L-R: Glen Griffin, Tommy Mann, Kim Venable, Marvin Taylor (seated), and Ray Goss
>Tommy Mann and Marvin Taylor were not original members of The K-Otics
but they quickly evolved into the band’s leaders. Under Mann’s tutelage, The K-Otics became an excellent performing band and amazingly popular in the southeast region. While The Swingin’ Medallions’ cover of “Double Shot (of My Baby’s Love)” might be better known today than The K-Otics competing version, it was the K-Otics who recorded it first…with no less than Sam Phillips at the helm. Unfortunately for The K-Otics, unforeseen circumstances and delays resulted in the Medallion’s version reaching radio stations only days before the K-Otics version did. Both songs proved extremely popular, however, and still rate as the signature tune for both groups.Tommy Mann
Recalls The K-Otics
I come from a family of musicians so it was natural to be a member of the high school band as well as the church choir. I was not a member of the original K-Otics but joined early on – by accident, actually. I was assigned to a dorm room in the fall of ’62 with a total stranger, Joe Torillo. Joe was playing his guitar one night and I knew the song so I started singing it. Joe asked, “You can sing?” I said, “Yep.”
He had me learn a few more songs over the next few days. Joe told me he played in a band called The K-Otics and that their lead guitar player was doing the singing for them but wasn’t really a lead singer. He asked if I would sing with them the following weekend.
We played at the Ozark teen club in Ozark, Alabama, which was 50 or so miles from Troy University where we were students. The only song I was able to do good enough was “Rhythm of the Rain” but the crowd loved the song so much that I had to sing it four times. I was paid $20.00…but the feeling of being on stage and being paid for it was wonderful! I figured I was done though since I had overshadowed the guitar player who was also the leader of the band. Joe told me the next week that the band had decided to make me their new lead singer.
For the remainder of the year we played on campus and at high school proms, etc. Over the next few months the other members dropped out of college. I believe Joe was the last one to leave. We picked up members as needed. When Joe left he said The K-Otics was my band if I wanted. For the next one and a half years the name of the band changed to Tommy Mann & The K-Otics. I used students that could play drums and guitar to play with me when I contracted to perform. Some of those players were really good. A guitar player from Kissimmee, Florida, Ken Murphy may have been the best of them all, but they kept leaving school so I had to keep replacing rhythm players.
At the end of the 1964 school year, in April or May, I was looking for some new members and agreed to listen to three guys that had just graduated from high school. We practiced and then played a gig. Not only was the sound great but we all seemed to get along with each other. One of the guys played guitar and after a few months I let him go and started playing guitar myself. This was the last time we only had four members.
In 1965, my last year in college, we recorded a song called “Charlena” for Rick Hall of fame Records which went to number one in Montgomery as well as in Troy, Auburn and other locales. I think Jimmy Johnson may have recorded it for us (Jimmy told Kim Venable last year that he thinks he did record us there but that he wasn’t 100% sure. How about that? The K-Otics might have jumpstarted Jimmy Johnson, Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham to their eventual stardom! Just kidding!). Our rate to perform went much higher and we began to get calls from most of Alabama as well as from eastern Georgia. We played for most of the high school proms in the area…but the best was yet to come!
I first heard “Double Shot (Of My baby’s Love)” played by a local band in Troy. They had heard a band called The (Swingin’) Medallions play it somewhere. We played at a club in Panama City, Florida, at the Old Dutch Inn and went to another club where we head The Medallions. They played “Double Shot” and said they were going to record it. We started playing the song like most bands and figured they would release the record. We saw them months later and they said Dot Records refused to do the record. I, we well as my drummer, told them we were thinking of recording it and they said, “Go ahead.” I knew that there had been a version years before so I had a contact research the history and found the Dick Holler & The Holidays (original) version. Since the song had already been recorded it was perfectly okay for us – or anyone – to record.
Within a few weeks I arranged a recording session. This next part will surprise a lot of people but the first time I recorded “Double Shot” was in very late 1965 or early 1966 for – are you ready for this – Sam Phillips in Memphis, Tennessee! I still have the dub. Sam said he would release it or have us come back to improve upon it; it did need more work.
