Inn Crowd Michelle 45 Run Clarence Run

The Inn Crowd

Baton Rouge group the Inn Crowd recorded a few 45s, all produced by Sam Montel (a pseudonym for S.J. Montalbano), and released on his Montel-Michelle and Michelle labels.

Bill Johnson founded the Inn Crowd and recruited Hal Ellis and Cookie Smith from the Emeralds.

Members changed over the years, but they included:

Cookie Smith – lead vocals and organ
Hal Ellis – lead guitar, replaced by Jimmy O’Rourke after the singles
Sammy Rubin – rhythm guitar and shouts on “Run Clarence Run”
Bill Johnson – bass, replaced by Harold Coward after the singles
Jim Ingalls – drums, replaced by Lester Dodge by the time of the singles
Darrel Folse – tambourine
Jerry Ameroso – percussion in the early days

Duke Bardwell of the Greek Fountains occasionally sang with the Inn Crowd.

I haven’t heard their first 45, a cover of the Impressions’ “You Must Believe Me” b/w “Sun Arise”. Anyone have sound clips or scans of that single?

Their second 45, “Baby You’re So Fine” features twelve string guitar work by Hal Ellis, harmonica and reverb on the beat. Hal Ellis is best known as guitarist for John Fred and the Playboys, who he joined in 1968. Bill Johnson & Lester Dodge also ended up in the Playboys after the Inn Crowd.

The song was a cover of “Gee Baby”, a 1960 hit for Joe & Ann on Ace records, written by Joe Joseph and Alvin “Red” Tyler. Promo copies credit Danny Cohen (aka Casey Kelly of the Greek Fountains) for supervision of the session. It’s a fine commercial recording and could have been a hit for the band with a little more luck, but a mislabeled release probably caused confusion and hurt its chances.

Inn Crowd Michelle 45 Run Clarence Run The Michelle label assigned “Baby You’re So Fine” a master number of 74 M/M 68. However, labels were printed with “Baby You’re So Fine” having a master # of 74 M/M 67, which actually belonged to another Inn Crowd song, “Run Clarence Run”.

This mix-up may have been the reason that there is one 45 release that has the label for “Baby You’re So Fine” but the song that plays is actually “Run Clarence Run”. This mixed-up release is backed by a cover of John Mayall’s “Someday After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry)”, a fine blues workout on the guitar, and credited to Cookie & the Inn Crowd. Thus Michelle put out a record with essentially two B-sides on it, which I’m sure did the band no favors.

When Michelle realized their mistake, they must have released the actual “Baby You’re So Fine”, correctly labeled this time, and with a correctly labeled “Run Clarence Run” on the flip (though the master numbers are still wrong on the labels).

“Run Clarence Run turns out to be a faster take on Willie West’s “Willie Knows How” on Rustone:

Their third 45 is “Go Away”, an original by Ellis. The opening features an interesting arrangement of twelve string, bass and rhythm guitar, creating a droning, melancholy sound. The song gets a little monotonous though, with its repetitive lyrics. The band’s name is listed as (Ye Olde) Inn Crowd for this release, and it was backed with “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”, released in 1967.

Stewart Ellis, Hal’s son quoted from Hal’s notes in a comment below:

We were invited by the management of a major local department store, Godchaux’s (later to become Maison Blanche) to be their special guests at a fashion show and autograph party on a Saturday afternoon at the store. We signed and gave out over 100 autographed pictures of the band.

It wasn’t long before our name reached Dallas, Texas where there was a recording act named ‘Jon, Robin, and the Inn Crowd’ that was managed by the powerful team of Hanna-Barbara of cartoon fame. We received a letter indicating that the name “The Inn Crowd” was owned by this Dallas band. In response, we quickly renamed the band to something more British ‘(ye olde) Inn Crowd’. In Louisiana, we still were known as The Inn Crowd.

Sam Rubin wrote to me:

I don’t remember the guy you have listed as percussion at all and I don’t remember Jimmy taking Hal’s place. Jimmy was my roommate for several years. Lester didn’t come into the band until Jim Ingalls left for Viet Nam, long after the recordings. I don’t remember for sure, but I think I was the one who played the harmonica on “Clarence”.  We did those records pretty early in our history, probably in ’66.

