The Blue Chords

The Blue Chords
The Blue Chords circa 1960-61 at a TV studio in Bluefield, W. VA.
From left; Steve Epperly (drums), David Epperly (keyboard /tenor sax), John Laughter (tenor & bari sax), unidentified Bluefield College student (tenor sax) and Roger ? (guitar). Arnold Smith played bass but was unable to make it in time for the photo. He presently performs with The Emeralds. (Caption by John Laughter)

The Blue Chords cut this cool bit of soul-garage with horns for the Reverb label of Roanoke. Steve Epperly wrote “The Mini Movement”, which runs all of 1:28! At Steve Epperly’s request I’ve added the A-side, “So Far Away”, which is really a very well-played and recorded ballad.

Since first posting about the band, Steve Epperly wrote to me:

The Blue Chords were from the Bluefield, VA area, who played from 1958 to 1978.

The Blue Chords were especially known in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area where they played in The Top Hat and other club venues from 1959-1962. The Blue Chords opened for many nationally known artists including but not limited to The Del Vikings, The Gladiolas (later known as Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs), Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Ricky Nelson, Art Neville, The Delfonics, Percy Sledge, Bill Deal and the Rhondells, and The Okaysions.

The Blue Chords recorded “So Far Away” and “The Mini Movement” in May, 1967 in the basement recording studio of James E. Parcell who owned Associated Recording Service in Roanoke, VA. The musicians were Arnold Smith who played bass and provided lead vocal on “So Far Away”; Larry Frost and Ron Sagady on horns: Jack McCormick- guitarist; David Epperly -organist, vibes, and saxophone; and Steve Epperly- drums and lead vocalist on “The Mini Movement”. The Blue Chords made other recordings in that studio, but “So Far Away” and “The Mini Movement” were the only ones ever pressed.

John Laughter sent in the great photo of the band at the top of the page. His comment about Blue Chords around 1960 is worth repeating here in the main article:

I was fortunate to have played sax with the “Fabulous Blue Chords” for about two years before moving to Florida. I recall 1959-1960 or maybe it was 1960-1961. We played in various dance halls and frat houses in and around the Bluefield, West Virginia and Virginia area.

But the real good times were spent during the summer months at Virginia Beach in the Top Hat Club. The club had two stages and two bands six nights a week so when we kicked into our break song the other band picked it up to keep the music going. On an hour, off an hour.

The door next to our stage opened onto the boardwalk where a lot of the underage college kids would stand or dance. When the club was packed some of the patrons would dance on the table tops after consuming the 3.2 beer. And those summer night were HOT! We would sweat and play the new hits of the day.

I remember a drummer with one of the guest bands, “T & T” Braggs. What he could do with only a bass, snare, hi-hat and ride cymbal was fantastic! Another band was from Philly. They also brought down the house.

We would visit the local music store on Saturday and pick up the latest 45 rpm’s to learn on Sunday. Then to the Neptune restaurant at the corner for First Street and Atlantic Blvd. for a seafood dinner in the 56 two tone green Ford station wagon with the band’s name on the side.

One of the apartments that we lived in was on the south end of town next to an all night doughnut/coffee house. I would go down and listen to the jukebox until the hours of the morning. And as with several of the other members, we are still rockin’ to this day!

The Top Hat Nightclub, Virginia Beach
Top Hat interior

Top Hat photos taken from the Bill Deal website

24 thoughts on “The Blue Chords”

  1. The Blue chords are mostly all still playing today, my dad played sax and was a founder and still is playing about every weekend. They are located in WV and southwest Va. The new band name is the Emeralds.

    1. Actually, Ron Sagady wasn’t a founder of the Blue Chords. He and I played together in the band about 1965-66, and Ron came into the band after Jim Marino left.

      The Emeralds was a different band, and a couple of them had been in the Blue Chords.

  2. My father was in this band—in fact he still plays today! He played saxophone on this record. I can provide more information if needed.

