The Ultimate


Clockwise from top left: Jim Hemenway, Bill Walker, Dwight Fenski and Ken (Wimpy) Mitchell.
Photo courtesy of Jim Hemenway
Bill Walker – organ, vocals
Jim Hemenway – guitar and vocals
Dwight Fenski – bass
Ken Mitchell – drums and vocals

The strong vocals and organ playing distinguish “Keep on Looking”, written and sung by Bill Walker. It’s backed with a cover of Los Bravos’ “Black Is Black”.

It was released on the Garland label of Salem, which also released fine 45s by the Zero End and the Morning Reign.

There was some confusion as to whether or not the Ultimate (singular) were related to an earlier group The Ultimates (plural) until Bill Walker and Jim Hemenway contacted me and left the comments below. Since there was a connection between the two, let’s go back and first talk about the Ultimates.

After touring as part of the Champs of “Tequila” fame, drummer Gary Nieland and lead guitarist Leon Sanders formed the Ultimates in 1963 in Boise, Idaho with bassist Allen Crawford and keyboardist Gary Sullivan. They eventually relocated to Salem, Oregon, where they recorded a 45 on Lavender, “My Babe” / “Little Girl”, then changed their name to Prince Charles and the Crusaders.

Bill Walker picks up the story from here:

Gary Neiland was owner of Garland Records. He was also a talent booking agency. When Gary left Prince Charles and the Crusaders his wife and he started a group called Fatt Twice Together.

He still booked them [the Crusaders], they changed their name to the Dart. Our group was called The Last Resort. A club owner in Salem, Oregon liked our group, but not the name. So Gary suggested we change it to The Ultimate.

“Keep on Looking” was recorded January of 1969 in Salem, Oregon. The record made number one in the top forty in Great Falls, Montana. We could never get our record played in the Portland, Oregon radio market. It’s all about marketing and we were just working musicians.

After we left Gary’s booking agency, we added a horn player. Jim and I also played horns and changed our name to Five Straight Up. The members were all lead vocalists. The band became a rock show band, it was a great group. Jim Hemenway and I have worked together off and on for the past forty years.

Bill Walker
Scappoose, Oregon

Thanks to Bill and Jim for the information and the photo of the group. As an aside, Dart recorded a great 45 on Garland, “Genevieve”, written by Earl Chipley.

0 thoughts on “The Ultimate”

  1. Have found this info by “Fuzz, Acid & Flower”

    Personnel:
    ALLEN CRAWFORD bs, gtr A
    GARY NIELAND drms, vcls A
    LEON SANDERS ld gtr, vcls A

    45s:
    1 My Babe/My Little Girl (Lavender LR 2001) 196?
    2 Keep On Looking/Black Is Black (Garland 2009) 1968

    Formed by Sanders and Nieland, who’d been in The Champs, this combo were based in Salem, Oregon and were also known at various times as Prince Charles and The Crusaders and Dart. Nieland started his own Garland label and eventually dropped out of the group, The Lavender 45 is good no-frills Pacific Northwest garage punctuated throughout by rapid keyboard doodlings on a squeaky organ!

    (Max Waller)

  2. The group on Lavender was from Boise, Idaho.

    The group on Garland is not the same outfit.

    People should know better than to take information published in Fuzz Acid and Flowers, or anywhere else, like on the internet as accurate without any verification noting it as such. Fuzz Acid & Flowers data rates at less than 50% trustworthy, IMO.

    MopTopMike

  3. the band members were Bill Walker(organ and vocals) Jim Hemenway(guitar and vocals) Ken Mitchell (drums and vocals) Dewight Fenski (bass guitar). The recording engineer was Gary Neiland founding member of the Ultimates. the record was recorded at Garland
    Records in Salem,Oregon in 1968. the B side of record was Black is Black. lead vocal on B side by Ken Mitchell. Lead vocal on (Keep on looking )was Bill Walker.

  4. Ths information is correct, The record My Babe/My little girl was recorded on Lavender Records by Gary Nieland,Allen Crawford, Leon Sanders, And Gary Sullivan. I know them all personally. This group was known as The Ultimates. They later became Prince Charles and the Crusaders. Shortly after that the band I was in became The Ultimate and recorded Keep on Lookin/Black is Black at Garland Records studio in Salem Oregon. The name Garland was a combination of gary & Neiland. Prince Charles and the Crusaders later became Dart with the same members. I personally played in the Prince Charles group for a time.

