The Shadows came from Hazelwood, North Carolina, a small town about 30 miles west of Asheville. Members included Dennis Robbins and Ken James.
The band traveled 150 miles east to Charlotte to record at Arthur Smith Studios, releasing their single on Switch Records in April, 1966. “Tell Me” is a good original by Robbins and James, a tight performance with an excellent guitar break. The flip is a version of Brubeck’s “Take Five” that gives the guitarist more room to stretch out. Switch seems to have been their own label, I haven’t seen anything else on it.
Two months later the band drove 280 miles in the other direction, west to Nashville, where they recorded another original, “She’s Like That” for release on Zeke Clements’ Gold Standard Records. “Tell Me” was reused for the flip side, though without all the heavy echo on the original Switch version. I believe it is the same take of the song, not a re-recording, and I prefer it without the echo.
Dennis Robbins and Kenneth James copyrighted both songs with Clements’ Blazon Music Co, BMI on June 21, 1966.
Gold Standard released over 200 singles during the ’60s. There are a handful of garage or teen-beat records, which I’ll list below, though some of them I haven’t heard and I’m not positive they fit here. While some artists were local to Nashville, it wasn’t unusual for Gold Standard to feature artists from around the country. The Cavemen came from Birmingham, Alabama and had an earlier single as J.C. & Cavemen. The Incidentals were from Montgomery, Alabama.
112 – The Cavemen (vocal by J.C. Raynor) – “Just One You For Me” (Hoyt Johnson) / “Tell Her One More Time For Me”
114 – The Incidentals – “Baby Shake” / “Till the Ending of Time” (both songs by James Segrest and Herbert Phelps, released Dec. ’64)
155 – The Coachmen (vocal by Tommy Burnett) – “I’ll Never Leave You” / “Possibility”
174 – Steve Stephens – “Lonely Me” (Ricky Ryan) / ‘When You Grow Tired Of Him”
204 – Ricky Ryan & Jerry Lee McKee – “My Baby’s Coming Home” / “Ask Me Baby”
209 – The Vee-Jay’s (lead singer Bill Boone) – “Give Your Heart to Me” (Ray D’ahrouge”) / ?
237 – Ronny Williams – “Move Up a Little Closer” (James Hendrix, Elijah & Geraldine Murray) / Larry Williams – “When You Grow Tired of Him”
262 – Five Emprees – “Little Miss Sad” / “Nobody Cares” (1967, re-recording with horns of their Freeport single from 1965)
286 – Paper Menagerie – “Left Up To You” (E. Macon) / “Love Again” (E. Macon & B.G. Gillespie) both pub. by Junellin Music BMI, prod. by Dick Sell Anyone have a photo of the Shadows? I’d like to know more about the Shadows or any of these other groups, especially the Paper Menagerie..
The economic landscape in Martinsville and Henry County is far different today than was the case a half-century ago. In the sixties, the area was the manufacturing hub of Southside Virginia and was home to textile giants DuPont and Tultex, and furniture makers including American of Martinsville, Hooker and Stanley. The boom era provided teens with disposable income and the British Invasion gave rise to a number of excellent bands, including Gene and the Team Beats, the Rogues and the Generals, also known as the Fabulous Generals.
The Generals were based in Martinsville and nearby Collinsville and came together in the spring of 1964 during a school election of senior class officers at Drewry Mason High School in Ridgeway, VA. Guitarist Ronnie Ashworth was an eighth grader and had been playing music with pianist Joe Merriman. The two rehearsed in the cafeteria after school during football practice and knew they had something going when other students stopped by to listen. Drummer Frankie Divers was one of those who heard the duo and asked if he could sit in with them. He soon convinced Joe and Ronnie to play on behalf of one of the election parties.
The rival political factions in the school election were dubbed the “Generals” and the “Beatles” parties, in homage to the Beatles recent appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Ashworth recalls that “We were representing the Generals party and so we took that name for the trio.” He says the band didn’t have a name and the “Generals” moniker stuck. He doesn’t recall which party won the election but says the Generals “made a hit as a band.”
The trio played the Surfaris’ instrumental “Wipe Out” for the class election, with Ashworth on a Kay electric guitar and a small, Silvertone amp; Merriman on the school’s stand-up piano; and Divers pounding out the rim shots on a white snare drum.
Divers played with the Generals briefly, but left the group to join the football team. Ashworth’s uncle, Bobby Henderson, was asked to play bass in the spring of 1964 and Lee Moore joined shortly thereafter as drummer, along with Mack Davidson on rhythm guitar.
Henderson recalls that Ashworth and his sister, Fairy, both attended Drewry Mason High School in Ridgeway, along with Merriman and Davidson. Ronnie and Fairy would share the lead vocal chores.
