Category Archives: US

The American Express

A psychedelic ode to street walkers! Buried on the b-side of a heavy version of Peggy Sue with a good drum break.

Don’t know a thing about the American Express. “When the City Sleeps” was written by Mani and Fournier.

I’m sure there’s a tie to some other group, but who? Not the American Express from Wisconsin who cut “You & Me” / “You’re Going To Be The One” on the Teen Town label, produced by Jon Hall.

Max Waller connects this to Ed Fournier of the Challengers and Dave Mani – see his comment below for more info.

Delta # in the dead wax dates this to February 1969.

The Glass Candle

This is an excellent psychedelic 45 from early 1969. “Light the Glass Candle” has piercing guitar lines; “Keep Right on Living” chugs along to steady tom tom beats with vocals that sound either very young or speeded up.

Both sides written by Jimmy Tillmann. Two other members named Roger and Danny have signed my copy of the 45. There must have been at least one more member, as the lineup includes guitar, bass organ and drums.

The 45 was produced by Alan Posniak, and seems to be their only recording. The Target label was based in Appleton, Wisconsin, but I’ve read the band was from Milwaukee, about a hundred miles south of Appleton.

The Pace-Setters

The äva label – Elmer Bernstein, Fred Astaire, Carol Lawrence, the Pete Jolly Trio – lots of movie themes and light pop music. It makes sense for a label distributed by MGM. Yet I’ve managed to find a couple great instrumental 45s on äva, Allyn Ferguson’s “Your Red Watermelon” and this one, a solid double-sided winner by the Pace-Setters.

Mustang has a nicely tremoloed guitar setting up riffs for a sax to finish off while engines rev in the background. Heads Up is a great r&b guitar workout originally done by Freddie King.

As for the Pace-Setters, they seem to have been a faceless group of studio musicians. Shows how much talent was around in LA in 1964 – two well-produced instrumentals like this get buried in obscurity.

Mustang was written by Gary Moulton, both sides were produced by Steve Benson.

The American Tragedy

Frank Stallone sent in these photos of his first band, the American Tragedy. Frank’s playing the ’58 Gibson Explorer. The band never recorded.

Frank wrote, “I had a band the American Tragedy out of Philadelphia from 1965 to ’68. We played all the hops and were in the Battle of the Bands and came in 2nd. I went on from there to form a group called Valentine with John Oates.

“Also the Hangmen are from Maryland, I’m from there as well. I saw them open for the Lovin’ Spoonful at the Shady Grove Music Fair, Rockville MD in 1965.”

For more on Frank and his music and film career check out

The American Tragedy, 1965

The Mixed Emotions (Alabama)

The Mixed Emotions were from the town of Coden, on the Gulf in Alabama. Members were:

Ronnie Ghetti – lead vocals
Jerry Simmons – lead guitar
Wendell Herrington – keyboards
Tim Hayes – bass
Rodney Linder – drums

The highlight is the great “Can’t You Stop It Now”, featuring a bass player who hits all the right notes, a singer who’s halfway between being hurt and not caring a bit (I like how he tosses off the line “I need a little peace!”), and a guitarist with an ill-sounding fuzz tone. “Go Jerry, do it,” says the singer right before the solo.

The flip is a mellow, bluesy original, “I’ll Fade Away”. This was released in the summer of ’68 on the Kustom Kut label out of nearby Grand Bay, and as it turns out, was recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis.

Jerry Simmons wrote both songs with the bands manager, James Bowers.

Jerry Simmons wrote to me about the group:

Making the record was my idea. We met a fellow that had connections with Sun Records in Memphis so naturally I wanted to go there and record some original material.

The bass player, Timmy Hayes and the drummer Rodney Linder and I played together in a couple of more bands in the 60s. I also cut a record in about 1973. As of late I wrote and produced a Christmas album for singer Malcolm Slater.

Our lead singer, Ronnie Ghetti moved to Georgia shortly after we made our record. Our keyboard player, Wendell Herrington didn’t play much anymore.

