Category Archives: Alabama

Morgan Records discography

The Fabulous Checkmates Morgan 45 SafariMorgan Records had its base in Montgomery, Alabama. Some artists, like the Rockin’ Gibraltars recorded at Cloverland Studio in Montgomery. Publishing was often with Granny Music BMI.

Morgan discography (incomplete – any help with this would be appreciated)

Morgan 674H-3947 – Kavaliers – “Get Your Feet Off Me” / “If You Loved Her” (SK4M-3947/8) (November 1965)
Morgan HV-? – Kavaliers – “Hey Baby” / “Hot Cha” (Woods) (TK4M-9707) (1966)
Morgan 5965 – Doug Hughes – “Reno Blues” (Mitchell Bush, Granny Music BMI) / “Two People I Know” (SK4M-5966)
Morgan HR 9018 – Charlena & the Rockettes – “Ramrod” / “Last Night”
Morgan HV-9026 – Joe & Harold – “Rag Mop” / “That’s What’s the Matter with Me”
Morgan HV-9040 – Rockin’ Gibraltars – “Go With Me” (S. Grier, K. Brewer) / “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” (TK4M-2418/9) 1966
Morgan HV-9041 – The Mustangs – “Hitch Hike” / “Daddy’s Home” (T4KM-5005/6) 1966
Morgan HV-9044 – The Bankrupts, vocal Jimmy Wood – “Bankrupt” (J. Segrest) / “Why Can’t I Change” (T4KM-5107)
Morgan HV-9049 – Fabulous Checkmates – “Safari ‘Jungle Trip'” (Bush, Jones, Helms, Windham, Dean) / “My Sin and My Pride” (TK4M-5243/4)
Morgan HV-9060 – The Seeds of Time – “She’s Been Travelin’ ‘Round the World” / “Gina” (TK4M-9674/5)

The Kavaliers were Wayne Neuendorf, Jack Boutwell, Mike Morris, Larry Hughes, Tim Nix and Mike Walters.

Thanks to Gary Wise and Max Waller for help with the discography.

The Illusions

Illusions Chantain 45 Shadows Of YouOne of many groups called the Illusions, this group cut only one 45 featuring the great “Shadows of You” by D. Gillon, which was originally the B-side. The A-side is the more pop “Rain, Shine, or Snow” by J. Dougherty.

Members were Jim Posey – lead vocals, Robert Thames – lead guitar and vocals, David Gillon – rhythm guitar and vocals, Joe Dougherty – bass guitar and vocals and Paul Morrow – drums and vocals. The band had an earlier 45 under Jim Posey’s name, a version of “Double Shot (of My Baby’s Love)” b/w “That Boy” on Bahama Records out of Florence, Alabama.

United Recording and Production was incorporated in Birmingham, Alabama on May 20, 1968. The Chantain BMI credit doesn’t show up in BMI’s current database. Although it looks something like a Rite pressing, it is not, with etched deadwax simply “L-193-1/2”. Maybe someone can comment with the likely pressing plant for this record.

Chantain had at least three other releases, a soul 45 by Roy Smith “Don’t Go Away” (R. Smith, B. Walker) / “The Pain Lingers On” (Chantain CH-0014, reissued on Ascot AS 2239), the Regular Size doing a ballad called “Down In Texas” b/w “Richmond”, and a release by Jerry Woodward.

Thank you to Max Waller for information on the band.

