String and the Beans

String and the Beans Fat City 45 Come Back to MeString & 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

24 thoughts on “String and the Beans”

  1. Sam McDavid is my dad. They were indeed from Birmingham. I sent the link to my dad. He could fill in the names of the other band mates.

  2. Hey you guys, somebody forgot to say who the drummer was in the band and on that recording. It was me Louis Gigis. I am sure Sams daughter failed to put me in the line-up because afterall who sees the drummer anyway. I can tell you this. i can give whoever wants it more info about the Beans than anyone of the children of the the other members.

    Hey Sam and Craig, I am looking to put a band back together are you all interested. I had put together one in 2006 that consisted of players from The Embers, Blood , Sweat and teras, Almand Brokerts and Me. We blew the socks off the crowds in P.C. Beach the summer of 06. Remember when we were the Back up band for the Tams ? what Fun.

    E0mail me, would love to hear from you guys.

    Louis

  3. I am the eldest daughter of one of the “beans”, Craig Fulford. What an awesome tribute to have these two songs on this website!

  4. Great to read your memories, ole timer. The steel player in the band I’m in now ran across this site and told me about it yesterday. I was 15 when I started with y’all. I remember you driving me to jobs, especially Montgomery. Was it a ’57 bel aire? or, 55 other chevy? There’s an exit around Clanton or Jemison I always think about when we had car troubles as I pass by. There was a place called Martin’s there. You were cool. A Ringo before we ever heard of him. I remember you staring up and away as you kept the steady beat. You know I left my buddies in the Bassmen to join you guys ’cause I needed the money to pay for my amp. Then Y’all dumped me so co-founder McDavid could play bass since he wasn’t needed on rhythm when Kent came on board with the piano. Remember our first Montgomery gig, we had to stand on our amps to make room. And the Key Club jobs in the gyms. Great times. I teach guitar these days here in Birmingham. Spent 6 years in Nashville writing and recording. Didn’t amount to anything but great experience. What are you up to? Again, great reading your words and recalling those old times. Sincerely, Chuck

  5. Chuck,

    You are about as an old timer as me, back then 2 years age apart was a lot. I have done so much in my life it is hard to tell you in writing. Call me 850-319-2412 I live in Panama City but I have been all over the country with hotels. Larry Parker from Larry and the Loafers( Panama City Blues) is putting the band back together in B’ham I may be moving back. I still have drums.

    Great as hell to hear from you. It was a 57 chevy two hard top belaire and yes I rememebr Montgomery, What a great memory.WHAT FUN, lETS DO IT AGAIN OLD TIMER !

    Call me Dude

    lOUIS

  6. Was This the Same robbie Robertson that sang with a group called the reflections and whom recorded “Talk Don’t Bother Me” on Boutwell Records?… 1965-66?..He Later was called up for service in The Army Wasnt He?
    Best Regards!!
    Dave Van De Brake

  7. Hello musicians. I am Kent’s youngest daughter, Emily. I now attend the University of Virginia. I loved reading the stories about when y’all performed at High Schools and such. I am sad to hear that my dad could not make it to the recording studio that day. Seeing as dad passed away 5 years ago this summer, I am wondering if you have any more stories that you could share about the days when y’all were together as a band. They would be much appreciated. Dad started me off with the keys, tried to teach me a little guitar, and I’m taking bass lessons now, of my own accord. My email is ekd6te@virginia.edu. Feel free to post here or send me a message.

    Thank you.

  8. Hi Louis! Thanks for your input here. Been years since we last met…you all were the best!!!

    Any update on Craig (or a way to contact him/his family)? Weren’t the 60’s just the very best!!!

    jo

  9. Hey Jo,

    It has been years. Whats up with you nowadays ?

    Haven’t heard from Craig in 20 years but I know he got divorced and moved out west. He is training dogs. I sure would like to hear from him, I hope he still has copies of the reel to reels. I would like to get a copy.

    Later, Louis

  10. To Craig Fulford , The greatest fuzz tone artist in the world.

    Whats up man. Haven’t seen or heard from you in 30 or 40 years. Do you still have copies of the reel to reels that Lowery sent us with all the other songs on it ? I would love to have a copy for my grandkids. Any pictures you have would be great. Call or email me Louiesocean@yahoo.com 850-867-5559

    Later,

    Louis

  11. Brian,

    You emailed me with a question about my musical career. I lost your email address somehow. Get back to me with any questions and I would be glad to accomodate.

    Louis

  12. I have visited this site on several occasions but until now have failed to post. My name is Craig Fulford and I played lead guitar and attempted to write a little with Robbie Robertson as well a do the arrangements for our performances.

    In many respects we were trend setters and could perform songs by black artists that other bands could not. We were also well ahead of our times with certain sounds (like the fuzz tone on lead guitar) much to the dismay of my best friend and bass player Sam McDavid. He hated it, lol.

    Robbie Robertson became our lead singer because he grew in his talent to such a degree that he literally pushed out his competition. I’ll never forget how nervous he was the first time he had to perform as the lead singer. I convinced him that lemon juice would help his vocal range and he bought the idea hook line and sinker. He was absolutely great from that time forward. Placibos are wonderful things!

    Louis Gigis (our drummer with the beautiful sister) was one of the most interesting characters I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Not only was he a terrific drummer he was the band bouncer and saved us from “drunk” fans on more than one occasion. That is as long as they weren’t female! There are stories galore about Louis that are better left untold!