  3. My husband, Pete Belcher, was an original member of the Blue Chords. He was a vocalist and played keyboard. At the time he was known as “Petie” Belcher. After leaving the Bluefield area, he spent many years in Los Angeles where he was an actor and director. My husband and I have been back in the Bluefield area for 20 years and still associate with several of the original band members. “Petie” is still playing music but is not in a band.

  4. My Dad, Steve Epperly, was the founder of The Blue Chords. He played drums and was a lead vocalist. They often practiced in my Grandmothers (Hilda Huffard) home and garage on Tazewell Avenue. They had a great deal of success and opened or played with many national acts. They were a college band before it was cool. I have many memories of traveling to shows in many places when I was very young.

    My Uncle, David Epperly, was unquestionably the most talented member of the band. David was 14 when he started playing with the band. He had to get a work permit to play at The Top Hat in VA Beach. He could play any instrument he laid his hands on and made a career in music industry as an composer/arranger/pianist/organist for many years with nationally known acts. Sadly, he passed away suddenly at the age of 48. He is a member of The Circus Hall of Fame in Tampa, Florida. He is sorely missed by everyone that had the pleasure of knowing him.

    The Blue Chords hold a special place in the memories of many people in two Virginia’s. They were a special band in a special time and I’m proud that my Dad played such an important role in the music they played. Dad doesn’t play anymore but I’m sure he could if he wanted to. Talent like that never goes away, the beat is just a little slower.

    I hope I got this right, if I didn’t, Dad will edit..

  5. I was in Concord College in Athens, WV when I first heard The Blue Chords play at the school in 1963 – 64. I was blown away. I later started a band called “The Peasants” and later sang with “The Red Coats” from Princeton, WV. Steve and the Blue Chords were the example of what every band wanted to become. They could have been nationally famous like other bands such as Bill Deal and the Rhondells with the right breaks. I would love to hear them again today.

  6. I remember Roger as a very talented guitar player. Before the Blue Chords, he played in a Princeton band with Richie Pennington called ‘The Ramrods’, named after Duane Eddy’s hit by the same name. Roger and his Les Paul special could really burn up ‘Ramroad’. Before I had a car at WVU, I hitched a ride several times with Roger (who was in grad school. Great guy!

  7. In 1964 and 1965 I had the pleasure of playing with the blue cords. Others members of the band were Smokey Shelton trumpet, Stever Epperly drums, Jack Mccormick guitar, Arnold Smith bass and vocal . I played tenor sax. I must say we had a great band with a great sound. We got our sound from many many hours of practice. The blue cords hold a special place in my heart. I was forced to leave the band due to the vietnam war and the local draft board . It was really heart breaking for me I did however play in the united states navy band before being shipped overseas to vietnam. I have enjoyed reading these comments It bring back fond memories of a great time in my life.

  8. Hey, Jimmy –

    Glad to see your update. I never saw the Blue Chords perform after around 1963, so I missed you as part of this great band. I was not surprised to learn that you were gigging with the best, as you were a serious and very talented musician.

    An old, all thumbs, totally retired guitar guy –

    Bill Yearout

  9. I met your dad in Virginia Beach. I was only fourteen but fell madly in love with his music and never forgot him and his band.Tonight I was telling my son about him, the first crush I had and had never forgotton his name or where he was from.He suggested i look him up on Goggle and was I ever surprized to find you and the pictures!What memories they brought back!I am thrilled to know what became of the band and Steve.So many times I have thought about your dad and the band.We were all so young and in a different world. I grew up in Va beach but left in 1962.I visit often. I never walk the beach without the memories of that summer, your dad and the band following me,always wondering what became of everyone.Please give my regards to your dad and so sorry to hear about David. I retired and just enjoy the lake I live on and visiting my family.I will always remember The Blue Chords. Thank You!

    Where can I buy some of the music?

