Category Archives: Virginia Beach

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.

The Earthquakes

The Earthquakes of Virginia Beach
The Earthquakes of Virginia Beach

Kevin Longendyke found this excellent band photo in Richmond, Virginia and was trying to determine who the band is. Chandler Edmunds wrote in with information about the group:

The band’s name is The Earthquakes from Virginia Beach. Drummer is Chuck Martak. Middle guitar player is Doug Christdon. Right guitar player named Ric (that’s all I have), and the other guitar player remains unnamed.

I understand these guys were in a bad car accident in 1966 and one may have died. Doug got seriously hurt in the accident but survived. I don’t think they were together long enough to get a record out.

Stamped on the back is “Clifton Guthrie”, who was a fine photojournalist in the South Norfolk, Virginia area (see this link for a few of his images).

Thanks to Chandler for finding out about the Earthquakes.

Jimi Hendrix and the Soft Machine at the Virginia Beach Dome

Jimi Hendrix and the Soft Machine at the Virginia Beach Dome, April 3, 1968. Photos courtesy of Diane.

Hendrix at the Virginia Beach Dome, April 3, 1968, photos by Bill Stokley

Bill Stokley writes:

The Virginia Beach Dome seated about 1000 people. I was 16 and got to drive to the show myself!!! What a show! Jimi blew the doors off the place. You could walk right up to the stage and take pics. Got one of Jimi sliding down the neck during Foxy Lady.

I remember using a little camera that was my moms. The negatives were stolen back in high school.


Update, February 2012

As the ticket stub above clearly shows, the first Hendrix show was on April 3, 1968, not the 4th as I had posted before. The 4th was the day Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. Thanks to James for bringing this to my attention.

However, some Hendrix references state the concert took place on the 4th (source seems to be Noel Redding’s diary). One commenter below remembers the news about Martin Luther King’s assassination spreading during the concert, which would indicate the 4th. Was the date changed from the 3rd to the 4th?

Jimi Hendrix at the Virginia Beach Dome, August 21, 1968. Bill Stokley: “I remember he wasn’t that good at this show and didn’t play very long.” Photos by Bill Stokley

Eon sent in the following set of photos from the same show. Jimi may not have played very long, but the ending was spectacular:

Here’s a description of the August 21 show from Chuck Taylor, General Manager of WTJU-FM Charlottesville, VA.

I played drums (poorly) in High School at Virginia Beach but still really liked to hear a good drummer. In 1968 I had a picture in my bedroom of Robert Wyatt playing drums for Soft Machine right next to my Peace Poster bought a shop on Eden Alley. Eden Alley hosted a series of hippy paraphernalia stores from an alley just off Virginia Beach Blvd. between Atlantic and Pacific Avenues.

That summer of 1968 I begged my parents to let me go to my first concert…to see the Soft Machine at the Virginia Beach Dome, August 21, 1968. Soft Machine was opening for a guitarist-led trio that was also getting a bit of press at the time. I had just turned 16 in May and so I had only recently gotten my drivers license and they were reluctant to let me go.

There were two shows that night. Because of my age my folks finally capitulated and said I could go to the first show…not the second. I argued with my mother over what to wear to a “concert”. She said you need to dress up (suit & tie!) for a concert. She was unconvinced that this “concert” would be different and refused to let me leave the house without at least loafers, nice pants and a collared shirt. I smuggled some blue jeans, tennis shoes and a t-shirt into the car and changed my clothes on the way. (I went to this concert by myself but cannot remember why)

That summer evening I drove the 6 miles from my house in Kings Grant (subdivision) to the Virginia Beach Dome. When I pulled into the parking lot I had one of those “we’re not in Kansas anymore” reactions as I quickly saw that my attempt at “casual hipness” missed in ways that I could have never imagined. Jeez there were lots of strange looking people in the parking lot! The show was introduced by a local goofy WGH-AM radio host Gene Loving, who couldn’t turn off the “AM radio” approach.

Once I was inside and seated (I actually had an excellent view if I remember correctly) the first band Eire Apparent performed a mildly psychedelic set that was pretty cool but not particularly memorable.

Next up, The Soft Machine (Cuneiform Records is doing an excellent job releasing many Soft Machine rarities). This version of the band was three musicians: Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, & Michael Ratledge. The bass player left the tour about one month before they arrived at Virginia Beach. His name was Andy Summers (yep, the very same bassist later to be in the Police).

As for the set: an extremely intense and loud set ensued featuring music from the first and second Soft Machine records. At the end of the set, Ratledge pushed his organ off the stage causing such severe feedback that my ears are still suffering! Gene Loving attempted his AM stage patter over the raging feedback but quickly gave up. Finally, they shut down the power in the entire building to quiet the feedback but of course, plunging the whole place into darkness. About 20 minutes later the Jimi Hendrix Experience took the floor…

Though Hendrix performed and did various acrobatic stunts he left his guitar intact by the end of the first show. I cannot remember ANY details of the performance other than I came out the other side with a new religion! The general thought was that the destruction of Ratledge’s organ was a “gift” to those expecting destruction from Hendrix. According to friends who attended the second set, Hendrix burned his guitar. As result of that action Hendrix became the first of two hard rock bands in the 60s to be banned forever from the state of Virginia. The second band was the MC5 who played at a small club in Hampton and incited attendees to riot during their show.

This is my ticket stub with tape marks: In the late 60s I kept a scrapbook of the developing music and political scene.

Chuck’s ticket stub to Hendrix, Soft Machine, & Eire Apparent


Thank you Bill, Diane, Chuck and Eon!

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