Category Archives: North Carolina

The O’Kaysions: Beyond Girl Watching

O’Kaysions (second generation, ca. 1968) Top row L-R: Jimmy Hinnant (bass); Jimmy Spiedel (sax); Bruce Joyner (drums). Bottom row L-R: Ronnie Turner (trumpet); Donnie Weaver (lead vocals/keyboards); Wayne Pittman (vocals/guitar).

O’Kaysions (second generation, ca. 1968)
Top row L-R: Jimmy Hinnant (bass); Jimmy Spiedel (sax); Bruce Joyner (drums).
Bottom row L-R: Ronnie Turner (trumpet); Donnie Weaver (lead vocals/keyboards); Wayne Pittman (vocals/guitar).

Much has been written about the early O’Kaysions and their one hit; however, little is known about the group that followed and the handful of recordings they made for Cotillion Records. All but two members of the third generation O’Kaysions have since died and the bulk of the recordings they made in 1970 remain unreleased. The O’Kaysions would disband in the early seventies, following a series of personnel changes and missed opportunities.

The Kays sleeve for
The Kays (picture sleeve, JCP Records)
L-R: Wayne Pittman, Steve Watson, Donnie Weaver, probably Gerald Toler, Jimmy Hinnant.

The band formed in Kenly, North Carolina (south of Wilson) as The Kays. Lead vocalist and organist Donnie Weaver was from Rocky Mount and was just 12 when he joined The Kays. A decade later and with the same band at age 22, he sang lead vocals and played organ on “Girl Watcher” at Sound Studio in Greenville, NC, on February 8, 1968. He is also credited with coming up with a new name for the band, and from that point on they would forever be known as The O’Kaysions.

By 1968, the group had changed names and personnel. Weaver, guitarist Wayne Pittman, trumpeter Ron Turner, saxophonist Jim Spiedel, bassist Jimmy Hinnart and drummer Bruce Joyner were the second generation O’Kaysions. Steve Watson, Gerald Toler and Eddie Dement (drums, sax and trumpet, respectively) all performed on “Girl Watcher” but decided to stay with their day jobs rather than pursue fame and fortune on the road.

O'Kaysions North State PS Girl Watcher
O’Kaysions (“Girl Watcher” picture sleeve, North State Records)
Front row: Donnie Weaver (vocals, organ); Steve Watson (drums).
Back row: Gerald Toler (sax); Wayne Pittman (guitar); Eddie Dement (trumpet); Jimmy Hinnant (bass).

Pittman penned the summer beach anthem and told Rick Simmons in his book Carolina Beach Music: The Classic Years that one of the band members suggested he write a song about girl watching because of his penchant for observing bathing beauties. Pittman recalls that he had already written the melody and added the lyrics, finishing the song in two nights. When Weaver was asked in the studio to help complete the chorus, he came up with the unforgettable “umm, umm, umm.” North State Records producer Buck Trail is given co-songwriting credit on the label, but Pittman composed the song and wrote the lyrics and Trail’s contribution was minimal.

O'Kaysions North State 45 Girl Watcher
Original “Girl Watcher” 45 on North State Records 1001, 1968.

Game Artists promoter Ken Adkins says the O’Kaysions made the crude recording in “a broom closet studio in Greenville, N.C.” The song became a regional hit, with WBAG in Burlington playing the 45 (North State 1001) in heavy rotation. It caught the attention of Adkins and his boss, Bill Griffin, who owned Greensboro’s famed Castaways and managed Game Artists.

Griffin wanted to sign the band and enlisted Adkins and A&M Records promoter Manly May, who shopped the song to labels in New York. ABC Paramount picked it up (ABC 11094) and Pittman remembers that label executives flew down from New York to get the master tapes from North State and decided to rush release the song unchanged, while picking up distribution. It went on to reach #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and in Cashbox and Record World) in early October, peaking at #6 on the R&B chart and earning a gold record with one million in sales by December 1968. “Girl Watcher” was listed in the Top 10 for nine weeks and in the Top 100 for twenty-six weeks. The song is listed as the 45th biggest record of 1968 in Billboard’s listing (#44 in Cash Box) of the “Hot 100” songs of the year.

Griffin had a management contract with the group and arranged a six-week tour. ABC had signed lead vocalist Donnie Weaver to an individual contract, leaving Game Artists in limbo: They had a national hit with no band to promote it. Weaver, Pittman and Hinnart were willing to tour, but first they needed a drummer and some horns.

Adkins returned to Greensboro, where he says he hand-picked some of the area’s finest musicians to join the O’Kaysions in the studio and on tour. In the fall of 1968, the three original members were joined by newcomers Turner, Spiedel and Joyner to record the Girl Watcher album, which was was produced by Johnny Pate.

O'Kaysions Jukebox mini-lp on ABC
O’Kaysions Jukebox mini-lp

The “Girl Watcher” album (ABC LP ABCS-664) was recorded in two days to take advantage of the hit single and received a favorable review in the Nov. 9, 1968 issue of Billboard. “The soulful O’Kaysions, the “Girl Watcher” crowd who spilled from R&B into a top 10 pop power should strike hard at the LP chart with the debut dozen of breezy rock ‘n’ soul tunes. “Little Miss Flirt,” “Love Machine,” “My Song” and Don Weaver’s bluesy vocals herald the arrival of this top white soul group.” The LP did fairly well on the Billboard album charts, climbing all the way to #49 on the Rhythm and Blues LP list and peaking at #153 on the overall albums charts on Nov. 23, 1968.

“Love Machine” (ABC 11153) was chosen as the follow-up single and was listed as a “new release” in the Nov. 30, 1968 Billboard. It spent six weeks in the charts, stalling at #76 on the pop charts in late December. The song fared much better on the Cash Box charts and was chosen as the number one pick in the trade paper’s “Looking Ahead” forecast on Nov. 16, 1968, the week it debuted. “Love Machine” had risen to #47 by Christmas. It was the O’Kaysions last chart entry.

O'Kaysions early concert poster, Williams Lake Dance Club, Clinton, N.C.
Early concert poster, Williams Lake Dance Club, Clinton, N.C.

Management problems plagued the band from the start. Pittman says the people at North State thought they could sign the band with any booking agency they wished and inked a contract with Atlanta promoter Bill Lowery, without the band’s knowledge. The O’Kaysions felt Lowery wasn’t booking the group enough, so they canceled the agreement. The band next signed with Associated Booking in New York City. But Pittman says Lowery’s power and contacts in the industry “put the kiss of death” on the O’Kaysions and ABC was reluctant to put much money behind the band.

But while Weaver was tied to an individual contract with ABC, Griffin and Adkins had traveled to New York and signed the group to Atlantic Records. Atlantic would later front $15,000 for the O’Kaysions to record an album at the new, state-of-the-art Crescent City Sound Studios (formerly Copeland) in Greensboro, for release on their subsidiary, Cotillion Records.

Pittman was the next to leave. Donny Trexler was brought on board as his replacement on guitar, with drummer Gary “Groove” Pugh joining the band at the same time. Both were also excellent vocalists. Trexler was known for his gritty, soulful singing, while Groove brought a piercing falsetto voice to the mix.

Bob Collins & the Fabulous Five
Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five L-R: David Hamilton (drums), Bob Collins (vocalist), Dick East (bass), Tommy Tucker (sax), John Cook (keyboards), Donny Trexler (guitar/vocals).

Trexler began singing at age 9 in Summerfield, N.C. and was 14 when he formed his first band, Donny and the Blue Jets. Two years later, he joined the Six Teens, which consisted of six, 16-year-olds. Their drummer decided to defect to Allan and the Flames, a group that had a regional hit with the instrumental “Winter Wonderland.” Their drummer, Bob Collins, didn’t want to leave his job to go out on the road, so the bands switched percussionists. Several left to attend college and some older members were brought into the reformed band, now known as Chuck Tilley and the Fabulous Five. Chuck left or was fired in January 1962 and Bob Collins was chosen to front the band because, as Trexer recalls, “he could sing ‘Ooh Poo Pah Do’ and the Fats Domino catalog.”

But it was Trexler who would sing lead on the group’s 45, “If I Didn’t Have a Dime.” The song had been a minor hit for Gene Pitney but became the signature song for Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five. The band actually recorded the tune twice, first at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte and then at Copeland Sound Studios in Greensboro in 1966. The latter version was released on the Greensboro-based Jokers Three label and remains a beach music favorite. Trexler says the band got a group of teens “to come in from Guilford and High Point College and a couple of cases of beer and we had an audience!”

Trexler left the Fabulous Five in February of ’68 and was playing in the basement of the Rathskeller in Greensboro with Ted Carroll and the Music Era. The band had traveled to Florida for an extended engagement when manager Bill Griffin contacted Trexler and told him he was having problems keeping members in the O’Kaysions. With a hit record and a follow-up in the charts, it didn’t take much persuading to convince Trexler and Pugh to leave the Music Era and join the O’Kaysions in the first week of January, 1969.

Both were flown to New York City to provide backing vocals for the group’s next single, an upbeat cover of Gene Pitney’s “24 Hours from Tulsa.” Weaver sings lead but none of the O’Kaysions play on the track, which was recorded with session musicians at the Hit Factory in January of ’69. Trexler says that ABC called Johnny Pate (Impressions,Gene Chandler) to produce the sessions, although the label credits Bill Szymczyk and Game Productions. While he was brought on board as guitarist, Trexler said he didn’t take his instrument to New York and Billy Butler plays guitar on the song. Interestingly, Trexler was told the guitarist was the brother of singer Jerry Butler. The single’s b-side, “Colors,” is a curious ballad about the plight of the American Indian that features a strong vocal delivery from Weaver.

OKaysions Billboard February 22, 1969
The O’Kaysions featured in Billboard February 22, 1969

The record (ABC 11207) received a favorable review in the April 19, 1969 edition of Billboard and was listed in the “Top 60 Pop Spotlight.” The reviewer enthused that “the ‘Girl Watcher’ group bounces back with a strong item here, a clever revival of the Gene Pitney hit of the past, penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Driving rock beat backs a strong vocal workout.” While “24 Hours from Tulsa” had all of the elements of a hit record, it failed to dent the charts.

