Category Archives: Cincinnati

The What Four

What Four Cincinnati Enquirer. April 2, 1966
The What Four on the cover of Teen-Ager, April 2, 1966. kneeling in front: Roy Jordan and Jim Hoerr, in back Frank Johnston and Larry Malott

What Four Box 45 Do You BelieveLong rumored to be from Dayton, the What Four were actually from the Cincinnati area, namely the suburbs of Williamsburg and Bethel.

What Four Cincinnati Enquirer. April 2, 1966
The What Four profiled in Teen-Ager, April 2, 1966
An April 1966 article in the Teen-Ager section of the Enquirer profiled the band:

Although the Greater Cincinnati area boasts hundreds of talented rock ‘n roll groups, only one, the “What Four,” claims a teacher among its members. Twenty-four-year-old Jim Hoerr, who teaches Latin, English and mathematics at Williamsburg High is rhythm and lead guitarist.

Jim Hoerr started rehearsing with student bass player Larry Malott. With Frank Johnson of Madeira High School on drums, they formed a trio called the Noblemen.

When guitarist Roy Jordan of Bethel High joined in 1965, the band became the What Four.

The What Four did well in a battle of the bands sponsored by WONE in Dayton, the prize was a free recording session. They cut two original songs, “Do You Believe” by Jim Hoerr, and “Whenever” by Jim Hoerr and Frank Johnson. The single was released on the Box label, with the band probably paying for the pressing if not the studio time.

 What Four Box 45 Whenever

I can find no further mention of the band after their April 1966 profile. Teen-Ager published the photo of another What Four in December 1966, a completely different group from Taft High School in Hamilton, Ohio to the north of Cincinnati.

What Four Cincinnati Enquirer. Dec. 31, 1966
A different What Four from Hamilton, from left: Dave Bowman, Larry Combs, Tim Neff, and Tom Savage

That group was Dave Bowman on bass, Larry Combs on vocals and guitar, Tim Neff on drums and Tom Savage on lead guitar.

The Great Society, Cincinnati, Ohio

The Great Society from The Great Society, from left: Steve Sturgil, Tom Wise, Bill Bayer, Tilo Schiffer and Charlie Jung
The Great Society, August, 1967
from left: Steve Sturgil, Tom Wise, Bill Bayer, Tilo Schiffer and Charlie Jung

Great Society Dana Lynn 45 Second DayThe Great Society were students at the University of Cincinnati, except Steve Sturgil who attended the University of Kentucky. The band’s lineup was:

Tilo Schiffer – lead singer
Tom Wise – lead guitar
Bill Bayer – piano and organ
Steve Sturgil – bass
Charlie Jung – drums

First mention I can find of them is from March 1967 at Granny’s and then at the Four Seasons’ Pirates Cove in July.

Great Society Pirates Cove at the Four Seasons, Cincinnati, July, 1967
Great Society Pirates Cove at the Four Seasons, Cincinnati, July, 1967

A letter to the Enquirer from fan Penny Phelps in June, 1967 mentions them playing at the Psychedelic Lollipop, Granny’s, Lakeridge Hall, Seven Hills Veterans Hall and the Round Table.

They released one single, first on the Dana Lynn label in June, 1967, then on Counterpart C-2613 in August. “She’s Got It On Her Mind” has a hypnotic keyboard sound, a great drum backing with accented beats, and a captivating vocal melody.

The flip “Second Day” is another tuneful winner, heavy on the echo like the A-side.

Lead singer Tilo Shiffer wrote both songs, published by Counterpart – Falls City Music, BMI.

A second letter from Penny in December notes that Bill Bayer and Tilo Schiffer both went into the Navy by the end of 1967, but that the three remaining members would try to continue.

Great Society Counterpart 45 She's Got It On Her MindIn 1968 the Great Society played shows at the Coney Island water park and at LeSourdsville Lake with the Rapscallion Sircle.

The Dana Lynn label lists Ray Allen as engineer and reads “A Tom Dooley Production”, while the Counterpart lists Allen as producer.

