Category Archives: Rio Grande Valley

The Stowaways

Arturo & Pat with The Stowaways
Arturo & Pat with the Stowaways, from left to right: Norma Longoria, James Buckley, Pat Buckley, Wendall Maloy, and Arturo Longoria

The Stowaways were:

Arturo Longoria – vocals
Pat Buckley – vocals
Norma Longoria – keyboards
Romolo Montalvo – lead guitar
James Buckley – rhythm guitar
Wendall Maloy – drums

Wendall Maloy sent in the clipping above and wrote to me about the Stowaways:

This is the first “garage band” to play the Grapefruit Bowl in Sharyland, TX. The photo is from The McAllen Monitor and mentions our parking lot dances in front of Carl’s Minimax in Mission. The photo was taken before the Pharaoh record we cut where the name of the group was changed.

Mr. Longoria paid for the record. On the record, we were listed as Arturo and Pat with the Stowaways. I don’t have a copy of the record. The title might have been, “Turn Your Light On Me.” It got lots of air play on KRIO because we were local. Jimmy Nichols, owner of Pharaoh Records, never signed a group and paid for their recording. He always got paid for studio time and pressing, in other words … he never invested in an artist or group. Anyone could cut a record with Pharaoh if they had the money. If I remember, it was about $500 for 500 records turnkey.

That was our only record with Arturo and Pat. They later were backed by The Invaders. [Arturo & Pat with the Invaders – “Oh Yes Tonight” / “So Tenderly & Faithfully” on Pharaoh 134]

Romolo Montalvo was a great lead guitar player.  I played with Romolo, Juan Guerrero (bass guitar) and Oscar Villareall (vocals) at the Grapefruit Bowl after Romolo and I left Arturo and Pat. I soon left the Valley to attend college in Victoria, TX.

Oscar got a record deal with Falcon Records and had a successful career. He was killed in an accident while touring and his records started selling like crazy. I know that Juan played with Oscar’s band. I lost touch with most everyone, except Juan. He played with several Tejano groups like Los Fabulosos Quatro and later had his own group Los Sheekanos. He is in the Tejano Music Hall of Fame.

The best group from the Valley was the Playboy’s of Edinburg. They had a top 40 hit with “Look At Me Girl.” The song was recorded at Pharaoh and later released on Columbia.  Bobby Vee covered the song, had it out at the same time on Liberty Records and kind of screwed them out of having a bigger hit.

I got drafted in 1967 and while serving as NCOIC of the Radio-TV Section at the Ft Hood Information Office, got the Playboys assigned to me when they came for summer camp with the National Guard. We are still close today.

Wendall Maloy

The Haustofs

The Haustofs, Bobcat News, Nov. 23, 1966
The Haustofs, Bobcat News, Nov. 23, 1966.
from left: Doug Gahan, Gary Thorson, Steve Rollofs (kneeling), Pat Buckley, and Randy Clark with manager Delon Wright lying on the grass. Not pictured: Bob Doty, keyboards.

Gary Thorson sent in the news clippings and wrote to me about the Haustofs:

I grew up in Pharr, TX during the 60s and was a member of a garage band there known as “The Haustofs” (supposedly named after a German beer known for its strength). We never cut a record, but played all the popular venues (the Valley Bowl was one of our favorites), sock-hops and private parties. We even shared the stage with some of them, like the Headstones and the Playboys of Edinburg. The Souls‘ David Lott and I were good friends.

Our band was primarily know as being from Mission, TX because that’s where our lead singer Pat Buckley (of the former Arturo and Pat hit record), our drummer, Doug Gahan, and our keyboard player, Bob Doty were from. Stephen Roelofs our bass player, Delon Wright our manager, and myself were all from Pharr, TX and Randy Clark our lead player was from Edinburg, TX.

Pat Buckley has released a single with another Mission student, Arturo Longoria as Arturo & Pat with the Invaders on the Pharaoh label, “Oh Yes Tonight” / “So Tenderly & Faithfully”.

The Bobcat News profiled the band on November 23, 1966, saying the band “was assembled by Doug Gahan, a senior at Mission High.”

An article in the Mission Eagle has many interesting quotes, such as Dough Gahan saying he was “‘an ardent admirer of Bill Reed,’ who plays drums in the Kavaliers.” Another is “As far as the other groups that the Haustofs admire are concerned, the Headstones are their favorite Valley group. They like the Kinks best of world-famous groups, although they also like the Beau Brummels and the Yardbirds.” It also mentions that Randy Clark of Edinburg High School had played rhythm guitar in the Tempests.

Gary Thorson adds the status of the individual band members as of today is:

Pat Buckley – Retired and living in southern Colorado
Stephen Roelofs- School teacher living in the Dallas, TX area
Bob Doty – Works for a large tool company living in Arkansas
Gary Thorson – President of a computer consulting firm living in Fairhope, Al.
Randy Clark – still pursuing his musical career in San Antonio, TX
Doug Gahan – unknown

The Haustofs, Mission Combo Had Original Beginning

Thee Kavaliers

Thee Kavaliers Photo

The Cavaliers Pharaoh 45 PrideThee Kavaliers had four singles on the Pharaoh label, the most releases of any artist on that label.

