The Dirt Merchants

 Dirt Merchants at P.A.L. in south Miami.
Dirt Merchants at P.A.L. in south Miami.

Dirt Merchants in the Miami News, Saturday, May 7th, 1966 - text below
Dirt Merchants in the Miami News, Saturday, May 7th, 1966 – text below
Todd Reece sent in the story and photos of his band the Dirt Merchants, a Miami group that unfortunately never recorded. Todd was lead singer, other members were Danny Gray lead guitar, Lee Barchan rhythm guitar, Terry Goldman bass, and Bill Shimp on drums.

Todd Reece: We were strong at all the local spots from the p.a.l. to frats., etc. We played with, and I knew people from many of the bands you already mention.

Evil got to make their record, sadly because an audience screaming contest at the fair gave them the edge over us. It came down to us and them at the battle of the bands……alas that’s the way it goes!

I went to Coral Park, while most of my competition came from Southwest. I was the lead vocalist, and the youngest in the group. The rest of the guys were at Dade Jr. College. Our manager Bob Hannah was the little round Santa at p.a.l., you see in the pix.

We were the guys doing all the Animals and Stones, as they came out on record.

I left the dirt merchants to start another group, like an ego maniac lead singer would do, that was “̧Chelsea’s Children.” This group shifted to a lot of Love and Byrds. We were the house band at “the Depot” on U.S.1, across from the U of M. We played on the Rick Shaw TV show. I noticed Bill Banye went on to join together with some other folks, after our band Chelsea’s Children split.

My circle the next year included: Wet Paint, the Razors Edge, the Collection, the 7 of Us, nrbq, and Blues Image. After that I moved on. I have done a band a decade since. None with released recordings. I am currently recording a cd in atlanta. It is mostly covers of things from back in the day. I am calling this bunch of musicians “Big Love Day”. The album title at this point is “Covering the World”.

Q. So I take it the band never made it to New York to record, like the article says?

No, I left and started Chelsea’s Children. You of course know what a wild year 1967 was, and I went far into hangin’ with bands and not playin’ for quite a while. Foolish youth!

Miami News article:

So What’s in a Name?

‘S funny how bands get their names. Take the Dirt Merchants –

Half a dozen guys got together with their instruments in the home of a buddy, Bob Hannah, who worked on his car while they played.

Bob’s father arrived in the midst of the sound session and asked “What are you doing?”

“Practicing,” they said, then played a sample of what they could do. At the windup his candid criticism was, “You know, I wouldn’t sell that to a dirt merchant.”

They’ve been the Dirt Merchants ever since: Lee Barchan on rhythm guitar, Terry Goldman, bass guitar, Danny Gray lead guitar, Bill Shimp drums and singer Todd Reece. Bob Hannah is self-appointed manager.

A year has passed since the boys united – four are students at Miami-Dade Junior College, the singer at Miami Coral Park. Their twice-a-week practice sessions at the Youth Center in Kendall have improved their technique so much even Bob’s father likes the band now with its identifying Rollin’ Stones beat, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll.

Palmetto Bandstand’s Howard Show gave the Merchants their first booking. They’ll return in June when the Bandstand will be open Saturday nights for the older crowd, 17 yrs and up.

Since then, the boys have played private parties, college fraternity and sorority parties and open houses, proms, bar mitzvahs and high school hops. In fact they’re so busy now their bookings run two months ahead.

The Dirt Merchants are shaping up for a record they will cut in New York. By going there, spokesman Bill Shimp felt the band’s chances of getting nationwide exposure would be greater. “If we cut it here, it would be like a miracle to get it out of Miami,” he said.

The instrumentalists wear conservative black suits and yellow shirts usually, with ties. “Todd makes up for the rest of us,” explained Bill.

“He wears levis, sometimes sports a purple shirt with ruffled cuffs he had sent in from California, with hip huggers and a big buckle in the front. Crazy, man.”

