The Rugbys

Updated December, 2009

The Rugbys formed when all the members of the popular Louisville group the Oxfords left that band except the drummer, Jim Guest. Guest kept the Oxfords name and brought in members of the Spectres, soon releasing a good 45 on the Mala label.

The Rugbys took the Spectres’ drummer, Glenn Howerton to replace Guest; the other members being Steve McNicol on lead guitar, his brother Jim McNicol on bass, Chris Hubbs on guitar and Doug Black on sax. The band’s name supposedly came from wearing rugby shirts onstage.

At least, that was what I had read, but then Susan Harkins sent in this photo of the Rugbys signed by Jim Guest on the back, and Glenn Howerton’s signature is not included. Perhaps the Oxfords changed their name to the Rugbys, then Guest left or was kicked out and restarted the Oxfords with new members.

In any case, their first release is this great version of a Doug Sahm song, “Walking the Streets Tonight”, on the Top Dog label, from July, 1966. The flip side, “Endlessly”, a ballad original by Steve McNicol, has been ignored until now, though mellow it’s very good.

The Rugbys continued on until 1970 with some personnel changes, releasing several 45s and an album in a hard rock style.

Thanks to Susan Harkins for sending in the photo of the group.

The Rugbys – but with Jim Guest?!

60 thoughts on “The Rugbys”

  1. Hi, my name is Steve McNicol. I was the lead guitar player in the Rugbys. First of all, thank you very much for this web site. It’s really cool. If you would like to add this info, I think it would add to our article.
    In 1969 the Rugbys released a single on Amazon Records called You, I. It went to #1 on the local charts, was released nationally and climbed to #24 in Billboard and #21 in Cashbox. They later released their album called Hot Cargo, which is still available today. A good friend of the band Marvin Maxwell, has recently found and purchaed some previously unreleased material which has now been released on the Gear Fab label, called The Rugbys – The Lost Sessions. All of the Rugbys materal is available on the internet, and there are many copies of You, I and other Rugbys songs on E-Bay.

    1. I am a bit of a youngster, but I remember hearing The Rugby’s on WKLO back in 70″s. I was 3 when You, I was released and have loved it ever since. I also love Kin and Queen of the World. The organ work on this piece was awesome.

    2. Hey Steve, do you remember the band you and Jim were in before the Oxfords and Rugbys? I , Don Harris, Roger Seitz and my brother Joe, along with you and Jim played together in the Misfits. Hellava long time ago!

    3. What was the name of your manager in 1969 when You, I was released? I think he was at Ft. Leonardwood with my husband. We just remember he said he was the manager of a singing group called the Rugbys.

    4. Hi, I went to Durrett High School with Jim Guest, graduated in 1965, same class. Jim was listed on the deceased list when we started looking for classmates for our 50th reunion, but I can’t confirm that he has passed on. I also worked at GE for a while with Eddy Vernon, I think he has passed on. Do you have any information on James Guest, Also there is speculation that the Rugby’s recorded a record in 1965 titled “James Is The Name / Till The Day I Die. I can’t find it listed anywhere in the songs by the Louisville Rugby’s. Any info would be appreciated, thanks. David Newton

      1. Sorry to hear this. We followed the Rugbys and Oxfords in the 60’s wherever they went in the Louisville area. Prayers to his family.

      2. My father was Jim McNicol, bassist in the Oxfords, he also passed away. It has been 10 years now, but sine Uncle Steve’s passing, my curiosity of their past musical endeavors has been reignited. Loved reading these comments as well as the signed picture.

        1. Elisabeth, I am sorry to hear about Steve. I dated your dad for awhile around 1967. He was such a lovely person and I still have letters he wrote to me when he was in the Coast Guard(?). The Rugbys were probably the most popular band around Louisville in the 60’s. Everyone loved them! It was a time when you could hear live bands every weekend around the teen dances! I am sorry your dad has passed. I often pass their old family home on my way to my friends house. Steve and Jim are musical legends!

