The Oxfords

The Oxfords came out of Louisville, Kentucky in 1964, led by drummer Jim Guest. At some point they were calling themselves the Rugbys, as a photo has turned up that features the early Oxfords lineup with Guest, but all in rugby shirts. That band continued as the Rugbys, but without Guest.

Eventually Guest formed a whole new Oxfords band with members of the Spectres: Jay Petach on guitar and keyboards, Bill Tullis and Danny Marshall on guitars and Bill Turner on bass, and continued as the Oxfords.

Marshall and Turner left before this 45, to be replaced by Ronnie Brooks and Ray Barrickman on guitar and bass respectively. This lineup recorded the excellent song “Time and Place”, written by Tullis, Petach and Guest. The a-side was a cover of the Bacharach/David song “There’s Always Something There to Remind Me”.

Buzz Cason produced the record – he also produced the Us Four and ran the Rising Sons label.

It was originally released on the Our Bag label in December, 1966, and soon picked up for national release by Mala. Their next 45 showed the band going in a totally different direction, making light pop influenced by psychedelia. “Sun Flower Sun” features flute and sitar while “Chicago Woman” is slightly bluesy, but the concessions to trends of the day didn’t result in any chart action.

Jim Guest left while the band continued in the pop vein, releasing an lp Flying Up Through the Sky with Jill DeMarco on vocals in 1970, and a novelty song Come On Back to Beer on the Paula label before breaking up in 1972.

Jerry Lister sent this history of the band written by Jay Petach:

In 1964 I was a sophomore in high school, and like everyone else, was in awe of the Beatles. I had been playing guitar for a year or so and was having the usual problems keeping a band together for more than a week. I somehow managed to steal the best players from several groups that I had been practicing with.

I finally had a band that was good enough to actually play gigs. The group was called “The Spectres”. I played lead guitar, my high school classmates Bill Tullis and Bill Turner were lead singer and bass guitar respectively. Danny Marshall, a friend from another school, played rhythm, and Glenn Howerton played drums. That same year, a band known as “The Oxfords” was getting a lot of attention in Louisville.

In 1965 a rift between the Oxfords’ leader and drummer Jim Guest and the other four members caused that group to split up. Because we had all seen each other’s bands, Jim asked us if we’d like to play with him and become the Oxfords. This worked well, since the other guys in Jim’s group liked our drummer better. The two bands swapped drummers and we became the Oxfords. The other guys with Glenn became the Rugbys. They chose this name because they wore rugby shirts when they played.

In 1966 the Oxfords entered a recording studio for the first time. Bill Turner had been replaced by bassist Ray Barrickman, and Danny Marshall had been replaced by guitarist Ronnie Brooks. The first thing we recorded was the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me”. Gene Synder, our booking agent sent a rough mix to Nashville producer Buzz Cason. Buzz liked it, came to Louisville to help us finish it, and most importantly, got us a record deal with Bell Records.

Ray Barrickman sang the lead vocal on this song, but in the fall of 1966 he left the band to attend college out of town. Ronnie Brooks then switched to playing bass, and Bill Tullis started playing rhythm guitar. So when the song was finally released, we had to try to cover the record on gigs with Bill Tullis singing the lead vocal. This worked (more or less), since PA systems weren’t all that good in those days. However, shortly after the record’s release, the song was quickly recorded by another group and our air play all but stopped.

We recorded our second record “Sun Flower Sun”, which was also released on Bell records in 1967. This record made an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in the “Rate the Record” segment. With a score of only 65, the single was effectively doomed.

Later in 1967 Ronnie left the band and was replaced by bassist Garry Johnson. Garry then left after several months to play bass in the newly-formed Louisville group Elysian Field, with guitarist Frank Bugby and drummer Marvin Maxwell.

A few years ago Ronnie Brooks wrote several songs for Hank Williams, Jr. Ronnie was invited to the recording session, and as he was talking with Hank he heard someone call out his name. It was Ray Barrickman, who was playing bass in Hank Williams, Jr.’s band. Ronnie is now a music producer in Nashville and was the voice of the middle Budweiser Frog in the TV commercials.

Ronnie’s older brother Randy, was a high school classmate and good friend of mine. A few years ago Randy wrote the timeless Christmas classic “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”.

Meanwhile back in the 60’s, there was an all-girl band in Louisville known as The Hearby. Jim Guest and I liked their sound and helped them make their first and only record. I was particularly interested in their lead singer Jill DeMarco.

In 1968 our group evolved again. This time, drummer Jim Guest was replaced by Donnie Hale, Dill Asher became the bass player, and most significantly, I asked Jill to join the group.