Sam made of the more serious mistakes in rock and roll during the next few weeks. After approximately a month Rick Hall from Fame Records, where we had recorded “Charlena” a year earlier, said Sam had called him and told him that his opinion was that “Double Shot” would be a local hit in Alabama for us and a local hit for The Medallions in South Carolina! Rick disagreed with Sam and wanted us to record it for him immediately. I cancelled all plans for the next week and we set a date.
Here, again, one of those things that change history forever happened. Rick’s secretary called and said Rick was sick and told me that we would have to delay the recording session for a week. The next week he was worse and we delayed it another week. They called again the third week and said Rick had pneumonia but that he had heard The Medallions were going to record for Mercury Records and he didn’t want to delay the recording any longer. He wanted us to come up and record “Double Shot” with one of his songwriters, a guy named Dan Penn. I asked, “Who the Hell is Dan Penn? I want you to handle it.” But it was to be the first record Dan produced. He did a good job. It was his idea to use the fuzztone on the guitar. Spooner Oldham made some suggestions also. Both of them went on to outstanding careers.
Rick was to get us on Atlantic Records in short order and the single went nationwide on their Bang label. Due to Rick’s illness The Medallions record had reached radio stations all over the United States three days ahead of us. This made a big difference to some of the stations. A great many of them played both versions and asked the kids to let them know which one they liked best. The stations that did this told me we beat The Medallions about 90% to 10%. Bert Berns had a full-page ad in the March 26, 1966 Billboard Magazine.
The song did well in Miami (#1 or #5?). When we played in Tampa the radio person told me they received both version of “Double Shot” at the same time so played both and asked the kids to call in. We received 97% out of each 100 votes. He also said he had been under pressure to report just the opposite and told me he had to do just that if he wanted to keep his station open. This (same thing) was repeated to me at other locations. A local record store in Auburn, Alabama kept ordering our version but kept receiving The Medallions’ version. I found out later that this was a way to stop distribution and therefore sales! This is what happened; no sour grapes, though – I’ve done extremely well. The pros in Muscle Shoals tell me “Double Shot” should have reached the Top 40 only – not reached #17. I will believe to my dying day that both versions should have gone to the #35 or #40 position and probably did…but if you take the air play and sales from both groups you wind up with a #17 position.
I thought we were off to the big time. Indeed, Fame Studios with Dan Penn producing again had us record several songs for an album but, alas, another ironic twist of fate happened. The song that we were to release next and which we recorded during this session was “I’m Your Puppet.” Dan said if we were able to get high enough on the charts we had it; if not, two guys from Pensacola – the Purify Brothers – would get to release it. I believe the song became the biggest hit Dan Penn ever wrote! You can see the tear drops…can’t you?
We started playing at all the popular teen centers and frat parties. The biggest shows we played were the Big Bam Show in Montgomery; WVOK Show in Birmingham; and Wape “The Big Ape” in Jacksonville. We played the Brandon Armory is Tuscaloosa and at the West Point, Georgia teen center; the Alexander City, Alabama Recreation Center; and at Buddy Buie’s in Dothan, Alabama. The biggest nightclubs we played – in prestige, not in size - were the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Atlanta and the Civic Center in Mobile. We also played in Tifton, Georgia; the Sandpiper Club (and one other) in Pensacola; Big Mack’s teen center in Tampa, and places in Jacksonville Beach and Miami Beach.
I handled all of the band’s bookings, recordings, and personal management until early 1966. At that time “Double Shot” was doing really well and we needed to move on up. We had initially signed recording contracts with Fame Studios in 1965 and in 1966 signed management and recording contracts with Buddie and Bill Lowery in Atlanta. A list of groups and personnel managed by these guys at the time read like a “Who’s Who” of rock and roll: Roy Orbinson, The Candymen, Tommy Roe & The Roemans, Billy Joe Royal, The Classics IV, Joe South, and The K-Otics. Buie later combined guys from The Classics IV and Candymen and I believe some others to form The Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Our sound was rock and roll with influences from The Beatles, Stones, Otis Redding, and Roy Orbinson. I don’t know how to describe a “child prodigy” but our lead guitar player at the age of eighteen could play extremely well and could watch another good player – Mitch Rider, for example – and immediately play just as well. How good did we become? I can only mention the things we were told. The crowd always told us that we were the best band they had ever heard. Do fans tell you that anyway? Perhaps – but the accolades came from fans and fellow musicians. If we announced that we were going to be in a battle of the band contest no other bands showed up; we therefore had to decline offers! We played in, I believe, Macon, Georgia and the crowd said we were the best they had ever heard. One guy, a musician, said he heard a group in Jacksonville that might be just as good as we were. This, of course, got my attention. How could he say such a thing? He said they did something he had never seen before. I asked, “Like what?” He replied they had double lead guitar players and that while our vocals might have been better and our guitar player may have been the best he ever heard the double leads were fantastic! I asked who they were. He said their name was something “like The Almond Joys (Allman Joys.)” I said, “Sounds pretty dumb to me!” The rest is history!
