Rockin' Continentals Casino 45 Cobra 289

The Rockin’ Continentals and Casino Records

Rockin' Continentals Casino 45 The "309"The Rockin’ Continentals made two 45s for the Casino label in 1962 or 1963. The group came from Topeka, Kansas. I didn’t know much about the band until drummer Bob Stanley contacted me and filled out their history.

Members included Johnny Thompson on lead guitar and vocals, Melvin Ralston on rhythm guitar, Chuck Smith on bass, and Bob Stanley on drums.

Rockin' Continentals Casino 45 Cobra 289The Rockin’ Continentals’ first release was a great rockabilly song with fierce drumming and scorching guitar and piano breaks called “The ‘309’”, written by Johnny Thompson. The singer has a strong southern accent that doesn’t appear on their other songs. The original A-side was “2-3-4,” written by Melvin Ralston, which in comparison is simple riffing on blues changes.

Their next and last single was “Cobra 289” written by Ralph Sandmeyer in tribute to the Ford/Shelby AC Cobra sports car first manufactured in 1962. Bob says that “Ralph Sandmeyer was a songwriter and close friend of Johnny Thompson”.

“Count Dracula” is mainly instrumental with a spooky reverbed riff. Like “The ‘309’” it was written by Johnny Thompson.

Bob Stanley wrote to me:

I was the drummer for the Empalas band back in the early 60s. Melvin Ralston, the rhythm guitar player, wanted to know if I would drum for the Rockin’ Continentals. We began playing throughout Kansas for VanT car shows during the day and in the night we would play in their parks or auditoriums. From there we played the Municipal Auditorium in Topeka, Kansas City auditoriums and various other cities.

I am playing drums on both songs, “Cobra 289” and “Count Dracula”. My stepfather financed the record and was repaid with the sales. Bob Bobo was the piano player on the record. Bob Bobo was not a member of the band but did guest appearances on the records on piano and recorded the records in his studio. Johnny Thompson played lead guitar and is the vocalist on both songs, Chuck Smith was the bass player. Melvin Ralston is the rhythm guitar player and is the laughing voice on “Count Dracula”.

The girls screaming in the background were girlfriends of the band members. The girls later bleached the band member’s hair. Mine turned out platinum because I was blonde, but Johnny’s turned out orange red, which made him extremely unhappy. It was comical, but not to him.

Both releases are now rare and have been bootlegged, along with another Casino release, the Argons’ “Do the Dog”. For more info about the authentic pressings vs the reproductions, go to my page on reproduction 45s and search for Casino.

Bob Stanley left the group for Vietnam and was replaced by Bill Doyle. In later years, the Continentals had regular gigs on cruise ships.

The Good Time Trio photo, Kenny Stone, Johnny Thompson and Bob Stanley
The Good Time Trio: Kenny Stone, Johnny Thompson and Bob Stanley

Bob added:

Later on country became popular and Johnny started switching over and we became the Good Time Trio (Johnny Thompson, Kenny Stone on bass and me on drums). I also drummed for Dickie Lee (“Patches”) in Kansas City.

I did know the Jerms and their lead singer Bill Senogles who was a classmate of mine and later took on my guitar player, Russ Wilcox, from the Empalas when I went to the Rockin’ Continentals.

I still have the snare, sticks and drummer’s throne that I played when we recorded the records. At the end of “Cobra 289”, you will hear a drum run and fade out done with single stroke roll with rim shots.

Casino Records

The Casino Records label has an obscure history. It seems to have started in 1957 with a single by Jerry Dyke doing two songs written by Bob Bobo and Carl Lewis for Southern Belle, BMI, “Deep Within My Heart” and “My Empty Heart”. That release, Casino 1001/1002 had a gothic style font for Casino and an address on McGavock St. in Nashville, Tennessee.

Gerald Dyche (aka Jerry Dyke) in the Emporia Gazette, February, 1958
Gerald Dyche (aka Jerry Dyke) in the Emporia Gazette, February, 1958

An article in the Emporia Gazette from February 1958 discusses how Jerry Dyke was the stage name for Gerald Dyche, a student from Topeka who was singing songs written by Topekan disc jockey Bob Bobo for demos to be sent to Southern Belle publishing in Nashville, which led to the Casino single, presumably recorded in Nashville. Although the article makes something of the Casino Recording Corporation of Nashville, I suspect Bob Bobo and Carl Lewis were at least part owners of Casino, and produced the Jerry Dyke single on their own hoping for attention for their song writing.