Anyone have a photo of the band?

The “Yes It Is”

The Yes It Is
From Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior, the Yes It Is do a good cover of Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog”, backed with a melancholy folk number, “Little Boy”, written by Mike Settle.

They have a second 45 on Studio City “Lovely Love” / “That Summer” which I haven’t heard yet.

That’s as much as I know about them. Studio City was the in-house label of Minneapolis’ Kaybank Studios.

The photo at top was on, which now seems to be off the web. Thanks to Parkeo for finding that.

The Rain Kings

The Rain Kings, December 1966

If you go to see live music often, from time to time you will come across a kind of act that knows they’re bad, that emphasizes their deficiencies and makes their ineptness the center of the show. The Rain Kings from Dallas were such a band. Luckily for us they lived in a time when rock music was by its very nature amateur and obnoxious. Despite their best efforts to muck it up, they still managed to create listenable music, at least, listenable to my ears.

Rain Kings member Richard Parker gives all the details you could wish for, and more:

Richard Parker: Rebels Without Applause – The Rain Kings Story

The Rain Kings – a name that will live in anonymity. In 1964 our Dallas band began as The Imposters, a name that truly fit us, for our musical abilities were – at best – crude. We didn’t actually perform in person until 1965, after the name change to The Rain Kings, a name taken from a Saul Bellow novel – Henderson The Rain King.

We attended the same high school – Bryan Adams High – as Kenny and The Kasuals, Jimmy C and the Chelsea Five, members of The Chaparrals, Five of a Kind and many other pretty good bands that never recorded.

We simply weren’t as good as these bands so we made up for it by being stupid. Our stage acts were notoriously stupid, our original songs were downright dumb and yet our ability to draw a crowd was very good. We played at the standard affairs – high school dances, local teen clubs, private parties and so on. We actually hold the all-time attendance record at the famous Studio Club in Dallas outdrawing such bands as Kenny and the Kasuals, The Briks, The Chessmen and even The Yardbirds! (It’s true although I can offer no logical explanation.)

In 1965 after recording some truly dreadful demos in my living room, we headed for the well-known Sellers Studio downtown where everyone from Gene Vincent to Kenny and the Kasuals had recorded. We booked one hour, recorded four songs and ultimately released them on an extended-play 45. The results were pretty bad, but since our reputation was one of stupidity-with-a-beat, it didn’t matter. 100 copies were pressed and we sold them all.

In 1968 after another name change (to The Gretta Spoone Band) we released another 45 this time on the Pompeii label (internationally on the London label.) The record went nowhere fast and our band days ended. The record shows up regularly on Ebay, although it seems no one wants to buy it. I can’t blame them – I’ve heard it.

Steve Howard, Richard Parker and Steve Lowry

Richard Parker and Steve Lowry
The Band:

Steve Howard – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Richard Parker – harmonica, vocals, screechophone, piano, percussion
Steve Lowry – bass guitar, vocals
Doug Dossett – lead guitar, vocals
Vick Nuuttila – electric lead tambourine, electric klaghorn, electric vocals

Drummers included: Mike McIver, Johnny Smith, David Anderson and Barry Whistler.

Other members heard on these recordings are Bobby Bassett (vocal: “I’m A Little Fat Boy”), Connie Collins (organ: “Blind Man”), Dennis Keys (guitar: “I Do Believe You’re Dreaming”, “Close Your Eyes”), Danny Porter (pedal steel guitar on “If You Really Want Me To” and “In My Life”).

Sometimes the number in the group would be four or five and other times it would swell to ten or twelve. We never knew how many of the group would show up, or which ones of us would be among the present. If we were playing at a birthday party or gas station grand opening or some other gala event, and four guys showed up, it would sometimes be just the bass player, the harmonica blower, the tambourine rattler and the guy who carried the amplifiers. We’d play anyway, and no one in the audience seemed to notice the eerie silence where the guitar breaks should have been or where the drum solo was supposed to go.

