Thursday, 24 October 2013

Ron Moody and the Centaurs

The Centaurs were originally formed in 1964, by neighbourhood friends who attended Brookland Junior High, Richmond, VA. Members were Ron Moody (lead vocals), Gerry Spicer (drums), Donald Wright (bass), Wayne Gary (guitar) and Steve Buckingham (guitar). A horn section was added later which became part of their trademark. The band were signed to Columbia in 1969 for the release “If I Haven’t Got a Dime” backed with a version of Jimmy Holiday’s uptempo “New Breed”, a northern soul and mod favourite. 

“Our musical influences were all the soul greats....Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Impressions, Ray Charles, Temptations, Four Tops, Miracles, anything on Motown, Sam and Dave, anything on Stax/Volt, Billy Stewart, and soul on Atlantic – the Drifters, Solomon Burke and others” says Ron. “Both tunes had been in our live repertoire and were always crowd pleasers. “New Breed” was actually our choice for the A side, but “Dime” took off in the US. The Centaurs played all over south east US. We were still in high school and college for much of that period, so extensive travel was somewhat limited to the southern region, particularly Virginia and the Carolinas. Our first public appearance was as an opening act for Bill Deal and the Rhondels at college in Richmond, VA on January 15, 1965. We played every type of venue available, from outside festivals, big halls, private country club shows, high school proms, to college fraternity parties....and everything in between! We played with many of the area and regional bands of the day and opened for national acts including the Drifters, Jackie Wilson, the Impressions, Billy Stewart, and Percy Sledge. Most of our beach venues were Virginia locations like the Peppermint Beach Club, the Rogues Gallery and Peabody's Warehouse. In addition to Columbia, we were also signed to MGM / South Records (through Bill Lowery Music, Atlanta) and ABC / Dunhill as Ron Moody and the New Dixie Line.” 

An interview with Ron on Mike Dugo’s website provided some insight into the Centaurs’ early days and the recording of the Columbia single:

“The first voice I remember that had an impact on me was Elvis. My cousin, who was a few years older than I, was a huge fan and that's how I learned about him. I would save up my allowance money and buy the old EP 45s with two songs on each side. I have been a lifelong Elvis fan ever since. The band was formed during the height of the British Invasion in 1964. Our first gig was a private party and they passed the hat! We made $14.00 and put it towards band cards. We played parties, sock hops, school events, fashion shows - anywhere they would hire us! We played many teen-oriented functions, but one particular teen club was the Chamberlayne Teen Club in Richmond. It was the prestige gig for kids our age!”

“Gene Pitney originally recorded “If I Didn’t Have a Dime” as a ballad. There was a Carolina band called Bob Collins and The Fabulous Five who had reworked the song into more of a shuffle. We took that concept, changed it still more and added horns. By now we had a full blown horn section: sax, two trumpets and trombone. We picked the old obscure Jimmy Holiday tune called “The New Breed” for the B-side, borrowed $600 and found a studio outside of Baltimore. We drove up on a Sunday in March of 1969 and cut the two sides. The engineer was a young George Massenberg, who subsequently went on to worldwide fame as an engineer, audio equipment designer and producer. I remember being pretty much intimidated since this was my first attempt at recording under true professional circumstances. We were pleased with the results and proceeded home having no idea as to how the effort would be received. At that point, we were doing cover material and rearranging it. That was the extent of our creative efforts. Later I became very interested in the craft of song writing and it is one of my passions today.”

Whilst there were no further vinyl releases under the name Ron Moody and The Centaurs, there are several live recordings and demos, and a single on ABC as Ron Moody and The New Dixie Line, recorded in 1973. 

“There is always a faction that wants to move ahead and one that does not. By the ‘70s, several of us had realized that we needed to broaden our horizons” says Ron. “This was the era of Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse, etc. and we needed a new direction. We became Centaur, and changed our image. Shortly after, several of us moved to Atlanta to pursue our dream under the tutelage of music publisher Bill Lowery.  The original band was together from 1964 to 1971. I moved back from Atlanta in the mid-70s and in 1980, the second incarnation of Ron Moody and The Centaurs began. This band performed until September of 2001. I spent the next few years concentrating on song writing for other people, then in 2004, I decided to put the band back together again.”

Ron himself has spent 35 years in sales and marketing with ABC/Dunhill, Polygram, and Universal. He also continues with his song writing and has produced material for several beach and soul acts including Paul Craver, the Holiday Band and Archie Bell. Ron Moody and the Centaurs continue to tour today. 

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Mike Dugo. Personal coms. 6 June 2012. Permission obtained to use interview excerpt obtained from
Ron Moody. Personal coms. June and August 2012.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Spontanes

The Spontanes from Gastonia, NC ran initially from 1960 to 1968, with a couple of subtle band title changes at various points to include lead singers Joe Ray Dowell and Harley Hogg. In one form or another they have continued to perform pretty much ever since. The group had more than forty members during its history, including about twenty during their 1960s recording period. They played across the south east including Spartanburg SC, Charlotte and Greensboro NC, and at various college venues including the University of Georgia campus in the late 60s. The Spontanes went on to record for Eclipse, Beaver and Deck in the seventies and eighties, although these are perhaps of lesser interest to rare soul collectors.

The Spontanes put out two 45s and an LP in the 1960s. Their first single, the self-penned mid tempo “Share My Name” was recorded in 1965 and released on the Casino label (4-4797). James Bates took lead vocals, possibly accompanied in parts by Joe Ray Dowell, who provided lead vocals for the ballad flip. Joe Dowell left the band temporarily between 1965 and 1968 to record as The Five Jays with his brother and three others, with “Hey, Hey Girl” (Chant 515) for Bill Haney’s label in Atlanta.

The LP release “The Spontanes Play Solid Soul” appeared in 1966, on Hit Records, the same label as Gene Barbour and the Cavaliers “I Need Love” - both products of Ted Hall’s Hit Attractions booking agency in Charlotte. Tracks included “Ain’t No Big Thing”, “Summertime”, “I’m on the Outside Looking In”, “Reach Out”, “My Girl”, “Thank You John”, “Share My Name”, “Raise Your Hand”, “39-21-46”, “Everything’s Going to Work Out”, “Get Ready” and “Midnight Hour”. Again James Bates and now also Ronnie Owenby provided vocals on this work.

Their second 45 “Where Did I Go Wrong” (UA 50269), was produced by their manager Claude Bailey, around 1967 or 1968. Band members at this time included James Bates (vocals), possibly his brother Jay Dee (guitar), Ronnie Bailey (drums), Bill Stewart (saxophone), Ronnie Owenby (vocals, guitar) Terry Ransome (trumpet) and Ronnie Gittens (keyboards, trumpet). The track was also written by Bates, in his mid twenties by this time, and is a fine example of the kind of mid 60s beach horn-led mid tempo dancer. Bates stayed with the first version of the band until 1969 when he joined The Rivieras, probably at the time Ray Dowell came back into the fold to head up The Spontanes.  

“We were doing fraternity parties and high school dances at the time and came across James” says Nat Speir of the Rivieras. “He was extremely soulful. Nobody could do James Brown better. James Bates is in this area still, playing a lot of golf and doing a regular gig with the same partner for years.” 

Bates, now in his 70s, reported in the Gaston Gazette that his right to “Where Did I Go Wrong” was sold to an undisclosed New York company by their band manager some years ago. This only came to light in 2011 when organising a reunion and DVD recording in Gaston County of the “Original Spontanes” and other local R&B bands from the 1960s. Bates was inducted into the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame in 2011. The group still appears as The Original Spontanes today. Joe Dowell is now deceased.

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Nat Speir. Personal coms. August 2012.
Pete McKnight. Personal coms. September 2012. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs

Maurice Williams was originally from Lancaster, SC. His group involvement was a long one since the early 50s, commencing with the Royal Charms, Junior Harmonizers and the Gladiolas. The Gladiolas hit pay dirt in 1957 with “Little Darlin’ ” on Excello when the group went to Nashville. 

The most important milestone for Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs was “Stay” released in 1960 on Al Silver’s New York Herald Records. “Stay” went straight to No.1. It became a huge early beach music hit and is now recognised as a doo-wop classic, having since been covered by The Four Seasons, Jackson Browne and others. Decades later the original was given a further lease of life via the Dirty Dancing movie soundtrack. Another couple of Herald releases followed in the early sixties but didn’t climb the charts. Maurice and the group then went with New Orlean’s Marshall Sehorn to produce “May I”. This also became a local radio and beach hit, if not a national one. 

