The Sting Rays

The Sting Rays band
“A picture of the Sting Rays when we were at the top of our game.” From left: Cecil DeHart, Tom Pittman, “Butch” Schodt, Randy Vaughn, Tom Parker and Vince Screeney

Sting Rays Lawn 45 Ele-PhinkFor the 500th story I’ve done on US artists and labels since starting this site, I’m featuring a couple records that are very obscure and rarely heard, but both excellent examples of the sound of bands in the Tidewater region in the mid-60s.

The Sting Rays came from Portsmouth, Virginia. They had two 45s, one on Lawn and another on Vermillion. Both 45s feature an r&b influenced vocal number on one side, and an instrumental on the other.

Their first record is quite a rocker, featuring the swinging horn-led instro “Ele-Phink” backed with the fine, tough vocal “Hey Girl, Watcha Gonna Do” on the flip. Both songs written by R. Vaughn and published through Palmina Music and Florentine, BMI.

Sting Rays Lawn 45 Hey Girl Whatcha Gonna Do“I Need Her”, the vocal side of their second 45 might be their best track. The soulful singing is strong and the horns work perfectly with the driving rhythm section. “Calhoon-a”, the instrumental side, featured piano with bursts of horns (sorry about the warbled sound on this transfer). “Cahoon-A” was written by Tommy Parker, while “I Need Her” was by Tommy Pitman. Both sides produced by F.W. Singleton and published by Florentine Music, BMI. Released on Vermillion 107, the RCA custom press number S4KM-8478/9 indicates that this was pressed in the first half of 1965.

Their lead guitarist Vince Screeney took over on bass for the Swinging Machine when Evan Pierce was in the army.

Vince wrote to me that his time with the Machine, as he calls them, “started with me playing lead guitar for a rival band, The Sting Rays.” Vince gave me some background on the group and sent in the photo at top:

The Sting Rays were:

Cecil DeHart – bass
Tom Pittman – lead sax and vocals
“Butch” Schodt – drums
Randy Vaughn – sax, vocals
Tom Parker – organ
Vince Screeney – guitar, vocals

These were the members in the group that made the records and we were in top form before we had to break up so that three of our guys could go to college. This is the same group that shared the stage and alternated sets and jam sessions with the Rhondels at the Top Hat club in Virginia Beach.

Sting Rays Vermillion 45 I Need HerWe certainly weren’t any slouches and recorded twice at a studio in Accokeek, MD. It’s hard to read on the Vermillion label but if you look closely you’ll see that they were recorded by Ray Vernon Productions. His real name was Vernon Ray and he was the brother of Link Wray. Yes, he spelled it differently and I guess he had his reasons. He joked with us that he called his little basement studio “Ray’s Three Track Chicken Shack”. We got to meet Link Wray at our final recording session and I can tell you it was a real charge for me to meet the rockabilly legend.

The Sting Rays had a manager, a retired Portsmouth cop named Woody Singleton who was responsible for getting us recorded. I believe he must have met Vernon during the time Vernon was driving taxis in Portsmouth.

By the way, in case you’re curious, those were yellow shirts, white pants, burgundy jackets and ascots! and of course… Weejuns!

Sadly, we lost Randy on Dec. 23, 2010. The rest of us are hoping for a reunion soon. Thanks to all who remember us and wish us well.

Vince Screeney

I’m sorry to report Vince Screeney passed away on May 25, 2013. Last time I heard from Vince in 2011 he said the remaining Sting Rays were planning a reunion. Vince helped me put this page on the Sting Rays together, and also wrote to me about his next group, the Swinging Machine. He lived in a golden age for music generally and Portsmouth especially.

The Sting Rays with Elsie Strong
The Sting Rays with Elsie Strong
top row, L-R: Brent Brower, Cecil Dehart, Tommy Parker
Middle row, L-R: unidentified, Randy Boone
Bottom row, L-R: Roger Thacker, Elsie Strong, Terry Legum

Randy Boone sent in the photo above with a later lineup of the Sting Rays that included:

Elsie Strong – lead vocals
Roger Thacker – lead vocals
Terry Legum – lead guitar
Cecil Dehart – bass
Tommy Parker – Hammond organ
Randy Boone – drums
Brent Brower – horns
David Todd – horns

Thank you to Mop Top Mike for the transfers of the 45s, and to Vince for the scans of both records and the photo of the group.

Vermillion (Ver-Million, get it?) had some cool 45s, most notably the Executioners “You Won’t Find Me” / “Haunting My Mind”, the top side of which is a fantastic garage number with a cool guitar intro. The band is still something of a mystery, so if anyone hears of an Executioners from Virginia, Maryland or even PA, please let me know!

Sting Rays Vermillion 45 Cahoon-A

10 thoughts on “The Sting Rays”

  1. Back in 1962-66 I saw the Sting Rays at several different venues. They were ahead of the class and the start of many class acts to come from the garage band era. The two drummers they had both played a lead in my interest in music and wanting to play in may own band. Lynn Monell and Butch Schodt played drums and I became fascinated and began to play by mimicking ever move. Later on, I picked up on Dickey Bocock of the Swinging Machine and Ammon Tharp (Fat Ammon) of Bill Deal and the Rhondells. All three bands played three different styles but all who listen were captivated by their sound. As it would play out, all three band’s members some how participated as members in each other’s band. That shows the level of talent, even at a young age that was to come out of the high schools in the Tidewater area of Virginia. Thanks Vince for sharing the music.

  2. I had a band called The Soul Contingent in Virginia Beach in 1966-1967. We played the Virginia Beach Dome at the big Battle of the Bands that was sponsored by Gene Loving – it might have been Valentine’s Day.

    We had Ida Sands (Ida and the Idettes) singing with us and we really sounded great. The applause meter gave us the lead in the contest and we felt like we would take home the prize (it might have been sound equipment, I can’t remember for sure.

    The last band of the event came on and played well, but we still felt good about winning the event until the last song.

    The all white Sting Rays from Portsmouth, Virgina started a Otis Redding song “Try a Little Tenderness” acapella. As the other musicians came in, the song built to a fever crescendo and as the last note was played, the house came down. The applause meter just blew up and our band had to accept 2nd place.

    It was a memorable day and night to me and I will never forget it.

    Do any of you guys have more recollections of that gig?

    I live in Roanoke, Virginia and I knew Vince but I didn’t know of his connection with The Sting Rays.

    1. Actually the band had changed significantly by then. Vince, Tommy and Randy V had left to play with other bands (Swinging Machine and Rhondels). Butch, the drummer, left to go away to school, dental school I believe. The horn players were replaced by Brent Brower and David Todd. The singer at that time was Roger Thacker (great soul singer), and the new bass player was Cecil Dehart. I replaced Butch as the drummer. Later we had a great female singer by the name of Elsie Strong. The Hammond M-3 was still played by leader of the band, Tommy Parker.

          1. No. Roanoke, Virginia.

            I played from 1963-1990. Did a reunion in 2009.

            Trombone.

            Mainly R&B.

            How about you?

            My old guitar player was Tommy Parker – he lives in Tidewater and plays blues.

          2. Weird, Tommy Parker was our organ player………same name different guy, I suppose. This Tommy Parker eventually started the sound and music business known as ALM (Audio Light and Music)

            Played drums, still play from time to time in my attic….in the process of refinishing them now.

            Actually, thinking about trying to round some folks up to maybe play again. Know anyone in this area………..try my email at brb112@cox.net if you do, or whatever.

            Nice exchanging old stories, take care.

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