Illusions Chantain 45 Rain, Shine or Snow

The Barons (Ozark, Alabama)

The Coachmen at Grannys Teen Club, Opp, Alabama, 1965
The Coachmen at Grannys Teen Club, Opp, Alabama, 1965. L-R: Steve Folmar, Paul Williams, Gordon Dodson & Ron Sims
The Coachmen - Grannys Teen Club, Opp, Alabama 1965
The Coachmen at Grannys Teen Club, Opp, Alabama 1965, L-R: Ron Sims, Gordon Dodson, Bill Saunders & Steve Folmar

Rodney Dodson – lead vocals / rhythm guitar
Gordon Dodson – lead guitar / vocals
Bill Saunders – bass guitar / vocals
Coley Sullivan – drums
John Runkle – organ
Billy Scott – lead vocals

The Barons, formerly The Coachmen, from Ozark, Alabama, were formed in 1964 by guitarist Gordon Dodson and bassist Bill Saunders. The Coachmen soon added school friends guitarist Ron Sims, vocalist Paul Williams, and drummer, Steve Folmar.

Gordon Dodson & Billy Scott of The Coachmen, Fort Rucker, Alabama, 1965
Gordon Dodson & Billy Scott of The Coachmen, Fort Rucker, Alabama, 1965

By early 1965, The Coachmen were playing the popular Opp, Alabama Teen Club known as Granny’s and the Ft. Rucker, Alabama Teen Club.  1965 also saw the first change of band members.  James Childers replaced Steve Folmar on drums and Billy Scott replaced Paul Williams on vocals.

1966 saw additional member changes as Coley Sullivan replaced drummer James Childers.  Rodney Dodson, Gordon’s brother, replaced guitarist Ron Sims.  John Runkle was added as the organist.

The Coachmen were renamed The Barons. The Barons played local teen clubs and recreation centers, as well as the Officers and Enlisted Clubs at Fort Rucker, Alabama and several fraternity parties at Troy State University.

The Barons of Ozark, Alabama
The Barons of Ozark, Alabama. Standing L-R: Rodney Dodson, Bill Saunders, Coley Sullivan. Seated L-R: Gordon Dodson, Billy Scott, John Runkle

During the summer of 1966, The Barons recorded their only single 45rpm record at WOOF Radio Station in Dothan, Alabama. “I’m The One Who Cares” and “I Needed You”, were written and sung by The Barons’ lead singer, Rodney Dodson with his brother Gordon singing harmony. Bassist Bill Saunders, composed the keyboard introduction and lead break on “I’m The One Who Cares”.The Barons Red Wave 45 I'm the One Who Cares

The recording was done with one microphone hanging in the center of a sound proof room using a two track reel to reel recorder; no overdubs. The recording “engineer” unfortunately kept the recording level in the red, distorting the overall sound quality. The high volume playbacks sounded good in the studio, so the master tape was sent to the pressing company. Because of limited funds, only 250 records were pressed. The label name, Red Wave, was taken from the local Troy State University Trojans football team, which was known at that time as, The Red Wave. The record sleeve was a stock light brown paper.

John Belcher and Jerry Williams of Ozark distributed the record through John’s dad’s appliance and record store.  The record was also placed on a few local jukeboxes.  Although the record received a fair amount of play from the jukebox distribution, it was seldom heard on radio due to the poor sound quality.  The Barons disband near the end of 1966.  The remaining boxes of records, were unfortunately, used as clay pigeon substitutes during an afternoon of target practice by the two Dodson brothers and their older brother, Claude.

Baron members known to have stayed musically active are:

Rodney Dodson was the founding member of the popular 1980’s southeast Alabama band, The Fairlanes.  A school teacher by trade, Rodney once invited his friend and fellow musician, Sara Evans, to perform at his school.  Rodney put together a small group of musicians, including himself, brother Gordon, and sister Celia to accompany Sara.  Sara went on to become the 2005 Academy of Country Music’s Female Vocalist of the Year.Barons Red Wave 45 I Needed You

Gordon Dodson played guitar with the late 1970’s southeast Alabama band, Kingfish, which included notable saxophonist, Jay Scott.  (Jay played the saxophone on Lynard Skynard’s recording of “What’s Your Name”, as well as Alicia Bridges, “I Like The Night Life”.)  Gordon is listed in the Alabama Steel Guitar Hall of Fame as the 2010 recipient of the Bill Simmons Horizon Award.  Gordon taught guitar in the southeast Alabama Junior College system for many years.

