The Tropics: Hey You Little Girl

Tropics Van Ken Adkins, Jimmy Robinson, Leonard Collins, Arnold Robinson
Ken Adkins, Arnold Robinson (kneeling), Leonard Collins (sitting in front) and Jimmy Robinson

While not exactly a tropical paradise, the city of Eden was the birthplace of one of the best Soul bands of the sixties. This was before the towns of Leaksville, Draper and Spray merged to form Eden, which today has a population of less than 16,000. All three are nestled in Rockingham County, which gave rise to the Tropics through the merger of two bands: one from Reidsville and another from Leaksville.

Tropics December 1962 or 1963
from let: Ken Atkins, Malcolm Allen, Red White (at bottom center), Billy Hutchinson and Charles Hutchinson. “The Hutchinson brothers had no direct connection with the Tropics but were starting a band and we three were at their house to jam in 1962″ – Ken Adkins
Tropics Malcolm Allen Douglas High School Leaksville 1962
Malcolm Allen’s graduation photo, Douglas High School, Leaksville 1962

Guitarist Ken Adkins was visiting a girlfriend in Leaksville one night in 1960 when he cut through a black neighborhood to hitch the five-mile ride to his home in Draper. As he was passing by a church, Adkins was taken aback by a “terrifically great boogie woogie piano… Ray Charles-type stuff.” He crept up to the window and was peering inside when he was startled by the preacher, who came up from behind and asked if he’d like meet the pianist, a gifted black musician by the name of Malcolm Allen. The two bonded immediately and it wasn’t long before Adkins brought drummer Red White and bassist Ronnie Hooker into the fold.

Tropics Malcolm Allen's house
Malcolm Allen’s house for early rehearsals

Allen recalls that their first practices were held in his home because the family had a piano in the living room. The then unnamed group quickly gained a following in the neighborhood and Allen says the front porch and yard of their home was often filled with people listening to their music. It wasn’t long before they began receiving requests to play in public.

A name was needed and Allen thought of The Tropics after seeing a commercial showing Jamaican musicians jamming on the beach. He explains that the group was billed initially as The Interracial Tropics “(so) people would know what they were getting and kind of eliminate some of the surprise factor.”

Double Door Tea Room, Leaksville, NC
The Double Door Tea Room, Leaksville, NC

The four jammed and honed their skills at each other’s homes before landing their first gig at a black club, the Double Door Tea Room. Allen had cards printed for the occasion, advertising “The Interracial Tropics.” The Double Door was a small club in Leaksville that served Soul food on the ground level, with a small, open area on the second floor for live performances.

Allen explains that the “black community (was) more receptive and open to integration at that time” and “our guys were mostly into Soul and then Motown and blues, so the music kind of catered more to our people.” The crowd at the Double Door was on their feet cheering the soloists on, “hollering and raising sand, saying “go ahead, go ahead and play that thing!” Bolstered by the response, Allen says the band was encouraged “to branch out and go other places.”

Tropics Leaksville circa 1962
Leaksville, NC, circa 1962, from left: Jane Kirby, Susan Powell, Red White, Ken Adkins

Dances followed at the segregated Stoneville High School. And while most of their friends were receptive to the mixed race band, Adkins recalls that “all (of our jobs) were for black audiences because white places would not book us.”

Red White says the country clubs in Virginia and North Carolina wouldn’t touch the band, but “we were accepted without equivocation (at the Double Door) and whites came to see us there. So it was really the beginning of the end of segregation as I knew it in my hometown.”

Tropics drummer Red White
Red White practicing at his home on his first kit.

The band stuck close to home through 1961, when Adkins went away to school in Chapel Hill. They continued to play on weekends, when their paths crossed with another group of musicians from Reidsville who had a band. Mike Peters played bass in the Reidsville group, first known as the Bermudas (later as Rick and the Spirits) and remembers playing their first job at the Casville Volunteer Fire Department in Caswell County for $6 per man.

The decision was made to merge the two groups after Adkins moved to Reidsville. White drummed with the band for about two years before graduating high school in 1962 and joining the Air Force. The group recruited the drummer from the Reidsville band, Leonard Collins, who was equally adept on the skins.

Peters explains that the Spirits lost their guitar player, Rick Sealey, who left to attend college at East Carolina. Someone suggested Adkins and he agreed to come and play. Don Watkins played organ in the Reidsville band but quit when Adkins came on board. Ken brought Allen in to play keyboards and Peters replaced Hooker on bass. Joe Frank Myers played sax. Sealey attended college briefly before returning to the band, this time on keyboards.

Sealey’s return was short-lived. He was drafted in 1966 and replaced by Larry Wren on the Hammond B-3. Myers left and was replaced by Leo Caudle on sax. Caudle was a gifted saxophonist who “could play a tenor and alto sax at the same time out of both sides of his mouth.”

Allen played with the band for several years but came to a crossroads when he married and the couple had a young daughter. His job required that he work nights and that made it impossible to continue road trips on weekends. But before leaving, he introduced the band to Jimmy and Arnold Robinson. “I met Jimmy because right after high school I was in Greensboro attending A&T State University,” says Allen, and “when they came into the group, they gave us a new dimension because they were some heck-of-a singers and they enabled us to do a lot of Motown stuff.” While not related, the pair shared the same surname, so the band billed them as the Robinson Brothers.

Coachman & Four Club, Bennettsville, SC
Coachman & Four Club, Bennettsville, SC
Engagements increased after the band hooked up with Bill Kennedy, who was the first manager of the Castaways in Greensboro. Kennedy auditioned the Tropics and told the band to buy some better equipment. They followed Kennedy’s advice and soon found themselves playing at his nightclub. The group hooked up with Ted Hall, a booking agent with Hit Attractions in Charlotte, and found themselves playing every weekend. Kennedy sold the Castaways to Beach Music legend Bill Griffin, and Kennedy went to work for Jokers Three as a booking agent. Jokers Three also ran a popular nightclub by the same name, and it wasn’t long before the Tropics switched their allegiance, with the agency booking most of their jobs until the band split in 1969.