I’m not sure we would qualify as a “garage band.” Except for the original recordings, we were just a cover band with some pretty decent talent. Hal was one of the finest guitarist I have ever heard. We worked very hard at out harmonies and musical interpretations of songs. I guess you know we were all inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame a few years ago, 2010 I think.

This group is unrelated to the Shreveport In-Crowd, nor to the band that had an LP titled Live at the Bellemont in the 1970’s.

The Inn Crowd’s complete releases are:

Montel Michelle MX 971- “You Must Believe Me” b/w “Sun Arise” (1966)
Michelle MX-982 – “Run Clarence Run” (mislabeled as “Baby You’re So Fine”) b/w “Someday After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry)” (B-side credited to Cookie & the Inn Crowd)
Michelle MX-982 – “Baby You’re So Fine” b/w “Run Clarence Run”
Montel Michelle MX-986 – “Go Away” b/w “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”  – as (ye olde) Inn Crowd

Does anyone have a photo of the group?

Special thanks to Bossy Boots for the loan of her original copy of “Baby You’re So Fine” and for pointing out the Willie West original.

35 thoughts on “The Inn Crowd”

    1. My Father is Lester Dodge. I might be able to get a hold of the Music hall of fame photo That Billy Johnson gave me when I bumped into him one night. I would love any pictures that you can send

  1. If this is the same band, it is not the original. I don’t recognize any of these people and I was in the original until 67. This looks like 70’s.

  2. Which original member would you like to know about. Jim-drummer, Cookie-vocalist, organ, Hal-lead guitar, Sammy, rythm guitar, Darrel-tambourine,

  3. Hi guys, I’m Hal Ellis’ son and I have some memoirs of his that he jotted down at a point in time. Maybe I can help shed some light on who/what/when as he recalled in his notes… There are some inconsistencies in years between ‘64-’68 in his notes which makes it a little confusing.

    At any rate, here’s what I have: Cookie Smith and Hal were in The Emeralds up ’til ’64 or ‘65 when they got with Bill Johnson (who actually formed The Inn Crowd), Sammy Rubin, and a couple percussionists named Jim Ingalls and Jerry Ameroso. Within a month Jerry moved on to other things and Lester Dodge became the drummer, he doesn’t mention what became of Jim, it’s not impossible that Darrel also did some percussion work in this lineup but it’s not mentioned. Seems like the core at that point were Cookie, Hal, Bill, Lester, and Sammy.

    At a point in time, seems like sometime in late ’66, Sammy went back to Birmingham. That left Cookie, Hal, Bill, and Lester as the core and he mentions that their style at that point shifted from a “British Invasion” type sound to more of a rock/blues sound. He mentions Duke Bardwell (formerly from The Greek Fountains) sitting in on vocals with this lineup periodically. That went on until ’68 or so when Dad joined John Fred and started touring with them. At that point Jimmy O’Rourke took his place in The Inn Crowd.

    Over the next year or so it seems that Bill Johnson replaced Harold Coward in The Playboys and Harold started playing with Jimmy, Lester, Cookie, and Bill Carter as in incarnation of The Inn Crowd that later was the foundation for Cold Gritz… Before it was all said and done Dad, Bill Johnson, and Lester Dodge were playing with The Playboys…

    1. I can’t believe after so many years I’ve stumbled across this web site. I’m Lester’s little brother Wayne. Hal and Billy especially were guys I looked up to as a kid. They practiced at my house. I remember Cookie and Sammy and others but Hal, and Billy I knew best. I found this website because I was looking up a very old song I remembered playing the drums to in a talent contest when I was in the 4th grade! When I found it, I was reminded that Hal actually played guitar for me at my elementary school talent contest. What a guy!!! He came to Melrose Elementary and played with a dumb kid to a 45 record (I won second place). Who else would have done that?

