"Children, go where I send you ~ (Where will you send me?)
I'm gonna send you to the land of a thousand dances”
This was a different scene, one that the displaced mid-westerners of the heights could never get hip to. Down here the music was emotionally charged, majestic in scope, musically supreme. The music communicated a will to escape the limits of ordinary life and the constraints of a city built on the false premise that if you're white, you're right... If you're brown, stick around and if you're black, get back! “Pride in the face of prejudice” is how the Austin Chronicle's Margaret Moser describes the brown eyed soul that flowed out of the American Southwest in the 1960s. Self expression in the face of oppressive racial prejudice in a city where whites make up just over half of the population... it comes like fire. It becomes something that you summon from deep within your soul.
Once a man reaches that boiling point, you hand him a horn, guitar, drumsticks or a microphone and stand back to marvel what is man. This would explain why James Brown was deified in the barrios of Albuquerque. Brown's raw emotive pleas such as “Please, Please, Please” “Try Me” “I Won't Plead No More” “I Want You So Bad” were tailor made for Hispanic audiences. Kenny Burrell on guitar, George Dorsey on alto sax and Clifford Scott on tenor sax essentially invented the sound that would become the inspiration for every brown eyed soul band that ever played. James was all in, no half measures, he was relentless and that somehow struck a nerve among 'Burque Chicanos, because there's just no quit in the Duke City hustle. Hit Me!
The music that helped launch volumes of East Side Story and countless other Chicano Oldies compilations was recorded on the same equipment that Norm Petty used to record Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, The Fireballs (with and without Jimmy Gilmer) Bennie Sanchez (Al's mother) bought Norm's gear when Norm Petty Studios upgraded in the mid-1960s. In deed, many attribute Hurricane Records iconic “oldies” sound to the fact that they were actually using vintage equipment from the 1950s. Before they owned it, Al Hurricane & The Night Rockers test drove that equipment recording a series of singles at Norm Petty Studios starting in the early 1960s.
Based in Hollywood, Challenge Records had stumbled upon one of the biggest hit singles of 1958 almost by accident. In need of a b-side for a Dave Dupree single (aka David Burgess) the rag tag studio pros led by Danny Flores (credited as Chuck Rio for contractual purposes) slapped together a dirty sax line, and a snappy guitar riff with Flores shouting Tequila after every bridge and just like that they had a #1 hit. Three weeks after its release “Tequila” now the a-side was at the top of the charts and well on its way to a gold record. Danny Flores was dubiously credited as the “Godfather of Latino Rock” (though he quit the Champs within a year disgusted by the studio musicians inability to put on a good live show)
Not to mention that in their long history, The Champs never added another Chicano musician, though Glen Campbell, Dan Seals and Dash Croft were all once members. Smitten by the instant success of “Tequila” Challenge set out to find another Chicano King Midas and that's where Al Hurricane & The Night Rockers came in. If the formula works once, than why shouldn't it work repeatedly? Released in 1961 on Challenge, distributed by Warner Bros., Al Hurricane's “Lobo” b/w “Racer” was an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of “Tequila” Al & The Nightrockers were game but the finished product sounds like the producer ran tape after instructing Al and band to play like The Fireballs and The Champs
“Panchita/ La Mula Bronca” also on Challenge Records were the first tracks to feature vocals and apparently brought the Warner Bros./Challenge business arrangement to a close. “Mexican Cat/ Pedro's Girlfriend” has the distinction of being Al's first single on the Sanchez family's own label, Hurricane Records. (In April of 1967 “Mexican Cat” was still on the local charts) Al's first instrumental single "South Bend / Burrito" was released on Apt Records in 1960. Al & The Night Rockers were always in demand as a backup musicians for solo artists that Bennie booked to appear in Albuquerque (Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Little Richard, Tina Turner, Jimmy Clanton etc. etc.) That in a nutshell covers Al Hurricane's rock & roll period.
Al released his first album “Mi Saxophone” in 1967 and it set the tone for years to come as his music became synonymous with Northern New Mexico's Hispanic community. Bennie Sanchez, the family matriarch, gave up a career in nursing to become their full time manager as president of Hurricane Productions. Gifted with a knack for concert promotions and a shrewd businesswoman, Bennie built up a regional musical empire that rivaled and eventually surpassed that of Norm Petty. She had her Duke City contemporaries eating dust. Years later, Hurricane Productions was still going strong, a trend that continued well into the next century. Bennie Sanchez passed away in 2011, an amazing woman who's trail blazing accomplishments have never been fully recognized.
Smile Now, Cry Later
Down in the valley even the love songs were sad .... melancholy being the main ingredient of Duke City Soul. Tommy G, the mere mention of his name brings tears to their eyes. Thirty eight years since his death, the voice of Tommy G (Gonzales) still resonates with those who heard him sing. “Love me or leave me, don't keep me hanging on” Only a gifted vocalist, at ease with baring his soul, can run an audience through an emotional wringer such as “Please Don't Fool With Me” and bring the proceeding to a close by gently sobbing into the microphone and not end up the object of scornful derision. Only Tommy G could cover James Brown's masterpiece of unattainable love “I Want You So Bad” and somehow improve on the original.
Tommy G was blessed with singular talent and it's on full display as he steadfastly embraces the audience, tightening his grip with each chorus as the horns push him towards the fringe. Each plea more wretched with emotion than the last until the refrain of “I Wonder, Will I Ever, Will I Ever.... Stop, Stop... Being All Alone! Brings Tommy to his knees in moaning supplication. Rarely does one witness a song coming together with such perfection, that improving upon it is impossible. Recorded in 1966 at Hurricane Productions, with Tiny Morrie (Al Hurricane's brother) in the booth. It stands unchallenged as the best single recording ever produced in the Duke City's long and storied musical history. IMO.
“If you ain’t got enough soul, let me know. I got enough soul to burn.” It's mind blowing that Tommy G was just 19 years old at the time the three Hurricane singles were recorded. “The days I wonder, the nights I ponder and time is running out, though all the while, we burn brighter than a thousand suns” Upon its release “I Want You Bad” b/w “I Know What I Want” (an excellent James Brown knock-off written by Tiny Morrie) held down the #1 spot at ABQ Top 40 station KLOS. The single proved successful enough that it was re-released in 1967 on Hollywood Records (a subsidiary of Starday Records of Madison, Tn.) for national distribution and from there was picked up by London American Recordings for distribution in the UK.
The Charms followed up with “Please Don't Fool Me” b/w Hey! Hey! (You're Too Much) in 1966 and “Something You Got” b/w “Don't Cry” in 1967. The Charms consisted of Tommy G. vocals, Rockin' Ray Lucero on lead guitar, Alfred Bourget on trumpet, and the rhythm section of Robert “Boykie” Chavez- drums and Fred Garcia-bass. Ray Lucero went on to play with Thumper, Spinning Wheel & The Freddy Chavez Foundation. Robert “Boykie” Chavez played with Spinning Wheel & The Freddy Chavez Foundation. Alfred Bourget turned up in Johnny J. Armijo's Thee Fabulous Chekkers. (a revival of the original Thee Chekkers with nary an original member in sight)
Information on Tommy is rather spotty, some folks say Tommy grew up in Barelas, while others recall his family running a grocery store at the corner of 12th and Bellamah, which is in the Sawmill/Old Town area. Apparently he was involved with a band called The Rockin' Midniters prior to The Charms and they played a gig at San Felipe School in Old Town. The Journal's entertainment calendar mentions Tommy G's Broadway opening for Al Hurricane's Night Rockers at Al's Far West Club throughout the latter part of 1968. “When You Say That You Love Me” could be from this period. The song features Chuck Klingbeil sailing along on a jazzy organ riff while Tommy flows right alongside like a Vegas lounge singer. It's unlike anything Tommy ever recorded, beautiful and bizarre at the same time. “All the years would mean nothing, Oh my darling, for what good is life without you”
This resulted in two albums, the first Mud on Mudd released in 1970. Uni put out a single from the album “Medicated Goo b/w The Lights Gonna Shine” Medicated Goo being a cover of a Steve Winwood composition from Traffic's third album “Last Exit” Not even the novelty of Tommy G singing like Steve Winwood saved “Medicated Goo” from being little more than a sound-a-like cover version. Mudd did fare better on their own songs, especially “If We Try” (a Vic Gabrielle composition and one of many that Al Klein latched onto as co-writer) “Mud on Mudd” wasn't groundbreaking by any means, but it did provide an avenue for Tommy G to make a smooth transition into rock music.
On the second album “Mud” (down one d) the band neither regressed nor progressed. Same Mud channel, same Mud station. Zap! Pow! Biff! Released in 1971, a handful of songs on “Mud” jump right out at you “I Go Crazy” “She” and a cover of The Beatles “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” the rest ain't froggy at all. It's a bit of a bummer that given all the talent assembled in the band, nobody at Buffalo Bill Productions could find them something other than covers & filler to record. Even by Al Klein's low standards “Smacking Cowboy” and “Cruel Ruler” are fucking awful. I know it's mighty presumptuous of me to think that Al actually wanted the band to succeed or that he had their best interest in mind, but as the kids like to say... that's a fail!
Mud unceremoniously went the way of the buffalo after that album. Tommy G drifted off, though he eventually turned up in a version of Zozobra (along with Chuck Klingbiel) that apparently didn't include Sugie. The 800 lb. Gorilla in the room was always the monkey on Tommy G's back. Randy Castillo's Wiki page which has been endlessly copied and pasted onto websites near and far. Speaks of heavy drug use among the members of Mud and of Tommy G dying from kidney failure brought on by his addiction to heroin. An event that led to Randy swearing off heroin for life. David Butterfield, who played with Heart (the Burque version) alongside Arnold Bodmer, mentions Tommy's passing on his website “Mudd was the most ferocious NM band of the day, that is until Tommy G od’d. No Tommy No Mudd.”
Butterfield got it wrong, Tommy passed away in 1978, Mud or Mudd, was just a hazy memory for those who remembered anything at all. It's long been rumored that Tommy G died of an overdose and as a result, Mud broke up immediately. Consider that myth busted. Several hours spent scrolling through rolls of microfilm trying to find either an article mentioning Tommy's death or an obituary amounted to nothing. I would tend to believe the Castillo account over the rest. “To die—To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause”
Six Degrees of Randy Castillo
Randy Castillo got his start in a rather inauspicious way, while practicing in the garage, A member of The Sheltons happened by.... pounded on the door and when Randy answered, informed him that their drummer had quit and invited Randy to try out for the gig. Still a novice, Castillo was elated, but the feeling wouldn't last. Barely a month later The Sheltons original drummer Toby Romero asked back in to the band and Randy was unceremoniously dumped. He later recalled: “One of the guys called and said: 'Randy, don’t come to practice.’ I asked, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘’Because Toby’s back. He’s back in the band.’ I couldn’t say anything. I just hung up the phone, and started crying.” Castillo channeled the hurt and disappointment into improving his skills,taking lessons from Albuquerque drum pro Nick Luchetti.
The Sheltons: George (Bud) Lucero, lead guitar; Steve Lucero, sax, keyboards, lead vocals; Toby Romero, drums; Robert Elks, guitar; and Ray Avila, bass. (plus at one time or another: Eddie Sanchez, Max Peralta, Jerry Chavez & Randy Castillo) were quite popular around Albuquerque and seemed on the fast track to success. A fact that didn't escape the eyes and ears of a busy Tommy Bee, who brought them into the studio to record a series of demos with Tommy singing lead (Tommy Bee & The Stingers) including a demo for a song Tommy had written, “Double Crossin' Girl” (which he would later pass along to The Fe Fi Four Plus 2)
Randy Castillo was juggling classes at West Mesa Hs and sitting in on late night bar gigs with Thee Chekkers (which his parents would chaperone and then help him load up his gear) when The Gremlins (Gene Romero- lead guitar, Fred Radman-bass & Chuck Klingbeil-keys) came together. The band members were all too young to play in clubs or bars, (Randy was 14) but they stayed busy playing frat parties and one nighters around town. The Gremlins were one of Tommy Bee's early projects, recording at least one single “Hoochi Coochi Coo/ You Better Think It Over” on Stinger Records, Prod. By Tommy Bee (Gene Romero recalls that they recorded two singles)
With studio experience under their belts, The Sheltons recorded their first single in 1967 “Find It b/w Yesterday's Laughter” at Dell Studios with Tommy Bee at the controls. Released on Lance Records, “Find It” co-written by Tommy Bee, garnered regional airplay, apparently to the point that Lance Music Enterprises announced the impending release of a Sheltons album, which never came to fruition. The Sheltons followed up with a Lieber-Stoller song “I Who Have Nothing b/w Knock on Wood” the requisite Eddie Floyd cover. In spring of 1968 (after Tommy Bee's split with Lance Music Enterprises) Tommy licensed “I Who Have Nothing b/w The Cat” for release on Dot Records.
For Randy the experience paid off when he was asked to join Doc Rand & The Purple Blues, “We had a singer, this black guy. He could dance like James Brown. Couldn’t sing like him, but he could dance great!” Randy recalled. It was a step up, the band had a horn section and played original numbers, though their act pretty much revolved around James Brown covers “We learned every song that was on James Brown’s Live At The Apollo album.” Gene Romero, bass player for the Purple Blues describes Doc Rand as dancer/vocalist which falls in line with Randy Castillo's opinion. Pete Cockroft-trumpet, Max Peralta- sax, Ray Cruz- lead guitar,, and OJ Metzgar- guitar, rounded out the band.
The Sheltons quickly found themselves smack in the middle of a legal dispute between Tommy Bee and his former partners at Lance Music Enterprises, Dick Stewart & Tom Benavidez. Bee claimed that The Sheltons and their potentially lucrative recording rights belonged to him and not Lance Music Enterprises. After a flurry of accusations, suits and counter suits, the two sides settled out of court and Tommy Bee appears to have walked away holding the rights to a handful of recordings previously released on Lance Records. As a result Tommy Bee licensed “Find It b/w I Who Have Nothing” for release on Bar-Bare, one of Reginald Hines many shady labels. Reginald Music picked up publishing rights as well.
Doc Rand wasn't a terrible singer, though in all honesty, fans didn't care, they just wanted to watch him dance like James Brown. Under Tommy Bee's direction, Doc Rand & The Purple Blues released two singles on Lance Records, “Hold On I’m Coming b/w Something You Got and “I Want You (Yeh I Do) b/w I Need A Woman” Both produced by Tommy Bee and released in 1967. The ongoing feud between Tommy Bee and Lance Music Enterprises, also impacted Doc Rand & The Purple Blues. The band was essentially grounded until the two sides came to an agreement. This resulted in “I Need A Woman / I Want You (Yeh I Do)” being licensed for release on Reginald Hines' Landra label in 1968.
As for The Sheltons.... they got the satisfaction of knowing that their music would live on for years to come on those lucrative East Side Story compilations, for which Reginald Music got paid. The Sheltons went into a holding pattern as several members shuffled off to boot camp. Once Ray Avila, George Lucero and Ed Sanchez returned from active duty they transitioned into Zozobra, one of Albuquerque's best known club bands. Doc Rand boogalooed into obscurity and The Purple Blues donned Army green. Thanks to Uncle Sam and Tommy Bee's ill timed palace revolt, this chapter of Duke City Soul closes with a resounding thud.
At this point, Gene Romero and Randy Castillo hooked up with Gremlins band mate Chuck Klingbeil in The Tabbs, who as everyone knows, wore gold nehru jackets and according to The Abq. Journal, played “pop, rock tunes” at The Daily Double on East Central throughout late 1968. The Tabbs never released any official recordings. Though Randy, Chuck & Gene did journey out to California to take their shot at stardom, “It didn't work out” said Romero, a common complaint heard from Albuquerque musicians returning from the coast. Gene continued to play with Thee Chekkers and Freddy Williams before joining Roberto Griego's band, the first of many Spanish music bands that he would work with.
For Randy Castillo, after the Tabbs came Mudd/Mud and then Cottonmouth, which was predominantly a cover band that started out in Albuquerque before relocating to Española N.M. Cottonmouth featured Robert Plant knock-off George Gargoa on lead vocals, the hi jinks and shenanigans of lead guitarist Dave Martin and keyboard player Kevin Jones... by comparison the rhythm section of Randy Castillo- drums and Rick Wilson- bass was quite sedate. They changed the name to Wumblies (slang for the wooziness or wumbly jumbly effect felt when loaded on downers) then moved to Denver and became a force by bringing a full arena rock show to little podunk towns starved for entertainment. The Wumblies stage act included “skits” and costumes as well as parachutes hanging from the ceiling... though to my knowledge they did stop just short of pyrotechnics.
Some like to refer to The Wumblies as “the best unsigned band from the 70s” If not for the major labels aversion to signing cover bands with a habit of naming themselves after side effects associated with drug use... All jokes aside, Wumblies did record some strong original material and the demo tracks floating around on the internet show a band oozing with talent... they could have been the next Kingdom Come, ten years before the first Kingdom Come. Online you often see Wumblies referred to as Randy Castillo's first rock band or even worse as Randy's first band. Total horseshit. But thanks to the magic of copy and paste, the Randy Castillo story (including egregious errors) has spread to every nook and cranny of the internet. At least nobody's referred to him as New Mexico Sioux.
After the Wumblies wobbled off into the sunset, Randy found himself in The Offenders, an ill conceived band that featured bassist Randy Rand, who would later join Autograph and guitarist Glenn Sherba, who went on to join the final version of Badfinger (the one that recorded the “Say No More” album)“Sometimes I wish I would have stuck it out with the Offenders, but I was too impatient. I wanted something to happen now” Didn't we all... The Offenders released a single album, in 1981 and went belly up. Randy received an offer to join Code Blue in Los Angeles, but before he could settle in Warner Bros. dropped 'em cold. Code Blue, originally called Skin, was formed by Dean Chamberlain, an original member of The Motels. The band also featured Gary Tibbs of The Vibrators on bass.
Randy landed on his feet, when bassist Michael Goodroe, also from Albuquerque, convinced The Motels that Castillo was the perfect drummer for their upcoming U.S. Tour with Cheap Trick. Afterwards he teamed up with Wumblies band mate Rick Wilson in U.S.S.A. a Chicago area “supergroup” that included lead singer Cliff Johnson (Off Broadway) Pete Comita (ex Cheap Thrill bassist) and guitarist Tommy Gawenda (Pezband) no recordings were made. The rest of the Randy Castillo story is quite familiar and well documented. For the sake of brevity I won't pour over the details. Randy went on to become the most recognized musician Albuquerque has ever produced, and lest we forget, he started out playing that Duke City Soul.
Imagine my surprise upon discovering that “They'll Never Know Why” by Freddy Chavez is probably playing on a radio station somewhere in the north of England at this very moment. It's sounds crazy, but it's true. Freddy, raised in the South Broadway area of Albuquerque, was the creative force behind Thee Chekkers, remembered by some as the band that Randy Castillo played with prior to The Gremlins, filling in for their regular drummer, thirty minutes a night (1:30 am to closing) while his parents hovered nearby. Thee Chekkers were loaded with talent. The legendary Freddy Chavez on vocals & keys, Rolando Baca- lead guitar, Severo Flores- sax, Gabby Gabaldon- trumpet, Gene Romero- bass (Randy's longtime running mate) and Ralph Gonzales-drums.
Thee Chekkers made their mark once they hooked up with a man who knew his way around soul music, John Wagner of Delta Records, who also owned the best studio in town. This collaboration resulted in one awe inspiring single “Please Don't Go / Lack of Love” released in 1965 on Look Records a subsidiary of Starday Records. Produced by John Wagner, both songs written by Freddy Chavez. Both did well locally due to the fact that records by local artists actually got played on local radio stations... a novel concept if ever I've heard one. Thee Chekkers don't appear to have recorded anything else until 1967 when a single credited to Freddy Chavez came out “They'll Never Know Why/ Baby I'm Sorry” written by Freddy Chavez on Look Records, produced by John Wagner.
Then something odd happened, DJ Colin Curtis bought a copy of “They'll Never Know Why” added it to his playlist at The Golden Torch and devotees lapped it up. Soon other singles by Duke City Soul bands, Thee Chekkers, Tommy G & The Charms, Tom Barsanti & The Invaders found their way onto British turntables. Confused?... sit right down and let this old guy explain it to you: Northern Soul was a cultural phenomena that had its roots in the R&B music favored by England's Mods. It swept through Northern England, the English Midlands, Wales and Scotland in the late 1960s, having originated in cavernous venues such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, the Catacombs in Wolverhampton, Blackpool Mecca, the Golden Torch at Stoke-on-Trent, Va-Va's in Bolton and the Mecca of northern soul music.... Wigan Casino in Wigan. Home of the All-Nighter
While the Mods had a preference for Motown, Northern Soul fanatics did not, unless it was unreleased or obscure. All recordings deemed as too popular or too commercial were snubbed. The music most prized by the enthusiasts was American soul music issued on small regional labels and that's where the Duke City Soul bands gained a foothold. The music had to adhere to a certain beat... for example, The Four Tops “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” … the template for the Northern Soul sound, though no self respecting dance hall would play it, as it was deemed too commercialized. The dress evolved from classic Mod fashions to wide baggie trousers, teamed with tanks, vests, polo shirts, track jackets and leather soled shoes for the gents. Ankle- length circle skirts, vests, patterned slim fit shirts, platform shoes and knitted tanks for the gals. Adorned with Northern Soul patches representing their venue of choice.
The dancing evolved into an energetic and competitive style similar to early forms of break dancing. By the late 1970s most music being played in the dance halls was still music from the mid-60s, until Colin Curtis started incorporating newer American music such as funk and disco. That change would cause a split between Wigan traditionalist and the modern soul faction that sprang from Blackpool Mecca's Highland Room. “They'll Never Ask Why” a Wigan classic made its way onto “Northern Monsters” a compilation album compiled by Kent supremo Ady Croasdell for Ace Records, an album that did for Northern Soul what Nuggets did for 60s Garage. “They'll Never Ask Why” has since appeared on countless other compilations and is still being played on many of England's Northern Soul and Oldies Stations. The 45 Club Channel on YouTube has it ranked at #59 in the Northern Soul Top 500. Keep the Faith.
At the end of the story, it's all been told
After his brush with international fame, Freddy Chavez turned up in the Majestics, a popular Chicano soul band that included Freddy, Dale Rodriguez, Charlie Jaramillo, the omnipresent Luis “Smoothie” Soto and Ernest “Big Boy” Turner. Hardly any information on the Majestics online and zero recordings posted anywhere. Next up for Freddy Chavez was The Spinning Wheel, a show band with a full horn section that toured the Western states (they were big in Spokane) and enjoyed a successful run on the Vegas strip alongside fellow New Mexicans Sidro's Armada and Santa Fe w/ Jerry Lopez. Spinning Wheel was Freddy Chavez on lead vocals and bass guitar. Robert “Boykie” Chavez on drums. Mike Coulter on sax Eloy Armendariz on keyboard & trumpet. Ray Lucero on guitar & trombone Ray Esquibel on sax. Gabe Baldonado and David Nunez and a host of other musicians were also on board at one time or another. Recordings are available online, including a schmaltzy version of Sinatra's “My Way” and some really cool live tracks, posted by Mike Coulter.
The Freddie Chavez Foundation started in 1974, 41 years later the group is still active. Original members were Freddie Chavez, Ray Lucero (guitar) John Sargent (drums) Bennie Torrez (guitar & trumpet) The Foundation went through more drummers than Spinal Tap, including Robert "Boykie" Chavez, Pete Gabaldon, Jay Blea, Sonny Johnson, Ralph Gonzales, Bennie Padilla & Johnny Vigil. Ricky Lucero (organ) Louie (Smoothie) Soto (sax) & Jackie "JJ" Jaramillo (guitar) Don Rood (keyboards) figured in the mix. The Foundation favored jazzy soul numbers, pop standards, every style of Spanish music and even backed Freddie on an album of religious music and another that featured patriotic songs. Versatility and longevity are the hallmarks of greatness.
The Star Sapphires, recorded in Albuquerque during the mid-60's. The band consisted of RC (Roger) Chavez- guitar and Robert Chavez- guitar and keyboard, Larry Montoya drums and Charles Murray on bass. Robert Chavez went on to join the Vandels, not to be confused with Robert “Boykie” Chavez of The Charms & Spinning Wheel. Other than that, I know nothing about these guys except that they recorded a peerless version of “Cherry Pie” a song made famous by Skip & Flip (Clyde Battin and Gary S. Paxton) which was a cover of Marvin and Johnny's original recorded for Modern Records in 1954. The Star Sapphires released one single “Cherry Pie b/w Sapphire on their own Sapphires label. “Sugar plum, sweet as they come”
Tom Barsanti and The Invaders were quite active during 1966, recording three singles, the best known being “For Your Precious Love /You Can't Sit Down” on the local QQ label. “For Your Precious Love” was re-released on John Wagner's Delta records (which gives a good clue as to what studio the three singles were recorded at) and wound up becoming one the Duke City Soul singles that made it way to The Northern Soul circuit in England. Two more singles followed, “Sticks & Stones/Stormy Monday Blues” and “Do The Dog One More Time/ St. James Infirmary” both on QQ records. Tom Barsanti was the lead vocalist, Joe Bravo the lead guitarist and that's all I know about band personnel. Tom Barsanti worked as a disc jockey at KLOS alongside Pal Al Tafoya, broadcasting out of the KIMO building downtown. He wound up moving to Chicago and is now retired and living in Mexico. *Nobody's Children a garage band from Gallup, N.M. also scored a regional hit with "St. James Infirmary.
The Vandels, featuring Martin Duran on vocals, Robert Chavez on Keys (Star Sapphires) Tony Ramirez sax, Paul Harrison bass, Simon Chavez trumpet, Rubel Martinez trumpet, Bill Dauber, drums Harold Garcia guitar, Paul Duran guitar, Randy Valley drums and Anthony Aragon sax. Formed around a group of friends from West Mesa Hs. The Vandels had been playing for about two years when Tommy Bee signed them to Tommy Bee Productions. Heavily influenced by James Brown (that's why they sported two drummers) The Vandels decided to record “Try Me” as the b-side to “Danger Zone” The single “Try Me / Danger Zone” was released in July of 1967 on Lance Records and within a month the b-side was climbing up the local charts (peaking at #7 on KQEO) Unfortunately for The Vandels, “Try Me” came out just as Tommy Bee fell out with Lance Music Enterprises.
For that reason their next single, a cool cover of Maxine Brown's “All In My Mind b/w Soulin” (aka Boo Ga – Louie) produced by Tommy Bee for Tommy Bee Productions was released on Souled Out Records.... C.L. Milburn's label out of Pasadena, Texas, that Bobby Rosales & The Premiers recorded for. “I think that you don't care, And it's more than I can bear, I don't know baby, Maybe it's all in my mind, all in my mind” Speak of the devil.... in 1968 “Try Me b/w Boo Ga- Louie” was licensed by Tommy Bee to Reginald Hines' for release on the Lynn label. Tommy Bee was resourceful with plenty of friends in low places. “At the end of the highway there's no place to go, at the end of the rainbow you'll find the gold” unless Reginald Hines got there first.