Kennedy booked the band throughout the East Coast. In addition to the Castaways clubs in Greensboro, Raleigh and Nags Head, the Tropics frequented the Embers Club at Nags Head; the Cellar in Charlotte; Coachman & 4 in Bennettsville; the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach; and the Pink Pussy Cat in Atlanta. They also played cotillion clubs, debutante balls and “just about every college in North Carolina.” The band performed “anywhere from Northern Virginia down to Atlanta, out west to Nashville.”

Tropics J's Bacardi, Durham 1965 Joe Frank Meyers, Leonard Collins Dee Clark
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham NC, March 12 or 13, 1965, from left: Joe Frank Meyers, Leonard Collins and Dee Clark

Their musical prowess became well known and the Tropics were soon in demand to back rhythm and blues recording artists. One of the first of those gigs was in support of Dee Clark, with the band later backing the Impressions, Martha and the Vandellas, Mary Wells, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Major Lance, the Tams, Showmen and the Drifters.

Adkins says the band backed Dee Clark in late 1964 or early ’65 for two nights at J’s Bacardi in Durham. The Tropics already had two Clark songs in their repertoire, “Raindrops” and “Nobody But You,” and set about learning his other material, “so when he came to the show, we had his stuff down cold.” While they lacked the strings heard on Clark’s hits, Sealey was able to duplicate the arrangements note-for-note, recreating the background orchestration on the keyboards. Clark was impressed and would use the band again down the road.

The Tropics with Dee Clark at J's Bacardi, March 1965
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham, NC, March 12 or 13, 1965

Tropics J's Bacardi, Durham 1965 Ken Adkins, Joe Frank Meyers, Dee Clark, Mike Peters
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham NC, March 12 or 13, 1965 Ken Adkins, Joe Frank Meyers, Dee Clark, Mike Peters
The Tropics at J's Bacardi, March 1965 Dee Clark and Mike Peters
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham, March 12 or 13, 1965, from left: Dee Clark and Mike Peters

Rufus Thomas was a favorite of the Tropics and members would arrive hours before their shows and be entertained with non-stop jokes from the former Memphis DJ.

The Tropics shared the bill with the Temptations on the BDG Quad at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, playing to 12,000 on a Saturday afternoon. An outdoor concert in Chapel Hill in support of Sam and Dave drew an even larger crowd.

But touring the segregated South with two black vocalists was a challenge. One night after a job the band stopped to eat at a restaurant in Eastern North Carolina. The Robinsons walked in with Adkins and Peters while the rest of the band slept on the bus. The waitress took their orders and emerged from the kitchen carrying just two plates, “gave them to Jimmy and Arnold and then looked at me and Mike Peters and said: ‘The law says we have to serve them, but it doesn’t say we have to serve you.” The four left the food on the table and walked out.

Another incident happened at the Jokers Three in Nags Head, where the band was playing a two-week summer engagement. The night before they were scheduled to leave, the club owner learned that the Klan had threatened a protest. He paid them in full and the band left the Outer Banks a day early.

The Tropics promo photo
Jokers Three Booking Agency Promotional Photo circa 1965
From left, top row: Rick Sealey, Leonard Collins, Mike Peters, bottom row: Jimmy Robinson, Ken Adkins, Arnold Robinson

An engagement at a large venue in Farmville, Virginia almost didn’t happen. Malcolm Allen says the band had reached their destination and the guys were unloading their equipment when the club manager spotted him and grabbed Adkins, asking if Allen were the band’s chauffeur. When the manager was informed that Allen was their organist, he responded, “not tonight.” Adkins didn’t hesitate, telling him that “if he don’t play, we don’t play.” Allen says the band was preparing to pack up their gear for the long trip home when the crowd started getting rowdy. Adkins turned to the owner and said: “Look, if you don’t get a band in here soon, they’re gonna trash your place.” The manager relented and allowed the band to take the stage, but glared at Allen and said: “I’m gonna keep an eye on you.” The Tropics brought the house down, especially when Allen tore up the keyboards on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.” When they finished their set, Allen approached the club manager and asked him how he was doing. He told him to keep playing and “when we got through, he gave me a tip, so I felt like that we broke a racial barrier… because it was just a segregated time.”

But the most disturbing incident happened at UNC in Chapel Hill. The band was playing a fraternity party on April 4, 1968, the night that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Adkins recalls that the band was performing their first set when one of the fraternity brothers came up and asked to use a microphone. Adkins recalls that he told “his room full of partiers, frat boys and their dates that Martin Luther King had been shot.” The fraternity “erupted in cheering and applause, and it literally made me sick. It made Jimmy and Arnold sick and it made our whole band sick and it made me very sad for the students of the University of North Carolina.” The band stopped playing immediately, packed up their equipment and headed home.

Traveling with two black vocalists was not without its perks. Peters’ fondest memory is of the band’s two-week engagement in Myrtle Beach. The group decided to spend one week at the then black beach, Atlantic, and another at the white beach, Windy Hill. The first half of their stay found the Tropics sharing quarters with Norman Johnson and the Showmen, a scene Peters describes as a non-stop party. “You could get anything you wanted any time of the night,” he recalls, “and everybody stayed pretty much passed out the next day.” The week was “an adventure,” but the pace at Windy Hill was considerably quieter.