    The late Kent Donovan played the keyboard and was always looking for ways to improve our total sound. Not only was Kent talented, he was also a very sensitive guy looking for the positive in what he did. I still think of him often.

    Others came and left but Chuck Butterworth has a special place in my heart. He really tried HARD and improved beyond belief during his time with us. Unfortunately he became a casualty of economics as we tried to keep our group small. I was very fond of him!

    There are others who made big contributions over the years but if I try and remember them all I will leave someone out so I’ll stop here.

    Let me close by saying that the years I spent with our band were some of the best. The people involved made it that way.

  13. Yes. Thanks for remembering. Still enjoying and committed to music, but dedicated to contemporary Christian music and serve various venues but primarily at the contemporary service at Canterbury Methodist Church in Mtn Brook.

    1. Hi Robbie,
      Every time I hear Come Back To Me, I see you. What great memories. My current wife Kathy that I have been married to for 35 years, remembers hearing us at the armorys around town. She was 5 years younger than us. Soft of reminds me of American Grafitti. Anyway, Just wanted to ask if you have any pictures, or tapes or anything from the band that you can get me copies of, I have zero.

      Call me at 239-297-1960 or email http://www.louisgigis@gmail.com Love to hear from you.

      Louis

  14. I just saw the website and wanted to say that I joined the Beans in Fall 1965 and played Bass until I was hurt in a motorcycle accidentin B’Ham on May 26, 1966. I later played with the group for a few gigs after I recovered. I ran into Louis sometimes in Birmingham in about 1999 I think

  15. Became a state senator in tennessee in 1974 and practised law in tennessee for many years. I remember the Song Talk Don’t Bother me when i worked with the group in 65 and 66. I play Bass and James Brown’s group and I were friends. I know all the musicians and remember playing with the Tams. Later met their song writer in Atlanta named Ray Contact me via email or 706 738-2938 The singing senator in Ga

  16. Hey Bobby,

    How is it going my friend ? I remember your accident and still talk about it to bikers I meet sometime. I am a member of The Blue Knights International Motorcycle Club and I ride a 1999 Harley Superglide Convertible with a fat kid front end and screaming eagles with all the chome you can ad. Do you still ride ?

    You were and still are a great bass player. Did you play with us when we backed up the Tams in Tuscaloosa at the Stafford hotel and in Birminghjam at the Airport Armory ? Do you remember the events that took place those two gigs?

    Congrats on becoming a senator and practicing law, I could have made you a good living as my attorney when things went south on my business in the mid 70’s. I talked with Craig and Sam lately and they are both doing pretty well. I hope to catch up with them in Birmingham one day. Sam still lives in B’ham and Craig lives in Gulf Shores and I live on Panmaa City Beach. Where are you in Tenn .? I had a band that I put together to play at one of my restaurants I owned. We called it The cLass Reunion Band. 4 pieces, Lead, Bass, Keyboards and drums. We only had to practice a few times since we were all the same age and knew all the same songs from the 60’s and 70’s. You should start a band and name it ” The Senators”

    I have your number and will call you sometime, same goes for you , my number is 850-867-5559

  17. It was so nice to read your post. Enquiries as to your whereabouts failed so great to know you are OK. Thinking back on the days of String and the Beans makes me smile and fills me with some of the most wonderful memories of my life. Email update to grits711@gmail.com

    Remember Kiska in PC?
    jo ann

  18. Robbie,

    Thanks for your reply!…You were a great basketball coach too!!!
    E-mail me when you get this message..I would love to get a copy of “Talk Dont Bother Me”
    and others if possible..
    Best to you and your family

    Dave Van De Brake USAF/Ret

  19. Yes I played with the Tams that day and with them in atlanta later. I alsdo met their song writer Ray Whitely in Atlanta. I am retired living back in my home town of ayugusta, Jamesa Brown Town, my number 706 738-2938 I called Louis Gigis the other day and left him a message to call.

  20. Hi Craig. You are talented. Miss chatting and playing bass with your group. I am retired lawyer living in augusta, ga Call me or send me your email address or phone number. Love to hear from you Bobby Byrd

  21. Hey Showmen, Beans, and Refluctions (jus kiddin)… you guys remember me.. the little kid that was always in the way at rehearsals.. “hey kid…don’t step on my guitar cord!!!..” – “get away from those drums… their not toys…!!!” ….. yeh, that was me. I remember all the gear, the vans or trailers… those massive fender baseman amps… well, to a little kid it was impressive. I loved watching all ya’ll argue over arrangements and going over and over a section of a song till you got it down. Actually taught me a lot about the process, which I respected and later used. I marveled as my older brother (Sam) and the rest headed toward rock and roll stardom… We were all very impressed, and my friends thought it was cool that my bro was in a band.. and thought I was cool for it too.. and I was :). The Beatles had just come out and, well, it was THE thing to do.. Sam is definitely one of the reasons I went into music. The varied musical taste of all my family congealed into my best influences, and I’m pretty sure my own music reflects those influences today. I always wanted to go and see my brother playing at one of those gigs, but I don’t think this little 6 year old snot nosed kid was allowed… Trust me when I say, I have well since made up for missing those shenanigans by stirring up some of my own. Blame it all on SAM.. its his fault.. hehe. Anyway, this little trip down memory lane has been a nice “Reflection” for me. ROCK ON! & CHEERS —- scott mcdavid

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