The Four Dimensions

Keith Hackney and Jack Starkey with Lucky the cat and the Four Dimensions’ Chrysler 300, April 1966

The surf craze of the early ’60s wasn’t limited to kids living by an ocean coastline – the Astronauts from Colorado and the Trashmen from Minneapolis are two of the most famous examples. The Four Dimensions of Las Cruces, New Mexico had their own take on surfing – riding plywood down sand dunes! More than just a laugh, their song “Sand Surfin'” will hook you, and it has some of the wildest screams ever waxed (hear it at at Lone Star Stomp, where I nabbed the label scan.) Prior to the Four Dimensions, Jack played with The Vibrations.

Jack Starkey of the Four Dimensions answered a batch of my questions about the group:

I was in the Four Dimensions. Members were: Keith Hackney, Phil Holmes, Jack Starkey, and Billy Conger. Keith Hackney and Phil Holmes started the group. They played in a local bar as a duo. Later they added a drummer and then asked me to join the group.This was in early 1965. The original drummer quit because he didn’t want a cut in pay when I joined, so we found Billy Conger to play drums. Billy and I were both from other towns and had come to Las Cruces to go to college.

I had met Keith in Los Alamos, NM through a mutual friend, Tommy Edwards. Tommy was a student at New Mexico State University and brought Keith home with him during a school break. They had a band called the Keymen.

The Four Dimensions played at several locations in the area and usually worked 6 nights per week. The clubs were: The Palms Motor Inn, The Cork and Bottle and a club in El Paso. The Cork and Bottle was our base. We eventually worked there 6 nights a week and in El Paso on Sundays.

There were many good bands and musicians in the Las Cruces and El Paso area back then. There was a band called the Outer Limits that did original music. They were in high school at the time and had some good songs.

We all used to hang out in Juarez at the Lobby bar. There was a blues guitar player that packed ‘em in every weekend and most week nights. I was there watching him at every opportunity. His name was Long John [Hunter] and did mostly original material. He played guitar with one hand while hanging from the rafters with his other hand. I ran into him a few years back and he plays here in the Phoenix area on a regular basis. He has several CD’s out.

Gold Dust records was a local studio and Keith and Phil knew the owner. His name was Emmit [Brooks] and he played in a country music band. We had a great relationship with Emmit and he shared in the cost and profit of the record (I don’t think there was any profit). We backed other performers at the studio also.

The Four Dimensions, l-r: Phil Holmes, Billy Conger, Jack Starkey and Keith Hackney

We didn’t have many original songs. “Sand Surfin” was written by Keith and Phil as a novelty and “I Love You For What You Are” was written by Keith. We put our spin on most of the covers that we did. Sand Surfin proved popular locally, because many of the local kids sand surfed at the Whites Sands site.

In the fall of 1965, we won a battle of the bands in Las Cruces and then headed to California. We had an agent in Hollywood and played the club circuit in Southern California. We ended up in a Las Vegas Lounge and had to split up early in 1966 as we received draft notices. Billy left Vegas with another band and Keith, Phil and I returned to New Mexico. We played a few times in Las Cruces before we finally broke up. After, Phil and one of the Keymen started a group. I believe the guy’s first name was Stan but his last name escapes me.

Keith is the only one of the group that actually went to Viet Nam. He made it back safe. I never had any contact with Phil after that but I heard that he formed another band that included his wife and played the club circuit. During those times you could make money playing the clubs and Vegas. Billy and I had another band for a little while after he returned from California. He played organ after the 4 Dimensions broke up. He still plays I the Seattle area. He was by far the best musician in the group, followed by Keith and Phil.

I really never played in a group. The group Billy and I had broke up because I got another draft notice. I had received a deferment earlier. I still have guitars and amps, but rarely play.

My kids took my copies [of the 45] back in the 80’s. One of my kids’ friends had a punk a band and did a cover of “Sand Surfin”. I would like to get my hands on some of the tapes we made at Gold Dust records. Although I would probably be disappointed. Our memories have a way of making things better than they really were.

Jack Starkey

17 thoughts on “The Four Dimensions”

  1. I know Jack and thankfully to him I was raised on some of the best music which helped me to become a well rounded person (I think). Thanks to his music and experiences in life- I have my life!!! I love you- your daughter- Laura

  2. I am the owner and engineer of Goldust Recording Studio. I have kept copies of almost everything we have ever recorded at Goldust Recording. Some of the tapes are over 40 years old, and splices have to be redone, and other techniques to get them to play, but we have transferred many of them to CD’s with good results. Call me at 575-524-1889 and give me the name of the band and about when you think they recorded with us, and I will give you an estimate on transferring the old tape to CD.