Marshall Sehorn was a student at North Carolina State University before working for Bobby Robinson as the southern promotion man for Fire and Fury labels from the late 1950s onwards.  When these labels folded Sehorn and partner Allen Toussaint founded the Sansu, Deesu and Tou-Sea labels and the Sea-Saint Recording Studios in New Orleans, between 1963 and 1966. Sehorn and Toussaint released Williams on their Deesu label, producing a few fine northern soul winners in the mid sixties with the group and as a solo artist; “Being Without You” (Deesu 302), “Don’t Ever Leave Me” (Deesu 309) and “How to Pick a Winner” (Deesu 311). Another northern track on yet another related label from around this time was “Return” (Sea-horn 503), a sparse recording that sounds much earlier than its release date (circa 1964). Gladys Knight and the Pips appear on backing. The flip, “My Baby’s Gone” is a dramatic beat ballad and is an admirable demonstration of Williams’ vocal quality. A later release, given the big city soul production treatment, was “Nobody Knows” on Scepter (SCE 12113). This was yet another Sehorn production, perhaps currently under the rare soul radar but well suited to the northern scene. A second track which was destined for a Scepter release, but which never actually materialised, was the mid tempo “Look My Way”. Nat Speir, co-founder of The Rivieras, is pretty sure he remembers playing baritone sax on this one, recorded at Arthur Smith’s Studios in Charlotte around 1966 or 1967. Whilst it still sounds unfinished, “Look my way” was eventually pressed in the UK more than 20 years later via the various artists compilation LP “Soul Cities” (Kent 089) and on the Kent CD “Living the Nightlife” (CDKEND 104).  The Zodiacs managed to release a couple of their own LPs in the sixties, namely “Stay” on Herald in 1960/61 and a live LP recorded at Myrtle Beach in 1965. Nat Speir described his and Bob Meyer’s musical involvement with Maurice Williams:

“Maurice and The Zodiacs covered the typical territory of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida and parts of Kentucky. As an adult Maurice always lived in Charlotte. I played baritone sax and guitar with the Zodiacs in the early to mid sixties, and did some sessions with him in Charlotte and New York. Maurice and I got together several times to write songs, though I don't think anything came of that. Bob (Meyer) and I worked on the side with Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs. We went with Maurice to New York to record possible follow-ups for "Stay". Bob sang three songs written by Maurice, and I played sax. Recording in New York at Beltone Studios, in the same room in which Ray Charles, The Drifters and many others recorded, was a once in a lifetime thrill for a 17 year old white boy. We rehearsed above Small's Paradise in Harlem, and rubbed elbows with the likes of Gladys Knight and King Curtis. Horace Ott was to be the arranger, and Jimi Hendrix was the rhythm guitarist added to beef-up the bass. He was an unknown at that time. One never knows about these things, but nothing came of all this work. Maurice worked a lot with Marshall Sehorn. Sehorn was from a family of real estate professionals who came from the Charlotte area - although that would be hard to see if you met him. He was a character but to me he was a nice guy who was careful with money.”

Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs (of varied line ups) continued to perform on the beach music oldies circuit throughout the seventies and eighties. He still lives in Charlotte, NC today. On the back of the popularity of Dirty Dancing (which provided another eight million in sales of “Stay”) he is still actively touring the south east states, and has had recent appearances on Pittsburg PBS TV specials.

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Nat Speir. Personal coms. July 2012.
Rick Simmons. Carolina Beach Music: the Classic Years. Published by The History Press, Charlston, SC. ISBN 978.1.60949.214.4
Ted Hall. Personal coms. October 2012. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Chashers

The Chashers’ “Without My Girl” is one of the more obscure releases and not that well known even among rare soul collectors, partly due to the record being one of the more recent discoveries on the northern scene. The track may have been first played in the UK at the Middleton all-nighters by DJs Carl Willingham and Phil Shields.

By the time “Without My Girl” came out in late 1968, The Chashers had evolved from a merger of earlier bands.  The two writers, Lamar (aka Tom) Collins, lead singer and Roy Thompson, guitar, were members of The Avalons, originally from Toccoa, GA. In 2009 Sam Camp, an ex-Avalon, posted the following tribute in Chris Bishop’s Garage Hangover website, telling the story of Lamar’s journey from his geographical and musical roots:

“The first time I met Lamar Collins was in 1963 at Bell’s Drive Inn in Toccoa, Georgia. I was a curb hop there at the time and just happened to walk to his car to take his order. Lamar asked was I the guy that played saxophone and I shyly replied yes. I was barely 14 years old and Lamar was in his very early 20s. We started a conversation about music and the rest is history. After several months of rehearsing, we started sounding like a real rock and roll band and called ourselves The Avalons. I recall our first gig at the Elks Club in Toccoa where we had to stretch 33 songs into four sets, but all went well. They wanted us to come back. We began playing regularly in north east Georgia and South Carolina. Lamar Collins and Jimmy Sipes could give The Righteous Brothers a run for their money singing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling."

"The Avalons gained popularity as the house band at a local teen club called the Chicken Shack, located in Seneca, South Carolina" Sam continued. "It was not uncommon to pack a thousand fans in on a Saturday night where our records and pictures were sold. I remember our opening song, an instrumental of “You Can’t Sit Down”, by The Dovells on which I played the sax. As its title suggests, it's an amazing dance number that would heat up any dance floor. This was our signature song and always got the crowd going. They would start to scream the minute we began to play. During the band’s popularity, we opened for several other acts including such names as The Swinging Medallions, Billy Joe Royal, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Keith, and The Impressions. Lamar was the lead singer of the band. He was very popular among the ladies with his blond hair, blues eyes, and strong tenor voice. He was endowed with a gift that enabled him to sing straight to your heart and make you remember that feeling the next day. Without question, Lamar was the driving force of the band and well respected among his fellow musicians. You can see him in the picture inside the Chicken Shack playing his red Gibson bass guitar. Lamar loved to perform. Folks that came to the Chicken Shack in the late sixties will remember this setting. The Avalons’ “Come Back Little Girl” was No.1 at WHYZ radio station in Greenville, SC. The group brushed closely to fame, but due to conflicts of interest, they split in 1968. After a period of time, everyone went their separate ways. Soon after, Lamar and Roy Thompson collaborated and put their heart and soul into the Uncle release.”

Which brings the story neatly to the formation of The Chashers. Sam Camp informed me that Roy Thompson wrote most of the material back then. Roy still lives in Sam’s hometown in Toccoa, Georgia, and the pair had met in 2011 for a jam session. Roy was tracked down and provided this information:

“The members of The Chashers were Lamar Collins (lead vocal), James Knox (vocal), Bobby Tucker (keyboards), Terry Cole (drums), Doug Goolsby (trumpet), Rich Crider (trumpet), Bill Thompson (my brother, guitar) and me on bass guitar. We didn’t have a manager and were no relation to the Burlington Chasers. The band name “Chashers” was not a typo – we didn’t want to use someone else’s name. We played a few frat parties, the Chicken Shack in SC and did a gig at Lemans apts. in Atlanta too. “Without My Girl” was co-written by Lamar and me and was taped at the Mark V studio in Greenville, SC about 1967. We had 500 copies of the record cut. The band lasted for a little over a year. It was a fun time for me even though it was hard to keep a band that size together.”

Roy’s report of the line up was further confirmed by Rick Crider. This contradicts Greg Haynes original report in the Heeey Baby Days resource, of a band profile which may have actually represented the earlier (unrelated) “Chasers” group from 1961 through to 1967, before The Chasher’s recorded the Uncle 45. 

“Without My Girl” is a blue eyed mid to up tempo soul number with a prominent B-3 Hammond organ and horns that give it a heavy beach production, in many respects perhaps similar to The Tempests’ cuts on Smash. The Mark V Recording Studio was founded by the country and pop songwriter and producer  Joe Huffman, and like the Arthur Smith Studios had another long running history, at least into the early 1980s. Southern gospel groups used the studios a lot, as did Kip Anderson who was later to record on Chicago’s Checker label. For northern soul fans, one of the most notable bands to record here was The Nomads, a local Greenville band, with their classic “Somethin’s Bad” (Mo Groove 78240). Recording time at Mark V was relatively expensive for a local band (about $500 for a demo tape in 1971, according to the Marshall Tucker Band who sessioned there) but many groups came here for the excellent quality production finishing.

No label discography of Uncle appears to exist. Chris Bishop feels if it was a garage or rockabilly label, he would likely have known about it. Rich Crider commented that the logo was Lamar’s stage cane with a snake on it, suggesting this is likely to be a one off label release. This was to be The Chashers only record release. A final word, again from Sam Camp’s tribute post in Garage Hangover: 

“Lamar was a star that shone from Toccoa, Georgia. He was loved and respected by many for his musical abilities, but those who knew him closely could tell you what a kind and gentle heart he possessed as well. It was this that shone through in his character. Lamar was responsible for getting me started in my music career and I still play today. During the years I knew him, the man ate, slept and lived for his music. He inspired a surprising number of us to continue in the gift of music God had placed in each of our souls, and for that I will always be grateful. Lamar passed away in 1975 of a brain tumour. To say that I miss him would be an understatement. I think of him often and can testify of many others who do the same.”

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Chris Bishop. Personal coms. May 2012. Permission obtained to quote from website.
Jeanette Bleckley. Personal coms. June 2012.
Rick Crider. Personal coms. May 2012.
Roy Thompson. Personal coms. (via Sam Camp) July 2012. 
Sam Camp. Personal coms. May to August 2012. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Raven Records: Gene and the Team Beats, The Lost Soul and The Soulmasters.

Situated in the south central heart of Virginia on the Dan River, Danville sits near the Blue Ridge Mountains about 200 miles from the coast. Since the early 1960s Danville has remained a small city with just under 50,000 residents. Primary local employers at that time were tobacco and textiles manufacturers. A quarter of the Danville population were African-American then, though black and white residents kept to themselves. Prior to the Civil Rights Act, segregation was very much in force in municipal buildings, eateries and other public facilities of Danville and 1960-1963 was a particularly busy and dangerous time politically. Civil rights demonstrations sparked off by the Greensboro Woolworths sit-in resulted in a number of violent riots over the summer of ’63, where police and hired garbage workers used clubs and fire hoses on the crowds. Martin Luther King Jnr. and associated organisations came to Danville to speak to the masses and assist the arrested but were unable to quell the violence. 

