The Restless Men were James J. Healy and Russell LeJeune (mispelled LeJune on the label), from possibly Arkansas.
In November, 1965 they released their only single, the ballad “Man of Mind” b/w “Somebody Knows Me Now” on RM Records 51132.
No drums, but bass and acoustic guitars and a tambourine in a bath of echo propel “Somebody Knows Me Now”, a song about finding companionship in prison! Unlike the loneliness of being free (“each in his shell, in his own little scene, each one alone, only fish in the sea”), now they are “locked behind bars, each know the game, hold the same cards”. Some bluesy runs in the guitar break shows an r&b background for at least one member. This was the b-side of the single.
The ostensible A-side could be described as a folky paean to the Christian concept of god.
The songwriters James J. Healy and Russell LeJeune copyrighted both songs on March 9, 1966 under their own names, no publishing company listed.
Jeffrey Harvey interviewed Roy Rogers of Bobby and the Denos and wrote this article on the group. Roy has a fantastic collection of photos which he kindly shared with Garage Hangover.
Bobby & The Denos were a Fort Smith, Arkansas based group that released just one 45 on Fayetteville’s Chance label in their five-plus years together.
“Just Like Me” is a super-tough outsider anthem penned by Billy Jack “Bobby” Rogers, lead singer of the group, and features lyrics such as:
I don’t want to be like Elvis Presley I don’t want to be like Jerry Lee I don’t want to be like Ricky Nelson Oh baby, I just want to be like me!
The flip is a solid take on Peggy Lee’s version of “Fever” that the boys didn’t even know how to play until they got to their recording session at Gene Sullivan’s studio outside of Oklahoma City.
I was able to track down Denos guitarist Roy Rogers (birth name), and speak with him about the band’s history.
GH: Can you tell me how the band was formed?
RR: Well, I started playing lap steel guitar when I was 11 years old. After a couple years, a piano player (Tony) showed up at the music school where I took lessons. He had perfect pitch and total recall, and after a while the music school told his parents “Don’t bring him back, cause we can’t teach him anything he doesn’t already know!” We were 14 and 15 years old by then, and Elvis was jumping around and wiggling, and the girls were screaming, and I went; “Holy Hell, I gotta do that!” So I dug out an old Kay guitar my dad had in the closet and started asking around and learning chords. Well, pretty soon Tony and I were at a party, and we met a bunch of boys older than us who played. A few days later some of those boys came by my house to jam.
GH: What year would that have been?
RR: Probably ’58 or ’59. We just all started jamming out together and calling ourselves “The Satellites.” We added a bass player (George), drummer (Gary), and sax man (Billy), to round out the sound. Gary was our age and in the high-school jazz band, so he could really play the drums. We continued on until probably 1960, when we changed our name to “Bobby & The D-Notes.”
GH: What prompted the name change?
RR: Our original lead singer Gordon Jennings quit, and we had heard about this guy named Billy Jack Rogers – no kin to me – and we went out to the American Legion one night to listen to him sing. He was singing Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now Or Never” and he was just killing it! I was like “My God, you’re kidding me!” So we approached him on one of his breaks and told him that we needed a singer, and asked if he’d like to come over and jam with us. Well, he did, and he quit the other band real quick.
GH: How did the Denos name come to be?
RR: Well, just about six months after Billy Jack joined, someone told our sax man that “Denos” meant “well-liked” in Italian. I still don’t know if it’s true or not, but that’s the story we got from some guy, and it made for a pretty easy change!
GH: That is a great story! Where were you guys musically around this time?
RR: We were practicing all the time. I mean, we were playing so much that my damn fingers were bloody! We also started making real money playing dance halls and what not. My dad was an upholsterer who worked in a factory, and he kept telling me I was gonna be a bum if I didn’t learn how to upholster or something. By this time I was 15 or 16, and making more money in two nights than he was working a whole 40-hour week!
GH: What were your live shows like?
RR: We did choreography and all that stuff like The Temptations. Our piano man Tony would jack up the upright piano back in the day on two Coke cases, and he would stand up, play one-handed, and do the steps with us. We also really liked what the black artists were wearing. Very snug tailored jackets and pegged pants. We loved our “Beatle Boots,” and started having our jackets made out of red, blue and green, brocade material with the James West waistcoat look. Remember the Wild, Wild West series on TV? Maybe you’re too young for that. We were very sharp dressed. We didn’t think too much about politics because we were into being the coolest cats in town. Music and women… Typical band boy stuff, you know?
GH: What comprised your live set list?
