Us Kids

Us Kids: Kent Klinkenbeard, Dennis Chitwood, Frank McCaslin and Bill Leach. Location is possibly Hedrick Junior High, Medford
from left: Kent Klinkenbeard, Dennis Chitwood, Frank McCaslin and Bill Leach
Location is possibly Hedrick Junior High, Medford

"Denny and the All Americans was pre-Us Kids. I believe that was the time we opened for Gary Lewis and the Playboys."
“Denny and the All Americans was pre-Us Kids. I believe that was the time we opened for Gary Lewis and the Playboys.”
Dennis Chitwood – rhythm guitar, vocals
Bill Leach – lead guitar
Frank McCaslin – bass
Kent Klinkenbeard – drums

I’m constantly amazed at the quality of rock ‘n roll cut by young teens during the mid-’60s. Billy and the Kids from Washington state is one example, another is Us Kids from Medford, in southern Oregon.

They recorded their single at Rex Recording Service in Portland, both songs written by their vocalist Dennis Chitwood. “Check-Out” is a great A-side, with tough lyrics from a thirteen year old boy:

You’re thinking the smiles they gave you were because you’re pretty
Well the smiles you got were actually out of pity!

 Us Kids: Dennis Chitwood, Frank McCaslin and Bill Leach at Rex Studios, Portland
Dennis Chitwood, Frank McCaslin and Bill Leach at Rex Studios, Portland
I recently spoke to Bill Pitts, who was known as Bill Leach when he played lead guitar for the group:

We were very young at the time. When we made the record, I was the oldest by a month or two and I was 14. The singer, Dennis Chitwood would have been 12 or 13.

We met through word of mouth in those days. Somebody told somebody that I played guitar or that Kurt played drums. Just good old fashion networking. Then we would have “try-outs” to fill or change a spot. Dennis played the Fender and I the Rickenbacker.

Us Kids Rex 45 Check-OutIn actual fact, “I Love The Rain” was the chart song or “A” side. I have two original copies of those “K-Boy Top 25 Pop” charts. August 19, 1966 – #19; August 26, 1966 – #3 (#1 was the Beatles, #2 was Tommy Roe so I guess you could call that “good company”).

We saved our money and our parents helped pay for the session. If memory serves, it was around $200.00 each. I’m not sure who searched out Rex, most likely Chitwood’s parents. I do remember how excited we all were to travel to the studio (Portland). I remember vividly how nervous I was when the “Recording” light came on over the sound control booth. I remember sitting around the control room with the engineer, listening to the final cut and us giving our approval.

Us Kids Rex 45 I Love the RainOur biggest gig (in my mind) was opening for Gary Lewis and The Playboys. As I recall, that’s the only time we played the Medford Armory (which was the only large auditorium in the day). I have pictures of us playing in (I believe) a battle of the bands at the Medford Shopping Center parking lot. These venues happened once a year to a very large turn-out.

Us Kids on local TV
Us Kids on local TV

The pic of us on TV was taken of us on the show Woman’s World. It was local interest type programming. We also did a short interview and, I believe, announced some news and the weather on our local rock station of the day, KBOY AM.

Us Kids "I Love the Rain" reaches #3 on KBOY's Top 25, August 26, 1966
“I Love the Rain” reaches #3 on KBOY’s Top 25, August 26, 1966

At that point, our parents managed us. We were happy to just play music but our parents got involved (we were very young remember) and agendas won out. Ultimately what broke us up. A shame, as we were starting to draw some interest.I just found out that Dennis Chitwood has passed, I believe last year. I did hear a great blues band in Jacksonville while visiting once. Entered the bar and saw my old friend Kent Klinkenbeard still playing drums. Damn good too. Not sure where the others ended up. I played rock for a few more years and ended up trading my electric in for a Lyle “Dove” twelve string and went all Simon and Garfunkel. Now I pluck through Jimmy Buffet and some mild country.

It was a magical time. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Bill (Leach) Pitts

Special thanks to Bill for sending in these great photos and for answering my questions about the band.