14 thoughts on “The Dirt Merchants”

  1. Always nice to see some pix from PAL. Cool stuff. Thanks!

    I guess the Southwest High bands got more attention — Montells, Evil, Shaggs, Intruders, Modds, Aboriginal Missionary, etc., but you have to admit, they were some really hot groups!


  2. If I may offer my opinion all these years later, I believe we won the contest for a number of reasons, none of which includes being the best band out of the dozens who competed. In my view, in large part our success is owed to the scaffolding that we “borrowed” from a construction site on the way to the fair. There were two stages, and we had time to erect the scaffolds before we went on, which elevated us way above every other band that had played up until then and the contest went on a few evenings, if I remember correctly. It put our amps above our heads, so in that huge crowded tent, everyone could see us and HEAR us! It was the last night and we were one of if not the last band to go on, the crowd went nuts because up until then, only the front rows could see the bands, and amazingly, they just gave us the contest, immediately after we played (I think?). Like everyone else that played that year, of course we thought we had a chance, but honestly, I contribute it in very large part to that “borrowed” scaffolding.

    John Doyle

    1. I can still see you jumping in the canal after you guys won … we came in second … you guys were the most fun !
      Todd Reece … the dirt merchants

  3. I have a garage band 45 by a group called The Dirt Merchants. Its on the Discovery lable record #8266 A side “I Found Another Girl” B side ” Do What you Wanna Do”. I Found Another Girl is a Little Black Egg sound alike with diffrent lyrics. Both sides are pure 1966 garage. The record does not have a state or town name on it. Its a green lable with no year. Forest Hills Music BMI Phil

  4. Forest Hills Music denotes Nashville, but of course that doesn’t mean anything, since so many bands recorded there (and so many one-shot singles were pressed there). It would be so cool if the Discovery 45 was by the Florida band, but I just don’t think that’s the case. Great record, even though I’ll probably never be lucky enough to own a copy.

  5. I was trying to find info on my father’s old band The Dirt Merchants and stumbled across this page. I have the same 45 green label disc described. That band was out of Mississippi and played shows in MS,LA,AL,TN, and probably AK as well. Dad played lead guitar, a 66 Mosrite ventures model. The credit to ‘R Pettigraw’ is a typo, should have said Pettigrew, our surname. They tied for 1st at a Battle of the Bands in New Orleans and won a trip to Nashville to record that single at a place I think was called Bradley’s Barn.

    1. Rick , I am from Yazoo City. Graduated in 1965. I have a brother 3 years younger who was more of a peer of your father’s band than I , and who remembers them with much enthusiasm. Art Gentry who I mainly remember was the lead singer ( I think ). My brother and I have been unsytematically trying to uncover info on the Dirt Merchants for a couple of years , in the wake of the garage band nostalgia that seems to be in the air.
      You don’t live in Yazoo now do you ? I live in NW Arkansas and my brother ( Ronnie ) lives in Oxford.
      Do you have a copy of the record they made ?
      Any info you care to impart would be appreciated !

      1. Gary…..I stumbled upon a copy of the Mississippi Dirt Merchants Record the other day and would like to get more info myself. Do you know the other members? I have found one Art Gentry in Mississippi; however; he played with and continues to play with a band called the Gents. There is a good piece on him and the Gents online; however; he never mentioned the Dirt Merchants. Is it possible you could be talking about the Gents….or is there another Art Gentry out there somewhere. I live in Oxford part time and will try to chase down Ronnie to see if he has anything he can add. Thanks and good hunting!!!!

      2. Art Gentry- guitar/vocals was in The Weeds , not DM’s, along with his brother Joey Gentry- organ/vocals, Huntley Gooch – bass; Don Kealhoffer – lead guitar; and Stan McClure – drums

  6. I love reading the articles about the band “Dirt Merchants”. My husband Terry Goldman was a part of the band in his youth. He has been trying to contact Bill Shimp and several others members without success.

    1. My husband, Terry Goldman, who played with the Dirt Merchant’s Band from Miami…..passed away this year in February 2015.

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