Monday, November 28, 2011

ARCA Christmas Party

There is no business meeting this month. Instead we’ll be gathering for food, fun and fellowship at our annual Christmas party on December 17th. Specific details are in your ARCA newsletter. We hope to see everyone there!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November Meeting

Our November meeting (Sunday Nov. 20th) is at 2:00 PM for refreshments, socializing and trading. We’ll have a short business meeting at 3:00 PM. Afterward, a FUN music trivia contest is planned!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coyote J. (Calhoun) To Speak At October Meeting

Radio personality Jim Battan, Coyote J. (Calhoun), will be speaking to us at this month’s meeting (10/16). Jim was first introduced to Birmingham when WERC hired him in 1975 to take out Chris Fox, the evening guy on WSGN. Jim has an excellent account of WERC’s battle with WSGN Here. Jim left the Birmingham market in 1981 for California. By 1983 he was back in the south working in Mobile, then New Orleans, and finally back in Birmingham. During his long career Jim has worked for a number of the most legendary radio stations in the southeast, including, WERC, I-95, Z-102, WKDF, THE X and ROCK 99.

We gather at 2 pm for refreshments and music conversation. There will be a short meeting at 3 p.m. preceding Jim’s talk. Visitors are welcome to drop by! We’re at the Homewood Library, located at 1721 Oxmoor Road, near Homewood Park. We meet in Room 110 in the lower level.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ronnie Melton of the Hard Times / Rites of Spring to speak at September meeting

We are proud to announce a great speaker for this month’s ARCA meeting. Ronnie Melton, who was the keyboardist and a founding member of the Hard Times/Rites of Spring from Birmingham will be speaking to us about those magical days in the band and should have some great stories to tell. Ronnie is the latest in ARCA’s great speaker line-up and we are all looking forward to his visit.

One of the best all around bands in the Birmingham area in the mid-60s was The Hard Times. The band could learn just about any song and would later win a ‘Battle of the Bands’ contest which landed them a national recording contract and an appearance on Dick Clark’s 'Where The Action Is.' They performed with great acts such as Herman’s Hermits, The Animals, Tommy James, Tommy Roe and The Byrds.

It started in February of 1964. The significance of that date? The Beatles appeared three times on the Ed Sullivan show, what else? Every boy in the county wanted to be a rock star, so brothers Ronnie (keyboards) and Mike Melton (bass), Ron Parr (guitar) and Daily Vandergriff (drums), all from Woodlawn High School, formed a band. They needed a vocalist. Mike Gunnels, who had already been in another band for about three months, came on over. He brought with him a fellow band mate, Mike Pair (guitar). They had originally called themselves the Tempos with three other members, but finally settled on these five members and changed the band's name to the Hard Times. They took this name from a Bob Dylan song.

After playing various gigs around the area, they went into Boutwell Recording Studio in 1966 to make their first record, a song written by Mike Gunnels and Ronnie Parr. The record was produced by Steve Norris, a local DJ on WSGN. The result was the beautifully melodic “Losing You.” This song was well written, well produced and well performed and soon became a regional hit. [You can listen to “Losing You” and the B side of the record, “You Couldn’t Love Me” at the top of the column to the left of this post.]

The band began to play pretty much every weekend, then seemingly everyday throughout the southeast. They would practice in a garage behind the Melton’s house in what was called the 'rumpas room.' It was not at all out of the ordinary for them to hear a song on the radio and, within a week, be performing it. One story which shows this musical versatility is when they were scheduled to back up Arthur Alexander, who was coming to Birmingham. They quickly learned the songs he was to perform, but at the last second, Alexander had to cancel. He was replaced with Tommy Roe. The Hard Times worked for only two hours to learn the songs of Tommy Roe, which they did successfully.

