Category Archives: Norfolk

Adrian’s Sinsations

James Shott wrote to me about a group he was in during the late ’60s, Adrian’s Sensations, or Sinsations. James wrote:

I played in a band called either Adrian’s SInsations, or Adrian and the SINsations (it was called both by audiences) in the Hampton/Newport News/Norfolk/Virginia Beach area. People knew me as “Smokey.”

The SINsations was a very good band, and played a good bit at the Peppermint Beach Club, filling in for Bill Deal and the Rhondells when they were gone.

Adrian Brandt played keyboards, Wayne Beckner played guitar, Joe Smith played drums, Jean Lynch sang, Jim Williamson and I played trumpet, Mike Minguez and Tom Gallucci played tenor sax, Dickie Dawes and David Champagne played trombone (at different times), Curly (can’t remember last name) played bass for a while and then another bass player, too. Gary Church was a singer in the band before Jean Lynch.

The band was quite good. We played soul, but also the top tunes of the day. Somewhat like Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago and Tower of Power, the Sinsations employed elements of jazz into the arrangements.

We spent a good bit of time in Virginia Beach at the Peppermint Beach Club, and played in clubs in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News and Norfolk, and also played military bases. The horn players were music majors in college, and the rhythm section was mostly self taught, but quite good. Jean Lynch was a very thin girl with a big voice; sounded like Aretha Franklin.

I was in the band from either late 67 or early 68 until I was separated from the USAF (Jim Williamson, David Champagne also in AF, Mike Minguez in Army). I believe the group continued to work for a while after that, but lost contact with the guys.

I’d like to get some feedback from other members and anyone who heard/saw the group.

D’Arcy Sound Studios, Sounds International & Nottingham Disc Co.

Gentle-Men Sounds International 45 Only LoveThe Sheepherders with Bubba Bailey Sounds International 45 If Ever You Need Me

D’Arcy Studios was started by Warren Miller, who had cut “Everybody’s Got a Baby But Me” / “Say You’ll Be True” for United Artists in 1958. In 1964 Miller had a label called D’Arcy with two country releases, one each by Charlie Wiggs and Jesse Travers.

In 1966 Miller started D’Arcy Sound Studios in Norfolk, and Sounds International seems to have been the house label for the studio.

About half the label’s releases were soul, of which the Sheepherders is most in demand. The Nite Liters and Del-Notes are good blue eyed soul.

The Rude Awakening is garage, the Outcasts single is heavy organ-based rock. The Common Wealth has been described as folky rock. The Holmes Brothers singles are country.

Of course many artists recorded their at D’Arcy and for release on other labels, such as the Regents with Mel Gaines and the Del Notes.

The Journey Back Nottingham Disc Co. 45 Synthetic PeopleIn 1968 Miller started using a new label, Nottingham Disc Co., which continued the last two digits of the numbering system (for example, changing from Sounds International 640, 641, 642 to 849, 850, 851 for Nottingham Disc Co). Nottingham 853 and 854 read “D’Arcy Studio Center” on the labels instead of “D’Arcy Sound Studios”.

The Journey Back’s single on Nottingham Disc is much sought after, and New Directions “Springtime Lady” is also very good. I haven’t heard the Russ Spooner or Mark III singles yet.

Around 1970 Miller changed the name of the studio to simply Studio Center and began a new five-digit numbering system beginning with “50”. He revived the Sounds International label for at least two releases in a 70s rural rock style.

Twenty Grand Music BMI published all original songs on Sounds International and Nottingham Disc Co.

Sounds International and Nottingham Disc Co. discography:
Any help with this discography would be appreciated.

Sounds International 631 – Nite Liters – “Set Me Free” / “Harlem Shuffle”
Sounds International 633 – Gentle-Men – “Only Love” (Wilson) / “Old McDonald”
Sounds International 634 – Rude Awakening – “Certain Girl” / “Fortune Teller”
Sounds International 635 – ?
Sounds International SI-636 – The Del-Notes – “I Love You” b/w “I Wish I Was Home”
Sounds International SI-637 – ?
Sounds International SI-638 – The Sheepherders with Bubba Bailey – “If You Ever Need Me” (Jones, Lowder, O’Sullivan) / “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”
Sounds International SI-639 – The Outcasts – “While I’m Here” / “Spell” (J.G. Heisler, Twenty Grand Music BMI)
Sounds International SI 640 – Elsie Strong “This is the Last Time” (Gene Casey) / “Ask the Lonely” (William Stevenson, Jobete BMI)
Sounds International SI 641 – Holmes Brothers – “September Love” / “Splendor of Love”
Sounds International SI 642 – Pop Tops featuring Roy Hines – “I Want to Make It With You” (Hines, Weaver, Leibman, Esenberg, Barthlow) / “I Can Live”
Sounds International SI 643 – ?
Sounds International SI 644 – Holmes Brothers – “Searching Eyes” / “It’s a Big Big World”