The Ashworth family has always been musically inclined. Ronnie admits “most of the musical talent is from my mom’s side.” When his mother was growing up, she sang bluegrass and gospel in a small group in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, around Saltville and Marion. She taught Ronnie a few chords on his first guitar and he took it from there, learning from records. Ronnie and his sister sang together as young children. He took up the guitar and Fairy was soon to be part of the group. Their younger brother, Dennis, sang and became an accomplished drummer, joining his older siblings on stage in the late seventies in the group Eastwinds.
Ronnie’s introduction to the stage came in 1962 when the pre-teen played at a talent contest at the Fieldale Community Center. He “was about 12 years old” and was just learning to play the guitar. He performed Ricky Nelson’s “They’ll Never Be Anyone Else But You” and the Cascades’ song, “Rhythm of the Falling Rain.” He won the competition and used the $50 prize to purchase his first electric guitar.
Ronnie said he “always felt like we were supposed to play music” and forming a group seemed to be “the next phase: to get together with a few people and just play some.” The Ashworth siblings were budding songwriters and penned both sides of the group’s first single: “You Make Me Happy” b/w “Without You.”
Ronnie recalls that their first session was held at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, N.C. in 1966 and says “You Make Me Happy” was the first song they worked on, the consensus being that the number had the best shot at being played on the radio.
He doesn’t recall Smith participating in the session, but says “they had a really good studio engineer there who seemed to know his stuff.” The Generals did their first take of “You Make Me Happy” and “then he played it back through these big Altec Lansing speakers, and it was just amazing!” Ashworth explains that the band “never really heard ourselves play, but we could hear everything through those speakers. That’s what I remember, just how good it sounded.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the b-side, “Without You,” is its unusual bass line, which starts the number and runs throughout the song. Ronnie says the bass intro was his idea; he made it up on the guitar and showed it to Bobby. He recalls that it “seemed like an unusual way to start the song and it gave us a solid heads up as to when to start playing.”
Henderson believes Arthur Smith was present for the recordings, describing him as a hands-on producer who supervised the production, mastering and pressing of their initial offering, which was released on General Records. This was the first time that he had been in a recording studio and Henderson concedes he was “scared to death” and “surprised that actually we were able to play music and listen to it.”
The line-up on the first sessions (and for the second single on Pyramid Records) featured Ronnie Ashworth on lead vocals and guitar; Fairy Ashworth on harmonies; Joe Merriman on organ; Bobby Henderson, bass; rhythm guitarist Mack Davidson; drummer Lee Moore; and David Daniel on saxophone. While barely noticeable on the first recordings, Daniel’s sax was featured prominently on the follow-up, “Life’s Not Worth It.” Ronnie says Daniel was from Collinsville and played with the band “for about a year.”
The influence of the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five is apparent on both sides of the single, with its infectious harmonies and strong hooks.
According to Henderson, the recording session and the 45s were the grand prize for winning a battle of the bands in Danville, Va. The two-day marathon featured dozens of rock and soul bands performing on flatbed trucks in the parking lot of the then new Ballou Park Shopping Center.
Ronnie doesn’t recall the prize for the competition, but believes both singles were recorded prior to the band marathon in Danville, which was held in the summer of 1967. Fairy was with the band for both recordings but had left the band by that time, rejoining the Generals in 1968.
In his detailed history of 1960s garage bands, Teenbeat Mayhem!, author Mike Markesich painstakingly traces the timeline for all recordings produced through Arthur Smith Studios, including both releases by the Generals. In an interview for this article, Markesich notes that all of the discs produced by the studio were made by Kaybank, and all “Kaybank pressings handled accounts in sequential order.” The matrix numbers indicate the first single on General Records (“You Make Me Happy”) was recorded in January of 1966, with the follow-up on Pyramid Records (“Life’s Not Worth It”) recorded in the same studio in September of that same year.
Markesich adds that Amos Heilcher put the pressing account number on the actual record from these custom client accounts and “there is no arguing to the contrary; neither Generals 45 was recorded or released in 1967. Given the absence of paperwork from the era, these pressing plant codes yield a firm time frame, almost down to a couple of weeks (and) within a month.” That substantiates this writer’s memory that the first 45 was offered for sale for $1 at the conclusion of the Danville performance in 1967.
The competition at the Ballou Park Battle of the Bands was stiff, with Ruffin’s VI Pak winning the preliminary round on Friday and the prize of a one-off recording (“Whatzit?” b/w “Boot-Leg” on Hippie Records) at the House of Sound Studios on the Piney Forest Road in Danville.