Then on July 17, 1966, WVOK held a Battle of the Bands talent Search. The winner would receive $500, a national recording contract with Cameo/Parkway Records (Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, etc.), an appearance with WVOK’s Herman’s Hermits Show on July 23, 1966, plus an appearance on Dick Clark’s 'Where The Action Is.' Many, many bands from all over teh southeast competed, but The Hard Times won hands down. This recognition also allowed the band to now be booked through Lowery Talent out of Atlanta.

One unfortunate circumstance is the fact that there was already a band in California called “The Hard Times” who appeared regularly on 'Where The Action Is' and recorded on the World Pacific label. The Birmingham group had to change their name. The name they decided on was The Rites of Spring.

The newly christened ‘Rites of Spring’ went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the home of Cameo/Parkway and recorded two songs written by Gunnels and Parr, “Comin’ Back To Me” and “Why?” [You can listen to both songs at the top of the column to the left of this post.] Both songs were produced by Terry Knight, who also produced Grand Funk. The Rites of Spring remember Knight as being weird in these sessions, not saying much from the booth, just staring into space. Chubby Checker was also there some of the time, observing.

The record was released, but never went any where because the label didn’t push it, although it did receive some airplay in New York City. “96 Tears” had just come out on the same label and it took off quickly, so “Comin’ On Back To Me” was forgotten about, but did manage to crease the Hot 100 Chart at #100 for one week. The band never made one cent off of this record. They do remember, when they originally arrived at the studio, walking past a scraggly looking bunch on the front steps of the building eating some cake with their fingers. They learned later that this was ? and the Mysterians. A few months later the Cameo/Parkway label closed up shop, which is another reason they didn’t push the record. They simply did not have the money. The original recording contract was for two records, but the second record was never made because of the label faltering.

They band flew to L.A. to shoot 'Where The Action Is' and had difficulty getting into their hotel rooms. This was during the Sunset Strips riots of 1966 and the band had long hair. They were undoubtedly some of those evil hippies. Two plus two equals five, I guess. Dick Clark Productions had to call the hotel so the band could be checked in. The filming of the show was successful, but their episode didn’t air for a few months. It aired on March 16, 1967. They were the first Alabama band to appear on national television. 'Where The Action Is' ended its run two weeks after that broadcast. The Rites of Spring seemed to have closed down a record label and a successful music television show. Obviously, this was no fault of the band, just super bad timing.

Soon after all of this, things began to change for the band. Vandergriff was drafted. His replacement on drums was Jasper Guarino. The band only lasted about eight months after the ‘Action’ appearance and played its final gig in August of 1967. Ron Parr enlisted in the army and was sent to Vietnam. Sadly, he was killed in April of 1968 when the tank he was in hit a mine and exploded. Ronnie and Mike Melton, Mike Pair and Jasper Guarino are all still in Birmingham area, Gunnels moved to Nashville and Vandergriff to West Virginia. One final note, the band’s road manager, Erik Kontzen, died in June of 2011. He played many instruments himself and occasionally played sax with the Hard Times/Rites of Spring. A tribute concert was recently held in his honor consisting of many musicians from various Alabama bands including Ronnie Melton from the Hard Times.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vinyl Rarity # 3

Here's a real Alabama rarity. Sonic Explosion on the Big City Sounds label from Tuscaloosa Alabama USA. We Belong Together is late '70s uptempo modern soul, highly sought after by northern soul collectors and DJs around the world. Flip side is I'm a Believer (not the Monkees hit). Nothing known about the group or Big Dog Productions. Only two known sales of this gem, both $1000+. You can listen to The Sonic Explosion's "We Belong Together" below.
Sonic Explosion - We Belong Together

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Annual ARCA Picnic

Instead of a normal meeting in August, we have our annual picnic. This year's picnic is at Rickwood Caverns on August 27th. There will be plenty of food, music & fellowship. Don’t forget your swimsuits! Please consult your member newsletter for details.
Our next regular monthly meeting will be on September 18, 2011.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Superb meeting with the Ramblers!

One of the great benefits of being an ARCA member is being able to expand our musical knowledge and collections. One of the best ways to do this is by attending our regular monthly meetings. We have great programs on various musical topics and lots of special guests from the world of music.