This was the group that recorded the bulk of the LP material. Donnie’s friend Keith Spring was a brilliant musician and orchestrator. Keith agreed to do the orchestrations for the album cuts and played on the recording sessions. Keith, also played in the group for a short time in 1968. However, the musical direction we were going with Keith was far too esoteric for the gigs we were playing (we actually played regularly at Fort Knox during the Viet Nam War). Keith later went on to work with actor/musician Martin Mull and legendary rock group NRBQ. That year we got to open for Frank Zappa and the Mothers at a Louisville rock club and for The Grateful Dead at Bellarmine College.

In 1969, Dill Asher was replaced by bassist Larry Holt, and Donnie Hale was replaced by drummer Paul Hoerni (brother of the Rugby’s bass player Mike Hoerni). We recorded several more album cuts and the group’s last single “Come On Back To Beer”, which was inspired by our contact with Frank Zappa. This single was released on Paula Records and made it to number one on rock radio in Louisville.

In 1970 the album was finally finished. Although we had offers from two record labels, we were uncomfortable with both deals. The labels wanted total control, along with buy-outs of all materials and rights. We decided to release and promote the record ourselves.

In 1971, out of the frustration of not being able to play enough original songs on our gigs, I got heavily involved with a theatrical production that I had written. My show was a rock musical called “Grease”. It happed simultaneously with another more-famous production by the same name that was just starting in Chicago. The Oxfords got all greased up and became the pit band for the show. It ran for several weeks on the University of Louisville campus and was also performed in Atlanta and at the University of Kansas.

At that same time, I had gotten a notice from Selective Service to report for a draft physical. I fasted for two weeks and weighed only 117 pounds (10 pounds underweight for my 5′-11″ height) at the time of the physical. Because of this, however, I didn’t have enough strength to support the weight of my guitar and also sing. I decided I’d switch to playing flute and we added keyboardest Jerry Lister to the group. We recorded “The City” with this group, but it was never released on vinyl.

Finally in 1972, Paul, Larry, and Jerry all left the band. Quentin Sharpenstein, became the bass player. Quentin had played tuba on the orchestra overdub session for our album four years earlier. Guitarist Tony Williamson, a good friend of Larry, and jazz drummer Bobbie Jones also joined the group. Jill played both guitar and clavinet at various times, and I played a Hammond organ and Rhodes piano.

That same year, Danny King, a friend of mine, opened a recording studio. I volunteered the band’s services in trade for stud io time, and soon became the studio’s engineer. I wasn’t paid, but I used this opportunity to record most of the later cuts on the CD.

By this time, it was becoming obvious (even to me) that the Oxfords were not on the road to rock stardom. Jill was especially tired of the situation, the other musicians had opportunities to play with other groups, and I had discovered that my passion was working in a recording studio.

The group disbanded for good in the summer of ’72. But hey, that’s the cool thing about recording…the music lives on!

Jay Petach

40 thoughts on “The Oxfords”

  1. I was in some “little known” garage band when these guys were packing them in. The could cover Beatle tunes like no other. Speaking from a musician’s standpoint the group was never the same after the change. There was a reason for the breakup and it was a sad situation, but it’s not for me to reveal that. If Steve McNicol cares to tell the story that’s fine.
    I had an opportunity to join help form a brand new four piece group in 1967. One fairly known guitar player and three unknowns (including myself). The reason I bring this up is at that time the Oxfords were working for the Jony Agency (Gene & Vi Snyder). Our guitar player had worked for them before so were were going to audition for the agency during the Oxfords breaks at a local teen club.
    We’d been rehearsing for several months to get everything tight. I remembered that we had no extra money for clothing so we all wore jeans and yellow short sleeved sweatshirts with the name of the ban written in black magic marker on the front (real classy).
    I remember when we stepped up on stage for that first 15 minute set. I was so nervous and we could hear some of the crowd laughing at the way we dressed. Anyway we played about 5 numbers and the crowd went wild.
    The Oxfords were great at what they did, but this crowd wanted to dance and they didn’t play a lot of top 40 ance music. Needless to say we signed with the agency and wound up on the circuit.
    We thanked the Oxfords for allowing us to share the stage with them and apologized for all the commotion. They were great guys and understood because they had all been there before.
    Anyway, if there are any of them out there, thanks again guys. It was a pleasure performing with you.

    Duke Freeman

    PS: Oh yeah. The name of our band . . . . . . . US FOUR.