Dana Lynn only released three singles that I know of, notably the Lemonpipers “Quiet Please” (70610), the Great Society (70611) and Tom Dooley “Talkin’ Bout Love” / “Stay By the Phone” (010).

Counterpart was also local to Cincinnati, but had greater distribution than Dana Lynn.

The Blackwatch and One Step Beyond

The Blackwatch (misidentified as the Wanted), at "One Step Beyond, July, 1967
The Blackwatch (misidentified as the Wanted), at “One Step Beyond, July, 1967
Blackwatch, For Sale, Wolf Pack, the Wanted at One Step Beyond Cincinnati Enquirer, July 1, 1967
Shows at One Step Beyond in July, 1967: Blackwatch, For Sale, Wolf Pack, and the Wanted

Cincinnati group the Blackwatch cut some demos but never released any records. Their name appears half a dozen times in the Enquirer’s pages in the summer of ’67, but unfortunately there was no feature on the band.

Johnny Schott – lead vocals
Doug Hawley – guitar
Rich McCauley – keyboards
John Gilsinger – bass
Jay Sheridan – drums

Buckeye Beat has a long history of the band.

In June of ’67 the Blackwatch played at the Deer Park movie theater on shows with WSAI DJs Bob White and Tom Kennington. In the first week of July, 1967, they played for three evenings at a newly opened teen club, One Step Beyond.

The following week, One Step Beyond featured the Heywoods, Ivan & the Sabres and Salvation & His Army.

From a feature in the Enquirer on July 15, 1967:

They’re springing up like mushrooms – new teen clubs that is! The newest one in this area is “One Step Beyond” at 8532 Beechmont Ave. in Mt. Washington.

“The club features three separate rooms, The Twilight Zone (just for chatting), Our Generation Room (for dancing) and This Place (for eating). Refreshments are being served in This Place here by Pat Hess. Waiting in line are Mary Jo Rickard, Debbie Arnold, Rick Anthony and Bob Barney.

“One Step Beyond” is a joint effort of the young people of Anderson township and an adult group called CONCERN …. Shown playing is the band “Wanted.” The club is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 8 p.m. until midnight and dress is informal.

Blackwatch-not-Wanted, One Step Beyond Correction, July 22, 1967
Letter from Jean Hess correcting the photo caption from the previous week

A week later, Jean Hess “Teen Board Member” for One Step Beyond wrote a letter to correct the caption, saying, “The great band that was pictured is the ‘Blackwatch,’ not ‘Wanted.’ The Blackwatch played four nights at the club and have gained a reputation of being one of the grooviest groups in Cincy!”

The third week of July the club featured the New Lime, then the Lemon Pipers!

I can’t find any mention of the Blackwatch after the summer of ’67. One Step Beyond lasted into 1968, including a show in February with Ivan & the Sabres, the Quaker Rebellion and Red Brale. Then it also disappeared, at least from the news.

Ivan & the Sabres, the Quaker Rebellion, and Red Brale at One Step Beyond, Feb. 24, 1968
Ivan & the Sabres, the Quaker Rebellion, and Red Brale at One Step Beyond, Feb. 24, 1968

The Wanted & Co.

The Wanted & Co. 45 WhyThe Wanted & Co. released one single in 1968, a dark, fuzzed take on “Smokestack Lightning” titled “Why”.

M. Gertin and B. Marksberry wrote the song, but there’s no publishing info on the labels and no one seems to have info on the band.

Blackwatch, For Sale, Wolf Pack, the Wanted at One Step Beyond Cincinnati Enquirer, July 1, 1967
Shows at One Step Beyond in July, 1967: Blackwatch, For Sale, Wolf Pack, and the Wanted
The A-side is an average cover of the Gants’ “My Baby Don’t Care”. The band recorded the single at King and pressed the records at Queen City Album.

This is likely the same group called the Wanted who played some shows in Cincinnati in 1967, including at the teen club One Step Beyond on Beechmont Ave. in Mt. Washington.

The Enquirer ran a feature on the club with a photo that was captioned the Wanted, but a letter pointed out the band was actually the Blackwatch.

