The Fabulous Four – Next Exit – Pretty – Kansas City

The Fabulous Four band

The Fab Four are a long-active group from Kansas City, Missouri. They evolved out of the Midknighters, formed in 1959 by Bob Theen and Alex Love. After a name change to the Fabulous Four Jacks, they shortened it to the Fabulous Four in 1961 and to the Fab Four by the time of their second record.

In 1963 Theen and Love added two new members to form a unit that would be together for fifteen years. Jeff Mann joined after original guitarist Dick Wilson was drafted and Mike Myers of Kansas City’s Silvertones replaced keyboardist Bill Bryant. Their first show with this lineup was at the Combo Club.

The band wrote the melancholy “Now You Cry” for their first 45, b/w the folky pop song “Got To Get Her Back”. George Hodes, owner of Prior Brass Co. recorded the group in his living room, and issued it on the Brass label in 1964. Coral soon picked it up for national distribution, but it missed the charts.

Guitarist Bob Theen wrote to me about the band:

This first 45 was released in 1966 on a local Kansas City label (Brass) and then picked up by Decca Records and re-released on the Coral label.

I’m sure you figured it out but we really were The Fabulous Four all those years, it was just the record companies that wanted to change our name on the records. I’m not really sure when everyone started calling the Beatles The Fab Four. That probably had something to do with it. But, we were the Fab Four long before the Beatles.

In our nightly performances we all sang lead and background vocals. That’s why our songs all sound so different.

I like their second 45 even more, “Happy”, with its shrill organ, harmonies 320 sharp guitar lines, also produced by George Hodes, and written by Theen and Mann.

Both sides of the third 45 are also good. “I’m Always Doing Something Wrong” was written by J. Coffin (a member of In Black and White with Hal Pierce, and later The Wizards From Kansas), and once again the harmonies really come through. The flip is a cover of “Youngblood” with distortion on the guitar. Don Price produced this one.

From left: Bob Theen, Mike Myers, Alex Love and Jeff Mann

In 1967 the group landed a great opportunity to travel New York to record “I’m the Only One” and “Break Away” as the Next Exit for Warner Bros, produced by the Tokens. “Break Away” was written by Stephen Friedland (aka Brute Force) and Paul Kahan, and is well-crafted psychedelic pop.

Bob Theen: This song was recorded in NY in 1967, produced by The Tokens. It was supposed to be the title song for a movie that was released that next year in 1968 called “Butterflies Are Free’ The movie did come out it ‘68 but for some reason unknown to us our recording was not chosen. The song “I’m The Only One” was in the movie but only one short verse was sung by one of the stars on an acoustic. Darn the luck!! The other side of this is “Breakaway”.

Our version of the song was released in the spring of 1968 and got some air play here in K.C. MO. Don’t know about anywhere else. But evidently it wasn’t a smash hit.

I still have a letter from Hank and Jay asking us to return to NY for some more recordings but for some reason at the time the trip was too far. I still wonder to this day why we didn’t go. I think it had something to do with our families, wives, babies and that sort of thing.

They recorded their last record as the Fabulous Four in 1969, “River Days” / “I Got A Feeling In My Body” on Pearce, cut at Cavern Studios in Independence.

The Fab Four as The Pretty: Mike Myers, Jeff Mann, Alex Love and Bob Theen

Pretty - Mustache in Your Face

Also at Cavern they cut two songs written and produced by Michael Weakley (“Quint” Weakley, drummer for the Electric Prunes) that got a rare release on Squeakly Records with the band listed as ‘Pretty’. Both songs show the band tackling heavy psychedelic sounds, a completely different style of music than they’d done on record before.

Bob Theen gave me the background on these recordings:

During the years 1969 to 1971 we did a lot of recording at a local studio by the name of Cavern Recording Studios located in Independence, MO on Truman Road. It was a very unique studio because it was actually located in a huge cave in the hillside, hence the name Cavern. Talk about quiet!

We recorded a lot of songs there. Some we wrote, some we co-wrote, some other people wrote. We also had some of our friends set in on some of the sessions. Two of the songs recorded there were titled “Mustache In Your Face” and “The Electric Hand” produced by a guy named Michael Quinton Weekly. Michael was also the drummer for The Electric Prunes. We wrote and recorded a lot of other songs there, most we thought were pretty good, just couldn’t get them off the ground on our own.

From top: Mike Myers (with sunglasses), Bob Theen, Alex Love and Jeff Mann

Q. Was that 45 all the members of the Fab Four? Why the change of name?

Bob: The “Pretty” record was all the members of the Fab Four band plus a couple of other friends that sat in with us. I think maybe Weekly [sic] even played the drums. It was completely different from what we had been recording, but not so different from what we were used to playing live at the clubs every night, we were pretty versatile. Weekly just sparked a different side of us.As far as the name change, it was Weekly again. He was a little far out on ideas during that time, I have some pictures of us to prove it. Don’t laugh! As for myself, I never was real sure about four macho guys trying to be Pretty!