  2. To Steve McNicol,

    I am a 29 year old singer/guitarist, who grew up in the Louisville area and loves the Rugbys, Soul, Inc., the Monarchs, and all of the great local bands from the sixties. Are you still active in the music scene around town? I’d love to get together with you sometime to go over some of your old songs, and to get an autograph on my copy of HOT CARGO!

    Terry Johnston

  3. I’m Duke Freeman formerly bass player for US FOUR. Even though I was in a “rival” band I knew these guys very well and even though we played different material, if would have asked me who was the best Louisville had to offer at the time, I would tell you itwas The Rugbys. I still believe that to this very day. Steve, Glen, Eddie, Mike, you guys were IT!

  4. The Rugbys played at my senior prom in 1970 in Harrisburg, IL. They were fantastic. Their big hit “You I’ was the hit of the evening.

  5. I spoke with a friend of Glen Howerton last week and found out that he’s not doing well. He’s fighting cancer and has quit playing. This is tough news for me because he was the best drummer in Louisville, period. He knew exactly what to play and when to play it. He never overplayed and kept perfect time. I’ve never been so impressed with a drummer as I was with Glen. The breakup of the original Oxfords and the formation of the Rugbys (with Glen and without Jim Guest) was a major improvement and gave the group the drive they needed.

  6. I was fortunate enough to locate Glenn Howerton today. I hadn’t seen him since about 1976. It’s really strange seeing someone you haven’t seen in such a long time. Expectations and anticipations of how they will look are sometimes surprising and such was the case here, on both sides. We’ve both aged considerably and time hasn’t been kind to either of us, but the friendship still stands the test of time. We reminised about our past, the great times we had growing up in the Louisville music scene, and what we’ve been through since then.
    Other than just jamming a bit at his house in the mid to late 60s, Glenn and I hadn’t played together until 1976, and it was for only one song. He and Mike Winebrenner (Us Four) were working with Gary Edwards and appearing at the HollyOak in Indianapolis, IN. I just happened to see the advertisement in the paper and even though I wasn’t going to be able to catch them that weekend, I did manage to stop by on Saturday afternoon and sat in on bass and lead vocals. It was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Glenn was the best and I reinforced that with him today during our visit.
    He no longer performs although I’m trying to get him to come out of retirement temporarily so we can play together again.

    Duke Freeman (Us Four)

  7. Steve, I grew up in Fincastle (Tom Sales is my older brother). You may remember my mother, Neva. I found a signed photo of the original 5 Rugbys in her things. She is in assisted care living and I would like to sell the photo on ebay but I have no idea what it’s worth. It won’t pay her bills or anything, but might provide a little spending money. Do you have any idea what I should ask for it?

    It’s a small black and white snapshot of you and your brother, Doug Black, and two other fellows that are unfamiliar to me. I remember you, your brother, and Dougie even though I was very small. Your dad use to stop by occasionally and play our piano for us. 🙂

  8. Hello Steve,

    I happened on this site by accident. I want to thank you for the fun we had playing together in the newly formed Rugbys of the early 90s. I heard Eddy is playing in the house band at the Breckenridge Inn. I haven’t seen Barry in years. If you ever get the urge to get out and play again I would love to be your drummer again. You are by miles one of the best guitar players around not to mention you vocals and stage presence.

    My phone number is still the same and I’m in the book if you can believe that. Give me a shout sometime.


  9. hi. my name is doug black.original memeber of the oxfords and the rugbys. I really have enjoyed the comments on this web site. It’s amazing how many people I run into that remember the oxfords and the rugbys.This was an exciting time of my life.The five of us had a great time playing music and having fun. Keep the site going.

    1. I was in 2 bands during the 60s. The Profiles and The Library. When we weren’t playing I loved going to hear The Rugbys or The Oxfords. The first time I saw the Oxfords was when they opened for the Dave Clark Five at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. Timothy L Tyler introduced them and they so perfectly covered The Beatles songs the crowd wanted them to keep playing rather than the DC5. (They WERE better) I would see the Rugbys at Iroquois Gardens or Fountain Ferry Park. Great times.