Since the great Detroit area ban called The Wanted was having a modest national hit with “In the Midnight Hour” on A&M, the band likely added “& Co.” on the labels to distinguish them.

Thanks to Scott Lucas for inquiring about the Wanted & Co. to get this post going.

The Fabulous Shantels

Fabulous Shantels, from left: Mike Dektas, Terry Williams, Mike Mays and Jay Cee Ectcon, November 12, 1966
Fabulous Shantels, from left: Mike Dektas, Terry Williams, Mike Mays and Jay Cee Ectcon, November 12, 1966

The Fabulous Shantels and WSAI DJ Dusty Rhodes broadcast live from Shilitto's, February 20, 1966

The Fabulous Shantels came out of the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky music scene.

I can find notices of the Shantels playing live as early as September 5, 1964 at the Mabley & Carew fashion show with Bob Keith and Jim Martin of WCPO. In late November 1964 they appeared at screenings of Roustabout and other films at the Oakley drive-in on Madison Rd.

By November, 1965, they were playing at WSAI-sponsored dances, usually at the Withamsville-Tobasco Community Park Hall, with groups like with Gary & the Hornets, the Topics and the 2 of Clubs. On February 26, 1966, WSAI broadcast live a ‘Swing Thing’ from Shillito’s featuring DJ Dusty Rhodes and the Shantels.

The Shantels fan club letter, September 24, 1966
The Shantels fan club letter, September 24, 1966

A September 1966 letter to the Enquirer mentions a fan club for the Shantels headed by Darleen Nieporte of Cincinnati and Camille Canfield of South Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky. It also gives the band’s names and instruments:

Mike Dektas – organ
Mike Mays – lead guitar
Jay Cee Ecton – bass
Terry Williams – drums

On November 12, 1966, the Enquirer profiled the band in its “Teen-Ager” section (see photo at top).

In late December 1966 the Enquirer published a letter from Sandye Utley and Peg Rouse that they were running their own fan club for the band and that the group had recorded “Remain Unknown”.

Dusty Rhodes letter to "Teen-Ager", January 21, 1967
Dusty Rhodes letter to “Teen-Ager”, January 21, 1967

In January, 1967, Dusty Rhodes wrote a letter from Detroit, Michigan where he was working at CKLW:

I have had several letters about the Fabulous Shantels band, a group who I worked very closely with while I was in Cincinnati. The fellows were here in Detroit just after Thanksgiving to visit, play a dance and have a recording session.

The band recorded four numbers at the Sound, Incorporated Studios in New Haven, Michigan. We were all satisfied with the session and the “rough” tapes. However, the rush of the holidays and the opening of additional studios by the company has delayed the “mastering” of the Shantels recordings.

This is the story for all the Shantel fans and I hope we have a hit.

Keep up the good work with “Teen-Age,” Ruth. I wish the teens of Detroit had something like it.

Fabulous Shantels Sound 45 Remain Unknown Girl

Despite the difficulties in mastering, the record did come out, probably in early 1967, on Sound Inc. SI-160.

“Remain Unknown Girl” was a group original (Dektas, Mays, Ecron, Williams on the credits), published by Sidrian Music BMI. The song features a long biting lead guitar solo and a sneering lead vocal as well as a melody that sounds something like “Louie Go Home” (tip of the hat to Peter Aaron for reminding me).

The lyrics were a bit obscure but Mike Dektas provided corrections:

You want little girl that we go on datin’,
’cause complications are so very frustratin’,
If you need to be here right by my side,
You gotta stay close to be in my right

Remain unknown girl, alright

If you want to be content both day and night,
When decisions are made be right by my side
Well you’re goin’ to have to play a very special game,
To be satisfied to be known only by your name,

Remain unknown girl – alright – work it out

Take it down low,

Knock em dead,

Alright day and night,

You’re outtasight,

Knock em dead, knock em dead,

Unknown, unknown.


The flip is a cover of “For Your Love” (the Ed Townsend ballad, not the Yardbirds).

It’s a rare disc, one that has eluded many collectors, so I don’t think it got any distribution to speak of, whether in Detroit or the Cincinnati area.

