Wednesday, October 07, 2015


2007 JERRY HENRY INTERVIEW WITH BILLY JOE ROYAL :Fellow music lover, Robert Register, emailed me with news of Billy Joe Royal coming to Dothan. There is very little that happens in the music world in and around that area, past or present, that gets by Robert. He also provided me with Billy Joe's latest release Going By Daydreams (Raindrops Records) and if that wasn't enough, he set me up with a interview. Robert being friends with music business heavy weights Paul Cochran and Buddy Buie makes things happen.
Georgia born Billy Joe Royal hit the big time in the 60's with Joe South's "Down in the Boondocks." That hit was followed up with "I Knew You When" "Hush" and "Cherry Hill Park". He toured with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars and came to Birmingham many times with WVOK's Shower of Stars. He returned with country hits in 1985 when he signed with Atlantic and cut "Burned Like A Rocket". Then charted with remakes of "I Miss You Already", "Tell It Like It Is", "Keep Right On Hurtin", "I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow", plus a song that he penned himself "Love Has No Right". He has been touring with B.J. Thomas and a DVD of their show is available on-line from B.J Thomas Music.
Going By Daydreams was produced by super producer, Chips Moman. This is not a greatest hits project. It is definitely for the over 40 crowd that appreciates Billy Joe's smooth delivery.
The only recognizable cover on this CD is "Under the Boardwalk" which he does very well.
"Class of '65" takes us to our class reunion and asks; What would you do if you knew you never left my heart/what would you do if you knew that you are still tearing me apart.
Another in that same mind set "Where Did the 60's Go" that tells her; You're still my flower child/I'm still your freedom fighter.
Every song on this CD seem as if they were written for Billy Joe.
This is a great musical experience that truly showcases this legendary singer.
It's only available at
JWH-Billy Joe it's been quite a few years since I've talked with you. How are you doing?
BJR-I'm doing great.
JWH-Do you remember back in the 70's when you hung around my shop, the Surf Hut in Panama City Beach?
BJR-Man yea, that was right around the corner from the Red Rooster. Good Lord, that goes back a ways. I played the Red Rooster a lot. So you live in Tuscaloosa now.
JWH-Yea, actually in Northport which is just across the river. Did you ever play here?
BJR-Gosh, it's been awhile. But yes. I've played everywhere. (laughter) It seems like I played a place called the Front Page or the Back Page or something like that there years ago. I know there were some other places but I just can't remember. I do remember working at Joe Namath's place there. What was that Brother's 3? Do you remember?
JWH-That was Bachelors III. You played all over PC Beach, didn't you?
BJR-I sure did. I played the Breakers with Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. I played the Old Dutch some too.
JWH-I used to see you with Joe South a lot back then.
BJR-Good Lord yea. Joe hung around Panama City all the time. He was another that hung around your place.
JWH-Joe wrote "Down in the Boondocks" for you. What else did he write?
BJR-He wrote "Hush". He wrote "I Knew You When", "The Greatest Love", lots of stuff for me. He wrote "I Didn't Promise You a Rose Garden" for me but we didn't have a hit with it. Lynn Anderson did but it was written for me.
JWH-You did the Vegas thing like Elvis. Did you meet him?
BJR-Oh yea! I played Vegas in 1970. The day before I opened, that was the last day of January, I went to see him and we visited a little bit. Later on down the line I played Lake Tahoe, I headlined the lounge and he headlined the main room and both of our names were on the marquee. You know I never took a picture of that and I never got a picture took of me and Elvis. Every night we saw each other. A friend of mine that played on the Boondocks, Emory Gordy Jr., was the bass player at the time with Elvis. So yea I saw him every night for about a month and became friends. You think people are going to live forever and you don't think much about things like that.
JWH-You have been all over the world and now you are coming to Dothan.
BJR-Yea I'm coming down there to Cowboys. I have a lot of friends down there. You know John Rainey Atkins and all those guys that make so much really good music in that part of the country. Bobby Goldsboro was from there, Buddy Buie, the guy that put the Candymen together for Roy Orbison lives there. Those guys later became Atlanta Rhythm Section. There's a lot of talent from around there. Jimmy Dean, who is still a good friend of mine, is still down there.
JWH-I have a copy of your CD and look forward to giving it a listen. I got it yesterday.
BJR-Super! That can be ordered on It was produced by Chips Moman and he wrote several of the songs. Chips is a legend in the business. He's written a million hits. He produced Elvis's comeback album. He produced Willie and Waylon, Neal Diamond, B.J. Thomas, anybody that's anybody. He wrote "Sweet Caroline". He wrote "Lukenbock, Texas". He wrote songs for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, it goes on and on. Like I said he's a living legend. He's really something!
JWH-Did you ever get to go to Lukenbock?
BJR-No! (laughter) I have no idea where it is. (laughter)
JWH-I found it. It's in the middle of nowhere.
BJR-I just came from Houston, Texas and some friends of mine had been over there but no I have never seen the place. It's just a wide spot in the road isn't it?
JWH-It's just one store owned back then by a guy named Hondo.
BJR-What were you doing there?
JWH-I lived out there. I was in the radio business out in West Texas.
JWH-In Midland.
BJR-Yea, Good Lord, I've been there. How far is Midland from Lubbock?
JWH-100 miles.
BJR-That where Waylon and all those guys are from. Buddy Holley was from there too. We played out in Hobbs, New Mexico once and a bunch of us went over there. I hear it's a great music town.
JWH-Jesse Taylor, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Mac Davis, Terry Allen, Pat Green, Lloyd Maines and his Dixie Chick daughter Natalie are all from there.
BJR-You've been around. You been around this ole music business.
JWH-Back then, in the radio business, all of them wanted to know you. It was play me, play me.
BJR-(laughter) It had it's benefits both ways.
JWH-You're traveling with B.J. Thomas now aren't you?
BJR-Yea but not all the time. We just finished up Vegas last week. Right now I am riding around with a friend of mine checking out the venue for tomorrow. We're playing Goat, Music, and More down here in Lewisburg, Tennessee. It's a big deal here. Then we go to Retro Valley and I can't remember what's after that.
JWH-You stayed with it all these years. You never dropped out, did you?
BJR-No, I've been lucky enough to make a living doing what I wanted to do. Even when the records weren't happening, I got a deal with the Flamingo Hotel out in Vegas. As a matter of fact I moved to California and worked there and Lake Tahoe. In the 80's I moved back to Georgia and started going up to Nashville. Knock on wood I have always managed to work. This is what I always wanted to do.
JWH-When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
BJR-Well, I think I always knew. At least I wanted to. I came from a family that all they knew was work. They worked at a cotton mill. To make a living making music was kind of unheard of back then. I had uncles that played on the side and never full time. When I was 9 years old I took steel guitar lessons. I played and sang on a radio show. Anyway I got the bug. We moved to Atlanta and there was a show out of Eastpoint called the Georgia Jubilee. I auditioned for that. The regulars on that show was Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, and Joe South. Freddie Weller and I auditioned the same day. There was all kind of fine talent with that. Then when it folded up I got a job down in Savannah and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I played in this huge club, the Bamboo Ranch,and anybody that was anybody played there. Joe South came down and started playing guitar. So as kids we played with Sam Cooke, Marty Robbins, George Jones, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, the Isley Brothers, Faron Young and anybody that was anybody came through those doors. I've been lucky my whole life. I met Joe South that knew Bill Lowery. Joe and I had cut some stuff on our own which was just awful. We took it to Bill and he said he didn't like the stuff and he took us to Nashville. I had 6 or 7 records before "Down in the Boondocks". Of course it was on a major label and it hit.
JWH-So you were one of those 10 year over night successes?
BJR-(laughter) Not quite that long but quite a while. But I made it and don't have any complaints. The pipes are still working and I feel great. Yesterday I did a interview with The Country Weekly and they asked if everything was still working. (laughter) I told them I was healthy as a mule.
JWH-That's great to hear. Billy Joe I sure appreciate you calling and I look forward to listening to your CD tonight.
BJR-Thank You and I hope you guys get to come down and see me in Dothan. We can catch up on old times.

seated:Billy Joe Royal; standing left to right: DOWN IN THE BOONDOCKS composer and album producer Joe South, Tommy South, Fred Weller, Emory Gordy, Ricky Knight
"Alison Heafner" 
"robert register" 
Re: Soliciting From "THOSE IN THE KNOW" Among The "CUBA, ALABAMA" Nation!
Sun, 29 May 2005 00:46:56 -0500


ROBERT NIX...................................................................................

South by South
Great stuff there. A couple of Florida ties to these guys -- Tommy South was one of the later drummers in the Roemans, though long after Berry Oakley had departed. And Freddy Weller is credited with co-writing both sides of the first Movers single (Birmingham/Leave Me Loose). The Movers' drum head is clearly visible behind Billy Joe Royal in the film "Mondo Daytona"!Jeff Lemlich
"Fluoridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century, if not of all time." - EPA scientist, Dr. Robert Carton (Downey, May 1999)

GOING BY DAYDREAMS will go into stores around October 15 but it is now available by mail from Billy Joe's myspace site or from his page on B.J. Thomas' website 

Please go to both these sites to hear this superb collection of some of Billy Joe Royal's finest work.
If you see fit, please purchase the CD & encourage anyone on the Internet to link to the two sites above & have any journalist interested in interviewing Billy Joe to contact me & I'll arrange for Billy Joe to talk with them.

This is really important to our future here in ZERO, NORTHWEST FLORIDA so take a little time out of your busy day to give Billy Joe Royal's recording career a little push!

This cat has an absolutely flawless delivery and Billy Joe's voice seems to grow more beautiful as he grows older. He has a natural feel for what sounds right & he never misses a note.
These days Billy Joe Royal goes by the label of a Country artist but he brings along with that package 50 years of Rock & Roll, Gospel and Rhythm & Blues influences.
Billy Joe Royal is a master at doing exactly what he does best:

"Joe Billy is one of the best guys around.
You've never known a person so unencumbered with celebrity.
Loves a good joke, or story, and is the type of guy that wishes well of everyone,and was an inspiration to me.
Not just for how he could sing but for how he treated people."

Rockin' Rodney Justo

Here's what Billy Joe had to say about his days before he was a successful recording artist when he was the featured performer Buddy Livingston & the Versitones (Versatiles?) at Savannah's Bamboo Ranch:

“When you’re young and your voice is just developing, if you sing five hours a night, six nights a week, you’re going to improve. We’d book in these big names like the Isley Brothers and
Sam Cooke, and I got the chance to know these people and watch them. When somebody did
something I thought was really cool, I had all this time on stage to work on it. You know, if they
had a spin or a vocal inflection, I’d just practice it until I got it right. I’d take whatever I liked,
whatever worked, and I just stored everything.”

TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2011

Now here's a classic case of musical irony, Billy Joe Royal was making a big comeback on the Country charts in 1986 with his hit “Burned Like a Rocket.” Number 23 with a bullet…then the next week the Challenger space shuttle blew up and all the radio stations pulled his song off the air. A story I read on the Net said that on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, a DJ on a big radio station
already had the song cued up on an automated tape system & played it immediately after the CBS coverage of the Challenger tragedy. Nobody thought it was funny.

In the liner notes for BILLY JOE ROYAL'S Now and Then…Then and Now album, producer and fellow Georgia Music Hall of Fame Inductee Buddy Buie, said of Royal:
“He amazed me with his unique vocal style and his ability to perform daring vocal gymnastics without sounding mechanical.
He was always soulful.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015



By Robert Register

The memory of the frontier career of Colonel John McKee, Tuscaloosa's first U.S. Representative, can never be relegated to the shadows of oblivion shared by most of Alabama's pioneers. A mountain of documentation produced by almost forty years of McKee's public service in the old Southwest continue to await the biographer who will someday preserve McKee's memory for posterity.

Colonel McKee would certainly be unconcerned that his life had never been illuminated by American historical research.
Consider the Colonel's own words.
" is the subject of my story, and if they will, God bless them, give me but enough of that they may keep their honors for those who are more ambitious of them."The grateful citizens of Tuscaloosa certainly spared no expense in honoring Colonel McKee at his retirement party held at the Eagle Hotel on May 19, 1829. The Tuscaloosans were eating high on the hog and they were well aware that Colonel McKee held responsibility for much of their good fortune. For eight years, ever since he opened Tuscaloosa's Land Office and sold the first lots in 1821, John McKee had had his finger in the pie. Some of the men in the audience at this public dinner in the Eagle Hotel had fathers who had received their Revolutionary War & War of 1812 pensions with McKee's help while he served in Washington as their congressman from 1822 to 1828. The property deeds that many of these men held were received from Colonel McKee in 1821. This real estate certainly turned out to be a good investment.

At the time of the dinner, in the spring of 1829, Tuscaloosa had been Alabama's capitol for more than two years.

This party hosted by the men of a grateful city raised their glasses forty-two times for the toasts that preceeded sitting down to have dinner with the Colonel. Toast #11 was drunk to "The University of Alabama- may is indeed become the cradle of genius and the abode of science."
Colonel McKee himself led the congregation at the end of Toast #6. The old colonel raised his cup to "The citizens of Tuscaloosa- may wealth reward their industry and enterprise, and health and happiness surround their firesides."Tuscaloosa's leaders were reminded of something very important as Colonel McKee stood at the head of the table to address them. This old man in his blue swallowtail coat held himself up with the assistance of a knotted hickory walking stick. Each of the stick's thirteen knots held a silver plate onto which a letter had been engraved. Together the thirteen silver letters spelled "ANDREW JACKSON."The first year of Jackson's presidency was 1829 and the Tuscaloosans looked forward to seeing Old Hickory put the tariff-loving Yankees in their place. Jackson also promised to fix the "Indian Problem" once and for all.

Three years after his retirement party, McKee's body, weakened by decades of frontier living, gave up the ghost at his plantation home, Hill of Howth, near Boligee in Greene County. In its obituary THE GREENE COUNTY GAZETTE stated: "With the earlier history of Colonel McKee's life we are unacquainted..."

In this newspaper obituary from August of 1832 we begin to find evidence that a collective amnesia concerning their frontier origins had already begun to cloud the thinking of Alabama's citizens. To consider Colonel McKee's earlier career would force Alabama's men to consume a bitter pill of history. Not only would they have to recall the long forgotten memories of abandoned Indian wives and children, they would also have to face the unpleasant fact that the negotiations that produced the civilization they and their fathers had founded, were based on three elements:
alcoholic intoxication, intimidation and bribery.

John McKee knew this better than anyone else. McKee's influence was ubiquitous throughout many affairs of the Southern Indians from 1792 until his death in 1832. Colonel McKee may have been an honorable man, but the frontier world he lived in was anything but honorable. The records of the Colonel are a window into the destruction of every Southern Indian nation; the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw and the Creek. Through his life one can know the complete historical record of the decline of the Southern Indian, yet a comprehensive analysis of the Colonel's life has never been written. The light that this yet unwritten biography would shed upon our forgotten past would certainly be appreciated by an American public that treasures a legacy which has shown the world that self-government is possible. Regardless of the psychic trauma that certain unpleasant details about our origins might produce, this history continues to influence continues to influence us in the present day.

John McKee's life with the Indians began in 1791 during General George Washington's presidency when William Blount, Governor of the territory south of the Ohio, appointed him to survey the Cherokee boundary from Clinch River to Chilhowee Mountain according to the Treaty of Holston, July 2, 1791. Educated at Liberty Hall Academy, now Washington and Lee University, the twenty-year-old McKee began to apply the lessons he learned in this log schoolhouse near the Shenandoah Valley town of Lexington, Virginia. To go along with his surveying skills, McKee began to acquire a mastery of Indian languages by utilizing the most renowned of all foreign language classrooms:
the marriage bed.

According to a written notation made by "E.A." in the margin of page 508 of the book A HISTORY OF ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY VIRGINIA, McKee "...married a half-breed Chicasaw[sic], birth of a daughter Alzira is recorded in a notebook preserved from 1794."

Elizabeth Archibald, in her essay on McKee, states that, "Papers preserved from his days as a Congressman show John McKee burdened with a son, Alexander..." This child was also likely the result of McKee's relationship with an Indian woman. According to THE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, McKee "...was said to have been legally married to an Indian wife, and he provided that after his death, his friend and heir, William P. Gould, should make a quarterly payment in gold to his half-breed son." A nineteenth century biographical summary of Colonel McKee indicates that McKee died a bachelor. There's much evidence that McKee himself distanced himself from his Indian family after his entrance into politics in 1821. An example comes from the recollections of George Strother Gaines. Gaines wrote that in the early 1820s McKee mediated a Choctaw conflict a the Choctaw Indian Trading House near Epes in Sumter County. During the negotiations, Greenwood Leflore, Choctaw chief and namesake of Greenwood, Mississippi, told Gaines, "Colonel McKee has become a stranger to the Indians and cannot be expected to feel as much interest in their well doing as you feel."
This occurred thirty years after McKee's entry into Indian affairs.

In February 1793 McKee received his first opportunity to apply his mastery of Indian language when Governor Blount appointed him to head a peace mission to the Cherokees. These negotiations initiated McKee's career as an Indian agent. On page 12 of the first volume ofTHE CORRESPONDENCE OF ANDREW JACKSON,these words are found in a letter from Jackson to McKee dated January 30, 1793:
"One question I would beg leave to ask, why do we now attempt to hold a Treaty with them [i.e. the Cherokees]; have they attended to the last Treaty; I answer in the negative then why do we attempt to Treat with [a] Savage tribe that will neither adhere to Treaties, nor the law of Nations upon these particulars. I would thank you for your sentiments in your next [letter]."McKee certainly learned how to "Treat with the Savage Tribe." Over the next thirty years, at one time or another, McKee served as U.S. agent to the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations. He applied a persuasive argument in his negotiations with Indian leaders. After lubricating the chiefs' tongues by applying copious amounts of rum, McKee would ply the Indians for information and then ask them this rather pointed question when the Indians began to gripe about losing their land:
"Did you ever know Indians to recover land by war? Have you not observed that war is invariably followed by loss of land?"

With this argument McKee was able to talk the Choctaws and Chickasaws out of joining the Creeks during the War of 1812. In fact, the only action the Chickasaw tribe saw during the entire war was with McKee. They accompanied him on his expedition which destroyed all that remained of Black Warrior's Town located near present-day Tuscaloosa.

In his last years in Tuscaloosa, McKee showed evidence that he had mastered personal control over the demon rum. According to William R. Smith, McKee allowed himself only one drink per day. The occasion of this single daily libation by the Colonel turned into a sort of community ritual. McKee's rule was to take his daily drink at noon in Travis' saloon which was located at the intersection of University Boulevard and 23rd Avenue. Smith described what he saw each day when he was a ten-year-old boy growing up in Tuscaloosa:
"...when he [McKee] reached the steps he would invariably stop, pull out his watch, and go in, or not as the pointers of the watch directed; if it lacked one or more minutes of the exact period, he would walk up and down in front until the time should come...When the Colonel entered the saloon, the boys of the town would yell,'IN HE GOES; IT IS EXACTLY 12!'"

Colonel McKee's plantation home in Boligee stood until the death of John McKee Gould, Jr. in 1944. Timbers from the demolished "Hill of Howth" plantation home were used to build a relative's home between Eutaw and Greensboro. Today nothing remains on the site of McKee's 1816 home, the first house ever built by a U.S. citizen in what is now Greene County. This quiet hill where the Choctaws showed McKee springs that never ran dry has now returned to the forest. The springs at the foot of "Hill of Howth" still flow and the muck that surrounds these flowing waters produces the only evidence of human occupation. Glass bottles, left by one hundred thirty eight years of continuous human occupation, glisten as the visitor washes off the mud that covers them. Maybe someday, like these old bottles, a light will shine once more on the life of one of early Tuscaloosa's most important citizens:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Transcription of Friday, July 11, 2008  Tuscaloosa's WTBC Morning Show featuring
Wilbur Walton Jr., Tiger Jack, Wally Price & the late Big Dave McDaniel with Special Guests, Rodney Justo, the late Buddy Buie ,the late Johnny Wyker and Debbie Hendrickson O'Toole(many of Debbie's comments were inadvertently not recorded)

Dave: Have mercy, Jack!

Tiger Jack: Oh!

Dave: Look! Watch your head now!

Tiger Jack: Bopped me right in the mouth.


Tiger Jack: I'm talking about the microphone. Let's clarify that!


Dave: Hey, Jack, bend that thing the other way like this one here. Watch your head!

Tiger Jack: Small town radio.

Dave: I tell you.

& that's Wilbur Walton & The James Gang on the Wally & Dave Show this morning. Tiger Jack sitting in~ We've got Wilbur Walton here with us reminiscing about the old days back in the 1960s. Rock 'n Roll around the State of Alabama and Southwest, Southeast & The James Gang was really into it back in those days & I want to talk about the James Gang but we're gonna wait just a minute because we have another special guest on the radio calling in- I guess Johnny...where are you? In the Shoals area? Wyker???????

Dave: Hey, John...
Oh, I think his cell phone's gone out, guys.

Tiger Jack: Well, he'll call back in a minute- then maybe- Trying to talk to Johnny Wyker who was the founding father of THE RUBBER BAND here in Tuscaloosa back in 1965 I believe. Went on to be a member of the group called SAIL CAT that had MOTORCYCLE MAMA & he's still in the music industry too. Wilbur, we're trying to get him. Have you got him back?

Dave: No, but we do have a nice lady from Dothan that's hanging on. Debby, good morning.

Tiger Jack: Debby from Dothan.

Bama Queen: Good morning!

Tiger Jack: How are you? You remember Wilbur & The James Gang I bet.

Bama Queen: Oh listen! I was 14 years old when I listened to Wilbur Walton Jr. at the Rec Center in Dothan singing Georgia Pines...singing Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo-Yo-WILBUR! DO IT!!!!

Wilbur: Well, I'm glad. My earphones are cutting on & off.

[ed. note: Bama Queen's audio was broadcast but it was lost from the tape]

Wilbur: Let me change earphones here.

Tiger Jack: Change your earphones out.
He can't hear.

Tiger Jack: Yeah, he's here.

Wilbur: He's across the...

Tiger Jack: The Bama Queen from Dothan, Alabama. O.K.

Wilbur: Yeah, Robert's sitting in there past that glass panel. Debbie, I didn't get to hear what you were talking about but I swear...

Tiger Jack: She says she remembers going to the Rec Center in Dothan, Alabama when she was 14 years old and listening to The James Gang.

Wilbur: Did you really?

Wilbur: Well, I'll sure do it then- He's standing right...

Wilbur: You know I haven't seen the whole thing yet. I've seen clips of it. I saw part of it last night up here. Robert showed me part of it. I want to see it.

Wilbur: Well, I'm glad you did.

Tiger Jack: Debbie, do you live in Tuscaloosa or are you in Dothan? Are you picking us up on the Internet or something?

Tiger Jack: O.K. We appreciate you calling in. We'll talk to you later, O.K.

Wilbur: Thank you so much for calling, Debbie.

Tiger Jack: Thanks for calling.

Wilbur: Thank you. Yes, bless you. I appreciate it.

Wilbur: I'm gonna try.

Tiger Jack: All right. Before we lose him again, let's get Wyker on here, O.K.
Johnny, how you doing, man? We keep losing you. Hope you can hang on for a few minutes. We got Wilbur Walton in the studio with us this morning.

Wilbur: Hey, Johnny.

Wyker: Yeah, I knew Wilbur back before he even started singing when he was a temp at Sigma Nu and he was friends with a buddy of mine named Jerry Sailor that later went on to sing with the Mark 5 up in Muscle Shoals and he died a few years ago. I talked to Wilbur about a year ago on the phone & he probably gets the same thing I get every time he runs into an old (ed. note: unintelligible) They say," Man, are you still alive? We thought you'd be the first to go." & I'm 63 & just got through raising and home schooling a 17 yr. old daughter and a 20 yr. old son and we've got an international net radio station on line. You can go to or .org ...that stands for Mighty Field of Vision Radio & we're actually trying to get a federal grant because you know now people don't have D.J.s like Tiger Jack that are heads up & hands on and that can break a local record. Like when we were freshmen in college in 1965, I got Johnny Townsend to sing with my band. He later went on to do SMOKE FROM A DISTANT FIRE & Tippy Armstrong came to play guitar with us and I found out in about two seconds I couldn't play guitar in the same band with Tippy & I had a choice of either getting thrown out of my own band or learning how to play saxophone within two weeks, on a trumpet within two weeks and so I blew till my lips bled. My...

Tiger Jack: Wyker is the guy responsible for, I don't know if he's ever heard this story before, but he's the guy responsible for putting TIGER JACK on me. Wyker used to... I'm sure you don't remember this, but you used to call me in the middle of the night and get me to play records then you would tape 'em so that the band could learn 'em. Y'all were the Mag 7 then.

Wyker: Yeah.

Tiger Jack: And one night, I used to like to lift a few cool ones before I come in, you know what I'm saying, & this particular night there'd been a few too many & Wyker called up & said, "Boy, you're roaring like a TIGER tonight!" & that's kinda evolved into Tiger Jack later on so...

Wyker: I'd also like to say I'm glad to hear Buddy Buie's well and doing good. I've had a few surguries myself; a ligament transplant in my right shoulder a few years ago from a motorcycle wreck & days & I broke Sail Cat up & when Motorcycle Mama was about 18 in the charts & I was living in Hollywood & I said, "I got to get out of here before they find a way how to get my BMI songwriter's money." so I bought the rest of the guys a plane ticket back to Alabama and I drove my old Cadillac back and bought a houseboat and just lived on the river for about five years & I was actually born in Florence & raised down there most of my life & went to high school in Decatur & came to Alabama as a freshman where I met Eddie Hinton & started working with him in '98 but I'd like to comment on Buddy Buie. The first time I saw Buddy Buie he was probably managing the Webs and we were sharing a bill with them at THE OLD DUTCH & I don't even remember what the name of my band was but in Buddy Buie I saw a guy who had more desire and more ability and more natural talent than anybody I'd run into in my life up to that time. He wasn't really a guitar player but he could make enough chords & he wasn't really a singer but he could write the most beautiful songs & when he would rair back & play one for a room full of people, he didn't let his guitar playing & vocals stand in the way, I mean, if you had any imagination at all, you could hear the finished product & I also noticed that Buddy took care of the little details nobody else wanted to do, like booking the jobs & making sure the guitar player had his pick. You know, all that kind of stuff~ I'm probably the least talented musician in the world but through watching him & a young Dan Penn; they both had that same power when they'd play one of their own songs. I don't know if Buddy remembers but I went over to Atlanta one time about '65 or '66 & we had signed with Columbia Records & was lucky enough to get a hit in the Southeast called LET LOVE COME BETWEEN US & I stayed with Buddy for a while & ended up over at Robert Nix's house who was the drummer for most of those great bands that y'all been talkin' 'bout & he's also got a band now with Dan Toler called the Toler-Townsend Band.

Tiger Jack: Is Johnny on that?"

Wyker: Yeah, he's still in L.A.
Married to Jennifer Toffel. Dr. Jim Coleman put 'em together & I'm sure you've heard the news on that...

Tiger Jack: Yeah.

Wyker: Dr. Coleman died a couple of months ago of a fall in his apartment. Fell down the stairs and broke his neck but I think there was more to it than that but I'm not going to say anything about it until...

Tiger Jack: Get back to the old days! How did you & The James Gang...
You told me a story a little bit earlier on the phone about how y'all crossed.

Wyker: Right! When Buddy was talking about The James Gang broke up & just left Wilbur. You know, I mean, it's hard to compete with Roy Orbison, especially at that time or anytime but Wilbur called me up & said,"I gotta bunch of Christmas jobs booked on The James Gang & I don't have a band. I said,"Well, I gotta bunch of Rubber Band shows lined up but I don't have a singer and Wilbur said, "Tell you what, I'll give you," I think it was $200 a week or a gig, "if you'll get a band to back me up." So he said,"You can pay the other guys anything you want to & ,you know, make a little extra money on it," & I did but it wasn't about money back in those days but one night we'd play as The James Gang & Wilbur would sing but he'd normally fiddle around for about two hours trying to get the P.A. working as he was knocking 'em out pretty good back then & he'd wait until he got his buzz adjusted just right & we didn't know any songs- basically- I went back to playing bass and Lou Mullinex was on drums and let's see, Tippy played guitar a little bit & Ronnie Brown played a little guitar & I played bass and we would do these long jams, like, imagine FUNKY BROADWAY & not put lyrics on it & I remember one night Wilbur was still stalling, trying to get the mic working. It probably worked. He just wouldn't flip the switch on until about halfway through the show but we didn't care, I mean, I was standing there facing the amps seeing pictures coming flying out of the bass amp & all this stuff & we kept playing...We were playing at a place in Auburn called the Sow'z(unintelligible). At first the people started yelling, "Play something else! Play something else!" & we just ignored 'em & kept playing this one chord instrumental. About an hour later, I looked up & everybody in the place was dancing & moving & the beer bottles on the shelves were swaying with the music so we kept playing about another hour & by then everybody had foundthem. I like to call this area THE LAND OF A THOUSAND DANCES. I mean, kids don't know how to act now days. You go to a party back then & everybody was doing some kind of dance~ The Alligator,laying down on the floor ~The Monkey, The Dog, The Funky Chicken~ all this stuff, well, we played as The James Gang one night. The next night we'd show up as The Rubber Band & I'd hire Cort. This was before Sail Cat. He was barely out of high school or still in high school & that worked out all right until we showed up in Mobile three nights in a row. First as The Rubber Band, then came back as The James Gang & the next night change clothes & went in & the third night we started hear kids say," Hey, didn't we see them here last night?" and another go, "Yeah, last night & the night before!" & we were lucky to get out of that tour alive but I can say that, you know, I was a member of The Rubber Band & The James Gang~the final version of The James Gang~ at the same time!

Tiger Jack: Well listen Wyker, you know how commercial radio is, we gotta take a break so we're gonna let you go.

Wyker: I'd like to invite everybody to go to our website and get the whole story. I gotta bunch a songs I wrote, uh, stories I wrote called CAT TALES ~ T-A-L-E-S ~ but it's & music on there you can download. Tell you about a lot we are doing today & I'd like to encourage everybody to buy a copy of the beach music book, HEY BABY.

Tiger Jack: Yeah, we've talked about that a lot.

Wyker: 18 pound book! I mean you won't believe it! It'll break somebody's back when you hand it to 'em. I mean, they could have just made a coffee table out of it!

Tiger Jack: Well, all right, we appreciate you calling in Johnny. We gotta go take a break.

Wyker: Get some of the old guys together like Wilbur & Buddy & whoever else is still alive and put on a damn show and show 'em us old Boomers can still rock!

Tiger Jack: I hear you, buddy. Thanks for calling in.

Wyker: I love you. I love you, man, for what you've done for the music business.

Tiger Jack: Thank you, sir! We'll talk to you later. JOHNNY WYKER!!!!
formally of The Rubber Band, calling in to talk with us. We got Wilbur here in the chair with us & we're gonna be talkin' more about the music of the 1960s & The James Gang coming up here in a second but first, let's take a break...
musical intro: BABY, TAKE ME BACK by Wilbur Walton Jr. & The James Gang

Big Dave McDaniel: Welcome back to The Morning Show!
We're having a great time talking about all the great days. HeyBaby Stuff!
It's all here & we want to thank the great folks at Hull & Associates for sponsoring this segment of the show. Anytime you needinsurance for your life, your home, your car- Check 'em out!

Buddy Buie: Tiger Jack.

Tiger Jack: Yes, sir.

Wilbur Walton Jr. : That was me.

Tiger: That was Wilbur.

Buie: I know it was Wilbur but I was gonna ask you...
I didn't get to spend a lot of time with you when I was in Tuscaloosa working on the Bear Bryant deal,

Tiger: Right.

Buie: but I wanted you to know you're still a legend in my mind and everything and it's great to see one continue on...

Tiger: That makes two of us, me and you, we both think that.
I don't know if anybody else does or not.


Buie: Most guys that are legends in small town radio are just subjects of conversation over a drink or coffee but this one rocks right on! Congratulations!

Tiger: I don't know how long that's gonna continue. I'm getting so old that it's hard to rock like we used to but anyway there's a GREAT affiliation- the reason you're on here today-
because Wilbur's here- y'all kinda got it together back in the early 1960s.
Buddy got Wilbur started with the James Gang.

Wilbur: Buddy had it together way before I did. Buddy was managing and writing and there was a group called The Webs & Buddy was managing them. There was Bobby Goldsboro & John Rainey Adkins & Amos Tindall, Dave Robinson...
Was there a piano player, Buddy?

Buddy Buie: No, uh, I don't remember.

Wilbur: Anyway, they were over there rehearsing and they let me set in and sing. I didn't know nothing about it but Buddy...

Buie: But you had already been singing at the fraternity parties, hadn't you?

Wilbur: No! I was already out of high school. I hadn't sung anywhere. I didn't know a key from a...
You don't remember this but I remember a little bit about music.
I don't remember much about other things and I'm happy about that!


What were we talking about just then?

Buie: We were talking about...


Tiger: Talking bands.

Wilbur: Oh, the band.

Tiger: Yeah.

Buie: Yeah, how you first got together and I said...
I was telling you that I thought that you had sung at the fraternity parties.

Wilbur: Oh yeah! I wanna tell you the first place I think of I ever sang.
You and Goldsboro were going to Birmingham to do some kind of...
I think y'all were going to make some demos and I took the car & y'all let me sang a song I wrote called EMPTINESS.

Buie: Do you know what...

Wilbur: Do you remember that?

Buie: I do remember it now I believe.

Wilbur: I remember it because I took the car. I'd never sung.


That was great that y'all let me do it. I wish I had turned out better.


Buie: At every Sigma Nu party at the University of Alabama though later on,
you were part of the entertainment and after you got a band, we put everything together.
You were probably one of the most sought after fraternity bands in town.

Wilbur: Well, I like that kind of music.

Tiger: Well, Wilbur's a lot like me. He doesn't remember everything- just the high points.
I guarantee you they played a lot around here at the University.
I guarantee you I remember that much.
We were fortunate enough to have 'em once or twice maybe at the Ft. Brandon Armory when we were doing our little sock hops at the armory back in those days. You know it's too bad you can't do things like that now days.

Wilbur: I was wondering about that.

Tiger: They just don't work.

Wilbur: Where do people play?

Tiger: I don't know. They don't. They don't play any venues like that. Mostly around here they play at bars, night spots.

Wilbur: There used to be, like you say, sock hops, like at armories.
They'd have 'em at different places and people would come.
It didn't cost an arm and a leg to get in either.

Tiger: I think we charged like two bucks a head and three for a couple, something like that.
'Course I guess that was pretty good money in 1965. It's pretty cheap now.

Buie: And best I remember we paid something like...
When I rented the Dothan Recreation Center where I did my first promoting, if I remember correctly, I paid $75 to rent the building and the chairs.
They had all the chairs I wanted. I just had to put 'em out and put 'em up.

Tiger: And put 'em down...
I think we paid about a hundred bucks for this one here when we first started but, you know, everything changes and that's one of 'em.
That kind of entertainment for kids just doesn't happen anymore.

Wilbur: No.

Tiger: I don't know where it went or why it went.

Wilbur: Well there are more places- more things for 'em to do.

Tiger: Most of 'em stay home and play computer games, I guess.

Wilbur: That seems to be the way of it now.

Tiger: Yeah, but I don't know. Like you say everything changes.

Buie: There was Ft. Brandon and then the Oporto in Birmingham.

Tiger: Oporto was in Birmingham. Dave Roddy did that.

Big Dave: Yeah, that was right next to Lawson Field.
I remember that. As a kid I went to those sock hops.
As a kid in Birmingham, I sure did.

Tiger: Wilbur and I were talking about Roddy a little while ago trying to figure out what he was up to. I hadn't...

Buie: Didn't he have some health problems?

Tiger: Well, that's what Register was saying. I don't know. I've not been in touch with him.

Wilbur: Robert Register! Yeah!
Before I forget it. Robert set this ...
arranged this for me to be here today and I want to thank Robert Register for doing that and Wally, Dave and Jack for letting me be here.

Buie: Hey, Robert Register...

Tiger: You got a big fan in Register.

Wilbur: HE'S WEIRD.


Intro music: GEORGIA PINES by the James Gang

Wally: We're gonna turn this hour over to the Tiger Jack Show.
Tiger, you gonna work tomorrow or you gonna take the day off?

Tiger Jack: I'll probably have to work, you know, you gotta have every buck you can have!

Wally: That's right. That's right. All the movie passes you can eat.

Tiger: Yeah, all the movie passes we can...
This things gonna hit me in the mouth!

Wally: It is!
That's right. That's right. You're not used to working in Studio B.

Tiger: No.

Wally: You're usually in Studio A over there. The mics are a little different over here, Tiger Jack.

Tiger: They are but we're gonna have some fun here for a little while.
We're gonna have a rock 'n roll reunion!

Wally: I hear ya!

Tiger: 'Cause we've got a legendary rock 'n roll singer from the mid 1960s here in the studio with us and we're gonna have another one calling in here on the telephone in a little bit I hope.

Wally: That's great!

Tiger: We're gonna to get Wyker back here on the line. We've got Wilbur Walton with us this morning, lead singer of THE JAMES GANG from Dothan, Alabama back in the mid-1960s.
THE JAMES GANG had some big hits around the Southeast.
If you grew up in the Southeast back in those days then you remember the great song GEORGIA PINES that Dave just played for us.


You could rock 'n roll a little bit back in those days Wilbur!
Get that microphone up there where you can...

Wilbur: Yeah, we did that the other day and people still enjoy it.

Tiger: That was a good song. But GEORGIA PINES was just really a big, big hit in Tuscaloosa back in...

Wilbur: That's the only song I did that I really like myself to tell you the truth.


I liked the Yo-Yo song back then but Piano Red did it so good that it kinda made me look puny.


Do you remember Piano Red?

Tiger: I remember.


Tiger: Yeah, Perryman

Big Dave: Oh my goodness!!!!

Wilbur: Perryman.

Tiger: Perryman was his last name wasn't it?

Wilbur: He played up here a lot.
Sometime he'd bring a band.
Sometime it's just be him & a piano.

Tiger: Yeah~ Well you played up here some too. You played for us out at the Ft. Brandon Armory.

Wilbur: I saw a picture of it & like I told ya, I hope we did well.

Tiger: You did well. Y'all were popular. I know you had to have played out at The University for some fraternity parties.
You got Wyker there on the phone there?

Big Dave: No~ actually~
BUDDY BUIE'S On The Phone!

Tiger: Buddy Buie~ O.K.!

Buddy Buie: Hey guys.

Tiger: How you doing, Buddy?

Buddy: ROLLLL TIDE! How's everybody getting along?

Tiger: We like the "Roll Tide" part of it.
We've got your old buddy Wilbur here in the studio with us this morning &...

Buddy: Well, that's great!
It's a wonder Tuscaloosa even still exists after his years as a Sigma Nu.


Wilbur: Buddy, I met some real nice people but my college career was kinda "erstwhile".

Tiger: Mine & yours both. I think what he's saying is that he didn't last very long.

Wilbur: Naw, I didn't last very long. I don't know how Buddy did in his particular school either.

Buddy: Aw yeah, let's don't bring up sore subjects, O.K.

Tiger: Buddy, how you feeling? I understand you had a car wreck or something.

Buddy: Yeah, had a dadblame...

My first car accident.
Everybody always claims I'm a terrible driver but my comeback is,
"Well, nobody's ever been killed in one of my wrecks!"
& THIS TIME, I almost lied.

I was riding with my dog.
I take my dog out in the country in the afternoon.
Ride with her and somehow or and other,
I don't even know how it happened.
I looked back to see to check on her
& when I looked forward, I was off the road and what happened next;
I didn't know it but I hit a sign.
A road sign that said

Wally: Uh-oh!

Buddy: Anyway, I stayed in the hospital about a week and I'm gonna be in rehab for about three weeks.
So they got get me patched up together.
Hey, I just think about how fortunate I am.
So many people don't sur...
don't live talk about these things.

Wilbur: Let me ask you something.
It's not life threatening.
This particular thing
but it's gonna take you five or six months to get over it~

Buddy: That's right.

Buie: Register is by far the most active and the most influential of anyone for the music from that era in our part of the country. Robert has taken a great interest. Got a great blog and he has been just really great to all us old timers.

Tiger: Well, somebody's got to.

Tiger Jack: Buddy, let's talk about the formation of the JAMES GANG and how you got all them together.

Buddy Buie: There was a group up here called the Ramrods.

Wilbur Walton Jr. : From Birmingham.

Buie: Yeah, from Birmingham. Wilbur, you met the Ramrods first, didn't you?

Wilbur: No, I don't think so.

Buie: I remember... as a matter of fact...

Wilbur: We all knew each other because in Dothan at that time were more musicians then than might be in the whole county now. I don't know.

Tiger Jack: Well, there were some good ones come through there for sure.

Wilbur: I don't know why that is. Robert was telling me last night that he knows why but I'll let him write a book on that.

Buie: You had Fred Guarino. You had Bubba Latham.

Wilbur: From Birmingham. They were from Birmingham.

Buie: Yeah, I gotta tell ya, Fred passed away a couple of years ago & it was really strange the way that happened. Jimmy Dean put on a kind of a reunion for the band at his house and there was no music. Everybody just met, ate bar-b-que and drank beer and Fred was there with his wife and he was just as healthy as the day is long. Always, he was a good looking kid.

Tiger Jack: Let's get this straight. Were we eatin' bar-b-que & drinkin' beer at the funeral?


Buie: That's what I'm fixin' to tell ya!

Wilbur: What's that stuff you're on down there?

Buie: Well, you're gonna have to forgive me. I'm on medication. Y'all gonna have to forgive me if I say something. Oxycotin is what's really talkin'!

Wilbur: I KNEW IT!

Buie: But we were at Jimmy's party. I hadn't seen any of the guys and I just couldn't believe how good Fred looked.

Wilbur: He sure did. Oh, you're talkin' about Robert Dean's...

Buie: Yeah.

Wilbur: Oh, in Dothan.

Buie: In Dothan and next thing I know somebody called me and said,"Did you know Fred Guarino died?" I said,"Lord no, I didn't know that."
It was some kind of sudden illness.
I don't remember.
Jack, you were asking about how we got together. It was a combination of a couple of bands that ended up...

Wilbur: The Webs and The Ramrods. You put 'em together.

Buie: The Webs and the Ramrods- there you go.

Wilbur: You took me and Jimmy Dean from the Webs and those three guys- Johnny Mulkey was a guitar player from Marianna.

Buie: Yep.

Wilbur: You took those three guys and us two guys and sent us to Florida.

Buie: Yep.

Wilbur: Close as I can remember.

Buie: Yep.

Tiger Jack: Is this the same time frame as Goldsboro was with the Webs.

Wilbur: That was right after Goldsboro left. See he gotta hit called FUNNY LITTLE CLOWN.

Tiger Jack: FUNNY LITTLE CLOWN, yeah.

Buie: Bobby & us...
When Bobby left to go on the road, it left a vacuum there and Wilbur filled that vacuum as a singer and then the band evolved into a different musical direction by putting the two together- The Ramrods & The Webs.

Tiger Jack: & The Webs became the Candymen somewhere along the line.

Buie: Somewhere along the line, The Webs became The Candymen. We all...
I left Dothan and Bobby left Dothan and we went to work for Roy Orbison. All the band left. Wilbur, of course, being the singer; I don't think Orbison wanted someone to take his place. Wilbur didn't go.

Wilbur: Yeah, I can see me doing PRETTY WOMAN.

Tiger Jack: So Wilbur went on the road with THE JAMES GANG.

Buie: Yeah.

Tiger Jack: & THE CANDYMEN, THE WEBS, got Justo I guess.

Wilbur: They became The Candymen and The Candymen became THE ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION.

Tiger Jack: Right.

Buie: Yep, yep. There was an evolution there.

Tiger Jack: & all this more or less came out of Dothan, Alabama.

Wilbur: All of it started in Dothan: Buddy Buie & Bobby Goldsboro & John Rainey.


Wilbur: Well, it's the way it happened.

Buie: Dothan, Alabama was where it came... Yeah, Dothan. It all came out of Dothan.
Yeah, it did. Yeah.

Wally: Y'all never did clarify. Was the beer and the bar-b-que at the funeral?



Wally: I thought they had beer and bar-b-que at the funeral.

Tiger Jack: That's the funeral I want to have and you can leave off the bar-b-que too!


Wilbur: I tell you. That wouldn't be bad.

Buie: A sock hop funeral.

Wilbur: Yeah, have a funeral, bar-b-que and beer.

Wally: And when we bury Buddy, we gonna add some oxycotin to it!


We need all the help we can get, don't we?
How much time we got left in this segment?

Big Dave: You guys can go to the bottom of the hour. You're clear 'till then.

Tiger: Oh well, we got plenty of time.

Tiger Jack: We've got just a few minutes remaining with Wilbur Walton this morning. Let's take a quick phone call from Rodney, I believe. Is that correct, Dave?

Rodney: That's right.

Tiger Jack: All right, Rodney, what's on your mind?

Rodney: Well, I just wanted to call and say that through the magic of the Internet, I'm listening to Wilbur talk and how happy I am to hear that he's back singing again & Wilbur's always had a tremendous fan base and he's just the sweetest guy you could possibly know...

Dave: Rodney ~ Is this Rodney Justo?

Rodney: Yeah. Yeah.

Wilbur: I didn't recognize your voice!

Tiger Jack: Rodney Justo was with the Candymen and later with the Atlanta Rhythm Section.

Wilbur: That's right.

Rodney: The voice comes and goes, Lips. Some days I think it's pretty good, then I go, "What the heck am I thinking?!!!!"

Wilbur: I heard you were singing with the Atlanta Rhythm Section for a while.

Rodney: Yeah, it was just a temporary thing. I was filling in for Andy who had surgery & they asked me if I'd come in and fill in so I learned 15 or 16 songs in three days and worked about 5 or 6dates.

Tiger Jack: We had Buddy Buie on a little earlier in the hour....

(ed. note: Here feedback cuts out all of Rodney's audio on the tape although his words were broadcast & went out over the Internet)

Tiger Jack: Where are you, Rodney? Atlanta? Tampa?

Tiger Jack: That's great. You played for us out here at the armory here in Tuscaloosa several times with The Candymen. Remember it well. Been a long time but I still remember the good parts.

(ed. note: Rodney comments on Ft. Brandon Armory)

Tiger Jack: Yeah, it was. It got so hot they blew it up!

Wilbur: You know that answers a question for me. I saw a picture of The James Gang in the armory there and all the shirts were wet.
Looked like they were tie-dyed!
And it's sweat!

Tiger Jack: It was hot. There's no doubt about that.

Wilbur: I just recognized that. Rodney, there's no need to quit singing.

Wilbur: We were just talking about that. Rodney, that's one reason I did this CD. I like these four songs on this new CD which is the reason I'm up here but I wanted to sing and I didn't have anywhere to sing.

Tiger Jack: Wilbur, we're running out of time. Rodney, we appreciate you calling in. It's great to hear from you again. I know Wilbur is excited to hear your voice.

Wilbur: I am, buddy!

Tiger Jack: Thanks for calling in. We appreciate it.
Here. Thanks a lot.

Tiger Jack: Wilbur, tell us about the CD. Where can they get this MR. REDBUD featuring Wilbur Walton Jr. and David Adkins?
Where can they buy this?

Wilbur: It's at CD Baby
& I think you can download it on CD Baby.
If you'll read, I can't see... it's on Playground Records, is it .com?

Wally: Playground Recording Studio dot com

Tiger Jack: Playground Recording Studio dot com.
You can get it right there!

Wilbur: The name of it is MR. REDBUD.

Tiger Jack: MR. REDBUD.
What's your favorite cut on there, Wilbur?

Wilbur: MR. REDBUD!!!!

Tiger Jack: MR. REDBUD.


Tiger Jack: I hear ya! We appreciate you being here today, Wilbur. We've had a great time.

Wilbur: Thank you so much.

Tiger Jack: Wilbur Walton of the James Gang!
We appreciate him being in here & we'll do it again sometime.

Big Dave McDaniel: We will, guys! Thanks a lot.
The Morning Show returns at 6 A.M. Monday here on WTBC

A Tuscaloosa News review of Wilbur Walton, Jr.'s CD, MR. REDBUD:

Walton back after almost 40 years
By Ben Windham
Tusk Writer
May 23, 2008


'Mr. Rosebud' (EP)

(Playground Records)

Greg Haynes' mighty book, 'The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music,' is the last word on the rock and blue-eyed soul bands that ruled the Deep South in the 1960s. One of the best of these groups, The James Gang, hailed from Dothan.

The band had a regional hit called 'Georgia Pines' in 1965. It was — and still is — a great recording, deftly written and beautifully sung. Almost anyone who grew up in the South during the mid-60s is likely to remember it:

The trees grow tall

Where I come from

Their leaves are thin and fine ...

Vocalist Wilbur Walton Jr. was one of the main reasons for its success. His expressive baritone seemed to capture every nuance of the lyric about lost love, small-town life and the Southern countryside.

Walton, who has been missing in action for almost four decades, is back, and that's a cause for celebration. And also some reminiscing.

As a singer, he seemed in that rarefied league with Roy Orbison, someone who could convey deep emotion over a wide vocal range in the compressed context of a pop song.

The Orbison connection is germane to Walton's story. It began in the early 1960s with a band named The Webs that songwriter/producer Buddy Buie managed. The Webs backed up Orbison at a one-night stand and he was blown away. For the next two years, he used The Webs as his backup band, rechistening them The Candymen as a reference to his bluesy hit record 'Candy Man.'

The original singer for The Webs was a kid named Bobby Goldsboro. Losing his band to Orbison, he went out on his own and eventually charted some sappy but lucrative hits like 'Honey' and 'Watching Scotty Grow.'

Buie, meanwhile, was casting around for another band to manage. He took Walton and bassist Jimmy Dean from a re-formed version of The Webs and added three members of The Ramrods from Birmingham: drummer Fred Guarino, keyboardist Bubba Latham and lead guitarist Johnny Mulkey. They became The James Gang.

A caveat: This James Gang has no relation to the band of the same name that included Joe Walsh, a futuremember of The Eagles. For a couple of years, this Alabama James Gang was one of the biggest bands on the Southern party circuit.

'Georgia Pines' sold well and so did a second recording, 'The Right String Baby but the Wrong Yo-Yo,' written by Atlanta's Willie Perryman, a.k.a. Piano Red.

The group never was able to break nationally, however, and it disbanded in 1967. Still, Walton hung onto the name and continued to take bookings.

Tuscaloosa's Johnny Wyker, who led the fabled Rubber Band, found himself in the same situation. He tells a funny story about agreeing to form a dummy band with Walton. Depending on bookings, some nights they would play as The Rubber Band, and some nights they'd be The James Gang.

As long as the engagements were far apart, the plan worked pretty well, Wyker writes on his Web site. But one holiday season found them booked back-to-back at the same club, first as The James Gang and then as The Rubber Band.

Somehow, they managed to get out of it but 'I'm sure there was some fast talkin' involved and some fast cars too,' Wyker writes.

Walton was going through a bad time, he writes. Some nights he would be too juiced to sing. He'd claim that the P.A. system was broken and tell the band to play some instrumentals until he got his act together.

Walton has been off the scene for a long, long time. This month, however, he emerged with his first recording in 37 years, a four-track extended play CD titled 'Mr. Rosebud.' And if it's not exactly 'Georgia Pines,' it's surprisingly good.

It was recorded at Valpariso, Fla.'s, famed Playground Studios, which produced soul, garage, psychedelic and Southern rock for 20 years beginning in the late 1960s. Recently reopened and revitalized, with an anthology titled 'Soul Resurrection, Vol. 1' devoted to some of the awesome talent that passed through there, Playground has gained a whole new audience.

Walton's EP isn't quite as retro as you might expect. A couple of the cuts, 'Lonely Song' and 'You'll Smile Again,' are soul-country, in the same vein as 'Georgia Pines' (though possibly a little less rocky). But the other two tracks, 'Johnny' and 'Mr. Rosebud,' are like something off a Steely Dan album.

The lyrics are elliptical; unlike 'You'll Smile Again,' when Walton seems to be singing reminders to himself ('The years and the wine/Sure took their toll/The feet that were once steady/Now aren't so bold ...'), the two Steely-ish songs are impressionist, open to interpretation.

'Johnny,' in fact, almost sounds like a studio jam, with stream-of-consciousness lyrics:

A vapor

Vanishing vapor … a vapor

A trip

Johnny on a trip ... a trip

Johnny at his worst … hey hey hey

But it's surprisingly effective. The backup, which includes Walton's old band mate Jimmy Dean on bass, David Adkins on piano and guitars and John Seals or Warren Meigs on drums, is tight and hard, with more than a passing resemblance to the Steely Dan studio band that cut the 'Katy Lied' album.

The title cut is somewhat more focused lyrically but it's still open and suggestive:

It's been so long since I've seen you

I think perhaps you're not coming

Or have been detained at the coast

As for me things are going quite smooth

There are other fields you know

I've got a friend on an island ...

Physically, Walton changed quite a bit since the James Gang days. Gone are the slick hair and the tailored, collarless leather suit. He wears a patch over his right eye these days. His hair is longish and unkempt. He looks gaunt and weathered.

But Walton still can sing. His voice has gotten deeper and darker over time. If some of its supple power is gone, he remains a master of nuance and inflection.

People who are curious may get a good look at Walton in a recent concert in Dothan with a group calling itself 'The Strange Gang,' (featuring Buie, no less) on You Tube (  ).

If you want to get deeper into Walton's new incarnation, however, I recommend the new EP. It may be hard to find in stores, but it's available on the Internet. It's probably destined to rank as one of the Southern musical comebacks of the year.

Here's the text on CD Baby
Wilbur Walton Jr
Mr Redbud

© 2008 2008 (796873059640)
CD price: $12.97

CD IN STOCK. ORDER NOW. Will ship immediately.
His 1st release in 37 years. sounding Southern Steely Dan-ish, Rock Country-ish, gospel-ish. WW JR still has the unique, one of a kind, immediately distinguishable vocal. One of The Greats.

In October, 1964, songwriter/record producer Buddy Buie, who was manager of Roy Orbison's backup band The Candymen (originally known as The Webs, which included Bobby Goldsboro as singer) put together a group which he named The James Gang. The band was made up of Wilbur Walton, Jr. and Jimmy Dean from a second version of The Webs that Buddy managed, and Fred Guarino, Bubba Lathem, and Johnny Mulkey, from another of his groups, The Ramrods of Birmingham.

That winter, the group released a couple of songs on United Artists' Ascot label which did well in several markets, hitting big in Birmingham and around the South. A session followed at Fred Foster Studio in Nashville, where the group recorded a Buddy Buie/John Rainey Adkins song, "Georgia Pines". The song did well in the south, the midwest, and several western markets.

"The Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo-Yo", written by William "Piano Red" Perryman, became another regional hit for the group. Other hits included the Northern Soul fave “24 Hours of Loneliness”.

The James Gang signed with the Bill Lowery Agency in Atlanta, which was already booking many other southern acts, including Billy Joe Royal, Joe South, Tommy Roe, The Candymen, The Tams, and The Roemans. Wilbur and the James Gang also toured with and backed up artists John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed, The New Beats, The Everly Brothers and Many more.

The exact number of 45 releases fro the James Gang is unknown but there are at least 25 documented. Wilbur Walton Jr. and The James Gang are prominently featured in Greg Haynes’ book entitled “The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music”.

Wilbur Walton Jr. has taken the stage for the first time in 35 years with the James Gang featuring David Adkins. On his new Playground Records release “Mr. Redbud” he presents 4 NEW songs that give the listener a small glimpse the “Strange Gang” existence. Wilbur’s undeniably unique and immediately identifiable baritone voice along with the lyrically expressionistic Alabama rock guitar and classic southern piano of David Adkins define this record. It’s timeless! Wilbur was a undeniable Rock Star in 1963 as he is NOW in 2008

David Adkins and his legendary brother, guitarist John Rainey Adkins were members of the first Playground Rhythm Section and played on countless records and recordings in music of all genres.

Just 3 words…… WILBUR IS BACK!