Nevertheless, we were among the musical elite in the area, being hailed as the “best band north of Garland Road and west of Peavy Road yet southeast of Rustic Circle, bounded by Sylvania Drive to the east and Timmy’s house on the southwest.” Quite an honor.

Recording – Simply Uncalled For

Knowing in our hearts that we were about to make musical history, we wanted to make sure that this legacy would live throughout the ages. The only way to do this of course was to make a record. So in 1965 we booked one solid hour in an upstairs, downtown recording studio, which was famous for recording on two tracks! This was the big time.

The hour that we booked included the time it took us to unpack the cars, load our equipment up the stairs, set up and tune up (man, I wish we had recorded that tune-up, as it was one of our very best.) In the same hour we also had to tear down the equipment and get it the heck out of the studio to make way for whoever had booked the following fifteen minutes of studio time.

That left us with about seventeen minutes of actual recording time for our four songs. This turned out to be more than enough and we spent the last five minutes smoking cigarettes and planning our Grammy acceptance speeches. In the session, four lasting musical memories were perpetrated: Lydia, Everybody Out of the Pool, Lewis Lewis and the tune which would inevitably become our signature song, I Know What You’re Trying To Do But You Can’t Get Away With It.

Lydia had lyrics that were so bad that even The Rain Kings were embarrassed by them (including the immortal line “If you should leave, my name is Steve.”)

We decided to go for broke and pressed one hundred copies of our record, and in six short months we had sold almost one-third of them for a clear profit of sixteen cents.

In Concert

The Rain Kings may have been the first “anti-band”. We set out to be weird and succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. Often our audiences didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. Often we didn’t either. This sometimes ended up antagonizing rather than entertaining the audience. In The Rain Kings’ performances, we not only began to enjoy this audience confusion and sometimes anger, we courted it. After all, the only reputation we had was one of weirdness interrupted by occasional music, so we decided to maximize our public image and go for it all. We set our goal on “Stupid”. Our reasoning was that merely being bad was not enough to bring in the patrons, and being bad and weird was somehow even worse. But being “stupid”…now that had possibilities.

There’s logic in there somewhere. People will gather to watch the clean-up of a car wreck. They will stop at an empty field and say “Look, here’s where old Henderson’s barn used to be.” They will watch mimes perform. Therefore, if it is presented right, people will watch anything.

Crowds of curious and disappointed fans flocked in the high single digits to our Stupid Show. We played one song while laying on our backs. We sang a rock version of a radio commercial for pies. We sang a hillbilly ballad from the 1930s accompanied only by the sound of tire tools pounding on wooden objects. We sang our “hit” records, of course, since they were incredibly stupid even before we planned to be that way.

One touch that seemed to affect every song performed was “the standard Rain King ending”, which usually meant that the song went on way too long or crashed to a finale in a musical wreck of non-stop non-stopping.

The band often played songs with their backs to the audience or while laying down on the stage.

At one time the band included a performer whose entire function was to shake a pair of small deer antlers, which made no sound at all. We often – intentionally – sang in a key different from the musical instruments. We referred to this as “singing in the key of ‘R’”.

We planned to be stupid, even billing ourselves as the world’s worst band. And the people accepted us as just that. Success at last.

Richard Parker and Steve Howard
Steve Howard and Richard Parker

Richard Parker

Richard on washboard, Jon Clifford shaking the antlers

The Gretta Spoone Band – first lineup, 1967
A Cabbage By Any Other Name

By our second year of playing I Know What You’re Trying To Do But You Can’t Get Away With It at various parties, fried chicken restaurants and parking lots, our reputation was solid and widespread. Therefore we could not get a job playing anywhere, not even if we paid them.

We solved this problem by changing the name of our band after each performance. Sometimes we would even change our name during a performance. Once we performed in an out-of-town high school gym as “Solid Jackson and the Catfish”. And by the time the word spread that you should never hire “Solid Jackson and the Catfish” for any reason, it was too late. We had already changed our band name and were stinking up the joint somewhere else as “Gretchen and The Japanese Luggage”, “Andy Bednigo and The Dippy-Dippy Strolls” or “Little Patty Ann Montgomery and Her Fat Friends”.

