|The Wild Ones of Richmond, Virginia put out one 45 in late ’65 featuring two original songs. The A-side is “Listen to the Drums”, an atmospheric chant led by Rennie Renfro’s drumming on the toms and bassist Rick Payne’s lead vocals. The flip “Baby I Love You” is wilder. Loosely structured after “Twist and Shout”, there are fine lead vocals by Jimmy Sandy and great piercing screams after the line “do you love me?” Both songs have excellent natural reverb and feature Jim Sandy’s sharp lead guitar playing.|
Drummer Chuck “Rennie” Renfro and keyboardist Clyde Atkinson assembled this detailed history of the band:
Clyde Atkinson: I’ll let the fan club biography speak to the early history of the band, Rennie (I still have a hard time calling him Chuck after all of these years) can add some more to the early history.
This is the text from the Fan Club Bio that was in the club membership packet:
|Clyde Atkinson: I started playing in bands at the early age of 13, the first band I was in practiced a lot but rarely played a gig, I think we played one office party and a pool party at the Community Center in Bon Air, VA.The next band I was in was called the Tempos (yeah, real original, but we were in our early teens), that band played a song mix more to my liking (no more Beach Boys like the first band), a lot of Beatles, Stones, etc., this band also practiced a lot and our main gig was at a couple of community centers for teen dances on Friday or Saturday nights where we got half of the door admission price of 25 cents. We’d get done playing, pack up our gear and head to the Ten Pin Coliseum to shoot pool and eat hamburgers and fries and pretty much blow our earnings. We finally got a decent gig booked at a local club called the Paper Tiger for their teen night, we would open for the Wild Ones! So we did the opening set, packed up our gear and stayed to hear them, their manager (Chuck Renfro, the drummer’s father) invited me over to their table while the Wild Ones were playing. We talked for a good while, he mentioned that they were going to be recording a record soon and asked me if I would be interested in joining their band, I told him I’d think about it and let him know. Out of loyalty to my band mates I initially turned down the Wild Ones offer, the following Monday I was talking to an older friend at school that also played in a bands (students at my school were in a lot of groups including the Panics and the Fugitives), he advised me that I should take advantage of the offer to better my career, loyalty aside he said I needed to look out for myself. So I called the Wild Ones manager and accepted their offer (a few months later two brothers that had been in the Tempos with me joined the Fugitives).|
Rennie Renfro: I started playing drums when I was fourteen. I guess you could say it was earlier than that. I was 5 when my parents bought me a toy drum set. When I was six I sat down at some real drums at a dance hall at the river when the band was on break and played. Some drunk guy and his girl started dancing and he gave me a twenty dollar bill for the music. My parents made me give it back.
At fourteen I met Jimmy Sandy. He had a guitar and wanted to start a band. He asked if anyone could play the drum beat to the Ventures song “Walk Don’t Run”, he showed us the beat with his hands and each one us of tried. I tried and could not do it. I walked away and went back home and I sat on the sofa and tried to figure out why I couldn’t do it. Then it dawned on me that Jimmy was right handed and I was left handed. I tried it left handed and there it was. I actually ran back to the group of guys yelling I could do the beat. Jimmy said I could be the drummer. I got some cheap drums and we started practicing with Bill and another guy from the neighborhood. My dad got us into some restaurants that played country music. Well that did not go too well when we played rock and roll. They passed the hat around and we got 75 cents. We kept on playing to anyone that would listen. We got better at each place we played, then we added Ralph to the band and also started buying better equipment. Later on some promoters from New York came and asked if we would be the backup band to the singing group the Newbeats at a show in the area. They are the guys that made the song “I Like Bread and Butter” with a high pitch singer. We learned the music but at the last minute they canceled the show. That’s show biz.
Q. Was there a particular neighborhood or school in Richmond that the band came from?
Clyde: Rennie (Chuck) Renfro the drummer went to Midlothian High School, though he had previously lived in the “East End”, actually Henrico County and that’s where he met Jimmy Sandy and how the band first started. That is the same area that most of the Barracudas came from. I went to Huguenot High School, which had a lot of students in many different bands. Midlothian, Huguenot and Manchester High Schools were all in Chesterfield County outside of Richmond.
