Category Archives: Raven

Raven Records, Frank Koger and the House of Sound Studios

By Jack Garrett

Frank Koger photo
Frank Koger, 1977, photo taken by Pete Walker

In the mid-sixties, Frank Koger started Raven Records, a small, independent label based in Danville, VA, that released a large catalog of mostly Southern gospel, bluegrass and country and western 45s. All were recorded locally, or at larger studios in North Carolina. About a half-dozen of these have gone on to become garage and soul classics among collectors.

Koger was born May 10, 1931 in the Henry County town of Bassett and spent most of his life in Southside Virginia. He managed the appliance/electronics department at Kmart on Riverside Drive in Danville and opened a small studio (The House of Sound) on the Piney Forest Road, after receiving requests from local musicians who were looking for an engineer to record and release their songs.

None of the 45s and albums recorded for Raven Records or its subsidiaries (Hoss, Hippie, Piedmont and Colony 13 Records) were pressed locally. Master tapes were sent to Tennessee and custom pressed by Nashville Record Productions, Inc.


Gene and the Team Beats

Gene and the Team Beats were one of the first rock acts to record for Koger in early 1966. The Team Beats (AKA Teenbeats) formed in Martinsville in 1959 and had many personnel changes during their ten-year lifespan. The one constant was leader and sax player Gene Rumley.

Gene and the Team Beats early lineup
Gene and Team Beats lineup that would record their first two singles
L-R: Charles Hairston, Lonnie Woodall, Gene Rumley, Brian Thomason, Rickie Fox

The band started recording relatively late in their career, cutting their first 45 (“I’ll Carry On” b/w “Apple Fuzz”, Leatherwood RI 2096) in the basement of a Rocky Mount home after a gig. 

Their second single (“I Want’A Be Your Baby” b/w “Sorry ‘bout That”, Raven HOS 45-2006) was released on Raven Records but was actually recorded at Copeland Studios in Greensboro, although Koger accompanied the band to the sessions and can be heard speaking the title at the end of the instrumental B-side. Rumley believes Copeland was chosen because Koger was just getting started and the Greensboro studio had better equipment. In addition to Rumley, who plays sax and contributes backup vocals, the songs feature lead vocalist Charles Hairston; Lonnie Woodall on lead guitar and backup vocals; drummer Rickie Fox; and Carl Barrow on bass.

Gene and Team Beats later lineup photo
Lineup on Gene and Team Beats last single
L-R: Lonnie Woodall, Carl Barrow, Gene Rumley, Eddie Scott, Jimmy Mitchell

The band would return to Raven in 1967 to record their third, and final single: “I’ll Let Nothing Separate Me” b/w “Here I Stand” on Raven HOS 42-2011. This time, the sessions were recorded in Danville.

Drummer Eddie Scott plays on the record and recalls that the studio was small and Koger did very little overdubbing. As he remembers, “it was more or less cubicles and everything was recorded together… pretty much live to tape.” Rumley, Woodall and Barrow were still with the band, although Scott had replaced Fox on drums, and Jimmy Mitchell was now their lead vocalist. The backing tracks to a fourth single were recorded, but the project was abandoned after vocalist Alfonzo Martin was drafted.


Lost Soul

Lost Soul poster, October 28, 1967Like the Team Beats, Bluefield’s Lost Soul recorded two singles at House of Sound, (“A Secret of Mine” b/w “Minds Expressway” Raven HOS-45-2016 and “I’m Gonna Hurt You” b/w “For You” Raven HOS-45-2032) both in 1967.

Lost Soul started in 1965 as the Prussians, a five-piece band fronted by vocalist Jimmy Johnson, with Charlie Bassett on keyboards. Bassett and Johnson soon exited the band, before the group entered the recording studio in early 1967.

Steve Calfee composed all four songs (Conley co-wrote “A Secret of Mine”) recorded by Lost Soul and is the lead vocalist. He also plays keyboards on the recordings, which feature Randy Conley (guitar); Steve Cook (bass); and Donnie Fields on drums.

The Lost Soul business card
The Lost Soul business card

Guitarist Emerson Randall “Randy” Conley (who continues to record today as Emerson Conley) says Lost Soul came together when he was still in junior high school and rehearsed at bassist Steve Cook’s house, which was on the Virginia side of Bluefield. Conley was the only West Virginian in the band and recalls that his dad worked with drummer Donnie Field’s father at N&W Railroad, “and that is how I was introduced to the situation.” Cook’s father, John, managed the band and learned of Raven Records through his work as a sales representative for farm machinery. He credits the elder Cook with making contacts and “booking us everywhere,” including a live appearance on WHIS TV in Bluefield, where the group performed both sides of their first single.

Conley remembers that while traveling to Danville to record, the band passed a huge Klan rally in downtown Lynchburg. It was cold and snowy when the group arrived. And he says “A Secret of Mine” was recorded in “a big room (that) didn’t even look like a studio.” “There were no cubicles or anything like that, and just a few mics; there were no gobos… and everything was right there just real close together. There was no separation between anything that I can remember,” he adds. The building looked like a makeshift studio in “a big warehouse with high ceilings and a large room” for recording.

Lost Soul Raven 45 Mind's ExpresswayConley played guitar on all four sides recorded for Raven and explains that mixing the blue-eyed soul sound of “A Secret of Mine” with the psychedelic ramblings of “Minds Expressway” was a conscious effort “to blend in with the pop scene,” while appealing to “the psychedelic influences from (their) older musician friends at Bluefield State College.” 

While the band “never received a dime of compensation for anything,” Conley recalls that their first record was big in the Bluefield area. He said the label did little to distribute their first 45, with the band hand delivering copies to dee jays and radio stations.

That summer, Lost Soul accompanied Steve Cook’s family to North Myrtle Beach, with Conley and another band member following them down by bus. They ended up ten miles from their destination and were lugging a heavy suitcase in the median of the bypass when Cook’s family spotted them. During the week, Cook’s dad got Lost Soul a job at the famed Pavilion. They also talked their way onto the stage at the Bowery and the Rathskeller.

While the band would split in 1968, Conley insists there was no acrimony. Several were finishing high school and he left within 5 days to enroll in an auto diesel school in Nashville. That was short-lived, and four months later Conley was back in the band business full-time. He moved back to Bluefield, then to Roanoke, Arizona, South Carolina and finally back to West Virginia, performing and recording all the while. He played in a number of bands, including Razzmatazz, Rat Salad, Friends, and most notably, Sweet Toothe, a band that recorded one album and opened for Iron Butterfly before their performance at the Bluefield Armory.

Emerson Conley at the Propeller Club, Radford, VA 1972
Emerson Conley at the Propeller Club, Radford, VA 1972

Sweet Toothe LP TestingRecorded at Bradley’s Barn and produced by Benny Quinn and Patrick Glossop, “Sweet Toothe Testing” features Conley’s tasteful fuzz guitar. Released in 1975 on a small, Nashville-based label (Dominion Records TN 37214), the melodic heavy metal album was limited to a pressing of about 900 copies.

Sweet Tooth Dominion 45 KarenA promotional 45 from the LP (“Karen” b/w “Music’s Gotta Stay”, Dominion NR 7224) was a song about Karen Ann Quinlan and the debate over disconnecting the brain-dead patient from life-support. It was hampered by poor distribution, with only 200 copies pressed. The album has been bootlegged and was later reissued (with a different cover and on colored vinyl) on the Void label. Conley insists none of the band members received any compensation from the original release, referring to “a fake royalty check” with Dominion of “about 15 cents or something, to get us to sign away that album.” The band was one of only two artists to record for Dominion, the other a female country singer from Indiana.

An even rarer 45 followed. Lead vocalist Michael Hopkins left the band, but Conley, bassist P.D. (Pierce) Bratton, and drummer Michael Chilco reformed with two new members as Pyramid, releasing two self-penned numbers (“Buffalo Creek” b/w “Elusive Things”) on Studio One Records (SR-075) in Tazewell, VA. The songs were engineered by Nashville’s Joe Deaton on a 16-track recorder.

Sweet Toothe Photo
Sweet Toothe

Conley and Calfee’s paths would cross again in the mid-80s, when both were living in Myrtle Beach and Emerson played with the Beachcombers. The group was the house band at the Sands Ocean Club for six years and Calfee lived just a few miles up the road. He would sit in for the guitarist when Conley needed a break from the six-days-a-week gig.

Conley has operated a home studio since the eighties. He recorded his first CD (The Power of Love, LGM 2222) as Emerson in 1992. More recently, he has released discs as Little Ronny and the Blues Bots (as Randall Conley) and Flying Saucer Heads (“Inner Limits,” LGM 2223), both released through his publishing company, Los Gatos Music. He continues to live in West Virginia.

In a 2012 interview, lead vocalist, keyboardist and song writer Steve Calfee recalled the studio sessions in detail.

Your band was from Bluefield, VA, so how did you learn about Raven Records in Danville?

We did a lot of promotions… there was a radio station in Bluefield, West Virginia, WKOY, there was a DJ there by the name of Charlie Duff. I think that was his air name. But he had done radio promo dances with several different groups and one of the groups he did a promo with was Gene and the Team Beats. And I think they were from the Danville, VA vicinity, but they recorded for Raven. And he at one of the dances talked to the guy that was our manager at the time, who was John Cook, who was our bass player Steve Cook’s father. And at some point I think John Cook worked for the Caterpillar Corporation and he traveled a lot selling generators and heavy duty equipment, things like that. At some point he actually went to Danville and I think met with Frank Koger and talked about this and that and that’s when he decided we should do this and what were we gonna need to do to raise the money and that kinda thing. So, that’s how we made the connection with him. It was through the radio station and then through Gene and the Team Beats, and then finally to Frank Koger at Raven Records himself.

Were both 45s recorded in 1967?

I know we did the first one in ’67. I think we did. Yea, I think we did them both in ’67. They were probably stretched about six or seven months apart. I think one was done, the first one was done in early ’67 and the second one was done later on, like about the end of the summer in ’67.

Ernie Dickens of the Soulmasters photo, Danville, 1967
Ernie Dickens of the Soulmasters at the Coke plant in Danville, 1967.

Ernie Dickens, the Soulmasters bassist, is listed as arranger/conductor on your second single. What role did he play?

He acted kind of like our cheerleader. Get us through the sessions, tell us what to expect, what was gonna go wrong, kind of just keep us going out there because back when we did those nobody had multiple tracks in that general vicinity, so everything was like direct to two-track. I know we did multiple takes of every cut and we were doing, I think it was the flip side of the first one there was actually a mistake on there where the drummer — if you listen to the uh, it might be Minds Expressway, I’m pretty sure it is — there’s a “pa-ping” sound on the cymbal. And we’d gotten just to the very end of a take and it was an accident that he did and as soon as we ended the take I think Ernie and Frank actually came out of the booth and said “What was that?” And he took the drum stick and did a ping off the bell of the cymbal, from the bell of the cymbal to the body of the cymbal itself to do the “pa-ping” sound and Frank said, “Well that’s fantastic; it actually makes the record.” He said, “Do you think you can do that every time?” So, we spent probably the next two hours doing take after take after take of him trying to do that pa-ping sound through the entire cut ’til we finally got it. It was almost like working with a child or a dog in a movie where it doesn’t matter what you do as long as the dog hits its mark. So as soon as we got a take where he had done that on every single cut, that was the take that they pressed for the flip side.

What do you recall about House of Sound Studios or Frank Koger?

I think where it was, it had originally been an ice house where they did ice I guess for restaurants, grocery stores and things like that because it had a loading dock in front. It was a white building on the right side of the road on the outskirts. And I think it had just a little tiny entranceway room (and) then there was the room that was the main recording room that was probably not more than 10×12, if that. And the control room was probably, maybe a 6×6 room with a glass window. I know they had to turn the air conditioning off every time we got ready to record because the air conditioner was just a window unit. They cut a hole in the wall and put an air conditioner in there, so for the length of time you were in there, every time between takes you almost prayed for a mistake sometimes because that’s the only time the air conditioner would get turned back on. It was not a really big building but I think they told us it had been an ice house.

What did you play on the records?

I think on both of the records, I played keyboards. It was an interesting situation. We had a keyboard player, actually a fifth member and about a month or six weeks before we knew we were going into the studio our keyboard player got married and left the band. So me and the other guitar player, we were two guitars, bass, keyboards and drums, but when the keyboard player left we just kind of split up the duties. And the other guitar player was named Randy Conley. And he learned half the songs so that we could get it done quickly and I learned half the songs, so that we would switch off when we played jobs. He would play guitar on some songs and I would play keyboards; and then he would play keyboards and I would play guitar. And then probably over about a six month period I think for the duration of the band I just switched over to the keyboards. That’s how we did it at the time. I think I played keyboards on all four cuts that were released. I’m pretty sure I did. I don’t remember playing guitar on any of them.

Is the personnel the same on both records?

Yes, the group members are the same on both.

Tell us about the second single, I’m Gonna Hurt You/For You.

Lost Soul Raven 45 For YouI think the band was a lot tighter when we did those. Actually, those we didn’t need to do near as much press. I think we were actually playing more jobs on the road, but actually the radio stations that played the first single really picked up on that one without us having to do as much work to back it up. It was almost like that one was too easy. We were more focused on playing the jobs than we were really on doing promotion on the singles. And a lot radio stations — I think in Roanoke and Charlotte — and a lot of other markets would take that song, back then it was one of those things where they did the thing on American Bandstand where they would rate a record. And there were a lot of rate-a-record shows on, where they would have kids that would come into the studio and they would play 8 or 10 records and rate them. And that record got taken to a lot of those promo-type things, so the band didn’t do it; the radio station kind of did it. It really got a lot more airplay that the first one did.