The Generals captured the top prize and were the last band to take the stage Saturday afternoon. Dressed in matching suits, the band at this point was fronted by vocalist Debra Carol Crowder. Ronnie explains that his sister left the group in the fall of 1966 to be a cheerleader, although Fairy would rejoin the Generals several times over the six years the band was together. Another female vocalist was needed and the band decided on Debra, who was the daughter of band manager Troy Crowder. While she had not been a singer prior to that time, Ronnie says she had talent, “so we put her as the lead girl singer and that seemed to work out for a year or two.”
This writer was present for the Danville Battle of the Bands and crowd response was tremendous, especially when Crowder did her interpretation of the Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” The band finished its set and autographed 8x10s for fans before WYPR emcee Glenn Scott announced that the Generals had won the competition.
Henderson admits he was “surprised because there was some good talent over the weekend.”
He remembers that their first 45 had an initial run of 500 copies, but believes the band ordered another 500 at some point.
The band sold their new single at concerts and to friends, but did little to promote the 45 outside Southside Virginia. Ronnie remembers taking a copy to Hank Hedgecock at WHEE Radio in Martinsville and said the deejay “just loved them” and he “played them quite a bit, actually.”
Ecstatic to have one his songs on the airwaves, Ronnie was deflated when he went back to school and no one said anything about it. He asked a group of friends if they ever listened to radio and one replied: “Yea, we heard it, just don’t let it go to your head.”
The song was also played “quite a bit” on another Martinsville station, WMVA, by DJ Paul Miller, host of the popular “Night Train” program.
Henderson has a slightly different recollection, saying the single “received minimal airplay” in the Martinsville area, but fared better in other regions of Virginia and North Carolina. The band sold “quite a few of them” and Ronnie believes they moved the initial run, although he admits the band never promoted the single “in a big way.”
By this point, the Generals were playing extensively throughout Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and East Tennessee. Ronnie notes the band “was very popular,” playing country clubs and fraternities at UVA, Hampton-Sydney, Duke, Wake Forest, UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Tennessee.
Henderson remembers the band playing “whatever was available” and booking larger clubs in Atlanta, Raleigh, Charlotte, and even traveling as far south as Florida.
Hit Attractions in Charlotte booked the band exclusively and many of their engagements were for fraternity parties along the East Coast.
Weekends meant long road trips and little time for football games and other high school activities. To ease life on the road, the band purchased a huge Cadillac limousine, stowing their gear in a band trailer hauled to their gigs. With its huge fins and “The General Assembly” painted on the doors, the ride was quite a sight to behold. Ronnie recalls that “people always looked,” although most members were asleep on the return trips.
Local engagements included the Martin Riding Stables, where the Generals “played maybe every Wednesday night for a couple of years.” Truxton Fulton (keyboard player with the Stones Unturned of Danville and Sammy Hawks and the Satisfactions of Farmville) recalls hearing the group there, describing it as “a strange venue, like a horse farm, but it was packed.” He says the Generals were “a really good group,” adding: “My whole band was there and they were real nice to let us sit in. I think he (Joe Merriman) had a (Farfisa) Combo-Compact (organ), a step up from what I had.”
Ronnie admits the riding stable was an unlikely night spot but says it “had an upper loft that made a great place for a dance (and) was packed out on many occasions.” He remembers performing the Lovin’ Spoonful’s, “Summer in the City” and “playing Wooly Bully to death” in 1965-66.
As requests for the band increased, Troy Crowder was brought on to manage the group after the Generals had been together for about a year. Ronnie explains that “we just felt we needed a manager, somebody who would go out and kinda talk up the group and help book us some jobs.” Crowder was a friend of Mack Davidson’s father, B.J., and they worked together at Continental Can Company. B.J. recommended Crowder, who was brought on board and immediately began finding work for the band. Ronnie says “we all went out booking jobs one day… and drove toward Danville (and) booked the group into a VFW Post.”
The band was heavily influenced by a South Carolina group, the Villagers. The Villagers were fronted by lead singer Dana Douglas and were regulars on the nationally syndicated television series “The Village Square,” which showcased regional and national talent and ran from 1964-1968. Ashworth says the Generals “basically idolized the group and copied them as much as possible,” and credits the Villagers with contributing to the band’s “style and sound.” The Generals traveled to South Carolina in 1965 and again in 1966 to hear the group perform at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion. Their paths would cross three years later when Ronnie was in college in Georgia.
While their second 45 was pressed on Charlotte’s Pyramid Records, both sides were recorded at Arthur Smith. For their return trip, Henderson says the band again decided to tap the songwriting talents of their lead vocalists. “Life’s Not Worth It” and “For What More Could I Ask” feature guitarist Ronnie Ashworth and his sister, Fairy, on lead vocals, respectively.
