Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Bits & Pieces from the writer for the Athens Rogues

Above: Bits & Pieces (circa 1970) did a great cover of Motherlode's "When I Die". Bits & Pieces had previously been the Pieces of Eight. Many of the players above are now performing as ...The Pieces of Eight. Confusing ? The mystery in unravelled in "The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music." While they were the Bits & Pieces, they had a great run, and were never in the boondocks, except when they backed Billy Joe Royal which was frequent. It has been said that the "high notes" that you hear on the recording of "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy" by the Tams are those of Billy Joe.

Copy the link below and paste in your window above and hear the song written by Gerry Fleming keyboardist for the Athens Rogues. The song was recorded by the Athens Rogues in Nashville and includes one of Elvis’ back up singers . We’ll let you know when we find out . Hugh Jarrett ?


So, thanks for responding to my Email. I'm amazed at the interest in the Athens Rogues. I'm only sad that Pete (Drake) isn't around to see the long-overdue attention. He believed in the group and the music from the first time he heard the opening bars of the horn-lick all the way to the time when we all decided that our effort for the "mainstream" was at an end. I remember as though it was yesterday when John, Jimmy, Dennis and I sat down with him in his office at Window Music, on Music Row in Nashville on that miserably cold night. Pete leaned back in his chair, propped his feet up on his desk and punched the button on his reel-to-reel to start the tape we had brought from Project 70 Sound in Athens (the rehearsal and demo place we had been provided by Jerry Connel and John Harrold). "So you boys are Georgia Bulldogs," was his comment as the reels began to spin.

About that time, the horn line began, along with the back-up vocals. He made it through only the opening fill-line and stopped the machine. We collectively thought, "Uh-oh," expecting the same response we'd gotten from everybody else on the row that day. Instead, he said, "This material belong to you?" Then he started the machine again and not another word was said until about ten or fifteen long seconds after the song ended. Then he said, "You boys want to make a record?"

If Pete was alive today to see the love that many people have shown
for the work we mutually put in, he would say, "What'd I tell you?"
He was a great, great guy. He and his wife, Tina, opened their doors
to us as though we were family. Which brings me to a couple of

First, I should mention that one of Elvis's back-up singers at the
time appears with our back-ups on the record. For the life of me, I
cannot recall his name. I'll do what I can to check on that. The guy
was at the sessions we did at Starday Studios in Nashville. He was
close to Pete and intrigued by our band. At a moment for decision,
Pete was balking at the prospect of having to ping-pong a track to add a third voice to the harmonies (which we had done on the demos from P-70) and had said he hated to lose the quality inherent in the process of bouncing the tracks (this was all four-track work in those days). I was in the booth as the decision was being made and the guy turned to me and said, "I can sing a part." To which Pete laughed and said, "I can't afford you!" So the guy smiled and said, "So, don't pay me. I like these guys." So, he's on the tracks, and I'll do what I can to find out which of Elvis's singers he was.

Regarding the availability of our 45 vinyls, there actually MAY be
hope. You know, when the records were being pressed, Neil Merritt,
STOP's promotions man, sent all of us a bundle of the the first ones
out the door at the same time he submitted the radio copies to
selected DJs. Honestly, I had about two hundred or more just myself!
We more-or-less gave them away like candy, but there is a possibility that around a hundred of them still exist and I'll search hard to find if this is indeed true. So...keep faith.

As far as other Athens Rogues recordings, there were quite a few on 1" or 2" tape that were never mastered, including one that came out of the Nashville sessions called "Extra Soul Perception", which was an instrumental and, frankly, a step forward in our developing sound. Additionally, there are (or were) a stack of tapes we did at P-70 as well as a session we did at (of all places) the studio at the journalism school at UGA and at least one live performance that the journalism students did of us of a date at Memorial Hall on the UGA
campus in '68. So, with the right detective work...who knows? One
thing about academic facilities like UGA: They tend to archive better
than most of us.

Another point I find of interest to a lot of people out there. The
organ I used on the cuts was not a Hammond. At the time of the
records, I was using a Panther organ (remember those? The ones with the black and white keys reversed.) But the trick was that I played it through a Leslie 122, using a controller called a "Combo Compact Preamp Footswitch". It was actually a very cool sound for the time. I got the trick from Pete, who I had heard jamming through a Leslie with his steel guitar (you may remember that Pete Drake was one of the legends of the steel, with hits like "Forever" that he played through the very first "talk-box"...WAY before Frampton). Pete sounded like Jimmy Smith's organ when he played the steel through the Leslie. I did it with the Panther. Now, in the latest photos, I'm playing my Farfisa. I took that cue from my old friend Donny Galucci (Louie Louie), but I liked the Panther better.