Q. You mention the Fugitives and the Panics. Both those bands had records on the Shoestring label. Do you have any recollections of either band, or other groups from the area at that time?
Clyde: Mickey Russell, lead guitarist of the Fugitives went to Huguenot for a while after transferring from Manchester. We ran across them often as they were quite popular, a very good band and played some of the same clubs that we did. And of course the rhythm and bass guitarists, Jimmy and Tommy Sickal had played with me in the Tempoes and later joined the Fugitives. Jimmy and Tommy went to Manchester, I think the Fugitives did at least a couple of 45s and an album. I last talked to Mickey Russell around ‘97/’98, he was living and working in VA Beach for a TV production company. Some members of the Panics went to school with me at Huguenot, Bill LaRue lead guitar, Jimmy Sherwood rhythm guitar and Bill Lyles bass. They were another good band with a large following. I last saw Bill LaRue and his wife doing a C&W gig at a club in the early ‘80s. The Barracudas as I said were from the East End, also a very good band and probably the one we considered as our biggest rival.
Richmond, VA had a pretty good music scene in the ‘60s, there must have been three dozen or more clubs that featured live bands with music. In fact the Richmond scene was good up into the ‘80s/’90s, may still be good to some extent (there are few clubs and restaurants with live bands these days). It was a tight, very competitive music scene back in the ‘60s and yet at the same time friendly with a spirit of co-operation between bands and individual musicians.
Not much later after I joined the Wild Ones (I think it was a couple of weeks) I got to take the day off from school to go to the recording studio with the band. And then, just like a little kid waiting for Christmas to come, it seemed like it took forever for the master tapes to finally become a record. And what a thrill it was to finally hear our record on the radio (WLEE 1480 AM was the first station in Richmond to play it). And we had a growing fan club that came to a lot of our gigs when we played in Richmond.
Rennie: Oh and the scream on “Baby I Love You” is me. Hey I was still a young kid and my voice hadn’t changed. I still get kidded about that.
Clyde: And scream you did!! I think the first take nearly blew the headphones off of the recording engineer’s head. I had become good friends with the members in the Wild Ones, Rennie and I being the same age and the two youngest members kind of formed a tighter bond between the two of us. Rennie and I tended to get a little wilder as were younger, and we often interacted with dance steps and stuff that sometimes got a little crazy.
Rennie: You and I were in the back of the band so we stuck together and tried to do different things to entertain the crowds. We became good friends and still are today.
Why was the record label called Tu-Lang, and was that session and the pressing something the band paid for themselves? Do you remember which studio you used?
Clyde: We did not own the record label. You’ll notice on the label it says an LM Production, that label belonged to a Mr. Meade (forget his first name), he and his son had a band called the Commanders in the Richmond area, more country pop oriented and played mostly for older crowds (real popular at Moose Lodges, etc.), but a decent band. They formed the production company to get records done for their own band and I have no idea why they selected the TuLang name, perhaps he served in the Pacific in WWII? A side note, he had a much younger daughter that sometimes would sing with their band, she eventually moved to Nashville to pursue a C&W career, Donna Meade who later married C&W star and sausage king Jimmy Dean and they eventually moved to Richmond.
The Wild Ones paid for the studio session at Capitol Transcription in Washington, DC, as well we paid for the pressing and most of the distribution. We actually spent several weekends riding around VA in our hearse visiting different radio stations and dropping of copies of the record, photos, and a promo pack.
Clyde: The band was booked quite a bit, we played clubs, sock hops after football games, proms, bar mitzvahs, we even played at a used car dealership as partial payment for the Cadillac hearse we bought to transport the band. We had the hearse painted sort of a purple/lilac color with the Wild Ones in dayglo pink script on the sides! When we played “Long Tall Texan” at gigs, we always added an extra verse that went something like “Well I’m a long tall Wild One, I drive a lilac Cadillac (he drove from Texas in his lilac Cadillac)”, well, you get the idea. We spent a lot of hours in that old hearse driving all over Central Virginia and points beyond to our gigs, you had to get pretty close emotionally after spending so much time together.
Rennie: You have hit a lot of points about the band. I remember driving in the hearse to the river, that most likely would have been one of the Coles Point tavern gigs or the Windmill Point Yacht Club gigs. Anyway, the hearse had come from a country funeral home that also used it as an ambulance, so it had red lights and a siren, they never took the siren out of the hearse. Bill Sandy hit the button that started the siren, and we pulled a car over. We kept going. Well, we had a gig to get to!!
Clyde: The Rock and Roll Show of 1965 that we played in 1965 at the Bellvue Theater in Richmond, VA was done a second time by the same promoter a couple of months later at the Beacon Theater in Hopewell, VA. Pictured on this site is an ad from the Entertainment section of the Richmond News Leader and one of the admission tickets from the actual show. Also pictured is another ad from the entertainment section where we played for the Grand Opening of the Patterson Drive In, it was a brand new drive in theater with a teen area.
The business cards pictured were two of the several designs we used, the plain blue one was an early version from when I first joined the band, the tan/color print version was later. We also had one that had colored sort of circle shapes (sort of like large ‘O’s or spiral shapes) that was done in a series of different colors, some cards were green, some red, some blue, etc., unfortunately I don’t have any examples of that series. The band pictures on this site are from three different times, one was the formal band portrait that we used in our promo packs and also handed out at times to fans (I think fan club members got one with their copy of the band biography). Then there was a photo from one of our gigs, I’m pretty sure that was taken at the Olde Mill in Farmville, VA. The last photo is a well worn copy of a night time photo taken at the end of the Tobacco Festival Parade in Richnmond, VA. You’d never know it from that photo, but at the beginning of that parade the float looked pretty good, that parade was a major event for the Richmond area back then and many of the company sponsored floats were close to the quality of major parades like the Rose Bowl Parade.
at the Tobacco Festival Parade, Richmond
|Rennie: The Tobacco Festival Parade, I remember that we were toward the end of the staging area waiting to get in line with the rest of the floats. While we waited, we decided to tune up and play a very quick part to see if everything worked. Well we were surrounded by fans and could not move the float. The police had to come back and escort us into the parade line. We were holding up the floats behind us.Our float was being pulled by our band hearse with two of the WLEE on air personalities sharing the driving while we were playing for the entire time on the float. Teens along the route were actively plucking “decorations” the entire night, by the time we made the several mile journey through downtown Richmond, our float had been stripped clean down to the bare chicken wire structure before we even made the circle through Parker Field Stadium (now replaced by The Diamond). It was a pitiful site to behold as we passed the judging stand and the hundreds of spectators in the stadium. The picture here was taken after the stadium pass through and a couple of our fans, family and friends had hopped aboard for a ride to the stadium parking area.|
Clyde: Favorite spots to play: the Olde Mill in Farmville, VA always had a good crowd and we played there fairly often, Coles Point Tavern on the Potomac River where you parked your car in the parking lot in VA and walked out on the pier where you were in Maryland and they had slot machines and liquor by the drink (which VA didn’t at that point in time), the high school Sock Hops were usually fun, frat parties at UVA were wild, lots of enjoyable gigs. Teensville Club was always going to be a huge crowd. The record was doing OK in our region, we were in the process of getting songs ready for a second record, we also had to practice a lot since we were mostly a top 40 cover band and you had to know the latest hits as they were always “requested” (if I EVER have to play “Wooly Bully” again it will be too soon!!), sometimes the sheer number of hours we played worked on you physically. Rennie and I sat down a couple of weeks ago talking about those old days and I asked him if he remembered one Saturday back then, and he did, it was a monster day and would be hard to forget.
Rennie: How could I forget a day like that one? Those kind of long nights made it hard to be excited by the time you got to the second set of the third gig that day.