Eventually, while going over our list of potential band names for the week, we decided to make a demo recording at the same small walk-up recording studio downtown, where we had earlier inflicted four songs upon tape. This time we had several new songs, each worse than the others in its own special way. One song we recorded at the time was about a blind man who received a magic pie from an angelic vision that promised to restore his sight. However, all the eating of the pie did was to make him deaf too. It had a snappy beat and a cavernous organ lead that sounded like funeral music played at the wrong speed. It was a dandy song.

Another song we unleashed that day was either called Bird Droppings or Mother Cabbage Makes Good, we could never decide on the final title. We also recorded other songs that day such as I’m A Little Fat Boy and I Do Believe You’re Dreaming, the latter a story of a man who talks to birds.

In spite of the fact that the songs were dreadful, poorly conceived and badly executed, a local record company was delirious enough to think that something (God knows what) in the songs might accidentally catch on with some small portion of the great unwashed public. They were wrong.

We signed a recording contract, re-recorded the worst two of the songs to the dismay of a bored recording engineer at IRI Studios in Dallas in late ’67 or early ’68, and were soon holding in our sweaty hands some freshly pressed 45 rpm records of our crimes.

The record steadfastly avoided sales anywhere in the world. The songs would have been poorly received in a school for the deaf. We still hold the recording industry’s all-time record for the “Single Recording Most Quickly Pulled From Release and Forgotten”.

Luckily this horrible musical event did nothing more to besmirch the already lousy reputation of The Rain Kings. You see, we had recorded under the name of “The Gretta Spoone Band.” A name which will live in infamy.It would be great to say that the band was the vanguard of a new musical direction that grabbed the sensibilities of the world. But to say that would be an outright lie. The Rain Kings were a musical aberration, a misprinted footnote in the history of music. So be it.

The Rain Kings were never heard from again, and thank God for that!

Our main lead singer – Steve Howard – continued in music and as John Steven Howard released a CD last year. He lives in Red River New Mexico and for a while in the 70s – 80s took Ray Wylie Hubbard’s place in a folk group called Three Faces West. They recorded an album in the late 70s.

David Anderson – one of our drummers though not heard on the recordings – owns Zoo Music Stores in Texas selling instruments (mostly guitars). Paul Roach our occasional organist still performs with his “real band” Kenny and the Kasuals. Paul was also “Gator Shades” of The Gator Shades Blues Band (Train Kept a Rollin’). Another of our drummers, Barry Whistler, owns a respected art gallery in Dallas. The rest of us were hounded out of the business by music lovers.

The 1992 reunion featured the original five Rain Kings. The reunion was recorded and contains some really crappy wonderful moments including the only time we recorded “Gorilla”. We also re-recorded the original Imposters Living Room Tapes and after 27 years we still sounded like a train wreck.

Richard Parker

Thank you to Richard Parker for sharing his recordings, photos and history of the band.

Gretta Spoone Band, early 1968

Gretta Spoone Band, 1968 lineup

One Eyed Jacks (Texas)

Two good instrumentals, recorded in Tyler, Texas, and produced by Eula Anton.

“Hang It Up” is an upbeat rocker while “Down on My Knees” is a very good blues, with churchy organ playing. Both songs by Robert Leslie Allen.

As you can tell from listening, my copy is beat.

These One Eyed Jacks are not connected to the Illinois group of the same name who had a 45 ‘Die Today’ on Lakeside, or another group with ‘Love’ on White Cliffs.

The Apolloes (Swingin’ Apolloes)

The Apolloes
The Apolloes cut an interesting variety of work, from the off-the-cuff and updated renditions of 50’s standards like “Slow Down” and “Summertime Blues” to the intricately produced psychedelia of “Chained and Bound”.

Wayne White, leader of an Atlanta group the Famen happened to be in the studio when the Apolloes came in to play on a session for the Younger Brothers. Wayne taught “Laugh in My Face” to the band and may have played organ on it as well. The flip, “Hey”, was written by Jim Youmans, who produced this single as well as the later “Chained and Bound”.

They released “Summertime Blues” on three different labels, though the first version on Soupa is not as wild as the one that would come out as the Swingin’ Apolloes. “Gone” the A-side to the first release of “Summertime Blues” was also written by James Youmans, and produced by Pat Hughs.

The band had a penchant for backwards guitar, as it’s all over their great version of Larry Williams’ “Slow Down”, and shows up again on “Chained and Bound”, written by Chester, Lane and Freeman. Later 45s were released as the Swingin’ Apolloes. Also I don’t know what the b-side of “Chained and Bound” is, if anyone knows please chime in.

Until Pat Ray commented, below, nothing was known about the group other than that they recorded and played live in Atlanta, Georgia from about ’65 to ’67. I’ll repeat his comment here:

I founded The Apolloes along with Ralph Whitsell, Jim Youmans and Tom Preston in the fall of 1964 when we were all students at Middle Georgia College in Cochran, Georgia. When Tom’s father passed away early in 1965, I got hold of Gerald Cox in Atlanta to play bass guitar. He and I had played together for years in Atlanta while we were in high school. The four of us blew the Night Shadows off the stage at Misty Waters early in 1965 and we came to the attention of Pat Hughes (WQXI in Atlanta).

Gerald had known Wayne White (a house painter in Atlanta) for a number of years. We had booked time at Maurice LeFever’s studio and Wayne paid for the session and we cut “Laugh In My Face.” The flip side was “Hey” by Jim Youmans. Which side was “A” or “B” is a toss-up.
Pat Hughes produced a session at a different studio and we cut “Lucille” and “Gone” which Youmans also wrote. Brooksy Hunicutt sang the high female part at my suggestion and we dubbed it in.

The off campus “Animal House” fraternity at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Ga (SEX was the name of the fraternity) booked the Rolling Stones in May, 1966. We played as a warm-up band. When the Stones took the stage, they immediately grossed the South Georgia audience out. Jagger’s first word was a long “F***************K You!” The crowd booed them off the stage and began chanting “Apolloes!! Apolloes!!” We set up again and gave the crowd their money’s worth.

Pat Ray

45 releases:

The Apolloes – Hey / Laugh In My Face (Apolloe 5813/4, November 1965)
The Apolloes – Gone / Summertime Blues (Soupa 001, May 1966)
The Apolloes – Summertime Blues / Slow Down (Look 001, June 1967)
The Swingin’ Apolloes – Summertime Blues / Slow Down (White Cliffs 262, 1967)
The Swingin’ Apolloes – Chained And Bound / (SAC 1001-1/2)

Thank you to Mike Markesich for info and Pat W. for the photo.

String and the Beans

String & the Beans have this one fine record from 1966. The reverb-laden ballad “Come Back To Me” reaches its peak with the guitar solo that takes the song out. On the flip is the upbeat “When I Get That Feeling”.

Both songs were written by Craig Fulford and Robert Robinson (a mistake – it should have been Robert Robertson) according to the label credits.

For some time there was confusion as to whether the band was from Alabama, or Georgia (the base for Lyresong publishing) or even Minnesota, as this 45 was pressed at Minneapolis’ Kaybank studios (indicated by the number 6-6130, a type of indexing which was used on other 45s recorded there, notably records released on Kaybank’s Studio City label).

Since writing this post, I heard from the band’s drummer, Louis Gigis. Louis wrote this history of the group:

I was the drummer for String and the Beans aka The Showmen from Birmingham.

In 1962 there were seven members of The Showmen Band. Louis Gigis drummer, Craig Fulford lead guitar, Sam McDavid rhythm guitar, Chuck Butterworth bass, Kent Donovan keyboards, Bill Burns lead vocals and Robby Robertson back up vocals. I went to Woodlawn High School in Birmingham and everybody else went to Shades Valley except Bill Burns, he went to Ramsey. We all had other groups that we were playing in and would go around town to hear other bands play when we weren’t playing. That is how we got to know each other and pieced together the band and called it The Showmen because we each each put on pretty good shows in our other bands.

We were an instant hit among the high schools in Alabama. In 1962 we were making $100 each for a night of playing, that was like $1,000 now. We were so popular that when we played at Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama we couln’t get off the stage withour being mobbed. We must haved played Louie Louie by the Kingsmen twenty times. We also played at high schools, sock hops and the college circuit, where the kids said we looked like a new band from England called The Beatles. Well, we had the same hair cuts before we even knew who the Beatles were.

After a while we had a few changes in the band, Bill Burns left for the Navy and Robby Robertson took over as lead singer and Craig and Sam did harmony. There was a time when we called ourselves The Showmen + 6, we had six singers out front doing shows like James Brown, The Temps and Tops and others but we were really getting the cost up, so we went back to Robby alone.

We all wrote songs and decided on two songs that we liked the most to try and record. Those were “Come Back to Me” and “When I Get That Feeling” on the flip side. We had heard of a recording studio in Atlanta named Master Sound Recording which later was changed to Lowery Studios owned by Bill Lowery (now departed). We could record our music there for $35 per hour with Bill Lowery being the producer. When we got in the studio to record the songs our keyboard man Kent didn’t show, he was sick. Instead of cancelling the session Bill Lowery called a piano player, she was about as old as our grandmothers but she could play a hell of a piano. She didn’t have to rehearse the songs but once. and we recorded the songs in about three takes including some dubbing.

Our name came about when we recorded the record and there was already a band called the Showmen. In the studio that day was Billy Joe Royal and Joe South, they came up with the name because Robby Robertson was really tall and skinny. We came up with the name Fat City Records from when we played in Fat City which the real name is Metarie, outside of New Orleans.

Our record came out at the same time “Double Shot” by the Swinging Medallions came out and outsold them in Alabama by 2 to 1, but we didn’t get picked up by a major label because we had beat up on local DJ Dave Roddy after we didn’t get paid for a gig that we played in that included the Medallions, Chambrays and Markees [Marquees]. That was a mistake, he was a pretty big man on the radio circuit.

Bill Lowery liked our band so much that he wanted to sign us to a contract and give us free studio time. Bill had already made hits of The Tams, Joe South, Billy Joe Royal and a few others. So we went back to Atlanta and recorded some more original stuff. All the songs were sent back to us in Birmingham on reel to reel and had horns, strings and back up singers dubbed in, man what a sound, we were on our way.

One day I was laying out by the pool at some apartments and heard one of our songs on the radio but it wasn’t us playing it. I called Craig and told him about it and he called Lowery. Bill said that he let a new singer named Ronnie Prophet record it since he was under a previous contract. Lowery said he owned our music and could do that.

We didn’t like that too much so we cancelled our contract and signed with Hit Attractions from Charlotte N.C. Most of our jobs were being the back up band for The Tams. We did that for a year and got bored with each other and decided to go our separate ways. We still lliked each other and still do, but we were growing up and had wives and kids; I was 21.

I kept playing for about six more years and played with acts like Steve Alaimo in Tampa, Billy Joe Royal, Steve Purdy, The Premiers.

Louis Gigis

Robbie Robertson added:

I was co author of “Come Back to Me” with Craig Fulford. The misspelled record label was not redone and corrected because typically teenage thinking was to hurry up and get this out! The label name of Fat City was chosen because we were booking through Ted Hall at Hit Attractions out of Charlotte, NC. Charlotte was called the Fat City at the time.

I have the original master tape and have actually thought about recutting the lead vocal to change a few lyrics. I was lead singer of the group and find that an interesting idea.

I sang lead on our later cut, “Talk Don’t Bother Me” which Craig and I also wrote.

Robbie Robertson