That was pretty much Danville pre-1964. Just like other towns and cities, even after desegregation, residual negative attitudes and hatred undeniably existed within some sections of the community. Doug Hyler from the integrated Soulmasters who recorded for Danville’s Raven label commented: “Being in a band that was mixed didn't make you popular with the older generation of the day. But if there are any praises they should go to our families who supported the endeavour. I remember my grandfather being confronted in a grocery store due to my interests. It was a different time.” 

The passing of the Civil Rights Act did indirectly but rapidly make race music more accessible to local white youth in these isolated semi-rural communities after this point. White teenage bands from Danville and surrounding areas wanted to pick up on the Motown and R&B sounds coming through the bigger broadcasting stations, play this material locally and by the coast, and in some cases would recruit a black lead vocal or two to provide them with that ‘authentic’ soul sound. Similarly, many record producers and labels who were a primarily white audience, would now turn their hand to this potential market opportunity.

In the mid to late 1960’s, Frank Koger owned the tiny House of Sound recording studio on Old Piney Forest Road and ran the Piedmont and Raven record labels. The Raven label is perhaps best known in rare soul circles for The Lost Soul’s “A Secret of Mine” (a Stafford classic) and “I’m Gonna Hurt You”, and also The Soulmasters “I’ll Be Waiting”. Koger’s standard deal was $50 for 50 records or $250 for 500 records, often with the band given some and the rest distributed by Koger to radio stations. This could point towards the reason for the level of rarity of many of the Raven releases – perhaps a maximum of between 50 and 500 records were pressed? To date no comprehensive label discography exists, although sixties soul collector George Gell attempted to start one in the pre-internet days, and reports that there were dozens of  Raven releases, though primarily country and folk. Frank recorded a variety of genres such as gospel, country, bluegrass and soul from Virginia and the Carolinas. 

Gene Rumley from Martinsville, VA was the saxophone player and vocalist for Gene and the Team Beats. They performed from 1959 to 1968 throughout the Carolinas and Virginia, at fraternity parties at Virginia University and for one summer in the mid-1960s were the house band at the Peppermint Beach Club in Virginia Beach. The Team Beats played with Otis Redding, the Kelly Brothers, Freddie Cannon, Joe Simon, William Bell and others. After an initial unremarkable and poorly mixed uptempo release on Leatherwood, they recorded two for Raven, the mid tempo harmony laden “I Wanta Be Your Baby” (Raven 45-2006) and “I’ll Let Nothing Separate Me” (Raven HOS45-2011), a very different up-tempo version of the Wallace Brothers release on Sims. “I Wanta Be Your Baby” was actually recorded at Copeland Studios in Greensboro NC rather than Koger’s place but released on his label. Band members were Gene, Charles Hairston (on lead vocals: the only black member and whom Gene found in Martinsville), Lonnie Woodhall (guitar and backing vocals) and Carl Barrow (bass). Rickie Fox was their substitute drummer whilst their regular Mickey Walker was drafted to Vietnam, and played on both Raven records.

Eventually, Charles Hairston moved on to other things. Another record was planned with a new lead singer to replace Hairston and was part recorded. However The Team Beats disbanded after further military drafting in 1968. Gene Rumley became a very successful businessman and entrepeneuring skills speaker, winning e-business Champion of the Year in 2008. He also has humanitarian interests and runs an international charity which provides aid and assistance to orphans, street children and victims of human trafficking. After The Team Beats, Charles Hairston continued to play in a variety of bands until his death in 2009. Rickie moved on to play with the Soulmasters in the late sixties, and still plays today.

There were at least three bands in the mid sixties called the Lost Soul, or Lost Souls, from Cleveland, New Jersey and West Virginia. The specific band under scrutiny here are The Lost Soul from the Bluefield West Virgina area, on the border of VA and West Virginia. They were responsible for two records on Raven: “A Secret of Mine” (HOS-45-2018) - a Gary Rushbrook spin when it eventually hit the UK soul scene in the early eighties - and perhaps the lesser known “I’m Gonna Hurt You” (HOS-45-2032), both rare and very suited to the northern scene.

The waters are a little muddied regarding the dates of these releases. Originally thought to be from 1965, it appears that the band actually recorded “A Secret of Mine” early 1967. They even lip-synched it on a local NC TV teen dance show around the same time. The track was written by Steve Calfee and Randy Conlee  who played guitar and organ in the band, a basic production by all accounts but featuring a memorable bass riff and drums. “I'm Gonna Hurt You” was recorded at a seperate session in the same year and is another fine example of blue eyed soul which would stand strong alongside similar material from established acts of the time, such as The Embers.

The Soulmasters were another Raven band, well known in rare soul circles for their "I'll Be Waiting Here". The initial set-up included Doug Hyler (saxophone) and Wayne Womble (keyboards) from North Carolina around 1966. They underwent a temporary name change to The Sensational Soulmasters after joining forces with black vocalists John Irby and Jerry Wilson from The New Breed, followed by further mergers with individuals from other bands from the Danville area, including Gene and the Team Beats, The Kondors, The Continentals and The Majors. Irby and Wilson became the band's front men. The Soulmasters obtained their musical inspiration from listening to black radio stations such as WILA from Danville and Nashville’s WLAC. They played all over the south east, primarily at frat parties and dances at the Pavillion on Myrtle Beach, SC, the Coke Plant, the 360 Drive-In and at Martinsville. Their young age prevented them playing many clubs. This was also still the early days of desegregation; the band did not entirely avoid racial tension from both sides. One advantage however of an integrated band was that they could play ‘black venues’ as well as white ones, and The Sensational Soulmasters became a popular in both. Around 1967 they reverted back to the title of The Soulmasters and went off to record at the House of Sound. Wayne Womble recalled a little of the studio:

“The studio was built in a house on Piney Forest Road. It was not elaborate by any means, just a carpeted area of an old house with a petition for the drums. It also housed an upright piano. The control room was in a separate room that had a glass window looking into the studio. Very basic and only the capacity to record two tracks. The instruments were recorded in the studio and the horn section recorded in a separate room. The combined recordings were laid onto one track. John and Jerry on vocals were recorded on the other track in another room.”

They recorded their only single, “I’ll Be Waiting Here” and the flip over a two day period. “I’ll Be Waiting”, with John Irby on lead vocal was clearly influenced by Chuck Jackson’s Wand classic “I Don’t Want to Cry”. According to their bass player, 500 records were pressed for $200, paid for by a local DJ and promoter. An error at the pressing plant meant that both sides of the 45 were made at the wrong speed and with suboptimal recording quality. The speed fault on listening is not necessarily immediately apparent but does result in “I’ll Be Waiting Here” being a slightly more manic up tempo soul dancer than was intended! Nevertheless the record did get some local airplay and even made the Top10 briefly on WLAC. Wayne has since digitally edited both sides of the 45 to the correct speed and also enhanced the recording. Wayne and Doug Hyler also report that the band later re-recorded both songs:  

“The Soulmasters re-recorded "I'll Be Waiting Here" and "You Took Away The Sunshine" sometime in 1969 at a studio in Raleigh, NC” says Wayne. “I was out of the band at this time and don't know exactly how many songs they recorded at the session. Jerry Wilson gave the original master tape to Eddie Floyd in hopes that he could help The Soulmasters further their career. This was a big mistake in that there were no other copies of this recording. The Soulmasters never heard back from Eddie Floyd and the tapes were lost forever.” 

Doug Hyler, whilst not on the actual re-recording of  “I’ll Be Waiting” was at the session where it was done. He mentioned several songs were recorded, including Otis Redding material. Doug also reported it was years later before Jerry would confess that he gave the tapes away.

By the late sixties The Soulmasters had grown into a very popular twelve piece band, and had played with The Tams, Percy Sledge, Rufus Thomas and Sam and Dave. Luck thereafter though seemed to be against them. Plans were made to tour further afield, including a stint at the Apollo Amateur Night in New York in 1968, but this was cancelled after the shooting of Martin Luther King. They were also unable to go on a month long European tour with Arthur Conley, as many of them were still at high school and their parents refused to support the offer. The group disbanded in 1970. 

As discussed elsewhere The Greater Experience may also have had a connection with Koger. Colony Sound Productions, credited on the Colony 13 label, were responsible for another release known to have come from another of Koger’s labels. Greater Experience member Roger Scruggs reports “Don’t Forget to Remember” as being released in 1970. This was also the year that Koger moved to Nashville to pursue a country career and when the House of Sound was demolished. Colony Sound Productions may have been some kind of short-lived transitionary name perhaps? Unfortunately Koger is untraceable these days to ask.

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.

References and resources

Jack Garrett. The History of Raven Records. Showcase Magazine, 4 January 2012. Available at
Jack Garrett. Gene and the Team Beats. From:
Andy Patterson and Dave Strickland. Personal coms. September 2012. Permission obtained to use information from
Doug Hyler. Personal coms. October 2012.
George Gell. Personal coms. September 2012.
Tom Mathewson. Personal coms. October 2012. Permission obtained for reproduction of photographs of The Soulmasters.
Wayne Womble. Personal coms. September, October 2012. Permission obtained to use material at:

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Embers

The Embers were formed in Raleigh, NC in 1958 by Bobby Tomlinson (drums) and Jackie Gore (vocals, guitar). They mainly played frat parties and Raleigh clubs. The Embers are one of the longest running beach music bands and (perhaps along with The Tams) they likely one of the most widely known, both within and outside the region. 