While credited to manager Troy Crowder, Ronnie says he wrote both sides. Ashworth said his parents weren’t with him to sign the studio paperwork, which included verification of songwriters. And since he was under 18, authorship was credited to an adult “to avoid copyright infringement issues.”
Henderson believes that soul great Otis Redding was also at Arthur Smith’s that day, which is possible, given the fact that James Brown also used the studio on occasion.
The group financed this release and Henderson says members again made a conscious decision to record original material, pointing out that their band “wrote a lot of the music we did in our live shows (some of which was never recorded) and even the covers that we did took on a personal flavor.”
Ronnie concurs, pointing out that they “had some original songs and that just seemed to be the way to do it.” He notes the Beatles “were big and it was a new sound and everybody was getting on the bandwagon,” adding: “It was easy to write music back in those days, so why do somebody else’s stuff when you can write your own?” According to Henderson, their second 45 fared much better. He says while “Life’s Not Worth It” was the “plug” side, both songs received considerable airplay.
With the music scene changing, the band “tapped into the California/West Coast music scene” and psychedelia.
In 1968, the group landed a regular gig at the Park Mor Restaurant in Martinsville, attracting a loyal following for their Sunday night performances.
The Generals drove to Tennessee (Ronnie believes it was Johnson City) in late 1968 to provide backup for singer B. J. Thomas. The group set up, rehearsed “Hooked on a Feeling,” and went through a sound check before being informed that Thomas had been detained and would not be appearing.
A little known chapter in the Generals history followed in 1969, when Bobby, Fairy and Ronnie moved to Atlanta, where Ronnie attended school. The trio kept the Generals name alive for another year or so, playing jobs booked previously at colleges throughout Virginia and North Carolina.
Dana Douglas (of the Villagers fame) was also living in Atlanta at the time and became the group’s lead singer. His friend, Wes Braxton, was a proficient sax and flute player and also joined the line-up. Blake Coverstone — originally with the Divots of Roanoke — was recruited on drums and the six created what Ashworth describes as an “intense” sound. This was late in the psychedelic era and Ashworth says the revamped Generals leaned heavily to the California sound. Douglas “could dance just like James Brown” and was also an accomplished musician, playing keyboards, guitar and other instruments.
At the time, Ronnie was attending a Bell and Howell electronics school with Coverstone. While the original Generals hadn’t broken up as such, the others “had gone off to college because we had graduated from high school and so everybody was kind of going their separate ways.” The core of the original group remained constant, as Fairy was also living in Atlanta and Henderson and his wife and young family had also relocated there. Ronnie explains that “Bobby knew that Dana Douglas lived there, so we had gone by and seen him” and asked Douglas about fronting the Generals.
Technically, the Generals had not broken up. According to Ronnie, they “still had jobs booked, but really the group wasn’t together in the sense that it had been before… the name was still there; the jobs were still there; and the three of us were still playing together. So we just added a few folks and just kept the name, just reorganized the band.”
The group never entered the studio again, but continued performing through 1969, when the Generals disbanded and Ronnie Ashworth joined another Martinsville band, the Rogues, just as the group was expanding and adding horns.
Ashworth, Mark Anthony, Ron Stone, Jim Stone, Mike Arnold and Art Kramer joined forces with former Soulmasters Doug Hyler and George Parrish as the Rogues evolved into the band Truth, touring extensively and recording one single. The line-up featured four horn players: Hyler and Kramer on sax and Parrish and Ron Stone on trumpet. Arnold was the original drummer, later replaced by Paul Mitchell. Stone was the band’s bassist; Ashworth handled vocals and guitar; and Anthony was Truth’s keyboard player.
In 1971, Truth opened for Blood Sweat and Tears and Bill Withers at the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, N.Y., and also played as the support act for James Brown in Rochester.
After leaving Truth and coming off the road in 1974, Ronnie played guitar in Dallas “Moon” Mullins’ house band at Moon’s Danceland in Madison, N.C. Moon Mullins and his band — the Night Raiders — are best remembered for their 1958 recording on Profile Records, “Bip Bop Boom,” which featured rockabilly vocalist Mickey Hawks. The 45 sold well in the Chicago area, but failed to catch on nationally. Ronnie played in Moon’s band for about three years, ending “probably in late 1977.”
East Winds followed (with Fairy and Dennis) and the band played the Martinsville/Collinsville area in the late seventies, including regular performances at the local Holiday Inn. From a musical standpoint, Ronnie says East Winds “was probably the best (band) I was ever with” featuring “strong three- and four-part harmony, and really good musicianship.” Ronnie and Fairy were the band’s lead vocalists and guitarists (Fairy on acoustic); brother Dennis was the drummer; Jim Stone handled the bass; and Jerry Davis was their keyboard player. The group ran about two years, from mid-1977 until ‘79.
Ronnie Ashworth remains active in the music ministry at his church and still plays with band mates Fairy Ashworth Coleman and Bobby Henderson as Over Easy, a trio that specializes in classic rock by artists like James Taylor, CSN&Y and the Beatles.
After the Generals, Henderson played with various touring bands throughout the Midwest and Southwest. He later returned to Southside Virginia, where he now plays in several groups and operates his own sound production company.
Keyboardist Joe Merriman died recently, but all of the surviving band members remain friends and still see each other on occasion. David Daniel’s whereabouts are unknown.
As for their recordings, Henderson says he has no favorites and “enjoyed doing all of them” and is pleased that the band is still remembered more than 45 years after their last performance.
Looking back on his six years with the Generals, Ronnie says the band had a powerful impact on his life, allowing each member “to stand out in the crowd” and teaching him that he “could accomplish what (he) set out to do.”
Music was something they all took seriously, with endless rehearsals and long road trips that could start early on a Saturday and take 12 to 16 hours to complete, with packing, driving, set-up, performing and then breaking down the gear for the trip home. They had fun along the way but Ronnie admits “you had to love it or you wouldn’t do it.”
While there was anxiety over the war in Vietnam and social conflict in America, he says the band allowed them to all be part of “an exciting musical revolution” the likes of which the world has not seen since the sixties.
The Teen-Beets of Winston-Salem, North Carolina released four fine records, the first three featuring original songs by vocalist and guitarist John McGee along with covers of Barbara Lynn’s “Oh Baby”.Drummer George Samaras sent in these cool photos and clippings and told me about the group:
The band was formed in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the end of 1964. The original line-up consisted of two brothers, John McGee (lead guitar & lead vocals) and Ken McKee (rhythm guitar & lead vocals). The two other band members were Paul Doby (bass guitar) and me – George Samaras (drums).
By the summer of ’65 we had recorded our first record at Arthur Smith’s studio in Charlotte, NC (“I Guess That’s Why You’re Mine” / “Not In Love With Me”) and released it on our own label, Chain Records. It received considerable local air play and reached #20 on one of the local radio stations top 40 list. Around this time we all dyed our hair bright red (as in Teen “Beets”) to attract attention. It worked!
Our second local release (“I Should Wait” / “Oh Baby”) was also recorded at Arthur Smith’s studio and released on Chain Records. Although it received considerable local air play it did not chart.
We stuck with the bright red hair and high energy stage shows achieving local notoriety. We also had a change in the band membership. Paul, our bass player, was replaced by Stan Ratcliffe.
In early ’66 we traveled to Nashville, Tenn. and re-recorded “Not In Love With Me” and “I Should Wait” in Fred Foster’s Sound Studio for Tree Publishing Company. It was released on Dial Records under the name the “Beets” but quickly faded into obscurity.
Soon afterwards, management of the group was taken over by Pete Berry – a local DJ and program director better known as the Flying Dutchman. Under Dutch’s guidance we got rid of the red hair and changed our name to the “Words of Luv” and returned to the studio to record “I’d Have To Be Outta My Mind” / Tomorrow’s A Long Time”.
Dutch was able to get us signed with a booking agency in Washington, D.C. and also with Hickory Records for a four record deal. We went on the road playing up and down the east coast. Hickory Records released “I Have To Be Outta My Mind”. While the record received good reviews in Cashbox and Billboard magazines, it only received limited air play on the national scene.
In order to earn a living, Paramount kept us booked steady in real night clubs (usually a week or two at a time) which gave a break from doing one nighters all the time. Also, we would occasionally back up some of Paramount’s fading stars. We worked with Little Eva a few times, she had a national hit called “The Locomotion” about five years prior to that time. Whenever we were with her we were the Locomotives. Also, with Jimmy Jones a couple of times. Jimmy had two national hits a few years before that – “Handyman” was his first and then “Good Timing”. With Jimmy we were the Handymen.
The promotion picture of the “Words of Luv” has the name of the band misspelled – “Love” instead “Luv”. It was the printer’s mistake and Paramount Artists made them redo the entire order. Mistakes seemed to follow us around. When Hickory Records did the initial pressing of promotion copies for “I’d Have To Be Outta My Mind” they accidently put the plug side star on the flip side and starting sending it out to radio stations before they caught their mistake. Because of this, they had to do another promo pressing and start sending it out again.
We didn’t get all the way up to Montreal. We only toured on the U.S. side of the border and the closest we played to Canada was upstate New York. As I recall, the very first gig booked through Paramount Artists was in Massena, New York (right on the Canadian border). We traveled extensively up and down the eastern seaboard (north and south), but only as far north as New York. I guess “Montreal to Miami” just sounded good to whoever wrote that promo sheet. However, we did go just about everywhere in-between.
