Category Archives: US

The Individuals

The Individuals, from left: Tommy Redd, Ronnie Vaughan, Ronnie Couch, Ben Vaughan and Sammy Moser
The Individuals, from left: Tommy Redd, Ronnie Vaughan, Ronnie Couch, Ben Vaughan and Sammy Moser

Individuals Raven 45 I Really DoRevised February/March 2010

The Individuals cut their only 45 at the House of Sound in Danville, Virginia on July 11, 1967, both songs written by Tommy Redd. On “I Want Love” the band runs through standard blues changes as Tommy delivers snotty, half-strangled lyrics “I want my love, baby!” A slow fuzz riff and gloomy organ anchor “I Really Do” for Tom’s garbled vocals and fake Cockney-accented recitation.

The group was from rural Halifax and South Boston, Virginia. The group had started in 1965 as the Rhythm Makers, changing to the Individuals in 1966. Members were Ben Vaughan lead guitar, Ronnie Vaughan rhythm guitar, Sammy Moser organ, Ronnie Couch drums and Tommy Redd on bass and vocals. Someone told me Ray Ferrell took over on keyboards later on, but Ronnie says Ray wasn’t in the band and that Mike Oakes was their second keyboard player.

As the article below states, 500 copies were pressed, of which 300 were mailed to radio stations across the country. The 45 received some play on WHLF in South Boston and also in Danville. Someone told me that some of the leftover copies were used for target practice, a not-uncommon occurrence at the time, but Ronnie Couch wrote to me:

Not true on the left over Raven 45s. They were put in local stores such as Leggett’s Deptartment Store, Roses, J.J. Newberry’s and some others. We sold them and put in another order for more copies. I still have a few left.

I have copies of a radio station playlist in Brookneal, Virginia that we were on the local charts. We also played live many times on our local radio station WHLF on a radio show ran by a DJ named Al Mapes.

The article announces the group planned to cut a second record, “The Fire Is Out”, but Ronnie Couch tells me it was never recorded.

Contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere, the Individuals’ Tommy Redd was not the same person who went on to play with Stax of Gold in Jacksonville, North Carolina, a band which later became Nantucket, with releases on Epic Records.

The Individuals - Nashville Record Productions Acetate for Raven 2018 (detail)
The Individuals – Nashville Record Productions Acetate for Raven 2018 (detail). Flip has the songs for the IV Pak’s Hippie single.

Special thanks to Marty Key for loaning the 45 for me to scan and transfer, check out his site Funky Virginia. Thanks to Ben Brown of Raleigh for info on the Ralph Viar 45.

Thanks also to Ronnie Couch for providing the scan of the article, and to Jack Garrett for the scan of the acetate and many of the photos seen here.

 Individuals article in the Gazette-Virginian, September 3, 1967
Article in the Gazette-Virginian, September 3, 1967
House of Sound/Raven, Hoss and Piedmont Records Danville Register, October 19, 1968
Inviduals show with the Soulmasters at the T-Bird Country, Danville Register, November 19, 1967
Show with the Soulmasters at the T-Bird Country, Danville Register, November 19, 1967

The Sedate Sunshine Colony

The Sedate Sunshine Colony, 1966, l-r: Woody Bell, Jeff Anderson, Pat Erickson, Craig Anderson, Jonnie Sue Bartel and Chuck Zendner.

The Sedate Sunshine Colony came from Kingsburg, just southeast of Fresno. Their time together is documented in these photos and a tape of a fascinating live show from April, 1968. The band chose some very unusual songs to cover live, including the Grass Roots’ “Where Are You”, the Byrds’ “Thoughts and Words” and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s “Dark On You Now”, making for a portrait of the underground side of pop music during that time. They could really rock out on songs like “Slow Down” and “Evil Hearted You”, or play very delicate pieces like “Summertime”.

The most noteworthy songs on the tape are the originals, all written by guitarist and vocalist Craig Anderson: “Change Yourself for the World”, “Visionary Pumpkin”, and “Bentley Road”. They show Craig to be a distinctive and creative songwriter, and the band capable of a range of textures and styles to suit each composition.

Bassist and vocalist Jeff Anderson gives the history of the group in his own words:

One of the greatest joys of my life was playing in a rock ‘n roll band in the 60’s. Music was just exploding and influences were coming from all over the world. People were only then learning how to play guitar and structure songs and the evolution was quite remarkable. Anyone in a band had grandiose visions of becoming the next Beatles.

My brother Craig and I started our first group, I think in 1962, as ‘the Schillings’. It was an instrumental group that did mainly the usual stuff from the Ventures, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, etc. We had Craig and I on guitars, a bass player that was so bad we actually had him bring in his tuba and play the bass part on that, drums and sax. We then morphed into ‘the Eccentrics’ and later ‘the Essence Reality’ where I took over on bass and we brought in another guitar player, Harvey Adair. The drummer, Russ Zakarian, is now the drummer for the Sedate Sunshine Colony’s current project and was the drummer for our 2004 reunion concert.

The Sedate Sunshine Colony was comprised of Pat Erickson (vocals & flute), Craig Anderson (vocals & guitar), Woody Bell (vocals), Jeff Anderson (vocals & bass), Jonnie Sue Bartell (keyboard & vocals), and Chuck Zendner (drums). We played in the Fresno area, but all of us came from the small town of Kingsburg, California. The band was together from 1965-1969.

l-r: Pat Erickson, Jeff Anderson, Chuck Zendner, Craig Anderson, Jonnie Sue Bartel and Woody Bell.
The Sedate Sunshine Colony was the first band for Pat Erickson, Jonnie Sue Bartell, and Chuck Zendner. I think Woody Bell may have been in a sort of band prior to SSC. Pat was actually in a folk group with my brother, called the Four-tells.

We were a folk-rock band with psychedelic overtones. Folkadelic, I would call it. Above all, we had vocals. Five out of the six of us could sing and harmony was what we did best. We were learning to play our instruments, just like everyone else, and we did ok with one guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, and flute. We mostly covered other music, but my brother Craig was a good writer, and we ended up doing quite a few original songs.

We played at dances, proms, picnics and just about everywhere including local fairs. We usually got paid about $100 for the whole band, while performing for about 3-4 hours. When the songs were only 2-3 minutes long, we had to know lots of music.

We were good friends, had a lot of fun, and somehow, almost all of us avoided the booze and drugs that were starting to happen with the music scene.

We continued to increase our fan base over the years and in the summer of 1967 the band caught the eye of a local TV producer. The group appeared on the ‘Dick Carr Show’ in 1967, making their first and only TV appearance. The Dick Carr TV show was a local Fresno show with viewers from Bakersfield to Sacramento (San Joaquin Valley). I would have loved to get my hands on the tape of that show. It was a 30 minute segement where SSC performed three songs totally live. We played two cover songs and one original. It was written by Craig, called ‘Visionary Pumpkin’ and featured a flute solo by Pat. The drummer, Chuck, borrowed the timpani drums from the high school band, and let it rip.

The Sedate Sunshine Colony competed in a number of ‘battle of the bands’ against a wide variety of local groups around Fresno, including rock, soul, psychedelic, & folk-rock. Other bands that we competed with or were friends with were local bands, such as the Accents, Twelve Miles Out, and Jim K and the Vibradors. Our best outing was a 3rd place finish in a large competition in Visalia in 1968. We decided to play four songs, without a break, with transitions that Craig designed. The winning group was a soul band that had about ten members, including a full horn and brass section and Hammond organ.

l-r: Jeff Anderson, Pat Erickson, Craig Anderson and Woody Bell.
The cassette recording date was April 25th, 1968 at the Dinuba Memorial Auditorium, Dinuba, California. A reel to reel recorder was set up with two mics out on the dance floor, about 20 feet from the band. About 15 years after the recording was made, I copied it onto cassette and that sat around getting old for a long time. No wonder it sounds so bad.

The complete song list on the tape is as follows: Dark On You Now, Thoughts and Words, As Tears Go By, Evil Hearted You, Visionary Pumpkin, Where Were You, Change Yourself for the World, Whittier Blvd, Bentley Road, Summertime, Different Drum, Run for Your Life, Slow Down, Whiskey Man, Break on Through, My Back Pages, Soul Kitchen, and Morning Dew.

I asked Jeff to comment on individual tracks on the live tape:

“Dark On You Now” has always been one of my favorite songs to do, simply because I can selfishly wail on bass. If I had my way, I would be Jack Cassidy from Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna on every song. I always felt that SSC could really rock if it just let itself go, but it didn’t happen as often as I wanted. I was thinking of sending a copy of Dark On You Now to the Peanut Butter Conspiracy for a laugh. I’m sure nobody covered their song. We changed it quite a bit as well.

“Thoughts and Words” … This recording was a bit experimental, as I tried to make up and sing the counter melody you can hear…I wasn’t even sure of the words.

“Where Were You” was done by the Grassroots in mid-60’s. Our band was infamous for choosing obscure songs on an album that never got any air time. So, a lot of it sounded original.

“Visionary Pumpkin” … My brother Craig, used to set his alarm at about 3 AM so he could wake up and remember whatever he was dreaming about. Then he would turn on the light and write a song about it. I was upset and amazed by this. I think “Visionary Pumpkin” came from one of those nights. He tried to come up with words, but in the end, the melody was good enough. We had a fine flute player in Pat and he was looking for a showcase for it and this was it. We did this song on the Dick Carr TV show in 1966 or 67. Chuck, our drummer, borrowed the tampani drums from high school band and dragged them in to get more dramatic. I wished I had a stand up bass with a bow to play the bass part. On the tape, the bass lines sustain without hearing individual picking, as I used a felt pick and played very fast, back and forth like on the lead guitar on surf music (Pipeline).

