Skipper Records came from Springfield, Missouri and released at least eight singles in 1965-1966 before folding. It was a creation of Si Siman, a promoter, manager and part-owner (along with Ralph Foster and John B. Mahaffey) of Earl Barton Music, Inc., which published most of the songs featured on the Skipper label.
Everything I’ve heard on the label is snappy and well-produced. Half are upbeat country but there are two rock singles and a couple r&b. The releases by Tonky Tomson and David & the Boys-Next-Door are notable for featuring the earliest work of two men who would go on to have huge successes in the music industry.
Tonky Tomson seems to be a pseudonym for Wayne Thompson, who wrote both “On My Way” and “I’ve Been in Love”, and probably sings on this single from October, 1965. I’d say he was listening to a lot of Hollies at the time. I wonder who was the lead guitarist on these tracks, as he did excellent work, with the country tinge that the Beatles and other groups were starting to reach for.
Wayne Carson Thompson is much better known as Wayne Carson, who would write “The Letter” a couple years after his time at Skipper and go on to write many other hits. Wayne Carson died on July 20, 2015.
Wayne Thompson also wrote the A-side of David and the Boys-Next-Door catchy party song “Land O’ Love”, and co-write “If I Was King” with David Kershenbaum, the leader of the group.
In 1967 David and the Boys Next Door released a second single on Del-Ray Records of Poplar Bluff, MO, “It Ain’t No Use” / “Spring Fever”, both originals by David Kershenbaum published by Earl Barton. I’ve heard the A-side and it’s good pop, with a nice guitar hook. David Kershenbaum had a solo single on Capitol Records in 1968, “White Velvet Cat” / “Forbidden”, both written by Bobby Lile. Kershenbaum would go on to a successful career as a producer starting in the 1970s.
Steve Sanders would sing “Land of Love” for a single on MGM 13475, a single I haven’t heard yet.
Skipper Records discography (probably incomplete – any help with this would be appreciated)
Labels for Skipper are gold with black print with the exception of the Clint Harrison 45. Some list Radio TV Bldg, Springfield, MO as the address, and the 828 prefix on these indicates their account with RCA custom pressings.
Skipper 828R-0773/4 – Lewie & the 7 Days – “Night Train” / “What You Never Had”
Skipper 828R-1240 – David and the Boys-Next-Door – “Land O’ Love” (Wayne Thompson)/ “If I Was King” (Kershenbaum & Wayne Thompson) (SK4M-1240/1)
Skipper 828S-1241 – Truman-Lankford – “Arkansas Man” / “Here-Comes-Heaven-Again” (both by Truman Lankford, Jim James, Prod. M.A. Box)
Skipper 828R-1408/9 – Tonky Tomson – “On My Way” / “I’ve Been in Love” (both Wayne Thompson, SK4M-1408)
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.
“Slimy Sue” by the Sounds, Ltd. featuring Phil Jackson is the kind of odd, non-commercial record of the ’60s garage era that I love.
These lyrics are bizarre, with plenty of humor in the masochism of the second and third verses.
I got me a woman, buddy, she’s got purple hair Ain’t no other woman, buddy, that can compare, that can compare To my girl, true blue, back alley Sue Slimy Sue, yeah, well alright now
When I want some lovin,’ buddy, Sue knows what to do She can kiss so gently, buddy, turns me black and blue My girl, true blue, back alley Sue Slimy Sue, yeah, well alright now
Hit it [guitar break]
When I get in trouble, buddy, with someone tough like you Me, I never worry, buddy, I call on Sue, I call on Sue My girl, black belt, weight lifting, Sue Slimy Sue, yeah, well alright now
Philip W. Jackson wrote this song as well as the flip, “Fly Away”, for Cookie Crumb Music, BMI.
The Sounds, Ltd. recorded at Midwestern Recording Studios at 3140 The Paseo, Kansas City, Missouri. The studio’s own Peak label released the single on P-108 in October 1966. I’d like to know more about the band, who maintain a rough but great sound throughout “Slimy Sue”.
The band was from St. Joseph, Missouri, about 45 miles north of Kansas City. “Fly Away” was the ostensible A-side at the time, a kind of folky almost hippie-sounding song featuring lead vocalist Kathy Helmick.