Their first was under the plainer moniker The Cavaliers and features a good garage vocal composed by Billy Rowe backed with the surf instrumental “Sea Weed”, composed by Frank Barrera. My copy has an inscription by Billy Rowe on the A-side that unfortunately got smeared to near-illegibility before I came to own it.

The Cavaliers Pharaoh 45 Sea Weed

I’m not sure who played what instrument or exactly who was in the band. Billy Rowe must have been in the group, at least early on, and Javier Rios became their leader and wrote or co-wrote most of their original songs on their records as Thee Kavaliers. A clipping (see below) includes Mike Dunn, Gary Vandiver, Jeanne Hatfield, Richard Mancilla and an unidentified person as the Cavaliers. Frank Barrera’s name isn’t included but shows up on at least two of their songs as composer. The photo at top shows six members, and doesn’t include Jeanne Hatfield.

I don’t think Thee Kavaliers backed Jeanne Hatfield on her single on Pharaoh, which features a keyboard prominently.

In any case, they were a strong group with a wide repertoire. “Congregation for Anti-Flirts, Inc” is considered their best work, but all of it is strong. “Symbols of Sin” is a take on “Land of 1,000 Dances” but really gets moving once the guitar break starts.

Pharaoh 137 – The Cavaliers – “Pride” (Billy Rowe) / “Sea Weed” (Frank Barrera) (Oct. ’65)
Pharaoh 146 – Thee Kavaliers – “That Hurts” / “Symbols of Sin” (both by Javier Rios, July ’66)
Pharaoh 150 – Thee Kavaliers – “The Last Four Words” / “Ballad Of Thee Kavaliers” (Sept. ’66)
Pharaoh 154 – Thee Kavaliers – “Congregation for Anti-Flirts, Inc” / “Back to You” (Jan. ’67)

Their entire output of eight songs, along with songs by other bands from Pharaoh, can be found on the Cicadelic CD Congregation for Anti-Flirts: The McAllen, Texas Teen Scene 1965-67.

Thee Kavaliers Pharaoh 45 Symbols of SinThee Kavaliers Pharaoh 45 Congregation for Anti-Flirts, Inc.

David Lott of the Souls sent in the clipping below, featuring the Souls with the Marauders and the Cavaliers:

Three legendary Texas bands! The United Fund benefit dance in McAllen, 1965
Top row – The Cavaliers, l-r: Mike Dunn, Gary Vandiver, Javier Rios, Jeanne Hatfield, [unidentified], Richard Mancilla
Middle row – l-r: The Marauders, with Mitch Watkins on lead guitar at left, Phil Veale, Eric Mancilla, Jimmy Parker, Lloyd Allen.
Bottom row – The Souls, l-r: Murray Schlesinger, Jerry Ebensberger, David Smith, David Lott and Allen Kirsh.

Kavaliers and Jeannie Hatfield at the Carousel Friday, September 9, 1966
Kavaliers and Jeannie Hatfield at the Carousel Friday, September 9, 1966
Thee Kavaliers and Rebels, at Granny's Go Go
Good Deeds and Invaders on Friday, Sept. 16; The Kavaliers and the Rebels on Saturday Sept. 17, 1966 at Granny’s Go Go

Pharaoh Records Discography, McAllen, TX

Jimmy Nichols ran a recording studio in McAllen, Texas and owned the Pharaoh label. The Zakary Thaks and Bad Seeds used Nichol’s studio for their early singles. I’ve read that the studio burned down years ago with whatever stock and master tapes was left in it.

Pharaoh discography:

Any help with this would be appreciated

LP:
1001 – Ray Wray Quartet – Yes Indeed!

45s:

101 – Ray Wray Quartet – “A Song Is Born” / “When Your Love Has Gone” (with picture sleeve – see above)
102 – Robert Burnie – “My Twistin’ Mexicali Baby” / “Come Just a Little Bit Closer to Me” (J. Nicholls) Division of Alki Alki Music Pub. BMI
103 – Johnny Jay & the Pompadors – “You Drive Me Crazy (You Drive Me Wild)” (Johnny Mendez) / “I Feel So Lonely” (Benny Mendez)
104 – Billy Myers Combo – “Oso” / “Ten Little Indians” (some copies on red vinyl)
105 – Johnny Jay & The Pompadors – “She’s Gone And I’m All Alone” / “I Want You So I Need You So”
106 ?
107 ?
108 ?
109 – Don Blackey – “Mona Lisa” / ?
110 – Marvin Nash and the “K” Sisters – “I’ll Cry” / “Happiness”
111 ?
112 ?
113 – Davis Brothers – “I Don’t Hear You” / ?
114 – Noe Pro & The Blue Valiants – “Hit Me With The Stroll” / “My Love Is Real”
115 – Marvin Nash and the Chevelles – “Darling” / “Dina” (1961)
116 – Don Bennett And His Orchestra – “That’s All” / The Balladiers with Don Bennett And His Orchestra ‎- “Texas A & M Waltz”
117 – Don Bennett & Orchestra – “Jersey Bounce” / “Only A Dream”
118 – Noe Pro and the Blue Valiants – “I Know” / “Reina de mi Vida”
119 – Little Joe Parker and the Vikings – “Straight Jacket” / “Feed the Chickens” (both by Joe Gonzales)
120 ?
121- Noe Pro & the Blue Valiants – “Come Along My Baby” / ?? (1964)
122 – Little Joe Parker and the Tigers – “Is That A Tiger In My Tank” / “Movin’ On”
123 – Ronnie Dale – “You’ve Learned How To Cry”
124 – Noe Pro and the Semitones – “I Know What’s Been Going On” / “I Love You My Darling”
125 – The Cruisers – “An Angel Like You” / “The Lonely”
126 – Jeanne Hatfield – “My Babe” / “Summertime” (March 1965)
127 ?
128 – The Cruisers – “Another Lonely Night” / “Please Let Me Be (The One For You)” (with picture sleeve)
129 – Simon Reyes & the Outerlimits – “My Baby Hurts Me” / “Mistake Number Three”
130 ?
131 – Billy D. Nash – “This Little Light Of Mine” / “There Is A Balm In Gilead” (with picture sleeve)
132 ?
133 – George and the Lion’s Den Trio Here’s George – “The Swinger” / “Crazy Ideas” (with picture sleeve)
134 – Arturo & Pat with the Invaders – “Oh Yes Tonight” / “So Tenderly & Faithfully”
135 – Jim Roberts – “Jukebox for Company” / “Hay for My Donkey”
136 – George and the Lion’s Den Trio – “Tequila Sour” / “Como Prima”
137 – The Cavaliers – “Pride” (Billy Rowe) / “Sea Weed”
138 – Danny Mata & the Pathfinders – “Looking Around” / “Iolavay”
139 – The Cruisers – “My Place” (E.J. Ledesma) / “Walkin’ and a Ridin'”
140 – Eddie & the Emeralds – “Preparation X” / “If You Only Knew”
141 – The Playboys of Edinburg – “Wish You Had A Heart” (James Williams) / “Understand Me”
142 – The Playboys of Edinburg – “Look at Me Girl” / “News Sure Travels Fast” (James Williams)
143 – Simon Reyes – “Broken Hearted Fool” / “What Now My Love”
144 – Jeanne Hatfield – “Wowie, Pretty Scary” / “If You Want Me”
145 – Don Pierce – “Take Another Drink” / “One Man Band”
146 – Thee Kavaliers – “That Hurts” / “Symbols of Sin” ( both by Javier Rios)
147 – The Headstones – “24 Hours (Everyday)” / “Wish She Were Mine” (both composed by Dave Williams)
148 – The Cruisers – “The Fire’s Gone” / “Oh! Sweetness”
149 – George Garza & the Lion’s Den Trio – “Watermelon Man” / “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” (1966)
150 – Thee Kavaliers – “The Last Four Words” / “Ballad Of Thee Kavaliers”
151 – Christopher & the Souls – “Diamonds, Rats and Gum” / “Broken Hearted Lady” (both composed by Chris Voss)
152 – The Headstones – “Bad Day Blues” (Williams-Palmer) / “My Kind of Girl” (Dave Williams)
153 – Brother & Sister – “See What Tomorrow Brings” (Arturo Longoria) / “The Answer Is Love” [square flower-power folk!]
154 – Thee Kavaliers (Cavaliers) – “Congregation for Anti-Flirts, Inc” / “Back to You”
155 – The Cruisers – “Celina” / “Baby Doll”

I had erroneously listed 141 and 142 as by the Playboys of Edinburgh, but they were not named after the Scottish city, but rather after Edinburg, TX, a small town northeast of McAllen.

See individual entries on The Cruisers, Christopher & the Souls, Simon Reyes and Noe Pro & the Semi-tones, and Thee Kavaliers for more info on those bands.

There were other Pharaoh labels:

Chicago:
Pharaoh Records 7707 – Hot Coke – “Make This Love Last” / “All By My Self”

Massachusetts: (pressed either in NY or Hollywood):
Pharaoh SA-327 – Roy Victor – “Hot Dog” / “You Are My Wish” (ZTSP-94713, arranged and cond. by Fran Devino, Harvest Hill publishing, ASCAP)
Pharaoh 339 – Scavengers – “You Do It Too” / “Speed Trap”

Tulsa, OK:
Pharaoh 1006 – Paragons – “Who Am I” / “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”   (also released on BTR 1006)
Pharaoh 1235 – Dynamics – ” Lucy Part I” / “Lucy Part II”
Pharaoh 1236 – Roger Wayne & the Clic – “Ballad Of Sara Lee” / “I Gotta Lotta Time”
Pharaoh 1239 – Mike Catron & the Avanties – “Donna” / “Bass Beat”

Thank you to Gilbert Rodriguez for his help with this discography and to Ed Nadorozny for the Ron Wray sleeve scan. Thank’s also to Bob, Drunken Hobo, Jason Chronis, Max Waller and Tommy for the additional entries. Thanks also to Fred Hoyt for the Jeanne Hatfield sleeve scan.