Did you sell these at live performances? Who handled the distribution?

What Frank would do, he gave uh, everybody I think got two boxes of records and I think there were probably fifty 45s in each box, so those were the records that we would sell or give away at jobs and things like that. Think we probably gave away a lot more than we sold because it was one of those situations where somebody would come up and they really, really liked the band and you’d meet somebody after a show or something like that and it was just much easier to give ’em a record that to try to say, “Give me a dollar.” So I think we probably gave away four or five-thousand like that. Especially the second one, because that was the one that had the larger pressing.

But I know the company that Frank had that pressed that one was called P.M. Distributors in Pittsburgh, Pa. I’m not sure when they went out of business. But that was the one where the manager had run some kind of a trace on and found out that they had received somewhere between ten, fifteen, twenty thousand copies that they had distributed. And by then, he tried to go back and get an accounting and it was just sort of, “Well, we’ll get around to it.” And of course nobody ever got around to it and by the time the band broke up at that point everybody lost interest. But, I don’t think they did the first one, P.M. Distributors. I think that was probably done pretty much like Frank did most things. He sent out copies to radio stations, that kind of thing and we took copies around to radio stations as well. But the yellow one, the one that was “I’m Gonna Hurt You” and “For You,” that’s the one that P.M. Distributors put out to rack jobbers and radio stations. They even sent it to the radio stations direct, or they had a promotion person that did that.

The band recorded a demo tape with Koger. Did you keep a copy?

We didn’t keep a copy. We did some demos. We had done kind of a soul version of, this is interesting because we never figured out exactly how this happened, but we had done a more soulful, Memphis-type feel to “Day Tripper” by the Beatles. That was just one of the demos that we did. We never even thought anything else about it, what happened to it or where it went. But about somewhere a year or so later there was a version that was almost, very close to what we thought we had done that came out by, I think it was by the Foundations. And we always wondered if they got hold of that demo, or you know somebody said, “Oh, you guys can do this.” But I don’t think we kept any of those demos. We did some stuff between takes that Frank recorded just to get loose in the studio. And that version of “Day Tripper” was one of the songs that we did, and I think we probably played some Sam and Dave stuff and a couple of other things like that. I know they got recorded, but what happened to them I have no idea. I know the guy that was our manager that we shared with Archie Bell got a copy somehow, some way and he was putting that with the two 45s and taking it to different companies. But once again, we never heard it. He kind of imploded at one point, the manager did, and we never heard from him again. That was another interesting story.

Do you have the master tapes for any of the band’s recordings?

No, we don’t have master recordings of anything, and of course as long ago as it’s been I know the statute of ownership has run out and I doubt seriously if anybody redid the copyrights. I know they’re not on my list. I’m a BMI writer. None of the things that we did are anywhere on the list of, I’ve only got maybe a dozen songs listed with BMI, but none of those four are anywhere on that list. So, probably they could be edited, they could be redone and I could file a new copyright on them. I just never have thought about doing it.

While he was told at the time that “I’m Gonna Hurt You” b/w “For You” (Raven HOS 45-2032) had cracked Billboard’s Hot 100, Calfee has since learned that wasn’t the case. While researching his songs, Calfee discovered that BMI had never heard of Choptank Music (Raven’s publishing company) or Frank Koger. All four songs were signed over to Frank and Choptank and never listed with BMI. Calfee says “that’s why when ‘I’m Gonna Hurt You’ was supposed to enter the Billboard Hot 100, it never happened. It seems that at that time, when a song was being promoted and pushed, at the point it was getting sufficient airplay enough to be added, Billboard would double-check the copyright license and the copyright owner. When they found none for ‘I’m Gonna Hurt You,’ they let it drop.”

After searching BMI’s records, Calfee discovered that the songs were not listed or actually published with BMI. “That’s also the reason we never received any royalties for airplay or sales,” says Calfee. He has since listed all four songs with the agency.

Gene Rumley had a similar experience. A letter from Broadcast Music, Inc. to Rumley dated May 10, 1966 lists the A-sides of the first two Team Beats’ singles and “I’m Sorry About That,” urging Rumley to notify the publisher (Old Standby Music Co.) and have the songs registered with BMI as soon as possible.


Individuals band Danville Photo
An early photo of the Individuals practicing at Glenn Meadows’ house.
L-R: Tommy Redd, Ben Vaughan, Ronnie Couch, Glenn Meadows, and Ronnie Vaughan. Photo courtesy of Ronnie Couch.

The Individuals

Apparently the situation wasn’t unique. Ronnie Couch played drums with another Raven act, The Individuals. The Halifax/South Boston band recorded one 45 (“I Want Love” b/w “I Really Do”, Hos-45-2018) at Koger’s studio. Bassist Tommy Redd penned both and paid Koger $6 to have both sides registered with BMI. That never happened and the garage classic has since been bootlegged in England.

The Individuals, ad for Oak Level Club show
The Individuals, ad for show at the Oak Level Club

The Individuals were truly a garage band and started out practicing in the basement of Couch’s home in 1964. Besides the drummer, the original group included vocalist Glenn Meadows; bassist Tommy Redd; and lead guitarist Ben Vaughan. Then known as the Rhythm-Makers, the four-piece group played their first gig at the American Legion Hall in South Boston on March 25, 1965. The band soon changed names and musical directions and Meadows left over creative differences. Redd and Vaughan took over as lead vocalists. Sammy Moser was added on organ and stayed with the group through 1967, when Mike Oakes joined on keyboards.

The Individuals paid Koger $250 to record, press and distribute 500 records. The Individuals sold 200 copies locally and Koger agreed to distribute the remainder to radio stations across the country. When they entered House of Sound Studios, the band consisted of Ronnie Couch on drums; Tommy Redd, who played bass and sang lead on both sides; Ronnie Vaughan and Ben Vaughan on rhythm and lead guitars, respectively; and Sammy Moser on organ.

The Individuals, South Boston VA photo
The Individuals, from left: Sammy Moser (keyboard); Glenn Meadows (lead singer); Tommy Redd (bass guitar); Ronnie Couch (drums); Ronnie Vaughan (rhythm Guitar); Ben Vaughan (lead guitar)
The Individuals receipt signed by Frank Koger
The Individuals receipt signed by Frank Koger to Ronnie Couch ($108) as payment for reorder of their 45

The band recorded both songs in a marathon session in the summer of 1967. Couch and Redd remember scaling a long flight of steps to reach the small recording room. Couch’s drums were set up “behind some kind of plastic shield and there was another man on the board with Frank.” The band “toted our equipment up the steps to the studio. We got there around 5 or 6 pm and left around 11 pm.” According to Couch, the band “played our two songs seemed like a thousand times apiece” before Koger got acceptable takes. Raven HOS-45-2018 was released in August of 1967 and charted on WHLF radio in South Boston. “I Want Love” also made the playlist of a radio station in Brookneal, VA, while WYPR in Danville picked up the record and even had the band in the studios to promote the song. The group remained a popular regional attraction, sharing the bill with the Soulmasters and opening for popular recording artists like Sam and Dave.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uxpSssUs2Y]Interestingly, the vinyl version of “I Really Do” was not the intended release, but an outtake. When the master tapes were sent to Nashville for pressing, Koger mistakenly sent an alternate version of the song, not the one the group intended for release.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvMpQBx8olo]The initial run sold out and Couch still has the $108 invoice for a second pressing of the 45. The band wrote a follow-up (“The Fire Is Out”) and hoped to return to Danville for a second recording session; however, the group broke up and the plans were shelved. Home recordings show a radical shift in the band’s sound just before the split, with the Individuals adding extended solos, fuzz guitars and feedback to their performances.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Kuv1444hdA][youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACa54oSA-7E]

The Individuals publicity photo taken for Gazette-Virginian
The Individuals publicity photo taken for Gazette-Virginian newspaper story in ’67
from left: Tommy Redd, Ronnie Vaughan, Ronnie Couch, Ben Vaughan and Sammy Moser
The Individuals color photo
The Individuals from left: Sammy Moser (keyboard); Tommy Redd (bass guitar); Glenn Meadows (lead singer); Ronnie Couch (drums); Ben Vaughan (lead guitar); Ronnie Vaughan (rhythm guitar)
The Individuals photo
The Individuals, from left: Mike Oakes (keyboard); Ronnie Vaughan (rhythm guitar); Ronnie Couch (drums); Tommy Redd (bass guitar); Ben Vaughan (lead guitar)
The Individuals 1st business card
The Individuals 1st business card
Individuals 2nd business card
Individuals 2nd business card

The VI Pak (aka The IV Pak)

About the same time, the VI Pak of Ruffin, N.C. entered the studio after winning a battle of the bands competition and a free session at Raven. Frank Carter played organ in the band and remembers Koger’s studio was located in the same building where guitarist Mike Carter’s uncle (E.C. Gerringer) operated a piano and appliance store, which adjoined Merchants Delivery, a moving and storage company also owned by Gerringer.

Merchants Delivery House of Sound Studio
Merchants Delivery, according to one musician, the House of Sound Studio was located above

Carter remembers lugging their equipment up a flight of stairs to a small studio located above the business. He describes it as a “pretty neat little studio (with) multi-tracking and cubicles so “that each one of us had our own little box to play in. It wasn’t like playing in one big room, everything was sort of sectioned off for the drummer and for the guitarist and the horns and myself.” He remembers one large room and another “engineering room where Koger had the multi-track recorder.” According to Carter, the bigger room “wasn’t really that large — I’d say maybe 14×14 or so. It was enough room for four or five small cubicles and a mike for each.”

former location of House of Sound Studios
according to another, this was the former location of House of Sound Studios, across the street from Merchants Delivery.

William “Pete” Walker has a different recollection. He played bass on many of the country and western sessions at House of Sound and is certain the studios were located in the building across from Merchants Delivery. Walker notes that the long staircase leading up to the studio has been replaced and some cosmetic changes have been made, but otherwise the building is much the same 50 years later. He remembers Koger had the second floor, while an auto repair shop was located in the basement. The building now houses a Muslim church. 

The VI Pak sessions produced a garage-psyche classic – “Whatzit?” – along with an interesting cover of Booker T’s “Boot-Leg,” released on the one-off Hippie Label as HOS–45–2019. Carter recalls that the band was given the option of choosing their own label after balking at Koger’s request for an extra $10 to release the 45 on Raven. Besides the Carter cousins, the VI Pak included Brandon Cardwell on drums; Anthony Hodges on bass (lead vocals on Whatzit?); Lonnie Bowes on sax; and Sidney Vernon, trumpet.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URx6Y9cM0cY]There was again a problem at the pressing plant, this time with labeling. Someone in Nashville couldn’t read Roman numerals and the six-member VI Pak was listed on the label as the IV Pak. The band made the best of 500 mislabeled 45s, which sold few copies at the time but has gone on to grace several garage compilations. VI Pak members were also given a 12” acetate containing both sides of their single on one side and the Individuals’ songs on the other. Ronnie Couch (Individuals) was unaware of the record’s existence until shown a copy recently.


Soulmasters at the Sweetheart Dance at Stratford College in Danville, Va., 1967
Soulmasters at the Sweetheart Dance at Stratford College in Danville, Va., 1967. L-R: Dennis Shepherd, Jerry Wilson, Jimmy Matthews (obscured), Larry Davis (obscured, drums), Doug Hyler, Junie Walton (obscured), John Irby, Charles Gentry, Ernie Dickens.

The Soulmasters

Danville’s Sensational Soulmasters also recorded at Raven in ’67. The Soulmasters started out in Eden, N.C. in 1965 as a nine-piece rhythm and blues band. Black vocalists John Irby and Jerry Wilson were added as the group merged with Danville’s Majors to create the 10-to-12-piece aggregation that would record at Raven and tour Virginia and the Carolinas extensively through 1970.

Rickie Fox was the first drummer in the Danville incarnation of the Soulmasters. Another former Team Beat, Brian Thomason, was the original bassist. The first band only performed for 5-to-6 months and included “the original band from Eden and a few more people who were leaving the Majors, like (guitarist) Steve Scearce,” says Fox. Larry Davis was Fox’s best friend and was recruited on drums when Rickie left the Soulmasters to join his brother Butch in the Majors.

The Majors, 1964
The Majors, 1964, L-R: Juni Walton, organ; Larry Payne, drums; Marvin Farr, sax; Joe Johnson, vocals; Ernie Dickens, bass; Dennis Shepherd, trumpet; Charles Gentry, guitar.

Bassist Ernie Dickens recalls that “George Parrish was lead singer and fronted the Majors, (while) Vance Yarborough and Junie Walton also sang a few. Back in those days we also performed a lot of instrumentals.” The group also featured black vocalist Joe Johnson, who earlier sang for the Imperials. The Majors “kinda fell apart in late ’64 after a few members were drafted or left for other reasons,” says Dickens. He says the remaining members “reformed with new drummer Larry Davis. Wayne (Womble) and Doug (Hyler) were already trying to form the Soulmasters around John and Jerry, so we basically merged the two groups.” Junie Walton moved from organ to sax and Dennis Shepherd was added on trumpet.

