Schibbinz were a better than average folk-rock group of the mid-'60s, but what truly set them apart was their back-story -- Schibbinz were comprised of three Americans living in Argentina and a local guitarist and songwriter who went on to a distinguished career in classical music. Schibbinz were founded by Carlos "Payo" Giraudo, who was born in 1952 in Cordoba, Argentina. Giraudo showed a talent for music early in life, becoming a featured soloist with a local children's vocal ensemble that he later directed, and in his teens he developed a passion for rock & roll. Giraudo attended high school at Cordoba's Academia Arguello, where two of his schoolmates were Mike McNertney (born in 1950 in Washington, D.C.) and Kelly Fero (born in Detroit, MI in 1952), a pair of American teenagers whose fathers were on assignment in Argentina -- McNertney's dad was a career diplomat who often worked in Latin America and the Far East, while Fero's father was an engineer with Kaiser Jeep. McNertney and Fero shared Giraudo's love of rock & roll, and they decided to form a band, with Giraudo and McNertney on guitars and Fero on drums. When the group's first bassist failed to make the grade, Mike recruited his younger brother Pat McNertney (born in 1952 in Madras, India) to take over on the instrument and Schibbinz (a nonsense word popular at the time) began making music in 1965.
With Mike singing lead and all four members providing harmonies, Schibbinz's music was an airy but passionate fusion of garage rock and folk-rock dominated by Giraudo and Fero's fine original songs. In 1967, Schibbinz recorded an album, Livin' Free, using amateur recording equipment; while the technical setup was primitive, the results were impressive enough that a local label gave the album a commercial release. However, Livin' Free was pressed in very small quantities, and when political unrest led Fero's family to leave Argentina, the group broke up within a few months of the album's release. Giraudo turned his attention to classical music and enjoyed a long and respected career as an orchestra conductor and director in Cordoba before his death in 2002. The McNertney brothers returned to the United States and both settled in New Mexico; Mike became an independent consultant and Pat became a lawyer and was active in local politics. Fero's family went from Argentina to Mexico before he settled in Austin, TX, where he was well known for his work as a political strategist, speechwriter, and public affairs consultant; he died in early 2010. While Schibbinz's lone album was far from a hit, with the passage of time it earned a following among fans of vintage '60s sounds, and for years collectors circulated tapes and CD-Rs taken from rare vinyl copies. The buzz behind Schibbinz grew to the point that the respected European label Guerssen Records reissued Livin' Free on vinyl and CD in 2009.