Category Archives: JCP

The O’Kaysions: Beyond Girl Watching

O’Kaysions (second generation, ca. 1968) Top row L-R: Jimmy Hinnant (bass); Jimmy Spiedel (sax); Bruce Joyner (drums). Bottom row L-R: Ronnie Turner (trumpet); Donnie Weaver (lead vocals/keyboards); Wayne Pittman (vocals/guitar).

O’Kaysions (second generation, ca. 1968)
Top row L-R: Jimmy Hinnant (bass); Jimmy Spiedel (sax); Bruce Joyner (drums).
Bottom row L-R: Ronnie Turner (trumpet); Donnie Weaver (lead vocals/keyboards); Wayne Pittman (vocals/guitar).

Much has been written about the early O’Kaysions and their one hit; however, little is known about the group that followed and the handful of recordings they made for Cotillion Records. All but two members of the third generation O’Kaysions have since died and the bulk of the recordings they made in 1970 remain unreleased. The O’Kaysions would disband in the early seventies, following a series of personnel changes and missed opportunities.

The Kays sleeve for
The Kays (picture sleeve, JCP Records)
L-R: Wayne Pittman, Steve Watson, Donnie Weaver, probably Gerald Toler, Jimmy Hinnant.

The band formed in Kenly, North Carolina (south of Wilson) as The Kays. Lead vocalist and organist Donnie Weaver was from Rocky Mount and was just 12 when he joined The Kays. A decade later and with the same band at age 22, he sang lead vocals and played organ on “Girl Watcher” at Sound Studio in Greenville, NC, on February 8, 1968. He is also credited with coming up with a new name for the band, and from that point on they would forever be known as The O’Kaysions.

By 1968, the group had changed names and personnel. Weaver, guitarist Wayne Pittman, trumpeter Ron Turner, saxophonist Jim Spiedel, bassist Jimmy Hinnart and drummer Bruce Joyner were the second generation O’Kaysions. Steve Watson, Gerald Toler and Eddie Dement (drums, sax and trumpet, respectively) all performed on “Girl Watcher” but decided to stay with their day jobs rather than pursue fame and fortune on the road.

O'Kaysions North State PS Girl Watcher
O’Kaysions (“Girl Watcher” picture sleeve, North State Records)
Front row: Donnie Weaver (vocals, organ); Steve Watson (drums).
Back row: Gerald Toler (sax); Wayne Pittman (guitar); Eddie Dement (trumpet); Jimmy Hinnant (bass).

Pittman penned the summer beach anthem and told Rick Simmons in his book Carolina Beach Music: The Classic Years that one of the band members suggested he write a song about girl watching because of his penchant for observing bathing beauties. Pittman recalls that he had already written the melody and added the lyrics, finishing the song in two nights. When Weaver was asked in the studio to help complete the chorus, he came up with the unforgettable “umm, umm, umm.” North State Records producer Buck Trail is given co-songwriting credit on the label, but Pittman composed the song and wrote the lyrics and Trail’s contribution was minimal.

O'Kaysions North State 45 Girl Watcher
Original “Girl Watcher” 45 on North State Records 1001, 1968.

Game Artists promoter Ken Adkins says the O’Kaysions made the crude recording in “a broom closet studio in Greenville, N.C.” The song became a regional hit, with WBAG in Burlington playing the 45 (North State 1001) in heavy rotation. It caught the attention of Adkins and his boss, Bill Griffin, who owned Greensboro’s famed Castaways and managed Game Artists.

Griffin wanted to sign the band and enlisted Adkins and A&M Records promoter Manly May, who shopped the song to labels in New York. ABC Paramount picked it up (ABC 11094) and Pittman remembers that label executives flew down from New York to get the master tapes from North State and decided to rush release the song unchanged, while picking up distribution. It went on to reach #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and in Cashbox and Record World) in early October, peaking at #6 on the R&B chart and earning a gold record with one million in sales by December 1968. “Girl Watcher” was listed in the Top 10 for nine weeks and in the Top 100 for twenty-six weeks. The song is listed as the 45th biggest record of 1968 in Billboard’s listing (#44 in Cash Box) of the “Hot 100” songs of the year.

Griffin had a management contract with the group and arranged a six-week tour. ABC had signed lead vocalist Donnie Weaver to an individual contract, leaving Game Artists in limbo: They had a national hit with no band to promote it. Weaver, Pittman and Hinnart were willing to tour, but first they needed a drummer and some horns.

Adkins returned to Greensboro, where he says he hand-picked some of the area’s finest musicians to join the O’Kaysions in the studio and on tour. In the fall of 1968, the three original members were joined by newcomers Turner, Spiedel and Joyner to record the Girl Watcher album, which was was produced by Johnny Pate.

O'Kaysions Jukebox mini-lp on ABC
O’Kaysions Jukebox mini-lp

The “Girl Watcher” album (ABC LP ABCS-664) was recorded in two days to take advantage of the hit single and received a favorable review in the Nov. 9, 1968 issue of Billboard. “The soulful O’Kaysions, the “Girl Watcher” crowd who spilled from R&B into a top 10 pop power should strike hard at the LP chart with the debut dozen of breezy rock ‘n’ soul tunes. “Little Miss Flirt,” “Love Machine,” “My Song” and Don Weaver’s bluesy vocals herald the arrival of this top white soul group.” The LP did fairly well on the Billboard album charts, climbing all the way to #49 on the Rhythm and Blues LP list and peaking at #153 on the overall albums charts on Nov. 23, 1968.

“Love Machine” (ABC 11153) was chosen as the follow-up single and was listed as a “new release” in the Nov. 30, 1968 Billboard. It spent six weeks in the charts, stalling at #76 on the pop charts in late December. The song fared much better on the Cash Box charts and was chosen as the number one pick in the trade paper’s “Looking Ahead” forecast on Nov. 16, 1968, the week it debuted. “Love Machine” had risen to #47 by Christmas. It was the O’Kaysions last chart entry.

O'Kaysions early concert poster, Williams Lake Dance Club, Clinton, N.C.
Early concert poster, Williams Lake Dance Club, Clinton, N.C.

Management problems plagued the band from the start. Pittman says the people at North State thought they could sign the band with any booking agency they wished and inked a contract with Atlanta promoter Bill Lowery, without the band’s knowledge. The O’Kaysions felt Lowery wasn’t booking the group enough, so they canceled the agreement. The band next signed with Associated Booking in New York City. But Pittman says Lowery’s power and contacts in the industry “put the kiss of death” on the O’Kaysions and ABC was reluctant to put much money behind the band.

But while Weaver was tied to an individual contract with ABC, Griffin and Adkins had traveled to New York and signed the group to Atlantic Records. Atlantic would later front $15,000 for the O’Kaysions to record an album at the new, state-of-the-art Crescent City Sound Studios (formerly Copeland) in Greensboro, for release on their subsidiary, Cotillion Records.

Pittman was the next to leave. Donny Trexler was brought on board as his replacement on guitar, with drummer Gary “Groove” Pugh joining the band at the same time. Both were also excellent vocalists. Trexler was known for his gritty, soulful singing, while Groove brought a piercing falsetto voice to the mix.

Bob Collins & the Fabulous Five
Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five L-R: David Hamilton (drums), Bob Collins (vocalist), Dick East (bass), Tommy Tucker (sax), John Cook (keyboards), Donny Trexler (guitar/vocals).

Trexler began singing at age 9 in Summerfield, N.C. and was 14 when he formed his first band, Donny and the Blue Jets. Two years later, he joined the Six Teens, which consisted of six, 16-year-olds. Their drummer decided to defect to Allan and the Flames, a group that had a regional hit with the instrumental “Winter Wonderland.” Their drummer, Bob Collins, didn’t want to leave his job to go out on the road, so the bands switched percussionists. Several left to attend college and some older members were brought into the reformed band, now known as Chuck Tilley and the Fabulous Five. Chuck left or was fired in January 1962 and Bob Collins was chosen to front the band because, as Trexer recalls, “he could sing ‘Ooh Poo Pah Do’ and the Fats Domino catalog.”

But it was Trexler who would sing lead on the group’s 45, “If I Didn’t Have a Dime.” The song had been a minor hit for Gene Pitney but became the signature song for Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five. The band actually recorded the tune twice, first at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte and then at Copeland Sound Studios in Greensboro in 1966. The latter version was released on the Greensboro-based Jokers Three label and remains a beach music favorite. Trexler says the band got a group of teens “to come in from Guilford and High Point College and a couple of cases of beer and we had an audience!”

Trexler left the Fabulous Five in February of ’68 and was playing in the basement of the Rathskeller in Greensboro with Ted Carroll and the Music Era. The band had traveled to Florida for an extended engagement when manager Bill Griffin contacted Trexler and told him he was having problems keeping members in the O’Kaysions. With a hit record and a follow-up in the charts, it didn’t take much persuading to convince Trexler and Pugh to leave the Music Era and join the O’Kaysions in the first week of January, 1969.

Both were flown to New York City to provide backing vocals for the group’s next single, an upbeat cover of Gene Pitney’s “24 Hours from Tulsa.” Weaver sings lead but none of the O’Kaysions play on the track, which was recorded with session musicians at the Hit Factory in January of ’69. Trexler says that ABC called Johnny Pate (Impressions,Gene Chandler) to produce the sessions, although the label credits Bill Szymczyk and Game Productions. While he was brought on board as guitarist, Trexler said he didn’t take his instrument to New York and Billy Butler plays guitar on the song. Interestingly, Trexler was told the guitarist was the brother of singer Jerry Butler. The single’s b-side, “Colors,” is a curious ballad about the plight of the American Indian that features a strong vocal delivery from Weaver.

OKaysions Billboard February 22, 1969
The O’Kaysions featured in Billboard February 22, 1969

The record (ABC 11207) received a favorable review in the April 19, 1969 edition of Billboard and was listed in the “Top 60 Pop Spotlight.” The reviewer enthused that “the ‘Girl Watcher’ group bounces back with a strong item here, a clever revival of the Gene Pitney hit of the past, penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Driving rock beat backs a strong vocal workout.” While “24 Hours from Tulsa” had all of the elements of a hit record, it failed to dent the charts.

But the band was about to undergo another drastic change. Lead vocalist and front man Donnie Weaver was about to leave the band for a solo career with ABC, while the band would record for Atlantic. Trexler says there were already rumblings of Weaver’s departure as early as January of ’69, although he would continue performing with the group through late August. After the New York sessions, Griffin and Trexler were walking down the street when his manager remarked: “You might as well get yourself prepared to really do something with this group because ABC is shooting to take Donnie away from us.” Griffin told Trexler he didn’t intend to stop them and asked that Trexler take over when that happened, adding: “You’re one of these people if I send you out on a job and there’s no place to play, you’ll build a place before the night.” While he insists it was never his intention to repIace Weaver, Trexler said it became apparent in the following months that “Donnie was not a happy individual.”

His first job as lead singer for the O’Kaysions came on a Labor Day Saturday night in 1969 at the Coachman & Four in Bennettsville, S.C. “We got notice on Monday or Tuesday of that week that Donnie wouldn’t be coming back,” says Trexler, because Weaver “had decided to do a thing on his own and ABC Records decided to stay with Donnie and not the group.”

Weaver left around August 1969. Jimmy Spiedel was drafted in the fall of that year and Ronnie Turner departed about the same time. Glenn Ingram was added on sax, along with trumpeters Tommy Hawk and Tim Moore.

Donny Trexler with his new Gibson ES-335 guitar, Christmas, 1969.
Donny Trexler with his new Gibson ES-335 guitar, Christmas, 1969.

This line-up played a gig in Mississippi a couple of days before Christmas in 1969. The job wasn’t as memorable as what happened immediately afterwards. The band was headed home to North Carolina for the holidays when someone flagged them down to tell them the door on the band trailer was wide open. Somewhere along the way, Trexler’s Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar and Hawk’s Schilke trumpet had tumbled out onto the tarmac. “We doubled back at 3:30 a.m. to look for them but never found either,” recalls Trexler, “so a Gibson ES-335 was the replacement purchased by the group.” Trexler had warned the band repeatedly that the latch was bad and describes the episode as “an early nail the coffin.”

O’Kaysions (third generation, ca. 1970-71) Top row, L-R: Gary “Groove” Pugh (drums/vocals); Big Jim Lowry (guitar/vocals). Second row: Donny Trexler (guitar/vocals); Allen Brewer (bass/vocals). Front and center: Lenny Collins (drums)
O’Kaysions (third generation, ca. 1970-71) Top row, L-R: Gary “Groove” Pugh (drums/vocals); Big Jim Lowry (guitar/vocals). Second row: Donny Trexler (guitar/vocals); Allen Brewer (bass/vocals). Front and center: Lenny Collins (drums)
O'Kaysions drummer Lenny Collins in the mid-70s.
Drummer Lenny Collins in the mid-70s.

Trexler contends the eight-piece group “was not a workable unit,” and the O’Kaysions soon downsized, eliminating the horns. After the band regrouped, Moore joined Kallabash Corporation. According to Trexler the band “just kind of drifted for 6 months” before they hired Big Jim Lowry (guitar/vocals), Allen Brewer (bass/vocals) and former Tropics drummer Lenny Collins in “late February of early March of 1970.” Groove Pugh had some problems and left the group until they were resolved. He returned and they continued with two drummers. The group now had the strength of two lead vocalists and a pair of excellent guitarists. While no longer playing in the O’Kaysions at this point, Jimmy Hinnant was the group manager. Hinnant and Ken Adkins ran the day-to-day operations of Game Artists and kept the band working.

This was the line-up that Lost Soul keyboardist Steve Calfee booked for the Blue Toad, a college club in Bluefield, WVA. Calfee said he was amazed, adding “they did ‘Girl Watcher,’ of course, but most of the evening they did everything from the Allman Brothers first two albums, blues and some killer rock and roll. Knocked our little beer hall right on its butt (and) Donny and Big Jim did some great double guitar solos.”

O'Kaysions and Drifters at the 220 Drive-in in Martinsville, VA., May, 1970.
Topping the bill at the 220 Drive-in in Martinsville, VA., May, 1970.

Art Kramer was playing tenor sax in Mass Production when the group shared a bill with the O’Kaysions at the 220 Drive-In near Martinsville in May 1970. His group also supported singer Clifford Curry. The Drifters also performed but it was the O’Kaysions who topped the bill. Kramer remembers that “the O’Kaysions were down to a five-piece band at this time… didn’t have any horns.” He recalls that they had “a good sound (and) you could tell the band had been together for a long time.”

Trexler maintains this line-up was the best on stage, noting “the group was very versatile; we all played different instruments in the show.” The five-piece configuration toured extensively along the East Coast, playing military bases and clubs like the Magic Attic in Myrtle Beach. But their songs were hard-edged and had little in common with the beach music generally associated with the band.

OKaysions Cotillion 45 Watch Out GirlTheir first Cotillion single, “Watch Out Girl” (Cotillion 44089) backed with “Happiness,” was recorded at Walt Copeland’s new Crescent City Studios, in the spring of 1970. Allen Brewer played bass, with Trexler on guitar and lead vocals. The band borrowed drummer Clayton “Red” White, from Bob Collins’ band, with Duke Hall on keyboards. Hall was the arranger and producer for Game Artists. Trexler says the horns were some players from A&T State University, supplemented by musicians from the Peace Core, formerly known as the In-Men LTD. While Trexler believes the strings were added later by Atlantic, Ken Adkins recalls that Hall “hired great string and horn players who were in town for the Eastern Music Festival held annually at UNCG.”

Drummer Red White remembers the band doing a sound check when a “squeak” was heard in the playback. The engineer isolated it to his Speed King bass drum pedal. “I always kept (and still do) a can of 3-In-One oil in my drum case to keep my pedal at top speed. One drop to each spring piston and we were recording.” White still uses that same bass pedal to this day.

The flip side, “Happiness,” is a beautiful ballad with an infectious chorus. Penned by Trexler, the song incorporates horns and a nice string arrangement. He sings the double-tracked vocal and plays acoustic and electric guitars. The acoustic used on the session is a 1934 Gibson Model L-00, which Trexler purchased from his uncle for $50 when he was 10. The same guitar was used on dozens of jingles he recorded at Crescent City Studios in Greensboro. Trexler performed the song as a solo artist for a TV broadcast on TBS while the O’Kaysions performed a three-week run in Atlanta in 1971.

Griffin shopped the master tapes to Atlantic because Groove and Donny were still under contract with the label through their work with the Music Era. The 45 was one of the first Cotillion releases following the massive success of the “Woodstock” album and the single was a Top 20 pick in all three trades: Record World, Cashbox and Billboard. That helped the group gain an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in mid-October, where Trexler mimed “Watch Out Girl” and Weaver’s vocal on “Girl Watcher.” Groove couldn’t make the show and Collins sat on the drum throne.

Billboard gave the record a rave review in the Sept. 20, 1970 edition, pegging the song in its “Top 20 Spotlight” of 45s predicted to crack the upper reaches of the Hot 100. “Watch Out Girl” was singled out with the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There” and CSN&Y’s “Our House” as surefire hits, with Billboard enthusing “the ‘Girl Watchers’ gang move to the Cotillion label with a blockbuster single that will get them back at the top of the Hot 100 and Soul charts (with) a top vocal workout flip, “Happiness.” Unfortunately, it was not to be and the song sank without a trace.

While on the West Coast, Trexler did an interview on Wolfman Jack’s radio show before the band returned home for a heavy schedule of touring in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

Okaysions Cotillion 45 Travelin' LifeThe third generation O’Kaysions were in the studio in Greensboro in the summer of 1970 to record a follow-up and an album that languishes in the vaults to this day. On reflection, “Travelin’ Life” b/w “Life and Things” (Cotillion 44134) seems like an odd choice for a single, but Trexler explains that “Duke Hall wrote them and they were published by Griffins Publishing Co.” Trexler sings lead and plays guitar. Hall was again the producer/arranger and played keyboards, while Brewer was on bass. Trexler believes Lowry played a second guitar on the recordings, with Collins on drums “and hired union musicians” rounding out the band. Jimmy Ienner (Three Dog Night, BS&T, Raspberries) was the production coordinator. Trexler recalls that Ienner was production manager for all Cotillion releases at the time and was “very interested in the group but did his homework and decided to stay clear.”

The sessions for the single coincided with the recording of the group’s second album, which featured songs written by both Trexler and Duke Hall. Hall, who is best remembered for producing some of the Platters later hits, had the financial backing of Atlantic, which – according to Trexler — had advanced Griffin $15,000 for the sessions.

Okaysions Cotillion 45 Life And Things
Okaysions Cotillion 45 Life And Things (b-side of Travelin’ Life)

Another ode to life on the road, “Travelin’ Life” boasts a strong, raspy vocal from Trexler, who explains that the effect was intentional. “Duke always liked to record late at night after I had sung all night because he said my voice sounded better,” recalls Trexler. He says the strain in his voice is audible, explaining that the song “was pretty rough, but that’s the way Cotillion said they wanted my voice to sound.” The flip side, “Life and Things” features a harmonica and fuzz guitar but sounds as though it was hastily recorded as a throwaway track. Trexler again sings lead and plays the wah-wah guitar solo.

Running order of songs for the unreleased Cotillion LP by the O'Kaysions
Running order for the unreleased Cotillion LP.

With four songs in the can, the group needed another eight to round out the album. Four of Hall’s tunes were recorded, along with three by Trexler, including the unreleased songs “Long County” and “Unity.” Ken Adkins recalls that two songs were recorded at the insistence of Atlantic Records “as a favor to some publishing company.” Hall’s composition, “Phat Momma,” was a standout, as was Piano Red’s “The Right String (But the Wrong Yo-Yo).” Other unreleased tracks include “Bad Girl,” “Listen to the World,” Ripe for Disaster,” and “A Man Is A Man.”

Ken Adkins was in the studio and says he “loved ‘Phat Momma’ when Donny Trexler recorded it,” adding: “I thought that O’Kaysions’ album really smoked with a bunch of great songs. They even did an arrangement I suggested of a very funky version of “Right String.” He still wonders why the label chose not to release the album, calling it “the best stuff ever recorded by Game.”