Soulmasters at the Sweetheart Dance at Stratford College in Danville, Va., 1967
Soulmasters at the Sweetheart Dance at Stratford College in Danville, Va., 1967. L-R: Wayne Womble (organ), Denis Shepherd (trumpet), Jimmy Matthews (trumpet), Doug Hyler (sax), Junie Walton (sax), Larry Davis (drums), Charles Gentry (guitar), Ernie Dickens (bass guitar).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cfRUnXGHVE]SoulmastersRaven45YouTookAwaytheSunshineDickens also worked as Koger’s assistant, later producing the second single recorded by Lost Soul of Bluefield, VA. He recalled the Soulmasters’ two-day recording session in a 2015 interview.

Frank in the early days wanted to create a recording capability that rivaled the big studios. Problem was he had to try to do it on a Danville-sized budget. When we recorded our 45, Frank had acquired a 4-track reel-to-reel system that allowed control of each of the 4 input tracks, but had no capability to overdub.

This meant songs had to be rehearsed over and over again until the balance was right. Once this was accomplished, we then had to record the entire song start to finish in a single take. I remember rehearsing and balancing the sound for “I’ll Be Waiting Here” pretty much all day on the Saturday. We then recorded the version that was released the next day, Sunday. The B-side (“You Took Away the Sunshine”) moved along faster since we did not need to readjust the balance and only took several hours that Sunday. We probably spent 20 hours in all over the two days to complete the project.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frPXnNhrciU]SoulmastersRaven45IllBeWaitingHereThe studio was very rudimentary in those days (and had) little in the way of acoustic absorption or isolation between the instruments. The horns were recorded on 1 track; the bass, organ and guitar on the second; drums on the third track; and vocals on the fourth.

We were used to playing in halls for large crowds at pretty high volume levels. We found it very difficult to adjust to playing with only a fraction of the volume we were used to. Hence the somewhat distorted sound that we ended up with.

Frank was pretty obsessed with trying to make it work, as were we. We must have played each of the songs 50 or more times over those two days. By the time the record was released, we were all pretty sick of both songs and could hardly stand to perform them.

After this Frank continued to make improvements and learned much from the early experiments. Each time he recorded another group the sound improved and the process became more refined.

Soul Masters Bowmar promo photo
Soulmasters 1967 Bowmar publicity photo, Riverside Drive Danville. Front row left to right: Paul Brooks, Bill Hundley, Doug Hyler and Jimmy Mathews. Back row left to right: Charles Gentry, Larry Davis, John Irby, Jerry Wilson, Bill Adams and Ernie Dickens

Wayne Womble was the band’s keyboard player and said the studio was sparse, with a single, two-track recorder. Bill Dudley was a disc jockey at the local Top 40 station (WYPR) and fronted the $200 to finance the sessions. The band spent two days recording Raven HOS 45 2020, “I’ll Be Waiting Here” b/w “You Took Away the Sunshine.” Dickens says the 45 had an initial run of 500 copies but believes the band “gave away more than we sold.” Both songs were pressed at the wrong speed and the 45 is slightly faster than the original recordings.

Sax player Doug Hyler wrote the B-side in his bedroom and recalls the sessions as “lengthy, tedious and fun,” describing trumpeter Dennis Shepherd’s idea to pause near the end of the “You Took Away the Sunshine” as awesome and innovative. In addition to Hyler and Juni Walton on saxophone, the record features hot guitar licks from Steve Scearce; Larry Davis on drums; Ernie Dickens on bass; Dennis Shepherd and Jimmy Matthews on trumpet; Wayne Womble on organ; and vocalists John Irby and Jerry Wilson.

While not in the group at the time, keyboardist Bill Adams was friends with several of the members and attended the sessions. He recalls that “Wayne used a Farfisa organ on “I’ll Be Waiting Here” and an old upright piano on “You Took Away the Sunshine,” adding that “everything was recorded on a two track machine as the group played live.” According to Adams, the intro to “You Took Away the Sunshine” was put together that night with “a little alcohol involved in that one.” Dickens had written out chord charts for the arrangements and Adams was given the task of turning the pages while Wayne played the organ. Womble would soon leave the Soulmasters and Adams would take his place, but Bill said he had no inkling at this point that he would soon be playing with the group.

Soulmasters at Peabody's Warehouse 1968
Soulmasters at Peabody’s Warehouse 1968, Charles Gentry (guitar); Ernie Dickens (bass)
The Soulmasters first practice, 1965
The Soulmasters first practice, 1965 in Doug Hyler’s basement.
Back L to R: Rickie Fox, Wayne Womble, Jerry Wilson
Front L to R: Doug Hyler, Jimmy Matthews, Steve Scearce, Brian Thomason
Soulmasters at Peabody's Warehouse 1968
Soulmasters live at Peabody’s Warehouse in Virginia Beach, VA 1968
L-R: George Parrish, Paul Brooks and Jimmy Matthews on trumpets, Bill Hundley and Doug Hyler on sax.
In the background: Bill Adams (keyboards); Larry Davis (drums); Ernie Dickens (bass); Charles Gentry (guitar)
Soulmasters at Peabody's Warehouse 1968
Soulmasters live at Peabody’s Warehouse in Virginia Beach, VA 1968
L-R: George Parrish, Paul Brooks and Jimmy Matthews on trumpets, Bill Hundley and Doug Hyler on sax.
In the background: Bill Adams (keyboards); Larry Davis (drums); Ernie Dickens (bass); Charles Gentry (guitar)
Jerry Wilson of the Soulmasters at the Apollo Theater
Jerry Wilson of the Soulmasters at the Apollo Theater

Both sides charted on AM stations in Danville and South Boston and the single became a regional hit for the band, while reaching the Top 10 on WLAC in Nashville. The band re-recorded both songs at a better studio in Raleigh, but the master tapes were given by Wilson to soul singer Eddie Floyd, in hopes of landing the group a major recording contract. No copies are known to exist.

Vocalist Jerry Wilson looked back at those sessions during a 2013 interview.

People in Southside still remember your record, which was a big regional hit.

Yea, in Tennessee it reached 7 or number 4 (on WLAC) in Nashville. And that’s one thing I add: If it was anything to regret it was that we didn’t go back in the studio and cut any more. Because Ernie Dickens asked me, “Jerry, you and John wanna cut some more?” And we looked at him and said “no,” because it wasn’t what you’d call a great looking studio. But the sound wasn’t bad. And it was for free. But after ten years you say, “Man, we should’ve done a bunch of songs.” And if we had, I know one side hit real good so I know what would’ve happened if we had followed up. But we were young.

Jerry Wilson of the Soulmasters
Jerry Wilson of the Soulmasters, circa early ’70s

What do you remember about those sessions?Man, we had fun. It was just fun. We went in and you know back then you didn’t have all this digital equipment. You made one mistake and you had to do the song over again. I think we did it about four times until everybody became relaxed, laughing and carrying on. And then after that I think it took us two days to record it, both sides. And then when we did our song, “I’ll Be Waiting Here” that Dennis Shepherd wrote and “You Took Away the Sunshine” that Doug Hyler wrote, it was great! You know, we were signing (autographs) and I think we only had about 500 copies made.

Who had the idea for the stop and start on “You Took Away the Sunshine?”

Dennis Shepherd, the trumpet player who wrote the song. Dennis was a diminutive type in stature, but he had a big heart. He was one of my favorites, man.


Stones Unturned Photo
The Stones Unturned in 1966. L-R: Jim Ray, Pete Hilliard, Curtis “Inky” Vaughan, Doug Starnes, and Truxton Fulton

The Stones Unturned

The Stones Unturned House of Sound reel for Tobacco Road
The Stones Unturned House of Sound reel for Tobacco Road
The Stones Unturned House of Sound reel
The Stones Unturned House of Sound reel

Another Danville band – the Stones Unturned — entered House of Sound Studios in 1967, although none of their recordings were ever released. The Stones, as they preferred to call themselves, were a cover band and borrowed much of their early catalog from the British band of the same name. The Stones were: Pete Hilliard, bass and vocals; Jim Ray, lead vocalist; Truxton Fulton, organ; Curtis “Inky” Vaughan, drums; Doug Starnes, lead guitar.

Starnes dated and soon married vocalist Florence “Flo” Penn, who would later front the band when they performed as the Purple Haze Publication and Light Show. The couple recorded a number of demos in Koger’s studio. Starnes discussed the Raven sessions shortly before his death in October 2013.

How did the Stones come to record “Tobacco Road” and “Sunny” at Frank Koger’s studio?

How we got that (recording) time was that we were backing up (vocalist) Flo Penn Starnes, your cousin, on some songs that she wanted to record. She was fixing to go up to New York City that coming summer and she already had an agent up in New York. And he’d lined up, well she didn’t have a band she (always) used the house band wherever she had to play. I went up there (New York) with Flo and her mother, Anne Penn. And Flo, maybe she had to pay (Frank) extra, I don’t remember. But anyway, we had that time that she had set up for us with Frank. And we rehearsed a lot, not in the studio but here at home. We always rehearsed at my parents’ house here at South Woodberry in Danville. And it was a lot of fun because everything was a new experience for us back then. We didn’t know how it would sound. And fortunately it sounded good enough on tape to be worthwhile. And that was probably one of the biggest turning points for the Stones Unturned.

I have your master tape of about six original songs with the band backing Flo. There are multiple takes and false starts with dialog between songs. However, a smaller reel of just the Stones appears to be a dub. It’s only recorded in one channel and there are finished takes of only two songs: “Tobacco Road” and “Sunny.”



We had done more songs than that. There is a tape… it may be the one that you have listened to. I thought we had between 4 and 6 songs on that one. She (Flo) had done her songs in order that we could have a tape to take with us when we went up to New York City. I didn’t know how that tape (the reel with just the two songs) came about but I do remember there being more than just two songs on it. There’s another tape that may be around here or not. Over the years, the tapes have been loaned out and some of make it back and some don’t. And then there are a lot of them that the boxes aren’t even labeled and I don’t have a reel-to-reel recorder.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh2n3w2pHHE][youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkBohb6C1-k](Note: Stones Unturned vocalist Jim Ray believes there were two sessions at Raven and that the first in ’67 was to record the band. He thinks the group returned some time later to back Flo Starnes. Bassist Pete Hilliard sings lead on both and thinks the Stones’ songs were hastily recorded at the end of Flo’s session because they still had studio time remaining.)


Fabulous Fingermen Photo
The Fabulous Fingermen at the Moose Club in Danville, 1966.
L-R: Lee Glasgow, Ray Carper, Johnny Glasgow (deceased) and Julian A. Lillard (deceased).

The Fabulous Fingermen

Local Bluegrass legend Julian Lilliard started out playing in the mid-sixties in an instrumental guitar band known as the Fabulous Fingermen. The group played frequently at local sock hops and fraternal lodges in the Danville area and also recorded some unreleased songs at House of Sound. Lilliard says the band committed “3 or 4 cuts on a reel-to-reel” and he kept the master. He died in 2014 before locating the tape.


The Mustangers

Mustangers Piedmont 45 That's My WayPiedmont Records was another House of Sound offshoot that produced at least two records of note for collectors. The Mustangers recorded “What Do I Have to Pay,” listed on the label as a “rhythm and blues vocal.”

Nothing is known about the record (Piedmont CSP 45-2556) or the group, which featured a spirited soul singer and a good rhythm and horn section. The flip side (“That’s My Way”) is an odd instrumental that was also penned by the group and sounds as though it was recorded in a single take.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAAsIzNh6M0]


Moon Mullins Piedmont Records Picture Sleeve
L-R: Gwynn Kallam, Moon Mullins and Mickey Hawks

Moon Mullins and the Night Raiders

Mickey Hawks (Moon Mullins vocalist)
Mickey Hawks (Moon Mullins vocalist)

Moon Mullins and the Night Raiders also recorded their fifth single for Piedmont Records (“Baby, I Got You” b/w “Ain’t Gonna Cry”, Piedmont Records 45-2044) around 1968. At the time, Mullins’ band was performing throughout Virginia and North Carolina and he also owned a club in Madison, N.C., “Moon’s Danceland.”

“Baby I Got You” features a duet with vocalists Mickey Hawks and Gwynn Kallam. Hawks takes the lead on the flip side, “Ain’t Gonna Cry.” A picture of Mickey Hawks, Dallas “Moon” Mullins and Gwynn Kallam Montgomery appears on the sleeve, which was a rarity for Raven. While she sang with the band for several years, this was the only time Montgomery entered a recording booth. She recalls that Koger had the walls of the studio lined with egg cartons and that Stoney Bowman was their guitarist.

Moon Mullins Piedmont 45 Baby I Got YouThe sound was also a departure for the Night Raiders, who’d been recording rockabilly ravers since the fifties. The band is best remembered for their first recording, “Bip Bop Boom,” which was released on Profile Records in 1959 and did well in Chicago and the Midwest.

Gwen Kallam at 18
Gwen Kallam at 18

The single on Piedmont was the first release by the Night Raiders in seven years. The group had last been heard in a 1961 instrumental (“Gonna Dance Tonight, Part 1 & 2”) on country singer Jim Eanes’ label (Lance Records 005) out of Richmond, VA. While this would be Moon Mullins last commercial release, Mickey Hawks continued performing and recorded an album shortly before his death in 1989. Mullins also continued playing and was a fixture at the Eden Flea Market until shortly before his death in 2014.

Soulmasters’ bassist Ernie Dickens assisted Koger on many of the sessions at this point and recalls that “before Frank left for Nashville he was recording anyone that could show up with $200, whether they were up to the task or not.”