Coley Sullivan played drums with the early 1960’s instrumental combo, The Ecstatics, one of Ozark, Alabama’s first rock and roll bands. The Ecstatics, also included lead guitar player, Ron Hilburn, who eventually became the lead guitarist for the 1960’s band, The Chains, referred to as, The Beatles of El Paso.  The Chains are known for their version of “I Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Out Any More”.  Coley also played briefly in the 1960’s popular southeast Alabama bands, The Webs, The Puppets, The K- Otics and The Disciples of Blue from Panama City, Florida.

The Ecstatics, Ozark, Alabama
The Ecstatics, Ozark, Alabama, L-R: Pete Bonnasso (rhythm guitar), Ron Hilburn (lead guitar), Coley Sullivan (drums) and Frank Kingsley (bass)

Johnny Christian, friend and fellow musician, though not a member of the Barons, played the woodblocks on “I’m The One Who Cares”.  Johnny retired as Band Director from Dothan, Alabama’s, Northview High School. His son, Wynn Christian, guitarist and vocalist of the popular blues band, Spoonful James, composed “Seven Mile Breakdown”, recorded by the 2006 American Idol Winner, Taylor Hicks.

Gordon Dodson

The Barons, Doug Tew Recreation Center, Dothan, Alabama
The Barons, Doug Tew Recreation Center, Dothan, AL. From left: Rodney Dodson, Billy Scott, Gordon Dodson, Coley Sullivan, Bill Saunders & John Runkle
James Childers, drummer for the Coachmen of Ozark, AL
James Childers, drummer for the Coachmen of Ozark, AL
The Coachmen, Fort Rucker, Alabama, 1965
The Coachmen, Fort Rucker, Alabama, 1965, L-R: Ron Sims, Billy Scott, Gordon Dodson & Bill Saunders

The Grains of Time

Someone I know is looking for this 45 by the Grains of Time on the Chyme label (if anyone has a copy for sale please get in touch). I realized I haven’t seen any detailed info on the band, so I’m posting here looking for their story.

TeenBeat Mayhem gives the release date as May of 1968, and the band coming from Albertville, Alabama, a small city near Guntersville Lake, northeast of Birmingham.Johnny Striplin (J. M. Striplin) wrote the fine “No Matter What They Say”.The flip, “This Little Girl” is equally good and has a great overdriven solo. It was written by Johnny Striplin and Cecil Matthews. Both songs were published by Mrs. F. Matthews, BMI.

The Ramblers

The Ramblers of Birmingham, Highland County Club, December 1961. Van Veenschoten, Tommy Terrell and Eddie Terrell; in back Johnny Robinson on drums
Early photo of the Ramblers of Birmingham, Highland County Club, December 1961. Left to right in front: Van Veenschoten, Tommy Terrell and Eddie Terrell; in back Johnny Robinson on drums

Bob Ellis from the Alabama Record Collectors Association sent me this history of the Ramblers of Birmingham, written by Chip Sanders.

Back in 1961, the guitar playing Terrell brothers, Tommy and Eddie along with classmate Chris Covey found a junior high school drummer, Johnny Robinson, to play music. It was decided that the eldest brother, Eddie, would be the bass player, and Tommy would play rhythm guitar. Fellow Ramsey High School classmate, Van Veenschoten joined in to round out the group and play lead guitar. The group named themselves The Ramblers, and began playing for high school functions and fraternities and sororities in the Birmingham area. When Eddie Terrell received a tennis scholarship and headed to The University of Alabama, The Ramblers had no trouble in convincing Chris Convey, with the unusual nickname “The Spook,” to take over on the bass.

By mid-1962, The Ramblers were playing weekends regularly in and around Birmingham and cut their first record, “Stop That Twisting” / “Hundred Miles Away”, at Boutwell Recording Studio in Birmingham. Shortly thereafter, guitar player Van Veenschoten met Chip Sanders, a junior at neighboring Shades Valley High School, who was a piano player. The Ramblers auditioned Chip on a Sunday afternoon at Van’s parents home in Mountain Brook, and the nucleus of the group, that would become synonymous with “party band” was established.

