There were a number of groups called the Villagers around the country, but these Villagers came from Dayton and cut only one record, the endearing garage original “He’s Not the Same” b/w the melancholy “Sunshine My Way”.
Released on Hamlet Records V-1000 in 1968, the Villagers are a mystery other than the info on the labels: authors J. Mills and M. Copp, publishing by Counterpart Music, BMI, the code 813L which was Counterpart Records account number with RCA custom pressings, and W4KM-6004/5 (indicating a RCA custom pressing from the first half of 1968).
Library of Congress copyright records give one name, Janis R. Mills, who copyrighted “He’s Not the Same” on January 5, 1968, and “Sun, Shine My Way” (notice the different rendering of the title) on May 20, 1968. M. Copp is not in these copyright listings.
BMI’s database lists Janice Mills and Michael Copp. The spelling of her name as Janice certainly is a mistake on BMI’s part, as BMI attributes two recent country songs by Janice S. Mills from Alabama to the author of “He’s Not the Same”. It wouldn’t be unlike BMI to conflate two similar names.
Strangely, BMI lists “He’s Not the Same” and “Sunshine My Way” as registered to Piagneri Music in Astoria, NY, even though Counterpart Music is still active in Cincinnati.
I can find no listings or articles on the band from that time, so it’s possible they were not even a semi-professional band or one that would play battle-of-the-bands. Maybe Janis Mills wrote these songs and brought them to the attention of Counterpart, which had Michael Copp arrange them with some local group or musicians.
Long rumored to be from Dayton, the What Four were actually from the Cincinnati area, namely the suburbs of Williamsburg and Bethel.
An April 1966 article in the Teen-Ager section of the Enquirer profiled the band:
Although the Greater Cincinnati area boasts hundreds of talented rock ‘n roll groups, only one, the “What Four,” claims a teacher among its members. Twenty-four-year-old Jim Hoerr, who teaches Latin, English and mathematics at Williamsburg High is rhythm and lead guitarist.
Jim Hoerr started rehearsing with student bass player Larry Malott. With Frank Johnson of Madeira High School on drums, they formed a trio called the Noblemen.
When guitarist Roy Jordan of Bethel High joined in 1965, the band became the What Four.
The What Four did well in a battle of the bands sponsored by WONE in Dayton, the prize was a free recording session. They cut two original songs, “Do You Believe” by Jim Hoerr, and “Whenever” by Jim Hoerr and Frank Johnson. The single was released on the Box label, with the band probably paying for the pressing if not the studio time.
I can find no further mention of the band after their April 1966 profile. Teen-Ager published the photo of another What Four in December 1966, a completely different group from Taft High School in Hamilton, Ohio to the north of Cincinnati.
That group was Dave Bowman on bass, Larry Combs on vocals and guitar, Tim Neff on drums and Tom Savage on lead guitar.
The Epics came from Brookhaven High School in Columbus, Ohio. Warren Knox, Jim Miller and Michael Richards wrote the great A-side, “White Collar House” which refers to some kind of upscale nightspot, whether a dance club or bordello I can’t decide as the lyrics are vague. The band’s performance is a stand-out, and Musicol Recording Studio did a good job recording it.
Library of Congress records show copyright registered on May 1966 to Warren Knox, James Miller, and Mike Richards (Michael Kirk Richards). The band was a quintet but I don’t know who the other two members were.
Michael Richards wrote the gloomier b-side, “She Believe In Me”, and also arranged both sides. S. Graves produced the session.
It’s the only release I know of on the Dolphin label, which Buckeye Beat suggests was tied in with the Blue Dolphin Club for teens. There is a rare picture sleeve which I don’t own that shows the photo at the top, with a blank back.
The Cavaliers, often listed as from Tennessee, were actually from Middletown, Ohio, a town roughly halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati.
Roger McIntosh – lead guitar Jim Wenzel – rhythm guitar Jim Brandon – organ Walter Johnson – bass Ted Lovelace – drums
Two of the band were students at Middletown High, one was a freshman at Miami University, while the Cavaliers’ drummer and rhythm guitarist were in Junior High!
