There were a number of groups called the Villagers around the country, but these Villagers came from Dayton and cut only one record, the endearing garage original “He’s Not the Same” b/w the melancholy “Sunshine My Way”.
Released on Hamlet Records V-1000 in 1968, the Villagers are a mystery other than the info on the labels: authors J. Mills and M. Copp, publishing by Counterpart Music, BMI, the code 813L which was Counterpart Records account number with RCA custom pressings, and W4KM-6004/5 (indicating a RCA custom pressing from the first half of 1968).
Library of Congress copyright records give one name, Janis R. Mills, who copyrighted “He’s Not the Same” on January 5, 1968, and “Sun, Shine My Way” (notice the different rendering of the title) on May 20, 1968. M. Copp is not in these copyright listings.
BMI’s database lists Janice Mills and Michael Copp. The spelling of her name as Janice certainly is a mistake on BMI’s part, as BMI attributes two recent country songs by Janice S. Mills from Alabama to the author of “He’s Not the Same”. It wouldn’t be unlike BMI to conflate two similar names.
Strangely, BMI lists “He’s Not the Same” and “Sunshine My Way” as registered to Piagneri Music in Astoria, NY, even though Counterpart Music is still active in Cincinnati.
I can find no listings or articles on the band from that time, so it’s possible they were not even a semi-professional band or one that would play battle-of-the-bands. Maybe Janis Mills wrote these songs and brought them to the attention of Counterpart, which had Michael Copp arrange them with some local group or musicians.
Here’s a great single by the Skeptics, whom I’ve read were from Dayton, Ohio. The urgency and scuzzy burning distortion on the guitar on “Wondering” scream out 1968 to me, a date confirmed by the QCA # 80330, specifically March 1968. The flip is a slow recitative called “I’m Lonely Again” that I find less essential.
This band of Skeptics is not related to the Oklahoma group who cut “Apple Candy”, “Stripes”, and “Turn It On” among other classics.
There’s very little info on the label, even the publishing is limited to simply BMI. No trace seems to exist in BMI’s databases, but I found a Library of Congress copyright record listing Michael Downing (Michael Joseph Downing) and John Hoskins as co-composers of both songs, plus Donald Ray Parrett on “Wondering”, published by Lamar Music in May of 1968. Presumably Downing, Hoskins and Don Parrett were members of the band.
Spring Records was part of O’Brien’s Recording Service in Springfield, Ohio, 24 miles north east of Dayton. There were at least a few releases on the Spring label, but this may be the only one in a rock style. The 45s were pressed at Queen City Albums in Cincinnati.
O’Brien’s Recording Service did register copyrights for a few of song-poem composer Irene Dollar Heffner’s songs, including one, “Vietnam Sweetheart” that was sung by Rodd Keith (under the alias of John Dough). The flip of that was arranged by Jeanne O’Brien.
Despite the band members’ names on the label, this group is still something of a mystery. Members were Doug Dehart, Ron Riddle, Jim Frizell, Don Jones, and Ray Reade.
“You’re My Woman” has a murky, dirty sound to the rhythm guitar that flashes throughout the song. It has a dim, psychedelic aura from the last days of 1967. The flip side, “Our Love Was Strong” is a strange number alternating long harmony aahs with a plain, almost recited vocal.
The Buckeye Beat site states it was recorded at Commercial Recorders in Dayton, Ohio. This is a Rite pressing, with account # 1190 in the dead wax of both sides.
Tom Fortener, keyboard player for Tom and the Tempests sent me this incredible 45 and sleeve and a short bio on the group:
Tom and the Tempests were formed in 1963 by Tom Fortener. Original members were, Randy Debord, rhythm guitar and vocals, Frank Hall, lead guitar, Bill Muncy, drums, Fred Nagle, bass and Tom Fortener, piano, organ. The band was managed by Toms’ Dad, Ray Fortener.
They wrote and recorded “It’s Over Now” and “Play It Cool” in 1964. They sponsored Sunday afternoon dances at GBU hall in Dayton, Ohio. They hired disc jockeys from WING and WONE. A popular promotion there was the Battle of the Bands. In 1965, they played the New State Pavilion, New York World’s Fair in Flushing, New York. They played throughout Ohio and was considered by many the best band in the area.