An important early performance by The Ramblers at a state-wide Alabama high school Key Club Convention gave the group name recognition throughout the state, and soon The Ramblers of Birmingham were playing in Alabama cities and towns from Huntsville to Mobile. Practicing in a store room in the back of Johnny Robinson’s garage in Mountain Brook, Alabama, or in the basement of the Sanders’ home in Vestavia, The Ramblers were truly the proverbial garage band.

By fall of 1963, it was time for more of The Ramblers to make a decision, music or college! They decided on both, and as Tommy and Spook headed off to the University of Alabama and Johnny and Chip still in high school, the group began playing college fraternity parties at the University of Alabama.

By 1965-1966, The Ramblers were working regularly, primarily at Fraternity Parties around the southeast. Eddie, Tommy, Spook, and Chip had all become members of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at The University of Alabama, while Van was at Samford University and Johnny at the University of Montevallo. No longer rehearsing on a regular basis, the guys would meet up whenever and wherever the group might be playing.

Ramblers Brooke 45 Stop That Twisting

Ramblers Brooke 45 Hundred Miles Away

Birmingham Ramblers Tommy Tucker 45 Whole Lot of Woman

Birmingham Ramblers Tommy Tucker 45 Come Back, Come BackIn 1967, the group recorded another record at Boutwell Recording Studio, “Come Back, Come Back” / “Whole Lot Of Woman” written by keyboardist, Chip Sanders. The record experienced moderate success in the Alabama area, but college priorities prevented the group from properly promoting the record. Ed Boutwell, Birmingham recording pioneer, continued to use The Ramblers as back up musicians on many recording sessions at his studio.

Throughout this period, local radio station “sock hops” gained popularity amongst the Birmingham teenage population, and The Ramblers worked with local personality Duke Rumore of WYDE radio at Duke’s sock hop at the Ensley National Guard Armory, as well as Dave Roddy, from WSGN Radio at the Aporto Armory, across town. Also during this period the Ramblers were the backup band of choice for singers passing through Birmingham like Bobby Goldsboro or Billy Joe Royal.

As a “special added attraction” The Ramblers added a new set, featuring “Little John,” Chip’s kid brother, 11-year-old John Lee Sanders, who sang and played harmonica. John Lee Sanders, is now a successful song writer, performer and composer in the Bay Area of California. For the last 20 years he has worked with Long John Baldry, Starship, Paul Williams, Linda Arnold, and other popular entertainers.

As 1966-1967 came along, the world was quickly changing and The Rambler’s music began to change as well. Inspired by the psychedelic sounds coming out of the west coast, The Ramblers found a new sound with a young female vocalist, Vicki Hallman. Covers of the Jefferson Airplane, Linda Ronstadt and other female artists were added to their repertoire. After a brief marriage to drummer Johnny Robinson, Vicki continued her career in Nashville as a member of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos group and as a permanent cast member of the long running TV series, Hee-Haw.

With the Viet Nam War continuing to escalate in the late sixties, members of the group began to worry about the draft. This was definitely not the time to quit school and loose a student deferment to become a rock ‘n roll star. At various times during the next few years, Tommy joined George Bush in the Alabama Air National Guard, Chris joined the Coast Guard Reserve, Chip got in the Army National Guard three days before his draft notice, and Johnny became a reluctant member of the Talladega National Guard.

During their respective intermittent absences the group stayed together, with Terrell brother, Eddie, rejoining the group, along with a variety of substitute and fill-in players. As the sixties came to a close, one by one, the group began to graduate from college, get married and begin careers other than music. All the members of the group initially took jobs in Birmingham so that the band was able to stay together, but soon, the pressures of new careers, new wives, and even children began to put a strain on the group. “I don’t remember us ever officially deciding to break up. I just recall playing in a little town somewhere in South Alabama. We all brought our wives. It was a fun weekend. I remember staying in some ‘Bates Motel’ place and we all went swimming in their pool. That’s the last band job I can recall, but there may have been others,” said Sanders.

