Category Archives: US

The Scholars

The Scholars (white sweaters) with vocal trio the Perennials, plus manager Nat Segal
Cameo Parkway Studio, Philadelphia, January 28, 1967
A quintet of Drexel and Temple University students (hence the Scholars name) from the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. The only name I can associate with them is Bernie Winski, who wrote both songs on the 45, “I Need Your Lovin” and “Please Please”.

Opening with a pounding snare, “I Need Your Lovin'” is intense garage. The sound is dense, with background vocals by the Perenials [sic] and heavy swirling organ. A sax solo is followed by some great surf-type runs on the guitar. A remastering from the original tape, if it exists, might really bring out all the elements.

“Please Please” is competent but less exciting, I’m including it for the completists out there. They also cut one unreleased song, “I’m Gonna Make It”, that really shows doo-wop influence. “I’m Gonna Make It” originally appeared on the Crude PA compilation.

The 45 was released in February, 1967 on the Ruby Ray label out of Cornwell Heights (northeast of Philadelphia, I believe) and distributed by David Rosen Inc. Mastering by Frankford/Wayne.

The Perennials at Cameo Parkway Studios, Philadelphia, January 28, 1967
Update, June 2011

Three years after writing this post I am no closer to knowing the identities and full story of the Scholars, but this month backing vocalist Jack Donadio wrote to me about the session with the fine photos seen here:

I am one of the Perennials who recorded the songs featured on your website: “I Need Your Lovin'”, “Please Please”, and “I’m Gonna Make It”.

The Perennials (background vocals) consisted of three doo wop singers from Philadelphia who answered a newspaper ad and auditioned to provide the background vocals for the Scholars who had recently signed a recording contract with Nat Segal. Nat was the group’s manager and contract holder, who also produced the master tape and subsequent recording under the Ruby Ray label.

Gathered around the microphone is me (Jack Donadio), Gene (don’t know his last name) and Jim Tucker (my brother-in-law). With regard to Gene, we only met him for the first and last time at the recording session. All that I remember about Gene is that he resided in Philly and sang with various doo wop groups, as we did.

Shortly following the release of the record, the Scholars appeared on the local TV show, “Summertime on the Pier”.

The was no further musical collaboration of the Perennials and Scholars following the recording session. There was not much of a musical career for me and Jim. We sang with a lot of different groups (Frankie and the Fashions, among others). We both eventually became law enforcement officers. Jim was a Sergeant in charge of the Homicide Division in Philly and retired from there about five years ago. I became the Police Chief of New Hope Pennsylvania for seven years, then Oneonta, NY (retired from there after 25 years) and finally Hawthorne, Florida for two years. I am presently retired and living in Gainesville, Florida.

Jack Donadio, 2011

Thank you to Jack for providing the photos and information on the recording session.

Nat Segal was a clarinet player who owned the Downbeat Club in Philadelphia and booked jazz shows into the Academy of Music in the ’40s and ’50s. In the early 1960’s he went into personal management for Danny & the Juniors, the Orlons, the Dovells and DJs Bob Horn and Jerry Blavat before working with the Scholars.

Sources on Nat Segal: Jersey Jazz’s December 2009 issue (PDF document) and “To the Geator, Bob Was Horn of Plenty. To this Day, Jerry Blavat Feels Debt of Gratitude to the Show’s Founder … and its Biggest Victim” by Jonathan Takiff, Philadelphia Daily News, August 5, 1997, accessed through

The Perennials, from left: Jack Donadio, Gene (surname?) and Jim Tucker

The Perennials at Cameo Parkway Studio, Philadelphia, January 28, 1967

The Counts IV and the Inexpensive Handmade Look

The Counts IV circa early 1966, from left: Al Peluso, Rick Turner, Joe Booher, Don Roof.

There’s more to the Counts IV than I originally thought. Don Roof was sixteen when he started his first band The Little Boppers in Goldsboro, NC, southeast of Raleigh. Don was stocking vending machines at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base just outside Goldsboro when he met three musicians stationed at the base: Rick Turner, Joe Booher, and Al Peluso and together they formed the Counts IV.

The original Counts IV were Don Roof – vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica; Joe Booher – lead guitar, vocals; Al Peluso – bass, vocals; and Rick Turner – drums. Their competition around the Goldsboro area came from the Spectaculars, with Bill Stroud on sax.

They were regarded as having the British invasion sound down, which is apparent on “Lost Love”, the breezy B-side of their first 45. The A-side, “Listen to Me” stands out with its vocal trills and purposefully dissonant harmonies. Melodically it sounds sort of like an adaption of Larry Williams’ “Slow Down”. “Listen to Me” was written by Joseph Booher, and “Lost Love” by Albert A. Peluso.

This is one of the earlier releases on Raleigh DJ Jimmy Capps’ JCP label, which would date it to approximately late 1965 or early 1966. It came with a picture sleeve, occasionally done for JCP releases like the Invaders’ “(You Really) Tear Me Up” and a Dayv Butler 45. The group is listed as the Counts Four on the sleeve, but the JCP label and their next 45 both refer to them as the Counts IV.

The band replaced Rick Turner with Enrique Pacheco (‘Chico’), and toured from South Carolina up to New York. They played many shows at the Round Table in Washington D.C. and for a time were the house band at the Cavalier Club in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Their second 45, “Spoonful” / “Where Are You” was recorded in New York and came out on the CBS subsidiary Date in 1966. “Spoonful” is an adaption of the Willie Dixon song, while “Where Are You” is an upbeat original by Donald Roof with some odd female backing vocals.

Around late ’66 or early ’67 the Counts IV recorded two songs at a D.C. studio that went unreleased at the time and are now available on a Sundazed 7″. One is a cover of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, but the other is a very interesting original by Don Roof called “Discussion Of The Unorthodox Council”.

This turns out to be the same song as “What Good Is Up”, a great track released under the name The Inexpensive Handmade Look on Brunswick in August of 1968. In fact I’m almost positive it’s the same take, though the Brunswick 45 has serious amounts of echo and effects added to the performance. I wonder if someone at Brunswick retitled the song, which doesn’t quite match up with the lyrics. The Brunswick label lists Ben Mullarkey, Mike Divilion and Mike Kelly as producers. It’s backed with “Ice Cream Man”, another Donald Roof composition.

What place is up if fate has no eyes?
What smile is happiness if hate lingers on?
What word is truth if evil holds on?
What lives are lived if this [...?]

What motion is man if Satan holds on?
What is right? – ah, who can tell?

But I know the truth is written … if you look for it.

What cries are heard if people can’t see?
What sins are left if everything’s wrong?
What skies are up if all roads lead down?
What ships can sail if seas have all dried?

What left is death if people don’t live?
What are we, if the world does not turn?

But I know the truth is written … if you look for it!

There were personnel changes around this time, as Doug Farwig replaced Al Peluso.

Bassist Doug Farwig wrote in about his time with the group:

I was a member of The Inexpensive Hand Made Look. Ha! What a name.

I was very good friends with the Counts IV. I actually joined the Counts IV in Washington DC after their bass player Al left the band during a fight at one of their rehearsals. I had just left my North Carolina band “The Fabulous Dimensions”, also out of Goldsboro, NC and had gone to DC to visit The Counts IV who were playing in a Georgetown club called “The Round Table” when their little spat happened and I just so happened to be there.

They all turned to me at once and said “Doug, how would you like to play bass in our band”. I didn’t know what to say at first because I was a guitar player. I didn’t have any bass type equipment or anything. They talked me into it and off we went to Washington Music to make my big purchase. The rest is history so to speak, because I’ve been a bass player ever since.

I now live just outside of Orlando, Fl in one of the suburbs called Longwood and have been here since 1970. During that time, I have played in many bands the best of which was a group called “The Gatton Gang” in the mid 1970’s. That was a very good band and we toured with it thoughout most of the easten part of the country.

I still see and am now recording with the keyboard player (Kibby Gary) and the guitar player (Rick Warsing). Both are excellent palyers and they both have remained active in the business while I only play part time. I started my own construction conpany which is still active now.

Why no mention of “The Embers” from Raleigh? They were fabulous and even had their own strings of dinner clubs through out the state. We would run into them all over the place. Sometimes in Virginia at some frat house were they would be playing next door or as openers for some of the big shows that would come though our area from time to time.

Another one is “The Villagers”. They had their own Saturday morning TV show based out of Charlotte. They were a big band with about 9 pieces and had a guy and a gal out front that were very good. The Inexpensive Hand Made Look actually played on one of their TV shows.

Ken Taylor, drummer for Mike and the Dimensions, told me the story of how he joined the Counts IV:

Doug Farwig and I had played together in The Dimensions … We used to go see the Counts IV at the teen club on Seymour Johnson Air Force base and wanted to be just like them. They wore black turtle neck shirts, tight jeans and “Beatle boots” and we thought they were the coolest thing we had ever seen! We idolized the Counts IV and traveled with them as roadies when they opened for the Dave Clark 5. They also opened for the Zombies and I’ll never forget Chico teaching me how the drummer played the opening lick on “She’s Not There”.

Joe Booher quit the Counts IV and they broke up. Al and Chico went back to New York. We hooked up with Don Roof who had a bunch of gigs already booked to form the new Counts IV which later became the Inexpensive Handmade Look. Joe joined us for a while and we called ourselves the Counts IV but changed the name after Joe quit again.

Chico came to play with us and I was the front man. Chico quit after a while to return to his family in N.Y. and I went back on drums. I am the guy singing on “Ice Cream Man” with Inexpensive Handmade Look. When we went to N.Y. to record “Ice Cream Man” I’m pretty sure the producer was the same guy that the Counts IV had worked with and he decided to put their song on the flip side. I think they added the effects to try to make it more psychedelic.

We added another guitarist named Bill Collins also known as Mojo Collins who is still playing around North Carolina to this day.

After Doug Farwig left IHL, Don Roof and I formed a new band called Strange Brew with some guys we had met in Atlanta, GA and started playing in clubs down there. We met this guy named Jeff Lee who was a local pot dealer with connections in L.A. He supposedly got us booked at the Whiskey A Go Go and we pooled our meager funds and headed West.

We drove across the country in a Chevy van with five guys and all our equipment. When we got to L.A. we quickly found out there was no gig. We managed to find a job three doors down from the Whiskey at a bar called the Galaxy. One night this guy came in and invited us to an after hours party at the Hollywood Landmark hotel. He turned out to be Shep Gordon and offered to manage our band. He said he had a group from Phoenix that he was handling who were starving but that he believed were going to be very successful. That band turned out to be Alice Cooper and Shep is still Alice’s manager today.

We decided not to take him up on the offer (big mistake!) and a few days later we broke up after someone stole our lead player’s guitars. His name is Spencer Kirkpatrick and he was so bummed he flew back to Atlanta the next day. He later signed with Capricorn records and formed a band named Hydra.

Don went back to Atlanta and I went to D.C. where I literally ran into Doug Farwig walking down the street. That’s when he offered me the job with Wild Honey. Their drummer had left so they hired me and we had a house gig at the Bayou in Georgetown, six hours a night, six nights a week making $200.00 a week. That was a really good band with great vocals but a lot of ego problems. Once again the band broke up and I went to London, England to play and record with Denny Laine (Moody Blues, Wings).

After freezing and starving in England, I returned to D.C. and worked with some local bands before moving to San Francisco and hooking back up with Mojo and his band Initial Shock. We played at the famous Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms and opened for Santana, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and many other bands.

Ken Taylor

Ken’s stories of his time in London and San Francisco will be continued in a later article.

The Counts IV in 1969, from left to right, top: Mike Fowler, Don Roof and Mike Malonee bottom: Billy Merritt and Danny (surname?)

I presumed the group broke up sometime after the Inexpensive Handmade Look 45 but in fact Don Roof continued the band as the Counts IV with different musicians. Mike Malonee wrote to me about this lineup and sent in the photo above:

I first saw the Counts IV at the Teen Club on Seymour Johnson AFB in 1965. I was totally impressed with their look and the great British sound they were producing. I can clearly remember hearing Don Roof knock out “Twist & Shout” and thinking, that’s as good or better than The Beatles! They were very professional and an extremely tight group. I followed this group throughout the mid to late 60’s.

I was 15 years old when I formed a band call “Mike and the Dimensions” in 1965, which included Ken Taylor on drums and lead vocals. I had only been playing guitar for a year and [was] very immature. I was later replaced by Doug Farwig who I considered to be a solid guitar player and later became an even better bassist with the Counts IV.

I played in rather good band that I’d formed in Goldsboro called The Chosen Few and we won the local battle of the bands in 1968. We also opened for Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs in 1967. We were all just teenagers then and were living large. Then I grew up and tried to make a living at playing in a band. Big surprise! You can starve doing that!

In 1969, long after the original Counts IV had broken up, Don Roof replaced the original members with some younger, less talented musicians and performed under the name Counts IV. I was asked to join the group as second guitar and lead vocalist.

Don Roof was playing keyboard during this period. The other three [were] Mike Fowler (Blues), Billy Merrit, and the black dude I only remember as Danny. This version of the Counts IV lasted less than one year.

W. Michael Malonee

Rick Turner (Robert Ward Turner) passed away some years ago in Tampa, Florida. Tragically, lead guitarist Joe Booher committed suicide in 1971. Enrique Pacheco (Chico) passed away in July 2007. Don Roof currently plays with The Back Alley Band in the Manassas and Fairfax area of Virginia.

One request – if anyone has photos of the group please get in touch with me at

The Originals

The Originals recorded at least five 45s on the Van Recording label out of Angleton, Texas. Members were Gary King on lead guitar, Tommy King on bass, Ronnie Ellis rhythm guitar and George Shelton on drums.

The Originals first 45 is “Scatter-Shot”, a good instrumental written by lead guitarist Gary King, with a cover of Little Richard’s “Lucille” on the flip. It was released in 1964.

Their second (that I know of) is “Honey Blonde”, released in December of 1964 with the artist listed as Ronnie Ellis and the Originals. The b-side is a ballad, “One Little Raindrop”. Both songs were written by Monte Angell and produced by Wallace Schlemmer.

The third 45 features two rockin’ instrumentals. “Stick Shift” ’65 was written by Terry Simpson and Jessie Castor, lead guitarist and bassist, respectively, for the Raiders, who had scored a big local hit on Van with “Stick Shift” back in 1962. Gary King’s original “Blast-Off!” is just as good as the top side.

Their next had two more great instrumentals, “Night Flight” and “Comanche!”:

Another ballad “Searching for Your Love” is the A-side of their last 45 that I’m aware of, written by Wayne Gust with vocals by Ronnie Ellis and George Shelton.

I prefer the flip, another Monte Angell composition, “How Much of Your Heart”. Ronnie Ellis sings in a rough style while the guitars use heavy tremolo instead of the sharp sound on their earlier 45s. This one was recorded by Billy Snow and also recorded in 1965.

The Originals releases:

Scatter-Shot / Lucille (Van V-01464)

Honey Blonde / One Little Raindrop (Van V-01864), as “Ronnie Ellis and the Originals”

Stick Shift ’65 / Blast-Off! (Van V-02165)

Night Flight / Comanche! (Van V-03065)

Searching for Love / How Much of Your Heart (Van V-03565)

Ronnie Ellis – Goodnight Little Sweetheart / The Right Way of Doing Things Wrong (Van V-02865)

Gulf Coast Records compiled five of these songs on the LP Texas Guitars back in the ’80s. Distortion during the first seconds of “Scatter Shot” seems to be present on original 45s and that LP.

For more on the Van label see the article I’ve posted here.

Originals Brazosport Facts, April 29, 1965
profile in the Brazosport Facts, April 29, 1965

The American Express

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

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

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

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

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

The Glass Candle

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

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

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

The Pace-Setters

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

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

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

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

The American Tragedy

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

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

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

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

The American Tragedy, 1965

The Mixed Emotions (Alabama)

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry Simmons wrote to me about the group:

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

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

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

Anyone have a photo of the band?

The “Yes It Is”

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

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

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

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

The Rain Kings

The Rain Kings, December 1966

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

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

Richard Parker: Rebels Without Applause – The Rain Kings Story

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Howard, Richard Parker and Steve Lowry

Richard Parker and Steve Lowry
The Band:

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

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

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

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

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

Recording – Simply Uncalled For

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

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

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

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

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

In Concert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Parker and Steve Howard
Steve Howard and Richard Parker

Richard Parker

Richard on washboard, Jon Clifford shaking the antlers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Parker

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

Gretta Spoone Band, early 1968

Gretta Spoone Band, 1968 lineup