Noel Odom & the Group

The Group photo: Noel Odom, Sonny Williams, Bob Fell and Fred Engelke circa 1965, Walker & Rodie Music in downtown Shreveport"
The Group – l-r: Noel Odom, Sonny Williams, Bob Fell and Fred Engelke “circa 1965 – rear of Walker & Rodie Music in downtown Shreveport”

Noel Odom & the Group Tower 45 Come On Down To EarthI don’t own any of Noel Odom and the Group’s three 45s – not for lack of trying, but they’re in high demand since “Come on Down to Earth” became a staple of 60’s music nights around the world.

You might assume an artist on Tower and its subsidiary Uptown would be based in California, but the Group was actually from Louisiana. Their songs were licensed by Tower, but without any push from the label or band presence on the L.A. scene, the 45s undeservedly dropped out of sight. Noel recently took the time to answer some of my questions of his time in music:

I played in “The Group” 1964-1969 – later “Noel Odom and the Group.” Bob Fell and I started the band, and as a unit also Fred Engelke- drums and Sonny Williams- bass. Later added Ron DiIulio on keys- great player – still is!!

We played live in Shreveport and Bossier at high school dances at Airline High and Bossier High. Several teen clubs like Southland Park and the Teenclub at Barksdale AFB. Also at that time “the Strip” in Bossier city was famous with numerous clubs along Highway 80 East. The most famous being “Saks Whisky-a-Go-Go” with the “Boom Boom Room.” Also “The Shindig” where we played all through a full quarter of college. All four of us went to Louisiana Tech together. We usually played somewhere every weekend.

Noel Odom & the Group Uptown 45 Pardon My Complete ObjectionWe backed Dickie Lee at a show in Shreveport and he took us to Memphis to record in 1968. We recorded five songs in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording studio with Stan Kessler as engineer: 1: “Pardon My Complete Objection,” 2: “I Can’t See Nobody,” 3: “Midnight Hour,” 4: instrumental that Ron DiIulio wrote, “Love Too” I think, and finally as an afterthought “Come on Down to Earth.” Picked up and signed by Tower Records, division of Capitol. Naturally the company came back and liked Come on Down, so horns were added and it was released – never went anywhere.

The record was on American Bandstand’s “Rate a Record” and we beat the other song “Leavin on a Jet Plane” and I believe it was John Denver’s version before Peter, Paul & Mary recorded it and made #1. Dickie Lee was our producer and Allen Reynolds was our A&R man.

Our other sessions were done in Sun Recording studios, which was just redone. The J. Reid was John Reid and he wrote a concept album about “Flower Children” and it included a lot of narrative. “Hey Yesterday Where’s My Mind” and “Come on Rain” came from that work. It was a cool idea and we had some forward thinking effects like feedback guitar on one track. It was never released in full, but there was some good work on that album.

Thanks for asking the questions- it really taxes my memory, but those were good days in my memory.

I am still playing in the Shreveport area in “The Convertibles” together for 21 years, playing old r&r.

Drummer Fred Engelke filled in some details on the band:

During high school Ron DiIulio and I formed a band called “The Class Cutters” and we competed with Noel and Bob’s group “The Group”. Ron went to college at North Texas State University and I went a year at Texas A & M. After my freshman year, I came back to Louisiana to go to school and joined up with Noel and Bob. We then recruited Sonny Williams for bass and formed the new version of “The Group”. Later, after Ron came back from NTSU, we got him in the band and created the final version of “The Group”.

The producers said there was already a band called “The Group” so we renamed ourselves “Noel Odom and the Group” because of Noel’s unusual first name. When we released the last record they decided that the name “Noel” would distinctive and we used it.

As Noel said, “Come on Down to Earth” was really a throwaway song to be used as a “B” side to one for the other recordings. It turned out well and we recorded “Love Too” as sort of a “C” side. It was made up on the spot by Ron DiIulio. Ron (not pictured in the photo you have) was a member if the group during all sessions.

By the way, when you hear Noel say ‘Come in Ron!’ he was referring to the solo that Ron did on organ. However, they decided later to use a guitar solo by Bob instead. Also, there were no drumsticks in the studio and I forgot to bring any and there were no music stores nearby that were open, so I played the entire session using the stick part of timpani mallets.

The last record, “Hey Yesterday Where’s My Mind,” under the group name “Noel” was released shortly before Noel enlisted in the Navy. He did this because he didn’t want to stay in college and, because it was during the height of the Vietnam War, he knew he would get drafted. He figured if he enlisted he could choose what he would do and he figured the Navy would be less likely to send him to Nam.

Was Ron the same person who played with the Chessmen in Dallas?

Yep, that’s the same person. He was not originally from Dallas but he formed the Chessmen while attending North Texas State University. We stole him from the Chessmen to be in the group. He’s back in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, playing with his current group “Crawfish”. He would love to bring Noel with his voice into the group he now has. Noel’s voice has matured and Ron has assembled a super group of musicians. The last time I saw Noel sing with Ron’s band, I was totally blown away! I haven’t seen either for two or three years now.

On a side note, Susan Christie recorded a nine-minute version titled “Yesterday, Where’s My Mind” after meeting Blackwood Music songwriter John Reid in Memphis. Hear it on B-Music’s CD – Susan Christie – Paint a Lady.

The Group continued after Noel’s departure, eventually becoming the second of two versions of the Bad Habits who recorded for the Paula label.

Thank you to Noel Odom for his comments and the photo of the Group, and to Fred Engelke for his comments and 45 scans.