Johnny Robinson, who had tried to hold things together began touring with a new group, The Homestead Act, and subsequently moved to California to help his new wife start a music career. Chris moved away to seek his fortune, Chip moved near Memphis to start an insurance agency, and Tommy became a bank examiner for the Treasury Department.

The Ramblers were history, or so they thought. They stayed in touch with one another and by 1978 all of the remaining members of the group were thinking the same thing. They wanted to play again.

In 1979, the band regrouped as The Rambler Reunion Band adding Jim Burford on lead guitar to replace Van who died in a motorcycle accident in 1972. Chip moved out of state and was replaced by John Livingston on keyboards. Eddie rejoined the band to replace Chris who resides in Treasure Island, Florida. During the 80’s and 90’s the band continued working around the southeast entertaining at events with their 60’s music. Currently the RRB entertains at wedding receptions, reunion parties, company parties, club dances, and most any event that requires authentic 60’s rock and roll music.

Chip Sanders, 2011

 The Ramblers, left to right: Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Johnny Robinson, Tommy Terrell, Van Veenschoten
The Ramblers, left to right: Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Johnny Robinson, Tommy Terrell, Van Veenschoten

Johnny Robinson answered some follow-up questions I had about the photos and recording sessions.

The picture of the four of us [top of page] was taken at Highland County Club in December 1961. Van played lead guitar, Tommy rhythm guitar, Eddie bass. At this time we had very few vocals. That one mike and the small guitar amp (lower right corner) was our PA system. We bought the vests at Pizitz downtown.

The two professional photos were taken by Ken Ives at his studio in English Village down the street from Boutwell Recording Studio, where we recorded “100 Miles Away”. Chris Convey replaced Eddie on bass when Eddie left for college on a tennis scholarship. We have tons of other pictures through the years.

B.Temple is Brook Temple. He went to Shades Valley High School. We met him through Lee Shook, a mutual friend. Brook wrote “100 Miles away” with words about a girl he dated in Montgomery (100 miles from Birmingham) and asked us to record it. His mother paid for the recording session and the cost of the records. We did not like the words to the song, so we made it an instrumemtal. He also wrote “Stop That Twisting”. The Brook record label is his name. After all his mother paid for everything.

The second record, “Come Back, Come Back” was made in April 1967. The total for the packing slip was $123.10 for 510 records. That made them 24 cents each. The studio time was $300 as I remember. That made the total cost 83 cents each. Of course we did not made the records to make money, we gave most of them away to try and book more jobs. We have other studio recordings and live recordings.

The music scene in Birmingham was very active at this time – 1961 to 1968. The Distortions, Sammy Salvo, Willum Fowler, The Tremolos, Larry Parker, The Nomads, The Strangers, The Reflections, The Brood, and The Gents are just some of the local bands that recorded and released records on labels like Jo-Jo, Vibrato, Vesta, Lemon, Gold Master, Modern Enterprises, Malone, Vaughn-LTD, Malcolm Z. Dirge. There were many more. The ones I listed are part of my 45 collection. Others we were friends with: The Bassmen, Larry and the Loafers, The Kingsmen (not the famous ones), Daze of the Week, and Circus.

Packing list for the Ramblers 45  “Whole Lot Of Woman” / “Come Back, Come Back”
Packing list for the Ramblers 45 “Whole Lot Of Woman” / “Come Back, Come Back”
 The Ramblers, left to right: Johnny Robinson (seated), Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Tommy Terrell and Van Veenschoten
The Ramblers, left to right: Johnny Robinson (seated), Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Tommy Terrell and Van Veenschoten

The Knights Band – The Original Knights

The Knights Band, from left: Bill Ashton, David Keller, Bick Mitchell, Carson Hood, Dudley Parker (?), and Ray Edwards
The Knights Band, from left: Bill Ashton, David Keller, Bick Mitchell, Carson Hood, Dudley Parker (?), and Ray Edwards

The Knights Band were Ray Edwards (vocals), Dudley Parker (keyboards), Carson Hood (bass), Bill Ashton (sax), Bick Mitchell (drums) and Dave Keller (lead guitar).Vocalist and DJ Ray Edwards sent in the early photo of David Keller’s first band, the Knights and gives some background, below.

The Preachers was David’s third band. In Shades Valley High School in Birmingham in the early 60’s, David played lead guitar for The Knights. I was the singer (little guy on the end) and “booking manager.” Other members were Bill Ashton (sax), Carson Hood (bass), Dudley Parker (keyboards), and Bic Mitchell (drums).

I graduated in 1963 and after a year at UAB in Birmingham headed to Tuscaloosa and a job 5 nights a week as a DJ at WJRD in Tuscaloosa. I was “invited” to drop out of the group. David took over lead vocals and sort of manager. They changed their name to The Original Knights and put out a 45 record to promote the band.

In the late 60’s I ran into David. He had just bought the convertible and told he he was making great money promoting bands. He said he had paid 21 $100 bills for the car. This was in Panama City where he had the club. The next thing I heard was that he was about to be drafted and had headed for Canada.

I have caught up with Bill Ashton, he is in sales and gets to Alabama from time to time. I met Dudley Parker at a wedding I was Djing for. (DJ company is Alabama Entertainment – I talked with Bic who was filling in with a band playing at The Club. Carson died some time after we were in the band.

I have often wondered what happened to David. He was always “Crazy David” even when we had Saturday Morning band practice in his parents garage on Dolly Ridge Road in what became Vestavia Hills.

Ray Edwards

 The Original Knights, from left: Carson Hood, Bill Ashton, Bick Mitchell and Dave Keller
The Original Knights, from left: Carson Hood, Bill Ashton, Bick Mitchell and Dave Keller

Original Knights Knight Enterprises 45 Going FishingWhen Edwards and Parker left, the band became a quartet, now calling themselves the Original Knights. This group released one 45 on their own Knight Enterprise Records recorded at Boutwell Recording Studios in Birmingham. David Keller wrote both songs, “Going Fishing” and “Please Don’t Go”, which has vocals credited to Keller and Carson Hood.According to the sleeve, Keller attended University of Alabama in Birmingham while Hood and Mitchell were students at Walker Jr. College (now Bevill State I believe) in Sumiton, 25 miles to the northwest. Bill Ashton is listed as attending the more distant Auburn University.

For further info on David Keller, check out the page on the Preachers.

Thanks to Ray Edwards for the photo and info about the Knights Band, and also to Jeff Lemlich for the scans and transfers of the 45 as the Original “Knights”.

Original Knights PS back

The Movement of Hemphill Recording

The Movement recorded two 45s at Hemphill Recording Studios in Midfield, Alabama, just southwest of Birmingham. The two singles were released within two months of each other, in July and August, 1968.

The first 45, “Green Knight” is a solid garage number with a good organ sound and rhythm section. The vocalist’s sputtering, garbled delivery as he says “I can’t keep from crying in the green night” is classic. There’s a fine harmonica break and a buzzing guitar solo takes the song to the fade-out.

It’s a shame that every copy of the 45 has a serious tape glitch (or mastering error) about 30 seconds into the song. The sound warbles just for a split-second, but it’s very noticeable.

The flip, “Stinking Peanut Butter Love” is one of the better nonsense b-sides I’ve heard, a parody of hippie Love-In chants with mantras like “tallyanna meat loaf”, repetitive piano, random drumming and a flushing toilet. It has it’s own minor mastering problem, a sudden rise in volume at the start of the song.

