In the days before tribute bands, a group of high school friends from Danville, Va. formed a group that borrowed everything — including their name — from their idols, the Rolling Stones. And while the local band would continue to emulate the English rockers, they quickly developed a style that incorporated the best of British blues, funky Southern soul and West Coast psychedelia.
The nucleus of the Stones Unturned — Jim Ray (vocals); Pete Hilliard (bass); and guitarist Doug Starnes — formed in 1965 to play for a Junior Variety Show at George Washington High School in Danville.
The band needed a drummer and Rick Blair was recruited, along with rhythm guitarist John Douglas. Douglas was a junior at GW and was the lead guitarist for the recently disbanded Kondors, so he was anxious to play again.
The group learned three Rolling Stones songs and Douglas recalls they “blew the roof off the place and the people just went nuts.” J. Ray, all 115 pounds of him, was a consummate showman and had the audience in his pocket. Douglas and Starnes alternated playing lead as they ripped through “Not Fade Away,” “The Last Time” and “Satisfaction.”
Ray had spray painted a parade drum from the GW marching band, mounted it on a stand and joined the drummer on “Not Fade Away.” After the show, Ray was mobbed by classmates who told him the group was great, adding: “You guys can mouth those records super.” After convincing them that the band was actually playing, they were immediately hired to play 3 parties. The only problem was that the group only knew 3 songs. They went to work and quickly learned about 25 tunes off the Top 40 charts.
Blair’s mother wouldn’t let him play in a rock band and Douglas was more interested in soul music and his girlfriend, so Curtis Vaughan was brought in on drums and Truxton Fulton was added on organ.
Ray explains that the band played everything in their repertoire during the first set of those early gigs and repeated the same songs after intermission. He handled vocals on the rockers, while Hilliard sang lead on the ballads and soul numbers.
Rehearsals were held at the Starnes’ home on South Woodberry. Sheet music for anything but standards was non-existent, so the group bought 45s and Starnes “would sit down and figure out the chords and Pete and Jimmy Ray would figure out the words.” None of the members had any formal musical training but Starnes “could sit down and pick out a song in less than 5 minutes,” so he was placed in charge teaching the band the arrangements. He says the idea was to “imitate (the 45) as closely as we could.”
The Stones played sorority dances, night clubs, hotels and fraternal organizations in Virginia and North Carolina, eventually venturing as far south as Asheville and the Carolina coast. Unable to find a regular venue to showcase their talents, the band became adept at self promotion, renting space at the Hotel Danville for performances. Friends were recruited to collect the small admission fee at the door. Just by word of mouth and a few homemade flyers, they were able to pack the auditorium.
An early demo tape was recorded in 1966 at the WBTM studios in Danville, where Hilliard worked weekends as a disc jockey. The group delivers note-for-note covers of several Rolling Stones songs, along with “96 Tears” and a raucous rendition of “Baby Let Me Bang Your Box” that borrows heavily from Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, an R&B party band that frequented the frat house scene in the South. Hilliard produced the sessions, which were recorded with one mic on a single-track, Ampex reel-to-reel.
Fulton, who was an intern at WBTM at the time, recalls that the recording session was in lieu of payment for a commercial the band had recorded for Jet Wash, a new car wash that had opened in nearby Martinsville. Owner Joe Stendig wanted a jingle sung to the tune of the Batman television theme, with the group singing “Jet Wash” instead of “Batman.”
Since Hilliard worked at the station, the Stones “had all of the time we needed” to get the songs right.” Given the fact that all of the performances were laced with profanity and sexual innuendo, it is hard to believe that an unedited version of the tape was ever distributed outside the group’s inner circle.
Al Newman had recently opened a high-end clothing store and his son loved the band. Before a performance at the Danville Coke Plant, the group was approached by the haberdasher’s son, Mark, who had talked his father into outfitting the Stones for free, provided they put up a sign advertising his store and boasting that “The Stones Unturned are outfitted by A. Newman Ltd.” The guys agreed and showed up unannounced, bypassing the three-piece suits in favor of houndstooth jackets and corduroy pants. Nothing matched and the horrified shopkeeper never repeated the offer.
Fulton recalls getting a last-minute call from Starnes during the height of a snowstorm. The Danville Golf Club had booked a “professional” band out of Greensboro but the group canceled due to the weather. The Stones had the gig, provided they could get there. Fulton hailed a taxi while other members got there in a four-wheel drive. They arrived to find Vaughan waiting on the dance floor with a date. After a hasty explanation, he joined his mates on the bandstand.
The Stones played the Sand Fiddler Club in Yaupon Beach for a week in the summer. Vaughan recalls consuming “lots of beer” and wearing lampshades during the beach trip, describing the experience as “a kind of institutionalized delinquency.”
Vaughan and Fulton showed up at the Sand Fiddler for one of the performances and waited anxiously for the arrival of the other three. Fulton explains that “the time came and went for us to play and no Pete, or Jimmy or Doug and we were getting concerned and just a little miffed.” They showed up late, explaining that Hilliard’s car had gotten stuck on the beach as the tide was coming in and was nearly swept away.
Hilliard had convinced his dad to loan him his new ’66 Dodge Coronet to haul their gear to the beach. He said the three decided one afternoon to ride along the beach, explaining that “I guess we thought we were at Daytona and I took the Coronet onto the beach and immediately got stuck.” They were there about a half-hour when they flagged down a Jeep and asked the driver for a tow. He refused, explaining that the vehicle was new and he didn’t want to scratch the paint. With the tide lapping at the doors of the Dodge, the band members reluctantly called a tow truck, which wiped out any profit from the week’s engagement, since they were playing for a portion of the gate. The following night they spotted the new Jeep outside an oceanfront house shortly after stopping at a fireworks stand in Myrtle Beach. The band placed two M-80s on a cigarette fuse, chucked them into the tailpipe and left for the club.
A show at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol almost didn’t happen. Administrators should have known they were in for trouble when Ray opened the band trailer and empty beer cans fell to the pavement. The shoeless singer made a grand entrance to the formal ball, walking across tables to the stage. Vaughan wore his “Strawberry Alarm Clock shirt,” with Neru collar and reflective flowers that would blind the audience during the light show. At the break, one undergraduate in a suit approached Vaughan and remarked: “Wow, you guys are crazy!”
Another road trip took the band to the Albermarle Beach Casino in Plymouth, N.C. The building was on stilts above the Albermarle Sound and band members went up the back steps to reach the stage, only to find it surrounded by chicken wire. Ray says the clientele expected a country band and the Stones were pelted with beer bottles until they broke into “Rawhide” and “Big Boss Man.”
In the summer of 1967, the band morphed into the Purple Haze Publication and Light Show. The name was chosen over the objections of Fulton, who wanted to rename the band Radio Super Ice Cream Parlor. Members built light columns and a huge purple strobe light that was pointed toward the audience. Ray, who would go on to become an electrical engineer, wired it all to a foot pedal he could control from the stage. The band covered Hendrix, Cream and the Vanilla Fudge.
