Monday, July 14, 2014

The Purple Haze

It is extremely unlikely that a band would have been started as the result of a boating accident, but here is possibly the only 60's garage band to have formed as the outcome of such a thing.

In May of 1966, Chris Scaff, a very talented 14 year old surfer from King High School (in Corpus Christi, TX) ended up hospitalized after injuries while out on the water.

Determined to stay productive and quite certain he would never surf again, he decided to sell his board to buy himself a guitar. He did so, and within a few weeks he inspired his younger brother Steve to learn the bass guitar.

Two months later, while Chris was still confined to a wheelchair, they sought out to find more members to form a full band. They added their older brother John Jes Scaff (who was then on his way to Del Mar College) as vocalist.
Ray Gootee was also older and was added as the drummer. Presumably a classmate of Steve's at Cullen Jr High (7th grade!), Rod Woodard was added as organist to round out the group.




They decided to call their band The Monarchs. They rehearsed more heavily than the average teen combo, putting in about 12 hours a week spread out over 3 nights per. By the following February, the band was ready to play its first gig.
With the new era of psychedelic music ushered in, the band decided it was time to change their name to The Purple Haze.

In December 1967, they traveled out to Jones Sound Recording Studio in Houston a recorded a single. One side was a cover of The Mindbenders tune "It's Getting Harder All The Time," which had recently appeared in the Sidney Poitier film "To Sir, with Love." The flip side was a fairly psychedelic instrumental original called "Electrocution," which featured some nice use of fuzz guitar. It was released on the JMS Productions label, which was basically run by the three Scaff brothers father, Ray Scaff. Ray was also acting as the bands manager by that point.


"It's Getting Harder All The Time"

"Electrocution"


The band had begun to travel outside of Corpus and would frequently play military bases such as Randolph, Lackland, and Laughlin in Del Rio. They would tour out to nearby towns such as Austin, Raymondville, San Antonio, Bishop, Kingsville, and Dome Shadows in Houston.

The Purple Haze opening for The Yellow Payges and The Animals!! June 15th, 1968

Enterprising as he was, Ray helped the band acquire what was probably one of the most impressive light shows around, which included black lights, strobes, and color wheels. By their own account, they spent thousands of dollars on custom made equipment.



On August 22nd, the Scaffs and company opened up their very own teen club: The Web.
As most of these kinds of venues would go, this place didn't last too long. It was closed by the following summer/fall. However, they did manage to book several great local bands such as The Moving Sidewalks, Ginger Valley, and Bubble Puppy. Plus it was a great place for The Haze to do their own residency.

The Web! Located at 1720 South Staples.



The band split apart when the brothers decided to move to California in December of 69, and at that point the trail goes cold...

If any of the Scaff brothers are out there reading this story, Id love to hear from you and learn more about this bands story! Many thanks to Ray Gootee for telling me what he could remember, and to my buddy (and Corpus music historian) Rene Sandoval for sharing a couple of these news clippings. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Salados & The Buccaneers, etc

Johnny Gidley and I first spoke about three years ago. I took thorough notes from our phone conversations but had lost them in a notebook which had lots of precious details about local bands transcribed. Thankfully we were recently able to regroup, and this time Johnny emailed me the full story on his various bands based in Bell County during the 60's.

The Salados are known for having made several records on Joe Treadway's TSM record imprint.

Although Johnny was out of town at the time, The Buccaneers also made one great late-period fuzzy garage rocker... That band was speculated to be from the Dallas/Fort Worth area due to the label that pressed their record.

Below is the story...



I got started playing music in 1964. My dad had bought an old un-named acoustic guitar from an old black man in Jarrell, Texas for $5. He had wanted one of his sons to pick it up and learn how to 'second' to him as he played the fiddle. Well... None of us took a serious interest in doing that so it just sat in the closet for how long I do not know until the night of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964. I watched how the girls just screamed for joy at them and thought... "well that's the way to get girls isn't it?" After their performance I immediately went and got that guitar out of the closet and began figuring out how to play it and I never put it down for three straight months until I had learned how to play it.

My first band was called Johnny & The Silvertones.

L-R: Tom Brown, Johnny Gidley (his Elvis pic), and Berry Evans.

I began our band in 1964 when I was a junior at Salado High School. My fellow classmate, Berry Evans, had a big electric Silvertone hollow body guitar and I had acquired my first electric guitar, a little solid body Silvertone from a pawn shop in temple for $25.00.

