Category Archives: Ed Boutwell Studios

The Jerks of Birmingham

The Jerks band from Birmingham: Steve Fletcher, Dennis Wilkey, Larry Gardner, David Duke and Mike Ellis
The Jerks, from left: Steve Fletcher, Dennis Wilkey, Larry Gardner, David Duke and Mike Ellis

Rhythm guitarist David Duke of the Jerks wrote to me about the group and sent in the photos seen here:

The Jerks were a Birmingham, Alabama band formed in the mid 60’s. The band members were:

The Jerks Vaughn-Ltd 45 I'm Leavin' YouLarry Gardner – drums
Mike Ellis – lead guitar & vocals
David Duke – rhythm guitar
Dennis Wilkey – bass guitar
Steve Fletcher – keyboards

The members came from three high schools in the East Birmingham area: Woodlawn – Steve & Larry; Banks – David & Dennis; and Mike from Erwin.

In early 1966 the Jerks recorded a record on the Vaughn-Ltd label at Ed Boutwell’s early recording studio located in a vacated church at 1st Ave North and 35th Street. The main side was “I’m Leavin’ You” with the back side a slower song “Don’t Make Me Sorry” both written by Mike Ellis. “I’m Leavin’ You” was later published in the #5 spot on Psychedelic States – Alabama in the ’60s Vol.1 (Gear Fab) and is still available on CD.

Jerks early photo April 1965
“An early picture taken in my Birmingham garage basement practicing in April 1965. This was before we added the keyboards.” – David Duke

The last addition to the band was Steve Fletcher on keyboards. The band gained popularity playing at Calico Corner, where many top chart artists performed, along with numerous Armories and high school dances throughout central Alabama. The Jerks were also winners of the Phipps Piano Co., VOX Battle of the Bands contest. The Jerks were popularly seen in their black leather outfits influenced by the British groups. The Jerks opened up for The McCoys concert in Birmingham.

Signatures of the McCoys

Jerks-Pizitz-Fashion-ShowThe Jerks gained early popularity in the summer of ‘65 as a big part of the Pizitz Department Store Fashion Shows in downtown Birmingham. The Jerks also performed for a publicity party with Beach Party movie stars Debby Walley and John Ashley at the premiere showing of their new movie.

During this time the band was offered to go on tour throughout the US by Warren “Billy” Wilson, promoter and agent, but declined due to the young age of the members. (Our parents had the upper hand on this decision!)

The band broke up in ’67. Dennis and Mike continued on professionally in the music industry with several other successful bands. We believe Steve continued in his family-owned business. Larry after graduating from Jacksonville State University became a successful business owner of a large nationwide window blind manufacturing and sales company based in the Birmingham area.

David Duke of the Jerks, 2015
David Duke, 2015

David joined the Alabama Air Guard for six years, pursued college and after 45 years as a Sr. Acct Sales Mgr in the industrial gases industry retired in 2015.

Over those years I played with several new bands in the 80’s and 90’s doing a 50’s-60’s-70’s music review. I still keep my collection of guitars close by to play those classic old songs of great days.

David Duke

I asked David some follow-up questions about the group:

Q. How did the band choose The Jerks for a name?

Not absolutely sure, but the song “The Cool Jerk” performed by the Capitals was released about that time along with a dance by that name and I believe that is where we heard it. I’ve been asked many times and that was all I could come up with. But we did find it to be well received and well remembered for many years after, even today.

The Jerks, from left: Steve Fletcher, Dennis Wilkey, David Duke, Larry Gardner and Mike Ellis
The Jerks, from left: Steve Fletcher, Dennis Wilkey, David Duke, Larry Gardner and Mike Ellis

I’m playing a Fender Jaguar that my father brought home and surprised me with. It was a Daphne Blue and never saw another one like it anywhere. I was very popular just from that. I think if I had kept I might have been able to retire earlier. Around the time I either went or came back from boot camp I sold it. Mike Ellis played the Fender Mustang.

Q. Did the single get local radio play?

We did get local radio play. WSGN was the most and several of the DJ really got close to us and helped us a lot.

Q. Was the east Birmingham scene distinct from other parts of town or did bands play all over?

Most all the bands in the Birmingham area played all over including cities outside of Birmingham. Birmingham being a large city was a hub for popular bands. I was very close with many other groups during this time. I was influenced by some friends in elementary school that had a band and my friend played the drums. I would listen to them around ’62 or ’63 playing many of the Ventures guitar songs. That’s when I really decided that was what I wanted to do and play. In later years that group became the Rockin’ Rebellions which became popular throughout the south.

Some of the guys I played with in early years ended up in the Daze of the Week another popular group with records. I was close and went to high school with one from the Distortions, also I was close friends with the Vikings.

I haven’t talked to any of the other Jerks band members in a while. Larry Gardner I talked to about two years ago.

Esquires of BirminghamIt took me a few years, then I got the bug from a friend I grew up with that had his band called the Esquires. We started a band together in the early ’90s and played several gigs but had a hard time keeping or finding good members. I always said I wanted to get with him again and see if we could start another band since we were both getting close to retiring. He died of a heart attack two years ago (Terry Mathews – bottom left). I guess that is why I’m really pushing myself to have some fun while I can.

The Jerks supporting Deborah Walley and John Ashley on tour to promote their new movie Sergeant Deadhead.


Lord Byron and the Poets

Lord Byron & the Poets with Vox equipment, from left: Ed Balog, John Wheatley, Chip Woody, Danny Saxon and Jim Lacefield
Lord Byron & the Poets with Vox equipment, from left: Ed Balog, John Wheatley, Chip Woody, Danny Saxon and Jim Lacefield. Photo courtesy of John Wheatley

Lord Byron & the Poets did not release any records but did record a session at Ed Boutwell Studios like many other Birmingham area bands. Members were:

Chip Woody – lead singer
Ed Balog – lead guitar
Eddie Robinson – rhythm guitar
Jim Lacefield – bass and vocals
Danny Saxon – drums and vocals
John Wheatley III – drums

Drummer John Wheatley sent photos of the band and answered my questions about the band:

We had a great band and were well received wherever we played gigs. Our band was very unique in that we had two drummers. Our singer, Chip Woody, looked a lot like Mick Jagger and was very talented at singing Rolling Stones songs, so we did plenty of them along with the usual list of current favorite rock songs.

Several of the band members were very creative and wrote quite a few songs during my time with them in the 65/66 school year.

Lord Byron & the Poets, Danny Saxon, Jim Lacefield, Chip Woody, Eddie Robinson, John Wheatley, Ed Balog)
Lord Byron & the Poets at Canterbury Methodist Church, 1966, from left: Jim Lacefield, Danny Saxon, Chip Woody, Eddie Robinson, John Wheatley, and Ed Balog

I have a few pictures from a “freebie” we did at Canterbury Methodist Church in Mountain Brook, AL for a benefit event. My family were members at the church for many, many years.

The one other picture I have is a promotional picture made at Phipps Piano Company in Birmingham that is connected with our band’s purchase of a large amount of Vox sound equipment to amplify all of the guitars and all of the singers.

We had a really nice Vox PA system with two “sound columns” and amplifier. The lead guitar player (Ed Balog) played a Gretsch Country Gentleman gold plated guitar through a Vox Royal Guardsman amplifier accompanied by a Vox reverb unit, that actually recorded the initial sound on an audio tape and then replayed it in diminishing volume levels as the tape passed through a successive series of tape heads that progressively erased more and more of the original sound as the tape completed it’s circuit while continuously recording and playing each new audio sound on the same tape … absolutely amazing to watch it operate with the cover off of the tape component area.

The bass player also had a brand new deluxe model of a bass amplifier that had its own hand truck type of chrome rack on wheels and sounded amazing for sure. I’m not sure what amplifier Eddie used, but he probably plugged into Ed’s equipment sometimes and I think he had a classic Fender amp that he used some of the time.

We were “recruited” at one point during that tenure by a man representing himself to be a talent scout from RCA in Nashville and he had us to meet him on a weekend at the new Mountain Brook High School where we set up in a sunken carpeted area and he used an reel to reel tape recorder to tape all of the original songs that our group had to offer at that time. He kept in touch with the Balogs for some while, promising this and that. That’s about all that ever came of it, except that one of our songs came out as a hit record titled “Hey Little Girl” with only very minor changes to our original version and it did quite well on the charts and got loads of airplay. The band members that wrote the song felt ripped off but there was little they could do about it.

Boutwell Studios control room with John Wheatley at right.
Boutwell Studios control room with John Wheatley at right. Photo courtesy of Jim Lacefield
At another point, we did a recording session at Boutwell Studios in Birmingham and recorded several songs, including one entitled “Mister You’re A Better Man Than I” performed by Danny Saxon for our group. During my efforts to re-connect with our original band members recently, I learned that the bass player, Jim Lacefield, still had the original reel to reel tapes from that Boutwell recording session, but had never done anything with them since 1966. One thing led to another and he was kind enough to ship them to me and I am in the process of getting them transferred so that all of our band members can enjoy and share them as they see fit when the project is finished. It will be interesting to hear the music on the tapes and re-experience those magical moments from 50 years ago surrounded by our current families.

We never actually made any records during my tenure with the band and the group essentially dissolved at the end of the school year as all members were heading off to college, etc … similar to the Ramblers and many other groups of that era.

Our lead guitar player, Ed Balog, was only 14 at the time while most of the rest of us were seniors in high school, but Ed was an extremely talented musician who had been playing the guitar daily since age 8 and was a child prodigy for sure. We practiced every day at the Balog house. When I tried to re-connect in recent years I was saddened to learn he had passed away after a legendary career as a musician in the greater Birmingham area.

I finally located the other drummer / singer, Danny Saxon, who lives out west in a beautiful part of the Great Rocky Mountains and is very happy doing wood work along with pursuing his current hobby of singing and playing music on a frequent basis.

Jim Lacefield was our excellent bass player / singer and I reached him in recent times to learn that he had continued his musical endeavors, shifting over to a really interesting and successful string of performances for many years singing and playing acoustic guitar in a variety of venues throughout the southeast. Jim lives near Tuscumbia now.

Eddie Robinson, Johnny Robinson’s younger brother, played rhythm guitar with our group and I understand that he is alive and well in the Birmingham area these days, but I haven’t actually spoken with him since 1966.

Chip Woody (lead singer) and Danny Saxon (drummer / vocals) both went to the University of Montevallo and seem to still be active in music now, although Danny lives out west in the Rocky Mountains and has switched from drums to guitar a long time ago. Chip Woody was last known to be living in Palm Springs, California about 15 years ago.

John Wheatley III with Lord Byron & the Poets
John Wheatley III with Lord Byron & the Poets
Jim Lacefield was very active in music for several years after Lord Byron and the Poets, often working with well known music acts and also doing his own one man shows in small clubs in the southeast. He later got heavy into geology and became a leading professor on the subject and has written several highly acclaimed books on geology in Alabama. He and his wife now own and operate a “preserve” park near Tuscumbia where they conduct tours and he does public speaking on such matters all over the state.
I have continued to be pretty active as a drummer in a variety of bands in the greater Montgomery area since moving here in 1972 and really enjoy pursuing those opportunities now during retirement from my “day job”.
It would be really great to reunite the band, but would be very difficult due to the geographical locations of the surviving members after nearly 50 years of being apart but I would love to see it happen.

John Wheatley, 2015

Jim Lacefield and Ed Balog of Lord Byron and the Poets with Vox amps
Jim Lacefield and Ed Balog showing off their Vox amplifiers, photo courtesy of Jim Lacefield

Jim Lacefield added:

I remembered that gig we played one cold Friday night in January or February of 1966 at the National Guard armory in Decatur. Our gig was cut short by a snowstorm that night, and we had to make the harrowing drive back to Birmingham in the snow. What an adventure!

After the band dis-banded in the summer of 1966 I went on to school at the University that fall. During the time I played bass with the Poets I had started getting interested in playing 12-string guitar and folk rock style music. I was just picking up the 12-string while in the Poets (you might remember I had a blue-green Vox 12-string that Ed used on some songs we played like “Gloria” and “Time Won’t Let Me”). I never got great on the 12-string, but was quite passable, and I enjoyed playing in some small bands at the University. Down there at the time everyone wanted to play “soul music” because that’s where the money was, playing for fraternity and sorority parties. I didn’t care that much for that type music played for drunks, so I shifted over to playing regular 6-string acoustic folk music with a harmonica in a holder (like Dylan and Donovan). During the summer of 1967 I went down to New Orleans and had a chance meeting with some other musicians, poets, and artists who I got in close with. I played some little coffee house style clubs down in the French Quarter that summer and liked the town a lot. New Orleans became my home during the part of the year I wasn’t in Tuscaloosa going to school.

Back in Tuscaloosa I played a little coffee house on campus called the “Down Under” several times, and met my future wife Faye there one night at a folk/blues gig I was playing with a friend. I also played a gig with the great blues man Johnny Shines right as he was making a career comeback playing before young, white audiences.

There was a 60 second or so film of me playing at an anti-war rally in front of a huge crowd at Denny Chimes on the University campus that had originally aired on national TV in October, 1969 on the old Huntley-Brinkley NBC Nightly News program. They were doing a feature on the NBC evening news on how opposition to the war was affecting college campuses, even in the South. The film was taken on October 15th, 1969 and in front of the crowd of students surrounded by FBI agents and policemen. I mention this because a tape of that anti-war mini-concert at Denny Chimes appears on Alabama Public Television whenever they have a show about the 1960s in Alabama.

I got married in the summer of 1970 and did two years of civilian service as a conscientious objector in the waning days of the Viet Nam war. I went on to be a science teacher, and later a college biology and earth science teacher, but never played music professionally after college.

from left: Chip Woody, Ed Balog, and Danny Saxon of Lord Byron and the Poets
from left: Chip Woody, Ed Balog, and Danny Saxon of Lord Byron and the Poets, photo courtesy of Jim Lacefield
I have had almost no contact with any other member of the Poets since 1966. I did run into Ed at a Jimi Hendrix concert at the University in 1969, but got to talk with him just briefly. I saw Danny Saxon once during the mid-1980s and did get to talk to him for a few minutes. I still have some reel-to-reel tapes of our Poets recording sessions, but have never had the right type machine to play them. I remember we did “Route 66” in Stones fashion and “Mister You’re a Better Man Than I” by the Yardbirds (which Danny sang the lead on) during the session.

Faye and I have lived for the past 30 years out in the country near Tuscumbia where we have gathered together some 500 acres of land through the years. We have established a nature preserve that consists of some nice canyon land, waterfalls, boulder fields, etc. that we have open to the public for hiking and recreation. I have no trouble staying busy, even though I have been retired from teaching for several years. Several years ago I wrote a book on the geologic history of Alabama called “Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks; A Guide to the State’s Ancient Life and Landscapes.” The book has done well, and is in its 5th printing. It has been used in geology classes at nine universities, but is getting a little out-of-date. Right now I’m working on the second edition of the book, which I hope will be to print some time in the next year.

Jim Lacefield

Lord Byron & the Poets, Danny Saxon, Jim Lacefield, Chip Woody, Eddie Robinson, John Wheatley, Ed Balog)
Lord Byron & the Poets at Canterbury Methodist Church, from left: Danny Saxon (drums, obscured), Jim Lacefield, Chip Woody, Eddie Robinson, John Wheatley (not in photo: Ed Balog). Photo courtesy of John Wheatley

The Ramblers

The Ramblers of Birmingham, Highland County Club, December 1961. Van Veenschoten, Tommy Terrell and Eddie Terrell; in back Johnny Robinson on drums
Early photo of the Ramblers of Birmingham, Highland County Club, December 1961. Left to right in front: Van Veenschoten, Tommy Terrell and Eddie Terrell; in back Johnny Robinson on drums

Bob Ellis from the Alabama Record Collectors Association sent me this history of the Ramblers of Birmingham, written by Chip Sanders.

Back in 1961, the guitar playing Terrell brothers, Tommy and Eddie along with classmate Chris Covey found a junior high school drummer, Johnny Robinson, to play music. It was decided that the eldest brother, Eddie, would be the bass player, and Tommy would play rhythm guitar. Fellow Ramsey High School classmate, Van Veenschoten joined in to round out the group and play lead guitar. The group named themselves The Ramblers, and began playing for high school functions and fraternities and sororities in the Birmingham area. When Eddie Terrell received a tennis scholarship and headed to The University of Alabama, The Ramblers had no trouble in convincing Chris Convey, with the unusual nickname “The Spook,” to take over on the bass.

By mid-1962, The Ramblers were playing weekends regularly in and around Birmingham and cut their first record, “Stop That Twisting” / “Hundred Miles Away”, at Boutwell Recording Studio in Birmingham. Shortly thereafter, guitar player Van Veenschoten met Chip Sanders, a junior at neighboring Shades Valley High School, who was a piano player. The Ramblers auditioned Chip on a Sunday afternoon at Van’s parents home in Mountain Brook, and the nucleus of the group, that would become synonymous with “party band” was established.

An important early performance by The Ramblers at a state-wide Alabama high school Key Club Convention gave the group name recognition throughout the state, and soon The Ramblers of Birmingham were playing in Alabama cities and towns from Huntsville to Mobile. Practicing in a store room in the back of Johnny Robinson’s garage in Mountain Brook, Alabama, or in the basement of the Sanders’ home in Vestavia, The Ramblers were truly the proverbial garage band.