      I remember Billy very well – Willie T. but I never had any idea what role he played in bringing these groups together . The Emeralds and the Inn Crowd,,,,, I remember their trailers parked in my front yard many times. What great times,,, Hal apparently left us shortly after Lester did (Janurary 2000). What a great bunch of guys, great musicians, a significant part of Baton Rouge history. All just trying to find their place. Some of us are still looking. God’s Blessings to all.

  4. Direct quote from Dad’s (Hal Ellis) notes:

    “We were invited by the management of a major local department store, Godchaux’s (later to become Maison Blanche) to be their special guests at a fashion show and autograph party on a Saturday afternoon at the store. We signed and gave out over 100 autographed pictures of the band…”. “It wasn’t long before our name reached Dallas, Texas where there was a recording act named ‘Jon, Robin, and the Inn Crowd’ that was managed by the powerful team of Hanna-Barbara of cartoon fame. We received a letter indicating that the name “The Inn Crowd” was owned by this Dallas band. In response, we quickly renamed the band to something more British ‘(ye olde) Inn Crowd’. In Louisiana, we still were known as The Inn Crowd…”

  5. the album that you show features Greg Black…a vocalist that adopted the name in the 70’s…with Lucas Spinosa, Jimmy Chiek and several other musicians over time…their main gig was the Bellemont Motor Hotel, Plantation Lounge….
    The info above from Hal’s son is accurate…
    before leaving the state, Sammy was also in the Louisiana Band with Joe Miceli (JF Playboys Band), Danny Cohen aka Casey Kelly (Greek Fountains) and John Herring (Lost Generation)…

    back to “Inn Crowd”, Cookie is still around, Billy Johnson is still around, Lester has passed, haven’t heard from Sammy, and of course, Hal …

    to “son”…
    Hal was a roommate and a great guy and friend…he is missed….
    would love to talk…check out, The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame for contact
    check me out with Joanie if you need…

  6. Hi Jerry – I don’t know that we’ve ever met. I am an original member of the Inn Crowd and I am the one who shouted “Run Clarence Run” on the record though I don’t remember why. I still play lead guitar, mostly in church and I have done a lot of guitar work over the years both recording and live. I have been married for 31 years to Donna and we have four children…all grown.

    Feel free to contact me at the email above or by phone 205-572-0490.

    Sammy Rubin

  7. Hi Darrel;
    I have asked about you over the years whenever I met anyone from Bastrop or Monroe. I hope this finds you well.
    Donna and I have been married for 31 years; we have four children (Shannon was from my marraige to Glynn); they are all grown; we have one granddaughter from our son Josh, in Glenwood Springs, CO.

    Well, let me hear from you.


  8. I agree with Darrel; this is not the orginal Inn Crowd. First of all I don’t recognize myself or anyone else in the poster. Secondly, no one ever played a Fender guitar in the Band. Hal played a Mosrite until he switched to a LP and I played a Gretsch. Billy played a Gibson bass (I think!).

    Sammy Rubin

  9. Hi Stewart;
    Most of what you said is accurate although I did not leave the band until 1967 at which time I got involved with Danny and Joe and John and moved to Los Angeles to do a musical. I ended up leaving Danny and the guys and was hired by Bobby “Boris” Pickett (Monster Mash) to put together and manage his rhythm section. I did a lot of studio work and live gigs and started touring with my own band in 1973.

    I was very sorry to hear about your Dad. He and I originally met In EE classes at LSU even before forming the Inn Crowd. He was a very talented man; I always admired him.

    One other thing, the LP your Dad played originally belonged to me. I gave it to him bacause he was so much better than I was. I had hoped that one day I might get it back. What say you?

    Sammy Rubin

  10. Okay Mike – Now you’ve heard from me. I am living with my wife Donna of 31 years. We have four grown children and one granddaughter. I still play guitar quite a bit and I am living in Birmingham. I am an electrical contractor (but a musician at heart)!