In the late fifties until around 1963/1964 they toured and recorded as The Swinging Embers, before the name change. The Embers had a very prolific recording career for both singles and albums. However UK soul collectors are likely to be most interested in their recording career between 1964 and 1969 for JCP, eEe, Bell and Atlantic. In addition to Bobby and Jackie, members during this phase have included Dave Norket (keyboards until 1964, then Martin Durwood, Doug Harrison, Rick Whitfield or Mark Hammer for the remainder of the decade), Frank Reich (saxophone until 1969, then Don Holloway), Johnny Hopkins (trumpet), John Thompson (bass, vocals) and Blair Ellis (vocals). The band who recorded as The Embers on the northern soul rarity “You Can Lump It” for Act IV was unrelated; a temporary name change for The Seminoles from Detroit.

The Embers’ “First Time” (JCP 1034) was likely released around 1964. JCP was set up by Jimmy Capps, who had been a Raleigh radio announcer / DJ since the late forties for WTPF, and his radio station engineer Larry Gardner, with the aim to promote local bands in the area. JCP had its own studio in the basement of an old movie theatre in Raleigh. Nearly sixty releases appeared on the label, including Frankie and the Damon’s “Man From Soul” (JCP 1057) which will be familiar to some UK scene collectors. Leader Frankie Presnell’s father knew The Embers’ parents well; Frankie and the Damons even played at The Embers Club, despite being under age. 

“First Time” was initially played out in the UK by Guy Hennigan (covered up as Mill Evans and the Esquires) at Tony’s New Empress Ballroom in Blackburn, Lancashire, in the mid to late eighties. It even got an airing on national radio when Guy was interviewed on DJ Janice Long’s BBC Radio 1 show. At that time there was only a handful of known copies on the UK. More have surfaced since, but it remains a very hard find these days, on either side of the Atlantic.

In 1965 their parents bought a nightclub and opened it as the Embers Club in Raleigh. “Back in the 60s, I would take dates to the Embers Club, before we were old enough to get in" says beach fan Bob McNair. "It was about 45 minutes from my hometown of Sanford. As long as you were dressed nicely with a date, behaved yourself and had the cover charge, they weren’t too concerned about your age and would let you in.  As I remember the club was in an old converted warehouse with a railroad loading dock on the side. We got to see some fantastic bands live and consume some adult malt beverages!  Numerous soul and R&B artists shared the stage with The Embers at their club.....Jackie Wilson, Little Anthony, Billy Stewart, Fats Domino, The Drifters, The Clovers and many more.” Three years later another club was opened in Atlantic Beach NC, where The Embers opened for the Rolling Stones. In the seventies the Embers Club in Raleigh relocated to an upmarket night club elsewhere in the city, and finally to the Hilton Hotel near NC State University in 1975."

Chicago soul releases were extremely popular with teenagers and bands of the south east in the mid sixties. The Impressions and Okeh artists such as The Artistics and Major Lance, in fact just about anything related to Curtis Mayfield either in a song writing, production or artistic capacity, featured heavily on jukeboxes on the beaches and inland waterways of the Carolinas, and  within live band playlists. Chicago influences are certainly very clear when The Embers' LP recordings are considered.  No surprise too then that The Embers would provide us with a very competent Impressions-like group version of “It Ain’t Necessary”. This track was originally Mamie Galore’s third release, and only hit, for the Windy City’s St. Lawrence label, with Jerry Butler in the writing credits. The female version is a northern soul classic in its own right. The Embers take on “It Ain’t Necessary” was first released on JCP (1054) in 1966, one of the last releases in the label discography, and also gained a national release the following year (Bell 644).

Next up was “Just Crazy ‘Bout You Baby”, released twice in 1967 on eEe (Embers Entertainment Enterprises), with different flips: the first with “We’ve Come a Long Way Together” (eEe 0069) and the second with “Aware of Love” (eEe 0070). “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby” was played out in the UK by Gary Rushbrook in the very early eighties, toward the closure of Wigan Casino.  Much more recently, The Embers take on Jerry Butler’s “Aware of Love” has also received plays on the northern scene.  

By now The Embers were clearly making some headway in getting noticed outside of the south east, reflected in the fact that their last two releases of the decade were picked up by major labels. “Far Away Places” (MGM 14167) is a curious spin on an old 1940s standard, using a bass riff and rhythm influenced by Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Tighten Up”.  According to Bobby Tomlinson in Rick Simmons’ Carolina Beach Music, Bob Crewe facilitated The Embers signing to MGM after hearing a demo tape of the song. The musicians on “Far Away Places” (and presumably on its flip also) were MGM’s own staff from New York, and The Embers laid the vocals. The record received airplay in 1969 but its promotion was cut short when Bob Crewe was fired from MGM, hence the relative rarity for a release on such a major label, for both demo copies and issues. “Far Away Places” became a permanent feature in the bands’ live repertoire which helped cement it as a classic for beach music lovers in the US. Whilst this side is very unlikely to hold any interest for northern soul collectors, the flip “Watch Out Girl” is an established northern soul classic. It was known to be played by Colin Curtis at the Blackpool Mecca around 1975, though Soul Sam or Pep may have been first to break it.

“Where Did I Go Wrong”, by Jackie Gore and probably their most up tempo affair, was released in April 1969 for Atlantic (45-2627). It received plays in Summer 1969 via radio station Channel 85 WKIX which served the college and university dominated areas of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. On the other side of the Atlantic on the northern scene, this was played again at the Blackpool Mecca though it may well have had its first UK airing via the Catacombs in Wolverhampton  in the early 1970s.

The Embers released three LPs in the 1960s on local Raleigh, NC labels; JCP and eEe. The first LP “The Embers Roll Eleven” (JCP) was released in 1963.  This was a live LP (recorded at North Carolina State University’s Erdahl Cloyd Student Union). Tracks included a number of Curtis Mayfield / Impressions, Major Lance and Motown covers and a version of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' beach classic “Stay”. The other two studio based LPs again showcased competent standard soul covers but also provided a couple of tracks of particular interest for the rare soul collector. “Just for the Birds” (JCP) in 1964 offered further covers of Little Anthony, The Drifters and an LP only version of The Impressions' “Little Young Lover”. The last LP of the decade was “Burn You a New One” (eEe) in 1967. This featured tracks such as “Ain’t No Big Thing”, more Little Anthony and the Imperials covers (“Hurt So Bad” and “Reputation”), and undoubtedly the best track on the LP:  a version of Jerry Butler’s “Aware of Love”, which as discussed was also released as a 45 on eEe. 

“The Embers were my favourite regional beach music throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s” says Bob McNair. “They are still performing today with only one original member left, the drummer, Bobby Tomlinson. He is over 72 years old and still going strong. I’ve seen them countless times over the past 50 years.  In the late 60s I attended Campbell College. One of my classmates, Johnny Hopkins, joined The Embers in 1967 as their trumpet player.  Johnny and I and some of his buddies from Raleigh were all day students and got to be friends in our business administration classes.  We still remain casual acquaintances when we see each other.  Johnny played full time with The Embers for over 35 years and now plays with the beach band North Tower.”

Jackie Gore left The Embers in 1994 and now sings with The Legends of Beach. 

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Bob McNair. Personal coms. June 2012.
Guy Hennigan. Personal coms. September 2012.
LP track listing source:
Soulsource website discussion forum. Thread at
Rick Simmons. Carolina Beach Music: the Classic Years. Published by The History Press, Charlston, SC. ISBN 978.1.60949.214.4

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Generation

This Wilmington, NC band was largely composed of high school students. Their sole 45 release was a very competent beach cover of The O’Jay’s Minit classic “Hold on” on a local Wilmington label in 1968. As The O’Jays version was already a northern soul classic, it was perhaps not surprising that The Generation’s take (Mockingbird MR 1010) would also find favour on the British soul scene. An up-tempo soul dancer, this track is not dissimilar to The O’Jays, other than the blue-eyed vocal presence and a short organ break characteristic of many beach bands. Wigan Casino DJ Richard Searling originally acquired it from John Anderson at Soul Bowl in 1976 and was first to play this on the UK scene. The track was covered up as The Soul Generation – a risky cover up name perhaps, yet its true identity remained unknown to the scene for at least 18 months and it was even released with the cover up name on UK RCA’s northern soul reissue label (Grapevine GRP 131).

Band members were Eddie Miller (rhythm guitar, lead vocal), his brother Bobby Miller (bass guitar, backing vocal), Robert Bordeaux (lead guitar, backing vocal), Chuck Shipton (keyboards) and Randy Luther (drums). Eddie Miller, lead singer for The Generation, still performs today with the Jamie Band throughout the Carolinas. He describes the band’s influences at the time as a mix of the British Invasion and soul – The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Moody Blues, but also Sam and Dave, The Spencer Davis Group, Wilson Pickett and Ray Charles. He also remembered recording “Hold On”. 

The Mockingbird label was the brainchild of ‘Doc’ Johnson, a Wilmington local who had his own recording studio and label. The studio and label slogan was “Listen to the Mockingbird”. There were a couple of other soul orientated releases on Doc Johnson’s label, including the 1969 release by King Louie and the Court Jesters (MR 1007) “I’ve Been Down So Long” a deep soul ballad, with the funk flip “Broadway Up Tight” (King went on a year later to cut sessions, unreleased at the time, at Reflection Recording Studios in Charlotte, NC, backed by what was essentially The Tempests). The Generation were together for two years, from the spring of 1967 until 1969. 