By fall of 1963, it was time for more of The Ramblers to make a decision, music or college! They decided on both, and as Tommy and Spook headed off to the University of Alabama and Johnny and Chip still in high school, the group began playing college fraternity parties at the University of Alabama.

By 1965-1966, The Ramblers were working regularly, primarily at Fraternity Parties around the southeast. Eddie, Tommy, Spook, and Chip had all become members of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at The University of Alabama, while Van was at Samford University and Johnny at the University of Montevallo. No longer rehearsing on a regular basis, the guys would meet up whenever and wherever the group might be playing.

Ramblers Brooke 45 Stop That Twisting

Ramblers Brooke 45 Hundred Miles Away

Birmingham Ramblers Tommy Tucker 45 Whole Lot of Woman

Birmingham Ramblers Tommy Tucker 45 Come Back, Come BackIn 1967, the group recorded another record at Boutwell Recording Studio, “Come Back, Come Back” / “Whole Lot Of Woman” written by keyboardist, Chip Sanders. The record experienced moderate success in the Alabama area, but college priorities prevented the group from properly promoting the record. Ed Boutwell, Birmingham recording pioneer, continued to use The Ramblers as back up musicians on many recording sessions at his studio.

Throughout this period, local radio station “sock hops” gained popularity amongst the Birmingham teenage population, and The Ramblers worked with local personality Duke Rumore of WYDE radio at Duke’s sock hop at the Ensley National Guard Armory, as well as Dave Roddy, from WSGN Radio at the Aporto Armory, across town. Also during this period the Ramblers were the backup band of choice for singers passing through Birmingham like Bobby Goldsboro or Billy Joe Royal.

As a “special added attraction” The Ramblers added a new set, featuring “Little John,” Chip’s kid brother, 11-year-old John Lee Sanders, who sang and played harmonica. John Lee Sanders, is now a successful song writer, performer and composer in the Bay Area of California. For the last 20 years he has worked with Long John Baldry, Starship, Paul Williams, Linda Arnold, and other popular entertainers.

As 1966-1967 came along, the world was quickly changing and The Rambler’s music began to change as well. Inspired by the psychedelic sounds coming out of the west coast, The Ramblers found a new sound with a young female vocalist, Vicki Hallman. Covers of the Jefferson Airplane, Linda Ronstadt and other female artists were added to their repertoire. After a brief marriage to drummer Johnny Robinson, Vicki continued her career in Nashville as a member of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos group and as a permanent cast member of the long running TV series, Hee-Haw.

With the Viet Nam War continuing to escalate in the late sixties, members of the group began to worry about the draft. This was definitely not the time to quit school and loose a student deferment to become a rock ‘n roll star. At various times during the next few years, Tommy joined George Bush in the Alabama Air National Guard, Chris joined the Coast Guard Reserve, Chip got in the Army National Guard three days before his draft notice, and Johnny became a reluctant member of the Talladega National Guard.

During their respective intermittent absences the group stayed together, with Terrell brother, Eddie, rejoining the group, along with a variety of substitute and fill-in players. As the sixties came to a close, one by one, the group began to graduate from college, get married and begin careers other than music. All the members of the group initially took jobs in Birmingham so that the band was able to stay together, but soon, the pressures of new careers, new wives, and even children began to put a strain on the group. “I don’t remember us ever officially deciding to break up. I just recall playing in a little town somewhere in South Alabama. We all brought our wives. It was a fun weekend. I remember staying in some ‘Bates Motel’ place and we all went swimming in their pool. That’s the last band job I can recall, but there may have been others,” said Sanders.

Johnny Robinson, who had tried to hold things together began touring with a new group, The Homestead Act, and subsequently moved to California to help his new wife start a music career. Chris moved away to seek his fortune, Chip moved near Memphis to start an insurance agency, and Tommy became a bank examiner for the Treasury Department.

The Ramblers were history, or so they thought. They stayed in touch with one another and by 1978 all of the remaining members of the group were thinking the same thing. They wanted to play again.

In 1979, the band regrouped as The Rambler Reunion Band adding Jim Burford on lead guitar to replace Van who died in a motorcycle accident in 1972. Chip moved out of state and was replaced by John Livingston on keyboards. Eddie rejoined the band to replace Chris who resides in Treasure Island, Florida. During the 80’s and 90’s the band continued working around the southeast entertaining at events with their 60’s music. Currently the RRB entertains at wedding receptions, reunion parties, company parties, club dances, and most any event that requires authentic 60’s rock and roll music.

Chip Sanders, 2011

 The Ramblers, left to right: Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Johnny Robinson, Tommy Terrell, Van Veenschoten
The Ramblers, left to right: Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Johnny Robinson, Tommy Terrell, Van Veenschoten

Johnny Robinson answered some follow-up questions I had about the photos and recording sessions.

The picture of the four of us [top of page] was taken at Highland County Club in December 1961. Van played lead guitar, Tommy rhythm guitar, Eddie bass. At this time we had very few vocals. That one mike and the small guitar amp (lower right corner) was our PA system. We bought the vests at Pizitz downtown.

The two professional photos were taken by Ken Ives at his studio in English Village down the street from Boutwell Recording Studio, where we recorded “100 Miles Away”. Chris Convey replaced Eddie on bass when Eddie left for college on a tennis scholarship. We have tons of other pictures through the years.

B.Temple is Brook Temple. He went to Shades Valley High School. We met him through Lee Shook, a mutual friend. Brook wrote “100 Miles away” with words about a girl he dated in Montgomery (100 miles from Birmingham) and asked us to record it. His mother paid for the recording session and the cost of the records. We did not like the words to the song, so we made it an instrumemtal. He also wrote “Stop That Twisting”. The Brook record label is his name. After all his mother paid for everything.

The second record, “Come Back, Come Back” was made in April 1967. The total for the packing slip was $123.10 for 510 records. That made them 24 cents each. The studio time was $300 as I remember. That made the total cost 83 cents each. Of course we did not made the records to make money, we gave most of them away to try and book more jobs. We have other studio recordings and live recordings.