Nottingham Disc Co. 848 – Russ Spooner with the Sheep Herders – “We Got That” (Bobby Moore) / “The Truth”
Nottingham Disc Co. 849 – The Journey Back – “Synthetic People” / “Run Away Baby” (L. Burnell, B. Sutton publ. Twenty Grand Music BMI)
Nottingham Disc Co. 850 – New Directions – “Springtime Lady” (L.H. Jones, publ. Twenty Grand Music BMI) / “Swlabr” (arranged by Chip Golden III)
Nottingham Disc Co. 851 – The Machine – “Hey Grandma” / “Roll With It” (S. Miller)
Nottingham Disc Co. 852 – George and Judy – “That’s No Way to Ask You” / “Looking For Me” (1969)
Nottingham Disc Co. 853 – Mark III “Gigolo” / “39-21-46” (Norman Johnson)
Nottingham Disc Co. 854 – Plague – “Brighter Side” (T. Charauros, J. Burcham) / “Cherry Road”
Nottingham Disc Co. 855 – George and Judy – “Pocketful of Promises” / “Love Is the Key”

The following releases have a different numbering system and credit “A Product of Sound Center, Norfolk, Va.” on the labels:

Nottingham Disc Co. 50104 – New Directions – “Lalena” / “Them Changes” (1970, Capitol custom matrix #s ZB-737/8)
Sounds International 50120 – Franklin Freight Train – “Full on the Hill” / “Loving What You Can” (Seale-Leighton-Mahl-Seale)
Sounds International 50166 – Common Wealth – “Circles” (Carl Brody) / “It’s Over” (Phil Liebman)

Thank you to Matt Beck for his videos of the Plague 45 on Youtube, and to Max Waller for his contributions to the discography.

Russ Spooner and the Sheep Herders Nottingham Disc Co. 45 We Got ThatNew Directions Nottingham Disc Co. 45 Lalena

The Mustangs

The Byrds and the Mustangs backstage
The Mustangs backstage with the Byrds
from left: Mike Clark, Larry Hutcherson (partially hidden), Mike Johnstone, Jim McGuinn, Paris Aiken (with glasses), Norm Lawrence, Brad Tinglehoff, Rick Farrar, and Chris Hillman (with back to camera). Photo credited to Bob Scott.
Mustangs business card and caption to the Byrds and the Mustangs backstage photo
Mustangs business card and caption to the Byrds and the Mustangs backstage photo

The Mustangs in the photo above consist of:

Larry Hutcherson – vocals
Mike Johnstone – lead guitar
Paris Aiken – drums
Norm Lawrence – bass guitar
Rick Farrar – rhythm guitar

Brad Tinglehoff was the roadie for the group.

According to the Tidewater Virginia Hippies site, other members of the Mustangs included Steve Swenson and Ronnie Hall. I don’t believe this group released any records, and if there were any unreleased recordings, I haven’t heard them.

Mike Johnstone went on to play with Headstone Circus, whose recordings circa 1968 were eventually released by Shadoks. Paris Aiken joined Dennis & the Times, and later played drums with Billy Joe Royal on his recording of “Down in the Boondocks”.

James Mrdutt sent in the photos seen here and reported that Paris passed away on December 24, 2009.

Thank you to Mike Johnstone for correcting the mistakes I made in transcribing the IDs for the photo.

Paris Aiken with the Mustangs
Paris Aiken with the Mustangs

The Aliens (of Norfolk, VA)


The Aliens, 1966, from left: Bill Gaunce, Conrad Dedacatoria, John Davis, Robbie House and Rick Hudson
Original bassist Bill Gaunce sent me this early photo of the Aliens. I love the illustration painted on the organ. A couple years after this photo they recorded two 45s, “Love Someone” / “Tobacco Road” on the Telastar label, and “Come Fly with Me” / “Season of the Witch” on the Son of a Witch label. Hear “Love Someone” on the excellent CD, Aliens, Psychos & Wild Things vol. 1.

Here’s the first official band photo taken of The Aliens from Norfolk, Virginia. This picture appeared in Norfolk paper, The Ledger Star, when the Aliens became the house band at the Four Seasons club. We’re all 15-16 years in this pic.