Midwestern Recorders operated a studio since at least 1952 if not earlier, originally releasing records on the Central label. I assume other garage bands must have used Midwestern but haven’t found evidence of that yet.
The Cholos put out their classic “Last Laugh” on the Farad label in May, 1966. The band was from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, a rural area along I-44 between Springfield and St. Louis, MO.
Don Longfellow and D.J. Bohn wrote “Last Laugh” for Briebert Music, BMI, while Pete Starr and D.J. Bohn wrote the instrumental, “Whistling Surfer”.
I haven’t been able to find any other info about the band or a photo of the group. Their band name is a strange one, even for the ’60s. Their label name is also unusual and I can’t connect it to any other release.
This was considered a very rare 45 until at least 20 unplayed copies turned up in late 2014.
Lonnie Lee and the Big Beats, circa late 1960 from left: Dale Roark (bass), Lonnie Lee Edens (guitar), Jerry Woods (drums), and Archie Barnes (guitar) “I had just turned 17 when this picture was taken. I believe Archie was 14! It was taken at the Starlite club in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.” – Dale Roark
Dale Roark of the Escapades sent these songs and recollections of his start in music in the town of Bartlesville, forty miles north of Tulsa:
These recordings chronicle three musicians from Bartlesville, Oklahoma from 1961 until 1966.
The area around Tulsa in the late 50’s and early 60’s was a hotbed of musicians. David Gates (later ‘Bread’), Johnny Cale (later J.J. Cale), Tommy Crook (local guitar legend that stayed put), Leon Russell plus traveling Arkansas bands such a Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (later ‘The Band’), Charlie Daniels and the Jaguars (yes, that Charlie Daniels), and the McClellan brothers (The Five Emcees) out of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, all put their mark on the local music community. The Paradise Club in particular was a venue where musicians would casually approach the bandstand with “hey man, can I sit in?”. It was always fun but occasionally Tommy Crook, Roy Clark, or some of the other professionals would just blow you away. Any musician could request and it was understood that you would let them. It was competitive but also an inspiration.
Dale Roark (bass), Archie Barnes (guitar), and Denny “Zoot” Freeman (drums) formed a group called The Ravens in late 1959 and played local YMCA and high-school gigs for about a year. I was a high school junior. Archie and Denny were both in the 8th grade. A year later we joined up with Lonnie Lee Edens and formed Lonnie Lee and the Big Beats. We played the local night-clubs and did pretty well for a bunch of high schoolers.
During my senior year Dale Smith, my high school choir director, approached the group about backing him up on an original song he had written. As you will see, he had a beautiful Perry Como-type voice. He rented time a Tulsa TV station studio and me, Archie, and Denny plus Richie Dickerson (9th grade – piano) backed him up. When you listen to Archie’s solos, keep in mind that he was in the 9th grade! Let’s Fall In Love (Mr. Smith’s original) and Canadian Sunset Twist were the result.
I went off to Oklahoma State University and wasn’t active in music my freshman year but right before the end of the winter semester I was approached by Kent Washburn to join the “Shadow Lake 8” for the summer gig in Noel, Missouri. The band had been a staple at OSU for years with graduating members being replaced by new, younger talent. They also needed a guitarist so I introduced him to Archie and his mother agreed to let the young sixteen year old join the band. The drummer quit the first week there and Denny was contacted and drove out the next day.
The band at that point consisted of:
Kent Washburn – Tenor Sax and Band Leader Amos Ming – Alto and Baritone Sax plus flute Terry Mead – Trumpet and Valve Trombone Bing Vasser – Trumpet Bill Schooler – Piano Archie Barnes – Guitar Denny Freeman – Drums Dale Roark – Electric Bass
During the winter of 1963, Kent’s younger brother, Gary, replaced the piano player with his brand new Hammond B-3 organ and the dynamics of the group started to change. A demo tape was made at the Tulsa University ballroom. Single mike, no mixing, direct to tape and later cut as a demo. It is 45 years old and has a lot of pops and scratches so I only included a couple of snippets to help contrast with later recordings.The last 30 seconds of “Splankie” show Denny’s mastery of big band jazz. The last two minutes of “From the Heart” (a Ray Charles number from his “Genius Plus Soul = Jazz” album) show off Archie and Denny’s 10th grade musician skills. Denny was a huge jazz fan and his talents are present in his kicks and comping abilities. Archie shows a sophistication that few rock and roll musicians could conceive at such a young age. It also allows comparison between Gary’s “All Skate” tone to the later recordings as he finally mastered the tone controls of his B-3. He was also in high-school at the time.