Clyde: We played the Saturday afternoon jam session at Johnny’s or the Satellite on Jeff Davis highway, packed up and hopped in the hearse and played at the Chesterfield County fair from 6-10 PM, packed up there and drove all the way across town to play at the Mechanicsville Moose Lodge from 12-3 AM, what a day!
Somewhere in this time frame we participated in the Battle of the Bands in Richmond at the old Tantilla Ballroom on Broad Street. Some radio stations were promoting it and you had to send in an audition tape to see if you would be asked to participate, we recorded a reel to reel tape in Bill Sandy’s garage (which is where we practiced most often) and sent it in, after a few weeks we were informed that we were one of the bands selected. I think they started with 30 bands from all over VA (but mostly from Central VA), we survived the first couple of cuts and got to keep playing. We made it to the final round where they announced the top three that would play again to determine the results, after all three bands had played the judges came back and announced the third place band (which wasn’t us!) and then said that for first and second there was a tie between the Wild Ones and the Barracudas.
Rennie: So both bands played again and the judges left again, came back and announced that there was still a tie (not a good thing, having an even number of judges), we played yet again and they finally decided it with a coin toss with the Barracudas finishing first and we were second. So while we would have like to finished first, it was still quite an honor to have been one of the top three bands!
Clyde: At one point we went to VA Beach without having any bookings there, we checked into a cheap hotel and then went to find an inexpensive dinner, saw a little place called the Lion’s Den on Atlantic Avenue that had a steak special and would also have live music, so we went in for dinner. It appeared that the band they had booked for the week cancelled at the last minute, so no entertainment. We got to talking with the restaurant manager while eating dinner and told him we were a band and would be happy to play for our dinner, he said if you want to play then dinner is on the house and he’ll pay us if we can draw a crowd. So we brought in our gear and set up, by the time the first set was over they were turning people away at the door as we had packed the house (though it was a small club). He ended up booking us for the rest of the week and we picked up some other bookings in the area, the Ebb Tide, the Pirates Den, even a one shot deal at the Peppermint Lounge. We met a band that was booked at the Ocean View amusement park for the entire summer, a group called the Canaries from the Canary Islands.
Rennie: In Virginia Beach I remembered we walked into some club during the day. The Spinners were playing there. I thought I remembered jamming with a few members, but I am not sure. We were doing a lot of gigs at the beach and we met a lot of other bands. I also remember that the hotel we were staying at got a little out of control. The manager was going to kick a lot of people out. Someone told him it couldn’t be us because we were a band from England. He believed it and we got to stay.
Clyde: Things were looking up and the next record would probably be recorded soon (two more original songs), things went along smoothly for a while. Then there was a huge argument, basically Rick Payne the bass player against the rest of the band, he decided to quit the band, being co-author on the songs we were going to record put a serious crimp in developing the second record, eventually it just never happened. We needed somebody to fill in, I called a friend, Ronnie Bowers that had played with me in the Tempos, originally a sax player, he could also play guitar, bass, a little drums, he filled a lot of spots for us and having a sax player certainly helped with a lot of songs. We continued our gigs and didn’t look back and kept trying different things to evolve our style, we later added a second sax player, Buddy Diggs, who played with us for a few months. Tragically, Buddy was killed in a traffic accident and I felt it was quite a blow to my young mind (and I’m sure to some other band members).
Rennie: It certainly was a tragic event. A young, talented musician gone so suddenly, some of us were pallbearers at his funeral.
Clyde: I guess the final blow for the Wild Ones was when Uncle Sam decided to draft Jim Sandy, the lead guitarist. Jimmy was an awesome guitarist that was always on the cutting edge of equipment and techniques, he could learn anything if he heard it a couple of times. After he left, we tried to “replace” him, we auditioned several guitarists but nothing was working out, we wound down our gigs and the band pretty much fell apart. Bill Sandy (Jim’s older brother and rhythm guitar/vocals) decided he had had enough, and Rennie, Ronnie, and myself just could not put the pieces back together again. The end of the Wild Ones era was upon us, it all happened in just a few short years.