JeanneHatfieldPharaohPSMyBabe

Joey B. & the Silhouettes

Joey B. and the Silhouettes, January, 1963
Joey B. and the Silhouettes, January, 1963, from left: “Peewee” Lavoisier (only played with us for one or two gigs), Joe Barron (Joey B), Gonzalo Gonzales, Felipe Garza, Luis Maza, Joe “Papucho” Garcia and Jesse Guerrero

My name is Gonzalo Gonzales (GG for short) and I was a band member with Noe Pro and the Semitones together with Jesse Salinas during the early 60’s. Another band from the area that I had played with. This would be Joey B and the Silhouettes. Let me lay out a bit of history that maybe ties some things together.I had played in my high school band and had always been interested in playing with or forming a group. After graduating in 1961, I left Brownsville to attend college close to Dallas. After one semester, I returned to Brownsville and attended a junior college here. A friend of mine, another band member from high school, informed me that there was a group looking to expand their sound with horns (both of us played clarinet and saxophone). He introduced me to the group and I joined up. This group was called the Blue Valiants – this is the same group that Noe Pro joined as a drummer later on. The Blue Valiants were led by a guitar player named Marcos Rodriguez.

After playing with the Blue Valiants for about a year, the group broke up and several of the members, including myself, left to form a new group. This new group was called Joey B and the Silhouettes. This group consisted of the following members: Joe Barron (Joey B) (lead singer and rhythm guitar), Joe Garcia (nicknamed Papucho and who happened to be a cousin of Marcos Rodriguez – bass guitar), Jesse Guerrero (drums), Luis Maza (my friend from high school – alto sax), and myself (tenor sax). Later on we added a lead guitar player who also sang from time to time – Felipe Garza.

We played gigs all over for high school dances, birthdays, weddings, etc. but we also put on our own dances from time to time. We would rent a salon, hire a cop for security, and then put up posters all over town. We then had our girl friends or family members charge admission at the front door. Other local bands started doing this same thing.

The Silhouettes did make an unreleased tape but I don’t remember with who or what ever happened to it. I wish I did – would be great to dig that up.

Eventually, of course, group members started leaving for different reasons and the group disbanded. Luis Maza left and joined another group that was getting popular during this period – Lenny and the Bellaires. Lenny was the stage name for Leo Silva. I hooked up with a couple of brothers that had started a group. This group was called The Staffs. This is the same group that Jesse played with later on after he played with Noe.

Meanwhile, Marcos Rodriguez brought on new members to the Blue Valiants including Noe Pro as a drummer. Noe tells me that he only lasted with the Blue Valiants for about 6 months or so before he decided to leave and form his own band which, of course, would be the Semitones.

Noe Pro and the Semitones started to make a big splash in Brownsville and, really, all over the Rio Grande Valley. The gigs that the Staffs were getting were getting less and less. So I got dissuaded with them and decided to join up with Noe. I then played with Noe and the core group until I had to leave for the service in mid 1966. I played with the Staffs way before they ever made that recording on the Pa-Go-Go label. In fact, I was surprised that they had recorded – I kind of lost track of them once I went into the service.

When I joined the Air Force, I ended up in San Antonio based at Lackland AFB. While there, I looked around for a band to play with. I got a hold of Rudy “Tee” Gonzales (from Rudy and the Reno Bops) and his brother to see if they could hook me up with someone and they did. They introduced me to Danny Martinez from Danny & the Tejanos and I ended up playing with them for a couple of years. In fact, I was on the recording of “Mustard Greens” which was recorded with Tear Drop.

Gonzalo Gonzales

The Staffs

The Staffs, from left: David Ceballos, Jesse Salinas, Raul Altamirano, Emilo Reyna and Ruben Ceballos

Raul Altamirano (vocals and bass)
David Ceballos (guitar)
Jesse Salinas (bass)
Ruben Ceballos (keyboards and harmonica)
Emilio Reyna (drums)

Jesse Salinas joined the Staffs on bass, after playing rhythm guitar for Noe Pro & the Semi-tones. Although the band did not record while Jesse was in the group, they did cut one excellent 45 in October 1966 for the Pa-Go-Go label out of San Antonio. One side is “Another Love”, an excellent original by singer Raul Altamirano, backed with a Kinks song, “I Just Can’t Go To Sleep” that I haven’t heard yet.

