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 www.garagehangover.com 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.