  5. Any info on the 45 by Dart on the Garland label called “Lead Me On’ and flipside
    of “Don’t Cry No More”? Both songs are written by (Malone) and appear to be tunes
    by Bobby “Blue” Bland? 45 # is GR-2019

  6. I worked with these two in Salem, OR. around 1970 playing the Tenor Sax. Leon and Carol divorced, and Carol hooked up with Gary Neiland. Then I hooked back up with Leon Sanders, aka Foxy and Company, and we toured alaska, Hope, BC. Kamploops, BC. While in alaska Leon Sanders became very ill, and he knew his life was about over. I left the band in Spokane, WA. Leon died shortly after. He was a fabulous singer, and guitarist, also played the trumpet a little.

  7. I used to see Leon and Carol with Foxy and Company at the Cotton Club in Hayden Lake. I was about 18 when I met him in 1971 and I thought he was so amazing, doing many unique and humorous musical bits. He and another guitarist would play “Lonely Bull” in harmony on trumpets played one-handed with their right hands while also playing guitar with just their left hands. They did this by turning up their amps and fretting the guitars hard to sound the chords. Carol played keyboard bass and B-3 and there was also a drummer. Everybody sang very well. I recall that Leon taught Carol to play. He introduced me to “CC, coke back” (CC means Canadian Club in bar lingo) outside the club on a Sunday night because in those days you could only drink beer on Sundays either in the whole state of Idaho or perhaps just Kootenai County. I was in a band called “The Characters” in 1972 and Leon introduced us to Roger Hoff of Ketchikan Alaska who owned a wonderful club called the Frontier Saloon. We went up there and played as the house band for a few months. Leon was a huge influence on me. I used some of his comedy bits over the years in my own entertainment career and think of him often. I heard that he died at age 32 probably caused by extremely heavy drinking. I was told that he drank about a fifth of Canadian Club per day in the last few years of his life.

  8. On the record lead me on/don’t cry no more. Gary Stotler and Gary Sullivan were lead vocalist. I played bass Ron Allen played drums.
    We recorded it in Gary Nielands studio. I can’t remember date. Both me and Gary Sullivan live in Oklahoma,our home state. I lost track of Ron and Gary Stotler. Yes they are both Bobby Bland tunes. I am not sure I even still have a copy but I am sure Gary Sullivan does he tends to save things.

  9. i grew up with Leon in Holdenville Oklahoma. He was two years older than me. I started playing music with him in high school. Our group was The Shadows Five. It consisted of Leon, Gary Sullivan,Richard Grissom,Johnny Pannell and myself Allen Crawford.
    Leon left us to join the Champs in 1962 . Gary Sullivan and I joined Leon and Gary Nieland and formed the Ultimates in 1963. we later changed To prince Charles and the Crusaders and later The Dart. Leon left us I think in 1968. Gary Sullivan And i continued on with Gary Stotler on lead guitar and Ron Allen on drums til 1970 then we quit and came back to Oklahoma where we still reside today. I think Gary Sullivan still plays some music. I haven’t picked up a bass in many years. I have lost track of the others. Gary and I were pall bearers at Leon Sanders funeral in 1974. he is buried in Holdenville Oklahoma

  10. No we never did GATHERS NO MOSS by 1966 we were The Ultimates. We spent that year mostly in Reno and Honolulu On peacock we recorded MARKHAM. I can’t even remember what was on the other side

  11. All of what you say is true. Leon was an unbelievable talent. T he last time I saw him was in1970 we shared a billing in Salem Oregon
    as we wer packing up the last night he told me “I should just go home with you to Oklahoma”. he was drunk at the time. I agreed with him but he didn’t go. I didn’t know what “bi polar” was then but now I know Leon was bi polar. The drinking was self medication. It is all so sad cause to this day I have heard very few guitar players as good as he was. He needed no gimmicks or special tools all he needed was his old wore out Telecaster and an amp. I heard a recording recently of us doing Tom Jones GREEN GREEN GRASS OF HOME
    Leon doing the vocal. I CRIED. IT WAS GREAT. If we had known back then about bi polar we could have gotten him treatment and he might be alive today. so sad. What a waste

  12. I played bass with Foxy & Co on the Alaska/Canada trip. The lineup was Leon (guitar), Pete Boardway (drums) who left in Alaska and was replaced by Paul Kay.
    Leon got very sick in Ketchikan and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital. I left the group in Yakima, WA and went back to college in the fall.

    Pete later rejoined Leon and they went to Montana where I believe Leon passed away. That winter Pete called me and said Leon was jaundiced and very sick. What stands out from my experience with him was his incredible guitar work. I was starting out in music, had been to Vietnam in 68 at eighteen and a little shaky myself. Leon was very patient with me and taught me a ton. He really did have it all. I will always have fond memories of the times with him. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>