Category Archives: Montel-Michelle

Ronnie and the Crowns

Ronnie and the Crowns Stephanie 45 Love You SoRonnie and the Crowns formed as early as 1962 at Westdale Junior High in Baton Rouge. Members on the single may include:

Ronnie Sherlock – vocals
Jimmy Rogers – lead guitar
Cal Arnold – bass
A.J. Miceli – drums

Although not audible on the single, the band also included a full horn section at some point:

Charlie Spinoza – trumpet
Ivan Bergeron – trumpet
Tommy Berthelo – tenor saxophone
Richard Sherlock – baritone saxophone

Ronnie and the Crowns Stephanie 45 Cotton CandyIn 1966 they recorded their one excellent single on Stephanie Records of Baton Rouge #MX-957. One side is “Love You So” written by James M. Rogers, lead guitarist in the group and featuring his super-trebley and reverbed guitar. The flip is a cover of Lenny Capello’s New Orleans classic “Cotton Candy” (“I know my Candy is always handy”).

Ronnie Sherlock produced the Ronnie & the Crowns single. My copy is pretty rough, but it’s inscribed “from Richard & Ronnie” on the “Cotton Candy” label.

I don’t know much about Stephanie Records, other than seeing a list of 10 or so singles released on the label. Sam Montel (S.J. Montalbano) must have owned the label as two early releases have his name as producer. Also, the MX- prefix is present on all releases on the label, and shows up on many releases on the Montel and Michelle labels, as does the Red Stick Music publishing, used for “Love You So”.

The Rogues & the Dry Grins

Rogues of Louisiana, photo from Teenage Shutdown
The Rogues of Louisiana, photo from Teenage Shutdown vol. 7

Dry Grins Montel Michelle 45 She's A DragThe Rogues from Lafayette, Louisiana had two excellent 45s, both very rare now, I don’t own either one.

They seem to have had some lineup changes during their existence. Members included Fred Brechtel on lead vocals, Mark MacDiarmid (or McDiarmid) on lead guitar (and lead vocals on “I Don’t Need You”), Mike Schwartz on rhythm guitar,  Tommy Withrow on keyboards, John Bonar on bass, and Glen Hebert on drums.

Cyril Vetter of the Greek Fountains saw the Rogues and produced a release for them on the Montel-Michelle label, though he changed the band’s name temporarily to the Dry Grins. The Dry Grins release has the teen loser lament, “She’s a Drag”, written by Fred Brechtel for Red Stick Music, backing the only slightly more commercial “You’re Through”. It was produced by Cyril Vetter & Sam Montel, and released as the Montel-Michelle M/M-959 (74 M/M 14) circa late 1965.

Well, I’m walking down the street with my left hand in my pocket,
And some chick walks up and says,
“Make a switch man, you’re on the wrong side of the street”

Well, I looked up and turned around to see the people watching,
My left hand still in my pocket,
And then she started to laugh.
I had both hands in my pocket and I said, “Baby, you’re a drag”

Well, she’s a drag, yeah, a big ole drag,
She’s a drag, yeah, a big ole drag,
Like a trip, baby

Well, I used to dig a chick … [?]
Cause I’m a stubborn fellow, you know,
And I got to get her, [?]
But that turned into a great big drag.

Well, she’s a drag, yeah, a big ol’ drag,
She’s a drag, yeah, a big ol’ drag,
Well, she’s a drag,
Like an albatross

Well, she said get back, come back and don’t you cry,
I turned around and said to her, “Baby, you’re a drag”

Well she’s a drag, yeah, a big ol’ drag,
She’s a drag, yeah, a big ol’ drag,
Well she’s a drag,
She’s gone, baby

Rogues La Louisianne 45 I Don't Need you

Rogues La Louisianne 45 TonightThe Rogues second 45 has “Tonight” which Teen Beat Mayhem describes as “swamp-pop ballad with crooner vocals.” on the A-side. On the flip is “I Dont Need You”, one of their best songs, the opening drum roll leading into a blast of sound that keeps up throughout the song.

Both sides written and sung by Mark McDiarmid for La Lou Music, and released on the La Louisianne label, LL-8094-B, in April of ’67.

Andrew Brown wrote that Tommy Withrow joined a group called the Swingin’ Machine, obviously unrelated to the now-legendary Swinging Machine from South Norfolk, VA.

I used to believe the band had a third single, “Put You Down” b/w a version of “Stormy Monday Blues”, but that turns out to be a group from Alabama, which makes sense as MBM was a Birmingham label and “Put You Down” does not have keyboards unlike the other songs by the Rogues from Louisiana.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

Teenage Shutdown vol. 7 has the photo at top, but I would love to see better ones if anyone has them. I could also use a good scan of “You’re Through”.

The Inn Crowd

Baton Rouge group the Inn Crowd recorded a few 45s, all produced by Sam Montel (a pseudonym for S.J. Montalbano), and released on his Montel-Michelle and Michelle labels.