  2. Jim was a great drummer and Petach was one of a kind. They sure didn’t sound like anything that came out of Louisville, perhaps New York or California. Even though they were extremely talented, by 60’s standards they weren’t commercial enough. The music scene in the 60’s demanded commercialism. Even original material wasn’t enough. The Rugby’s were a prime example of that. “You, I” was very commercial while the follow-up “Wendegahl the Warlock” wasn’t and it tanked. Personally I loved it.
    It’s really too bad because there was a ton of talent not only in this group, but in many groups from Louisville.

  3. Guest was not a big fellow, BUT was maybe the BEST drummer/vocals I have ever seen. I followed the Oxfords thru their stages. First you had the “hey we all have on matching coats” stage. Great sound, possible hit.

    Then came “dammit we are Cool” stage. They would book “dances” and plays Zappa. And it would be great, but the dancers had some trouble.

    Then, Guest was gone, and Jay pretty much lead from there. The man was a musicial wizard, he could do and often did everything. Then word came about the LP “Flying Up Thru the Sky”. I got to hear the LP LIVE at a college in Prestonsburg KY. It was fantastic. The LP though lacked the spark or live mix feel and while was very good,
    just not what it had been live. As for Jill DeMarco, God what a voice and she was beautiful. Heard she ended up on the left coast.

    If KY ever had a group with the originality and Petach, they should have made it.

  4. Jimmy Guest was my first love and boyfriend. We actually became engaged at the ripe old age of 17. The club where the group opened for Frank Zappa was called Kaliedoscope and was owned by my mother, Thelma and Jimmy’s mother. It was the first “undergroiund” nightclub in Louisville. I had the first smoke shop in the lower level of the club and Jimmy’s brother Randy had a coffee house. My Mom moved our family to L.A. and we opened our own club on Sunset Blvd. Jimmy came out to Cali with a band and played one night at The Whisky on Sunset in Hollywood. My Mom would not let me go. I would very much like to make contact with Jimmy. If anyone knows how to contact him, my contact info is dparks@starpr.net. I am a publicist, promoter and booking agent now in the L.A. Orange County area of California.

  5. Debbie

    Jimmy is my Uncle- I just spent Thanksgiving with him, and he is here in Colorado visiting with my mom-his sister. We just got done talking about you trading an outfit with her, and how cool it made her feel 🙂

    You can contact me if you like
    stefthomas25@yahoo.com

  6. Jay, I enjoyed reading your history of the Oxfords. I was at Westport
    and was an aquaintance of Ronnie Brooks during the early Oxford days.
    You played at many school functions including the Breakfast of my prom.
    The Oxfords were the best band in Louisville at the time, I was in
    the lesser known Eloyds, lots of bands playing in those years. Your
    version of “Always Something There to Remind Me” is still one of my
    favorite songs and I believe the best rendition of that song. I’m
    glad you mention that Ronnie sang lead after Barrickman departure because
    I remember him singing lead and playing bass and I know Barrickman
    went to the Oxfords but I hadn’t put the sequence together. I remember
    you performing “She Loves You” in German at German club meeting
    at Westport. My best memory of you as a musician was at one of the many
    performances by the Oxfords in Westports Gym….the band took a break
    and you sat down at the organ and did some solo dylan. It was great.
    You were a great musician and I hope you still are successful in
    all ventures. Thank you, Kent Guy Westport class of 67

    1. The Eloyds at one time consisted of Charlie Day. Gary Stoker, the late Steve Epperson, the late Jerry Dawes, the late Stu Jeffries and Joe Simpson. If anyone is interested, we have one picture left but instead of Charlie who was prone to disappear, so perhaps you replaced him? I’d love to know if there is any Teen Beat footage out there for my husband.

  7. I was the lead singer in The New York Free Public Library with Donnie Hale on drums and John Carby on lead guitar. We loved playing there as the head shop atmosphere really added to the experience. Yours was the only venue to provide a true psychodellic light show as we played. John still plays in Louisville with the King bees at Stevie Rays. I live in Athens Tn and sing karaoke on weekends.

  8. Hi My name is Dan Bardisa and I used to own (together with Randy Guest) The Kaleidoscope in Louiville,Ky.
    We were the third owners of the place that had at first been called Changes Unlimited,where bands like Stepenwolff, Iron Buterfly, and the Mothers of Invention played. We used to feature the Rugbys, and also The Oxfords and another Louisville group that I do not think ever recorded anything called The Waters. Randy and I also promoted The Mothers of Invention at Bellarmine College the night the Oxfords played before them. They where all a great buch of guys. I remember specially Jay for his talent as a musician and Larry Holt with his great sense of humor. Thanks for bringing a smile and sweet memories to me here in Spain where I now live .