“Eddie, Robert, Bobby and I originally attended New Hanover High School” says Chuck Shipton. “Randy Luther had graduated High School in Statesville NC and came to Wrightsville Beach. He became our drummer in 1967. In 1968 Hoggard High School was opened and Bobby and Eddie went there.  Randy was our leader and influenced our music more toward Motown and soul.  He picked “Hold On” to be recorded at Dr. Hubert Johnson’s recording studio around 1967/68. Mockingbird was the studio label. Doc Johnson was a doctor in Wilmington who had a love for music and enjoyed recording as a hobby. He had built a recording studio in a single car size garage on the back of his house at basement level. It had a small control room in it, say 5 by 10 feet, and an old 16 track reel to reel recorder. A local DJ called Jay Howard was the sound engineer and did the mixing on a 16 channel tube type mixer.  We recorded the rhythm tracks for “Hold On” in two takes.  The vocals were added later.  “Lonely Sea” (originally done by the Ventures) was Dr. Johnson’s favourite even though it was on the “B”side.  We did several takes because Doc wanted the drums to do a large symbol crash like the waves crashing.  I thought it was over the top because the crash was so overpowering, but we did it the way Doc wanted because he wasn’t charging us studio time.  Jay Howard was the prime time DJ on WGNI radio station and he played our record all the time.  He even used “Lonely Sea” for a lead in to the news.”

“We were booked by Jack Ford Theatrical Agency out of Tampa, Florida. In June 1968 we went on tour.  My mother has film of the band playing in the Battle of the Bands in Wilmington 1968. The Generation played 30 days in Myrtle Beach, SC at the Bowery, a bar on the boardwalk of Myrtle Beach. We then did Clearwater, Florida where we played at the Bon Ton Club with “Strawberry Alarm Clock” and did other gigs around Tampa. In Florida, we had a disagreement and The Generation broke up in August 1968.  When we returned to Wilmington we formed the Fifth Generation with a new drummer (Mickey Watson) and new lead guitar (Stacy Jackson).  We were together through the summer of 1969 and were booked by Ted Hall’s Hit Attractions.  Eventually Bobby joined the military and I got married. Eddie, Stacy, and Mickey got a new bass player (Bobby Stover) and formed Jamie. I went with the Brass Park in the fall of 1969. We had a reunion of The Generation, Soul Six, and Brass Park October 2010 and played for a High School reunion at Wrightsville beach recently.”

Bobby Miller has passed away. Eddie has remained in contact with the other three members. Chuck shared this email from Randy Luther:

“Hey, Chuck and Robert! It's been a long, long time. I hope you guys are doing well. I am the world's worst at keeping in touch with people. I have seen Eddie a couple times over the years, but I didn't even know where you guys are. I was saddened to hear that Bobby passed away.  Who would have thought that "Hold On" would have reached England in the 70s, much less that someone still has interest in it and the band today. Very cool. I am curious about how many copies have been sold and who released it on a different label. I still have a copy of "Hold On" and the original recording contract we signed with Doc Johnson. I stopped playing professionally in 1978. I have done a few gigs and a couple of recording sessions since, but I got kinda of burned out on the business part of music in general, and especially the New York scene. I played with some great players and bands though. I have a fantastic drum studio in my home now, and I still play a couple of hours a day. My style and technique have developed over the years into something I am very proud of. I even got some great reviews from Rolling Stone magazine when I was with Warner Brothers in New York. These days I mostly stick with blues and R&B. I have fond memories of playing with you guys in The Generation. The music we played was clean and tight and fun.”

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Chuck Shipton. Personal coms. June, August, October 2012.
Eddie Miller. Personal coms. July 2012.
Emily Marriott. Personal coms. June and August 2012.
Richard Searling. Personal coms. June 2012.
Sandy Williams. Personal coms. June 2012.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Stop Records. The Berkshire Seven and Athens Rogues.

Stop Records Inc. out of Nashville, Tennessee was perhaps an unlikely source of rare soul gems. The label was primarily country focussed, founded around 1967 by the Augusta, GA raised Pete Drake, the son of a pentecostal minister and a steel guitar player who had moved to Nashville to chase his dream as a session guitarist in the late 1950s. He quickly developed a career there as a musician and record producer. Pete played on several country hits in the 1960s with a range of country and folk stars including Tammy Wynette on “Stand By Your Man” and on Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay”. Drake's musical involvement with Elvis Presley commenced in 1966 when he played on Elvis’ “How Great Thou Art” LP and went on to perform on several of his movie soundtracks around that time. By 1970 he had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Walkway of Stars. 

As well as his love of country music however, Drake also had a desire to expand his label into mainstream pop and soul. Pete Drake's Stop Records was very capable of making well produced records for that market, albeit with very limited success, as demonstrated by the couple of rarities described here.

The Berkshire Seven’s “Stop and Start Over” (ST255) was originally a Jim Wensiora spin on the UK soul scene in the late 1980s and played around the same time by Colin Law at a variety of Scottish venues. The disc was originally covered up as Mel Wynn “Stop” – and indeed was structurally similar to Mel Wynn and the Rhythm Ace’s classic “Stop Sign” on Wand, with its fast tempo and stop-start phrasing. The ‘B-7’s’ had a second release on the label (“Crazy Kind of Feeling” with flip “I Tried”, ST286) but “Stop and Start Over” was the one which attracted UK soul collector’s interest.

Very little is known of the band. An internet blog by lead vocalist Deno Lee provided an insight into their formation, degree of success and eventual demise. The Berkshire Seven were formed in 1967, partly from members of a previous group called The Warlocks. Deno Lee took over as lead vocal when The Warlocks’ singer was drafted. The line up around the time of “Stop and Start Over” included Betty Fried (keyboards), Larry Sallee (drummer), Patrick Schneider (rhythm guitar), Sonny Bayes (lead guitar), John Calkins, Jr. (saxophone), and John Joseph (trumpet). All members of the group were students at the University of Kentucky.

Their manager was Henry G. Foushee, Jr., a florist shop owner in Lexington, Kentucky. The Berkshire Seven first found success when they won a battle of the bands competition at the Garden Side Swim Club, beating the Magnificent Seven, as well as the top local band at the time, The Torques. They started their recording career well with two local no.1's. The Berkshire Seven remained popular for several years throughout Kentucky and Ohio, opening for bands such as Mousie and The Trapps. Deno claimed in the blog that over 20,000 copies were sold in Lexington alone. However “Stop and Start Over” is regarded as a fairly obscure record in the UK even by northern soul standards and doesn’t make frequent appearances in record sale lists.

The Berkshire Seven had a further release on Stop in 1970, but then experienced a constant turnover of members over the next couple of years due to army drafting. By 1973 they had disbanded. John Calkins was reported to have committed suicide with his wife, jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.  Larry Sallee passed away in the late 1990s. Sonny Bays runs a printing business in Versailles, Kentucky. The whereabouts of Fried, Schneider, Bayes and Joseph are unknown. 

The Athens Rogues “She Could Love Me” (ST185) appeared to have first been introduced to the UK soul scene via Gary Spencer in 1992, initially covered up as The Vondells.  It may also have been played by either Pat Brady or Carl Fortnum at Bradford Queens Hall around the same time.

The band were founded circa 1967. Most members came from Athens High School, GA and included Gerald Fleming (lead vocal, keyboards – and writer of “She Could Love Me”), Glenn Brown (vocal, lead guitar), Jim Cleveland (vocal, rhythm guitar), Bill Walker (drums), Dennis Carter (bass), Terry McGee (trombone), John “JB” Barrett (trumpet), and Larry Moor (sax). Pre "Athens" Rogues included David Woods on saxophone and vocals. They were known for local prom and University of Georgia fraternity party bookings.

“Nashville, TN, in 1968, was anything but the place for rock and roll and soul” says Gerald Fleming. “Especially the soul part. Pete Drake took a huge chance on us. We were the first of our kind - in the minds of many, the thing that made Athens Rogues notable was that we were a rock 'n' roll and soul band, made up of a bunch of white kids from Athens, with a recording contract out of Nashville! JB (on trumpet) and I were close friends at high school, Athens High. I graduated a year before him. We were both trumpet players in the high school band. I went on to the university and into the college band on trumpet, actually my primary instrument for years. I didn't see the guys for a bit. New scene, you know. JB and the guys and I had never played together in any other setting other than academic at that point. I had been performing with a band throughout my high school years that was very successful regionally. That band had been initially built by my brother Horace, who was five years my senior and a killer trumpet player/singer, called The Rhythm Rockers. RR was working every week and was booked as much as a year in advance! That was awesome back then, and I felt like I was swimming around in money. Then, after a four year run, my brother decided to drop out of The Rhythm Rockers to pursue his PhD up at Vanderbilt. BAM! End of that. There I was with a ton of gigs and connections around the region, but with a band that no longer had its signature sound. 

My mom had mentioned that Johnny and some of the old band guys had been practicing at the navy school, and that they had a bunch of horns. She suggested maybe I could talk to them about siding for me with The Rhythm Rockers while I looked for a replacement for my brother. JB and the guys had sounded pretty good, raw as hell but good, and I had always liked the ones of Johnny's guys that I knew. They had a different sax man jamming with them, David Woods, who is one of the really good guys you meet in life. Playing rock ‘n’ roll would be fun. I loved horn sections. I wanted a chance to play keyboard, write big arrangements and had a pretty advanced keyboard rig for the day, as I was training at the time to play classical piano. We started a dialog about the possibilities and the next thing you know I made an arrangement with the cats that played for me in the Rhythm Rockers. I gave them a ton of gigs and let them keep the name until  done. That saw the birth of The Rogues, as we were called then. The "Athens" delineation came later.