Tropics at Appalachian State University 1967
Appalachian State University Homecoming Dance, circa 1967, from left: Ken Adkins, Mike Peters, Leonard Collins

Shortly after backing Dee Clark in Durham, the Tropics traveled to Greensboro on March 15, 1965 to record a 45 at Copeland Studios. Adkins says it was an obvious choice since it was “there at our back door” and they knew owner Walt Copeland.

The group had rehearsed an Adkins’ original (“Hey You Little Girl”) in Peters’ basement and performed it live before the sessions, but were unprepared to record a flip side for the single. Their idea to simply repeat the backing track as an instrumental was quickly nixed by the engineer and Adkins proceeded to write “The Happy Hour” in 15 minutes. Peters recalls that the song was composed one night right after a rehearsal, adding: “(We) just did it to an old Curtis Mayfield run and put ‘The Happy Hour’ together.”

Original Tropics promo photo
Promotional photo, standing: Rick Sealey; middle row: Jimmy Robinson, Leonard Collins, Arnold Robinson; bottom row: Mike Peters, Ken Adkins
Before the group began work on the two tracks, they were asked to run through a set so the engineer could set levels. “We did 13 other songs that aren’t nearly as polished,” recalls Peters. All were recorded onto a reel, which Adkins kept, along with the master tapes for both sides of their single. All were cover versions of popular recordings, including the Impressions’ “People Get Ready,” Jerry Butler’s “He Will Break Your Heart,” and “Before Six,” an instrumental co-written by Curtis Mayfield and recorded by Larry Frazier that served as the Tropics’ theme song. The songs lack bottom and were performed at breakneck speed, but Adkins points out that they are the only surviving “live” recordings of the band.

A two-track recorder was used for “Hey You Little Girl.” While the studio would soon become a state-of-the-art facility, in ‘65 Copeland “was much more modest with just a two-track system.” That meant the band members “all had to play at the same time live and get it right.”

The unique finger snapping at the start of the song was Adkins’ idea. He explains that it was a way to get the band to start on cue without a counted introduction. Two guitar chords get the song into gear, followed by an unforgettable vocal interplay between Arnold and Jimmy. The song builds to a crescendo that Collins kicks to a close in just two-and-half minutes.

Sealey played piano; Collins was on drums; Peters and Adkins played bass and guitar, respectively; Arnold Robinson played the saxophone; and the Robinson Brothers shared lead vocal harmonies. The band provided background vocals. Peters was featured prominently, aided by a girl remembered only as Sandra. Jimmy sang the lead tenor part, while the baritone voice is Arnold’s. Jimmy also sings the lead on “The Happy Hour.”

While the label credits four band members, Adkins says he wrote and arranged the tune and insists “it was pretty much my song all the way.”

Adkins explains that he “wanted to write something that was musically different” than other songs on the radio, so he incorporated “a couple of things to make that happen.” The most effective is in the vocal walk-up where they sing: “I’ll never love you and leave you alone.” Adkins says the “alone” passage “goes back to the dominant chord, which is ‘F.’ None of the songs that I’d heard to that point, actually went back to their final climax and got back to the final dominant chord. So doing that gave a lot of strength to the harmonies.”

The Robinsons’ vocal harmony was perhaps the band’s greatest strength. Both were exceptional singers and shared lead vocal chores on stage. While Arnold went on to perform professionally in the Nylons, Adkins says Jimmy was also an outstanding singer and the combination of their voices gave the Tropics “a Righteous Brothers vibe.” The two had “distinctly different voices” that blended perfectly. And while Jimmy left music after the Tropics, Adkins insists that he was also “an incredible singer,” who “was even more charismatic on stage than Arnold and did the majority of the lead vocal work.”

Tropics Jokers Three Club Nags Head 1968
On stage at Jokers Three Club, Nags Head, NC summer 1968
Tropics Jokers Three Beach Club Nags Head 1968
from left: Arnold Robinson, Ken Adkins (at bottom), Mike Peters, Leonard Collins (at bottom), Jimmy Robinson

Tropics Jokers Three Beach Club Nags Head 1968
Arnold Robinson (left) at the Jokers Three Beach Club, Nags Head, 1968
Tropics Jokers Three Club Nags Head 1968
from left: Ken Adkins, Mike Peters, Jimmy Robinson, Arnold Robinson and Leonard Collins

The Robinson Brothers gave the Tropics a smooth, professional “show band” performance with custom-made uniforms, elaborate choreography and humorous back-and-forth banter with the audience. The show would start with the band playing, followed by a big introduction to bring Jimmy and Arnold onto the stage. Theirs was the first group in the region to feature the star stage show that would become the norm a few years later.

Adkins says the Greensboro sessions lasted about two hours. The band had rehearsed the songs before entering the studio and committed both sides to tape in no more than three or four takes. The band performed flawlessly, except for one bad note hit by Sealey, which can be heard on the record. Copeland charged an hourly rate of $45 in 1965 and the total tab for the studio time came to $95, including the master tapes.

While at Copeland, the band recorded a jingle for Holsum bread, with Jimmy, Arnold, Ken and Mike adding vocals and background claps to the television commercial.

Tropics Topic 45 Hey You Little GirlThe 45 was a one-off pressing on Topic Records, which Adkins describes as his label. The name was chosen because of its similarity to the group’s, and because “it rhymed with Tropics.” Peters believes the 45 had a total run of 2,500 copies; however, Adkins recalls several pressings, noting the band “would order 1,000 at a time and sell them at our shows,” paying for the records as they were produced. Betty Sue Trent owned Trent’s Records in Reidsville and paid for the initial pressing, in exchange for copies of the disc. Besides Trent’s, the record was placed at mom-and-pop stores throughout the Piedmont, while the band also “did a fair amount of promoting,” taking them to dee jays and program directors in the Carolinas. That resulted in “a fair amount of play,” and Adkins recalls the song being in heavy rotation in Burlington, Greensboro, Reidsville and Charlotte. Stations across Eastern North Carolina also picked up the tune and Adkins remembers selling the final 1,000 copies a year after the song was recorded.