So...we called our beginning group Johnny & The Silvertones. From there things began to mushroom.
We weren't able to get into the recording business until around 1965-66 when we tied up with Joe Treadway, our very first manager. The history expands a lot from that point.

We obviously needed a drummer and a bass player to make 'a band' so we asked our fellow classmates Harold Mersiovsky and Tom Brown if they would be interested in joining. Harold on drums and Tom on bass. Of course Harold had no drums and Tom no bass. Each thought he could come up with something to suffice.

Harold had a single snare drum and a cymbal. He would set his snare on a chair and nail his one cymbal to the top of that chair and he was all set. Tom convinced his mother to order an inexpensive bass guitar from Sears by telling her that it would keep him out of trouble. How appropriate to be Johnny & The Silvertones when all our guitars were Silvertones from Sears!

We started out learning songs of The Beatles, Buddy Holly, and really just any song that one of the guys would bring to practice and asked to learn. Our very first job that I remember was a 'sock hop' in Holland where we received no pay but got exposure. We played a lot of those! Another was The Tiger Den in Belton, Texas where we vied with The Twilighters and other local groups. We did not make any real records in those days. I do however still have some of the very early tape recordings from that era when we changed our name from Johnny & The Silvertones to The Keats.

L-R: Johnny Gidley, Jerry Naylor, and Berry Evans

This was very much my band from the beginning. I chose the players and the names. Berry and I would go through encyclopedias and whatever else we could find to come up with something that resembled The Beatles and I thought we had it when I came upon the name of John Keats, the poet. So...we played as The Keats through the Junior and Senior banquets and a Salado High School stage show/talent contest. We were getting better but still not making any money. I of course was writing songs along with Berry. We were the new Lennon/Mccartneys we thought.

Tom Brown of course was hard of hearing. He wore a hearing aid. I had to teach him how to play bass which he did very poorly in those days. It was a real challenge for as long as we were together! In later years he used to tell me often how much he appreciated my patience in teaching him the bass guitar. He would say that if I hadn't done that he probably would have wound up in prison!


The Keats and Joe Treadway! Well...

Tom being hard of hearing had begun going to Temple Hearing Center around the time of The Keats. This business in Temple, Texas was owned and operated by Joe Treadway, the step-father of Jerry Naylor. Naylor of course had taken over Buddy Holly's spot in The Crickets after that fatal 1959 plane crash in Iowa that took Holly's life.

Well as it turned out, Tom had begun mentioning to Treadway that he was involved in a band in Salado and talked of his challenges on bass guitar as it pertained to his hearing. Treadway, of course having been involved in music in one form or another for most of his life began to get interested in our group. He invited us up to his offices in Temple for an audition and tape recording session after the Hearing Center had closed for the day. Treadway had his tape machine running as we went through several of our original songs and others as well. He was very much impressed with my rhythm guitar playing on a song Berry and I had written, an instrumental, called "Silver Eagle". He liked the sound my pick was making against the strings and the pick guard of my guitar. A slapping kind of sound that I was doing quite unconsciously.

From that point he became our official manager. He then arranged a recording session for us in Waco at a studio run by Goodson McKee, a DJ at the time at one of Waco's radio stations. We performed a similar set of songs and McKee had specialized equipment that actually 'cut' a record. There was only one copy of that session work and it got passed from one person to the next over the course of our career. Lord only knows whatever happened to either of those two sessions. It would be wonderful to ever find those recordings 'alive' somewhere!

From the Temple Daily Telegram

The Salados

In the winter of 1966 we were called to Hamilton, Texas- Joe Treadway's home, to begin working on both a real record and a series of stage shows throughout that west Texas area. I don't know that much about Joe but I do know that he spent a lot of his early life in west Texas and had been involved with several radio stations. Jerry Naylor, his stepson, was to be the star attraction and we were to back him up as well as perform our material. Joe also had us take in his son Dickey Treadway as a saxophonist. So... that winter rehearsals began. We worked with Jerry in Joe's living room. I remember two songs in particular that Jerry liked and wanted us to back him on. One was Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Loving You," and the other was Johnny Rivers' "Son of the Seventh Son". There weren't many photos taken in those days. I wish there had been. I have one with me, Jerry and Berry lookin' out over Joe's front fence and thats it!