The group won a battle of the bands at Fantasy Farm, a kids amusement park next to the larger Americana Amusement Park in Middletown, that led to their recording their single on Style.
The Cincinnati Enquirer profiled the band on the same day they were in a Memphis studio, Saturday, September 16, 1967:
“The boys are in Memphis, Tenn. today to cut their first record for Style Productions.”
“Turn Your Leaf” is excellent pop, I’ve only heard it on the video below, from which I took the label scan seen here. If anyone has a better quality recording, please contact me.
I haven’t heard the flip, “W.F. 67” described by Teenbeat Mayhem as a “military tempo instro”. Roger McIntosh wrote both songs.
Style Record Productions was one of Style Wooten’s many labels, and Pretty Girl Music BMI was one of his publishing companies. Mellow’s Log Cabin has an interesting biography of Style Wooten, along with extensive discographies for his record labels.
The Cavaliers from Middletown do not sound quite like the group of that name from Washington Court House, Ohio, who cut “You Are My Sunshine” b/w “Unchained Melody” for the Sound label.
The Enquirer article mentioned a few groups also competing at Fantasy Farm:
“Other bands reaching the finals of the contest were The Endeavors of Forest Park, The Crickets from Hamilton, The Guardian Angels of Urbana, The Mice and the English Gentlemen, both from Dayton.”
I’m not aware of any recordings by those groups, though given the Memphis connection, it’s possible the Mice are the same group that recorded “Think It Over” / “Norweigan Wood” for Bootheel Records, part of Fernwood.
The Great Society were students at the University of Cincinnati, except Steve Sturgil who attended the University of Kentucky. The band’s lineup was:
Tilo Schiffer – lead singer Tom Wise – lead guitar Bill Bayer – piano and organ Steve Sturgil – bass Charlie Jung – drums
First mention I can find of them is from March 1967 at Granny’s and then at the Four Seasons’ Pirates Cove in July.
A letter to the Enquirer from fan Penny Phelps in June, 1967 mentions them playing at the Psychedelic Lollipop, Granny’s, Lakeridge Hall, Seven Hills Veterans Hall and the Round Table.
They released one single, first on the Dana Lynn label in June, 1967, then on Counterpart C-2613 in August. “She’s Got It On Her Mind” has a hypnotic keyboard sound, a great drum backing with accented beats, and a captivating vocal melody.
The flip “Second Day” is another tuneful winner, heavy on the echo like the A-side.
Lead singer Tilo Shiffer wrote both songs, published by Counterpart – Falls City Music, BMI.
A second letter from Penny in December notes that Bill Bayer and Tilo Schiffer both went into the Navy by the end of 1967, but that the three remaining members would try to continue.
In 1968 the Great Society played shows at the Coney Island water park and at LeSourdsville Lake with the Rapscallion Sircle.
The Dana Lynn label lists Ray Allen as engineer and reads “A Tom Dooley Production”, while the Counterpart lists Allen as producer.
Dana Lynn only released three singles that I know of, notably the Lemonpipers “Quiet Please” (70610), the Great Society (70611) and Tom Dooley “Talkin’ Bout Love” / “Stay By the Phone” (010).
Counterpart was also local to Cincinnati, but had greater distribution than Dana Lynn.
Cincinnati group the Blackwatch cut some demos but never released any records. Their name appears half a dozen times in the Enquirer’s pages in the summer of ’67, but unfortunately there was no feature on the band.
Johnny Schott – lead vocals Doug Hawley – guitar Rich McCauley – keyboards John Gilsinger – bass Jay Sheridan – drums
In June of ’67 the Blackwatch played at the Deer Park movie theater on shows with WSAI DJs Bob White and Tom Kennington. In the first week of July, 1967, they played for three evenings at a newly opened teen club, One Step Beyond.
The following week, One Step Beyond featured the Heywoods, Ivan & the Sabres and Salvation & His Army.
From a feature in the Enquirer on July 15, 1967:
They’re springing up like mushrooms – new teen clubs that is! The newest one in this area is “One Step Beyond” at 8532 Beechmont Ave. in Mt. Washington.
