Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Today Sid Holmes Talks To Forgotten Hits ... And Answers Some Of YOUR Questions

First of all, a major correction of sorts ...  
In the piece I ran the other day, I published what I believed to be Sid Holmes' account of the actual recording session where "Last Kiss" was waxed at Accurate Sound Studio in August of 1964. Because this story was presented in Sid Holmes' book, I naturally assumed that these were HIS recollections. He has since pointed out to me that this particular chapter was written by Jim Wynne, who is the guy that actually played the "in studio piano" on this session. Amazingly, although this means that the piece I published last weekend is inaccurate, this ALSO just means that my original accounting of the musicians who actually performed on the hit record (written back in 2004) was correct ... Sid Holmes was NOT on the original recording!!! (Sid's note is below ... as is my original report.) 
Here is an excerpt from my original 2004 piece:  
'60's FLASHBACK:  
Shortly thereafter, this four-piece band went into RON NEWDOLL's recording studio to cut a new version of LAST KISS. (As near as we can determine, the ACTUAL participants on that recording were J. FRANK WILSON, LEWIS ELLIOTT, ROLAND ATKINSON, GENE "BUDDY" CROYLE, JIM WYNNE, sitting in on piano, and GWEN COLEMAN (the only one of three scheduled background female vocalists who actually showed up for the session ... and, in some cases, referred to as ATKINSON's ex-wife!) Band-founder SID HOLMES may or may not have been involved, but most likely not. (This scenario would also disprove the "studio musicians" theory.) Using the COCHRAN record as a recording "template," THE CAVALIERS produced a near-identical version. 
The only part we got wrong (which was the common belief at the time) is the fact that Gwen Coleman later came forward and stated that she was NOT on the recording as originally believed. According to Sid Holmes, they have NEVER determined who the female voice was. In that no one has come forward in the now nearly fifty years since this record was first waxed, it's probably safe to assume that that vocalist is no longer with us. (And quite honestly, even if somebody DID come forward now, they'd probably have a pretty tough time proving that it was them!!!) However, Sid did say that if the true identity of this person can be established and verified, there is a gold record waiting for them!  
By the way, please correct the part of the story where I played piano on Last Kiss. I was not there as I was attending Del Mar Tech in Corpus Christi in the middle of 1963. I had left Lewis Elliott (bass) in charge of the band as Frank had taken a leave of absents returned back to Lufkin. 
As soon as the record begins to move up the charts, the drummer (Roland Atkinson) lied like a dog, telling everyone in San Angelo that his girlfriend, later his wife, sang behind Frank. It took me 30 years to locate her (she had remarried having a different last name) but she told me that the rumors that she sang on the record were false.
-- Sid Holmes  
Also, since Jim Wynne was not really part of The Cavaliers group per se, was treated as a "bit" player or session man once the royalties were finally distributed. Wynne received a whopping $100 for his work on "Last Kiss". According to Sid Holmes' book, Josie Records paid out $56,000 in royalties for sales of 850,000 copies of "Last Kiss". Major Bill Smith (who received the check) took $20,000 right off the top for delivering the master tape to Josie Records in August of 1964.  
After taking the twenty grand, he sent the balance of $36,000 to Ron Newdoll in San Angelo, and then flew to Hawaii for vacation. Ron Newdoll took $12,000 for furnishing the recording studio.
-- Sid Holmes  
(By the way, at the time, studio time for a session like the one that produced "Last Kiss" probably would have sold for about $300!!! Ron rewarded himself quite handsomely for an afternoon's work!!!) kk 
The Sonley Roush Estate (his mother in Midland) received $12,000 ... and the band received $12,000, divided four ways to include J. Frank Wilson). After some deductions, it came out to $2700 a piece. Jim Wynne received a check for $100 from Ron Newdoll for playing piano on "Last Kiss" and sax on the flip side of the 45 record.