Thank you to Jesse Salinas for the photos and to Mike Markesich for the label scan and information on the Pa-Go-Go release.

The Staffs get with the times
Yearbook photo with Raul playing bass

Noe Pro and the Semi-tones

Noe Pro and the Semi-tones, 1964
Noe Pro and the Semi-tones, 1964
from left: Jesse Salinas, Noe Pro, Gonzalo Gonzales, Alfonso Saenz, Gregorio Reyes and David Garcia

Noe Pro & the Semitones Pharaoh 45 I Know What's Been Going OnJesse Salinas, rhythm guitarist for Noe Pro & the Semi-tones writes about his time with Noe’s band and his later group, the Staffs:

I joined Noe Pro’s band in 1963. Original members started with inexpensive instruments mostly Sears Silvertone, Harmony or Alamo guitars and amps. Guitars, bass and microphone were plugged into one Silvertone amplifier. What started out with mostly high school musicians, Noe turned into “Noe Pro and the Semi-tones”.

Noe Pro & the Semitones Norco 45 I'm Gonna Leave This Town
“I’m Gonna Leave This Town” excellent soul-funk number

The band recorded several 45s on the Pharaoh label in McAllen, Texas in 1963, ’64, ’65 and ’66 at a small two or four track studio owned by Jimmy Nicholls. English record “Yesterday’s Dream” and flipside “Come Along My Baby” was the first recording for the Semitones, picked up by the Mercury label. The band also recorded the single “I Know” and its flipside “Reina De Mi Vida” and “I Know What’s Been Going On” and flipside “I Love You My Darling” at the Pharaoh Studio. All records had some local success.Noe Pro and the Semi-tones recorded most of the Spanish 45s at Ideal Records Studios in San Benito, Texas. I recall recording engineer and owner of Ideal, John Phillips had Baldemar Huerta (Freddy Fender) working the recording equipment. We spent numerous nights at the Ideal studios recording until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. The LP was done at Falcon Studios.

Noe Pro and His Semitones Brownsville Civic Center
Semitones, L-R, front: Gabriel (Gaby) Garza (sax), Gilbert Colunga (trumpet), Bobby Vill (bass); back: Jesse Salinas (guitar), Noe Pro (singer, drummer) and Carlos Cantu (sax)

Noe & the Semitones Benja 45 Oh DarlingNoe was also a great guitar and bass player, he could play numerous instruments, he arranged all the melodies for our horn section. Noe was known as the singing drummer which was unique for that time. Everyone loved to hear Noe sing and could dance to the music we played in English and Spanish.

La Vox Internacional de Noe Pro Falcon LPIn 1965 Noe was picked up by an orchestra service agency in Dallas that arranged for him to tour. They used their musicians. Some of us were either still in school or were not hired. Noe Pro’s band had new beginnings, and his music played on. Noe’s roots are in the Rio Grande Valley where he continues to record, and entertain his fans with tejano, country, rock, blues and big band music. Though it’s been over 40 years, this is some of what I recall about the early years of Noe Pro and the Semi-tones.

I played bass guitar with another school band The Staffs. By the middle of 1966, most of us were drafted into military service. It seems everyone left Brownsville, Texas.

Sadly, we have lost two of the early years Semi-tones, Gregorio (Goyo) Reyes: trumpet and Guadalupe (Lupio) Hernandez: lead guitar.

I ask anyone with knowledge of the band to submit photos, stories or any information about Noe Pro’s band “The Semi-tones”.

Jesse Salinas

Noe Pro and the Semi-Tones business cardQ. Were you part of the Blue Valiants with Noe? “I Know (You Don’t Love Me Anymore)” / “Reina de Mi Vida” is credited to Noe Pro and the Blue Valiants.

Jesse: I was never with the Valiants. Noe joined the Valiants as a drummer. The Blue Valiants did record for Jimmy Nicholls at Pharaoh when he was with them. Later Noe formed his own band the Semitones and we recorded “Yesterday’s Dream” and its flip at Pharaoh, it was the first recording for the Semitones. Noe tells me that “I Know” and its flip was actually the second recording. We all noticed the error on the label at the time we got copies but it was too late to change.

Noe Pro Falcon promo photo

Noe Pro and the Blue Valiants Pharaoh 45 I KnowNoe Pro’s 1960s record releases

45s:

Noe Pro and the Semitones:

Mercury 72341 – “Yesterday’s Dream” / “Come Along My Baby (and Dance with Me)” (1964)

Pharaoh 118 – “I Know (You Don’t Love Me Anymore)” / “Reina de mi Vida” (credited to Noe Pro and the Blue Valiants)
Pharaoh 124 – “I Know What’s Been Going On” / “I Love You My Darling”

Noe Pro y Los Semitones Bego 45 Para Ti
“Para Ti” for the Bego label, a wild adaption of the Animals “I’m Crying”

Bego BG-167 – “Para Ti” / (as Noe Pro y Los Semitones)

