Frank Gutch Jr: Jim Colegrove, Part Two: The End of the Age of Innocence
Jim Colegrove, for those who don’t know, started in the music business before The Beatles were The Beatles— for you young turks, like, the Stone Age. He has spent his decades in music— making it, producing it, listening to it— doing just about everything one can do with it. He has forgotten more about music and the business than most of us will ever know. Lucky for us, though, he took notes. This is an historical look not only at the life of Jim Colegrove, musician, but Jim Colegrove, human; at the times and the changes both musically and culturally. It is Part Two if his story. Before you read this, you might want to read Part 1: Jim Colegrove, The Early Years (click here—not required, but it would give you some background which might come in handy.
Keep in mind that these events took place in 1950s and -60s Ohio at a time fermenting with change. Not only was Mr. Colegrove passing from teenhood to adulthood, the world was rapidly changing— everywhere. In this look back, told pretty much in his own words, he looks at a time in history he would never see again, both musically and culturally. If you want to know what it was really like for struggling musicians as rock ‘n’ roll really started to take hold, this will give you an idea.
Let’s see, when we last saw Mr. Colegrove, things were looking up. It was 1961, the band (Teddy & The Rough Riders) had just released a single (which was moving up the charts) on Tilt Records, a small label which had just signed a deal for national distribution through London Records. Before the band could dive in, though, there were things to do.
We joined the musician’s union, Colegrove continues, and started traveling further from home to promote the record. We played Indianapolis at the Indiana Roof Ballroom and south of Indianapolis at a place called The Whiteland Barn, then a dance/show in Fort Wayne and another in Toledo, then on Bob Braun’s Bandstand show in Cincinnati. “Tomahawk” went to #6 on the WING Weekly Top Forty and other stations began adding the record. London Records placed a half-page ad in Billboard Magazine— a graphic of a tomahawk smashing through a Billboard Hot 100 Chart with a caption that read, “Ready to smash the charts.”
We talked to Jack Sanders about the next record. He had the idea of doing a song based on “La-Do-Dada,” the Dale Hawkins hit. Sanders claimed to be the writer of the song, saying that Hawkins had stolen it. I was to take the melody and adapt it to create a rock ‘n roll instrumental. I came up with an arrangement which I titled “Path Finder,” continuing the Indian theme. We also decided to record a song I’d written three years earlier titled “A Dream Come True” as an instrumental.
We went back to King Studios to do the recording. We hired The Seniors, who had backed Carl Dobkins on his records, to do some vocal work on “A Dream Come True.” The Seniors were from Cincinnati and had already recorded for the Decca label. Ray Harris and Hardy Martin played all the sessions, as well— Ray on bass and Hardy, who played guitar for The Carnations, on guitar. They also had a record on Tilt titled “Scorpion” and were there to help produce the session. Later, they changed their name to The Monarchs and had a hit with “Look Homeward Angel.” Hardy wanted me to use a different vibrato on the guitar, setting me up with a vibrato attachment which made me sound like Duane Eddy. This didn’t set well with me, but we made it through the session with a couple of usable masters. They claimed the record would be released on Tilt later in the year. I was skeptical.
There was another band playing at Avondale called The Rhythm Kings. They were a show band and did a lot of dance steps while they played. They had a piano player, Dave Byrd, who played standing on his head. Their sax player, Bob Brane, showed some interest in joining The Rough Riders but Bob Holliday, our manager, was against it. He thought that Brane would just hop from band to band on the club circuit and wanted all of The Rough Riders members to play exclusively with the band. He also thought that playing clubs would cheapen our image. To make a long story short, we voted him in, anyway.
Brane turned out to be a great asset. He was a great showman if not the greatest sax player and had a great attitude and a lot of enthusiasm. We were now a hot six-piece band and wowed the crowds wherever we played.
Spring turned to summer and the gigs helped, but airplay of Tomahawk began to drop off.