The band’s name was wrongly rendered as the Chantels when the song appeared on the compilation Michigan Mayhem vol. 2.

The Turkey Combo (formerly the Topics and the Shantels) with the Dingos, Sunday November 26, 1967
The Turkey Combo (formerly the Topics and the Shantels) with the Dingos, Sunday November 26, 1967
The Blackberry Time Tables (formerly the Turkey Combo) with Salvation and the Army, the Offsets, at Montgomery Hall on Sunday, February 11, 1968
The Blackberry Time Tables (formerly the Turkey Combo) with Salvation and the Army, the Offsets, at Montgomery Hall on Sunday, February 11, 1968

The band continued to play Withamsville dances in early ’67, then drop out of sight for a time. On November 26, 1967, the Shantells and the Topics seem to have combined to become a new group called the Turkey Combo! The name stuck for more shows in December ’67 with the Outcasts and in January 1968 with the Jerms. The Turkey Combo changed to the Blackberry Time Tables for a Montgomery Hall show in February ’68 but by this time the Turkey Combo may not have had any of the Shantels in it.

The Shantels, 1966, from left: Terry Williams, Mike Mays, Mike Dektas and JC Ecton
The Shantels, 1966, from left: Terry Williams, Mike Mays, Mike Dektas and JC Ecton. Photo courtesy of Mike Dektas.

Update: The Fabulous Shantels are being inducted into the Northern Kentucky Music Hall of Fame on June 9, 2106 and will be playing a live set at the induction.

Mike Dektas answered some of my questions about the group:

The band was originally created by Terry Williams, our drummer, and Mike Mays our lead guitarist. Terry, Mike, and JC Ecton are all from northern Kentucky – they were looking for a keyboard player and singer, and they found me. At that time, I played a Farfisa organ. Later I switched to Hammond B-3.

We played all over the NKy and Cincinnati area. We were heavily promoted on the radio. Back in those days, they had dances, called “hops”. We played many of those. Typically the hops were from 8-11 pm, or afternoon sessions.

For these, we played at the Shillito’s (#1 department store in Cincinnati) “Swing Thing”. This was great fun – it was broadcast live on 700 WLW radio. We played on elevated decorative stages, live TV Hullaballoo stages.

Other places we played that were promoted included: VFW Hall (NKY, always sold out – 600-800 kids), Glenway Swim Club in Covington, KY (summer), Castle Farms (with headliners like Lou Cristie, Gary US Bonds – we backed these guys up. We also played at Knights of Columbus hall in Cincinnati, and yes, the Withamsville Tobasco Hall that you mentioned in your article – this is on the east side of Cincinnati. We also opened at Music Hall for Roy Orbison.

The Fabulous Shantels, ticket for the Middletown Armory Teen Dance
The Fabulous Shantels, ticket for the Middletown Armory Teen Dance
We also produced shows at that time with Shantel Productions. One event that I remember that was great fun was a giant “Battle of the Bands” at Hotel Alms in Cincinnati. We had 30 bands in that event – it started early and went into the night. Special guest appearance by the Fabulous Shantels.

We also played at the University of Kentucky, big crowd, played in Rupp Arena.

On the club scene, we played on Univ. of Cincinnati campus, regularly at a club called “The Pickle Barrel”. Other clubs included Rio Rita (NKY), clubs at Miami University (OH), and regularly at a club called “The Lagoon” in NKy.

Our band was known for fast music you can dance to, and all hits. So it was easy to get the crowd going. We really did play one summer 8 times a week – every night and twice on Sunday.

JC the bass player, who has passed on now, used to stand up on his amp and move back and forth – we followed a lot of the moves of Paul Revere and the Raiders. In fact, we were offered to tour with them moving around city to city opening for them, but it didn’t work out – we were young and in school and couldn’t travel that much.

The photo in the Enquirer standing around a tree was taken in Devou Park in NKy by a publicist for our booking agent, AJaye Entertainment. AJaye was headed up by Stan Hertzman and Ray Lemkuhl – Stan is still playing guitar out in clubs and coffee shops, I see him sometimes.