The group was excited about the chance to play with one of their idols, Jerry Lee Lewis, even though the venue was the Skylark Club, a beer joint on Rt. 86 that was notorious for rowdy drunks, shootings and stabbings. While the group had no problems, Ray recalls that Lewis arrived late and “drunk as hell, so we played a little longer than expected.”
Starnes was dating vocalist Flo Penn and it wasn’t long before she was added to the line-up, allowing the band to cover the Jefferson Airplane. Penn was already a veteran of the music scene and had recorded (as Little Lambie Penn) for two labels, including Atco where label mate Bobby Darin wrote and produced a novelty song (“I Wanna Spend Christmas with Elvis”) for his young protégé in 1956.
During this period, the band entered the House of Sound Studios on Piney Forest Road in Danville and recorded covers of the Nashville Teens’ hit “Tobacco Road,” and Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny.” Hillard sings lead on both and “Tobacco Road” features a blistering instrumental break that rivals the original in intensity. The Stones seemed equally at ease covering the MOR ballad, which at the time was a dance band standard.
A session tape survives, complete with the band’s banter between tracks. The recordings are some of the best to come out of the studio, but for some reason were never committed to vinyl. Ray says both songs were later submitted to CBS Records, along with the band’s slower version of the Temptations “Get Ready.”
Hilliard insists the band recorded several others songs that day and says nothing came of the tapes because “we looked at them as cover material” and “we didn’t have money to take them any further.” Everything was recorded in a single take with no overdubs. He attributes a bad note on “Sunny” to the fact that he “was singing and playing at the same time.”
Starnes says the band recorded as many as a half-dozen songs that day and recalls that the studio was booked so the Stones could back Flo on a demo tape for her agent in New York City, where she performed that summer. The group made quick work of her vocal numbers and — with studio time remaining — convinced producer Frank Koger to keep the tape rolling and record the band. The results were impressive and Starnes calls the recordings “one of the biggest turning points for the Stones Unturned.”
Both songs recorded at the House of Sound Studios and four tracks from the W.B.T.M. sessions are included in a Virginia garage band compilation slated for release later this year on Garden of Delights Records, a Greek label that specializes in vinyl offerings for the collector’s market.
Flo was never an official member of the group. Starnes notes that she sang with the Artie Tompkins Dance Band, and “if they weren’t playing on weekends and we were, she would come and sing with us. She would do a lot of the Jefferson Airplane and other groups that and it gave us a real full, more professional sound.”
The group opened for Joe Tex at the WDVA Barn Dance at the Danville Fairgrounds on Thanksgiving Day. Ray remembers the day well because the family was seated for the annual feast when he grabbed a turkey leg, informed his mom that the group was playing and ran from the house. This was an important performance and the band planned to go all out with their stage show, with an 8mm projector showing “Varan the Unbelievable” on a screen at the rear of the stage. Ray also rigged an overhead projector with a clear glass beaker containing oil and water, with food coloring dropped in as the stage floor vibrated, creating a montage of colors over the giant Japanese monster.
When the emcee announced the group, the curtains parted and the band launched into “Purple Haze” before realizing they were playing to an all black audience. Once they made it through the first number, Ray turned to Hilliard and told him to forget the song list and play “Funky Broadway.” When they got to the middle break, the pair brought the house down when Ray called Hilliard to center stage to teach the audience the new dance. The crowd rushed forward and dozens joined Hilliard on stage.
Hilliard decided to leave the group shortly thereafter, but not before a final show at the Danville City Armory in support of the Soulmasters and Minit recording artists the Showmen. Hilliard had already informed the band that as they were performing their last song, he planned to smash his guitar. He borrowed a Fender bass from the Soulmasters’ Ernie Dickens for their set, but switched to his cheaper knock-off when the band hit the first chords of “Tobacco Road.” When they reached the instrumental break, Hilliard walked to the center of the stage, jumped high into the air and landed on his knees. He fell backwards and continued playing. Starnes saw the crowd response and slammed into his amp, ending on the floor atop his equipment. Ray got so carried away that he jammed his mic into the P.A. column, piercing the grill cloth and a speaker cone. Vaughan kicked his cymbals onto the stage as Hilliard raised his bass above his head and smashed it into three pieces on the stage. The band quit playing and the curtains closed as a cacophony of noise and feedback filled the auditorium and the crowd erupted in cheers.
The audience kept calling for an encore and the curtains parted with Hilliard holding shards of his guitar. He threw the remnants into the audience and exited stage right as the crowd fought over the pieces. Backstage, the Showmen were watching in the wings in stunned silence and were reluctant to follow an unknown act that had just brought the house down. One of singers approached Hilliard and said, “man ya’ll were really smoking tonight.” When Pete thanked him for the complement, he replied: “No, I mean your amplifier is on fire.” Unbeknownst to Hilliard, the bass amp had shorted out during the melee and was ablaze. While he had trashed the equipment, Starnes said “it sure did make a good closing.”
After the show, fans made their way to the dressing room, bypassed the headliners and went straight to Hilliard and Ray.
With Hilliard’s departure, the group brought in rhythm guitarist/vocalist Joe Mitchell and bassist Jay Barker. The two lived in an apartment above an old movie theater that had no lighting, save for some neon beer signs the pair had won in drinking contests at the Skylark Club. The two left town — and the band — in a matter of months.
Another beach trip included an audition at the famed Pavilion in Myrtle Beach, S.C. By that time the group was playing strictly psychedelic music and the club’s owner explained that his soul audience had no interest in fuzz guitar and feedback. Carolyn Garrett accompanied her cousin Flo to take care of Penn’s young daughter and remembers that the Pavilion’s owner “loved the singer but hated the band,” offering Flo the chance to sing without the group.
One of Purple Haze’s last gigs was for a boy’s prep school is Asheville, N.C. The students were dressed for the occasion and had their dates with them. Starnes remembers that the band played their usual set of Cream and Hendrix covers and was well received. “They kinda got into that music; they liked Flo a whole lot. Oh course everybody liked Flo because she had such a good voice. She could sing just about anything. That was about a far away as we ever went… and we knew we were getting close to the end.”
The band had signed with Bowmar Productions in Wilson, N.C., a booking agency that also handled Danville’s Soulmasters. CBS expressed an interest and a test pressing of the band’s version of “Get Ready” was made.
Plans for additional recordings were shelved when PHP&LS split in the summer of 1969. The break-up was amicable as most were leaving to attend college.
Fulton was the first to leave the Stones and went on to play with a Farmville soul group, Sammy Hawks and the Satisfactions, who recorded two 45s, including a cover of “Day Tripper.” During his senior year at GW, Truxton formed the American Band and performed his own compositions, with the assistance of drummer Larry Abbott and guitarist Walter Dalton. The trio recorded an acetate album of original material at Crescent City Sound Studios in Greensboro on July 15, 1969. Fulton handled the vocals and played organ, piano, and bass piano, while a session violinist was used on one track. Shortly thereafter, Fulton moved to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. The recordings got the group a gig with Bruce Springsteen’s band, Steel Mill. Larry Powers and John Coppinger saw that show and recruited Fulton into their newly formed group, Play Innocent, followed by a stint with a “working band” called Matrix.