I took a chance and took Joe up on his offer to live with them and work a little at his Hamilton based Hearing Center. It was there that, acting as his 'secretary' I saw first hand how he was putting all this together: the shows and the recordings and the changing of our name to The Salados. Since we were all from Salado he thought that would be a better name than The Keats. I didn't like the name change but for a real record to be the prize... I went along but not real happily.



Treadway chose my song, "Got No Love" as our single B/W my song, "All For The Love of A Woman". The thing that really got my goat though was the fact that he didn't allow me to sing it... He told Berry to just play anything as I and the rest of the band played the rhythm etc. He then changed the name of the song to "Spider Walk" and gave his pseudonym, Calvin Haskin, as its writer. That still bothers me to this day.

I don't want to get too far into the weeds here but we did go to Longhorn Studios in Ft. Worth and 'cut' our first real record: "Got No Love". We also played as the backing group on two other performers of Joe's: Ray Adams, who recorded 'Little Rose of Reynosa' and Bill Holley, "Who Flung That Mater". Bill was no relation to Buddy.

Joe promoted our record throughout central Texas: Belton, Temple, Waco, Hamilton etc. and I remember what a thrill it was to hear my song, our record on KTEM radio in Temple! What a thrill! As far as sales... We never thought of making money on it and we never found out how many were sold but I do still have a copy of that one thank God!

Note the Ramsgate Music publishing name, same as on the Mark VII records from Waco...

"Got No Love"

"Spider Walk"


The stage shows were well received and drew big crowds, even in Salado where the home folks now were knowing us as The Salados. It would not be long however that Joe would start trying to change our image and our style of music by requiring us to play more and more country & western. That did not sit well with me and the only thing I could think to do was to leave Joe behind and hope that my band members would follow me which they eventually did. I left the Treadways after only about a week or two as I realized that was not what I needed to be doing. It was not long and we were back together again and this time my bass player Tom would be moving forward and asking us to let his dad, J. E. Brown, manage us. He had picked out the name The Buccaneers as our name and uniforms that would propel usinto the height of our popularity in central Texas.

I liked our uniforms a lot. We wore gold corduroy back pocketless pants, red silk puffed sleeve shirts and black leather- look vests which were buttoned upwith red yarn. They looked great! We took group photos at Tiners Photography in Belton but I have no idea what ever happened to them. What I wouldn't give to find some of those photos today!

Dicky Treadway with a mystery band labeled as The Salados. Who were these guys? Was Mark Scott in that band? 
"You Can't Believe It"

"One To Ten"



The Buccaneers




As best I can remember, that's been a long time ago, we started out playing beer joints in Temple. Mr. Brown believed that was the most immediate way to get us going and boy it sure did. At that time he booked us into the Starlite Club, down by the train tracks in Temple. He worked with the owner, Harold Hoelscher, to negotiate a good price for us and we started out playing there acouple times a week. In addition he got us gigs at the 'in' spots at the time: Flag Hall, Seaton Hall, Wesphalia, Beyersville and the S&S Club. It was at that time we figured we needed an organ player because so many of the groups had them so we chose a guy named Glen Henderson from Rogers, Texas. He fit right in with us and was a great asset even though he could not sing... neither lead or harmony.

Johnny and Tom performing at Sefcik Hall

Then, after performing for several weeks at the Starlite Club in Temple, Tom and his dad Mr. Brown decided it would be a great idea to haul our gear over to the S&S Club after we finished at the Starlite and just perform for free for the folks. This worked out great as it got us into that place which previously had only booked country western bands and groups like Jimmy Heap. We also kept going back to the Starlite Club and to all these other venues on a pretty steady rotation and kept a new audience in front of each week. Then trouble hit. This was 1967 by then and the Vietnam War was raging. I got drafted intothe Army but chose to join the Navy instead. This essentially broke up our little band again. I was sworn in a sent to San Diego for training. To shorten the story... I had problems with my back on board the ship The U.S.S. Cabildo and was taken to the Naval Hospital in Long Beach, California and was subsequently given a medical discharge in 1968. I came home and immediately reconnected with the band as The Buccaneers lead singer again. I had only been gone 7 months! We regretably never made a recording during the best years of The Buccaneers... Before I left for the Navy. Why I'll never understand. Mr. Brown just didn't push us in that direction and none of us I guess had any idea how to begin recording on our own.

Johnny in his groovy outfit with the Buccaneers

By 1968-69, Tom had added a couple of people new to the group. I'm not sure of the exact order of their arrival but he had added a new drummer, Kyle Mains, a new lead guitarist, Lee Copeland, and a new orgainist, Norman Stout. We became so popular at the S&S Club that the owner, Mr. Shirley, wanted us 5 days a week at such and such money. Mr. Brown negotiated with him and that put us at a semi permanent gig where we could each earn enough money to make music our full time job.
Radio station KTEM wanted to do a live performance with us with George Franz, the station's sales manager as the MC...and we did! Would be wonderful to have a copy of that turn up somewhere also but alas...I do have a transcript of Mr. Franz announcing and elaborating on each song right before we performed it. There was a young man, Jessie Birdsong, who used to follow the group back then and he taped us live on his big reel to reel one time...the entire four hours! Years ago I tried to find that tape and I called Jessie's dad. Regrettably, he knew nothing of the tape and stated that Jessie had died years before in a motorcycle accident. Sad but there was a lot of tragedy back then. Along with Jessie there was 'Big John' Ellis from Troy and our drummer Kyle Mains who both committed suicide. The girl friend of our light show man and a beautiful girl that I had been in love with as well, got run over by a car and killed at 15 years old. I wrote a poem about her after that called 'Scarlet Leigh' It's in my new book of poetry entitled In The Arms of Morpheus and other works.

"You Got What I Want"

"Standin' In The Shadow Of Your Love"


From the highs to the lows. I began to sense with the changing of the guard so to speak with all the new members coming in and out that it was about time for me to leave the group and take out on my own. I was married to Debbie Bruce of Temple in 1971 and took a full time regular job and began playing single jobs all over Temple, Belton, and Killeen... Wherever I could get a booking. Tom continued to go on with The Buccaneers but as mentioned... He was the only 'original' member left by then. Things had changed. No more uniforms. No more direction and Mr. Brown had given up in frustration with it all. Tom was a stubborn man however. He hired all these new people and took the group on the road up north for a few weeks. Somehow... THAT group managed to make a recording of which I don't even know the name of... I had absolutely no involvement with it... That the BEST Buccaneers did not do. I however had been writing songs continuously since 1964 and had a huge array of original songs that I wanted to record and so in 1976 I released 'On My Daddy's Farm' b/w 'Until Love's All Gone' on my own record label: Prairie Land Music and so ended the best musical group that at least ever came out of Salado, Texas. I guess it just was not in the cards to take it higher than we did. I do have regrets of course: That the recordings were not saved or were so carelessly handled by the person that possessed them; that the photos were lost and that we were not successful at taking it to a higher ground in the state of Texas. But for that little dash of time, 1964 to 1971 we felt like we were the best of central Texas. Long live the memories.

Johnny Gidley


Triple thank you to Johnny for taking the time to write out all of his 60's bands stories, and for emailing me all of the band photos.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Pack

Though the record label that released their lone vinyl waxing would have you believe they were from San Antonio, The Pack had their roots firmly planted in Austin soil. 
Over the course of a couple years, original member Bob Snider and I exchanged various emails regarding that band and the previous one- The Moonglows. Following is a composite of several of his emails…



 "Zilker Hillside Theatre 1963. The Moonglows was the precursor band to The Pack. There were 5 of us in this original iteration of The Moonglows. Jim Mings, around whom both of these bands revolved, Bruce Kirtley, bass guitar, Tee Bowman, guitar, Mike Leet, Drums, and me, Bob Snider, guitar, joined with Jim Mings, guitar. We were a band put together by legendary Austin guitar teacher Wayne Wood. If you played guitar in Austin Texas, chances are your learned from Wayne Wood. Wayne taught out of his house on Avenue G. Several years after my days at Wayne Wood's studio he would teach Eric Johnson in Eric's beginning days. Eric mentions Wayne in the liner notes of one of his albums.
Following this gig at Zilker the band thinned out, dropping Tee Bowman. The remaining 4 of us carried on and did quite well for a bunch of kids.
I don't remember exactly why, but we were called to be photographed for The Austin American Statesman. I guess we were pretty popular, and a novelty since we were so young. We were all 16 years old in this photo, Jim and Mike I think were actually 15.  Times were much different. Austin was not "The Live Music Capitol of The World." There were only a handful of garage bands like us, and really only 3-4 professional "adult" bands as far as I can remember.
We played at high school and junior high dances, The Teen Canteen, and several Battle of The Band competitions. We always placed, and won first place once.


I think the novelty of our young age, our song selection, and the fact that we took our music seriously gave us some notoriety. We were well practiced, Jim and I both being perfectionists. We played a wide variety of songs that appealed to both adults and kids.
For reasons I don't clearly remember, The Moonglows broke up. I think it was a combination of Mings wanting bigger and better, and my girlfriend was putting pressure on me to quit because she got tired of either staying home on Friday and Saturday nights and/or being a "band girl" and sitting and watching us play every Friday and Saturday night. Anyhow, The Moonglows dissolved and I thought nothing about it for several months. Jim formed another band, The Pack. I don't really know how he met the new members as none of them were former Moonglows. Anyhow, Harry Buckholts on bass. He was from Travis High School. There was a second guy from Travis on second guitar. I'm blocking on his name at present. Mike Christian from McCallum High School on drums. Mike Christian was friends with The Moonglows drummer, Mike Leet as they both went to McCallum and I think were in band class together.
The organist was Doug Balfour from Travis HS. He was getting serious and wanted to go to medical school I think, and quit The Pack. Jim, in need of another second guitarist visited me to see if I would "come out of retirement." I said yes, and The Pack now consisted of the members, the equipment of whom, is in the photos I sent you of my mother's living room at a band practice. Jim Mings lead guitar and head honcho. Me rhythm guitar. Harry Buckholts bass. Mike Christian drums. I was not with the original band when they cut the 45. There was actually a guy named Clay Smith who was on guitar before Doug joined. 


There was a competing band of our age group, The Trojans. We convinced their keyboard guy, Doug Harmon, and their drummer/singer, Bill Gossett, to quit The Trojans and join us. There were now six members, so we changed our name to The Six Pack...quite controversial for high school guys in the 1960's. So, the line up was Mings lead and honcho, me rhythm mostly, some lead, Harry bass, Doug Harmon keyboards, and Bill Gossett singer and front man. Harmon's dad, for unknown reasons, had what he called a recording studio in a separate room...away from the house. Actually nothing there but an old reel to reel. Anyhow, we practiced there. We played high school parties, some frat parties, The Jade Room and Club Saracen. At the end of our senior year of high school, we went to different colleges so The Six Pack dissolved."

Bob later went on to play with Georgetown Medical Band, who are known today as being one of the handful of local rock bands who recorded at the Sonobeat Studio. Their summer 1969 session went unissued.

I was also able to speak with Doug Balfour, and I pieced the following information together from  a phone conversation we had earlier this year:

Doug Balfour was in 10th grade at Travis High School when he caught an early live performance of The Pack at a local YWCA dance. The band was a 3 piece at that point and lacked a bass player and keyboardist. Doug enjoyed what he saw enough to ask the trio if he could join the band as their organist.

After Balfour joined, he suggested they add his classmate and friend Harry Buckholts on the bass guitar. Harry did not own a bass and had little experience playing, but that was no problem!

Doug recalls the whole band being situated in front of the TV at Jim Mings parents house the night that The Beatles debuted on the Ed Sullivan show.

Now bearing a full line up, the band started out playing benefit events but quickly graduated up to playing wild frat parties where they would get paid up to $100 a night (remember, that was good money for the time) and all the beer they could drink. This was heavy stuff for high school kids.



"Baby I Ask You Why"

"Time"


Around September 1965, the band drove down to San Antonio to record a couple songs at Jeff Smith's Texas Sound Studios. The chose the studio because they had heard that Sunny & The Sunglows had recorded their hit version of "Talk To Me" there.
For $100 they were able to obtain a tiny pressing of 100 copies of their 45 record, which featured a crude garage rocker called "Baby I Ask You Why" backed with a ballad simply called "Time."
Both songs were written by Jim Mings.
Take note that the dead wax inscription bears the number code of 650929, which was Jeff Smith's dating system for when he would master a record: September 29th, 1965.
The record got some airplay on long defunct Austin radio station KAZZ-FM, mostly thanks to DJ Jim Vern. Otherwise, it went unnoticed.

Sometime after that, Doug went away to science camp and when he returned, Clay Smith had been replaced by Bob Snider.

One of Doug's last memories before he moved to the east coast for college was a battle of the bands event where they came in 2nd to the legendary Baby Cakes.


Many thanks to Bob Snider, Doug Balfour, and Harry Buckholts!













Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gary Gene & The Kounts

Gary Zaskoda was a senior at El Campo High School when he started singing with a group called The Kounts. This was 1962. He was the oldest in the band, being one or two years older than the rest of the guys. They made their debut at the schools talent show.
After performing at the El Campo town fair, they were noticed by KULP radio DJ Jan May, who approached the band about being their manager. He soon got the band to head to ACA recording studio in Houston, and convinced local record label baron Bennie Hess to release their first record on his Space ("out of this world sound") imprint.

The front of ACA studios where The Kounts (and 100's of other TX groups) recorded.



"Crazy"

"Do You Love Me"


The band became quite popular locally from their live appearances and the added boost of Jan May's sponsorship of their recordings on the radio.
They eventually changed their name to Gary Gene & The Kounts inspired by the names of older local favorites like BJ Thomas & The Triumphs and Roy Head & The Traits.
They recorded and released two further 45 singles: One for Charlie Booth's Spinner label "Do The Tiger" b/w "Over The Mountain". The former song was an upbeat R&B flavored dance number inspired by the Exon commercial for "Put A Tiger In Your Tank" that was appearing on TV then. The last single was on a one-off label called Jabet, which was named after a combination of Jan (May) and his wife Betty's names.
The band folded around 1964.



Members:

Kenneth Moore - Drums
Patrick Krenek - Trumpet
Andrew Dittert - Trumpet (later replaced by future Barons member Frank Sebesta on organ)
Mike Sallee - Trombone
Mario Bustos - Bass
Dora Bustos - Backing vocals
Ed Tenant - Rhythm Guitar (later replaced by Eddie Van Hoesen)
Larry Everett - Lead Guitar
Gary Zaskoda - Vocals



"Do The Tiger"




"Fool In Your Sight"



Performing at tiny village venue: Hillje Hall

Thanks to Gary Zaskoda!




Sunday, April 6, 2014

Johnny Tee And The Titans

Shortly after first getting in touch with John Thomason from the Unexpected Party (see earlier entry from Kerrville for the story on that band), he revealed that he had played in an earlier group who had recorded and released a demo 45.

It was an interesting record I had never seen or heard of, a Texas Sound Studios custom pressing with a low fidelity recording quality. The top side is a crude early rock n roll song coupled with soft melodic vocals and an unhinged guitar solo!
The flip side revealed itself to be a down-n-out ballad with jazzy guitar chords and a slow churning ominous bass-n-piano line outlining the backbone. Good record!

Below is a short story on this recording in John's own words:

"I had written the two songs and wanted to send a demo version around to some record labels and artists. So I asked Bob Schmerbeck (piano) and Bobby Hunter (guitar) if they would play for me. We were all three students at Schreiner Institute and in the glee club there so we were pretty much aware of each others' musical interests and abilities. Bob knew lots of other musicians in town and lined up a bass player and drummer to play with us. We played at a couple of dances on campus (when the official band took a break), but we were never really a live performance band. If my memory serves me correctly, the drummer who had played with previously was not available on the day we were to record and so Bob asked another drummer to play with us. I think his name was Bobby Sanchez, but I need to check on that. Anyway, he was an experienced rock and roll drummer and a quick learner so he worked out just fine. And I was always amazed at Bobby Hunter on guitar. I played for him, on piano, what I had in mind for the guitar part and he took it from there and made it very much his own. It's pretty obvious he was a Chuck Berry fan. To bring the story to a close: I did send the recordings to 10 or 12 labels and artists, but never heard back from any of them. I was later told that labels and artists were hesitant to even acknowledge receiving such material for fear that they would later be accused of having plagiarized from it."


"I Was A Fool"

"Since I Don't Have You"


Thanks John!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Epics/Grass Menagerie

Jack Flanders recently wrote to me and asked if he could contribute a story on his 60's rock band from Waco. Of course! Below is the tale, in his own words…


Quiet Riots in old Waco, courtesy of The Grass Menagerie


Another ‘60s Waco band with a particularly notable member was a group first called The Epics, and later The Grass Menagerie. The idea for the band came when the families of friends Jack Flanders and Paul Quick met up for a weekend of camping at Doheny Beach in Southern California during the summer of 63. Enraptured by the golden surfer girls and soulful sounds of The Beach Boys, the two decided to form a band once they returned home.

Together from 1965 to 1968, the band had two distinctions – a particularly gifted lead singer and a knack for starting small-scale riots. The gifted singer was Ronny Raines, an original band member along with Flanders on rhythm guitar, Quick on lead guitar, Bill Howard on bass, and Roy Nash on drums. When the band began, its members were in junior high school. Later half the band attended Waco High School and the other half Richfield High School.