  10. Mark:

    I remember the mid-60’s when your family was one of my customers on my paper route(Bluefield Daily Telegraph) when you lived in the Parkview Heights/Pine Hill Park Subdivision of Bluefield, Virginia. I remember going to hear your dad’s group when they played at the Bluefield Auditorium in Bluefield, WV (right beside Mitchell Stadium) on friday nights. Over the years, I’ve lost my copy of the MiniMovement I bought and loved hearing it again and again and again! I’m so glad to have found this page since I remember the bands of my youth – the Blue Chords, the Red Coat Revue and the Sound of Soul. Great memories!!!

  11. Hey Tom,

    I remember you very well! Spent many hours in your basement with Ric. Also remember playing Pinball at the “little store” beside your house. We had many great times. I hope you are doing well.

    Mark-

  12. I was glad to see the information sent to you by Steve. Brings back some good memories!!

    I was fortunate to have played sax with the “Fabulous Blue Chords” for about two years before moving to Florida. I recall 1959-1960 or maybe it was 1960-1961. We played in various dance halls and frat houses in and around the Bluefield, W. VA. and VA. area.

    But the real good times were spent during the summer months at Virginia Beach in the Top Hat Club. The club had two stages and two bands six nights a week so when we kicked into our break song the other band picked it up to keep the music going. On an hour, off an hour.

    The door next to our stage opened onto the boardwalk where a lot of the underage college kids would stand or dance. When the club was packed some of the patrons would dance on the table tops after consuming the 3.2 beer. And those summer night were HOT! We would sweat and play the new hits of the day.

    I remember a drummer with one of the guest bands, “T & T” Braggs. I believe that was his name? What he could do with only a bass, snare, hi-hat and ride cymbal was fantastic! Another band was from Philly. They also brought down the house.

    We would visit the local music store on Saturday and pick up the latest 45 rpm’s to learn on Sunday. Then to the Neptune restaurant at the corner for First Street and Atlantic Blvd. for a seafood dinner in the 56 two tone green Ford station wagon with the band’s name on the side.

    One of the apartments that we lived in was on the south end of town next to an all night doughnut/coffee house. I would go down and listen to the jukebox until the hours of the morning.

    And as with several of the other members, we are still rockin’ to this day!

    Steve drop a line when you can! JSAXL@aol.com

    John Laughter
    Macon, GA

    http://www.celebrationband.us/

    http://www.thegrapevineband.com/index.php

    http://www.halleonard.com/item_detail.jsp?itemid=277&order=4&catcode=00&refer=search&type=product&keywords=john+laughter+

    http://www.halleonard.com/item_detail.jsp?itemid=144&order=0&catcode=00&refer=search&type=product&keywords=john+laughter+

  13. For Mark Epperly…Mark, I knew both your dad and David (GHS Class of ’60) and would like to pass on a compliment re Steve and his tenure teaching at Tazewell High School. My father-in-law, Gus Santolla (Shop & Agriculture) remarked to me – after the BCs played one of their last gigs during Tazewell Days – when I told him I knew Steve that Steve was an excellent teacher and that he, Gus, held him in high regard. I was very sorry to hear of David’s passing, the Class of ’60 lost several folks in their 30’s and ’40s – way too young.
    Best,
    Wally Averill

  14. I was Arnold and Sandy Smith’s paperboy and cut their grass while at GHS in the early-mid sixties. My dad was Arnold’s Staff Manager at Kentucky Central Life Ins. Co. until Arnold was promoted himself. I too had chances to dance to the Blue Chords and also the Red Coats and Allen Burgess with the Red Coats was a classmate of mine in Jr. High while I lived in Princeton. Good memories of those times!

  15. Hey, I forgot to mention, Roger Angles and my late brother-in-law, Major Carbaugh, went into the Navy together and Roger and I were friends and he and I did business together when he was HR Director at S&S Machinery in Claypool Hill, Va.

  16. Love this! It really takes ya back in time that I call “The Good Ole Days”! Thanks Rich for the invitation!

  17. The “unidentified Bluefield College student” (saxophone) is Alfred Thompson. He was a student at Bluefield State College.

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