Bill Johnson founded the Inn Crowd and recruited Hal Ellis and Cookie Smith from the Emeralds.

Members changed over the years, but they included:

Cookie Smith – lead vocals and organ
Hal Ellis – lead guitar, replaced by Jimmy O’Rourke after the singles
Sammy Rubin – rhythm guitar and shouts on “Run Clarence Run”
Bill Johnson – bass, replaced by Harold Coward after the singles
Jim Ingalls – drums, replaced by Lester Dodge by the time of the singles
Darrel Folse – tambourine
Jerry Ameroso – percussion in the early days

Duke Bardwell of the Greek Fountains occasionally sang with the Inn Crowd.

I haven’t heard their first 45, a cover of the Impressions’ “You Must Believe Me” b/w “Sun Arise”. Anyone have sound clips or scans of that single?

Their second 45, “Baby You’re So Fine” features twelve string guitar work by Hal Ellis, harmonica and reverb on the beat. Hal Ellis is best known as guitarist for John Fred and the Playboys, who he joined in 1968. Bill Johnson & Lester Dodge also ended up in the Playboys after the Inn Crowd.

The song was a cover of “Gee Baby”, a 1960 hit for Joe & Ann on Ace records, written by Joe Joseph and Alvin “Red” Tyler. Promo copies credit Danny Cohen (aka Casey Kelly of the Greek Fountains) for supervision of the session. It’s a fine commercial recording and could have been a hit for the band with a little more luck, but a mislabeled release probably caused confusion and hurt its chances.

Inn Crowd Michelle 45 Run Clarence Run The Michelle label assigned “Baby You’re So Fine” a master number of 74 M/M 68. However, labels were printed with “Baby You’re So Fine” having a master # of 74 M/M 67, which actually belonged to another Inn Crowd song, “Run Clarence Run”.

This mix-up may have been the reason that there is one 45 release that has the label for “Baby You’re So Fine” but the song that plays is actually “Run Clarence Run”. This mixed-up release is backed by a cover of John Mayall’s “Someday After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry)”, a fine blues workout on the guitar, and credited to Cookie & the Inn Crowd. Thus Michelle put out a record with essentially two B-sides on it, which I’m sure did the band no favors.

When Michelle realized their mistake, they must have released the actual “Baby You’re So Fine”, correctly labeled this time, and with a correctly labeled “Run Clarence Run” on the flip (though the master numbers are still wrong on the labels).

“Run Clarence Run turns out to be a faster take on Willie West’s “Willie Knows How” on Rustone:

Their third 45 is “Go Away”, an original by Ellis. The opening features an interesting arrangement of twelve string, bass and rhythm guitar, creating a droning, melancholy sound. The song gets a little monotonous though, with its repetitive lyrics. The band’s name is listed as (Ye Olde) Inn Crowd for this release, and it was backed with “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”, released in 1967.

Stewart Ellis, Hal’s son quoted from Hal’s notes in a comment below:

We were invited by the management of a major local department store, Godchaux’s (later to become Maison Blanche) to be their special guests at a fashion show and autograph party on a Saturday afternoon at the store. We signed and gave out over 100 autographed pictures of the band.

It wasn’t long before our name reached Dallas, Texas where there was a recording act named ‘Jon, Robin, and the Inn Crowd’ that was managed by the powerful team of Hanna-Barbara of cartoon fame. We received a letter indicating that the name “The Inn Crowd” was owned by this Dallas band. In response, we quickly renamed the band to something more British ‘(ye olde) Inn Crowd’. In Louisiana, we still were known as The Inn Crowd.

Sam Rubin wrote to me:

I don’t remember the guy you have listed as percussion at all and I don’t remember Jimmy taking Hal’s place. Jimmy was my roommate for several years. Lester didn’t come into the band until Jim Ingalls left for Viet Nam, long after the recordings. I don’t remember for sure, but I think I was the one who played the harmonica on “Clarence”.  We did those records pretty early in our history, probably in ’66.

I’m not sure we would qualify as a “garage band.” Except for the original recordings, we were just a cover band with some pretty decent talent. Hal was one of the finest guitarist I have ever heard. We worked very hard at out harmonies and musical interpretations of songs. I guess you know we were all inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame a few years ago, 2010 I think.

This group is unrelated to the Shreveport In-Crowd, nor to the band that had an LP titled Live at the Bellemont in the 1970’s.

The Inn Crowd’s complete releases are:

Montel Michelle MX 971- “You Must Believe Me” b/w “Sun Arise” (1966)
Michelle MX-982 – “Run Clarence Run” (mislabeled as “Baby You’re So Fine”) b/w “Someday After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry)” (B-side credited to Cookie & the Inn Crowd)
Michelle MX-982 – “Baby You’re So Fine” b/w “Run Clarence Run”
Montel Michelle MX-986 – “Go Away” b/w “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”  – as (ye olde) Inn Crowd

Does anyone have a photo of the group?

Special thanks to Bossy Boots for the loan of her original copy of “Baby You’re So Fine” and for pointing out the Willie West original.