Another recent reference came from Greg Haynes, who is completing a book/music project called The Hey Baby Days of Beach Music. Greg remembers going to see a big name group in Macon in 1966 and telling one of the people he met there how good he thought the band was only to have the guy reply, “you haven’t heard anything until you go over to Alabama and hear a band called The K-Otics. Greg’s project should be completed soon. Our first record “Charlena” was supposed to be a big part of it but Rick Hall refuses to release it!
The K-Otics broke up because of the Vietnam War. The bass player and I were in the national Guard and had to report for active duty training and upon our return some of the members had left while others had joined other bands. For example, Kim Venable and Lawrence Shawl joined The Classics IV (“Spooky”, “Traces”). Marvin Taylor joined The James Gang and later was in a group called Moses Jones who toured extensively in the northeast. He now plays in Atlanta with a former member of .38 Special in a group called Java Monkey.
Fate seemed to determine who made it big and who didn’t during that time in music more than at anytime before or since. One situation that points this out is this: I hired a keyboard player in 1965 who was young and still learning to play. My guitar had no patience with him and was always trying to get me to fire him. One night, as we were leaving a gig, we backed up the car and ran over the guitar player’s guitar. It seems that the keyboard player was supposed to put the guitar in the trunk! The guitar player tried to strangle the keyboard player and I had to pull him off. He said, “You’re going to have to fire him or I’m going to kill him.” I went to the back of the car and told Ed, “I’m going to have to fire you or Marvin is going to kill you.” Ed said, “I know it, Tommy.” After I fired him, Ed went with another local band then on to Los Angeles and founded The Sandford Townsend Band. He co-wrote “Smoke of a Distant Fire” which I believe went to #9 on the charts in the ’70’s.
I currently play a little guitar and sing with a friend locally here on lake Martin. I retired at age 52 after 25 years in Human Resources. I sing in the same choir (not with the same people of course) but some members are there, however. I ride in the boat during the summer and also play a little golf. I’m still married to my lovely wife pat and have two children, Thomas Mann Jr. and Angela.
I had a local studio make a CD of five of our records – the ones actually released on vinyl. The album is called “Double Shot”, of course. These are the only recordings I have; our last recording session at Fame Studios was lost over the years.
My experience with The K-Otics was wonderful. I'm not the first one to say it, but there was something in the air during those times that has not been here since and sadly will never be here again. Before the '60's music was either a star like Sinatra or a big band; to see four or five people get up and play with guitars was...I don't know what it was.INTERVIEW WITH MARVIN TAYLOR http://www.myspace.com/marvintaylorsongs
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Marvin Taylor: My mom was a trained classical singer and my older brother was a dance band drummer.
60s: The K-Otics was an established group before you joined. Do you recall the names of the original line-up?
MT: No, I never knew them. I grew up in a mostly rural small town scene, Tuskegee, Alabama, so the fact that I had "heard of" a band was a big deal to me. I taught Kim Venable to play drums when he was a junior or senior in high school, and also taught a guy named Edward to play guitar. I think I was probably 15 or 16 or so. The next year, both those guys attended Troy State University and came home with the news that they were official members of The K-Otics, and I was sick with envy! Then the following summer, they got a gig at a rowdy roadhouse in Montgomery Alabama (about 40 miles away from my hometown of Tuskegee) and I was asked to play guitar with them and all was forgiven - and then some!
60s: Why did the original K-Otics disband, and how did you and the rest of the second line-up become involved?
