ua

ua

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Five Americans: 5 Albums

 
Mike Rabon in college, formed the beginnings of The Five Americans. The band was originally named The Muntineers but was later changed to The Five Americans to combat the rock and roll British influx in the mid-1960s. The group became successful charting 5 records: "I See The Light", "Evol Not Love", "Sound of Love", "ZipCode", and "Western Union", the last covered by The Ventures, The Strangers (Australia), and The Searchers (England), and also used in the film Vanilla Sky starring Tom Cruise.
                                                            
                                                                         
Mike Rabon had a successful touring career afterwards, released two albums that sold well, and played guitar for the Tyler, Texas, pop group, Gladstone, whose "A Piece of Paper" reached No. 45 in October 1972. Rabon later formed a group called Michael Rabon and Choctaw which also included former Five Americans drummer Jimmy Wright. One album was released by Uni in the early 1970s to good reviews but was mostly overlooked by the label due to promotional and legal difficulties.
                                                 
                                                                    
After 10 years in the music business, Rabon went back to college and obtained his master's degree in administration. Rabon is currently involved in education technology in his hometown of Hugo, Oklahoma.

THE FIVE AMERICANS                                                                          

The members of Five Americans first met in Durant, Oklahoma at South-eastern Oklahoma State University in 1962. Under the leadership of lead guitarist Mike Rabon, they formed a group called The Mutineers. The band played local beer joints and frat dances until the Summer of 1964 when Mike

suggested that they go to Texas to try and make enough money to pay for tuition for the following semester. The band achieved some local notoriety in a Dallas bar called The Pirate's Nook. There they came to the attention of a local record label called Abnak Records. John Abdnor, president of the label, took the group under his wing and provided them the resources to write and practice their own songs. With the onslaught of the British Invasion by bands with strange sounding names, the group also took on a new handle. They were not bugs or beasts of any kind, they were simply Five Americans. In early 1966, after a couple of failed efforts, the band released an original tune entitled "I See The Light", which climbed to #26 on the Billboard chart. "I See The Light" was followed by "Evol Not Love" which stalled at #92. Five more singles were issued, but none met with much success.
                                                    
                                                                            
While passing through a small town in Oregon, the band saw a sign that said Western Union and quickly formed the idea for a song about someone receiving a Dear John letter by telegraph. Released in early 1967, "Western Union" rose to #5 on Billboard and #3 on the Cashbox Best Sellers list. The single sold in excess of one million records and paved the way for the group to appear on The Steve Allen Show, American Bandstand twice and Where The Action Is four times. "Western Union" was followed by a less gimmicky and more melodic song entitled "Sound Of Love" which charted in the Top 40 as well, peaking at #36. Then, bowing to pressure from DJ's the world over to write another communication song, they followed "Western Union" with "Zip Code", which climbed to #36.
                                                 
                                                                           
In 1971, after releasing eight more low charting singles, the boys simply got tired of touring and each went his own way. Mike Rabon signed with UNI records for one album and a single. Despite a good effort on Rabon's part, most of the record company's promotion and attention went to the only other artist that UNI had signed at the time, Elton John. However, Rabon's group, Michael Rabon And Choctaw went on to become a very successful touring band through the mid-seventies in the South-Western states.
                                                  
                                                                                
Eventually, Mike Rabon went back to college and got his masters degree in education and became involved with school administration and teaching music in his home town of Hugo, Oklahoma. He

married and had two sons. Bassist Jim Grant formed his own successful logo company in Dallas. One of his designs is the Chili's restaurant logo, a huge restaurant chain in the Southwest. Jim passed away on November 29th, 2004. John Durrill was hired as the organ player for The Ventures, the group that strangely enough influenced The Five Americans in their early years. He also became a successful song writer, penning such hits as "Dark Lady" by Cher. Guitarist Norman Ezell became a school teacher in Northern California. He died of cancer on May 8th, 2010 at the age of 68. Drummer Jimmy Wright continued residing in Durant, Oklahoma where The Five got their start and played on commercial jingles from time to time. He passed away on January 30th, 2012.
                                                    