Benja 103 – “Oh Darling” / “What Shall I Do” (both written by Benny C. Mendez and credited to Noe and the Semitoness)

Norco 110 – “If You Would See Me Tomorrow” / “I’m Gonna Leave This Town”

Ideal 2163 – “En Que Pierde una Mujer” / “Gracias”
Ideal 2285 – “Usted” / “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas”
Ideal 2370 – “Gorda” / “Mi Baby”
Ideal 2372 – “Extraños en la Noche”
Ideal 2382 – “El Destgastado” / “El Soltero”

Falcon 1656 – “Yo Te Daria Mas” / “Llora”

Album:

Falcon FLP-2055 – La Voz Internacional de Noe Pro

songlist: Llora, Mi Razon, Sin Verte, Incomprendida, Humo en los Ojos, Yo Te Suplico, Yo Te Daria Mas, Yo Soy Aguel, Aunque Me Hagas Llorar, Ya No Me Quieres, Cuando Comienza Elamor, Que Injusticia

Thank you to Jesse Salinas for the photos and scans in this article, and to Chad Burnett for the scan of the Bego 45 “Para Ti”.

The Souls (aka: Christopher and The Souls)

The Souls, 1966 photo
The Souls, 1966 l-r: David Smith, David C. Lott, Jay Hausman, Jerry Ebensberger. Not pictured: lead vocalist Allen Kirsh
Souls business card
Souls business card with first lineup and manager Sonny Sparks listed

David C. Lott wrote this history of his band the Souls, known for their 45 on the Pharaoh label as Christopher & the Souls. David also contributed all the photos and newspaper scans included in this article.

Music has a strange way sometimes of transcending time and boundaries. It can seemingly take on a life of its own.

Such is the case of a young garage band from McAllen, Texas during the swingin’ mid-sixties. Nestled about as far down in south Texas as one can get — down in the Rio Grande Valley, right above the Mexican border – was a teen scene that produced some great rockin’ groups like The Headstones, The Cavaliers, The Playboys of Edinburgh and Arturo & Pat and The Invaders.

 Souls and the Headstones at the Moose Lodge
Souls and the Headstones at the Moose Lodge

In Andrew Brown’s “Brown Paper Sack – Music & Commentary No.1”, from the mid-90’s, he states “but not one of ’em can match the intense dementia of Christopher and the Souls’ “Diamonds, Rats, and Gum”, which is not only the wildest records ever made in the Texas Valley, but also very likely the ultimate antithesis of every sorry-ass love ballad that’s ever dribbled down the proverbial pike.”

A single copy of the 45 recently sold on e-bay for a whopping $1225.

The story of The Souls really begins back in late 1964 when Jay Hausman, a young student at McAllen High School, and classmate David Smith began a collaborative effort. Jay was teaching David new bar chords and David showing him some of the well-known guitar licks of the day (ie: surf music & early Beatles and Stones). David was only a year older than Jay, but had been playing the guitar for several years and was acknowledged as one of the more talented guitar players in town. Jay eventually began feeling confident enough as a guitarist to start making his way onto the local music scene. Jay met Allen Kirsh, who didn’t play an instrument but could sing a pretty good tune and perhaps maybe a little better most. After hearing Allen a couple of times, Jay began visualizing a rock ‘n’ roll band.

The Souls with Tommy McLain, Foamy Brine, the Marauders and Our Generation
The Souls with Tommy McLain, Foamy Brine (featuring W. R. “Dub” Lynch), the Marauders and Our Generation at the Mission Community Center in Lion’s Park, 1966

Brian Voss, another one of Jay’s high school chums and his neighbor could play the bass and had a great voice, and Dee Edwards, a senior at McAllen High had a decent set of drums. Jay enlisted David Smith, his mentor, to join the band as lead guitarist. After a couple of months of practice during the early spring of 1965, the quintet had it down well enough to be thought of as a band. Somebody, nobody remembers quite who, christened the band as The Souls. The name “Souls” was probably a take-off on “Rubber Soul” by the Beatles.

The line-up lasted about six months. Brian Voss left the band for personal reasons. Dee Edwards graduated from high school that year and moved on. Jay, Allen, and David Smith stuck together and in late 1965 added two more classmates at McAllen High – Jerry Ebensberger on bass and David Lott on drums.

 David Lott of the Souls
David Lott of the Souls

Lott and Ebensberger had been playing for a few months in a little trio along with a young eight grade guitar “prodigy-to-be” Mitch Watkins in a band they called “The Madhatters.” David Lott recalls Mitch having a $35 Silvertone guitar that had its amplifier in the guitar case – but that the guy was amazing. He could pick up most any musical instrument from piano to saxophone and within minutes have it almost mastered. (note: Mitch Watkins, now based in Austin, is still one the finest guitar players in the country www.mitchwatkins.com). The revamped Souls by the spring of ’66 were gigging frequently at church dances, private parties, the Hide-A-Way Club in Harlingen, the National Guard Armory in McAllen, the Moose Lodge and Valley Bowl & Skating Rink in Mission.