-- Sid Holmes  
Jim said that since he had not been paid the day of the session for his services, he assumed that he would share in any band royalties that might be generated in the future. He says:  
It would be about three months later, in November, 1964, when "Last Kiss" was taking its last breath on the charts that Ron Newdoll came to my home in San Angelo. Ron said, "Jim, I had to fight for you, and the band members finally agreed that you should receive a total payment of $100." Ron Newdoll then dug in his briefcase and handed me a check for $100 along with a release form. Having decided that I had no other recourse, with no one supporting me, I signed it.
-- Jim Wynne  
Sid Holmes' version of the "Last Kiss" story sounds pretty credible except for one minor point. He states that one can not copyright an arrangement -- and that's not true. Note the publishing credits on your CDs, LPs or 45s given for compositions which are themselves in the public domain -- such as "Silent Night" or "The Star Spangled Banner." One can take any PD song or verse, work up your own arrangement and then copyright the result as if it was entirely your own original composition. In that way you can gain royalties when your recording with your arrangement is broadcast or otherwise publicly performed for profit. If you didn't do that, you'd earn nothing. The U.S. copyright office will confirm the above.
In my own case, I took Frank Church's now long out of copyright 1897 newspaper editorial, "Yes Virginia (There Is A Santa Claus)," wrote a new intro for it and collaborated with Jeremy Goldsmith to create an orchestral backing track and then recorded the result as a duet between myself and Julia Myers, a young violin student of Jeremy's wife. The copyrighted result, credited to Church-Goldsmith-Theroux and represented by ASCAP, has since been licensed by Capitol and others for collections and has been broadcast at Yuletide many times since. You CAN copyright your own arrangement of public domain words and music as long as you give them your own unique spin. In our case, the backing music was a medley of all new material mixed with some public domain melodies, such as 1903's "Toyland."
Gary Theroux
I think in the case of "Last Kiss" (obviously NOT a song or piece of work in Public Domain then or now), Sonley Roush tried to capitalize on the fact that Wayne Cochran had recorded numerous versions and arrangements of his song that ALL failed to make a dent on the charts. He believed that with the right band behind it, this song could be a hit ... a monster, in fact ... and to that degree, he was right. It's funny in a way because the original intent was to have The Cavaliers copy Wayne Cochran's version to the letter ... and then, after they scored a hit record with it, Cochran went back into the studio and recorded a version that sounded even more like the J. Frank Wilson record! (And STILL failed to hit the charts with it!) kk  
Hi Kent,
Great work on the Last Kiss story, I just have one thing to quibble over.
"Since Frank Wilson seemed to be familiar with the song, it's likely he was the only one given a cassette practice tape in advance. (Sonley Roush had not provided any previous practice cassette tapes of Wayne Cochran's "Last Kiss" 45 for the players; it's not surprising that it took so long to record. Perhaps no cassette practice tapes were made and sent out before the recording session because Roush was being overly cautious, not wanting anyone to steal his "idea".)
I wondered about the whole cassette thing when I read this because I didn't think they were around in 1964. Well turns out at wikipedia, they say cassettes weren't released here until November of 1964.
I guess I can understand that someone would have thought cassettes could have been sent out since it was so close to their coming out here.
It's funny because I remember thinking the same thing at the time when I first read this passage. Then again, who knows what was circulating around the recording studios back then ... certainly producers had SOME method of getting demo / rehearsal tapes or pressing to their artists in order to learn the song ... so I'm not sure. Actually, I didn't think cassettes really came into prominence until quite a few years later ... and not to the point of people actually being able to buy them and listen to them in their cars until the very late '60's and early '70's. But in recording circles, they may have been light years ahead of us ... who knows! (kk)  

On Wayne Cochran's first recording of Last Kiss, it sounds like he's been listening to too many Ricky Nelson records.

I may have to pick up Sid's book, but I would be more likely to buy it through him directly:
Mainly since I am interested in the details about how the record also ended up on Tamara records in an entirely different recording (not just an alternate take, this one has an entirely different SOUND so it was likely cut at a different time in a different studio) and also on LeCam with a different B side (that pressing of which I've never heard so I don't know what version of the song is on the A Side).
