Category Archives: US

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 FrankStallone.com


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 DuluthRocked.com, which now seems to be off the web. Thanks to Parkeo for finding that.

The Rain Kings


The Rain Kings, December 1966

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

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

Richard Parker: Rebels Without Applause – The Rain Kings Story

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

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

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

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

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


Steve Howard, Richard Parker and Steve Lowry

Richard Parker and Steve Lowry
The Band:

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

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

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

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

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

Recording – Simply Uncalled For

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

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

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

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

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

In Concert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Richard Parker and Steve Howard
Steve Howard and Richard Parker


Richard Parker


Richard on washboard, Jon Clifford shaking the antlers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Parker

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


Gretta Spoone Band, early 1968


Gretta Spoone Band, 1968 lineup

One Eyed Jacks (Texas)

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

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

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

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

The Apolloes (Swingin’ Apolloes)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pat Ray

45 releases:

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

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

String and the Beans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Louis Gigis

Robbie Robertson added:

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

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

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

Robbie Robertson

The Banshees / Ariel / Kensington Forest


The Banshees

Updated August 7, 2008

The Banshees were students at Mills High School in Millbrae, just south of San Francisco. They had started in 1962 as an instrumental group the Black Knights, changing their name to the Banshees when they added a vocalist in ’64. Members were Jack Walters, Chris Guiver and Paul and Dennis Studebaker, and for a short time Bob Morelli.

They released two records on the Solo label including the crude and energetic “They Prefer Blondes” / “Take a Ride with Me”. “They Prefer Blondes” was written by Jack Walters, while “Take a Ride with Me” was by Paul Studebaker, and both songs were arranged by Paul Studebaker. Lou Dorren, a high-school friend of the band produced both of their Solo 45s, and also recorded them in a later incarnation as the Kensington Forest.

With the help of his brother, George Guiver, I’ve heard from founding member of the band Chris Guiver, who kindly gave a detailed history of the band. Jason Sweitzer spoke to the Banshees’ friend and producer Lou Dorren about his early years as a sound engineer. Fascinating in itself, Lou’s story sheds light on the Banshees progression from garage act to professional musicians.

Chris Guiver:

Jack and I knew of each other from Lincoln School kindergarten. They lived within walking distance in old Burlingame. Later, in early high school (1962-63), we became best of friends through music and life. My mom was a great singer and dancer from the 40’s and apparent genetics rubbed off. I elected to learn saxophone in the 4th grade, taking school lessons. Jack was taking guitar lessons from early on too, found surf music an attraction and moved to electric – always a Fender Telecaster.

Paul and Dennis, the Studebaker brothers, were talent and intelligence beyond belief. Paul played lead trumpet in the Mills High band and orchestra. Dennis played tenor sax in the band. Paul, Dennis and I all went crazy for swing and were members of the award-winning jazz band at the high school. The three played in jazz combos, free-lance and otherwise and actually played “gigs” This is also where we connected with Jack Walters, who to this day, is viewed as a genius song writer.

At the end of that freshman year and in summer, the foursome started to play rock together. Songs like “What’d I Say” and “La Bamba” were played over and over at the YMCA dances and eventually at San Jose State frat parties. Many practice hours in the Studebaker basement began to bring proficiency, style and a great joy in music and friendships. And that is when the first recording of “They Prefer Blondes” and “Take A Ride With Me” was recorded in the hall of the Presbyterian Church (couple of mics and shared amplifiers).

Later in the sophomore year (1964), Jack, Paul and Dennis met Bob Morelli who sang like Gerry of Gerry and the Pacemakers. The four of them linked up and established great harmonies together and won the California Band Wars as The Banshees. Shortly after, missing the sax, I was asked to join again. The five-some played together for about 6 months, playing once as a greeting band for “Chad and Jeremy” and “Sonny and Cher”. Bob went his way, leaving the four-some alone as the Banshees.

For the Banshees around these times, four gods began to walk the earth – naming themselves “The Beatles”. Went to both San Francisco concerts.

The original “geek” of the high school, Lou Dorren, heard the group and wished to record them in his garage. That was the beginning onslaught of fantastic original material written by Jack.

Jason Sweitzer notes Lou’s perspective on the first Banshees record:

The SOLO imprint was Lou’s conception. He was 15 when he recorded and produced “They Prefer Blondes” in the Millbrae Presbyterian Church recreation room, with full permission of the priest! Prior to this he hadn’t made any garage recordings of them.

Originally, the song was going to be titled “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” but Marilyn Monroe had recorded a song with that title for a movie of the same name.

Using a Roberts Crossfield 770 reel-to-reel recorder and two cardioid dynamic microphones, which Lou and his friend Don purchased for the occasion from Lafayette Electronics in San Francisco, they recorded five or six takes each of “They Prefer Blondes” and “Take a Ride with Me” until the band got the one they liked.

Lou had the tracks mastered and sent to Monarch Record Mfg Co., Los Angeles. Two thousand copies were pressed circa July 1965 and the majority of them were sold for 99¢ at LeCor Camera & Hi-Fi in Millbrae, where Lou worked a part time after-school job, and at White Front Department Store in Sunnyvale, where Lou’s uncle was manager.

Despite being a local success, Lou was unhappy with the sound of SOLO 1 and decided to book time at Coast Recorders at 960 Bush St. in San Francisco to record a follow-up.

At Coast they recorded “Never Said I Loved You” and “So Hard to Bear” on a ½” 3-track vacuum tube recorder. This was Lou’s first shot at mixing, and SOLO 2 was pressed mid-September 1965.

These songs show the band developing their melodic side which they would improve upon in their next incarnation. Both songs were written by Jack Walters and arranged by Paul Studebaker.

With this brief stint at Coast under his belt, Lou begged manager Mel Tanner for a job and began helping out in the studio under the supervision of chief engineer Don Geis. It wasn’t long before Lou made his first master cut of the Beau Brummels “Don’t Talk to Strangers.”

Meanwhile the Banshees continued performing, soon landing their first recording contract.


The Banshees playing in front of the Hyatt Theater, before a Chad & Jeremy and Sonny & Cher concert.


from the 1966 San Francisco yellow pages
The Ariel

In the fall of 1966 the Banshees received a deal with Bob Shad’s Mainstream label, and traveled down to L.A. to record one single, the very beautiful “It Feels Like I’m Crying” b/w “I Love You.”

This 45 was released as “The Ariel” on the Brent label (another company owned by Shad). In sound these songs are a world away from They Prefer Blondes, with excellent harmonies, introspective lyrics and a delicate melodic sense.

The words of “It Feels Like I’m Crying” are agonizing:

Many times I feel like screaming,
Many times I feel like dying,
Cause you you, you you, you you, you …
Lied and it feels like I’m crying, crying, crying.

Never will I show my feelings,
Never will I show the reason,
Why she she, she she, she she, she….
Lied and it feels like I’m crying, crying, crying.

Chris Guiver:

Through ‘65 many concerts and performances with largely original material brought an inquiry by a large record label and the band was asked to “try out” at a studio in the city. One of the other bands had a pretty good singer named Janis Joplin. Both bands were contracted to go to L.A. and record in the same studio the Rolling Stones used. What a difference from the old church recordings. Big Brother and the Holding Company could just go. The Banshees had to get parental approval. The producer then didn’t feel Janis had a present enough voice and, yes, required her to double-track her singing!

Local fame had risen and a highlight moment was a senior dance at the high school. The air was sparked with excitement. Regrettably, Paul took ill and couldn’t perform leaving the 3 to fake it. Paul was a year ahead and had gone off to Berkeley leaving the band without its leader and at the end of the ‘65/’66 year the band dispersed.

Kensington Forest

In early 1967 Jack Walters brought Lou a demo of his new song “Bells.” Lou suggested Jack assemble a band and invited them over to Coast Recorders to record it. The newly named Kensington Forest included Jack Walters, Chris Guiver, Dennis Studebaker and Jack’s sister. As the flip to “Bells,” they recorded another Jack Walters original, “Movin’ On.”

While “Movin’ On” was mixed to mono only, Lou made both stereo and mono mixes of “Bells,” and cut separate master plates for each version himself. One thousand copies were pressed with both sides in mono and another thousand made with the stereo version of “Bells” and the mono version of “Movin’ On.” According to Lou, “Bells” was the first stereo 45 engineered to be fully compatible with a mono cartridge.

Pressed at Monarch in mid-to-late May, 1967, and distributed by Melody Sales of San Francisco, “Bells” was a popular regional hit during the summer.

Lou recalls he was driving down El Camino Real listening to “The Emperor” Gene Nelson on KYA when suddenly “Bells” was introduced. It was the first time he heard the 45 played over the radio and he describes it as a peak experience, having stopped his car mid-road to jump up and down ecstatic. Not far away the rest of the band, driving around together in Jack’s car, were doing the same on California Drive!

“Bells” has a rougher sound than the polish of the Ariel 45, but the harmonies and melodic talent are still there, along with some fine guitar work. “Movin’ On” shows the influence of the early San Francisco ballroom groups like the Charlatans and the Dead. If anyone has a better quality transfer of Bells in stereo, please get in touch.

Kensington Forest – Movin’ On
Kensington Forest – Bells (Mono version)
Kensington Forest – Bells (Stereo version)

Chris Guiver:

Dennis and I went to San Jose State the next year as dorm-mates. We stayed in touch with Jack who went to Berkeley too but dropped out after a short time wishing to continue writing songs. After a short time, Dennis met a yogi and disappeared into the spiritual only reuniting with me at the 20-year high school class reunion.

Jack and I, with another Bob, formed a group after high school. Jack’s originals, including “Oddie the Troll”, were recorded but Bob was an enthusiast of “The Who”, which didn’t always fly even though Jack was competent in the lead guitaring. I played drums. The group did record probably Jack’s greatest work “Wine Flower” for the guy who produced “Go Granny Go!” in L.A. “Wine Flower” included a string section with tremendous arrangement and harmony – along the lines of the Banshees’ “I Love You”. It is a great misfortune that Jack took mentally ill shortly after.

Gypsum Heaps

Paul Rose of Fantasy Records took an interest in “Bells” and introduced Lou to Max Weiss and Saul Zaentz. After hearing “Bells”, Max offered to distribute Lou’s fledgling Bay Sound Productions and gave Lou a job as sound engineer with Fantasy.

In late 1967 Lou placed audition ads in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner looking for new bands to record for Bay Sound Productions. By the end of the year he began releasing records on his new Onyx label, one 45 each by the Styx (Onyx 2200); the Tears (Onyx 2201); Weird Herald (Onyx 2202); and Gypsum Heaps (Onyx 2203); with Mark Darnell an unconfirmed 5th artist.

Chris Guiver:

I continued in music and minored at San Jose State, studying and playing bass. I hooked up with Rick Quintinel who became a top California drummer. Rick was connected with the East Bay sound and he and I joined together as a funky rhythm section for soul bands. During that time Rick and I played jazz too and hooked up with a group in “the 10th Street House” that was music 24/7. Two cool things transpired.

By chance, I neighbored with Pat Simmons who became the founder of the “Doobie Brothers”. I used to back him up on bass when all he wanted to perform was James Taylor and “would never go electric”. Tommy Johnson, the Doobie’s lead guitar connected with Pat at “the house” and the rest is history (noting Pat did go electric when Tommy’s Chicago Blues-style got him and they wrote songs that produced a lucrative Warner Brother’s deal.)

Wandering through the East Bay sound playing funk, Rick and I formed a band called “Gypsum Heaps”. Full rhythm section, organ and horns. The singers were Rufus Miller, the original lead singer for “Tower of Power” and Rat his gospel cousin. Hot. I wrote a song called “Would You Love”, which was recorded at Fantasy Records – the other side of the record was the Banshees’ “Movin’ On” by Jack Walters. One can easily imagine the song arranged as a “Tower of Power”. The release landed a concert for 20,000 people with “Santana” as the headliner. The Banshees lived on.

The Banshees were a unique bunch with a great love of all types of music, deep friendships and many talents. If an arrangement called for it, one might say to the other – “I think it would be better if I played guitar and you played drums so I can sing easier”. The other would respond – “Sounds good, lets do it”.

It is a great experience and honor to have played with and known The Banshees, The Ariel and Kensington Forest all of whom were the same guys in different musical venues. It is a trip after 40 years to once again hear some of our music through the efforts of Garage Hangover.

Thank you to Dan for the clips of “Never Said I Loved You” and “So Hard to Bear”. Special thanks to George Guiver for the photo of the band playing outside the Hyatt Theater, and for putting us in contact with his brother Chris.

This article written by Chris Bishop and Jason Sweitzer.

The Light Brigade

The Light Brigade were the three Cole brothers and their friends from Little Rock, Arkansas. They released their first 45 on the My label in 1967, which included James Williams on lead guitar.

“Baby You Don’t Care” rides a great fuzz tone while “Won’t You Tell Me” is much gentler. Both these songs were written by Dean Cole and bassist Lonnie Cole. Ray Cole was the other brother in the group.

“Lonnie’s Song” is from 1969, released on the E&M label. The band stopped playing around 1971.

Thank you to Angela for correcting the name of her father – James Williams, not Williamson as I had read from a comment.

Cecil Cotten, 1945-2008

I’m very sad to report that Cecil Cotten passed away on Friday, April 4, in Winnsboro, TX, at the age of 62.

Cecil was lead singer of the Briks, one of the great bands to come out of Dallas in the 1960s. He composed the lyrics for many of their songs, including “Foolish Baby”, “It’s Your Choice”, and “Can You See Me”. His singing on “It’s Your Choice” shows a maturity that no other vocal from the era matches, and he was only about 20 years old at the time.

When the Briks broke up, Cecil played for a short time in Texas with three members of the Chessmen: Jimmie Vaughan, Tommy Carter and Billy Etheridge, plus Sammy Piazza on drums. They were managed by Jimmy Rabbit and recorded some songs at Robin Hood Brians studio in Tyler which have never been released.

In 1969 he moved to San Francisco and started Benny, Cecil & the Snakes with Benny Roe, Keith Ferguson, Steve Karnavas and Steve Davis. The Snakes played house parties for the publishers of Zap Comix, the Rip Off Press.

In recent years Cecil and former Briks bandmate Mike Neal recorded a CD of blues-inspired songs as The Pickin’ Cotten Band.

It’s one of my great regrets that I never met Cecil, and his music will always mean a great deal to me.