Friday, April 14, 2017

The Reddlemen

The Reddlemen's excellent "I'm Gonna Get In That Girls Mind" is among one of the classic Texas 1960's garage band 45's. Having been included on compilation albums as early as by the mid 80's, the single has picked up a cult following over the years.
I recently had the pleasure of getting to visit with and interview one time band member Gary Cotton, who along with his brother Mike, played in the incarnation of the band who recorded the 45 in 1966.
Below is the story, assembled from Gary's memories.

The Reddlemen!
Gary Cotton was about 13 years old when he began taking an interest in learning to play the drums.
His older brother Mike had been playing in bands for several years by then, having been influenced by his cousin Keith Allison (yes, THAT Keith Allison) in San Antonio to pick up an instrument.
Like Keith, Mike was a gregarious and good looking young man who never had problems finding himself a girlfriend.
Gary had practically grown up watching his brother play in bands, keeping a close eye on Richard Smith, the drummer in Mike's band The Kingsmen. On most Sunday rehearsals, Gary would be at his brothers band rehearsals, picking up influence and inspiration from Richards musicianship.

Mike Cotton's first band The Royals
When Meet The Beatles was released in America in January of 1964, Mike immediately procured a copy. The two siblings would sit in Mike's room listening to the record on his homemade hi-fi stereo cabinet which Mike had built himself in shop class. This was the final push made Gary decide he would learn to play a musical instrument himself.
Starting out on a garbage can emblazoned with a hip fake band name of "The Vibra-Beats", Gary's parents took notice and bought him his first beginner drum set through Mike Batton from The Royals.

Gary's first band was called The Klansmen (complete youth innocence here and no reference to the hate group). It was largely the literal definition of a garage band, only playing a few public engagements.
When the Beatles came to Houston in August 1965, Gary and his band mates all got dropped off at the concert together at the Sam Houston Coliseum.

The Kingsmen at reheasal
Another photo of The Kingsmen
By this point Mike had been playing with The Kingsmen: a large R&B combo complete with several horn players. Led by twin brothers Gary and Larry Moore, the band quickly built a strong regional following and worked the local dance halls every weekend.

Having graduated from high school, college duties swept Mike off to Austin where he attended the University of Texas. Wasting no time there, Mike joined a group called The Hustlers.
The collegiate life was only to last a few months. The chance to become a part of the bustling music scene in California called too strong, and Mike soon dropped out of college and started staying with his cousin Keith in Los Angeles, hoping to find his own way into the limelight.

Allison himself had ended up in LA after having auditioned to be Ray Peterson's guitarist and winning the job. He soon met and befriended fellow San Antonio raised Mike Nesmith, and ended up playing on several Monkees records, including playing harmonica on their first album.
Frequently hanging out at the Whiskey a Go Go, Keith was noticed one night by the crew filming an episode of Where The Action Is on location. His striking resemblance to a certain Paul McCartney got him a regular role on the TV show.
Columbia records eventually signed Keith in 1967 and released his one and only solo album for the label: "In Action". Allison even joined Paul Revere & The Raiders shortly before the recording of their 1968 album "Hard 'N' Heavy".

Unfortunately, this path was not in the cards for Mike. He received a draft card in the mail almost immediately after dropping out of UT, and was summoned back home to spend a few months with his family before entering boot camp.
It was during this time that Mike joined hot local band The Reddlemen, who had been one of his competitors when he was playing in The Kingsmen.
The Reddlemen were one of the first bands in the area to get hip to the British Invasion sound, quickly donning matching grey collarless shirts and playing red colored guitars and drums.

When original drummer Billy Hammond left the group, Mike suggested they add his little brother Gary who was getting to be a pretty good drummer.
The new six piece line up worked fastidiously during the 6-9 month period that Mike was back in Angleton. Their first dance together was at Taylor Hall in Pasadena, a venue which featured girls in go-go cages. They would play this spot about 10 times during this period.
Their next job with the band was opening for The Beau Brummels at a large teen fair.
Other venues they played included and The Catacombs in Houston, a fraternity house in Austin (a connection from Mike's stint at UT Austin), and many local high school dances.

Their average pay was $25 a member, and the combo kept a steady work schedule, often playing several times in the same weekend.
The bands most regular venue was the Angleton Fairgrounds, where they played an estimated 25-30 times. They even once played there with legendary Houston band Thursday's Children.
They also played with The Moving Sidewalks (Billy Gibbons pre ZZ Top band) at the Dairy Bar on Surfside Beach near Freeport, TX.

The original kick drum head!
Still being a pretty young high school kid, Gary was only allowed to travel so much with the band because he would ride in a car with the groups manager: SL Hutchinson. SL was the father of lead guitarist Rick Hutchinson, and doubled as a chaperone to watch over Gary, who was a full 4-5 years younger than the rest of the band.
The band would rehearse at night inside the Hutchinson Jewelry shop in downtown Angleton. The streets would usually be empty at this time and the band could practice as loud as they wanted.

When the notion of cutting their own record came about, The Reddlemen got connected to Curtis Kirk and his Custom Records label and studio out in Tyler, TX. Curtis was old friends with an Angleton based country pedal steel guitarist named Jody Burhl Sanders, whose son was Dwayne Sanders, a teenage rock musician that The Reddlemen boys were friends with.
Curtis Kirk was a country musician himself, and having a rock band on his largely country western record label was an anomaly. But being friends with Burhl's son was enough of a liason, so the band came up to Tyler in the spring of 66. Spending one night at a motel there after recording their two songs for the single. Both songs had been written by Mike, though Curtis added himself to the writing credits (which was pretty standard at the time).
By April of that year, the bands excellent single was pressed and being sent to radio stations.
Unfortunately, it did no get much air time, nor did it sell very well. The band had made a great record, but it was hard to get the right people to notice. Not aiding the situation was the fact that Mike went off to boot camp not long after the 45 came out.

"I'm Gonna Get In That Girls Mind"

"I Can't Go This Way"

The band continued playing for a short while afterwards, but fell apart when bass player Charles Smith joined the army reserves, vocalist Pat Harris got married young, and rhythm guitarist Jim Howell was drafted (though later deferred).
When Dwayne Sanders band, The Brym-Stonz Ltd needed a new drummer, they brought in Gary Cotton.
The band had a great practice space in Burhl's converted garage studio. Later, they would practice at band member Les Roberts vacated parents country house.
Gary played with The Brym-Stonz until he graduated from high school, when he formed a band around 1969 called Concrete Rock.

Program sheet for the Teen Dance
This group was a power trio consisting of Mario Rodriguez (from Alvin, TX) and Reddlemen bandmate Jim Howell. They moved up to Kansas City, Kansas together and were booked by Alan Bell Enterprises who sent them on a long tour through the middle part of the country.
During this time, Gary began to grow weary of life on the road and decided to head back home to Angleton to take up day job.
In 1970 he did a short stint playing with Terry Simpson of The Raiders (of "Stick Shift" on Van Records fame).
After a short while playing with Terry, Gary quit playing in bands entirely.

Tragically, Mike Cotton was never to return from his stint in Vietnam. He died in 1968.

Many thanks to Gary Cotton for taking the time to visit with me and share all of these stories.
Stay tuned for the full story on label mates The Brym-Stonz Ltd! Coming soon.