Three legendary Texas bands! The United Fund benefit dance in McAllen, 1965
Top row – The Cavaliers, l-r: Mike Dunn, Gary Vandiver, Javier Rios, Jenny Hatfield [Jeanne Hatfield?], (can’t remember), Richard Mancilla
Middle row – l-r: The Marauders, with Mitch Watkins on lead guitar at left, Phil Veale, Eric Mancilla, Jimmy Parker, Lloyd Allen.
Bottom row – The Souls, l-r: Murray Schlesinger, Jerry Ebensberger, David Smith, David Lott and Allen Kirsh.
The Zakary Thaks, Headstones, Souls and Cavaliers
Surely one of the greatest show lineups of 1966 – The Zakary Thaks, Headstones, Souls and Cavaliers all for $1!

There were several “ages” of bands in the McAllen area music scene hierarchy. At the top end of the spectrum were the Playboys of Edinburg, who recorded several quality tunes, and a great little group who never recorded called The Invaders. Then the next level would’ve been The Headstones, and The Cavaliers – guys in their late teens or early twenties. And then the next age group down would’ve been The Souls, and a band called the Marauders. All ages 14, 15 and 16 years old.

Even though The Souls were like most of the other garage bands of the day – doin’ cover tunes – they felt like they were on the cutting edge of something. They just didn’t know exactly what – but they knew there was something special in the air with the music of ’65 and ’66. One has to remember, this was less than two years after the Beatles had hit America and the British Invasion lit a fire storm of musical creativity with the youth. Everything they did and tried was new and hadn’t been done before. The music of the mid-60’s was taking on a life of its own.

Christopher & the Souls Pharaoh 45 Diamonds, Rats, and GumAbout the time the band was starting to take off – Jay Hausman’s family moved to Nashville, and unfortunately Jay had to go with them. It was hard for the fellas in the band to say “adios” to the guy who’d been the band’s main motivator. However, they soon found a good substitute for Jay in a very talented young kid named Murray Schlesinger, who had been playing rhythm guitar for the Marauders.

About the same time Murray came into the fold, a guy named Chris Voss felt the sudden inspiration to have a couple of song-poems he’d written set to music and committed to vinyl. His younger brother Brian had been the band’s first bass player.

The two song-poems Chris had penned were titled “Diamonds, Rats, and Gum” and “Broken Hearted Lady”. He took them to David Smith and played the basic songs for him on acoustic guitar. David added the fuzztone riffs to “Diamonds, Rats, and Gum”, in the style of George Harrison’s “Think For Yourself” (from Rubber Soul). You can hear some similarities in the downward fuzz-bass progression playing between the verse & chorus. A few days later, David and Chris brought the songs to the band’s practice session at Allen’s house. Chris proposed that the band learn the songs and that they cut a record.

Christopher & the Souls Pharaoh 45 Broken Hearted LadySo, the band listened intently as Voss read his lyrics and David tried to get a handle on a melody. After a few hours, the basis of the song started to come together. Each young musician developing their role. A few weeks went by with the band honing and refining the songs in practice sessions until they felt they had it down and was as they all envisioned it.

The Souls showed up at the now legendary Jimmy Nicholls’ Pharaoh Studio one night in September of 1966. Nicholls’ studio had a quarter-inch tape, Ampex machine straight to two-track — mind you — live to two track, no overdubbing.

The band cut the two songs in less than two hours. Allen, the Souls’ regular lead singer, was not singing on the record, but was present for the session and moral support. He later said “If it hadn’t of been for Chris Voss, the Souls would’ve never recorded.”

David Lott: “KRIO Radio, McAllen’s ‘Swingin’ 50′ of December 3 – 9, 1966. The Souls ‘B’ side song ‘Broken Hearted Lady’ was #37 on the chart – rising from #48 the week before. Our song hovered in the low 30’s for 5 weeks on the charts.” Note the Headstones at #16.

Andrew Brown in his “Brown Paper Sack – Music & Commentary No.1” said “Written, sung, and played in a style aggressively defiant to easily digestible pop music clichés, ‘Diamonds, Rats, and Gum’ is one of the most savage parodies of Top 40 idealism ever made, and while it certainly wasn’t intended to be that, just what the song was intended to be remains a mystery to all involved!” By contrast, the “Broken Hearted Lady” flip side is a serious take done as slow sappy ballad.

“Diamonds, Rats, and Gum” is bizarre and fantastic with lines like “I’ll give you rats and five pieces of gum and then you’ll know I’m not a bum”, whimpered over a grinding slurry of fiercely demented fuzz guitar, bass and drums.

