Category Archives: Texas

The Mystics

The Mystics, Oak Cliff

The Mystics came out of the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Members were Ron Jobe vocals, David Mitchell bass, Robert Farris and Danny Fugate on guitars, and Glenn Struble on drums. Their original name was the Glorytones, and they often played the Heights Theater.

In 1966 they won a local battle of the bands with the prize being a record contract with Bob Sanders’ Spectra Records, which is when they changed their name to the Mystics.

Spectra hired rockabilly legend Dale Hawkins to produce, and Ron Price (songwriter of “Wishy Washy Woman” and “My Girl” for Jimmy Rabbit) contributed the very catchy “Didn’t We Have a Good Time”. Robert Farris wrote the b-side, “Now and For Always”, a well-executed if ordinary ballad.

The 45 reached #1 on Dallas stations KLIF, KBOX (see survey front and back) and KFJZ and was picked it up by Dot Records for national distribution. The Mystics went on to open shows for the Beach Boys, Sam the Sham, the Lovin’ Spoonful and others, but for some reason never released another 45.

Contrary to what has been written before, the Mystics did not develop into the New Breed, who recorded Ron Price songs like “High Society Girl” and “P.M. or Later”. The In Crowd label used the Mystics name as a way to give credibility to the New Breed, which was actually a batch of studio musicians based out of Robin Hood Brians’ studio in Tyler.

I asked bassist David Mitchell a few questions about the band:

Q. Is that a Gibson Thunderbird you’re playing?

That is a Thunderbird bass in that picture. Wish I still had it now.

Q. Were you still in the band when it became the New Breed?

None of The Mystics were a part of The New Breed. It was never a real band. The record company we were with used our name and said it was the Mystics with a new name. They were studio players. May have been the same players that backed Jimmy Rabbit on his records. They only had the one 45 that I know of.

Q. The one name I can find connecting the Mystics and the New Breed is the songwriter Ron Price, did you know him?

Yes we knew Ron Price. At the time we had won a battle of the bands and a record contract, Ron was working with Spectra records which was also Knight Records and many other label names they wanted to use. Ron was a good song writer, he later wrote songs for Glenn Campbell.

The band broke up in 1968, as we all started getting drafted. Robert Farris went on to play with Sam The Sham and later with The Bellemy Brothers. He also played some with the two Vaughan brothers. I still play some. My son plays drums and has been in bands as well, Speed Trucker, Boy Named Sue, Tall Paul and The Hot Rod Hillbillies to name a few.

The Mystics at Keist Park

Thanks to David Mitchell for sending in the photos, above and answering my questions about the Mystics.

Update, January 2009 – thanks to Barb S. who sent me these two great photos of the original band:

left to right: Ron Jobe, Glen Struble, Danny Fugate (on top), Robert Farris, David Mitchell
left to right: Danny Fugate, Robert Farris, David Mitchell, Glen Strubble and (in front) Ron Jobe

The Checkmates

Updated January 2010

For every fuzz-driven garage screamer, there are a dozen records like this one by the Checkmates: competent and upbeat but uncompromised pop music. I didn’t know much about the group until people commented and wrote to me, so I’m adding some of the comments into this article.

Ray Ruff was an Amarillo impresario, owning the Checkmate night club, a recording studio and Ruff Records. He was also a partner in Sully Records, eventually taking it over from Gene Sullivan, who had started it in Oklahoma City in 1959.

A paragraph from Ruff’s obituary gives some background on his early music career:

Ray Ruff befriended Buddy Holly’s record producer Norman Petty and, after Holly’s death, he made several soundalike recordings, deliberately wearing spectacles like Holly’s when he recorded. Ruff often worked with his group the Checkmates, but they became the Executioners and wore hooded masks on stage.

There are at least eight different 45s by Ruff with the Checkmates, mostly on Norman Records, from between 1959 to the early ’60s.