  10. I just happened up on this site.LOVE IT WISH THERE WAS MORE.I’m just writing to say I remember you all playing at Ewing Lane School On Saturday nights then at Gypsy Village some Sunday nights.ENJOY Where are Steve,Chris,Jim and others today?

  11. Hello!
    How exciting to talk with you.
    In 1971 I got the single that contained in his side ‘B’ the song will automatically become one of my first “favorite for life”, I mean “The Light”, a marvel in just two minutes a half.
    Then do not speak English, but its melody, strength, charisma caught me forever.
    Thank you very much and I command you all the best wishes to all.
    Greetings from Innisfree!

    Bobthoven Floyd

  12. Louisville lost yet another one of it’s finest musicians and best people. Eddy Vernon passed away on January 4, 2012. He will definitely be missed by his fans, fellow musicians and family.

  13. I am Steve McNicol’s son and my band The War Hippies will be doing a memorial benefit concert for Eddy Vernon sometime in the next few months. We plan to honor the Rugbys by playing most of the songs of their album Hot Cargo. We will also have some of Louisville’s legends playing with us on this evening including the likes of Steve McNicol, and Barry King. I will post again when the show date is nailed down.
    I am really looking forward to performing these songs, as they mean so much to me.
    The proceeds from the show will go to Eddy’s family. God bless, and I hope to see you at the show!

  14. Doug, you probably don’t remember me. I lived at 3568b Fincastle road. I remember both bands and have fond memories of the old neighborhood. What are you up to these days.

    1. Dear Steve

      During the 1960s and 1970s I collected weekly record charts (surveys) from CHUM Radio 1050 in Toronto, Ontario.

      Now that I am a retired teacher living near Toronto, I am collecting autographs of music stars listed on my charts. Would it be possible to mail you a “Rugbys” chart for your autograph?

      Richard Mills
      Milton, Ontario


  15. Thata way to tell em Steve. Hey thanks to you and The Rugbys for Hot Cargo and all the songs! I first heard the 45 of The Light and Wendegahl the Warlock around 1975 and had the album since about ’79. I had to order the LP twice cause I loaned my first copy to a guy to make me a tape for me and I never got the album back. I guess he must have liked it too. I still have my second copy!

  16. Hey guys! Just. happened across your site and wanted to ask if anyone remembers the Rugbys playing at an outdoor Heyfield block party back in the late 60s? If memory serves, they played for the opening of the new Heyfield subdivision near Atherton High School. The song “You, I” is the reason that my brother Gary (Brendan) Lewis started playing bass. He’s since played and recorded with a ton of local and regional acts. He mentioned this in a recent Facebook post on the Rugbys. Were their other later band members and did they try and reunite in later years? Great band…helped put Louisville on the music map:)

  17. Hi, I’m originally from Evansville, Indiana. I’m living in New York City now. When I was In Evansville I bought an Oxfords album called “Flying Through The Sky”. I still have it. While in New York City I came across an Oxfords single at a record fair. It’s on Paula Records. One side is “Your Own Way” and the other side is “Come On Back To Beer”. Is this single from the same band who did the album that I have? Also are any of the members of the Rugbys on the Oxfords’ album? Thank You.

  18. There was a guy in Jackson MS in the 80’s named Louie Munn who said he was in a later incarnation of the Rugby’s. Can anyone confirm this?

    1. Yes, There was a band from Mississippi who used our name, only instead of The Rugbys, they just used Th’ Rugbys. Personally, I really resented that. I think they probably had something to do with Shelby Singleton.