Q. Because of the flute “Visionary Pumpkin” vaguely reminds me of California Dreaming, but there seems to be other inspirations – Gabor Szabo or Charles Lloyd Quartet, or Sandy Bull maybe?

I don’t think any of us had any jazz influence for this song. Pat was just good on flute and later graduated with a music degree in flute performance. You should have heard her senior recital.

“Whittier Blvd.” It was lots of fun to really rock. The organ was never loud enough, as Jonnie Sue was a concert pianist and had very little interest in rock music. She sort of hung in the background. Craig was always having trouble with his fuzztone.

“Bentley Road” is another original of Craig’s, which became the name of his band that recorded those 2 songs [the 45 for Forward Records]. It’s a very dark number about an aging maid that gets in a car with seven men and never comes back. The song is not complete as the tape ended in the middle and had to be flipped over. That’s why the quality of the sound improves briefly. Craig redid the song a couple of years ago.

The group broke up in 1968 and most of us continued in music. Craig got his college degree in music composition at Fresno State College. You couldn’t believe his senior recital. It was 1969 and he got most of us in the band to do a short film with weird images. Pat was in a wedding dress rolling down a sand dune. I was in a suit and tie running from something chasing me and end up falling into a huge mud puddle! Craig then composed four songs with differing moods. He took each scene in the movie and made it a different color…red for anger, blue for joy or whatever. He then showed the film while directing the college choir singing the songs. It sounded a little like the choir on 2001 (A Space Odyssey). He says he still has the film and I plan to borrow it and use it for some kind of music video for one of our new songs.

Craig formed a new band with Pat (vocalist) and Jonnie Sue (keyboard) and moved to LA to make it big. Dave Nyberg also went along for the event. They asked me to go along, but I was getting married and needed to finish college. I knew it was the end of the music road for me and I sold both my 1964 Fender Precision Bass and my 1967 ‘blackface’ Fender Bassman for about what I had paid for them. I have kicked myself so many times about this over the years.

Anderson, l-r: Pat Erickson, David Nyberg, Craig Anderson and Jonnie Sue Bartel.
The band, called Anderson, played in many clubs, such as the Wine Cellar in Westwood. They changed their name to ‘Bentley Road’ and signed a recording contract and a management contract with Nick St. Nicholas, the bass player for Steppenwolf.

They recorded two songs, the first, written by the producer, was called “Michael, Michael”. It was a pop song and the label chose this song to push. The flip side was written by Craig, called “Kill the Cobra” and showed what the band could do creatively. It also demonstrated their expertise playing their instruments. Because the first song failed to gain any traction, “Kill the Cobra” didn’t have a chance.

The band became very disenchanted with the label and recorded no more songs. They continued writing and performing for several years, while Craig produced and recorded their songs in his own studio. They broke up in 1975.

The lead singer, Pat, stayed in LA and has been quite successful over the years. She sang back-up vocals for Pat & Debbie Boone, Tony Orlando, and Charlie Rich. Pat appeared many times on TV shows, such as the ‘Johnny Carson Show’ and was a consistent studio back-up vocalist on many records. She continues to make her living through music.

After SSC broke up, the drummer and I started a new SSC with four new members. We had some ability and talent, but didn’t take it as seriously as we should have. We played at a few college dances and broke up in 1971.

Since then, I have played little music, but have dabbled in it for years. I would pick up a bass here, and an amp a few years later and play with friends a couple times a year. I still wanted to play.

[The band reunited for the first time in August, 2004 for a concert at the city park in Kingsburg, producing a CD and DVD of the event.]

In 2007 our high school class of ’67 had its 40th reunion and the Sedate Sunshine Colony was the entertainment for the evening. The concert went very well and the highlight was the debut of a song I wrote just for the event, called “Summer of ‘67”. It was well received.

Partly due to the excitement of performing an original tune, the band has decided to enter the studio in May of 2008 and record an album of 12 original songs. It was quite a job deciding on the songs, as 4 of us have been writing songs for a long time. We are excited and hopeful for the result, but the joy of playing together again after so many years is the real pay-off. Stay tuned for a studio update…

Jeff Anderson

The 2004 reunion, Kingsburg, l-r: Jeff Anderson, Pat Erickson, Woody Bell and Craig Anderson.

The Sey Heys

The Sey-Heys, l-r: Bob Baranowski, Steve Di Giovoni, Eddie Ferrick, Al Kuraz behind Eddie, and Lenny Hope on drums.

Here’s a song you might be able to relate to, going on down to hang out around the convenience store. Certainly did enough of that when I was a young teen. The audio quality on this acetate is rough but the performance is good, with both guitar and piano solos on The Corner Store.

Rhythm guitarist Bob Baranowski wrote a terse summary of the band’s history:

Group organized in 1965-1967. Manager Mike Petro from Harrison, NJ.

Bob Baranowski – rhythm guitar (Harrison, NJ)
Steve Di Giovoni – lead guitar (Clifton, NJ)
Ed Ferrick – bass guitar, lead vocals (Harrison, NJ)
Alan Kuraz – organ (Harrison, NJ)
Lenny Hope – drummer (Clifton, NJ)

Group played locally and at most colleges. Also played for Bank of Toyko at Waldorf in NY. Won competion on Zacherley TV show [Zacherley’s Disco Teen on Channel 47 WNJU-TV] in Newark NJ. Backed up the Duprees at the Cornet in Irvington NJ, 1966. Won several battle of the bands in NJ. Recorded first record Rose Marie in 1966. and flip side The Corner Store. The group broke up in 1967.

Ed Ferrick was lead singer and composer of “Rosemarie”. He and Bob Baranowski wrote “The Corner Store” in fifteen minutes to fill the session. They cut the two tracks in two hours at the Hertz Recording Studio on Halsey Street in Newark, for a total of $90: $30 per hour for the time and $30 for demos for the band. Bob’s uncle was going to push the demo to RCA, where he worked as a patent attorney for RCA, but he died before he could make anything happen.

Their primary competition was The Caretakers from Harrsion, whose members included Artie Cuff on sax and Ritchie Ferollia on lead guitar. The Caretakers were mainly a cover band who had the distinction of touring Vietnam with Bob Hope.

Steve Di Giovanni went on to join the Clifton band the Brats. Bob Baranowski joined the Sidesteps, based in Newark.

Special thanks to Arnold Max for submitting the Sey Hey’s acetate, photo and story.

The Jean Callaway Band

After publishing an article on the Rogue Show last month, drummer Ellis Starkey suggested I feature his wife Jean Callaway’s story. Jean has written a fascinating history about leading her own bands and playing with Charlie Louvin, Tot Randolph (veteran of Howlin’ Wolf’s early Memphis band), and the Tennessee Hot Pants.

My name is Jean Callaway and I started playing guitar in 1964 at age sixteen shortly after the Beatles emerged on the scene. I’d played music all my life, starting at age two and a half on a ukulele. Later, I played a little bit of piano and organ, but never considered music as a career until the Beatles awakened my senses to good melodies, beats, and lyrics. Hearing the Beatles was all it took for me to become obsessed with making music. I started writing songs along with learning to play a lot of the latest tunes I was hearing on the radio. I began playing electric bass in 1967, inspired by Paul McCartney, and by the following year I’d already turned pro.

I’d like to share with you a few stories about my group, the Jean Callaway Band, in my own words. We played in 1968, 1969, and 1970, booking in and around Nashville, Tennessee, so you might as well know that we mixed a little country music in with our rock ‘n roll stuff.

We got started just jamming at each other’s houses and sitting in with other bands at various clubs around town. Eventually, when four or five of us got serious about playing together, we gathered at my dad’s house and practiced in his living room, putting together enough songs to take up four or five sets. It took only a few practice sessions to get it together since each member was already a professional musician.

There were very few female musicians around, other than singers and piano players at that time. I, being a bass player and guitar player was a rare commodity. I formed my band in 1968 and we played mostly weekends since I was attending college at Middle Tennessee State University during the week.

I managed to land a regular gig at a country club in Old Hickory, just outside Nashville. We played Friday and Saturday nights starting at 9:00 and playing until 1:00. I also played bass for the country singer, Charlie Louvin on the Grand Ole Opry Friday and Saturday nights on his early shows, then rushed out to Old Hickory for my gig at the country club.

The Jean Callaway Band was just about the most unusual group in town in that we didn’t always have the same musicians from week to week. You see, I used a lot of different country music pickers who might have been in town for extended periods of time. They would be tired of playing country music and while they were not on their regular job, wanted to play something different, so different is what we were. We played everything from “Whiter Shade Of Pale” (if we had a keyboard player) to Elvis, Joe South, and Roy Orbison.

I had Marty Robbins’ drummer, Eddie Fox for quite a while when Marty was recovering from heart surgery. Then there was Eddie’s brother, Jimmy Fox who played guitar with us while his boss, country singer, Jean Sheppard was on maternity leave. I switched over to guitar when Ronnie Blackwell, a bass player and singer who worked for Grand Ole Opry Star, Porter Wagoner played with us. Finally, I got a regular group together: Bob Taylor on drums, Bob Browning on lead guitar, Sherman Dodd, rhythm guitar, and me on bass. All four of us sang, giving the group a variety of voices.

One story that will always stay with me was when I got a call from a booking agent asking me if our group would be available to back rock ‘n roll singer, Mark Denning who had the major smash hit, “Teen Angel”. At first, I thought the guy was joking, but he told me he was serious, that Mark’s band had quit and that he needed a band the following night. The agent said he knew I always kept good pickers who could play just about anything, and that’s why he called me. I was told that the venue was in Springfield, Tennessee, just outside Nashville and was given the address.