Noel Odom & the Group 45 releases:

Noel Odom & the Group – Come on Down to Earth / Love Too (Tower 441, 1968)
The Noel Odom Group – I Can’t See Nobody / Pardon My Complete Objection (Uptown 763, 1969)
Noel – Hey Yesterday Where’s My Mind / Come on Rain (Tower 505, 1969)

11 thoughts on “Noel Odom & the Group”

  1. Great story. Here’s an advertisement for the band from “The Spotlight: Shreveport-Bossier City Official Visitor’s Guide,” August 1967.

    The Group

  2. This site is great.
    I played music in Shreveport for years before moving to Nashville
    in 1990.
    How wonderful to see the old photos of people like Noel Odom ,David
    Rowe and others. I was fortunate enough to have played with some of these guys and have the fondest memories of those times.
    Living in Nashville all these years one tends to forget that Shreveport was the original “Music City”. Thanks for reminding me.

    Dub Hollowell

  3. I remember that picture- Charlie Wynn was the owner of the club. Lily Chez really was agood singer and she use to do “Somebody to Love” by Jeff Airplane really good.
    Charlie took us over th Sak’s Boom Boom Room after hours one night and had all the girls believing that we were “The Monkees”!! What a riot!! Every night at closing he would play the country song- “Turn out the lights- the party’s over”

  4. I remember this band also as Dave Allen & the Group. Dave was a DJ at Keel Radio in Shreveport. He drove a 1956 Thunderbird, seems like it was chartreuse and white!

  5. Charlie was something else! Always laughing. Everynight was ended with Willie, “turn out the lights”. I can hear him say…”Motel spelled backward is Let om , whatever you’re going to do, you can’t do here”.

    Sadly, his last wife didn’t share his outlook on life. She shot him as he was getting out of the shower.

    RIP Charlie Wynn

  6. Ron Dilulio and you copied the name The Class Cutters Band from a group that played in Northwest La. from 1957 until 1963. The members of that band were Jerry Beach, Jerry Payne, George Horton, Jerry Horton, Van Weaver and Butch Toland. I once confronted Ron D. about you use of the name The Class Cutters, and I have never heard from that imposter group since.

  7. Scorpionthresher,

    Actually, our original drummer was Cater Cummings who went to Fair Park, just 3 of us- no bass. Later it was Dave Allen (D.J.)on bass,then finally Fred Engelke on drums and Sonny Williams on bass as the 4-piece unit. Later Ron DiIulio came in on keyboards. We all went to Tech together for several years, before I went into the Navy during Vietnam. That’s when the name changed to the Bad Habits. Putting my name on the front was done by our producers in Memphis when we recorded our singles, mainly becasue I was lead singer. I don’t remember the 2 drummer thing, but we did play at the “Night Beat” lounge in Key West for 1 week before we got run off for playing too loud!!! I guess that’s why I have a hearing aid now!!!

  8. Nothing better to do at 4am then surf the web. Surprised to see Noel and Bob. Interesting reading, yet I remember the story a little bit different or have a few other details I remember. I recall sitting with both Noel and Bob at the Officers Club pool (Barksdale AFB) as the band was forming. Believe that was the summer of 1964. I remember the Group playing at all the B.H.S. school functions along with gigs at BAFB’s CYO on any given Wednesday. The Group usually had four members, the only two that were regular were Noel & Bob. The bass player, and forgive me for not rememberiung his name, was also a DJ at I believe KEEL radio station. For the most part he played, but I can remember on occasion he was a no show. I also remember the drummer as being a membver of the U.S. Air Force stationed at Barksdale. It was hell when he was transferred. I can remember one dance when the start was delayed because they couldn’t find a drummer. Speaking of drummers I can also vividly remember Noel’s experiment of using two drummers. That didn’t last long. Kind of like high school. I know Noel went onto college, Bob pretty much stayed in the music field working through ‘Sound on Sound’ in Shreveport waiting for his break. I always wondered the reason for the name change. I always liked the “Group”. Simple, and it said it all, told it like it was. However, as I recall they changed the name to “The Bad Habits”. The last place I saw the Group entertain was in Key West, Florida as I was going through flight training. The last time I saw any band memebr, one-on-one, Noel, was when he was working as middle management at Roadway Express. Hopefully my recollection may fill in some of the blanks and if nothing else as least stir the pot. I’ll see if I can locate any of the 3 45’s mentioned as being unattainable. I have a track record of being able to find what most say they can’t. If, and when I do I’ll let ya know.

  9. Noel, do I ever remember Key West! We stayed in a dump of a hotel, but it was a great experience for all of us. I can still remember the owner of the club threatening to kick us out if we didn’t hold down the noise. Good times old friend. A hearing aid, huh?

  10. I was one of the high school kids who listened to the Class Cutters whenever they played on base, often at pool parties in summer, and at the officers’ club from time to time. Ron Dijulio and I were big into astronomy at the time–he was a frikken genius in several fields–and we spent quite a bit of time down at the Shreveport observatory south of town. We were never without music if Ron was around. I had the pleasure of sitting in on drums one evening when Fred E. took a break to be with his girl. I remember he had a little blue or green Corvair (death traps on four wheels). One of the KEEL d.j.s was, as I remember, Larry Ryan, and he mentored me in the voiceover craft, which I took with me after my father was transferred from Barksdale. After Barksdale, I moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, and started a band called the Royal Trolls — we mostly did veterans’ lodges, officers’ clubs, and county fair-type venues in SE Nebraska in ’65 and ’66. I came here to Washington and formed a band in late ’66 called The Lunatic Fringe. We played up and down M Street in Georgetown until college pressure broke us up. Lost track of The Group and the Class Cutters until I spotted this website. It was nice to see old names again.

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