Al’s Untouchables and the Orphans

The Untouchables, 1966
The Untouchables, 1966 from left: Bruce Nunamaker, Ron Bressler, Tom Hankins and Dick Douglas

Al's Untouchables Hunt 45 Come On BabyAl’s Untouchables’ “Come On Baby” / “Stick Around” is one of long-time classics of 60s garage rock. Original copies are rare and when they do sell, go for well over $1,000. The G45 Central site described “Come On Baby” as “raw energy that may never be equaled”, all within two minutes of playing time. After the band establishes the pounding rhythm, lead guitarist Dick Douglas solos for nearly half a minute, and continues whenever there’s a break in the lead vocals.

Though overshadowed by “Come On Baby”, the flip “Stick Around” is excellent bluesy r&b. The label for “Stick Around” has “Douglas” in parentheses, referring to Dick Douglas on lead vocals.There were actually two different groups on Hunt Records called the Untouchables. The first group consisted of Al Huntziner (drums), Larry Fountain (guitar), Ernie Dvorak (saxophone), Ron Hamad (guitar), Bob Keith (keyboards), Bill Alley (bass), Mel Winder (guitar), Frank Glaser (guitar) and Bob Gaston. This Al & the Untouchables released one 45 on Hunt, “Church Key” / “Danny Boy”.

Al's Untouchables Hunt 45 Stick AroundThen came an all-new Untouchables – but that story is best told by bassist and vocalist Tom Hankins. Tom also sent in the photos seen here.

In 1962, 14 year old Tom Hankins (bass and vocals) started a rock band with Scott Bascom (guitar and vocals), Mike Sexton (guitar and vocals) and Mike Curley (drums). The band was formed in Cedar Rapids, IA and named themselves The Belvederes.

Personnel changes were made at various points and the final version was Hankins on bass, keyboards, guitar and vocals, Dick Douglas on lead guitar and vocals, Bruce Nunamaker on rhythm guitar, Eddy Hood on 12 string guitar, bass and rhythm guitars and vocals and Ron Bressler on drums.

The Untouchables with Sam the Sham and the Everly Brothers
The Untouchables billed with Sam the Sham and the Everly Brothers, among others

They were having moderate success when area manager Al Huntzinger called Tom and asked him if his band would become Al’s Untouchables, as Al’s band of that name had all quit over money issues with Al. Hankins accepted and The Untouchables were born. Al still insisted on putting his name on the band, but they were just known to their fans as The Untouchables and Al no longer performed with them, as Hankins made that part of the deal [which is why “Hankin’s” is included in parentheses underneath the band’s name on the second Hunt single – ed.].They quickly became Iowa’s top group with the backing of Darlowe Olsen, owner of Danceland Ballroom in Cedar Rapids, where The Untouchables became the house band and backing band for touring acts like Sam The Sham, Ike & Tina Turner, The Hullaballoos and dozens more top national and British Invasion acts. They also toured on Olsen’s circuit of venues in the Midwest with Chuck Berry, The Dave Clark Five, The Animals, Johnny Tillotson and others.

In 1965 The Untouchables recorded what turned out to be a double-sided hit in the upper Midwest in 1966 with the songs “Come On Baby” and “Stick Around”, both penned by Hankins and Douglas writing under the name of Thomas Richards.

“Come on Baby” is now being called “The Holy Grail of Garage Punk”. This was recorded in Chicago at Sound Studios, the same studio used by The Stones and also with their engineer Stu Black. Hankins and Douglas produced the songs, but manager Huntzinger listed himself as producer when the record was pressed.

The Untouchables of Jefferson High School

The Untouchables aka the Orphans
The Untouchables at the Spider Web, a youth club managed by Mom Uffelman

They began drawing packed venues. In 1966 the entire band was kicked out of high school because the school board deemed their hair as “unfit”, as it covered the top of their ears and almost went over their collars.It turned out that Jefferson Senior High School principal William Paxton found out that the boys in the band were making more money than he was and he developed a grudge against them, doing his best to make sure the boys wouldn’t get their diplomas, but he failed. This put The Untouchable’s name in the headlines nationwide and they drew record crowds at all of the big ballrooms in the Midwest.

Once they were out of school they immediately headed to Hollywood. They had been there during Spring Break when Liberty Records asked them to come out and sign a contract. Liberty, however, wanted The Untouchables to clean up their image and cut their hair, to which the band refused, ripped up the contract and walked out the door.