Fulton abandoned the idea of music as a career in the 70s and moved to Alabama, where he worked for years as an engineer with Boeing, specializing in missile defense. Since retiring, he has reconnected with some of his former bandmates from Play Innocent and the band recorded a music video (“Monster Movie”) in Florida. Fulton also records original material as Karl Mahlmann.
Hilliard studied electrical engineering at Virginia Tech before moving to D.C., where he worked in radio before joining the Army. He spent three years with the American Forces Radio Network in Germany, interviewing many of his idols, including Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Steve Miller, Ian Anderson, Edwin Starr and Godley and Crème. After the service, he moved to Florida and “starved, worked in sunshine” before receiving an offer to return to Germany to work in television with the AFN. Today he lives in Connecticut and is the owner of Hilliard Creative Group, a digital media production company. He returned to the guitar in 1998 and married a music teacher and keyboardist in 2004. He currently performs for friends and in church.
Ray left the band just before the split, went to Blacksburg and majored in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech. He went into business for himself and continues to work as a consulting engineer, specializing in automation systems. He still lives in Danville but has not performed since 1969.
Vaughan was a year younger than the rest and remained with the group until the end. He was so committed to the band that he skipped his high school graduation to play a road gig. After finishing college, Vaughan was drafted and spent two years in the Army. He moved to California, earned a doctorate in Psychology at Berkeley and taught in Tokyo before returning to the West Coast, where he taught briefly before working for 30 years in the Bay area as an Applied Psychologist in Adolescent Child Development. He continues with his day job and also travels with his wife, who is a performer of Japanese classical music.
Starnes attended Virginia Tech, married Penn and the couple moved to Greensboro, N.C. Starnes left the music business and worked as a traveling salesman for a company that sold sportswear and lingerie. Flo continued to perform, singing in Las Vegas and on countless of radio jingles. She also released a growling version of Timi Yuro’s “What’s A Matter Baby” that went nowhere. The couple eventually moved to Salisbury, N.C. before splitting. She remarried and performs Christian music. Starnes lived in Danville in the same house where the Stones spent hours practicing until just prior to his death in 2013. He gave up playing but said he always regretted selling his five guitars.
While it’s been more than 40 years since the band played its last note, Vaughan says they built a bond that continues, because “we were able to communicate totally through our music.” Ray says the members concluded “there was a lot more to be had by going to school than playing rock and roll,” but has always wondered what might have happened had the band stayed together. Fulton has no regrets about leaving the business but has enjoyed returning to music now that he doesn’t have to depend on it “as a source of income.” Hilliard says their “brief moment of fame” was fun but insists the band never seriously entertained the idea of trying to make a living at it. Starnes sums it up by saying he “wouldn’t trade a single day or do anything any different,” adding: “We made a little money off of it… and that was all we were interested in, making some money and turning the girls’ heads.”
The Odds And Ends have two excellent original songs on their 45 on the South Bay label from November 1965. The band came from Playa Del Rey and Westchester, just north of the Los Angeles airport. The band was probably a quintet or sextet, with keyboards, two guitars, bass, drums and maybe a lead singer not playing an instrument.
“(Cause) You Don’t Love Me” was written by Acqui, Davis, while “Be Happy Baby” by Acqui, Russek. Both songs were produced and published by Daley & Moore, BMI.
The band changed their name to the Heroes for their next 45, released on the M-Gee label in April of 1966. The A-side features a good version of “I Can Only Give You Everything” with keyboard and a drum break.
On the flip is very pop song with harmonica, “Say It With a Smile”. The writing credits for “Say It With a Smile”, Acquarelli and Ferguson for GaryMarv Music, BMI give a fuller last name for what is likely one of the members of the band, Acquarelli.
The Heros single reads “a Garmar Product, Distributed by Cinema City”. I believe Garmar and GaryMarv refers to this being a Gary Paxton and Marvin Phillips production.
I don’t know the names of the band members or any other info on the group, so if anyone have more information or a photo of the band please contact me.
The Impacts, from the towns of Franklin and Oil City in Venango County, Pennsylvania included:
Donald Grove – rhythm guitar and vocals
Alvin Watterson – lead guitar
Wayne DeSchambeau – rhythm guitar
John Heath – bass guitar
Frank (Gip) Reavis – drums
The first notice I can find on the group is from January, 1965 when they were scheduled to appear on a March of Dimes telethon in WIIC, Pittsburgh. Franklin, PA is north of Pittsburgh and south of Erie. Wayne’s surname is spelled DeShambeau in this article.
Less than two months later, a short news clip announces their record on the Mersey label, made by the Process Recording Company. Besides providing alternate spellings of their names including Donnie Grove, Wayne DeShambo and Jip Reavis, it also reads “contacts have been made with ‘Shindig’”… for the group to appear one or two months after the record is released.”
The 45 was “That’s How You Like It” and “Theme from the Impact”. I haven’t heard either side yet, but Teen Beat Mayhem calls the A-side “crude lo-fi drum-thumpin’ fast rocker” while the flip is “crude lo-fi guitar instro with car effects”. The label reads “Vocal by ‘Donnie Lee’ Grove”. “That’s How You Like It” was written by Al Watterson and Wayne DeSchambeau for Process Music, BMI. The Process Recording Company was located in Franklin, begun in the 1940s.
The next notice I can find on the Impacts is from 1971, where the lineup has changed: Wayne and Al Watterson remain (his name spelled Al Waters), and the band has replaced the others with Ken Wheeler on organ, piano and bass, Denny Johnson on drums and Don Rivers on guitar and vocals.
After this the band changed its name to Everybody Does, active locally into the 70s. The lineup at this point included Wayne DeSchambeau bass and vocals, Mark West lead guitar, Ron Feroz, Dave Foote on drums and vocals, John Keeley and Al Waterson on guitar and vocals.
If anyone have better quality photos of the ’60s version of the band please contact me!
I picked up this great 45 by the Roosters on the Krishna label, not the Los Angeles group, but one from upstate New York. “The Rooster Song” has a fantastic crunching guitar sound, and shows they must have been a fun, tight live band. The flip is a ballad, “Lost and Found”, an original by Lotz-Barbour for Fat John Music Inc. BMI.
The Roosters were one of a number of bands from the area near Utica, Oneida and Syracuse. They shared a record company, if it can be called such, with Eric and the Chessmen. The person heading this operation was some way assocated with Hamilton College in Clinton, NY and released singles on labels such as “Buddha”, “Krishna” and “Kama”.
The Roosters included:
John Lotz – lead vocals
Trey Lotz – lead guitar
Peter Brohl – bass
Ralph Guastaferro – drums
There’s also a piano player on “The Rooster Song”, but I don’t know his identity.
Trey Lotz produced the Krishna 45. “The Rooster Song” label reads “In album ‘The Roosters Live At The Appollo’” but I don’t believe this LP was ever released. If it was recorded, I’d love to hear it.
The Roosters have another 45 which I suspect came earlier, “I Wanna Do It” on Buddha Records. with a Hamilton College address. I don’t know the flip side of this one, if anyone has a clip or scan please let me know.
