Saturday, October 3, 2009

Persians Reuniting; Fabulous Five, Impacts, Bruce Springsteen, Swingin’ Medallions, Frank Rountree: The Missin’ Pieces of Eight, APB: Gary Gray and Th

The Persians Columbia South Carolina

Front: Charles Stafford

L-R: Elvin Tobin, Tom Graham, Tommie James, Bill Miles, Fred Ferguson

WHEN: 3:00 PM ON OCTOBER 11, 2009 (SUNDAY)

The Persians & The Platters

Front: A guest of band and Charles Stafford, guitarist

Back; L-R Barbara James, Sonny Turner, Bill Miles, Herb Reed, and guest

Behind the Camera: Tommie James

For Booking , the contact information above may not work, lol

The above ad floated into the blog... thanks for the input

Persians Reuniting; Fabulous Five, Impacts, Bruce Springsteen, Swingin’ Medallions, Frank Rountree: The Missin’ Pieces of Eight, APB: Gary Gray and The Rochelles from Kannapolis, NC, Distortions cleared up, and Vic and the Versatiles

Hey Baby Days of Beach Music blog catch-up

We did not retire…just went on a blog sabbatical… We have tried to respond to those who have emailed the blog and if we failed to reply, email us again and we’ll try harder. Below are some of the emails we have received that covers many bands… I hope some of the below correspondence will spur some memories and cause you to drop us a line… it’s all about the Hey Baby Days… the 60s when the music was sweet and soulful !




WHEN: 3:00 PM ON OCTOBER 11, 2009 (SUNDAY)



We have been rehearsing and you can expect to hear some outstanding R & B music.

Help us get the word out.

The Fabulous Five Are making an Impact

Hey Greg, Hope you’re doing fine. My name is Billy Ray Smith and I’m one of the former members of Bob Collins and The Fabulous Five. Thanks so much for the great memories you have provided with your book, The Hey Baby Days of Beach Music. Just wanted to let you know, John Cook, another former member of BC and The Fab 5 and myself are performing together again in another group from the past, The Impacts. Bob has now retired but we keep hoping he might attend one of our shows and do a song or two with us. The Impacts actually include three former members of The Fabulous Five which has given us attention from Fab Five fans wanting to hear their old tunes which along with songs from the original Impacts are included in our song list. Be sure to come see us if we’re ever in your area. We would like to meet you. If you ever need info on The Impacts or The Fabulous Five, Feel free to call me at (336)616-7131 or email Thanks again, Billy Ray Smith of The Impacts

Bruce Springsteen and the Swingin’Medallions finally on stage together singing the party song !

There another version of this video that will be posted later.

WHERE’s Gary Gray, the Rochelles from Kannapolis, NC


I got a copy of your book when it was first released, and I absolutely love it. It will surely be the definitive reference for our little big world of beach music for posterity. I think that I am something of an anomaly among my peers. I am 38 years old, but have been enamored with beach music since I was 5 or 6. I spent entire summers at Cherry Grove and NMB for years and have memories of the end of that era.

But that is not the reason that I write to you.

I am sure that you wrote about every band that you could get info on in the book. There is one that you may have not come across that I am curious about. From about 1965 to 1967, a Kannapolis , NC musician named Gary Gray evolved a band into a group called the Rochelles. The Rochelles consisted of my dad, Gary Walker (rhythm), Chip Weddington (sax and lead), Joe Weddington (drums), Gary Gray (lead), Ronnie Hill (lead vocals) and a couple other guys who sat in and played bass, horns and keyboard. Unfortunately, no one has any momentos from those days. Photos, concert flyers and demo tapes were stolen during a gig in 1969. All of these guys were high school buddies, except Gary Gray, who was in his mid-twenties then and a very accomplished player. They finished second to Harry Deal and the Galaxies in a battle of the bands competition in Statesville, NC in 1966 and beat them in one in Kannapolis (the Catalinas were also playing there) in 1967. They played many gigs at the Park Center in Charlotte , backing up the Tams, Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson.

Like most things, my dad and his friends finished high school and Vietnam loomed in the horizon. The band dissolved, but Gary Gray kept playing for years in the Charlotte area.

The Rochelles never cut a record, but there is a 8 mm home movie of most of the members of the band playing a party in 1967.

My dad’s 60th birthday is coming up in September and I have been contacting some of the members of the band to at least get them together for a reunion of sorts as a surprise. On a wing and a prayer, I was wondering if you might have come across the name in your research in NC, or if you might know if anyone has a collection of old posters from the Park Center?

