The Sound System, circa 1969-1970. Standing left to right: Barry McNeill, Ray Barnes, Teddy Ray and Jimmy Harris
Seated from left: Ralph Melvin, Faye Williams and Lynn Jenkins
Updated March 2010
The Sound System had the first 45 on the Romat label. The label credits this as a Carl Lineberger Pitt Sound Studio Production, from Greenville, North Carolina. Band members on the 45 were Barry McNeill on keyboards, Alan Knight drums, Alan Wright bass, Faye Williams guitar and Lynn Jenkins lead singer.
The haunting organ sound, solid drumming and buzzing psychedelic guitar work give the b-side, “Take a Look At Yourself” great tension to match Lynn Jenkins’ excellent vocals. I think it’s safe to say the top side, “Serenade”, will never be resurrected.
In 2009, Lynn Jenkins gave me some background to the band:
The first band that I was a member of was called the Intruders (not to be confused with the band who recorded “Cowboys to Girls”). Later I joined the Sound System. There were four members; Barry McNeil on keyboards, Alan Knight on drums, Alan Wright on bass guitar, Faye Williams playing lead guitar.
They were searching for a lead singer and I was approached for the position. As rehearsals continued for many weeks, we began to receive numerous bookings. Our band played at many locations including Duke University, Williams Lake, YMCA, local clubs, Fort Bragg’s Dragon Club, Pope Air Force Bases’ Officers’ Club, E-4– E-9 Drop Zone Club, the local skating rink and recreation centers. We felt we were gaining when we made several appearances on The Homer Briar Hopper Show hosted by Clyde Moody. Great times!
The Sound System won several Battle of the Bands, the most memorable was at the Hope Mills High School in Fayetteville, NC. Competition included Chico Carter and The Playthings, Digger Odell and The Undertakers, and numerous other groups.
Our manager Bernie McNeil (Barry’s dad) approached me and Barry on a Sunday afternoon and asked how quick we could write a song. Thirty minutes later “Take A Look At Yourself ” was complete, including the music. The following Monday it was recorded in Greenville, N.C. at Pitt Sound Studio. Our producer was Roy Matthews. It was a pleasant experience to work with Mr. Matthews. Several members of the band; “The O’Kaysions” who recorded “I’m a Girl Watcher” were present at the time of our recording.
Our record was sold at live gigs, at all of our schools, and distributed throughout the state of N.C. One copy was even sent to Viet Nam and was played over the air in DaNang. Radio play was unbelievable! The DJ’s were overwhelmed with requests, that the record was broken over the air waves … literally (WFLB radio station in Fayetteville).
The band broke up upon my entrance to the U.S. Army in which I have retired Sgt. first class after 22 years in 1993 (82nd Airborne Paratrooper). I have no information about Alan Wright, Barry McNeil is the NC Assistant State Attorney General, Faye Williams has been teaching music in Iraq for several years and Alan Knight owns and operates a recording studio in Lenoir, N.C.
The Romat label lists the song writers’ names incorrectly: “Take a Look at Yourself” is listed as by J. Jinkins and B. McNeal, which is also rendered as Barry McNeil on the credits to “Serenade”.
After a few years together they evolved into a larger soul/top 45 revue with horns. Barry McNeill sent me some examples of this later sound including a version of the Tams “Untie Me”.
These recordings were made in a small sound studio on Haymount Hill in Fayetteville NC, probably circa 1969 or 1970. Lynn Jenkins is the lead vocalist; Faye Williams is on guitar; Ray Barnes is on bass guitar; Alan Knight is on drums; Barry McNeill is on organ; Jimmy Harris is on trumpet; and Teddy Ray is on tenor saxophone. Ralph Melvin replaced Alan Knight for a period of time as the drummer.
The Sound System eventually changed their name to the Expressions, which included Warren McDonald as a member.
For more on the Romat label, see my posts on the Soul Twisters and Clear Blue Sky.
Thanks to Ken Friedman of Tobacco-a-Go-Go for information on the group and Romat.