Steve Howard – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Richard Parker – harmonica, vocals, screechophone, piano, percussion
Steve Lowry – bass guitar, vocals
Doug Dossett – lead guitar, vocals
Vick Nuuttila – electric lead tambourine, electric klaghorn, electric vocals
Drummers included: Mike McIver, Johnny Smith, David Anderson and Barry Whistler.
Other members heard on these recordings are Bobby Bassett (vocal: “I’m A Little Fat Boy”), Connie Collins (organ: “Blind Man”), Dennis Keys (guitar: “I Do Believe You’re Dreaming”, “Close Your Eyes”), Danny Porter (pedal steel guitar on “If You Really Want Me To” and “In My Life”).
Sometimes the number in the group would be four or five and other times it would swell to ten or twelve. We never knew how many of the group would show up, or which ones of us would be among the present. If we were playing at a birthday party or gas station grand opening or some other gala event, and four guys showed up, it would sometimes be just the bass player, the harmonica blower, the tambourine rattler and the guy who carried the amplifiers. We’d play anyway, and no one in the audience seemed to notice the eerie silence where the guitar breaks should have been or where the drum solo was supposed to go.
Nevertheless, we were among the musical elite in the area, being hailed as the “best band north of Garland Road and west of Peavy Road yet southeast of Rustic Circle, bounded by Sylvania Drive to the east and Timmy’s house on the southwest.” Quite an honor.
Recording – Simply Uncalled For
Knowing in our hearts that we were about to make musical history, we wanted to make sure that this legacy would live throughout the ages. The only way to do this of course was to make a record. So in 1965 we booked one solid hour in an upstairs, downtown recording studio, which was famous for recording on two tracks! This was the big time.
The hour that we booked included the time it took us to unpack the cars, load our equipment up the stairs, set up and tune up (man, I wish we had recorded that tune-up, as it was one of our very best.) In the same hour we also had to tear down the equipment and get it the heck out of the studio to make way for whoever had booked the following fifteen minutes of studio time.
That left us with about seventeen minutes of actual recording time for our four songs. This turned out to be more than enough and we spent the last five minutes smoking cigarettes and planning our Grammy acceptance speeches. In the session, four lasting musical memories were perpetrated: Lydia, Everybody Out of the Pool, Lewis Lewis and the tune which would inevitably become our signature song, I Know What You’re Trying To Do But You Can’t Get Away With It.
Lydia had lyrics that were so bad that even The Rain Kings were embarrassed by them (including the immortal line “If you should leave, my name is Steve.”)
We decided to go for broke and pressed one hundred copies of our record, and in six short months we had sold almost one-third of them for a clear profit of sixteen cents.
The Rain Kings may have been the first “anti-band”. We set out to be weird and succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. Often our audiences didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. Often we didn’t either. This sometimes ended up antagonizing rather than entertaining the audience. In The Rain Kings’ performances, we not only began to enjoy this audience confusion and sometimes anger, we courted it. After all, the only reputation we had was one of weirdness interrupted by occasional music, so we decided to maximize our public image and go for it all. We set our goal on “Stupid”. Our reasoning was that merely being bad was not enough to bring in the patrons, and being bad and weird was somehow even worse. But being “stupid”…now that had possibilities.
There’s logic in there somewhere. People will gather to watch the clean-up of a car wreck. They will stop at an empty field and say “Look, here’s where old Henderson’s barn used to be.” They will watch mimes perform. Therefore, if it is presented right, people will watch anything.
Crowds of curious and disappointed fans flocked in the high single digits to our Stupid Show. We played one song while laying on our backs. We sang a rock version of a radio commercial for pies. We sang a hillbilly ballad from the 1930s accompanied only by the sound of tire tools pounding on wooden objects. We sang our “hit” records, of course, since they were incredibly stupid even before we planned to be that way.
One touch that seemed to affect every song performed was “the standard Rain King ending”, which usually meant that the song went on way too long or crashed to a finale in a musical wreck of non-stop non-stopping.
The band often played songs with their backs to the audience or while laying down on the stage.
At one time the band included a performer whose entire function was to shake a pair of small deer antlers, which made no sound at all. We often – intentionally – sang in a key different from the musical instruments. We referred to this as “singing in the key of ‘R’”.
We planned to be stupid, even billing ourselves as the world’s worst band. And the people accepted us as just that. Success at last.