                                                                            
The Five Americans where the first to achieve what no other group in Texas had done in five short years... selling millions of singles and albums. Over the years the group still got together to play an occasional show. A double album called "Now and Then" was issued with most of the band's hit songs on it, however the masters were sold to Sundazed Music around 1985 without The Five Americans' knowledge and the band received no royalties from the sales. "Western Union" still gets air play on oldies radio on average of 5000 times per month in the U.S. and Canada, and as of January of 1998, "Western Union" achieved the one million mark in air play according to BMI, Broadcast Music INC.
                                               
                                                                       
[Artist Biography by Richie Unterberger
In 1966-1967, this Dallas group enjoyed some modest national success with the number five hit "Western Union," as well as a few other Top 40 entries, "I See the Light," "Zip Code," and "Sound of Love." Dominated by high bubbling organ lines and clean harmony vocals, the group favored high-energy pop/rock far more than British Invasion or R&B-inspired sounds, although a bit of garage/frat rock raunch could be detected in their stomping rhythms -- and their guitar-dominated tracks offered something else again, the harmonies and texture of "The Train" (which was very nearly their debut single) recalling the punchier work of Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers from the same period.
                                                
                                                                          
Recording prolifically throughout the last half of the '60s (often with ex-rockabilly star Dale Hawkins as producer) and writing much of their own material, they were ultimately too lightweight and bubblegum-ish to measure up to either the era's better pop/rock or garage bands. Their 1966 hit "I See the Light" is their toughest and best performance.
                                                      
                                                                                   
Though they officially hailed from Dallas, the Five Americans had their origins in Oklahoma. Mike Rabon grew up in Hugo, the county seat of Choctaw County, in southeastern Oklahoma, founded in

1902 (and named after Victor Hugo, the novelist), 25 miles north of Paris, Texas, and 15 miles west of Fort Towson, site of the last Confederate surrender of the Civil War. He became interested in playing the guitar when he was eight years old, and saved up to buy a homemade instrument at a local pawn shop. He got a start on a few chords learned from his grandmother and quickly got the hang of the instrument. When rock & roll broke nationally, he was swept right in, and became a big fan of Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, and later added singers such as Frankie Ford to his list of influences.
                                             
                                                                             
He joined a local high-school band called the Rhythm Rebels, who played mostly instrumentals and whose gigs included some local radio appearances. While Rabon was honing his guitar skills and learning what he could from the playing of Carl Perkins, Scotty Moore, et al., John Durrill, who was a few years older, was living Bartlesville, OK -- near the Kansas border, originally part of Indian Territory, and the birthplace of Phillips Petroleum -- and already learning a lot by listening to Jerry Lee Lewis, whose playing inspired him to dress up his already freewheeling approach to the piano even more flamboyantly. Durrill entered Southeastern Oklahoma State College in the early '60s as an English major, and played frat parties and the like in his spare time. It was at one such event, playing for Sigma Tau Gamma, that he crossed paths with Rabon, who had started attending the school in 1962.
                                                 
                                                                              
By that time, Rabon had in his mind the idea of putting together a group, and he approached Durrill. The others -- Norman Ezell (guitar), Johnny Coble (drums), and Jim Grant (maracas and later bass) -- fell into place quickly. The quintet, named the Mutineers, had a repertory built on the music of Duane Eddy and Bo Diddley, and played events around campus, including a regular Monday night gig at the student union. They were good enough to take a chance on recording, cutting their debut in Dallas in 1963 with "Jackin' Around," an instrumental that got some play on their college station.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                                     
The British Invasion caused them to add some Beatles numbers to their set list and change their look slightly, as well as emphasize their singing a little bit more. Durrill also added a Wurlitzer electric piano -- purchased by Rabon's father, Smiley (who had also financed their first recording sessions) -- to their sound, though the big change came later, when he acquired a Vox organ, which became part of the group's signature sound when the band started recording.
                                        
                                                                            
By the summer of 1964, they felt ready to try competing in Dallas, but Coble backed out at the last minute, and they recruited drummer Jimmy Wright on a couple of hours' notice. The bandmembers spent a few weeks crashing at the pad of Durrill's girlfriend, and picked up their first serious gig -- appropriately enough, for a band called the Mutineers -- at a club called The Pirates' Nook, where they bumped an established band out of their spot there, mostly with their stage antics. They did well enough so that they decided to stick it out for a while longer, past the end of the summer. The Mutineers were booked into a club called Lou Ann's, where they chanced to be heard by John Abdnor, Jr., whose multimillionaire father owned a record label. He invited them to audition, and they were duly signed up to his Abnak label. The latter also involved a name change, and that was how the Five Americans got their new name, at Abdnor's insistence.
                                                                          

                                                                      
Their first single, "I See the Light," cut in late 1965 in Dallas, showed just how powerful a performing unit they'd become in the previous year, their instrumental attack resembling the best elements of such much-vaunted British bands as the Yardbirds and the Nashville Teens, with Durrill's singing supported by Rabon and Ezell. The single, which was leased to the HBR label -- a unit of Hanna-Barbera Studios, the cartoon producers -- reached number 26 nationally, and the group got the go-ahead to work on a debut LP. Equally important, the licensing deal got the Five Americans a trip to Los Angeles to meet the executives of the national label.
                                                         
                                                                           
That in itself was highly instructive to five Oklahoma boys who hadn't been anywhere more sophisticated than Dallas -- where their "long hair" (not nearly to the shoulders) made them "freaks" -- and their musical ambitions as well as the quintet's visual presentation advanced by leaps and bounds across early 1966, even as they made the rounds of venues such as the Whisky a Go Go and various TV music showcases such as Shivaree and The Woody Woodbury Show, turning into a national-level act in a matter of weeks. Oddly enough, at the time of its release, the band and its label hadn't been certain of "I See the Light"'s appeal, especially as its other side, "The Train," had some merit of its own.
                                         
                                                                           
Not too many bands coming off the college circuit by scarcely a year could have led with that kind of strength. There were similarly high expectations for their follow-up single, "Evol -- Not Love," a harmony-based rocker that seemed to carry them to the next step. Alas, it didn't do nearly as well, essentially dying in the womb in Dallas, owing to a local business-related "political" dispute involving

Abdnor. But their next single, "Western Union," soared from the moment it reached the public, reaching the Top Ten. It also marked the beginning of Dale Hawkins, the guitarist/singer/composer of "Susie Q" fame, working as their producer. This should have been the beginning of a new phase in the group's history, and a leap in their fortunes and prospects, but differences with Abdnor and the limitations inherent in not being signed to a major label combined to sap whatever momentum the song generated. This was all especially tragic, as the Five Americans were generating music that was not only superb AM bubblegum pop, but also credible garage rock on occasion, and excellent pop/rock overall, with killer harmonies and excellent playing, filled with the kinds of hooks that most bands would kill for on their records.
                                           
                                                                               
Indeed, there are moments on "Now That It's Over" and "If I Could" where their mix of nicely woven harmonies and clean, sophisticated playing recall the work of the Beatles or the Searchers. "Sound of Love" and "Zip Code" -- issued in 1967 -- charted far lower than the records that had preceded them, despite hooks and harmonies that made them eminently hummable and memorable (especially "Zip Code"). They were doing work of at least the caliber of the Monkees without the Screen Gems publishing/arranging/producing factory backing them up, and if some of it was a bit derivative -- "Sympathy" did seem to recall the Beatles' "You Like Me Too Much" at times -- the music was presented with enough fresh twists to easily justify the purchase and the listening time.
                                                    
                                                                      
The differences with Abdnor were worsening, however, and the members felt he was now compromising the music and any chance for growth by his insistence that they continue to record in Dallas. By 1968 Durrill and Ezell were both gone, replaced by Lenny Goldsmith and Bobby Rambo. The group continued on through 1969, but by then even their name was starting to sound quaintly out of date amid the burgeoning influence of the counterculture; they could probably have gone on indefinitely in Dallas, but their chances for national exposure were receding by the week. Among their last efforts was a double LP (credited to "Michael Rabon & the Five Americans"), before the remaining members went their separate ways.
                                                                                                                                                                    
The band has mostly been remembered across the decades for its two biggest hits, "Western Union" and "I See the Light." In the 21st century, however, Sundazed Records reissued a big chunk of their catalog, giving the Five Americans their biggest exposure in decades, and revealing an astonishingly fine legacy, far beyond their best-known hits and all well worth hearing.]