But the band was about to undergo another drastic change. Lead vocalist and front man Donnie Weaver was about to leave the band for a solo career with ABC, while the band would record for Atlantic. Trexler says there were already rumblings of Weaver’s departure as early as January of ’69, although he would continue performing with the group through late August. After the New York sessions, Griffin and Trexler were walking down the street when his manager remarked: “You might as well get yourself prepared to really do something with this group because ABC is shooting to take Donnie away from us.” Griffin told Trexler he didn’t intend to stop them and asked that Trexler take over when that happened, adding: “You’re one of these people if I send you out on a job and there’s no place to play, you’ll build a place before the night.” While he insists it was never his intention to repIace Weaver, Trexler said it became apparent in the following months that “Donnie was not a happy individual.”

His first job as lead singer for the O’Kaysions came on a Labor Day Saturday night in 1969 at the Coachman & Four in Bennettsville, S.C. “We got notice on Monday or Tuesday of that week that Donnie wouldn’t be coming back,” says Trexler, because Weaver “had decided to do a thing on his own and ABC Records decided to stay with Donnie and not the group.”

Weaver left around August 1969. Jimmy Spiedel was drafted in the fall of that year and Ronnie Turner departed about the same time. Glenn Ingram was added on sax, along with trumpeters Tommy Hawk and Tim Moore.

Donny Trexler with his new Gibson ES-335 guitar, Christmas, 1969.
Donny Trexler with his new Gibson ES-335 guitar, Christmas, 1969.

This line-up played a gig in Mississippi a couple of days before Christmas in 1969. The job wasn’t as memorable as what happened immediately afterwards. The band was headed home to North Carolina for the holidays when someone flagged them down to tell them the door on the band trailer was wide open. Somewhere along the way, Trexler’s Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar and Hawk’s Schilke trumpet had tumbled out onto the tarmac. “We doubled back at 3:30 a.m. to look for them but never found either,” recalls Trexler, “so a Gibson ES-335 was the replacement purchased by the group.” Trexler had warned the band repeatedly that the latch was bad and describes the episode as “an early nail the coffin.”

O’Kaysions (third generation, ca. 1970-71) Top row, L-R: Gary “Groove” Pugh (drums/vocals); Big Jim Lowry (guitar/vocals). Second row: Donny Trexler (guitar/vocals); Allen Brewer (bass/vocals). Front and center: Lenny Collins (drums)
O’Kaysions (third generation, ca. 1970-71) Top row, L-R: Gary “Groove” Pugh (drums/vocals); Big Jim Lowry (guitar/vocals). Second row: Donny Trexler (guitar/vocals); Allen Brewer (bass/vocals). Front and center: Lenny Collins (drums)
O'Kaysions drummer Lenny Collins in the mid-70s.
Drummer Lenny Collins in the mid-70s.

Trexler contends the eight-piece group “was not a workable unit,” and the O’Kaysions soon downsized, eliminating the horns. After the band regrouped, Moore joined Kallabash Corporation. According to Trexler the band “just kind of drifted for 6 months” before they hired Big Jim Lowry (guitar/vocals), Allen Brewer (bass/vocals) and former Tropics drummer Lenny Collins in “late February of early March of 1970.” Groove Pugh had some problems and left the group until they were resolved. He returned and they continued with two drummers. The group now had the strength of two lead vocalists and a pair of excellent guitarists. While no longer playing in the O’Kaysions at this point, Jimmy Hinnant was the group manager. Hinnant and Ken Adkins ran the day-to-day operations of Game Artists and kept the band working.

This was the line-up that Lost Soul keyboardist Steve Calfee booked for the Blue Toad, a college club in Bluefield, WVA. Calfee said he was amazed, adding “they did ‘Girl Watcher,’ of course, but most of the evening they did everything from the Allman Brothers first two albums, blues and some killer rock and roll. Knocked our little beer hall right on its butt (and) Donny and Big Jim did some great double guitar solos.”

O'Kaysions and Drifters at the 220 Drive-in in Martinsville, VA., May, 1970.
Topping the bill at the 220 Drive-in in Martinsville, VA., May, 1970.

Art Kramer was playing tenor sax in Mass Production when the group shared a bill with the O’Kaysions at the 220 Drive-In near Martinsville in May 1970. His group also supported singer Clifford Curry. The Drifters also performed but it was the O’Kaysions who topped the bill. Kramer remembers that “the O’Kaysions were down to a five-piece band at this time… didn’t have any horns.” He recalls that they had “a good sound (and) you could tell the band had been together for a long time.”

Trexler maintains this line-up was the best on stage, noting “the group was very versatile; we all played different instruments in the show.” The five-piece configuration toured extensively along the East Coast, playing military bases and clubs like the Magic Attic in Myrtle Beach. But their songs were hard-edged and had little in common with the beach music generally associated with the band.

OKaysions Cotillion 45 Watch Out GirlTheir first Cotillion single, “Watch Out Girl” (Cotillion 44089) backed with “Happiness,” was recorded at Walt Copeland’s new Crescent City Studios, in the spring of 1970. Allen Brewer played bass, with Trexler on guitar and lead vocals. The band borrowed drummer Clayton “Red” White, from Bob Collins’ band, with Duke Hall on keyboards. Hall was the arranger and producer for Game Artists. Trexler says the horns were some players from A&T State University, supplemented by musicians from the Peace Core, formerly known as the In-Men LTD. While Trexler believes the strings were added later by Atlantic, Ken Adkins recalls that Hall “hired great string and horn players who were in town for the Eastern Music Festival held annually at UNCG.”

Drummer Red White remembers the band doing a sound check when a “squeak” was heard in the playback. The engineer isolated it to his Speed King bass drum pedal. “I always kept (and still do) a can of 3-In-One oil in my drum case to keep my pedal at top speed. One drop to each spring piston and we were recording.” White still uses that same bass pedal to this day.

The flip side, “Happiness,” is a beautiful ballad with an infectious chorus. Penned by Trexler, the song incorporates horns and a nice string arrangement. He sings the double-tracked vocal and plays acoustic and electric guitars. The acoustic used on the session is a 1934 Gibson Model L-00, which Trexler purchased from his uncle for $50 when he was 10. The same guitar was used on dozens of jingles he recorded at Crescent City Studios in Greensboro. Trexler performed the song as a solo artist for a TV broadcast on TBS while the O’Kaysions performed a three-week run in Atlanta in 1971.

Griffin shopped the master tapes to Atlantic because Groove and Donny were still under contract with the label through their work with the Music Era. The 45 was one of the first Cotillion releases following the massive success of the “Woodstock” album and the single was a Top 20 pick in all three trades: Record World, Cashbox and Billboard. That helped the group gain an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in mid-October, where Trexler mimed “Watch Out Girl” and Weaver’s vocal on “Girl Watcher.” Groove couldn’t make the show and Collins sat on the drum throne.

Billboard gave the record a rave review in the Sept. 20, 1970 edition, pegging the song in its “Top 20 Spotlight” of 45s predicted to crack the upper reaches of the Hot 100. “Watch Out Girl” was singled out with the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There” and CSN&Y’s “Our House” as surefire hits, with Billboard enthusing “the ‘Girl Watchers’ gang move to the Cotillion label with a blockbuster single that will get them back at the top of the Hot 100 and Soul charts (with) a top vocal workout flip, “Happiness.” Unfortunately, it was not to be and the song sank without a trace.

While on the West Coast, Trexler did an interview on Wolfman Jack’s radio show before the band returned home for a heavy schedule of touring in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

Okaysions Cotillion 45 Travelin' LifeThe third generation O’Kaysions were in the studio in Greensboro in the summer of 1970 to record a follow-up and an album that languishes in the vaults to this day. On reflection, “Travelin’ Life” b/w “Life and Things” (Cotillion 44134) seems like an odd choice for a single, but Trexler explains that “Duke Hall wrote them and they were published by Griffins Publishing Co.” Trexler sings lead and plays guitar. Hall was again the producer/arranger and played keyboards, while Brewer was on bass. Trexler believes Lowry played a second guitar on the recordings, with Collins on drums “and hired union musicians” rounding out the band. Jimmy Ienner (Three Dog Night, BS&T, Raspberries) was the production coordinator. Trexler recalls that Ienner was production manager for all Cotillion releases at the time and was “very interested in the group but did his homework and decided to stay clear.”

The sessions for the single coincided with the recording of the group’s second album, which featured songs written by both Trexler and Duke Hall. Hall, who is best remembered for producing some of the Platters later hits, had the financial backing of Atlantic, which – according to Trexler — had advanced Griffin $15,000 for the sessions.

Okaysions Cotillion 45 Life And Things
Okaysions Cotillion 45 Life And Things (b-side of Travelin’ Life)

Another ode to life on the road, “Travelin’ Life” boasts a strong, raspy vocal from Trexler, who explains that the effect was intentional. “Duke always liked to record late at night after I had sung all night because he said my voice sounded better,” recalls Trexler. He says the strain in his voice is audible, explaining that the song “was pretty rough, but that’s the way Cotillion said they wanted my voice to sound.” The flip side, “Life and Things” features a harmonica and fuzz guitar but sounds as though it was hastily recorded as a throwaway track. Trexler again sings lead and plays the wah-wah guitar solo.

Running order of songs for the unreleased Cotillion LP by the O'Kaysions
Running order for the unreleased Cotillion LP.

With four songs in the can, the group needed another eight to round out the album. Four of Hall’s tunes were recorded, along with three by Trexler, including the unreleased songs “Long County” and “Unity.” Ken Adkins recalls that two songs were recorded at the insistence of Atlantic Records “as a favor to some publishing company.” Hall’s composition, “Phat Momma,” was a standout, as was Piano Red’s “The Right String (But the Wrong Yo-Yo).” Other unreleased tracks include “Bad Girl,” “Listen to the World,” Ripe for Disaster,” and “A Man Is A Man.”

Ken Adkins was in the studio and says he “loved ‘Phat Momma’ when Donny Trexler recorded it,” adding: “I thought that O’Kaysions’ album really smoked with a bunch of great songs. They even did an arrangement I suggested of a very funky version of “Right String.” He still wonders why the label chose not to release the album, calling it “the best stuff ever recorded by Game.”

Trexler has his own ideas about why the album was shelved. While he and his band mates had spent “a lot of hours” in the recording studio, Trexler contends that Cotillion became disenchanted with the group’s management after “part of the money designated for a comeback album for the O’Kaysions (was spent) on other group projects.”

