Jack Bedient & the Chessmen, Executive PS "I Could Never Lose My Love for You"

Jack Bedient and the Chessmen

Jack Bedient was born in Mason City, Washington, by the Coulee Dam. Kevin Woods tells me “Jack was voice trained and was a member of an acappella quartet at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.”

In 1961 he had a small hit with a pop ballad “The Mystic One” on the Los Angeles label Era, while he was living in Wenatchee, WA.

By 1964 he and his band, the Chessmen had a series of standing engagements in the Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada region, and they lived in Carson City, Nevada for some of that time. Long-time members were Jack Bedient vocalist and rhythm guitar, Kevin Woods lead guitar, Bill Britt on 6-string bass, and drummer Jewell Hendricks. Jewell would leave the group in the later half of 1965.

Jack Bedient and the Chessmen’s live show catered to the pop sound of the times, featuring covers of current hits, lounge songs and comedy bits, and the band wore tuxedos for some upscale engagements. They released twelve 45s and five LPs during the ’60s, much of which is a reflection of their lounge act or too pop for my taste. Within all this product are some very fine cuts.

That year they cut their second 45, “Pretty One” / “Silver Haired Daddy” for the Trophy label, along with an LP, Two Sides of Jack Bedient, which I haven’t heard.

In 1965 the band recorded five songs at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. The first single, “See the Little Girl”, is a British-influenced number. Interestingly Fantasy released it twice with the same catalog number, once as by ‘Jack Bedient and the Chessmen’ backed with “Here I Am” and once as simply ‘The Chessmen’ backed with “Looking for a Good Love”.

Kevin Woods wrote to me that this 45 was “intended to be released under the name ‘Jack Bedient and the Chessmen,’ [but] the first copies were printed as ‘The Chessmen.’ A corrected label soon followed. When the performing name was corrected, the B- side song title was also corrected. ‘Here I Am’ and ‘Looking for a Good Love’ are the same song. The correct title is ‘Here I Am’ written by Glen Campbell and Marc Douglas. The lyrics are, ‘If you’re looking for a good love, here I am….’ Easy to see where the confusion exists.”

Their next Fantasy single is the fantastic hard-edged rocker “Double Whammy”, backed by “I Want You to Know” (the Fats Domino song, “Don’t you Know”). The guitar riff for “Double Whammy” comes from Dorsey Burnette’s “Bertha Lou” as done by Johnny Faire on the Surf label. “Double Whammy” reached #19 on KCBN 1230 AM Reno in early July, 1965.

Seeking to update their sound they hired Walter Hanna as keyboardist in time to record their Fantasy LP, Live at Harvey’s. I’ve only heard parts of the album, but there are good takes on “Louie Louie”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (aka the Searchers “Ain’t That Just Like Me”), “See the Little Girl” and “Double Whammy”, though for this last one I prefer the single version.

October 1965 saw the band’s next 45, “Drummer Boy (Play Us a Song)” / “Dream Boy (Count Your Dreams)” on Tutti Camarata’s Palomar label, then being distributed by London Records. Walt Hanna co-wrote “Drummer Boy” with Jack and Bill.

In 1966 they cut their great single, “Glimmer Sunshine” for the obscure Rev Records label. It’s not like anything else the band ever recorded and is now their most sought-after release.

Their 1967 album, Where Did She Go? seems to have been drawn from various recording sessions and shows both sides of the band with one side each of schmaltzy pop and tougher rock material. From the first side I’ve included “Candy Roses and Love” as maybe the best example of the group’s commercial pop. The second side is quite solid, with highlights being “Glimmer Sunshine” (the same version as on the 45) and “I Used to Feel Bad”. The opening guitar on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is so crude it’s practically hardcore, and “Repunzel” and “Love Work Shop” are also good.

A later LP has typical covers of the day, but a version of “Purple Haze” is supposed to be good. Other members of the Chessmen include Steve Eggleston, and drummer Jerry Bledsoe. Drummer Sam Wisner worked with Jack after the group disbanded in August, 1970. In 1972 bookings became scarce and the band broke up for good. Jack Bedient passed away in 1998.

