The Beckett Quintet

The Beckett Quintet photo
The Beckett Quintet, featured in KRLA Beat, October 16, 1965. L-R: Steve Nagle, Tommy Muncrief, Norm Reccius, Tim Taylor and Barry Dunkeson

A great 45 by the Beckett Quintet; the producers must have had high expectations, as hundreds of copies exist on the original Gemcor label and this was also picked up by A&M.

“No Correspondence” has been featured on plenty of compilations since its original release, but there was very little information out there on the Beckett Quintet.

Freddy Fortune sent me these clips from the amazing KRLA Beat newspaper site – a full page article on the guys! Now we know, the band consisted of:

Tommy Muncrief, vocals
Tim Taylor, guitar
Barry Dunkeson, guitar
Norm Reccius, bass guitar
Steve Nagle, drums

They were actually students at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, by the Texas border. Over a hundred miles northwest of Lubbock, it’s even further from Amarillo, Albuquerque or Santa Fe, but only fifteen minutes away from Clovis, where Norman Petty ran his studio. I wonder if they ever stepped foot in there.

Most of the article is about how the band saved to move to Hollywood, but, having been ripped off by a manager, they made the journey on a shoestring and half-starved while looking for a break. The subtitle is Cinderella Story, but the band disappeared soon after. What happened to them? What about the stacks of original material that the article talks about – any demos out there?

“No Correspondence” was written by Tim Taylor. The flip is a decent version of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. Production was supervised by Nick Venet, a veteran producer with Capitol and Mira who worked with the Leaves, Lothar and the Hand People, and Mad River among others. This was the third and last release on Gemcor.

As a footnote, the article gives the band’s name spelled Becket 5 or Becket Quintet, but the record lists them as Beckett Quintet. It also spells the singer name as Tommy Munirief (I also had it as Tom Munifief) but I believe it should be Tommy Muncrief.

Beckett Quintet articleSteve Nagle wrote to me in November 2009:

I am Steve Nagle and played drums for the Becketts (formerly the Epics out of New Mexico).

The band originally came together as the Epics when we were all students at Eastern New Mexico University starting out playing fraternity and homecoming dances. Tim was a fantastic guitar player and we decided to start a band so I asked my Mom to send out my drums from Missouri – she sent the drum cases on the Santa Fe railroad and they arrived in Clovis, New Mexico at the start of my sophomore year. I had played professionally since I was 12 years old in my hometown of St. Joe with a rock and roll band called the Teen Kings and also worked in little jazz combos and Bill Geha’s Big Swing Band.

I read your remarks about Clovis and yes we got to be friends with the one and only Norman Petty and were in awe of his connections with Buddy Holly, the Fireballs and others. He took our band to lunch once after he had just returned from London and meeting the Beatles. We recorded in his studio and he helped us prepare some demos to take to California. Our other musical mentors were Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. They told us we were the next big group out of the Southwest. That’s when we began to lag in our college work and took the band seriously and began getting calls to play all over New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.

The most fun and spiritual times were playing the Indian proms and homecoming dances at various pueblos and little towns in New Mexico. We would drive around to band gigs in Barry’s Chevy Nova with a rickety trailer in tow. One night after playing the Zuni Indian Homecoming we stopped and got out of the Nova to admire the clear starry night and were enchanted by a very bright shooting star flashing a long trail cross the western sky. That moment was when we made a vow to go to California right after Spring semester and make our way in the music scene which as you know was at its zenith in those days.

Beckett Quintet Promotional Card
Promotional card sent with some copies of their Gemcor single, very rare now

We were working on a major album with A&M Records with Herb Alpert and Tommy LiPuma (following our Gemcor contract with Nick Venet) when I got my draft notice. I have some old masters.

We worked all around Southern CA but mainly the Sunset Strip and even fronted once for Dylan at a place called The Trip. We did see Bobby Fuller in California, shortly before he was murdered. We were invited to a Halloween party and Frank Zappa’s house. We saw the Lovin’ Spoonful, we played for Dick Clark, saw Big Brother and the Holding Company, Sonny and Cher, the Grassroots, et. al.