The Orphans, 1967
The Orphans, 1967 from left: Ron Bressler, Dick Douglas, Jimmy Carroll, Tom Hankins and Eddy Hood

The Orphans Herbst 45 Without You

They dumped their manager Huntzinger and changed the band name to The Orphans at this point after finding out he had been pocketing up to 80% of the band’s pay before dividing the rest up with the musicians. Famed producer Phil Spector listened to “Come On Baby” and “Stick Around” and helped them get a production deal with producer Marshall Leib. Herb Alpert was just starting A&M records with Jerry Moss and he wanted to sign The Orphans, but they lacked enough original material and Alpert needed someone immediately.They met The Doors and toured California with them. This was before The Doors were known outside California and were not even signed yet. Dissension broke The Orphans up.

Orphans with the Left BankeThe band returned to Iowa where Hankins and Douglas took over the operation of Danceland Ballroom from Olsen and ran it until it was closed for good, to be ripped down to make room for a parking garage and events center. They also put The Orphans back together. The duo also promoted concerts in The Midwest with The Orphans generally headlining, but other groups like The Byrds and Beau Brummels headlined some of these shows.

Douglas and Hankins returned to Hollywood and formed a new group with vocalist Aaron Brownstone and world-famous drummer Sandy Konikoff, who also played with Taj Mahal and George Harrison, among others. They record a 12 song album of original material for ABC Records, but upon completion of the LP, Brownstone was killed in a motorcycle accident, thus negating the contract.

Douglas and Hankins returned to Iowa where Douglas formed Enoch Smokey and they became one of the top Eastern Iowa groups. Hankins former a power blues trio with Dan Daniels and became the house band at the all-African American club called The Cougar Lounge in Cedar Rapids. In 1969 both Hankins and Daniels started training to become professional wrestlers and became known nationwide as “The World’s Most Dangerous Wrestlers”.

 CAC 2004, from left: Verne Gagne, Jack Brisco and Tom Hankins
CAC 2004, from left: Verne Gagne, Jack Brisco and Tom Hankins

During this period they were both offered a berth playing with Charlie Daniels after participating in a jam session in Nashville, where they happened to be wrestling, but they had to turn him down as their wrestling career was just taking off.Dick Douglas still plays in Iowa and is recording a new CD as this is being written. Coincidentally, Hankins is currently recording and producing a new CD with The Powerhouse Blues Band in Los Angeles. Nunamaker lives in Colorado and continues to be one of the state’s top guitarists. Bressler left the music business completely and Eddy Hood is currently an artist living in Northern California, and still plays with his own group around the San Francisco area.

The band was inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, with Douglas and Nunamaker accepting the awards for the band, while Hood and Hankins went to San Francisco for a musical reunion of their own and jammed for two days.

 Tom Hankins, Eric Burdon and Dick Douglas, April 1966
Tom Hankins, Eric Burdon and Dick Douglas, April 1966

Tom kindly answered some of my questions about the Untouchables and also about the unreleased recordings of the Orphans:

Q. What was the connection with the Legends?

The Legends were the top drawing band in Cedar Rapids until The Untouchables hired Douglas out from under them. They did release a song that Eddy Hood and I wrote called “Sunshine Daydream” and the flip side was a cover of “Back in the USSR”. It received airplay in Cedar Rapids only however and their popularity was mainly around Cedar Rapids itself.

The Orphans Herbst 45 Hey GypQ. Is that you playing organ on “Come On Baby”?

Yes, I’m playing organ on both sides of the single and Eddy Hood played bass.

Q. Do you remember where the show with the Left Banke took place?

The Left Banke show was at Danceland Ballroom when Dick Douglas & I were running it and was the last major act to play there in 1967. They no-showed twice and this third time when they finally did show, the fans didn’t and they drew less than 200 people.

Q. The Orphans was at least pressed to vinyl – what happened to all the copies of the 45?

“Without You”, written by Dick Douglas and me and recorded as The Orphans in 1966 in Hollywood at Gold Star Studios. It was never released as the, engineering, production, mixing and mastering was so terrible and the quality of the recording is so bad that we refused to let them release it. This is what broke up The Orphans.

The flip side of “Without You” was “Hey Gyp”. written by Donovan and obtained from him for The Orphans to record before anyone else did. The Animals did a much better version.

Our “manager” and all-around thief Al Huntzinger stole the 45’s when we quit, even though we’d paid for them and for the recording session ourselves, and he must have destroyed them. I only have two myself.