Bobby Hacker commented below:

I was his first drummer and I recorded several records with the Checkmates under the Norman label. Ray was the vocalist along with Chuck Tharp. Tharp was the original vocalist for the Fireballs. Charles McClure was the lead guitarist, Tharp was rhythm guitarist and Tom Beck was bass guitarist. We toured the mid-west U.S., along with two provinces in western Canada. Most of our recordings were done in Clovis, N.M. at Norman Petty studios. While on the road, we. the Checkmates, recorded in St. Louis, Mo. backing a singer, trumpet player named Gabriel.

The year was 1961 and I am the only living survivor of the original Checkmates mentioned here. Ray Ruff went through several musicians during the 1960’s and he passed away a couple of years ago in L.A. He was very sucessful as a record producer but not that good a singer when I worked with him. He supposedly along with Norman Petty, formed the Checkmates.

Tom McCarty of the Page Boys wrote to me:

Ray Ruff had a recording studio in Amarillo at the Trades Fair shopping center at N.E. 24th and Grand. Ray was a Buddy Holly look-alike/wannabe who toured the mid-west with the Checkmates from Scotts Bluff, Nebraska – Minot, Minnesota, etc. If memory serves me right, The Checkmates had pretty well disbanded by 1966 which is about the time I met Ray Ruff. They were really a good group. Larry Marcum, their lead guitarist, was a good musician and a nice fellow.

Jerry Hodges commented:

I played with Bob and Larry Marcum with the Checkmates. I remember a tour to North Dakota with with Ray Ruff. I think we traveled in a Nash Rambler. I can also remember going into the Norman Petty studio and Larry wanted to play bass, so we switched as I was the bass player.

The band’s lineup had changed considerably since Ruff fronted the group, and by the time of the 45 I’m featuring here the band included Galen Ray (Galen Ray Englebrick) on bass. Galen Ray wrote both sides of this 45. There’s another 45 on Ruff by the Charming Checkmates – Just to Make Me Cry, that I haven’t heard.

Also see the Ruff and Sully discographies I’ve posted here.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

Jimmy Rabbit and Positively 13 O’Clock

 Jimmy Rabbit cuts Chuck Dunaway's call letters off his shirt
Jimmy Rabbit cuts Chuck Dunaway’s call letters off his shirt after winning a boat race between the stations. Photo from The History of KLIF Radio (http://1650oldiesradio.com/pgone.html – now defunct).

Jimmy Rabbit Knight 45 PushoverJimmy Rabbit was a prominent DJ at Dallas station KLIF AM 1190 with a show that mixed British Invasion sounds with Texas acts like Mouse and the Traps, Sir Douglas Quintet and the Five Americans. Having tried his hand at singing as a young rockabilly under his real name, Eddy Payne (Dale Payne), he decided to make another attempt in 1965. With help from friends, Rabbit released three good garage 45s from ’65 to ’67.

“Pushover” is distinguished by a popping rhythm and sharp guitar. It was released with three variations in the name. First as Jimmy Rabbit with Ron and Dea on the yellow Knight label, on a blue Knight label as simply Jimmy Rabbit, and then picked up for national release on Southern Sound as Jimmy Rabbit and the Karats (ha ha).

Jimmy Rabbit Knight 45 Wishy-Washy WomanThe b-side “Wait and See” is dark and less catchy, but pretty good too. Both of these were written by Lindsey-Kirkland-Rambo, arranged by Bob Rambo and produced by Bob Sanders.

Next came the bluesy “Wishy Washy Woman” from July of 1965, written by Ron Price. “Wishy-Washy Woman” reached #31 on the KLIF charts thanks to Jimmy’s connection with the station. It’s a formulaic blues, but gains momentum a little over halfway through as Jimmy sings just over the drums, with the other instruments coming in at the end of each measure.

The flip side is “My Girl”, credited as a Price original but really more a version of Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” with some different lyrics.

Jimmy Rabbit Southern Sound 45 PushoverJimmy Rabbit Josie 45 Wishy-Washy Woman

Positively 13 O'Clock photo
Positively 13 O’Clock lineup, from left: Dave Stanley, Bugs Henderson, Jimmy Rabbit and Jerry Howell Jimmy Rabbit: “The picture of Positively 13 O’Clock was taken while we were playing at the world famous Lou Ann’s Teen Club.”