Keeping up the Far East label references, Eric & the Chessmen have “You Don’t Want My Loving” / “Blue Skies” on Kama Records 777, L-99-1/2. The labels note “Recorded at Chadwicks Recording Studio”, in Chadwicks, NY, a small hamlet along Route 8 south of Utica, and a few miles east of Clinton, NY and Hamilton College.
Are there any other releases from this series of labels?
Other bands from this scene who may not have made recordings include the Royals, the Vandels, Andy & the Classics, Jack & the Naturals, the Mercy Side 5, Willie & the New Yorkers, and the Brass Buttons.
Anyone have a photo of the Roosters, or knowledge of other recordings by bands in Oneida, Clinton or Utica in the years ’64-’67?
When I found this 45 by Bob London and the Bobbies, I thought it might be Robb London, who came out of San Antonio with his band, the Rogues. A quick listen tells me it’s someone else, plus the names on the credits are different, suggesting this singer’s real name is Robert Vinson.
He seems to be trying to fake a London connection, but “Times In My Life” / “Don’t Know Where To Start” are both light folk-rock songs and not English-sounding at all. Of the two, I prefer “Times In My Life”. Unfortunately my copy is badly scuffed, so I’m looking for a better one.
Both sides were written by R. Vinson for Ernstrat Music BMI, and arranged by G. Brown and Vinson, a Theo-Sax Production. The 45 was pressed at RCA’s plant in Indianapolis in 1966.
The only reference to a Bob London I can find is a DJ at K-CUB in Tucson. However, a more likely location is Detroit, where Ernie Stratton owned a publishing company called Ernstrat Enterprises, with the same account number (927) as this 45.
Stratton usually recorded soul music, but occasionally did other styles, even country. He released singles on a wide variety of labels. Tommy & the Starlighters “So Long Motor City” on Meadowlark and the Royal Playboys “Arabia” / “Bring It Back” on DoDe both have Ernstrat credits on at least one side.
Long considered to be a studio group only, the Hooterville Trolley were a working band in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Gary Garman wrote a profile of the band in the Albuquerque Journal on December 4, 1967:
The sound is that of a hard-hitting ‘psyche-rock’ group called the Hooterville Trolly.
The band has been fortunate enough to have appeared with the Buffalo Springfield and the Seeds.
Composed of five seniors from Highland High School seniors and one from Sandia High School, the sextet was originally a three-man band which grew last summer.
In the group are Cris Arlenth, manager; Martin Nassif, lead and rhythm guitar; Don Kinney, bass guitar; Wayne Galio, lead and rhythm guitar; Bill Chreist, organist; and Doug Borthwick, drummer. Wayne is the outsider from Sandia.
Martin, Don and Doug were the original group, formed this past April.
“We decided we needed more members to make our sound complete,” they said. “So we auditioned Wayne and he came into the group in May. Bill joined us in July.”
With practice sessions at least twice a week and engagements each weekend, the group claims their favorite spot for a job is Carnaby 66, a teenage night club.
“We play with a style of our own,” they say.
All compose the songs performed by the Hooterville Trolly, “but Martin is the brain power behind most of our songs,” Wayne said.
Note the band’s name is spelled Hooterville Trolly in both the news clippings and in the sign at the front of the stage. This is the same Hooterville Trolley that recorded the single “No Silver Bird” / “The Warmth of Love”. How that single ended up on a Mississippi label is a story that requires me to back up and discuss the Lance Records label and their in-house producer, Tommy Bee.
Tommy Bee, Lance Records and Lynn’s Productions
Tommy Bee (short for Tom Benegas according to an Albuquerque Journal article) produced records for Albuquerque’s recent upstart, the Lance Records label including the Lincoln St. Exit’s “Paper Place” / “Who’s Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab” and the Cellar Dwellers’ “Love Is a Beautiful Thing” / “Working Man”. Many of the compositions he published through his company Stinger Music, BMI.
In February 1967 Bee produced the Fe Fi Four Plus Two’s “I Wanna Come Back (from The World of LSD)” at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico. He would later return there to record the Hooterville Trolley.
According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal, Tommy Bee resigned from Lance Music Enterprises on August 25, 1967, dissolving his partnership with Dick Stewart and Ross Benavidez. After Tommy’s departure Lance released six more singles, half of them Spanish music, then closed up the label and the Lance newsletter by the end of 1967.
Tom Bee (legal name Tommy Benegas) filed a lawsuit against Lance over ownership of the exclusive contract with the The Sheltons, whose single “Find It” he had sold to Dot Records that summer. The suit was settled out of court. Terms were not disclosed, but it seems Tommy Bee won control of the artists and productions he had brought to Lance.
Bee continued to produce and release music by some of the artists he had worked with back in New Mexico, mainly by placing recordings with Reginald Records distribution out of Greenville, Mississippi. I’d like to know how he found Reginald and its owner Henry Reginald Hines (aka Lynn Williams). In any case it was to be a fruitful collaboration.
One of the most surprising things about this arrangement is how many of the songs Bee would send to the Mississippi company had been already released on Lance. These include two Lance recordings of the Sheltons, “Find It” / “I Who Have Nothing” were re-released on the Reginald-distributed Bar-Bare label, Doc Rand & the Purple Blues “I Want You (Yeh I Do)” / “I Need a Woman” (originally Lance 119/120), which was re-relased on Landra Records 020, and the Vendels’ version of “Try Me”, originally released on Lance 113, shows up on Lynn’s Records LR 1728, backed with one I haven’t heard, “Boo Ga-Louie”.
Besides re-releasing earlier Lance singles, Tommy Bee also produced new 45s by the artists he worked with in Albuquerque, either for a Reginald imprint or for his own Souled Out label.
These include the Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2′s second single, “Pick Up Your Head” / “Mr. Sweet Stuff” for Odex, and the Trademarques’ “I Can Set You Free” / “Free Your Fears” on Randolph. Tommy Bee produced “Straighten Up and Fly Right” by the Beaumont, Texas group The Kidds for another Randolph front, the Big Beat label.
Those interested in reading more on the history of Henry Reginald Hines and his various labels and productions should take a look at Greenville And Beyond. Be sure to check out the chilling debt collection letter at the bottom of that page, it has to be read to be believed.
The Creation and “No Silver Bird”
Another band with a connection to Lance was the Albuquerque group the Creation, of whom I have no information. They had one or two 45s on the Centurion label. “What The Daisies Know” / “Sun And Stars (I Miss Her So)” on Centurion 45-3001 from October 1967 definitely exists. Both sides were written by O’Donnell and Phillips for Tenmand Music, BMI. Distribution was by Lance Music Enterprises on SW 4th St.
What I’m less sure of is listed as Centurion 45-3002, “No Silver Bird”, possibly backed with “The Warmth of Love”. The B-side is not confirmed by anyone I know, and the A-side only showed up on The Incredible Expanding Universe Of Brain Shadows, Vol. 1 with a poor quality b&w photo of the label.