That next summer we played at Rockaway Beach, Missouri. It is a resort town of about a hundred people just a few miles from Branson. It predated the Branson we know now and was the “in” place for college kids from Kansas City, Springfield, Memphis, Saint Louis etc. to go. The club was huge by that day’s standard and probably held a couple of thousand people. The group tightened up quite a bit but I quit the following fall for personal reasons. I was replaced by Bill Hieronymus and the following summer they toured the Florida night club circuit as “The Jades”.
I believe it is the only released record the Shadow Lake 8 / Jades ever cut. These two sides were made after I left the band. “South Parkway” was a major street in Tulsa at the time so that’s what they called the first cut. I am pretty sure that was Amos speaking “g’wan to South Parkway” at the start and Archie counting then Kent speaking on “Power”.
Kent gave me a copy and I took it into Stax records and played it for Steve Cropper the very week I moved to Memphis but Steve wasn’t interested in either the record or the group because of their own in-house musicians. I lost my copy somewhere between Memphis and a half dozen other places over the past 45 years.
I don’t hear any trumpets so I guess it is:
Kent – Tenor Sax Amos – up front and center on Baritone Sax Gary – Organ and Piano Archie – Guitar Bill – Bass Zoot (Denny) – Drums
Maybe one of the guys can acknowledge or correct me. Archie’s solos are typical of Tulsa area guitarists at that time . . . speed, speed, speed . . . It wasn’t the most melodic but the dancers loved it!
Both songs by M. Kent Washburn. Rite Pressing #12877/12878 which dates it to 1964.
The band pretty much stayed together for several more years. I had moved to Memphis and was the leader of a group called The Escapades. We were under contract with Sun records and Kent contacted me during the summer of 1966 about cutting a record at Sun. The following four Jades tunes were the result:
Rainbow Riot – A Bill Doggett tune the band used as their theme song High Heel Sneakers – Kent and Archie doing the vocals I Got a Woman – Gary Washburn rockin’ on his B-3 including the bass pedals Come and Take Me Baby – An original with Archie Barnes vocal and local Memphis back up singers
Bing Vasser had left the band prior to this but the rest of the musicians were together. I substituted on bass for Bill who couldn’t make the session. The group stayed together a little while longer but then went their separate ways. To the best of my recollection, with some help from Bing Vasser:
Amos Ming– became an accountant in Nashville with Brenda Lee as one of his clientsKent Washburn – moved to the West Coast and became a Christian Record Producer
Gary Washburn – became a music professor at the University of Hawaii
Bing Vasser – obtained a Masters degree in music from Tulsa University and taught music in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He then returned to Tulsa University to graduate with a Masters degree in mathematics and music computation. His computer music programs were used to produce synthesized music in one of the early computer music conferences held in Tulsa featuring Aaron Copeland.
Dale Roark – formed The Escapades in Memphis, was drafted into the Army, then earned a degree in Computer Science and had a 30 year high-tech career. He now lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah within 1 mile of his 4 children and 6 grandchildren.
Terry Mead – joined Brenda Lee’s back-up band then moved to Nashville for a successful music career. He played on the live TV show “Nashville Now” for several years until ill health caused his retirement. Terry died May 13, 2007.
Archie Barnes – joined Brenda Lee’s back-up band then moved to Toronto
Denny (Zoot) Freeman – joined Brenda Lee’s back-up band then moved to California. He passed away in 2000.
Bill Hieronymus – went back to school and earned a degree in geophysics from the University of Houston. He became a consultant with several major oil companies and was well respected for his analytical expertise. He was also cited by Downbeat Magazine as one of the premier jazz bass players in America. He died on Thanksgiving day, 2008.