Trexler has his own ideas about why the album was shelved. While he and his band mates had spent “a lot of hours” in the recording studio, Trexler contends that Cotillion became disenchanted with the group’s management after “part of the money designated for a comeback album for the O’Kaysions (was spent) on other group projects.”

O'Kaysions poster for Greensboro show on Sunday, April 29, 1973
Poster for Greensboro show on Sunday, April 29, 1973, near the end.

While the group continued touring, Trexler insists “the magic was gone” and he decided to leave the band, ending a three-year stint as an O’Kaysion. He had become disenchanted with the lack of direction and felt the group was headed nowhere. Trexler was also embarrassed to open for national artists like the Guess Who and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds when these groups had “top notch equipment and roadies,” (while) we carried and set up our equipment in front of thousands of people in the audience.” Trexler left in March of 1972 and formed the group Swing with Tim Callaway, Doug Bates and his future wife, Susan.

O'Kaysions Game Artists Promo 70 s
O’Kaysions (last line-up, ca. 1972) Front row: Bobby Holland, Johnny Cobb. Back row: Frankie Pyrtle, Jim Lowry, Sylvia Lowry, probably Larry Miller, Gary Pugh.

The O’Kaysions soldiered on briefly before finally calling it quits. Little is known about the last line-up, but Johnny Cobb took Trexler’s place on guitar. Jim Lowry and Gary Pugh continued with the group, joined by Frankie Prytle, Sylvia Lowry and Larry Miller. The group quickly morphed into the International Boogie Band and recorded one single for Game: “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee”/ “Silver Dollar Lady” in 1972.

Donnie Weaver ABC 45 Speak To MeWeaver’s recording career with ABC was short-lived and yielded just one single – “Speak to Me” b/w “Sad, Sad Sam” — in 1970. The plug side was written by Jackie Lomax, guitarist in the British Invasion band, the Undertakers. The song was the opening track on Lomax’s 1969 LP on Apple Records, “Is This What You Want?,” which featured all four of the Beatles. Weaver wrote the flip side of the single but neither song received significant airplay. Both songs were produced by Bill Szymczyk, who had overseen the “Watch Out Girl” sessions earlier that year.

In 1972, Weaver moved to Riverside, California, where he joined bassist Gerald Davis and put together a band to record and perform some original songs. In 1979, Weaver met Chuck Leavell and Sea Level and recorded with some of the band members at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia. He also toured briefly with Sea Level.

According to his official bio, Weaver left music in the eighties and nineties to focus on his career as a scientific computer consultant.

But his retirement was temporary and Weaver opened for Chicago at the Alltel Pavilion in Raleigh on June 16, 2001. He performed original songs to an audience of 15,000.

In November 2003, Weaver organized a reunion of all six original members of the O’Kaysions at the Alabama Theater in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to perform “Girl Watcher” for the Carolina Beach Music Association Hall of Fame Awards.

He was inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame for Nash and Edgecombe Counties in 2009 and was still in fine form when he recorded the song “Truth” in 2012.

O'Kaysions - Donny Trexler
Donny Trexler, 2016

Donny Trexler continues to record and perform and appears regularly at private parties, clubs and restaurants in the North Myrtle Beach area. He and his wife, Susan, formed Swing in 1972 and the four-piece, Top 40 act toured the East Coast until 1988. At the time the couple, now married, formed Swing Too. The pair still record and perform together. Their 2007 c.d., The Edge of Paradise, contains standards and original material, including the popular “Tired of Pulling This Train” and “Inventory on Heartaches,” an updated version of the song Trexler wrote for Bob Collins and the Fabulous Five. He also remixed “Jukebox,” which remains a favorite during performances.

He was recognized by the industry in November 2000, receiving the CAMMY Award for “Lifetime Achievement.” The following year, Trexler was inducted into the South Carolina Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame and received the Palmetto Award from the governor.

The O’Kaysions reformed in the eighties and remain a popular attraction on the beach music circuit. The current group is based in Columbia, S.C. and features three vocalists, trumpet, saxophone, drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards. Original member and guitarist Wayne Pittman manages the band, which plays a mixture Top 40, classic rock and the ever popular anthem to summer, “Girl Watcher.”

Jack Garrett, 2016

 O'Kaysions - current touring band
O’Kaysions – current touring band

The Invaders of Asheboro, NC

The Invaders JCP PS You Really Tear Me Up

The Invaders JCP 45 You Really Tear Me UpI found this great sleeve featuring the Invaders on JCP records. Unfortunately I don’t have the 45 yet, and it’s an excellent one.

The Invaders came from Asheboro, North Carolina, a town just south of Greensboro. By the time of their 45 release in 1965 they were older and more experienced than most garage bands, having come together in high school as early as 1958.

Tom Abernathy – lead vocals, piano, organ, trumpet
Joe Abernathy – vocals and bass
James Bridgeman – lead guitar
Bryan Pugh – drums

The Invaders went to the JCP Studio in Raleigh to record this single. “(You Really) Tear Me Up” was a group composition, while “Workin’ For Your Love” is credited only to Abernathy, not specifying Tom or Joe. Both sides published by Aimee Music Co. BMI. The single came out on JCP 1027 in September, 1965.

There are supposed to be other singles and a couple dozen unreleased tracks by the band, many of which were recorded at JCP, but I haven’t heard those yet. The group often played at the Red Barn in Southern Pines. I’ve also read Tom Abernathy has passed away.

This band is not the same Invaders who recorded the LP On the Right Track on Justice Records, that group was from Charlottesville, VA.

The Counts IV and the Inexpensive Handmade Look

The Counts IV circa early 1966, from left: Al Peluso, Rick Turner, Joe Booher, Don Roof.

There’s more to the Counts IV than I originally thought. Don Roof was sixteen when he started his first band The Little Boppers in Goldsboro, NC, southeast of Raleigh. Don was stocking vending machines at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base just outside Goldsboro when he met three musicians stationed at the base: Rick Turner, Joe Booher, and Al Peluso and together they formed the Counts IV.

The original Counts IV were Don Roof – vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica; Joe Booher – lead guitar, vocals; Al Peluso – bass, vocals; and Rick Turner – drums. Their competition around the Goldsboro area came from the Spectaculars, with Bill Stroud on sax.

They were regarded as having the British invasion sound down, which is apparent on “Lost Love”, the breezy B-side of their first 45. The A-side, “Listen to Me” stands out with its vocal trills and purposefully dissonant harmonies. Melodically it sounds sort of like an adaption of Larry Williams’ “Slow Down”. “Listen to Me” was written by Joseph Booher, and “Lost Love” by Albert A. Peluso.

This is one of the earlier releases on Raleigh DJ Jimmy Capps’ JCP label, which would date it to approximately late 1965 or early 1966. It came with a picture sleeve, occasionally done for JCP releases like the Invaders’ “(You Really) Tear Me Up” and a Dayv Butler 45. The group is listed as the Counts Four on the sleeve, but the JCP label and their next 45 both refer to them as the Counts IV.

The band replaced Rick Turner with Enrique Pacheco (‘Chico’), and toured from South Carolina up to New York. They played many shows at the Round Table in Washington D.C. and for a time were the house band at the Cavalier Club in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Their second 45, “Spoonful” / “Where Are You” was recorded in New York and came out on the CBS subsidiary Date in 1966. “Spoonful” is an adaption of the Willie Dixon song, while “Where Are You” is an upbeat original by Donald Roof with some odd female backing vocals.

Around late ’66 or early ’67 the Counts IV recorded two songs at a D.C. studio that went unreleased at the time and are now available on a Sundazed 7″. One is a cover of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, but the other is a very interesting original by Don Roof called “Discussion Of The Unorthodox Council”.

This turns out to be the same song as “What Good Is Up”, a great track released under the name The Inexpensive Handmade Look on Brunswick in August of 1968. In fact I’m almost positive it’s the same take, though the Brunswick 45 has serious amounts of echo and effects added to the performance. I wonder if someone at Brunswick retitled the song, which doesn’t quite match up with the lyrics. The Brunswick label lists Ben Mullarkey, Mike Divilion and Mike Kelly as producers. It’s backed with “Ice Cream Man”, another Donald Roof composition.

What place is up if fate has no eyes?
What smile is happiness if hate lingers on?
What word is truth if evil holds on?
What lives are lived if this […?]

What motion is man if Satan holds on?
What is right? – ah, who can tell?

But I know the truth is written … if you look for it.

What cries are heard if people can’t see?
What sins are left if everything’s wrong?
What skies are up if all roads lead down?
What ships can sail if seas have all dried?

What left is death if people don’t live?
What are we, if the world does not turn?

But I know the truth is written … if you look for it!

There were personnel changes around this time, as Doug Farwig replaced Al Peluso.

Bassist Doug Farwig wrote in about his time with the group:

I was a member of The Inexpensive Hand Made Look. Ha! What a name.

I was very good friends with the Counts IV. I actually joined the Counts IV in Washington DC after their bass player Al left the band during a fight at one of their rehearsals. I had just left my North Carolina band “The Fabulous Dimensions”, also out of Goldsboro, NC and had gone to DC to visit The Counts IV who were playing in a Georgetown club called “The Round Table” when their little spat happened and I just so happened to be there.

They all turned to me at once and said “Doug, how would you like to play bass in our band”. I didn’t know what to say at first because I was a guitar player. I didn’t have any bass type equipment or anything. They talked me into it and off we went to Washington Music to make my big purchase. The rest is history so to speak, because I’ve been a bass player ever since.

I now live just outside of Orlando, Fl in one of the suburbs called Longwood and have been here since 1970. During that time, I have played in many bands the best of which was a group called “The Gatton Gang” in the mid 1970’s. That was a very good band and we toured with it thoughout most of the easten part of the country.

I still see and am now recording with the keyboard player (Kibby Gary) and the guitar player (Rick Warsing). Both are excellent palyers and they both have remained active in the business while I only play part time. I started my own construction conpany which is still active now.