SUNDAZED RECORDS  

 

Sundazed Music is an American independent record label based in Coxsackie, New York. It specializes in obscure and rare recordings from the 1950s to the 1970s. In 2000, Sundazed had a staff of 15 and two mixing studios, including a vintage audio equipment collection.   
Label founders Bob Irwin and his wife Mary started the label in 1989. Irwin's skill at restoring old vinyl records for the (then new) CD format, attracted the attention of major labels, who increasingly solicited him to help them re-issue material from their back catalogs. He helped Sony Music release their archival Legacy Records label. Later, his restoration work included early material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Nancy Sinatra, and the Byrds. Irwin also worked at Arista for a time.

I SEE THE LIGHT  1966


lf you're curious enough about the Five Americans to want more than a greatest hits collection, this 1966 album is a worthwhile supplement. Ten of the 12 cuts are group originals, and they lean toward the gutsier side of what this sometimes pop-oriented act could offer, with occasional influences of Beau Brummels-like folk-rock. Most of the songs are not on their CD best-of (Western Union), and this disc adds previously unreleased alternate takes of "The Train" and "Good Times."
                                

Label: Sundazed Music ‎– SC 6018
Series: Yesterdazed Series –
Format: CD, Album, Reissue, Stereo, 1994
Country: US
Released: 1966
Genre: Rock
Style: Garage Rock, Pop Rock 

TRACKS

 

01. I See The Light     
02. The Losing Game     
03. Goodbye     
04. I Know They Lie     
05. Twist & Shout     
06. She's-A-My-Own     
07. The Train     
08. It's A Crying Shame     
09. I'm So Glad     
10. Don't Blame Me     
11. The Outcast     
12. What'd I Say
Bonus Tracks
13. The Train (Unissued Version)     
14. Good Times (Unissued Version)

MP3 @ 320 Size: 80,4 MB
Flac  Size: 210 MB

WESTERN UNION / SOUND OF LOVE  1967

                                             

                                                                             
The Five Americans were five guys from Texas who were equally adept at playing tough rock tunes, folk-rock-influenced ballads, and sweet pop confections; their biggest hit, "Western Union," a number

five charter from 1967, even edges toward bubblegum. Their second album, Western Union/Sound of Love, features a batch of fine songs like the sparkling rocker "Big Cities," the almost funky "Sound of Love," the sticky sweet "If I Could," and of course the excellent title track that show off their rich vocal harmonies, spirited playing, and sure-handed melodies. Producer Dale Hawkins (of "Suzie Q" fame) could have kept things a bit looser, as the sound is sometimes a touch too slick and they had absolutely no business covering Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," but otherwise this is a fine example of solid craftsmanship from a band that gets overlooked far too often when the really good bands of the '60s are mentioned.

Label: Sundazed Music ‎– SC 6224
Format: CD, Album, Reissue 2006
Country: US
Released: 1967
Genre: Rock
Style: Garage Rock, Pop Rock

TRACKS

01. Western Union     2:34
02. Gimme Some Lovin'     2:45
03. Husbands & Wives     2:21
04. If I Could     2:00
05. Sympathy     1:51
06. Big Cities     3:11
07. Sound Of Love     2:21
08. I Put A Spell On You     3:28
09. Tell Ann I Love Her     2:07
10. Reality     2:14
11. Now That It's Over     2:15
12. See-Saw-Man     2:09
Bonus Track
13. Lovin' Is Livin'     2:11

MP3 @ 320 Size: 73,5 MB
Flac  Size: 190 MB
 
PROGRESSIONS  1967



The Five Americans' third album, Progressions, lives up to its title. The group, which had gained success with the pounding frat rocker "I Saw the Light" and the bubbly pop hit "Western Union," began


to show some real artistic growth as they stretched out and explored new sounds. Some of the tracks sound like more assured versions of their earlier efforts -- the bubblegummy "Zip Code" (the attempted follow-up to "Western Union"), the tender folk-rock of "(But Not) Today," the sparkling pop of "Stop-Light" -- but they also incorporate some harder guitar rock on "Black Is White -- Day Is Night," Kinks-y baroque pop psych on "Rain Maker," and blue-eyed soul on "Come on Up." They also ditched the at times too slick sound achieved by producer Dale Hawkins, took over the production chores themselves, and did a fine job of creating a full and rich sound with just enough experimentation to keep things unpredictable. Progressions is a substantial leap of quality for the group; with the right push, it could have been big. Instead it is a hidden gem that fans of fine '60s pop should seek out and savor.