Impressively fashionable, Raines was a member of the choir at Waco High. The other band members always figured his involvement was too good to be true, which soon turned out to be the case. After only two gigs, Raines moved to Houston. In a few years he was Ron Raines, performing for many years in a leading role on the TV soap opera "Guiding Light.'' He also starred in numerous performances of the New York City Opera, distinguished himself in numerous stage and movie musicals, and has recorded more than 25 albums. He’s still a great dresser.

After Raines left the band there were line-up changes, with Roy Walker becoming the lead singer, Tommy Waggener the drummer, and Scott Vaughn the bass player. When Paul Quick moved to Louisiana in 1968, Woody Money took over the role of lead guitarist. The band played regularly at YWCA dances, high school proms, Saturday night dances, bars, Waco Parks and Recreation dances and private parties.

Nothing if not ambitious, the band regularly branched out from its Top 40 rock and performed some of the period’s more avant-garde songs, including “Seven Plus Seven Is’’ by Love, “Riot on Sunset Strip’’ by The Standells, and “You’re Going To Miss Me’’ by the 13th Floor Elevators.

Without fail, “Riot on Sunset Strip’’ would always incite mayhem of some order, according to band members. On a spring night in 1966, the fighting spilled from Waco High School’s gymnasium onto the parking lot where a truly impressive brawl ensued. Among those arrested were two particularly athletic thugs who were hammering away at each other on the roof of a car Flanders had borrowed from his mother.

Today Scott Vaughn and Roy Walker remain active in the Central Texas music scene. Walker played most recently in Time Machine and Vaughn plays in The Lost Tomorrows. Paul Quick lives in Asheville, N.C., where he writes songs and performs with the band QuickChester. Bill Howard is a businessman in the Fort Worth area, and Waggener continues his long-time dental practice in Waco. After living a time in California, Jack Flanders now lives in San Marcos and plays regularly with any and all comers.

Amazingly, although they are in their early 60s, all members of the Epics/Menagerie are still alive and picking. The band members agree that some of their longevity is probably due to never again playing the song “Riot on Sunset Strip.’’

A final bit of irony: Propelled into rock music by a desire to start a Beach Boys-like band, Flanders and Quick have played music of all types for half a century, but are yet to perform a Beach Boys song.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Synthetic Sound

Here's a mystery record on Lamar McDaris' Pot Records label… Its by a group called The Synthetic Sound. There's a producer credit of A. Dicroce on the label side with the band's original composition- a pleasant sax-laden ballad called "I Must Go". The flip is a wild n wooly cover version of "Proud Mary".
No one Ive spoken to thus far from the Del Rio scene seems to recall who these guys were. Perhaps they were a group from nearby Eagle Pass? or from Uvalde? Maybe Crystal City? Or was this a short lived group with some of the guys from Thee or Chocolate Grapevine?
The deadwax on the record has a Texas Sound Studio code number of 691202, indicating a pressing made on December 2nd, 1969. This is Pot Records catalog number 1002.



"I Must Go"

"Proud Mary"


If anyone knows who these guys were or even played with them, drop me an email at: shape3 "at" yahoo.com
Thanks!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thee

Band members from left to right:

Ruben Resendez - Bass
Bruno Lozano - Rhythm Guitar
Reginaldo Gonzalez - Lead Guitar
Juan Jimenez - Singer
Juan Raul Rodriguez - Organ
Eddie Garza - Drums