Q. Was it difficult adapting to that heavier style? Were you playing those songs in your live sets?

Bob: As I mentioned before, the style change was not really a change for us because we played that kind of stuff every night at the clubs.

Q. How did Quint Weakley wind up producing records at Cavern?

Bob: A couple of us knew Weekly from way back in our kid days. As I remember he showed up at Cavern Studios one day, said he had some ideas for some songs and it just took off from there.

Q. That record seems to be very rare now, was it distributed at all?

Bob: To my knowledge the record was not distributed at all. After the sessions, Weekly took off for California to try and sell them to someone. Don’t think he had any luck, and we didn’t see much of him after that.

Q. Also, are there unreleased tracks from those sessions?

Bob: There are some other recordings from that time, but they only exist on tape.

At the Cavern studio: Bob Theen, Jeff Mann and Mike Myers
Kansas City, 1970, L-R: Jeff Mann – bass, Mike Myers – keyboards, Alex Love – drums and Bob Theen – guitar

When they recorded a 45 for Capitol in 1970 the band’s name was changed to Kansas City, but they continued as the Fab Four for live shows, including extended stays at the Attic. The band broke up in 1976 and have reunited since.

Bob Theen: The song “Linda Was A Lady” was recorded in Memphis in 1970 on the Trump label, a Subsidiary of Capitol. The back side was “Red Tower Road”. To our knowledge, and from the amount of the royalties, it did the best of the three we released. Our producer was Tommy Cogbill along with Chips Moman, a couple of very talented guys in Memphis. I think Tommy has since passed away, don’t know about Chips.

We continued playing professionally till about 1974 when we decided to hang it up. I think the disappointment of our last recording not going big time got us down.

Twenty three years later we got the itch to do it again, but soon it was evident that our original drummer was not physically able to play again. We had another drummer friend by the name of Mark Higbee that hooked up with us and would be our drummer for another ten year run. We played parties, clubs and all kinds of events around the Midwest and had a great time doing it.

We did our last Hoorah in the fall of 2007 for a Parkinson’s Fund Raiser called Rock Around The Block featuring us and several well know bands from our era in the K.C. area. The event was held at the new H&R Block headquarters in K.C. MO.

On March 22, 2008, The Fabulous Four Band (Bob Theen – Jeff Mann – Mike Myers – Mark Higbee & original drummer Alex Love) was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall Of Fame.

Jeff Mann passed away in 2012.

Sources include:Rockkansas.com (http://rockkansas.com/columns/billlee/021804-fabfour.shtml – link now defunct).

41 thoughts on “The Fabulous Four – Next Exit – Pretty – Kansas City”

  1. I remember a show The Fab Four did as one of the preliminary groups to Gary Lewis & the Playboys in KC’s Municipal Auditorium. The Jumping Jacks, The Fab Four and another local group — may have been the Classmen — all opened for Gary Lewis. Every one of them blew the Playboys outta the water. If I hadn’t have shelled out what was then big bucks for the tickets, my date and I would have left after Lewis’s band’s second song. The Fab Four’s rendition of Youngblood just blew me away!
    Then, they just seemed to disappear. Thanks to this site, now I know what happened to them.
    Good time, guys. Thanks.
    Audie Ayer

  2. I lived in Kansas City in the 1960’s through the early 70’s. The Fab Four’s popularity was a few years ahead of my interest in music but I did buy a copy of Linda Was A Lady when the group was known as Kansas City. I still have the record although it’s very chewed up. It was released on the Trump label, a red and white label with a card hand unveiled. The record wa a local top 5 hit in the summer of 1970.
    Your mention of the Pearce label also reminds me of the other Kansas City group, the Classmen, who had two hits that I knew of, Julie and Graduation Goodbye. It seems to me that they sounded a bit like the Four Freshmen, although this was in the late 60’s.

  3. who could forget the year 1969 and the group known as kansas city with their hit Linda was a lady. I had always wondered what ever happened to that group. But i can tell you the song Linda was a Lady is still being played on Kansas city radio on KCXL 1140AM & KCTO 1160AM. In fact i’ve played it on every radio station i’ve worked at, and will continue to do so. Everytime I hear Brad Millicent singing Christmas in Kansas city I keep thinking he was the original singer
    on Linda was a lady, but I guess not.