Dyke does not seem to have worked with Bobo after this single, and that may be because Bobo had a better chance of success with other artists, such as Ronnie Pearson of Osage City. Pearson’s first single on the Herald Label in April of ’57 included Bob Bobo’s song “Hot Shot”.

Bobo would place other songs in the late ’50s, including “I Close My Eyes” (co-written with Lewis) for the Wilburn Brothers on Decca in August of ’57, “The Answer” and “Warm as Toast” (co-written by Lewis) for Russ Veers on the Trend label, and “Let Me Go to the Hop” (co-written by Russ Veers) by the Sweethearts on Power.

By the early 1960s, Bobo seems to have stopped pursuing a career as a song writer, but kept the Casino label active. I don’t know what Casino 1003/1004 is, but 1005/1006 is the Nubbins doing two standards, “The King’s Highway” / “Stormy Weather” with a different font for the logo and no address.

By the time the Rockin’ Continentals “The ‘309’” comes out around 1962, it’s numbered 1007/1008. This and all future release feature Kansan artists; there is no longer any Nashville connection that I know of.

The Rockin’ Continentals singles were followed by:

1011/1012 – The Argons “Spiked” (Bryson, Myers) / “Do The Dog” (Mikkelsen, Wilcox) 1964
1321/1322 – The Jerms – “That Word” (G. Senogles) / “Love Light” (Sept. 1965)
2305/2306 – The Thingies – “It’s a Long Way Down” (L. Miller, Dalton) / “Merry Go Round of Life” (August 1966)

One interesting oddity about the Casino discography is that the RCA code for the Jerry Dyke single, HO8W-0066/67 would be adapted for later releases, even though most later releases were not pressed at RCA but at Wakefield Manufacturing in Phoenix, AZ. Another code on the 45s, 2 AFM also increases with each release, though I’m not sure the meaning of that code.

Bobo also owned a restaurant called Bobo’s Drive In in Topeka from 1948 until sometime recently.

I want to thank the discussion of Casino on 45Cat, which gave me some leads to follow up and confirm.

Special thanks to Bob Stanley for contacting me with information on the Rockin’ Continentals.

Rockin' Continentals Casino 45 Count Dracula

9 thoughts on “The Rockin’ Continentals and Casino Records”

  1. I live in Topeka, KS. I remember records on the Casino label in the 1960s. In recent years I’ve asked several people who might know if the master or session tapes of the Casino label still exists, who currently might have possession of these tapes, and their whereabouts. I have had one dead end after another. No one seems to know anything. Bob Bobo ran a drive-in restaurant just two blocks from where I grew up. Bobo’s Drive-in is still open and has been under different ownership for decades. Bob Bobo is reportedly no longer alive. The studio for the Casino label was reportedly in Bobo’s house on SE Ohio Street on the East side of town. Compilations of music from the Casino label would make nice additions to our collections. I wish I could find out more. The fate of Casino Records seems very hidden. Can anyone help track down these tapes and get them reissued?

    1. My Father Kenneth Stone also played in this band. He may not have been on theses recordings but I am in direct contact with Johnny Thompson as they have remained close friends all these years. My father passed away a week ago today but I will see Johnny next Saturday.

  2. I am the original drummer with the Rockin’ Continentals. Cobra 289 was one of the records we recorded at Bob Bobo’s recording studio here in Topeka. I still have a cardboard box of the original records. I played with Bob Bobo, Johnny Thompson and Melvin Ralston in the 60’s. I also played with Kenny Stone and John Thompson in Good Time trio band.