Walter wrote about his time with the band:

I was the 1st and I think only organist for Jack Bedient and the Chessmen, added just before their first venture into the world of Nevada casino lounge and then headliner room bookings. They had some earlier 45’s out and one album when I joined. I recorded on the later 45’s and wrote a couple of songs that went on ‘B’ sides. We also had an album recorded “Live At Harvey’s” casino at Lake Tahoe. This was in their new “go-go” room, all dance stuff, done by a on-site Sunset Sound recording crew from Los Angeles, released with Fantasy Records pre-Creedence, not to mention Sunset Sound pre-Electra records in Hollywood.

I was “discovered” by the Chessmen playing in a pizza parlor in Redwood City, California on their night off – they had a gig down the road at a classy night club. I played organ and an early Wurlitzer electric piano with friends from 1st year of college. We were the house band for a couple of pitchers of free beer and pizzas plus $15 per man a night playing surf music and whatever else was on the Top-40 radio, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Ray Charles etc. This was around “spring break” 64-65 when I dropped out of Belmont Community College and split from friends and pizza gig to grab a lucrative job offer and regular gigs with Jack and the Chessmen, $300 a week to start – big money in those days and the end of my former every-day life.

As it turned out, this was the beginning of Jack Bedient and The Chessmen’s first real big-money success, mainly in Nevada, changing gradually from a dance-club band into more of a ‘Vegas show group’ act. As I joined and went to Nevada with them, ‘instant local stardom’ continued for nearly two years.

[Manager] Bob Dee had the Chessmen lined up with good Nevada bookings: the Golden Hotel in Reno, the Silver Nugget nearby in Carson City, and Harvey’s Hotel and Casino just up the hill at Lake Tahoe. We soon were headlining at the Golden Hotel (later to become Harrah’s Club. We started getting airplay on recently recorded 45’s and over about a year had 4 # 1 Top-40 hits. The line at the casino hotel was so long to get in for our shows, the tail of the line was near the start, going around the whole city block. It really was a mind-blower for hicks like us.

In between some Nevada bookings we went to Sacramento to play a couple of weeks at one of the popular local nightclubs, following Question Mark and the Mysterians, with one of our 45’s at # 16 on [Sacramento] radio… [but] the Chessmen’s popularity was not able to break out of the local area.

The drug scene in Nevada consisted of the casino pit bosses making easily available a steady supply of Dexamil Spansules, a great, ‘tiny-time-pill’ combination of the ‘upper’ Dexadrine and ‘downer’ Miltown (Mother’s Little Helper) which kept you wide awake without being ‘wired’ for 12-24 hours. If you weren’t near a ‘cool’ casino, the constant stream of truckers through everywhere always had something ‘speedy’ on hand. A user could stay up for days, gambling, drinking, making out, etc.

Time passed quickly and popularity faded. Following a dreary dinner plus music/entertainment booking at a dead Bakersfield eatery, Bob Dee actually booked us into the Playboy Club (the “Tiger-A-Go-Go” disco?) at the S.F. airport. Part of the show was Jack Bedient backed by the house orchestra – his dream come true.

Jack, with Bob Dee’s urging, was trying to ‘secretly’ slip away and become a single big-name artist, like Roy Orbison, Jimmy Rogers, Andy Williams, etc. Jack’s attitude towards ‘his’ musicians reflected this – we got ‘no respect’, especially drummer Jewell and I, and later Jewell’s replacement. The Chessmen were cut to a trio of Jack with Bill and Kevin – drummer and keyboard as sidemen with a cut in pay!