July’s meeting was a typical example of just such a meeting. Two original members of the Ramblers, Johnny Robinson and Tommy Terrell, came by and spoke to a packed house. They told us about the history of the Birmingham band (as outlined in a previous post), but also entertained us with fabulous band stories told with a lot of humor and fact, behind the scenes stuff that you won’t see in any background info.

They, obviously, loved talking with the group and even brought some copies of two of the band’s 45's and several copies of their recently recorded CD. That’s right, the band still plays, having reunited for the first time in 1979 and continuing to this day. The CD contains new recordings of some of the 60s songs that the band performed in their early days and even contains CD copies of both sides of their two biggest selling 45s.

We would like to thank Johnny and Tommy for stopping by and we would like to remind everyone that the Rambler Reunion Band, as they are now known, and another 60s Birmingham band, the Bassmen ,will be playing at WorkPlay in Birmingham on Saturday, August 13th at 7 pm. Tickets are $15. Go to for more information. Also be sure to check out the Ramblers website at

We will have other great guests coming up in the near future as well as other interesting programs, so keep a check on this website for updates.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


John Robinson and Tommy Terrell of The Ramblers will be our special guest speakers at our meeting on July 17, 2011. The Ramblers formed in 1961 and recorded three singles in the 60s (the A & B sides of the first two 45s can be played in the top left column) and entertained at functions throughout the southeast. The Ramblers broke up in the 70s, but regrouped in 1979 and will celebrate their 50th anniversary this October. Come meet The Ramblers and hear their story. On August 13th The Ramblers will be in concert at WorkPlay.

ARCA has an informal social hour at 2 P.M. and its official meeting starts at 3 P.M. Visitors are always welcome at ARCA meetings. Contact us if you need more information.

History of The Ramblers (thanks to John Robinson & Chip Sanders)

Back in 1961, the guitar playing Terrell brothers, Tommy and Eddie along with classmate Chris Covey found a junior high school drummer, Johnny Robinson, to play music. It was decided that the eldest brother, Eddie, would be the bass player, and Tommy would play rhythm guitar. Fellow Ramsey High School classmate, Van Veenschoten joined in to round out the group and play lead guitar. The group named themselves THE RAMBLERS, and began playing for high school functions and fraternities and sororities in the Birmingham area. When Eddie Terrell received a tennis scholarship and headed to The University of Alabama, The Ramblers had no trouble in convincing Chris Convey, with the unusual nickname "The Spook,” to take over on the bass.
By mid-1962, The Ramblers were playing weekends regularly in and around Birmingham and cut their first record, A 100 Miles Away, at Boutwell Recording Studio in Birmingham. Shortly thereafter, guitar player Van Veenschoten met Chip Sanders, a junior at neighboring Shades Valley High School, who was a piano player. The Ramblers auditioned Chip on a Sunday afternoon at Van's parents home in Mountain Brook, and the nucleus of the group, that would become synonymous with Party Band was established.
An important early performance by The Ramblers at a state-wide Alabama high school Key Club Convention gave the group name recognition throughout the state, and soon The Ramblers Of Birmingham were playing in Alabama cities and towns from Huntsville to Mobile. Practicing in a store room in the back of Johnny Robinson's garage in Mountain Brook, Alabama, or in the basement of the Sanders' home in Vestavia, The Ramblers were truly the proverbial garage band.
By fall of 1963, it was time for more of The Ramblers to make a decision, music or college! They decided on both, and as Tommy and Spook headed off to the University of Alabama and Johnny and Chip still in high school, the group began playing college fraternity parties at the University of Alabama.
By 1965-1966, The Ramblers were working regularly, primarily at Fraternity Parties around the southeast. Eddie, Tommy, Spook, and Chip had all become members of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at The University of Alabama, while Van was at Samford University and Johnny at the University of Montevallo. No longer rehearsing on a regular basis, the guys would meet up whenever and wherever the group might be playing.