Both sides written by the Movement. There are no names on this Tinker Records label, but their second 45, released on Hemphill Studio’s own label gives Buck Williams as the writer of both sides. I don’t know who else was in the band.

“Just-a-Driftin'” has an echoing lead vocal over acoustic guitar, piano and organ, with whistling instead of harmonica. This doesn’t sound like a promising formula, but the results are good and lightly psychedelic. I haven’t heard the flip, “Dear Abby” but I’ve been told it’s a ballad.

Neal Hemphill owned Hemphill Studios, also known as the Sound of Birmingham, operating from 1966-1985. Hemphill released a couple 45s by the Mishaps, “Under My Thumb” / “One Too Many Mornings” and “Come On Up”, produced by Frank Lewis. A two-volume set, The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill compiles the soul and funk sounds of the studio.

Thank you to Rich Strauss for the scan of “Just-a-Driftin'”.

The Ramrods

Ramrods band, Birmingham, Alabama

Jon Adair of the Ramrods and Mike from the Alabama Record Collectors Association wrote this history of the band, reprinted with permission. If anyone has a good scan of the Queen 45 or transfers of missing songs, please contact us.

The year was 1959. Five guys from Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Joe Lackey (lead guitar and vocals) Butch Fadely (piano), Jim McCulla (drums) and Larry Wooten (rhythm guitar) had gotten together and decided to form a band of their own. Jon Adair, who was a friend of Joe’s, had already been in two bands, ‘The Teen Beats’ and the ‘The Ray Royster Combo.’ None of the other guys had ever played in bands. Of course, all of them were in their mid-teens, 13 to 15 years old.

Joe asked Jon to come and sit in with them at a practice, which he did, playing rhythm guitar. Later, Joe and the other guys went to Jon’s house and asked him to join the band. When Jon joined, the rhythm guitar player, Wooten, was sick and couldn’t make the first gig, so Jon played rhythm alone. When Wooten returned, both he and Jon played rhythm, which the band really didn’t need two of, but the band had no bass player, which it did need, so they asked Jon to play the bass. He knew nothing about the bass and told them he definitely could not afford to buy another guitar, but wanting to be in the band, Jon compromised. He removed the two high strings from his 6-string electric and tuned the remaining four strings down one octave. It worked well enough to get by. In fact, this is what was used later on their first record, “Fire Tower.” This is how they played until Wooten left the band and Jon moved permanently to rhythm. It was also about this time that Butch Fadely left the band to join the Army.

The band took the name, the Ramrods, from the Duane Eddy tune and even adopted that song as their opening number on every show.

There were not many local bands around at this time. The Roulettes, the Premiers, The Epics and now the Ramrods were just a very few. That, of course, would soon change, especially after the Beatles hit America in 1964. Bands began to pop up everywhere, but, for now, the Ramrods and these other few had a corner on the market.

Many member changes would soon take place in the Ramrods, including adding Paul Newman on vocals. The Ramrods also decided to add a saxophone player, so Ronnie Eades joined the band. Ronnie would later move to Muscle Shoals and become a prominent member of the Muscle Shoals Sound as a session musician.

In 1961, a friend of a friend of a friend, met the Ramrods and wanted to record them. He, Wayne Bright, owned a recording studio in Muscle Shoals, “Bright Records.” The band agreed and laid down two tracks, “Fire Tower,” written by Paul Newman and “Sittin’ Alone,” written by Jon Adair. When the record was pressed, it had mistakenly listed the band as ‘Paul Newman and the Ramrod Combo’ instead of ‘The Ramrods.’

They soon followed with their second record, “Slee-zee,” b/w “Slouch-ee,” both written by Joe Lackey. These were recorded at Homer Milan’s studio at 1st Avenue and 20th Street in Birmingham in 1962. It was released on Queen Records, which was a subsidiary of King Records.

Member changes continued with the addition of Fred Guarino on drums, Johnny Mulkey on lead guitar, Frank Bethea on bass, Bubba Lathem on piano, Durwood Bright on sax and Dwight Anderson on sax. Bright would later play with the Townsmen and Anderson with the Tikis.

In 1963, the Ramrods went into Baldwin Recording Studio in Woodlawn, which they did quite often after shows to record various tunes. On this trip, they recorded two original songs, written by John Mulkey, “Night Ride” and “Moonlight Surf,” both surf sounding instrumentals. They took the tracks to Rick Hall, who ran Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals. He liked them and agreed to press the songs. The band had thought that their songs would be on the Fame label, which, although still a local label, was fairly well known. However, Rick was starting a new label, R and H, and released the Ramrods on it. Theirs was the first record on this label, the label number being RH-1001. This was an obvious disappointment to the band not to have been on Fame, but Hall had done a good job of mixing and producing the record and the band was happy with the result.

“Night Ride” started as a ‘Pick Hit’ on WSGN in Birmingham in 1963, but soon made it to WSGN’s Top 40 where it remained for thirteen weeks, reaching as high as #5.

During the band’s tenure, they toured all over the southeast, playing the college circuit and other venues and either opened for or backed up major national artists. A short list includes Del Shannon, the Four Seasons, Arthur Alexander, Tommy Roe, Chris Montez, Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich, but there were many, many more.

Also during this time, they had played shows with another Alabama band, the Webs, from Dothan. One member of the Webs was a guy named Bobby Goldsboro. By 1963, the Webs were traveling with Roy Orbison as his backing band, which had been arranged by another Dothan guy, Buddy Buie. Of course, Buddy was becoming a well-known songwriter and record producer. He had also become Orbison’s tour manager as a bonus for getting the Webs with Roy.

Jon Adair remembers fondly one concert both groups played together at the Cloud Room (Cascade Plunge) in Birmingham. After the show was over and the band was putting their instruments in the car, Bobby took out his acoustic guitar, sat on the hood of a car and told the guys that he was working on a song which he hoped to record as a solo.

He played “See the Funny Little Clown,” written by Bobby. A short time later, it became Bobby’s break-out solo hit and reached #9 on Billboard in early 1964. Bobby was now a solo artist with many hits to follow.

By the time 1964 rolled around, the Ramrods had been together for almost five years. Only Jon Adair and Joe Lackey remained as the nucleus of the original band from 1959. Jon had joined the Navy on a deferred enlistment program as a senor in high school and when he graduated in 1963 had to go straight to boot camp. However, when he completed it, he returned home where he rejoined the band. In April of 1964, the Navy called him to active duty. It was only a few months later that the Ramrods decided to disband.

What had actually happened was that the Webs, minus Bobby Goldsboro, were now touring with Roy Orbison as his backing band. Roy renamed them the Candymen, after his song title, “Candy Man.” The Candymen would later form the nucleus of the Classics IV and then the Atlanta Rhythm Section. In late 1964, Buddy Buie, who was Roy’s tour manager, was itching to form a new band, one to help showcase his songs. He took three members of the Ramrods (Guarino, Mulkey and Latham) and members of the Webs, including Wilbur Walton and Jimmy Dean and formed the James Gang. They made several records, mostly written by Buddy, but their biggest song was “Georgia Pines,” co-written by Buie. This song was also recorded by the Candymen. Their version peaked at #81 on Billboard, but the James Gang version received more regional airplay.

As for the remaining members of the Ramrods, after finishing his stint in the Navy, Jon went into the business world, as did Joe Lackey and Frank Bethea. Other members, as already mentioned, played in various local bands for a while.

Sadly, we have lost a few of these guys over the years, Joe Lackey, Harry Looney and Fred Guarino. Who knows, maybe one day there will be a reunion of the remaining members.

The Ramrods can really be considered one of the pioneer bands in the Birmingham area, one who inspired many other young musicians who also began to form bands and become prominent artists in their own right.