O'Kaysions poster for Greensboro show on Sunday, April 29, 1973
Poster for Greensboro show on Sunday, April 29, 1973, near the end.

While the group continued touring, Trexler insists “the magic was gone” and he decided to leave the band, ending a three-year stint as an O’Kaysion. He had become disenchanted with the lack of direction and felt the group was headed nowhere. Trexler was also embarrassed to open for national artists like the Guess Who and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds when these groups had “top notch equipment and roadies,” (while) we carried and set up our equipment in front of thousands of people in the audience.” Trexler left in March of 1972 and formed the group Swing with Tim Callaway, Doug Bates and his future wife, Susan.

O'Kaysions Game Artists Promo 70 s
O’Kaysions (last line-up, ca. 1972) Front row: Bobby Holland, Johnny Cobb. Back row: Frankie Pyrtle, Jim Lowry, Sylvia Lowry, probably Larry Miller, Gary Pugh.

The O’Kaysions soldiered on briefly before finally calling it quits. Little is known about the last line-up, but Johnny Cobb took Trexler’s place on guitar. Jim Lowry and Gary Pugh continued with the group, joined by Frankie Prytle, Sylvia Lowry and Larry Miller. The group quickly morphed into the International Boogie Band and recorded one single for Game: “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee”/ “Silver Dollar Lady” in 1972.

Donnie Weaver ABC 45 Speak To MeWeaver’s recording career with ABC was short-lived and yielded just one single – “Speak to Me” b/w “Sad, Sad Sam” — in 1970. The plug side was written by Jackie Lomax, guitarist in the British Invasion band, the Undertakers. The song was the opening track on Lomax’s 1969 LP on Apple Records, “Is This What You Want?,” which featured all four of the Beatles. Weaver wrote the flip side of the single but neither song received significant airplay. Both songs were produced by Bill Szymczyk, who had overseen the “Watch Out Girl” sessions earlier that year.

In 1972, Weaver moved to Riverside, California, where he joined bassist Gerald Davis and put together a band to record and perform some original songs. In 1979, Weaver met Chuck Leavell and Sea Level and recorded with some of the band members at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia. He also toured briefly with Sea Level.

According to his official bio, Weaver left music in the eighties and nineties to focus on his career as a scientific computer consultant.

But his retirement was temporary and Weaver opened for Chicago at the Alltel Pavilion in Raleigh on June 16, 2001. He performed original songs to an audience of 15,000.

In November 2003, Weaver organized a reunion of all six original members of the O’Kaysions at the Alabama Theater in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to perform “Girl Watcher” for the Carolina Beach Music Association Hall of Fame Awards.

He was inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame for Nash and Edgecombe Counties in 2009 and was still in fine form when he recorded the song “Truth” in 2012.

O'Kaysions - Donny Trexler
Donny Trexler, 2016

Donny Trexler continues to record and perform and appears regularly at private parties, clubs and restaurants in the North Myrtle Beach area. He and his wife, Susan, formed Swing in 1972 and the four-piece, Top 40 act toured the East Coast until 1988. At the time the couple, now married, formed Swing Too. The pair still record and perform together. Their 2007 c.d., The Edge of Paradise, contains standards and original material, including the popular “Tired of Pulling This Train” and “Inventory on Heartaches,” an updated version of the song Trexler wrote for Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five. He also remixed “Jukebox,” which remains a favorite during performances.

He was recognized by the industry in November 2000, receiving the CAMMY Award for “Lifetime Achievement.” The following year, Trexler was inducted into the South Carolina Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame and received the Palmetto Award from the governor.

The O’Kaysions reformed in the eighties and remain a popular attraction on the beach music circuit. The current group is based in Columbia, S.C. and features three vocalists, trumpet, saxophone, drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards. Original member and guitarist Wayne Pittman manages the band, which plays a mixture Top 40, classic rock and the ever popular anthem to summer, “Girl Watcher.”

Jack Garrett, 2016

 O'Kaysions - current touring band
O’Kaysions – current touring band

The Shadows on Switch and Gold Standard

The Shadows Switch 45 Tell MeThe Shadows came from Hazelwood, North Carolina, a small town about 30 miles west of Asheville. Members included Dennis Robbins and Ken James.

The band traveled 150 miles east to Charlotte to record at Arthur Smith Studios, releasing their single on Switch Records in April, 1966. “Tell Me” is a good original by Robbins and James, a tight performance with an excellent guitar break. The flip is a version of Brubeck’s “Take Five” that gives the guitarist more room to stretch out. Switch seems to have been their own label, I haven’t seen anything else on it.

Two months later the band drove 280 miles in the other direction, west to Nashville, where they recorded another original, “She’s Like That” for release on Zeke Clements’ Gold Standard Records. “Tell Me” was reused for the flip side, though without all the heavy echo on the original Switch version. I believe it is the same take of the song, not a re-recording, and I prefer it without the echo.

Dennis Robbins and Kenneth James copyrighted both songs with Clements’ Blazon Music Co, BMI on June 21, 1966.

The Shadows Gold Standard 45 Tell MeGold Standard released over 200 singles during the ’60s. There are a handful of garage or teen-beat records, which I’ll list below, though some of them I haven’t heard and I’m not positive they fit here. While some artists were local to Nashville, it wasn’t unusual for Gold Standard to feature artists from around the country. The Cavemen came from Birmingham, Alabama and had an earlier single as J.C. & Cavemen. The Incidentals were from Montgomery, Alabama.

112 – The Cavemen (vocal by J.C. Raynor) – “Just One You For Me” (Hoyt Johnson) / “Tell Her One More Time For Me”

114 – The Incidentals – “Baby Shake” / “Till the Ending of Time” (both songs by James Segrest and Herbert Phelps, released Dec. ’64)

155 – The Coachmen (vocal by Tommy Burnett) – “I’ll Never Leave You” / “Possibility”

174 – Steve Stephens – “Lonely Me” (Ricky Ryan) / ‘When You Grow Tired Of Him”

189 – Shadows – “Tell Me” / “She’s Like That” (June 1966)

204 – Ricky Ryan & Jerry Lee McKee – “My Baby’s Coming Home” / “Ask Me Baby”

209 – The Vee-Jay’s (lead singer Bill Boone) – “Give Your Heart to Me” (Ray D’ahrouge”) / ?

237 – Ronny Williams – “Move Up a Little Closer” (James Hendrix, Elijah & Geraldine Murray) / Larry Williams – “When You Grow Tired of Him”

262 – Five Emprees – “Little Miss Sad” / “Nobody Cares” (1967, re-recording with horns of their Freeport single from 1965)

286 – Paper Menagerie – “Left Up To You” (E. Macon) / “Love Again” (E. Macon & B.G. Gillespie) both pub. by Junellin Music BMI, prod. by Dick Sell

Anyone have a photo of the Shadows? I’d like to know more about the Shadows or any of these other groups, especially the Paper Menagerie..

The Shadows Gold Standard 45 She's Like That

Tornado Records of Greensboro, NC

The Nomads
The Nomads

Nomads Tornado 45 Thoughts of a MadmanNorth Carolina had many record labels in the 1960’s, but few were as prolific as Tornado Records. Based in Greensboro, the label had offices at 1712 Farrell Avenue, but also did business via PO Drawer 6787.

Tornado’s stock in trade was regional Country & Western music, although artists from as far away as Pennsylvania and Maine were released by the label. Tornado was owned by David Lee Perkins, whose name appears frequently with author credits on many releases.

The years of operation for the label seem to have been rather compact, roughly estimated to range from late 1964 to mid-1967, referencing Mike Markesich’s excellent tome, “Teenbeat Mayhem.”

Caravans Tornado 45 Twistin', Rockin', BabyAlthough typically beyond the scope of Garage Hangover, Tornado registers in the minds of garage fans as the home of the second single by The Nomads of Mt. Airy, North Carolina. As far as Tornado was concerned, The Nomads were a “Sensational New Discovery,” and said just that right on the record label. “Thoughts of a Madman” b/w “From Zero Down” was released in April of 1967, and ranks high among garage rock enthusiasts nationwide. It was the Nomads second single, the first being on the Stark label profiled on this site.

Also of note are the Caravans from Greensboro. Their single, “Twistin’ Rockin’ Baby” b/w “Rainbow of Love” from a couple of years earlier rocks pretty well, with an occasionally cool, John Lennon-esque vocal on the A-side.

Profile of Tornado Records artist Gail Day, Feb. 2, 1967
Profile of Tornado Records artist Gail Day, Feb. 2, 1967

Tornado Records Discography (if anyone can help fill in the gaps, more power to them):

Tornado T-101 – Glenn Thompson “My Mary” / “What A Line”
Tornado T-102 – South Mountain Boys featuring Little Debbie Baker – “Twistin’ Rockin’ Baby” / “I’m Falling for You, You, You”
Tornado T-103 – Dewey Ritter & the Panhandle Boys “I Walk A Lonely Road (Because of You)” / “Be My Sunshine Forever”
Tornado T-104 – South Mountain Boys “Gonna Hand You A Ticket” / “Dial My Number”
Tornado T-105 – Roy Baker & the South Mountain Boys “Jocassee Nona” / “Close As The Nearest Phone”
Tornado T-106 – Caravans “Twistin’ Rockin’ Baby” / “Rainbow of Love” (Greensboro)
Tornado T-107EP – Gloria Weston “Missing in Action (In Vietnam),” Kenny Craft “What A Fool Am I,” and Rod Rodgers “Hot Game of Dice” and “A Daughter Never Fools Her Mother”
Tornado T-108 – Joyce Mills “You’re Not the Boy I Used To Know” / ??
Tornado T-109 – Dewey Ritter – “Big Deal”  /  “Georgia Took My Name”