We did a few TV shows: Some local shows in North Carolina, a show called ‘Wing Ding” in Washington, D.C. and a syndicated show (taped in Maryland) called the “Kirby Scott Show”. We also played a lot of teenage night clubs, dances and auditorium shows.
We had a fifth band member for a short period of time on the road. His name was Doug Foltz (nick name: Fab). Fab played electric piano and also sang lead.
By the early Fall of 1967 the road was taking its toll and the band broke-up. Although we had recorded a few more songs, due to the band’s break-up, they were never released. They were independently produced by Flying Dutchman Enterprises and I don’t know whether or not they were ever turned over to Hickory Records. I’m sure those master tapes are long gone by now.
“I’d Have To Be Outta My Mind” was re-mastered and put on Garage Beat ’66 Vol. 1 three or four years ago. It was a CD released by Sundazed Records. Our local releases were put on Tobacco a Go Go (Blue Mold Records) several years back.
Even though I later played in a few other road bands, and still occasionally play locally on weekends, my fondest memories will always be of the Teenbeets.
One more thing – I came across an interview that Ken Friedman of Tobacco A Go Go did a little while back. He was relating the story of the Teenbeets as one of his favorite garage band stories. In the interview Ken said he had met one of the former band members back in the 1980’s and that person was now a Moravian minister after finding religion on the battlefield in Viet Nam. Ken misidentified that person as the drummer. In actuality it was Paul (our original bass player).
Some time after the band began performing, Tommy Owens, a studio drummer from Greenville, South Carolina, joined the band.
The group appeared roughly from 1963 thru 1967 in Georgia and South Carolina. The Avalons gained much popularity as the house band at a local teen club called The Chicken Shack located in Seneca, South Carolina. It was not uncommon to pack a thousand fans in on Saturday night where records and pictures were sold.
During the band’s popularity, we opened for several national acts including such names as The Swinging Medallions, Billy Joe Royal, Sam the Sham and the Pharohs, Keith, and The Impressions.
The Avalons recorded in the late sixties and the songs were composed by Collins and Thompson. The recordings were done at Arthur Smith studios in Charlotte, North Carolina and Mark V Studios in Greenville, South Carolina.
The two songs, “Come Back Little Girl” and “Mad Man’s Fate”, received airtime on many southeastern radio stations. “Mad Man’s Fate” got the most air time and was the song that was #1 at WHYZ, a local radio station in Greenville, South Carolina. The record also received recognition in the Billboard Top 100 magazine.
Our manager at the time was Tommy Scott. He is still living and is some character. He has a book out, ‘Snake Oil, Superstars and Tommy Scott”. There is a write-up about our band and a very good picture on page 400. Tommy Scott knew a lot of people at the time and got us in with Arthur Smith.
James Brown “The Godfather of Soul” made a personal visit to Toccoa, where he once lived, to discuss the purchase of one of the songs. There were talks of the Avalons touring with James Brown as his opening act, but this did not materialize.
Q.: Why is the name on the record and photo the Avlons instead of the Avalons? Which name did you go by when you played live?
We went by The Avalons. There was another band out there called The Avalons. At the time of our recording, we may have not been able to spell it A.V.A.L.O.N.S, it might have been a legal thing.
Thank you to Sam Camp for sharing his history of the Avalons and for sending the photos seen here. Be sure to read about Sam’s next band, the Voxmen. Special thanks to Ben and Rich for label scans.
The Voxmen released two 45s on their own VM label. Although most of the band was from the town of Toccoa in northern Georgia, they often performed throughout north Georgia and South Carolina and recorded one of their records in Charlotte, North Carolina.
They recorded their first 45 in Atlanta, produced by Barry Westbrook. “They Say (You’re Gonna Lose That Girl)” is their crudest number, it sounds like many a Texas record to me. “You Tell Me”, written by George Dilworth and Eddy Jordan, is less primitive but holds up equally well, with an excellent solo and scream during the break.
They recorded their second 45, “Time Won’t Change My Mind”, at Arthur Smith’s studio in Charlotte, NC in December of 1967, a three hour’s drive from Toccoa. Their harmonies are smoother, the guitar jangly instead of distorted, and the organ takes a backseat to Sam Camp’s catchy harmonica lines. It’s a radio-friendly 45 that probably didn’t get much exposure, but it holds up very well to repeated listens.