So, Jewell, the original drummer was relegated to sideman status with a cut in pay, and so was I, just before we did the Live At Harvey’s album. Jewel quit soon after, moved to L.A. Jewell was replaced by Art – can’t recall the last name – and I stayed as a sideman for a while, needing the money, which was still pretty good, and enjoying the life-style. It’s an old story in music ‘show-biz’ – one person in a successful group is willing to dump the others, despite their hard work on the way up. That’s a different situation than being in a dead-end band moving from one subsistence gig to another. And, it’s a different situation from a long-term success combination deciding to call it quits and go their own ways – some then on to personal star status. Jack had the voice, absolutely beautiful – but, lacking strong musicianship, he needed musicians with him that knew his weaknesses and could compensate.

I headed for Los Angeles into a long career of fun garage and original bands, a few ‘almost-made-it’ big rock ‘n’ roll bands, and many better-to-forget traveling club bands, always with Hollywood as home base. Reliable gossip I heard years later said Jack was working as a solo act with his guitar at Harold’s club in Reno hotel in one of their in-house bars.

Jack Bedient and the Chessmen releases:

This is the most complete list of releases for the group out there, and corrects several errors from other sources. Any additional info would be appreciated, especially on his “Executive Productions” releases.

45s

The Mystic One / Question – Era 3050, July 1961
Pretty One / Silver Haired Daddy – Trophy 1001, 1964
See the Little Girl / Here I Am – Fantasy 595, 1965
See the Little Girl / Looking for a Good Love – Fantasy 595, 1965 (released as by “The Chessmen”)
Double Whammy / I Want You To Know – Fantasy 598, 1965
Drummer Boy (Play Us a Song) / Dream Boy (Count Your Dreams) – Palomar 2212, October 1965
Glimmer Sunshine / Where Did She Go – Rev 104/5, 1966
Love Workshop / I Could Have Loved You So Well – Columbia 4-44302 1967
Pretty One / See That Girl – Columbia 4-44481, 1968
The Pleasure of You / It’s Over – Columbia 4-44565, 1968
My Prayer / Independence Day – Columbia 4-44671, 1968
I’ve Been Loving You / I Could Never Lose My Love for You – Executive Productions 21, 1969, with picture sleeve
Beautiful (Takes a Trip) / Release Me – Executive Productions 21

LPs

Two Sides of Jack Bedient – Trophy 101, 1964
Live at Harvey’s – Fantasy 3365, 1965
Where Did She Go – Satori 1001, 1967
Songs You Requested – Chessmen no #, 196?
In Concert (Harolds) – Chessmen no #, 1969
Jack Bedient – Executive Productions, 196? (rumored, but apparently this does NOT exist – if so please send confirmation)

Thank you to Jeffrey Lee for the scan and transfer of “I’ve Been Loving You” and to Fred Hoyt for the scan of the Executive 45 sleeve. Special thanks to Kevin Wood for his help in correcting some of the information in this article.

Sources for this article include: Inland Empire Rock: The Sound of Eastern Washington, and The PNW Bands site.
Jack Bedient & the Chessmen, Executive PS "I Could Never Lose My Love for You"

50 thoughts on “Jack Bedient and the Chessmen”

  1. Thanks for posting the various songs. The Dylan cover is way cool. Absolutely fantastic. I just thought I’d mention that Jack Bedient was being groomed for a more commercial market, and made some excellent singles for Columbia arranged by David Gates. These songs show him to be a cross between Roy Orbison and P.J. Proby, but fall out of the range most visitors to your site might consider worthwhile. I have several of his albums, and they are hard to sit through, but after hearing the Dylan cut, I’m gonna re-explore them.

  2. The cover of Subterranean Homesick Blues came about as a spur of the moment whim in the recording studio. I don’t remember who suggested it but I believe it was one of the producers. I’m sure it was meant to be filler material, if used at all, and I don’t think we took it too seriously. I was a bit surprised because I was rarely asked to attempt a solo vocal as a recorded track. I was a guitar player and backup vocalist at best. Jack’s great voice was the primary focus of most of our recordings and Bill having a pleasant voice was more of a mellow rock/pop singer. For the most part I was considered an off key, raspy screamer. Our version of SHB was originally intended for use during our dance sets at clubs where we alternated shows and dance breaks. Fuzz was big at the time and “pretty” wasn’t selling, so I just laid into it.