Harold Crosby
Harold Crosby

Tornado T-110 – Harold Crosby “Big Big Truck” / “I Will Mend Your Heartaches Tomorrow” (Maine)
Tornado T-111 – ?
Tornado T-112 – ?
Tornado T-113 – Dick Mosely “Cry No More” / “Wagons-Ho”
Tornado T-114 – ?
Tornado T-115 – Joyce Love “Judy Judy” / “Strawberry Sundae”
Tornado T-116 – Gord Worrall – “Wagon’s Ho” / “Freedom Will Take Command”
Tornado T-117 – Joyce Lynn “Touch of Heartache” / “Heaven Help Me (Another Lonely Day)”
Tornado T-118 – Dick Mosely “Getting My Kicks in ’66” / ??
Tornado T-119 – Margie Lee “It’s Too Late” / “Let’s Fall In Love Together”
Tornado T-120 – ?
Tornado T-121 – Carl Pride “You Can’t Catch My Mustang” / “If I Don’t Miss You” (Greensboro)
Tornado T-122 – ?
Tornado T-123 – Larry Campbell & the Country Playboys “Break-Through” / “Bluegrass Mountain Home”
Tornado T-124 – Bobby Adkins & Allen Mills “Bluegrass in Kentucky” / “I’m So Sorry That I Threw Your Love Away”
Tornado T-125 – George Dry & the Daydreamers “One Lung Charlie” / “Hard-Rock Sam” (PA)
Tornado T-126 – ?
Tornado T-127 – Joe Stone & Bobby Atkins “Singing Love Songs (Bluegrass Style)” / “Tears and Roses”
Tornado T-128 – ?
Tornado T-129 – Billy Beal “Rainy Day Blues” / “Cold, Dark And Deep”
Tornado T-130 – Tommy Jones & the Hayriders “Ballad of Gamblin’ Lil” / “God – Dollar”
Tornado T-131 – ?
Tornado T-132 – Joni Day “I Wonder If” / “Again He Said to Me” (PA)
Tornado T-133 – Johnny Jones “You’ve Turned Me Down” / “A Million Times”
Tornado T-134 – Harold Crosby “Bright Lights (and Blond Haired Women)” / “Let’s Fall in Love Together” (Maine)
Tornado T-135 – ?
Tornado T-136 – Joe Stone & Bobby Atkins “Stolen Kisses Are The Sweetest” / “Mister Bluegrass (Here’s To You)”
Tornado T-137 – Gail Day “Santa Didn’t Come” / “Please, Mr. Santa” (8 year old daughter of George and Joni Day) (PA)
Tornado T-138 – Bobby Adkins “Bluest Guy In Town” / “You Stopped Loving Me”
Tornado T-139 – Ray Josey “Orchids & Diamonds” / “Silver Tears”
Tornado T-140 – Joyce Lynn – “Stop That Knockin'” / “Though Not as Yet” (Clint Thompson, D.L. Perkins)
Tornado TLP-141 – George & Joni Day EP “Tears In My Heart,” “Sorry,” “The One You Left Me For,” “Make Up Your Mind,” “Too Many – Too Few,” “We’ll Work It Out” (PA)
Tornado T-142 – ?
Tornado T-143 – Glenn Thompson “Bad, Bad Dream” / “Thirteen Stripes in Old Glory”
Tornado T-144 – Glenn Thompson “Walk Softly (You’re Walking On My Heart)” / “You Didn’t Want Me Yesterday (I Don’t Want You Today)”
Tornado T-145 – Hank Brooks & the Midnite Rangers “Big, Big Heart” / “Pretty Picture On My Wall”

Lefty Hales
Lefty Hales

Tornado T-146 – Lefty Hales & the Carolina Partners “Stop Me” / “Anywhere, Anytime” (Goldsboro)
Tornado T-147 – Mettie Lou “A Soldier’s Prayer” / ??
Tornado T-148 – Bobby Adkins “Soldier’s Return” / “There’s Not Enough Words”
Tornado T-149 – Tommy Jones & the Hayriders “The Commies Are Coming” / “Love Is A Mountain Of Gold”
Tornado T-150 – ?
Tornado T-151 – ?
Tornado T-152 – Garland Atkins & the Sunny Mountain Partners “I Miss You Most Of All” / “Singin’ The Blues”
Tornado T-153 – Tommy Harrell & the Country Valients “One Drink Too Many” / You Sure Got The Best Of Me” (Eastern NC)
Tornado T-154 – ?
Tornado T-155 – ?
Tornado T-156 – ?
Tornado T-157 – Cousin Lee & Little Hank EP “Lonely and Blue,” “Don’t Judge Another Person,” “Lifetime To Forget,” “Little Hank’s Shuffle”
Tornado T-158 – ?
Tornado T-159 – The Nomads “Thoughts Of A Madman” / “From Zero Down” (Mt. Airy)
Tornado T-160 – Glenn Thompson Sunshine Through The Rain” / “You’re Not The Girl I Used To Know”
Tornado T-161 – Dick Mosely “Truck Stop Number Three” / “Under the Double Eagle”
Tornado T-162 – Billy Beal  “A Lifetime to Forget”  /  “Queen Without a Throne”
Tornado T-163 – Bobby Adkins “Ballad of Gamblin’ Lil” / “What About My Blue Heart”
Tornado T-164 – Bobby Adkins “Miss Thirteen, Teenage Queen” / “Day of God’s Wrath”
Glenn Thompson Tornado LP Best OfTornado T-165 – ?
Tornado T-166 – Glenn Thompson “Where The Red River Flows” / “King of the Endless Highways”

One Tornado LP has been identified thus far:

Tornado LP-102 The Best of Glenn Thompson

Thanks to Chris Bishop for additions, Lightnin’ Wells, Bob Clere for jpegs and helpful comments, and to Mike Markesich for key dates.

Glenn Thompson Tornado 45 What a LineGeorge Dry & the Daydreamers Tornado 45 One-Lung Charlie

Tommy Jones & the Hayriders Tornado 45 The Commies Are CommingCarl Pride Tornado 45 You Can't Catch My Mustang

The Nomads
The Nomads
The Nomads
The Nomads

The Happy Hoss and Stark Records Discography

The Happy Hoss Stark 45 Call Me BabyStark Records in Mount Airy, North Carolina is famous for the single by the Nomads, “Not For Me” / “How Many Times” as well as a good rockabilly 45 by David Southerland and the Southerns. I don’t have the Nomads, but I’ve picked up this oddity, a soulful and very crude single by the Happy Hoss, which seems to be a pseudonym for song writer Alan Westmoreland.

The top side is “Call Me Baby”, the vocalist shouting out the repetitive lyrics in a hoarse voice (ha ha) answered by high-pitched backing vocals. The flip “You’re The One (I Love)” is a ballad with saxophone.

Mount Airy is a small town very close to the Virginia border, 37 miles northwest of Winston-Salem. Stark Records had at least fourteen singles and a couple albums. The label seems to have been run by Thomas Paul Stark, as every release has Tom Paul Music Co. BMI in the publishing.

The Nomads single is their first, and they recalled the studio being in a basement when they cut their 45 and demos. Their next 45 “Thoughts of a Madman” / “From Zero Down” was released on the Tornado Records label (Tornado 159 in April of 1967), which also featured a release by Joe Stone and Bobby Atkins (Tornado T-136, “Mister Bluegrass”) who have a 45 on Stark. Tornado Records was similarly dominated by country releases.

Stark Records Discography (any help with this would be appreciated):

Stark S-001 – Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra – “My Darling” / “Be Sure That You Mean It” (both by Jerry Thomas, W-300/W-301)
Stark SR-002 – Joe Stone and Bobby Atkins & the Dixie Mountaineers – “Love Is A Lot To Understand” / “Bob’s Special”
Stark SR-003 – Bobby Atkins & the Farm Hands – “Lonesome Banjo” / “My Darling And Me”
Stark SR-004 – The Country Cousins – “Wrong Side Of Town” / “Bought Me A Farm”
Stark SR-005 – David Sutherland and the Southerns – “You Better Leave My Baby Alone” (Sutherland) / “Whispering Bill” (“A Product of Pilot Record Co.”)
Stark SR-006 – Randy Scott – “If Seeing Is Believing” (David Sutherland) / “You’ve Lost Too Much”
Stark SR-006 EP – Siney Ann Wooten – “Darling You Don’t Love Me Anymore” (Paul Johnson, Johnny Long) / “Crazy Mixed Up Town” (David Sutherland)
I believe the A-side of the EP repeats the two songs from the Randy Scott SR-006 single, but I need confirmation of that.
Stark SR-007 – Randy Scott – “So Welcome to the Club” / “Back Up Troubles”
Stark SR-008 – Bob Hastings – “Crazy Mixed Up Town” (David Sutherland) / “Two Kings and One Kingdom” (Johnny Long)
Stark SR-009 – The Nomads – “How Many Times” / “Not For Me” (Bruce Evans, Larry Deatherage, Tom Paul Music Co. BMI, July 1966)
Stark SR-0010 – Intellectuals Combo – “Our True Love” / “That Ain’t Nice” (instrumental, written by Mike Dee Love)
Stark SR-0011 – Siney Ann – “I’m So Lonesome (I Could Cry)” / “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)”
Stark SR-0012 – Jimmy and Wesley and the Twin County Pardners – “Make Me A Pallet On The Floor” / “The World Is Still Waiting For The Sunrise” (Jimmy Arnold and Wesley Golden)
Stark SR-0013 – Hank Riley – “Record Of Heartbreak” / “Consolated Egotated Love”
Stark SR-0014 – Deep Valley Boys – “Please Don’t Honey, Please” / “Some Dark Hollow”
Stark SR-0015 – The Happy Hoss – “Call Me Baby” / “You’re The One (I Love)” both by Alan Westmoreland, Tompaul Music Co.
Stark SR-0016 – Four Souls – “Freedom Bound” / “Louise” (both by Paul Cain, Dennis Inman)
Stark SR-0017 – Tony Zito – “Hide Away Moments in Prayer” / ?
Stark SR-0018 – Bobby Atkins – “Memories Of President John F. Kennedy” (Paul Johnson) / “Love Valley” (1968, recorded by Lookabill’s Studio, Greensboro)
Stark SR-0019 – Don Sawyers and the Grangers – “My Favorite Way to Cry” (Larry D. Alderman – Don Sawyers, vocal by Larry D. Alderman and Don Sawyers) / “Imagination Trapped Within My Mind” (Don Sawyers, vocal by Don Sawyers) 1970
Stark SR-0020 – Carl P. Tolbert – “Liquor By the Drink” / “Changing of the Time” (1974)
Stark 100 – Pete Holden & the Baux Mountain Boys – “Truck Driver’s Vow” / “Legend Of Charlie Monroe”

LPs:

Stark SR-200-1 – Easter Brothers & the Green Valley Quartet – Bluegrass & Country Hymns (1967)
Stark SR-0001 – The Carolina Gospel Singers (1969)

Most of Stark’s output was country music, but as Bob pointed out in a comment below, the first release on Stark seems to be a lush arrangement of song-poems: see The Wonderful and the Obscure for more info. This single has light blue labels and a 1301 Park Drive address.