MT: They were a college band, and as people graduated or left school, they were replaced. I am not totally sure of the details, but I think our lead singer and leader of the band, Tommy "Swampman" Mann, probably sort of "inherited" the band from upperclassmen!
That summer gig at the notorious Mark Charles Supper Club had Tommy Mann from Tallassee, Alabama, on rhythm guitar and lead vocals; Ray Goss from Tallassee on bass and vocals; Edward Wilcoxen on rhythm guitar and backing vocals; Kim Venable from Tuskegee, Alabama, on drums; and me on lead guitar and backing vocals. Toward the end of the summer we met a guy from Montgomery whose dad owned a stereo store. His name was John Thorington, and he was a screaming Hammond B-3 player and also played sax and sang! When we learned that he wanted to work with us for the rest of the summer at the Mark Charles, we all voted to replace Edward; there was only budget for five players. It sucked to treat Edward badly, but this guy smoked on B-3, and replacing one guitar with B-3 was just irresistible! That gig ended at the end of summer, and we kept playing as a four-piece band. We eventually added Ed Sanford from Montgomery on Wurlitzer piano and background vocals. It just never quite came together to be a solid unit somehow. We each remember it slightly differently, but as I recall, a couple of the guys wanted to drop Ed, but he and I were friends and I sort of said let's give it a while. But my memory is that he locked my keys in my trunk of my car, and Tommy's memory is that Ed backed over my guitar with his car. Either way, I said "OK - this guy has to go!" I guess my temper has never been my most endearing quality! We eventually got Glenn Griffin from Dothan, Alabama, on Vox Organ, and that was the permanent band for our duration.
60s: Where did the band typically play?
MT: We played recreation centers and the like. We recorded a song called “Charlena” and had it go top ten for seventeen weeks on WBAM, a fifty thousand watt station out of Montgomery that blasted the entire southern half of the state! A hit on that station put you on an even keel with the Beach Boys or any other group getting equal air play on that station. I was thinking we learned the song from The Swinging Medallions, but was reminded that we actually first started playing “Charlena” when we heard this fabulous blues man, Art Grayson, play it in a hole in the wall bar in Montgomery. Art played a Gibson Stereo guitar, and played with his fingers - no pick. It warped my mind. Though I eventually added a thumb pick, I play with my fingers to this day. Anyway, Charlena kicked our gigs up a notch. We started getting booked on shows, like opening for Roy Orbison at The Houston County Farm Center in Dothan. That's where we met Buddy Buie, who later produced The Classics IV, The Atlanta Rhythm Section, and a group I was in later called Mose Jones. Buddy played a huge roll in my career. Our increased visibility allowed us to go into smaller towns all over South Alabama and rent National Guard Armories, buy ads on WBAM, hire a couple of local cops, and charge a couple of dollars at the door - we'd play almost every weekend and all during the week in the summer. It was heavy coin for those days!
60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
MT: We did a variety. We were all very heavily influenced by R&B and Soul artists that recorded up in Muscle Shoals Alabama, as well as the Stax artists from Memphis. But then we discovered The Candymen, Roy Orbison's back-up band, who eventually became a band on their own away from Orbison. They were influenced by the Beatles and The Beach Boys and other relatively high quality white pop groups, and their own original stuff was amazing! We just thought they were one of the best bands we'd ever heard, and absolutely one of the "coolest"!
60s: Did The K-Otics have a manager?
MT: No, we bought into a couple of fast talking guys' lines, but saw through them right away as being full of shit. We pretty much did whatever we did as a democratic unit.
60s: Did you play any of the local Alabama teen clubs?
MT: We played a few teen clubs, but I only remember the Alexander City Rec Center and the Tallassee Alabama Rec Center. But mostly we rented those National Guard Armories, hired two off duty local police officers, and had our own door people and crew. The armories and police were not expensive, and we packed the places and kept all the profits. We could make a whole lot more money doing those gigs ourselves than playing for somebody else.
60s: Did The K-Otics participate in any battle of the bands?
MT: I don't recall any battle of the bands. We really came right out of the chute with the 45 record “Charlena”, which immediately hit hard on WBAM in Montgomery - and as I said, that was a 50,000 watt station that covered pretty much the entire lower 2/3 of Alabama and some of Mississippi and Georgia, so a hit record on that station was a huge calling card! And since people in that zone pretty much only knew what that station played, if we had a number one record, which “Charlena” was for 17 weeks in a row, and then our band was number one as well! As long as we didn't go outside that radius, we were as big as it gets! But go a mile farther into the territory of some other big station, we might be total unknowns! It was really a shock to our egos, so we stayed in Big Bam range as much as possible.