Tom Diehl  
Thanks for the other link ... I had asked Sid Holmes if he had a preferred ordering method and this was one of the points that he never got back to me on ... I, too, would suggest buying it directly from him. And you will NOT be disappointed ... you'll learn the stories behind not only these two "Last Kiss" pressings, but several other legitimate (and illegitimate) releases as well! (kk) 
From Sid, here is a quick run-down of the various other label releases:  
It wasn't long after the recording session that Sonley Roush cut a deal by phone with Colonial Record Manufacturing Company (Tamara Label) in Philadelphia that he sent them an alternate track of "Last Kiss", along with all of the label information.  
In what sounds like double cross after double cross, Roush then sent a copy of the master tape to Major Bill Smith in Ft. Worth, Texas, who immediately put it on his Le Cam Record Label (#722). Smith then rushed the master tape to Jay-Gee Records in New York City (home of Josie Records), who immediately filed an injunction against the Tamara Label.  (According to Sid Holmes, Major Bill Smith later referred to "Last Kiss" as "the most bootlegged song in history", apparently not aware that it was Sonley Roush who was sending out master tapes to a variety of record labels, all anxious to press copies of this hot new record.) Roush and Smith made money on all of these lawsuits and on the royalties earned from the Josie release ... upwards of $100,000 from the sounds of things. Meanwhile, J. Frank Wilson, who sang lead on the track, was paid a grand total of $2700 for his work ... and one band member was paid $100 under the condition that they signed over any future rights to royalties. (See Jim Wynne's story above)  So much for making it in the record business!!! (kk)  
Not trying to peddle books, but you'll find a lot of good info concerning "Last Kiss" on Tamara.
Sid also talked a little bit about J. Frank Wilson's son Rodney ... 
>>>I enjoyed your article about J. Frank Wilson. I can certainly tell you Leo Lucas is full of shit. You see, I am Rodney, J. Frank's son - his only son. One would assume I am the owner of J Frank Wilson's name.
My last name is different as my mother divorced Frank when I was young and I have a wonderful father whom I do not wish to hurt his feelings - although I am aware he most likely would never know and if he did, would support me getting the truth out as he is the one who taught me my beliefs. You can ask all of the original Cavaliers - they will all tell you that I am his only son!
I cannot believe Leo actually got a trademark. I have found Leo's trademark paperwork and am thinking about pursuing it. One thing that really pisses me off is the attitude of Leo - I do not like liars and thieves and I know he is both - just to prove a point, I am considering pushing the issue - I talked to him a year ago and my thoughts were he is an arrogant lying s.o.b.
There is an organization that punishes such persons and there is always the opportunity of a lawyer as I am sure he has made some money on his lies - money is not the point to me but it actually seems everyone I know loves Last Kiss and I think Frank deserves the recognition - he never really got anything else.
Have a good day.
Rodney is Frank's son and he lives in San Antonio, I think(?) Kinda interesting as Tommy Ruble (our vocalist #3) first met and married Carolyn around 1959. There is no record of them ever divorcing. Frank (our vocalist #4) in 1962 meets Carolyn and marries her, having Rodney and a girl. Tommy's oldest daughter hired a professional and was still unable to find where they were divorced.
-- Sid  
Hi, Kent,
Great take on the Sid Holmes book and story.
If you talk with him again, I wonder if you could ask him about another act the late Sonley Roush produced. Granger Hunt & The Believers, also on Josie, had a novelty / ballad combo with "Motor Mouth" / "Love Wasn't Real" (Josie 925, I think) that shared the same (lack of) production values. I know Roush died shortly thereafter in a car crash (how ironic) with some band members of either The Believers and / or The Cavaliers. Could he clarify this for me, please?
BTW, I've discovered that, after another 45 or two, Hunt (now spelled Grainger) became a Nashville songwriter (he had a hit for Jim Ed Brown, which I think was "Regular on My Mind") and subsequently got a Ph.D. and is a highly-respected ornithologist (bird expert) out west.
I don't comment as often as I'd like to, but I do check in and I do care! Thanks for all your research and hard work.
Best to you and all,
(Country) Paul Payton 
I passed your email on to Sid Holmes ... and here is what he had to say ...  
Although I've never met them in person I recall The Believers being a music group composed of Sul Ross College students in the early 60s. The most successful member of The Believers was one of their guitar players, John Schweers, who became a prolific song writer in Nashville with seven #1's and 12 Top 10's from 1971 - 1997. Granger Hunt & The Believers recorded "Motor Mouth" at Accurate Sound Studios in San Angelo, possibly co-produced by Sonley Roush and Ron Newdoll. The reason I'm saying this is because the 45 label shows Sonley's Midessa (Midland Odessa) Music and Major Bill's Le Bill Music as the publishers. It's also possible Grainger was the producer if it was recorded after July, 1964, as "Last Kiss" also on Josie was bubbling under the top 100 in August with Sonley being too busy.
While traveling with a road band promoting "Last Kiss", Sonley fell asleep at the wheel of his station wagon one early morning in October, 1964. They had just entered the highway at a very low rate of speed, hitting a slow-moving 18 wheeler. Frank was in the front seat with Bobby Wood (vocalist / piano player) riding in the back. Few cars were equipped with seat belts in those days and had Sonley, Frank and Bobby been wearing one, Sonley would most-likely have survived. On impact, his head hit the visor, breaking his neck. Frank suffered broken ribs and a bone in his lower leg. Bobby Wood, who was riding in the back with some band equipment, lost an eye. It took Bobby many years to recover and when he finally did, he played on Garth brooks biggest hits. Like they say "Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction" as about two weeks ago a Bill Spears dropped by, leaving me some old Alpine newspaper clippings to read over concerning The Believers. While he was here, Bill told me he attended Sul Ross and was the group's manager.
-- Sid Holmes  
And where else but Forgotten Hits are you going to find a follow-up like this?!?! After we sent Sid Holmes a copy of Paul Payton's email, HE forwarded it to Bill Spears, who had recently come by with the old newspaper articles pertaining to Granger Hunt and the Believers! Here is Bill's response:  
I am Bill Spears. I worked with the Believers in 1964 and 1965. I graduated Sul Ross in May, 1965, and was not associated with them after that. I see that Sid has already answered most of your questions so I will just expand on it from there. The Believers did record with Ron Newdoll and Sonley Roush. Sonley was promoting their records while on tour with J. Frank. when Sonley was killed in a car accident. The record promotion more or less ended there. I understand The Believers recorded some other songs as well and achieved limited fame after that. I have a number of articles from Sul Ross and Alpine papers reporting on them. I can forward them to you if you are interested.
Grainger Hunt did graduate from Sul Ross, has a PHD and was the Head of The Chihuahuan Desert Research Foundation. He was also involved with the Peregrines falcon (Grainger had falcons when I knew him.)
The other band members were: Peyton Starr - lead Guitar, now in aviation and plays banjo with a blue grass group; Scoteer Jackson - guitar, whereabouts unknown; Jim Killian, bass guitar passed away a few years ago; Ed Hurley, drums, now lives in North Carolina. And, as Sid mentioned, John Schweers is in Nashville.
When I was with the Believers, I recorded most of their shows and actually still have many hours of old performances in my collection. Let me know if I can be of any further help.
Bill Spears 
I really don't have much to offer in the "Last Kiss" story, but I was a DJ on KTEO in San Angelo, TX, from 9/62 to 10/63. I was in the USAF at the time, but worked the evening shifts (6-9 or 9-12) every day during that stretch. I knew J. Frank a bit since I dropped in to hear him and the band now and then, and I also had hung out just a bit with one of the band members, name forgotten, but I think his nickname was Spider.
KTEO was always in a weak financial situation and always behind 2 weeks or more in cashing paychecks. But I was living on base and had no debt so I didn't care and I was playing the hits on a real radio station, that was all that mattered.
I had moved on the KXLF in Butte, MT when Last Kiss came out and an old friend from San Angelo had alerted me to the song, so it was my "personal pick" and it reached #1 on our chart.
I know this isn't much of a help, but you might ask Sid if he remembers "Jim Southern" on KTEO.
Yes, I remember KTEO Radio and Jim Southern.

Dear Kent,
With all the extended chatter regarding "Last Kiss" as of late, I feel that there will be no better time than now to reveal the fact that I am actually the original J. Frank Wilson as featured on the record.
In 1963, I was something of a musical prodigy -- a five-year-old who was wowing them at school assemblies, Moose Lodges and ladies' temperance meetings. Regional appearances on local radio and at car dealership sales events led to offers from Johnny Otis, Sam Phillips, the Chess Brothers and even Berry Gordy. Sadly, all these entreaties were rebuffed by my parents, feeling that I should at least complete kindergarten before pursuing my dream of a professional singing career.
Six months later, having matriculated, I was greeted by a cigar-chomping music exec (whose name I can't safely reveal) who spotted me singing "Harbor Lights" on a Spanish galleon-themed float in a Shriner's Day parade. Contracts were signed, my hair was dyed and I was whisked onto the road. You've heard of the Caravan of Stars? I traveled in a Dodge panel van of wannabes. It was a whirlwind of show dates, spiked Kool-Aid and junior-high groupies. (This was when the term "cougars" was usually the name of a high school football team.) Sadly, no footage of any of this remains.
While we're at it here, let's clear up another myth: I was the sole writer of "Last Kiss". I gambled away the song in a high-stakes poker match while on the road. My opening act, Wayne Cochran, was a real opportunist, knowing full well that, at the age of six, my card skills were limited to Old Maid and Go Fish. In less than a dozen hands, ol' crazy Wayne had the rights to "Last Kiss" and my brand new Schwinn Hornet Deluxe bicycle. So, now the race was on to beat Cochran into the studio to cut it.
At the time of the recording in late '63 (or was it '64?), there was some concern that, lyrically, "Last Kiss" would not be credible coming from a six-year-old. But in a heated argument with my manager and producer, I pointed out that it was no less ridiculous than the conceit of a 15-year-old Paul Anka getting laid by his babysitter "Diana," especially before he had a nose job. I'd like to say that I won that debate, hands down, but in truth, it was the recording engineer on the session, Torkel Hagström, who came up with the brainstorm that resulted in a smash hit. By recording my lead vocal with the tape rolling at approximately 25 ips (inches per second), then playing it back at the standard 15 ips, the pitch of my voice was lowered enough to approximate the vocal sound of a lovesick post-adolescent! (If you'd like to hear how I really sounded then, play your 45 of the record at 78 -- it comes pretty close.)
Well, everybody involved knew we had a smash, and this was when my manager dropped a bomb on me. Apparently he had some gambling debts of his own. He owed something like $50k to some mobbed-up guy named Frank Wilson. As part of the settlement of the debt, my nom de disque was to be J. Frank Wilson -- the "J," presumably standing for "junior." It wasn't 'til much later that I learned that this facilitated Big Frank's ability to claim custodianship of me as Little Frank and abscond with all my royalties.
But anyway, at the suggestion of the name change, I said, "I don't give a shit." I remember that because my mom washed my mouth out with soap. But my manager and producer laughed and one of 'em said, "You gotta love this kid, he's so cavalier!"
And that's how the classic record, "Last Kiss," came to be credited to J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers. I will have my story stand with almost any of the others.
Scott Paton
For the complete story, (which, strangely enough, leaves out the Scott Paton chapter), order YOUR copy of "Rockabilly Heaven - West Texas in the 50's - The Untold Story of the Cavaliers, 1956 - 1964" here:
(And tell them you heard all about it in Forgotten Hits!!!)