While the song became a regional hit, the band never capitalized on its success. Peters believes they missed an opportunity by not recording a follow-up, but concedes they were so busy on the road that no one took the time to write a song or book the studio. Adkins admits the oversight was “incredibly stupid,” pointing out that he composed “a lot of songs thereafter (and) some of them were better” than the two chosen for their lone single. While there was talk of returning to Copeland, it never happened.

In addition to playing with the Tropics, Adkins soon found himself in the band booking business. Bill Griffin, owner of Castaways, also managed groups through Game Artists, and soon was recording his own bands. Griffin lived in Atlanta, leaving Adkins to manage the day-to-day operations in Greensboro. In 1968, an unknown group called the O’Kaysions made a crude recording in “a broom closet studio in Greenville, N.C.” WBAG in Burlington was playing the original 45 of “Girl Watcher” on North State Records and Adkins knew it was “a natural hit” the first time he heard it on the radio. Griffin had the idea to sign the band and enlisted Adkins and A&M Records promoter Manly May, who shopped the song to labels in New York. ABC Paramount picked it up and the record went on to reach #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Griffin had a management contract with the group and arranged a six-week tour, including an appearance on American Bandstand. But the band balked at life on the road, with one member telling Adkins he couldn’t leave his job at the hardware store, and another bowing out because his wife wouldn’t let him tour the country with a Soul band.

O'Kaysions Photo
The O’Kaysions

In the meantime, ABC had signed lead vocalist Donny Weaver to an individual contract, leaving Game Artists with a hit song and only a bass player to promote it. Undeterred, Adkins returned to Greensboro several months later and hand-picked some of the area’s finest musicians to tour as the O’Kaysions, including vocalist Donny Trexler, an ace guitarist who also sang with Bob Collins and the Fabulous 5. Trexler joined the band on guitar in December 1968 and became lead vocalist when Weaver left the following August. Dick Clark was none the wiser when he mimed the lead vocals to their hit record on Bandstand. In the interim, ABC had dropped the band and they signed with Atlantic, releasing one 45 (“Watch Out Girl”) on Cotillion Records. When it failed to chart, plans to release the O’Kaysions second album were shelved.

Tropics Ken Adkins Game Artists 1969
guitarist Ken Adkins taken at Game Artists in 1969, the year the Tropics split

The Tropics were still a hot commodity and Adkins spent weekends on the road with the band, arranging bookings and making certain the group was on the bus and ready for the next gig. A near disaster happened when he was working with Griffin at Jokers Three. A promoter in Rockingham, N.C. had booked the Coasters to perform in the National Guard Armory, with the Tropics as their back-up band. Posters were printed and tickets sold, when the headliners called four days before the show and cancelled. Lee Dorsey and Major Lance were contacted but both had prior engagements. With time running out and hundreds of tickets sold, Adkins contacted a friend in Greensboro, Big Barbara. True to her name, Barbara was “a big girl with a big personality” and a great voice. After some coaxing, Adkins convinced her that the show could go on, if she agreed to take the stage as Barbara Lewis. Adkins explains that the ruse was plausible, since Lewis had never performed in the area and albums rarely featured the photos of black artists, “so nobody knew what she looked like.”

Big Barbara learned Lewis’ hits and was ready to perform when she had an attack of stage fright. The band plied her with a fifth of whiskey, “she gets drunk as hell; she gains tremendous courage; she goes out on that stage, struts her stuff and does a fabulous job and does Barbara Lewis to a T.” The audience loved it and were unaware that they had seen an impersonator.

But managing and performing soon became too much for Adkins, who decided to leave the road and concentrate on booking the Tropics and other bands. Adkins told the group he would continue to manage them, but would no longer travel with the band. But that was short-lived. Once Adkins left “there was nobody there to (prod) everybody to get up out of the hotel room and get in the bus” for their next performance. The band became frustrated with the set-up, so once Adkins quit, “within a month they all did, too.”

But Peters is more stoic about the break-up, pointing out that the band had been together for nearly a decade and members were growing weary of life on the road. “We were playing every night and a couple of us were married and a couple of us were thinking about getting married,” recalls Peters. He believes the “time had come when we were not committed 100% to the group” and it was time to move on. Jimmy and Arnold tried to convince Peters to join them as the entertainment for a cruise, but he declined.
Drummer Leonard Collins went on to play with the O’Kaysions and the Impressions.

The Nylons with Arnold Robinson
The Nylons with Arnold Robinson

Arnold Robinson joined Sonny Turner’s Platters and later moved to Canada, where he was a founding member of the Nylons in 1979. The band achieved its greatest success in 1987, when their version of “Kiss Him Goodbye” reached #12 on the Billboard chart. Arnold recorded and toured with the internationally acclaimed a cappella group until his retirement in 2006. He died of complications from diabetes in 2013.

Leo Caudle went on to play with former members of the Swinging Medallions in Pieces of Eight, a band that had a minor hit in 1967 with “Lonely Drifter” on A&M Records. He also played tenor sax in Greenboro’s Kallabash Corporation. Larry Wren took his own life in the early seventies. Rick Sealey lives in High Point, but Parkinson’s disease has left him unable to play the guitar. Joe Frank Myers left for college after a few gigs and his whereabouts are unknown.

Malcolm Allen still lives in Leaksville and plays in his church. He headed the local NAACP chapter for more than a decade.