    Feel free to contact me: 205-572-0490

    Sammy Rubin

  11. Sammy, It is great to hear from you. Anna and I were married in 1970. We have three children and live in Shreveport. People are always surprised to hear of our band days. To set the record straight, Jim Ingalls was the original drummer and I played tamborine, pulled the trailer and set up the equipment. Jim was sent to Viet Nam and Lester became the drummer at that time. I do believe we had the best stage look of anyone with all of the matching rolled and pleated Kustom amps and speakers.

    We had some great times!! Do you have any pictures? I have one of Jim and I at Mardi Gras and one on stage of us playing at the Animals concert in New Orleans. Wish I had more, like when we played with The Who and Hermans Hermits in Baton Rouge. My cel number is 318/422-2742. By the way, what happened to Hal? Darrel

  12. Sammy:

    Long, long, long time no hear. Danny/Casey was just here in town about 3 months ago playing at Johnny P’s studio downtown along with two other Nashville songwriters who work closely with him. Over the years, since moving to Nashville in the late 70s, he has had 3 #1s done by people such as George Strait (The Cowboy Rides Away), Kenny Rogers/Dottie West (I Feel Sorry for Anyone Who Isn’t ME Tonight), and Tanya Tucker (Soon) and has numerous other songs done by various artists.

    Joe Boy was there that night and in our reminiscing Danny quizzed us as to whether anyone had heard from you … and I, unfortunately had to say ‘not since the late 70s’. Joe Boy’s younger brother, A.J. (also a drummer as I’m sure you remember) died on July 3rd in a nursing home where he had been living for about 2 months as his M.S. (accompanied by rapid-onset dementia) had progressed to the point where he had to have full-time care.

    So much has happened since I last saw you. The son that I had when you lived with us in North Hollywood 1975 just turned 34 two days ago and married for the first time on July 25th.

    Be in touch.


  13. Mike:

    I was in Tiger Stadium last Saturday night and I heard your name, but was too damned far away to see your face to see if it was the Mike Shepherd I know. Sure enough.

    I thought the Tiger Band did a nice Louisiana tribute, but they blatantly IGNORED the biggest hit EVER to come out of Louisiana – #1 in over 60 COUNTRIES round the world … may he R.I.P., John F. Gourrier and his Playboy Band. . . “Judy In Disguise”.

    Be in touch.


  14. To whom it may concern:

    Let Sammy Rubin know that he can find all the people from the 70’s he used to perform with on facebook.
    Pam Newman (known before as Norman), Jerry Houser, Gary & Susan Morgan, Marco Schatzman, etc etc.

    It would be nice to get back in touch with all of the performers from the 70’s.


    Klara Benzicron (maiden Kovacs)

    PS: Check out J-Five on U Tube Music Video Modern Times and Find a Way, that is my son, but he is doing completely different music now. Just for laughs. I also have 3 daughters and one grandson Zion.

  15. Hi,

    I’m the guy in the upper left hand corner Singer, Harp, Guitar, Percussion. Since there were so many bands with the same name including Ramsey Louis and The Inn Crowd who recorded the song with the same name, Harold Mcbribe and A.C. Lewis had the name incorporated in 1970. We played at least 900 live gigs over Louisiana and the east coast-especially the 200 Big Daddy Clubs. I never really heard any of the other bands with that name b/c I was either recording or playing. I heard they were all good bands. I never heard the three 45’s that Hal wrote. I saw Andrew Bernard’s name on the Hall of fame list. Andrew played with us for a while.

    The drummer in the picture is Johnny Spinosa. The organ player in the upper right corner is his brother, Lucas Spinosa. The guitar palyer on the bottom right is Tommy Guidry and we still play together sometimes. The bass player(bottom left)is Jeff Walker. He was soon replaced by Phil Guay.

    Tommy’s wife has 100’s of photos.

  16. Hi

    Backside of album features a live shot of the band along with song list & credits. Since all the crowd noise was filtered out, I like to call it dead at the Bellemont. Let’s see… Lil Help From My Friends (Cocker) Feeling All Right (3-Dog nite) Theme from Love Story Clancy(Butterfly Springfield)

  17. Hi Sammy! I’m Hal’s sister and have great memories of all the Emeralds and Inn Crowd practices and gigs. Hal sold the LP to Jeff Pollard and he then sold it to Tony Haselden. From there, who knows….. I would love to know where it ended up so please share anything you learn and I will do the same. I’m actually trying to track it down.

