Dennis Chitwood – rhythm guitar, vocals
Bill Leach – lead guitar
Frank McCaslin – bass
Kent Klinkenbeard – drums
I’m constantly amazed at the quality of rock ‘n roll cut by young teens during the mid-’60s. Billy and the Kids from Washington state is one example, another is Us Kids from Medford, in southern Oregon.
They recorded their single at Rex Recording Service in Portland, both songs written by their vocalist Dennis Chitwood. “Check-Out” is a great A-side, with tough lyrics from a thirteen year old boy:
You’re thinking the smiles they gave you were because you’re pretty
Well the smiles you got were actually out of pity!
I recently spoke to Bill Pitts, who was known as Bill Leach when he played lead guitar for the group:
We were very young at the time. When we made the record, I was the oldest by a month or two and I was 14. The singer, Dennis Chitwood would have been 12 or 13.
We met through word of mouth in those days. Somebody told somebody that I played guitar or that Kurt played drums. Just good old fashion networking. Then we would have “try-outs” to fill or change a spot. Dennis played the Fender and I the Rickenbacker.
In actual fact, “I Love The Rain” was the chart song or “A” side. I have two original copies of those “K-Boy Top 25 Pop” charts. August 19, 1966 – #19; August 26, 1966 – #3 (#1 was the Beatles, #2 was Tommy Roe so I guess you could call that “good company”).
We saved our money and our parents helped pay for the session. If memory serves, it was around $200.00 each. I’m not sure who searched out Rex, most likely Chitwood’s parents. I do remember how excited we all were to travel to the studio (Portland). I remember vividly how nervous I was when the “Recording” light came on over the sound control booth. I remember sitting around the control room with the engineer, listening to the final cut and us giving our approval.
Our biggest gig (in my mind) was opening for Gary Lewis and The Playboys. As I recall, that’s the only time we played the Medford Armory (which was the only large auditorium in the day). I have pictures of us playing in (I believe) a battle of the bands at the Medford Shopping Center parking lot. These venues happened once a year to a very large turn-out.
The pic of us on TV was taken of us on the show Woman’s World. It was local interest type programming. We also did a short interview and, I believe, announced some news and the weather on our local rock station of the day, KBOY AM.
At that point, our parents managed us. We were happy to just play music but our parents got involved (we were very young remember) and agendas won out. Ultimately what broke us up. A shame, as we were starting to draw some interest.I just found out that Dennis Chitwood has passed, I believe last year. I did hear a great blues band in Jacksonville while visiting once. Entered the bar and saw my old friend Kent Klinkenbeard still playing drums. Damn good too. Not sure where the others ended up. I played rock for a few more years and ended up trading my electric in for a Lyle “Dove” twelve string and went all Simon and Garfunkel. Now I pluck through Jimmy Buffet and some mild country.
It was a magical time. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
Bill (Leach) Pitts
Special thanks to Bill for sending in these great photos and for answering my questions about the band.