After passing the information on to the rest of the guys in the band, I made arrangements, for another band to take our place at the country club. That afternoon, Mark Denning, himself, called me to confirm we would be there. I told him we would, but my car happened to be in the shop and that I’d planned to ride with one of the other guys. Mark said, “You don’t have to do that, I’ll come by and pick you up.” Thinking how cool it was that a star of his status was picking me up at my house, I agreed to it.

He showed up in a Volkswagon Beetle. I was then faced with the dilemma of where my bass amp was gonna go. However, by some miracle we managed to squeeze it into the trunk in front. My bass in its long case barely fit in the back seat. That was just the beginning of the problems that lay ahead. I could tell Mark wasn’t exactly sober. In fact he was more than a little impaired, he was wired and drunk at the same time. He took out of my driveway like some wild man. The DUI laws weren’t enforced in those days like today, so all his crazy driving went unnoticed by the police. About halfway there he stopped at a liquor store and bought a pint of whiskey, offering me some. I declined.

A deep rutted dirt road, with tall brush on each side led to a place located in the middle of nowhere. The parking lot was unpaved decorated with beer bottles scattered about. A half lit red neon sign that read DEEP SOUTH CLUB blinked off and on at random, making loud sizzling noises. It was more than deep-south, it was deep in the weeds. There were weeds waist high all around the club and it looked like one of those beer joints where you had to shoot your way inside. The rest of the band was already there and set up. One of the guys said, “What in the world have you gotten us into?” Shaking my head and shrugging my shoulders, I asked him to help me get my amp out of Mark’s VW. After we were outside, I told him all about the terrifying ride just getting there.

Jean Callaway, age 3, playing her uke

Ronnie Blackwell and Jean

Jean Callaway and Tootsie Bess, owner of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Nashville, December 1965. Tootsie bought Jean her first “legal beer”!
There were only a few of people there, counting the help, so I figured no one advertised Mark Denning’s appearance. I got tuned up and Mark, somehow, got his guitar in tune and he opened with “Teen Angel”. The few who were there applauded, then he stumbled through another song. Before the end of the first set, Mark found a folding chair, sat down, (because he was too drunk to stand) and sang another song. During that number, he just passed out. By then, I’d figured out why his band quit. The rest of us sang and played, the remainder of the set when at break time, the boys in the band wanted to go home. We were told we had to finish out the night if we were going to get paid, so play we did with ole Mark slumped over in a chair right there under the lights.

My daddy showed up for the last set to see the great Mark Denning. He couldn’t believe his eyes, Mark asleep on stage. I was so glad to see my daddy, I jumped off the stage and gave him a big hug. I knew I had a ride back home with one of the other guys, but to see my daddy’s smiling face was like a miracle. The Deep South Club was down right creepy–straight out of a horror movie. My dad said, “Something just told me to come out here and check on you.” …and I’m glad he did.

Charlie Louvin with Jean playing bass, Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville
Another story: The summer of 1968 when school was out I began playing more gigs with now Country Music Hall of Fame member, Charlie Louvin of the Louvin Brothers. When I was playing country music with Charlie, I found another bass player to fill in for me in my band when I was away. However, I was still the band leader and was always there whenever I didn’t have an obligation with Charlie. My twentieth birthday was in September and Charlie and his wife, Betty threw me a birthday party at George Jones’ Possum Holler Club on Broadway in Nashville. Charlie’s band was there as well as my own since it took place on a Sunday night when all of us were off. I wasn’t old enough to be in that club, much less, playing in them. However, I always kept a fake ID handy. That night, when they brought out my birthday cake, it had twenty-one flaming candles and written on it was “Happy 21st Birthday to Jean”. We all had a laugh over that one because everyone at my party knew I was actually celebrating my twentieth birthday.

When classes resumed in the fall, I had to quit Charlie’s band because he had several road dates coming up, and school took priority. My band still played weekends. We even had a few weekend gigs at a club in Memphis on Highway 51, now known as Elvis Presley Blvd. In fact it was just down the street from Graceland. I enjoyed Memphis and the enthusiastic crowds we had. Here is a picture of me wearing a mini skirt when we played there. Not long ago, I showed it to my four year old grandson and he wanted to know what happened to my pants.

Back at the country club, I got to noticing the parking lot would be full and I’d have to search for a parking place when I’d arrive there for the gig. Look at all these people here to see us, I’d say to myself. I always tried to get there a little early so there’d be plenty of time to set up. Once inside, there would be only a couple of people at the bar and maybe one or two tables occupied. Taking note of the fact that this was the case every night we played, finally, one night my daddy showed up and I said to him, “Where in the world is everybody? The parking lot is full of cars, but hardly anybody is here.”

Daddy answered, “Jean, hold your voice down. Don’t you know there’s gambling going on in the back room?”

“What!” I said surprised. “I didn’t know they gambled here.”

“Well, now you know, but don’t say anything about it.”

I guess at nineteen or twenty, I was just young and naive. When nine o’clock rolled around and the music started, most of those people made their presence known by filing into the bar area, ordering a beer, filling up the dance floor, or grabbing a table. Boy, did I feel like a fool!

We continued to play until 1970 when it just got harder and harder to stay together due to changes in plans for all of us. I had to devote more time to school and studio work while the other guys pursued other music jobs. Unfortunately, with all the recording studios in Nashville, we never got around to making a record. In 1972 I joined another group from Nashville, Tot Randolph and the All Stars. We played some Top Forty music, old easy listening standards, a little jazz, blues, and just a few country songs…But that’s the next story.

“Charlie Louvin and me on stage. That was quite a concert! I was really surprised by all the stars that showed up watch us.”

Tot and the All Stars – Never had so much music come out of something so little!
L-R: Alex Zanetis, Jr (piano), Jean Callaway (bass), Lucius Talley (drums), Tot Randolph (sax and band leader).
That photo was taken before Ben Jones (trumpet) joined us.
Tot Randolph and the All Stars and Meeting Nashville Celebrities

It was May, 1972 that I was finishing up my senior year of college with just the summer semester to go. I got a call from Chuck, a guy I knew who worked at a local music store. He said that the band playing at the Hearth in Madison, Tennessee (actually a part of Nashville) was looking for a bass player, since the one they had couldn’t seem to stay sober. I asked him just what kind of music they played and he said just about every kind except hard rock. That evening, I wasn’t playing anywhere, so I decided to go down there and check them out to see if I was qualified before I actually auditioned and maybe made a fool of myself.

The Hearth was just about the fanciest restaurant and bar in Nashville at that time. The band was in the bar area which was down a red velvet staircase on a lower floor. Red plush carpet covered the floor and shiny gold flocked paper adorned the walls. One complete wall was made of rock which housed a giant fireplace, hence the name, “Hearth”.

The stage was nestled in one corner and was just big enough for a piano and a drum kit. Two other musicians had to squeeze in where they could. There was a sax player/singer, piano, drums, and bass. They played a lot of easy listening stuff and I noticed that on some songs they were reading music. I don’t read a note so I figured I was S.O.L. As I continued to listen, I assessed that perhaps I could jump in there and play a lot of it by ear, by charts, or at least write it down in my own version of music. I loved that sax. In fact, I’d never before played in a band where there were horns. The sax player was a good singer, too. He did a lot of Nat King Cole songs and could sound just like him. The band was all black with exception of the piano player. The bass player was excellent and I couldn’t believe they were going to fire him.

I stayed for another set and continued to listen, liking their music more and more. I figured I could learn a whole lot from those guys–that is if they’d have me.I never introduced myself that night, but called them next day and they set up an audition.

I felt that I needed to be honest and let them know right from the beginning that I didn’t read any music. I didn’t want to waste their time nor mine if reading music was a requirement. Tot, the sax player and band leader said it shouldn’t be a problem, that he wanted to hear me play. We played a few and I seemed to be able to fit right in. They hired me on the spot and I was to report to work that evening. The gig was a six nights a week with Sundays off.

I found out later that the guy I was replacing was D. Ford Bailey, Jr. His father was the famous blues harmonica player who starred on the Grand Ole Opry during the 1920s and 1930s. DeFord Bailey, Sr. was the only black entertainer on the Opry. I’d heard stories about him that when the Grand Ole Opry took their show on the road, DeFord had to be smuggled in the hotels since blacks weren’t allowed in the white establishments in those days.

Once in a while during the time I played there, D. Ford Jr. would come in and I’d ask him to sit in and play as long as it was all right with Tot. Tot explained to me that D. Ford was a good musician, but he just wasn’t dependable and would get drunk too often. I always thought D. Ford was nice and I certainly enjoyed watching him play. I could tell he’d learned on an upright bass fiddle because he held the electric bass just like an old dog house bass, with the neck straight up.

Tot had recorded “Blues Train” for Sun Records in 1953 [It went unreleased at the time – ed.]. When I was working for him I had no idea he’d done all that. He never mentioned a word about it. In fact, at that time he was the music director for the band at Robertson County High School in Springfield, TN near Nashville.

We had a number of celebrities frequent the Hearth, including Bobby Hebb who wrote and recorded the 1966 pop hit song, “Sunny”. He drove a 1949 gold colored Rolls Royce that looked like new. Each time Bobby came in, he got up with us and sang “Sunny” for everybody and never failed to elicit a big hand.

The mayor of Nashville, Beverly Briley and his wife came in a lot and Mayor Briley always asked me to dance with him to the jukebox when we were on break. He was a head shorter than I was when I wore platform shoes, but it didn’t seem to bother either one of us a bit.

The country/pop singer, Jerry Wallace dropped in and sang with us a time or two, also.

One evening, we got word that country singer Merle Haggard was upstairs in the restaurant eating but planned to come downstairs to the bar and sit in with the band later. As the night wore on, we kept looking for Merle to come down those velvet stairs. He never showed. I finally asked the club owner what happened to him and her answer was: “I had to kick the sorry son-of-a-bitch outta here. He was drunk and knocked a big vase of flowers off of one our tables, then asked me how much he owed us for it. I told him to get out and to never come back.”