You remember the highlights the rest of your life. But mostly the goodlights. It's easy to remember some of The Rogues stuff because of the rather surprising chain of events in such a brief period of time. Whereas we were not the most gifted of bands, we played well together, booked well, were quite popular, were not afraid to explore and had the good sense to stay in the studio as much as possible. Rehearsal was just a matter of course in everyday life. Not long ago, somebody suggested that we were one of the first of the significant American "garage bands". Quite often the practices turned into gatherings. Toward the last days of the band there were more than a few that became large, crazy orgy-type gatherings no less; hard to do those in a garage! But our sound was pretty good for its day because of the time we spent together. 

We recorded some demos at a local studio owned by Jerry Connel and John Harold called "Project 70 Sound" (you think a really forward-looking name in the ‘60s!). That's where "She Could Love Me" and others took shape. We had made some demo tapes at the University of Georgia School of Journalism. Those tapes were absolutely horrible. Wasn't the school's fault. We used an  "after-hours-free-time-with-whatever-student-can-turn-the-machines-on" type approach. It wasn't exactly a masterpiece of engineering but it started something in Athens. The Athens music breakout was now in the making. Not bad overall, The Rogues were recording and now everybody wanted to!”

On a freezing January morning in 1968 Gerald, JB, Jimmy Cleveland and Dennis Carter packed their equipment and a demo tape and made the 260 mile trip to Nashville. They spent a full day making cold calls to just about every producer and publisher’s door on Music Row, trying to get interest from any record label and getting doors slammed in their face at each music house . They started big with the likes of Columbia and RCA who failed to show any interest. Twelve hours later, as light was fading, they turned up at Drake’s Stop Records. Pete felt sorry for the kids’ ordeal that day. He gave them a chance to play their demo tape and was bowled over after the first few bars of “She Could Love Me”. 

“On our first trip into Nashville, when we had showed up at Window Music that night, Pete had fallen in love with my car” says Gerald. “I had that 428ci Ford Torino. Boy, did Pete think that was a great ride! We ended up in this huge parking lot somewhere near the park, cutting doughnuts and doing burnouts and being exactly what we all were, including So, about a week after we got back to Athens, Pete gives me a call and says, "You inspired me to give myself a present. I'll show it to you when you get up here." When we rolled back into Nashville for the sessions, we met Pete at the studio first thing...and there he was, timed perfectly for our arrival, cutting doughnuts in the parking lot of Starday in a brand new pearl blue GTO!” 

It was two months later when Drake had taken  he band into Starday Studios in Nashville to record three tracks: "She Could Love Me", "Sally, Sally From Tin Pan Alley" and "ESP: Extra Soul Perception":

“The sessions were held at Starday Studios in Nashville. Just a simple layout there. Brick building with an upstairs apartment, which, I believe we spent the session time in for practice and crash. Pete brought us "ESP: Extra Soul Perception" (clever back in that day...haha!) and it was this horn jam. It was hot! You guys have never heard it! It is probably lost for all time! And that is a true shame. In music, I am something of a savant. I have about an 85% recall of every note I hear, and I remember every rote, note and stroke in that one, and it took us musically well beyond where we had been when we had first come into the city. If that cut exists, it should be in the archives of Window Music or Stop Records somewhere - wherever that is now! Believe me, I'll be searching.”

The final recorded version of “She Could Love Me” required a three part harmony but as Gerald was on lead vocal, Glenn and Jim needed another singer. Gerald quashed rumours that the track featured the vocals of one of Elvis’ Jordannaires:

“Sorry to disappoint. The session for "She Could Love Me", "Sally, Sally from Tin Pan Alley", and "ESP" was cut on 4-track. High-quality tape tracks, but still only four, so choices were limited on how many times you could stack parts, and whereas Dennis and Bill could sing...during a national emergency really wouldn't want to go there, and we desperately needed three-part back-up vocals to help beef us up. So, that meant either utilizing a tracking technique called "ping-ponging", which allows adding tracks but greatly reduces fidelity, or settling for two-part backup harmony since I would be singing the lead at the same time and, consequently, not available. Meanwhile, this young guy I took for about thirty and dressed as we had become accustomed to seeing the studio cats in the city know, Nashville 60s hip, a bit of coin in his threads and nice boots...had been hanging out in the main studio with Pete and us and the engineer, and Pete had introduced him to me as "one of Elvis's singers". Later in the day when tracking decisions came to bear, and, when asked, the guy said, "Oh, hell yes! I'd be truly honoured to sing with you cats! Whatcha want me to do, Pete?" What a cool dude! He just fitted right in like we'd been on the road together. Wasn't a Jordannaire though.

In the end, we were gone in a flash, but we had the distinct honour of having been produced by Pete Drake. White boys doing black boys' music in the deep south in the sixties …in Nashville! Are you out of your fucking mind? There were 'names' for kids like us. But it was Pete Drake who had the balls, not us. We were the first to break out of Athens, Georgia. Athens Rogues had gotten a major producer and a contract in Nashville, playing soul & rock 'n' roll no less and had done it in record time! We may be all but lost to mainstream music history, but we know what happened on that crazy day. Important to remember too that the groups and the music were just a reflection of the time. Kennedy had died right in front of us. America was in a war we didn't even understand. The world was on fire. Under the boardwalk you didn't think about the distinct possibility of death under the palms of some distant beach.

And so we sang "I love beach music" and did the Shag under the moonlight out on South Myrtle and down on Panama Beach and Lauderdale, and had babies because of those nights, and in some elusive way began defining the boomer generation of the south. And it saw the beginning and the ending of the American Camelot.”

“She Could Love Me” did enjoy some local radio time, but sales success was limited to some extent. By around 1969 The Athens Rogues had disbanded:

“I know that John Barrett is alive and well and in North Georgia up in the glorious Great Smoky Mountain area. Terry McGhee and I spent future time together musically, both in the University of Georgia concert bands as well as in one of the cutting-edge next-gen horn bands after the Rogues. He was an ace t-bone man, and I recruited him into "Nickels & Dimes", my ensuing band and possibly the best rock horn-band in the south at the time. Terry is now a successful MD. Glenn Brown is an influential attorney here in Athens, GA. Jimmy Cleveland is sales rep with one of the major firms of our fair city. I'm not certain about the rest of the guys. Johnny says everybody's still hale and hearty. I suppose that's pretty amazing in itself. Pete passed away 24 years ago, and the world is less for his passing and a damn-site better for his having been here! He smoked too much. It hurt him. He was 55 when he died. Pete had vision. He was a kind and generous person and a gifted musician and producer. I am honoured that he was the first producer to sign me and I am humbled that he was my friend. What he did with the band in Nashville was a brave thing in 1968! Even if you were Pete Drake! 

Back then Pete was established, but you must remember that he was not yet the legend he was later to become. Frankly, in the eyes of some of the Nashville old guard, he was considerably outside the dotted lines with us. And Nashville could sometimes eat its own young.

I'm the only one of the band that made the trade a career. To say that I was fortunate would be perhaps the understatement of the century. Not only did I get to play and record with a host of killer bands and solo artists over a 50 year career, but I was allowed to be the proverbial "fool and his cheque book" without any detectable ill-consequence that I can tell (!), while working for the passion of my life! And, believe me, one would have to hate life to hate that life! Because of the brief shine of The Athens Rogues I had established just enough reputation in the Atlanta studios to be considered for projects, particularly writing, arranging, recording gigs, within a pretty tight music inner circle that led me to a gate-opening gig with another East Coast legend group Bits & Pieces and also Classics IV. After that, I kinda picked my situations as a free-lancer, although I did stay for a year or two here and there. I have very few useful or marketable skills in the basic sense of the terms, but I have lived in eight different countries, been cast in "Smokey and the Bandit", studied sword in America and Japan and became a swordmaster and sandan (a 3rd degree black belt in kendo). Also...get this...I raced formula Ford cars whenever I was off the road, and ended up driving some very heady Formula 1 R&D for the Mario Andretti Grand Prix International and a ride at the Watkins Glen US Gand Prix for F1 in 1978. As we say in the South, ain't THAT a kick in the pants! All because of Pete Drake! What a ride!

Whatever is said of me I would like it known somewhere along the way that I am extraordinarily grateful that anyone...anywhere...would care to reflect on what little we did back in the day when we scarcely knew what we were doing at all. I want to think that somehow what we did escaped the vulgar and the base, because I know that what we did in those early days of a song like "She Could Love Me" was of pure, and quite often innocent, intent.  Jeez! We were kids. Funny thing about the Rogues was, we were really good kids. We loved our moms. We had cute little girlfriends and we drank a bit but didn't even mess around with drugs or the groupies...yet. And to think...I have been allowed to travel this journey my entire life!”

Regarding the Stop label itself, in 1973 co-owner and songwriter Tom Hill went into partnership with Moe Lytle to set up Gusto Records (selling Stop to Gusto), another Nashville label. These days Gusto is known as the largest independent reissue label in the States, owning much of the back catalogue of King, Starday, Federal, Wand, Scepter and Musicor, and even owns the long running Starday Studios where reformatting and new recordings are still made today. 