Thanks again, and thanks for the great book!

Sean Walker

Sean C. Walker

Attorney at Law

Woodson, Sayers, Lawther,

Short, Parrott & Walker, LLP

225 N. Main Street


don't have to tell you the memories that this has brought back to my 60's in Bham
Medallions, Tams, James Gang.
Great stuff. Thanks for the wonderful effort and research.
Pierre Salze

Cleaning Up The Distortions

Hi Greg,

Love your book. However, I need to correct you on one thing. It concerns The Distortions from Alabama. You got some wrong band member names listed. Some of the names you have listed for the Distortions were actually in The Torquays. You have them listed correctly in the Torquays listing.

The core members were (These were the members from 1965-1966):

Started as The Counts

Robert Alexander (bass)
Ned Bibb (vocals and guitar)
Bobby Marlin (drums) (died of cancer in 1991)

They added Roy "Zack" Zachery (keyboards)

In 1967, the added Roy Alexander (saxophone) (deceased)

Henry Lovoy took over on drums in the late 60s. He had been the lead singer of the Rockin' Rebellions.

The band split up in 1969, but Zach Zachery and Roy Alexander continued on, adding Cliff Payne and Ed Finn. Other later members included Joe Rudd and Ralph King. They played well into the 70s as The Distortions.

Hope this helps.

Mike Burnett

Hi –

I stumble across this site now and then and enjoy seeing continuing interest in great music.

If you see Ervin Hicks and/or Carlie Barbour, please give them my regards.

Frank Rountree

Columbia, SC

Former member (tenor saxophone & vocals):


Pieces of Eight


Both Carlie and Erven along with Brent Fortson will be playing at the Williams Lake reunion in August . I thought that Carlie said Cliinton, NC... but there is a web site. It sounds like a good time. Also, I see your name in the Caravelles roster but not the Pieces of Eight. If you'll give me time line as to when you played with the band, I'll correct that oversight.



Hi Greg,

Williams Lake, eh? Wow, does that bring back memories! I only played there once, but folks still remind me that I was the fool playing saxophone while hanging upside down from the rafters..... J

As for the timeline with the Pieces of Eight, my memory isn’t definitive – but - I replaced Brent Fortson. Steve Caldwell, Erven Hicks, Carlie Barbour, Jim Bumgardner, were still there, so it had to be the spring/summer of 1968, because Steve left shortly before I did. I left the band in the fall of that year to give up music for good, leaving a King Super 20B Silver Bell on the bus and walking away - so I would not wake up one day as a 40 year old musician…… looking for a job every day. It took a very long time for me to come to terms with my decision, but as a 45 year old executive walking down 5th Avenue in New York late one night, I walked by a corner musician, playing saxophone for the passers-by, in hopes of a few bucks being tossed into the open case at his feet. I stopped to listen, because he was the best I’ve ever heard. I asked him his story and found that he had played with Issac Hayes at the peak of that band. When I asked why he was on the streets, he just looked at me and said “The drugs, man…. the drugs.” I knew then I had made the right decision…….. but I still miss it terribly. When my youngest daughter was married two years ago, The O’kaysions provided the music. I did finally give in and played for an hour….. and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’m questioning some of the other Pieces of Eight entries on your web site: Michael Abdalla came into the band in late 1968 when Steve Caldwell left and my memory tells me he played saxophone (alto, if I remember correctly) – I don’t remember that he played trumpet at all. There was another keyboard player before Wally Wood. Wally was a truckie who sat in on keyboards until the other fellow left the band. You’re also missing a couple of trumpet players (Jack from Knoxville was one), but full names elude me. Erven Hicks was with the band as long as Carlie Barbour and Jim Bumgardner – they all came from the Tassels.

Thanks for the memories!

Frank Rountree


Thanks for your input. I appreciate being questioned because as I have heard from others, "if you remember the 60s, you were not there." You must have just missed playing my first show with the POE which was New Years Eve 1968 in Waycross Georgia. That was the first of seven shows I had with the POE the last being a joint appearance and the only joint appearance with the Swingin' Medallions in September of 1969. It was billed as a "Battle of Bands" but was not as you know from the book. Michael Abdallah was at UGA at the same time I was and I thought he told me he played trumpet but I certainly could have misunderstood. Again it was the 60s. Ironically I had lunch with him shortly before the book was released and learned he had played in the Swinging Professionals with longtime Embers member, Johnny Hopkins. I would love to published as memories you want to share on the blog.