The music scene in Birmingham was very active at this time – 1961 to 1968. The Distortions, Sammy Salvo, Willum Fowler, The Tremolos, Larry Parker, The Nomads, The Strangers, The Reflections, The Brood, and The Gents are just some of the local bands that recorded and released records on labels like Jo-Jo, Vibrato, Vesta, Lemon, Gold Master, Modern Enterprises, Malone, Vaughn-LTD, Malcolm Z. Dirge. There were many more. The ones I listed are part of my 45 collection. Others we were friends with: The Bassmen, Larry and the Loafers, The Kingsmen (not the famous ones), Daze of the Week, and Circus.

Packing list for the Ramblers 45  “Whole Lot Of Woman” / “Come Back, Come Back”
Packing list for the Ramblers 45 “Whole Lot Of Woman” / “Come Back, Come Back”
 The Ramblers, left to right: Johnny Robinson (seated), Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Tommy Terrell and Van Veenschoten
The Ramblers, left to right: Johnny Robinson (seated), Chip Sanders, Chris Convey, Tommy Terrell and Van Veenschoten

The Knights Band – The Original Knights

The Knights Band, from left: Bill Ashton, David Keller, Bick Mitchell, Carson Hood, Dudley Parker (?), and Ray Edwards
The Knights Band, from left: Bill Ashton, David Keller, Bick Mitchell, Carson Hood, Dudley Parker (?), and Ray Edwards

The Knights Band were Ray Edwards (vocals), Dudley Parker (keyboards), Carson Hood (bass), Bill Ashton (sax), Bick Mitchell (drums) and Dave Keller (lead guitar).Vocalist and DJ Ray Edwards sent in the early photo of David Keller’s first band, the Knights and gives some background, below.

The Preachers was David’s third band. In Shades Valley High School in Birmingham in the early 60’s, David played lead guitar for The Knights. I was the singer (little guy on the end) and “booking manager.” Other members were Bill Ashton (sax), Carson Hood (bass), Dudley Parker (keyboards), and Bic Mitchell (drums).

I graduated in 1963 and after a year at UAB in Birmingham headed to Tuscaloosa and a job 5 nights a week as a DJ at WJRD in Tuscaloosa. I was “invited” to drop out of the group. David took over lead vocals and sort of manager. They changed their name to The Original Knights and put out a 45 record to promote the band.

In the late 60’s I ran into David. He had just bought the convertible and told he he was making great money promoting bands. He said he had paid 21 $100 bills for the car. This was in Panama City where he had the club. The next thing I heard was that he was about to be drafted and had headed for Canada.

I have caught up with Bill Ashton, he is in sales and gets to Alabama from time to time. I met Dudley Parker at a wedding I was Djing for. (DJ company is Alabama Entertainment – I talked with Bic who was filling in with a band playing at The Club. Carson died some time after we were in the band.

I have often wondered what happened to David. He was always “Crazy David” even when we had Saturday Morning band practice in his parents garage on Dolly Ridge Road in what became Vestavia Hills.

Ray Edwards

 The Original Knights, from left: Carson Hood, Bill Ashton, Bick Mitchell and Dave Keller
The Original Knights, from left: Carson Hood, Bill Ashton, Bick Mitchell and Dave Keller

Original Knights Knight Enterprises 45 Going FishingWhen Edwards and Parker left, the band became a quartet, now calling themselves the Original Knights. This group released one 45 on their own Knight Enterprise Records recorded at Boutwell Recording Studios in Birmingham. David Keller wrote both songs, “Going Fishing” and “Please Don’t Go”, which has vocals credited to Keller and Carson Hood.According to the sleeve, Keller attended University of Alabama in Birmingham while Hood and Mitchell were students at Walker Jr. College (now Bevill State I believe) in Sumiton, 25 miles to the northwest. Bill Ashton is listed as attending the more distant Auburn University.

For further info on David Keller, check out the page on the Preachers.

Thanks to Ray Edwards for the photo and info about the Knights Band, and also to Jeff Lemlich for the scans and transfers of the 45 as the Original “Knights”.

Original Knights PS back

The Omen & Their Luv

The Omen and Their Luv, 1967: Don McGlamery and Jeff Neighbors, Bill McClain, Bruce Hopper and Tommy Stuart
“We kicked out the horn players and went psychedelic” – The Omen and Their Luv, 1967
Front: Don McGlamery and Jeff Neighbors, back: Bill McClain, Bruce Hopper and Tommy Stuart

Omen and Their Luv released one of the best singles from Alabama during the ’60s. “Maybe Later” sounds fantastic – Tippy Armstrong’s buzzing guitar is all over the song while Tommy Stuart sings his too-cool-for-you lyrics. I especially dig the way he wails the end of each chorus:

Ain’t gonna get me in church
You try all you like, but it ain’t gonna work.
Not gonna go downtown
I’m staying out here where no pictures around

Gotta know you better baby,
And if I like you, well, maybe later!

Won’t thread the needle baby
Don’t wear your shoes and I think you’re crazy
Gonna be a cold day in June
Leave me alone I’m going to finish my tune

Need to know you better baby,
And if I like you, well, maybe later!

Need some time to think about it baby
And if I think real hard, well, maybe later!

Won’t pick flowers in the rain
Leave me alone and I’ll go back where I came,
I see a lot of things I need
And I need your love, but just as long as it’s free

Need some time to think about it baby
And if I think real hard, well, maybe later!

If “Need Some Sunshine” doesn’t catch you at first, wait until 1:22 into the song, when it shifts into a different time signature and, thanks to some eerie backing vocals, a whole other realm.

Bruce Hopper wrote to me about the group, and also sent some unreleased songs, including the fantastic “Another Girl” from the same sessions that produced “Maybe Later”. I’m including an excerpt of the songs here, in the hope that they can receive a proper release at some time in the near future.

I am the founder and former bass player for the Omen and Their Luv. I formed the O-men in 1966 with Fred Deloach. We were originally a 60’s white soul group with horns. The original lineup was myself on bass, Fred Deloach vocals and sax, Mike Hatchett on drums, David Popp on trumpet, Billy McClain on guitar and John Purdue on keyboards.

Omen & Their Luv Daisy 45 Maybe Later
Labels spell Tommy’s name “Tommy Stewart”
We went into the studio in the fall of ’66 and cut a six song demo tape: “Hold on I’m Coming”, “Hungry”, “Steppin’ Stone”, “Wooly Bully” (we were the opening act for Sam the Sham when he played Tuscaloosa), also two originals, “You” and “Hurry on Back” written by me and Fred Deloach. This tape was done at Boutwell’s “church” studio with Ed Boutwell doing the engineering. Boutwell Studios located in Birmingham was the only decent studio in central Alabama that recorded rock’n’roll. This tape I presented to Duane Allman (who liked it) and to Steve Caldwell of the Swinging Medallions / Pieces of Eight, whose dad, Earl Caldwell owned several clubs in Panama City Beach, Fl. This demo landed us a gig in Panama City working for Earl.

The O-men would play a jam session at the Beach Party every day from 2-4. We would then open for the “Pieces of Eight ” at 8pm and do a set. They did a set and we would come back on at 10 for a set. Then we had one hour off to get down beach to the Cork & Bottle Club (later renamed the Red Rooster) for our regular gig of playing from midnight to 5am! This was our work schedule seven days a week for two months straight.

We added Tommy Stuart right before we started this gig. He had just left the Rubber Band after they had a hit with “Let Love Come Between Us” that Johnny Wyker wrote (later with Sail Cat). Tommy played sax, sang and played keyboards. Due to band stress, Fred left the band half way through the summer.

Omen & Their Luv Daisy 45 Need Some SunshineWhen we got back to Tuscaloosa, Mike brought Jimi Hendrix’s first album to practice and that changed everything. We switched from white soul to psychedelic rock. David Popp left on trumpet.

Because of the change to harder rock, we changed the name to The Omen and Their Luv. Hatchet moved to Atlanta and we brought in Jeff Neighbors on drums. We also added Don McGlamery on rhythm guitar and sax. This was the lineup in the pic by the gas pump.

We went into the studio in the fall of 1967 to record four of Tommy’s songs. Again we recorded at Boutwell’s Studio. Tommy Stuart wrote “Maybe Later” and sang lead vocals. We snuck some young girls in to sing backup, but their parents would never let them tour with us.

We brought in Tippy Armstong (later a studio musician in Muscle Shoals) to play lead guitar on all four songs. Since Tippy came to the session, Eddie Hinton (Muscle Shoals session man) showed up to visit and started telling Ed Boutwell how to mix. Boutwell got pissed and told Eddie to mix it. So “Maybe Later” ended up with some top notch studio guys helping us out.

I met David Keller when he was playing with The Preachers in 1967. After the Preachers, David had a booking agency that he ran out of Montevallo where he had attended college. He was wanting to expand into booking and producing and club ownership. He liked our tape and we were the first band he booked onto his Daisy label. “Maybe Later” was the A side and “Need Some Sunshine” was the B side. The record sales had minimal success, but the airplay led to great crowds at gigs promoted by Keller.

“Good Man” which was to be our next single, but it never happened under David Keller. “Another Girl” was to be the “B” side of our next release.

The Omen & Their Luv – Good Man (excerpt)
The Omen & Their Luv – Another Girl (excerpt)

He had a group of bands that included the Omen, The Outer Mongolian Herd and W.C. Doan and Co. that he booked. For a short while he opened a recording studio on 15th St. in Tuscaloosa where some of his bands recorded. He also started a club in Panama City in June of 1968 called the Head Shop. We were the opening act. For two weeks we played as The Omen and Their Luv, then we would play for two weeks as the Preachers doing their hit song “Inspiration”. Fun times.

David countined to book us across the South for at least a year. He also had the Shingaling Club in Selma, AL. We played there every Saturday night for at least six months until one night we let some black musicians sit in with us. The next Saturday we showed up and the Sheriff had put a pad lock on the door with a sign reading “Closed until further notice by order of the Sheriff of Dallas County”. Selma 1968!

 Omen and Their Luv, 1968, from left: Tommy Stuart, Mike Thornton, Jeff Neighbors and Bruce Hopper
Omen and Their Luv, 1968, from left: Tommy Stuart, Mike Thornton, Jeff Neighbors and Bruce Hopper
 The Rubber Band 45 "Your Man Done Gone" from 1970 featuring the last Omen lineup of Tommy Stuart, Mike Thornton, Bruce Hopper and Asa Gaston
The Rubber Band 45 from 1970 featuring the last Omen lineup of Tommy Stuart, Mike Thornton, Bruce Hopper and Asa Gaston

Billy left and was replaced by Mike Thornton from the Shadows. By 1969 we were down to a 4 piece as shown in the other photo. Bill Stewart (Allman Brothers Band) replaced Jeff for about six months and then Asa Gaston (Locust Fork Band) came in on drums.

The four piece of Stuart, Hopper, Thornton, and Gaston went on to re-aquire the name Rubber Band which Stuart owned the copyright on (Tommy later sued and won a copy right infringement case against Bootsy’s Rubberband). We recorded on 1 2 3 Records [“Your Man Done Gone” / “Peeking Through Your Window”] with Tommy playing keyboards, flute, sax and doing the lead vocals. Unfortunately our song had the exact same rhythm and chord changes as “Spirit in the Sky” which was released one week before our song.

We did an east coast tour the summer of 1970. Things were falling apart by that time. Mike Thorton left and was replaced by Tommy Joe White. Asa didn’t want to do the tour because he just got married, so we added a session drummer from Colorado for the tour. I left the group after the tour.

Asa and I later formed another local band with Jim Coleman (check out his website) and Jimmy Butts. We were known as Mr. Wizard and recorded a one hour special for Alabama PBS. More bands in the 70’s. Owned the Chukker in Tuscaloosa in the 80’s and promoted music for years. Now I back up Carroline Shines, the daughter of blues legend Johnny Shines.

Mike Hatchett later went on to play with the Brick Wall out of Atlanta and worked as a roadie for Little Feat and George Jones and many others including Kiss, Ronnie Milsap, Blue Oyster Cult, etc. Billy McClain died of cancer after a succesful photography career. Don McGlamery later moved to Norway and was a succesful street muscian there. [ChasKit: Don passed away in January, 2006].

I have been listening to our body of work with the Omen, Omen & Their Luv and the Rubber Band and am going to talk with Tommy about doing a retrospective CD of all the material from the ’60’s and 1970.

Bruce Hopper

In a comment on the post about the Preachers, Tommy Stuart added:

We’d recorded it on our own but a disc jockey from Northport knew David & that’s how all of that happened. He had a big teen dance place in Panama City in about 1968 & we played there as The Preachers, & also a one nighter or two that way. It was a little weird but we learned their record “Hallowed Ground” & got up there & I sang it like it was mine. Later, I bought Dave’s screaming white Hammond M2 organ he’d used in the Preachers.

Tommy Stuart has a new group called O-Men and Their Luv, with a CD No Twin.

Thank you to Bruce Hopper for sending in the photos and song transfers and for patiently answering my questions.

Omen & Their Luv on the Quad at the University of Alabama: Tommy Stuart, Mike Thornton, Asa Gaston and Bruce Hopper.
On the Quad at the University of Alabama. From left: Tommy Stuart, Mike Thornton, Asa Gaston and Bruce Hopper.

The Torquays

The Torquays, from left: Wendell Colbert, Barry Bicknell, Eugene Hayes, Steve Salord and Dale Aston
The Torquays, from left: Wendell Colbert, Barry Bicknell, Eugene Hayes, Steve Salord and Dale Aston

Torquays ARA 45 You're the One Who Loves MeThe Birmingham, Alabama based Torquays were formed in 1963 by two friends, Dale Aston and Wendell Colbert. Influenced by early rock and roll, Dale taught himself to play the guitar. Wendell also played guitar. They took the band’s name Torquays after a town in England and a song by The Ventures of that name. The initial band had several members, but eventually dwindled down to five, Dale on guitar and lead vocals, Wendell on bass, Barry Bicknell on trumpet, Eugene Hayes on drums and Steve Salord on sax.

The Torquays made two records. The first, “While I’m Away” was written by Aston backed by a great doo wop sounding “Pineapple Moon”. These were recorded in Muscle Shoals at Fame Studios and released on the Holly label. Both sides got significant air play in the Birmingham area. The second record, “You’re The One Who Loves Me” (also written by Aston) was recorded in Memphis. They played steadily all throughout the southeast, but disbanded in 1968. Dale and Steve went on to play with the Distortions, another popular Birmingham band.

The introduction above is from the Alabama Record Collectors Association, who suggested I cover the Torquays and put me in touch with guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter Dale Aston. It’s notable that the Ara 45 was produced by Roland Janes, probably recorded at his Sonic Sound studio where he also produced sides by Travis Wammack. Dale kindly answered my questions about the band:

Dale Aston and Wendell Colbert were 14 years old and their fathers worked at US Steel together in Birmingham. Both were starting to take guitar lessons and began practicing together. After a while they added a drummer (Eddie Rice) and bass player (Gary Quattlebaum). From there the band grew to a six piece dance group playing Motown and other R&B Top Forty hits of the day.

We played the Sock Hop circuit around Alabama which included National Guard Armories and Rec Centers in Birmingham, Sylacauga, Childersburg, Guntersville, Lanett, Huntsville, Montgomery and Columbus, GA. We played the Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, many fraternity and soroities at University of Alabama, Auburn, University of Georgia as well as private parties for large companies and organizations. Around Alabama we were a back up band for acts like Billie Joe Royal; Chuck Berry; Bobby Goldsboro; Freddie Cannon and Travis Wammack.

We were best friends with the Distortions and competed with all of Birminghams’ many local area bands like the Rockin Rebellions, The Counts, The Premiers and others.

Dale Aston wrote and produced the original material (“While I’m Away”; “The One Who Loves Me”) and the songs were recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and at studios in Memphis, TN. We also used Boutwell Studios in Birmingham.

We were introduced to Roland Janes by Travis Wammack. We had been backing Travis a number of times and we became friends. He had a tune or two he had written and wanted us to record so he invited us to Memphis and provided the studio time because we were recording his songs. This was just after the Boxtops hit #1 with “The Letter” and I think Roland and Travis were searching for new talent. They produced the record “You’re the One Who Loves Me” on ARA but I never knew how much distribution it received.

“While I’m Away” received good airplay in the Birmingham area and reach the #1 requested song on a radio station in Jacksonville, Florida. Our other records received some airplay in Birmingham due to our local fan following. In those days bands did not sell records at their live performances but through local record stores like Rumore Records in Birmingham. I guess we were too busy setting up, playing and loading the equipment for the next gig.

Once The Chartbusters came to Birmingham for a concert at WSGN radio for Dave Roddy. Their lead guitar player had to quit the tour unexpedtedly leaving the band without a guitarist for the remainder of the tour. Dave Roddy set up auditions for a few local guitarists for the job. I was offered the position but had to make a career decision since I had been accepted at the University of Alabama for the Fall semester whether to go on the road with The Chartbusters or go to college. I finally decided to go to college and have never regreted it. However, I often wonder what my life would have been like had I chosen to go on tour!

We became burned out after practicing and working together virtually every weekend for four years. Eugene Hayes (drummer) quit music. Barry Bicknell graduated with a degree in music from University of Alabama and became a high school band director. Steve Salord went to the University of North Texas and earned a Masters degree in music theory. Wendell Colbert continued palying with other bands and still palys today. I graduated from the University of Alabama with a BA in Commerce and Business Administration and went into the National Guard. After active duty I formed a small three piece group (The Brood) to play occasionally. I got married and started a career in Consumer Electronics sales and management.

I am still involved in music as a hobby at home and love to record on my PC. I use Sonar software. Here’s a link to some of my recordings.

Dale Aston

Special thanks to the Alabama Record Collectors Association

The Bassmen and the Candy Store Prophets

The Church Keys (Bassmen) playing live in Birmingham 1963

The Bassmen have the very first 45 released on the Vaughn-Ltd label, the excellent original song “I Need You”.

The Bassmen originally formed as the Church Keys in 1962 while in the ninth grade in Birmingham. Original members were Rob Hackney guitar, Chuck Butterworth keyboards, Mike Easter on bass and Tom Allison on drums. Over the next year they added Charlie Feldman as lead singer and Vaughn Rives on rhythm guitar, and Steve Gilmer replaced Butterworth on keyboards.

By 1965 they had changed their name to the Bassmen, and they went into Ed Boutwell’s studio in English Village to record their 45, “I Need You” / “Leigh Anne”. Both are credited to B. Van Santte, perhaps a fictitious name as it doesn’t match any of the band members.

The single garnered the Bassmen appearances at shows produced by local DJs Papa Don Schroeder and Duke Rumore, and the band toured colleges in the area as well.

At the start of college in 1966, singer Charlie Feldman, bassist Mike Easter and drummer Tom Allison found new members Jamie Grant and Tommy Johnson. They renamed the band the Candystore Prophets and released one very fine Beatles-esque 45 on Andy Anderson’s Cougar label of Jackson, Mississippi, “The Time of Day” b/w “You’re a Teaser” (both written by Jamie Grant).

Note, this is not the same Candy Store Prophets led by Boyce and Hart who wrote and recorded the backing tracks for all the early songs of the Monkees.

Source: Info for this story and the photo at top are taken from the Bassmen’s site. Check it to see more photos and updates on the band.

The Distortions

The Distortions: Ned Bibb, Bobby Marlin, Zac Zachery and Robert Alexander
From left: Ned Bibb, Bobby Marlin, Zac Zachery and Robert Alexander
(thanks to Dale Aston for the correction)

Distortions Sea 45 Can You TellFrom the Ensley Highlands section of Birmingham, Robert Alexander (bass), Ned Bibb (vocals and guitar), and Bobby Marlin (drums) started playing in high school in 1962, rehearsing in Robert Alexander’s basement.

In 1965-66 they backed Travis Wammack, then took the name The Distortions from his record “Distortion pt. 1”. They added Zack Zackery on keyboards, and recorded their first three 45s on Sea Records. These included an interesting Ned Bibb original, “Can You Tell”, which was backed by a slow, loopy take on “Hound Dog”; and a raging version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”.

Distortions Malcolm Z. Dirge 45 Thank You JohnThe band added Eddie Rice on guitar in 1966 and switched to the Malcolm Z. Dirge label for their next release, “Thank You John”, which reached the charts on WSGN in town. On the flip they recorded a fine version of the Rascals’ oft-covered “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore”.

When their next 45, “Behind My Wall” was picked up for national distribution by Smash, they had their biggest hit, selling 10-15,000 copies according to their producer Ed Boutwell. Their penultimate 45 was a good Bill Haney original, “I Found a Girl”, with a version of “I Don’t Really Like You”, originally done by Baton-Rouge’s Canebreak Singers on Montel and written by Mike Crespo. It was produced by Haney and Richie Becker and released on Casino, a subsidiary of the Dover Records company of New Orleans.

In ’67 the Distortions added Roy Alexander on saxophone.

Distortions Rally with Torquays, Hard Times, the Vikings, the Rockin' Rebellions, This Side Up at Birmingham City Auditorium

Distortions, Capitol promo shot, 1968: Roy Alexander, Roy Zachary, Bobby Marlin, Steve Salord, Dale Aston and George Landman
Capitol promo shot, 1968, from left: Roy Alexander, Roy Zachary, Bobby Marlin, Steve Salord, Dale Aston and George Landman

Dale Aston of the Torquays sent in the photo above and writes about his time with the band:
Distortions Casino 45 I Found a Girl

I played guitar with the band. Steve Salord and I had just left The Torquays and joined with The Distortions for a brief period. We recorded “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” at Boutwell Studios in Mountain Brook, AL.

As I recall Ed Boutwell had a hand in getting Capital Records to pick up “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”. The other labels were homegrown and produced by the band for local distribution only.

Their last release was a cleaned-up version of the Stone’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, retitled “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”. This was picked up by Capitol but didn’t sell particularly well.

Henry Lavoy took over on drums during the late 1960’s.

The band split up in 1969, but Zack Zachery and Roy Alexander played college and club shows as the Distortions into the ’70s, with Clif Payne on drums and Ed Finn.

Clif Payne sent in the photo of the group from the 1970’s as well as four unreleased songs from 1975 in a polished, commercial sound the band developed later on, something akin to the Average White Band. See Clif’s comment below for more information about that band at this time.

Roy Alexander and Bobby Marlin are now deceased.

Distortions Magna Club Booking photo

45 releases:

Hound Dog / Can You Tell – Sea 100
Take This Ring / You Know I’m On My Way – Sea 101
Smokestack Lightning / Hot Cha – Sea 102
I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore / Thank You John – Malcolm Z. Dirge 45000
Smokestack Lightning / Behind My Wall – Malcolm Z. Dirge 45002
A Love That Loves You / Behind My Wall – Smash S-2068
I Don’t Really Like You / I Found A Girl – Casino 501
Let’s Spend Some Time Together / Gimme Some Lovin’ – Malcolm Z. Dirge 45008 and Capitol 2223

Sources: Reunion of the Sons and Daughters of the Sixties program, May 8th, 1987; Birmingham News. April 30, 1987, Birmingham Weekly, vol. 10.

Thank you to Mike Pair for loaning me the Birmingham News article, “Hair” Rally notice and Reunion program.