Sometime in 1967, the group recorded another record at Boutwell Recording Studio, "Come Back, Come Back," written by keyboardist, Chip Sanders. The record experienced moderate success in the Alabama area, but college priorities prevented the group from properly promoting the record. Ed Boutwell, Birmingham recording pioneer, continued to use The Ramblers as back up musicians on many recording sessions at his studio.
Throughout this period, local radio station "Sock Hops" gained popularity amongst the Birmingham teenage population, and The Ramblers worked with local personality Duke Rumore of WYDE radio at his DUKE'S sock hop at the Ensley National Guard Armory, as well as Dave Roddy, from WSGN Radio at the Aporto Armory, across town. Also during this period the Ramblers were the backup band of choice for singers passing through Birmingham like Bobby Goldsboro or Billy Joe Royal.
As a "special added attraction" The Ramblers added a new set, featuring "Little John," Chip's kid brother, 11-year-old John Lee Sanders, who sang and played harmonica. John Lee Sanders, is now a successful song writer, performer and composer in the Bay Area of California. For the last 20 years he has worked with Long John Baldry, Starship, Paul Williams, Linda Arnold, and other popular entertainers.
As 1966-1967 came along, the world was quickly changing and The Rambler's music began to change as well. Inspired by the psychedelic sounds coming out of the west coast, The Ramblers found a new sound with a young female vocalist, Vicki Hallman. Covers of the Jefferson Airplane, Linda Ronstadt and other female artists were added to their repertoire. After a brief marriage to drummer, Johnny Robinson, Vicki continued her career in Nashville as a member of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos group and as a permanent cast member of the long running TV series, Hee-Haw.
With the Viet Nam War continuing to escalate in the late sixties, members of the group began to worry about the draft. This was definitely NOT the time to quit school and loose a student deferment to become a Rock 'N Roll star. At various times during the next few years, Tommy joined George Bush in the Alabama Air National Guard, Chris joined the Coast Guard Reserve, Chip got in the Army National Guard three days before his draft notice, and Johnny became a reluctant member of the Talladega National Guard.
During their respective intermittent absences the group stayed together, with Terrell brother, Eddie, rejoining the group, along with a variety of substitute and fill-in players. As the sixties came to a close, one by one, the group began to graduate from college, get married and begin careers other than music. All the members of the group initially took jobs in Birmingham so that the band was able to stay together, but soon, the pressures of new careers, new wives, and even children began to put a strain on the group. "I don't remember us ever officially deciding to break up. I just recall playing in a little town somewhere in South Alabama. We all brought our wives. It was a fun weekend. I remember staying in some "Bates Motel" place and we all went swimming in their pool. That's the last band job I can recall, but there may have been others," said Sanders.
Johnny Robinson, who had tried to hold things together began touring with a new group, The Homestead Act, and subsequently moved to California to help his new wife start a music career. Chris moved away to seek his fortune, Chip moved near Memphis to start an insurance agency, and Tommy became a bank examiner for the Treasury Department.
The Ramblers were history, or so they thought. They stayed in touch with one another and by 1978 all of the remaining members of the group were thinking the same thing. They wanted to play again.
In 1979, the band regrouped as The Rambler Reunion Band adding Jim Burford on lead guitar to replace Van who died in a motorcycle accident in 1972. Chip moved out of state and was replaced by John Livingston on keyboards. Eddie rejoined the band to replace Chris who resides in Treasure Island, Florida. During the 80’s and 90’s the band continued working around the southeast entertaining at events with their 60’s music. Currently the RRB entertains at wedding receptions, reunion parties, company parties, club dances, and most any event that requires authentic 60’s rock and roll music.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June Meeting

Due to the Father’s day holiday, our June meeting is on the fourth Sunday (June 26th) instead of our normal third Sunday. Social hour is at 2 P.M. and our business meeting is at 3 P.M. Check back for more details. Visitors are always welcome.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May Meeting

