Friday, March 13, 2015

The Islanders

The Islanders were a band from San Benito, TX who made one fantastic dreamy surf flavored garage 45 back in the mid 60's.
I was recently able to do a short Q & A style interview with original band member Jack Morgan, and here are the results:

The band members were:

Creep Gosser - Singer/Rhythm Guitar
Jack Morgan - Lead Guitar
Kenneth Greer - Drums
Ray Lynch - Bass
Terry Kaufmann - Percussion

Q: How and when did The Islanders come together as a band? 

A: We came together as mutual friends and a common interest. To make music! I think we got together in 1964. '64 to '65 were the "formative" learning years, I guess, practicing almost daily after school. My mom used to teach kindergarten and had a small frame building built in our back yard as a classroom. She had gone back to regular teaching at this time and we took over what we used to call "the garden" as our practice hall. We started out our first gigs solely instrumental playing surf music and Ventures type stuff. We played some high school banquets for for starters and a sock hop or 2, as they were still called. I guess we came to realize our rhythm player could sing and we started covering Beatles, Kinks, Stones and the like. We didn't have time to develop much original music as we ended sometime in 67 due to the Vietnam war and the draft as two of the guys had to go in the service.

Q: What were some local venues the band would frequently perform at?

A: High school sock hops, Saturday night dance at the skating rink in San Benito. We used to have impromptu dances at South Padre where we would just set up and play at what was the public picnic area at the time. I kinda think we were among the first, if not the first to do such a thing down there. My folks had a permanent trailer down there at "The Point" and we spent a lot of time there. Hence the name of the band I suppose. Shortly after that the county built an event center that was called the Pavilion which is still in use I think. We would then rent that place out about once a month an have dances. We would do trade out with radio station KRIO in which we would play a gig for them occasionally for which they would promote our gigs on the radio.

Q: Did you guys travel much outside of the Valley for shows?

A: Rarely. We played a Catholic school in Corpus Christi once I think... My later bands did some college stuff...

Q: Did the band have a manager? 

A: I guess my parents kinda acted as manager when we started having those dances at the (Padre) Island... They would would look after the door and concession for those. We (kids) got whatever was left after expenses.

Q: How did you guys get hooked up with recording at Phil York's studio in Dallas? What do you remember about the session? 

A: I had a cousin who was friends with Phil York so he hooked us up. It was an exciting experience; a very nice studio. We were self promoting so we just registered a record label and paid for the studio time and a pressing of 500 records.

Q: How many copies did you guys press of the record? Did it get any airplay or local attention?

A: 500 copies... We did get airplay on the only English rock station that was on at the time. I guess this was 1964 or '65. KRIO were the call letters. They would do cross promotions with the local bands, promoting our gigs and/or record. In exchange the radio station would have dances and we would play for them every now and then for free. It was really a win/win for all involved because we would get added exposure from this and we would sometimes open for road bands like Jay & The Americans and The Music Machine. KRIO would have a phone-in "battle of the bands" over the radio and people would phone in and vote on our records. They pitted us against The Playboys of Edinburg one weekend and I guess a bunch of our friends were listening as we did pretty well. The Playboys were very good, very tight and we really admired them but I guess we had kind of a raw appeal. I later became friends with most of them.

"King Of The Surf"

"When I'm With You"

Q: Who were some of the other local bands you remember from San Benito or neighboring towns?

A: The other bands from San Benito that came along shortly after us would be The V.I.P.'s and The Intriguers. One of our contemporaries from Harlingen were the Malabus of which their drummer and I are very good friends to this day.

Q: When and why did the band break up? 

A: I believe we broke up in late 1967 when our singer and drummer got drafted. Viet Nam was getting hot and heavy and was sucking a lot of guys up.

Q: Any other interesting or funny stories to tell about your time in that band?

A: My family lived right across from the San Benito High school football field. We had a small building in the back yard that my mom had built from which she had used to teach kindergarten. She no longer taught any more so we commandeered it as a practice hall. We would usually practice most weeknights and people would park in front of our house both to watch football practice and to listen to us play...

Q: Lastly, did you play with any other bands after The Islanders during the 60's or early 70's?

A: After the guys went into the service I moved to McAllen and was going to college at Pan American. During this time I played with a McAllen group called The Foamy Brine for maybe a couple years. When my guys got out of the service we made an attempt to reform but but I had a night job at the local TV station which I didn't want to quit so that was pretty much the end of that. Kenny, the drummer went on the "Holiday Inn circuit" for several years and Creep, the singer bounced around in various duos and such.

Thanks a ton to Jack Morgan and Terry Kaufmann. Keep a look-out for an upcoming article on Foamy Brine!