Are there any demo tapes or unreleased songs of the band?
Clyde: As far as I know, no demos, tapes or anything else still exists. The songs for the second 45 were never recorded in the studio. Rennie and I are pretty sure we recorded a reel to reel demo of them in Bill Sandy’s garage, but we don’t know if that tape still exists. The only thing we are sure still exists are the few copies of the original 45 that Rennie and I have.
I went on to play in an R&B group that practiced a lot but rarely was booked, that lasted a few months. They had a female drummer that I had first seen in the east end of Richmond with her then band of “Barbara and the Boys”. After the R&B group broke up, Barbara called me a few months later and asked if I was playing with a group, she was very excited and said that she was playing with a San Francisco type rock group that would soon be the house band for a new club opening up near VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), the new club was owned by several VCU students. She asked me to come audition for this new band called the Lower Floor and I ended up with them and indeed we were the house band for that club while it lasted. We were putting on quite a show, breaking up equipment on stage, the club had a full light show with strobes and oil/water projectors.
After that band broke up, I was pretty much through with bands for a while and eventually sold all of my gear and quit playing entirely in the mid ‘70s. I got into construction as a carpenter’s helper and learned a trade, tried a few other things, sort of stayed in touch with both Jim and Bill Sandy, Rick Payne and every once in a while I’d give Rennie a phone call or a quick visit. Rick ended up doing shows for advanced techniques for some of the nationally known hair care products companies (like Redken and Fermodyl) and doing seminars all over the country. He and his wife ended up putting together a complete show package and I ended up doing lights and sound for them. They moved from Richmond to New York, NY after they became the National Style Directors for Lord and Taylor. Bill and Jim Sandy both were hair stylists and for a number of years had a shop together, I finally lost touch with all three of them in the early ‘80s. I knew Rennie had gotten into computers and worked for a large computer company, every once in a while I’d give him a phone call and we’d chat for a few minutes, I did have a couple of quick visits with him over the years.
In the mid ‘80s I decided that I wanted to start playing music again, I went out and looked at equipment and everything had changed, instead of a Hammond and a Wurli EP giving you a total of two basic sounds, now you had a 45lb keyboard with hundreds of onboard sounds and if you didn’t like those you load a couple of hundred new sounds. I got into synthesizers and started learning how to program them, I added gear as I could afford to and thought about playing in a band again. I went and sat in with a couple of bands and immediately I was like “(smack forehead) … how could I ever have forgotten how hard it is to get five people to agree on something”. So I decided to go the home studio route and play/write/record for my own pleasure, these days I devote some of my spare time answering questions on YamahaforumsUK as I’m a forum specialist/moderator there, a fancy title for volunteering information you may know and sharing it with others so they can learn about their synthesizers. A way for me to pay back a little to all the people that helped me and shared knowledge with me over the years, a small price to pay for all of the pleasure, good times (and a few bad ones) and the knowledge that those in the music world helped me accumulate over the years.
Rennie: After we broke up I got drafted. Overseas I joined two other guys that brought their guitars and had brought a set of bongos. We started singing and playing. We played at clubs on bases in Korea and also played on Korean radio in front on the Korean YWCA. They could not speak English but could sing the songs in English. Rock and Roll is truly universal.
After the service I tried a few bands, but nothing was working,. the magic was gone, it wasn’t the Wild Ones. I miss those days and the band. When I tell people about the things we did, I am sure that they think I am making some of it up. Currently I have a business dealing with business software and systems design/implementation, I’m not currently playing drums or music.
From both of us: We have just recently re-established contact with each other and plan on staying in touch, it was absolutely delightful when we had lunch together recently and talked over old times. I think both of us would like to find Rick, Bill, and Jim or find out what has happened to them. Hmmmmm, pictures of the hearse, we’d really like to find some of them too.
Chuck (Rennie) Renfro – drummer for the Wild Ones
with the Fugitives, Jaguars and Challengers at the Bellevue Theatre, November 26, 1965
Chuck Renfro and Clyde Atkinson, 2011