That’s me singing on “Remain Unknown Girl”. The other two songs the Shantels recorded were “Georgia on My Mind” and “Poison Ivy”, we never had those two pressed into a record. We recorded in Detroit – Dusty helped set up the session – we travelled there for the session, and we played a live concert in Chatham, Canada, which is across from Detroit. We also played live with Jan and Dean.

That Turkey Combo was a gag idea from DJ Steve Kirk from Dayton OH. Steve was always a jokester – he knew that us and the Topics were great friends, so he made that up and put our names on it – all just fun. We played a number of hops for Steve and he helped promote the band. But the main promoting came from Dusty Rhodes when he was Cincinnati’s #1 DJ on WSAI, a top 40 station.

Mike Mays, Terry and myself have practiced, trying to put together a new act of the Shantels. Terry put together a live venue called “Geezerfest” ha! The amazing thing is we will see a lot of the same people we’ve seen in the late sixties. What fun!

I’ll post more info about the upcoming Shantels show in the future.

Thank you to Barry Wickham for the scan of the Fabulous Shantels 45 labels. Special thanks to Mike Dektas for the scans of the promotional photo and ticket.

The Checkmates on Injoy Life

The Checkmates, January 13, 1968
The Checkmates, January 1968, from left: Bruce Axmacher, Chuck Koth, Phil Wing, Bruce Willett and Rick Schnell

Checkmates Injoy Life 45 Get It While You CanThe Checkmates came from Delhi Hills, in Hamilton County west of Cincinnati. Members were all students at either the University of Cincinnati or Xavier:

Chuck Koth (Chuck Coth) – lead guitar
Rick Schnell – rhythm guitar
Bruce Axmacher – organ
Bruce Willett – bass
Phil Wing – drums

The Checkmates cut one single on Injoy Life Records in August, 1967, featuring two songs by singer and song writer Kenny Smith, “Get It While You Can” / “Take Away”. It’s now a rare and sought-after 45. “Get It While You Can” is very memorable and has become well-known since it was compiled on Teenage Shutdown vol. 7.

The Checkmates’ record seems to have come in the middle of the band’s existence. The first mention of the band I can find comes from a short notice on October 1, 1966 of a show with the Randolls at the Mod Room at 3126 Dixie Highway in Erlanger, Kentucky, hosted by “Big” Jim Schworer, DJ with WKKY-FM.

The Dee Blues and the Checkmates at the Mod Room, November 6, 1966
The Dee Blues and the Checkmates at the Mod Room, November 6, 1966
A longer feature on the Mod Room ran in December, 1966, naming the Checkmates as a sort of house band and Jim Schworer as an elementary school teacher in his day job. Schworer was 22 at the time, and had already produced the Shōguns “Well All Right” / “In My Time” on his own Schworer label in May of ’66.

The article says that Schworer and co-owner Seibert Mohr were looking for a larger venue, and that the club was running Sunday afternoon Battles of the Bands, since football games made for too much competition with Friday and Saturday evening shows. Admission was 75¢.

This feature is the last mention of the Mod Room that I can find, perhaps it closed by the New Year. The Enquirer ran ads for Mod Room shows in October and November 1966:

October 2: The Checkmates and the Randolls (Randells?)
October 30: The Nomads, the Unknowns and the Day Blues
November 6: The Dee Blues (winners on Oct 30) and the Checkmates
November 13: The De Blus and the Checkmates
November 20: The Nomads, the Roots of Evil, the Mark IV, the De Blus, the Timid Souls, the Coachmen, and the Cykiks
November 27: The Cykiks, Why-Do’s and the Roots of Evil

Jim Schworer went into acting and other pursuits, and died on July 7, 1988 at age 44.

I haven’t found any other notices about the Checkmates after the January 1968 profile at the top.

The band listed as the Randolls may have been the Randells who had two singles on the Claudette label out of Dayton, KY, “Viet Nam ’66′” / “Traces Of Tears In Your Eyes” (as Gene Hatton and the Randells) and “Dummy” / “Mister Pleasure”, all four songs by Jim Fish.

