The Rugbys


The Rugbys – but with Jim Guest?!
Updated December, 2009

The Rugbys formed when all the members of the popular Louisville group the Oxfords left that band except the drummer, Jim Guest. Guest kept the Oxfords name and brought in members of the Spectres, soon releasing a good 45 on the Mala label.

The Rugbys took the Spectres’ drummer, Glenn Howerton to replace Guest; the other members being Steve McNicol on lead guitar, his brother Jim McNicol on bass, Chris Hubbs on guitar and Doug Black on sax. The band’s name supposedly came from wearing rugby shirts onstage.

At least, that was what I had read, but then Susan Harkins sent in this photo of the Rugbys signed by Jim Guest on the back, and Glenn Howerton’s signature is not included. Perhaps the Oxfords changed their name to the Rugbys, then Guest left or was kicked out and restarted the Oxfords with new members.

In any case, their first release is this great version of a Doug Sahm song, “Walking the Streets Tonight”, on the Top Dog label, from July, 1966. The flip side, “Endlessly”, a ballad original by Steve McNicol, has been ignored until now, though mellow it’s very good.

The Rugbys continued on until 1970 with some personnel changes, releasing several 45s and an album in a hard rock style.

Thanks to Susan Harkins for sending in the photo of the group.

25 thoughts on “The Rugbys”

  1. Hi, my name is Steve McNicol. I was the lead guitar player in the Rugbys. First of all, thank you very much for this web site. It’s really cool. If you would like to add this info, I think it would add to our article.
    In 1969 the Rugbys released a single on Amazon Records called You, I. It went to #1 on the local charts, was released nationally and climbed to #24 in Billboard and #21 in Cashbox. They later released their album called Hot Cargo, which is still available today. A good friend of the band Marvin Maxwell, has recently found and purchaed some previously unreleased material which has now been released on the Gear Fab label, called The Rugbys – The Lost Sessions. All of the Rugbys materal is available on the internet, and there are many copies of You, I and other Rugbys songs on E-Bay.

  2. To Steve McNicol,

    I am a 29 year old singer/guitarist, who grew up in the Louisville area and loves the Rugbys, Soul, Inc., the Monarchs, and all of the great local bands from the sixties. Are you still active in the music scene around town? I’d love to get together with you sometime to go over some of your old songs, and to get an autograph on my copy of HOT CARGO!

    Thanks,
    Terry Johnston
    usmc_1088@yahoo.com

  3. I’m Duke Freeman formerly bass player for US FOUR. Even though I was in a “rival” band I knew these guys very well and even though we played different material, if would have asked me who was the best Louisville had to offer at the time, I would tell you itwas The Rugbys. I still believe that to this very day. Steve, Glen, Eddie, Mike, you guys were IT!

  4. The Rugbys played at my senior prom in 1970 in Harrisburg, IL. They were fantastic. Their big hit “You I’ was the hit of the evening.

  5. I spoke with a friend of Glen Howerton last week and found out that he’s not doing well. He’s fighting cancer and has quit playing. This is tough news for me because he was the best drummer in Louisville, period. He knew exactly what to play and when to play it. He never overplayed and kept perfect time. I’ve never been so impressed with a drummer as I was with Glen. The breakup of the original Oxfords and the formation of the Rugbys (with Glen and without Jim Guest) was a major improvement and gave the group the drive they needed.

  6. I was fortunate enough to locate Glenn Howerton today. I hadn’t seen him since about 1976. It’s really strange seeing someone you haven’t seen in such a long time. Expectations and anticipations of how they will look are sometimes surprising and such was the case here, on both sides. We’ve both aged considerably and time hasn’t been kind to either of us, but the friendship still stands the test of time. We reminised about our past, the great times we had growing up in the Louisville music scene, and what we’ve been through since then.
    Other than just jamming a bit at his house in the mid to late 60s, Glenn and I hadn’t played together until 1976, and it was for only one song. He and Mike Winebrenner (Us Four) were working with Gary Edwards and appearing at the HollyOak in Indianapolis, IN. I just happened to see the advertisement in the paper and even though I wasn’t going to be able to catch them that weekend, I did manage to stop by on Saturday afternoon and sat in on bass and lead vocals. It was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Glenn was the best and I reinforced that with him today during our visit.
    He no longer performs although I’m trying to get him to come out of retirement temporarily so we can play together again.

    Duke Freeman (Us Four)

  7. Steve, I grew up in Fincastle (Tom Sales is my older brother). You may remember my mother, Neva. I found a signed photo of the original 5 Rugbys in her things. She is in assisted care living and I would like to sell the photo on ebay but I have no idea what it’s worth. It won’t pay her bills or anything, but might provide a little spending money. Do you have any idea what I should ask for it?

    It’s a small black and white snapshot of you and your brother, Doug Black, and two other fellows that are unfamiliar to me. I remember you, your brother, and Dougie even though I was very small. Your dad use to stop by occasionally and play our piano for us. :)

  8. Hello Steve,

    I happened on this site by accident. I want to thank you for the fun we had playing together in the newly formed Rugbys of the early 90s. I heard Eddy is playing in the house band at the Breckenridge Inn. I haven’t seen Barry in years. If you ever get the urge to get out and play again I would love to be your drummer again. You are by miles one of the best guitar players around not to mention you vocals and stage presence.

