Category Archives: Nebraska

The Kalan Five

Kurt Johnson of the Kalan Five
Kurt Johnson of the Kalan Five at the Hutchinson KS “Battle of the KOMA Bands”
The Kalan Five did not release a record but toured throughout the Mid-West and cut some demos at Ray Ruff’s Amarillo studio in 1965. Drummer Kurt Johnson wrote about the band’s 1965 sessions and summer tour:

I know the bands of that era well because I was the drummer for one of them, K-5/ Kalan Five. K-5 was made up of students all from Chadron State College, in Chadron, Nebraska. Our chief rivals were The Drivin’ Dynamics from Scottsbluff, Nebraska; this was then Randy Meisner was still their bass player before he ended up as a founding member of The Eagles.

We got connected to Ruff and Ruff Records, and tangentially Mid-Continent Entertainment (that managed a lot of summer tours), each of which had people on the road that summer, through our contacts in Hays, Kansas, which was the home of the Blue Things and a major music equipment outlet at the time (can’t remember their name but they built all our sound equipment). We met Ruff when he recruited us (by our regional reputation) to play in a big KOMA (Oklahoma City radio station) Battle of the Bands at the big Hutchinson, KS arena, which featured, all in one night, Ray Ruff and the Checkmates, The Fabulous Flippers, The Blue Things, Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids and the Kalan Five (or K-5). This was in spring 1965.

K-5 had a huge instrumental sound (six Showman amps) and after that concert/dance Ruff invited us to Amarillo to talk to us about the summer tour with KOMA. I got to know Ruff’s drummer, Chico Apadocca, quite well (he was a great drummer!) after I used his drum set for a KOMA Battle of the Bands when there was not enuf time between sets for each band to set up their own. He also thought I was pretty good so we talked a lot – I was just college kid.

The bands that were on tour that summer (1965), and several of which are in your list of Ray Ruff discographies, all were in and out at his studio in Amarillo, and were in association with Ruff, and/or Mid-Continent Entertainment, and all advertising on KOMA.

These included a number of bands off of Nebraska and Kansas college campuses along with other, more purely professional bands, that had been on the road for some time. This list included Ray Ruff and the Checkmates, Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids, The Fabulous Flippers, The Blue Things (formerly The Blue Boys), The Drivin’ Dynamics, the Kalan Five, the Knu Castles, Spider and The Crabs, The Red Dogs and the The Misfits.

K-5 was short for the Kalan Five. Ruff made our ads into “the Kruisin’ Kalan Five” for that summer. The Misfits’ 1965 KOMA ad was “get a fit with the Misfits”; Spider and the Crabs’ ad was “Spider and the Crabs, a very weird band (said in a creepy voice)”; The Red Dogs was “The Red Dogs, direct from the Red Dog Inn”, Knu Castles radio ad was the “Newwwwwww Castles”.

We all arrived in Amarillo to record demos shortly after “Pretty Thing Oh” by the Blue Things had been released by Ruff Records. Ruff was pleased that it was then at #5 regionally (I believe that was a rank listing from Shreveport, LA, if I remember correctly from his going on about it). Ruff came out of his office and played it for us all in his lobby. This means that some of the unknown cuts in your list around the time where you list “Pretty Thing Oh” for 1965 may be tracks from these other, lesser known, groups that recorded their that summer. If Ruff never went anywhere with these demos he may have just left them unlabeled.

Those days at Ruff’s studio were also memorable because the Isley Brothers were also there, visiting. The groups that cut demos in those few days were Ray Ruff and the Checkmates, K-5, and the Misfits (a group with a folk rock sound)—there may have been more during that week but these were the only sessions I heard or took part in; lots of bands were coming and going. Again I remember that well because of having to keep setting up and taking down drums in the studio with Chico. Note that, in your lists, tracks by the Drivin’ Dynamics and the Knu Castles are listed under the Sully label; I have a feeling they were all cut in Amarillo, perhaps, because we saw those bands often.

We all played the same places on alternate nights and all knew each other—same with most of the bands on the road that summer, and in ’64 and ’66. Most of the members of these bands knew each other, esp. those who played regularly in Kansas and Nebraska which included the Knu Castles, King Bees, Drivin’ Dynamics, Fabulous Flippers, Spider and the Crabs, and later, as this era closed out, a very talented band from North Platte, Nebr. known as The Showmen. They were managed by the brother of our manager, whose names I’ve forgotten. We also got to know bands we met while doing major regional shows—most memorably the Beau Brummels (who were nice guys) and The Castaways, whom we played a gig with in Minnesota.