  3. I created and designed the Casino label in 1956. I got the name from a
    hotel I had stayed at in Cardenas. Cuba while visiting there a couple of weeks in the summer. I had 200 records pressed and distributed them to radio stations and record stores in eastern Kansas. One side of the record was “Deep Within My Heart” and the other “My Empty Heart” both written and produced by Bob Bobo and recorded in his house
    I later recorded for Nugget Records, Nashville. Sun Records in Memphis and MCA I changed my name later to Jerry Dycke Check Youtube for my body of work. under Jerry Dycke aka Jerry Dyke

  4. Bob Bobo had a co writer named Carl Lewis. Bob Bob had a couple of drive-ins in Topeka. He also was a DJ Saturdays on WREN which is where I heard of him. He played a record by Ronny Pearson that he had written and produced. It was on a label called Herald Records. I went to see him while he was on the air one Saturday which is how we met. He was a talented guy and quite a promoter. I lost track of him after I graduated from College in 1958 At that point I started driving back and forth to Nashville and Memphis . I had 2 Billboard chart records in 1980 and 81. Daddy Played Harmonica and Beethoven Was Before My Time. Also wrote the theme for The Challenger fund in 1986 and co-wrote the song “Come In Mr. Lonely ” for the movie ” A Crooked Somebody” to be released this year. Thanks for reading.

    1. Jerry, so glad to see your post and happy to know you designed the label I did two records on in the early 60’s. Great web site Chris has created. Thanks Bob Stanley

  5. My name is Ralph Sandmeyer. I was and still am a good friend of Johnny Thompson, and played backup rythym guitar when Johnny and Mel Ralston were having differences. Johnny also worked at Dibbles Grocery when I was commuting to Lawrence to get my Mechanical Engineering Degree. He told me that the Rockin’ Continentals would be practicing at his house near Children’s Park off 6th and McVicar in 2 days. I asked if he had a B side for their planned second record. When he said no, I asked if I could come up with something, would he consider it. He said yes, and I composed the song in about 45 minutes. The song is Money by Barrett Strong, as The Rockin’ Continentals played it with Chuck Berry inspired chords. The car was about the first full race 289 Cobra CSX2416, which was purchased by Brent Ascough’s Grandmother, who flew him to meet with Carrol Shelby for his High School Graduation present. It cost 9,800 dollars, and produced 389 rear wheel brake horsepower, with a measured top speed of 172 mph. I rode in the car twice, and it was based. I tried to buy the car in 1967, when I graduated, but Brent wanted 7,000, which was ridiculous. Carroll produced 6 full race street legal Dragon Snakes, and currently they fetch north of 5 million dollars. I had the right idea, and the song was # 12 on the Topeka Ktop and Keli charts, but someone talked Skaggs and Jenkins Music out of the record money, without delivering any new records, and Bob Scott’s Mom stopped any more sales. About 50 records sold and his Mom had 450 left. She paid Bob Bono 150 dollars, and I sang backup in Bob’s basement 3 blocks northwest of his drive -in. A reel to reel recorder was used, and I think only one take for each side. was used. That was my 15 minutes of fame, and I’m glad I tried to pick something that would last over 52 years. Thanks for your time. Rsandme44@gmail.com ( Broken Arrow, Oklahoma 12/11/2017. Ralph Sandmeyer

  6. I knew Jerry Dyke. He sang at my wedding dinner. My name is Russ Veers. Bob Bobo and I wrote many songs ,together one was Warm as toast which was released on Trend Records 1958. The Royal Teens of ” Short Shorts” backed me up on that record. We did it in Kansas City. Just go to Russ Viers and it is played. I am now retired in Montana. Any questions try my email. Rjv9@juno.com

  7. Hi – This is Ralph Sandmeyer the Cobra 289 song writer. The original Rockin’ Continentals were Johnny Thompson, Mel Ralston on rhythm, and Chuck Duremous ( a Cajon), and Bill Doyle on drums. They did 309 and 2-3-4 in 1962. Bill Doyle got married, and Chuck D moved on in about The fall of 1964 Johnny told me that the drummer’s Mom who ran Cosmos bar about 720 Gage Blvd was putting up 150 dollars for 500 copies. Bob Bobo had a reel to reel tape recorder, and we used his basement. Bono’s Drive Inn is still in business at 10th and McVicar in Topeka, even though Bob passed at least 30 years ago. I had 2 Topeka High friends Wade Douglas aka Bill Wade at KELI and Tom Grimes at KTOP that were playing the record alot. It opened at # 23 the first week, and climbed to # 12 the second week. Then a imposter talked Skaggs and Jenkins Music out of the money saying they would bring in 25 more records. If I had overs I would have borrowed 150 from my Grandma, and we might have gotten alot farther. The car it was written about was winning major races all over the world & is worth millions. There used to be reissued available over the internet in Paris and London , I bought 3 of them. Now the song has been covered by a new artist.

    Thanks, Ralph.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.