Positively Thirteen O'Clock HBR 45 Psychotic ReactionHis biggest hit came in 1966, with a buzzy cover of “Psychotic Reaction” under the name Positively Thirteen O’Clock, recorded at Robin Hood Brians studio in Tyler, Texas with members of Mouse and the Traps: “Bugs” Henderson and Ronnie “Mouse” Weiss on guitars, Ken “Nardo” Murray drums, David Stanley bass, and Jerry Howell organ.

The solo has a frantic, trebly quality that’s a trademark Texas sound. The band ends the song with a final burst of fuzz rather than coming back into the verse as in the Count Five’s original, itself an imitation of the Yardbirds’ raveups. This abbreviated version clocks at a tidy 1:59!

High Yellow film still photo

Mr. Rabbit wrote to me:

The Dallas records [“Pushover” & “Wishy Washy Woman”] were a totally different thing than the Tyler recordings [“Psychotic Reaction”]. When Bobby Rambo and I teamed up in late ’64 we were a part of a new kind of music “thing” in Dallas-Ft. Worth.

We all came out of rockabilly music and we all used to hang out at the Sand-Lin Recording Studio (Bob Sanders and Lewis Lindsey) and played at, among other places: LouAnn’s and The Cellar in Dallas. This was right when the change from American to English music was taking place. We really tried to become/sound English! (like my friends in The Sir Douglas Quintet).

High Yellow promo bookI was a teenager with a Beatle haircut who was the number-one d.j. on KLIF Radio. I had brought the Beatles on stage when they played Dallas [fascinating write up was at http://www.radiodailynews.com/rabbittchapter12.htm but is now defunct] and played in several bands, so we all got record deals at different times. There were several bands that hung out and listened to and recorded music. At any given time, there could be a band called ‘Jimmy Rabbit and the Karats’, ‘Jimmy Rabbitt with Ron (Boston) and Dea’ (Kirkland), ‘The Rowdies’, ‘The Bobby Rambo Rock-Kings’ and on and on.

The songs “Pushover” and “Wait and See” were recorded in 1965 and were featured in the movie, High Yellow. The band included Bobby Rambo, Lewis Lindsey, Dea Kirkland, Rex Ludwick, Ron Boston, and others who have been long forgotten!

Bobby Rambo, Rex Ludwick and I (and others) became Jimmy Rabbitt and Texas (on Atco Records) and later Jimmy Rabbitt and Renegade who recorded an album for Capitol with Waylon Jennings producing in 1977. Of all the records that I have made over the years, the only song that Bobby Rambo didn’t play on was “Psychotic Reaction”.

Check out Jimmy Rabbit’s website at www.jimmyrabbitt.com.(defunct)

The Wig

The Wig - from left: Jess Yaryan, Rusty Wier, Benny Rowe, Bill Wilmot and Johnny Richardson. Thanks to Liz for the correction.
The Wig – from left: Jess Yaryan, Rusty Wier, Benny Rowe, Bill Wilmot and Johnny Richardson.
Thanks to Liz for the correction.

The Wig Goyle 45 Drive It HomeUpdated October 9, 2009

The other great Austin, Texas band of the mid-60’s was the Wig: Rusty Wier (drums, vocals), Benny Rowe (lead guitar), John Richardson (guitar), Jess Yaryan (bass) and Billy Wilmont (keyboards).

Benny Rowe had been in an earlier version of the band known as the Wigs that had toured Europe.

The 45 version of “Drive It Home” is phenomenal, but the live version makes the studio cut seem tame in comparison! The live recording was done at the Jade Room, one of their regular spots.

The flipside of the Goyle 45 is “To Have Never Loved at All”, a good ballad I hadn’t paid much attention to until someone requested to hear it so I made a transfer. The Wig released “Drive It Home” / “To Have Never Loved at All” in November 1966.

The Wig Blacknight 45 Crackin' Up“Crackin’ Up” is as exciting as any song cut in the mid-60s. The opening guitar riff is unforgettable for one thing. Rusty Wier’s drumming propels the song, his vocals are confident and Benny Rowe’s guitar solo is intense.