First we had a record breaking run at #1 with “Charlena”, then the same thing with “Double Shot”. We had a driver and a security guy, a limo that belonged to us, the works. WBAM had a sister station up in Birmingham, but they were not the local "in" station for Birmingham that WBAM was in Montgomery, and the station that was the big station in Birmingham was a big supporter of The Swinging Medallions, so our gigs there were mediocre - people seemed to get really polarized behind one version or the other, so that was like playing on Medallions' turf! Then there were other cities like Houston and Miami that had played our version of “Double Shot” before The Medallions came out with theirs, so we could have played those cities and done well, but it was not efficient when you consider how many cities we could play night after night where we could sell out the place and easily hit another one the next night. If we had been more mature we would have thought more toward the future and kept recording and trying to grow.
60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
MT: The farthest we went on an actual tour was out through Louisiana. There was a promoter named Eddie Arceneau (spelling?) who booked a tour called Rebel-ation, with a bid toward a national TV series like a Southern version of Hootenanny or Shindig, which were popular shows at the time. There were about five bands that traveled all around Louisiana doing these shows. We had the closest thing to a hit record, so the first show had us coming on later in the lineup. But the two opening bands were The Champagne Brothers and The Boogie Kings! They were like ten-piece horn bands that were phenomenal! I mean, these were ass kicking bands by any standards! They rolled over us like a train! By comparison, they looked like a big R&B Revue with all those horns and singers, like a James Brown or Joe Tex revue, and what we were doing looked much more like Paul Revere and the Raiders - Fun, but not powerful like those guys! After the first night, we took the opening slot and things went much better! It all turned out to be a half-baked idea anyway and sort of disbanded after a few weeks.
60s: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?
MT: The best bands in our area, or anywhere I'd ever seen honestly, were The Candymen (Roy Orbison's band but who were also a just a fabulous band on their own) and Wilbur Walton
and The James Gang (no relation to Joe Walsh's group). And one of my favorite bands to see live was The Swinging Medallions. We only saw them in the summers down in Panama City, Florida. Later on, there was a hot band that we were friends with from Montgomery called The Rockin' Gibraltars. A few years after The K-Otics broke up I moved to Atlanta and hooked up with Wilbur and a new edition of The James Gang, and then the original drummer, Fred Guarino, and original bass player, Jimmy Dean, came back into the band. It was fabulous playing with those guys! There were lots of other great bands in the greater Southeast area in those days, but we played all the time so I didn't really get to see that many to remember them now except by name. There were The Bushmen, who, now that I think of it, I also actually played with for a short time, minus a couple of the original members, and The Strange Bedfellows who had a portable stage that looked like a giant bed. There were The Roemans who backed Tommy Roe. It all sort of runs together, because right after I left The K-Otics I moved to Atlanta and saw some of these bands there in clubs, though a lot of them were actually originally from closer to where we were from.
60s: Where were the K-Otics' 45s recorded?
MT: Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama, and Royal in Memphis. I remember being blown away by the local musicians in Muscle Shoals! Dan Penn was our producer, and probably had (to this day) more impact on my musical philosophy than anyone in my life. They did things that were so simple and honest, and nobody else could come close to making songs work like that! Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham are still blowing people away with what they can do. They gig some now as a duo - Dan plays acoustic guitar and Spooner plays piano and they both sing. They just do the songs they wrote, like “I'm Your Puppet”, “Dark End of The Street”, “Do Right Man”…and the list goes on forever! Great stuff!
60s: Where did The K-Otics first learn “Double Shot”? Were you familiar with Dick Holler and The Holiday's original version?