    Jerry Fuller of Columbia Records saw the potential of a hit using Jack’s voice in an orchestral setting the same as he saw in Ray Peterson and Gary Puckett. Columbia released four singles under the name Jack Bedient and the Chessmen which had some but marginal success.

    Prior to Columbia but post-Fantasy, “Drummer Boy” was produced by Tutti Camarata, released on Palomar and was an excellent recording with poignant lyrics. I still think DB was one of our best. It was co-written by Walter Hannah.

    Kevin Woods

    1. Hello Kevin blast from the past remember Reno 1968 we were seeing each other my name Patty it’s been a long time I still live in Reno where r u know r u on face book I am under Patricia Keldsen look me up sometime

    2. Hi Kevin! It’s Navelle, Jack’s eldest daughter. I used to love working on the weekends @ Chessman’s Abbey. During the day was for teenagers, no alcohol & I think one of the first of its kind of clubs? I notice when they mention his songs that two of my favorites aren’t mentioned or I’ve over looked them? QUESTIONS and FLOWER & SHOWERS also IT’S OVER? BEAUTIFUL TAKES A TRIP WAS PLAYED IN A BIKER MOVIE, lol. God Bless, love Navelle

  3. Great to see the info on Jack Bedient and the Chessmen…I have the “Where Did She Go” and “Live at Harvey’s” LPs and have enjoyed them for many years, having picked them up at local thrift stores here in Sacramento California. The albums feature a great mix of Roy Orbisonesque ballads, garage, and lounge type stuff. The live LP is pretty raw and features some great covers.

  4. lOST MY VINYL COPY AS WELL. MY PRAYER WAS THE “BEST” VERSION I HAVE EVER HEARD BY JACK. WISH I COULD FIND A COPY OF THE ALBUM.HAD GREAT TIMES AT HAROLDS CLUB SEVENTH FLOOR FUN ROOM WHERE THEY PLAYED.LITTLE KEVIN WAS A HOOT.JACKS VOICE WAS INCREDIBLE.NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY HE DIDN’T GO FURTHER IN THE RECORDING BUSINESS.

  5. When I was stationed at Hickam AFB in N.A.P.O.G. this was my favorite band. They would play at the Airman’s club from time to time and also at out New Years Eve party. At one time I had the vinyl album but years ago I guess my mom threw it out. It was great to hear those tracks again. I wish they had Jack singing his signature song “My prayer” Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

    Bob

    1. The Airman’s Club was one of my favorite places. Seemed to have the greatest group of people. I was invited into many a home for dinner and drinks. Good memories. Kv

  6. Kevin is my cousin (son of my mom’s sister)and we had J.B. and the chessment 45s in our house.. or at least one of them. There was a song about red riding hood… I played that song over and over! I can still hear it in my head all these years later, although the lyrics are a bit fragmented in my memory. (didnt you guys sing “its over” as well, was that the flip side?)

  7. Hi, I was hoping Kevin could add some info about the time they had the nightclub in Carson City.

    Also “hi” to Kevin as we were in an English class together at UNR in 1973 and it is the subject of a memoir story I am writing for a class today.

    1. Hello Sandy. I realize this post is a bit on the back sick of the response curve but I’ll give it a try and hope you get it. I’m searching my data bank and having a hard time coming up with the details but then I never was of
      sound mind so no surprise. Here’s my email, contact if you can. kevinwoods@wizwire.com

  8. I would like to know the name of the man who played the organ – solo – at the entrance to Harrah’s in Reno, in the summer of 1963. It was the first jazz organ music I had heard, and has never left my memory. I am very appreciative of that musician.

  9. Kevin,

    I don’t know if you remember me, I was very little at the time, but I was wondering if you remembered my dad, Ernie doing photography for the band, when you were in Reno, NV?