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Amy Brakefield for Gusto Records, Inc. Personal coms. October 2012. Permission obtained for reproduction of publicity photographs of The Athens Rogues and The Berkshire Seven, on the assumption that Gusto Records Inc. are the natural conferred owners of copyright of publicity material of former Stop Records, Inc.
Deno Lee. Online blog / posts. Entry date circa 2008. Available at berkshireseven accessed 18 May 2012. 
Gerald Fleming. Personal coms. October 2012.
Greg Haynes The Hey Baby Days: Blogspot. Available at

Monday, 7 October 2013

Novas Nine

Members of this Mooresville, NC group were Gary Brown (vocals), Brian Mann (keyboards), Robert (Bob) Mann (saxophone), Bobby Nantz (trumpet and vocals), Kenny Readling (trumpet and vocals), Sammy Ingram (guitar), Chris Cooke (bass guitar), Lee Suther (drums) and Brett Goodnough (saxophone). Eddie Reynolds (drums), Charlie Snuggs (guitar), Bill Baker (drums) and Billy Harbinson (trumpet) were also members but did not appear on their only release. The band was created from a couple of earlier local bands including The Firebirds, and ran from around 1967 to 1969. 

Both sides of the 1968/69 release are worthy yet contrasting northern tracks. “Why Listen” is a melodic mid tempo piece, almost in the sweet crossover vein but retaining a distinct beach feel, with horns and organ. The 100 mph manic flip “Pain”, with Gary Brown on vocals, suits the northern dancers, and was a big hit for Novas Nine. At one point the group were televised performing “Pain” on WBTV's Jack Kilgore Dance Show in Charlotte. This track was also covered in 1969 by the Minnesota band Michael’s Mystics on Charlie and in 1970 on Metromedia (as the Mystics, popular at Wigan Casino all-nighters), then by Grass Roots in the same year. Yet another version by Flint on Beast (B-1000) is a current dance floor favourite in many UK soul venues at the time of writing. 

The initial local release on Heritage is hard to find, and largely unknown to collectors in the UK and Europe. Chris Cooke reports that only 500 copies were pressed on this label, costing the band $500 at the time. That said, this was the version played on local Charlotte radio, which ultimately lead to the ABC picking it up for national release after further mixing. 

Whilst Brian Mann was the writer of both sides, at under 18 years of age he was too young at the time to own copyright. His father Bob Mann appears on the writing credits on the ABC release (ABC 11127). Novas Nine members Chris Cooke and Brian Mann shed some light on the band formation and the somewhat bitter relationship with ABC:

CC: The beginnings of Novas Nine started as a neighbourhood band called The Firebirds, about 1965. We were an instrumental band, like The Ventures. I played guitar. Brian’s brother Robert was on bass. It eventually morphed into Novas Nine, with the addition of a few more members added from another group from our hometown of Mooresville. Mooresville these days is best known as the home of NASCAR, but back then it was just a small town.

BM: Most of the band members were neighbours. I had just started college and when I came home I heard the band the Novas, whom my brother and neighbours were in. They had three back up singers. I suggested that they added me as a keyboard player. Some other guys were fired. A month later I wrote the two songs and we recorded them at Arthur Smith's Studio in Charlotte, NC. “Pain” was the second song I had ever written and took me about 30 minutes. The first local release was a deal the band made with Arthur Smith to cut 500 custom label Heritage 45s. The drummer took the acetate to Big Way’s, the number one radio station in Charlotte. Two of the DJ's, Jack Gale and Long John Silver, liked “Pain”. It was their pick hit of the week and made it to number 4 on their charts. They had contacts. We had three record contract offers. We chose ABC Paramount.  The only difference between the acetate which was recorded at Arthur Smith Studio in Charlotte(recorded on a 4 track Ampex 1" tape) and the ABC version was the editing and mastering. The 4 track original was sent to ABC, who obviously got their publisher, PAMCO Music and the ABC studios in New York to master the project. They cut out three bars of the instrumental bridge and that was that.

CC: We were young naive kids and missed things in the contract. Our first quarter royalties were $28,000 at 4 cents per the math! But we had a minus nett of $187. They said we owed them for all promotional expenses and printing.

BM:  Signing was a huge mistake. They stole the song from us and gave it to ABC Dunhill's Grass Roots.  The whole deal was to screw nine green behind the ears musicians from Mooresville, NC, and give it to Grass Roots, who sold 800,000 on their "Lovin' Things" album and countless millions overseas. We were fucked. At that time, ABC/Dunhill was a hot record division, and was signing acts like Grass Roots, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Cold Blood and others. “Pain” became a world wide hit for Grass Roots. Our band got shit out of the song and I was screwed out of thousands of dollars of royalities. Our original tape which was procured by ABC Paramount's publisher PAMCO Music was probably sent to Universal, when they were bought out.

During the band's existence Novas Nine did have some hectic live gig work. They were popular all over North Carolina, South Carolina including Myrtle Beach, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee, playing numerous colleges and clubs including their regular venue the Cellar in Charlotte, NC.

Chris Cooke explained the band eventually fell apart due to family, college and other personal commitments and generally went different ways. Chris, Brian and some of the other members are still involved to different extents in music today. Gary Brown also continues in the music business. His resume includes singer in beach bands such as The Catalinas, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, The Original Men of Distinction and most recently, The Holiday Band. Sammy Ingram became a Professor of Graphic Arts at Clemson. Bob Nantz went on to play with The Catalinas. Chris Cook is in Statesville NC. Robert Mann is in the nuclear power business. Sadly Kenny Readling committed suicide in 1969. The last the band heard of Brett, he had moved to Greece in 1969.

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013


Chris Cooke. Personal coms. June and August 2012.
Brian Mann. Personal coms. June and August 2012.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Delacardos

The Delacardos were an all black vocal and instrumental group from Charlotte NC, who formed initially at high school. They made at least nine records between 1959 and 1967, some of which received national release on major labels. Vocalists were Vernon Hill, Chris Harris, Harold Ford and Robert Gates and later George Morris. Publicity shots generally featured the vocalists only, but regular musicians included Luther Maxwell (tenor saxophone and band leader), Amos Williams (guitar), Ronnie Grier (bass), Dallas Steele (drums), Timothy Donald (baritone saxophone), and on piano and guitar, Jeremiah Shepherd and James Knight. Ronnie Grier wrote most of their sides which appeared on Atlantic. The Delacardos were managed by Will Rhyne, and newspaper reports from the early sixties indicate that they were a popular live act at high schools, rock and roll revues and on the college circuit.

The group have long attracted the attention of doo-wop record collectors for their first release in 1959, “Letter to a School Girl” (Elgey 1001) and beach music enthusiasts for “Hold Back the Tears” (United Artists; UA 310), recorded two years later. For northern soul fans, there is their 1966 Q-City / Atlantic release “She’s the One I Love” (45-2368); the original version before Lee Tillman and the Secrets (a Baton Rouge, Louisiana group whose take also had plays on the UK scene). The local Q-City format is a much tougher find than the national release. A further up-tempo Atlantic release from the same year (and possibly the same session) “I Know I’m Not Much” (45-2389) has also been of longstanding interest to soul fans.

A previously unlisted demo of The Delacardos’ “Dance Gypsy Dance” (Dimension 1040) has surfaced recently via collector Bob Abrahamian. This quality early Impressions style mid-tempo dancer was written by Vernon Hill and arranged and produced by Gene Redd. Redd came from good musical stock. His father was a sax player, bandleader and A&R man for King Records, who also worked with James Brown between 1956 and 1963. Redd Jnr. was a prolific supervisor and writer and for many soul artists, many of northern interest. In the mid sixties he was part time producer along with George Kerr and George Clinton for the Jobete office in New York. Rumour has it that it was the unwanted Motown product from here which found its way onto the Stephanye label such as Roy Handy, Shirley Scott and The Prophets. Redd went on to set up his on label Red Coach in 1973 which gave us The Carstairs classic “It Really Hurts Me Girl”. This Delacardos number though is of course a much earlier affair, likely November 1964. It appears that “Dance Gypsy Dance” failed to get past the demo stage from currently available information.

The Delacardos’ pre-Atlantic recordings were made in the studio garage of Bob Richardson in Charlotte. Bob’s first successful recording as an engineer was on The Delacardos’ 1962 release “On the Beach” on Imperial. Nat Speir and his Rivieras recorded in Bob’s studio when The Delacardos were still there about a year or so later, and knew them well:

“To us white teenagers they sounded like the black groups of the late 50s to early 60s. They favoured the early Isley Brothers and sounded that way, but there was originality too. Vocally they were perfect. Their tenor lead Chris Harris had a smooth vocal and the band had a world class fiery tenor sax man, Luther Maxwell. He was my first up-close sax hero. They impressed. I think it might have been Bob Richardson who placed them with Atlantic. The Delacardos had some excellent national releases, not only “She’s the One I Love”. We became good friends early. Both bands recorded a couple of years before this one in Bob Richardson's garage studio and their drummer taught my brother about funky drumming. Luther Maxwell was the best tenor sax player around - a stylist with power and drive. He was a King Curtis type in those days but his tone was lighter. How did some of these minority guys get to be so good so young? I learned that there were two black high schools, both with most excellent legendary band directors. Black sax players received better instruction and encouragement than most whites.”

Around this time Bob Richardson was also the Mercury label south east rep. By the mid to late sixties he worked with music publisher Bill Lowery to set up a studio in an old schoolhouse in Atlanta, GA and subsequently engineered a string of hits for Billy Joe Royal, The Swinging Medallions and The Classics IV. This studio was the precursor of the famed Atlanta Mastersound studio which in the seventies and eighties was one of the most technologically advanced facility of its kind, attracting artists such as James Brown and Isaac Hayes. 