I interviewed drummer, vocalist, and songwriter George Dilworth about his time with the Voxmen:
I connected with music from my earliest recollection of hearing it. Coming from a family of four – two girls and two boys – I was the oldest boy. My sisters had a small record player and I cut my teeth on Buddy Holly, Elvis, Shirelles, Platters, Bo Diddley, early rock and roll. I was always pounding away on something with my hands, which led to bongo drums. My dad died when I was eleven and my mother dated a musician for several years (they almost married). He talked me into buying a used set of drums (Slingerland, green glitter) at a music store in Greenville, SC.
Between the Beatles and Motown, I was in love with music. I played with a small three piece band (guitar, bass, and drums) called the Kapps for a few months. Meanwhile, I was also playing country music (which I dislike for the most part) with my mother’s boyfriend to supplement my income and stay in practice. We played VFW clubs, Moose Lodges, and Armory dances.
I had seen the Voxmen play at a popular hang-out in Seneca (my hometown), known as the Chicken Shack, and was impressed. When the group I first played with (The Kapps – guitar, bass, and drums) broke up, I sat in on a song or two to give drummers a break at the Chicken Shack occasionally, and Eddy and I had spoken a time or two at the shack. He undoubtedly remembered me as a drummer without a band and when they needed a drummer they tracked me down.
It surprised me to get a call from Georgia (if memory serves me correctly, [Voxmen manager] Barry Westbrook called me at home) asking if I was interested in auditioning as a drummer for the Voxmen. It was the summer of my sixteenth year. The original drummer was moving to keyboards. They also had a lead guitar (David Westmoreland), rhythm guitar (Bill Thompson), bass (Eddy Jordan). Bill Harding was the drummer moving to keyboards. I went after the position, never giving the first thought to the distance between Toccoa and Seneca should I become a member of the band. Ultimately, where there was a will, there was a way.
Mutually addicted to the Beatles, Eddy and I became close and began singing together (and later writing). Eddy tought me how to harmonize. That led to my doing more and more vocals. I am lead vocalist on both “You Tell Me” and “They Say You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”.
For the life of me, I do not remember where in Atlanta we went to record our first 45. It was an old chicken house or barn converted into a recording studio. Our manager probably set it up. Bill Harding, whom I haven’t been in contact with since the late 60’s, might recall where it was. I’ve been told he lives in Florida and that Sam has invited him to his 60th birthday jam, so, perhaps he can put you in touch with him. Anyway, it was a crude set-up, but we were excited just to be recording. We were pretty nervous at first, though we “settled in” once we began to play. The 45 sounds pretty much like what you would have heard if you had been there.
It was during this time that I met Sam Camp. He played with one of the best bands around at the time, the Avalons. I was a huge fan of the Avalons. I sat in for their drummer a time or two at the Shack and subsequently got to know some of them as time progressed. Sam was a member of the Voxmen when we recorded our second record, “Good Things” and “Time Won’t Change My Mind.”
[The photo above] was taken at the Chicken Shack sometime in 1967 prior to the Voxmen’s second release, “Time Won’t Change My Mind” and “Good Things.” The girl standing next to me was my date, Kay Chambers. Up front and center is Sam Camp on keyboards with Eddy Jordan to the far right.
The band was enjoying a close-knit period with Roy Thompson on lead guitar (not pictured) and his brother, Bill on rhythm (not pictured). Sam Camp and Roy Thompson came aboard not long after our gig in Greenville with the Dave Clark Five, bringing a much-needed seasoning to the band. We were experiencing a surge of creativity from virtually every musician in the group, culminating in the Voxmen’s last recording (December, 1967).
Our second recording was done, as you know, at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte. Sam loved getting to play the baby Hammond and blew us all away on the harmonica break on “Time Won’t Change My Mind.”
Eddy and I stood side by side to sing “Time Won’t Change My Mind”, with a scream from me and a “hooooo” from Eddy. I was worried about my voice that day since I had a cold (stuffy nose, scratchy throat, etc.), but it didn’t seem to bother me. Eddy and I were grinning from ear to ear or laughing out loud the whole time.
Something most people do not know is that “Time Won’t Change My Mind” was really written by Eddy and me. The original song by Roy and Eddy never quite suited us, but after Eddy and I rewrote it, we never bothered to change the credits. It’s still mine and Eddy’s favorite song by the Voxmen.
We came up with the idea for the guitar and harmonies at the end of “Good Things” the night before going up to record in Charlotte. Hearing it play back the next day in the studio was a trip. We were never quite happy with the horns on “Good Things,” but had a lot of fun doing both songs. I sing lead vocal except on “Good Things”, which is sung by Roy Thompson. Eddy, David Westmoreland, and I sang background harmonies.