MT: We learned it from The Swinging Medallions who played it in Panama City at their house gig every summer, and they learned it, I presume, from the original version by Dick Holler. We started playing the song and people would yell for it before we played a note! We knew damn well it was a hit record waiting to happen. Every summer we would go see The Medallions and ask if they'd cut the song yet and they'd say no! We were closest friends with Joe, the drummer. I remember Kim, our drummer, telling Joe one summer, "Well, hell if you guys are never going to record the damn song, we might cut it." Joe just laughed and said "Well, hell, cut it!" Pretty soon we did, but it took probably six months to find a label that would do anything with it. Bang Records was a relatively small label at the time, but it seems like maybe they had Neil Diamond and maybe Sonny and Cher, so it was a cool label to land a deal with. They came out with a big ad in Billboard that advertised "A double shot from Bang! ‘Hang on Sloopy’ by The McCoys and ‘Double Shot’ by The K-Otics!" Both records took off and we were rocking out! We heard a little later that The Medallions had cut it, and Joe and one or two of the guys came to see us at a concert we played for WBAM's sister station in Birmingham. We were all friendly and joking about who would win out, and Joe kept smiling and saying "Uh-huh, you just wait!" Then right after that we heard that they had a deal with Mercury/Smash! Well, that was a huge label with serious clout! We were way up in the charts in Billboard one week and gone the next, replaced by The Medallions. There were some big markets that were already playing ours and wouldn't switch versions, but most did. We heard lots of stories about "payola" and all, and specific deals and money that was supposed to have changed hands, but who the hell knows? I certainly have no first hand knowledge of any of that. In my mind, they had the song first, and even though we recorded it first, they had the "party version" that people first fell in love with at the beach, so they deserved a hit from it. We got some good mileage out of it as well. It would have certainly served us better if we could have released it when we first recorded it instead of six months later. That would have given us a much longer jump on the rival version, but I'm telling you, I loved The Swinging Medallions as a live band and liked them a lot as people, so I love it that they (and some of their children!) are still out there playing because of that song! You know, that's the two edged sword in that kind of thing; I don't ever have to play that damn song again, and they have had to play it every night since then! Twenty or thirty years of playing “Double Shot” every singe time they do a gig! I'm kidding of course - they also get to see people's faces light up and feel ownership of it. But I just don't have the same "hard feelings" that some people do from back in those days. Probably because I have really had so many musical "highs" since then that I might have missed out on if anything had been different. I just would not change a thing about my life for fear of what else it might change with it!
60s: What about other K-Otics’ recordings? Are there any live recordings, or unreleased tracks?
MT: There are some tracks that are owned by Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, but they are interested in having someone buy the whole vault of everything they have, and won't talk about just the K-Otics stuff. Wow! When I think about what all is in that vault, the K-Otics stuff is the least thing I'd be interested in anyway to tell the truth! Just Dan Penn's original demos of the songs he wrote that nobody ever heard! Oh man!
60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances?
MT: Not that I can recall.
60s: How often, and where, do you perform today?
MT: It's funny, but the next band of any notoriety was from 1974 through 1980, called Mose Jones, and I learned that Mose Knows, an album that Al Kooper produced on Mose Jones for MCA just before I joined the band, as well as Blackbird, an album Buddy Buie produced on Mose Jones for RCA after I joined, have both been re-issued by some company on CD. I just heard about it so don't know the details yet. It strikes me funny because there is suddenly a lot of interest in two old bands I was part of, and it feels real nice! Anyway, Mose Jones was pure magic! I don't know if I can imagine another band that fit together as magically as that group of people! To play inside that musical space is something not everybody gets to experience in a lifetime! We recorded and toured through the Seventies, then just gave out and broke up, all of us doing studio stuff and hired gun gigs for a while, and then we all got back together as Out A Hand in the Eighties purely to get to play together again! We just played locally and I kept doing the studio thing and started getting more into writing and producing. Out A Hand just sort of ran out of steam after about ten years or so, and we all went separate ways again. I got more serious about learning to write songs and produce sessions.