Other early singles have deep red labels and give the address as 1312 Summit Drive, Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Later ones read 628 South Street, Mount Airy, N.C. Later singles were produced by Paul Johnson.

Max Waller writes: “The Intellectuals had at least one further 45, “I Don’t Want To Cry” (as Mike Watson & the Intellectuals) / Danny Boy (as Glenn Wall & the Intellectuals) on M.K.B. 120 from Jan 1968 (SO 4898)”. MKB Recording was located in Tobaccoville, NC, just northwest of Winston-Salem.

Thank you to Max Waller, Lightnin’ Wells and Franz Kunst for help with this discography.

The Happy Hoss Stark 45 You're The One (I Love)

The Tropics: Hey You Little Girl

Tropics Van Ken Adkins, Jimmy Robinson, Leonard Collins, Arnold Robinson
Ken Adkins, Arnold Robinson (kneeling), Leonard Collins (sitting in front) and Jimmy Robinson

While not exactly a tropical paradise, the city of Eden was the birthplace of one of the best Soul bands of the sixties. This was before the towns of Leaksville, Draper and Spray merged to form Eden, which today has a population of less than 16,000. All three are nestled in Rockingham County, which gave rise to the Tropics through the merger of two bands: one from Reidsville and another from Leaksville.

Tropics December 1962 or 1963
from let: Ken Atkins, Malcolm Allen, Red White (at bottom center), Billy Hutchinson and Charles Hutchinson. “The Hutchinson brothers had no direct connection with the Tropics but were starting a band and we three were at their house to jam in 1962” – Ken Adkins
Tropics Malcolm Allen Douglas High School Leaksville 1962
Malcolm Allen’s graduation photo, Douglas High School, Leaksville 1962

Guitarist Ken Adkins was visiting a girlfriend in Leaksville one night in 1960 when he cut through a black neighborhood to hitch the five-mile ride to his home in Draper. As he was passing by a church, Adkins was taken aback by a “terrifically great boogie woogie piano… Ray Charles-type stuff.” He crept up to the window and was peering inside when he was startled by the preacher, who came up from behind and asked if he’d like meet the pianist, a gifted black musician by the name of Malcolm Allen. The two bonded immediately and it wasn’t long before Adkins brought drummer Red White and bassist Ronnie Hooker into the fold.

Tropics Malcolm Allen's house
Malcolm Allen’s house for early rehearsals

Allen recalls that their first practices were held in his home because the family had a piano in the living room. The then unnamed group quickly gained a following in the neighborhood and Allen says the front porch and yard of their home was often filled with people listening to their music. It wasn’t long before they began receiving requests to play in public.

A name was needed and Allen thought of The Tropics after seeing a commercial showing Jamaican musicians jamming on the beach. He explains that the group was billed initially as The Interracial Tropics “(so) people would know what they were getting and kind of eliminate some of the surprise factor.”

Double Door Tea Room, Leaksville, NC
The Double Door Tea Room, Leaksville, NC

The four jammed and honed their skills at each other’s homes before landing their first gig at a black club, the Double Door Tea Room. Allen had cards printed for the occasion, advertising “The Interracial Tropics.” The Double Door was a small club in Leaksville that served Soul food on the ground level, with a small, open area on the second floor for live performances.

Allen explains that the “black community (was) more receptive and open to integration at that time” and “our guys were mostly into Soul and then Motown and blues, so the music kind of catered more to our people.” The crowd at the Double Door was on their feet cheering the soloists on, “hollering and raising sand, saying “go ahead, go ahead and play that thing!” Bolstered by the response, Allen says the band was encouraged “to branch out and go other places.”

Tropics Leaksville circa 1962
Leaksville, NC, circa 1962, from left: Jane Kirby, Susan Powell, Red White, Ken Adkins

Dances followed at the segregated Stoneville High School. And while most of their friends were receptive to the mixed race band, Adkins recalls that “all (of our jobs) were for black audiences because white places would not book us.”

Red White says the country clubs in Virginia and North Carolina wouldn’t touch the band, but “we were accepted without equivocation (at the Double Door) and whites came to see us there. So it was really the beginning of the end of segregation as I knew it in my hometown.”

Tropics drummer Red White
Red White practicing at his home on his first kit.

The band stuck close to home through 1961, when Adkins went away to school in Chapel Hill. They continued to play on weekends, when their paths crossed with another group of musicians from Reidsville who had a band. Mike Peters played bass in the Reidsville group, first known as the Bermudas (later as Rick and the Spirits) and remembers playing their first job at the Casville Volunteer Fire Department in Caswell County for $6 per man.

The decision was made to merge the two groups after Adkins moved to Reidsville. White drummed with the band for about two years before graduating high school in 1962 and joining the Air Force. The group recruited the drummer from the Reidsville band, Leonard Collins, who was equally adept on the skins.

Peters explains that the Spirits lost their guitar player, Rick Sealey, who left to attend college at East Carolina. Someone suggested Adkins and he agreed to come and play. Don Watkins played organ in the Reidsville band but quit when Adkins came on board. Ken brought Allen in to play keyboards and Peters replaced Hooker on bass. Joe Frank Myers played sax. Sealey attended college briefly before returning to the band, this time on keyboards.

Sealey’s return was short-lived. He was drafted in 1966 and replaced by Larry Wren on the Hammond B-3. Myers left and was replaced by Leo Caudle on sax. Caudle was a gifted saxophonist who “could play a tenor and alto sax at the same time out of both sides of his mouth.”

Allen played with the band for several years but came to a crossroads when he married and the couple had a young daughter. His job required that he work nights and that made it impossible to continue road trips on weekends. But before leaving, he introduced the band to Jimmy and Arnold Robinson. “I met Jimmy because right after high school I was in Greensboro attending A&T State University,” says Allen, and “when they came into the group, they gave us a new dimension because they were some heck-of-a singers and they enabled us to do a lot of Motown stuff.” While not related, the pair shared the same surname, so the band billed them as the Robinson Brothers.

Coachman & Four Club, Bennettsville, SC
Coachman & Four Club, Bennettsville, SC
Engagements increased after the band hooked up with Bill Kennedy, who was the first manager of the Castaways in Greensboro. Kennedy auditioned the Tropics and told the band to buy some better equipment. They followed Kennedy’s advice and soon found themselves playing at his nightclub. The group hooked up with Ted Hall, a booking agent with Hit Attractions in Charlotte, and found themselves playing every weekend. Kennedy sold the Castaways to Beach Music legend Bill Griffin, and Kennedy went to work for Jokers Three as a booking agent. Jokers Three also ran a popular nightclub by the same name, and it wasn’t long before the Tropics switched their allegiance, with the agency booking most of their jobs until the band split in 1969.

Kennedy booked the band throughout the East Coast. In addition to the Castaways clubs in Greensboro, Raleigh and Nags Head, the Tropics frequented the Embers Club at Nags Head; the Cellar in Charlotte; Coachman & 4 in Bennettsville; the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach; and the Pink Pussy Cat in Atlanta. They also played cotillion clubs, debutante balls and “just about every college in North Carolina.” The band performed “anywhere from Northern Virginia down to Atlanta, out west to Nashville.”

Tropics J's Bacardi, Durham 1965 Joe Frank Meyers, Leonard Collins Dee Clark
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham NC, March 12 or 13, 1965, from left: Joe Frank Meyers, Leonard Collins and Dee Clark

Their musical prowess became well known and the Tropics were soon in demand to back rhythm and blues recording artists. One of the first of those gigs was in support of Dee Clark, with the band later backing the Impressions, Martha and the Vandellas, Mary Wells, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Major Lance, the Tams, Showmen and the Drifters.

Adkins says the band backed Dee Clark in late 1964 or early ’65 for two nights at J’s Bacardi in Durham. The Tropics already had two Clark songs in their repertoire, “Raindrops” and “Nobody But You,” and set about learning his other material, “so when he came to the show, we had his stuff down cold.” While they lacked the strings heard on Clark’s hits, Sealey was able to duplicate the arrangements note-for-note, recreating the background orchestration on the keyboards. Clark was impressed and would use the band again down the road.

The Tropics with Dee Clark at J's Bacardi, March 1965
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham, NC, March 12 or 13, 1965

Tropics J's Bacardi, Durham 1965 Ken Adkins, Joe Frank Meyers, Dee Clark, Mike Peters
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham NC, March 12 or 13, 1965 Ken Adkins, Joe Frank Meyers, Dee Clark, Mike Peters
The Tropics at J's Bacardi, March 1965 Dee Clark and Mike Peters
The Tropics at J’s Bacardi, Durham, March 12 or 13, 1965, from left: Dee Clark and Mike Peters

Rufus Thomas was a favorite of the Tropics and members would arrive hours before their shows and be entertained with non-stop jokes from the former Memphis DJ.

The Tropics shared the bill with the Temptations on the BDG Quad at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, playing to 12,000 on a Saturday afternoon. An outdoor concert in Chapel Hill in support of Sam and Dave drew an even larger crowd.

But touring the segregated South with two black vocalists was a challenge. One night after a job the band stopped to eat at a restaurant in Eastern North Carolina. The Robinsons walked in with Adkins and Peters while the rest of the band slept on the bus. The waitress took their orders and emerged from the kitchen carrying just two plates, “gave them to Jimmy and Arnold and then looked at me and Mike Peters and said: ‘The law says we have to serve them, but it doesn’t say we have to serve you.” The four left the food on the table and walked out.

Another incident happened at the Jokers Three in Nags Head, where the band was playing a two-week summer engagement. The night before they were scheduled to leave, the club owner learned that the Klan had threatened a protest. He paid them in full and the band left the Outer Banks a day early.

