The Chessmen

The Chessmen, January 1965: Robert Patton, Tommy Carter, Tommy Carrigan and Ron DiIulio
The Chessmen, January 1965, from left: Robert Patton, Tommy Carter, Tommy Carrigan and Ron DiIulio

The Chessmen feature in almost every account of the Dallas music scene in the mid and late ’60s. Famous at the time for their live shows, the Chessmen are remembered now for the members who went on to national fame: Doyle Bramhall played with and wrote songs for Stevie Ray Vaughan; Bill Etheridge played bass with ZZ Top before Dusty Hill; and Jimmie Vaughan was in the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Beyond their legend, the Chessmen’s legacy consists of rare photos of the band and a few 45s. Their second record, “I Need You There” / “Sad”, was their best, recorded before any of the people named above were even in the band. The Chessmen’s story is confusing with many personnel changes, but I’ll try to sort it out as best as I can.

The original Chessmen at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas from left: Robert Patton, Tom Carrigan (drums), Tommy Carter and Ron DiIulio
The original Chessmen at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas
from left: Robert Patton, Tom Carrigan (drums), Tommy Carter and Ron DiIulio

Original lineup:

Robert Patton – guitar and vocals
Ron DiIulio – keyboards
Tommy Carter – bass
Tommy Carrigan – drums

Fine Arts Theatre, Denton (photo taken 1977)
From the University of North Texas library

The Chessmen formed in early 1964 on the campus of North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) in the town of Denton, about 25 miles from Dallas. The original lineup included Robert Patton of the west Texas town of Midland on rhythm guitar and vocals, Tommy Carrigan of Denton on drums, Ron DiIulio on keyboards and Tommy Carter on bass.

Tommy Carter was the only member who stayed with the band until the Chessmen broke up in 1968.

"first Denton public appearance", February 8, 1965
“first Denton public appearance”, February 8, 1965

They started by playing at basketball games and football pre-game rallies. At the start of 1965 they signed a management contract with George Rickrich, owner of the Fine Arts Theatre in Denton. George had them play between movie screenings, hired a photographer to take promotional photos, immediately brought them into a studio for their first record and began booking them for shows outside of Denton.

Denton Record-Chronicle, February 7, 1965, Tommy Gayle is listed as featured singer with the Chessmen
Denton Record-Chronicle, February 7, 1965
Tommy Gayle is listed as featured singer with the Chessmen

Ron Dilulio: “We were billed to play between showings of the movie ‘Get Yourself a College Girl’. Back then, there weren’t pop concerts like today’s concert that we think of. We were one of the first, and there were people that lined up down the street to see us that night.”

The Chessmen, at Louann's, April 1965
At Louann’s, April 1965

This first lineup recorded one unremarkable 45 on Bismark, a cover of the Drifters’ hit “Save The Last Dance For Me” complete with a girl chorus. The flip was a good if mellow atmospheric instrumental “Dreams And Wishes” written by guitarist Robert Patton.

Ron DiIulio recently sent me many photos of this first lineup of the Chessmen.

Ron DiIulio left the Chessmen, but stayed on at college, forming two short-lived bands, first the Rejects and then the New Sound in 1966. Ron later joined both Noel Odom & the Group and the Bad Habits in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana.

May 21 - new guitarist Jimmy Kay introduced, though the photo still shows Ron DiIuliio
May 21 – new guitarist Jimmy Kay introduced, though the photo still shows Ron DiIuliio
July 9 - guitarist Ricky Marshall mentioned
July 9 – guitarist Ricky Marshall mentioned
July 12 - yet another new guitarist for the Chessmen, Richard Dace, left to right: Robert Patton, Tommy Carrigan, Richard Dace and Tommy Carter
July 12 – yet another new guitarist for the Chessmen, Richard Dace
left to right: Robert Patton, Tommy Carrigan, Richard Dace and Tommy Carter

Spinning Wheels Skating Rink, Denton, July 5, 1965
Spinning Wheels Skating Rink, Denton, July 5, 1965
Transitional lineups, May 1965-1966

Robert Patton – guitar and vocals
*Jimmy Kay (aka Jimmy Kay Herbert) – guitar
*Ricky Marshall – guitar
*Richard Dace – guitar
Tommy Carter – bass and vocals
Tom Carrigan – drums

After Ron left the band in April or early May, 1965, the band tried out several guitarists to replace him, including at least three between May and July! The Denton Record-Chronicle lists these guitarists as members: Jimmy Kay (May 21), Ricky Marshall (July 9), and Richard Dace (July 12).