Greater Experience at Uncle Sam's 1972
Greater Experience at Uncle Sam’s 1972
from left: Jay McKee, Ed Burnette, Chuck Wall (in back on drums), Chip Wood, Roger Scruggs (guitar in back), Rocky Robertson (at mic), Kenny Arthur (in back) and Jenny Green.

The Greater Experience

Some of the last recordings Koger made in Danville were by an eight-man Lynchburg horn band, the Greater Experience, and their lone 45 has gone on to become one of the most coveted records among Northern Soul fans. “Don’t Forget to Remember” was seldom heard outside Southwest Virginia until it was rediscovered by collectors across the pond, but Lynchburg’s Greater Experience had quite a local following in the early seventies.

The Greater Experience Business Card
The Greater Experience Business Card, Stan Jayson manager

Chip Wood played alto sax on the 45 and says a chance encounter with vocalist Jerry Mitchell on a summer afternoon “around 1968” got the ball rolling. Wood was visiting friend Milton “Winkie” Blanks at his home on Trents Ferry Road and Mitchell was seeing Blank’s older sister, Brenda. While waiting for his date, the conversation turned to music and Mitchell remarked that he was trying to start a band. Wood mentioned that he played sax and said he also knew a good drummer, Chuck Wall. Wood was playing in a soul band at the time. This was Mitchell’s first band and he enlisted trumpeter Ricky Height and guitarist John Williams. Neither stayed long and both were soon replaced by Ed Burnette and Roger Scruggs. Johnny Dodson joined on organ, with Robert Tunkel on tenor sax, and Russ Hovda on bass.

Greater Experience card for Uncle Sam's
Greater Experience card for Uncle Sam’s

A name was needed and leader Jerry Mitchell came up with Greater Experience. Burnette says he never knew the significance, adding: “It was just one of those sixties things.” Drummer Chuck Wall was just 16 when he joined the band and believes the name was agreed upon while the band was holding its first rehearsal in Wood’s basement. “I think we were just kind of kicking around, trying to come up with (a name) and I’m not sure if it was Jerry Mitchell or Robert Tunkel, or just kind of a collective effort,” he says. While he had played in a couple of other neighborhood groups, Wall says the Greater Experience was his first serious foray into music, and the first band capable of playing an entire set.

Burnette, Scruggs and Wood all played together in the E.C. Glass Stage Band and Wood and Burnette were also in the high school’s marching band. Wood recalls that “many a time on a Friday night we played for the marching band and then at half-time Ed and I would sneak out to go to a gig with the Greater Experience.”

The Greater Experience publicity photo for Virginia Talent Associates in Lynchburg, Va.
The Greater Experience, from left, standing: Rpger Scruggs, Johnny Dodson, Robert Tunkel, Ed Burnette, Russ Hovda and Chuck Wall;
seated: Jerry Mitchell and Chip Wood.
Publicity photo for Virginia Talent Associates in Lynchburg.

The band was a favorite in the Lynchburg-Danville area and soon set their sights at recording an original song composed by Mitchell and Tunkel. Scruggs plays lead guitar on the single and says he was 18 when “Don’t Forget to Remember” was released in the fall of 1970 on Colony 13 (CSP 45-2572) Records. He remembers little about the sessions and says they may have been in Danville, but he is “not 100% sure of that.” He remembers a “pretty good sized studio,” with partitions and headphones. While he doesn’t remember the particular studio, Chuck Wall says the sessions were “definitely in Greensboro” and that the band was in and out in four hours.

While the sessions were most likely done at Copeland Sound Studios in Greensboro, the recordings could have been made in Danville at Frank Koger’s House of Sound Studios. The band performed frequently at Happy’s, a pizza restaurant and nightspot located directly across from his studio on Piney Forest Road. Scruggs doesn’t remember whether Koger produced the sessions, but he often used Copeland to record bands, especially when the projects were beyond the capability of his small studio in Danville. The 45 was apparently his last hurrah in Southside Virginia, as Koger moved to Nashville around 1971. While he used the Colony 13 label in Danville, most of the studio’s earlier output was on Raven Records. Koger used the Colony 13 logo exclusively in Tennessee, but again only for country and western artists. While his involvement with “Don’t Forget to Remember” may have been limited to pressing the record, it does appear on Koger’s label and bears the notation “Nationally Dist. by Colony Sound Prod., Danville, VA.” A later release on Colony 13 Records by Jamie Reeves (A Mother’s Salute to Lt. Calley b/w I’ll Wait, CSP 45-2580) lists a Nashville address for Colony Sound Productions. The labels are identical and, like the Greater Experience 45, Kitten Britches Music – BMI is listed as the music publisher. Koger’s wife, Jean, was nicknamed Kitten. Frank James is listed as both writer and producer on Reeves’ 45. From this point on, Koger referred to himself as Frank James in production credits.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m57Wg-r4jI]Trumpeter Ed Burnette agrees that the recordings were made in Greensboro and recalls that the band purchased a designated amount of time for the recordings, with the studio “charging $1 a minute” for any time they ran over, “so we tried to get it done as quickly as we could.” He remembers the group “spent an inordinate amount of time getting the rhythm part down: the guitar, the bass, the drums, and the organ.” He recalls that “it just seemed to take an eternity to get that down and we actually did the brass part in one take, and then we added the vocals on top of that.” Burnette says he is “confident” the sessions were in Greensboro, “because when I saw the actual record label for the first time and it showed ‘Colony 13’ in Danville, VA. I questioned why we went to a studio in Greensboro to record it.” He believes the pressing was limited to 500 copies.

GreaterExperienceColony13_45_DontForgetToRememberScruggs says both sides of the single were recorded “in an afternoon” and that the 45 received extensive airplay in on WLLL in Lynchburg, placing 99th on the station’s top 100 songs for the year. He remembers the band miming the song on a television show “around Christmas, 1970.” Wood says the band’s only TV appearance was for the Labor Day Telethon. The Greater Experience performed on the local segment of the telethon, which was broadcast from the WLVA (now WSET) studios, where Mitchell worked. Wood remembers that the band had to pantomime “Don’t Forget to Remember,” which he says “was harder than actually playing the song live.” Scruggs and alto saxophonist and rhythm guitarist Chip Wood had just finished school and two of the other members – Burnette and Wall – were both 17 and still at E.C. Glass High School when the 45 was released. Lead singer Jerry Mitchell wrote the lyrics, while sax man Bob Tunkel composed the music. John Dodson played Hammond organ on the record, with Russ Hovda on bass and Roger Scruggs on lead guitar.

Greater Experience Photo
courtesy Mark Windle and Roger Scruggs

While not listed as a co-writer, Scruggs believes keyboard player Johnny Dodson contributed to “Don’t Forget to Remember.” He points out that the song’s progressions contain “mostly major and minor 7th chords, not your average chords (and ones) only a keyboardist or guitarist would have played.” He believes Dodson “probably helped Jerry write the basic chord structure and Tunkel wrote out the music to be copywritten.” He points out that Tunkel had a music degree and did compose the music to the flip side, “Carol’s Carol,” which features a flute solo and is dedicated to his wife. Tunkel majored in music composition at Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition to tenor sax, Tunkel also played flute and trumpet.

Greater Experience Photo
courtesy Mark Windle and Roger Scruggs

Chip Wood plays alto sax on the 45 and is uncertain whether the sessions were in Greensboro or Danville. He does recall that as they were leaving Lynchburg for the recordings, WLLL disc jockey Stan Jayson (who was also managing the group) played Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and dedicated the song to the band. “Being 18 and just out of high school, that was really cool,” says Wood. Before the band recorded “Don’t Forget to Remember,” Wood says they played an afternoon job at Lynchburg College. Chicago played at LC that night “and we all had front row seats for the concert.” Wood concurs with Burnette about recording the rhythm section, saying it took “forever to get their part down.” And while the horns got just one shot, Wood says: “I guess we got lucky, although listening to the record now I think the horns were just a little bit out of tune.”

In addition to original material, the Greater Experience was known for their covers of songs by Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Cold Blood, Sly and the Family Stone and the Ides of March. The band gained a reputation as one of the best live acts in the area and opened for the Ides of March, the Classics IV, Percy Sledge and the Spiral Staircase in Lynchburg. A recently discovered live tape (made at Happy’s in Danville in 1970) captured the Greater Experience at its peak and includes the unreleased original song, “Mail Day Lament,” which Wood describes as “in the vein of the Ides of March.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRG756pNF-Y]The band booked through Virginia Talent Association (VTA), a Lynchburg-based agency owned and operated by Phil Vassar, Sr., who was the singer and front man for the Lancers, a rock and roll group that recorded the 45, My Little Girl/Alone (Panther Records SP-1051) in 1964. He was also the father of country singer/songwriter Phil Vassar, Jr.

TheGreaterExperienceSpiralStaircaseFlyerIt’s said that timing is everything, and such was the case with the Greater Experience. A demo tape was given to WLLL and the song was already receiving heavy airplay on Lynchburg radio. Band manager Stan Jason was also a popular DJ at the local radio station and had earlier gotten the group’s photo in a national publication, TV Radio Mirror Magazine, in an article profiling Jason. He was also able to get the song in heavy rotation at WLLL. The problem, says Burnette, was that the records hadn’t arrived from the pressing plant and none were available in stores. And by the time the single was in stock, interest in the song had already started to fade. Wall said Jason could get the group air time on the radio, “so we thought maybe we could make a little money out of this and it wouldn’t be a total bust if we could get the airplay and get local ears on it, and maybe enough money that if people would go out and buy it that we could at least pay for it, or the recording itself.” Wall believes that the delay kept the record from being a much bigger regional hit, noting “there was an issue with the pressing of the record, so the idea was Stan was going to give it a week or two in advance to start putting it on the radio to get it out over the airwaves and peak a little interest, and hopefully by then people would go out and want to buy it.” It took a little longer for the records to arrive and they weren’t available when fans requested the 45. Wall recalls that it was a month to six weeks before the song was in stores, “so anybody at the time that was out there who was looking for the record to buy, it just wasn’t available. They just weren’t there at that point in time when the demand was probably at the peak.”

Greater Experience For TV Radio Mirror Magazine Interview 1969
Greater Experience For TV Radio Mirror Magazine Interview 1969

Burnette still has a memo Mitchell distributed after the sales had completed. He recalls band members “all got some records back because we made the mistake of releasing the song to radio stations before we actually had the 45s.” It was a case of the group “having our 15 minutes of fame; it went up the charts locally and then down the charts and by the time we got the records actually in hand, our moment in the sun had come and gone and we were basically stuck with a bunch of records.” Wall believes that Jerry Mitchell ended up with most of the surplus. 

Mitchell wanted to release another 45 or album with the band, but plans to return to the studio were scrapped after his departure. Wood explains that “Jerry was the contact guy (and) really the manager of the band,” taking care of all the finances and contracts while “the younger guys like myself, Chuck, Ed and Roger… just kind of did as we were told and went on from there.” Money from several gigs was set aside to finance their 45, which the band sold at live performances, small shops like L. Oppleman Pawn Shop and at the G.C. Murphy Department Store in Lynchburg.

The group hoped to record “Mail Day Lament” in a controlled setting, but Mitchell left and the band never made it back to the studio. Soundman Steve Dunaway made a crude live recording of the song, but Scruggs says the quality isn’t suitable for release. The line-up featured on the 45 only performed together for about 18 months and the band underwent numerous personnel changes before calling it quits in 1975. Wall says while the band hoped to record an album, only three original songs were written during their eight-year existence. The Greater Experience went through numerous personnel changes, but Wall says “the nature of the band pretty much remained a copy band,” leaning heavily toward brass numbers, while remaining flexible enough to cover “pretty much whatever was popular at the time on the radio.” While members preferred more progressive music, Wall says the reality was that “because the fraternities and clubs we played were basically just dance halls,” the music had to be danceable. The idea, says Wall, was to “blend what was a challenge to play,” with what was on the radio, adding: “You just couldn’t go to a club and play the music that you wanted to play and have people sit there at their chairs and just kind of twiddle their thumbs. So, it needed to have a good solid beat and at the same time be popular.” The key to the band’s success was its amazing rhythm section.

The Greater Experience Jerry's wreck. 1970
Jerry’s wreck. 1970

Mitchell left on November 21, 1971, after a final performance for a Circle K fraternity party at the Holiday Inn in Lynchburg. He became the lead vocalist for a Roanoke band, the Divots. Wood believes Mitchell saw the move as “a step up” and felt Roanoke offered more opportunities than Lynchburg. Rocky Robertson was recruited as his replacement and was joined by female vocalist Jenny Greene. Jay McKee was added on trombone in ’71 and stayed with the group until the end. He was already familiar to the group and played in the E.C. Glass Concert and Marching Bands with Wood and Burnette. Scruggs recalls that Russell Hovda “just quit” and was replaced by bassist Robin Tolley. Kenny Arthur succeeded Tolley on Rickenbacker bass, but left to attend college in Alabama, where he still lives. Billy Bragg was their fourth, and final bass player. Dodson departed and was replaced by Billy DeZonia on keyboards, while Burnette left in the fall of ’71 to attend William and Mary College. He is now a General District Court judge in Lynchburg. David Cooper replaced him on trumpet. Wood remained with the band on sax until the breakup but then stopped performing and installed commercial entertainment systems until his retirement. Wood and Wall were the only two founding members who remained with the band until the end. The two were good friends and Chuck dated Chip’s sister during the band’s formative years. Tunkel, Wall, Williams and Hovda still live in the Lynchburg area and Williams and Hovda continued doing trio work until just recently. Sound and light man Steve Dunaway stayed in the business and went on to run sound for the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Mother’s Finest and Ted Nugent.