Brown goes on to say “Chris Voss’ neurotic nursery rhyme about giving the object of his affections disease-ridden rodents and a prescribed amount of chewing gum as proof of his undying love, is sung in a slurred whine above the staggeringly PRIMAL accompaniment of four teenage punks only slightly taller than their guitars. It is the loudest, greatest insult to the stomach-churning moanings of ‘lite rock’ pigs like Elton and Phil (and their countless bastard offspring choking up the airwaves) ever recorded.”

He continues with “And for this, my friends, we owe the Souls nothing less than our eternal, everlasting gratitude.”

The record was released in a limited custom pressing the following month as a 45 under the Pharaoh label. “Diamonds, Rats, and Gum” as it turns out some 40+ years later is one of the rarest of the rare on a very rare label.

Oddly enough “Diamonds, Rats, and Gum” had been the song the band had intended to promote. However, local KIRO deejay Rusty Bell wanted to push the ballad “Broken Hearted Lady”, and it got a lot of local airplay due to Bell’s friendship with the band.

Sales allowed the record to enter on KRIO’s “Swingin’ 50” at #48 the first week it was out in late November ’66. It then climbed to #37, #35 then #32 by December 16th, 1966. The song ended up at #23 sometime in January 1967. Nobody in the band remembers now-a-days if the song climbed the charts a bit more or if it fell. None-the-less, the song had made the charts.

A few examples of other hits on the charts during those weeks were “Winchester Cathedral” by New Vaudeville Band at #1, “Devil With A Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder, “96 Tears” by Question Mark and The Mysterians, ” Come on Up” by The Young Rascals, “Steppin’ Stone” by The Monkees, “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan, and “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby” by the Rolling Stones.

Chris Voss made an appearance with the Souls at an Edinburg High School pep rally shortly afterward … and wasn’t heard on stage again. Chris ended up going to college and becoming a successful businessman in McAllen.

KIRO deejay Rusty Bell continued to promote the band through his Teen Dances at the Mission Community Center in Mission, Texas. The Souls appeared frequently on the billing with The Headstones, The Cavaliers, The Playboys of Edinburgh, The Zachary Thaks from Corpus Christi and others and often served as “opening act” for notable groups routed through the area. Such groups were The Classics IV from Florida (with their hit “Spooky), The Five Americans from Dallas (with their hit “Western Union”), Tommy McClain from Louisiana (with his hit “Sweet Dreams of You”) and others.

Early in 1967, Jay Hausman moved back to McAllen and back to The Souls. Murray obliged by leaving and rejoining the Marauders. Unfortunately, Jay’s presence wasn’t enough to keep the band as enthused as they were the year before. The “psychedelic” music trend was in full bloom and the band just couldn’t get enthused. After one last show, opening for the Five Americans and the Cavaliers at the Mission Community Center, the Souls came to a quiet halt. There would be no revivals, no reunions.

Andrew Brown states: “yet the music they’d managed to preserve on vinyl will echo on far longer than they’d ever expected it to, or even wanted it to.”

In September of 2008, a single copy of Christopher and The Souls 45 that featured “Diamonds, Rats, and Gum” and “Broken Hearted Lady” (Pharaoh P-151) listed on the site as “a Texas Garage Band killer” sold on e-bay for a whopping $1225. Only a few copies of the record are known to exist. However, David Lott states that he still has a copy in excellent condition and so does David Smith.

As stated earlier – music “can sometimes seemingly take on a life of its own.”

The line-up and where are they now: (2009)

• David Smith – lead guitarist 1965 – 1967, is a software programmer living in Austin, Texas. He frequently plays guitar in a band called “33 1/3”.

• Murray Schlesinger – guitarist 1966 has an insurance agency in McAllen, Texas and frequently plays guitar in a band called “The Retrorockers” (www.retrorockers.com )

• Allen Kirsch – singer 1965 – 1967 owns Music Makers in Austin, Texas serving Texas musicians since 1988 (www.musicmakersaustin.com)

• David Lott – drummer 1965 – 1967 resides in Medicine Park, Oklahoma and is a freelance graphic designer, website developer, publisher, entrepreneur and concert promoter (www.lawtonka.com) and occasionally sits in during local jam sessions.

• Jerry Ebensberger – bass 1965 – 1967. Jerry owned/managed a newspaper in Mansfield, Texas for many years, and then a restaurant in Victoria, Texas. He and his wife (high school sweetheart) Beverly reside again McAllen, Texas

• Jay Hausman resides somewhere in Los Angeles, CA

• Chris Voss resides in Mission, Texas and is a pastor of Central Christian Church, in McAllen, Texas.

• Slaiman “Chunky” Showery, (equipment and road manager for Souls) resides in McAllen and was a successful car/home stereo entrepreneur in 70’s, 80’s 90’s. Now takes life easy. Works at Rio Radio, a historical audio and radio store in South Texas, the first to sell car stereos in the Valley.

– 2009, David C. Lott – dlott@lawtonka.com

with excerpts from Andrew Brown’s “Brown Paper Sack – Music & Commentary No.1”

Souls set list
Set list from The Souls performance at Padre Island Pavilion for Easter Weekend