725 North Elm, Denton in 2010 - the former Spinning Wheels Skating Rink?
725 North Elm, Denton in 2010 – the former Spinning Wheels Skating Rink?
According to a comment by Richard Parker, below, Jimmy Kay is Jim Herbert, who was the Chessmen’s guitarist on their second single, “I Need You There” b/w “Sad”. Either Jim Herbert was in the group for a much shorter time than I thought, or Jim rejoined the band after Ricky Marshall and Richard Dace left. Does anyone know Ricky Marshall or Richard Dace?

The band started appearing regularly at all-ages dances and “sock hops” at the Spinning Wheels Skating Rink on N. Elm.

The Chessmen, mid-late 1965. left to right: Robert Patton, Tommy Carter, Tom Carrigan and Jim Herbert
The Chessmen, mid-late 1965
left to right: Robert Patton, Tommy Carter, Tom Carrigan and Jim Herbert
Robert Patton, Tommy Carter and Tom Carrigan
Robert Patton, Tommy Carter and Tom Carrigan

Second lineup:

Robert Patton – guitar and vocals
Jim Herbert – guitar and vocals
Tommy Carter – bass and vocals
Tom Carrigan – drums

Chessmen Bismark 45 I Need You ThereAt some point in 1965, Tom Carrigan met Jim Herbert while playing gigs around the NTSU campus, and invited him to a Chessmen rehearsal at Carrigan’s mother’s house just off campus. Jim Herbert joined the band as lead guitarist, and they recorded their classic second 45, “I Need You There” b/w “Sad”, released in October of ’65, and a third song which was never released “You’re No Good.”

It’s often stated that the ripping guitar on “I Need You There” is by Jimmie Vaughan, but Jim Herbert told me he is actually the lead guitarist on that song.

Chessmen Bismark 45 SadOn the 45, Robert Patton sings the lead vocals. On live gigs, Robert Patton and Jim Herbert split most of the lead vocals, with Tommy Carter occasionally doing one or two songs. All three would sing harmony. The night they were cutting “I Need You There”, Delbert McClinton and the Ron-Dels were in the next studio recording “If You Really Want Me To I’ll Go”.

“I Need You There” was written by Norris Green and Thomas Sims (or Thomas Patrick Sims). Norris Green also wrote another song for the band, “No More”, but I’m not sure of his connection with the group.

“Sad” was written by Robert Patton and Tommy Carter. An acoustic guitar carefully picks the melody. That sound and the use of harmonies for both verse and chorus would be expanded upon in the next single.

The Chessmen, 1966, clockwise from left: Tommy Carter, Johnny Peebles, Robert Patton and Doyle Bramhall (front)
The Chessmen, 1966, clockwise from left: Tommy Carter, Johnny Peebles, Robert Patton and Doyle Bramhall (front)
The Chessmen on Sump'n Else, from left: Tommy Carter, Johnny Peebles, Doyle Bramhall and Robert Patton
The Chessmen on Sump’n Else, from left: Tommy Carter, Johnny Peebles, Doyle Bramhall and Robert Patton

Third lineup:
(Peebles and Bramhall joined separately, so there was probably some overlap with Tom Carrigan or Jim Herbert)

Robert Patton – guitar and vocals
Johnny Peebles – guitar
Tommy Carter – bass and vocals
Doyle Bramhall – drums and vocals

Jim Herbert left the band and became one of the Pit Club’s ‘Pitmen’ along with Bill Heald and Rusty Brutsche, and later joined Galen Jeter’s Brass Blues Band. Johnny Peebles took over on lead guitar. Tommy Carrigan also left around this time, and was replaced by Doyle Bramhall. With this lineup they played the Sump’n Else TV show hosted by Ron Chapman.

Chessmen Bismark 45 No MoreTheir next 45 contained two solid songs. “You’re Gonna Be Lonely” was written by Knox Henderson (who also co-wrote Mouse and the Traps’ “Public Execution” and “Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice” and the Uniques “You Ain’t Tuff”, among other songs) and Larry Mackey. Knox Henderson also did A&R for the session. The Chessmen do a good job on the song, featuring twelve string guitar, group vocals and zooming bass accents by Carter. It’s all over in a minute and a half!