The Greater Experience band, 1974
The Greater Experience band, 1974

Scruggs remained with the Greater Experience until 1973 and was succeeded by guitarist Dale Ollweiler, who attended Lynchburg College with drummer Chuck Wall. Wall decided to stay in Lynchburg so he could continue performing with the band on weekends, which he did until the split in 1975. By that time, he says the group had “had kind of just run its course.” He had finished college and was growing weary of the long road trips, adding that “every time you pulled in new people it was just kind of a hassle to have to get back to square one.” He regrets that he no longer plays, adding: “You get married and you get a job and all of a sudden the reality is there.” Scruggs says he left a couple of years earlier because most of the original members were gone and the popularity of horn bands had started to wane. He remains active in music to this day, while Dodson, DeZonia, Bragg and front man and lead vocalist Jimmy Mitchell have since died. Mitchell died of cancer on March 16, 2011 in Roanoke, Virginia. He was 62. 

While Wall, Wood, Scruggs, Burnette and McKee occasionally get together to reminisce or to watch a concert on Chip’s entertainment system, they doubt there will be a Greater Experience reunion. While he admits it would be nice, Wood points out that their front man is gone and he no longer plays the sax. “I guess we’re too old for that,” says Wood. Wall says he always admired the progressive, British bands of the early seventies and finds it ironic that their music now has a following in the UK. Burnette admits that all the attention from across the pond has been nice, adding that the surviving members are “all basking in the glory of that delayed gratification now.” His only regret is that vocalist Jerry Mitchell “who wrote the music and was kind of the leader of the band did not live to experience this wonderful delayed popularity of our record.”


Frank and Kitty Koger at the last show at the Ryman with Johnny Cash, March 18, 1974.
Frank and Kitty Koger at the last show at the Ryman with Johnny Cash, March 18, 1974. Frank is in the center with mustache but no glasses. His wife, Kitty Koger, is the brunette second from right with the big hair. I’m assuming they sang back-up on the final hymn.

Move to Nashville

Around 1971, Koger decided to move to Tennessee. Danville guitarist Butch James knew Koger and his wife and helped the couple pack when they made their move to Music City. James was 17 at the time and recalls that Koger had connections with the music industry and wanted to be closer to Nashville. He remembers that Frank’s wife was also a talented seamstress and made dresses for Dolly Parton.

Raven - Frances Ingram's 2nd LP
Frances Ingram’s second Raven LP, Singing His Praises

Francis Ingram was a gospel artist who recorded for Raven. She remembers posing for pictures with Dolly as Jean Koger, who was nicknamed Kitten or Kitty, pinned a dress for the singer. She says Parton was talking about ending her long-standing partnership with Porter Wagoner, a move she would ultimately make in February 1974. She wanted Ingram to accompany her on the road, but Ingram said she declined because she had three small children at home. 

Ingram, who’s now 84, was a lifelong friend who attended school with Koger. She recorded two gospel albums (My God Is Real, Raven Hos-33-2022; Singing His Praises Vol. 2, Raven LPM – 2041) for Raven Records. Ingram borrowed $800 from Schoolfield Bank to record and press 600 copies of her second album in 1968. She returned to Nashville with Koger and his wife around 1970 to record a 45: “Nobody Knows (Where No One’s At)” b/w “Love and Memories”, for Plowboy Records PAL-0001. Interestingly, Koger does not receive producer credit on the labels.

Russ Lindley Colony 13 45 Lonely RealtyKoger set-up shop in Tennessee and began producing country artists like Russ Lindley, Wayne Snow and Prince Guitar for Colony 13 Records, now listing himself as “Frank James” on all label credits.

Prince Guitar Colony 13 45 All You Want When You PleaseIngram accompanied the Kogers several times to Nashville and remembers the walls of his studio being lined with albums. She remained in contact with the couple and heard from Koger just before he died of cancer in 1980, at the age of 48. According to Ingram, he became a minister in his later years and was buried in the Old Primitive Baptist Church cemetery in Sanville, VA, not far from his birthplace. His widow told Ingram in 2010 that Koger kept the masters from her albums, but got rid of all of the other tapes made during his days in Danville.

Peggy Wiggins (Harville) worked with Koger at Kmart, assisting him with newspaper ads the store ran in the Danville Register and Bee. She said he kept his day job as manager of Kmart’s appliance department until the couple left for Tennessee. “Frank and his wife Kitty would go to Nashville and stay with Wagoner and Parton,” she says, and “Frank had Porter and Dolly autograph their picture in a Grand Old Opry magazine,” which he gave to Wiggins. She also remembers that Kitty designed and made many of Dolly’s stage outfits.

Truxton Fulton played keyboards in the Stones Unturned and recorded with the band at House of Sound. He recalls that Koger was a huge country music fan, years before it became mainstream. He remembers Koger as “someone who could take a little and stretch it a long way.” Frank’s job at Kmart “gave him access to recording equipment at a discount but it was just home stereo stuff, nothing professional or even top of the line Sony,” says Fulton. Given those budget constraints, Fulton believes the studio was still able to produce an “amazing” sound, pointing to the Soulmasters’ single as Koger’s crowning achievement.

Pete Walker was probably Frank Koger’s best friend when he lived in Danville, and describes him as likable and friendly, adding: “He would give you the shirt off his back.” Walker credits Frank with getting him started in the business. The two met one night at Kmart and struck up a conversation about music. Walker told Koger he was “just playing a little flattop” on the side. But Koger needed a bass player, so “he started me playing bass and we formed a little group.” Bass players were hard to find and “when I told him I didn’t have a bass, he gave me one from Kmart and that’s what started me in music.” He went on to play on many Raven sessions (backing Susan Lea, Jack Transou, Homer “T” and Paul Parker) and recalls driving with Frank to Copeland Studios in Greensboro to back a black female vocalist on a recording of “Harper Valley PTA” (Millicent Williams, Harper Valley PTA/Ode to Billy Joe, Piedmont 45-2050). Koger also played flattop guitar and even recorded a 45 at one point, although Walker can’t recall the title or label.

“All of the local musicians knew Frank,” recalls Walker, “and the T-Birds did their practicing at the studio before playing their first job at T-Bird Country,” a popular honky tonk on the outskirts of Danville owned by popular W.D.V.A. disc jockey Homer “T” Thomasson, who also recorded a recitation 45 for Raven, Thru A Soldier’s Eyes/It’s Santa Claus (HOS-45-2008).

Walker helped the Kogers make the move around 1970-71, renting a truck and hauling their furniture from Danville to Nashville. Frank continued moonlighting in the studio in Nashville, while working a day job selling television sets. While he no longer played on any of the sessions, Walker remained close friends with Frank until his death, and the couple would visit him whenever they returned to Southside Virginia.

Jean Koger was also a songwriter and Frank bragged that she could compose a song about anything. Walker was visiting the couple one night and was sitting in the recreation room when Frank remarked that “Kit could write a song in 10 minutes.” He pulled a nickel and two pennies from his pocket, the two walked upstairs and Koger handed his wife the change and asked her to “put a song together.” It wasn’t long before she did just that, much to Walker’s amazement. Walker says the couple became good friends with Dolly and Porter, and Jean designed custom gowns for Parton and other Nashville singers. While Frank had a knack for finding and recording undiscovered talent, it was his wife who had a fixation with fame.

Frank Kroger's grave
Frank Kroger’s grave in Henry County, VA

In the late seventies, Koger had a serious wreck that left him in severe pain. Walker said while x-raying his back, doctors discovered he had spinal cancer. They began treatment and the cancer was in remission. But Walker says “it came back and he died not long after that” on February 24, 1980. Walker attended his funeral in Henry County but soon lost touch with Frank’s widow, who remained in Franklin, Tennessee. 

Walker believes Koger would be pleased that his music lived on after his death, but says he never achieved his biggest ambition, which was “to own a town where everybody was equal.”

More information can be found at these articles by Jack Garrett:

Gene and the Team Beats: Have Soul, Will Travel
In Search of the Lost Soul
The IV Pak or the VI Pak, Whatzit Gonna Be?
The Stones Unturned: Institutionalized Delinquency

For more on the Individuals see Chris Bishop’s post on this site.


Discography of Raven / House of Sound and related labels

It’s nearly impossible to compile a complete discography of Raven-related releases, since as few as 50 copies of some of the 45s were pressed.

Since Raven Records of Danville, Virginia was connected to the House of Sound Studio, other House of Sound Productions are included in this discography, including occasional releases on the Hoss, Hippie, Piedmont and Colony labels. Singles have the 45- prefix, LPs the 33- prefix. This discography was compiled by Dennis Minter and Jack Garrett.

Any help with this discography would be appreciated

Raven HOS-45-2006 – Gene & The Teambeats – I Want’a Be Your Baby / Sorry ‘Bout That
Raven HOS-45-2007 – Earl Wilkes – Too Many Nancys / Keep This Song
Raven HOS-45-2008 – Homer “T” – Thru A Soldier’s Eyes / It’s Santa Claus
Hoss HOS-45-2009 – Kathy Bledsoe – My Baby’s Gone / Shattered Dreams
Raven HOS-45-2011 – Gene & The Teambeats – I’ll Let Nothing Separate Me / Here I Stand
Raven HoS-45-2013 – Hender Saul – You Really Put a Hurtin’ on Me / What I Need Most
Raven HOS-45-2014 – The Ambassador’s Quartet – I’m Free Again / Lord I Need You
Raven HOS-45-2015 – The Bowes Brothers – Ain’t Got Time To Think / Bottom of The Glass
Raven HOS-45-2016 – The Lost Soul – A Secret of Mine / Mind’s Expressway
Raven HOS-45-2018 – The Individuals – I Want Love / I Really Do
Hippie HOS-45-2019 – The IV Pack – Whatzit? / Bootleg
Raven HOS-45-2020 – The Soulmasters – I’ll Be Waiting Here / You Took Away The Sunshine
Raven HOS-33-2022 – Frances Ingram – My God Is Real
Raven HOS-45-2024 – Susan Lea – Home Loving Girl / I’m Going To The Back Room
Raven HOS-33-2027 – Dan River High School Band
Raven HOS-45-2028 – Katie Lee – It Takes Two / Mommie What Would Daddy Say
Raven HOS-45-2029 – The Wilsons – Rabbit In The Log / White House Blues
Raven HOS-45-2030 – Hughes Memorial School – We Sing
Raven HOS-45-2031 – Jack Transou – Wait Until The Weekend / When You’re Thru Hurting Me
Raven HOS-45-2032 – The Lost Soul – I’m A Gonna Hurt You / For You
Raven HOS-45-2033 – Paul Parker – Don’t You Sometimes Get Lonely / I Just Want You
Raven HOS-45-2034 – Susan Lea – If This Dam Ever Breaks / Teenager’s Dream
Raven HOS-33-2038 – Old Country Church Quartet – The Old Country Church
Raven HOS-33-2041 – Frances Ingram – Singing His Praises Vol. II
Raven HOS-45-2042 – Charlie Chandler – The Drunken Driver / I’m Fine
Raven HOS-45-2043 – Charlie Massey – I’m My Daddy’s Man / The Kingdom of God
Piedmont HOS-45-2044 – Moon Mullins & Night Raiders – Baby I Got You / Ain’t Gonna Cry
Raven HOS-33-2046 – The True Gospel Singers – The Man On The Middle Cross
Raven HOS-45-2047 – Cathy Bledsoe – Leave Well Enough Alone / Cold And Lonely Grave
Raven HOS-45-2048 – Ralph Viar – When The Money Runs Out / The Stains of Time
Raven HOS-45-2049 – Susan Lea – Hillbilly Willie / Lonely Too Long
Piedmont HOS-45-2050 – Millicent Williams – Harper Valley PTA / Ode To Billy Joe
Colony 13 – CSP-45-2554 – Bill (Mr. “G”) Glover – Weeping Willow/Liberty Dance
Piedmont CSP-45-2556 – The Mustangers – What Do I Have to Pay / That’s My Way
Colony 13 CSP-45-2572 – The Greater Experience – Don’t Forget To Remember / Carol’s Carol
Piedmont HOS-33-2585 – Old Country Church Quartet – Singing Time

MINI-LPs

Raven 7-701 The True Gospel Singers – The True Gospel Singers
Raven 7-702 The Savage Family – The Savage Family Sings

Included is the Greater Experience 45 on Colony 13. Most on this label were out of Nashville after Frank Koger moved, but this one (“Don’t Forget to Remember”) was distributed locally.

Gene and the Team Beats: Have Soul, Will Travel

Gene & the Team Beats 1965 Promotional Flyer
1965 flyer, L-R: Charles Hairston, Lonnie Woodall, Gene Rumley, Brian Thomason, Rickie Fox
Gene Rumley Promo Photo, 1965
Gene Rumley, 1965

It has been nearly a half-century since five musicians from Martinsville and Danville banded together to form a group that would record just six sides over their decade together, but the music they created continues to gain fans and now reaches a far greater audience than was possible when they honed their skills in rural Virginia in the 1960s.

Gene and the Team Beats started their career as the Corvettes, an instrumental group led by Gene Rumley of Martinsville, who also played sax and booked the band throughout Virginia and the Carolinas. Carl Clarke (also from Martinsville) was the group’s original rhythm guitarist and joined the band near its inception in 1959. He remembers that the band originally performed as the Teen Beats, borrowing their name from a popular instrumental recorded by drummer Sandy Nelson. But when several of the members turned 20, Gene and the Team Beats were born.