As far as those photos've got me. I think one of them is at
a frat on fraternity row. I seem to recall something that looked like
a dart board. The other...I haven't a clue, although I dearly love
the picture of Glenn! That's him at his best! I haven't seen those
guys in YEARS, and I hope that all this is a catalyst to reunite us in
some way. Those guys are really very special people. Thanks, Greg, for keeping their work and their faces alive in the history books!

As for me, I went from the Rogues to "Nickles and Dimes", with Ed
Seay, Jim McKillip and friends and then on to "Bits and Pieces", with
Pat Andrews, Ace Bouie, Charlie Hughes and the rest of the guys. That was a short one though. On to "Rare Vintage" and then to one of the "syndicated" versions of the "Classics IV". Most of these were pretty short trips as a matter-of-fact. Those were the days when a lot of the groups I was with were really in the
"Classics"...going from original members to hired guns and back again. It was interesting, but pretty confusing. I settled down into a
steady diet of studio work and became one of the regulars at Bill
Lowery's "School House" with a host of the Atlanta artists like Billy
Joe Royal, Tommy Rowe, Joe South, Beaver Teeth, Coyote McCloud and whoever else came through the doors. Then I hit the road with
"Thunder" for a few years and got to play with a ton of touring stars.

I ended up in Hawaii...(sad isn't it?) and am now back on the
mainland putting together my own projects that I hope to share with you as time goes by. Anyway, that's my update...which really has very little to do with how this missive started, so I appreciate your ear.

If you want my snail-mail address, let me know and I'll Email it to
you. Thanks for what you've done for our roots. I really look
forward to reading the book!

Your friend,

Gerry Fleming


Incidentally, I tried to answer on your blog and couldn't get the darn
thing to work...hence this Email. However, you're welcome to share
this letter on your space if you like. And I'm not certain about the
YouTube spot. I'll check with my BMI guys. Ciao.


Thank you for being so detailed. It is our hope that the blog will attract not only attract those who enjoyed the sounds that bands like the Athens Rogues brought forward but also those musicians that made the music during those incredibly creative days. Your mention of "Extra Soul Perception" reminded of another lost tape, an instrumental by King David & The Slaves called "African Queen" that members of that band have a fondness for but it was also lost in the shuffle. Maybe BOTH will surface and we'll include them on a new CD titled "The Lost Soul of Memorial Hall." I was the social chairman of Reed Hall for the school year 1968-1969 and King David & the Slaves played an event for us at Memorial Hall in December of 1968. Harold Williams from Athens who had previously been an original Jester was with them. Harold , now a CPA plays saxophone these days with the Jesters. I appreciate your sharing the type of equipment you used as other keyboardist reading will quickly identify. Regarding your travels after the Athens Rogues, that too sounds familiar. Certainly there was transition in the 60s but compared to the 70s, the bands of the 60s were big happy families. The book more or less focuses on the edge of the eras.

A great band of the 70s was Bits & Pieces, which was was formed of the guys you mentioned who I had known when they were the Pieces of Eight. One of the tunes the Bits & Pieces /Pieces of Eight did was "When I Die" a cover of Motherlodes' top twenty song of 1969. That was Canada's greatest contribution to Beach Music. In your brief stay with the Bits & Pieces, had they started doing that song? I think that you'd enjoy seeing those guys perform even today as they are pretty much intact and will be performing in May at Chateau Elan in Braselton.

Regarding the backup singer for Elvis who played on "She Could Love Me" that would be great to find out. Hopefully there will be someone who remembers. That's pretty cool. During your tenure with the Classics IV, was that when Billy Gilmore and Dean Daughtry came from the Candymen? Was Mike Hughey the drummer?
Many great musicians can through that band. We tried to develop as many band directories as we could for the book and we included the Classics IV since we write about them in the book. Details are difficult to confirm so if you can fill in any blanks , that would be great.




I didn't remember it being one of The Jordanaires that did the background vocal with us, but I did remember it being one of the vocalists in the studio. We had a three part harmony background on She Could Love Me and we only had two guys, Jim Cleveland and me, because Gerald Fleming was doing the lead vocal. Pete Drake was going to dub over the third part when some guy milling around in the studio, who had never heard the song before, said "I can do it-let me hear it ". He heard it one time and nailed it on the record. I'll defer to Gerald's memory as being one of the Jordanaires, but that would make sense because they were already in the RCA studio when we arrived there, as was Presley's drummer, D. J. Fontana.They were doing some studio backup for an artist who was recording before we got started.