Us Kids: Kent Klinkenbeard, Dennis Chitwood, Frank McCaslin and Bill Leach
from left: Kent Klinkenbeard, Dennis Chitwood, Frank McCaslin and Bill Leach
Location is likely Happy Camp, California
Us Kids "I Love the Rain" enters KBOY's Top 25 at #19, August 19, 1966
“I Love the Rain” enters KBOY’s Top 25 at #19, August 19, 1966

Note upcoming show listed at bottom of flyer: The Blue Boys (should be the Boys Blue) from Sacramento with the Nervous Navarros.The Navarros were from Ashland and cut “Tomorrow Is Another Day” / “Sad Man” at Golden State Recorders around this time. That went unreleased until many years later, but there’s an earlier 45 I haven’t heard on the Corby label from Corvallis, “Ikie”.
 

23 thoughts on “Us Kids”

  1. “I Love the Rain” hit number one in Medford for about a week due to a ballot stuffing effort by me and some friends. The Beatles regained the number one spot the following week. The highlight of the band was to open for The Young Rascals at a concert in Eugene. My brother keeps in touch with the drummer, Kent Klinkenbeard (still lives in Medford), and he had informed us of Dennis’ passing. I went to high school with Dennis.

  2. Hi Doug, I’m Bill Leach (as i was known then), my legal name was Bill Pitts but my mom wanted me to go by my step-dad’s name. The names are all right but the band never hit #1. I have both original top 25 charts. The first dated August 19, 1966 in which we hit the chart as a new listing at number 19. The next chart I have is dated August 26, 1966 where we sat at number 3 behind the Beatles (#1) and Tommy Roe (#2). It was a great time and until my son found this site and a couple more, I had all but forgotten about the band and my old band mates. If you are interested, I have some pictures of us in concert (multiple) and the two scanned original top 25 sheet from Medford Oregon.

  3. great pics, thanks Bill. Dennis Chitwood continued on with different members using the name Us Kids. I talked to him and one of the later members years ago, I probably discarded the info but I’ll look around. The Navarros became Neighb’rhood Childr’n of course. The Ethics (on Graves) changed their name to the Paper Orphans (sp?) so that all three big local bands would have a ‘kid’ moniker.

    There was a big promoter whos name escapes me based in CA just below the border. He was probably behind the dance with the Boys Blue.

    1. The promoter below the border was Harry Arnold of Dunsmuir who later moved to Ashland. He managed the Navarros/Childr’n after Steve Langer pulled out. John Morrison, Navarros original drummer/singer.
      (PS) Dianne, George and I are still playing in So. Oregon as “Rewind”.

  4. Right from the opening you know its gonna be good and it is and then just gets better until the end. That song could be covered by a contemporary outfit and be a hit, imagine Lou Reed with VU playing it? I can. This make me think of the film ‘School of Rock’, when the kids are playing that tune for the battle of the bands, and then Jack Black asks the kid if he can sing the vocals instead, and for me it suddenly loses all it’s coolness.

  5. I believe the promoter you are referring to was Harry Arnold. He may have operated under the name of the “Vegas Booking Agency”
    That is if memory serves….

  6. Hello, So so so wonderful to have been given a link to this page. My name is Cierra Chitwood, and I am the only off spring of my father, Dennis. 🙂 He would loved to have seen this page. Much love. Thank you.

    1. Hello Cierra,
      My name is Warren Croucher and I was in Us Kids II, Kent Clinkenbeard and your dad hired me and Chuck Fleser after Frank and Bill left. I was so sad to hear of Denny’s passing, I was in the Air Force too, and bumped into your dad at Wichita Falls Tech School. Small world indeed. He was in an intense training program to be in search and rescue. I remember he had to run everywhere he went while there as part of his training. Our friend Mike OGrady told me about Denny’s passing a couple years ago. I see your Aunt Debbie at the store from time to time, but I dont think she recognized me. I haven’t seen your Aunt Karen since school. If you feel up to it, I also have some memories I could share.

