The Page Boys

The Page Boys: Ronnie Hill, Tom McCarty, Richard Van Vliet, Mark Kay
The Page Boys, back row, from left: Ronnie Hill, Tom McCarty, Richard Van Vliet
front center: Mark Kay

The Page Boys cut one of the killer Texas 45s of the ’60s, “All I Want”, an original by Tom McCarty and Mark Kay. From the opening fuzztone guitar and drum beats you know this record is going to deliver, and it does, with solid rhythm, good harmonies and a wild scream followed by Mark Kay’s amped-up guitar solo. Tom McCarty wrote to me about his time with the group and working with Ray Ruff and Them in Amarillo in the summer of ’67:

Richard Van Vliet (drummer), Ronnie Hill (our bassman), Mark Kay (lead guitar), and myself made up the Pageboys.

Richard and Mark were part of a group call the Trespassers, which broke up. We started jamming together and got along well, so we started a group, originally called The Others.

The Others master for All I Want and Silver and Gold
The Others master tape for All I Want and Silver and Gold

We heard a song written by Val Stecklein called “Silver and Gold” that was on one of their albums and liked it so we went down to Tommy Allsup’s studio in Odessa in 1966 and recorded it again, along with one Mark and I wrote, “All I Want”. Tommy was the bass player for Buddy Holly and the Crickets. He’s still in the business I think, in Nashville. I’ve got a mono master and an unmastered 4 track tape from the Tommy Allsup session, but I bet they would disintegrate if anyone tried to play them. They’re 43 years old.

Page Boys - Ruff 45 All I Want We tried to get Liberty Records and several other labels interested to no avail, and then went to talk to Ray Ruff one day to see if he would be interested in us. Ray Ruff (given name: Ray Ruffin) had a recording studio in Amarillo at the Trades Fair shopping center at N.E. 24th and Grand. Ray was a Buddy Holly look-alike/wannabe who toured the mid-west with the Checkmates. If memory serves me right, The Checkmates had pretty well disbanded by 1966 which is about the time I met Ray Ruff. They were really a good group. Larry Marcum, their lead guitarist, was a good musician and a nice fellow. Galen Ray (full name was Galen Ray Englebrick) was the bass player for the Checkmates.

He didn’t want us “covering” other groups so we ditched it and started writing our own songs and recording them at the Checkmate Studio here in Amarillo. Unfortunately, I do not have any of the tapes or demos from those sessions, but am going to try to find them. I found some demos of groups that I think I did some backup work on with Ray.

Ray brought the group Them over from Ireland around that time. They actually lived in Amarillo for the better part of a year and we were all running mates during that time. I did a cello track on the song “Square Room” that was on the Sully record and the “Now and Them” album that was released in 1968 on the Tower label. Marty Cooper was involved with Ray on the production of that album. That was the beginning of what turned out to be a wild summer with all these guys. Alan Henderson (he and Van started Them) and I are starting a search for the tapes of all the recording sessions Them did with Ruff, but we’re just getting started.

Page Boys - Ruff 45 Sweet LoveRay Ruff and Marty Cooper decided to try out concert promotions back in the summer of 1967 and booked bands like the Yardbirds, Beau Brummels, Turtles, Everly Brothers, Castaways, Tommy Roe, Them, and a bunch of others. My band got to be the opening act for all of them. We played 6-7 nights weekly and toured all over the mid-west and as far down as El Paso with them.

Of all the bands we toured with, The Turtles were the most fun! The Yardbirds were not fun at all. Jeff Beck was on bad behavior every night we played with him, and he was really into destroying every piece of equipment on the stage. He was a wild man. Beck didn’t like us much as we would not let him use our Vox Super Beatle amps when he would tear up his own equipment. We had brand new amps and were not about to let him tear them up. We had to pay for our equipment, Vox paid for the Yardbirds’ equipment. He was really PO’d about that and we didn’t care.

The Everly Bros. didn’t like each other, so they weren’t much fun to tour with. Ray also signed us up to be J. Frank Wilson’s backup group. J. Frank had a little problem with whiskey and we spent most of our time trying to keep him sober enough to go onstage. His one hit was “Last Kiss”, Ray Ruff recorded that for him.

The Beau Brummels had a drummer whose name I cannot remember, but one night while we were on tour with them, their equipment didn’t make it in so they had to borrow guitars and bass from a music store that was good enough to loan them to them. Our drummer (Richard Van Vliet) told theirs he could use his set since they didn’t have a reputation for destroying equipment. The Beau Brummels’ drummer de-tuned Richard’s floor tom and snare without asking permission or telling him ahead of time (that was part of their sound on most of their songs). When Richard sat down at his drums right before we went onstage, he was pissed to find out that their guy had messed with his tuning. Richard re-tuned his heads, so our set worked out fine. When the Beau Brummels went onstage and started playing, their sound was almost comical.

That’s when all of us in the rock ‘n roll business would have to pack up by ourselves after each concert, and then immediately drive to the next city and be there in time to set up for the next night’s concert. Fortunately, Wolfman Jack, broadcasting from station XERF in Del Rio, TX, was always there on the radio to keep us awake. Back then, KOMA was the big radio station (Oklahoma City) that all the Midwest bands like the Checkmates, Blue Things, etc. advertised their upcoming appearances on, as it had a HUGE broadcast area. So did WLS out of Chicago. But we ALL wanted to be sure to hear the “Wolfman”.

It was a great experience and a lot of fun, but I was still in college at the time and decided to quit the band and go back to school in September 1967.

Tom McCarty

Special thanks to bosshoss for the transfers of both songs.

 Page Boys poster, courtesy of Tom McCarty
Page Boys poster, courtesy of Tom McCarty
 "To the Paige Boys - Best Wishes from the Turtles"
“To the Paige Boys” (courtesy of Tom McCarty of the Page Boys)

21 thoughts on “The Page Boys”

      1. Very sad to hear about Ronnie. I’m Mark Kay’s nephew. I remember all of you coming over to my grandmothers house and practicing in the front room. Very fond memories.

  1. This had been one of the biggest mysteries in ’60s garage music until now.

    Also thanks to the late Ray Ruff for recording one of the toughest fuzztones heard on any ’60s record.

  2. went with the name of The Tracers out of Billings, Montana. Before that, I played with Ronnie House. Later, I played with The James Gang.

    The Tracers were a show band which I liked. For what it is worth, the band–The Tracers–Mark Kay, Ronnie Hill, Royce Dehoney, Raynile Bales, and Les went on tour without me (I think they fired me). Richard Van Vliet got back in at that juncture. Richard was always first chair in band and orchestra in Jr High–I was only second chair until he moved on. Perhaps, Tom McCarty went on tour with the Tracers, as a backup band for Them. I am clueless because I did not go. Needless to say, I felt abandoned, but for the best.

    The bands were a lot of fun and I have only seen Mark Kay twice in the last few decades. The first time was to make amends and the second time he did not see me because he was yelling at a restaurant waitress that his water for his tea was not hot enough. I often wonder what happend to Ronnie Hill.

    But the best band that we ever backed up back then was Mitch Rider and the Detroit Wheels–I have seen Mitch twice since then. Ray Ruffin was really just a weasel, never really made any money with him–we did better without him. Ray Ruffin and Buddy Holly were old news–and the so-called “hot 45” of the Page Boys (in my opinion) sucked because at the time it sounded like pre-Beatles stuff (i.e. Buddy Holly).

    However, The Tracers had a 45 that was over the top–I think I may still have copy of it somewhere. If Tommy Roe is still alive, he is probably still playing bubble gum music. The all around greatest guitar play ever? Jimmy Hindricks–he blew everyone off the stage. I always wanted to play with a band that had its own sound and wrote their own lyrics–this never happened. My music career died when they fired me. Anymore, I really do not care to pursue music other than having an upright baby grand piano in the dining room.

    If anybody wants to disbute any of this, find me on FaceBook Bobby Lynn Lawson or join my website at http://www.MyLibraryNews.com and I will get back with you. Of course, the above is the short version of those times. Also, thanks for not putting my picture up with Mark and Ronnie in the Page Boys (I am just being sarcastic). It just completes my sense of abandonment by you guys. Thanks alot for completing ignoring the evolution of the Page Boys into The Tracers.

  3. Bobby, While we were trying to put a band togeher, we played with or practiced with several different people.

    Through trial and error, we ended up with Mark, Richard, Ronnie and myself, and named ourselves The Others.

    Later, when we thought we might be headed for the “big time”, we re-named ourselves The Page Boys as we thought it sounded more British, which was a big deal back then.

    There never were any other members of The Page Boys.

    That’s all there was to it. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Don’t feel badly. It sounds like you had a great time with the bands you played with.

    Go and be blessed!

    Tom McCarty

    1. Hi Doug, I believe we played at the Village Swinger in Lubbock in July, 1967, which is close to the Music Box. When we would play at the Village Swinger, we would always go over to the Music Box to listen to the Sparkles. They had a drummer named Lucky Floyd who was fantastic.

      They were fantastic band.

      I believe we even played Santa Fe with the Yardbirds. And I think we play the Colosseum in El Paso. The acoustics were awful and the Colosseum.

      I noticed her our old friend Tommy Allsup died last month.

      Our recording session at his studio in Odessa was our first contact with anyone close to Buddy Holly.

      One night, when we were playing at the Village Swinger in Lubbock, we were visited by Buddy Holly’s parents.

      We always did a buddy holly said when we were in Lubbock and they came down to hear us.

      Meeting them was the high point of my rock ‘n’ roll career.

      They were such a nice couple.

