The Butterfly Effect in Carolina Rock ‘n’ Roll
A little over three years ago I stepped through some sort of vortex. I think I may have just now made it back.
Hosting a rock ‘n’ roll show called Riffin’ on Asheville FM community radio had given me an excuse to devote hours seeking out fresh music fodder. Since I was interested in vintage recordings, the natural move was to dig up deep cuts, lesser known album tracks and, eventually, locally produced 45s.
The local records offered the biggest challenge to date. First of all, they were largely uncatalogued. They were hardly known in the next county even at the time and nearly forgotten in their hometown 50 years later. I seriously doubt they would have set off alarms in my brain had it not been for a few harmonious events. The very first Asheville record brought to my attention was a 1965 obscurity by The Satyrs, “Don’t Be Surprised.”
Conveniently, Satyrs singer/songwriter Bucky Hanks was the father of two close friends. Just as I started quizzing Micah Hanks about his dad’s high school garage band, a cover article on the outfit appeared in our local entertainment weekly Mountain Xpress. Miles Britton’s piece was the key to a musical time-capsule. He also rounded up members of half-a-dozen other local bands of the era and did a fine series of interviews comprising an oral history of Asheville garage rock during the 1960s.
So, up front, Miles was the man who scratched the surface… or, rather, gave me the itch. In short order he had demonstrated that Asheville, despite being an isolated small town, was a fertile and thriving music hotbed in those days and years to follow.
My curiosity soon led me to inquire further afield. How did the Asheville scene fit in with what was going on across the wider region? Had other historians tackled similar stories from other cities across the state? I found to my great pleasure that it was happening at that very moment. Music photographer Daniel Coston had just finished the first edition of his book “There Was A Time” detailing the Charlotte rock scene of half a century ago and hinting at musical happenings all across the Carolinas.
Charlotte was certainly a good place to start. As home to Arthur Smith Studios, the city featured the finest professional recording venue in the state. It was the point of origin for James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” and The Swinging Medallions anthem “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love.” Any regional talent who could afford it recorded at Arthur Smith. This included dozens if not hundreds of teenage rock groups… and soul… and R&B… and our own genre “beach music,” though the lines between are often blurred.
Most such sessions usually resulted in two songs pressed on about 500 copies (perhaps even fewer) of a seven-inch 45 rpm record. I soon learned that some of these things sell for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars EACH in good condition today. Arthur Smith’s signature pink “Pyramid” label on nearly anything can easily fetch $50… $25 if run over by a school bus. Don’t let the grandkids play Frisbee with them!
Back to Asheville and The Satyrs. Miles had uncovered in his interview that in the fall of 1965 Bucky and the boys had been invited by music producer Will Hammond to Mark V Studios in Greenville, SC to cut some demos. These were shelved and forgotten as the war in Viet Nam held sway on the future of the group, as it did with so many maturing musicians of the day. However, Satyrs singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeff Phillips had kept a crumbling reel of tape containing the songs they cut at that session.
In the wake of the Satyrs article, former bandmates began to meet again socially. On one such occasion Jeff approached Bucky’s son Micah Hanks and handed him a cassette tape. Finding the original reel of Satyrs demos was deteriorating, Jeff had dubbed it off. This was, so far as known, the last surviving example of those recordings… five songs of their own, one rocked-out Johnny Cash cover and two songs provided by studio personnel and learned on the spot at the session.
What I heard was beautiful… and genuinely talented! Had fate intended, there could have been a hit or two in there. Then I thought, why can’t we just pretend? For just two minutes (a single in those days rarely reached the three-minute mark), let’s close our eyes and imagine that this song is all there is. In the moment, any such song is just as real and relevant in our life as a “Hey Jude” or “Wooly Bully.”
I knew by then that this was no one-off. There were other bands, other “lost” tapes, other would-be anthems out there waiting to be unearthed. One town and one independent label at a time, constantly, for three years I have indulged and tested this hunch. In North and South Carolina I can reasonably estimate a couple of thousand rock ‘n’ roll songs recorded during the latter half of the 1960s. The average person would be hard-pressed to recognize a dozen of them.
Ken Friedman of Chapel Hill pioneered the public collection of North Carolina ‘60s rock in the early ‘80s with the first installment of his “Tobacco-A-Go-Go” album series. Daniel Coston, author of the Charlotte book “There Was A Time” previously mentioned, pointed me to Ken very early in my snooping.
Ken had featured something of a mystery disk on the much later third volume of his NC compilations. The song was “Pink and Green” by Shirley Hughey. I put my Sherlock hat on and soon found Shirley. She told me that the song had been recorded by a rock group with a female drummer from Hendersonville who had left town before the record was released and that producer Dave Smith brought her to the studio, fresh out of high school, to put down an alternate vocal track.
This female rock drummer thing sounded familiar. Local buddy Wayne Liles had just been asking me if I had found anything about Theresa the Queen of the Drums or her band Orange Purple Marmalade. I asked Shirley, was “Pink and Green” Orange Purple Marmalade’s song? Yes, it was, she said, launching me on another fact-finding mission.
I found Theresa Crouch Justus. She had married her OPM bandmate, the late Terry Justus. Their son Christian Justus has been tremendously helpful in helping share the legacy of his parents. Most of the band’s early original material was written by guitarist “Hobby” Pruitt. Dave Smith of Asheville’s Bandit label licensed several of these songs in 1969 under his “Witty Smitty” publishing brand. Theresa told me about some of these early tapes done at Galaxie III Studios in Taylorsville, NC with engineer Harry Deal. She might even have the reels.
I acquired a small stack of tape reels from Theresa and set out to find the “lost” Orange Purple Marmalade vocal cut of “Pink and Green” and another unreleased original “Butterfly.” I took them to friend Dan Lewis who does some of the best audio restoration work anywhere. Lucky for me, his Acoustic Audio Transfer operates just a few miles up the road from me so I could personally deliver the musty, mildew-covered tapes. Dan “baked” and rescued the reels and provided us with transfers of some good stuff, including a circa ’69 session at Galaxie III featuring a couple of CCR covers and an awesome 8-minute jam of “Summertime” featuring Theresa in top Janis mode on vocals. But no alternate take of “Pink and Green” or “Butterfly.” I reluctantly put the OPM project aside, somewhat half-realized.
Fast-forward a year or so. I’ve been digging up bands from across NC, and Upstate SC too since finding out that Mark V Studios, Greenville had given locals greater access to professional recording than most areas. One of my favorite discoveries is the work of songwriter Dave Butler (stage spelling “Dayv”) from Fayetteville. As early as 1965 he was writing and playing with The Delmars, who recorded two 45s on the JCP (Jimmy Capps Productions) label out of Raleigh. In 1967 Dayv’s band evolved into The News and cut two fantastic psychedelic-tinged 45s on MU (Music Unlimited) of Salisbury, NC, operated by Frank Rogers.
For months now I’ve been fishing for info on Frank Rogers and Music Unlimited. Having produced only 3 known records, all of good quality and production, I had to believe… wanted to believe, that Rogers had done more. Finally I spoke with a fellow who had been active in the Salisbury scene of the ‘60s as a member of The Court Jesters, Nathan Harris. Nate was immediately supportive in trying to help me unravel the local mystery. He mentioned a talented black vocal group, The Marlboros, who his band had backed at venues such as the Catawba College Crystal Lounge. Within a year or so The Marlboros cut an LP at Justice Records, Winston-Salem, the infamous “absentee engineer” and “pay-to-play” studio run by Calvin Newton. Whatever it’s short-comings, Justice did preserve extended slices of regional music, much of it now reissued and readily available.
On a hunch, I checked the usual online catalogs of 45s and record auction results. One other match turned up for The Marlboros, a 45 called “(My Love Was A) Sunny Day.” Only did I get my “Eureka!” moment after finding a picture of the label, subtitled “A Product of Music Unlimited.”
Was this record from the same fold as my old favorite Dayv Butler records? I went to the US Catalog of Copyright Entries; Music for the years 1968 and 1969. There they were under “Mupa Co.” the publishing title of Music Unlimited. The Marlboros “Sunny Day” was such a strong contender, even at first listen, that I needed to find the writer.
I found an entry from 1969 for a song co-written by the same fellow, Joe Moon, and label boss Frank Rogers… “Butterfly.” Get this… it was in the same column just a paragraph away from the entry for the “lost” Orange Purple Marmalade song! This is the national copyright catalog with literally millions of entries and here I am staring at a page with two lost North Carolina butterflies side-by-side.
I don’t know what it means… and I don’t know if I’ll ever hear the two songs… but if you see me running through your neighborhood green space with a faraway look in my eye swinging a net, don’t worry. I intend to keep chasing the local variety of rock ‘n’ roll butterflies for years to come. Sanity be damned!
Related Show: Riffin’
The Butterfly Effect in Carolina Rock ‘n’ Roll