So much for some of those rowdy country singers.

A couple of months after I joined the group, Tot hired a trumpet/flugelhorn player, Ben Jones. Ben was a music major at Tennessee State University and was the BEST horn player I’d ever seen or heard. We now had a sax and trumpet, piano, bass, and drums. Can you believe…no guitar. But, we really didn’t need one. The sound we had was just right. Once we tried out a guitar player and it just seemed to clutter up things. Tot and Ben played harmony parts that could put chills on a person. The stage was so small that Ben had to stand on the floor beside the rest of us, but he didn’t seem to care. One night, we were in between songs and a rotund bald gentleman ambled in the door resembling Alfred Hitchcock. I was thinking to myself, boy that man sure looks like Alfred Hitchcock. It was if Ben read my mind because he started playing the theme song to the “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” all by himself. I couldn’t control my laughter, and looked over at Ben and said, “I think you just read my mind.”

Tot and the rest of the guys looked at us like we were both crazy. That Hitchcock-looking man came back on several occasions and each time Ben would play that theme song.

We played only four sets which allowed us to get off at 1:00 AM. I had several friends who worked with bands in downtown Nashville in the world famous Printers’ Alley. Oftentimes I’d go down there and visit and sit in with some of them after I got finished at the Hearth. One particular place I went had been called, the Western Room, the Black Poodle, The Hugh X. Lewis Country Club, and a few other names I can’t remember right off hand. Anyway, I believe it was the Western Room at that time. The house band there was the Nashville Kats. I’d dated one of the pickers in that group for a while so all the guys knew me, plus their girl singer, Dianne Sherrill was a good friend of mine. About any time, one or more celebrities could be seen there drinking, partying, or jamming with the band. I walked in one night and Dianne was standing beside the bar while the band was playing. (It wasn’t time for her to do her part of the show yet.) The first thing I heard was this fantastic guitar player. He was kind of slumped over the guitar and was wearing a cowboy hat, so his face couldn’t be seen. Right away I knew it wasn’t the Nashville Kats’ regular guitar player on account of the style was so different. I asked Dianne, “Who is that playing that knocked out guitar?”

Dianne answered, “That’s Willie Nelson. He just wanted to come in here and jam. He hasn’t even sung one song.” Willie was wearing white slip on tennis shoes, powder blue brushed denim jeans and a matching golf shirt–not at all the attire everyone is now used to seeing him in. That was 1972, before he had the “outlaw” look. What a thrill it was to see Willie in person just having fun and not in his regular stage persona.

Waylon Jennings hung out there a lot, too. Dianne introduced me to him and we talked a while and drank a beer as I asked him a bunch of questions about his band and his music. That particular night he was complaining about all the alimony he was having to pay out. Then, already married to Jesse Colter, he, referring to all his previous marriages, said, “Hell, my alimony payments look like the national debt.” Well, I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for him.

Sometimes, after hours, a few of us would head down to the nearest all night restaurant, either the Pancake House or Shoney’s for breakfast. Other times, we’d go to somebody’s house and pick all night. I don’t know how we did that back then. I couldn’t stay up that long, now.

Then there was a time when I stopped by and the band got me up to sing and pick a little bass. The Johnny Rodriguez song, “Pass Me By (if you’re only passing through)” was on the country charts. I’d learned it and decided to sing it that night. Just as I was about half way into the song, Johnny Rodriguez walked in. I didn’t know whether to quit right then or finish the song. My past experience told me to go ahead and finish the song. Ole Johnny was looking right at me, and I thought that song would never come to an end. However, he gave me a big hand. At a loss for words, I said, “If I’d have known you were coming in here, I’d have picked another song.”

Back at the Hearth, it was a Saturday night and we had a packed house. I’d previously made plans to meet up with my friends downtown after I got off. Well this is one night I’ll never forget. Just as we were about to finish the last set, the club owner, (I won’t mention her name) came up to the stage and asked us to play an extra set which put us getting off at 2:00 AM instead of our usual 1:00 AM. This lady had a hot temper…remember her encounter with Merle Haggard. Anyway, as I said, I had already made plans to go to a party, so I asked her how much extra we would be paid if we stayed the extra hour. That old hussy exploded on me. She grabbed me by the arm and jerked me off the stage, in front of the whole crowd, unplugging my bass at the same time. There was a loud pop and hum started as the cord came loose.

“You’re fired!! Get outta here. How dare you to ask how much extra you’ll make!” she shouted.

I said, “Okay, I’ll go. I was looking for a job when I found this one!”

I went on to the party downtown and had a good time.

Before noon the next day, that lady’s husband called me and hired me back, saying his wife had acted in haste. I continued to work there several more months after that.

One of the disadvantages of working at the Hearth was the frigid temperature inside the place. It must’ve been below sixty degrees. To me it felt more like thirty. I could swear I saw my breath one night while singing. When I asked why it was so cold, one of the bartenders explained that people could hold more liquor if the room was cold. I thought that was ridiculous. It made me want hot chocolate or coffee. The club owners wouldn’t allow me to wear pants. I was required to wear a skirt or a long dress/skirt. I started wearing a long skirt, turtle neck sweater, and jacket, and I was still cold–especially my hands. I began wearing thermal underwear to keep my body warm. Then there was the business of keeping my hands warm. Finding an Army surplus store where they sold hunting gear, I bought one of those hand warmers that looked like a oversized Zippo cigarette lighter. My plan was to warm my hands between songs. I mean, my fingers were so numb that I couldn’t feel the strings on my bass. That hand warmer didn’t seem to be enough, so I bought a nice pair of ladies’ white dress gloves. That was the solution, and my fingers could slide all over that bass neck wearing those gloves, allowing me to play smoother. It wasn’t long before I was known all over Nashville as “The Glove Wearing Girl Bass Player”.

The following October, some sales reps from Kustom Electronics came in. At break-time they offered to buy me a drink and invited me to sit at their table. It was obvious that they’d been to some other places before coming in to see us. They were more than generous with their compliments regarding my musicianship and I just fluffed it off thinking they were after something else, if you know what I mean.

Before the break was over the head sales rep told me that they wanted to furnish me with a new Kustom bass amp.

“What? You must be kidding!” I gasped all surprised.

He said that it’d be good advertising; “The Glove Wearing Girl Bass Player” to be seen playing one of their amps. I thought to myself: Right…Now I knew they must’ve been after something else. However, we swapped business cards just in case they were serious and it wasn’t all “drunk talk”.

Three or four months went by and I never heard a word more about it. In fact, I told all my friends about the incident and we all had a good laugh. Then, the following spring, I get a call from some freight company telling me where I could pick up my new Kustom amp. I just couldn’t believe it! They’d actually kept their word. After picking it up and bringing it home, I searched old purses and coat pockets for the Kustom rep’s business card. At last I unearthed it under some rings and bracelets in my jewelry box. I wanted to call and thank them for such a wonderful gift. Luck was with me and I got hold of one of the men I’d met that night at the Hearth. He told me that I was the only person they’d given one of their amps to who wasn’t a known celebrity.

And you know that the funny thing is, I had been saving up to buy an amp just like that one. I felt like the richest person in the world. I still have that amp today and use it in my recording studio from time to time.

Jean’s Kustom amp with Mustang bass. “I ordered a Blonde (natural wood) Fender Precision bass right after this photo was taken in 1973 … I still have the Kustom and the bass!”
I worked at the Hearth until spring of 1973. I learned more about music from Tot and those guys than any band I’d played with before or after that. I never got bored, because we were always learning new material and the type of music we played, necessitating rehearsed arrangements, presented a constant challenge.

After eleven months working with the All Stars I got an offer I couldn’t refuse, playing with an all girl band, Barbara Allen and the Tennessee Hot Pants. It required touring on the road six to eight weeks at a time, but I was able to double my salary. Since I’d already graduated from college, I decided why not. I was ready for a whole new set of adventures.

Charlie Louvin

Before going into my story about the Tennessee Hot Pants, I’d like to go back in time and tell you a little bit about working for Charlie Louvin. [Note: these stories and all those I’ve written so far, are excerpts taken from my book, which is a work in progress, Music Notes…Odyssey of a Lady Musician.]

Charlie is the kind of guy with a personality that people either love or hate. I’ve always liked Charlie and got along with him well during the short time I worked for him. He has a sarcastic kind of wit about him that is not understood by everybody. At times he could come across almost to the point as being insulting. Me, I always thought of him as funny.

I began working for him in February of 1968. He didn’t have a regular road band at the time, so playing behind him Friday and Saturday nights on the Grand Ole Opry fit in perfectly with my college schedule. When he did have a road gig, he took only a guitar player along with him.

I got acquainted with Charlie backstage at the Opry and at times, ran into him at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge across the alley from the Ryman Auditorium where the Opry was held at that time.

Ronnie Blackwell, Charlie’s former bass player and close friend of mine had gone to work for the famed bluegrass group, The Osborne Brothers. As an extra note, Ronnie played on the first recording of “Rocky Top”. He had been teaching me to play electric bass. (Seen in the picture is Ronnie and me and I’m playing his old hot rod Harmony bass.) I’m sad to say that Ronnie passed away in 1978 as a result of a heart attack at age thirty eight. However, his face can be seen on one of Charlie Louvin’s latest CD covers, playing that same Harmony bass.

When I mentioned to Charlie that I was learning to play electric bass he told me that as soon as I learned all his songs that he’d hire me to play with him on the Opry, weekends. It wasn’t long before I’d learned his stuff and approached him, telling him I was ready to play. We went into one of the dressing rooms at the Ryman which doubled as practice rooms and I auditioned. He said I had the job and to call him as soon as I was a member in good standing of the Musicians Union, Local 257.

That first night he introduced me as his new bass player who was going to college at Middle Tennessee State University. He started singing the Louvin Brothers’ hit song, “When I Stop Dreaming” motioning me toward the microphone to sing the harmony parts along with his lead. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I didn’t know I was going to be singing. When I opened my mouth, nothing came out. We were in the second chorus before I was able to utter a sound. Later I found out that Charlie was known to pull “fast ones” on his musicians.

His song, “Will You Visit Me On Sundays” was on the charts at that time and I expected him to go straight into that one rather than “When I Stop Dreaming”. I discovered that Charlie might say what song we would be doing before we hit the stage and then change his mind at the last minute. I never knew if he was just playing a practical joke or wanted to keep the rest of us in line.

One night he announced to us he would be doing his song, “See The Big Man Cry” but instead, launched into the old Gene Autry song, “That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine”. I wondered what in the world he was playing, ’cause I’d never heard of that song. I did my best to fall in with it but didn’t have the slightest idea where it was going.

Another joke of his was un-tuning our instruments during a song. He’d walk up to one of us during a ride and twist one or more of the tuning keys on our guitar/bass, laughing the whole time. Then it was up to us to get back in tune while playing the song. Now, that was hard. One time I spied him heading for my bass keys. Just before he got a hand on one, I stated, “If you touch my bass I’m gonna push the DOWN button on your elevator shoes!”

Charlie just laughed and walked off in the other direction. Maybe I should’ve mentioned that Charlie is a little guy, maybe five foot four, and that’d be stretching it, so my comment regarding his elevator shoes seemed appropriate.

We did two shows a night, and early one and a late show. Between shows, we’d either go over to Tootsie’s and drink a beer or two, or go to a movie, depending on how much time we had. A block up the street were several movie theaters, and sometimes Charlie, his wife Betty, the guitar player, the drummer and I marched up the block and saw a movie. Other times, we strolled across Broadway to Linebaugh’s, a little restaurant, which is no longer there, and grabbed a hamburger. All of this was before I had my band. Once I got my group together, I could only play the first show before I had to rush off to my other gig. Charlie used an Opry staff bass player for the second show.

There’s another funny story I want to tell you about when I worked for Charlie: One night I arrived at the Opry and went straight to the dressing room where Charlie and the band were tuning up. I found a place on a countertop to set my bass case, opened it up, took out my bass and began tuning. Charlie had stepped out for a minute and Bill Monroe came in. I didn’t know it at the time, but Bill Monroe was and is known as the Father of Bluegrass Music. I didn’t think of him as important or anything–he was just some old man who played a mandolin. He pointed at my case and said, “Who does this belong to?”

“It’s mine,” I answered.

“Well, move it. That’s my spot.” he stated in an arrogant tone.

“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled.

“Get it out of the way. That’s where I put my case.”

I moved mine to a corner on the floor. He put his case in place of mine, took out his mandolin and left the room. When Charlie came back in I told him all about what had just happened. Charlie said, “Well, you should have told that old cranky codger that if he had a certain spot for his case that he should’ve had his name written on it.”

“I’ll do that next time,” I declared. But I never put my case there again. Some of the other guys said that it was a known fact Bill Monroe put his case in the same spot each time and nobody questioned it. I thought that was ridiculous but cooperated just the same.

Today among his fans, Charlie is associated with bluegrass music on account of the days when he performed with his brother, Ira. Ira played a mandolin, Charlie played an acoustic guitar and they sang close harmony. During the time I worked with Charlie, he did not want to be associated with bluegrass music. Bluegrass music was not as popular as it is today by no means. In fact, it was considered the music of hicks and hill folk, whereas country music was thought of as more uptown. People were always telling him how much they enjoyed his bluegrass music. Each time he’d abruptly correct them saying, “I don’t and never have played bluegrass, I’ve never had a banjo in my band. The music I play is country.” His criterion for being bluegrass was having a banjo in the group. I always found that to be funny, because the Louvin Brothers as an act was about as bluegrass as one could get. With the new found popularity of bluegrass music today, I believe Charlie isn’t quite as eager to make those contradictions as he was at one time.

I’d like to say that my time as Charlie Louvin’s bass player was most enjoyable. The camaraderie I had with Charlie, the other musicians and Opry members is invaluable. The Louvin Brothers have since been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and I’m proud to say that I once worked for Charlie.

Middle sitting down: Barbara Allen (keyboard), top l-r: Jean Callaway (bass), Donna Atkinson (guitar), Kathy Burkly (drums)

The Tennessee Hot Pants

One evening while I was at the Hearth, a gentleman came in, introducing himself as Jean Shepard’s booking agent. Jean was a friend of mine and I had heard her speak of this person. He said another agent had told him that an all girl band was looking for a drummer and went on to say that he’d heard that I also played drums. Well, I’m here to tell you I was just barely a drummer, but I took down the name and number of that agent and called her the next day just to check it out. That band, I won’t call their name, just happened to be there when I showed up at the agent’s office.

The agent,( I’ll call her Sally) introduced me to them and right away I’m thinking, whoa, I don’t think so. You see, they were a lesbian band and I wanted no part of that. I eased out of that situation and told them the truth–that it was a mistake that I really wasn’t a drummer. I didn’t lie because, although I’d played a little bit of drums, even had my own set, drums weren’t my main thing. I thanked them for their time and left. However, I did notice a picture of another all girl band hanging on the wall of Sally’s office that didn’t have the same “look” as the group I’d just met. Printed on the photo was the name, “Barbara Allen and The Tennessee Hot Pants” The next day I called Sally back and told her that bass was actually my primary instrument and asked her about the band I saw in the picture. Her answer was, “What a coincidence, they just so happened to be looking for a bass player. In fact, Barbara, the leader told me that as soon as she found a replacement, she was going to fire the one they have because she stays drunk all the time.”

I laughed to myself, it seemed I was always replacing drunk bass players.

Sally said that they played country music with a rock edge. I told her that was just what I liked.

She said that she’d have Barbara call me. A week or so later, I got a call from Barbara; we set up an audition and I had the job. I told her that I needed to give Tot and the guys two weeks notice and she said that was no problem since they were off for the next three weeks.

Our first gig was in Boston, about a thirty hour drive from Nashville. The day before we left town, Barbara came by and picked up my bass and my new Kustom amp to pack with the rest of the equipment. She was driving a 1963 Cadillac pulling a U-Haul. The muffler was belching loud noises and the tires hadn’t seen any tread in quite awhile. I asked her, “Is there room in that car for all of us?”

“Oh sure,” she replied. “We’ll be picking up the drummer in Boston. That’s where she’s from.”
I was wondering if that car could even make the trip and once we picked up the other girl would there be enough room?

I must tell you, I am a stickler for punctuality. The next day Barbara was to pick me up at 10:00 AM to embark on our trip and I was ready and waiting. I waited and waited. Noon rolled around and still, no Barbara. I called her number and got no answer. I called Sally and she told me that Barbara sometimes ran late for appointments and not to worry, she’d eventually show up. Before long, it was two o’clock and I still hadn’t heard from her. By that time I was getting worried about my bass and amp she had in that U-Haul. My imagination began to take flight and I thought she may have stolen my stuff. By 2:30 I decided to run to the store and get a six pack of beer, leaving a note on the door that I’d be right back. By 4:30 I’d consumed three out of the six beers, and was reaching into the fridge for a fourth when she finally showed up. I was disgusted and a little tipsy so I didn’t care what I said to her. “Just what in the hell took you so long? I’ve been waiting since ten o’clock!”

“Oh, I had to pack and run a few errands.” was her nonchalant answer.

Can you believe that was the only explanation she could give me. I almost told her to go on without me, but thought better of it.

She had Donna, the guitar player with her and Donna didn’t open her mouth. I grabbed my bags and the three beers I had left and we lit out. They didn’t talk much at first. I think they were a bit worried about my drinking all that beer. I didn’t drink but one more because they’d begun to get hot. I put the two unopened cans I had left in my purse. Finally, after we were a couple of hundred miles out of town, and I had pretty well sobered up,
Barbara and Donna broke out laughing.

“Hey, what are y’all laughing about?” I asked as I leaned over the back seat looking toward the front.

“We were hoping that we didn’t have us another drunken bass player.” said Barbara between gasps of laughter.

“Well I can assure you, I don’t stay drunk. I just got tired of waiting all day for you to show up.” I replied.

Donna said, “There’s one thing you’ll have to understand about Barbara: she’s late for everything except our gigs and then she’s barely on time.”

“Well, okay. Now I know.” I answered.

I found that to be true more than a time or two. There were many occasions when we had to dress for the gig while traveling down the road, then unload all our equipment after we arrived, plus set up. We got to where we could set up within ten minutes. We had one of those Shure Vocalmaster PA sets that had two six foot columns. There were times I trotted into the club we were playing carrying a column in each hand like a couple of suitcases. Those things were heavy, but a schedule of one nighters will soon get a person in shape.

It was a surprise, but we did make it to Boston without any car trouble or flat tires. We had a week’s sit-down job at The Hillbilly Ranch downtown. Consequently, we got to stay in a motel for a week. Barbara said the club owner was furnishing our room. When we arrived I met Kathy Burkly, our drummer and she was the best drummer I’d ever seen up to that point. She was barely eighteen and had just that week graduated from high school. After finishing up in Boston we headed for a weekender in Rhode Island. Barbara, Kathy and I took turns driving; Donna didn’t drive but helped the rest of us stay awake on the long hauls. I had, and still do have trouble with my vision in that I have no depth perception, plus I don’t see well at night. I didn’t say anything to the rest of them about it since I wanted to do my part. We were on our way south coming out of New England. It was my turn to drive. That tour was the first time I’d ever driven a car while pulling a trailer. (And it was the last…I haven’t done it since.) Anyway, I was approaching the outskirts of New York City. Here I was fighting all that fast traffic pulling that U-Haul. I didn’t know it at that moment, but I was scaring the crap out of the other three girls. Barbara told me that as soon as there was an exit, to pull off and let her drive.

I breathed a sigh of relief. My hands were sweaty, and my heart was pounding. Yes! I was thrilled to no end that my turn at the wheel was over. I must’ve scared them pretty bad because that was my last time I drove as long as I traveled with them. Barbara said, “Okay, Jean we about shit our pants while you were driving. From now on Kathy and I will handle the driving and you and Donna will take turns riding “shotgun”. That was all right with me, however, it was sometimes harder to stay awake when not concentrating on the road, after a long night of playing, tearing down, and loading up all that equipment.

That tour lasted about three weeks. While we were off, Barbara sold her Cadillac and bought a twenty-eight foot motor home. That thing rode like a buckboard, but at least we could get up and walk around some. It had a shower and bathroom, but the drums stayed stacked in the shower and we weren’t allowed to do “number two” in the toilet. After acquiring the motor home, Barbara decided we no longer had to get a motel, that we could just live in that vehicle. She said it’d save her a lot of money. Well, I’m here to tell you, that was when I got real disenchanted with that job. I hated living like “circus people”. There was no place to take a shower or wash our hair. We either parked at the club or at a shopping center parking lot. I got to going into the ladies room during the day at the clubs where we were booked and shampooing my hair. Standing up at those nasty sinks, I washed my body all and shaved my legs. One time I even washed my hair at a Walmart in Rhode Island. (the first Walmart I’d ever seen) The odd thing was, not having a place to bathe didn’t seem to bother the other three girls. They just ran a pan of water out of the holding tank of the motor home, sponged off and sprayed cologne and deodorant on themselves. They thought I was weird for complaining. In fact, they dubbed me as “Jean, Miss Hygiene”. Sometimes we got lucky and the club furnished rooms. That’s when I’d take a long shower every day while we were there and relish each minute of it. And you know what, to this very day, each evening when I step into the shower I think about how lucky I am to have a place to wash up.

Frye’s Barn

I can tell you that we had a lot of strange experiences while on the road. This one was no different. It was late September and the weather in New England was starting to get chilly. The colorful foliage was like postcards I’d seen. Farmers had vegetable stands on the side of the road and we stopped and bought some fresh tomatoes and some Macintosh apples. We had a one nighter at a place in Vermont called Frye’s Barn. It was in the afternoon and the sun was already starting to move lower in the sky. Winding through the steep White Mountains Barbara kept searching for the address. We couldn’t understand where in the world it could be. There was no town nearby and all that was visible were farms and country houses. Accustomed to seeing some kind of sign denoting the venue, we kept looking and saw nothing. After circling around and backtracking we spotted an address matching the one Barbara had written on our contract. “This just can’t be it,” I said. “I don’t see anything but an old barn. There’s no club here.”

“Well, I’m pulling in here anyway.” Barbara said. “Maybe somebody around here can give us some directions if this isn’t the place.”

The motor home wobbled it’s way up a winding driveway to the top of a steep hill where it’d leveled off. There was a what looked like a two story dairy barn. Cows were walking around every which direction, un-tethered and not fenced in. Barbara got out and went inside to ask questions. She wasn’t gone but a couple of minutes, when she was back opening the door to our traveling house, “This is it!”

“You must be kidding! Where is the club?” we were all asking.

Barbara pointed to the second floor of the dairy barn, “Up those steps in that barn.”

“Naw, it can’t be…” I was saying in disbelief.

“Yeah it is. All right, let’s get to unloading.” Barbara directed.

I was still in pure shock. Who would come see us out in the middle of nowhere and cows milling around everywhere?

We proceeded to unload our equipment and I remember like it was yesterday rolling my new Kustom amp with its shiny chrome wheels through cow manure and it getting clogged in the wheels. Then we had to carry all that stuff up a set of narrow rickety wooden stairs to the second floor.

Once we were inside, I noticed the place had wooden plank floors and the stage was elevated at the far end of the building. There were a few picnic tables scattered about and wooden benches lined the wall. At the other end was a bar made out of the same wood planks as everything else was and a snack bar to the opposite side of the main door. Alcohol wasn’t served there, because we were told it was a family place. I kept wondering if anyone would show up in such a remote area.

That evening I was in for a big surprise. I don’t know where they came from, but the place was packed. It looked as if we’d gone back in time. The women all had long hair and were dressed in floor length pioneer dresses and wearing leather combat-style boots. Most of the men were wearing bib overalls and slouchy hats. The children were dressed the same way. What a weird place, I thought to myself.

Starting our first set we did our own up-beat rendition of “Proud Mary” and the dance floor filled up. As the night progressed I got to noticing some of the men going outside, then coming back in. We figured out they were going out to their cars for a snort since the place didn’t serve alcohol.

Around the third set, a man dressed in a beige trench coat approached the front of the stage. We were playing an up-tempo number and Donna motioned for me to look at the guy standing out front. There he was with all his manhood hanging out and bouncing to the beat…and this was supposed to be a family place. Barbara turned around from her keyboard and told us to keep playing that she was going after the manager. Before the song ended, the manager had quietly escorted the flasher out of the building.

Later that night after we’d finished and were back on the road we all had a big laugh about the flasher saying things like, “We should’ve left him alone. Wonder what he would’ve done to the beat of a slow one?”

Those laughs we had made some of the not-so-pleasant events of the road more worthwhile.

The Military Bases

We played a number of Air Force and Naval bases up through New England, and every place we went we got an unbelievable reception for us to be virtually “nobodies”.

We were at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth NH and they furnished us with a PA so we didn’t have to unload ours. This was one of those huge Voice of the Theatre PAs with treble horns at the top of each cabinet. Before show time we did a sound check, and I began singing into the mic. The sound was incredible! I couldn’t believe it was actually me I was hearing. Back in those days few bands had monitors so it was indeed a surprise for one to hear one’s self. There was no one in the club when we did our sound check, but that night when we walked onto the stage the place was packed to overflowing. They were screaming, whistling, and applauding so loud that we could hardly hear ourselves, even with those big speakers. I could only imagine what the Beatles experienced. I can say… that was fun.

We played at Groton Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut. That was where I acquired the name, “Imajean”

We had just gotten back on stage after a break, when one of those Navy boys approached me and asked me my name. The jukebox was still blaring so the guy couldn’t hear me very well. I answered saying, “I’m Jean.”

He said, “Imajean. Well good to meet you Imajean. You shore are purty!”

The rest of the night he was calling me Imajean.

“Hey Imajean, do you know certain such a song.”

That was all it took for me to be kidded by the rest of the band…they all called me Imajean from then on when they were kidding about something.

The next day we were invited to have lunch on a real submarine. We had to make our way through a small hole at the top of the vessel and climb down a steep ladder. For drinks, we were served green Kool-Aid, which they called bug juice. They explained that carbonated beverages were not allowed–something about the carbonation under water. We toured the ship and there were places we were not allowed to see because they were considered “classified”. We never left the dock, but I never dreamed I’d be on a submarine.

Thule Greenland

Of all the experiences I had playing military bases, this was the most memorable. We had to get a bunch of inoculations before going over seas, then had to have special work permits. We didn’t need a passport since we were working for a military base. The plan was that we were to fly to Greenland out of McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey on a cargo plane. It just so happened that the time we were to leave that there were none available so a DC-9 jet was chartered to transport us to Greenland. We were the only ones on the plane other than the pilot, co-pilot and a steward. I happened to mention to the co-pilot that I’d never seen the inside of a jet cockpit and he invited me to sit in front in the steward’s seat between the pilot and himself. Never have I seen so many lights and buttons. The view was magnificent and scary all at the same time. We landed in Goose Bay for refueling and I took my place back in the passenger cabin.

As we were about to land in Thule, looking out my window I could see icebergs floating on the ocean below. There was a majestic rocky mountain straight ahead of us, and it looked like were headed right into the side of it. I held my breath and soon we were on the other side approaching the landing strip.

As soon as we landed we were outfitted with government issued parkas and briefed on how to handle the severe weather conditions, rules and regulations, such as no men allowed in our barracks, when and where we were to have our meals, etc. We happened to be there in December, during their dark season. When I say dark season, I mean it was night time twenty-four hours a day the whole three weeks we were there. Although the temperature stayed between forty and sixty below, it felt more like twenty above anywhere else, because of the extremely low humidity. Even though there was hard packed snow on the ground, we were told that it did not snow there. The snow we saw had been delivered by wind. The whole base was situated on a polar ice cap.

It was strange to be going to lunch at noon when it looked like midnight. Arctic foxes hung around the mess hall and we fed them scraps from our meals. I found out their dark season lasted six months out of the year, then it was daylight all the time for the other six months.

We were told that some of the service men there hadn’t seen a woman in over a year except for some of the entertainers who came and went. Therefore, each of us had to be assigned a body guard. The body guards were Danish civilians and traveled with us every place we went on the base. Trouble was, we needed more body guards to protect us from the body guards we already had. Those guys had, as the old saying goes, “Roman hands and Russian fingers”. My protector kept trying to get me to go off somewhere and have sex with him and I just laughed it off brushing away his hands at the same time.