The touring band of K-5 was myself, along with guitarist Rusty Cope who really got Kalan Five together, in 1964. The other 1965 Kalan Five members were guitarists Gary “Meke” McMeekin, Jim Gype, and Denny Sonnenfeld. Gype and Sonnenfeld were the lead singers for K-5/ Kalan Five from 1965 on and replaced two original members of Kalan Five, Ron Davis and Glen Mitchell, when the group needed better singers for that summer 1965 tour with Ruff as agent.

Cope and McMeekin were from Crawford, Nebraska; Gype and Sonnenfeld from Ainsworth, Nebraska. Before touring with the Kruisin’ Kalan Five 1965 summer tour they had played in another Nebr. band “Banana Cream Weather Balloon” also from Chadron State College. That information also explains our close regional relationship with the Drivin’ Dynamics (from Scottsbluff Nebr.– 120 miles down the road– at Hyrum Scott College). The Drivin’ Dynamics have an ongoing tribute website and are in the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame.

No singles from the Kalan Five – our demos all died somewhere between Ruff’s studio and whatever his deals were with Tower, Capitol etc. He was a bit of a disorganized person.

At least, re: songs, we weren’t like many other groups who had great songs “stolen” by others, who then made money off of them; there wasn’t much legal protection for anything is those days. But we made enuf money that the guys who wanted to drive fancy cars could drive them. I bought a camping van– that was more my style.

The attached photo is of me “in the tunnel” at the Hutchinson, KS Battle of the KOMA Bands taken on someone’s old polaroid. All of my memorabilia from the era no longer exists and this photo just happened to turn up awhile back.

The Kalan Five played into 1966 (with the members from the 1965 summer tour) and then got separated by people graduating from college and moving on with their lives. Rusty Cope was the only member who went professional if I’m not mistaken. Rusty was a great guitarist. Rusty went on to play for Randy Sharp and, after us, and before Sharp, I believe with another mid-American group called “Spider” which got great early 70’s PR in Billboard (May 27, 1972) but whose debut album Labyrinths did not do well. No one has kept in touch.

Believe it or not I went on to get a PhD and to a rather distinguished career in scientific research [Wikipedia at Kurt Johnson (Entomologist)].

Andy and the Manhattans

Robert Anderson was a singer from Omaha, Nebraska who fronted most of his bands as Andy Anderson, beginning with Andy and the Live Wires with “You’ve Done It Again”, a light vocal over a Willie & the Hand Jive beat, b/w a Duane Eddy-type instrumental “Maggie” on the Applause label in 1960.

Next came Andy and the Playboys (no recordings as far as I know), and in 1964 Andy and the Manhattans, whose 45 on Cardon Records I’m featuring today.

“Double Mirror Wrap Around Shades” is a good bit of jivey r&b, an original by Anderson, like the flip. It charted at #40 on the August 28, 1964 chart of Chicago station WLS 890 AM.

“Tell Her Yourself” has vocals that sound very folk-influenced, though the backing is simple garage r&b.

Also that year they had two singles on Musicor, “Should’ve I” / Desperate” (I haven’t heard either song) and “Skinny Minnie” / “Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”. After the Manhattans he recorded as the Buggs on Soma, featuring Bobby Jones (later of Aorta) on drums, then retired from professional music to go into medicine.

In a sad and gruesome end to the tale, on May 21, 2009 Anderson shot his wife Karla then himself. A news report on KMTV (no longer on the station’s website) didn’t elaborate on the circumstances.

Sources include Rockin’ Country Style, Rockabilly Bash and chart info from ARSA.

The Royal Flairs

The Royal Flairs photo
Originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Royal Flairs began as the backing band for singer Dick Hodge, cutting one single at Sears Sound Studio in Omaha, Nebraska, “Dream Angel” / “Let’s Go”, in October of 1962 as Nelson Royal, Bobby Williams and the Royal Flairs*.

The Flairs became house band at the Milrose Ballroom outside of Omaha, playing primarily surf instrumentals.
Royal Flairs Marina 45 SuicideThree members stayed with the band through all of their changes: Bob Everhart (Bob Williams’ actual name) on sax and vocals, Dave Krivolavek on guitar and Dave Brubeck on bass. Other early members included Jerry Fleetwood on trumpet, Daryl Hill on organ, Brian Sallozo on sax, Brad Starr and Mike Nelson on lead guitar, and Rick Brown on drums.

Everhart, Brubeck and Krivolavek relocated to Chicago in early 1965, adding Mike Donion on drums and Mel Matthews on lead guitar and organ. In 1966 they cut two 45s for the Marina label, one as the Royal Flairs, and another as the Unlimited.