We even had a groupie who we were proud of, he had just spent time in New Mexico and returned wearing knee high moccasins, silver and turquoise jewelry, he wore a concho belt and sported long grey hair – his name was John Barrymore Jr. and he would come to our manager’s house often to listen and a few of our gigs then one day just disappeared.

After my draft notice from the Army in the Spring of ’65 the band got nervous and basically began to disperse and ended up traveling down separate roads.

After several years in government after my discharge from the Army, I went back to Hollywood and worked in a few films and TV shows and ran into Norm who was a practicing clinical psychologist, but we lost contact.

I have an occasional day dream about rounding up Tim, Barry, Norm and Tommy for a reunion and recording but they have all left only faint trails and I have not been able to make contact. I now play a lot of folk music with my Martin guitars and trying to learn the fiddle. I produced an album just last year featuring some of my original tunes, River Voices and Songs – it was a fund raiser for a local conservation organization. My drums are being used by a PhD student from Ghana at a Methodist church here in St. Louis.

The reason I’ll never forget our good year in Southern California is because we were such a close brotherhood and with that mix of Texas and New Mexican guitar work and vocals – we were unique and when we played we got goose bumps and felt deeply we had something special – if only for a brief shining moment.

Oh yes, by the way we were truly a garage band – our manager’s two car garage in Encino was where we rehearsed almost everyday.

Thanks to Steve for the information, hopefully we can hear the unreleased material someday.

After the Beckett Quintet split, Tommy Muncrief wrote and sang the title song for the feature movie “Didn’t You Hear”.

30 thoughts on “The Beckett Quintet”

  1. This recording reached #40 on the KMBY top 40 listing in the fall of 1965. (October 1965)
    The side played and that charted was Baby Blue. I remember hearing after one of the several times it was played the DJ’s comment on how bands these days play louder than the vocals. KMBY was located on Cannery Row on the Monterey Peninsula. I tried several times to order this record and the record store in Pacific Grove was unable to obtain it. I was so disappointed. The same thing happened a year later when I tried to obtain the Velvet Underground and Nico’s Sunday Morning b/w Femme Fatale single. I had to settle for their first LP in June 1967.(always have to bring the latter group up)

    1. Milton Walters, eh? Shiloh Orion now lives in Hawaii and still plays some guitar. He sent me a nifty finger-picking song he recorded a while back. I remember Milton from his bands in Farmington. We were a bit jealous because he had much better amps and PA system than we had. The last I saw of Milton was the back of a Baby’s album. He was on stage and didn’t have a shirt on. That’s something the Torques never got around to doing.

  2. I lost touch with Bary when I was drafted into the Army in 1966 after we played in the band togeher in Hollywood all during 1965. His trail has grown faint — I beleive he has a bother Larry who retired from the Fish and wildlife Service residing in new Mexico. ‘
    would appreciate any arrows pointing toward Barry’s location. He was a very talented member of the band and was off to a good start in college but for the dream of geting a record contract in Hollywood. Steve Nagle

  3. Hi!

    I found contact info on a Lawrence Dunkeson from Albuquerque New Mexico, seems to be aged 66 if that’s Barry’s brother. I coudn’t find anything at all on Barry.

    I’m a little cautios about posting his number here but if you want e-mail me at Sandbagger_300@yahoo.com and I’ll be happy to pass along the info.

    Love your “No Correspondence” song, it’s one of my all time favorite garage songs!