Dale Roark, April 2009 (Original Text) Bing Vasser, (Update and corrections)
Dale and Ken Washburn have created their own website for the Shadow Lake 8 at ShadowLake8.com with more information and photographs.
The Modds 45 is notorious for the unbelievably crude sound of “Leave My House”.
The Modds were also one of the big mysteries of the sixties, as no one had been able to find anyone who was involved with making this record until I spoke to rhythm guitarist John George.On “Leave My House”, most of the band has been buried by the mix of the lead guitar and vocals. One can hear some tambourine, a little bass, rhythm and drums back in the distance. The lead guitar tone is as dirty as can be, breaking up when the picking gets fast. Two minutes into the song he’s nearly fried the amp! The singer doesn’t hold back, either.
The ostensible A-Side is the much more sedate “All the Time In the World”, kind of a Rubber Soul style of ballad with a clean and well-rehearsed guitar solo. Both songs were written by Steve Simone and published by Earl Barton Music. Interestingly, each side has a different producer listed, Bill Harper credited with “Leave My House”, and Jerry McDaniel on “All the Time in the World”. These Modds are not the group from Miami who cut Don’t Be Late.
Mop Top Mike sent in the songs and label scans, and provided more detail about publishing and label info:
The pub company is Earl Barton Music, most famous for having writer Wayne Carson Thompson (or whatever his name is!) on the staff – he wrote “The Letter” for the Boxtops, and sides for the Skeptics (“East Side Tenement House”, etc.) When the outfit was contacted back in the 80s, there was no paper file on either song by the Modds, despite showing the pub credit for both songs. E Barton music was based in Springfield, Missouri.
The record label looks like a short-lived offshoot of the Nashville label, based in Madison, Tennesse (had the Kenetics 45 “Put Your Loving On Me”). There is no release time frame established as well, the numbering of the label doesn’t follow the Nashville label master number series.
Leave My House of course is famous because the band track is obliterated by the vocal and lead guitar overmodulating, causing high frequency distortion. Note that two different producers are credited for each song. Bill Harper must’ve been aghast at the result when the record was pressed!
I interviewed John George, rhythm guitarist and vocalist for the Modds. John sent in these great photos of the band, as well as the scan of the Modd Mag fan club newsletter.
I was one of the Modds, my name is John George.
Poplar Bluff, MO, 1962, I got a guitar for Christmas when I was 12 years old. I wanted bongo drums, but my parents thought that wasn’t enough, so I also got a $12 guitar (Silvertone from Sears). We became inseparable, wherever I went the guitar went. By my 13th birthday, I got my first electric guitar (again from Sears the Silvertone 1448 with amp in case). I think it sold then for around $52.00.
I met Steve Simone through school, and went to his house to hear him play. He had a white Fender Stratocaster, and Gibson amp. Played “House of the Rising Sun.” I was flabergasted, we became instant friends.
I played rhythm guitar, and vocals, Steve Simone played lead guitar, his younger brother Eddie Simone played bass guitar, Steve Ellis played drums. We were all students at Poplar Bluff High School. The Simone brothers were from southern California, and wound up in Missouri when their mother married a fellow from Poplar Bluff. Steve Simone was a senior, both Steve Ellis and I were sophmores, and Eddie was a freshman. Because or our youth, my father used to drive us to our gigs and look out for us at some of the rougher establishments.
As I recall the name came from one of the people groups in Great Britain. There were the modds and the rockers. We liked the modds, so it stuck. We were the first in the region (because of the Simone’s influence) to start playing the English sounds…..became an instant local success.
We played all over southeast Missouri, did a TV appearance in Harrisburg IL. Lots of high school dances and shows. Another band in our area were the Hatchers from Doniphan MO.
Steve played a White Fender Strat through a Gibson amp. I used the Silvertone 1448 (amp in case from Sears) with a Gibson Explorerer amp, till I was able to save enought to get a Gibson Firebird. I bought it brand new in 1966 at Hays Music in Poplar Bluff, $169.95. Eddie used a Gibson ebo Bass, and Steve E. had a set of black pearl Ludwig drums. Our P.A. was the biggest Silvertone amp we could get.
