Our story starts in Lake Jackson, Texas, where the small record label Van was once based. Charles and Bobby Vanmeter, two brothers from Longview, TX, started the label out of the back of their music store in Lake Jackson. Both men ran the small studio where they used a Roberts 4 track recorder to record local acts from Angleton, Clute, West Colombia and Freeport. The two brothers took on an accountant to help with the business side of the label named Lonnie Roberts, who was also an accountant for Dow Chemical at the time. Lonnie’s address was used occasionally, which is why you see Angleton on the labels and not Lake Jackson. Lonnie once recorded a single for the label with The Raiders titled, “Rugged But Right/ Room Full of Roses.”
The two groups I would like to spot light on this specific label are the Raiders and The Originals.
The Raiders were a three piece consisting of Jessie Castor on bass, Bill Pitcock on drums and Terry Simpson on guitar. I had the pleasure of speaking with Terry Simpson on the phone to get the down low on this mysterious label and his group along with some information on The Originals.
Terry told me that the group started in 1961, but did not actually record until 1962. The group’s first recording was the hit, “Stick Shift.” It was outside of a club in Angleton that Terry just started playing around on the guitar and ended up writing the guitar section of the song on spot. The group went to the Vanmeters with the song where Terry and Jessie Castor then wrote the rest of the song and recorded the tune. “Stick Shift” sold 10,000 copies in Houston alone after being picked up by the Vee Jay label, giving the record worldwide distribution.
When the group started playing Terry was a fifteen year old and a freshman in High School, Jesse Caster was twenty-two, and Bill Pitcock was twenty-six years old. Another single the group wrote, which was not a chart topper, was a track titled “Raisin’ Cane/Repetition.” This disc is my personal favorite and was recorded in about 1963 with two different members, Clyde Kirkpatrick on bass and Larry Cox on Drums.
It was around this time The Raiders went through multiple lineup changes and finally became the backing band for Walter Crane, who was a popular vocalist in the area.
The second group I would like to highlight is The Originals. Gary King on guitar, Ronnie Ellis on VOX, Gary’s brother Tommy King on bass, and George Shelton on drums made up the group. They started out with a sound similar to that of The Raiders, but later recorded a few slower ballads and a few moody garage numbers. The Originals went on to record Terry’s “Stick Shift,” with a slight title change, “Stick Shift 65.” Terry Simpson was a huge influence for Gary King and many other guitar players in Texas at the time. Billy Gibbons will even drop Terry Simpson’s name when asked of his early influences.
The Originals eventually recorded four singles for the Van Label. The first one, “Scatter Shot/Lucille,” was the topside written by Garry King and the flipside was a moody version of Little Richard’s “Lucille”.
The group then recorded “Honey Blonde/ One Little Raindrop,” both tunes written by Monte Angell. Their third single contains the Terry Simpson and Jessie Castor cover of “Stick Shift 65/Blast Off”, with the “Blast Off portion written by Gary King. Their fourth single contains my favorite of the four singles “How Much of Your Heart/Searching For Your Love.” The song features Ronnie Ellis belting out the vocals and was written by Monte Angell. For more information on The Originals please refer to Garage Hangover’s interview, which features some additional tunes as well.
I would like to thank Terry Simpson for giving me his time, and Doug Hanners for providing the photos of the band on stage and the publicity poster.
This story was originally written by Michael Selman and published on the now defunct I'm Shakin' blog.Thanks to Michael and the rest of the Shakin' crew for letting this be the new home of this post!