  4. Try Shiloh Orion in Hawaii. That’s Barry’s new persona. Barry figures in a couple of tales in my book THE COMPLEAT CALHOON. Google it. I played with Barry in The Torques (1964-1965)

  5. I first have to say that it was amazing to find such extensive coverage of the Beckett Quintet. Norm Reccius, the bass player, is my dad, so reading all about the band only made him that much cooler to me. I don’t know where the rest of the members are, but my dad works at UCLA medical center and still lives in Los Angeles. He doesn’t, however, play the bass anymore.
    I can thank the Beckett Quintet for my existence seeing as how it got my dad to move to LA and introduced him to my mom. The manager was her brother in law and they first met on a night when she grudgingly gave into his demand that she come meet the band. Thank you Beckett Quintet!

  6. Been looking for info about Beckett Qunintet for awhile. My mom was a fan and I wanted to get her the 45 for a gift. She’s from LA and about your dad’s age. Wonder if they know each other? She said she saw them live in the 60’s. Do you know the venues they played? Or if any still play in LA?

    Thanks,
    Trina

  7. My mom was a fan of Beckett Quintet in the 60’s and I was trying to find her the “No Correspondence” 45. Does anyone know the venues they played because she can’t remember, and she definitely saw them live in the 60’s. Thanks!

    Trina

  8. All over New mexico and the Texas panhandle – we particularly liked playing the pueblos and the Indian proms, etc. Then our year in L.A. we first played at the Sea Witch on Sunset Blvd and the Trip and a few other places – we also played out in Bakersfield and in the mountains at Wrightwood – fun times were playing for producers at riviate parties in Hollywood.

  9. I picked up this single in a cutout bin at a local store over 40 years ago, and have loved it ever since. I lost that record years ago, and was glad to find it re-issued on a compilation CD. This is my favorite version of “Baby Blue.” Thanks to Mr. Nagle for sharing his stories of those days.

  10. I can be reached at gatestars22@gmail.com. This article blew me away, as I am one of the original band members. Thanks Steve and Fender; the memories are treasured. I don’t even have a copy of the record, although the memory of recording it is fresh.
    Aloha Nui Loa

    1. Barry SHILOH, Oh man good to know you are still out there in the wild blue Pacific!

      About a year ago, I called Tommy Muncrief — he had gotten out of the hospital — a guy in Hollywood was trying to track him down to do a story or get ahold of his song material.

      Barry, I hope we can keep in touch. Say, I’m learning to pay fiddle and banjo. Still playing guitar and signing folky americana stuff every chance I get.

      Love you bro,

      Steve

  11. What a great web page! I am a former member of the group Beckett Quintet and loved seeing this page with comments. I don’t even have a copy of the record myself, although the memory of recording it is still fresh. Thanks Steve, Fender and Everett from Hawaii.
    Aloha Mai

  12. Unbeleivable, I just found two more missing records from the Becketts. I am going to have them put on a CD including the two recordings from Gemcor and A&M records. They were in a locked cabinet and may be the only two in existence at this point. Jack Niezche helped to produce.

  13. Hi Guys. Judy here. I was friends with Tommy Muncrief and his good friend Judy Graef, We spent some time with you in Long Beach in 1965 and I visited you all in Sepulveda, CA in (probably) 1966 or 1967. I was attending the U of Arizona at the time. I also got to know Tim Taylor in Portales where he was teaching high school in 1969-70. I was really surprised to find all this info posted, even if it is several years old now. I found it while looking for Tommy M. He was in Carlsbad, NM three or four years ago. I spoke with him several times then. He was having health problems. He left Carlsbad when his Mother died and I lost track. I did locate his brother on Facebook today (11/6/14). He said the last he knew, Tommy was in Albuquerque, NM. I live there part time and part time in Carlsbad, due to my husbands work. You might try to locate him there. It sure was great to see that you all are still around, at least awhile back. I am going to let Judy Graef know about my discovery of this info. If any of you see this, please feel free to respond. I would love to know what you are doing now. P.S. if you do locate Tommy, please tell him to call Freddy Morris in Pinos Altos, NM, and soon. Freddy is very ill. Take care.

    1. For: Judy Welton

      Hi Judy,

      Oh my yes I certainly do remember you and your roommate where we lived for a while in Long beach. I hope all is going well for you. Didn’t you teach us that song by the We Five (oddly enough they also recorded with A&M Records) you know that really neat tune “You Were on My Mind” I think you played and sang that – we should have put you in our band.

      I hope you get this reply – really appreciate hearing from you! amigo,

      Steve

  14. Today has been quite the reality check for me. I had a phone conversation with my father — Tommy Muncrief. Although we’re not super close, we do chat from time to time. During our chat, we got on the subject of music and being in bands. He’s pretty late when it comes to using the Internet, but at least he’s discovered Google, and he told me that I should do a search for his old band, “The Beckett Quintet.” (It’s weird that I knew he sang in a band but never knew its name until today.)

    I was VERY surprised by how many hits came up! And then I found this page. That picture of him trips me out! (If that date is correct, then he was a month shy of turning 19 when it was taken.)

    I’m blown away! TBQ may not have hit the big time, but they were far more accomplished than I ever would have imagined!

    Hello, Tommy’s old bandmates and friends! I would be happy to correspond with any of you.

    Yes, Tommy currently lives in Albuquerque. His health isn’t great but he seems fairly stable at the moment.

  15. Besides e-mailing Shiloh from time to time I also ran into Tim Taylor in Las Cruces NM back in the early 80s. I was playing at the Desert Sun on Main Street and Tim came up and introduced himself. He remembered me from the one time we met in 1966 when Skip (Harry) Batchelor and I drove from Farmington to Portales to see Barry at ENMU. The big occasion was that the Astronauts (our favorite surf band) were playing for a dance at the college. Tim had his Strat with him and he came up and sat in with us. He sounded just like Mark Knopfler! I remember confusing Tim by insisting that I had stayed with him and Barry at their apartment in North Hollywood in late 1966. Tim said, “I never lived in North Hollywood.” Later on I realized it was NORM who lived with Barry on Gilmore Street.

  16. This is great!! After the band I was in with Barry (Shiloh) and Fender I joined the Navy and was going to sonar school in San Diego. I would go visit my uncle in Van Nuys every few weeks and got to spend quite a bit of time with TBQ at their house. One weekend (which they will all probably cringe at the memory of) their manager came by and said he got them a slot at The Trip on Sunset that afternoon but the drummer Steve was off somewhere and there was no way to contact him. So they wouldn’t miss this chance, it was decided Barry would play drums (his position in the Torques) and I would take his place on rhythm guitar with my still boot camp hair cut. I just remember a lot of girls, not having any idea how the songs went, Barry trying to remember how to drum and then Donovan (who was on next) walking by the room we were in saying good job! Later the manager said to me “Well, you tried!”
    I’ll be 70 in a few months and am still playing as a single in NM and having more fun than a person should be allowed!

  17. For Cliff, Son of Tommy Muncrief,

    Hi Cliff so good to read your message. I would like to get in touch with your Dad. You know your dad had the most awesome voice and his song interpretations were genius. We had a fantastic group in New Mexico and then Hollywood – The doors were opening for us and then I got my draft notice. I would like to contact Tommy if you will share his contact information in New Mexico. As mentioned, I am putting a compilation together on a Cd of some of songs that have survive and would sure like to send him a copy. Steve

    1. Hi, Steve. I would be happy to forward Tommy’s info to you. I see your e-mail address up above, and I will send it to you there.

  18. I was neighbors with Shiloh (Barry) in Farmington, NM. My friends and I followed the Beckett Quintet’s success and of course the local station played the records. Here’s my question – didn’t they perform once on television? It seems to me like they were on, or were supposed to be on, some California show, maybe a dance show? There were certainly rumors to that. I remember Shiloh with great fondness – he was a cool guy – even to the less cool younger neighbors.

    1. Aloha Nancy. I just saw your note and it was really cool. I send my greetings from the big Island in Hawaii. I remember you oh so well.
      Shiloh Orion (Barry)

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