It became apparent that “Tomahawk” would not smash the national charts, Colegrove writes. There was a piano player from Philadelphia calling himself Kokomo who had a regional hit called “Asia Minor” and London decided to go with that instead and dropped promotion of our single. “Asia Minor” did, indeed, smash the charts and we were back to square one.
A Label Is Born…..
Come fall, we kicked off a new season at Avondale with a nighttime hop and a singer from Dayton, Phill Wilson, did some tunes with us. He had had a single out the previous year titled “One Love” and it had gotten some airplay. Phill’s father, Mal, started hanging out with the band and Phill. Mal and Bob came up with the idea of starting a label which would feature Phill, Teddy & the Rough Riders and other artists from the area. Mal had an investor lined up. Bob would run the company, Mal would be head of promotions and Bob appointed me head of A&R and producer of all label product.
Holliday made arrangements through Hal Neely and Sid Nathan at King Records to distribute Huron Records, so named to continue the Indian theme. I had wanted to call it Lodestar, but the name was already registered. We ended up naming the corporation Lodestar Records, Inc. I designed the artwork for the label itself. All pressings, we decided, would be done by King’s pressing plant in Cincinnati.
The first project, we went to Nashville to produce singles for Phill. Bob arranged the sessions at The Bradley Studios. When we got there, we met Owen Bradley who had contracted the musicians for the session— Hank Garland and Ray Edenton on guitars, Bob Moore on bass, Buddy Harman on drums, Floyd Cramer on piano, and The Anita Kerr Singers for background vocals. Bradley played six-string electric bass, doubling the line of the upright bass. It was all part of the “Nashville Sound.” We recorded three songs— “Wishing On a Rainbow,” which Phill had written, and two of mine— “Just Me” and “A Dream Come True.”
We issued “Wishing On a Rainbow” with “Just Me” on the flip. It charted and then died. Bob acquired the masters of the Rough Riders’ tracks from Tilt and issued “Path Finder.” It failed to make the impact of “Tomahawk.”
We recorded Sonny Flaherty and Terry Redman. Sonny was from Dayton and Terry from Kentucky and both had had local success and flirted with the charts on national releases. Sonny recorded in Nashville using the same musicians as we had with Phill, except Hargus “Pig” Robbins on keyboards in place of Cramer. By the time we got to Terry, we recorded at King Studios and used The Rough Riders as backup.
Next up was a group from Middleton which called themselves The Buddy Boys, a reference to Buddy Holly. We took them to Don King’s Studio and I played electric bass because they did not have a bassist. The single out of that session, “White Feather” b/w “Echo Express” sold very well. They then changed their name to The Bounty Hunters at my suggestion.
The Sayre Brothers, a bluegrass/country group out of Fairborn, rounded out the early Huron Records roster. They were twins, Orren and Warren, with their brother Les. They recorded one of my songs, “Train Ride to Nashville,” and “Greenback Dollar.” It was the only attempt at country by Huron, though we did record their guitar player, Don Stapleton, during the same session.
In late fall, the Rough Riders took a promotional trip to the southeast. We played a TV show in Huntington, West Virginia and another in Charleston. Terry Redman played a big dance with us in Stubenville, Ohio— he was a star in that region, having had a hit in ’59 with a song titled “Lonely.” He recorded a single for Huron, a song I had written titled “The Stomp”. The flip was “Golden Idol”, a cover of a Johnny Burnette song which had been recorded by Jody Reynolds.
The band headed back to King Studios to record more material. With Bob Brane on sax, we recorded a song Teddy had written, “Money and Gold”, which was actually his version of Bo Diddley‘s “She’s Fine, She’s Mine”. We also recorded an upbeat version of “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” and called it “Rockin’ ‘Round the Mountain”. “Money and Gold” was issued on Huron with an edited instrumental version of the song on the flip side. It quickly became a local hit. We played the usual dates and TV shows to promote it and began to travel more, making trips to Detroit where we met King Records’ sales and promotional reps. It was a constant string of DJ hops, usually playing short sets before moving on to the next.