Regarding The Delacardos' Atlantic tracks, Ronnie Grier confirms that “She’s the One I Love” was recorded at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, NC in 1966. The lead singer on this one (and the flip) was George ‘Bubba’ Morris with Odell Grier on guitar and Ronnie Grier on bass guitar. The Q-City release was a Carolina label but credits Phil Walden and Redwal Music for publishing and distribution, as does the Atlantic release for publishing. Redwal Music was the culmination of an earlier extremely successful R&B  Walden was a student at Mercer University he had set up his own company to promote Otis Redding (whom he had met a couple of years earlier) and over 40 other R&B acts. Phil and his brother Alan were determined to promote Otis as far as they could. In 1965 on the back of the success of the “Otis Blue” album, they set up Jotis Records, and with that, the Redwal production, a publishing and management arm. The Jotis label itself spawned only four releases by Arthur Conley, and two minor artists Billy Young (an army acquaintance of Phil when he was drafted for two years) and Loretta Williams, a singer who backed Otis on tour. However the activities of Redwal extended beyond Jotis, and they represented a whole host of future stars including Bobby Womack, James Carr, Clarence Carter and Tyrone Davis. Often Otis would produce and work directly with some of these artists. The Waldens already knew The Delacardos from the early sixties, when they promoted the band as a live act at a local club alongside Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. 

“In the sixties the members of The Delacardos generally drifted away or went to work or college ” says Nat Speir. “There was a story that their (original) lead singer Chris Harris got hard up for cash and was caught stealing a safe. I think he eventually got an early parole. Don't know what happened to most of the other guys - except for Luther. He got out of show business about 1972 or 1973. By then he was working for Western Electric. Luther took advantage of social and business changes and worked hard and moved up and up in the local office. By the late 1960s he had bought a house on Providence Road, eight to ten miles south of town in white rich folk country. He retired not long ago, a wealthy man. His children went to the best colleges and he lived in what was once an all white south Charlotte neighbourhood. Ronnie kept going musically, making recordings with his daughter at home in his studio, doing early hip hop.”

Van Coble of The Tempests reports that most of the musicians, with the exception of Amos Williams and Ronnie Grier, are now deceased. Sadly Luther Maxwell passed away during the preparation of this project. 

Copyright  E. Mark Windle  2013.


Bob Abrahamian. Personal coms. November 2012.
Van Coble. Personal coms. August, November 2012.
Ronnie Grier. Personal coms. August to November 2012.
Ted Hall. Personal coms. October, November 2012. 
Nat Speir. Personal coms. July, August, November 2012.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Bob Collins & the Fabulous Five

Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five from Greensboro, NC were a popular frat party booking throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. Venues in the 1960s included the Polo Club (Winston, Salem), the Casino (Nags Head, NC) and the National Guard Armoury (Greenville, NC). Their largest mainstream hit in the mid 1960s was “If I Didn’t Have a Dime” a.k.a. “Jukebox”, a previous minor hit for Gene Pitney. Their version was released on the Greensboro label Jokers 3. The band was originally formed in 1961 and continued until 2007. It had at least twenty-five members in its long history.

From a northern soul perspective, “Inventory on Heartaches” (Main Line ML1367) and its flip “One and Only Girl’ both written by Donny Trexler are of most interest. Both tracks stand up as top quality up-tempo northern dancers, possibly with “Inventory” having the beach edge with its catchy phrasing and “One and Only Girl” taking a grittier soul duo type approach.

The first time “Inventory on Heartaches” was introduced to the northern scene is unclear. Kev Roberts reports that he came across the record in 1981 whilst living in the US.  However Butch got his first copy around the same time from collectors Dave Withers and Rod Shard, and then located a second copy about a year later, which he thinks was given to Rob Marriot in exchange for a copy of  The Hyperions “Why Do You Wanna Treat Me the Way You Do”. All parties agree that “Inventory on Heartaches” was never really given the initial exposure on the northern scene that it deserved. At the time, the flip was better known, albeit played as an Eddie and Ernie “cover up” by Rob Marriot. 

This situation seems to have reversed in latter years however. “Inventory on Heartache” was reissued in the US in 1990 on vinyl and a year later on “Grand Strand Gold Volume 3” (Ripete CD). Further releases occurred as part of the CD box set sold along with the publication of Greg Haynes’ Heeey Baby Days book in 2006 and in the UK two years later on the beach / northern soul related CD  “Ain’t Nothin’ Like Shaggin’ ” (Goldsoul). Marion Carter from Ripete further reported that the label re-recorded another version of the song in the late 1990's by some original members of the Fabulous Five including Donny Trexler, although Bob himself was not involved in the project. The original Main Line label was just one activity of the Main Line distributing company based in Cleveland. The company distributed appliances, appliance parts – and records. The label logo was the same as that used by the business in all its activities. Main Line was part owned by RCA. The label even utilised the services of legendary Detroit writer and arranger Dale Warren at one point for a recording by local Cleveland band Selective Service.

Tracking down band members was a challenge. Bob Collins who (contrary to previous reports) sang lead on “Inventory on Heartaches” is now retired from singing and has moved from Myrtle Beach to High Point NC. However, Donny Trexler, band founder and writer of both sides of the Main Line release still performs at venues along Myrtle Beach and was available for interview. 

Donny was the founder, writer, guitarist and vocalist for The Fabulous Five between 1961 and 1968. He began his singing career at a tender age in Summerfield, near Greensboro, NC. He initially sang in church, and at eight years old performed with Joe Stone and the Dixie Mountain Boys, a blue grass band. In 1958 Donny was hooked on rock and roll and taught himself guitar. At high school aged 14, he formed a five piece band called Donny and the Blue Jets (the name of the school football team), and then joined another group which eventually evolved into the Fabulous Five. As well as his time with The Fabulous Five, he recorded throughout the seventies with his wife in two long running beach bands. In November 2000 Donny was presented with the Carolina Beach Music Academy Award for lifetime achievement, inducted into the South Carolina Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame a year later and received the Palmetto Award from the local Governor Hodges. In 2007 he was nominated for Carolina Beach Music Awards (CBMA) Instrumentalist of the Year Award. Donny and Susan now live and work in north Myrtle Beach.  

“I wrote "Inventory On Heartaches" and "One And Only Girl" in 1967; at that time the Fabulous Five had been a group for about six or seven years." Donny says. "The group started around 1960 as The Sixteens in a club called Henry's Danceland in Stokesdale, NC near Greensboro, NC I was an original member. The Sixteens took on Bob Collins as a drummer in the summer of 1960 and then the group was renamed Chuck Tilley and The Fabulous Five in January of 1961. Bob Collins became the lead singer in late January 1962 when the group dismissed Chuck Tilley. We performed in clubs, for fraternity parties, for debutante parties and in many other venues throughout the south-east U.S. We opened for groups like The Impressions, Anthony and the Imperials, the Tams, Wilson Pickett and many more in the 60s. In 1966 we recorded “If I Didn't Have A Dime (Jukebox)”, on which I sang the lead. That song was a great success for us and still is for me.”

“Regarding the other band members, there were many throughout the years. When “Inventory” was recorded in January 1968 they were Bob Collins (lead vocals), Tommy Tucker (saxophone), Allen Brewer (bass), Lenny Collins (on drums, and no relation to Bob), John Cook (keyboards) and Donny Trexler (lead guitar). I stay in touch with Allen and John but not much contact with anyone else. Tommy Tucker died in 2008 and I heard that Lenny Collins isn't doing too well health-wise. I left the group in late February 1968 to start another group called the Music Era. We were on Atlantic Records and had an upbeat remake of “What The World Needs Now”, the old Jackie DeShannon tune. I wrote the flip side called "I Can't Take It."  The Music Era disbanded in late December 1968 because of the military draft. I then joined The Okaysion's and played with them (MW: as lead singer and on guitar) until spring 1972. My wife, Susan, and I started a group called Swing in September 1972 that lasted 16 years. We even did a remake of "Inventory On Heartaches" in 2005 with Susan Trexler on lead vocals. That was a number one song in beach music at that time. I still do five or six gigs a week and Susan sings with me sometimes.”   

Billy Ray Smith, drummer with the band between 1978-1980, provided some insight into the whereabouts and current activities of some of the former band members:

“I was with a group called The Shapparells at the time and became Bob’s drummer when that position came open. At that time the only original members left were Bob and John Cook on keyboards. During that period, beach music and blue eyed soul were still popular around the college campuses so we did a lot of those up and down the east coast. We also continued to play the beach clubs and festivals with all the other beach bands. These festivals are still popular today with several still going on annually in Virginia and the Carolinas. The band I am currently with, The Impacts, contains three former members of The Fabulous Five: John Cook, Randy Case, and myself. We do the old Fabulous Five tune “Jukebox” in most of our shows. We get a lot of requests for it because people know we're the closest thing to the original Fabulous Five left now. Randy Case joined the Five in 1977 and stayed for about a year. The band disbanded in 2007 and John Cook joined The Impacts later that year. John has appeared in many bands through the years doing guest spots or just playing where he could when bands he was with were taking time off. He has MS and playing music is about the only way he is able to make any money so he tries to stay busy. Unfortunately, his years of performing haven't provided much of a retirement fund. He had taken some time away from The Impacts this year but is scheduled to rejoin us in June. I am afraid his age (now 68) and the illness are starting to take a toll on him so please keep him in your prayers. Again thanks for remembering us.”

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.


Billy Ray Smith. Personal coms. April and May 2012.
Donny Trexler. Personal coms. May 2012.
George Gell. Personal coms. May and July 2012.
Kev Roberts. Personal coms. June 2012.
Ripete Records. Marion Carter. Personal coms. May 2012.
Mark Dobson. Personal coms. June 2012.
Susan Trexler. Personal coms. May 2012.