  4. Doug, it’s been 46 years since the band days. But it seems like we played Amarillo, Lubbock, El Paso, to name a few. I think we may have also played at the convention center in Ruidoso, which burned down some time after that. Can’t remember the rest of the venues… Sorry.

    An update on the old band:

    Richard lives in Colorado Springs.
    Mark lives in Amarillo.
    Ronnie lives in Amarillo.
    I live in Amarillo.
    None of us are in the music biz anymore. Ronnie is not in good health.
    The rest of us just got older.
    Quick update on THEM:
    Alan Henderson lives in Minnesota.
    Jim Armstrong lives in Las Vegas. He lost his wife to cancer last month.
    Ray Elliott passed away several years ago.
    I lost touch with Ken McDowell and Dave Harvey.
    Alan, Jim and I still talk with each other regularly.
    Great guys…. All of them!
    Those were fun days.

    1. Tom: Thanks so much for the reply. I have Ruidoso as Potter’s Hut. Lubbock as The Music Box. Do those sound right? Amarillo as Checkmate Young Adult Club. El Paso is new to me and there’s nothing in the paper but there was nothing for Lubbock either. Are you sure on that one? And what would the venue have been if so? Thanks too on the Them update, interesting!

  5. Aug 13: Checkmate Young Adult Club, Amarillo; Aug 16 [The Music Box] Lubbock; Aug 21 [unknown venue], El Paso All with the Page Boys.

  6. It is so fun to look at this history and see the wonderful things written about this band and my husband, Mark Kay (no “e” at the end). Mark is an amazing guitarist and we have played music together for many years.
    To let y’all in on a bit of what Mark has done musically, since those days….
    We played in a Christian group locally, in Amarillo in the mid 80s. We led praise and worship and worked with several praise teams at a couple different churches, as well over the years.
    Then, in the 90s we played cowboy music at The Creekwood Ranch Old West Show and Chuckwagon supper. We had a great time out there and that led to many other gigs both public and private. In 1999, we toured in Germany playing these same songs celebrating an era long past. We played at The Karl May Festival. It’s a huge Western festival in Germany! We were the first American group to be on that stage and it was a great honor to be chosen to perform there. We toured for 19 glorious days and I will never forget it!
    Mark and I continue to get the guitars out at home and occasionally jam out in public.
    Playing music is a wonderful gift. I am so thankful to be married to Mark (almost 34 years, now) for many reasons as well as his amazing talent on guitar. I have to tell y’all that he is a truly gifted musician and that the hours we spend playing together are some of the best moments in our lives! I wish each of you could hear him play, today! 🙂

    Note to Bobby…
    Bobby, wow, you seem to be a little bitter.
    I’m Mark’s wife. He doesn’t do a lot of typing but I will relate, as best as I can, what he stated to me.
    He said they tried several drummers for that tour because Richard’s parents were against him going out on the road. He stated at that you were a very good drummer; excellent, in fact, for that era. He stated that Richard was always the drummer for the group but that the possible hiring of a drummer for that tour was just for the tour and that when that tour was over, Richard would have continued being the drummer. When Richard’s parents decided to allow him to go, that did it. Richard was the drummer. Mark said you never did quite understand that and that the night they told you about it, you punched him in the face. Hence, the “first” meeting to make amends… I think maybe your comment about the second time seeing him may be skewed a bit by your bitterness.
    Mark stated that he is very sorry that you lost interest in playing in bands over this incident as you were very good and would have been an asset in any group that chose to have you as their drummer. Their choice was already made and had nothing to do with your ability. It had everything to do with the fact that Richard was their drummer.
    I, for my part, would say that I hope you can let this all go. To stay bitter over something that happened in High School with kids that were all trying to find their way in life is a sad thing. I hope you can find a way to heal and not allow your anger to continue to haunt you for the, relative, last few years of your life.
    Praying for a healed heart,
    Marian

  7. Something I failed to mention 6+ Years ago: Jeff Beck replace Eric Clapton who was the original lead guitar for the Yardbirds.

    When Jeff left the band, Jimmy became the lead guitarist but the Yardbirds needed a good vocalist.

    After auditioning lots of singers, they finally “settled” for a guy who did not demand a salary.

    He just asked for 30% of gross proceeds and wanted the band to choose a new name.

    They hired him and re-named the band and the rest is Rock ‘n Roll history.

    The new singer was Robert Pkant and they re-named the band LED ZEPPELIN!.

    I had the privilege of seeing Led Zeppelin in their first U.S. Concert in Denver.

    A star was born that night.

  8. Alan Henderson’s wife just called and told me Alan died of an apparent heart attack on Sunday, April 9.

    Alan was one of the founders of the group THEM and was a good friend of mine.

    He will be missed by a lot of good people.

    Beannacht leat go bnfeicfidh me aris thu (Blessings until I see you again)

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