    I know Jack passed in 1998, but I was wondering if you stayed in contact with Bill or any of the other Chessmen?
    Hope all is well with you,

    Dennis

    1. I do remember your dad. I keep in contact with Bill Britt and see him about once a year and laugh and joke about the “almost made it” times. Kv

      1. That’s great to hear, that you & Brett are still in touch.
        As for the band “almost making it”…
        As a kid I thought you guys had made it, & thought the band was great.

        & now decades later, I can see my younger self was correct in his analysis.

        Dennis

  10. Thanks for the gracious credit…it’s my pleasure to add to your informative site.
    I’d also like to say thanks for providing the background on such a great, but sadly obscure artist.
    Through you and your efforts, Jack Bedient is no longer a footnote in American popular music.
    Keep up the good work !

  11. It is nice to hear that people still remember the group. And I grew up listening to Red riding hood. And all the other songs. Kevin was a nice man, Is he still alive? I am amazed at the sites on Jack Bedient and the Chessmen. Thank you Cindy Bedient, Jack Bedients Daughter.

    1. Hi Cindy,
      Judy and I were neighbors to Jack in Sparks Nevada many years ago. We went to Harold’s Club every chance we got and really enjoyed his music. We both thought Jack was a great guy and so enjoyed his music. I have looked on the internet high and low for “Pretty One” and have never been able to find it so it was disappointing. The only version I did find was recorded by Roy Orbison. I pray Jack is alive and well and wish you and your family the very best. God bless.

      Rick Bertwell

      1. Hello Cindy. I do remember you well as a little girl running around the house. If I remember correctly of your sister siblings Navelle, Sally, Kathy and Vanessa, you were the bashful one! I could be wrong but probably not. 🙂 Here’s my email. Would be nice to hear from you. kevinwoods@wizwire.com

        1. Holy Cow…. Kevin, I have no idea if this will get back to you but I am going to stir up some old dust bunnies…Way back, before dirt was invented, you might remember a band by the name of Edell and the Thunderbirds. We were out of Portland, Oregon. Edell, “God rest his soul” had one of the best drummers I’ve ever had the privileged of listening to. Opps… that was me…Believe it or not at the age of 78 I am still playing a bit. I finally quit steady gigs about a year ago here in the dives of “Vegas. I hope this finds you in good health and enjoying life. Sincerely, Dick Burns tobsm2@gmail.com

      2. Sorry this has taken so long to reply. I cannot believe I have none of his albums. I think I have Pretty One on a CD which does not sound as good as the original. But i f you would like a copy. Thank you, God Bless

        Cindy Bedient

    2. Hello Cindy. I do remember you well as a little girl running around the house. If I remember correctly of your sister siblings Navelle, Sally, Kathy and Vanessa, you were the bashful one! I could be wrong but probably not. Here’s my email. Would be nice to hear from you. kevinwoods@wizwire.com

    3. hi cindy my is rich bedient i used to visit a aunt and uncle named don and phyllis in marysville washington that asked if id ever head ther son jack sing well no i rember saying late 70 s he was not no my playlist well i wish well possible cousin

      1. Sorry this has taken so long to reply. I cannot believe I have none of his albums. I think I have Pretty One on a CD which does not sound as good as the original. But i f you would like a copy. Thank you, God Bless

        Cindy Bedient

  12. Cindy I grew up with your dad staying in our house when he played the Seattle A Go Go and other places in the area. You mom and Mine are cousins. My mom often wondered what happened to all you girls.
    My parents are Bob and Nancy Kelly, I remember coming ot stay with you when we we kids.

  13. Hello,
    I am a record collector and I recently found a copy of the ‘Where Did She Go?’ LP! It’s a great record and, even better, it is signed by Jack Bedient, Dennis Hayes, Kevin Woods, Bill Britt, and another- Billy Hart.
    I don’t see Billy Hart’s name in anything I’ve seen online about Jack and the Chessmen. I think it’s Hart. The last name is hard to make out on that particular signature. I’m just wondering who this is and how long was he in the band? The autographs are all addressed to someone named Flo.