    I hope life treating you well.

  18. Hey Donna! A little more history, I bought Hal’s blue 57 chevy with the white rolled and pleated interior. He sold it to me when he got his GTO convertible. I played tambourine and took care of and set up the equipment. Practiced at your parents house several times. Darrel

  19. Mr. Rubin, thanks for the clarification… Also, looks like the gentleman who has the LP has chimed in. I’m sure it’s a special item for you.

    I’ve also seen that you guys are gigging again as The Inn Crowd at some of the LMHOF functions. Mr. Guillot reached out to me and he and Mr. Shepherd are catching me up on the current incarnation of the band. I think this is absolutely fantastic and hope that at some point when I’m in town I might have a chance to see you guys play.


  20. Mr. Rubin, I had to go back and reread the whole thread to get some perspective, by LP I thought you meant the record, doh… Aunt Donna is right, Dad traded the Les Paul to Jeff Pollard for some cash and a BC Rich Mockingbird (a decision I remember him saying he regretted later on as he loved that LP). I have the BC Rich, also have the old 6 string Mosrite (intact but but not in playing shape)… He also had a 12 string matching version Mosrite (maybe what’s heard on the record) that ended up getting broken… As part of his memoirs he mentions Mr. Folse in that story, they were playing with The Who and it was ironic that his guitar got broken at that show (probably the show he refers to above)…

  21. stew – a bit off topic, but i apprenticed at deep south under your dad, hal ellis. he was an outstanding engineer, performer, and producer, and i learned an enormous amount from him during long late-night hours at the studio. i was devastated when he left the studio to “get a real job” when his wife became pregnant (with you, i assume). i would love to hear any news about your dad, what he is doing, etc. he may be pleased to know that i am still active in recording though i now specialize in chamber music, and have a small studio here in salem oregon which has released 7 commercial CDs so far. thanks.

  22. I was doing some research on the Herman’s Hermit concert in 1967 at Redemptorist High School Football Stadium (which I attended on the front row) and remembered that the Inn Crowd played that night as well, along with the Blues Magoos and The Who…I glad I stumbled on this blog. Would love to write a story one day….but too, I was at the signing party at Godchaux’s and I still have the 45 of “Baby You’re So Fine/Run Clarence Run” and it’s signed by Hal Ellis. I can visualize it like it was just yesterday. Great Memories!

  23. Stewart, How are you? I hope that I didn’t get blamed for breaking the 12 string, although it was the thing to do! Your dad and I were close friends for quite a while. Like I told Donna, I bought a beautiful 57 chevy from him when he bought his GTO. We went to school together for quite a while. I met a couple from BR this summer that had also gone to the Who concert. She sent me some rather fuzzy pictures of the Inn Crowd on stage. The cover of the stage was 2 x 4’s covered with visqueen. Hardly like todays stages. This was the Who’s first tour in the US and they were with Hermans Hermits. Would love to see the memoirs your dad left concerning the Inn Crowd days.

  24. Great to hear from all of the former members and relatives. To the relatives, I can tell you that the band influenced many of us and left us with great memories. To the members of the band, thank you. I often think about those days. I, too, was at nearly every concert from 1965 until the end. Redemptorist High School, Thunderbird Beach every week and the big one in New Orleans. That was big time. The Animals, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Herman’s Hermits, Bobby Goldsboro and others. I still think the local bands were just as good as the headliners. What great days. Our kids and grandkids will never understand those days, even though I have tried to explain it to them. In some ways, it seems like so long ago. In others, it seems like yesterday. Thanks for all the good times and the memories.

  25. I have been working with Les Wallace (of “Potliquor” 1969-1973). He tells me he played guitar with “The Inn Crowd” after it had become “Cookie and The Inn Crowd” before he was with Potliquor. I don’t see him mentioned in the comments etc. anywhere. Does anyone recall Les? Thanks Nelson

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