Category Archives: Louisville

Conception “Babylon” / “The Game”

Conception Perfection 45 BabylonThe Conception came from Louisville, Kentucky, releasing only one single circa 1969 when the band were in their teens.

“Babylon” is an excellent cover of the Blue Cheer song from Outsideinside, featuring a heavily phased guitar break. “The Game” is an original by lead guitarist Charlie Day: a very different sound featuring acoustic guitar and harmonies.

Charlie Day listed the band members in a comment on youtube:

Bill Tullis – rhythm guitar and low harmony vocals
Charlie Day – lead guitar and high harmony vocals
Mark Zurlage – bass
Jim Dant – drums

Mike Siebold was also in the group at some point.

Stuart Paine produced the single and also played Fender Rhodes on “The Game”. Paine released it on Perfection P-1001, and published “The Game” through Stuart Paine Music BMI.

Paine also co-produced the Waters “Mother Samwell” with Fred Baker as “A Paine-Baker Production”.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

Conception Perfection 45 The Game

The Waters

The WatersWaters Delcrest 45 Mother Samwell was a Louisville, Kentucky group with John Burgard guitar and vocals, Ray Barrickman bass guitar and vocals, and John Mackey on drums.

Their first 45 on the Soul Blvd. label was “Lady in the Field” (Barrickman and Burgard) / “American Cheese” (Barrickman, Burgard and Mackay) – I haven’t heard it yet.

Their second 45 features two excellent originals by Burgard and Barrickman, the upbeat pop song “Day In and Out” and the stupendous freakbeat of “Mother Samwell”.

Released on the one-off Delcrest label in January of ’69, all copies I’ve seen have white labels with black print. Promo copies exist on the Hip label, a Stax subsidiary from March of ’69, but that issue seems to be much rarer. Production was by Paine-Baker. Paine was Stuart Paine, who owned the Soul Blvd label.

John Burgard had an earlier group called Jonah and the Wailers with Chris and Courtney Johns that opened for the Rolling Stones at Memorial Auditorium. BurgardWaters Delcrest 45 Day In And Out visited San Francisco in ’67 then returned to Louisville to form the Waters.

The Waters broke up in 1972 and Burgard went on to form CoCo Morgan and other groups.

Ray Barrickman previously played bass and sang in the Oxfords. He later played bass in Hank Williams Jr.’s band for a couple decades, and more recently was in a reformed version of another legendary Louisville group, Soul, Inc..

Anyone have a photo of the Waters?

Background on John Burgard from “I’ve Got A Mind To Ramble” by Keith S. Clements.

Nite Owls

The Nite Owls had this one 45 on the Top Dog label of Louisville, Kentucky. Both songs sound very different from each other. “Act Your Age” is a good put-down song, written by Robby Burnfin and published by Fall City Music of Louisville.

“Act Your Age” sounds up-to-date for 1966. The flip is definitely from an earlier era, a cover of “Nite Owl”, written by Bernice Williams and originally done by the Dukays (who would later hit with “Duke of Earl” with Gene Chandler on vocals). Featuring a horn section instead of swirling organ, it could have been recorded at an earlier session.

I don’t think there’s any connection to the Illinois-based Nite-Owls who released “Come On Back” / “It’s a Hassle” on Rembrandt. I really don’t have any info on the band or their members.

Top Dog 45 discography

There Keyes Top Dog 45 She's the Onewere two Top Dog labels. This one, based in Louisville, Kentucky in 1966 and 1967 had nine releases, all with 2300 series catalog numbers. It was owned by Ray Allen (Floyd Lewellyn) and Hardy Martin as were Boss, Bridges, Jam, Rondo and Tilt.

The Louisville Top Dog label had some good releases, like the Keyes “She’s the One”, the Merseybeats U.S.A. “Nobody Loves Me That Way”, and two bands I’ve covered on this site, the Rugbys and the Nite Owls.

Top Dog (Louisville) discography:

2313 – Mersey Beats U.S.A. – You’ll Come Back / Nobody Loves
2314 – The Keyes – Can’t Win For Losing / She’s The One
2315 – The Rugbys – Walking The Streets Tonight / Endlessly
2316 – The Nite Owls – Act Your Age / Nite Owl
2317 – The Scavengers – I Don’t Need Her Now / It’s Only So Long
2318 – Mersey Beats U.S.A. – Does She Or Doesn’t She / Stop Look & Listen
2319 – The Mags – Can’t Get Enough / Go On and Leave Me
2320 – The Premiers – The Ali Shuffle Parts 1 and 2
2322 – Mersey Beats U.S.A. – 30 Second Lover / Nobody Loves Me that Way

The other Top Dog label was based in Detroit Michigan, owned by Artie Fields, with some soul and pop acts. These labels have a bull dog with top hat and cigar. No connection to the Louisville label.

Top Dog (Michigan) discography:

100 – Camel Drivers – The Grass Looks Greener / It’s Gonna Rain
101 – Don Rondo – Just Before The Battle /
102 – Kris Peterson – Just As Much / Unbelievable
103 – Camel Drivers – Sunday Morning Six O’Clock / Give It A Try (also issued on Buddah)
104 – Camel Drivers – Forgive Us /
105 – Joe Towns – Together We Can Make / Down and Out World
106 – Joe Towns – Take Momma Out Of That Shack/ Down And Out World
107 – Joe Towns – You Can’t Hold Me Back / Busy Signal
108 – Joe Towns – Look Around And You’ll Find Me / Down and Out World
109 – The Pushcart – Yo Te Amo / I’ve Got A Ticket To The World
200 – Camel Drivers – Give It A Try / You Made A Believer Of Me

Top Dog Louisville discography from 45rpmrecords.com. Thanks to Jeff Lemlich for help with the Michigan Top Dog discography.

The Oxfords

The Oxfords came out of Louisville, Kentucky in 1964, led by drummer Jim Guest. At some point they were calling themselves the Rugbys, as a photo has turned up that features the early Oxfords lineup with Guest, but all in rugby shirts. That band continued as the Rugbys, but without Guest.

Eventually Guest formed a whole new Oxfords band with members of the Spectres: Jay Petach on guitar and keyboards, Bill Tullis and Danny Marshall on guitars and Bill Turner on bass, and continued as the Oxfords.

Marshall and Turner left before this 45, to be replaced by Ronnie Brooks and Ray Barrickman on guitar and bass respectively. This lineup recorded the excellent song “Time and Place”, written by Tullis, Petach and Guest. The a-side was a cover of the Bacharach/David song “There’s Always Something There to Remind Me”.

Buzz Cason produced the record – he also produced the Us Four and ran the Rising Sons label.

It was originally released on the Our Bag label in December, 1966, and soon picked up for national release by Mala. Their next 45 showed the band going in a totally different direction, making light pop influenced by psychedelia. “Sun Flower Sun” features flute and sitar while “Chicago Woman” is slightly bluesy, but the concessions to trends of the day didn’t result in any chart action.

Jim Guest left while the band continued in the pop vein, releasing an lp Flying Up Through the Sky with Jill DeMarco on vocals in 1970, and a novelty song Come On Back to Beer on the Paula label before breaking up in 1972.

Jerry Lister sent this history of the band written by Jay Petach:

In 1964 I was a sophomore in high school, and like everyone else, was in awe of the Beatles. I had been playing guitar for a year or so and was having the usual problems keeping a band together for more than a week. I somehow managed to steal the best players from several groups that I had been practicing with.

I finally had a band that was good enough to actually play gigs. The group was called “The Spectres”. I played lead guitar, my high school classmates Bill Tullis and Bill Turner were lead singer and bass guitar respectively. Danny Marshall, a friend from another school, played rhythm, and Glenn Howerton played drums. That same year, a band known as “The Oxfords” was getting a lot of attention in Louisville.

In 1965 a rift between the Oxfords’ leader and drummer Jim Guest and the other four members caused that group to split up. Because we had all seen each other’s bands, Jim asked us if we’d like to play with him and become the Oxfords. This worked well, since the other guys in Jim’s group liked our drummer better. The two bands swapped drummers and we became the Oxfords. The other guys with Glenn became the Rugbys. They chose this name because they wore rugby shirts when they played.

In 1966 the Oxfords entered a recording studio for the first time. Bill Turner had been replaced by bassist Ray Barrickman, and Danny Marshall had been replaced by guitarist Ronnie Brooks. The first thing we recorded was the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me”. Gene Synder, our booking agent sent a rough mix to Nashville producer Buzz Cason. Buzz liked it, came to Louisville to help us finish it, and most importantly, got us a record deal with Bell Records.

Ray Barrickman sang the lead vocal on this song, but in the fall of 1966 he left the band to attend college out of town. Ronnie Brooks then switched to playing bass, and Bill Tullis started playing rhythm guitar. So when the song was finally released, we had to try to cover the record on gigs with Bill Tullis singing the lead vocal. This worked (more or less), since PA systems weren’t all that good in those days. However, shortly after the record’s release, the song was quickly recorded by another group and our air play all but stopped.

We recorded our second record “Sun Flower Sun”, which was also released on Bell records in 1967. This record made an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in the “Rate the Record” segment. With a score of only 65, the single was effectively doomed.

Later in 1967 Ronnie left the band and was replaced by bassist Garry Johnson. Garry then left after several months to play bass in the newly-formed Louisville group Elysian Field, with guitarist Frank Bugby and drummer Marvin Maxwell.

A few years ago Ronnie Brooks wrote several songs for Hank Williams, Jr. Ronnie was invited to the recording session, and as he was talking with Hank he heard someone call out his name. It was Ray Barrickman, who was playing bass in Hank Williams, Jr.’s band. Ronnie is now a music producer in Nashville and was the voice of the middle Budweiser Frog in the TV commercials.

Ronnie’s older brother Randy, was a high school classmate and good friend of mine. A few years ago Randy wrote the timeless Christmas classic “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”.

Meanwhile back in the 60’s, there was an all-girl band in Louisville known as The Hearby. Jim Guest and I liked their sound and helped them make their first and only record. I was particularly interested in their lead singer Jill DeMarco.

In 1968 our group evolved again. This time, drummer Jim Guest was replaced by Donnie Hale, Dill Asher became the bass player, and most significantly, I asked Jill to join the group.

This was the group that recorded the bulk of the LP material. Donnie’s friend Keith Spring was a brilliant musician and orchestrator. Keith agreed to do the orchestrations for the album cuts and played on the recording sessions. Keith, also played in the group for a short time in 1968. However, the musical direction we were going with Keith was far too esoteric for the gigs we were playing (we actually played regularly at Fort Knox during the Viet Nam War). Keith later went on to work with actor/musician Martin Mull and legendary rock group NRBQ. That year we got to open for Frank Zappa and the Mothers at a Louisville rock club and for The Grateful Dead at Bellarmine College.

In 1969, Dill Asher was replaced by bassist Larry Holt, and Donnie Hale was replaced by drummer Paul Hoerni (brother of the Rugby’s bass player Mike Hoerni). We recorded several more album cuts and the group’s last single “Come On Back To Beer”, which was inspired by our contact with Frank Zappa. This single was released on Paula Records and made it to number one on rock radio in Louisville.

In 1970 the album was finally finished. Although we had offers from two record labels, we were uncomfortable with both deals. The labels wanted total control, along with buy-outs of all materials and rights. We decided to release and promote the record ourselves.

In 1971, out of the frustration of not being able to play enough original songs on our gigs, I got heavily involved with a theatrical production that I had written. My show was a rock musical called “Grease”. It happed simultaneously with another more-famous production by the same name that was just starting in Chicago. The Oxfords got all greased up and became the pit band for the show. It ran for several weeks on the University of Louisville campus and was also performed in Atlanta and at the University of Kansas.

At that same time, I had gotten a notice from Selective Service to report for a draft physical. I fasted for two weeks and weighed only 117 pounds (10 pounds underweight for my 5′-11″ height) at the time of the physical. Because of this, however, I didn’t have enough strength to support the weight of my guitar and also sing. I decided I’d switch to playing flute and we added keyboardest Jerry Lister to the group. We recorded “The City” with this group, but it was never released on vinyl.

Finally in 1972, Paul, Larry, and Jerry all left the band. Quentin Sharpenstein, became the bass player. Quentin had played tuba on the orchestra overdub session for our album four years earlier. Guitarist Tony Williamson, a good friend of Larry, and jazz drummer Bobbie Jones also joined the group. Jill played both guitar and clavinet at various times, and I played a Hammond organ and Rhodes piano.

That same year, Danny King, a friend of mine, opened a recording studio. I volunteered the band’s services in trade for stud io time, and soon became the studio’s engineer. I wasn’t paid, but I used this opportunity to record most of the later cuts on the CD.

By this time, it was becoming obvious (even to me) that the Oxfords were not on the road to rock stardom. Jill was especially tired of the situation, the other musicians had opportunities to play with other groups, and I had discovered that my passion was working in a recording studio.

The group disbanded for good in the summer of ’72. But hey, that’s the cool thing about recording…the music lives on!

Jay Petach

The Rugbys

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.

The Rugbys – but with Jim Guest?!

The Us Four

The Us Four, clockwise from left: Duke Freeman, Donnie Keeling, Mike Winebrenner and Jack Richardson

From Louisville, Kentucky, the Us Four were Donnie Keeling guitar, Mike Winebrenner keyboards, Duke Freeman bass and Jack Richardson drums.

They released two 45s, the first being the very catchy “The Alligator”, featuring funky drumming and percussion and a nice keyboard and fuzz combination. “The Alligator” was produced by Buzz Cason and released on the Rising Sons label in March of 1967, and reached #6 on Louisville station WAKY 790 AM in April. It’s played at 60’s DJ nights to this day.

Rising Sons was run by Cason and Bobby Russell. Both “The Alligator” and the flip side, the more conventional “By My Side” are credited to Keeling and Richard Williams, Cason’s longtime associate from when they were in the early Nashville rock ‘n roll group the Casuals in the ’50s.

The Us Four released one other 45 in January 1968, “She Loves It” pts. 1 and 2, written by Don Keeling; a more commercial production full of harmony singing. Around this time they changed their rhythm section, bringing in Jim Bower on bass and Paul Hoerni on drums. When the Us Four broke up, Hoerni went to the Oxfords.

The Us Four, from left: Mike Winebrenner, Donnie Keeling, Duke Freeman & Jack Richardson

Duke Freeman, bassist and vocalist wrote about how he became involved in music and his bands, including the Us Four:

I was always singing around the house. My Dad and I would sing nearly every day, He’d sing the lead and I’d sing the harmony. I’d have to say that started when I was about 7 years old and lasted until I went into the USAF in 1969. Dad couldn’t play a thing but that man sure could sing.

At age 8 it was the accordion. Yes that’s right! It wasn’t exactly a direct path to rock & roll. That lasted about eight months, then it was the guitar which lasted equally as long. In the 8th grade I started playing trumpet and it lasted for about a year.

In my sophomore year I met four guys who had a “garage band”. They were all underclassmen. I went to one of their practices, sang a few songs and they were impressed. They needed a bass player so I convinced my Dad to loan me the money to buy a bass and amp with the agreement that if I didn’t stick with it I’d pay him back.

I worked with those guys for about a year then moved on to another group with a bit more talent. It was while I was with that group that I met Don Keeling at a teen local club. He’d been playing with the Cavaliers and was a very good lead guitarist. The Cavaliers had broken up and Don was looking for something new. He’d already located a keyboard player, Mike Winebrenner and was still looking for bass player and drummer. We hit it off pretty well and so we got together shortly after that with Jack Richardson on drums.

We rehearsed for a few months getting tight and doing a lot of current material. Other than trios which played small bars and clubs (playing nightclub music) all other groups in the area were at least 5 pieces. We were the first four piece group that I know of. Donnie and I handled most of the lead vocals, with Mike singing a few. Harmonies were excellent and we were able to reproduce most anything that was being played.

If I remember correctly our group didn’t want a flashy name. We wanted to keep it simple and easy to remember. Also there wasn’t anything flashy about us so our music spoke for us, “US FOUR” that is.

At that time the Oxfords were working for the Joni Agency (Gene & Vi Snyder). Our guitar player had worked for them before so were were going to audition for the agency during the Oxfords breaks at a local teen club. We’d been rehearsing for several months to get everything tight. I remembered that we had no extra money for clothing so we all wore jeans and yellow short sleeved sweatshirts with the name of the ban written in black magic marker on the front (real classy).

I remember when we stepped up on stage for that first 15 minute set. I was so nervous and we could hear some of the crowd laughing at the way we dressed. Anyway we played about 5 numbers and the crowd went wild. The Oxfords were great at what they did, but this crowd wanted to dance and they didn’t play a lot of top 40 dance music. Needless to say we signed with the agency and wound up on the circuit. We thanked the Oxfords for allowing us to share the stage with them and apologized for all the commotion. They were great guys and understood because they had all been there before.

We played the Kentuckiana area regularly with occasional trips to Lexington. One of our regular stops was the Golden Horseshoe which was located around Lebanon, Kentucky. I’d say our main competition were the Oxfords before their split and reorganization. If you would have asked me back then who was the best group, I would have said the old Oxfords [with Steve McNicol] / the Rugbys and I still believe that to this very day.

[We met Buzz Cason] through Gene Snyder (Joni Agency). He was friends with Richard Williams who was Brenda Lee’s piano player. Richard and Buzz were great friends. Richard was looking for a group to record for him. He’d noticed the the dance “The Alligator” was sweeping the colleges across the US and he thought it would be a great idea to have some relatively unknown midwestern group record it.

He called Gene with the idea and asked if he knew of a group that would fit the idea. We were asked to show up at the agency to meet someone who had something we may be interested in. that’s when we meet Richard for the first time and he shared his idea with us. He wanted us to come up with the song and he’d fly us to Nashville for a session and we’d record 4 sides. That meant we needed 4 songs.

You’ll notice that Richard Williams and Donnie Keeling are credited with writing the song, but actually Donnie and I wrote the lyrics, the band as a whole penned the music, and Richard merely came up with the idea. Since Richard was paying the bill, who could argue? Donnie also wrote “By My Side” and “She Loves It”. I wrote “Opposite Ends of the World” in a Nashville hotel room the night before our recording session.

Time became a constraint and we ended up only having enough time to record the two sides. As you know “She Loves It” was eventually recorded in Louisville, and “Opposite Ends of the World” never made it to the studio.

It was in 1968 that Donnie and I had a disagreement and I thought it would be best for me to leave. I was immediately picked up by the Keyes, Jim and Tom Owen had been playing for quite a while and when Jim gave up playing I was recruited. Tom had worked with his brother for so long that it was difficult for me to really fit in.

With the Keyes I was more of a sideman and didn’t have that influence that I had in Us Four, even though I carried a lot of the vocal duties. I’d been with them less than a year when Tom announced that Jim was coming back and I wouldn’t be needed any longer.

It wasn’t long after that their drummer Charlie Jones, keyboardist Bob Ernspiker, contacted me about wanting to leave the Keyes and form a new group, We ended up hiring Denny Enzer (Inzer?) to play lead and “Justice” was formed. If this group would have survived it may have topped everything that every came out of Louisville. The musicianship, vocals, and rich harmonies were unbelievable. We played for only about 6 months and booked ourselves, but we made strides that it took most groups years to make.

Uncle Sam was wanting me badly and the group was short lived. It was just after that group’s demise that the Rugbys were looking for a bass player and I was asked if I’d be interested in the job. I had to turn it down due to the draft. A year or so later I saw them on TV and thought that could have been me.

Duke Freeman, December 2008

Thanks to Duke for sharing the history of his band and photos of the group.

Clockwise from left: Duke Freeman, Jack Richardson, Donnie Keeling and Mike Winebrenner, with Mike’s Doric organ