I finally got my first publishing royalty check from Bob’s publishing company, Dove, for “Tomahawk”. It was for over $700, so I decided to trade in my guitar on a new Gibson ES-345, cherry-red with gold-plated hardware and a Bigsby bar. It was fabulous but I needed a new amp to go with it. Holliday decided it should be a stereo amp, so he drove us to Kalamazoo MI, home of Gibson Guitars, and we bought the amp there. It was an interesting setup. The amp had two separate speaker cabinets which interlocked together for portability. The amplifying unit was also modular and could be removed from the cabinet. I also purchased a Maestro echo amp which you could connect to any speaker with alligator clips so that the signal was sent through the small amp’s echo unit. It was state-of-the-art.
The band made weekend trips to summer fun spots like Gem Beach on Lake Erie and Hamilton Lake in northern Indiana. We played dance halls where the crowds were huge and fast. The dance hall at the lake was wild and rocking, dancers and drinkers coming from miles around. Even the security guards were tanked up by the end of the night.
During the summer, Ted and Dick’s sister got married and soon thereafter Ted notified the band that he and Patty would be moving to California. That left us not only without a singer but without a “Teddy”. The first gig after Ted left was at Hamilton Lake and when someone asked “Who’s Teddy”, we pointed to Bob Brane. It made sense because he was the showman in the group. As for singing, I took on that role and assumed all leadership responsibilities as well. The band moved on without a hitch. In August, we did a show at LeSourdsville with Bobby Vee and I turned the magic age of 21. I was then an adult and could legally play in any bar in the country.
About the same time, the band was added to a big show at the Montgomery County Fair in the summer, emceed by Holliday and Bob Braun from WLW in Cincinnati. Headliners were The Duprees, Janie Grant, and Freddie Cannon. Part of the deal included us backing up the other artists. Grant and Cannon were easy and fun to work with, but the Duprees presented a problem. They had a big hit with “You Belong To Me”and did a lot of standards with changes and written arrangements. I had to read chord charts and during the show, one of The Duprees decided he wanted to play my cherry-red stereo Gibson when they did “Shout”. I let him but turned off the amp when he wasn’t looking.
One of the best gigs that fall was at Menker’s Party Hut in Dayton. Holliday hosted it and we played on a semi-regular basis to one of the best rock ‘n’ roll crowds in the area, usually resembling the dance scene from Animal House.
In the spring, around the time that Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas died, I decided to try my hand at working a straight job. My cousin got me into Fridgidaire in Dayton as an inspector. I started working the day shift but after a week they wanted me to change to nights and I quit because it conflicted with my music.
We continued playing gigs that summer with the WING disc jockeys and also at LeSourdsville, backing up artists such as Charlie Rich, Johnny Tillotson, Zeke Turner, and Billy Holmes (Salty Holmes‘ son). We did two shows with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars and got to meet Dick. I caught Lonnie Mack at LeSourdsville and even worked a show with Donna Douglas, Ellie Mae in The Beverly Hillbillies. But things had changed with Holliday and he was not as warm to the band and me. We continued moving in different directions.
My friendship with Bob Holliday, already strained, ended that fall. When we parted ways, he moved back to Dayton. He lost his job at WING because of the conflict of interest with the record company. Because he owned the rights to “Biggest Hop in Dayton”, he became an independent personality and went into the hop business himself. (Pictured: Jim Smith, a contest winner, and DJ Bob Holliday)
Dick Fischer bought a ’59 Ford station wagon which we used to haul band equipment. He had the band’s name printed on the doors over a picture of the Huron label. The logo was star-like and the car looked amusingly like a county sheriff’s vehicle.
When Dick decided to join the Navy, we had to find a new drummer. We got Les Sayre from The Sayre Brothers, who bought Dick’s set of Rogers drums so we would look the same on the bandstand. I became manager for the band, doing the booking and the contracts. We played regularly at college dances, especially the Student Union dances in Springfield.
