The story of the Coquina Rock Band is really the story of two siblings. Mark and Jill Watson formed the nucleus of the band during its entire history. While every other position was filled by more than one person, Mark and Jill always remained, from the beginning to the end.
It all started early in 1980, when Mark and Jill put together the first incarnation of the group. With Mark on keyboards & vocals, and Jill on vocals, the original members also included Steve Fillicelli on drums, Van Maye on rhythm guitar, Perry "Sonny Le Rock" Petrone on bass (replacing a bassist named Walt, who was only a part of the group for a short time), and Mike Rafanello on lead guitar. They realized very quickly that they had something special, especially since a large part of the set list was made up of originals either written totally by Mark, or co-written with his friend Gary Floyd. The band was soon gigging often at various beach events up and down the southern end of Brevard County, Florida.
The name of the group has been subject to much speculation over the years. It's widely believed by some to refer to cocaine. In fact, it has to do with the area along the Indian River in Brevard where Mark and Jill were sharing a house at the time, on Coquina Ridge Road. Most of the homes in that area were built upon an outcropping of coquina rock alongside the river. Coquina is very prevalent in the Florida coast, and many people would have gotten the humor of the name. The house was not only where the band was started, but because of its large open plan, served as the perfect rehearsal spot.
By the summer of 1981, the group was poised to enter the studio for the first time, and record several original tunes, thanks to financial backing from the owner of a local carpet store who had faith in the music. Just before the recording date, 'Raf' left the band. Unable to find a new guitarist in time, Van Maye filled in, and while not a lead guitarist, managed to fufill the role in style. Recordings in hand, the band continued rehearsing and gigging. Then Perry announced that he too, would be leaving to attend school in Pittsburg. Recruited to take his place was Mike Carpenter, who had previously worked with Steve in another group. Perry was able to spend time showing Mike the songs, and how to play them, so that the handoff to another bassist went off smoothly.
Along the way, the group benefitted from help provided by Carl Lackey, who started out as a roadie, then operated the mixing console during gigs. Carl's encyclopedic knowledge of music provied valuable feedback to aid in tightening up the overall sound. He also brought in some songs he had written. The band was impressed enough to use several of them, even recording one the next time they were in the studio.
Some months later, Van left and was replaced by Dave Thrift. This was the lineup in 1981 when the group was asked to preform for a half-hour local public TV show called Sunshine Music Hall (WMFE, Orlando). Taping went very well, due in no small part to packing the studio audience with friends and family. When the show was shown several months later, the band was actually playing a Christmas party in Orlando. During a break, a small television was wheeled in, and the partygoers were treated to the sight of their entertainment watching themselves on tv!
But by the time of the broadcast, the guitarist role had changed once more. Lamar Davis had replaced Dave. On songs where two guitarists were needed, Mark would come up from behind his Helpenstill piano and strap on an axe for rhythm. While this worked for the short-term, it was obvious two full-time guitarists were desperately required. Eventually, Art Harris was brought in, and he and Lamar wound up trading lead duties.
Into 1982, and the pressures within the band were starting to show. Musicial differences, disagreement upon a new direction, and the band's relentless rehearsal schedule all contributed to bad feelings amongst the group. Steve finally left, and was quickly replaced by Bob Potter, who had been in several bands with Art. The band played some very successful gigs, including a warm reception at the Canaveral Pier Surf Festival, and a second stint in the recording studio, but the rot had started.
After so many years, memories are hazy on who left next, but eventually Bob, Art and Lamar had had enough. Unwilling to start over again with a whole new set of musicans, Mike was the last one to go, leaving Mark and Jill where they had begun. Over the next few years, many of the musicans who were part of the group would eventually work together again in twos and threes. Mark and Jill would also work together or with other bands. But the Coquina Rock Band was history.