About where we played live. I mentioned the Chicken Shack in Seneca. It was owned by a fellow named Charlie B. Stancil (he and a friend went in together to convert an old chicken shed into a place the young people could hear live music and dance, but the friend took his share and pulled out) who later went on to give a few live outdoor concerts on his farm in the country with groups like Edgar Winter and White Trash, Cactus, Fleetwood Mac, Marshall Tucker Band, and REO Speedwagon to name a few. Charlie’s house burned down years ago and when he rebuilt his house, he finished the basement in a smaller replica of the old Chicken Shack. Charlie brought a lot of bands to this area who would never have come otherwise. All of the young people liked Charlie B. when I was coming up.
We played places like the Chicken Shack, youth centers (like the Hut in Toccoa) throughout SC and GA, and, at our peak, opened for the Dave Clark Five at the Greenville Auditorium in Greenville, SC. An article in the Greenville paper made a big deal of our Beatle cover song, “A Day in the Life”. We heard from several sources that we outshone the Dave Clark Five that night. I still have some photographs of the two groups backstage. (Would you believe my future wife was in the audience and managed to get my autograph that night?)
It was during this phase of the band that we discovered a group in California already had legal use of the name Voxmen. We lost Roy Thompson, our lead guitar, so, Eddy and I made a trip to Jacksonville, Florida to try and recruit an old friend of Eddy’s. We brought Karl Hague back to Toccoa with us and formed the group Fredrick Haze. Internal problems (Karl was married and his wife was expecting) broke up a pretty good sound that never saw maturity. I got a job and married Deborah while the band was fizzling and never attempted to re-enter the field of music.
The keyboardist and harmonica player on “Time Won’t Change My Mind,” Sam Camp, has continued to play music over the duration of his life. He is primarily a saxophone player. He threw a big jam at his place ten years ago when he turned fifty. He’s doing it again this October for his sixtieth and it’s going to be the best yet. We’re trying to get all the old band members to attend.
Special thanks to George for taking the time to answer my questions and for sending the photos of the band, and to Sam Camp for the photo of the Frederick Haze poster. Sam tells me the reunion was a great success, with the band playing for over three hours. I hope to add his story on the band, along with some photos in the near future. Check out the Avalons, Sam Camp’s band before joining the Voxmen.
I knew hardly anything about The Scribes until I was put in touch with their lead guitarist Danny Brewer. Danny kindly answered my questions over the phone this last Sunday.
As it turns out, the band was from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Besides Danny, their members were Ray Howison guitar and keyboards, Darryl Whitington bass and Steve White on drums.
Danny and Ray formed the band in 10th grade in high school, initially playing local skating rinks, private parties and a bowling alley. Their main competition was a group called the Open Roads.
The Scribes recorded this 45 at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina, just 25 miles from Rock Hill. The band was about 16 years old at the time. This studio, owned by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, was also the one used by the Paragons on their classic punker “Abba”, not to mention where James Brown recorded “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”.
Lively guitar work and good singing distinguish “Just Last Night”, written by Danny Brewer and Steve White. Danny told me he used a different guitar tuning for this song, tuning the high E string down to a B.
The A-side “Wishes” is more conventional, but enjoyable nonetheless, it was written by Brewer and Howison.
The Okay label was named after the OKay Boys and Mens shop, whose owners helped the band get their record produced. The band pressed up several hundred copies which they sold to friends in high school. The photo was taken with a friend’s car on the campus of Winthrop University.
For decades this record was unknown outside the area, but a number of unplayed copies with the sleeve turned up a few years ago and started trading for a lot of money. I saved myself close to $200 by buying a used copy of the 45 without the sleeve.
After high school the band added horns, becoming the Scribes Revue, specializing in soul music and playing clubs and colleges around the area. Eventually Danny was the only original member left in the group.
After the Scribes Revue, Danny joined Billy Scott and the Georgia Prophets. Danny played guitar on the Three Prophets’ modern soul 45 from 1971, “I Think I Really Love You” on the Together label.
Thanks to Danny Brewer and to Mike Cobb for putting us in touch.
“That’s the Sun” is a fine garage song with a touch of psych. All copies of the record suffer from a warble in the tape created in recording or mastering.
From Spartanburg, South Carolina, the New Generation had Tommy Caldwell on bass and Doug Gray on vocals – these two would soon become part of the Marshall Tucker Band. Other members were Randy Foster on rhythm guitar, Ross Hannah on drums, Dan Powell on organ, and Keith Wood on lead guitar.
Anyone have a photo of the group?
“That’s The Sun” was written by Tommy Caldwell and Randy Foster. The flip side is a conventional pop song called “Because of Love (It’s All Over)”. Released April of 1968 on the Sonic label.
I’ve read they had one other 45, but I think that may be a mistake. They were not the same New Generation with a 45 on Kapp, “If You’re Lookin’ for Love” / “Never Let the Right Hand Know (What the Left Hand’s Doin'”.