    David Brewer
    KCXL/KCTO Station Manager (so they tell me)

  4. Hey David, thanks for playing ” Linda Was A Lady ” we appreciate it. Just in case you are still unsure of who the lead singer was, it was Mike Myers our keyboard player.
    Later – – – Bob Theen / The Fab Four

    1. Bob you sent me got to get her back copies of the songs by the fab four and kc including who could it be, linda was a lady, got to get her bACK , AND several others could I get them AGAIN PLEASE
      thanks jim

  5. hey bob,bill,jeff and mike

    i can remember sneaking in to the “attic lounge” to hear you guys when i was 16. i followed you through the years at the clubs and private dances. from the boom boom room to the club out in martin city. remembering you winning the battle of the bands sponsored by WHB with ron martin and johnny dolan. good old days, brings back the memories and making me feel sometimes like “i was with the band” helping you carry in equipment to set up for the night. found this website and listened to the songs again and enjoyed my evening….thanks for the music, and the memories

    ron

    1. Hey Ron, just cruising through this web page and saw your comment from 2010, My group played on several occasions at the Boom Boom Room, 3100 Club, King Arthur’s Lounge, soc hops etc, we were The Fabulous Cinners (pictured at the Boom Boom Room in 1966 on the oldkc.com) site. What great bunch memories I also have from those musical times. Just wanted to say hi.

  6. I’m surprised Bob Theen didn’t mention the great 45 “Mustache In Your Face/Electric Hand on Squeakie Records – two of the coolest psych tracks ever cut and yes the mystery has finally been solved – it was all of the Fab Four members. The tracks were recorded for a Michael Wheatly(sp?) And many amazing unreleased tracks also exist from that same session.

    Bob – please tell us the complete story of these sessions from October ’69 thru February ’70.

  7. I had the pleasure of listening to these guys while I worked. Thanks for the great music and memories.

    Rick Bennett (former bartender at Bobby D’s/3rd Dimension/Nasty McNasty’s)

  8. Tom, I am sorry I have been dragging my feet. I am trying to get a bunch more info together. Chris had to rattle my cage a little bit.

  9. Hey Rick, Good to hear from you. Thanks to all those dooblies you used to pour for us at the bar, we all had a real rip-snortin’ time. For anyone who wonders what a dooblie is – – it’s an over full double shot!!!! I’m for certain that made us play soooo much better!!!!

  10. Rick, thank you for reminding me of the “Dooblies”. I had way too many of them but the thought of them brings back so many good memories. Going to the clubs to hear the Fab Four was a big part of my life. To me, they were the best hometown band that Kansas City had to offer. You made Bobby D’s a great place to hang out at. Thanks for the fun and thanks for the Dooblies.

    Tom Damnit

  11. I remember the “good old days” of Kansas City R&R. The Fab Four, the Classmen…awesome local groups. Any idea if the Fab Four OR the Classmen material from the 60’s might be available on CD?? The flip side of “Happy” was an EXCELLENT song “Who Could it Be”. I have long searched for that on the Brass label, but it is a definite rarity.

    1. Look for all of the Classman material to be released in the very near future. I recently talked with Drew and Doug Dimmel and they have been contacted by the Número Company out of Chicago. The plan to release a number of the old Cavern Studio masters as a compilation. (4/18/14)

  12. I’ve been searching for a recording of “Graduation Goodbye.” Can’t seem to find anything on the internet. You say that it was the Classmen that recorded it? I vaguely remember the chorus of the song. (The last time I heard it was probably the late 60s early 70s, when I was a young kid living in Independence, MO.) Seems like the song got a lot of airplay on WHB, back in those days.

  13. Wasn’t Mike Leper in the group in the mid-60s? My sister was the bookkeeper for the Prom Sheraton where they had a weekly gig. Mike’s brother Bruce was my best friend.

  14. Max, I have the original 45 0f julie and graduration goodbye. If you know of anyone who can make a copy, please it me know. It’s in mint condition.

  15. The Classmen have released a CD of their songs. They made it available at last weekends KC Reunion Jam. It contains Julie, Graduation Goodbye, and others that they recorded.

  16. Stumbled upon this site and it sure brought back a lot memories. AH THE GOOD OLD DAYS..
    I remember sitting in on some of your Brass recording sessions.

    Best wishes Jerry Price

  17. Hey Ernie, Sorry, Mike Leper was never in the band. The only members were Bob Theen, Alex Love, Jeff Mann, and Mike Myers.

  18. Hello! I am in hot pursuit of the Graduation Goodbye song and am not sure where to find it. Could you please link me to where I can purchase the song or the CD it’s on? Thank you!

  19. i used to have a copy of the fabulous four on brass doing who could it be. i wonder if anybody has a copy i could get a hold of.
    jim welling

    1. my address is 10200 w 62nd st apt 313 merriam ks 66203 i had stolen all your hits got to gt hr back linda was a lady an youngg blood sure would appreciate a copy of them. i met you all at whb;s big anniversary at dick clarks on metcalf.

