|Jackie Phillips was the drummer for Danny & The Avanties and, later, The Decisions. Although hailing from Portageville, Missouri, the band recorded their lone 45, 'My Son' b/w 'Little Glass Jar,' at HI/Royal Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Inspired by the experiences he shared during the garage band era, Phillips is compiling a CD of his bands' recordings, as well as writing a book about his time as a rock and roll drummer. Both projects will, no doubt, further illuminate the music passion that still burns within him.
For a sampling of some of Danny & The Avanties and The Decisions music, click here.
An Interview With Jackie Phillips
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you get interested in music?
Jackie Phillips (JP): As most young teenage boys in the '60s, my friends and I were immensely interested in the great music exhilaration that was sweeping our country. The radios were vibrant with music that made our hearts beat a little faster and our blood pump a little harder. However, the thought of being musicians never even entered our minds until one magical day at a local theater. I don’t recall the name of the movie, but what I do remember is that the screen was filled with single artists and groups playing all types of music—from country to rock ‘n roll. That afternoon the seed was planted that changed my life and the lives of two of my friends forever. Music came alive in a way that brought all of us to the same conclusion—we want to do THAT!
60s: Was Danny & The Avanties your first band?
JP: Danny & The Avanties was not the first band with which I was involved. The first band was simply named The Avanties. Those original band members were Dennis Hillis (lead vocal), Dennis Tittle (lead guitar), Tommy Binkley (rhythm guitar), Larry Jeffries (rhythm guitar) and yours truly, Jackie Phillips (drums). Our first and only public appearance, as I recall, was a booking for a district girl scout function at Portageville High School in Portageville, MO. This group of fellows, operating as a band, was short-lived. Two changes were made: Danny Faries became the lead vocal and Henry Muse replaced Larry Jeffries. At this point, the name became Danny & The Avanties and due to an unexpected open door opportunity, our new group appeared on WMC TV 5 in Memphis, TN. That was an extraordinary experience for these small-town boys. One final change was made in the personnel of the band: Jim Bob Mullen replaced Dennis Tittle as lead guitar. So…this final group of young men (Danny Faries, Tommy Binkley, Henry Muse, Jim Bob Mullen and Jackie Phillips) was the last to be called Danny & The Avanties. Within a year’s time, this group recorded a record; what a whirlwind experience!
Danny & The Avanties was formed in a small southeast Missouri farming community, in the little bootheel town of Portageville, early spring of 1966. One of the members, Jim Bob Mullen was from Gideon, MO, a small town 15 miles west of Portageville. Those who had a hand in the formation of this band were Danny Faries (lead vocal), Tommy Binkley (keyboards), Henry Muse (bass guitar), Jim Bob Mullen (lead guitar) and Jackie Phillips (drums)…the final five.
60s: How would you describe the band’s sound? What bands influenced you?
JP: Danny had a mellow voice, so I would say that ballads and soft rock would best describe our sound. There were so many influences at that time, but the ones that stand out in my mind are Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Animals, and The Dave Clark Five. Of course, there were many others. After all, it was the 60s—the era of a musical explosion.
60s: What was the Portageville rock and roll scene like in the '60s?
JP: Like almost every other town and city in the U.S. at that time, kids were just crazy about anything to do with rock ‘n roll music…we couldn’t get enough! Guitars and amps were sold by the score, as well as drums and organs. Even one of our local furniture stores sold musical instruments. It was a great time to be alive and to experience this musical revolution. I was right in the middle of it and loved every minute!
60s: Where did the band typically play?
JP: As a beginning band, we played anywhere we could, but the majority of our performances were at civic functions, private and public parties, and school activities.
60s: Did you play any of the local teen clubs?
JP: We did not play at the teen clubs; however, there were several in the area: probably the most popular was Batman-a-Go-Go in Sikeston, MO, then The Psychedelic Comicbook in Poplar Bluff, MO. There were also others in Malden, MO; one that comes to mind particularly, is The Hut. In Hayti, MO, The Lion’s Club allowed bands to play even though it was not a teen club.
60s: How far was the band’s “touring” territory?
JP: With the exception of our appearance on television in Memphis, we played most of the time around the Portageville area.
60s: Did Danny & The Avanties participate in any battle of the bands?
JP: We played in one battle of the bands in Deering, MO, as Danny & The Avanties. Actually, I remember the name of only one other band—Doctor Dave & The Interns. I suppose I remember that one specifically, because we lost to them. But three of our band members got sweet revenge a year later. We competed against this band and others at another local battle of the bands event in Caruthersville, MO under a reorganized band named The Decisions. At this particular event, I will never forget the thrill when we beat Dr. Dave and The Interns--talk about a RUSH! We felt at the top of the world! In addition to beating them, we won the contest and went on to compete in the state competition in Sikeston, MO where we won second place. The event in Caruthersville, MO allowed three bands to place: first place—The Decisions; second place—Dr. Dave & The Interns; third place—The Roustabouts.
60s: Did Danny & The Avanties have a manager?
JP:Danny & The Avanties did not have a manager.
60s: What were the circumstances leading to the recording of 'My Son' b/w and 'Little Glass Jar' 45?
JP: Our lead singer, Danny Faries, had written some songs that we often sang on stage at our bookings. A couple of those are 'My Son' and 'Little Glass Jar.' We always received outstanding responses when we performed those songs. One day, Danny made a trip to Memphis, and when he returned, the news he shared with the rest of the band was absolutely mind-boggling! He told us that we had a recording date. We could hardly believe that this could even be possible. But this shocking truth became our new reality when Danny relayed his story. He had gone to Stax Studio (to this day, I don’t know how he decided on this studio.) While he was there, he talked to David Porter, who was the studio engineer, a songwriter, and a performer. David Porter and Isaac Hayes were the songwriting duo that penned the hit songs 'Hold On, I’m Comin'' and 'Soul Man' for the soul duo, Sam & Dave. They wrote for others as well. David Porter took care of everything for our recording experience—apparently he saw something about us that he liked.
60s: Where were the songs recorded?
JP: Although Danny & The Avanties had made a connection with Stax studio, we recorded at HI/Royal studio in Memphis. I don’t really know why the location was changed, but Danny Faries and David Porter (the engineer at Stax) set up the session for us. Can you just imagine?! Here we were…five small town guys, in a big city recording studio. And not only a large metropolis studio, but the one where the notable artist, Al Green, recorded as he became a celebrated musical artist. I felt overwhelmed, excited, nervous, and amazed that we were actually experiencing what so many only get to dream about. After playing through 'My Son' several times, we finally had a cut that met the standards and was good enough to hear on playback. I thought, "Wow! That can’t be us!" We continued with the session and while we were there, we also recorded 'Little Glass Jar.' That day and the happenings in that studio made an indelible etch on all of our lives…we will never forget the adventure and the excitement! It’s one of those moments in life that alters who you are and how you feel about yourself forever.
60s: Did Danny & The Avanties write many original songs?
JP: Yes, there were several original songs, primarily written by Danny Faries.
60s: Do any other ‘60’s Danny & The Avanties recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased tracks?
JP: No other recordings exist.
|60s: As you mentioned earlier, Danny & The Avanties evolved into The Decisions. Why the name change, and was there any change in personnel?
JP: For a VERY short time, there was another band formation between Danny & The Avanties and The Decisions. For only two bookings, Jim Bob Mullen, Tommy Binkley, Henry Muse, and Jackie Phillips were known as The Shades of Night. We were an instrumental group, but we soon discovered that our audiences preferred a group with a vocal feature…none of us sang lead. We were all accustomed to singing as background vocals. Since Danny had left the band, our first order of business was to find a singing replacement. Eddie Covey joined the band as a singer as well as a fine trumpet player. We decided to change the name of the band to The Decisions for a couple of reasons—the band’s style and the singing style had both changed and we did not think The Avanties was a good fit with the transition. Eddie was the only personnel change at that time.
After a few months, another change in personnel was made: Larry Jeffries replaced Henry Muse on bass guitar. This new grouping of young men in The Decisions (Eddie Covey, lead vocal and trumpet; Tommy Binkley, keyboards; Larry Jeffries, bass guitar; Jim Bob Mullen, lead guitar; and Jackie Phillips, drums) went on to win second place in the Missouri State Battle of the Bands in 1967, held in Sikeston, MO. In 1969, the final band known as The Decisions (what I like to call the "Second Generation Decisions") won first place in the Missouri State Battle of the Bands competition that was held in Dexter, Mo, I believe. From there, they went on to compete in the National Battle of the Bands in Raleigh, North Carolina. Those members were: a lead vocal (information and photo are unavailable at this time), Suzanne Mullen, keyboards and back-up vocal; Bill Cunningham, saxophone; Steve Bennett, trumpet; Jim Bob Mullen, lead guitar and back-up vocal; John Maddox, drums and back-up vocal; and Gary Blanchard, bass guitar and back-up vocal.
|60s: You are compiling a CD of recordings by The Decisions. Where were the songs recorded?
JP: We recorded in1968 in Kennett, MO. A local deejay had heard us, became interested in our band and invited us to record at his studio. It was located in the radio station where he worked, KBOA. Even though it was a nice set up, it was not a highly professional studio. At that time, the members of the band were as follows: Eddie Covey, lead vocal and trumpet; Jim Bob Mullen, lead guitar and back up vocal; Tommy Binkley, keyboard and back-up vocal; Gary Blanchard, bass guitar, back-up vocal, and duet vocal; and Jackie Phillips, drums.
60s: Why did The Decisions break up?
JP: The Decisions broke up in 1971 due to the natural growing up processes of life. I was not a member of the band at this time, but the experiences of being a part of the remarkable era of the '60s garage bands was outstanding. Like so many of my generation, I had the honor of serving in the military for our great country. It was a privilege to be a part of making footprints in the history of the United States of America as a serviceman in the United States Navy. I had left the band in August, 1968, and was out of the country by March, 1969 in service to our country—another life-shaping experience.
60s: What can you tell us about the book that you’re working on? Do you have a target publication date yet?
JP: My goal for this book is to compile a collection of events, successes, failures, tragedies and comedic happenings from the earliest days of The Avanties, to Danny & The Avanties, and ultimately The Decisions. As I have begun reminiscing, I am confident that these are stories that should be penned and shared with the public. This was a unique period of time in the lives of young men and I have a desire to put these experiences in print so that others can enjoy and even walk down their own memory lane. I do not have a target publication date at this time.
60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Danny & The Avanties and The Decisions?
JP: Here’s the best way I know to put it: A group of small town guys were transported into a world they had only seen on TV and in the movies. We rubbed elbows, as it were, with stars and soon-to-be stars of the music world. It’s hard to describe. I know that I would never trade those experiences for any amount of money. There were only a few of us who were fortunate enough to have been a part of the '60's music scene. This time of life lit a passion within me for music that has never been extinguished. Not everyone had the opportunity to do what we did---I feel really blessed! I guess I can still say just like the song says, "I Like That Old Time Rock ‘N Roll!"
*This is not in response to a question, but I feel compelled to share with you and your readers the event that changed my life in a much more drastic and dramatic fashion than even my experiences with the bands of the '60s or my service in the military. In 1975, I had a life-altering encounter of the spiritual kind. I relinquished control of my life and its direction and decisions to the new Lord of my life, Jesus Christ. As with any adventure, I am still learning, growing and making great effort each day to become more like Him and to reflect His nature in mine. And so I sign off of this interview as His humble servant. Thank you for this unexpected opportunity to share portions of my life that have molded the person I am today.
Jackie would like to thank Linda K. (Smith) Stevens for help with the interview, and Carladell (Dempsey) Phillips for help with the photos.
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