RR: We were playing about 50% – 60% R&B and blues numbers that were popular at the time.
GH: Tell us about the recording of “Fever” b/w “Just Like Me”
RR: “Fever” and “Just Like Me” were recorded in Oklahoma City around 1961 in Gene Sullivan’s recording studio. A guy named Phil Eagle out of Fayetteville, Arkansas owned a small label called Chance. He was also a booker, promoter, and manager, and he approached us about recording. We said “Of course!!!” and did some demos before heading down to Sullivan’s to cut the record for real. The record actually got played on the radio in Oklahoma City, Dallas, Little Rock, and Fort Smith for a while.
GH: What was the music scene like in Fayetteville around that time?
RR: Oh boy, there were all kinds of bands going on. Ronnie Hawkins was on the scene around that time. He ended up marrying a girl out of Canada and moving there. His group went on to be The Band. We played in and around Fayetteville lots back then. We were playing sorority and fraternity parties, and this beautiful, two-story club called the Rockwell Club that looked like it just grew up out of a mountain! It looked like it was made out of all native stone, and we would open for Ronnie in there sometimes.
GH: What else do you remember about recording in Oklahoma City?
RR: We were all 16 and 17 years old when we made that record. I remember we went down there, and realized that nobody in the band really knew the lyrics to “Fever.” We ended up going down to a drugstore and finding a Hit Parade magazine. Sure enough, the song “Fever” was in there, and that’s what we used to remember the lyrics! After that, we just went in the studio and did it. It was so dumb how we did it, but it was great!
GH: The lyrical content of “Just like Me” conjures up the image of an outsider essentially giving his girl an ultimatum that if she can’t take him for who he is, then don’t even bother. The anti-name dropping is also impressive for the time. Did you feel that you guys were making a social statement with that song?
RR: Right!!! That was it!!! When we played music, we did it our way. I didn’t learn the lead guitar parts exactly right for all the songs we covered or anything, we just jammed them out. I mean, of course we rehearsed them all and got it the way we wanted, but unless it had a really important lead part in it, Tony and I were, at that time, just good enough to play our own lead. We were playing a lot of black clubs back then too, and musically, we were kicking ass. Billy Jack (Bobby) was a lot older than most of the Denos, and he came to us and said “I wrote this song!” It was “Just Like Me” and it ended up perfectly fitting the way we played. We just did our own thing, you know?
GH: Tell us more about the kinds of clubs you guys played back then.
RR: One of our first jobs was in Kansas City in September of 1962. We were all around 17 years old (except for Billy Jack), and had graduated high school earlier that May. We decided we were going out on the road, so we just took off. I had an aunt in Kansas City and I called her. She obliged us, and we slept on cots down in her basement. We got there on a Sunday, went out banging on doors on Monday, and landed our most lucrative job at the 2500 Club on 2500 Truman Road.
GH: What was that scene like?
RR: Oh man, it was your typical “knife & gun club!” You know, one of those places where you gotta give them your license in exchange for a knife or gun to go inside! (laughs). The crazy thing is that we ended up playing there, off and on, for the next three years!
GH: Do any other clubs or acts that you shared a bill with at the time stand out in your mind?
RR: Well, we went down to Galveston, Texas – I think it was Pleasure Pier or somewhere – and just walked into a little club and told them we were good. There was a black band called Little Hot & The Volcanoes – or something like that – playing and Little Hot was a five-foot tall drummer who was a monster when he played. He would stand up and play the hell out of those drums! We worked there for a bit, and while we were down there, we got to open a show for Bobby “Blue” Bland out on the pier one night. We were just five white guys playing our damn hearts out, and they loved it!
RR: Yeah, and after that we headed over to New Orleans, to 426 Bourbon Street at a place called “The Dream Room,” which was later called “Your Father’s Mustache.” Well, The Champs – from “Tequila” fame – were playing there, and we had met them in Kansas City, and they told us to go up to The Peppermint Lounge in Shreveport because the owner – Mr. Mike – needed a band. We said “Hell yeah we’ll do it,” and it was actually in Bossier City, Louisiana. At the time back then, Bossier City looked like Vegas. It had more neon than you’ve seen anywhere! Dale Hawkins – from “Suzie-Q” fame – and his band were already playing there, so we just set up on the floor of the club and kicked his ass!!!
GH: That’s a great story! Who were your main musical influences at the time?
RR: Bo Diddley, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Freddie King, B.B. King, The Ventures, Duane Eddy, Ronnie Hawkins, and Lonnie Mack.
GH: When did Bobby & The Denos finally go their separate ways?