  20. Bob, how did you all know Willis Keith McAfee?

    What was the story behind Linda was a lady? Who was it written for. A particular person?

  21. Bud,
    We met Willie McAfee in approx. 1960 in Orrick MO where he lived. We played at the Roller Rink every Friday night. We got to know Willie and all his buddy’s and his family. We found out Willie played guitar and it wasn’t long before Willie became a member of our band. At that time we were THE MIDKNIGHTERS. He was with us for some time, don’t remember how long. We lost him when he joined the Navy. We heard there was a bad accident aboard ship and we never saw Willie again. It was a sad day when we lost Willie. He was, as they say, one of a kind and a great guy. We still talk about Willie from time to time, and some of the funny things he used to do.
    Bob Theen / Fabulous Four

  22. Bud,
    Our band was in Memphis doing some recording. We found the song “Linda was a Lady” at one of the local publishing houses. We brought the song back to KC, arranged it to our liking, decided we would put one of our songs on the flip side, ( Red Tower Road ) wen’t back and recorded it at American Studios with Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman as our producers. It was released in 1970 on the Trump/Capitol label.
    Bob Theen / Fabulous Four

  23. A friend and I went to the Combo Club on 75th St. In 1966. The Fab Four were there. They were a fantastic band. I bought their record ,Got To Ger Her Back, on the Brass label. I also knew their producer Don Price. At the time one of the band members told me they were also doing some engagements at the Whiskey A Go Go in California. I have great memories of the Fab Four.

  24. I put out a CD compilation with a buddy of mine several years ago, and it included “The Electric Hand”. We tried really hard to locate any/all of the bands on that comp, without much luck. We had no idea of your connection to Pretty. How might we contact you for royalty payments?

  25. Great to hear from all you guys from way back then!
    Anyone that would like any info about THE FABULOUS FOUR, KANSAS CITY, THE PRETTY, THE NEXT EXIT, THE MIDKNIGHTERS, or any of our recordings, feel free to email me @ ( rst1984@comcast.net )

    Bob Theen

  26. Thanks for posting this. What a fun page and some great pics too. I had the pleasure of not only hangin’ loose with my dad and his bandmates, but also sitting in with them a couple times. Great times – thanks again.

    RIP Jeff Mann – hell of a bass player and a hell of a man.

      1. Bobby, I remember the Chontels well. It was a pleasure to be in the same era as you guys. How lucky we were to get to do that stuff back then. Not too many people get the chance. We got to do everything the big stars got to do, just didn’t get paid quite as much money to do it. (ha ha)
        Later, Bob Theen

  27. Gentlemen, it’s been a long time since I was honored to set in and play the drums in 1965/1966 when Alex got the Mumps. I thought there might be a blurb in this website about the opportunity I had to set in with what I felt was the best band ever–music, vocals, and really just great guys. THANK YOU–I will never forget that experience at the Combo Club. I was saddened to learn about Jeff; my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. You will all be special to me. Stay in touch as your schedules permit. I am in Chicago now.

    Best Regards and Memories,

    Jim Critchfield

  28. Found myself reminiscing about my younger days, remembering The Fab Four from their days at the Combo Club in Kansas City. I spent far too much time and money in that great place, but wouldn’t take back a minute or penny of it.

    The band had their own special rendition of the song “Gloria” by Them and Shadows of Night. The things that happened “around midnight” in The Fab Four version of this song never made it to a recording studio, I’m certain.

    When I left K.C. for Denver in ’72, I never again heard what the Fab Four did. Thanks to this site, now I know. Thank you!

  29. Bob, first time I met you was 1960 at Marvin Woods’ “Swinging School” at 40 hiway and Noland rd in Independence. You guys (Midknighters) were playin Fridays, and we were playin Weds. I was playin, guitar then , with Jim Gatewood and the Temtations. Leo Castanza was on drums. At that time you guys and Plas, Calkins and the Silvertones were the “ones to watch”. I switched to drums in 62. My last job with a rock group before goin country was tryin to fill Neal Stones shoes with the Jumpin Jacks from 67 thru 69. They were a great group to work with.

    1. Hey Bob, really glad to hear from some one that far back. First time anyone has ever mentioned THE SWINGIN’ SCHOOL. I think that is pretty much where it all started for a lot of us. Always wondered what happened to Leo Castanza. I still have some pictures of us on stage at THE SWINGIN’ SCHOOL. Marvin Woods the owner sure was a great guy. He loved all the kids. Last time we saw Marvin was when he came to see us a couple of times when we were playing at THE ATTIC on Broadway in KC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *