Category Archives: US

The Upper Class

The Upper Class included bass player John Broberg, Randy Shelton and drummer Neal St. John. Major Bill Smith’s Charay label signed them to record their two originals, “Help Me Find a Way” and “Can’t Wait.” David Norfleet of the Chants told me he went into the studio with them to help them record these songs.

“Help Me Find a Way” had hit potential from the strong vocal harmonies and upbeat production. The Charay 45 was picked up for national release by the Smash label, but didn’t chart in any market.

Beginning in 1969, John Broberg and Neal St. John played in the group “Quest” along with Chants vocalist Darrel Howard and guitarist Michael St. Romain.

The Sandmen

Calling themselves the Sandmen was the right move, ’cause you’re likely to be hit with a wave of sleepiness while listening to these dragging versions of “I Can Tell” and “You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover.” They managed to make Bo Diddley tunes sound boring twice in one session. Should have laid off the cough syrup before hitting the studio!

I’m sure I’m being too harsh – I know some people like this 45, so judge for yourself. Cut on the Minneapolis, Minnesota Studio City label in 1965.

Almost certainly not the same Sandmen from West Bend, Wisconsin, who cut the excellent World Full of Dreams on Night Owl.

The Royal Flairs

Originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Royal Flairs began as the backing band for singer Dick Hodge, cutting one single at Sears Sound Studio in Omaha, Nebraska, “Dream Angel” / “Let’s Go”, in October of 1962 as Nelson Royal, Bobby Williams and the Royal Flairs*.

The Flairs became house band at the Milrose Ballroom outside of Omaha, playing primarily surf instrumentals.

Three members stayed with the band through all of their changes: Bob Everhart (Bob Williams’ actual name) on sax and vocals, Dave Krivolavek on guitar and Dave Brubeck on bass. Other early members included Jerry Fleetwood on trumpet, Daryl Hill on organ, Brian Sallozo on sax, Brad Starr and Mike Nelson on lead guitar, and Rick Brown on drums.

Everhart, Brubeck and Krivolavek relocated to Chicago in early 1965, adding Mike Donion on drums and Mel Matthews on lead guitar and organ. In 1966 they cut two 45s for the Marina label, one as the Royal Flairs, and another as the Unlimited.

The first, “Suicide” has a sharp garage sound and a great solo. In the lyrics the singer wants to join the girl who killed herself over him. It was written by Everhart and Dave Krivolavek, with Everhart playing the harmonica. The instrumental flip, “One Pine Box” (misprinted on the label as “One Pink Box”) has an earlier surf style. It’s a gruesome number featuring the sound of scraping and a hammer nailing a coffin lid shut.

The second Marina 45 as The Unlimited was another morbid number “Feelings.” The flip was one I haven’t heard yet, “Gone Away”.

Bobby Williams remained a pseudonym for Bob Everhart as that name appears as the promotional contact on their Marina 45. For the Flairs final 45, they released the folky “Hat On Tie” as by Bobby and Dave on one side, and the killer soul screamer “My Baby Cries” as by Bobby Williams on the other. These were produced by D. Marrone for the Tonorous label.

According to the notes from Back from the Grave, the band broke up after Bob Everhart was shot when he tried to protect a 350 pound go-go dancer named Miss Temptation from a crazed patron. Bob survived the wound but decided to get out of the nightclubs while he was still in one piece!

In the 1980’s an EP Surfin’ with the Royal Flairs featured five unreleased versions of surf songs recorded in 1962. Another LP, The Royal Flairs, Rare Recordings from 1965-66 contains their singles along with a side of unreleased songs that reflect their change to r&b and British Invasion sounds, recorded in Omaha.

*The Routers cut a version of “Let’s Go” in 1962. Bob Everhart filed a complaint with BMI over the copyright of “Let’s Go”, which caused SAM owner Leona Leivas to release the copyright. However, a 1973 European Warner Brothers release of “Let’s Go” shows song writing credits to Lanny Duncan and Robert Duncan.

Sources: Royal Flairs photo from Back from the Grave 3, Marina 45 scan and transfer of Suicide taken from bosshoss’ Flac Attack vol. 1. Info from the liner notes to Rare Recordings. Thanks to Phil Dirt for the better quality rip of “One Pine Box”.

The Fire

April Brooks and Candy Hunt of Fire
April Brooks and Candy Hunt of Fire, featured in the E.J.D. Enterprises Inc. News Bulletin of Nov/Dec ’67

The Fire Vanco 45 Happy SpringtimeJP sent me this 45 by an Oregon group The Fire, released approximately 1968. “Happy Springtime” was written by Candy Hunt and David Kahl, but I prefer the b-side, “Sorry for Tryin'”, written by Candy Hunt and Jeff Kaasted, with a neat organ solo. Both sides were produced by Bill Downer and engineered by Rick Keefer.The Fire included two female singers, April Brooks and Candy Hunt, Jeff Kaasted on guitar, David Kahl on bass, and Jerry Krauser drums. John Lessig was the original frontman and the first keyboard player, Roger was replaced by Omar Burns who also doubled on trumpet.

I spoke to David Kahl about his time with the band:

I was sixteen at the time. I never intended to join the band, I was always basically a blues lover. The Animals and Yardbirds were the only bands that had appeal for me outside the blues.

I had gotten a call to audition for this band when I hadn’t actually put anything out that said I was interested. They were out in the middle of the sticks. They had a gig, needed a bass player temporarily. I agreed to join for thirty days. I stayed longer than I ever anticipated – almost a year. Getting out of class early was compelling!

We did some good rooms all over the Northwest. Opened for Don and the Goodtimes, the Sonics, the Wailers. The manager, Bill Downer … that was an appropriate name – about the slickest guy you could ever imagine … but he got us a lot of gigs.

The Fire Vanco 45 Sorry for Tryin'I’d been trying to write a tune here, a tune there. The manager said “Look, Candy’s got some words, we want to put out a record, give it a try.” Then I heard the words! I said “Oh God!” So I wrote a decent hook and modulated a couple times knowing full well it would be vocally challenging!

Jeff was supposed to write Sorry for Tryin’. I got him interested in using the fuzztone. Once we got into the studio we were told “that will never do!”

We were a tight, well presented group. I got the guys to do a couple Hendrix and Cream tunes. My older brother was a player too, guitar and also violin; we loved the direction Clapton and Hendrix were going in. I was getting paid incredibly well, but my brother and I formed a quartet then a trio, getting paid a fifth of what I got with the Fire. They went on for another year then dissipated as well.

After I worked with Rod Price, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, and spent five years playing with Paul deLay, probably the best chromatic harp player in the world.

David still plays music regularly in Portland. He is now working on a social network for musicians and music professionals.

Thank you to JP for sending me the scans and transfers, and to David Kahl for speaking to me about his first band.

Huckleberry Mudflap

At the Woodland Armory, February 21, 1970

Several people have requested I post the songs of Huckleberry Mudflap, a band from the North Carolina coastal town of Beaufort.

Jerry Lewis had this information about the group:

I was in high school with the band members (East Carteret High School, Beaufort, NC). They were together from 1969-1972. Most popular song was “Blue Surf.”

Jimmy Amspacher, drums
Clinton Nelson, lead guitar
Morris Willis, rhythm guitar
Donnie Vrooks, bass

The band split up when their main songwriter and lead singer found Jesus and went off to sing in choirs instead of doing rock n roll. In fact, the church where Clinton Nelson has been pastor for over a decade was recently struck by lightening and burned to the ground [article here].

Clinton Nelson wrote Blue Surf (credited to H.C. Nelson). Michael D. Collins wrote Goodnight Mrs. Kollendoffer and co-produced the record with B. Martin.

Special thanks to Jay Jenkins of for sending the poster at the top and to Jeff Lemlich for the scans and transfers of the 45.

The Esquires

The Esquires at Parkview High School, from the ’66 yearbook.
L-R (not certain): John Jacobsen, Mike Fielder, Rick Davidson and Mark Morton.

There were many bands that called themselves the Esquires. This group came from Springfield, Missouri.

John Jacobsen wrote all the songs I’m featuring here. He was the only member I could identify until someone sent in the two photos featured here. The other members may have included Mike Fielder on bass, Mark Morton on guitar, and Rick Davidson on drums, with Bill DeLange from the Artificial Flowers replacing Mark Morton at some point. The person who sent the photos also remembered David Kershenbaum substituting for a sick band member on guitar at a Parkview High School dance.

Their first 45, “She’s My Woman” is good rocking fare. Somehow this ended up on Dot records in October of 1966; I presume it had a local release but I’m not sure of that. I haven’t heard the flip yet, called “Misfortune”.

The A-side of their second 45 is “Summer Nights”, a poppy song with horns.

Their greatest moment to my mind is “Settle Down”, the b-side to “Summer Nights”. It’s a beautifully composed song with a perfect balance between the instruments and the group’s fine harmonies. The strong vocal lines remind me of the Jefferson Airplane’s first LP, while the Byrds may have inspired the guitar solo. Released in July of 1967, the Scratch label lists the address as Radio-TV Bldg., Springfield.

Mike Morton, Mark Morton’s younger brother, played in a later band from the area, the Lavender Hill Mob.

Thanks to the person who anonymously contributed the photos and description of the band.

Taken from Springfield’s Community Free Press, August 2, 2006.

Vance Charles and the Sonics

I took a snapshot of this poster of the Sonics of Needville off the wall at the apartment of Norton Records co-honcho Billy Miller, it really looks much better in person. Billy said he has another Sonics poster from the same time.

Needville is a small town southwest of Houston. This band is known on record as Vance Charles and the Sonics. The other members in the photo are Ralph, Frank, Richard and Glenn.

I don’t know Richard’s and Glenn’s last names. As for Ralph and Frank, a reader wrote in that these are likely the same Vance Charles, Frank Sebesta and Ralph McCauley who played in the Barons who were active around Houston in the early 1970s. The Barons had two LPs on Solar label, as well as two 45s, “Mellow Moonlight” / “Strung Out On You” and “Wounds Of Love” / “Put Me In Jail”, but I’ve heard none of these. Other Barons members and associates include Luke “CC” Davis, Morris A. Bosak and Billy Wade McKnight. Can anyone confirm this connection?

The band cut a great fuzz stomper, “My Soul” backed by an average version of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, and released in June of ’66 on the Golden Eagle label of Houston.

Although it sounds like an original song, the top side is actually an adaption of Clifton Chenier’s “My Soul”, a very fine, pre-zydeco r&b song with accordion and even Little Richard “wooh”s, released on the Checker label in the late ’50s:

Why do I, sit and cry, without a reason?
I don’t know why, it’s my soul …
If I, should jump up and holler, without a reason,
smack in the collar (?), it’s my soul …

Golden Eagle is a label more known for its blues releases, but a pop-garage 45 by Reed Williams “There’s A Girl” / “I’m Free” preceded this Vance Charles disc and the label did release an album of mostly cover songs by the El Campo Jades titled “The 13th Song”.

Vance Charles released an earlier 45 also on Golden Eagle that I haven’t heard yet: “Put the Shades on Willie” (an Earl Hooker song) and “All for the Love of a Girl”.

Before these is a release on Spinner Records, a good if unexciting blues with horn section, “Mr. Train”. The flip of this is an absurd version of “Suzy Q” sung in a duck voice and listed under the ridiculous pseudonym Yakkity Quack and the Sonics.

The Spinner 45 was recorded at Gold Star Studios with Doyle Jones engineering. Doyle worked at Gold Star from December 1964 to January 1966, recording the Sir Douglas Quintet, Roy Head and Gaylan Ladd. He left Gold Star to start Jones Sound Studios with Mickey Gilley as part-owner, at 1523 Blair St. in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. This is the studio where the Golden Eagle discs were recorded.

Other garage bands who recorded at Jones Sound include Chaz & the Classics (“Girl of the 13th Hour”) and the Glass Kans (“Stick With Her”), and, of course, the Outcasts’ “1523 Blair”. Even better known are Neal Ford and the Fanatics great “Shame on You”, and the Moving Sidewalks LP Flashback, also cut at Jones. Doyle Jones kept the studio going until 1973, then converted it to a duplication house, until he passed away in 2006.

Another Vance Charles 45 I haven’t heard yet is on the Lori label, “Let’s Fall in Love” b/w “Closer To Me,” both Charles Booth originals. Charlie Booth’s production address is listed at 1738 Viking in Houston.

All of Vance Charles’ records were produced by Charlie Booth, so he is possibly one and the same person. Booth also produced a 45 by the Weavils from El Campo, Texas on the Lori label, “Here I Am in Love Again” / “We’re the Weavils”.

Doyle Jones info from the SugarHill Studios site and

Thank you to Jack Swenson for information on the Barons.

Charlene Condray and Tommy Hancock

The Roadside Playboys in 1967: Wally Moyers, Charlene Condray, Dick Barnett, Tommy Hancock and Willie Lightfoot.

Charlene Condray has been singing professionally since the 1940’s in Lubbock, Texas. Her first recordings were made in 1952 and she is still active today. At age twelve she was a regular on the Circle 13 Dude Ranch Show on Lubbock TV. She joined Tommy Hancock’s band, the Roadside Cowboys and they eventually married, touring and recording under a variety of lineups and names, including the Supernatural Family Band.

On this 1970 single they each take a side to feature very different styles of music.

You may know Tommy Hancock from his look at Mexican cuisine, “Tacos for Two”, compiled on The Big Itch vol. 2: “Tacos for two, tacos for me and tacos for you,” and “hey Señor Waiter these tacos look great, put some clothes on the stripper so I can eat!”

On this 45 he covers the environmental manifesto, “I Am the Grass”, written by Mira Smith and Margaret Lewis. In case you didn’t know, grass doesn’t like to be stepped on, hates human hypocrisy and will have the last laugh in the end: “I am the grass – someday I’ll cover you green!”

On the other side, Charlene Condray and the Bitter End adapt the Louie Louie changes for good swing at soulful pop.

This is just a sample of a varied catalog from these two maverick artists, some of which is available on CD. Tommy X Hancock has a major part in the 2005 documentary Lubbock Lights which I recommend highly – the kind of portrait every good music scene should have.

The photo above is taken from their family website, much more information and photos are there.

The Dynastys

OK, it’s not as heavy as the Shandells, but I can’t believe no one ever mentions this version of “Go Gorilla”. The original of the song was done by Chicago r&b group the Ideals in 1963, who had a #3 regional hit with it on KQV in Pittsburgh.

The Dynastys version come out of Wisconsin in September of ’64, followed by the Shandells a few months later. The instrumental flip, “Birmingham”, shows how accomplished a band they were as it really swings. Neither song has been comped before to my knowledge.

The Coulee label was out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, owned by Bill Grafft, who also ran the Boom, Knight and Transaction labels. The Dynasty’s 45 (Coulee 108) comes just before Dee Jay and the Runaways’ “Love Bug Crawl” / “The Pickup” (Coulee 109).

The Dynasty’s definitely honed their skills pre-British Invasion, with large helpings of rockabilly, r&b and even surf and folk music in their sound. I haven’t heard their first 45 for the Fan, Jr label in 1964, a cover of the Eldorados’ “I’ll Be Forever Loving You” backed with another cover, Harold Dorman’s “Mountain of Love”, which Johnny Rivers made a hit not long after the Dynasty’s version came out.

As Gary Myers wrote in a comment below, the band came from Milwaukee. Band members were George Shaput (guitar), Duane Schallitz (guitar), Mark Ladish (organ), Dave Maciolek (bass), Jim Serrano (lead guitar) and Kenny Arnold (drums).

At the band’s request to play on the West Coast, their manager Lindy Shannon booked them into the Longhorn in Portland, Oregon. Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records saw them there and heard their demos, leading to their final 45 in 1966, “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” / “Forever and a Day”.

On “Forever and a Day” the band manages to create a memorable harmony pop ballad without sacrificing their strong rhythm and drumming.

Not long after this release George Shaput joined the Shades of Blue and then played with Conway Twitty. The band reunited at a La Crosse show to honor Lindy Shannon in 1994.

Article rewritten November 2009, with information from Gary Myers’ Do You Hear That Beat.

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