A Retrospective on our band in the California Fifties, Sixties and Seventies



Music, music, and more music. Nothing has touched ,or should I say demanded so much of my life as this thing has done. I didn't even get the chance to think about what I wanted to be when I "grew up". There were no options. My first paying "gig" happened when I was about ten years old.

Still very vivid in my mind. I had a two, and half piece band. My best friend, Ray White on guitar, and vocals, myself on harmonica and vocals. Oh, yea', and my little brother Frank who held the cup. The street that kept our world alive was full of bars, whores and gangs. This was the Over The Rhine District of Cincinnati, Ohio. The street was Vine Street.

We discovered that money could be made by hanging out in front of the bars at closing time. At this time the school districts were set up as such by the powers that be, I found myself attending a basically all black junior high school. It was rough at first, because racial tension was building throughout Cincinnati during the 50's and 60's. There were times when I was running for my life at the end of a school day, being chased by some very angry people, but never caught before reaching the safe boundaries of my "hood".

Not long after these events happened, I was asked by one of the most popular black vocal groups ,(The Storms) of my old school if I could cover for their second tenor who was sick. They had to compete in a school talent show scheduled for the up coming Friday. After a few rehearsal nights at the lead singers house, the blend was there. I think we did two songs to win the school talent show, (both songs being by the Spaniels). After this, I was never chased home again. I had found a new sound that I fit into , sweet, smooth, soul harmony. Sad to say, due to the ever hot racial tensions, we could never get black,or white to accept our mix. That was that.

Discovering that there were other "white" guy's in my part of town that loved soulful harmonies as much as I did, I began my search. I only knew at this time,(fifteen years old) that I wanted to do nothing else, but sing, and dance. Ray White was still with me, having to let my little brother go, we retired his tin cup. Building off of Ray's sweet guitar sound, and his knowledge of vocal arrangements we began checking people out. Soon, we had the five voices that we wanted. Bass singer, Joe Patterson,(my future brother in law). Myself as baritone, and lead singer. Ray White guitar, 2nd tenor. Bobby Jackson, lead, and 1st tenor. Last, but never least, J. T. Sears lead, and any other part we threw his way. J. T. (now deceased) had the sweetest, soulful voice I had ever heard coming out of the Cincinnati area. He is still missed. The group was called The Legends and we were the kings of Washington Park. We were doing the dance steps, coordinating to our songs and harmony long before the Temp's came along. As groups go, people began moving in and out of the circle. Ray, Joe, and myself were the main stay of the group.

Then in 59, or 1960 we met two brothers from Winton Terrace, suburb of Cincy. Gene and Glen Hughes were looking for a recording, and night club group. We were talking good money now, and I liked that. No money in street singing, but plenty to be made on the road. We tried a different variety of people, but the group molded it's self into a hot club act, that could also sing. The original Casino's was born. Group consisted of the following members-Gene Hughes, Glen Hughes, Ray White, Pete Boulton, and me. The Casino's were on fire in Cincinnati. We played the Cincinnati Gardens as warm up act to the Dave Clark Five. We blew Dave and his boy's back to England, stealing the show. There was no English invasion that night. We began doing shows with people like Lonnie Mack, Billie Joe Royal ,Bo Diddley, etc. We were outgrowing our hometown. Gene set up some road bookings, and we left. It was on this road trip that I met two guy's who would change my musical world. We were booked into a club in Indianapolis called The Rat Fink, double billed with some group doing their hit, (Alley-Oop, I think). During one of our breaks, the bartender told me that two guys had bought me a drink. The waitress pointed them out, and I joined them at their table. We introduced our selves, and talked loudly over the crowd noise. I was talking to Larry Dunlap, and Dave Dunn, two locals. They were also patching up some problems in their group. They were pretty well established in their town. They had been recording in Chi town, and also doing some live T. V. dance shows. They invited me to check them out. I did. I was really impressed at the tricky harmony parts they were doing, and doing well. The tall skinny lead singer blew me away (Dave Dunn). He had a strong, high falsetto voice, and what seemed to be unlimited range. We talked some more afterwards, and I invited them back to the club. The Casinos were having some problems of our own. The show was fine, but there were trust issues, along with full commitment. to the project. I knew that it was just a matter of time before Glen, and I would leave if things didn't change. I kept thinking about the freshness, and the energy that Larry, and Dave had presented the night before. It wasn't long, when I gave my notice to the Casinos. They returned to Cincinnati, and I stayed in Indy. I had no idea what was ahead of us, but did know that it would be fresh, and new. I never looked back. The Casino's went on to record "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye". As for that little unknown group in Indy called the Checkmates, you won't believe the journey.


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