Sporting one of the most unorthodox 60's rock band names, Thee originated from the mid sized border town of Del Rio.
Despite the local population being largely hispanic, segregation was common during those days. The town had at one time been racially separated as one side being San Felipe and the other being Del Rio. Three members of Thee were from either side. Despite this separation, the group were able to bring both sides of the town together at their dances.
Last year while visiting with a friend, I was able to sit down with original bass player Ruben Resendez.
Ruben had moved from California to Del Rio, TX in 1961. A few years after moving to town, Ruben began learning to play guitar from his next door neighbor's brother, an older kid named Raul who played in several bands. His lessons came to the test when his first band- The Extremes, got asked to play a youth center dance in 1965. Ruben was 12 years old at the time. This project only lasted about a year, and in 1966 Juan Jimenez and Juan Raul Rodriguez left their band to join Ruben's group. They decided to change their name at this point and wanting something British sounding, so they choose the stark and unusual name: Thee.
Soon the band was playing local sock hops and church functions, and began to tour regionally in places like Uvalde, Brackettville, San Angelo, Eagle Pass, San Antonio, San Marcos, and as far as Sul Ross University in Alpine. The group even played across the border in Mexico at the infamous Boys Town a few times.
One of the other popular teen bands in Del Rio was a band called The Chocolate Grapevine, which featured Ferdy Calderon, local celebrity Blondie Calderon's younger brother. Blondie went on to be Ray Price's vibraphone (and later on piano) player from 1967 on.
Thee's drummer at the time, Lupe Lomas eventually left the group and joined Chocolate Grapevine, and their drummer Eddie Garza joined Thee.
One night in early 1969 while opening for one hit wonders Crazy Elephant at the Del Rio civic center, the band caught the attention of local KLDK DJ and concert promoter Lamar McDaris aka James D.
Lamar began managing the group and brought them into the radio station one day to make a quick demo of an original song they had written. "Time With Her" began being played on the air and started receiving a good amount of attention, so McDaris sent the boys out to Texas Sound Studio up a ways north in San Antonio to record their hot new original song plus a cover version of the Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody". The band chose the controversial label name of Pot Records for the 45 label, a name which Lamar would continue to use for several other records he released down the line.




"Time With Her"

"To Love Somebody"


The single was a local hit and according to Ruben, sold about 4 or 500 copies.
The band was only briefly able to enjoy the momentum from their first record however, as the members began to graduate from high school and either move away or take serious jobs. Thee was no longer by the summer of 1970.

Ruben continued playing in bands from that point on, playing in a long running group called Crossroads, who played mostly tejano and country music. He focuses predominantly on christian music these days.

Many thanks to Ruben Resendez, Ray Gutierrez, and Billy & Bob McDaris for their time. It truly is much appreciated!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Unexpected Party

I recently came across an obscure late 60's rock single by a group from Kerrville, TX. I don't often seen records from that area, so I HAD to know more. To boot, the record was pretty good... I located original organist John Thomason, and here is what he and David Crosswell had to say about the group:

"The band was short-lived, only about one school year 1968-69. John Thomason was a math teacher at Schreiner Institute (now Schreiner University) in Kerrville. There were some students there who wanted to play some rock and roll, but it was too loud for the dorm and the music department didn't have space for or interest in accommodating them. However, there was a vacant building on campus, the old infirmary, and the students asked the administration about using it as a rehearsal hall. The administration said okay, on one condition. They had to have a faculty sponsor who would unlock and lock the building and be present while the students used it. That's how Thomason got involved. He occasionally played piano or directed musical events around campus, so the students knew he might be interested. And, conveniently, he actually lived on campus, pretty much across the street from the vacant building. Besides, he always wanted to be in band and so … a band was formed.

The name of the band came from "An Unexpected Party," the title of the first chapter of "The Hobbit," a popular book among students at the time. Of course, the band intended a clever play on the words thinking they would be the impetus for some spontaneous parties. The personnel in the band were David Crosswell, guitar and lead vocals; Tom Daniels, bass and background vocals; Jack Horner, lead vocals and harmonica; Tom Ostendorf, drums; and John Thomason, organ and background vocals. They played mainly for dances on campus, at the local high school, and at a local "teen canteen." They also managed to play a couple of times in San Antonio--once at a club called the Pink Pussycat and once for a Trinity University frat party. They were strictly a cover band and the songs they played tended to be favorites of the band members, probably songs they already knew. They did songs by Iron Butterfly, The Beatles, The Grass Roots, The Band, and Steppenwolf, to name a few.

They decided to try their hand at producing a 45 and booked an hour at Texas Sound Studios in San Antonio. The songs they recorded were covers of Steve Miller Band's "Living in the USA" with Jack Horner singing lead and John Mayall's "Broken Wings" with David Crosswell singing lead. They had 200 copies pressed and sold them around campus and at dances where they played. Bill "Wink" Stacy was then a DJ at the local radio station KERV reported that their recording of "Broken Wings" was more requested than even songs by the Beatles were.

The school year ended and the band members went their separate ways. Tom Daniels has since passed away. Crosswell and Thomason are still in touch, but the fates of Horner and Ostendorf are unknown. Like most unexpected parties, this one was fun, but short-lived."



"Living In The USA"
 
 "Broken Wings"


Many thanks to John Thomason and David Crosswell...