The Team Beats performed mostly in Virginia, North and South Carolina and the DC area between 1959 and 1968. The band started recording late in their career, with all three 45s released between 1965 and ’67.

Gene & the Teambeats Early Promo Photo
Gene & the Teambeats first promo short, circa 1961.
L-R: Butch Fox (bass); Dennis Porter (drums); Lewis Woodall Lead guitar); Carl Clark (rhythm guitar); Gene Rumley (sax)
Gene & the Team Beats, Martinsville Bulletin September 22, 1961
article in the Martinsville Bulletin September 22, 1961

The Team Beats were especially popular in the Danville area and early performances saw the group backing recording artists Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, Brenda Lee and Jimmy Clanton at the local Coke plant. Clark recalls that the crowds were huge and even the local musicians were treated like rock stars. Butch Fox doubled on guitar and bass, while Dennis Porter played drums in the 1961 Team Beats’ configuration. Both commuted from Danville.

An article appearing in the Martinsville Bulletin in September 1961 recounts the band’s return from a summer tour which took them across eight states. They began playing in Myrtle Beach, S.C. at the Ocean Forest Marine Patio and Pavilion. Other appearances included the Top Hat, the Tropicana, and the Star Terrace Room in Virginia Beach.

Besides Rumley, bassist Carl Barrow had the longest history with the band, starting with the original line-up and continuing through countless personnel changes. Barrow’s bass can be heard on all three recording sessions. He first met Rumley when the future bandleader was “16 or 17 and he was working a night job as a curb hop at Sugar’s Drive-In, a small diner located in Martinsville on River Hill.” He remembers Gene had a strong work ethic and didn’t seem to mind holding down a full-time job, booking the band and driving the Team Beats to and from jobs in Virginia and the Carolinas.

But there were equipment problems early in their career, with Barrow blowing speakers at performances. He went to work with Clark and the pair designed their own cabinet. They mounted two 15 inch JBL speakers in a huge cabinet powered by a Fender amp. Other bands heard about the innovation and were coming to hear this “loud and very deep bass amplifier.” The huge tower was years ahead of the Marshall stacks of the sixties and even had a practical application, providing the band a safe hiding place when fights and gunfire cleared the dance floor.

Clark and Barrow’s paths first crossed when they attended separate high schools in Martinsville. Barrow remembers being blown away at an assembly at Drewry Mason High School when Clark took the stage playing guitar. This was before the Team Beats, but “Carl got them reelin’ and rockin’ with a Chuck Berry song; he could really play.”

Gene & the Teenbeats at Fred's Skateland with the Fabulous Ones
Gene & the Teenbeats at Fred’s Skateland with the Fabulous Ones

In the summer of 1961, the Team Beats were playing a night club in Norfolk — the Star Terrace Lounge — and living in a motel near Virginia Beach. With all of clubs booked at the beach, the band had to make do with the steady job in Norfolk. Clark recalls that “after a month or two some shyster talked us into going to Chicago, explaining that he had worked up a job for us there and we would be famous.”

All five members crammed into Rumley’s vintage Oldsmobile, pulling a wooden trailer covered with a tarp to the Windy City. On arrival, they discovered that the club manager had never heard of the band and had no interest in booking an unknown group from Virginia. Clark explains that “you had to be 21 to walk into the place, much less work there. We had been had by a manager who wanted us to leave (Norfolk) so his group could move in.”

The group piled back into Gene’s Olds and were trying to find their way out of Chicago when they “found this nice quiet road with no traffic.” With no place to stay and a long drive home, the band found a secluded spot by the water and went to sleep. The next morning they were preparing to leave but couldn’t understand why so many people were walking in the “road” and looking at them like they were from another planet. The band stopped the car and got out, only to be greeted by sirens and police cruisers coming through the woods in their direction. Gene and his compatriots were soon surrounded by the law. With guns drawn, they ordered the band to spread eagle and were promptly searched. Unbeknownst to the Team Beats, they had been driving on the sidewalks of Lake Shore Park.

The group was ordered to remove everything from the band trailer and all of their instrument cases were searched. With no machine guns in tow, Chicago’s finest finally realized that they weren’t dealing with criminals but “five dumb, redneck hillbillies from Virginia trying to become rock and roll stars.” They repacked their equipment and were escorted from the city by one of the officers. When they arrived at the outskirts of town, the cruiser stopped and the cop told them to “head that Oldsmobile south and don’t look back.”

Gene & the Team Beats with Joey Dee & the Starlighters December 15, 1962
with Joey Dee & the Starlighters December 15, 1962

Clark married in 1963 and “found a shift job,” which didn’t jive with the night life and long hours required for road gigs on weekends. He left the band and music shortly thereafter but still plays, although he has switched to bass and Bluegrass music.

Lewis “Lew” Woodall of Bassett was the band’s original lead guitarist, and still performs with his own jazz quartet. He recalls the early years, when the band formed in 1959-60 as Gene and the Teen Beats. He says the band played about every weekend around Martinsville, Danville and Roanoke, frequently crossing the state border to play jobs for college fraternities. Woodall says in addition to the extended engagement at Norfolk’s Star Terrace, the Team Beats also played Virginia Beach’s Top Hat Club in the summer of 1961.

Woodall’s instrumental prowess was already legendary in Southside Virginia and Barrow says he had no rivals, calling him “the best guitarist anywhere around” and “way ahead of his time.” Barrow recalls that “Lew was getting sounds out of just his straight guitar without the fuzz box and pedals that came along years later.”

While the band was small in number, they were able to get a full sound because each member was an accomplished musician. They were primarily a soul and rhythm and blues band and Rumley points out that “Lewis (Woodall) and some of the guys hated playing rock and roll.”

Gene & the Team Beats at the Peppermint Beach Club 1962
Peppermint Beach Club, Virginia Beach, 1962, L-R: Carl Clark, Gene Rumley, Lewis Woodall

Gene and the Team Beats were the house band at the Peppermint Beach Club in Virginia Beach for the summer in 1962. The club was the sister of the renowned Peppermint Lounge in New York City and home of Joey Dee and the Starlighters of “Peppermint Twist” fame. The Team Beats played to a packed house during their two-month stint at the club. Between frat house engagements found by Rumley (aided by Bill Buckner) and the jobs secured by the group’s three booking agencies, there was seldom a weekend when the group wasn’t on the road.

One such weekend found the Team Beats in Greensboro in the dead of winter. Rumley drove the group’s blue Econovan, pulling a band trailer with the guys crammed inside the van. Barrow admits “it wasn’t highfalutin; we were lucky to get there at times.” The band finished their job about 1 a.m., loaded the trailer and Gene got behind the wheel. He was also working a day job for Gerber Foods at the time, so Rumley was tired. Barrow recalls that it was bitterly cold outside “and Gene was so sleepy that he would roll the window down and stick his head outside until he nearly froze. That would wake him up for a few minutes and when he was about to doze off, he’d do it again.” Barrow suggested that “maybe one of us should drive,” but Rumley would have none of it. They made it home safely but Barrow marvels that “we weren’t all hurt or worse.”

Gene & the Team Beats at the Peppermint Beach Club 1962
Peppermint Beach Club, Virginia Beach, 1962, L-R: Butch Fox, Gene Rumley

Wayne Motley was the band’s vocalist during this period. Rumley describes Motley as “an amazing showman and singer,” but with a troubled life that made him “hard to manage at times.” Motley, who also played guitar, keyboards and “just about anything but a horn,” was in and out of the band. Rumley explains that he “had to let him go a couple times (but) took Wayne back out of desperation.” He finally left the band for good after a minor scrape with the law.

Motley was fronting the group when the Team Beats won second place in a statewide battle of the bands competition in Richmond. Dressed in matching outfits and belting out a Jackie Wilson tune, the band took home $250 and new suits for each member.

Motley was already a veteran of the band scene by this time, starting at age 14 as a founding member of the Royal Kings, which played the club and college circuit in the Virginia Beach/Ocean View area. He would return to the Royal Teens after his ouster from the Team Beats. Barrow recalls seeing the band in Roanoke then and not recognizing Motley immediately because he was wearing a blonde wig.

Eddie "King" Scott and his wife, Katherine
Wayne “King” Motley and his wife, Katherine

In later years, Motley recorded and performed with his wife, Katherine, in the Newport News area as Wayne “King” Motley. His three-hour show was interspersed with vintage rock and roll, country classics and an Elvis tribute. He continued entertaining at assisted living and retirement communities until just before his death at age 67. Barrow, Buckner and Lew Woodall visited Motley at his home a month before he died on August 18, 2012. Barrow says he was in good spirits and glad to see all of them after so many years. Bill Buckner, who was instrumental in promoting the band, died months later on April 2, 2014. He was 76.

Gene & the Team Beats at the Peppermint Beach Club 1962
Peppermint Beach Club, Virginia Beach, 1962, L-R: Wayne Motley (singing and on guitar); Lewis Woodall; Gene Rumley; Carl Clark

Lew Woodall remembers that in 1963, the band played a couple of months at the Twist Lounge at Nags Head. Nights found the band sleeping in a hot dog stand on the beach, with all five members crammed into a small cinderblock room and sharing a single sheet. Rumley recalls that “one night the guys left the sheet for me, but they’d wrapped it around a dead shark.” While the stand had “gone broke and closed,” the awning was still up and band members would be awakened by beachcombers who wanted a snack in the middle of the night.

Woodall left the Team Beats at the end of that summer when he transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. After graduating in 1965, Woodall was drafted and his brother, Lonnie, began playing with Rumley while Lew was in Vietnam.

The younger Woodall and Barrow shared an affinity for the same music and he recalls “Lonnie and I used to do a little soulful singing to each other.” The two were like brothers and Lonnie was already a regular on the bandstand, tagging along when Lewis was playing with the group. Lonnie picked up the guitar and “after a while we could see he was going to be a great guitarist. He joined the band and Lonnie took over where Lew left off.”

Gene & the Team Beats Business Card
back of Gene & the Team Beats business card.
L-R: Charles Hairston, Lonnie Woodall, Gene Rumley, Rickie Fox, Brian Thomason

Gene & the Team Beats Business CardWith Motley’s forced exodus from the band, Rumley was in need of a soulful vocalist. He found Charles Hairston by sheer tenacity, explaining that he went up Fayette Street in Martinsville saying: “Hey, we’re looking for a black singer to really represent our group with soul music… who’s a good singer?” Someone recommended Charles, who passed the audition and became the voice of the Team Beats. Gene says his contribution cannot be overlooked, and believes “Charles really made our band at that time.”

The addition brought some problems in the segregated South, where the band was refused service at a restaurant while returning from a fraternity gig at the University of Virginia. But having Hairston on vocals also allowed the Team Beats to play in some black clubs that were generally off limits to white bands.

There were some close calls, though. On one occasion the band was playing in the basement of an all black club in Martinsville when a woman accused her boyfriend of cheating and pulled a Saturday night special from her purse. She pointed the gun at the boyfriend and shouted: “I’m gonna blow your head off!” He ran into the women’s bathroom as the band scurried for cover, ducking behind the piano and amplifiers. With a staircase on each side of the bandstand, the patrons ran up the steps to the right as the irate female continued to wave her pistol in the other stairwell. The band had nowhere to go and remained in hiding until the standoff could be diffused.

Gene & the Team Beats Rocky Mount Armory, December 10
Rocky Mount Armory poster with Frankie & the Dynamic Souls Band featuring Frankie Divers and Wayne King

Rumley recalls another incident at a long since forgotten club “somewhere back in the sticks” of North Carolina. After agreeing to take the job, Rumley was contacted by Bill Buckner, who wanted to book the band for the same date. When Buckner learned where the Team Beats were scheduled to perform, he warned the bandleader that they were risking life and limb by playing there. But the gig paid about $300 and the band needed the money, so Rumley instructed Buckner to keep quiet about his reservations.

Rumley didn’t tell the band about the club’s reputation for violence, but instructed the guys to pull the old, upright piano away from the wall, in case they had to duck for cover. With just one door on the opposite end of the dance hall, he also made certain the window behind the bandstand was open, in case they had to stage a speedy exit.

The band was rocking about 1 a.m. when two gunshots rang out. That brought things to a standstill, but the partying resumed once the patrons realized the shots had come from the parking lot.

As the band was packing up for the night, Rumley inquired about the gunshots and learned that a woman had fatally shot her boyfriend.

The band was instructed to pick up their pay at another location. Rumley was returning to the van with the night’s receipts when he spotted a drunk standing by the van, talking to the musicians about the shooting that had happened a couple of hours earlier. Turns out he was also the local undertaker and, upon determining that the shooting victim had died, simply placed him on the back seat of his car and returned to the festivities. When the band declined his offer to view the body, the mortician drove on to the morgue. It would be the first — and last — time the Team Beats booked a job there.

Gene & the Team Beats Clowning AroundMusician and composer Rickie Fox was also an early member of the band and says one of his first performances as a Team Beat was at the Rathskeller, a downtown Danville nightclub located off Main Street, behind the Elk’s Lodge. Fox explains that his brother, Butch, got him into the group after one of the members (he’s not sure which) was drafted into the Army. Butch Fox switched to lead guitar and 12-year-old Rickie picked up the bass. Fox ended up playing with the group for about two-and-a-half years, first on bass, later on guitar and finally on drums. His drumming can be heard on the band’s first two records.

