Originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa, the Royal Flairs began as the backing band for singer Dick Hodge, cutting one single at Sears Sound Studio in Omaha, Nebraska, “Dream Angel” / “Let’s Go”, in October of 1962 as Nelson Royal, Bobby Williams and the Royal Flairs*.
The Flairs became house band at the Milrose Ballroom outside of Omaha, playing primarily surf instrumentals.
Three members stayed with the band through all of their changes: Bob Everhart (Bob Williams’ actual name) on sax and vocals, Dave Krivolavek on guitar and Dave Brubeck on bass. Other early members included Jerry Fleetwood on trumpet, Daryl Hill on organ, Brian Sallozo on sax, Brad Starr and Mike Nelson on lead guitar, and Rick Brown on drums.
Everhart, Brubeck and Krivolavek relocated to Chicago in early 1965, adding Mike Donion on drums and Mel Matthews on lead guitar and organ. In 1966 they cut two 45s for the Marina label, one as the Royal Flairs, and another as the Unlimited.
The first, “Suicide” has a sharp garage sound and a great solo. In the lyrics the singer wants to join the girl who killed herself over him. It was written by Everhart and Dave Krivolavek, with Everhart playing the harmonica. The instrumental flip, “One Pine Box” (misprinted on the label as “One Pink Box”) has an earlier surf style. It’s a gruesome number featuring the sound of scraping and a hammer nailing a coffin lid shut.
The second Marina 45 as The Unlimited was another morbid number “Feelings.” The flip was one I haven’t heard yet, “Gone Away”.
Bobby Williams remained a pseudonym for Bob Everhart as that name appears as the promotional contact on their Marina 45. For the Flairs final 45, they released the folky “Hat On Tie” as by Bobby and Dave on one side, and the killer soul screamer “My Baby Cries” as by Bobby Williams on the other. These were produced by D. Marrone for the Tonorous label.
According to the notes from Back from the Grave, the band broke up after Bob Everhart was shot when he tried to protect a 350 pound go-go dancer named Miss Temptation from a crazed patron. Bob survived the wound but decided to get out of the nightclubs while he was still in one piece!
In the 1980’s an EP Surfin’ with the Royal Flairs featured five unreleased versions of surf songs recorded in 1962. Another LP, The Royal Flairs, Rare Recordings from 1965-66 contains their singles along with a side of unreleased songs that reflect their change to r&b and British Invasion sounds, recorded in Omaha.
*The Routers cut a version of “Let’s Go” in 1962. Bob Everhart filed a complaint with BMI over the copyright of “Let’s Go”, which caused SAM owner Leona Leivas to release the copyright. However, a 1973 European Warner Brothers release of “Let’s Go” shows song writing credits to Lanny Duncan and Robert Duncan.
Sources: Royal Flairs photo from Back from the Grave 3, Marina 45 scan and transfer of Suicide taken from bosshoss’ Flac Attack vol. 1. Info from the liner notes to Rare Recordings. Thanks to Phil Dirt for the better quality rip of “One Pine Box”.