The Tropics promo photo
Jokers Three Booking Agency Promotional Photo circa 1965
From left, top row: Rick Sealey, Leonard Collins, Mike Peters, bottom row: Jimmy Robinson, Ken Adkins, Arnold Robinson

An engagement at a large venue in Farmville, Virginia almost didn’t happen. Malcolm Allen says the band had reached their destination and the guys were unloading their equipment when the club manager spotted him and grabbed Adkins, asking if Allen were the band’s chauffeur. When the manager was informed that Allen was their organist, he responded, “not tonight.” Adkins didn’t hesitate, telling him that “if he don’t play, we don’t play.” Allen says the band was preparing to pack up their gear for the long trip home when the crowd started getting rowdy. Adkins turned to the owner and said: “Look, if you don’t get a band in here soon, they’re gonna trash your place.” The manager relented and allowed the band to take the stage, but glared at Allen and said: “I’m gonna keep an eye on you.” The Tropics brought the house down, especially when Allen tore up the keyboards on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.” When they finished their set, Allen approached the club manager and asked him how he was doing. He told him to keep playing and “when we got through, he gave me a tip, so I felt like that we broke a racial barrier… because it was just a segregated time.”

But the most disturbing incident happened at UNC in Chapel Hill. The band was playing a fraternity party on April 4, 1968, the night that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Adkins recalls that the band was performing their first set when one of the fraternity brothers came up and asked to use a microphone. Adkins recalls that he told “his room full of partiers, frat boys and their dates that Martin Luther King had been shot.” The fraternity “erupted in cheering and applause, and it literally made me sick. It made Jimmy and Arnold sick and it made our whole band sick and it made me very sad for the students of the University of North Carolina.” The band stopped playing immediately, packed up their equipment and headed home.

Traveling with two black vocalists was not without its perks. Peters’ fondest memory is of the band’s two-week engagement in Myrtle Beach. The group decided to spend one week at the then black beach, Atlantic, and another at the white beach, Windy Hill. The first half of their stay found the Tropics sharing quarters with Norman Johnson and the Showmen, a scene Peters describes as a non-stop party. “You could get anything you wanted any time of the night,” he recalls, “and everybody stayed pretty much passed out the next day.” The week was “an adventure,” but the pace at Windy Hill was considerably quieter.

Tropics at Appalachian State University 1967
Appalachian State University Homecoming Dance, circa 1967, from left: Ken Adkins, Mike Peters, Leonard Collins

Shortly after backing Dee Clark in Durham, the Tropics traveled to Greensboro on March 15, 1965 to record a 45 at Copeland Studios. Adkins says it was an obvious choice since it was “there at our back door” and they knew owner Walt Copeland.

The group had rehearsed an Adkins’ original (“Hey You Little Girl”) in Peters’ basement and performed it live before the sessions, but were unprepared to record a flip side for the single. Their idea to simply repeat the backing track as an instrumental was quickly nixed by the engineer and Adkins proceeded to write “The Happy Hour” in 15 minutes. Peters recalls that the song was composed one night right after a rehearsal, adding: “(We) just did it to an old Curtis Mayfield run and put ‘The Happy Hour’ together.”

Original Tropics promo photo
Promotional photo, standing: Rick Sealey; middle row: Jimmy Robinson, Leonard Collins, Arnold Robinson; bottom row: Mike Peters, Ken Adkins
Before the group began work on the two tracks, they were asked to run through a set so the engineer could set levels. “We did 13 other songs that aren’t nearly as polished,” recalls Peters. All were recorded onto a reel, which Adkins kept, along with the master tapes for both sides of their single. All were cover versions of popular recordings, including the Impressions’ “People Get Ready,” Jerry Butler’s “He Will Break Your Heart,” and “Before Six,” an instrumental co-written by Curtis Mayfield and recorded by Larry Frazier that served as the Tropics’ theme song. The songs lack bottom and were performed at breakneck speed, but Adkins points out that they are the only surviving “live” recordings of the band.

A two-track recorder was used for “Hey You Little Girl.” While the studio would soon become a state-of-the-art facility, in ‘65 Copeland “was much more modest with just a two-track system.” That meant the band members “all had to play at the same time live and get it right.”

The unique finger snapping at the start of the song was Adkins’ idea. He explains that it was a way to get the band to start on cue without a counted introduction. Two guitar chords get the song into gear, followed by an unforgettable vocal interplay between Arnold and Jimmy. The song builds to a crescendo that Collins kicks to a close in just two-and-half minutes.

Sealey played piano; Collins was on drums; Peters and Adkins played bass and guitar, respectively; Arnold Robinson played the saxophone; and the Robinson Brothers shared lead vocal harmonies. The band provided background vocals. Peters was featured prominently, aided by a girl remembered only as Sandra. Jimmy sang the lead tenor part, while the baritone voice is Arnold’s. Jimmy also sings the lead on “The Happy Hour.”

While the label credits four band members, Adkins says he wrote and arranged the tune and insists “it was pretty much my song all the way.”

Adkins explains that he “wanted to write something that was musically different” than other songs on the radio, so he incorporated “a couple of things to make that happen.” The most effective is in the vocal walk-up where they sing: “I’ll never love you and leave you alone.” Adkins says the “alone” passage “goes back to the dominant chord, which is ‘F.’ None of the songs that I’d heard to that point, actually went back to their final climax and got back to the final dominant chord. So doing that gave a lot of strength to the harmonies.”

The Robinsons’ vocal harmony was perhaps the band’s greatest strength. Both were exceptional singers and shared lead vocal chores on stage. While Arnold went on to perform professionally in the Nylons, Adkins says Jimmy was also an outstanding singer and the combination of their voices gave the Tropics “a Righteous Brothers vibe.” The two had “distinctly different voices” that blended perfectly. And while Jimmy left music after the Tropics, Adkins insists that he was also “an incredible singer,” who “was even more charismatic on stage than Arnold and did the majority of the lead vocal work.”

Tropics Jokers Three Club Nags Head 1968
On stage at Jokers Three Club, Nags Head, NC summer 1968
Tropics Jokers Three Beach Club Nags Head 1968
from left: Arnold Robinson, Ken Adkins (at bottom), Mike Peters, Leonard Collins (at bottom), Jimmy Robinson

Tropics Jokers Three Beach Club Nags Head 1968
Arnold Robinson (left) at the Jokers Three Beach Club, Nags Head, 1968
Tropics Jokers Three Club Nags Head 1968
from left: Ken Adkins, Mike Peters, Jimmy Robinson, Arnold Robinson and Leonard Collins

The Robinson Brothers gave the Tropics a smooth, professional “show band” performance with custom-made uniforms, elaborate choreography and humorous back-and-forth banter with the audience. The show would start with the band playing, followed by a big introduction to bring Jimmy and Arnold onto the stage. Theirs was the first group in the region to feature the star stage show that would become the norm a few years later.

Adkins says the Greensboro sessions lasted about two hours. The band had rehearsed the songs before entering the studio and committed both sides to tape in no more than three or four takes. The band performed flawlessly, except for one bad note hit by Sealey, which can be heard on the record. Copeland charged an hourly rate of $45 in 1965 and the total tab for the studio time came to $95, including the master tapes.

While at Copeland, the band recorded a jingle for Holsum bread, with Jimmy, Arnold, Ken and Mike adding vocals and background claps to the television commercial.

Tropics Topic 45 Hey You Little GirlThe 45 was a one-off pressing on Topic Records, which Adkins describes as his label. The name was chosen because of its similarity to the group’s, and because “it rhymed with Tropics.” Peters believes the 45 had a total run of 2,500 copies; however, Adkins recalls several pressings, noting the band “would order 1,000 at a time and sell them at our shows,” paying for the records as they were produced. Betty Sue Trent owned Trent’s Records in Reidsville and paid for the initial pressing, in exchange for copies of the disc. Besides Trent’s, the record was placed at mom-and-pop stores throughout the Piedmont, while the band also “did a fair amount of promoting,” taking them to dee jays and program directors in the Carolinas. That resulted in “a fair amount of play,” and Adkins recalls the song being in heavy rotation in Burlington, Greensboro, Reidsville and Charlotte. Stations across Eastern North Carolina also picked up the tune and Adkins remembers selling the final 1,000 copies a year after the song was recorded.

While the song became a regional hit, the band never capitalized on its success. Peters believes they missed an opportunity by not recording a follow-up, but concedes they were so busy on the road that no one took the time to write a song or book the studio. Adkins admits the oversight was “incredibly stupid,” pointing out that he composed “a lot of songs thereafter (and) some of them were better” than the two chosen for their lone single. While there was talk of returning to Copeland, it never happened.

In addition to playing with the Tropics, Adkins soon found himself in the band booking business. Bill Griffin, owner of Castaways, also managed groups through Game Artists, and soon was recording his own bands. Griffin lived in Atlanta, leaving Adkins to manage the day-to-day operations in Greensboro. In 1968, an unknown group called the O’Kaysions made a crude recording in “a broom closet studio in Greenville, N.C.” WBAG in Burlington was playing the original 45 of “Girl Watcher” on North State Records and Adkins knew it was “a natural hit” the first time he heard it on the radio. Griffin had the idea to sign the band and enlisted Adkins and A&M Records promoter Manly May, who shopped the song to labels in New York. ABC Paramount picked it up and the record went on to reach #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Griffin had a management contract with the group and arranged a six-week tour, including an appearance on American Bandstand. But the band balked at life on the road, with one member telling Adkins he couldn’t leave his job at the hardware store, and another bowing out because his wife wouldn’t let him tour the country with a Soul band.

O'Kaysions Photo
The O’Kaysions

In the meantime, ABC had signed lead vocalist Donny Weaver to an individual contract, leaving Game Artists with a hit song and only a bass player to promote it. Undeterred, Adkins returned to Greensboro several months later and hand-picked some of the area’s finest musicians to tour as the O’Kaysions, including vocalist Donny Trexler, an ace guitarist who also sang with Bob Collins and the Fabulous 5. Trexler joined the band on guitar in December 1968 and became lead vocalist when Weaver left the following August. Dick Clark was none the wiser when he mimed the lead vocals to their hit record on Bandstand. In the interim, ABC had dropped the band and they signed with Atlantic, releasing one 45 (“Watch Out Girl”) on Cotillion Records. When it failed to chart, plans to release the O’Kaysions second album were shelved.

Tropics Ken Adkins Game Artists 1969
guitarist Ken Adkins taken at Game Artists in 1969, the year the Tropics split

The Tropics were still a hot commodity and Adkins spent weekends on the road with the band, arranging bookings and making certain the group was on the bus and ready for the next gig. A near disaster happened when he was working with Griffin at Jokers Three. A promoter in Rockingham, N.C. had booked the Coasters to perform in the National Guard Armory, with the Tropics as their back-up band. Posters were printed and tickets sold, when the headliners called four days before the show and cancelled. Lee Dorsey and Major Lance were contacted but both had prior engagements. With time running out and hundreds of tickets sold, Adkins contacted a friend in Greensboro, Big Barbara. True to her name, Barbara was “a big girl with a big personality” and a great voice. After some coaxing, Adkins convinced her that the show could go on, if she agreed to take the stage as Barbara Lewis. Adkins explains that the ruse was plausible, since Lewis had never performed in the area and albums rarely featured the photos of black artists, “so nobody knew what she looked like.”