Label: Sundazed Music ‎– SC 6225
Format: CD, Album, Stereo, Reissue 2006
Country: US
Released: 1967
Genre: Rock
Style: Garage Rock, Pop Rock

TRACKS

01. Stop-Light     2:19
02. Con Man     2:45
03. Black Is White-Day Is Night     3:04
04. (But Not) Today     2:39
05. Come On Up     2:37
06. Zip Code     2:29
07. Rain Maker     2:17
08. Sweet Bird Of Youth     1:51
09. Evol-Not Love (Mono)     2:20
10. Somebody Help Me     2:01
Bonus Track
11. Call On Me     2:24

MP3 @ 320 Size: 63 MB
Flac  Size: 157 MB


WESTERN UNION (COMPILATION) 1989
COMPILATION BY BOB IRWIN


Label: Sundazed
Country: USA
Date:    1989
Released: 1967
Catalogue: SC 11004
Barcode: 090771100429
Format:    CD Album, Compilation
Genre: Rock
Style: Garage Rock, Pop Rock      

TRACKS
  

 
01. Western Union    
02. Good Times    
03. Zip Code    
04. I'm Feeling O.K.    
05. It's A Cryin' Shame    
06. The Train    
07. Evol-Not Kive    
08. Slippin' And Slidin'        
09. Reality    
10. Tell Ann I Love Her    
11. Sound Of Love    
12. No Communication    
13. Say That You Love Me    
14. It's You Girl    
15. I See The Light    
16. Don't Blame Me    
17. Big Cities    
18. Stop Light    
19. Virginia Girl    
20. 7:30 Guided Tour


THE BEST OF  2003

 

Few pop smashes can be instantly IDed by something as deceptively simple as the “Dit-dit-dit-dah-dit”


staccato keyboard hook introducing the Five Americans’ ‘67 hit “Western Union.” Here’s a stomping Five Americans compendium–assembled with the band’s full participation. With 25 smash tracks, it’s the very best of this groovy Dallas garage-frat combo, including chart-toppers like “Western Union,” “I See The Light,” “Sound Of Love,” “Zip Code,” and memorabilia galore!

Label: Sundazed Music ‎– SC 11107
Format: CD, Compilation
Country: US
Released: 2003
Genre: Rock
Style: Garage Rock, Pop Rock

TRACKS

01. I See The Light     2:07
02. Reality     2:14
03. Western Union     2:35
04. The Losing Game     2:33
05. The Train     3:10
06. Good Times     1:54
07. No Communication     2:14
08. I Know They Lie     2:49
09. If I Could     2:01
10. Now That It's Over     2:14
11. Zip Code     2:29
12. Sympathy     1:57
13. She's-A-My Own     1:48
14. It's A Crying Shame     2:27
15. The Outcast     2:08
16. Stop Light     2:41
17. Evol-Not Love     2:19
18. Don't Blame Me     2:03
19. Sound Of Love     2:21
20. Show Me     1:57
21. You Can't Win     2:24
22. She's Too Good To Me     2:19
23. Virginia Girl     2:21
24. 7:30 Guided Tour     2:40
25. Letters, Pictures, Melodies   3:21


MP3 @ 320 Size: 137 MB
Flac  Size: 353 MB

12 comments:

  1. Just FYI, the 4th picture is the Animals.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Supergroovy, Cool!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for sharing. I have some vinyl but will be nice to hear w/o the pops and clicks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A other great post once again! Many thanks for the FLAC links.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you very very much for all the history and especially all the Sundazed titles!!!
    I should mention that the photo before "Sundazed Records" title is the Association.
    Johnno

    ReplyDelete
  6. Learned of your Blog when you posted on another Blog site I visit frequently. I have been impressed with your site and the excellent posts. You always give nice background and images to accompany the music. Thanks for your hard work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many Thanks for your comments dear friends

      Delete
  7. Thanks for the contact. You've been added to Rock And Roll Archives bloglist too :)

    ReplyDelete