My name is Tony Wilcher, I, along with Chuck and Ray Brannon, started the Soul-Jers. Ray and I had played together in high school and when Chuck got out of the Navy we three moved to Atlanta to try to start a band. We were joined by Phil Harris (guitar) and Jim Cole (keyboard). We shortly moved to the Auburn Alabama area playing nights anywhere we could and practicing days. Chuck, Ray and I were like brothers and during that summer in Alabama we all worked very hard and also had some experiences that would fill a book.
After three months we returned to Atlanta with Ray as the front man and Chuck on drums and vocal harmony. We quickly became successful playing for WQXI radio, school proms and dances, Bikini a Go Go and other clubs. Our non stop 45 minute James Brown Show was always a big hit with Ray's voice and footwork. I saw girls pull him off stage and tear off his shirt during "Please Please Please". I probably hadn't been playing bass six months before we appeared on the cover of Atlanta Magazine.
Pat Hughes, a DJ at WQXI, became our manager and we played at his club the Stingray Club. We also played at Hugh Jarrett's teen club, Hugh Baby's Hoparooni. I didn't know at the time but Mr. Jarrett sang bass for Elvis Presley. He was then a DJ in Marietta. I don't remember him ever mentioning Elvis!
We also played some shows with Joe South and Billy Joe Royal. I remember Billy Joe's comment "Everywhere I go, that's all I hear is Soul-Jers, Soul-Jers, Soul-Jers."
We worked for Bill Lowery Agency, as most of Atlanta acts did and The Arnold Agency.
One time we had to play for a guy who had a one hit song called "She Shot a Hole in My Soul" when he showed up without a band at the Hoparooni.I'm sure a lot of bass players with a lot more experience would have loved to had my job. Jim and Phil were still going to Cross Keys High School and would tell us at practice how they were continuously being asked for autographs.
These were the original Soul-Jers who dreamed the dream and did all the work going to gigs in a 1953 Cadillac hearse, before having a van. We had some guitarist that worked with us worth mentioning: Steve Cook and John Fristo. Some time later Chuck and Ray decided to join forces with Ted Trombetta and Will Beaulware, both incredible musicians but unfortunately had personal aspirations quite different from the Soul-Jers. Although it doesn't seem possible in such a short period of time when I recollect I have as many tales of "On the Road" as Jack Kerouac.As they say "You had to be there".
Feel free to post this, if you like and if you could send me an address, I have several photographs and two business cards I would send you copies of.
Tony Wilcher of the Soul-Jers
Thank you for taking the time to talk about the Soul-Jers and some of your experiences from back in the day. It's too bad we could not have connected several years ago before the book was published as the experiences that you relate above are the essence of the Hey Baby Days. More than one of the bands in the book backed the singer you refer to who had the hit, "She Shot A Hole In My Soul." The great Clifford Curry almost always used the main band playing at a club or concert. Still does ! Clifford also had a regional hit with his cover of "We're Gonna Hate Ourselves in The Morning", an old Arthur Alexander song. It is very obvious that the Soul-Jers had a large following back in the era I call the Hey Baby Days. Did the band cover the song ? It sort of fits in well with a band that had a 45 minute James Brown show.
I would very much appreciate posting the photos that you reference. It would be a nice way of continuing to advance the rediscovery of the Soul-Jers. Thanks for mentioning the Atlanta clubs of the day. In a phone conversation recently with Wayne Logiudice, he mentioned a photo of him dancing with a young female at the Bikini-A-Go-Go Club. He plans to send it as well. It took me five years to find a real member of the Soul-Jers and five years to learn how to spell Wayne's last name. I am truly making progress.
I am sorry I couldn't use the nice background your wife used in sending your note as there is a limit to my technological expertise at this time. The note opened some other great areas for discussion as it relates to the Atlanta Soul of the 60s. First, The great Billy Joe Royal. He was not just a great singer but someone that everyone liked. Plus, he sang that catchy little high note at the start of "Be Young Be Foolish Be Happy" He should have gotten a Grammy just for that.
Hugh Jarrett's Hugh Baby's Hoparooni would be another great point of interest for many as most of the great bands and stars played there. Hugh probably has several pounds of material that he could add in remembering the Atlanta Soul of the 60s; the entire South in fact as he did travel with the King. He probably also knew the Godfather on a first name basis.
Please feel free to relate any of your "On The Road" with the Soul-Jers stories. We especially enjoying publishing those on the blog.