Butch was asked to leave the band after missing several rehearsals. Rickie was not yet old enough to drive and had no way to get to Martinsville “so Gene hired Brian Thomason to play bass” and bring the younger brother to rehearsals. Fox switched to guitar; Lew Woodall was drafted and Rumley hired his brother, Lonnie, to play guitar with Fox. Charles Hairston was the vocalist, Mickey Walker played drums and Rumley was on sax.

Fox shifted to drums when Walker was drafted and recalls driving to Sam Ash Music in New York, “where I bought a set of drums just like Ringo’s: black pearl Ludwig’s.”

Gene & the Team Beats Otis Redding June 4, 1965
Opening for Otis Redding at the Couples Club in Martinsville, June 4, 1965

Fox says his most vivid memory is playing with Otis Redding in Martinsville on Friday, June 4, 1965. Fox recalls that Redding, then billed as “Mr. Pitiful,” was playing at the June German Ball, which was being held on Fayette Street in Martinsville. The “School’s Out Celebration Show and Dance” was billed as a five-hour show featuring Redding, with Little Royal and the Swingmasters of Washington, D.C. and Gene and the Team Beats as support acts. Fox says that Rumley and friend Bill Buckner had arranged for Redding to play for about an hour, with all of the bands using the Team Beats’ equipment “because they just kind of came in and then they went out.” According to Fox, the Team Beats were playing a club on 220 at the time and both he and Lonnie Woodall worshiped Little Royal’s guitar player, Robert Parker, stealing “every guitar lick we possibly could from him.” Little Royal was also quite a showman and emulated James Brown.

The Otis Redding show was at Baldwin’s Gymtorium on Fayette Street and attracted 3,000 fans. Rumley says the aging, two-story building had a balcony that circled the interior, with a high stage and a large dance floor. The Team Beats got the crowd warmed up and by the time they left the stage, “that place was jumping and the old wooden building was literally shaking.” He says when Otis Redding performed, the sound was “absolutely unbelievable.” Rumley recalls that the horn section from James Brown’s band had just defected to the “up and coming” Redding and says “they basically tore the roof off the place. That was one of the best jobs that we’d ever played.”

Rickie Fox today
Rickie Fox today

Fox was also with the band when the Team Beats opened for the Shangri Las at the Danville City Auditorium. The all-girl group was backed by a stellar English instrumental band, Sounds Inc. The group had recently performed with the Beatles and — like the Liverpudlians — honed their skills at the famed Star Club in Germany.

The agent for the show arranged for the Team Beats to travel to Washington, D.C. to play for other booking agencies. Fox remembers that they played a club with Little Willie and the Hand Jives. And while nothing ever came of the audition, Fox says they had a great time there.

The Team Beats performed with Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge and the Showmen. They also provided instrumental backing for Joe Simon, Inez Foxx, William Bell, the Kelly Brothers and Freddy Cannon.

Eddie Scott, who played drums after Fox left the group, says the show with Sam and Dave was especially memorable, since the Team Beats had the chance to join the duo’s huge band on stage. Scott remembers that the Team Beats “were the opening act (but) as the night wound down, we were able to play together, all of us. Sam and Dave and their group (were) on stage and then Gene and the Team Beats along with them… we were able to deliver a high powered performance.”

Gene & the Team Beats Leatherwood 45 I'll Carry OnThe Team Beat’s first single, “I’ll Carry On” b/w “Apple Fuzz” was released on Leatherwood (RI 2096) in 1965. Rickie Fox played drums on the session and says the band recorded the 45 not long after he joined.

“I’ll Carry On” is credited to Rumley, while bothers Lewis and Lonnie Woodall are listed as composers of the instrumental, “Apple Fuzz,” which features nice jazz phrasing on guitar.

Rumley explains that for the first release, the band saved some money “from a couple of gigs, rented a studio near Rocky Mount somewhere and cut our first record, which we self-promoted.” Rumley describes the recording quality as “bad,” noting “there wasn’t much separation at all… probably one, two tracks because we were playing like we were playing in a nightclub and had the volume cranked up. When the sound came out, we were not too happy with it.” The single is distorted and poorly mixed and received little airplay.

Gene & the Team Beats Leatherwood 45 Apple FuzzFox insists it wasn’t recorded in a studio at all, but rather in the basement of a home in Rocky Mount. He was 12 at the time but remembers the night vividly. Fox says the band had played a job in Roanoke at the Sportsmen Club and “Gene had hooked up with some guy that had a quote-unquote ‘studio’ in his basement.” That night after the gig, the band went to his home and recorded “I’ll Carry On” and the flip side in a marathon session. Fox says the band was “literally there pretty much through the night.” While he knew little about recording studios at the time, Fox remembers “it was kind of primitive (and) I don’t think we did a lot of overdubbing or anything like that. It seemed like it was just a situation to record right onto a big reel-to-reel.”

He says the setting looked nothing like a studio. Fox had just started playing the drums and when he listens to the 45 today, “I cringe because everything I like in a drummer now I didn’t do then; I was playing everything on the off beat… a lot of off beat snare drum hits and the ride cymbal was real heavy.” But he feels justified in that the record was “hastily done in somebody’s basement and there’s no telling what type of equipment he had.”

Gene & the Team Beats Hitchin'
Hitching a ride in ’66. L-R: Carl Barrow, Lonnie Woodall, Gene Rumley, Charles Hairston, Eddie Scott

Gene & the Team Beats Raven 45 I Want'a Be Your Baby“I Wanta Be Your Baby,” and “I’ll Let Nothing Separate Me” were the group’s second and third 45 releases, respectively. Both were pressed in Tennessee by Nashville Record Productions, Inc. for Raven Records in Danville, although “I Wanta Be Your Baby” was actually recorded at Copeland Studios in Greensboro, N.C. Rumley doesn’t recall why they opted to record the single there, but believes it was because Copeland had better equipment than the fledgling House of Sound Studios on Old Piney Forest Road in Danville.

Gene & the Team Beats Raven 45 Sorry 'bout That“I Wanta Be Your Baby” b/w “Sorry ‘bout That” was released in 1966 and was the first rock record in the Raven Records (Raven 45-2006) catalog and was among the label’s first releases. Writing credits for both sides are given to Gino Lamonte, although the Italian never existed. Rumley explains that he penned both sides; however, the band decided to create a composer pseudonym because they thought a European name would look more impressive on the label.

This was to be Fox’s swansong with the band and he recalls that Frank Koger, who ran the House of Sound and Raven Records, accompanied the band to Greensboro, along with Koger’s close friend Bill Buckner, who was managing the Leeds Music Store in Collinsville at that time. Fox remembers “it was the first time I’d ever gone to a real studio and the guy came running out and oiled my (squeaking) bass drum pedal and I was like: ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ I didn’t quite get it.”

The band was well prepared to lay down the plug side, but Fox recalls that the B-side was another matter, adding that the band would always make up something for the second side. “We would go to the studio with one song, which looking back on it is not very smart, and then we would just kind of make up something to go on the other side right there in the studio,” said Fox. The flip side was usually an instrumental, because the group didn’t have time to write lyrics. “And that’s how we made up that “Sorry ‘bout That,” which he says was created on the spot in the studio. Buckner laughs on the track and Koger can be heard saying “Sorry ‘bout That” at the end. Fox was in seventh grade at the time but still remembers the excitement of recording in an actual studio setting.

The personnel on “I Wanta Be Your Baby” is: Gene Rumley (sax and backup vocals); Charles Hairston (lead vocal); Lonnie Woodall (guitar and backup vocals); Rickie Fox (drums); Carl Barrow (bass).

John and Jerry & the Soulmasters, at the 360 Drive-In with Gene and the Teen-Beats Danville Register, July 19, 1967
John and Jerry & the Soulmasters, at the 360 Drive-In with Gene and the Teen-Beats Danville Register, July 19, 1967

In addition to Rumley and Buckner, the Team Beats had three agencies booking the band: Hit Attractions out of Charlotte, N.C.; Cavalier Attractions in Charlottesville, VA; and Southeastern Artists and Promotions of Florence, AL.

As he was too young to drive, Fox recalls that “when my ride (Brian Thomason) left the band, I had to leave, too.” He went on to form the Soulmasters with musicians from Danville and Eden, N.C. He played drums in the early Soulmasters, with Thomason on bass. Fox also played in the Majors, City Council, the Manchesters and Fox and Company. He continues to record, produce and perform today, both as a solo artist and with various bands.

To “promote” the record Rumley and the band’s drummer got in Gene’s car “and drove for two days from Danville to Richmond, up to a guy playing all kind of rhythm and blues out in Delaware. Just anybody who would listen to us we go into a studio and try and tell them who we were and what we were doing.” Apparently it worked, as “I Wanta Be Your Baby” was a regional hit and the group’s best selling 45. Bassist Alan Rowe remembers buying his copy at Leeds Music Center in Danville from Soulmaster Doug Hyler, who worked at the store when not on the road with his band.

Gene Rumley BMI letter
BMI letter to Gene Rumley

A letter from Broadcast Music, Inc. to Rumley dated May 10, 1966 lists the A-sides of both singles and “I’m Sorry About That,” urging Rumley to notify the publisher (Old Standby Music Co.) and have the songs registered with BMI as soon as possible. His experience was not unique. Two other Raven bands, Lost Soul and the Individuals, thought their songs had been registered, only to learn years later that the music licensing firm had no record of their recordings. Individuals’ bassist Tommy Redd kept the paperwork showing he paid Koger $6 to register two of his songs with BMI.

Interestingly, Koger recycled the single’s flip side without telling the band. “Sorry ‘bout That” can be heard as the instrumental backing to an otherwise forgettable B-side recitation (“I’m Fine”) recorded by Charlie Chandler (Raven HOS-45-2042 “The Drunken Driver” b/w “I’m Fine”) and released on Raven’s C&W subsidiary.

Charles Hairston at the Double Door Inn
Charles Hairston at the Double Door Inn

Most regard the Hairston line-up as the band’s best. Hairston would remain with the Team Beats until his conscription to military service. He would later be reunited with Fox in City Council, a horn band that toured extensively, performing original material and covers of popular songs that were given the band’s unique stamp through creative arrangements.

Hairston moved to North Carolina in the mid-70s. He remained a fixture on the Charlotte music scene until his death from prostate cancer in 2009 at the age of 61. As vocalist, he fronted the All Stars and is best remembered for being “the soul and energy” of the band’s Monday night performances at the Double Door Inn.

Hairston put on a memorable show for the Inn’s 35th anniversary in December 2008, just two months before his death. Fans say he was his usual self, sweating, singing and moving all around the stage. He last performed publicly at the Double Door in January 2009. By then the cancer he’d battled all year had taken its toll and he sang while sitting on a stool. Hairston’s mother and family visited from Maryland about a week before his death and he sang for them and the hospice staff. He was in good spirits and one in attendance described it as “a wonderful moment… and then he passed peacefully.” The Charles Hairston Memorial Foundation was established the following year.

Charles Hairston in 1970
Charles Hairston in 1970 with City Council
Ricki Fox and Lonnie Woodall
Rickie Fox and Lonnie Woodall

Guitarist Lonnie Woodall also died too soon, suffering a fatal heart attack on May 20, 2002. He was 54 and had recently attended a bands reunion in Danville that included many veterans of the Team Beats. He played with numerous local and national groups, including City Council, the Rogues, Fox and Company, Percy Sledge and the Blues Defenders. He was the owner of Woodall’s Music and was also instrumental in establishing Harrison Scales Young Musicians Foundation and worked closely with the Bassett High School Jazz Band.

Woodall is still remembered as a great guitarist and a soulful blues singer, but also as a friend to all. Barrow calls him his “brother” and Rumley said he was “always dependable, up-beat and loved music.” Gene says there were many times when he considered quitting, but “I could always depend on Lonnie being there when we had to start over with new people in the group: singers, bass players or drummers. I don’t know of anyone who did not like Lonnie; he was always learning, always caring and kind to everyone he met.”

Gene & the Team Beats Raven 45 Insert
Insert from their 3rd 45, ca. 1967.
L-R: Lonnie Woodall, Carl Barrow, Gene Rumley, Eddie Scott, Jimmy Mitchell

Gene & the Team Beats Raven 45 I'll Let Nothing Separate MeThe band’s third and final release, “I’ll Let Nothing Separate Me” b/w “Here I Stand” (Raven HOS 42-2011) came out in 1967 and features a cover of an obscure song by the Wallace Brothers as its A-side. Early pressings featured a photo card insert of the band with a brief bio and booking information.

Since they were no longer writing their own material, Rumley explains that the members would “sit down and listen to old records,” then decide which tunes would be suitable for the group.” This time the group delivered what is arguably their best effort. And, unlike their previous releases, the B-side was no throwaway. “Here I Stand” stands on its own and is preferred by many to the single’s infectious plug side.

Gene & the Team Beats Raven 45 Here I StandHairston had been drafted and Rumley hastily recruited Martinsville’s Jimmy Mitchell as vocalist for the recording session, which also features Eddie Scott on drums. While Scott only appears on their last 45, he replaced Fox in 1966 and was with the Team Beats until the band called it a day two years later. He recalls passing an audition and recording at House of Sound Studios. Scott says the studio was small and there was very little overdubbing. As he remembers, “it was more or less cubicles and everything was recorded together… pretty much live to tape.” Mitchell sang lead, Rumley played sax, Lonnie Woodall was on guitar and Carl Barrow handled bass on the sessions.