Why no mention of “The Embers” from Raleigh? They were fabulous and even had their own strings of dinner clubs through out the state. We would run into them all over the place. Sometimes in Virginia at some frat house were they would be playing next door or as openers for some of the big shows that would come though our area from time to time.

Another one is “The Villagers”. They had their own Saturday morning TV show based out of Charlotte. They were a big band with about 9 pieces and had a guy and a gal out front that were very good. The Inexpensive Hand Made Look actually played on one of their TV shows.

Ken Taylor, drummer for Mike and the Dimensions, told me the story of how he joined the Counts IV:

Doug Farwig and I had played together in The Dimensions … We used to go see the Counts IV at the teen club on Seymour Johnson Air Force base and wanted to be just like them. They wore black turtle neck shirts, tight jeans and “Beatle boots” and we thought they were the coolest thing we had ever seen! We idolized the Counts IV and traveled with them as roadies when they opened for the Dave Clark 5. They also opened for the Zombies and I’ll never forget Chico teaching me how the drummer played the opening lick on “She’s Not There”.

Joe Booher quit the Counts IV and they broke up. Al and Chico went back to New York. We hooked up with Don Roof who had a bunch of gigs already booked to form the new Counts IV which later became the Inexpensive Handmade Look. Joe joined us for a while and we called ourselves the Counts IV but changed the name after Joe quit again.

Chico came to play with us and I was the front man. Chico quit after a while to return to his family in N.Y. and I went back on drums. I am the guy singing on “Ice Cream Man” with Inexpensive Handmade Look. When we went to N.Y. to record “Ice Cream Man” I’m pretty sure the producer was the same guy that the Counts IV had worked with and he decided to put their song on the flip side. I think they added the effects to try to make it more psychedelic.

We added another guitarist named Bill Collins also known as Mojo Collins who is still playing around North Carolina to this day.

After Doug Farwig left IHL, Don Roof and I formed a new band called Strange Brew with some guys we had met in Atlanta, GA and started playing in clubs down there. We met this guy named Jeff Lee who was a local pot dealer with connections in L.A. He supposedly got us booked at the Whiskey A Go Go and we pooled our meager funds and headed West.

We drove across the country in a Chevy van with five guys and all our equipment. When we got to L.A. we quickly found out there was no gig. We managed to find a job three doors down from the Whiskey at a bar called the Galaxy. One night this guy came in and invited us to an after hours party at the Hollywood Landmark hotel. He turned out to be Shep Gordon and offered to manage our band. He said he had a group from Phoenix that he was handling who were starving but that he believed were going to be very successful. That band turned out to be Alice Cooper and Shep is still Alice’s manager today.

We decided not to take him up on the offer (big mistake!) and a few days later we broke up after someone stole our lead player’s guitars. His name is Spencer Kirkpatrick and he was so bummed he flew back to Atlanta the next day. He later signed with Capricorn records and formed a band named Hydra.

Don went back to Atlanta and I went to D.C. where I literally ran into Doug Farwig walking down the street. That’s when he offered me the job with Wild Honey. Their drummer had left so they hired me and we had a house gig at the Bayou in Georgetown, six hours a night, six nights a week making $200.00 a week. That was a really good band with great vocals but a lot of ego problems. Once again the band broke up and I went to London, England to play and record with Denny Laine (Moody Blues, Wings).

After freezing and starving in England, I returned to D.C. and worked with some local bands before moving to San Francisco and hooking back up with Mojo and his band Initial Shock. We played at the famous Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms and opened for Santana, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and many other bands.

Ken Taylor

Ken’s stories of his time in London and San Francisco will be continued in a later article.

The Counts IV in 1969, from left to right, top: Mike Fowler, Don Roof and Mike Malonee bottom: Billy Merritt and Danny (surname?)

I presumed the group broke up sometime after the Inexpensive Handmade Look 45 but in fact Don Roof continued the band as the Counts IV with different musicians. Mike Malonee wrote to me about this lineup and sent in the photo above:

I first saw the Counts IV at the Teen Club on Seymour Johnson AFB in 1965. I was totally impressed with their look and the great British sound they were producing. I can clearly remember hearing Don Roof knock out “Twist & Shout” and thinking, that’s as good or better than The Beatles! They were very professional and an extremely tight group. I followed this group throughout the mid to late 60’s.

I was 15 years old when I formed a band call “Mike and the Dimensions” in 1965, which included Ken Taylor on drums and lead vocals. I had only been playing guitar for a year and [was] very immature. I was later replaced by Doug Farwig who I considered to be a solid guitar player and later became an even better bassist with the Counts IV.

I played in rather good band that I’d formed in Goldsboro called The Chosen Few and we won the local battle of the bands in 1968. We also opened for Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs in 1967. We were all just teenagers then and were living large. Then I grew up and tried to make a living at playing in a band. Big surprise! You can starve doing that!

In 1969, long after the original Counts IV had broken up, Don Roof replaced the original members with some younger, less talented musicians and performed under the name Counts IV. I was asked to join the group as second guitar and lead vocalist.

Don Roof was playing keyboard during this period. The other three [were] Mike Fowler (Blues), Billy Merrit, and the black dude I only remember as Danny. This version of the Counts IV lasted less than one year.