Our next meeting is May 15th. We gather at 2 pm for refreshments and music conversation. The business meeting is at 3 p.m. Visitors are welcome to drop by! We’re at the Homewood Library, located at 1721 Oxmoor Road, near Homewood Park. We meet in Room 110 in the lower level.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

ARCA CD & Record Show Update

The CD & Record Show is still on! Obviously, the storms that raged through Alabama on April 27 caused a lot of damage and was responsible for many deaths. We at ARCA are very saddened to hear the horrific stories from everyone affected by this. Some of our own members were hit in one way or another. The Bessemer area where the Civic Center is (our show location) was not affected. There are no travel problems or power problems in vincinity. All interstates are open and the hotels in the area are fine. All of our dealers are still coming and are very much looking forward to it.

We hope to have a great crowd in spite of the storm damage throughout the state. The weather for both days of the show is supposed to be fantastic. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Almost Show Time

The 30th annual ARCA CD & Record show is April 29th & 30th. The show opens for general admission at 4 P.M. on Friday (April 29th) with a special early bird period at 1 P.M. Even with a date conflict with the Austin Show, which was scheduled much later than the ARCA show, we are nearing a sellout of dealer space. This year’s show will feature many of your favorite dealers as well as several new ones. We recommend you allow plenty of time to browse the huge dealer inventory.

Brother John of 97.7, the Peach will be our special guest Saturday morning (April 30th). Brother John has been around the Birmingham radio market since the early 70s and has been the anchor DJ of the Peach for the last five years. Come meet, talk music and share memories with Brother John between 10 A.M. to noon.

We are experiencing a large number of out of state visitors to our CD & Record Show Page. If you haven’t previously been to our show, please contact us if you need any recommendations/advice. We want your trip to be both productive and enjoyable. We can be reached at

If you are bringing children, Alabama Adventure Theme Park. opens on April 30th. It’s located one exit away. After we close Saturday, head to the Schaeffer Crawfish Boil. for food and entertainment.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Meeting - Special Guest

This was a last minute confirmation, but we are happy to announce that Brother John of 97.7, the Peach will be our special guest at this month's meeting on April 16. Brother John has been around the Birmingham radio market for quite some time and has been with the Peach for several years. In fact, he is their anchor DJ. He has agreed to come talk with us about his days in radio and should have some very interesting stories to tell. The Peach is the only station in Birmingham to still play all Oldies. I say Birmingham because, although the station was based in Chilton County, they have moved their tower, boosted their signal and are in the process of moving their studios to Pelham. You can now pick them up in Chilton, Shelby and Jefferson counties clearly. Guests and visitors are always welcome at our meetings which are at the Homewood Library from 2 until around 4:30, and, bring a friend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Our monthly meeting is on the 17th. We are expecting to have a speaker and as soon as it is confirmed we will post more information. As always, visitors are welcome.

The 30th annual ARCA CD & Record Show will be held at the Bessemer Civic Center on Friday, April 29th & Saturday, April 30th. Available for purchase will be hundreds of thousands of records, CDs and musical memorabilia from dealers from all over the United States. General Admission hours are 4 to 9 P.M. on Friday and 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Saturday. General Admission is $3.00. Children under the age of 12 are admitted free. A two day general admission pass is available for $5.00. On Friday there is a special early bird period (1 P.M. to 4 P.M.) with $10.00 admission. It is recommended that customers bring cash, as most dealers do not accept other forms of payment. For more information see our CD & Record Show Page.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

March Meeting

Our March meeting on the 20th will be at our normal location in the Homewood Library.
Special thanks to Fred & Connie for hosting our February work day and to all the members who showed up.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January News

We are actively planning our 2011 show to be held on April 29 & 30. For the latest news check CD & Record Show Page.

Our meeting is January 16th. We gather at 2 pm for refreshments and music conversation. The business meeting is at 3 p.m. Visitors are welcome to drop by! We’re at the Homewood Library, located at 1721 Oxmoor Road, near Homewood Park. We meet in Room 110 in the lower level.