Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Knights Bridge Quintet

The Waco teen music scene in the 60's was a vibrant one which had a surprisingly large number of bands for a town its size. It also featured three major recording studios (Mark VII, TRC, and Goodson Mckee Recording Service) which gave the bands plenty of options to record and release their wild ideas into the world.

Without a doubt, the two most popular groups during this time were The Knights Bridge Quintet and the The Morticians (formed just a year or so earlier than KBQ). Though the two bands had a friendly admiration, it goes without saying that they also were in steady competition to win the attention of the towns youth.

From L-R: Back row is James Smith, Jerry Echols, Harold Hutchison. Front row is Mickey Williams then Jimmy Jones

Band Member Lineup:

Jerry Echols - drums
Mickey Williams - lead guitar
Butch Sherman - rhythm guitar (1st)
Jimmy Jones - rhythm guitar (after Butch)
Dick Gimble - bass (briefly before James)
James Smith - bass and vocals
Harold Hutchison - organ and lead vocals

The Knights Bridge Quintet was formed in 1965 by Midway High School Sophomores. Midway High at the time was an affluent school on the South West side of Waco, a prime locale for an upstart of teenage garage band hopefuls.
The group originally formed under the name The Bishops with bass player Dick Gimble (son of legendary fiddle player Johnny Gimble). Improvising for the cause, Dick played his bass lines on a normal 6 string electric guitar since he didn't yet own a real bass.
Soon after, James Smith won the favor of the band and replaced Dick due to his ownership of a real Hofner viola "Beatle" bass!

The band soon donned a full set of Vox amplifiers (again like The Beatles) and a Vox combo organ.
Practicing in the living room at drummer Jerry Echol's mothers house in the Woodway neighborhood of Waco, the band became a live force to be reckoned with.
Like most garage bands of the time, the live show consisted of a repertoire of all the top rock hits of the time. Songs by The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, Animals, Troggs, Zombies, Doors, etc were typical in the bands set.
They would play regularly at all the live venues around town including The Westview Skating Rink, Act V Club, Velvet Park, and so on.
Things heated up when the guys were given the opportunity to open for Gary Lewis & The Playboys at one of the cities biggest venues: The Heart Of Texas Coliseum. Some involved even recall Lewis and gang were booed off stage in favor of the Knights Bridge to return to the stage.
The touring radius for the band grew to include San Antonio, Austin, McGregor, Valley Mills, Marlin, Groesbeck, Tyler, Dallas, Houston, etc.

KBQ live at Westview Mall Sept. 1966

On a particularly ill fated jaunt down to Austin, the band decided to wear a set of wigs borrowed from Jerry's dad's hair salon. The tough crowd instantly began to heckle the group and made fun of their outfits. A stunt pulled by Harold where he hid behind one of the bands amplifiers and simulated the Recorder flute solo on The Troggs "Wild Thing" with his voice further agitated the ridicule. To make matters even worse, before heading home defeated, the band left their payout money for the gig on top of the cars front dashboard. When they started driving back to Waco with their windows open, all their earnings flew out the window! They quickly pulled over, scrambled out of the car, and tried to recover what money they could alongside the road.

1st pressing of "Sorrow In C Major"

A first place award at a battle of the bands event at the Westview Skating Rink in 1967 hosted by Chuck Harding (Of TRC recording studio and label) won the band its first official recording session. Soon after, the band were on its way to Tyler, Texas to record with the great Robin Hood Brian at his Robin Hood Studios.

The band tackled the one original song they had at the time, a moody mid tempo psychedelic gem called "Sorrow In C Major." After completing it, the band realized they needed another song for the B-Side. They improvised an upbeat instrumental track based on a 12-bar progression complete with party sounds from all the members hollering and whistling along. They humorously decided to name it "Hits Don't Come Easily," after a sign that was placed above the control booth in the studio.

The 45, originally released as a no-label independent release (with Chuck Harding's publishing co. printed on the label) quickly became a regional hit and won the band even more local fame. Other area bands such as The Zeljians (another Mark VII recording group who I will detail soon) and McGregor's own Bad Seeds began to cover the song live.

A 2nd pressing on Chuck Harding's TRC label also exists, though details on this release are just about unknown.

Ultra-rare TRC pressing of the single

This caught the attention of local KBGO DJ Glenn Daniels, who had the band come in to his Mark VII garage home studio for another session to produce an alternate B-Side.
Though the band members memory of this recording is hazy, it indeed produced the excellent dreamy "Love Of A Different Flavor." This song gave bassist James an opportunity to utilize the trumpet playing skills he had learned in the high school band.
By this point, original guitarist Butch Sherman had left the band to join the Marines and Jimmy Jones was brought in to play guitar rhythm guitar.
Daniels reissued the bands single, this time on his own Mark VII label, cutting the original B-Side and adding the new recording made at his home studio.
The single sold well in McLennan County and continued to bolster the bands reputation.

"Sorrow In C Major"

"Love Of A Different Flavor"

"Hits Don't Come Easily"

Only a few shorts months later however, the band would come to an end as its members graduated from high school and moved away or pursued college. By the summer of 1968, the band was no more.

Jerry joined and continued to play off and on over the years with the Quintet's rivals, The Morticians. He still plays with the group to this day.

Harold Hutchison joined a later incarnation of local psych band The Society before moving to Houston and joining Southwest Freeway. After that, he moved to NYC and joined a band called Topaz who released an LP. He also ended up in the cast for the original version of the wildly popular play "Hair!"

Jimmy also continued playing in bands, playing with Roky Erickson and the Resurrectionists in the early 80's followed by Waco soul legend Sherman Evans. He currently plays music in several groups, including one which features his wife on vocals and daughter on keys.

Mickey married his high school sweetheart just after graduation (they're still happily together!) and moved around Texas before finally settling back in the Waco area.

James served in the Navy (during Vietnam) after the band folded. Upon his discharge, he stayed in San Diego, California and became a member of a 70's rock band called Tillman Thomas.

Special thanks to Butch, Jerry, Mickey, and Jimmy from the original band. Also thanks to Linda Havis Smith for her help, and everyone else who was willing to share memories or info on the group.

Stay tuned for (the first time ever!) the full Mark VII and Waco garage band story. Ill be posting details as I get time to write it out and put it all together!