Category Archives: Missouri

The Sounds, Ltd. featuring Phil Jackson

Sounds, Ltd. Peak 45 Slimy Sue“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.

Sounds, Ltd. Peak 45 Fly Away

The Cholos

Cholos Farad 45 Last LaughThe 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.

Cholos Farad 45 Whistling Surfer

Tulsa to Memphis: Lonnie Lee & the Big Beats, The Shadow Lake 8, and the Jades

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”.

“South Parkway” / “Power” on Em-Kay – [this repeats Dale’s comment, below]:

The Shadow Lake 8 – South Parkway
The Shadow Lake 8 – Power

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 with more information and photographs.

The Modds

The Modds, l-r: John George (with sunglasses), Steve Simone, Steve Ellis and Eddie Simone

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.

John George of the Modds
John George of the Modds

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.

Eddie Simone

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.

John George

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.

Vinyl reissue of the Modds from the original master tapes, available from Groovie Records

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

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.

Harold Ott discovered the original master tape for the Modds 45, and has reissued it on CD, available on his site, which also has more information on the band.

Also, Groovie Records of Portugal has reissued the master-tape version of the 45 on vinyl. I can recommend both of these releases highly.

The Esquires

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.

The Symbols

The Symbols photo Ken Johnson, Rich Judkins, Ron Pearson, Bob Wyman and Arthur Herman
The Symbols, circa early ’67. L-R: Ken Johnson, Rich Judkins, Ron Pearson, Bob Wyman and Arthur Herman

The Symbols Anaconda 45 What You've ShownArthur 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.

The Symbols of Missouri photo
l-r: Kenneth Johnson, Ron Pearson, Arthur Herman, Bob Wyman and Richard Judkins

Ken Johnson and Rich Judkins of the Symbols
l-r: Ken Johnson and Rich Judkins
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).

 Ron Pearson of the Symbols
Ron Pearson
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!

Arthur Herman

Also check out Arthur’s band before the Symbols, the Fanatics of Ada, Oklahoma.

 The Symbols l-r: Arthur Herman, Kenneth Johnson, Richard Judkins and Bob Wyman
The Symbols l-r: Arthur Herman, Kenneth Johnson, Richard Judkins and Bob Wyman

The Romans (of Missouri)

Kelly Park was lead guitarist for the Romans, a band based in Columbia, Missouri. He writes about the group:

This band was formed in Columbia, Missouri in 1964. I was lead guitar in that band from the start until the spring of 1965. Like many other bands, we were heavily influenced by the British invasion, including the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and others. We played songs by the Ventures, the Thunderbirds (we had a sax player), the Beach Boys, and others I have long forgot.

The band was formed by Jimmy Jay (the lead singer) out of Clarksville, Arkansas. All of us were University of Missouri students at the time. I have no pictures or recordings of the band, we did not make any records while I was there. Our saxophone player’s first name was Paul, from Kansas City, Missouri. I have long since forgotten Paul’s last name as well as our drummer’s and bass guitarist’s. We stayed very busy playing for college fraternity gigs at the University and nearby Westminster College in Fulton.

I’d dropped out of school shortly after my father died in February 1965. I lost touch with the band and know nothing about what happened to them after that. I read about the Arkansas band called the Romans that were obviously formed after us to did not recognize anyone in it. As a side note, I grew up across the street in Springfield, MO from Steve Cash of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

Kelly Park

The Fabulous Four – Next Exit – Pretty – Kansas City

The Fabulous Four band

The Fab Four are a long-active group from Kansas City, Missouri. They evolved out of the Midknighters, formed in 1959 by Bob Theen and Alex Love. After a name change to the Fabulous Four Jacks, they shortened it to the Fabulous Four in 1961 and to the Fab Four by the time of their second record.

In 1963 Theen and Love added two new members to form a unit that would be together for fifteen years. Jeff Mann joined after original guitarist Dick Wilson was drafted and Mike Myers of Kansas City’s Silvertones replaced keyboardist Bill Bryant. Their first show with this lineup was at the Combo Club.

The band wrote the melancholy “Now You Cry” for their first 45, b/w the folky pop song “Got To Get Her Back”. George Hodes, owner of Prior Brass Co. recorded the group in his living room, and issued it on the Brass label in 1964. Coral soon picked it up for national distribution, but it missed the charts.

Guitarist Bob Theen wrote to me about the band:

This first 45 was released in 1966 on a local Kansas City label (Brass) and then picked up by Decca Records and re-released on the Coral label.

I’m sure you figured it out but we really were The Fabulous Four all those years, it was just the record companies that wanted to change our name on the records. I’m not really sure when everyone started calling the Beatles The Fab Four. That probably had something to do with it. But, we were the Fab Four long before the Beatles.

In our nightly performances we all sang lead and background vocals. That’s why our songs all sound so different.

I like their second 45 even more, “Happy”, with its shrill organ, harmonies 320 sharp guitar lines, also produced by George Hodes, and written by Theen and Mann.