The quality of the band’s performance is very different from the Creation’s first 45, much more disciplined and better-recorded, with a droning, trance-inducing sound. The label design is also not much like Centurion 45-3001, with a different typeface, nor does it have the Lance distribution credit at the bottom.
It’s possible this is an earlier recording of “No Silver Bird”, but it could also be a fraud, with either the recording or the label or both produced at a much later date than ’67 or ’68. At this point I have no way of knowing.
Lyrics consist of only six lines!
Go on, take an airplane ride,
Get on that big silver bird and fly,
The world would be so heavenly,
If you would come along drifting with me.
Go on, take an airplane ride,
Don’t need no silver bird by my side.
On July 7, 1968, Tommy Bee went into Norman Petty’s recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico to record two songs written by an Albuquerque, New Mexico teacher named Ernest Phillips, “No Silver Bird” / “The Warmth of Love”. Six months later, in January of 1969, Bee released the songs on Lynnette Records, one of Hines’ labels in Greenville, Mississippi.
The writing credits to Ernest Phillips, Tenmand Music BMI match what is on the Creation single but the music is even more hypnotic with touches of strings and what sounds like a Moog or some other early synthesizer.
Bill Chreist answered some of my questions about the band:
The band was formed in 1967 in Albuquerque New Mexico. The original members of the band were Don Kinney (bass & vocals), Martin Nasiff (lead guitar & lead vocals), Bill Chreist (keyboards & vocals), Wayne Galio (rhythm guitar) and Doug Borthwick (drummer and back up vocals). We played live at dance clubs in Albuquerque (Carnaby 66 was one of the popular clubs in 1968), Santa Fe & Colorado. We also played at the Hullabaloo club in Oklahoma.
Ernest Phillips wrote the original song but we (Martin, Don and I) re-wrote the words because we didn’t think the original words were “heavy” enough for the songs of that time, but let him still get the credit for the song.
Norman Petty who owned the recording studio had just received a new “string machine” that he was excited to try out. He asked us if he could add it to the song “No Silver Bird” saying if we didn’t like it he would take it out. We told him to go ahead and see what he could come up with. We loved it and thought it added a new sound that we hadn’t heard before. The only problem was when we played live we couldn’t duplicate it but no one seemed to care at the dances we played at.
The song was played a lot in Albuquerque but never became a national hit. Our manager at the time (Tommy Benavidez) paid for the recording so he owned the master.
The lyrics have been changed on this version. Still only six lines, but sung twice:
Go, get ready to fly,
Lock all the doors as if to hide,
Don’t worry about faces inside,
Just come with me, and ride.
Go, get ready to fly,
You’ll see silver birds in the sky,
Go, get ready to fly,
Lock all the doors as if to hide,
Don’t worry about faces inside,
Just come with me, and ride.
Go, get ready to fly,
You’ll see silver birds in the sky.
Regarding the string sounds, Alec Palao says he believes Norman Petty had a Chamberlin, a U.S. manufactured precursor to the Mellotron. Alec added “Petty treated instruments a lot with EQ, compression and echo/reverb, and got some pretty unique sounds in the process. His multi-tracks are amazing to listen to.” I haven’t heard “The Warmth of Love” yet, if anyone has a clip please let me know.
In March of 1969, the Journal reported the death of Wayne Galio in a traffic accident, describing him as “formerly a member of the ‘Hooterville Trolly’”.
In 1970 the Hooterville Trolley’s exact recording of “No Silver Bird” turned up on Magic Sand’s eponymous UNI LP, retitled “Get Ready To Fly”, sounding like nothing else on the LP, which is a rougher soul or blues-based rock. Ernest Phillips’ name is off the song writing credits which instead go to A. Klein (Highwood Music Corp./Segway Music BMI) whose name is on many of the songs on the LP, while the musicians’ names are not listed. A. Klein also turns up in the credits for Mud’s Uni LP Mud on Mudd.
A. Klein is Al Klein, head of Buffalo Bill Productions. He may have been the same Al Klein who was Southwestern district sales manager for Motown in the mid ’60s. Vic Gabriele, who had been in the Monkeymen (“Route 66″ / “Mojo” on QQ 311) and the Piggy Bank (“Thoughts of You” / “Play With Fire” on Lavette), and whose name also turns up on Magic Sand writing credits, was vice president for Buffalo Bill productions. Harry Narviel and Rick Knott were other employees.
The Kandy Kolored Konspiracy came from Waco, not Dallas as has been written. Despite staying on local charts for a couple months, their 45 is now a rare one. “One Million People” includes some sharp lines like:
“Well I see reality is just an imperfection of the mind,
What they do, and what they say is locked in a velvet wall of time,
All they have is their lies and their cotton candy alibis…”
Gary Anderson, who wrote the songs on the single, tells the band’s full story below. If anyone has a photo of the Kandy Kolored Konspiracy, please get in touch.
Gary Anderson – lead guitar
Rick Connor – rhythm guitar
Don Bolan – bass
Jimmy Campbell – keyboards
Nick Connor – drums
My name is Gary Lane Anderson, and I was the songwriter and lead singer/lead guitar for Kandy Kolored Konspiracy — one of my early bands.
I developed the band name from a combination of Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, a collection of Tom Wolfe’s essays that I was reading at the time, and a sense of the racial tension and paranoia of the times (the Konspiracy and KKK references).
I had taught myself to play guitar since age 14 and lived in the Waco, Texas, area at the time. The band’s drummer was Nick Connor, the rhythm guitar player was his brother, Rick, the bass player was Don Bolan, and the keyboard player was Jimmy Campbell, all of Waco.
The band played constantly all over the Waco area and surrounding towns. We played for the opening of a Super Slide and a $.10 hamburger place in Waco. It was held in a huge parking lot. There were hundreds if not thousands of people there. All the local radio stations were present. This was during the time our record was out and we were a hot item in Waco. We also staged our own dances by renting a hall setting everything up ourselves. We did this at a large hall on Franklin Street in Waco owned by the YWCA. One time we drove to Dallas to open for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.
I played a white Fender Mustang through a Fender Deluxe Reverb sitting on a Bassman 212 cabinet, I no longer own any of this equipment. The rhythm guitarist played a red Fender Mustang through a Fender Bandmaster. The keyboard player used a red Farfisa organ, I don’t remember what amp he used. I don’t recall the bass player’s bass or amp. The drummer played a set of Ludwig drums, the Hollywood set in a psychedelic color. This is the same equipment we recorded with. I don’t recall what we used for a live PA.
I wrote the music and lyrics for “One Million People,” and the music for “Konspiracy “68”– the B-side instrumental, in 1966 when I was 16 years old.
Robin Brian recorded us in late 1967, just after I turned 17, at the Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, Texas. On their website, www.robinhoodstudios.com is a picture of the recording equipment installed in 1963 and used to record our 45.
The drummer’s family had resources and arranged for the recording. The producer was Arnold Joseph “Joe” Poovey, known at the time as “Johnny Dallas,” and later as “Groovey” Joe Poovey. Joe had just produced the hit, “Heart Full of Love,” so we had high hopes for our 45. The only time I saw Joe was at the recording studio. The label was Media, and the publisher was Giant Publishing, but the only person we had any contact with was someone whose name I can’t remember, an associate of Joe’s.