    My phone number is still the same and I’m in the book if you can believe that. Give me a shout sometime.

    Peace,
    Robert

  9. hi. my name is doug black.original memeber of the oxfords and the rugbys. I really have enjoyed the comments on this web site. It’s amazing how many people I run into that remember the oxfords and the rugbys.This was an exciting time of my life.The five of us had a great time playing music and having fun. Keep the site going.

  10. I just happened up on this site.LOVE IT WISH THERE WAS MORE.I’m just writing to say I remember you all playing at Ewing Lane School On Saturday nights then at Gypsy Village some Sunday nights.ENJOY Where are Steve,Chris,Jim and others today?

  11. Hello!
    How exciting to talk with you.
    In 1971 I got the single that contained in his side ‘B’ the song will automatically become one of my first “favorite for life”, I mean “The Light”, a marvel in just two minutes a half.
    Then do not speak English, but its melody, strength, charisma caught me forever.
    Thank you very much and I command you all the best wishes to all.
    Greetings from Innisfree!

    Bobthoven Floyd

  12. Louisville lost yet another one of it’s finest musicians and best people. Eddy Vernon passed away on January 4, 2012. He will definitely be missed by his fans, fellow musicians and family.

  13. I am Steve McNicol’s son and my band The War Hippies will be doing a memorial benefit concert for Eddy Vernon sometime in the next few months. We plan to honor the Rugbys by playing most of the songs of their album Hot Cargo. We will also have some of Louisville’s legends playing with us on this evening including the likes of Steve McNicol, and Barry King. I will post again when the show date is nailed down.
    I am really looking forward to performing these songs, as they mean so much to me.
    The proceeds from the show will go to Eddy’s family. God bless, and I hope to see you at the show!

  14. Doug, you probably don’t remember me. I lived at 3568b Fincastle road. I remember both bands and have fond memories of the old neighborhood. What are you up to these days.

  15. Thata way to tell em Steve. Hey thanks to you and The Rugbys for Hot Cargo and all the songs! I first heard the 45 of The Light and Wendegahl the Warlock around 1975 and had the album since about ’79. I had to order the LP twice cause I loaned my first copy to a guy to make me a tape for me and I never got the album back. I guess he must have liked it too. I still have my second copy!

  16. Hey guys! Just. happened across your site and wanted to ask if anyone remembers the Rugbys playing at an outdoor Heyfield block party back in the late 60s? If memory serves, they played for the opening of the new Heyfield subdivision near Atherton High School. The song “You, I” is the reason that my brother Gary (Brendan) Lewis started playing bass. He’s since played and recorded with a ton of local and regional acts. He mentioned this in a recent Facebook post on the Rugbys. Were their other later band members and did they try and reunite in later years? Great band…helped put Louisville on the music map:)

  17. Hi, I’m originally from Evansville, Indiana. I’m living in New York City now. When I was In Evansville I bought an Oxfords album called “Flying Through The Sky”. I still have it. While in New York City I came across an Oxfords single at a record fair. It’s on Paula Records. One side is “Your Own Way” and the other side is “Come On Back To Beer”. Is this single from the same band who did the album that I have? Also are any of the members of the Rugbys on the Oxfords’ album? Thank You.

  18. There was a guy in Jackson MS in the 80′s named Louie Munn who said he was in a later incarnation of the Rugby’s. Can anyone confirm this?

    1. Yes, There was a band from Mississippi who used our name, only instead of The Rugbys, they just used Th’ Rugbys. Personally, I really resented that. I think they probably had something to do with Shelby Singleton.

  19. i remember the great lousiville bands form the 60′s-70′s. i remember glen howerton playing with gary edwards and sage. i saw them. they were great. glen was on drums, mike winnebrenner of organ and richard streander played guitar and sang. richard could have been a star. they some guy playing trumpet, get this, his last name was Lipps. he was incredible. amazing high notes and power. he would cover up the whole band without even a mike. they play every chicago tune and when they played blood sweat and tears spinning wheel the trumpet player played the trumpet solo exactly like the album but even better. i loved the rugbys, company front, carnations. sure miss those days.

  20. eddie humphries-sax
    jon topy-trombone
    john shumate-trombone
    jay lipps-trumpet
    dick washburn-trumpet
    stanley-trumpe
    burnette higgins-sax

  21. Hi there old friends, my mom Thelma and jimmy guests mom owned kaleidoscope. Mom and I moved to California in the late 60′s where we still are. I have recently been in touch with Jim Guest, Bill Tullis, and everyone else who is still alive who played at the club. my memory of all the details is not as good as what I’ve read here but I would love to speak to anyone who is interested in talking about old times. I also owned the Headshop downstairs called changes unlimited.my grandmother would open up for me till I Got there after school everyday.I have still been active in the music business on and off my whole life. I had a PR company called star PR here in California recently. I specializedPR for well known contemporary jazz musicians. Please write me, Debbie

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