RR: Well, Billy Jack (Bobby) quit around 1964 after another run we had at The 2500 Club in Kansas City. We went back home and needed a singer. We found a guy named Jim White, who later changed his name to Jim Mundy. He went on to do commercials for Green Giant vegetables and some beer companies. He was married and only lasted a few weeks with the Denos. We were younger than him, and a lot wilder at the time. One night we were raising hell and Jim just said, “Boys, I can’t take this… I QUIT!!!” After that, we were still rehearsing at Tony’s house in Fort Smith and one day he said “I know all of Billy Jack’s (Bobby’s) songs. I said “Bullshit.” But man, he sang every damn song Billy Jack (Bobby) sang, and just as good too!!! We went back to The 2500 Club, and after the first week, had the place packed out. We were making $1200 a week at the height of our run, and they had to lock the doors on Friday and Saturday nights and do a one-in/one-out type thing! After our run at 2500 was up, we went back home to Fort Smith. The day we arrived, I found a letter in the mailbox that said: “Uncle Sam Wants You.” I called around and found out I wasn’t the only one. Two other Denos got the same letter on the same day, and that’s when we knew it was over.
GH: So essentially, by the time you guys were really up and running as a band, really hitting your musical stride, that’s the time the war put an end to things?
RR: Yeah, that’s right. We had picked up an agent – The Jackson Agency in Kansas City – and they were booking us around. The war ended all that, and we all went our separate ways.
GH: What happened after Bobby & The Denos broke up?
RR: Well for one thing, I got married. This was around 1965 and I had been dating a girl for about a year. I also ended up flunking my physical for Uncle Sam. I had double-curvature of the spine, and they said “Get your ass out of here!”
GH: Did your music career end there too?
RR: Well, no. When everybody quit Bobby & the Denos, I just kind of took over. I had always done the majority of talking to the club owners and such, so when everybody left; I started up Roy Rogers & The Denos. I recruited some guys to play, and we continued traveling around. That lasted until about 1966 when my daughter was born. After that I joined a group out of Louisville, Kentucky called The Imitations. Can you believe that in early 1970 we toured the Far East? We were in Japan, Korea, Thailand, Okinawa, The Philippines, and Vietnam for six months. Dumbass me gets recruited for the Army, and ends up going over there anyway as a civilian without a gun! At some point The Imitations turned into Roy Rogers & The Internationally Famous Imitations, and that lasted until 1979.
GH: Are there any last words or memories you’d like to share about your time with the band?
RR: I’ve probably had one of the best lives of anyone you’ve ever met. I feel that we grew up in the best of times ever in the history of the United States – the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. When I got into music, it changed my life. All I ever wanted to do was play music, and whenever we got on the road I was just free, man. You know? We were five Arkansas hillbillies, and we would go into black clubs, play with the bands, and be welcomed. We could go wherever we wanted, and be accepted. It was just a great time to be alive. 1958 – 1965 were the best days of my life.
Recently I bought the Yardleys first 45 and found the band was listed as unknown in the liners to Lost Souls vol. 1, from Pine Bluff in Teen Beat Mayhem, and from Alabama in Gear Fab’s Psychedelic States CD series!
Billy Bob Thornton had his own garage band, the McCoveys, in his hometown of Malvern, Arkansas, about 40 miles southwest of Little Rock. He wrote about the Yardleys in his autobiography, The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts:
The big band in my town was called the Yardleys … Steve Walker, Larry Byrd, Bo Jones, Bucky Griggs and Butch Allen. They had a Farfisa organ, bass, guitar, drums and Bo Jones played the trumpet. They played original songs and actually made a couple of 45s that were played regionally, but they may as well have been the fucking Rolling Stones or the Beatles as far as I was concerned.
The Yardleys used to have these street dances and they would rope off the main Dollar Store and Safeway parking lots. It cost fifty cents or a dollar to come inside the rope and dance in front of the band … Most of my days in junior high and high school were spent trying to figure out how you get chicks that looked good, and just standing there watching these bands like the Cadets, LSD and the Illusions, the Senates, the Yardleys and the Beethovens.
The Yardleys were playing a cover of “Cold Sweat” by James Brown. Steve Walker, the guitar player, landed on a nail on the wooden stage during his guitar solo. When he got back up, his pants were ripped and he had this bloody knew but he just kept playing …
In 1966 the Yardleys released their first 45 on the Foundation label, the top side featuring the subdued original by Bucky Griggs and Larry Byrd “Come What May”, backed with Butch Allen’s excellent and upbeat “The Light Won’t Shine”. Both songs published by High Fidelity Oleta, BMI, which also published the Lost Souls on Leopard.