The record was released in late 1967, but neither Johnny nor the label or publisher promoted it. I think we pressed 500.
When the record came to us, the credit on it was Gary Alexander, instead of Gary Anderson. Poovey’s associate said it must have been a printing mistake since he called in the information to the printer, but he never offered to correct it. I wondered later that the mistake was made on purpose to steal my copyright, in case the record took off, but at the time, I didn’t know things like copyrights existed. On the other hand, it could have just been an honest mistake. I do know that neither I nor my parents signed any contracts, so the legal handling of the project was sloppy at best, and I have not been able to determine who actually held the copyright, which would have expired around 1992 under old copyright law.
Although it was registered with BMI and played on the radio in and around Waco, Texas, and remained in the local Top Ten, as reported weekly in the Sunday newspaper for at least six weeks, as well as being Number One for several weeks, I never received a penny from them. We sold a few records in and around Waco, but the proceeds went to repay Nick’s family. I still have a couple of the singles. I also have an original psychedelic-styled poster, which was hand-painted by my girlfriend at the time, but we never had copies made of it. (Sidenote: She is now Lea Lisa Black (nee Douthit) on The Real Housewives of Miami.)
To my knowledge, nothing else ever came of the record until the A-side song got picked up by garage band web sites and placed on compilations from Germany and Australia. “One Million People” plays in rotation on several underground and garage band music stations around the world.
After high school the Kandy Kolored Konspiracy members went their separate ways. As far as I know, Nick, Rick and Don gave up music after the band broke up, and I don’t know about Jimmy.
Another player I went to high school with was playing in a band. They needed a guitar player and asked me to play. David Hall was the drummer. We had been aware of each other since elementary school because our parents took us to the same church. Playing in this new band we became friends. This band did not last long so David and I decided to form another band. This was the beginning of Warlock.
My high school friend had a girl friend named Gill. She and my friend from high school broke up and she started dating Buzz Gilleland from the band Society. On a side note, I played many years later in a band with the drummer from Society who had switched to keyboards. His name is Jesse Day. In the sixties he was known as Pucky Day. We played together in a country band called Fire Creek.
Gill got Buzz, David and I together. David knew a bass player named Mike McKissic. And Warlock was complete.
I continue to play, sing, teach and write in Austin and central Texas. To see and hear my current work and bio, please go to www.reverbnation.com/garyanderson4 or facebook.com
For more on Warlock see On the Road South. Thanks to Don Julio for transcribing the lyrics and to Mark Taylor for the label scan.
The Converts were seminary students, I believe at the Holy Name Seminary in Madison, Wisconsin, though two sources (Lost and Found & Teen Beat Mayhem) give Beloit, Wisconsin as their base. Beloit is a town of 35,000 just across the Illinois state line, just south of Janesville where Ken Adamany ran the Rampro and Feature labels, and an hour southeast of Madison.
According to Gary E. Myers’ On That Wisconsin Beat, the band consisted of Bob Henneman (lead guitar); Duane Millard (guitar, keyboard and bass); Charles Millard (bass and guitar), replaced by Terry Johnson (bass); and Robert Fixmer on drums. Gary writes “None of the converts joined the ministry”!
In early 1967 the band released their only 45, the ballad “A Guy Without a Girl”. Listeners these days prefer the b-side, the excellent “Don’t Leave Me”. Hear it on Teenage Shutdown Vol. 15, She’s a Pest. The singer tries to convince his girl not to go by saying she’s “not so hot”, and threatening she’ll never “get another man” or “hold another hand”. Both songs were written by Fixmer & Hanneman for Spad Music, BMI.
Rob Fixmer played percussion with Jim Spencer for his albums previous to the Major Arcana LP, Landscape (1973, on Thoth) and 2nd Look (1974, on Akashic). Fixmer became a journalist whose credits include publishing an interesting interview with Frank Zappa in Milwaukee’s alternative newspaper, the Bugle American.
Terry Johnson was in the Southbound Band, who released an LP in 1985.
The economic landscape in Martinsville and Henry County is far different today than was the case a half-century ago. In the sixties, the area was the manufacturing hub of Southside Virginia and was home to textile giants DuPont and Tultex, and furniture makers including American of Martinsville, Hooker and Stanley. The boom era provided teens with disposable income and the British Invasion gave rise to a number of excellent bands, including Gene and the Team Beats, the Rogues and the Generals, also known as the Fabulous Generals.
The Generals were based in Martinsville and nearby Collinsville and came together in the spring of 1964 during a school election of senior class officers at Drewry Mason High School in Ridgeway, VA. Guitarist Ronnie Ashworth was an eighth grader and had been playing music with pianist Joe Merriman. The two rehearsed in the cafeteria after school during football practice and knew they had something going when other students stopped by to listen. Drummer Frankie Divers was one of those who heard the duo and asked if he could sit in with them. He soon convinced Joe and Ronnie to play on behalf of one of the election parties.
The rival political factions in the school election were dubbed the “Generals” and the “Beatles” parties, in homage to the Beatles recent appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Ashworth recalls that “We were representing the Generals party and so we took that name for the trio.” He says the band didn’t have a name and the “Generals” moniker stuck. He doesn’t recall which party won the election but says the Generals “made a hit as a band.”
The trio played the Surfaris’ instrumental “Wipe Out” for the class election, with Ashworth on a Kay electric guitar and a small, Silvertone amp; Merriman on the school’s stand-up piano; and Divers pounding out the rim shots on a white snare drum.
Divers played with the Generals briefly, but left the group to join the football team. Ashworth’s uncle, Bobby Henderson, was asked to play bass in the spring of 1964 and Lee Moore joined shortly thereafter as drummer, along with Mack Davidson on rhythm guitar.
Henderson recalls that Ashworth and his sister, Fairy, both attended Drewry Mason High School in Ridgeway, along with Merriman and Davidson. Ronnie and Fairy would share the lead vocal chores.
The Ashworth family has always been musically inclined. Ronnie admits “most of the musical talent is from my mom’s side.” When his mother was growing up, she sang bluegrass and gospel in a small group in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, around Saltville and Marion. She taught Ronnie a few chords on his first guitar and he took it from there, learning from records. Ronnie and his sister sang together as young children. He took up the guitar and Fairy was soon to be part of the group. Their younger brother, Dennis, sang and became an accomplished drummer, joining his older siblings on stage in the late seventies in the group Eastwinds.
Ronnie’s introduction to the stage came in 1962 when the pre-teen played at a talent contest at the Fieldale Community Center. He “was about 12 years old” and was just learning to play the guitar. He performed Ricky Nelson’s “They’ll Never Be Anyone Else But You” and the Cascades’ song, “Rhythm of the Falling Rain.” He won the competition and used the $50 prize to purchase his first electric guitar.
Ronnie said he “always felt like we were supposed to play music” and forming a group seemed to be “the next phase: to get together with a few people and just play some.” The Ashworth siblings were budding songwriters and penned both sides of the group’s first single: “You Make Me Happy” b/w “Without You.”