This is a Rite pressing from 1964. Alco’s first two releases were by Sonny Flaharty and His Young Americans, so the Young American Productions credit on the labels of this indicate Flaharty’s involvement. Alco was owned by Arvey Webster on Springboro Ave in Dayton.
Here’s a group that went through several name changes over a few years, but kept the same lineup throughout:
Roger Sayre (guitar and vocals) Ray Bushbaum (keyboards and vocals) Jerry “Moon” Ditmer (or Jerry Dittmer) (bass) Jerry Thomas (drums and vocals – replaced by Bill “Fuzz” Weicht)
Prior to starting this band, Roger Sayre had been in 50’s rockabilly Chuck Sims’ group (Chuck also recorded as Charles Vanell). Ray Bushbaum had played with Sonny Flaharty’s Young Americans.
Based in Dayton, Ohio, they started as the Original Playboys in 1962 and cut a disc “I’ll Always Be On Your Side” / “Hey Little Willie in 1965 on Leisure Time records. “Hey Little Willie” has their sound down – grooving r&b with shouts, jokes and frat calls. “hold it – let’s do ‘Go Little Willie’, ‘DOTW'” (see comments below for explanation!). It was picked up for release on Smash Records with their name changed to the X-Cellents.
Another name change to the E-Cellents for their next 45 on Sure Play, the ballad “And I’m Cryin'” backed with one I haven’t heard yet, “The Slide”.
Reverting to the X-Cellents, they cut a cool double-sider 45 for Sure Play in 1966. “Hang It Up” treads similar ground to “Hey Little Willie” though a little less convincing, maybe ’cause it lacks that great bass drum beat. More insider jokes and calls here – “DFTW”, “77” – that I don’t know the meaning of.
“Little Wooden House” is a repetitive vamp lamenting settling down, just the same two chords over and over. “Little Wooden House” is a Roger Sayre composition, “Hang It Up” was written by Sayre-Bushbaum-Weicht-Dittmer.
Still the band progressed with the times, and contributed one of their best songs, Roger Sayre’s original Walk Slowly Away” to a sampler LP on Prism Records called “The Dayton Scene”. Acts were from the 1966 battle of the bands promoted by Dayton radio station WONE and the band is listed as the Xcellents. To my ears “Walk Slowly Away” bears a resemblance to the Beatles’ “I Need You” from the Help! soundtrack, though that may be a superficial comparison, as the lyrics and chorus are distinct.
They changed their name again for their last 45, as the Vacant Lot, or perhaps R. Sayre and the Vacant Lot, the LTD label gives both as artists. “This Little Feelin'” is one of their best numbers, soulful and rocking, as Ray’s keyboards again drive the sound behind Roger’s vocals. It was backed with their version of Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s “Don’t You Just Know It”, a song that had probably been in their repertoire for years with the same sound and arrangement. Production by Bill Leasure.
The band seems to have gone separate ways after this last 45. Sayre had another group with John Spitler at some point, but I don’t know if that was before or after the X-Cellents
Dayton, Ohio’s Sonny Flaharty had been recording since the late 50s. In 1965 he helped a local band called the Rich Kids produce a demo. He ran into them again calling themselves the Mark V “direct from Toronto, Canada”! They asked Sonny to join the band but according to Sonny, “the only problem we had was with my past. I was very well known in Dayton. The band didn’t want to be associated with ‘Old Time Rock and Roll'”!
They changed their names and tried to pass themselves off as English or at least Canadian. They didn’t fool anyone for long, but there was nothing ‘old time’ about their music. Shad O’Shea of Cincinnati’s Counterpart Records asked them to record Sonny’s original, “Hey Conductor”.
There was a nine-month delay between the recording and the release of “Hey Conductor”. In the meantime Mike Losecamp (aka Haywood Lovelace), who played the distinctive organ on the record left to join the Cyrkle.
Once released Hey Conductor was a sizeable hit, selling in the thousands and immediately picked up by Phillips for national distribution. The good times didn’t last long, as its lyrics hinting at drug experiences got it banned on radio before it could break nationally. The song’s frantic pace, strange fuzz guitar and syncopated organ make it an often-heard record at dj nights even today.
Sources include: a detailed interview with the Mark V’s drummer Doug Porter here, and the liner notes to Sonny’s retrospective LP on Dionysius.