Butch Allen wrote both songs on their second 45 from January, 1967 on their own Yardley label, the very Stones-inspired “Your Love” backed with the gentle “Just Remember”, both songs published by Quinvy, BMI.
Joan H. sent in this poster of the group that was posted to a website about Malvern. She writes:
Standing on left is Bucky Griggs, on right Larry Byrd, seated on left is Butch Allen and right Steve Walker. Although Billy Bob is correct, Bo Jones did play in the band, it was not for the full time and he was added at some point. Don Hicks was the photographer but he has not been in business in the Malvern area for a very long time. The bench Steve Walker rests against was used in many of the photographs for local brides.
If anyone has a better photo of the poster or other photos of the Yardleys or other groups in that area, please contact me.
The Light Brigade were the three Cole brothers and their friends from Little Rock, Arkansas. They released their first 45 on the My label in 1967, which included James Williams on lead guitar.
“Baby You Don’t Care” rides a great fuzz tone while “Won’t You Tell Me” is much gentler. Both these songs were written by Dean Cole and bassist Lonnie Cole. Ray Cole was the other brother in the group.
“Lonnie’s Song” is from 1969, released on the E&M label. The band stopped playing around 1971.
Thank you to Angela for correcting the name of her father – James Williams, not Williamson as I had read from a comment.
Out of Little Rock, Arkansaas, the Romans were Gary Hall lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Phil Miller lead guitar, Rocky Hestes keyboards and vocals, Charles Wycott bass, and Greg Kempner on drums.
Earl Fox began the E&M Recording studios in 1959, and started the My label in early 1966. The Romans were one of the first bands featured on the label.
“You Do Something to Me” uses one of the earliest recorded examples of phasing to create a hypnotic effect. I wonder if the phasing was intentional or if it happened by accident and the group went with it. The flip is an excellent folky ballad, “I’ll Find a Way”. This was released in a sleeve with a photo of the band in Roman legionnaire costumes in May of 1966. As far as I know it was the only 45 on My issued with a picture sleeve.
Jerry Blacklaw wrote “You Do Something to Me”, “I’ll Find a Way” and the flip of their second 45, “I Just Had to Fall (in Love)”. Jerry was a student at Central High in Little Rock who was brought in specifically to write songs for the Romans. In later years he composed religious songs.
In October of ’65 they released their second 45, choosing to do a cover of Levon and the Hawks’ “He Don’t Love You”, written by Robbie Robertson. (Did the group know Levon Helm was from Marvell, Arkansas, east of Little Rock?)
In 1967 the band was moving in a soul-oriented direction, adding a two man horn section of Bob Younts on sax and Bobby Lincoln on trumpet. Richard Shook replaced Charles Wycott on bass, and Jim Matthews took over on drums for Greg Kempner. These Romans cut a third record, “Think It Over” / “You Won Your Victory”, the latter song, written by new bassist Richard Shook, sounding very much like Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety Nine and a Half”.
They soon changed their name to Merging Traffic and released their last 45 on “My, Ain’t No Need (In Me Fooling Myself)” / “Something Special”. Decca signed the band for one 45, “Bit by Bit” / “Deep in Kentucky”, which had some local chart success, notably in Connecticut and Rochester, NY.
Some members reunited for a show of Little Rock bands in 1999.
Update: I recently spoke to Rick Harrington, who gave this history of his work as manager of the Romans and another act, the Groovin’ Kind:
I was working at Tommy’s clothing store in Little Rock and managing the college men’s area. Gary Hall and Richard Shook came in the store and I stopped them to tell them I had just heard them the day before playing at Lake Nixon I believe it was. The group’s name was the Playboys. I praised their harmonies and loved the tightness of the group. They did a lot of Beatle tunes that blew me away. Like Nowhere Man … sooooooo good.
They kind of blew me off and I said hey wait a minute, I know what I’m talking about. I’m a drummer and had the first rock and roll band in Rochester, New York. The group I started out with in Rochester was the Easy Rockers and then after a couple of years I ended up with the Crazy Crickets. This was back in the mid fifties. (By the way this is why we had the success we had in Rochester with the record. I promoted it there with some friends on the radio and record stores).
Well they were losing their drummer for some reason and asked me to audition. Long story short the group broke up at my audition. I may not have been what they were looking for as I see it now.
They came back a couple of weeks later and asked me to join the group. I was elated and then they told me they wanted me as their manager and not their drummer. I took the challenge and excelled at it. They were changing some of the members and the name to the Romans.