Big Barbara learned Lewis’ hits and was ready to perform when she had an attack of stage fright. The band plied her with a fifth of whiskey, “she gets drunk as hell; she gains tremendous courage; she goes out on that stage, struts her stuff and does a fabulous job and does Barbara Lewis to a T.” The audience loved it and were unaware that they had seen an impersonator.

But managing and performing soon became too much for Adkins, who decided to leave the road and concentrate on booking the Tropics and other bands. Adkins told the group he would continue to manage them, but would no longer travel with the band. But that was short-lived. Once Adkins left “there was nobody there to (prod) everybody to get up out of the hotel room and get in the bus” for their next performance. The band became frustrated with the set-up, so once Adkins quit, “within a month they all did, too.”

But Peters is more stoic about the break-up, pointing out that the band had been together for nearly a decade and members were growing weary of life on the road. “We were playing every night and a couple of us were married and a couple of us were thinking about getting married,” recalls Peters. He believes the “time had come when we were not committed 100% to the group” and it was time to move on. Jimmy and Arnold tried to convince Peters to join them as the entertainment for a cruise, but he declined.
Drummer Leonard Collins went on to play with the O’Kaysions and the Impressions.

The Nylons with Arnold Robinson
The Nylons with Arnold Robinson

Arnold Robinson joined Sonny Turner’s Platters and later moved to Canada, where he was a founding member of the Nylons in 1979. The band achieved its greatest success in 1987, when their version of “Kiss Him Goodbye” reached #12 on the Billboard chart. Arnold recorded and toured with the internationally acclaimed a cappella group until his retirement in 2006. He died of complications from diabetes in 2013.

Leo Caudle went on to play with former members of the Swinging Medallions in Pieces of Eight, a band that had a minor hit in 1967 with “Lonely Drifter” on A&M Records. He also played tenor sax in Greenboro’s Kallabash Corporation. Larry Wren took his own life in the early seventies. Rick Sealey lives in High Point, but Parkinson’s disease has left him unable to play the guitar. Joe Frank Myers left for college after a few gigs and his whereabouts are unknown.

Malcolm Allen still lives in Leaksville and plays in his church. He headed the local NAACP chapter for more than a decade.

Tropics Clayton Red White at Jokers Three Club 1966
drummer Clayton Red White taken at the Jokers Three Club, Nags Head, on New Year’s Eve, 1966
Calvin Lindsey and the Hysterics including Red White
Calvin Lindsey and the Hysterics including Red White at bottom right

After leaving the Air Force, Red White returned to Rockingham County and drummed with the Tropics and the Impacts before joining another Jokers 3 band, Calvin Lindsay and the Hysterics. He moved to Beaufort, N.C. and now plays with the Outer Banks Philharmonic.

Mike Peters also lives at the beach but still plays his bass and joins Adkins for blues jams in Greensboro. Ken Adkins started his own business, Adkins and Associates, and has trained some of the top fashion headhunters in the country.

Jimmy Robinson left town and no one has heard from him since the band parted ways in 1969.

A revival of interest in the Tropics started in the early 80s, when Adkins began getting calls from Northern Soul fans in the UK who were looking for copies of the band’s record. Interest in the original 45 led to a reissue in 1987 by The Wax Museum, a Charlotte-based collector’s label.

Adkins admits the band’s cult status caught him by surprise and says he “had no inkling” the record would garner attention six months after its release, much less 50 years after the fact. “When you’re going through a certain period of your life,” he says, “you never in a million years would guess that anybody would give a hoot about something you did when you were young.”

White shares Adkins surprise, but believes the Tropics have benefited from the trends that followed. With “disco and various fads,” he says “people began to get nostalgic for the old music.”

But he believes the band has a far greater legacy than a chunk of vinyl. White is proud to have been a part of the first integrated band to perform in rural North Carolina. He believes that helped break down the color barrier by “setting a precedent” for generations that followed. “I was part of the original group that set that precedent for accepting a black musician and (going) on the road with a black musician,” White says.

While it’s been more than 50 years since the band first practiced in his father’s living room, Allen says he is still amazed at what they were able to accomplish. “We were just a small group of guys from the country, (but) were able to break down a lot of barriers because we all had a common goal and we all cared about each other, and we loved music.”

And while the Tropics may have gone their separate ways, there was no turning back and the landscape of Rockingham County was forever changed.

The Invaders of Asheboro, NC

The Invaders JCP PS You Really Tear Me Up

The Invaders JCP 45 You Really Tear Me UpI found this great sleeve featuring the Invaders on JCP records. Unfortunately I don’t have the 45 yet, and it’s an excellent one.

The Invaders came from Asheboro, North Carolina, a town just south of Greensboro. By the time of their 45 release in 1965 they were older and more experienced than most garage bands, having come together in high school as early as 1958.

Tom Abernathy – lead vocals, piano, organ, trumpet
Joe Abernathy – vocals and bass
James Bridgeman – lead guitar
Bryan Pugh – drums

The Invaders went to the JCP Studio in Raleigh to record this single. “(You Really) Tear Me Up” was a group composition, while “Workin’ For Your Love” is credited only to Abernathy, not specifying Tom or Joe. Both sides published by Aimee Music Co. BMI. The single came out on JCP 1027 in September, 1965.

There are supposed to be other singles and a couple dozen unreleased tracks by the band, many of which were recorded at JCP, but I haven’t heard those yet. The group often played at the Red Barn in Southern Pines. I’ve also read Tom Abernathy has passed away.

This band is not the same Invaders who recorded the LP On the Right Track on Justice Records, that group was from Charlottesville, VA.

Cross Tie Walkers

Cross Tie Walkers Valley 45 Days I RecollectCan’t find much about this group who did this one 45 in 1970. The Cross Tie Walkers included brothers Tony Goggans and Mike Goggans. I’ve read Valley was an Alabama label, and thought the band was from there until Vance Pollack wrote that the brothers had previously been in “the Malabous Ron, aka Malibus / Malibous, etc. of Fayetteville” in North Carolina.

Cross Tie Walkers Valley 45 Girl We Got a While Yet“Days I Recollect is the standout, sounding much like Creedence, but with something original to it. Mike Goggans wrote both that and the flip, “Girl We Got a While Yet”, for Clay Music BMI.

Tony Goggans produced the 45, engineered by Jerry K. Black and arranged by Michael Goggans. The PRP 21841/PRP 21842 code indicates Precision Record Press in Nashville.

Any additional information about the group would be appreciated. Anyone have a photo of the group?

The IV Pak or the VI Pak, Whatzit Gonna Be?


The IV Pak photos
The IV Pak, from left: Frank Carter, Brandon Cardwell, Anthony Hodges & Mike Carter

Jack Garrett unveils the story behind the mystery group from North Carolina:

Have you ever been to Ruffin, N.C.? Probably not, but if you traveled there around 1967, you just might have heard the sounds of a psychedelic/soul band that managed to play together with the same personnel for 6 years.

Challengers Business Card
Challengers business card

The band is remembered today as the IV Pak and the mystery surrounding the elusive group begins with their name. The group, whose psychedelic rave-up “Whatzit?” appears on numerous garage comps (Signed DC, Teenage Shutdown #8, Aliens, Psychos & Wild Things #3), has gone under the radar screen for decades because they never performed under that name. A label misprint on their lone 45 mistakenly lists the artists as the IV Pak, instead of the VI Pak. Bassist Anthony Hodges explains that the four-piece group had recently expanded to include trumpet and sax players and the members decided they would “just be the VI Pack, like a six pack of beer.”

IV Pak - The Recks Combo Business Card
The Recks Combo business card

The group started in 1965 as the Challengers and included Mike Carter on guitar, first-cousin Frank Carter on keyboards, bassist Anthony Hodges and drummer, Brandon Cardwell. The quartet performed for two years as the Challengers, then briefly as the Recks before adding sax man Lonnie Bowes and trumpet player Sidney Vernon and christening themselves as the VI Pak. They were based on the borders of Caswell and Rockingham Counties in North Carolina, with half the members at Bartlett-Yancey High School in Yanceyville and the others attending Ruffin High School.

Brandon lived nearby but was much younger than the others. He joined the Challengers at age 10, but was already an accomplished drummer.

IV Pak - Lonnie Bowes Photo
Lonnie Bowes

Sax man Lonnie Bowes recalls that the school band had just started a year or so prior to the group’s formation and the members all knew each other through school. He explains that “Mike had a good ear for music and Frank could read music real well (so) we just all fell together pretty good.”

Mike and Frank were the unofficial leaders. The cousins both started on guitar and a shared Silvertone amp purchased at Haynes Pawn Shop in Danville for $70. Frank quickly gravitated to keyboards and his dad bought him an inexpensive Italian organ. Anthony and Brandon were recruited and the line-up was set. The four shared a love for the Animals, Stones and the Beatles, although Brandon admits vocals were a chore, since “we didn’t have anybody (who) could sing like John or Paul.”

After learning “Wooly Bully” and “House of the Rising Sun”, the Challengers performed live for the first time in Oct. of ’65 for a dance at the Casville Volunteer Fire Department in Caswell County, N.C. More gigs followed at parties, pizza parlors, church socials, VFW posts and the local Moose and Elk’s lodges. Within months, the band competed in a battle of the bands at Williamsburg Elementary School in Reidsville, losing out to the better-equipped Checkmates.

The bass player’s father ran the local music store and provided their Fender Showman amps.
Another early performance was in the tiny town of Quick, where the Challengers played for Pam Hodges’ 15th birthday party. Hodges would go on to marry legendary bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice.

VI Pak Robbins Recording Acetate Love My Babe
VI Pak – Robbins Recording Acetate, Love My Babe

The group played once in Danville as the Recks before adding horns and becoming the VI Pak. The addition allowed the band to play a mixture of rock and soul, opening doors on the North Carolina beach circuit.