      1. Hey Steve, You were close. Yes, we formed “A Tribute to The Beatles” band in 1972 we called “Yesterday and Today”.(our Bass Player was a Beatle freak) When we hooked up with a booking agency our new agent/manager(not Shelby) said we could get a lot of work but needed a better name and insisted we change it to Th’ Rugbys. He said your band had broke up & the name was available and we took his word for it. (no internet in those days) It was never our intention to step on your toes. I am a fan of You I and have great respect for what you and the guys accomplished. I also have sons that play and would not trade my life as a musician and what I learned on the road for anything. We still get together to jam regularly and bang out 20-30 Beatle tunes. I wish you, your family and your musical family all the best!

  19. i remember the great lousiville bands form the 60’s-70’s. i remember glen howerton playing with gary edwards and sage. i saw them. they were great. glen was on drums, mike winnebrenner of organ and richard streander played guitar and sang. richard could have been a star. they some guy playing trumpet, get this, his last name was Lipps. he was incredible. amazing high notes and power. he would cover up the whole band without even a mike. they play every chicago tune and when they played blood sweat and tears spinning wheel the trumpet player played the trumpet solo exactly like the album but even better. i loved the rugbys, company front, carnations. sure miss those days.

    1. You are talking about an old friend of mine, Jay Lipps. He had a music scholarship at U. of L. music school but became a gynecologist after getting his degree. Anybody that knew Jay well will see the humor in this! Saw him play with Buddy Rich once. He warmed up where Clark Terry ended ! Hellava friend and horn player.

      1. frank you son of a gun. miss you. do you remember the “hunting lodge adventure and the hiding under the bed in the dorm event?” we had some real fun times.
        I still remember you playing trombone in your blue tank top. good player and great ear. loads of fun. I still play trumpet and practice gynecology. I am at university of south florida in tampa. my son plays drums. he had a group call the august name. they have some youtube videos. not my kind of music but his timing is perfect.
        miss you.
        Jay Lipps

  20. eddie humphries-sax
    jon topy-trombone
    john shumate-trombone
    jay lipps-trumpet
    dick washburn-trumpet
    burnette higgins-sax

  21. Hi there old friends, my mom Thelma and jimmy guests mom owned kaleidoscope. Mom and I moved to California in the late 60’s where we still are. I have recently been in touch with Jim Guest, Bill Tullis, and everyone else who is still alive who played at the club. my memory of all the details is not as good as what I’ve read here but I would love to speak to anyone who is interested in talking about old times. I also owned the Headshop downstairs called changes grandmother would open up for me till I Got there after school everyday.I have still been active in the music business on and off my whole life. I had a PR company called star PR here in California recently. I specializedPR for well known contemporary jazz musicians. Please write me, Debbie

  22. Really enjoyed the website , It was a fantastic time , Great Dreams , Great weekends , Garage Groups were a very important part of the growing up progression,, There was a lot of passion back then , about the music , although I wonder where the music would be today if the ” old ones ” hadn’t left their footprints … By The way… Have a question… Does Anyone remember a group by the name of ” The Lynchmen ” , Don Harris , Davy Hess , Pam Clark , ,, or perhaps the rod & Custom show album they along with eleven other Louisville groups made ,, Would really love to hear that album again ..

    1. I was a member of the Lynchmen from its inception. The original members were Dave Hess, Pam Clark, Don Harris, Jimmy ?? and myself. Later members included Tim Krekel, Eddie Vernon, Sam Stockard, and Dave’s younger brother Darryl. We were proud to be part of something we thought was special. The album you mentioned is availa

    2. I was a member of the Lynchmen from its inception. The original members were Dave Hess, Pam Clark, Don Harris, Jimmy ?? and myself. Later members included Tim Krekel, Eddie Vernon, Sam Stockard, and Dave’s younger brother Darryl. We were proud to be part of something we thought was special. The album you mentioned is available by download

      1. Hello Frank , Thank You for the reply . . I had met , Davy , Pam , Don, and Darryl , I actually worked with Davy on a Project , Way back when , The Lynchmen was a Very Special Group , that made a great impact upon me all through the years , , , Every group I have ever worked with were compared with the ” Sound ” that your group had . . . I dare to say , Very few have measured up . . . I have heard Pam with Soul Soup . The Voice is unmistakable . and Soul of it makes the song . I did get a copy of ” Something You Got ” , It is now posted on you tube . as a tribute to an awesome group of musicians . Nice to hear from one of my mentors . Check me out on Facebook , it may surprise you .. Just recently got in touch with Davy…Please keep in touch ..