    2. Hi Cierra, Could you please get back to me? I have a question regarding your Dad and our band. Kind of time sensitive.
      Thank you,
      Bill

  7. Hi Cierra,

    First off, let me say how sorry I am to hear of your Dad’s passing. I have quite a few
    memories of your Dad and our time together. Most likely some of these memories are skewed
    as it’s been many years since I saw him. My path has taken me many places but deposited me
    in a small town just above the Canadian border. I have married and raised two children of
    my own and my wife’s two from a previous marriage. I am just turning 61 and amazed at how
    fast the years have flown by since my stay in Medford. I still try to get back every two
    or three years for a visit. Some of my old school buddies still live in the area.

    A memory that has stayed with me all of these years is of a time when your Dad and I played
    catch with his younger sister. We were only throwing her back and forth a few feet (not that-
    strong at that age :)….one of us (can’t remember which one) dropped her on the hard wood
    floor and broke her arm. I though your Grandma was going to skin us both!

    Anyway. I hope you had a full life with our Dad and if I can fill in any blanks (difficult)
    please feel free to email me.

    Cheers,
    Bill

  8. I knew you were #3 but I rounded you up to #1. I use to go your practices and was a very proud younger brother. Frank lives in Seattle and we keep in close touch. Best regards.

  9. Hello Bill,
    I’m producing a documentary on local northwest concert promoter, Ed Dougherty (EJD enterprises). I’m looking for music to include in the film and was wondering if I could use the song “Check Out” and possibly any other songs that “Us Kids” recorded.
    Thanks,
    Chuck Stenberg
    Salem Oregon
    cstenberg6@msn.com

  10. I joined this band in 67 after Bill and Frank left the band. Chuck Fleser got the job on bass and I played lead. Tryouts re-occurred after the split, and I was bidding for the bass slot. Denny Chitwood played the record check out in the play room behind the Chitwood garage, and ask me to repeat the lead that Bill had layed down at REX. I nailed it easy peasy, and Denny and Kent told me I was the new Lead player in the band. We had a couple rehearsals and went right to work playing dances, parties, and another concert at the Armory in Medford. We had interest from Columbia Recording, and unofficial offers for Ed Sullivan. Our parents stopped it before it got off the ground for reasons I can only ponder.

    1. Hi Warren. Pretty much the same story with us (the original band) and RCA. I think our parents turned a little “over protective”. We were young, in their defence. It was mentioned that we opened for the Young Rascals.
      That might have been in a later version of the band. We actually opened for Gary Lewis and the Playboys in the Medford Armory.

  11. I can help you with some music that my father, Dennis from US kids if interested.
    -Cierra Chitwood

    1. Hi Cierra,

      I’m not sure if you’ll see this or if you will be able to help but I thought it was worth a shot. I am producing a short film and we are hoping to use an amazing song your father wrote (I Love The Rain) in it. We’re not sure who owns the rights to the song however so we are not sure how to proceed. We would appreciate any information you have. Thank you so much!

    2. Thank you for the quick response. To make a long story short my son is a musician recording here and making quite a name for himself. One of the people involved in “The Flash” tv series has produced a small artistic film for the Cann (sp?) Film Festival. This lady is going to use one of my sons songs in the intro to the short film and has heard our US Kids recording and has asked permission to use a small part of it in the credits. This is a non-profit project so no money changes hands. I told her I would contact Dennis’s family for permission. I also told her I wanted her to be sure and put your dad’s name in the song credit as writer. If you are agreeable she may have you sign a form. This would be pretty cool. The songs seem to live on for some reason. I mentioned that we paid for a demo and copies to be made and that there was no contract with Rex or any other party at that time. We never got the chance to meet with RCA records so I believe the project (formally) died there although I am aware the songs were played later at venues. Anyway, what do you think. Should this song be included in the project? I think your Denny would get a kick out of it. Let me know how we should proceed.
      Cheers,
      Bill

  12. Who’s Camilan Grillo? Guess I didn’t enter my name on the earlier post.
    Sorry, Cierra.
    Also forgive the typo “your Denny” I was thinking “your dad” and
    “Denny ” at the same time. 🙂
    Bill

  13. Hi Cierra,
    Any feedback regarding the use of our song as a 20 second sound clip in the credits? Would be very cool to keep it alive for a new group of listeners.
    Regards,
    Bill (Leach) Pitts

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