    1. Just saw your comment….maybe years later dont know in this internet era….I went to changes…back in the day….amazing day….I loved it….VERY underground….I was a very big Oxfords fan…and Barrickman and Petach…and brooks and tullis….I remember that it was a very ACID rock place with some great dancers….and always with the excitement of OUTTHERENESS….love it… We have been through Massive changes….me…..soldier,,hippie…student…changlings….LOVE life and BEATLES FOREEVER…john Guy 2013

      1. AS an addendum….there was a band called the waters…BACK in the day…it seems to me, though rather fuzzy.. that they were an extension of the rugbys….THE rugbys and oxfords played at the same time and were not
        the same persons….I was in a little known band called the eloyds…so was cognizant of the scene…they were not the same and were playing at the same time….

    2. I have enjoyed ready about the history of the Oxfords! As a teenager in Louisville, I loved the concerts at Kalaidescope. I fondly remember the concert by the Mothers of Invention and the music of the Oxfords. I was dating Donnie Hale at the time and was able to come to the club early the day of the concert. I still have the poster of the concert…with all the Mothers’ signatures. What a special concert that was! I also fondly remember Port of Call and the owners who were artist friends of my parents. Such good memories!!

  9. I’m Donnie Hale’s daughter. It is so cool to read all of this material and comments. He passed away when I was 3 in 1979, so I never got to know him. Thanks for mentioning him in this blog.

  10. Mr bardisa,
    I currently reside in Old Louisville, Louisville Kentucky. I have renovated a building at 1029 s 7 th street. It is rumored that this was the location of your bar. I have been unable to verify the location of your bar. Hopefully, you can provide some information?!
    Thank you.
    Jeff young
    Julie moloney

    1. The address of the Kaleidoscope and Changes Unlimited was 519 West Zayne if I recall correctly. We went about every weekend. Amazing place.

  11. Carrie –

    I just found this page and your entry.
    I knew your dad (and his dad) very well. Your father was a very sweet guy and an excellent drummer. He and Dill and I had some great times together in those days.
    I was a very good friend of his dad, and knew your great uncles Herbie and Kenny as well. Your grandfather was a mentor for me in a few ways, and I owe him a great deal of gratitude and respect. He was a talented saxophonist as well. When he passed away suddenly in 1970, I was so devastated that I wasn’t even able to attend his funeral, and I left Louisville shortly after that.
    I didn’t know Donnie had a daughter, and word of his passing didn’t reach me for quite a while. If there’s anything you’re curious about regarding your father, please let me know.

    Keith Spring

    1. Hi Keith, I have thought of you and Jack Brengle often throughout the years. It’s a beautiful spring day here in Louisville and all the wonderful memories of youth and the smoked filled room on North 43rd floods my mind. Always jazz playing in the back ground. I can still hear Jack and Don laughing holding up the pink card that stated ” Henry A Sisney always says Life is a heavy —-.”
      Do you remember the roses in the back yard? Donnie would pick them and we would walk down the street singing “Zipadeedoodah” my o my what a wonderful day!
      A day such as today always brings back memories of Donnie. He is always with me. For some reason I found myself on the internet searching to see if anyone remembered him as I do. I have never searched for him on the web before and It has been a delightful surprise to find that someone remembers.
      I hope life has been good to you and finds you well.
      Diane

      1. Diane –
        You’ve rekindled some very fond memories. There was certainly smoke in the air in those days, and I shared a camaraderie w/Don & Jack that was educational as well as heartfelt.
        Henry A. Cisney was my grandfather. At the time I used to preface what I thought were witty comments with “Like my grandfather used to say…”, and Don had those cards printed up in commemoration of that habit. I had forgotten about that until now.
        I spoke w/Jack on the phone about a year before he passed, and we reminisced about those times. On a few of those late night, post-gig gatherings at Jack’s he would pick up his guitar and play Zip A Dee Doo Dah, and it remains one of my favorite songs as a result.
        I don’t remember the roses, unfortunately, but my memory becomes leakier and leakier as the days roll by.
        Life has been good to me, all in all, and I hope the same has been true for you, even as we’ve dealt with unexpected turns.
        I think we need to not only treasure these memories but to sustain them, as we are doing here.
        Don and Donnie were two of the sweetest people I’ve ever known.
        What a pleasant surprise to find your note here – I don’t come to this site very often, or I would have replied sooner.

        Best wishes,
        Keith

  12. Carrie:

    Donnie was an amazing musician and a good friend in the band. Like Keith, I was not living in Louisville when Donnie died, so I didn’t learn about it until much later.