    3. I sang with Pam in the Carnations.
      We recorded a song under the name “SOUL SOUP”
      Love makes all the differance
      Played with Davey in Metro.
      Both were great players and dear friends.

      1. Hello John, , , You know I never knew that Pam had worked with the Carnations ,,, I have heard some great things about ” Metro ” . Recently got back ln touch with Davy and Mike Arms , Great to hear from those people that made such an impression on this Drummer so long ago . . They just don’t create groups like that anymore . and its a Shame ,

  23. I just stumbled across this website and very glad I did. During high school, I was the drummer in a band in Jeffersonville, Ind. back in the ’66 -’68 period. As mentioned above, there were tremendous bands in the Louisville area at that time, but for me, The Rudgy’s were the benchmark. During those years, I got to see The Rugby’s three times at the Ewing Lane Hop in Jeffersonville. They were incredible, and Glen Howerton was easily my favorite drummer. I still hear the Rugby’s playing “Have Mercy Baby” by the Rolling Stones. Incredible! As one writer above mentioned, Glen did everything just right, not too much or too little, and kept perfect time. He was the perfect complement to the music of that band.

  24. I’ve been trying to establish whether Smash Records single S-1997 (promo-only?), credited to The Rugbys and released circa Sept, 1965 is by this same group. The tracks are: “James Is the Name” b/w “Till the Day I Die”. There is very little mention of it in conjunction with this band, and mostly by sites that don’t know their eyes from their elbow. Anyone know the scoop?

    1. I don’t know who that band was on Smash Records who was using the name of the Rugbys. I just know it wasn’t me or any of the actual original Rugbys. I purchased a copy of the record (just to make sure) and I never heard either of those songs before. I do have my suspicions that Shelby Singleton had something to do with it though, but I can’t be sure. He’s passed away now, so I won’t say any more. Wasn’t me though….

  25. steve,, doug powell here an old friend of glenn and chi howerton… i saw glenn in 2009 and he said he had cancer…… have u heard from him since… id really like to see him and see how he is doing……. please let me know any news… thanks steve,,, doug powell

  26. Steve it’s your best friend from grade school .I have many fine memories back then, when we would help set the band up for all of the great performance at the fairgrounds I can remember the Rugby’s performing with The Bird s,Dave Clark Five and many other groups of that time, The best part was you would let us ( Mike & Pat Hubbs ,Bob Weis any myself set right up on the stage during the performances . BOY ! WAS THAT FUN Hope all is well with you Your friend always ERNIE

  27. Louisville had such great groups & musicians. Soul Inc., Elysian Field, Us Four, The Oxfords, The Waters, Gary Edwards, Sherry Edwards, The Chataeus,The Alphabetical Order,The Rugbys,The Embers,Kenny & The Accents, Tim Krekel, The Tren–dells
    . I live in Georgetown so l rarely seen any of these fine groups. But l bought their records. Louisville music was & still is the best.. Bobby Davis……………

  28. I’m trying to find out the name of the band that my friend played in. His name is Barry Anderson and his dad used to drive them around to their gigs.
    This would have been around 1968 to 1970. I can’t seem to locate Barry since he has no phone listed. This was in Louisville. I know they played on the Bell of Louisville several times for the teen dances.

  29. Can anyone confirm that the Rugbys were an opening act , along with the Strawberry Alarm Clock, opening for Steppenwolf at Freedom Hall in July 1969. I know I saw them open at that time, just not sure if it was for Steppenwolf or another act.

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