The Who. In 1972 Mitch and Ira went on a SUNY migration north to Binghamton. By 1973, with Mitch's growing cadre of songs, Mitch and Ira's up-close look at the rock 'n roll life, and the synergy between the musicians, anything seemed possible. Mitch wrote "What We Need Is Some Rock" with these lines aimed at the parents that would stand in the way of rock 'n roll.
Never mind the baby
Rock his rocking cradle
To hell with education
Who stays in college now?
Mitch, Danny, and Ira left Harper College, and along with Craig and Marty, moved just down the road to their version of The Band's Big Pink - an old ship captain's house with a basement meant for a band. Just Water was launched.