Being in an all girl band was definitely a novelty. Each place we showed up the crowds were a bit rowdy and loud. However, that was nothing next to the reception we received when we opened our show in Thule Greenland. There were whistles, cat calls, applause, stomping, whooping and hollering. The stage was a large auditorium size and there was a space backstage for us to stay during our breaks. After our first set, I knew what that backstage area was for. What happened next came as a surprise. As soon as we stepped off that stage, hands came from all directions and my butt felt like I’d landed into a bed of lobsters. After escaping all the pinchers, I hurried back to the stage, body guard in tow, and ran behind the curtain. It wasn’t long before Barbara and the rest followed.

“What was that, a feeding frenzy?” I asked.

“Oh that happens to all women who come here.” the body guard answered in broken English.

From that night until the last night we played there, all our breaks were taken backstage. The body guards brought us our drinks.

I found out that we were only five hundred miles south of the north pole. We were taken on a tour of the Air Force base and were told that it was actually a missile tracking station. Our tour started with us being shown the various buildings around the base and then we were taken under ground. There was a whole city below, with streets and everything. We saw rooms with giant screens showing maps of the world and strategic locations of the various military bases all over the world. It was my understanding that they were equipped to intercept any enemy missile coming in the direction of the United States. Like when we toured the submarine, we were shown some things while others were classified information.

With all that said, I really did enjoy our time in Greenland. We each had our own room and I got to take a shower daily. Plus, we were in one spot and didn’t have any long trips between gigs. I loved those sit-down jobs.

We returned to Greenland twice more while I traveled with the Hot Pants, each time during the night season. When back in the USA it was always good to see the sunshine again.

On the road with the Tennessee Hot Pants, Thule, Greenland, 1974 

Fairs and Carnivals

The following spring we played several fairs and carnivals. One in particular I remember was in upstate New York, a town called Addison. The weather was just right, not too hot and we were outside. There were at least two or three thousand people at the show. After we finished several people came up for autographs. We weren’t famous so I had trouble understanding why anyone would want our autograph. I signed everything from casts, to bare backs, programs, to pictures. All those folks were friendly saying they wanted us to come back to their fair the following year.

We appeared at the Dallastown Fair in Pennsylvania in an amphitheater. We got ourselves ready for our performance back stage and when it was time for us to come out, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was during the day so we could see everything well. There were people as far as the eye could see. In the distance the faces turned into little dots. I’d never before seen that many people in one place. We started our first number and suddenly I forgot how to play. My bass felt like something strange hanging around my neck. Barbara turned around and looked at me wondering why I wasn’t playing. I was purely dumbfounded. That was the worst case of stage fright I’d ever experienced. Before the song was over, however, I was back to playing. It didn’t seem to bother the other band members at all. I guess I didn’t expect to see that many eyes watching us.

That spring and summer we played a whole circuit of fairs all the way from New York, to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The fair food we feasted on was delicious and I loved the reaction of all the crowds.

The Places We Played

We traveled to places as far west as Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and as far north as Maine and Canada. I always wanted to go down south toward Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, but our agent only had contacts in the north.

I had my Fender Precision bass stolen right off the stage in Detroit. Donna’s guitar wasn’t touched. We were playing at the Crazy Horse Saloon which was part of a motel in Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. We got our instruments tuned up before the show, then left for about thirty or forty minutes to get a bite to eat. When we got back, my bass was gone. Nobody in the bar saw a thing. Anyway for the rest of the night I played tambourine. On the remainder of the tour, I rented a bass from a music stores until we got back home. I just happened to have my old Fender Mustang bass at home which I used until I could order another like the one I had.

Some of the other places we played were the Harvard Lounge in Concord NH, Kevin’s Korner in Boston, the Ridge Runner Club in Milus, Massachusetts, then on north to the Bear’s Den located near an Indian reservation in Ontario, Canada. That place was one of the nicest, plush dinner clubs we’d played until just after midnight when those Indians got full of “fire water” and all the fighting started. There were glasses and beer bottles flying every which way. Barbara said for us to keep playing during all that commotion so I stooped down behind my amp to dodge all the flying debris. At quitting time that place looked like a tornado had swept through. The club owner said that happened every Saturday night. We worked a week at the Strand Lounge in Moncton, New Brunswick and then on to Prince Edward Island in Canada where we had to catch a ferry to get there. We were booked in the club where Anne Murray got her start.

Then traveling west again, we were back in Detroit at Gordon’s Lounge where we were asked to play while the strippers did their thing. Barbara told the club manager no, that weren’t hired to back strippers, that there was nothing in our contract saying we had to do so. We were just about to start tearing down our equipment and walk out of there when the manager agreed for us to stay and not have to supply the music for the strippers. When we took our break the strippers took the stage and performed to the music of the jukebox. On about our third set I did the song, “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. After the first chorus and the ride I decided to do something crazy on the second chorus. I turned around and told Kathy to go into a strip tease beat on the next chorus. As the chorus started I was singing “When tears come down, like falling rain…” and Kathy was playing that strip tease beat. I started kicking my legs up in the air one at a time to the rhythm, and the crowd went wild. You might say I was making fun of those strippers. Loud yells and whistles came from the audience telling me to “take it off” (of course I didn’t). I thought Barbara, Donna, and Kathy would bust a gut laughing. I had to do that song two more times like that before we finished for the night.

From then on, that was our new arrangement for “Your Cheatin’ Heart”…straight through to the second chorus, then the strip beat. Everywhere we played, thereafter, that song got a rousing applause.

I could tell you a lot more stories about my time with the Tennessee Hot Pants, but it would take up too much space. The last place I worked with them was the New Plaza Motel in Brewer, Maine. I’d like to interject, that I recently read that my favorite author, Stephen King was living in Brewer at that same time before he was famous, and I often wonder if he ever came in to see us. We were there for two weeks on two or three different occasions…Just a thought. Ha. I keep looking for us in one of his books.

Anyway, I left the Hot Pants in February of 1974 to pursue other endeavors. I was fed up with living like a vagabond. Upon returning to Nashville I played with various bands from time to time, but ultimately quit the music business altogether.

Scratching The Music Itch

I couldn’t stay away from music forever, so in 1989 I taught myself how to be a recording engineer. I ordered books, subscribed to publications giving recording tips to their readers, and took a mail-order course on the subject. Having my garage converted into a studio, by 1990 after borrowing money from the bank to buy all the necessary equipment and outboard gear I had my own commercial business. At the same time, I worked a day job as a quality control chemist, doing what I was trained for in college. Nights and weekends I worked the studio.

In 1996 I met my husband, Ellis Starkey who was a musician and writer. We got together and co-wrote some songs and fell in love. He always says that music is like a drug addiction. Once hooked, you can never kick the habit. Ellis, whom I call Butch, and I have now put out four comedy/music CDs, and have submitted over thirty-five individual projects to a major record company. Our act is called “Butch and Jean”. After all these years, we are still scratching that music itch, trying to get “something going”.

In these stories I’ve told you, some are about music directly and some are not…but the ones that are not were all made possible because of the music.

Well here I’ve come full circle. It all started with a garage band and now I’m back in the garage with my studio. From a garage band to a garage studio.

To be continued…I hope.

Jean Callaway

The Mystics (Westchester, NY)

The Mystics came from either Valhalla or White Plains, and had turned in a decent cover of the Peppermint Trolley Company’s “Lollipop Train” on the Ren-Vell Battle of the Bands album, which I covered last year.

Members were Jimmy Carpenito vocals and guitar, Charlie Sinerate guitar, Bob Fresta organ, Dan Liberati bass and Mike Mruz on drums. Jimmy Carpenito stayed active in music.

For their follow-up single they recorded a novelty original called “Ride My Pony (Come)”, complete with carousel calliope organ playing, and written by James Carpenito and Bob Fresta.

The flip is an excellent cover of the P.F. Sloan & Steve Barri song “This Is What I Was Made For”, which had been previously been done by the Grass Roots (on Dunhill records) and Wild Life (on Columbia). All copies of the Mystics’ version have a short audible glitch that comes in about 45 seconds into the song, probably dirt or damage to the master stamper.

They have another 45 with two original songs by Jimmy Carpenito on their own Mystic label, “Orphan” / “Bad to Me”, that I haven’t heard yet. These were recorded at White Plains Recording Studio. The group played on the Zacherle show at some point.

Thanks to Ron for the label shots of Orphan / Bad to Me.

The Ultimate

Clockwise from top left: Jim Hemenway, Bill Walker, Dwight Fenski and Ken (Wimpy) Mitchell.
Photo courtesy of Jim Hemenway
Bill Walker – organ, vocals
Jim Hemenway – guitar and vocals
Dwight Fenski – bass
Ken Mitchell – drums and vocals

The strong vocals and organ playing distinguish “Keep on Looking”, written and sung by Bill Walker. It’s backed with a cover of Los Bravos’ “Black Is Black”.

It was released on the Garland label of Salem, which also released fine 45s by the Zero End and the Morning Reign.

There was some confusion as to whether or not the Ultimate (singular) were related to an earlier group The Ultimates (plural) until Bill Walker and Jim Hemenway contacted me and left the comments below. Since there was a connection between the two, let’s go back and first talk about the Ultimates.

After touring as part of the Champs of “Tequila” fame, drummer Gary Nieland and lead guitarist Leon Sanders formed the Ultimates in 1963 in Boise, Idaho with bassist Allen Crawford and keyboardist Gary Sullivan. They eventually relocated to Salem, Oregon, where they recorded a 45 on Lavender, “My Babe” / “Little Girl”, then changed their name to Prince Charles and the Crusaders.

Bill Walker picks up the story from here:

Gary Neiland was owner of Garland Records. He was also a talent booking agency. When Gary left Prince Charles and the Crusaders his wife and he started a group called Fatt Twice Together.

He still booked them [the Crusaders], they changed their name to the Dart. Our group was called The Last Resort. A club owner in Salem, Oregon liked our group, but not the name. So Gary suggested we change it to The Ultimate.