Both sides of the third 45 are also good. “I’m Always Doing Something Wrong” was written by J. Coffin, and once again the harmonies really come through. The flip is a cover of “Youngblood” with distortion on the guitar. Don Price produced this one.

From left: Bob Theen, Mike Myers, Alex Love and Jeff Mann

In 1967 the group landed a great opportunity to travel New York to record “I’m the Only One” and “Break Away” as the Next Exit for Warner Bros, produced by the Tokens. “Break Away” was written by Stephen Friedland (aka Brute Force) and Paul Kahan, and is well-crafted psychedelic pop.

Bob Theen: This song was recorded in NY in 1967, produced by The Tokens. It was supposed to be the title song for a movie that was released that next year in 1968 called “Butterflies Are Free’ The movie did come out it ‘68 but for some reason unknown to us our recording was not chosen. The song “I’m The Only One” was in the movie but only one short verse was sung by one of the stars on an acoustic. Darn the luck!! The other side of this is “Breakaway”.

Our version of the song was released in the spring of 1968 and got some air play here in K.C. MO. Don’t know about anywhere else. But evidently it wasn’t a smash hit.

I still have a letter from Hank and Jay asking us to return to NY for some more recordings but for some reason at the time the trip was too far. I still wonder to this day why we didn’t go. I think it had something to do with our families, wives, babies and that sort of thing.

They recorded their last record as the Fabulous Four in 1969, “River Days” / “I Got A Feeling In My Body” on Pearce, cut at Cavern Studios in Independence.

The Fab Four as The Pretty: Mike Myers, Jeff Mann, Alex Love and Bob Theen

Pretty - Mustache in Your Face

Also at Cavern they cut two songs written and produced by Michael Weakley (“Quint” Weakley, drummer for the Electric Prunes) that got a rare release on Squeakly Records with the band listed as ‘Pretty’. Both songs show the band tackling heavy psychedelic sounds, a completely different style of music than they’d done on record before.

Bob Theen gave me the background on these recordings:

During the years 1969 to 1971 we did a lot of recording at a local studio by the name of Cavern Recording Studios located in Independence, MO on Truman Road. It was a very unique studio because it was actually located in a huge cave in the hillside, hence the name Cavern. Talk about quiet!

We recorded a lot of songs there. Some we wrote, some we co-wrote, some other people wrote. We also had some of our friends set in on some of the sessions. Two of the songs recorded there were titled “Mustache In Your Face” and “The Electric Hand” produced by a guy named Michael Quinton Weekly. Michael was also the drummer for The Electric Prunes. We wrote and recorded a lot of other songs there, most we thought were pretty good, just couldn’t get them off the ground on our own.

From top: Mike Myers (with sunglasses), Bob Theen, Alex Love and Jeff Mann

Q. Was that 45 all the members of the Fab Four? Why the change of name?

Bob: The “Pretty” record was all the members of the Fab Four band plus a couple of other friends that sat in with us. I think maybe Weekly [sic] even played the drums. It was completely different from what we had been recording, but not so different from what we were used to playing live at the clubs every night, we were pretty versatile. Weekly just sparked a different side of us.As far as the name change, it was Weekly again. He was a little far out on ideas during that time, I have some pictures of us to prove it. Don’t laugh! As for myself, I never was real sure about four macho guys trying to be Pretty!

Q. Was it difficult adapting to that heavier style? Were you playing those songs in your live sets?

Bob: As I mentioned before, the style change was not really a change for us because we played that kind of stuff every night at the clubs.

Q. How did Quint Weakley wind up producing records at Cavern?

Bob: A couple of us knew Weekly from way back in our kid days. As I remember he showed up at Cavern Studios one day, said he had some ideas for some songs and it just took off from there.

Q. That record seems to be very rare now, was it distributed at all?

Bob: To my knowledge the record was not distributed at all. After the sessions, Weekly took off for California to try and sell them to someone. Don’t think he had any luck, and we didn’t see much of him after that.

Q. Also, are there unreleased tracks from those sessions?

Bob: There are some other recordings from that time, but they only exist on tape.

At the Cavern studio: Bob Theen, Jeff Mann and Mike Myers
Kansas City, 1970, L-R: Jeff Mann – bass, Mike Myers – keyboards, Alex Love – drums and Bob Theen – guitar

When they recorded a 45 for Capitol in 1970 the band’s name was changed to Kansas City, but they continued as the Fab Four for live shows, including extended stays at the Attic. The band broke up in 1976 and have reunited since.

Bob Theen: The song “Linda Was A Lady” was recorded in Memphis in 1970 on the Trump label, a Subsidiary of Capitol. The back side was “Red Tower Road”. To our knowledge, and from the amount of the royalties, it did the best of the three we released. Our producer was Tommy Cogbill along with Chips Moman, a couple of very talented guys in Memphis. I think Tommy has since passed away, don’t know about Chips.