The Mod Room in Erlanger, KY where the Checkmates played. At left Vicki Brunton and Karen Robinson. Jim Schworer and Vanetta Jones on the right side.
The Mod Room in Erlanger, KY where the Checkmates played. At left Vicki Brunton and Karen Robinson. Jim Schworer and Vanetta Jones on the right side.

The Malcontents of Norwood, Ohio

The Mal-Contents, February 18, 1967
The Mal Contents, February 18, 1967. From left: Larry Groves, David White, Jan Elstun and Bob Mathis

Malcontents Gems 45 (I'm a) RoustaboutThe Malcontents (or Mal-Contents) cut an excellent single in early 1967, “(I’m a) Roustabout” b/w “Motivated Action”.

Members were all Norwood High School students:

Larry Groves – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Bob Mathis – lead guitar, harmony vocals
David White – bass guitar
Jan Elstun – drums

Malcontents Gems 45 Motivated ActionBob Mathis wrote “(I’m a) Roustabout”, and lead singer Larry Groves wrote the great guitar instrumental, “Motivated Action”. With one side appealing to garage rock fans and the other a winner with the surf and rockin’ instrumental set, this record is in high demand these days.

Issued on the band’s own GEMS Records label and pressed by Rite Record Productions, which was based in Cincinnati. The release number 18347/18348  would date it to late 1966, but early 1967 seems more likely – fellow Norwood High student Joe Morgenroth  wrote a letter to the Enquirer published March 4, 1967 about the Malcontents upcoming record.

Ivan & the Sabres, the Mal-Contents and the Missing Links at the Lakeridge, Sunday, April 2, 1967
Ivan & the Sabres, the Mal-Contents and the Missing Links at the Lakeridge, Sunday, April 2, 1967

Notices show bookings at Granny’s on Lytle Ave in Elsmere, Kentucky for a show on Friday, October 28, 1966 opening for the Denems, and a show on Sunday April 2, 1967 at the Lakeridge with Ivan & the Sabres and the Missing Links.

The Enquirer’s Teen-Ager supplement featured Jan Elstun on its August 20, 1966 cover, with a short article inside noting the band played regularly at the Millstone in the basement of the Zion United Church of Christ and the Footprint, a teen club on Montgomery Road.

March 4, 1967 letter regarding The Malcontents upcoming record
March 4, 1967 letter regarding The Malcontents upcoming record

Jan Elstun of The Mal-Contents, profiled in the Enquirer on August 20, 1966
Jan Elstun of The Mal Contents, profiled in the Enquirer on August 20, 1966
The Mal-Contents, August 20, 1966
The Mal Contents, August 20, 1966

The Blue Dells


The Blue Dells: Lester Long (at top holding sax), Doyle Smith (center), Bill Maloney (at left with guitar), Bill Hamilton (right with bass), and Larry Reynolds (at bottom with drum sticks).

The Blue Dells were from Cincinnati but recorded this 45 at Ray Allen’s studio in Louisville, Kentucky. The publishing was through Shad O’Shea’s Counterpart Music in Cincinnati.

“Trust Me” is cool moody garage-rock with horns that don’t intrude.

The flip, “Everything for You” is a more typical ballad, and was written by D.B. Doyle and Lester Long. Writing credits on “Trust Me” are D.B. Smith – two D.B.s in one band? No, it turns out that is a misprint.

I didn’t know anything about the band until commentors below filled me in. One of these is the Blue Dells’ drummer Larry Reynolds, who sent in the photo above. I’ll repeat his comment here:

Band members [were] Larry Reynolds drummer, Bill Maloney lead guitar/singer, Doyle B. Smith organ/lead singer, Bill Hamilton bass guitar/ backup singer, Lester Long saxophone/backup singer. The band joined together in 1965 and broke up in 1969. We played at the Starfire Lounge for over two and a half years, Mustang Room, Tiki Lounge, and all over Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana. The band appeared on several record hop type TV shows in Cincinnati and Dayton to promote our record.

Thank you to Larry for responding to my request for a photo of the band.