“The club features three separate rooms, The Twilight Zone (just for chatting), Our Generation Room (for dancing) and This Place (for eating). Refreshments are being served in This Place here by Pat Hess. Waiting in line are Mary Jo Rickard, Debbie Arnold, Rick Anthony and Bob Barney.
“One Step Beyond” is a joint effort of the young people of Anderson township and an adult group called CONCERN …. Shown playing is the band “Wanted.” The club is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 8 p.m. until midnight and dress is informal.
A week later, Jean Hess “Teen Board Member” for One Step Beyond wrote a letter to correct the caption, saying, “The great band that was pictured is the ‘Blackwatch,’ not ‘Wanted.’ The Blackwatch played four nights at the club and have gained a reputation of being one of the grooviest groups in Cincy!”
The third week of July the club featured the New Lime, then the Lemon Pipers!
I can’t find any mention of the Blackwatch after the summer of ’67. One Step Beyond lasted into 1968, including a show in February with Ivan & the Sabres, the Quaker Rebellion and Red Brale. Then it also disappeared, at least from the news.
The Fabulous Shantels came out of the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky music scene.
I can find notices of the Shantels playing live as early as September 5, 1964 at the Mabley & Carew fashion show with Bob Keith and Jim Martin of WCPO. In late November 1964 they appeared at screenings of Roustabout and other films at the Oakley drive-in on Madison Rd.
By November, 1965, they were playing at WSAI-sponsored dances, usually at the Withamsville-Tobasco Community Park Hall, with groups like with Gary & the Hornets, the Topics and the 2 of Clubs. On February 26, 1966, WSAI broadcast live a ‘Swing Thing’ from Shillito’s featuring DJ Dusty Rhodes and the Shantels.
A September 1966 letter to the Enquirer mentions a fan club for the Shantels headed by Darleen Nieporte of Cincinnati and Camille Canfield of South Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. It also gives the band’s names and instruments:
Mike Dektas – organ Mike Mays – lead guitar Jay Cee Ecton – bass Terry Williams – drums
On November 12, 1966, the Enquirer profiled the band in its “Teen-Ager” section (see photo at top).
In late December 1966 the Enquirer published a letter from Sandye Utley and Peg Rouse that they were running their own fan club for the band and that the group had recorded “Remain Unknown”.
In January, 1967, Dusty Rhodes wrote a letter from Detroit, Michigan where he was working at CKLW:
I have had several letters about the Fabulous Shantels band, a group who I worked very closely with while I was in Cincinnati. The fellows were here in Detroit just after Thanksgiving to visit, play a dance and have a recording session.
The band recorded four numbers at the Sound, Incorporated Studios in New Haven, Michigan. We were all satisfied with the session and the “rough” tapes. However, the rush of the holidays and the opening of additional studios by the company has delayed the “mastering” of the Shantels recordings.
This is the story for all the Shantel fans and I hope we have a hit.
Keep up the good work with “Teen-Age,” Ruth. I wish the teens of Detroit had something like it.
Despite the difficulties in mastering, the record did come out, probably in early 1967, on Sound Inc. SI-160.
“Remain Unknown Girl” was a group original (Dektas, Mays, Ecron, Williams on the credits), published by Sidrian Music BMI. The song features a long biting lead guitar solo and a sneering lead vocal as well as a melody that sounds something like “Louie Go Home” (tip of the hat to Peter Aaron for reminding me).
The lyrics were a bit obscure but Mike Dektas provided corrections:
You want little girl that we go on datin’, ’cause complications are so very frustratin’, If you need to be here right by my side, You gotta stay close to be in my right
Remain unknown girl, alright
If you want to be content both day and night, When decisions are made be right by my side Well you’re goin’ to have to play a very special game, To be satisfied to be known only by your name,
Remain unknown girl – alright – work it out
Take it down low,
Knock em dead,
Alright day and night,
Knock em dead, knock em dead,
The flip is a cover of “For Your Love” (the Ed Townsend ballad, not the Yardbirds).
It’s a rare disc, one that has eluded many collectors, so I don’t think it got any distribution to speak of, whether in Detroit or the Cincinnati area.
The band’s name was wrongly rendered as the Chantels when the song appeared on the compilation Michigan Mayhem vol. 2.
The band continued to play Withamsville dances in early ’67, then drop out of sight for a time. On November 26, 1967, the Shantells and the Topics seem to have combined to become a new group called the Turkey Combo! The name stuck for more shows in December ’67 with the Outcasts and in January 1968 with the Jerms. The Turkey Combo changed to the Blackberry Time Tables for a Montgomery Hall show in February ’68 but by this time the Turkey Combo may not have had any of the Shantels in it.
Update: The Fabulous Shantels are being inducted into the Northern Kentucky Music Hall of Fame on June 9, 2106 and will be playing a live set at the induction.
Mike Dektas answered some of my questions about the group:
The band was originally created by Terry Williams, our drummer, and Mike Mays our lead guitarist. Terry, Mike, and JC Ecton are all from northern Kentucky – they were looking for a keyboard player and singer, and they found me. At that time, I played a Farfisa organ. Later I switched to Hammond B-3.
We played all over the NKy and Cincinnati area. We were heavily promoted on the radio. Back in those days, they had dances, called “hops”. We played many of those. Typically the hops were from 8-11 pm, or afternoon sessions.
For these, we played at the Shillito’s (#1 department store in Cincinnati) “Swing Thing”. This was great fun – it was broadcast live on 700 WLW radio. We played on elevated decorative stages, live TV Hullaballoo stages.
Other places we played that were promoted included: VFW Hall (NKY, always sold out – 600-800 kids), Glenway Swim Club in Covington, KY (summer), Castle Farms (with headliners like Lou Cristie, Gary US Bonds – we backed these guys up. We also played at Knights of Columbus hall in Cincinnati, and yes, the Withamsville Tobasco Hall that you mentioned in your article – this is on the east side of Cincinnati. We also opened at Music Hall for Roy Orbison.
We also produced shows at that time with Shantel Productions. One event that I remember that was great fun was a giant “Battle of the Bands” at Hotel Alms in Cincinnati. We had 30 bands in that event – it started early and went into the night. Special guest appearance by the Fabulous Shantels.
We also played at the University of Kentucky, big crowd, played in Rupp Arena.
On the club scene, we played on Univ. of Cincinnati campus, regularly at a club called “The Pickle Barrel”. Other clubs included Rio Rita (NKY), clubs at Miami University (OH), and regularly at a club called “The Lagoon” in NKy.
Our band was known for fast music you can dance to, and all hits. So it was easy to get the crowd going. We really did play one summer 8 times a week – every night and twice on Sunday.
JC the bass player, who has passed on now, used to stand up on his amp and move back and forth – we followed a lot of the moves of Paul Revere and the Raiders. In fact, we were offered to tour with them moving around city to city opening for them, but it didn’t work out – we were young and in school and couldn’t travel that much.
The photo in the Enquirer standing around a tree was taken in Devou Park in NKy by a publicist for our booking agent, AJaye Entertainment. AJaye was headed up by Stan Hertzman and Ray Lemkuhl – Stan is still playing guitar out in clubs and coffee shops, I see him sometimes.
That’s me singing on “Remain Unknown Girl”. The other two songs the Shantels recorded were “Georgia on My Mind” and “Poison Ivy”, we never had those two pressed into a record. We recorded in Detroit – Dusty helped set up the session – we travelled there for the session, and we played a live concert in Chatham, Canada, which is across from Detroit. We also played live with Jan and Dean.
That Turkey Combo was a gag idea from DJ Steve Kirk from Dayton OH. Steve was always a jokester – he knew that us and the Topics were great friends, so he made that up and put our names on it – all just fun. We played a number of hops for Steve and he helped promote the band. But the main promoting came from Dusty Rhodes when he was Cincinnati’s #1 DJ on WSAI, a top 40 station.
Mike Mays, Terry and myself have practiced, trying to put together a new act of the Shantels. Terry put together a live venue called “Geezerfest” ha! The amazing thing is we will see a lot of the same people we’ve seen in the late sixties. What fun!
I’ll post more info about the upcoming Shantels show in the future.
Thank you to Barry Wickham for the scan of the Fabulous Shantels 45 labels. Special thanks to Mike Dektas for the scans of the promotional photo and ticket.