Tropics Clayton Red White at Jokers Three Club 1966
drummer Clayton Red White taken at the Jokers Three Club, Nags Head, on New Year’s Eve, 1966
Calvin Lindsey and the Hysterics including Red White
Calvin Lindsey and the Hysterics including Red White at bottom right

After leaving the Air Force, Red White returned to Rockingham County and drummed with the Tropics and the Impacts before joining another Jokers 3 band, Calvin Lindsay and the Hysterics. He moved to Beaufort, N.C. and now plays with the Outer Banks Philharmonic.

Mike Peters also lives at the beach but still plays his bass and joins Adkins for blues jams in Greensboro. Ken Adkins started his own business, Adkins and Associates, and has trained some of the top fashion headhunters in the country.

Jimmy Robinson left town and no one has heard from him since the band parted ways in 1969.

A revival of interest in the Tropics started in the early 80s, when Adkins began getting calls from Northern Soul fans in the UK who were looking for copies of the band’s record. Interest in the original 45 led to a reissue in 1987 by The Wax Museum, a Charlotte-based collector’s label.

Adkins admits the band’s cult status caught him by surprise and says he “had no inkling” the record would garner attention six months after its release, much less 50 years after the fact. “When you’re going through a certain period of your life,” he says, “you never in a million years would guess that anybody would give a hoot about something you did when you were young.”

White shares Adkins surprise, but believes the Tropics have benefited from the trends that followed. With “disco and various fads,” he says “people began to get nostalgic for the old music.”

But he believes the band has a far greater legacy than a chunk of vinyl. White is proud to have been a part of the first integrated band to perform in rural North Carolina. He believes that helped break down the color barrier by “setting a precedent” for generations that followed. “I was part of the original group that set that precedent for accepting a black musician and (going) on the road with a black musician,” White says.

While it’s been more than 50 years since the band first practiced in his father’s living room, Allen says he is still amazed at what they were able to accomplish. “We were just a small group of guys from the country, (but) were able to break down a lot of barriers because we all had a common goal and we all cared about each other, and we loved music.”

And while the Tropics may have gone their separate ways, there was no turning back and the landscape of Rockingham County was forever changed.

Dan Marlee, Danny & the Other Guys and the Real List

Dan Marlee Constellation 45 Candy LipsWhat do these three songs have in common? They’re all written and sung by Daniel A. Marle, an enterprising teen who jumped from mild vocal pop to tough garage and psych within a span of two or three years.

First up is Dan Marlee singing his original “Candy Lips” (Joni Music BMI) b/w “You Left Me” on Constellation C-125 (C-63-138) from late ’63 or 1964.

In May of ’66 he’s found a new style, convincingly singing “(You Been Givin’ Me) Hard Times” as Danny & the Other Guys on C.P. Records 101. The flip is one I haven’t heard yet, “Five For Fourteen Fifty”, but the BMI credits give some names besides Daniel Marle that may have been the Other Guys: Richard Coker, Vincent Ippolito, Roger Pauly and Edmund Strom.

Danny and the Other Guys C.P. 45 (You Been Givin' Me) Hard TimesFinally is C.P. Records 102, with the band name changed to The Real List. They do Marle’s “Pick Up the Marbles”, a good mix of potent fuzz riffing and harmonies, with a poppier bridge. The b-side is a cover of the Beau Brummels’ “Still In Love With You Baby”.

Both the C.P. 45s produced by Chicagoans Productions, and Marle’s originals published by Dan Marle Music BMI. Pressing info is obscure, I read 1425-FT on the Danny & the Others label and 1575-31 / 1600-31 on the Real List labels.

As Daniel Albert Marle he has some other songwriting credits with Robert Nass: “Boy Can Cry”, “Could You Care For Me”, “Cryin’ Over You”, “Gorilla Again” etc, published either by Arc Music or Don-Del Music in Port Washington, Wisconsin. I’m not sure if any of those songs were released.

This is all I can find on any of these bands or Dan Marle.

The Real List C.P. 45 Pick Up the MarblesThe Real List C.P. 45 Still In Love With You Baby

The Night People on Del-Nita

Bob Holcepl – vocals
Terry Paul – guitar
Joe Rose – bass
Frank Rose – keyboards, and recorder on “Erebian-Borialis”
Greg Paul – drums, and bongos on “Erebian-Borialis”

The Night People Del-Nita 45 We Got ItThe Night People formed in 1965 at high school in Parma, Ohio, a suburb about 10 miles south of Cleveland. They recorded their 45 at SIR Recording Studio, released on Del-Nita 1002 in May of 1967.

There’s a lot to like about “We Got It”: the swirling organ over the pounding tom-toms and bass, Bob Holcepl’s snarling vocals, a theramin intro and solo. Joe Rose and Bob Holcepl wrote the song. I’m not sure who was playing the theramin.

The instrumental “Erebian-Borialis” is one of the strangest b-sides by any mid-60s group, featuring a simple melody played by Frank Rose on recorder while Greg Paul handles the bongos and the guitarist goes for psychedelic. It’s credited to Frank Rose and Terry Paul. Both songs were published by Hicks Music, ASCAP.

According to Buckeye Beat, John Hicks, the owner of Del-Nita, persuaded the band he had Motown connections. It’s difficult to imagine Motown would be interested in a band with such an uncommercial single but that’s the story!

Bruce Boehm, guitarist for the Alarm Clocks was also a member for a time. The band made additional recordings that weren’t released of “Signed D.C.”, “One Two Brown Eyes”, and “Hey Joe”. They continued until 1970, changing their name and making some demos for Capitol that never saw light of day.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

The Night People singles on Tuggie and Nite Life are by different groups, from Illinois and California, respectively.

The Night People Del-Nita 45 Erebian-Borealis

The Bondsmen and Nirvana from Sudbury

Robby & the Bondsmen Photo
The Bondsmen, from left: Doug Simmons (organ), Vas Haritakis (drums), Roger Friskey (bass), and Robby Adams (guitar)

Roger and Lauraine Friskey wrote to me about Roger’s bands the Bondsmen and Nirvana. They sent the photo and card seen  here, but if anyone has additional pics, posters, or newspaper articles of these groups please contact me.