Wier wrote “Crackin’ Up”. The flip is “Bluescene.” It came out on two labels, BlacKnight and Empire. The BlacKnight single is rare enough and came out in May of ’67, but the Empire ones seems even harder to find – one copy I’ve seen was issued on yellow vinyl – anyone have a scan of that?

I don’t have a release date for the Empire version – it may have actually come later than the Blacknight.

There are more live tracks along with both sides of an early unreleased 45, “Little By Little” and “Forever And A Day” that I haven’t heard yet.

After the Wig broke up, Yaryan and Wier formed the Lavender Hill Express, blending country and pop sounds. A lot of information on that group can be found on the Sonobeat site.

I just heard Randy Wier passed away after battling cancer. The Austin360 site had an obituary but it has been taken down. Tommy Taylor had written a comment on an Austin Chronicle article for a personal take on Rusty’s influence on the Austin music scene, but that is now down too. I hope Mr. Taylor does not mind my reproducing his letter here:

Dear Editor,

On reading this week’s article concerning Rusty Wier and his passing, I couldn’t help but make note of the incorrectness of a portion of the story [“Off the Record,” Music, Oct. 16]. Rusty Wier did not join Gary P. Nunn’s Lavender Hill Express. The Lavender Hill Express was formed as a “supergroup” featuring the best guys from many other top local groups. Leonard Arnold from Felicity (Don Henley), Jess Yaryan and Rusty Wier from the Wig, Layton DePenning from Baby Cakes.

Gary P. Nunn was not even in the Lavender Hill Express originally. The original keyboardist was Johnny Schwertner. The group was a year into its tenure before Gary came on the scene. It was Rusty Wier’s Lavender Hill Express from the get-go.

I was disappointed in the size and content of the article. This man was at the very heart and very beginning of everything that this music community now holds dear and prides itself upon. While I realize that the 2002 article pretty much covered the main points [“I Before E,” Music, May 31, 2002], Rusty Wier deserves the cover once again. The passing of these luminaries in our local music community needs top attention, even though they may no longer be at the height of their careers or as popular with the kiddies as the latest flavor of the month.

Rusty Wier was an Austin icon. He had the first major label record contract ever awarded to an Austin artist. He was the first person in Austin to stand out from the crowd of players in bands, to be recognized as an individual, even as a drummer. Rusty Wier and the Wig held the No. 1 slot with their two-sided single “Drive It Home”/”To Have Never Loved at All” for several weeks in 1966-67 on K-NOW, the only radio station in town that played popular music, above groups like the Beatles.

In Austin, Texas, before Rusty Wier, there was nothing.

Tommy Taylor

Rusty Wier’s official site, www.rustywier.com (now also defunct) had more on his career, and many photos, including some I’ve reproduced here.

The Wig Fantastic Sounds business card

Rusty Wier in 1969, when he was with the Lavender Hill Express. Photo taken by Hilton Puckett and reproduced from Rusty Wier's official site.
Rusty Wier in 1969, when he was with the Lavender Hill Express. Photo taken by Hilton Puckett and reproduced from Rusty Wier’s official site (now defunct)
 I like how the clipping above calls Rusty the "lead drummer"! It also gives a different spelling of his last name.
I like how the clipping above calls Rusty the “lead drummer”! It also gives a different spelling of his last name.

The Wig - Benny Rowe, Rusty Wier, Jess Yaryan, Johnny Richardson and Bill Wilmot

The Bubble Puppy

Two non-lp sides by the Bubble Puppy, a Texas group based alternately in Austin and Houston, and recording on International Artists. To me this is probably their best work.

“Thinkin’ About Thinkin'” is intense guitar driven hard-rock, not garage. “Days of Our Time” is maybe too busy but still has a good momentum to it.

Members were:

Rod Prince – lead guitar and vocals
Roy Cox – bass and vocals
Todd Potter – lead guitar and vocals
David “Fuzzy” Fore – drums

Rod Prince wrote a good history of the band on their official site, which is otherwise kinda clunky.

I should expand this entry on the band if anyone is interested in helping or writing it…