Gene & the Team Beats Raven 45 Insert Reverse
Reverse side of 45 insert from 1967 with bio and booking info

Mitchell was needed because “when Charles left we were missing that soul that only some people can bring to our style of music.” Rumley discovered Mitchell after again asking friends to recommend a good, soulful singer. He says Jimmy’s vocal styling fit the band perfectly. It didn’t hurt that he was a consummate “showman and front man.” By this point the band was moving in step on many of their numbers and Mitchell was a natural for the choreography, adding his own gyrations. Scott was also quite a dancer and Barrow recalls Eddie would hit the dance floor during breaks, “doing his best James Brown impression.”

Mitchell’s tenure with the band was brief. The singer married and left because it was too difficult to balance his day job with the band’s busy travel schedule. At some point he left Martinsville and Scott recalls that Mitchell later sang in clubs in New York City.

Barrow also left the band shortly before the break-up in 1968. Carl had been with the group on-and-off since he beginning but explains that he “went into commercial artwork” and the pressure of holding down a job and playing every weekend became too much.

Gene & the Team Beats Live 1965 Martinsville
Martinsville, ca. 1965: L-R: Lonnie Woodall, Rickie Fox, Gene Rumley, Mickey Walker (on drums, obscured) and Brian Thomason

A fourth single release was planned and the backing track was recorded. The project was shelved after the group’s new lead singer, Alfonzo Martin of Martinsville, was also inducted into the military. Rumley regrets that the band was unable to add Martin’s vocals to their final recording session, describing his range as “unbelievable.” Martin served in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of staff sergeant. He was killed by hostile fire in Vietnam.

The group disbanded shortly thereafter. Rumley points out that the band had been together nearly a decade and he had grown weary of replacing members who moved on to other bands, full-time jobs or were drafted and shipped out to Southeast Asia.

Scott moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 1996 and drove a truck until his retirement. He played in several bands over the years, including Martinsville’s Renegade Demolition Band in the eighties.

Gene Rumley, India
Gene Rumley in India

With the break-up, Rumley left touring behind and concentrated on a career. He spent more than 30 years in the business world, serving as president and vice president of multi-national corporations while leading training seminars throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America. He was named “Business Man of the Year” by Alibaba.com, the world’s largest B2B search engine. While his home is in Florida, Rumley continues to travel extensively as a John Maxwell certified coach and teacher. But he is most passionate about his work with children in India, where he founded Mission for Orphans, a non-profit organization that helps feed, clothe and educate street children and orphans.

But rarely a day goes that he isn’t contacted by a follower of the music his band created nearly fifty years ago. The songs have stood the test of time, and Gene and the Team Beats live on through the dedication of Beach Music fans on the East Coast and lovers of Northern Soul in the United Kingdom.

In Search of the Lost Soul

The Lost Soul, Vox Promotional Photo, Hillsville Armory 1967
The Lost Soul, Vox promotional photo at the Hillsville Armory, ca. 1967. (l to r) Randy Conley, Donny Fields, Steve Cook & Steve Calfee

Article by Jack Garrett

While the Lost Soul is all but forgotten in their home state of Virginia, legions of fans in the UK regard their records as classics. Little has been written about the band, whose members came together in 11th grade. All but one attended Graham High School in Bluefield, Va., performing for about 18 months as The Prussians before changing their name to Lost Soul.
 The group featured songwriters Steve Calfee and Randy Conley on guitar, organ and vocals; Steve Cook on bass and vocals; and drummer Donnie Fields.

The Prussians, 1965
Early shot of the Prussians, ca. late 1965. (l to r) Steve Calfee, Randy Conley, Donnie Fields, Jimmy Johnson & Steve Cook

Calfee explains that hard rock was just coming to the fore. And while Lost Soul was responsible for the psychedelic gem “Minds Expressway,” Calfee says they were more into Motown and the R&B Memphis-type sound. The band felt “some of the music that was coming out on the hard rock side of it as not having the soul that we liked… we were gonna try and put the lost soul back into the rock and roll. Whether we actually did that or not I don’t know, but we gave it a shot.”

The Prussians, circa 1966
The Prussians, ca. 1966. (l to r) Steve Calfee, Randy Conley, Donnie Fields & Steve Cook.

With the name change, the band began looking for studio to record some original compositions.

The group did a lot of promotional dances and during one DJ Charlie Duff put them together with Gene and the Team Beats of Martinsville. That group was already recording for Raven Records in Danville and suggested that manager John Cook (the bassist’s dad) talk to Frank Koger, who owned and operated the small recording studio on the Piney Forest Road. Cook met with Koger and the band traveled to Danville in 1967 to commit two songs to wax: “A Secret of Mine” b/w “Minds Expressway”.

By all accounts, John Cook was a savvy businessman. He was a salesman for Caterpillar and taught the boys how to publicize and promote their shows and dances, how to collect fees, and even how to dress, although the dark green checked suits he bought for a job at the Fincastle Country Club bombed with the band. It was John who secured their bookings and traveled with the group, and who ultimately brought them to Danville in early 1967. Vox was just making inroads into the U.S. and he arranged for the group to receive free amplifiers and a PA system.

Calfee and Conley were the group’s two guitarists but were forced to make some last minute adjustments just prior to the recording session. Three months before they cut their first record, lead vocalist Jimmy Johnson quit for no apparent reason. About the same time, keyboard player Charlie Bassett married and left the band to attend engineering school. Rather than add a new member, the guitarists simply split the keyboard duties, although Calfee bought Bassett’s Acetone organ and plays keys and sings lead on all four Raven sides.

The Lost Soul Raven 45 A Secret of MineCalfee remembers the House of Sound studios as a small converted ice house, complete with loading dock. The control room was no larger than 6×6 with a glass window and a hole cut for a window unit. This proved a problem on their second session in the summer. The air conditioner was so noisy that it could only be turned on between takes, leaving members praying for a flub so they could get some relief from the heat. The songs were recorded directly to a two-track recorder, requiring multiple takes before an acceptable master was delivered.

A mistake on the end of the flip side was caught on tape and was incorporated into the song. If you listen to Minds Expressway, there’s a “pa-ping” sound on the cymbal. Calfee says they’d gotten “to the very end of a take and it was an accident that he did and as soon as we ended the take (producers) Ernie (Dickens) and Frank actually came out of the booth and said, ‘What was that?”

Drummer Donnie Fields took the stick and did a ping off the bell of the cymbal and Koger said, “Well that’s fantastic; it actually makes the record.” He asked Fields if he could do that every time, so the band spent “the next two hours doing take after take of him trying to do that pa-ping sound through the entire cut ’til we finally got it.”

To promote the disc, their new manager landed the band a slot on Dick Bennick’s Dance Party, a popular Bandstand-based broadcast on WGHP 8 in High Point, NC. The band arrived to light snowfall around mid-day, set up their equipment and were prepared to play when they were told they would be lip-syncing the songs. That was a first and it took the group “forever to get it right.” Whenever the cameras would roll, the director would stop the band, telling Calfee his lips weren’t moving with the music and it looked “like a Japanese movie.” Compounding the problem was the drum intro on “A Secret of Mine”. Without a count leading in to the song, it was impossible to synchronize the video, so the cameraman did a crossfade from a vine-covered trellis on the set to Fields’ drums.

They finally finished about 1:00 a.m. and left the studios to find three-feet of snow on the ground. It took them eight hours to reach their next gig, forcing the band to miss their television debut.

Each member was given two boxes of 45s and Calfee says they gave away as many copies as they sold. Koger distributed discs to radio stations and the band followed up with promotional appearances. “A Secret of Mine” was the pick of Top 40 radio, while “Mind Expressway” was played by college stations in the FM market. Along the way, Lost Soul followed or shared bills with ? and the Mysterians, the Hombres and the Fantastic Johnny C.

The Lost Soul Fincastle Country Club, Bluefield, VA
The Lost Soul live in 1967 at the Fincastle Country Club in Bluefield, Va.
(l to r) Steve Calfee, Donnie Fields, Randy Conley, Steve Cook.

Some of the largest crowds Lost Soul played for were at the Coke plant in Danville. Workmen would use fork-lifts to clear out the warehouse and set up the stage. Local radio stations and the high school newspaper promoted the dances, which attracted thousands.

Their manager brought a Webcor reel-to-reel to record one college job. Calfee says the band decided to have a few drinks to loosen up and thought they “were just kickin’ butt and takin’ names” on the bandstand. The next day he “played the recording back for us and it was the worst crap you’ve ever heard in your life.” Calfee says it was so bad that “it literally sobered us up.” From that day forward, no one took a drink on a job.

The Lost Soul Raven 45 I'm Gonna Hurt YouSix months later, Lost Soul was back at Raven to record a second 45 and a demo tape for distribution to major labels. They now shared management with Archie Bell and the Drells and their new manager signed a deal with PM Distributors in Pittsburgh to press thousands of copies of “I’m Gonna Hurt You” b/w “For You”. Calfee says the company had a promotions man who got the 45 to rack jobbers and radio stations. The effort paid off, as Calfee was told the song made it to the lower reaches of Billboard’s Hot 100. (Perhaps it was the Cashbox chart, as Billboard’s Top Pop Singles 1955-1996 lists no entries by Lost Soul.) As many as 20,000 copies were pressed but the group never received any royalties and requests for an accounting were ignored. Once the record started to break nationally, Lost Soul moved from playing country clubs and frat houses to armories and auditoriums.

Several labels were interested in the band, but Calfee says they had an image problem. It seems the major labels couldn’t decide how to market a group that played both psychedelic rock and funky soul. “We didn’t know any better,” says Calfee, adding, “We didn’t know that you were not supposed to mix the genres.” Elektra liked the tapes, which included a soulful arrangement of “Day Tripper”. Their manager secured a $25,000 advance with an agreement to record two more 45s and the promise of an album, if the singles charted.

But it was not to be. About this time, the band started to implode. It was 1968 and the height of the Vietnam War. Cook was drafted, Calfee decided to go back to school, Conley left to attend trade school and Fields got married. The band went through a period of about six months with pick-up drummers and even a saxophone player before calling it a day.

The Lost Soul, Live 1968
Faded Polaroid of the Lost Soul performing live in 1968.
(l to r) Steve Cook, Randy Conley, Lance Yost, Joe Simoncini & Steve Calfee

The later band delved further into psychedelia. The group dropped their matching suits in favor of multi-colored shirts and sunglasses and would scatter the stage with streamers. Borrowing from the Mothers of Invention, a metal trash can was also incorporated into the stage act. Calfee explains that “if you dropped a live mic inside with lots of reverb and delay, then banged on the can it created quite a bizarre sound.” The Fool had just painted Cream’s guitars in psychedelic colors, so Conley and Calfee did the same with their guitar and organ.

While national success eluded them, Calfee believes that was probably a good thing, adding, “If we had signed, as young as we were at the time and as crazy as the business was, I doubt seriously if any of us would have survived.”

Calfee later returned to music. He still plays and books entertainment for a cruise line in Little River, SC. Conley also returned to the stage, performing as E.R. Conley. And while their paths crossed occasionally on the road, Calfee lost touch will his co-writer eight years ago. Cook died about a year ago, while Fields left music and went to work for the railroad in Roanoke.

The band was all but forgotten until some Northern Soul fans in the UK discovered “A Secret of Mine”. Calfee was unaware of the renewed interest until he received a letter from an English musician he had worked with in the 80s. He learned the song was a favorite on the club scene and that their first 45 was selling for huge sums in England.

Two of the group’s songs were recently reissued on compact disc (Aliens, Psychos & Wild Things, Vol. 3) and videos of the band draw thousands of views on Youtube. But Calfee has yet to capitalize on the new audience and has received no songwriting royalties. While Calfee is “amazed” by the band’s resurgence in popularity, Cook recognized their potential. Shortly before his death, he told Calfee: “We never realized how good we were and what a great opportunity we had.” And while he won’t rule out a reunion, Calfee says it hasn’t happened yet and believes things worked out for the best, adding, “We were just trying to make music and have a good time.”

The Lost Soul, 1968
The last line-up, ca. 1968. (l to r) Steve Cook, Randy Conley, Lance Yost, Joe Simoncini. Steve Calfee is out of the camera frame.

The Esquires (on Raven)

Here’s a strange 45 by one of the many groups calling themselves the Esquires. One side is a ballad and the other a decent garage number, but neither one should be considered essential listening.

I wonder how many lyricists had passed on rhyming “make life brighter” with “like a zippo lighter” before the Esquires wrote it into the top side ballad “What Made You Change Your Mind”.

Better is the flip, “Boo Hoo Hoo”, where the band has a good stop-and-start rhythm going.

Oddly, both sides have been altered to fill out their run time. It appears that the band turned in performances of about one and a half minutes on each of these songs. The engineer deftly repeats sections to extend each closer to the three minute mark. This is especially noticeable on “Boo Hoo Hoo”, where a drum fill introduces a section that is repeated four times in the song.

Dick Welch wrote both sides, and publishing is by Pat Chipps for Panhandle Music.

I knew nothing about the band until Dick Welch commented below, so I’ll repeat it here:

This Raven label was located in Clarksburg, West Virginia in the late 60′s. I wrote both sides of this record and played guitar. It was a four track studio. I also recorded a record there with a group called Them Prodigals.

Them Prodigals’ 45 is “Icing Too” / “Cake Time”, released in February 1968 at Raven 101.

This Raven label is distinct from the Danville, VA label that released the Individuals “I Want Love” / “I Really Do” and the Lost Souls “For You” / “Minds Expressway” 45s.

Anyone have a photo of the group, or know the names of the other members?