That summer, we did some recording for a project put together by Junior Achievement. They had teamed up with WING to produce an album, the idea being to record a “dancing” side featuring Teddy & The Rough Riders, and a “listening” side featuring a group called The Guardsmen. The Guardsmen were a folk group, part of what we rockers referred to as The Great Folk Music Scare which started in 1959 with The Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” and flourished into the 60s. That period also coincided with the Beatnik era and coffeehouses and a bohemian or counter-culture movement closely linked to intellectuals at colleges and universities. Subversive, to say the least.
The Guardsmen’s guitar player Denny Boyd and I got to know one another the day we shot the picture for the LP cover (Tentative title for the album, Swingin’ With WING, to be released on the Megacity label. Denny and I became friends and started hanging out together.
WING promoted dance concerts at a place called Wampler’s. They had a building called The Barn and one called The Ball-Arena. Dances usually featured several local bands like The Triumphs and Ivan & The Sabres who later became The Lemon Pipers and had a hit with “Green Tamboruine”. We played some of those dances and backed up many of the vocal groups. I recall playing with The Chiffons and Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans and The Dovells. We worked a show with Lonnie Mack‘s band and I saw The Rick Z Combo out at Wampler’s Barn. They later changed their name to The McCoys and had a huge hit with “Hang On Sloopy”. Rick Z (for Zehringer) later became Rick Derringer.
WING also did a weekly broadcast from the Coca-Cola Auditorium at the Coke plant in Dayton, every Saturday afternoon. They featured a live band every week, hosted by DJ Jim Smith.
The Band Box in Fairborn had been the local music shop since it opened in the late 50s. You could rent band instruments or take music lessons and they had records, as well. One day when I stopped in to browse through the LPs, I met an old acquaintance, Ron Riley. He was taking guitar lessons. He had married a girl I knew and they had a baby boy named Scotty. I went over to their mobile home and a friendship started which lasted well into the 60s.
I started giving Ron guitar lessons. When he bought a house, I would take LPs out there so we could sing and play guitar together. By then, I had started to listen to Bob Dylan. I admired Dylan’s songwriting and the way he reflected the changing times. It was my first brush with social commentary— my first step to the Left. But I was still, at that time, a conservative Republican and very involved in the mindset of the Party.
Like most musicians (and actors), Jim was constantly struggling financially. Gigs always come in spurts, as Richard Hell hinted, and Jim finally caved to reality and an empty stomach.
I took a job as a part-time gas station employee and as the car washer and waxer at a station at Wright-Patterson AFB. I got a percentage of all the wash/wax tickets and a 20-hour regular time paycheck. It wasn’t much money, but it helped. The radio was always on in the garage and I still hear the records they were playing back then: “The Crusher”, “Surfin’ Bird”, and, of course, “Louie Louie”.
One Friday in November, just before Thanksgiving, I was at work. It was a beautiful sunny day and everything seemed normal until someone came in and told us that the President had just been shot. We turned our attention to the radio and got the news. John Kennedy was dead. Everyone was stunned. The news dominated the TV networks and went on and on and on. Then, the televised assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald. It was going on right before our eyes and was quite overwhelming.
By the time Thanksgiving had rolled around, everyone was worn out. So many events were canceled that weekend, including our band gigs. The Blazing Stump, however, stayed open and Bob Brane and I headed over to get away from it all. The 50s had ended a bit late. The age of innocence was over.
I was dating a girl named Sheila Brunner and we were at her house the Sunday when, for the first time, America was exposed to The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I already had their LP and was relatively unimpressed. After seeing them, though, my opinion changed. Denny Boyd and I started working up Beatles songs and my image as a rocker began to move toward the mod. I grew my hair longer. It was the 60s and I knew that music would never be the same.