We spent the summer of that year playing mostly at the Red Rooster in Panama City, but were on the road a bit with a recording session or two at Papa Don Schroeder’s Bell Records studio in Pensacola….. there’s nothing like a good ol’ record company fleecing…… J After I left the Pieces of Eight, an invitation came to join the Swingin’ Medallions for their Sands Hotel tour, but I had almost made up my mind to stop playing and my own wedding would have not have been the same at the Sands Hotel in Hawaii (read that as: my wife-to-be would not have been at my wedding)…… I guess I made the right decision, because she’s still here after 39 years.

Not only did I know Michael from the Pieces of Eight, but he and I were both in the apparel industry for most of our working careers and attended many of the same southeastern apparel shows until I moved to the New York area of operation in the ‘80s.



This is really good stuff and my apology you, “A Missing Piece”. Keeping up with the personnel changes in the bands in the late 60s would have been a full time job. In spite of that, the band directories at are pretty good. I don't guess it would surprise you to know that even members of the bands can't remember all the people they played with in the same band. For bands that have gone through so many iterations, it's almost futile. I am just happy the names like the Swingin' Medallions, Pieces of Eight, Jesters, Catalinas, Footnotes, Embers, Tyn Tymes, and others are still playing.

I always thought the hallmark on both the Swingin' Medallions and Pieces of Eight were the horns... still are as a matter of fact. I liked both bands and dedicated a lot of ink to both in the book. It does irritate me somewhat to hear people refer to them as one in the same. If anything, I hope the book straightened out that myth.

So who all was on the Papa Don recording session? Some good stuff I thought came out of that, particularly "I'd Pay The Price." Was that not Steve Caldwell singing lead? I did not get to know Steve until I came out of band promoter retirement in 1981 and put together the first reunion performance of the Original Swingin’ Medallions. That was something I will never forget. Steve Caldwell was a class act ! as were all those guys, Brent was a fraternity brother of mine at Georgia but much much older, lol. Ironically about the time I was really into promoting bands, he was in law school. As I wrote in the book, I never could figure out why he would opt out of a band making parties for all those beer guzzling fraternity men to spend all those hours trying to understand “Madison vs. Marbury.” I have remained a friend of John McElrath from day one… He was a strong inspiration for the book.

Back to determining who was on first, who was on second and the rest of the players in the dugout.

I think that Erven told me when I saw him in North Myrtle Beach in June that there was a misunderstanding between Ken and Earl and that resulted in Ken's departure, which must have prompted Mark Wrenn's departure as well. In a phone conversation I had with Mark Wrenn, he indicated that he and Ken left and joined Kallabash Corp. This is a place I could easily digress because KC was another favorite of mine. I had a few!

So you replaced Brent and Michael Abdallah replaced Steve Caldwell. Who had replaced Mark Wrenn at saxophone ? I thought it might have been Johnny Seabolt but if Johnny wasn’t there when you arrived, Johnny must have replaced you. Was either Colton Coile or Steve Sutton who both played saxophone in 1968 there when you arrived? That still doesn’t help with the missing trumpet player unless it could have been Charlie Hughes or Ronnie Hicks.

As it relates to the first eight Pieces of Eight, I can only identify three saxophone players and one trumpet player (Caldwell, Fortson, Wrenn on saxophone and Helser on trumpet) Guitar, Carlie Barbour on guitar; Jim Bumgartner on bass and Erven Hicks on drums. (this was from a series of A&M promo photos sent to me by Mark Wrenn. If there was another player at trumpet (Jack), that would have made nine players.

But we are definitely missing a trumpet player because I have two people replacing Ken Helser when he left: Michael Abdallah on trumpet (which was incorrect) and Ronnie Hicks as lead vocalist… Since Michael did not play trumpet… it had to be someone else… most likely Jack. Wished I had met up with sooner and been able to get that right. Ronnie Hicks was the lead vocalist in December of 1968 but I am not sure when he came to the band or if he played an instrument. If he played trumpet, that would make sense but I am not sure because I was not able to locate Ronnie prior to publication. Jimmy Asip became lead vocalist in 1969 . There were no original POE in the band by the end of 1968. Still, it was still a great band and I enjoyed spending the time I spent with them.

Do you have any photos ? If so I’d love to put them on the blog.