If “I Need You There” was their finest recording, “No More” is probably the next best, and it shares the same writer, Norris Green. Interlocking guitar lines, a mournful harmonica, and melancholy harmonies throughout. The 45 was released in April of ’66.

Denton Record-Chronicle, April 19, 1966
Denton Record-Chronicle, April 19, 1966
Denton Record-Chronicle, April 24, 1966
Denton Record-Chronicle, April 24, 1966

On April 19, 1966, Robert Patton drowned at White Rock Lake in Dallas after falling off a sailboat at 2 A.M. Also on the boat were fellow NTSU students Colin Mustain, Mike McGrew, Phil Teague and John Hargiss.

Although Doyle Brahmall characterized it as “a hazing accident” in a interview many years after the accident, he was not present at the time. John Hargiss wrote to me: “I was with Robert the night of the accident that took his life. There was no hazing. Robert had already been through pledgeship along with me and Mike McGrew. We were fully initiated brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon as were the other two members of our party that night.

“Robert drowned when he fell out of the boat after our boat left a wind puff at 45 degrees. Three of us were all leaning over the elevated side of the boat to right it and thus avoid capsizing (called ‘hiking out’ in sailing terms). Exiting the wind puff at great speed, the boat then smacked down hard in the water. This sudden jar caused Robert to flip head over heels. I know this because he was right beside me and I almost went over too. We made all efforts possible, throwing out life preservers, reversing course, etc. However, we never saw him again.

“Robert was one of our most popular and beloved brothers. He was a young man of great talent with a winning personality. We all knew he was on his way to ‘big things’, making his loss all the greater. Our fraternity was in mourning for a long time after his death. His funeral drew what seemed to be the entire population of Denton, Texas.”

Bismark promotional, circa mid-late '67, From left: Doyle Bramhall, Johnny Peebles, Jimmie Vaughan and Tommy Carter
Bismark promotional, circa mid-late ’67
From left: Doyle Bramhall, Johnny Peebles, Jimmie Vaughan and Tommy Carter

Despite the tragedy, the Chessmen continued, with an announcement of an upcoming show in May appearing in the news as well as return engagements at the Campus Theatre on June 23 and the Spinning Wheels Rink on July 4.

Johnny Peebles soon brought in his friend Jimmie Vaughan of Oak Cliff to play lead guitar. Doyle Bramhall became the primary vocalist as well as drummer.

Fourth lineup:

Jimmie Vaughan – lead guitar
Johnny Peebles – guitar
Tommy Carter – bass and vocals
Doyle Bramhall – drums and vocals

The final Chessmen 45 included a repeat of “No More” from their previous 45, but this time as the A-side, and was released in September of ’66. The flip, “When You Lost Someone You Love”, shows some development in the group’s vocals, but otherwise it’s lightweight. It was likely recorded when Peebles was still in the group. It’s the only Chessmen recording with Jimmie Vaughan, his electric guitar playing the quiet fills in the background.

Final lineup:

Jimmie Vaughan – lead guitar
Bill Etheridge – rhythm guitar, keyboards and vocals
Tommy Carter – bass and vocals
Doyle Bramhall – drums and lead vocals

Johnny Peebles left the band by early ’67 and Bill Etheridge joined on rhythm guitar and keyboards. With this lineup, they opened for the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Dallas in 1968.

Later that year the Chessmen broke up. I have to wonder if any live tapes of the band exist, but if so, none have surfaced in all these years.

A young Jimmie Vaughan
A young Jimmie Vaughan

Jimmie Vaughan, Tommy Carter and Bill Etheridge first formed a more blues-based group called Texas with Sammy Piazza (often incorrectly listed as a member of the Chessmen) on drums and Cecil Cotten of the Briks on vocals. They were initially managed by Jimmy Rabbit who told me he has “small reel to reel with a few songs from that ‘Texas’ session, [including] B.B. King’s ‘Beautician Blues’ sung by Jimmy Vaughan.”

After Cecil left to California, Doyle Brahmall joined as lead vocalist. That group moved to Austin and became Texas Storm with Jimmie’s younger brother Stevie Ray on bass and Bill Campbell on drums.