    I remember talking with you on the phone several years ago when I sent you the Grateful Dead poster. Pictures, sound, and video recordings can all help remind us of the people that are now missing in our lives.

    Jay Petach

    1. Jay…you have always been a very great musician and a link
      to the past …in my mind…your music and self is in my memory as
      we pass into eternity…..I love your musical self..thank you sirl…

  13. Mark…I grew up with you guys…Goldie was my best friend for a long time. I went to Iroquois and hung around with you guys, John Carby, Don Mollyhorn…

    I remember Goldie lived off Newcut Road.

  14. The club was at 5th & Zane. Burned down. Surprised Iron Butterfly [before they became a cliche] didn’t burn it down with their flashpots. Very fond memories of lots of local/regional/national bands there, including the Mothers of Invention. Allman Bros Band drummer Butch Trucks played there regularly with a band known as the Tiffany System and also (later? earlier?) as the Bitter Ind, who recorded one album as the 31st of February. The Oxfords, as Jay notes, opened for the Grateful Dead @ Bellarmine. The Waters recorded some singles, and also opened for the Dead at Bellarmine (Dec 7 ’68). I saw “Grease,” renamed “Cruisin'” and joined the cast as an “H-Boy” (chorus), and went to the IU of Kansas gig.

    1. hey there I’m Debbie Parks. My mom and I along with jimmy guests mom were the original owners of colitis scope. If you know anyone who has photos I would love to see them you can contact me at dparks@starpr.net

    2. Hi Martin,
      My name is Debbie and my Mom owned the Kaliedoscope in Louisville. Would love to catch up with some of your memories. Please contact me.

  15. just came across this page and it’s fascinating to read all this history of louisville’s early music scene..I have a question about some old 45’s that belonged to my brother, george campbell, he was a drummer for lots of local bands in the late 60’s-80’s..seemed he was a fixture in the louisville music scene from his high school years on…he recently passed on but had been playing drums and harp in the tuesday night jams at stevie rays for a long time…i have several 45’s of his that have a song from the oxfords on one side from their union jac label, then the paper label from apple records on the other side with a beatles tune…many of them look like the apple paper label was simply stuck over the original oxfords imprint…does anyone have any info about this…no one seems to have ever seen anything like it…I thought someone closer to the band itself might know what was up or be able to point me in the right direction to get more info…I have several different beatles tunes but the oxfords songs are either my world or sung at harvest time//please email me at julesygirl@aol.com if anyone has any info…thanks

    1. julie…gotta tell you i am a very big BEATLE….OXFORDS LOVER…maybe one
      of the only left …..there could have been absolutely no connection back in the day…………..sorry JOHN GUY….SGT3884#@YAHOO.COM

  16. I am jimmy guest’s nephew. my father is michael wade guest. my uncle jimmy lives n lagrange ky. close to his brother and my other uncle randy guest.

    1. I remember your relative in two instances…..One…in the Durrett Jr high band
      when we were in like….eight grade…he was a new drummer and I was forced to
      play the tuba…….he was a normal good dude..period…..
      years later in high school he was the drummer for the Oxfords….a very very
      great band in Louisville at that time….THEY WERE GOOD.. any thing elsed I dont know…

  17. Thanks for that sweet message. I’d say, if there was anything you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it! I don’t know much at all about my grandfather, except that he was a saxophonist. My email address is sliceofla@gmail.com, though at the rate we seem to look at this page, maybe I’ll hear from you next year. 🙂
    My father had 2 children. Myself, and my sister Kimberly.

  18. Hi Jay,
    Yes, I remember talking with you! It was just after I had my 2nd baby. He’s 9 now! I have the Grateful Dead Poster in a frame on the wall.
    🙂
    I remember speaking to you about someone that had recordings of his band The Police. Do you remember who that was? I’d love to get some music.
    My email address is sliceofla@gmail.com

  19. Hey Jay! Was thinking of you, and then, the Oxfords. Got to this site and enjoyed reading about the band. You initiated me into the studio world; and at the time, I never realized how storied your past was. My only regret is that I always ran out of money much too soon to produce a ligitimate product, but I was never discouraged by you. I was a true “babe-in-the-woods” when we worked together, but miraculously, somehow got a lot of airplay from that first record. I give you all of the credit for that. I hope to drop in on you next time I’m in Cincinnati. Hope you are well.
    Your friend,
    Bobby

  20. Thrilled to find this. The Oxfords were great – mighty accomplished for a high school band; their music stacked up to some of what was being imported from England at the time.

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