Ronnie recalls that their first session was held at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, N.C. in 1966 and says “You Make Me Happy” was the first song they worked on, the consensus being that the number had the best shot at being played on the radio.
He doesn’t recall Smith participating in the session, but says “they had a really good studio engineer there who seemed to know his stuff.” The Generals did their first take of “You Make Me Happy” and “then he played it back through these big Altec Lansing speakers, and it was just amazing!” Ashworth explains that the band “never really heard ourselves play, but we could hear everything through those speakers. That’s what I remember, just how good it sounded.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the b-side, “Without You,” is its unusual bass line, which starts the number and runs throughout the song. Ronnie says the bass intro was his idea; he made it up on the guitar and showed it to Bobby. He recalls that it “seemed like an unusual way to start the song and it gave us a solid heads up as to when to start playing.”
Henderson believes Arthur Smith was present for the recordings, describing him as a hands-on producer who supervised the production, mastering and pressing of their initial offering, which was released on General Records. This was the first time that he had been in a recording studio and Henderson concedes he was “scared to death” and “surprised that actually we were able to play music and listen to it.”
The line-up on the first sessions (and for the second single on Pyramid Records) featured Ronnie Ashworth on lead vocals and guitar; Fairy Ashworth on harmonies; Joe Merriman on organ; Bobby Henderson, bass; rhythm guitarist Mack Davidson; drummer Lee Moore; and David Daniel on saxophone. While barely noticeable on the first recordings, Daniel’s sax was featured prominently on the follow-up, “Life’s Not Worth It.” Ronnie says Daniel was from Collinsville and played with the band “for about a year.”
The influence of the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five is apparent on both sides of the single, with its infectious harmonies and strong hooks.
According to Henderson, the recording session and the 45s were the grand prize for winning a battle of the bands in Danville, Va. The two-day marathon featured dozens of rock and soul bands performing on flatbed trucks in the parking lot of the then new Ballou Park Shopping Center.
Ronnie doesn’t recall the prize for the competition, but believes both singles were recorded prior to the band marathon in Danville, which was held in the summer of 1967. Fairy was with the band for both recordings but had left the band by that time, rejoining the Generals in 1968.
In his detailed history of 1960s garage bands, Teenbeat Mayhem!, author Mike Markesich painstakingly traces the timeline for all recordings produced through Arthur Smith Studios, including both releases by the Generals. In an interview for this article, Markesich notes that all of the discs produced by the studio were made by Kaybank, and all “Kaybank pressings handled accounts in sequential order.” The matrix numbers indicate the first single on General Records (“You Make Me Happy”) was recorded in January of 1966, with the follow-up on Pyramid Records (“Life’s Not Worth It”) recorded in the same studio in September of that same year.
Markesich adds that Amos Heilcher put the pressing account number on the actual record from these custom client accounts and “there is no arguing to the contrary; neither Generals 45 was recorded or released in 1967. Given the absence of paperwork from the era, these pressing plant codes yield a firm time frame, almost down to a couple of weeks (and) within a month.” That substantiates this writer’s memory that the first 45 was offered for sale for $1 at the conclusion of the Danville performance in 1967.
The competition at the Ballou Park Battle of the Bands was stiff, with Ruffin’s VI Pak winning the preliminary round on Friday and the prize of a one-off recording (“Whatzit?” b/w “Boot-Leg” on Hippie Records) at the House of Sound Studios on the Piney Forest Road in Danville.
The Generals captured the top prize and were the last band to take the stage Saturday afternoon. Dressed in matching suits, the band at this point was fronted by vocalist Debra Carol Crowder. Ronnie explains that his sister left the group in the fall of 1966 to be a cheerleader, although Fairy would rejoin the Generals several times over the six years the band was together. Another female vocalist was needed and the band decided on Debra, who was the daughter of band manager Troy Crowder. While she had not been a singer prior to that time, Ronnie says she had talent, “so we put her as the lead girl singer and that seemed to work out for a year or two.”
This writer was present for the Danville Battle of the Bands and crowd response was tremendous, especially when Crowder did her interpretation of the Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” The band finished its set and autographed 8x10s for fans before WYPR emcee Glenn Scott announced that the Generals had won the competition.
Henderson admits he was “surprised because there was some good talent over the weekend.”
He remembers that their first 45 had an initial run of 500 copies, but believes the band ordered another 500 at some point.
The band sold their new single at concerts and to friends, but did little to promote the 45 outside Southside Virginia. Ronnie remembers taking a copy to Hank Hedgecock at WHEE Radio in Martinsville and said the deejay “just loved them” and he “played them quite a bit, actually.”
Ecstatic to have one his songs on the airwaves, Ronnie was deflated when he went back to school and no one said anything about it. He asked a group of friends if they ever listened to radio and one replied: “Yea, we heard it, just don’t let it go to your head.”
The song was also played “quite a bit” on another Martinsville station, WMVA, by DJ Paul Miller, host of the popular “Night Train” program.
Henderson has a slightly different recollection, saying the single “received minimal airplay” in the Martinsville area, but fared better in other regions of Virginia and North Carolina. The band sold “quite a few of them” and Ronnie believes they moved the initial run, although he admits the band never promoted the single “in a big way.”
By this point, the Generals were playing extensively throughout Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and East Tennessee. Ronnie notes the band “was very popular,” playing country clubs and fraternities at UVA, Hampton-Sydney, Duke, Wake Forest, UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Tennessee.
Henderson remembers the band playing “whatever was available” and booking larger clubs in Atlanta, Raleigh, Charlotte, and even traveling as far south as Florida.
Hit Attractions in Charlotte booked the band exclusively and many of their engagements were for fraternity parties along the East Coast.
Weekends meant long road trips and little time for football games and other high school activities. To ease life on the road, the band purchased a huge Cadillac limousine, stowing their gear in a band trailer hauled to their gigs. With its huge fins and “The General Assembly” painted on the doors, the ride was quite a sight to behold. Ronnie recalls that “people always looked,” although most members were asleep on the return trips.
Local engagements included the Martin Riding Stables, where the Generals “played maybe every Wednesday night for a couple of years.” Truxton Fulton (keyboard player with the Stones Unturned of Danville and Sammy Hawks and the Satisfactions of Farmville) recalls hearing the group there, describing it as “a strange venue, like a horse farm, but it was packed.” He says the Generals were “a really good group,” adding: “My whole band was there and they were real nice to let us sit in. I think he (Joe Merriman) had a (Farfisa) Combo-Compact (organ), a step up from what I had.”
Ronnie admits the riding stable was an unlikely night spot but says it “had an upper loft that made a great place for a dance (and) was packed out on many occasions.” He remembers performing the Lovin’ Spoonful’s, “Summer in the City” and “playing Wooly Bully to death” in 1965-66.
As requests for the band increased, Troy Crowder was brought on to manage the group after the Generals had been together for about a year. Ronnie explains that “we just felt we needed a manager, somebody who would go out and kinda talk up the group and help book us some jobs.” Crowder was a friend of Mack Davidson’s father, B.J., and they worked together at Continental Can Company. B.J. recommended Crowder, who was brought on board and immediately began finding work for the band. Ronnie says “we all went out booking jobs one day… and drove toward Danville (and) booked the group into a VFW Post.”
The band was heavily influenced by a South Carolina group, the Villagers. The Villagers were fronted by lead singer Dana Douglas and were regulars on the nationally syndicated television series “The Village Square,” which showcased regional and national talent and ran from 1964-1968. Ashworth says the Generals “basically idolized the group and copied them as much as possible,” and credits the Villagers with contributing to the band’s “style and sound.” The Generals traveled to South Carolina in 1965 and again in 1966 to hear the group perform at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion. Their paths would cross three years later when Ronnie was in college in Georgia.
While their second 45 was pressed on Charlotte’s Pyramid Records, both sides were recorded at Arthur Smith. For their return trip, Henderson says the band again decided to tap the songwriting talents of their lead vocalists. “Life’s Not Worth It” and “For What More Could I Ask” feature guitarist Ronnie Ashworth and his sister, Fairy, on lead vocals, respectively.
While credited to manager Troy Crowder, Ronnie says he wrote both sides. Ashworth said his parents weren’t with him to sign the studio paperwork, which included verification of songwriters. And since he was under 18, authorship was credited to an adult “to avoid copyright infringement issues.”
Henderson believes that soul great Otis Redding was also at Arthur Smith’s that day, which is possible, given the fact that James Brown also used the studio on occasion.
The group financed this release and Henderson says members again made a conscious decision to record original material, pointing out that their band “wrote a lot of the music we did in our live shows (some of which was never recorded) and even the covers that we did took on a personal flavor.”
Ronnie concurs, pointing out that they “had some original songs and that just seemed to be the way to do it.” He notes the Beatles “were big and it was a new sound and everybody was getting on the bandwagon,” adding: “It was easy to write music back in those days, so why do somebody else’s stuff when you can write your own?”
According to Henderson, their second 45 fared much better. He says while “Life’s Not Worth It” was the “plug” side, both songs received considerable airplay.
With the music scene changing, the band “tapped into the California/West Coast music scene” and psychedelia.
In 1968, the group landed a regular gig at the Park Mor Restaurant in Martinsville, attracting a loyal following for their Sunday night performances.
The Generals drove to Tennessee (Ronnie believes it was Johnson City) in late 1968 to provide backup for singer B. J. Thomas. The group set up, rehearsed “Hooked on a Feeling,” and went through a sound check before being informed that Thomas had been detained and would not be appearing.
A little known chapter in the Generals history followed in 1969, when Bobby, Fairy and Ronnie moved to Atlanta, where Ronnie attended school. The trio kept the Generals name alive for another year or so, playing jobs booked previously at colleges throughout Virginia and North Carolina.
Dana Douglas (of the Villagers fame) was also living in Atlanta at the time and became the group’s lead singer. His friend, Wes Braxton, was a proficient sax and flute player and also joined the line-up. Blake Coverstone — originally with the Divots of Roanoke — was recruited on drums and the six created what Ashworth describes as an “intense” sound. This was late in the psychedelic era and Ashworth says the revamped Generals leaned heavily to the California sound. Douglas “could dance just like James Brown” and was also an accomplished musician, playing keyboards, guitar and other instruments.
At the time, Ronnie was attending a Bell and Howell electronics school with Coverstone. While the original Generals hadn’t broken up as such, the others “had gone off to college because we had graduated from high school and so everybody was kind of going their separate ways.” The core of the original group remained constant, as Fairy was also living in Atlanta and Henderson and his wife and young family had also relocated there. Ronnie explains that “Bobby knew that Dana Douglas lived there, so we had gone by and seen him” and asked Douglas about fronting the Generals.
Technically, the Generals had not broken up. According to Ronnie, they “still had jobs booked, but really the group wasn’t together in the sense that it had been before… the name was still there; the jobs were still there; and the three of us were still playing together. So we just added a few folks and just kept the name, just reorganized the band.”
The group never entered the studio again, but continued performing through 1969, when the Generals disbanded and Ronnie Ashworth joined another Martinsville band, the Rogues, just as the group was expanding and adding horns.
Ashworth, Mark Anthony, Ron Stone, Jim Stone, Mike Arnold and Art Kramer joined forces with former Soulmasters Doug Hyler and George Parrish as the Rogues evolved into the band Truth, touring extensively and recording one single. The line-up featured four horn players: Hyler and Kramer on sax and Parrish and Ron Stone on trumpet. Arnold was the original drummer, later replaced by Paul Mitchell. Stone was the band’s bassist; Ashworth handled vocals and guitar; and Anthony was Truth’s keyboard player.
In 1971, Truth opened for Blood Sweat and Tears and Bill Withers at the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, N.Y., and also played as the support act for James Brown in Rochester.
After leaving Truth and coming off the road in 1974, Ronnie played guitar in Dallas “Moon” Mullins’ house band at Moon’s Danceland in Madison, N.C. Moon Mullins and his band — the Night Raiders — are best remembered for their 1958 recording on Profile Records, “Bip Bop Boom,” which featured rockabilly vocalist Mickey Hawks. The 45 sold well in the Chicago area, but failed to catch on nationally. Ronnie played in Moon’s band for about three years, ending “probably in late 1977.”
East Winds followed (with Fairy and Dennis) and the band played the Martinsville/Collinsville area in the late seventies, including regular performances at the local Holiday Inn. From a musical standpoint, Ronnie says East Winds “was probably the best (band) I was ever with” featuring “strong three- and four-part harmony, and really good musicianship.” Ronnie and Fairy were the band’s lead vocalists and guitarists (Fairy on acoustic); brother Dennis was the drummer; Jim Stone handled the bass; and Jerry Davis was their keyboard player. The group ran about two years, from mid-1977 until ‘79.
Ronnie Ashworth remains active in the music ministry at his church and still plays with band mates Fairy Ashworth Coleman and Bobby Henderson as Over Easy, a trio that specializes in classic rock by artists like James Taylor, CSN&Y and the Beatles.
After the Generals, Henderson played with various touring bands throughout the Midwest and Southwest. He later returned to Southside Virginia, where he now plays in several groups and operates his own sound production company.
Keyboardist Joe Merriman died recently, but all of the surviving band members remain friends and still see each other on occasion. David Daniel’s whereabouts are unknown.
As for their recordings, Henderson says he has no favorites and “enjoyed doing all of them” and is pleased that the band is still remembered more than 45 years after their last performance.
Looking back on his six years with the Generals, Ronnie says the band had a powerful impact on his life, allowing each member “to stand out in the crowd” and teaching him that he “could accomplish what (he) set out to do.”
Music was something they all took seriously, with endless rehearsals and long road trips that could start early on a Saturday and take 12 to 16 hours to complete, with packing, driving, set-up, performing and then breaking down the gear for the trip home. They had fun along the way but Ronnie admits “you had to love it or you wouldn’t do it.”
While there was anxiety over the war in Vietnam and social conflict in America, he says the band allowed them to all be part of “an exciting musical revolution” the likes of which the world has not seen since the sixties.