The Nite Walkers cut two 45s at Russell Recording, a studio located (according to the liner notes to Teenage Shutdown vol. 6) above an air conditioning store in Downey, CA. Mop Top Mike tells me the studio basically disappeared when the owner skipped out without paying back rent.
All four songs they released are originals. Their first 45 has a cool guitar instrumental on the A-side, “Florence Ave”. The group yells an intro “Let’s meet at Al’s on Florence Avenue!”. It was backed with a dirge-like ballad “My Girl” (not the Miracles song by a long shot).
The second 45 has “High Class”, the singer alternates between a menacing spoken mumble and an intense shouting, sometimes within the same line of verse. The band creates a gloomy background through a droning riff and rolling drums for most of the song’s three minutes. The backing vocals are straight out of “Gloria” but the verse seems to have some awareness of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, with the line “you’re gonna wake up one morning, you’re gonna start to cry, you’re gonna wonder why”.
The flip “You’ve Got Me” is another moody number, something similar to “My Girl” but it works better. I spent a lot of time with audio software taking out clicks from a bad scratch on the 45, but the result is excellent.
With no names or publishing on the label, it was nearly impossible to trace these guys so I thought we may never know the story of this group until Robert Stoddard contacted me:
The band was formed in 1964 I believe. Members are Richard Hernandez (bass), Ray Almonza (rhythm guitar), Joe Stoddard (lead guitar), and Robert Stoddard (drums). We were indeed from Bell Gardens and all songs are originals. What made this band unique at the time was their ages. I was 12 and the other three were 13.
My drumming was a direct result of the music scene of the time. I beat on couch pillows with sticks for two years to “Pretty Woman” and Beatle tunes. Christmas of ’64 brought me a cocktail drum and Joe a cheap electric guitar and super small amp. Richard and Ray were aquaintances of Joe’s from Bell Gardens Junior High.
The slicked back look in the hair was Mom’s idea, you know how Moms are. The mop cut was about a year later with the British Invasion in full swing and all. The girl in the one pic is Richard’s little sister, she was our occasional go-go dancer, her name was Linda.
We played mostly for school assemblies, grand openings of businesses, weddings. We used to play at a place in Hollywood called Pandora’s Box on Sunset and La Brea. Made a TV commercial in a topless bar. Came in 2nd place in the famous “Countdown ’65” battle of the bands at the Olympic Auditorium which was televised. It was sponsored by “the Royals” a British family of con artists who just ripped everybody off and never had any intention of awarding any prizes.
Other bands were the Cosmictones and the Velvetones. The Cosmictones tried to compete. The velvetones were a surf band and they were older and really good. their drummer Al Stigler taught me alot. Lead guitarist Gary Stovall went on to make a name for himself in the biz.
There was definitely a music scene in town. we played at the City Parks Dept. dances often, and every summer there was a Battle of the Bands at the yearly amusement park also held at the Parks Department.
The songs were written basically by all of us, we used to rehearse in the Toler Ave. garage next to my house.
Both [records] were done at the same time. Don’t remember much about the studio but I know I was behind a glass wall, no plexiglass yet. Music tracks were done first and vocals were done second with all of us circling one auditorium type microphone.
Russell recording I believe was affiliated somehow with Downey Music Center where we purchased all our equipment. I remember the man’s name was Nate. They were pressed somewhere on Melrose in West Hollywood, I remember because we all went there in the band car, a 1948 Cadillac candy apple red hearse. I believe we got it because the Monkees had a candy apple red dune buggy kind a thing.
I don’t really know much about those transactions, my Dad handled all that stuff. But I do know that only 300 copies were pressed due to the cost at the time. My Dad sent them everywhere, radio stations, etc, but to no avail.
Q. Is it Joe who yells “Let’s meet at Al’s on Florence Avenue”?
It was indeed Joe who yelled but he was just closest to the mike, we all had a hand in that. To this day I still think that was cheesy. Al’s however was a real place we used to hang out at. It was like a really good Greek hamburger stand built on the lot on the north west corner of Florence Ave. and Garfield. It was kitty corner from Toler Ave where we were based. I believe it’s a donut shop now, I don’t know.
I had to quit due to the war in Vietnam. Joe stayed in music and is still performing, check him out at joestoddardshow.com. Richard lives up north somewhere, and I haven’t heard from Ray since the 60’s. I returned to playing live and touring with several bands from ’76 through the 80’s and still occaisionally dabble in it.
Russell RRC-43106: Florence Ave / My Girl
Russell RRC-43107: High Class / You’ve Got Me