The Aliens played in the 1967 WNOR battle of the bands. There was also an Aliens from Hampton, Virginia which prompted a battle of the bands challenge at Mercury Roller Rink in Norfolk to determine who would keep the name. The Aliens from Norfolk won the battle, but from then on were known as The Norfolk Aliens which had been originally adopted just for the battle of the bands.

The lineup changed in the next few years, this photo is of the original members. Pictured from left to right:

Bill Gaunce on bass
Conrad Dedicatoria on drums
John Davis guitar
Robbie House (front with tambourine)
Rick Hudson keyboards

Rick and Conrad asked me to join the band they were forming. Conrad and I “auditioned” Robby House (without his knowledge!) when he was in a band called The Royal Wellingtons. We asked him to join and he did. The Aliens were in a battle of the bands with the Corduroys; Steve Green was the singer/gutarist and really impressed us so we ask him to join. Byrd was a high school friend who basically hung around and sat in enough to eventually be “absorbed” into the band.

Rick Hudson was replaced by Steve Green (guitar/vocals) shortly after this picture and Bill/Claire Sechman (aka Byrd) was added shortly after that. We played at the Four Seasons with this lineup and then I left and formed a band called Quagmire (me on bass, Steve Wilson vocals, Nick Kepics guitar, and Russell Scarborough drums). In ’68-’69 we were a fixture in downtown Norfolk’s seedy bars, most notably The Jamaican Room where we were house band for a short time.

The Aliens expanded their lineup to include Nick Bonis (keys) and PooNeil [Gayle Hollowman] on vocals. With Doug Coward on bass they had their recording lineup. Doug has passed away, Nick Bonus still plays and is the bass player in a band called Big Fun, which coincidentally had Quagmire’s old drummer Russell Scarborough playing with them until just recently. Robbie House still gigs around town doing acoustic stuff, Steve Green is playing bass and guitar in Nashville.

I played live until 2004. Now I write and record my own stuff & I’ve put out a few CDS with my music. I’m getting ready to release a cd of Americana flavored music & the songs are scattered about on my site at www.billgaunce.com.

Bill Gaunce

The Blue Chords

The Blue Chords
The Blue Chords circa 1960-61 at a TV studio in Bluefield, W. VA.
From left; Steve Epperly (drums), David Epperly (keyboard /tenor sax), John Laughter (tenor & bari sax), Bluefield College student Alfred Thompson (tenor sax) and Roger Bailey (guitar).
John Laughter writes, “Arnold Smith played bass but was unable to make it in time for the photo. He presently performs with The Emeralds.”

The Blue Chords cut this cool bit of soul-garage with horns for the Reverb label of Roanoke. Steve Epperly wrote “The Mini Movement”, which runs all of 1:28! At Steve Epperly’s request I’ve added the A-side, “So Far Away”, which is really a very well-played and recorded ballad.

Since first posting about the band, Steve Epperly wrote to me:

The Blue Chords were from the Bluefield, VA area, who played from 1958 to 1978.

The Blue Chords were especially known in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area where they played in The Top Hat and other club venues from 1959-1962. The Blue Chords opened for many nationally known artists including but not limited to The Del Vikings, The Gladiolas (later known as Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs), Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Ricky Nelson, Art Neville, The Delfonics, Percy Sledge, Bill Deal and the Rhondells, and The Okaysions.

The Blue Chords recorded “So Far Away” and “The Mini Movement” in May, 1967 in the basement recording studio of James E. Parcell who owned Associated Recording Service in Roanoke, VA. The musicians were Arnold Smith who played bass and provided lead vocal on “So Far Away”; Larry Frost and Ron Sagady on horns: Jack McCormick- guitarist; David Epperly -organist, vibes, and saxophone; and Steve Epperly- drums and lead vocalist on “The Mini Movement”. The Blue Chords made other recordings in that studio, but “So Far Away” and “The Mini Movement” were the only ones ever pressed.

The Blue Chords - Steve Epperly, John Laughter, David Epperly, Alford Thompson, Roger Bailey.Missing from photo, Arnold Smith
The Blue Chords, left to right; Steve Epperly (drums but holding a bass), John Laughter (bari sax),
David Epperly (tenor sax), Alford Thompson (tenor sax), Roger Bailey (guitar).
Missing from photo, the late Arnold Smith (electric bass)

John Laughter sent in the great photos of the band seen here. His comment about Blue Chords around 1960 is worth repeating here in the main article:

I was fortunate to have played sax with the “Fabulous Blue Chords” for about two years before moving to Florida. I recall 1959-1960 or maybe it was 1960-1961. We played in various dance halls and frat houses in and around the Bluefield, West Virginia and Virginia area.

But the real good times were spent during the summer months at Virginia Beach in the Top Hat Club. The club had two stages and two bands six nights a week so when we kicked into our break song the other band picked it up to keep the music going. On an hour, off an hour.

The door next to our stage opened onto the boardwalk where a lot of the underage college kids would stand or dance. When the club was packed some of the patrons would dance on the table tops after consuming the 3.2 beer. And those summer night were HOT! We would sweat and play the new hits of the day.

I remember a drummer with one of the guest bands, “T & T” Braggs. What he could do with only a bass, snare, hi-hat and ride cymbal was fantastic! Another band was from Philly. They also brought down the house.

We would visit the local music store on Saturday and pick up the latest 45 rpm’s to learn on Sunday. Then to the Neptune restaurant at the corner for First Street and Atlantic Blvd. for a seafood dinner in the 56 two tone green Ford station wagon with the band’s name on the side.

One of the apartments that we lived in was on the south end of town next to an all night doughnut/coffee house. I would go down and listen to the jukebox until the hours of the morning. And as with several of the other members, we are still rockin’ to this day!

Update 2015: James Shott of the Sinsations writes that Arnold Smith and David Epperly have passed away.

The Top Hat Nightclub, Virginia Beach
Top Hat interior

Top Hat photos taken from the Bill Deal website

The Proverbial Knee Hi’s

The Proverbial Knee Hi’s were Charles Smith guitar, Dale Pate electric piano and organ, Butch Powell bass and Eddie Hall drums. They had a vocalist, Willie T., who was out of the band by the time they recorded their only 45.

They group started in 1966, and played the chain of Beachcomber clubs along the east coast which were owned by their manager, Buddy Eisen. They even had a fan club based in New Jersey.

The band went into D’Arcy Sound Studios in Norfolk and recorded two original songs, released on Eisen’s Beachcomber label in the fall of 1967.

“Watchout” is a great upbeat number with some garbled singing. There’s a neat instrumental break before a short recited verse. Eddie Hall really pounds the drums, and I like how Dale Pate moves between Wurlitzer and electric piano.

“Crying For Her” is an epic ballad, really dramatic, but I dig both the intro and the closing moments of the song.

The 45 was produced by Warren Miller and arranged by Wayne Butler. D’Arcy Studio also was where The Regents featuring Mel Gaines recorded their great 45 on M.A.D. “What’cha Gonna Do” / “I Tried With Her”.

Chaos Incorporated

With a name like Chaos Incorporated, you’d expect sinister psychedelic sounds, but instead what we have here are two exploitative r&b tracks.

“Daktari Ooo-Ah” is in the tradition of Kip Tyler’s “Jungle Hop” and other jungle and monkey records. On the flip is “Spanish Cooking”, a take off on another genre: soul food records.

“Spanish Cooking” was writen by Frank Guida and Gary Anderson aka Gary “U.S.” Bonds. The way the band plays, it sounds like it could be a throwaway from one of Bonds’ sessions.

Guida was the man behind the S.P.Q.R. and LeGrand labels. He recorded some fantastic music by the Swinging Machine and Lenis Guess around this time that I recommend over this one. Frank Guida passed away on May 19 of 2007, just a week shy of his 85th birthday.Thank you to Marty for the 45.

Link Wray

Link Wray Cadence 45 RumbleLink Wray Epic 45 Raw-HideLink Wray Okeh 45 Rumble MamboBunker Hill Mala 45 Hide & Go Seek, Part ILink Wray Swan 45 Run Chicken RunLink Wray and His Ray Men Swan 45 The Black Widow
Link Wray Epic PS Slinky
Link Wray photoLink Wray passed away earlier this month and word is only now getting out. As I look at it, garage has two main sources: Bo Diddley and Link Wray. Without them it probably wouldn’t exist.

I feel lucky to have seen Link in April in New Orleans. He didn’t shortchange us on the distortion or feedback that night – it was fantastically loud and chaotic.Here are a few great but lesser-known songs not already featured on other blogs, plus Link and his band backing Bunker Hill on Hide and Go Seek.

Link Wray and the Raymen Swan 45 Hidden CharmsRay Men Diamond 45 Walkin' Down the Street Called Love
Link Wray Heavy 45 Blow Your MindLink Wray and the Ray-Men Mr. G 45 Mind Blower