Buck RocknRoll Country Music
Bay Area live band
One Friday night in 1950 when I was 5 years old, I was awakened from sleep by my parents, Mom dressed me in my 'Billy the Kid' cowboy suit, and we went to see Dude Martin and his Roundup Gang featuring singer Sue Thompson. Thompson went on to record early 1960’s hits “Norman”, “Sad Movies”, and her biggest hit, ”Paper Tiger”.
At the young age of 5 years old, I knew I wanted to do this again and again. The crowd appeared to love it and I was given Roy Rogers drinks from people who liked the performance.
They were playing at a local Oakland, CA, night club - possibly Vernetti’s Townhouse in Emeryville. Mom took me to meet Sue during the band’s break and asked if I could sing "Tennessee Waltz", a Patti Page song I had recently memorized from listening to the radio. Sue asked Dude Martin and he said okay, so with the microphone lowered and Sue bending over singing with me, I sang the song.
All through my childhood I continued to sing in school recitals and for family events. In 1956 while watching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show and seeing the reactions he received from the women, I asked my mom if I could take guitar lessons. Two weeks later I came home from school and my mom announced, 'There’s a guitar in the hallway and your lessons start Thursday.' The guitar was an acoustic Kalamazoo Steel Hawaiian Model. I learned to play it and soon bought an electric slide guitar with money I earned from my paper route.
After learning to play the classic song, "Steel Guitar Rag”, I traded the steel slide for a National electric 6 string and starting taking additional lessons. I wanted to be like Elvis.
One of my childhood friends, Bob Turner, played tenor Ukulele and could sing like Johnny Mathis. Turner and I started singing together and harmonizing Everly Brothers songs for grammar school shows.
In the eighth grade I joined my first band. It was a combo of 4 guys that included a drummer, alto saxophone player, piano player and guitar. It was a learning experience that would never leave my memory.
When I entered high school one of my freshman classmates was a local guitar player and band leader named John Fogarty, who went on to form the band Credence Clearwater Revival. Along with Fogarty and three other guys, we formed a band named The Centennials, after our class which would be the 100th graduating class from St. Mary's High School.
Fogarty taught us some songs and how to play basic rhythm guitar licks, most of which I still utilize today. During that year, we played a few assemblies and one dance. Fogarty left St. Mary’s High School during his freshman year and attended El Cerrito High School from where he graduated. While there he led the bands The Blue Velvets and The Golliwogs, before forming CCR and making the smash hit “Suzy Q” for Fantasy records.
I continued to practice the riffs that Fogarty taught me, but my musical interest was changing from Rock N’ Roll to the up-and-coming folk music and later folk rock. Two guys who were a year ahead of us in school and went on to become prominent performers of Folk, Blue grass and Country music were Butch Waller and Herb Pedersen. They gave Craig Deforce and me rudimentary guitar instruction on folk music and some advice on how to play it.
Craig DeForce and I formed a duet and called ourselves the Gruesome Twosome (right).
We’d play anywhere people would listen, mostly teen club shows and parties.
Our idols were the Kingston Trio and we learned most of their songs along with some popular folk and country songs. After about a year of playing we thought we needed to expand the duet to a trio and we asked high school friend Ricky Sunseri to join the group. Around that same time, we met Pan Nehls, a young woman who could sing like a bird and her parents were very supportive. Pan's father became our group manager, our friend Tom March was our sound man and we called our group The Country Club Singers. We emulated the Australian group, The Seekers. The Country Club Singers appeared at all types of venues, anywhere they would have us - a brief one-nighter at the famous Hungry I Club in San Francisco, the San Francisco Hilton, and the annual Calaveras Jumping Frog Contest. The Calaveras Jumping Frog event included a Hootenanny competition which we won, giving us the opportunity to sing one song in front of an amphitheater filled with several thousand people. At 16 -17 years of age, that was quite an experience. That year we went on to play the Colusa County Fair where we shared the stage with famous Country Artists Freddy Hart who sang the hit "Easy Lovin’" and Johnny Bond who sang the original version of "Hot Rod Lincoln", which was covered in 1972 by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen.
However, mostly we played country clubs, U.S. Army Enlisted and NCO clubs, and the occasional coffee house in Berkeley or a college venue. By the way, the name came from drinking Country Club Stout Malt Liquor, not from playing country clubs. Yes, we were teen age drinkers.
After a year Ricky Sunseri left the group and was replaced by grammar school singing buddy Bob Turner. Soon after Sunseri left, Craig Deforce left to pursue other interests mostly girls and surfing. Deforce was replaced by Dave Johns who was a fabulous guitar player and singer. The group changed dramatically and was no longer just a young 'wannabe' singing group but actually displayed some musical talent.
We were given an audition at Fantasy Records which was then located in San Francisco and had one headliner star, the great pianist Vince Guaraldi, probably most remembered for the musical tracks of the Peanuts cartoons.
In those days no record company wanted to pay royalties so you had to perform either your songs or public domain songs if you wanted to be recorded. We had neither. However, Saul Zaentz saw something he liked in us and introduced us to a singer/song writer named Sam Stroud, who Fantasy Records thought was too old to perform in the young folk market and forthcoming British invasion of singers. He taught us (5) of his songs which we later recorded on an acetate. One of the songs “I love You in Many Ways” was going to be released as a single after violin tracks had been added and an East Coast tour to release the song was being considered - which if it had occurred, would have been interesting since we were in high school and it was the middle of the Draft for Vietnam. Well, we never did anything, as I dropped a course I was failing from a 15 unit schedule and was immediately drafted. Somewhere there is a cassette of the (5) songs we recorded.
The group broke up and I went off to the U.S. Army for three years.
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History of Buck Shot - pg 1