Radio station KLID in Poplar Bluff was the local teen station, and they began to get alot of calls requesting our music, seems we had a fan club. Bill Harper and Jerry McDaniel were both DJs at the station, and asked to manage us. They would regularly record us on station equipment (covers), and play our recordings, keeping us in the top ten.
We played everything we knew, from Eric Burdon to Gary and the Pacemakers every show. The recording sessions would go into the wee hours of the morning. My tenth grade English teacher (Mrs. Virginia Young) would come to every session, and bring food and refreshments (her daughter was president of the fan club). Of course the next day in English class she would often say “you look tired Johnny, why don’t you lay your head on your desk and rest.” There are no tapes in existance that I know of.
The managers had connections with American National Records out of Memphis, TN. Steve wrote “Leave My House”, and “All the Time in the World” for our first single. The recordings were made in a studio in Poplar Bluff on a reel to reel, then sent to Earl Barton at ANR in Memphis. TM. The studio later became a dance club called the Psychedelic Comic Book.
The “Leave My House’ recording was really good, and before it was made into the record everything sounded great. Full sound, lead, rhythm, bass, and drums. What you hear is what we got from the producer. It was a dissapointment that it didn’t all come through. I sang lead vocal on “All the Time in the World”, Steve did the harmony.
There were a total of 500 records pressed, distribution was in local shops, I never did know how many sold, but I think on a local level they went pretty well. I’m very surprised to hear that the 45 has that kind of value [Modds 45s sell for as much as $1,500 – ed.]
Earl Barton called after the release of our record, and asked us to write eight more songs for an album, which we did. The only other original song of the eight for the album I remember is called “Make Loose Ends Meet”. I remember it because its the only one I wrote, a nice little ballad.
We had no idea who Earl Barton was, so we were somewhat skeptical. Steve’s father Silvan Simone had an art gallery in Torrance, California, and was good friends with the manager of Crown Cadet Records in LA. We sent Eddie Simone to L.A. with the tape. Crown Cadet offered a contract, but that was our downfall, we were young from 14 to 16 years old. Several parents just said no. Steve eventually went back to L.A. where I’m told he became a studio musician, and played rhythm guitar on MacArthur Park.
After the Modds, I played on with another local group, but didn’t do anything that really sticks out in my mind. I moved to St. Louis in mid 1967, graduated from Central High School in 1968, enlisted in the Marine Corps, (Viet Nam Vet). Came home and settled in Jefferson County, just minutes south of St. Louis. I played with several different groups in St. Louis, but again no major milestones. Have been involved in music all my life, from rock to country to blues. I have a band of old guys today, The Flamm City Band, check us out at luky7music.com.
Special thanks to John George for sharing his history and photos of the band. This is an update of the original article, posted November 2007.
The Esquires at Parkview High School, from the ’66 yearbook. L-R (not certain): John Jacobsen, Mike Fielder, Rick Davidson and Mark Morton.
There were many bands that called themselves the Esquires. This group came from Springfield, Missouri.
John Jacobsen wrote all the songs I’m featuring here. He was the only member I could identify until someone sent in the two photos featured here. The other members may have included Mike Fielder on bass, Mark Morton on guitar, and Rick Davidson on drums, with Bill DeLange from the Artificial Flowers replacing Mark Morton at some point. The person who sent the photos also remembered David Kershenbaum substituting for a sick band member on guitar at a Parkview High School dance.
Their first 45, “She’s My Woman” is good rocking fare. Somehow this ended up on Dot records in October of 1966; I presume it had a local release but I’m not sure of that. I haven’t heard the flip yet, called “Misfortune”.
The A-side of their second 45 is “Summer Nights”, a poppy song with horns.
Their greatest moment to my mind is “Settle Down”, the b-side to “Summer Nights”. It’s a beautifully composed song with a perfect balance between the instruments and the group’s fine harmonies. The strong vocal lines remind me of the Jefferson Airplane’s first LP, while the Byrds may have inspired the guitar solo. Released in July of 1967, the Scratch label lists the address as Radio-TV Bldg., Springfield.
Mike Morton, Mark Morton’s younger brother, played in a later band from the area, the Lavender Hill Mob.
Thanks to the person who anonymously contributed the photos and description of the band.
Taken from Springfield’s Community Free Press, August 2, 2006.