Also it sounds like we both made similar decisions… After UGA, I was in the apparel business being a buyer for A.L. Zachry Company until opting for real estate in 1979.
Sounds like you made a very good decision , one that has resulted in a long marriage. Congratulations.

The Medallion Hawaiian trip in 1969 was eventful. Gerald Polk, Hack Bartley, Grainger Hines, Carroll Bledsoe and Charlie Webber were the five horns which the Medallions had for that trip. Even today the band uses the five man horn front which is particularly unique but with nine members.

Remember the 60s Medallions did not use a bass player as John McElrath handled bass from the keyboards.

I am going to clean all this up a bit and put it on the blog and will correct the band directory for the Pieces of Eight but home we can come up with the missing trumpet player.




You’re correct that it’s difficult to remember things so long ago. Michael Abdallah may have switched to trumpet after I left….. dunno….. but he definitely didn’t join the group until late ’68. I left shortly after Steve Caldwell – partly because I thought the group wasn’t the same – too many new faces (including mine) and the sound was beginning to decline along with the level of talent….. plus, the marijuana smoking was starting (names withheld to protect the guilty) and I wanted no part of it. Shortly after I left, the band sorta fell apart in late ’68 – not so much because the loss of myself was so great – they had just run out of up-front showmen with talent and music preferences were changing rapidly. Brent Fortson was an extremely talented saxophonist (never played with him) as was Mark Wrenn. Mark played a few times after I joined, but left soon after in early ’68.

Yes, the horn sections made both bands somewhat unique, but the idea was hardly original as they were patterned after James Brown, Otis Redding, Wayne Cochran’s “C.C Riders”, Impressions, Temptations and on and on. It was the horns that really made Motown and R&B in general in my opinion – but then, that’s coming from a horn fellow….. J

The recording session with Papa Don in Pensacola was a joke so far as I was concerned…. and an eye-opener for me. Earl Caldwell (Steve’s father and owner of the Red Rooster) had cut a deal with Don Shroeder and Bell Records to enter a management contract. Don Shroeder got Earl to sign a contract where Don got 10% of everything we earned for suggesting we would get a lot of studio time, multiple opportunities for recording material he supposedly had in line. When we arrived at the Pensacola studio, all of the sound track was already done by studio musicians and the only member of the POE on “I’d Pay The Price” was Steve Caldwell as lead vocalist. The rest of us sat and watched through the glass wall. Don pushed the song to the local charts, but dropped it quickly when it didn’t explode. That sort of stuff was at the heart of why the band broke up. If you remember, Earl had previously had his fingers in the Swingin’ Medallions and there was a fight over who owned the name – which led to Steve and Brent forming the POE with the Tassels. That suited Earl’s purposes just fine, because he wanted total control (and most of the money). Heck, he kept us booked at the Red Rooster nearly all summer so he could sell beer in Panama City and the only times we left were when we had an engagement that paid Earl more than he could make with us in PC. That whole summer, I saw nobody earn more than a weekly paycheck – no matter how much we were paid as a group – the whole band was Earl’s corporation and we were nothing more than salaried employees.

The best musician in the POE? Carlie Barbour – hands down. That guy could flat play a guitar, but more importantly, he knew music and could make a Gretsch sound better than anyone I’d ever heard. I can say that because with a mother that taught piano, a father who was a singer, a sister who played classical piano, my own 10 years of classical piano study and having played professionally in many bands since the age of 12 – to me, Carlie was a quiet fellow, but sneaky good – not particularly a showman, just damned talented. I remember he was accepted at Julliard School of Music, but I don’t know if he ever took advantage of it.

IIRC, when Mark left, that’s when Jack came into the band – on trumpet. If my memory is correct, we had Steve and myself on tenor and we used 2 trumpets, but I can’t remember the other trumpet player. Neither Colton Coile or Steve Sutton were there during my time and I don’t think I ever met either of them.

A.L. Zachry, eh? That’s too much – I began my legitimate career with the Arthur Winer Co. and sold mens trousers to Zachry’s, Muses, Rich’s and a few others around Atlanta and the Southeast before joining the Joseph & Feiss Co (Cricketeer) and eventually wound up in NYC as a partner in the manufacturing business as well as the old PVH retail stores (Juster Bros, Harris & Frank, Hamberger’s, Kennedy’s) before we sold the company to Hugo Boss in 1989. Small world.

As for photos, no – I have none…… and long ago threw out the old 45s as well. So, the only things I have from those days are the memories…. Thanks for bringing some back.

Kind regards,

Frank Rountree

No comments: