"Making Improvements"

Teddy Bears Brochure Cover.

Inside the Teddy Bears brochure.

By now we had accumulated a fairly good assortment of equipment and had quite a few dances under our belts as well as recording a record, even if it was an acetate disk that only the four of us had. We were even paying income tax on our meager earnings.

March of 1966. James, Al, Don, and Hal in front of Montgomery Wards on the North side of Jacksonville, FL.

As you can read, this was somewhat of a con. We won a $100 scholarship to be used toward a $783 trip to Europe for 21 days. No, we didn't go on the trip, but we had fun performing , and it was a nice day.

"On The Road"

Equipment trailer.

Hal, James, Al, and Don ready to head out.

Our trailer did a fine job of keeping our gear dry and secure over many miles. Thanks again to our manager, Mr. Shaw, for pulling strings with some of his friends and having it built. I remember when it arrived, it had to be covered in plywood and painted. We all pitched in and got the job done. In those days the little blue trailer was pulled by Don's Comet, James's Dode Dart, or Mr. Shaw's Ford aircraft carrier....I mean station wagon. The old wagon was great! It could hold all of us with room to spare.

A Comet pulling the Bears. One of several vehicles used when gas was 35 cents a gallon.

On one trip to South Georgia, I remember, we were traveling on a divided highway in a light rain. I don't recall who was driving but we started to hydroplane and spun completely around with the trailer. I braced for the impact and thought of our equipment smashed and scattered everywhere. When we stopped skidding we were headed in the same direction that we started and no other traffic was around us. Yes, that scared the crap out of us, but the driver took his foot off the break, and we continued unharmed but shaken.

Another episode was a trip to an American Legion dance between Lyons and Vidalia, GA. This time Don was driving through the center of Lyons, and we were cut off by a pickup truck. He had no time to stop and could only swerve to the left into a closed gas station driveway. Off the street and through the closed gas island at about 35 mph was a hair-raising experience. The pickup driver realized what he had caused and stopped to apologize. He remarked that he was glad he didn't cause the dance to be canceled. We were too!

An old map marking our territory. Note the absence of many Interstate highways back in the 60's.

We were playing in St.Augustine, Fl. near the beach at a dance hall one summer when a rain storm with strong winds blew up all of a sudden. We were set up inside and our Showman amplifiers were vertically stacked behind us in front of a roll down bamboo screen covering an open window. In the middle of a song, a strong gust of wind blew against the screen with enough force to completely blow over all the amplifiers! After the shock of seeing them on the floor face-down passed, we picked them up, reconnected, and much to our surprise they all worked--quite a tribute to the ruggedness of Fender equipment.

Another time in South Georgia, maybe Alma, Baxley, or Dublin after the dance, we found a small diner that was open late. Maybe midnight or so, we all went in, found a booth, ordered our food and were talking about our performance that evening. Someone said, "He has a gun!" We all dove under the table and peeked out to see one of the waitresses grab a shotgun from some guy. She told him to get the hell out and go sober up. Needless to say we were pretty well shook up but left there with a story to retell many times over.

Douglas, GA was Revlon/Bushman home turf, and we played at a place in town, maybe a VFW or community club. I remember we were told by the locals how much they liked the Revlon's. They were somewhat critical of other bands that came in, but when the dance was over, they said we did ok. We took it as quite a compliment.

Swainsboro, GA was a place we played many times. The first venue was somewhere outside of town in a large "Quonset hut" type building. It had an AM radio station on one end, a large dance floor and big stage on the other end. The station was WJAT owned at that time by Jim Denny and Webb Pierce. It was fun to play there because we would set up our equipment with the curtain closed, and then it would open when we started playing the first song. One time the radio station had each one of us do a promo saying "Hi this is Hal" or James or whomever, "and we will be at such and such this Firday night starting at 8:00, be there" or something like that, and they would air the promos the next time we played. When we traveled there we would tune the car radio to 800 and listen for our commercials. This was so cool. The other place was on the opposite side of town at the Swainsboro Woman's Club. It, too, was a great place to play but was much smaller and had a more intimate setting. We were well received in Swainsboro and always looked forward to going there.

The booking that was the farthest away was a fraternity party in Athens, GA on a Friday night. It was many years later that I found out we played in one of the banquet rooms at Charlie Williams Pinecrest Lodge, a popular Athens Restaurant open to this day. Not wanting to pass up a golden opportunity to play in Atlanta, the next day we drove there and found the legendary WQXI studio's on Peachtree Street. Mr. Shaw, our manager, went in and managed to get us an engagement at "Misty Waters", a family sports/water/entertainment complex southwest of the city. Now, long gone and forgotten, this place was light years ahead of its time. We opened for the Candy Men, Roy Orbison's band. WOW! We managed to get through our opening set probably lasting about 30 minutes. I think we did ok....at least the Candy Men said we did and that made us feel good. The whole trip was great but getting to meet them, let alone play on the same stage with them, was amazing They sounded great. We managed to meet up with them one more time on stage in Jacksonville somewhere, and they were just as cool.

The yellow Stake and Shake receipt was from a trip to Daytona Beach. We played at a band shell on the beach, not quite the ball room on the pier, but we were playing in Daytona.


An advertising poster from a dance in Jesup, GA.

"A New Bear"

 The Golden Sands in Fernandina, FL in June 1966 with new member, Ken Webb. Ken brought the sound of an organ and vocals to the Teddy Bears. Now, in addition to James and Hal doing lead on vocals, we had Ken's voice as well. Al and Don did back up. The addition of an organ and multi-part harmonies opened up a whole new dimension to our sound. Ken joined us with a Farfisa Compact Duo organ, Gibson amplifier and Shure 545 microphone.

Don, Ken, Hal, Al, and James posing at Friendship Park in Jacksonville, FL, in between rain storms.

Hard at work during a practice session at Don's house. We would practice at least twice a week and would play on Friday and Saturday night for about 3 years. This was during our Junior and senior years in high school, and someone once asked Hal if he regretted not getting to attend his school ball games and dances. He responded that he was having the time of his life playing for all those dances.

The Fender evolution is almost complete. Three sparkling new Fender Showman amplifiers are part of the Teddy Bears sound. These power houses at 66 watts each sported the coveted JBL 15" speakers with the chrome center cone that could be seen through the speaker cloth. In garage band circles, one had "arrived" if your cable was plugged into a "Showman". The lineup would eventually consist of 1 dual and 3 single Showman Amplifiers.

Fender Showman Amplifier.

Now the Bears have 3 Electro-Voice 664 microphones and a Shure 545 microphone that Ken uses on a boom. The square fiberglass Electro-Voice P/A speakers had been replaced with two sound columns that contain eight 6" speakers in each enclosure to reduce feedback.

"Recording At Sound Labs"

The first two songs on the acetate record, "Baby You Go Round" a snappy soft rock beat and "Blue Surf" a late 50'ish, slow, dance hall type instrumental provides an early incite to the Teddy Bears creative style. The next two songs, "Miss To Mrs" and "Teddy Bear" show a strong "Tommy Row bubble gum" type musical influence. The fifth song "Sole Summer" is a choppy feel good summer beach song.

A record, yes, an honest to goodness VINYL record that has our name on it. This time, one that radio stations play.

How did this come about? Once again our resourceful manager, Marvin Shaw, had contacted some of the disk jockeys at WAPE (ape yell) in Jacksonville, FL, specifically Ken Fuller, trying to get us bookings that they where promoting. A relationship with Ken was struck, and he connected us up with Walter Eaton (spelled Eden on the record) the original base player and creator of the Classics, better known as the Classics IV. Walter, in addition to being a talented base player, wrote and produced songs for other bands. The Teddy Bears recorded three of his creations. Two of them "Miss To Mrs" and "Teddy Bear" were picked up and distributed by a Texas promoter, Major Bill Smith, and received good air play in the South. Smith was the producer for several well known performers in the 60's such as Paul & Paula, Bruce Channell (Hey Baby), Bobby Skel & The Red Ryders, Delbert McClinton, and Wayne Cochran among others. The Teddy Bears were in good company. The other song, "Sole Summer", was recorded but never pressed into a record.

This was a great time for us, we were working in a studio and intermingling with other bands and artists such as Dennis Yost & Classics IV, Mouse and the Boys, and a black singer, Mickey Murray. Hal, James, and Ken even sang backup on one of his songs called "Shout Bamalama".

Weeks later James and Don were together driving in a car with the radio on WAPE. "Miss To Mrs" came on for the first time and all hell broke lose. They where screaming "OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD", "TURN IT UP, TURN IT UP", "IT'S US, IT'S US", "OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD". This was repeated all through the song. No words could describe the feeling!

WAPE, in the mid 60's was a tremendous influence on the Jacksonville, FL garage band scene. These survey folders were available all over town each week proclaiming the top 30 records. For example, this survey for the week of July 10-17, 1967 list Mouse and the Boys at #6, the Teddy Bears at #12, and has a picture of the Coronados as well.