Arthur Herman presents the history of his group the Symbols, creators of the minimalist garage classic, “What You’ve Shown”. All photos are from Ken Johnson’s collection.
In the mid ‘60s the Symbols rode out of St. Louis and settled in Elsah, Illinois. Tax exiles.
The five of us were all actually out of Principia College in Elsah, just across the river from St. Louis. The nucleus of the group did actually start off in St. Louis [as the Squires]. The name The Symbols wasn’t used until Elsah and 1965, but the record was cut in St. Louis so maybe that’s why we were identified with that city.
The classic Symbols lineup is the one that recorded their 1967 single. Well-known for its obscurity, “What You’ve Shown”, re-surfaced on a number of 21st century garage compilation CDs.
The single was recorded and pressed at Technisonic Studios in St. Louis in spring ’67. Technisonic was the site of many noteworthy rock n’ roll recordings including Ike and Tina Turner’s early hit “A Fool in Love.”
We certainly paid for the recording and pressing of the 45. For my money “What You’ve Shown”, an uptempo fuzz extravaganza, beats hands down “I Know That I”, which is kind of an Everly Bros. type ballad.
The 1966-68 lineup was Richard Judkins (lead guitar, vocals) Ron Pearson (drums, vocals), Kenneth Johnson (bass, vocals), Bob Wyman (guitar, vocals) and Arthur Herman (Farfisa, later Vox organ). Judkins, Pearson and Wyman were from St. Louis, Johnson from Cincinnati and Herman from Ada, Oklahoma.
Since Richard Judkins is the only band member who remembers the early 60s here’s his take on the group’s beginnings:
In the 1962-63 timeframe, Rich, Bob, Ron, Bill Hibreider (Sp?) and Rick Alt put together a group called “The Squires” and played at various Principia Upper School [in St. Louis] functions until Rich and Rick graduated in 1964. In 1963 or early 1964, The Squires recorded a 45 on Anaconda Records containing a vocal entitled “Wonderin” and an instrumental entitled “Stratford on Avon.” During the 1964-65 school year, Bob, Ron and Bill played in another upper school group called “Buddha and the Idols.” You may also recall that Rick Alt was a vocalist for The Symbols at Principia College during the 1965-66 school year.
Little did we know at the time that 1965 would be the beginning of the mega-group now simply known to rock historians as “The Symbols.”
The ’67 single is also on the Anaconda label. Judkins wrote “What You’ve Shown” and sings lead. Pearson supplies the backing grunts. The two of them shared writing credits on “I Know That I”. Judkins remembers:
The Anaconda label – yes, we used the same label in ’67 for continuity sake and it was a made up label (no real entity except I thought the name sounded neat). By the way, the colors (blue and silver) were inspired by the similar colors used on the Chess label in the 50s/60s (i.e., I remembered it from the colors on my 45 rpm copy of Chuck Berry’s Rock n’ Roll Music).
Label problems – the labels on our 45s were reversed and this fact is noted in the liner notes to the Australian compilation Teen Blast U.S.A. Vol. 2.
At the time, I got Terry Bell, a DJ and celebrated Oklahoma garage band drummer, to play the single on KADA in Ada, OK. He was and is with The Monuments and remains a friend. I imagine my colleagues in the Symbols took similar stabs at promotion. But I don’t remember us doing any really hard sell. We divided the 500 copies up and I think a number were just given away to friends.
The photo of Pearson is at a college dance. He must have just been wanting to power up his sound with that microphone. That I remember, we just played pretty much for college events. Everyone had a pretty full schedule, Judkins played varsity baseball, and that limited the time dedicated to music.
The Symbols broke up in May 1968 when Judkins and Johnson graduated from Principia College.
Interest in The Symbols may have been fanned by their 30th anniversary tour in 1998. It consisted of a single performance back in Elsah at Principia College. Pearson could not be lured backed from California for the 1998 reunion tour and was replaced by hot-shot St. Louis drummer Greg Grattan. He got the job through his daughter who played on the same soccer team as Wyman’s daughter. CDs and even DVDs of this event do exist, and I understand they change hands for extremely large sums of money!
Also check out Arthur’s band before the Symbols, the Fanatics of Ada, Oklahoma.