Mike Leeman of Ft. Worth, TX sent in the following three photos, taken when he and a friend booked the Chessmen for a private party:

The Chessmen played at several parties for us in Ft. Worth, TX during my college days. First heard them at Luann’s in Dallas. These pictures were taken by me with a Kodak Instamatic August 18, 1967 at the Holiday Inn in Ft. Worth, TX @ I-30 and University Drive. Another motel now is at that same location. Tommy Carter on bass, Jimmy Vaughan, lead, Doyle Bramhall, drums and Billy Etheridge, rhythm guitar and keyboards. I also still have a business card, signed contracts (by Tommy Carter) from the Bismark Agency in Denton, TX which handled their bookings and a picture of the marquee in front of the Holiday Inn with “Chessmen” on it. Their booking agent was George Rickrich.

The New Year’s Eve party, Dec. 31, 1967 was quite a “bash”. I remember some of their songs: Train Kept a Rollin, The Nazz Are Blue, Under My Thumb, Purple Haze, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, Sunshine of Your Love, and Gimme Some Lovin.

Chessmen at the Holiday Inn in Ft. Worth, August 1967, Jimmie Vaughan on guitar and Tommy Carter on bass, with Doyle on the drums
Chessmen at the Holiday Inn in Ft. Worth, August 1967, Jimmie Vaughan on guitar and Tommy Carter on bass, with Doyle on the drums
Chessmen at the Holiday Inn in Ft. Worth, August 1967, Jimmie Vaughn and Tommy Carter
Chessmen at the Holiday Inn in Ft. Worth, August 1967, Jimmie Vaughn and Tommy Carter
Chessmen at the Holiday Inn, Fort Worth, August 1967: Doyle Bramhall singing and playing drums and Billy Etheridge on Fender Telecaster
Chessmen at the Holiday Inn, Fort Worth, August 1967: Doyle Bramhall singing and playing drums and Billy Etheridge on Fender Telecaster
In 2009 the Fort Worth Holiday Inn was demolished.
In 2009 the Fort Worth Holiday Inn was demolished.
Ticket to the Chessmen, August 18, 1967
Ticket to the Chessmen, August 18, 1967
Ticket to the Chessmen, at the Red Garter Club, December 31, 1967
Ticket to the Chessmen, at the Red Garter Club, December 31, 1967

Thank you Mike, these are great photos of the band!

Chessmen original 45 releases:

Bismark 1010 Save The Last Dance For Me / Dreams And Wishes
Bismark 1012 I Need You There (Thomas Sims, Norris Green) / Sad (Tom Carter, Robert Patton)
B.R.S. 1014 You’re Gonna Be Lonely / No More (N. Green), A&R by Knox Henderson
Bismark 1015 No More / When You Lost Someone You Love

Sources include an interview with Ron Dilulio in the NT Daily, interview with Doyle Bramhall on Anatomy of a Scream site, and photos from, Andrew Brown, Kirby Warnock and Mike Leeman.

This page has been updated in July 2007, January 2010 and February, 2011.

Update, November 2011: I’m sorry to report Doyle Bramhall passed away Sunday, November 13 at the age of 62. For more info please see

Chessmen hearse stolen (actually the Beefeaters)

Confusing the Beefeaters and the Chessmen
Confusing the Beefeaters and the Chessmen
Same group? Victoria Advocate, March 19, 1965
Same group? Victoria Advocate, March 19, 1965
Chessmen with Just Us Four at the Castle Big Spring Herald, Jan. 6, 1966
with Just Us Four at the Castle Big Spring Herald, Jan. 6, 1966
The Chessmen with a residency in Freeport? At the Rip Tide Inn, Freeport, August, 1965
The Chessmen with a residency in Freeport?
At the Rip Tide Inn, Freeport, August, 1965
"[George Rickrich] added that most college bookers want a group that can play hard rock, meaning more rhythm and blues than the English or 'Beatle' sound." Denton Record-Chronicle, April 18, 1967
“[George Rickrich] added that most college bookers want a group that can play hard rock, meaning more rhythm and blues than the English or ‘Beatle’ sound.”
Denton Record-Chronicle, April 18, 1967

"former members of the Chessmen" at St. Davids<br /> Denton Record-Chronicle, October 15, 1965
“former members of the Chessmen” at St. Davids
Denton Record-Chronicle, October 15, 1965
San Antonio Light, August 18, 1965
San Antonio Light, August 18, 1965

55 thoughts on “The Chessmen”

  1. ‘Sad’ is one of my favourite guitar janglers of all time and has been for over 20 years ever since I first heard it on one of those 80s texas comps.

    Never seen some of those pictures before….thanks

  2. really neat to read this and think back – we had great times playing back then and got to play with all of the “invading english groups” – one correction, i was a keyboard/guitar player in that band – the bass gig was with ZZ – adios and all be well! – bill etheridge/austin texas

  3. charles kitch – is that you?? this is bill etheridge and i’m looking to sell a python !!!!
    if this is you, i hope you’re doing well and email me back – if this isn’t kitch, well, have a good day anyway!
    bill etheridge/austin texas

      1. I grew up with Billy and need his address or phone number please. The night before I went to Vietnam he came to my going away party and brought Don Henley along. Please!!!

  4. fyi – sammy never was in the chessmen – he hooked up later when doyle, jimmie, and i had cranked up a new band called Texas – he played with us at that time and then moved on to calif. – he then worked with Hot Tuna –
    take care

  5. I was stunned to find this page. I lived close to Bill when he still lived in Farmers Branch, Tex. He lived on Valley View, I lived on Primrose lane.

    We never played much music together with the exception of a couple of gigs when he filled in on Keys with us as the Minutemen.

    I went to the service, Bill went to Austin, upon my return from the service, I moved to Hawaii, where I live and still play today.

    You may not remember me Bill, but I remember you and watching you play that Red Tele and then switching to that big piano in your Grandmothers home. Regards Jacob Vinton

  6. Hi !
    I was so happy to look at the pictures, as I met Robert Patton in the spring of 1966. I was going to be attending North Texas in the fall. And of course the tragedy as we attended the funeral. LouAnns was so much fun and again thanks for the memories.
    Best Wishes,

  7. hey jay – sure i remember you and the minutemen- it wasn’t a tele tho, was a 58 red 335-whittle music had the 1st three of ’em to come into dallas and i took the red one – oddly enough, larry morgan(arnold & morgan music,garland) later got it from me for robert patton who was in the chessmen before i was he was the guy who died in the hazing accident mentioned above – boy if i had that red one back!!
    hope you see this as my response has been a bit slow – just had a liver transplant so haven’t been on the computer much –
    am playing again some and got to put down a piano track on doyle’s new cd just out (“Is It News”)right before the xplant – sure is good to hear from you and hope you’re well –
    jay and all you guys out there, check out doyle’s new work – he’s one of the best human beings i know and works his ass off – he deserves all the recognition in the world as far as i’m concerned –
    jay,, hawaii must be tough duty,,, but someone’s gotta do it right?? email me at
    take good care of yourself dude !-
    wild bill/austin texas

  8. Just happened to stumble on to this page. We worked together for a short time a long time ago aroung the time I worked at the Cellar in Fort Worth and Dallas with the Treeks and Bugs Henderson. Hope you are well. Someone else brought up your name a while back. His name is Jay Griffin from the Dallas area. He was trying to tell me the original bassist for The Chessmen was Jimmy Chilton. I knew he was mistaken. Tommy Carter was the one I remember from around the time Jimmy Vaughn joined the group and played at Louann’s a lot. I was the drummer for the Treeks in the Cellar clubs and also lead singer with Bugs for a while. I auditioned for singer with Texas one time, but Doyle was more what they wanted. I hope this reaches you and you can reply. Take care…Ruckles.

  9. Bill……is your wife named Beverly. If so, I remember working with her at Moore Business Forms in Denton. I think she told me you were with the Moving Sidewalks which was ZZ Top with you, Billy Gibbons, and Frank Beard (before ZZ). At least I remember it something like that. I think she said you were building basses at the house around that time. If Beverly is your wife tell her I said hi!

  10. Hi,
    My sister went to school with Johnny Peebles. We are having a big celebration for her this year and it would be great with we could get in touch with Johnny. My sister is Spike (Fuchs) Brown.

  11. I found this site and decided to add a small contribution. I played a short time with Lee and Jamie in a short lived group called Tonic. Playing with both of these guys was a great experience. I later met up with Jamie in 1978 when I brought a band out to LA and he was experiencing his first major hit with Nick Gilder (Hot Child In The City). He came through Tulsa on tour with Gilder and called me. That was the last time I saw him. Haven’t talked to Lee since 69. Hope both are well. I’m a band director these days in Nogales, Arizona. Great memories.

    Randy Cochran

  12. I am also desperately trying to find Johnny Peebles. Did you have any luck with your search. Pease answer back as soon as possible.

    Please phone or email me immediately…
    Phone: 972-298-3434

    Much Thanks 🙂

  13. I knew Billy Etheridge in high school. I played in a band called Hell Fire and Brimstone, and he was with the Chessmen before Texas I basically knew him all my life. One of our great friends Steve Wiggins passed away last August, but in high school is where it all started. I was a sophomore in school playing Jimmy Reed, and Billy and Steve would come over and we would jam in my parents living room. I have a lot of old pictures from those days when Billy and Steve were sophomores at Turner, and Billy was in the school band, and Steve and I were starting Hellfire and Brimstone. I would like to think of where I would have been if I had not been drafted.

    Hey Billy, remember even further back during high school with me, you, and Steve Wiggins. I am still alive and kicking. I would like to see you. At Steve’s in Houston before he passed away that was me in the kitchen.

  14. I always knew I would fall in love with music like my pops did, but I never thought I would get to experience the very begining of his journey. Thank you for allowing me to be reunited with my heritage. This is truly a blessing.

    John Carter,
    Tommy,s youngest son

  15. Billy,
    It has been a long time since whittle Music and the Hullabaloo Club in Dallas. I have quite a few memories, too. We never played together but spent time together and even at Jimmie and Stevie’s place in Oak Cliff. I’m sorry to hear about the surgery. I had heart surgery in ’07. It’s never easy. But then we’re not young anymore. There were so many bands back then. I went to the Texas show in ’68 at Mcfarlin Auditorium. Wasn’t it Leslie West you guys fronted, then or am I confused. I saw you at Hendrix’s show in ’68 also. I saw Jeff Beck at McFarlin but I don’t think you guys were there. I remember once when a ton of us went to the convention center to see The Who. I believe it was Jimmie, you, William Williams, and Jamie Herndon, to name a few. Those were some wild times.
    How’s Austin? If you have the time, go to and see some of the links on the music page, there. My brother keeps up with Doyle and Jr. Write when you can.
    Tom Hunter

  16. My name is Lee Ann and I lived with Jimmy Chilton in 1971 and 1972 and he was the love of my life. I was only 19 at the time and now I am 56. He died from an overdose of Heroin in April of 1972 and after his service and spending a little time with his parents, Bunny and Jesse, I moved from Dallas. I used to have a reel to reel tape of his band “Texas” playing together and I think Janis Joplin was who they were opening for during that time and she might have been on the tape but it was stolen from me and I never really got to listen to it.

    I know very little about his band days except what he told me and I would love to talk to someone that was close to him and could tell me a little bit about him and their band or if you have any information you could share with me I would love to hear about it.

    Thank you so much.

    Lee Ann

  17. Arvel has a website dedicated to The Cellar and the musicians who played there. He has info on Gene & Kenny, but shows you as disappeared.
    There have been several reunions of Cellar musicians, the most recent being the 50th in February in Ft. Worth. Bugs & Linda played. It was a blast.
    I was searching The Treeks when I found this great site. I’m reliving my youth.
    If you are interested in contacting Arvel (providing you even get this), just search Cellar Musicians.

  18. I found this site by chance and loved it.

    Hi Bill,

    I enjoyed looking at these old photos of you and the various groups out of the 60s.

    I grew up on Mark Twain in Farmers Branch and I remember a garage band that played up the hill on a street off Valwood Parkway.
    As I recall they were pretty good and drew quite a croud out on their front lawn during nice summer,spring & fall days throughout the 60s.
    I also remember a pretty good group that played in the fall of 67 at Dewitt Perry middle school and they played alot of Hendrix stuff.
    Looking back, I cannot remember the names of these groups
    Me and the other neiborhood kids used to jamm alot but nothing serious like you guys.
    We had alot of great times during that period.


  19. I just happened upon this, we are huge fans of Doyle Bramhall,I and II. This is the coolest site, all this musical history…just amazing. Some fantastic musicians, wish we oould hear the songs The Chessmen released. We’ve almost worn out Arc Angels and Doyle Sr. Fitzburgh St.

    Beth (Roanoke, VA)

  20. Just came across this website-couldn’t believe it when I saw your posting. I was a friend of Tommy’s back in ’67 and ’68 when we all lived at the Eagles Apts in Dallas. I used to drive the band to shows around Texas, towing a trailer with their equipment behind my white 61 Chevy. We had a blast. I was around when the band broke up, and I’ve often wondered whatever happened to Tommy. Maybe you could get back to me and fill me in. Is he still living? Looking forward to hearing from you. You can email me at Thanks , Randy Stracener

  21. Lawrence,
    This is Connie, Steve’s sister in law. (Christie’s little sister) I hope this makes it to you, as I sure would love to see the old pictures of Steve. I really miss him SO MUCH!
    Take care!

  22. I googled The Chessmen to see what I’d find and enjoyed this stroll down memory lane. I grew up in Sherman, Tx, graduating from HS in 1967. I was in a decent little cover band called The Marquees and it was every band’s dream in that day to play at the famous Louann’s. (Note – years later I became good friends with Larry Lavine, the guy who bought the place from Louann in the mid-60’s). They had a talent night – or what we’d call an open mike show now – every couple of weeks and we called and got on the list to play. We had time for a five song set. The Chessmen seemed to be the house band at the time and I heard of them and heard their music on KLIF. Even then, Jimmy Vaughn was a legend – I think he was about 16 at the time and we were sky high to play that night. We got to play on the Chessmen’s equipment and those Vox Super Beatles were incredible. After we played our set, Jimmy, who had been seated at the edge of the stage watching us, commented – “You guys are good, those Animal songs you did sounded great.”

    It’s been forty-three years since that night and I can still recall how proud we were to hear that remark. To me, that was our Ed Sullivan show.

    A coincidence – after meeting Lavine in the early 1970’s, we started a band booking business together and one of the bands we booked was Crackerjack, who had a skinny young lead guitar player who could make his guitar scream – Stevie Ray. We had some trouble getting them club gigs because he was about 16 at the time and he looked like he was 12. But he could play that axe.

    Good memories all!

    1. Dan Witt, who went on to become a film producer in Hollywood before moving back to his hometown of Sherman, TX, has been gone for a year now, having died in March of 2016, He was a fine gentleman was great company and never lost his love for rock music and good movies. God bless his soul.

  23. I grew up with your dad 1st at Terminal where he had a great train set on the upper floor of the old barracks we all lived in. After our parents moved to Midland Tommy and I were in the Scouts together. On a trip to the Monahans sand hills I was riding with your grandmothers car when she was hit pulling out onto the hiway. I haven’t heard or seen your father for many years now. I would appreciate knowing how he is and how I might get in touch with him. Thanks, Sonny Keel, Bakersfield, CA

  24. Hey Connie, I remember you, and glad that you sent this to me. Let me go through all the pictures and see what I can come up with. Since my Mom and Dad have passed it may be hard. They loved Steve, and had all of the pictures. My sister may have some also so I will see what I can do. Hope you and the family are well. I reaally do miss Steve and Billy. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been drafted. Billy told me recently that at my going away party to Viet Nam that Doyle and Don Henley were there with Steve and myself, way before those guys got their breaks. Send me your address so when I do get the pictures I can send them along. God Bless,

  25. Last night, in Gallatin, TN, I saw a cover band calling themselves ‘The “Original” Chessmen’ featuring a guy named Tommy VanAtta on lead vocals, who claimed to be a ‘founding member’ of The Chessmen. They were awful. Anybody ever heard of these guys? Are they just using the name? Thanks.

  26. Hey Bill, I miss talking to you via e-mail. You changed your address and I can’t keep up with you anymore. I thought we were going to get together for a visit in the near future. I would also like to talk to you about my going away to Viet Nam party with you, me, Don Henley, and whomever was there nack in December 1967. Hope you are well, give me a shot so I know you are still alive and kicking.

  27. Billy, what is up? You were going to start communicating back and forth, and I hope that you are still doing well. Please get back with me, I have a lot to talk about, after all I am not getting any younger. Your long lost High School Friend.

  28. This is crazy I ran accross this page. I still have some of the 45’s my Dad wrote. I was young in the 60’s but I enjoyed his music and couldnt believe there was a page for the Chessmen.

  29. Hello,
    Is this Bill Etheridge from Austin Texas? Did you have surgery on August 10, 2007? If so PLEASE email me. We had your email but I guess we had it written down wrong. If this isn’t the Bill that I think it is PLEASE let me know. Thank you!
    Alicia Garcia

  30. John,

    Tell your Dad hello for me. I just got directed to this site. It brings back many memories of those days. I met Robert Patton in the Fall of 1965. We shared an apartment with Jerry Soloman who was a music major with a focus on trumpet. The next year Robert, Tommy and I moved to The Stella Street Apartments. That Fall, Robert and I pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon. Both Tommy and Robert were very motivated to make the band sucessful. I know that if they had a couple more years of writing, recording and expanding their fan base, The Chessmen would have had a huge impact on the Texas if not national music scene.

  31. Jimmy Kay was Jimmy Herbert, formerly the lead guitarist with The Diminshuns before joining the Chessmen for a brief time. His full name is Jimmy Kay Herbert.

  32. I’m Jon Peebles daughter and came across this site when googling The Chessmen. I noticed under one of your images of the group you ask if anyone has a larger version of the photo. Yes, my dad has originals of this print. He is actually the second person from the left in the picture but the tag line says it’s someone else. Just thought I’d let you know about the correction 🙂

    1. Hi Jodi, I knew your Dad on Franklin Street in Oak Cliff. I just replied to his post on this site from 2013. Would you tell him to check out my note. Thanks, Gerry Irvin, geraldruggedcross@gmail .com

  33. Hey, I know Billy. Text with him just the other day. We used to hang out an ride bikes in the panhandle of Texas. He’s not doing well. But still try’s to Not take shit of NOBODY. E-mail me back. I will say more. If you really knew him, you know you had a friend.You can text me 806-886-2143

      1. I have known Billy all my life. Please tell me the details of his passing and any arrangements that are pending. We used to play in my parents living room before I got drafted and he joined the Chessmen.

  34. Lee Ann is this really you. I’ve thought of you so many times over the years. Please give me a call. 5127539983. Love Lynn

  35. Hello! Does anybody got the lyrics to “when i need you there”? im not a native english speaker, so i cannot quite understand that. I simple love this song, and ill be very gratefull if somebody post the lyrics. Thanx from Brasil!

  36. Hi, I’m Tommy Carter’s youngest son, and I was wondering if anyone knows where I could get my hands on a print of the Bismark photo. I am also looking for vinyls, but I’m not holding my breath.

  37. According to Barbra Logan (Doyle’s wife) some of this info is incorrect, maybe you want to contact her and get the right story.

  38. I played a gig with Billy Etheridge in Plano in January, 2013. It was a thrill to play with him. Does anyone know how I can contact Billy as I forgot to ask him for his contact information and I returned to Kansas City. Thanks, Chris,

    1. There is some confusion on Billy E. I heard he lives in Oklahoma, yet there is a Billy Etheridge that plays solo in Virginia I believe.

  39. I played lead on “I need you there” and wrote “when you lost someone you love” after Robert Patten died.

    1. I’m obsessed with that lead break (“I Need You There”). It stands alone. It’s amazing, so original and intense. I would love to know what records (if any) influenced you to come up with those crazed runs and mind-blowing bends and twists. Great to finally see a photo of the man who came up with such an awesome sound. A sincere fan salutes you.

    2. Jonny, This is Gerry Irvin from Sunset 66. Think Jonny…… I was the DMN paper boy from about 63 to 66. You used to let me come back to the garage to watch your band play ! I think you were getting prepared for KLIF Battle of the Bands at Yellowbelly Dragstrip. Jonny, please reply to me to confirm my memories because I have bragged to friends about what I saw in your garage. My email is

  40. Doyle and Denny Freeman recorded “I Need You There” in 1980 at Pantango Studio in Arlington Texas. During the time Doyle recorded “Birdnest on the Ground” I have a recording of that whole session. Also I have live recordings of The Chessmen live at The Cellar 1969. I wrote and played on “I Know” plus 4 other originals I wrote in that session. That did not make it on that Album.David

  41. Hi , If I repeat something someone else said , I apologize. Try calling The Denton Chamber of Commerce to get info on that roller rink. There’s somebody that has an amazing site on Denton’s past on Pinterest. I forget the name. It’s something generic like “The History of Denton , Texas.”.

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