Three former Mose Jones members, Steve, the keyboards player, and Bryan, the original Mose Jones drummer, and I got together with a great singer/sax man named Michael Bastedo and formed Java Monkey in the early nineties. We became a studio band that also played out some. Francine Reed from Lyle Lovette's Large Band moved to Atlanta, and came and sat in with us one night. I immediately approached her to sing the demo for a song I had just written that was perfect for her called "What Is That Light?" By this time I had married Raven, the love of my life, and was writing songs with her. Bryan by this time had become a full time producer for Ichiban Records and had produced tons of great Blues artists for them, and I had played guitar on some of that stuff. Francine was really a Jazz and Gospel singer, but was totally at home singing Blues. Bryan immediately got her a deal with Capitol, and she recorded “What Is That Light” on that first CD, which did really well (for a Blues record anyway!). We did another CD with Francine the next year, and she did a song Raven and I wrote called "Been There, Done That" which was nominated for Song of The Year by the W.C. Handy Blues Society, the Blues equivalent of a Grammy. By this time Java Monkey had become Francine Reed's touring band, and for the next few years we went all over Europe and to Australia, as well as all over the U.S.
We have done six CDs with Francine now, and Raven and I have songs on all her CDs, but I have pretty much stopped touring with her. She gets more popular every year and is really doing well all over the world, but I have just gotten to a place where I don't even like to go to the store without Raven, much less out of town, and God forbid, out of the country! Raven went back to school to get her PhD in Literacy and Education, and is a full-time professor at a major research university, so is not able to go traipsing around after some Blues band all over the world, even as good as this Blues band is! And the truth is, Bryan, the original drummer for Mose Jones, and I and a couple of others, formed a writer's group called The Wednesday Music Group that is just the most fun I have had in some time! We get together over homemade pizza at one of our home studios (we all have them!) every Wednesday night and collaborate on songs, help each other with individual songs, play and/or sing on each other's demos, and just really crank out some neat stuff! There is sort of a new category of music that they are calling Americana, which is what we are doing. It is such a huge and diverse category, including artists from the likes of Dan Penn to Bonnie Raitt to Neil Young, to lesser known artists like Buddy and Julie Miller and some even more traditional Bluegrass people, on through people like the great soul singer Bettye LaVette and, come to think of it, probably Francine Reed! I think it is just that there are finally so many of us doing everything we like from all our different roots all rolled into one thing, and they had to call it something! Smebody asked me, "Well, this stuff you are doing now, is it Blues, or Bluegrass, or R&B, or Jazz or Soul or what?" I said "Yeah! It sure is!" You can check out some of our stuff on my site.
A few years ago, I created a product called Band In The Pocket, which is a series of CDs of backing tracks that allow musicians to jam with a really hot band at home. All they need is their instrument and a regular CD player. We have five versions out for solo players, like if you play guitar, or keyboard, or sax, or even harmonica, or hell they can even sing with them for that matter. The first two are Blues, the third is Rock, the fourth is Country and Bluegrass, and the fifth is Jazz. Then we have one for drummers and one for Bass players. We are about to release a second one for drummers and another Blues version. They are available in about 1000 stores around the country, including the Guitar Center chain. I also sell them directly through my website. That's my day job! But my passion is writing and recording those songs!
60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The K-Otics?
MT: Wow! Just about as much fun as a teen aged boy who calls himself a musician can have, I expect. I know there were certainly more grandly successful young musicians, but we really got to experience some amazing things and some amazing times. We were in on the ground floor of some grassroots music movements, we got to hang and record and even write songs with some people that I still look up to as the greatest, and we survived it all and lived to tell about it! There were certainly times that survival was not a guaranteed outcome! I still hear from some of the guys from The K-Otics from time to time. Ray and I are still very close and email each other every week. I'm still friends with Tommy and Kim, but we don't stay in touch as much, and I've lost touch with Glen. It seems we all have a slightly different take on it all, but what I can remember, I remember fondly! After all, it was the Sixties!
Mike Johnson – lead guitar and vocals (1962)
Joe Torillo - rhythm and back-up vocals (1962-1963)
Tommy Mann – vocals (1962-1967)
Marvin Taylor (lead guitar and back up vocals (1962-1967)
Ray Goss – bass guitar and back-up vocals (1964-1967)
Kim Venable – drums (1964-1967)
Ed Sandford – keyboards and back-up vocals (1965-1967)
Glenn Griffin – keyboards and back-up vocals (1965)
Lawrence Shawl - keyboards and back-up vocals (1963-1967)
Ed Wilcox – rhythm guitar (1964)
Johnny Coates – drums (1963)
Ken Murphy – lead guitar (1963)
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by Mike Dugo".
"Listen live, online to their music at Beyond The Beat Generation
, 60's garage and psychedelia".