I decided to leave my position at the gas station. I received a 1-A classification from Selective Service which meant that I would soon be called for active duty by Uncle Sam. I decided to enlist in the Army Reserves. I talked Phil into joining with me. We didn’t realize until later how lucky we were to get in. As the Viet Nam War escalated under Lyndon Johnson, our new President, the vacancies in the Reserve units dwindled to zero.
While we were awaiting our enlistment, the band played gigs, as usual and, I became involved with Leon Turner, a singer/songwriter from Dayton who was trying to get a record out. He went to Rite Records in Cincinnati and cut a couple of sides and released them on his own label. Turns out he was a friend of Bobby Bare, who had had a hit with “All American Boy” under the name Bill Parsons back in ’59. Leon got Bobby to produce a record for him using The Rhythm Kings as backup. It was good but didn’t get much airplay. Leon decided to pursue music by building his own recording studio in his house. I had done some recording with him and, as a result, The Rough Riders recorded some tunes there that spring. They were pretty good but were never issued.
I was hanging out with Ron Riley a lot and partied heavy and hard. I knew I was scheduled for duty come May and was determined to have a good time until I left. When the time came, we had a big party at my house and all of my friends came and we had a big time playing music and drinking Big Cat malt liquor. It would be the last time I would get to play my latest guitar/amp combo— a Fender Jaguar guitar through a Fender Super-Reverb amp. May 10th, I left The Rough Riders and home.
Truth be told, we have hardly started, sports fans. Since Colegrove got that first guitar, he has seldom had one out of his hands. If you are curious at all, he has his own website (click here) which goes into his history to the present day. He has merchandise (including CDs, for those of us who love physical product) and has recently put out a very cool album of instrumentals which echo his time with The Rough Riders titled 3 Quarter Dime. If you go there, take your time and hit all the pages. When it comes to music, the guy is living history.
In the not-too-distant-future, I hope to dive into Colegrove’s music career after (and maybe during) his days in the military and work my way through groups like Jolliver Arkansaw, Bo Grumpus, and Great Speckled Bird on my way to my favorite period of his music, that spent (spending, actually) with The Juke Jumpers.
Not much happening last week, I guess, but it all evens out as the last week was overloaded with news and videos. There are a couple of things I think you should see, though, so let’s get to the….
Notes….. Colleague Jaimie Vernon, a couple of years ago, plugged me into the duo Kris and Dee through a video he passed along and I, as is my wont, passed it along as well. They impressed me in their use of pop and folk together and at that time were attempting to make a mark on the Canadian world if not the entire world. I remember, vaguely, references to a band I knew, The Pursuit of Happiness, but didn’t really put the two together until now (Kris, it turns out, was a member of the band). Jaimie once again has passed along a video which explains the formation of not just a band but a family. I love these kinds of “behind the scenes” videos. This one has me convinced that Kris and Dee are well worth pursuing, music-wise. Here is their story in an abbreviated version which is enlightening and downright pleasurable. Thanks, Jaimie! Once again.
I make no apologies for backing The Green Pajamas‘ Jeff Kelly to the hilt. The man has a catalog as long as The Golden Gate and proves himself every time he goes into the studio. He has just released an album with wife, Susanne Kelly, titled By Reckless Moonlight, which is getting a lot of airplay on my system. Here is the first video from that album, featuring the song I’d Rather Be Filming In Vanda’s Room. Good stuff!
After seeing what Tony Abbott is doing to Australia (See? All asshats are not from the US of A, though we seem to have a disproportionate amount), I can’t help but wonder if maybe some of the caricatures in the video of this Tom Woodward song are not political figures down there. I like the song, but it looks a bit too much American, if you get my drift. Thanks to keyboard man Munro Melano for passing this along.
I try to not get involved with politics but this whole Leonard Peltier thing is a travesty. Things like this make the justice system, including the supreme court (small letters intentional), an embarrassment to anyone who has a conscience. I had an epiphany the other night that most of the younger people not only do not know who Peltier is but pretty much don’t care. Maybe, if they knew…..
Frank’s column appears every Tuesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”