It was 1966 and the members of the VI Pak were anxious to get into the studio and record. Anthony had written a mid-tempo rocker, “Love My Babe,” and a crude recording was made at Danville’s House of Sound Studios after the bassist and guitarist approached producer Frank Koger at the local K-Mart, where he worked his day job running the electronics department. A half-dozen copies of an acetate were pressed featuring the original song and the band’s theme, an instrumental which borrowed heavily from “Wipe Out” and “Batman.” It was their first time in the studio and Brandon was nervous, kicking the song off at breakneck speed. The band kept pace, with Mike serving up a blistering guitar solo and Brandon bashing away on the drums.

The demo was played a couple of times on the local Top 40 station, but it would be the following year before the VI Pak would get the break they needed to actually press a record.


That break came in the summer of ’67 during a two-day battle of the bands at Ballou Park Shopping Center in Danville. Hosted by popular deejay Glenn Scott, some of the best bands in the region competed on three flatbed trucks in the shopping center’s parking lot. At the end of the first day’s competition, the VI Pak had won the preliminary round and a free recording session at Koger’s Raven Records. The grand prize went to the Fabulous Generals of Martinsville, Va., who wore matching suits and were fronted by a pretty (and talented) female vocalist, Debra Carol Crowder.

IV Pak - Mike Carter
Mike Carter

At 17, Frank Carter was the oldest member of the band and remembers selecting a Booker T. and the MG’s song, “Boot-Leg,” to record because it featured the brass and “had a neat little organ part in the center of it, that Booker T. did.” It also helped that the band knew the soul song and performed it regularly. Frank recalls that the band had originally planned to record at Robin’s Records in Greensboro, “but they wanted more money over there.”

The House of Sound studio was located on Piney Forest Road in Danville, in the same building that Mike’s uncle — E.C. Gerringer — owned and used for a piano and furniture company.

The guys crammed all of their instruments and amps into the trunk of Frank’s ’63 Chevy and headed for the studio. Frank remembers it as a “pretty neat little studio (with) multi-tracking and cubicles so “that each one of us had our own little box to play in. It wasn’t like playing in one big room, everything was sort of sectioned off for the drummer and for the guitarist and the horns and myself.”

IV Pak - Brandon Cardwell
Brandon Cardwell

“Boot-Leg” was knocked out in short order, but the band wasn’t prepared when Koger said:

“Well, what are you gonna put on the other side of this?”

The band decided to record another cover as the flip and had attempted several takes before Koger threw up his hands in frustration and called for a different number. Brandon explains that the band “did ‘Boot-Leg’ and we knew that was gonna be the A-side and that turned out really decent and we had planned on putting ‘Ferry Across the Mersey’ by Gerry and the Pacemakers on the B-side.” Brandon says the band “did it as good as we’d ever done it and I don’t know what happened but right near the end of the song our trumpet player — who was playing the lead in it — hit a sour note. And we were doing it instrumental… and he hit a sour note, so we were just blown away. Not that we didn’t have any more studio time, but we just messed around with ‘Whatzit?,’ which was a takeoff on ‘Psychotic Reaction,’ of course, and we just wound up putting that on the record instead.”

Frank recalls that the band hadn’t played “Psychotic Reaction” more than a couple of times, but Koger suggested that they rework it for the session.

Anthony, who sings the lead vocal, sat down and penned a couple of quick verses before the tape started rolling.

She had a cute mini-skirt with a little bit o’ tease, you can see six inches above her knees.
I’m just like a man, can’t stand the attraction. She leaves me with a psychotic reaction.
Looks so good I’d like to eat her, psychotic reaction every time I meet her.
Five-foot-two and built for action, 98 pounds of psychotic reaction.


Frank explains that, like Psychotic Reaction, “we had to do something in middle of this thing. So, that’s when we just put this organ sound in the center of it and I was using an old Sears Silvertone amplifier with a Doric organ. And the (effect) on it was just sort of cheap reverb I guess you’d say. Anyway, it sounded very sort of outer space. So we put that in it.”

IV Pak - Nashville Record Productions Acetate for Hippie 2019 (detail)
IV Pak – Nashville Record Productions Acetate for Hippie 2019, crediting Anthony and Mike as composers instead of Frank Koger. Flip side contains the Individuals songs for their Raven 45.

Brandon dropped a beat as he was coming back from the break but recovered, although Frank says he “had to do a little bit of catching up.” He believes Koger “had to edit out maybe a drum beat or so in the process, but anyway that turned out to the song that people played.”

The drummer’s recollection is a little different. He wanted to re-record “Whatzit?” because “there was a major mess up on my part about middle ways into the song… it was just a real bad off time thing I did and luckily I stumbled right back into beat. I really didn’t like that cut because of that.” In retrospect, he doesn’t know why the band didn’t just stop and take it from the top. And when they listened to the playback, Brandon says he couldn’t understand “why we even kept it on the tape, because Frank Koger would back it up and record over the same tape usually… didn’t do it that time.” He says the consensus was that the song was only a B-side and no one would ever hear it.

With the song in the can, a title was needed. The band had just composed it and had no idea what to call the tune. After a short discussion between the band and Koger in the control room and after listening to the tape together, Koger said: “I don’t know what it is, so why don’t we just call it ‘Whatzit!'”

Anthony believes his vocal part was double-tracked by Koger, although Mike insists he sang in unison with the bass player. Either way, the snarling vocal makes the record. Both sides were recorded in about two hours.

 


Now that the sessions were complete, Koger approached the band about a label. Frank remembers the producer wanted an extra $20 to release it on Raven Records, explaining that the Soulmasters were riding high on the success of their first single, “I’ll Be Waiting Here.” The members were listening to the playback in the control room and “between us we might’ve had 10 bucks that night, because we really hadn’t planned on doing anything extra and we were scared to death we might not come out with anything” after paying Koger their $50 in prize money. The band balked and insisted on their own label, choosing Hippie Records because, as Anthony explains, “We all wanted to be hippies back then (and) grow our hair long.”IV Pak Hippie 45 Whatzit?

The master tapes were sent off for pressing and the band was in for another surprise when their records arrived. Somewhere along the way, the Roman numerals had been inverted and the VI Pak had become the IV Pak. With 500 mislabeled copies, the band began distributing the 45. Mike went by the studios to retrieve the records and recalls that “each box had 20 or 25 records and I believe each one of us received about four boxes. We would just take those and try and sell them individually. And if we knew of anybody at a radio station we could take them to, we’d do that, but I don’t remember anywhere I distributed them to except at school and relatives.”

The band’s name wasn’t the only bone of contention. Rather than credit Anthony Hodges as lyricist, Koger listed himself as songwriter, although he spelled his name backwards. Anthony remains unhappy about the slight to this day, but rationalizes that “it didn’t go anywhere, so he didn’t get much money from it.”

Frank recalls hearing the song played in Reidsville and on WYPR and WBTM in Danville and believes there may have been a second pressing.

The record’s release led to more bookings but also confusion about how the band should bill itself. Most promoters knew the band as the VI Pak, but the attention generated by the record resulted in more requests for the IV Pak to play parties, The Black Horse Cellar and Torch clubs, and even the coveted Coke plant dance in Danville, which attracted hundreds of teens every weekend.

The group soldiered on as the VI Pak another three years, performing throughout their home state and Southside Virginia and expanding their repertoire to include numbers by Eric Clapton, Vanilla Fudge and the Rolling Stones. Performances were more sporadic after 1968, with Frank, Sidney, Anthony and Lonnie away at college. The group parted ways in ’71 when Anthony joined the Air Force and several of the members married.

IV Pak Photo, 1973
The only group photo of the IV Pak, from 1973, left to right: Mike Carter, Brandon Cardwell, Frank Carter & Anthony Hodges

A brief reunion followed in 1989, when the band came together for a one-off performance at Ruffin’s Whistlestop Jubilee in late November. As fate would have it, it snowed that morning and the concert was cancelled.

Trumpeter Sidney Vernon died in 2008 at the age of 59. After graduating from high school, he attended Western Carolina University and discovered pottery. Sid and his wife later moved to Virginia Beach, where he taught ceramics and started Vernon Pottery, making 1/12th scale reproductions of 19th century salt-glazed stoneware. He was acknowledged by the International Guild of Miniature Artisans for his skill as a potter and awarded “Fellow” status. His work has been featured in numerous magazines and found its way to collectors around the world.

IV Pak Frank Carter and Anthony Carter, 1973
Frank Carter and Anthony Hodges, 1973

While in the Air Force, Mike Carter played in the Hands of Time, then joined the Ed Irvin Band and Patchwork. He spent eight years as guitarist for the Atlantis Band, where he wrote the song “Shagging By The Seaside,” which the group recorded for Pyramid Records in Charlotte in 1986. He took an 18-year hiatus before returning to music in 2006 with the Not Dead Yet Blues Band. He currently performs with bassist “Wild” Bill Moore in A Cup of Blues.

Lonnie Bowes played in several bands after the VI Pak but is semi-retired and hasn’t touched his horn in years. He now runs a small DMV office in Yanceyville, N.C.

After the VI Pak, Anthony Hodges did a tour of duty in Vietnam. On his return stateside, he went to work for the N.C. Department of Corrections. He has since retired from prison work and music, although he sings in his church choir and still lives in Ruffin.

IV Pak - Lonnie Bowes
Lonnie Bowes

Brandon Cardwell is still active in music and plays classic rock and country every weekend in the house band at the Barn Dance in Julian, N.C. His drumming is also featured on 80’s albums by The Paul Roberts Band and Lady and the Gamblers. He then played with Kerry Michaels and the Mitch Snow bands through the mid-90s, followed by a stint with Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five. His day job was at Burlington Industries.

Frank Carter traded his Doric organ for a Vox, which he still has today. He likes to record on his Korg M3 and is currently working on a musical on Judas Iscariot and the plot to kill Jesus. He worked for a number of years in television and as a public school teacher before earning his Master’s and teaching photography and communications at Alamance and Cape Fear Community Colleges. Frank retired as chairman of the Humanities and Fine Arts Department at the Wilmington college in May of 2012. His wife is a doctor and a drummer.

The surviving members all live in North Carolina and still keep in touch. They reunited in Spring, 2013 and Mike hopes to record the band in his home studio.

IV Pak Reunion Photo
IV Pak reunion, 2013, from left: Anthony Hodges, Brandon Cardwell, Frank Carter, Lonnie Bowes & Mike Carter