    1. Can’t tell you about Flo but I can tell you about Billy Hart. Must have been late 1966 or early 1967 when organist Walt Hannah and drummer Art Murphy left the group. Dennis Hayes was the new organist and Bill Hart the new drummer. Bill was a jazz pianst as well as a jazz drummer and not to be confused with “The” Billy Hart of jimmie Smith and Wes Montgomery fame. Bill left shortly after joining since his real musical love was jazz and he didn’t feel comfortable trying to be a stage show drummer playing pop music. Can’t say that I blame him. He was a talented guy and wanted to follow his own heart. (No pun!) Hope that clears it up. Kv

    2. At that time it would have been either drummer Bill Vitt (name so close to Bill Britt) or his replacement, drummer Irl Orr.

    1. Yooo Luigi: Been reviewing times, dates, places in my mind and can’t pin it down. It does seem reasonable that the pressing was early 1970. I don’t think that Jerry Bledsoe, the young lad at the bottom of the cover photos joined until very late 1969 or more likely very early 1970. It’s clear he is playing on the cuts so we didn’t record it before he joined. We formally ceased being JBC in August 1970 in Las Vegas. Kv

  14. REGARDING: “Billy Hart”…

    His real name and the one he performed as was Bill Vitt. I spoke with him about a year ago. Among things that Vitt did after his short stint with JB&TC was playing drums with The Sons Of Champlin and recording an album with Jerry Garcia called Garcia, Saunders, Kahn, and Vitt Live at The Keystone.

    Here is a link to an album he wrote and produced in 2008. Nice stuff. http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/billvitt

    1. Yooo Dennis: Thanks for the correction. I think I got myself turned around over the first name of “Bill” and just assumed BV’s last name to be Hart. Now we’re left with the question, who is Bill Hart?
      Did Irl Orr decide to change his stage name at one time? Seems there is some recollection of this back in the dusty recesses of my mind. Perhaps Irl is the mysterious “Bill Hart.” Or, it could have been some drunken fool who just signed it for whatever reason.
      Drop me a line when you can.

      Kevin Woods
      kevinwoods@wizwire.com

  15. I am Bill Britt’s younger brother Larry,and after reading all that is written about Jack Bedient and the Chessman. I just want to say, all the band members of course were good guys/musicians, But Jack, Kevin, Bill, had that “thing” yu see in really great bands.And all 3 were just really down to earth good guys. For my part,Jack Bedient&the Chessman, gave Wenatchee a band we could call “OUR” band. I just found this site GARAGE HANGOVER,and got to say it’s one of the best .

    1. The Starlight Room (SR) on Willow Pass Rd in Concord, California… Yes. I have a ton of memories about playing there when I was the organist with Jack Bedient and the Chessmen.

      First thing I remember was that the SR had been an old Safeway store at the end of the long strip mall.

      Second thing was that the stage was up and over the bar. It was so high and the organ was place at the back of the stage, I remember I either thought about doing it or I actually did it… That is I realized that no-one in the audience could see me sitting behind the big old Hammond B3 other than my head and maybe arms sometime so… I did one set in my underwear.

      Third thing i remember was the club had a great “bouncer” we was a little person. He was tough as nails but it seemed nobody ever gave him any trouble because we was a sweetheart, too.

      more later…

      1. Dennis, I don’t know of you remember me but I was a fan at the Starlight cub in Concard Ca also I used to dance for you guys on stage and my roommate and I used to have you guys at our apartment or go out to breakfast after. Our group would go to your shows when you were in the Bay area

  16. I remember Jack Bedient and The Chessmen playing at the Club Esquire in Eureka, CA in the mid sixties, I think. I just put in Jack’s name and was so surprised to see all that came up. My husband and I saw the Chessman in a lounge show in Reno in the late sixties (I think). Sorry to hear Jack passed in 1998. He couldn’t have been really old. How old was he? What happened? So many really good bands never really made the BIG time. I remember the Ron Dons playing in Eureka. They were really good and never really made it big. Ron and Don both have passed.

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