My involvement was 24/7 with those boys. I booked all of their gigs. Set their prices high enough where those high school boys were making excellent money at the time. I drove them to their gigs in my ’65 Pontiac Catalina pulling a horse trailer converted to look like a chariot for the Romans. I even had my mother-in-law at the time design and make their roman togas for their shows.
The record deal with My Records was on a handshake really. No contract. Earl Fox and John Hannon (I believe that was his last name) were partners in the studio. We all produced everything that was recorded there by the Romans. I’m not really sure who found who. Whether someone in the band like Gary Hall or myself got the studio involved. Then again maybe Earl Fox heard the band somewhere and sought us out.
I do know that I talked Earl and John into letting me use the studio for rehearsals every day after school for about 3 hours. No charge. They were really good to us. I had them rehearsing every single day after school at E&M studios to get the show presentable enough to demand the high prices I was able to demand for them.
My car logged over 100,000 miles in one year and never left the State of Arkansas. I was somewhat older so I acted as a chaperone when we had to spend the night out of town. They were just teenagers and I was about 25 or 26 years old.
I also took them to Nashville, got them hooked up with Bobby Goldsboro’s producer at the time (Tony Moon) who suggested changing the name to the Merging Traffic because every time people got on the Interstate we would get free advertising. We had their publicity photos done in front of one of those signs.
When the Romans asked me to be their personal manager (that’s when the Beatles had Brian Epstein and all bands wanted a manager), I ended up quitting my job at Tommy’s Clothing Store and went full time managing, booking, promoting and producing. I had a great run for many years doing that. Mostly small time but a wonderful life of great music and great friends.
At first it was an exclusive thing with me and the Romans but after a couple of years and other bands always asking me to book them or manage them, I was lured by becoming so much in need. And besides that, Gary Hall’s mother wanted to manage the Romans and was squeezing me out. That ended up getting them nowhere of course.
[Later there was] the first inter-racial group in Arkansas called The Groovin’ Kind. It wasn’t easy traveling with three black guys and four whites in Arkansas. We had a hell of a time in several truck stops and restaurants. But that group was exceptional also.
Joe Mike Hammond was the lead singer and was absolutely dynamite. Andy MacMahon played a mean Hammond B3 organ with that group. I remember begging his parents to let him play on the road weekends. They gave in. He later went on to play with Jimmy Buffet, Tracy Nelson and many others in the studio and on the road. A very talented guy.
The Groovin’ Kind had three black guys singing mostly backup. They had some choreography also. They were in the Air Force out at Little Rock Air Force Base and one of them was transferred so we ended up with just two. But they were great.
I asked Tommy Riggs (Rock Robbins) the night time DJ on KAAY radio a 100,000 [actually 50,000] watt station in Little Rock to allow us to do some intro promos for him and other DJs. So all day and all night long we had promos playing for all the DJs on that station. The lyrics went like this, “Groovin’ … oh we’re the Groovin’ Kind. Groovin’ … and now it’s Rock Robbins Tiiiiiiimmmme.”
This was to the tune of Groovin’ by the Young Rascals. It was hokey but very effective in getting us some name recognition in about three or four states. So booking was no problem.
Rick Harrington, August 2009 Past Manager of the Romans/Merging Traffic Also Manager of “The Groovin’ Kind”, “House”, “Wildwood” and “Medicine Wheel”. http://www.RickHarringtonsArt.ning.com
Sharing the Jonesboro’s Alley label with the Esquires, the Newcastle Blues cut a cool cover of Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog”, but I prefer the flip, the funky “Cotton’s Mama”, an original by Mike Downing.
The Esquires formed in 1964 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a town closer to Memphis than Little Rock. Members were Jim Grimes vocals, Rick Metzler rhythm guitar, Stanley Knight lead guitar, Rick Murray sax, Scott Snellgrove bass and Roger Barnhill drums.
As a live act they were popular at local clubs like the Cave, the Place Next Door, and the Hotel Noble as well as in Memphis, where they appeared on the Talent Party television show. They competed at battles of the bands with acts like Knowbody Else, Tommy Jay and The Escorts, the Gentrys, the Devilles, and the Guilloteens.
They recorded “Sadie’s Ways” at Alley Records’ studios in Jonesboro. It’s possible that four additional songs were cut to acetate. Alley Records also released a great 45 that I’ll feature very soon, the Newcastle Blues’s “Cotton’s Mama”/ “Walkin’ the Dog”.
The Esquires broke up in 1966. when Grimes and Rick Metzler went into the Marines.