W. Michael Malonee

Rick Turner (Robert Ward Turner) passed away some years ago in Tampa, Florida. Tragically, lead guitarist Joe Booher committed suicide in 1971. Enrique Pacheco (Chico) passed away in July 2007. Don Roof currently plays with The Back Alley Band in the Manassas and Fairfax area of Virginia.

One request – if anyone has photos of the group please contact me.

Update: I’m sorry to report that Don Roof passed away on April 8, 2016 at the age of 73. Don was the primary song writer for the band.

The Symbols

From left: David Moore, Don Willin, Carl Erwin and Joe Boyland

Here’s a record I don’t own myself, but after writing about the Marke 5, I heard from a member of another band from Fayetteville, the Symbols.

The Symbols released this one 45. The A-side is the Beatlesesque “Can I See You Tonight?” with an unusual guitar solo. Less restrained is the excellent flip “Give Me Time,” full of energy and originality, and written by David Moore and Joe Boyland.

Jerry Miller put me in touch with his brother George, who was the second lead singer of the group, joining right after the 45 was recorded. Prior to the Symbols, George was in the Taxmen, a rival band to the Marke 5 at Seventy First High School in Fayetteville.

George Miller wrote to me about the Symbols:

David Moore played lead, Don Willin bass, Joe Boyland (he was a preacher) rhythm, Carl Erwin drums.

Don Willin was a McCartney freak at the time and copied his style. Willin played a big red Gibson hollow body Bass, like Peter Tork of the Monkees. Moore and Boyland wrote their songs.

Johnny Betz did the original vocals of “Can I See You Tonight.” I have no idea why, but after the record was cut and got dist. going, Betts and the drummer quit. Carl Irwin, from Pine Forest H.S. and myself from 71st, moved into those to places and the Symbols really clicked. I sounded exactly like him doing that song so we did it all the time and I got the credit for making it a hit.

We did “Words” by the Bee Gees then; and the crowd always went crazy. We played all over N.C. The Symbols were the first to use strobe and stage lighting. Very limited at the time, but effective. We had that stage magic. I won’t ever forget the fun and work it took to be on the road in H.S.

Jimmy Capps Productions was in Raleigh, N.C. Capps produced “Can I See You Tonight” 600 copies (at total $625.00). We had a recording offer from ‘Colgems’ (Columbia/Gem) in California, four songs all original, and I was too young to go on tour without an adult chaperone. So I got in trouble and headed off to Viet Nam with Mike and Jim, who were the other getter-in-troubles …..and we got to be War Heroes n’stuff and be cool around Fayyette-Nam….

By the way it is Bradley Moffet, lead guitar – Marke 5, that was working at Edwards Music not Donnie Wofford. Wofford is retired from the Army as an E-7, and runs some convenience stores in Hope Mills.

The Taxmen: Bobby Williams – Lead, Jay Shepherd – Rhythm, Bob Holmes – Bass, George Miller – Vocals, Bill Palmer – Drummer # 1, ? – Drummer #2. Anyone know where Bob Holmes and John Holmes might be? Old Jr. High School band “The Barons” the best song we did was “Shapes” by ‘The Yardbirds’… Barons was ahead of their time.

The Marke 5

The Marke 5 were high schoolers from Fayetteville, near Raleigh. Members were Donnie Wofford on vocals, Bill Muffet lead guitar, Pete Sanchez guitar, Steve Kellburg bass and Eddy Truman on drums.

“Pay” has a lot going for it: unusual staccato guitar work, a solo heavy on reverb, sharp drumming and good lead and harmony vocals. Great bass work stands out on “The Leader”, a solid shout-along tune. Both songs are credited to Donnie Wolford and Bill Muffett.

Ed Truman later played with a version of Minnesota band the Castaways (of “Liar Liar” fame) when Castaways’ guitarist Bob Folschow was stationed in Fayetteville while in the military.

Jimmy Capps was a very popular DJ on WPTF in Raleigh and started the JCP label in early 1965. He released records by dozens of groups including the Unknown IV, the Counts IV, the Symbols, the Vigilantes, the Nightwalkers, Davy Butler, and the Vibra-Sonics, recording in his studio behind the McDonald’s on Hillsborough Street. Jimmy Capps died in 1967 at age 47, and the label soon folded, ending a remarkable run at documenting the local Raleigh-Durham scene.

Sources include: Tobacco-A-Go Go vol. 2, and Fuzz, Acid and Flowers.

The Unknown IV

The Unknown IV were from the Raleigh, NC area which was also the base of the JCP label. “I Want You To Be Mine” is a good number that the band recorded twice, once for the JCP label with a good rockin’ flipside, “All of the Time”, and again for the Howell label with a country-style weeper, “Happiness Ain’t Comin’ to My House” on the flip.I’m not sure which version came first, but I’d guess the JCP as the Howell recording is a little faster and more confident.

Jerry Evans was the lead vocalist and songwriter for the group, I don’t know the rest of the members.

I haven’t heard their second 45 on JCP, “What’s Gonna Happen” / “Give Me a Chance”.

More on the JCP label at a later post. Thanks to Gary Cease for contacting me about the Unknown IV.

Anyone have a photo of the group?