“Keep on Looking” was recorded January of 1969 in Salem, Oregon. The record made number one in the top forty in Great Falls, Montana. We could never get our record played in the Portland, Oregon radio market. It’s all about marketing and we were just working musicians.

After we left Gary’s booking agency, we added a horn player. Jim and I also played horns and changed our name to Five Straight Up. The members were all lead vocalists. The band became a rock show band, it was a great group. Jim Hemenway and I have worked together off and on for the past forty years.

Bill Walker
Scappoose, Oregon

Thanks to Bill and Jim for the information and the photo of the group. As an aside, Dart recorded a great 45 on Garland, “Genevieve”, written by Earl Chipley.

The Chessmen (TX) – photos of the original band

This page only contains photos and info on the first lineup of the Chessmen – see the main entry on the Chessmen for the full story (so far) of this important band.

Ron DiIulio: “This is a group photo of the founding members of the Chessmen. Robert Patton on guitar, Tommy Carter on bass, Tommy Carrigan on drums, and me on piano. This was taken by a professional photographer on the stage at the Campus Theater in Denton when George Rickrich was managing the band.
Ron DiIulio sent these incredibly rare photos of the initial lineup of the Chessmen. Ron enrolled at North Texas State University in Denton in the fall of 1964, where he met Tommy Carter in the dorms. Together they started the Chessmen along with Robert Patton and Tommy Carrigan.

They started by playing at basketball games and football pre-game rallies. At the start of 1965 they signed a management contract with George Rickrich, owner of the Fine Arts Theatre in Denton. George had them play between movie screenings, hired a photographer to take promotional photos, immediately brought them into a studio for their first record and began booking them for shows outside of Denton.

Ron left the Chessmen around May, 1965, but joined two other bands at NTSU, The Rejects and The New Sound. In 1966 Ron left NTSU and transferred to Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, to study piano with Van Cliburn, a Shreveport native. Ron joined The Group (who recorded as Noel Odom & the Group) and later the Bad Habits, among other bands – quite a musical resume!

Most of the photos below link to higher resolution versions, click if you want to see more detail.

Another from the Chessmen’s first photo session, January 1965

Ron DiIulio, January 1965

Denton Record-Chronicle, February 7, 1965
Tommy Gayle is listed as featured singer with the Chessmen

Fine Arts Theatre in 1977
photo from the University of North Texas library

“first Denton public appearance”, February 8, 1965

Denton Record-Chronicle, February 12, 1965

“fresh from Frankie Avalon tour”, April 1965
At Louann’s in Dallas, April 1965. “This was a popular SMU hangout during the mid-sixties. We were the house band there for a year!”
“A large advertising board went with us for every gig! George Rickrich, our manager, really did promote. In fact we had both a Continental and a hearse to go to the shows in.”

“Taken before an engagement at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas.”

Announcement for the Chessmen at the Fine Arts Theatre, Denton, between movie shows. Denton Chronicle-Record, February 12, 1965
IRI Studios, February 1965: “Our first recording session, which was completed at International Recording Inc., in Dallas. We recorded our first 2 single (45rpm’s!) at this studio.” These songs are “Dreams and Wishes” and “Save the Last Dance for Me”, released on Bismark 1010.

Recording at IRI Studios, February 1965

“Tommy Carter and me working out parts during one of our recording sessions at IRI studios.”

“From IRI recording studio in Dallas, taken from behind the matching tan Fender guitar amps. (Our manager wanted us to have the latest gear! so he bought it for us!).”
Thank you to Ron DiIulio for sharing his unique photo collection.

The Runaways

I don’t know anything about the Runaways, there’s just this one fine 45 from 1966. From the opening melody played on a twelve string and bass in unison, the band moves through “It Don’t Mean a Thing” in all of 1:45. Vocals and drumming are solid, and the guitarist lays down a solo that barely strays from repeating the melody line!

Terry Johnson wrote both songs on the 45, the flip being the weeper “Please Do”. This was released as Highland 1170, with production by Phonic Arts.

The Highland label was owned by Sid Talmadge, releasing 45s from 1958 through 1980. Sonny Bono was doing A&R for Highland at this time and had a 45 on Highland 1160 as ‘Sonny’ – “I’ll Change” / “Try It Out on Me”. Perhaps he was involved in bringing them to the label.

Other garage 45s on Highland include the Insects’ “Girl That Sits There” / “Then You Came My Way” and Harry Hellings & the Radials’ “Tale of a Crystal Ship”.

The Vibrations

The Vibrations, 1963, l-r: Jack Starkey, Barry Leonard, Rex Harmonson and Al Moses

Jack Starkey sent me these excellent photos of his first band, the Vibrations. For those who saw the Four Dimensions post last week, take another look as I’ve updated it with two photos Jack sent in.

Jack Starkey: The Vibrations were formed by Al and me during our junior year in high school. The band had several forms over the 2 1/2 years we were together. The final band was two guitars, drums, bass, and electric piano.

We played steadily in northern New Mexico and at Las Cruces until I joined the 4 Dimensions. There are no surviving recordings of the Vibrations that I am aware of. The photo of us on stage was at a local movie theater for a promo of a rock and roll movie. I believe that Bobby Vee was on the phone talking to the girls on stage.

Most of the group have continued to play throughout their lives. Al Moses (the blond fellow) was my best friend and was playing in a band here in Arizona called the Rusty Zippers. Al and Rex have passed away, but the others still perform in some capacity. Ronnie was a teacher and had a band in California. He was in the Sacramento area and his group used to play at the governor’s mansion during Governor Jerry Brown’s reign.

The Vibrations, 1964, l-r back row: Al Moses, Jack Starkey and Rex Harmonson; front: Tim Long and Ronnie Nemec

The Vibrations, 1963

The Malemen

The Malemen from left: Bill Avera, Ed Bacon, Larry Bacon and Randy Bushee
Updated April 2011

I really like this 45. “My Little Girl” has rockabilly-style guitar with a light touch and drumming to match. “She Means All the World to Me” is the ballad side, and a great one if you can dig the slowness.

The T4KM- prefix in the coding signifies a RCA custom press from the first half of 1966. This predates other 45s I know of on the Pine Hills (PH) label. Don Gore ran the studio in the Pine Hills neighborhood, just west of downtown Orlando. H.F. Gore may have been the same person, or a relative, but he’s credited with producing this 45. H.F. Gore also had a country 45 backed by the Undertakers.

Jeff Lemlich’s Savage Lost mentions that the Malemen backed Sue Pennie on her Dunmar 45 “Ghost Town” / “He’s Everything I Need”, which I’ve never heard or seen. They also covered “Norweigan Wood” for the rare Bee Jay Booking Agency LP 12 Groovy Hits, 12 Florida Bands on Tener.

I couldn’t find much concrete info on the Malemen until guitarist Randy Bushee contacted me.

I played in a couple of good bands in Orlando during the ’60s … The Malemen and Oxford Blue. Also the Brass Opera at the Citizen’s Nation Bank building, downtown Orlando.

The Malemen during my time was Bill Avera on guitar, Ed Bacon on bass, his brother Larry Bacon on drums. Larry and I would switch off sets, I’d play drums a set while Larry played guitar, then we’d switch off. We played Beatles, James Brown tunes and I did a few ballads too.

I just met up with the drummer from Covington Tower (another group from Orlando). He gave me an old newspaper clipping about Don Gore. It has a picture of The Malemen while I was in the band. I don’t remember recording but the picture is of me and them and the story is about his recording place in Pine Hills. I was with the Malemen before or after those recordings.

Oxford Blue was a “soul band,” we had a horn section. We did several of the Blood Sweat & Tears hits as well as the James Brown type of stuff. I was pleased to see that old Orlando Youth Center Schedule with our name on it [see the State of Mind entry].

I wrote “Alice in Wonderland” in 12th grade. It was about my then girlfriend, Alice. I sang it at my 12th grade talent show, I won it too. The other side of the record was a cover of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. We were a band with horn section and put our own touch to it. I did a lot of work with Eric Schaubacher at BeeJay in Oxford Blue. Eric went on to a successful career. You can see him at Winter Wood studios in the Ozark mountains where he has a resort style recording studio with many gold records hanging on the wall. Oxford Blue got together a while back for a reunion.

Larry is a retired sheriff now playing music with Patty Mann in Colorado. Eddie, Larry’s brother is a retired US Marine. Not sure what Bill is doing yet. I am trying to find those guys. My emails to them keep bouncing so they must have new ones. I just moved back to FL after being gone almost 30 years. I am still pretty active playing in bands even at the young age of 62!

Randy Bushee

Randy sent this profile of Don Gore and the Malemen from, I believe, the Orlando Evening-Star. It discusses the start of Pine Hills Recording in detail, saying that Don Gore put over $12,000 into buying Ampex decks, a Gates mixing board, a Fisher Eco-Reverb and a Rekokut dub cutter. He started the studio as much out of interest in recording engineering as in turning a profit. “‘Kids used to use my place to practice,’ he said. ‘There wasn’t any place in the area to record.'” Pine Hills had only a few small hits around the Orlando area, but Don’s legacy will include all the good music he recorded.

The article also mentions upcoming releases – a country disc by Jerry Morris & John Lindy’s String Band and a rock group called the Thunders. I’m not sure if these ever saw release. Jeff Lemlich tells me “The Thunders were probably the Fabulous Thunder. They were from the Orlando area, and were booked by Bee Jay (the guys behind the Tener label). The only 45 of theirs I know is ‘So Hold Me Tight’/’Jealous Of You’, on Tight 3606 from January 1966″.

Profile of Pine HIlls Recording Company’s Don Gore and the Malemen,
Orlando Evening-Star