Monday, July 24, 2017

Allen Mann & The Mustangs

From L to R: Jimmy Simmons, Carlton Buxton, Al Mann, Mike Anderson

Band member line up:

Al Mann- vocals and guitar
Jimmy Simmons - bass guitar
David Swinburn - bass guitar (replaced Jimmy after the record was recorded)
Carlton Buxton - drums
Mike Anderson- lead guitar

The Tennessee Travelers in their western outfits

The band was originally formed in Orange, TX by guitarist Al Mann and Jimmy Simmons who played together in the same church band. In 1963 the duo added Carlton Buxton on drums and then 14 year old guitarist Mike Anderson. The band was led by Al, who was a good 8 or 9 years older than Mike at the time.
Starting out as more of a country western group, they originated under the name of Al Mann & The Tennessee Travelers. 

The Mustangs in 1966 with David Swimburn on bass

The combo traveled all over SE Texas and into western Louisiana playing many fairs, Knights of Columbus halls, VFW halls, and other venues. Their biggest appearance was in 1963 when they were one of the featured performers opening for Hank Williams Jr at the dedication of the Sam Rayburn Dam (in deep east Texas about 70 miles north of Beaumont). The band played for a crowd of 53,000 people in attendance, most notably including President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson.

Mike Anderson, Gary Ware, and Al Mann at B.O. Sparkle Club in Bridge City, TX 1966

In 1965, The Mustangs went into L&F Recording Studio in Port Arthur to record their first record: "Tears In My Heart" b/w "First Love". Around 500 copies were pressed and sold out, with a second pressing being made.
About 5-6 months later, a second record was reportedly issued with the songs "Up and Down" b/w "My Girl Judy". I have never seen or heard mention of this record anywhere though, so it must be quite under the radar if it was pressed up beyond the acetate stage.

"First Love"
"Tears In My Heart"

In 1967 the group disbanded, though Al Mann continued to tour the club circuit and later played in Narvel Felts band. Mike Anderson went on to do studio work in the 70's at AMI studio in Nashville, working with many well known country artist. He now plays in the Big Thicket Band in Orange, TX and is the director of The County Seat Music Hall.

The Big Thicket Band in 2017
Many thanks to Mike Anderson for sharing these memories and sending me his copy of the 45. Thanks to Al Mann for connecting me with Mike!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

E.S. Saunders & The Spades

This entry has extra significance to me, being a post about the only rock band I know of to have released a record during the 50's and 60's in my hometown of Smithville, TX.

The only other local record I know of that was released by a band from my hometown was The Daylighters excellent blues 45 on the Austin based Domino label: "I'll Never Let You Go" b/w "Something Is Wrong". It is noteworthy that a young Sonny Rhodes was an original member in The Daylighters.

Another local 60's era singer who grew up in Smithville (though was living in Austin at the time of his two stellar soul 45's on the Gulf label) was the mighty talented Major Burkes.

Finding in depth information on The Spades from Smithville has been difficult since I have not been able to speak to any original members of the band. Original band leader Everett Saunders passed away years before I ever had the chance to interview him about the group.

Another confirmed member was Glenn Gaertner who lived in La Grange at the time and was a radio DJ over at local station KVLG.

Everett's original band was called The Royal Reltones, and probably contained a completely different set of musicians than were in The Spades. This band featured the following members: Bobby Lawrence, Eddie Sneed, Ken Laake, Frank Riha, Sydney Kasper, and Everett. Several of these band members may have been from around Bastrop county.

During the 70's and 80's when people were first rediscovering lost local recordings, there was much confusion regarding this group because there was a total of THREE unrelated bands named The Spades who made records in Austin during the 1960's! There was also a band who quickly changed their name to the Slades and recorded a record called "You Cheated" which became a big regional hit for the Domino imprint in Austin. Then there was Roky Erickson's first band before he joined the 13th Floor Elevators.

This record was recorded around early 1964 at Roy T Poole's Austin Custom Records in downtown Austin at 6th and Congress. It was released on one of Roy's custom labels called Echo Records, which had previously released a number of excellent country and rockabilly 45's starting in the late 50's.

"My Little Girl"
"Baby I Need You"

Many thanks to Diana Saunders for her help and for use of most of the images in this entry! If anyone else out there remembers these guys or played in the band,  I would love to hear from you!
Drop me a line at shape3 (at)

The man himself, E.S. Saunders

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sounds Unlimited

from L-R: Phil Ferrell, Ron Davis, Paul Jarvis, Ron Mears, and Steve Webb.

Band Member Line-Up:
Paul Jarvis - Rhythm Guitar, Keys
Ron Davis - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Steve Webb - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Phil Ferrell - Bass, Vocals
Chuck Hodges - Drums, Harmony Vocals (later replaced by Ron Mears)

Sounds Unlimited was formed in mid 1965 by WW Samuel High School kids in Dallas, TX.
The band got its first and only manager early on when member Steve Webb invited clothing salesman and National Artist booking agent Kent Alexander over to one of their rehearsals.
Kent started getting the band steady bookings and had connections with a man named Stoney Burns who wrote for an underground newspaper.

During their senior year in 66, the boys showed up to school with their newly grown out mop top manes. The principal, Mr Lanham asked them not to return to school until they cut their hair.
Not only did the band not want to change their hairstyles, but their contract with Kent specifically said that the band was not to cut their mop top hair.

Kent quickly set up a meeting with a law firm called Gibbs, Hooks, and Wyrick. With the boys parents permission to allow attorneys to file an injunction, Herbert Hooks took the lead and the lawsuit became known as "Ferrell VS Dallas ISD".
The case grew to a national level when Mr Hooks was able to get the ACLU to foot the bill.
This was a case that was relevant all over the US as the British invasion took over the countries youth fashion. Kids were growing their hair out and dressing more flamboyantly in every high school in America, and a whole lot of school officials were not too happy about it!

One day in between doing interviews for the Associated Press, Phil, Paul, and Steve quickly wrote a song called "Keep Your Hands Off Of It". Kent wanted the group to seize the opportunity and rushed them into Sumet Sound studio in Dallas to track it and another original song written by member Ron Davis called "About You".
An acetate was immediately delivered to radio station KBOX and was getting airplay the day after the session was completed.
The band struck a deal to publish and press he 45 through Bill Looney and his Solar Records label, which was known for a fantastic 45 by The Penthouse Five: "Bad Girl".
"Keep Your Hands Off Of It"
"About You"

Off to Los Angeles went the band as soon as they had the pressing in hand. Getting the record picked up on a national label was the mission. The band shopped their disc to Snuff Garrett at RCA and several other major labels, but were turned away at every stop.
While in town, Kent used his connections to drop the band by the Capitol Records recording studio while Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was doing some tracking (most likely during the ill fated Smile sessions).

Eventually the gang headed back home and found that their booking guarantees had now doubled and tripled! It seemed that the court case and radio time on their single had garnered Sounds Unlimited a lot of local attention. The band was drawing premiums of up to $300 a night (a LOT of money for a bunch of teenagers back in the mid 60's).
Harold Dunn was the bands biggest fan, friend, and roadie. He would drive them around in their used hearse which they had purchased transport their gear to each gig.
The guys were playing as many as 3 separate engagements on a given Saturday. Some of their day spots included a record shop called Bucks Records that was promoting their 45. They would also play at a clothing shop called "My Friends Place" that would trade the group hip clothes for performing at their store.
Around this time, drummer Chuck Hodges resigned from the band after pressure from his father to drop out of music and go to college. Chuck was replaced by Ron Mears.

Unfortunately for teens across America, "Ferrell VS DISD" was ruled in favor of the school, allowing the principal to choose how his students could appear in class.

The band later made recordings at Boyd Recording Studio and Sellers Recording studio. Both of these sessions went unissued.

Paul Jarvis and Phil Ferrell took correspondence courses afterwards and in 1968 joined the Marines.

Band member Ron Davis had a long career in bands, starting on guitar at age 12 after hearing "Mojo Hand" by Lightnin' Hopkins. Ron played with many other bands such as: Ronnie & The Roadrunners, Bobby Gray & The Gray Tones (who recorded several records for the Jody and Bismark labels), The Warlocks, and a band with the strange name of Mother's Half A Word.

Many thanks to Phil Ferrell, Ron Davis, and Paul Jarvis for their help.