The first, “Suicide” has a sharp garage sound and a great solo. In the lyrics the singer wants to join the girl who killed herself over him. It was written by Everhart and Dave Krivolavek, with Everhart playing the harmonica. The instrumental flip, “One Pine Box” (misprinted on the label as “One Pink Box”) has an earlier surf style. It’s a gruesome number featuring the sound of scraping and a hammer nailing a coffin lid shut.

The second Marina 45 as The Unlimited was another morbid number “Feelings.” The flip was one I haven’t heard yet, “Gone Away”.

Bobby Williams remained a pseudonym for Bob Everhart as that name appears as the promotional contact on their Marina 45. For the Flairs final 45, they released the folky “Hat On Tie” as by Bobby and Dave on one side, and the killer soul screamer “My Baby Cries” as by Bobby Williams on the other. These were produced by D. Marrone for the Tonorous label.

Bobby Williams Tonorous 45 My Baby CriesAccording to the notes from Back from the Grave, the band broke up after Bob Everhart was shot when he tried to protect a 350 pound go-go dancer named Miss Temptation from a crazed patron. Bob survived the wound but decided to get out of the nightclubs while he was still in one piece!

In the 1980’s an EP Surfin’ with the Royal Flairs featured five unreleased versions of surf songs recorded in 1962. Another LP, The Royal Flairs, Rare Recordings from 1965-66 contains their singles along with a side of unreleased songs that reflect their change to r&b and British Invasion sounds, recorded in Omaha.

*The Routers cut a version of “Let’s Go” in 1962. Bob Everhart filed a complaint with BMI over the copyright of “Let’s Go”, which caused SAM owner Leona Leivas to release the copyright. However, a 1973 European Warner Brothers release of “Let’s Go” shows song writing credits to Lanny Duncan and Robert Duncan.

Sources: Royal Flairs photo from Back from the Grave 3, Marina 45 scan and transfer of Suicide taken from bosshoss’ Flac Attack vol. 1. Info from the liner notes to Rare Recordings. Thanks to Phil Dirt for the better quality rip of “One Pine Box”.

The Brākmen

At the Brāk-Up Club, l-r: Tom Schultz, Gordon Kruse, Jim Ladd, Bob Kellogg, Jerry Ladd, and Landy Landholm.
The band just prior to recording the 45.

The Brākmen came from the town of Freemont, Nebraska a short drive northwest of Omaha. Lowell Reithmuller (keyboards), Bob Kellogg (guitar), and Gordon Kruse (guitar) formed the Brakemen while in high school in 1963. Other early members include Ken McMahon on guitar and Kent Armstrong on drums. In 1964 they found first Gene Starmer then Dave Nelson to play bass, and Jerry Ladd from another local group the Fugitives, on drums. With the addition of Jerry’s older brother Jim Ladd, they became the Six Wild Brākmen.

They gave their first live show in April, 1965 at the DeMolay building in Freemont, but a Battle of the Bands at the Armory was their first big performance; a home-made light show helped them win. They became known for their wild stage antics and shouted vocals. They started playing at a teen club in Omaha called Sandy’s Escape, and soon became house band at the Brāk-Up Club in Fremont and toured into Colorado and Iowa.

After many personnel changes, the lineup at the time of recording was Jim Ladd on vocals, his younger brother Jerry on drums, and Gordon Kruse and Bob Kellogg on guitars, Landy Landholm on keyboards and Eric Stark on bass.

In 1967 they traveled to A1 Studio in Council Bluffs, Iowa to record a 45 financed by Jim and Jerry’s father, Jack Ladd. ‘Minutes & Minutes’ really cooks, propelled by a fat, fuzzed-out guitar line, organ and good use of horns, with some great shouting. It was written by Stark and Kruse.

‘Movin’, written by Jim Ladd and Bob Kellogg is more controlled but equally intense. Jerry keeps up a constant beat on the toms, while Eric makes some Entwistle-like runs on the bass and the horns repeat a line in the background. I’m not sure how they decided to add horns to these tracks, or who plays them.

The label name, LSK was taken from the initials of the members’ last names. The record sold well locally, and a second 45 on LSK Nitey Nite is rumored to exist, but may have never been released.

Soon after the record’s release, the band almost signed with Kasenetz and Katz, but Jim Ladd was drafted and other members wanted to stay in college to keep their student deferments. The band continued until 1969, when Jerry Ladd was drafted. In 2001 the Brākmen were inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame.

Sources: The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame and the 7 Legends site ( – now defunct) site both have lots of information, photos and recollections of the Brākmen.