I run into Eric Burdon at times as he lives here in Los Angeles too. He remembered Cedar Rapids and being hungover badly while playing there. We had just come off the road and were really hung over too.

Tom Hankins
May 2012

Despite the muddy sound, the Orphans’ “Without You” is an excellent cut and deserves to be heard. As far as I can tell it’s never been comped or featured before now. Norman Goodman engineered it and Larry Herbst and Dick Michaels are listed as producers. I can’t find much further info about Herbst or Michaels as far as the music biz goes.

Hunt Records discography:
Any additional info would be appreciated

Hunt 450 – Al and the Untouchables – Church Key / Danny Boy
Hunt 1401 – Al’s Untouchables – Come On Baby / Stick Around
Hunt 1201 – Corruption, Inc – She’s Gone (Logel – McCleary) / Somewhere (produced by Jim Logel)
Hunt 270 – Uncle ‘na Anteaters – Kathy Ran Around / I Can’t Go On (formerly the Countdowns)

 The Untouchables
The Untouchables

14 thoughts on “Al’s Untouchables and the Orphans”

  1. I’ll be selling one copy of “Come On Baby” from the original pressing and also a copy of Without You/Hey Gyp on E Bay soon.

  2. In 1992 Craig Moore of GONN reissued an EP on his own MCCM label (9012) called “Guts in the Garage” that featured Church Key, Danny Boy, Stick Around and Come On Baby.

  3. Craig had no legal right to release Come On Baby or Stick Around. I and Dick Douglas own the songs,and have always renewed the copywrites and publishing and everything else related to those two songs. Old Al “The Hook” Huntzinger probably received some kind of a deal from Craig for selling him the rights to the songs. A small trivial matter like the fact he didn’t own the rights to those songs didn’t stop the greed from rearing it’s ugly head nor stop Hook from collecting money that belonged to The Untouchables (nothing new to him either) and he still owes us a lot, with interest. Come on Hook and fork over the cash or we’re headed to court. That is the only thing only thing that would probably get me back to the Iowa area, unless Dick, Eddy and I do a reunion tour around the areas where we did well. The venues may mostly be gone now, but the great cities where we played are still there.

  4. I was just reminiscing about seeing the Untouchables play locally. They played on a reasonably regular basis at a local youth club called the Spider Web, which was managed by a terrific lady, Mom Uffelman. The color picture above of Tom, Dick and Ronnie Was taken there sometime around 1966 or so. It looks like it could be from some of the ones that I took during that time. I gave Dick a copy of one or two pictures a couple of years ago at a local event to induct Mom Uffelman into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    The band made a lasting impression on my friend and I and we always held them up as a model for the kind of band we would want to be, and we didn’t even play yet. All though we were similar in ages as the band, that didn’t come about until 5 or 6 years later, we were late starters.
    They always gave a hard hitting, high energy, straight ahead performance. We would always talk to them during and at the end of the show. They never objected, let us take all the pictures we wanted and always treated us well.
    It was a great period in time, great music and a great band.

  5. I have a record. The Orphans. 10″ 45 rpm, 4 songs. A song name is “Pretty Thing”, which is very smiliar (musical and voice) with “Without You”. Are you guys same guys or no? I have no idea.

  6. No, that’s not the same Orphans. Pretty Thing is a Bo Diddley song. The songs do sound similar to ours, unless someone recorded us at a live show and I didn’t know about it.

  7. Hi Tom,

    This is Teri Bressler Ron’s wife. We got divorced years ago and Ron passed away a few years ago. Our son Todd is married and he and his wife have a five year old daughter. It’s been a long and interesting journey for me and I so miss Ron who is and always will be the love of my life. I’ll always remember the band of course and all the great, crazy times and some of my greatest memories.

    It would be great to talk to you!

    Teri Bressler

    1. Hi Terri,
      It’s great to hear from you after all these years. I’m still playing in my band called Mad Dog & The Bad Dogs. We’re playing all over Los Angeles. We mainly play blues and I still play some of the songs that we did with the Untouchables. Sorry to hear about Ron. Eddy Hood told me that he was really sick a few years ago, but I didn’t know that he died.
      I wrote a book called THE MAT, THE MOB & THE MUSIC that will be released soon. There’s a lot about the band in it, along with stories of my life in professional wrestling, the music business and my time working for the Mafia. I’m still married to Sue. We just had our 50th anniversary last month. My email is platehead1@aol.com.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.