The Bondsmen were formed in the early 1960’s and consisted of Roger Friskey (bass/vocals, Robby Adams (guitar/vocals), Richard Lalonde (guitar/vocals) and Vas Haritakis (drums/vocals). They played at various teen dances in the Sudbury area including North Bay, Elliot Lake, and Field.

Richard Lalonde left the group and Doug Simmons, organ/vocals, joined the band.  They continued to play at various teen dances and made their debut at The Inferno, which was the place to play. It was a well-known dance club in Sudbury.

Nirvana band (Sudbury) Business Card
Danny Gaudet, an extraordinary guitar player, joined the band shortly after and they became The Nirvana.

They were originally managed by M & R Entertainment from Capreol ON. The band was later approached Bill Burke and he became their manager. Soon after this, Bill purchased a building on Durham St in Sudbury, and converted into a dance club. It was named The Hub and was opened to compete with other clubs, i.e. The Inferno and The Joint. The Nirvana became The Hub’s house band.  They played at The Hub for a couple of years. When the Hub closed down, the Nirvana continued to play at teen dances in the Sudbury area.

Other popular bands of that era were: The Act IV, The Inferno 5 + 1, The Kids, The Private Collection, The Beasties, The Village Steps.

The Nirvana broke up when Vas started working for the railroad and was out of town most of the time.  They never got to make it to the recording stage. Everyone went their own way. Unfortunately Danny died in Dec 2012 and Robby Adams died several years ago.

Roger and Lauraine Friskey

Anthem – Fast Suzi

Anthem La Belle 45 Fast SuziI’m not sure how a record this good could be this obscure. When I heard “Fast Suzi” by a band called Anthem, I thought it was late ’70s power-pop. I can’t find any definite info on the record, but the release date seems to be much earlier, even as early as 1968.

Both “Fast Suzi” and the ballad flip “Not Sure She’s Mine” were written by R.E. Warner & Brown for AW Music.

The label was La Belle, and reads “A Dave Eppler Production”. Various sites on the ‘net say the band came from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, about halfway between Madison and Milwaukee. There is a La Belle Lake in Wisconsin, but not close to Oconomowoc.

Anthem La Belle 45 Not Sure She's Mine

The Cutaways

The Cutaways A Go Go 45 You're Driving Me Out of My MindThe Cutaways (often listed as the Cut-a-Ways) came from Bellaire, Ohio, a town on the eastern edge of the state close to Wheeling, Pennsylvania. One article I found listed them as a Wheeling band, but that may have been for convenience. That show was in Morgantown PA, 300 miles away from Bellaire and Wheeling!

Larry Gorshe seems to have been the leader of the group and main song writer. I’m not sure of all the other members of the band or who played what instrument, but members included Bill Bell, Gary Parrish, Charles Soltes and Walter McElroy. Also someone named Jurovcik may have been a member as he is listed as one of the song writers on their second 45. Helen Mae was a manager of the group.

The Cutaways put out two 45s, the first from circa 1964 was a Buddy Holly type rocker “You’re Driving Me Out of My Mind” backed with a good ballad, “Now That You’re Gone”. Larry Gorshe wrote both songs for Claridge Music Inc ASCAP. The label was Agogo, which also released “Hitch-Hike” / “Sippy Sippy Sop Sop” by the Fantastic Emanons, another Bellaire band.

The Cutaways Sur Speed 45 I'll Never Fall in Love AgainTheir second 45 is a favorite of mine. The top side is “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” written by Gorshe, Saltes, McElroy and Jurovcik. The flip is “Hold Me” by Larry Gorshe, both sides published by Silver City Music, BMI. It was released on Sur-Speed 205, a record label located in Nashville, TN, over 7 hours drive from Bellaire.

Gorshe also wrote both sides of the Big C on Sur-Speed 202 “(Hey Girl) Come Along With Me” / “Gee Whiz I Love You”

Sur-Speed was located at 1201 Whites Creek Pike, Nashville, Tennessee, and the SO-prefix indicates the 45 was mastered at Southern Plastics

Larry Goshe passed away on February 21, 2008.

Does anyone have a photo of the band?

Larry Gorshe & the Cut-a-Ways, the Pottstown Mercury, August 6, 1966
Larry Gorshe & the Cut-a-Ways playing the Morgantown PA fair, August 6, 1966
The Cut-a-ways, New Philadelphia Daily Times, May 11, 1964
The Cut-a-ways to play in New Philadelphia, OH on May 15, 1964

The Cutaways Sur Speed 45 Hold Me

The Teen Turbans

Teen Turbans Pepsi Big Boss Battle Photo
The Teen Turbans playing “You Can’t Sit Down” during the final of the KHJ Big Boss Battle at the Hollywood Palladium. From left: Robert (percussion); Lester Smith (holding trumpet); Luke Flowers; JD Luna (with guitar behind Luke); Olaf Tweetie; Arthur Cooper (playing sax, in center on floor), Ralph Johnson (drums), Dale Thalley (bass)

Lester Smith – trumpet player and band leader
Luke Flowers – lead vocals and tambourine
Al McKay – guitar (replaced by J.D. Luna)
Arthur Cooper – horns
Wayne Davis – tenor sax
Olaf Tweedy – keyboards
Dale Thalley – bass
Ralph Johnson – drums
Robert – percussion

Turbelettes (vocals):
Georgetta Denmark
Zettie Denmark
Iris Flowers

A few years ago I posted the program to the KHJ 93 Big Boss Battle of the Bands, which listed the Teen Turbans from Los Angeles High. Guitarist J. D. Luna sent in these photos and wrote about the group:

I was the guitarist in the Teen Turbans from L.A. High school at the time of the Hollywood Palladium Final, when The Teen Turbans won the Boss KHJ/Pepsi Battle of the Bands. I have some pictures that the dad of our percussionist took of us.

The Teen Turbans were an all black band, except for me, who snuck in when their funky Telecaster master left and they needed someone quick. I played a Les Paul with P90’s and a Tele through a four-ten Tender Bassman.

The drummer was Ralph Johnson, who later went on to Earth, Wind and Fire fame. In fact, the guitar player I replaced was Al McKay, who of course also went on to Earth, Wind and Fire. Lester, the band leader, is a nephew of Louis Armstrong, and was a master at directing and cuing the band (and not surprisingly, was a great trumpet soloist!). All the players came from families with musical backgrounds, and all had tremendous performing ability. I was very lucky to be there.

At the Palladium final we played on Limey & the Yanks equipment and I plugged into what I think was a Super Reverb that must have been set on eleven. I was so nervous I didn’t think to check the dials. So when I struck the first chord of “You Can’t Sit Down” my turban almost came off and the Paul seemed to be playing itself. When my solo came up I felt I had control of the stick and was ready to channel Freddy King … so I did!

Teen Turbans Pepsi Big Boss Battle Awards
Sonny Bono presenting Lester Smith with the first place trophy. L-R: Dale, Arthur, Tweetie, Luke, Ralph (behind Lester), JD (me, behind Sonny), and Robert. The two guys in suits are two of the KHJ DJs.

Teen Turbans Loma 45 We Need to Be LovedWe got a complete set of instruments and amps at the Fender factory and they took pictures. I’m not sure what the deal was with the drums and the brass instruments, but something was worked out with our manager, who was the father of two of the singers. I noticed somewhere on your site that no recording time had been promised, yet somehow we ended up at a studio. I have no idea when “We Need to Be Loved” was done, but probably after I had left the band.

Teen Turbans at Knights of Columbus Hall on Vermont Ave
Teen Turbans at Knights of Columbus Hall on Vermont Ave

This photo [above] was taken at a Knights of Columbus Hall on Vermont Ave. just south of Sunset Blvd, in Los Angeles, circa 1965. This was a showcase set up by our manager to help us get some local exposure. The manager is the fellow sitting in the audience with a turban just like the ones we wore. Everybody called him Pops; he was the dad of one of the girl singers and the guy singer in the band. I’m the guitar player standing on the far left, just to the right of the keyboard player. I’m playing my gold top Les Paul.

We got to play at Ciro’s on the strip, The Hullabaloo, which was also a Hollywood club, and a teen club in north Hollywood known as The Cinnamon Cinder that Bob Eubanks ran.

My experience with the Teen Turbans was the launching point for a lifelong career and love affair with music that continues to this day. I learned a tremendous amount not only about music, but also about how bands should and could work together, and that experience served me extremely well as I went on to work as a a professional musician, songwriter, teacher, band director and studio engineer.

Backstreet Photo JD LUna
A band called Backstreet from the late 1960s (I’m on the far right with my Les Paul).
After the Turbans, I performed with various groups through the Musicians Union Local 47 and on my own and worked the club circuit on the West Coast. Two of the bands I worked with were booked by the Gail McConkey booking agency out of Hollywood. Another band was booked by the Howard King agency; that band included Dick Dodd of the Standells as our front singer. I also later managed a music store in Lawndale (south of Los Angeles) called Hogan’s Music, which became locally famous for its clientele, which included the Beach Boys.

J.D. Luna Photo
A recent photo of me performing at the Carlsbad Sculpture Garden.

I began working as a recording engineer at various studios in the South Bay and eventually became a post-production recording engineer for film and television. I produced a female vocalist, Kim Gile, in the Santa Monica area, and we wrote and performed original R&B, rock and soul. I also built a band around this artist and we worked the Southern California club circuit for 10 years in the 90s and early 2000s.

For the past 12 years, I’ve been focused on playing solo acoustic guitar instrumentals, in the style of people like Chet Atkins, Tommy Emmanuel and other fingerstyle players. I perform locally (in north San Diego County) and also teach guitar.

J.D. Luna

The Cholos

Cholos Farad 45 Last LaughThe Cholos put out their classic “Last Laugh” on the Farad label in May, 1966. The band was from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, a rural area along I-44 between Springfield and St. Louis, MO.

Don Longfellow and D.J. Bohn wrote “Last Laugh” for Briebert Music, BMI, while Pete Starr and D.J. Bohn wrote the instrumental, “Whistling Surfer”.

I haven’t been able to find any other info about the band or a photo of the group. Their band name is a strange one, even for the ’60s. Their label name is also unusual and I can’t connect it to any other release.

This was considered a very rare 45 until at least 20 unplayed copies turned up in late 2014.

Cholos Farad 45 Whistling Surfer

The Gents on Duane Records

The Gents Duane Records 45 I'll CryBased in Bermuda, the Gents may have included Andy Newmark, Glen Mello (I’m not sure if there’s any relation to Eddy DeMello) and drummer Frank Chiappa, and possibly Winston Cabral. I’ve seen a poor photo of a signed copy of the 45 that seems to include five names: Roddy, Mick, Winston and two I can’t make out.

I haven’t found any new information on the Gents, but I have finally bought a copy of their rare 45, “If You Don’t Come Back” / “I’ll Cry”, released on Duane Records 1048 in the first half of 1966.

Winston Cabral wrote “If You Don’t Come Back”, recognized as a classic of garage punk since its first compilation appearance on The Chosen Few vol. 1 in 1983. R. Marshall wrote the excellent heavy-echo ballad, “I’ll Cry”. Both sides published by Maredken Music, BMI and produced by Eddy De Mello, owner of the Duane label.

T5KM 2847/2848 indicates the lacquer was cut at one studio and supplied to RCA to be pressed in the first half of 1965.

In a comment on the page for the Savages, John McGill recalled being in a group with Winston Cabral called the Castaways, which also included Corky Fishbeck and ‘Mutt’ Mutzke.

Andy Newmark, Glen Mello joined Paul Muggleton and Jimmy O’Connor of the Savages to make the Bermuda Jam album for Dynovoice.

The Gents is one band I’d love to know more about, if anyone has more information or a band photo, please contact me.

GentsDuane45IllCry

Ronnie D. & the Casuals – “I Need Your Lovin”

Ronnie D. and the Casuals, Ron-Ee 45 I Need Your Lovin'

Ronnie D. and the Casuals, Ron-Ee 45 When A Clown Settles DownTim Warren turned me on to “I Need Your Lovin” by Ronnie D. & the Casuals. The band is better known as Ronnie & the Pomona Casuals for their hit on Donna “I Wanna Do the Jerk”.

“I Need Your Lovin'” has a different sound, even though the chunky guitar, swinging bass lines and solid drumming are typical of the Eastside style.

The similarity to John English III’s “I Need You Near” is striking and begs the question, which came first? The Sabra label released John English III’s single in May of 1965. The release date for Ronnie D. & the Casuals 45 is much less certain. The very small stamped “H” in the deadwax only indicates an RCA Custom press.

I’ve read that this is the first release by Ronnie D. & the Casuals, but that would date it to before the release of their Donna 45s which began around November of 1964. More likely it comes after their contract with Bob Keane ran out following three singles and LP on Donna, and a 45 on Mustang in May of 1965. This would make it a cover, or adaption, of the John English III song.

Song writing credits aren’t much help – John English is credited as writer on “I Need You Near”, published by Rattan Music BMI, while Ronnie D. & the Casuals’ “I Need Your Lovin” lists Derrek A. as writer, published by Branch Pub. Co. BMI.

The flip is “When a Clown Settles Down” a long ballad with some good moments, but poorly-produced. I can’t imagine the band was happy with the sound of this side of the single. This side also written by Derrek A., a name I can not trace to any other release from this era.

If John English III had the first release, one question is how did it come to the attention of Ronnie D. & the Casuals? The John English III single is especially rare, only a handful of copies now exist. It had almost no distribution or airplay at the time. Though based in San Fernando, John English III did perform with his group the Heathens at the Retail Clerks Auditorium in Buena Park, and at Pandora’s Box on the Sunset Strip, so some exposure was possible. By coincidence the Casuals single on Ron-Ee seems to be very rare as well.

Another question would be who is singing on this record? Chas Lett was the usual lead vocalist for Ronnie & the Pomona Casuals, but to my ears this sounds like someone else.

Ronnie & the Pomona Casuals were:

Charles Lett (vocals)
Ronnie Duran (lead guitar)
Robert Arroyo (organ) replaced by Les Kalil (Wurlitzer electric piano)
Jimmie Duran (tenor sax)
Robert Foley (baritone sax)
Ryan O’Brien Jr. (bass)
Phillip Duran (drums)

Ronnie Duran and his brother Jimmie attended Damien High School in San Dimas, California, where they formed the Casuals. Their first recording may have been “20.75”, which appeared on the second volume of the Salesian High School Rock ‘n Roll Show, recorded October 18, 1964. Billy Cardenas, manager and producer of Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Premiers, The Blendells, Mark & the Escorts and many other great acts, took them on and brought them to Bob Keane’s Donna Records.

In November, 1964 they put out the first of three singles and an LP on Donna. An interesting side note is that Arthur Lee of Love wrote “Everybody Jerk” and “Slow Jerk”, and sang backing vocals on the album. The Pomona Casuals had one further single on Mustang (the replacement label for Donna, which Keane retired), and also backed the Sisters on their Del-Fi single, “Ooh Poo Pa Do” and “Happy New Year Baby” (Del-Fi 4302).

The Casuals recorded their Donna and Mustang singles at Stereo Masters in Hollywood with Bruce Morgan engineering and Billy Cardenas producing. This single on Ron-Ee was cut at Audio Craft Recorders (aka Audio Craft Recording Studios) at 283 North Garey Avenue in Pomona.

Ronnie & the Casuals continued performing into the 1970s (I can find ads for their appearances through January 1970). Charlie Lett was killed many years ago and Les Kalil has passed away.

Mark Guerrero wrote an excellent history of Ronnie & the Pomona Casuals at http://www.markguerrero.com/26.php that I highly recommend. You Found That Eastside Sound has scans of their records and more info.

Ronnie & the Pomona Casuals discography:

Donna 1400 – “Swimming at the Rainbow” / “Casual Blues”
Donna 1402 – “I Wanna Do the Jerk” / “Sloopy”
Donna 1405 – “Out of the Blue” (Cherry-Wright) / “Slow Jerk” (Arthur Lee, Maravilla Mus, Inc. BMI)
Donna DO-2112 – Everybody Jerk (LP)
Mustang 3005 – “Please, Please, Please” / “We’re Gonna Do the Freddie”
Ron-Ee 1001 – “I Need Your Lovin” / “When a Clown Settles Down”

Ronnie and the Casuals photo
Ronnie and the Casuals, clockwise from bottom left: Phillip Duran, Ryan O’Brien, Ronnie Duran, Robert Foley, Jimmie Duran (tenor sax), Robert Arroyo (with arm on keyboard), and Charles Lee. Head of Willie G. at bottom center from photo collage. Photo from the Salesian High School Rock ‘n Roll Show LP vol. 2

The site for '60s garage bands since 2004