We continued playing professionally till about 1974 when we decided to hang it up. I think the disappointment of our last recording not going big time got us down.

Twenty three years later we got the itch to do it again, but soon it was evident that our original drummer was not physically able to play again. We had another drummer friend by the name of Mark Higbee that hooked up with us and would be our drummer for another ten year run. We played parties, clubs and all kinds of events around the Midwest and had a great time doing it.

We did our last Hoorah in the fall of 2007 for a Parkinson’s Fund Raiser called Rock Around The Block featuring us and several well know bands from our era in the K.C. area. The event was held at the new H&R Block headquarters in K.C. MO.

On March 22, 2008, The Fabulous Four Band (Bob Theen – Jeff Mann – Mike Myers – Mark Higbee & original drummer Alex Love) was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall Of Fame.

Jeff Mann passed away in 2012.

Sources ( – link now defunct).

Cole and the Embers

Here are two fine garage tracks from a Kirkwood, Missouri group.

The cool label shows it couldn’t be any earlier than late-’66 (named after the TV show of course), but I was surprised to see it listed in a database as a May, 1968 release. If so, it’s behind the times but sounding great, however, a band member disputes the late release date (see below).

“Hey Girl” rushes through verses and the catchy chorus, with a break for the organ solo, which really has a fine sound, followed by a quick guitar break.

“Love Won’t Hurt You” is much slower but has a brooding sound with the repeated high-pitched note on the organ, clipped rhythm on the guitar and harmony vocals. There’s a neat section halfway through as the band moves through chord changes, and this is repeated at the end of the song after the fuzztone solo and last chorus. Lepore-Martines wrote both songs. The label for “Love Won’t Hurt You” lacks the artist listing.

Lead guitarist Robert Lepore wrote to me with the history of the group, hopefully we’ll have some photos at a later date:

The band started up in 1965. It consisted of Perry Cole (singer), Reggie Shaw (rhythm), Jack Pebbler (keyboard), Scott Lay (bass), Charlie Cablish (drums) and myself (lead). Scott, Charlie, and I were the core of the group. As time passed we brought in Colin Johnson (rhythm), Steve Starr (keyboard), and Doug Paone (keyboard). At the time of the recording Cole was gone and so was the rhythm position.

We all went to and graduated from Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Mo. A town about 30 miles from St Louis in St. Louis County. We played many school functions (dances, pep rallies etc.) as well as parties and some of the teen clubs that were so popular then such as Kirkwood Teen Town and the Rainy Daze teen club. We and another local group called the Extremes [who cut “Facts of Life” on Star Trek 1221 as the X-Treems] drew over 1,300 hundred kids one Saturday night. We also played frat parties as far as SE Mo. State in Rolla, Mo. and as far east as DePauw Univ. in Indiana.

At the time we recorded the songs the band consisted of Steve Starr, Scott Lay, Charlie Cablish and myself. Scott and I did the singing. I did the main part on “Love Won’t Hurt You”. We recorded the songs in the basement studio of a local late night DJ named Nick Charles from a top 40 station called KXOK. We recorded at 9 am on a saturday morning. I can remember our voices almost cracking because of the early morning after a late night of playing.

We put parts of the songs together in studio and had a good time doing it. I remember the DJ barking out some instructions to us from the other side of the glass and Steve saying “OK big daddy.” to which he replied “Bullshit.”

As far as the label we had nothing to do with that. My dad took care of that end of it. Cole and The Embers appeared on one [only] side because of a labeling error and we didn’t really pick an A or B side because we thought both sides were good. Martinez was never in the group. He just collaborated with me on the songs.

Q. So the band kept the name Cole and the Embers after Perry Cole was gone?

We kept the name because most people called us the Embers or just the “‘Bers”

I believe the the release date you have is not accurate. I was still playing an old Hagstrom 3 pick up guitar at the time. I replaced it with a Fender Telecaster which I bought long before your release date. We sold about 500 copies localy and both sides of the record were played on a local undergound station that was just starting up. KSHE 95.5 FM.

The band officially broke up in the summer of 1968. Charlie graduated in 1967 but went to a local university. Perry, Reggie, Doug and I graduated in 1968. We all went to college. Perry, Reggie and I all went into the Air Force. Steve, Scott and Collin graduated in 1969. I haven’t kept in touch with any of them.

I did stay in music. The ten years I was in the service I didn’t play much but I did write a bunch of songs that I put on tape just for myself. Then in 1985 I put a classic rock band together called Backtrack. It was very successful in St. Louis and the surrounding area. The band stayed together for nine years when in 1994 my bass player moved to Dallas and I to Florida. In Florida I put another classic rock band together called Goldrush. Everyone in this band could sing lead. We had such great harmonies. I moved to Texas about a year and a half ago. And you know once you’ve got the bug the music’s in your blood so here I am, putting a praise and worship band together at church and I’m also putting another classic rock band together as well.

Robert Lepore
October 2009

Anyone have a photo of the group?