I did get an e mail from Gerald (Gerry now) last night and have responded. Good to hear from him.




That sounds very plausible that it could have been one of the Jordanaires... since they were already at the studio. It's doubtful that just anybody (a non-professional ) would have been able to step to provide the vocals in such a short time. I was thinking it could have been Hugh Jarrett but Hugh was in the Jordanaires from 1954-1958 so it wasn't him. Here are the Jordanaires during that time period: Gordon Stoker, Ray Walker, Neal Matthews, and Hoyt Hawkins. Incredibly Stoker and Walker are still with the Jordanaires while Matthews is deceased and Hawkins left in 1982. I guess we could email them and see if either one remembers...otherwise it could be one of the other two or by another vocalist who happened to be there. It's worth trying to find out in any event.




Gerald Fleming said...


You're absolutely right. There was a lot of confusion in the band rosters from those days. When I came into the Classics, the band was basically in "syndication", meaning that through court and other actions, the original owners/members (whatever their roles) were no longer involved in the band, the legal status would prevent any further recordings being done under that name, and the new owners were Ron Stansil and Paul Cochran (RonCo Mgmnt/Atlanta). Bill Gilmore was still the leader of the band, Ken Griffith played drums, Chris Bowman on guitar and myself on keys, with Wesley Cummings singing lead (who went by Wes Lee for stage). Dennis Yost was gone. Later, Gabe Garland (a Philadelphia promoter) bought the name "Classics IV" from RonCo, and that was the end of that. Garland, as I understand, also owned rights to the names of the "Boxtops", "Spiral Staircase" and others. The idea was that, since ownership of the names had nothing to do with further recording or original members, he could have several of each name performing in different parts of the world at any given time without legal conflict and with a ton of profit.

I really had little idea of the ramifications of all that until later I was doing session work with Rodney Justo on a demo BJ Royal was producing of "You Were Always On My Mind" and a few of us had a conversation about all those things that we, as musical hirlings are rarely privy to.

I was very close to Bill Gilmore, and the impact of his sudden death had a profound effect on my attachment to the Atlanta scene. He wrote "Cherry Hill Park", as you no doubt recall, and was loved by all of us. Bill died in a accidental shooting.

As far as other "C IV" members...there have been a ton. These that I mention here, as well as Dennis and Shapiro (sax on "Spooky"), are the only ones I knew.


Gerry F.

heybabydays said...


Thanks for your continued input. I was a band promoter at the right time . I got to promote the real authenic Candymen. The closest I got to Bill Gilmore was to get his signature on a promo photo which is proudly displayed in the book. That was one heck of a band. We spent quite a bit of ink in the book lauding their talents. Yes ! I know all about the band name business; it's use it or lose it which is a bit sad. I am glad that Dennis Yost finally got the name back; it belonged to someone who hails from Jax, besides, there's no replicating his voice. (May Dennis rest in peace) "Traces" appears on Volume 15 of "The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music" series. What a great song written by Buddy Buie and Emory Gordy Jr., the legendary bass player for Wayne Logiudice & the Kommotion. ( among others including a few better known).

You mention Rodney Justo; he was a great contributor to the book and he covered Little Anthony as good as anyone except maybe Little Anthony.

We have sent out a search party trying to find which Jordanaire appears on the Athens Rogue classic.



Gerald Fleming said...


Just a quick addendum: I'm not sure the guy on the b.u. vocals with Glenn and Jimmy was a Jordanaire. All I know is that Pete told me the guy was "singing with Elvis..." at the time. And, if you recall, Elvis's singers weren't always the Jordanaires. They, too, had more than a good dose of political ups-and-downs back in the day.

This really brings back old times! Thanks. Later.


heybabydays said...


You're right. Elvis used quite a variety of back up singers although the Jordanaires were the best known. Being a veteran of the old school house, you know that there quite an assortment of backups and musicians on the recordings made at Master Sound. I think I heard that Red Foley was a musician on some of the early Tams' recordings along with Ray Stevens and others. If only some of those old studios could talk.



chris said...

Hi It's Chris Bowman, guitarist with the Classics IV,did afew recordings and touring years. Imagine finding your page after searching randomly. I went on to do sessions with Billy Joe, The Tams, did Pac Man Fever with Buckner & Garcia, on Entertainment Tonight & MTV. The internet is a wonderful thing. Gerald I hope you are well, one of the best keyboardist ever. So many memories. I have a music school in Roswell. 770-992-3865 Call me.Chriszzachbow1

Nathalie Uy said...

Positive mind. Positive vibes. Positive life. God Bless :)