    Thanks for your interest.

    Emmit Brooks

  3. Mr. Brooks- I am searching for Phil Holmes, I am an old friend of his and would like to do some catching up. Have you had any contact or know of any whereabouts to find him. I would appreciate it if you could get back to me. Thank you for your time, Dawn Hansberry

  4. You are very Lucky. Jack besides being an excellent lead guitar player had a unique method of playing rhythm guitar with and as a compliment to the skills of Keith Hackney; whereby he would use his volume knob to emphasize definite effects; and, used his treble/base knob to create a “wah wah” effect long before an instrument was popularized to do the same.

    Jack and Keith were doing guitar harmonies long before the ‘Eagles’ became famous for their guitar harmonies. The “4 D’s” were years ahead of their time.

    I was honored to play with Jack and who knows where The Four Dimensions would have gone if not for the draft situation during the mid-sixties. We were on top of our class of bands and had no problem competing on the road.

    Keith didn’t came back from Vietnam the same. Drugs took not only his ability to function, play music, or even communicate on a normal level, but they also robbed his parents of their home, saving and retirement. The last I heard about Keith was when I attended his mom’s funeral and was told that he could not even comprehend her passing.

    Despite the somberness of the above the 4 D’s are still remembered as an outstanding entertainment group and will alway hold a warm place in my memory.

    Phil Holmes

  5. I would love to get in touch with Jack after all these years. I am still currently active in music and would like to correspond with Jack.
    Through public records I located a Jack Howard Starkey in Phoenix who has a relative named Laura so I am taking a chance to see if you would send Jack my e-mail and we could get busy catching up.

    My e-mail address is pholmes505@aol.com and has been for about twenty years.

    Please know that this is a request for you to have Jack have my e-mail and if he chooses to contact me I would love to hear from or about him. I say this only that I don’t want you to think I have any other reason than to touch base and discuss the Four Dimensions of which I was a founding member.

    I await your or Jack’s response.

    Phil Holmes
    Las Cruces, NM
    915 355 3453

  6. Phil, heard from Pam Taylor that you were back in town. Wouls love to get in touch with you when/if you get this.
    It’s interesting how similar our experiences were over the years. Hope to hear from you. Buzz Meachum from the old Taylor Gang !

  7. Emmitt,
    These two groups played out of Las Cruces during the mid to late 60’s I’m looking for any or all recording from either the Shandells and Outer Limits or either one of the groups. Bob Alexander was the lead guitarist for the Shandells before he was killed in an auto accident. At a later time, Leduc merged with the remaining Shandells (Dennis Lucero) when I saw them at NMSU in the early 70’s. Hope to hear back from you. Thanks, Asa Porter

  8. Hello Emmit,
    We recorded an album there in your studio in 1982, the band was Voltz. Just found this page by accident and wanted to say hello. How have you been ?
    Im still playing music, not on a professional level, but just for enjoyment with some good friends. We do recording he at home, and are doing some video work to on the side.
    Would love to hear from you again, hope all is well.
    Best
    Danny Scott (Jones)

  9. To Danny Scott (Jones): Just saw a Voltz record on Goldust. What city was the group from: Las Cruces, El Paso, other? I’m a former musician from El Paso (late 60’s – mid 70’s). You might find the blog http://www.musiciansof elpaso.com interesting.

    Regards,
    Sam Stephenson

  10. Keith Hackney, of the Four Dimensions, passed away on January 26, 2014.
    He will be laid to rest next to his parents at the Masonic Cemetery in Las Cruces, New Mexico on February 3, 2014. He was a good friend and great musician. Unfortunately, he had a troubled lived after returning from Vietnam.
    Rest in Peace Keith.

    1. Keith’s funeral was well attended. Many of his friends from Las Cruces High’s Class of ’63 attended. It was good to “catch up” with most of them eventhough we had our 50th reunion the October before. Keith was remembered as a veteran and outstanding musical performer.

      The Hackneys next door neighbors for many years attended and received
      The U. S. Flag since there was no close family left.
      Those neighbors had some memorabilia from the Four Dimensions that I hadn’t seen in a long, long time including the 45 of “Sand Surfin'” and some picture that brought back memories.
      On a couple of occasions I had the opportunity to meet with a customer of mine who worked as a nurse at the Veterans’ Hopital in Truth or Consequences, NM where Keith spent his last several years. She told me that he entertained the members often..

      Rest well my friend,

      Phil Holmes

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