Esquires

Just pure "magic" is how I describe the whole Esquires experience.  Whether you call it fate, or dumb luck, one thing is for sure and that is that we had the extremely good fortune to assemble one of the finest groups of very talented musicians who gelled perfectly, not only musically, but personally with just the right chemistry, to produce one of the Cincinnati-areas finest garage rock bands of the '60s.  It was truly a remarkable time as rock and roll was growing out of its infancy in the '50s into its more refined and polished sound of the '60s; and it is that sound which is typically remembered, and most commonly referred to by most as "rock and roll."  For The Esquires to have even been a small part of this historical musical phenomena of the '60s is still thrilling for us to think about today as we reminisce about these best of times so long ago.


The Esquires
Ted Divo Recalls The Esquires

Before I even owned, or could play a guitar, and before The Esquires were even a figment of my wildest imagination, I was just about ready to graduate from the eighth grade in 1958 when Allen Freed came to town, to the Cincinnati Gardens, with his show, Big Beat.  Back in the day before these performers (who are now all rock icons) were still trying to gain prominence, and they’d probably worked for practically nothing, there were many artists on the bill.  At this particular concert, for the whopping sum of three dollars, I got to see the likes of Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, The Diamonds, Danny & The Juniors and many others.  It was the best money I ever spent in my entire life.  The experience planted a seed in me and gave me the desire to save some money, buy a guitar and try to become a musician who would some day perform like them.  While I never came anywhere close to attaining their level of accomplishment, I had a blast trying, and so did the rest of The Esquires.

After having taken guitar lessions for about three years, practicing every spare moment, and while a junior in high school in 1961, I decided I would form a rock band.  With the help of my good friend and classmate Steve Wolf, we recruited our very talented, wild, and flamboyant drummer, Bobby Simpson.  Needing to complete the sound we were looking for, I recruited another good friend and neighbor of mine, Ron Herbers.  We then added Wes Glines on sax, who was the son of a man I worked for at the time at WLW Radio &TV.  We practiced in my basement and, yes sometimes in my garage too, qualifying us as a genuine '60s garage band. 

The Esquires consisted of Ted Divo, lead guitar (Fender Stratocaster & Fender Jaguar); Steve Wolf, rhythm guitar (Ibanez); Ron Herbers, rhythm/bass (Gibson); Wes Glilnes, Tenor Saxophone; and Bobby Simpson, drums (Ludwig & Slingerland, and anything that could be hit with a drumstick).  Our amplification included Fender, Gibson, and Ampeg (reverb).

We wore white tux-like sport coats complete with black velvet collars, pocket trim and ties.  It was pretty classy for the day, or so we thought!  We also had cool black sweatshirts with the Esquires name and emblem on the front for our more laid back and casual performances.


Our cards incorporated the Esquires emblem, which was also used on our apparel.  We did not design the emblem ourselves, but rather I found it for sale in a clothing store.  We have no idea what it represented or who actually designed it originally, or whether it had any musical association whatsoever.  We all really liked it, however, and as they say the rest is history.


Our group never attempted to develop its own unique sound because we thought it was more important at the time, and it was our goal, to perform the hits just like we heard them on the record and radio station—or as close as possible—so that when we played our gigs the audiences could not noticeably detect a difference between our version and the record played on the air.  With a lot of practice and attention to detail, we "covered" the hit records pretty well.  With the exception of a few songs that relied heavily on vocals that we could not duplicate, we actually did a very admirable job of sounding almost just like the hit records that aired on the radio.  The credit for this goes largely to Rick Coghill, a Cincinnati musician and guitar player extraordinaire, who was my guitar teacher and mentor.  I would give him a record that the group wanted to learn, and by ear he would write down the music, including the melody, chords and the key.  I would then take the music back to the group and we would practice, practice, and practice some more until we got it right.  Did I say practice?

I dreamed up the Esquires name as a result of a desire to associate some professionalism with the band.  At that time, most attorneys used the title Esquire (Esq.) after their name when signing a letter and I thought this name would give us a degree of distinction by name association.   Since none of us had heard of any other group using this name, we gave birth to "The Esquires".


We had too many gigs to mention (them all), but many fun times with a great band!:

  • Cheviot K of C Hall
  • Little Miami High School Dances
  • University of Cincinnati Student Union IBM Party
  • Lebanon Roller Rink (regular gig)
  • Mariemont High School (regular gig)
  • Greenhills American Legion Hall (regular gig)
  • Regina High School Senior Class Play Party 1964
  • Max Gentry Shops’ Battle of The Bands (The Esquires won!)
  • G. C. Murphy Employee Christmas Party (Swifton Shopping Center)
  • Whisky A-Go-Go (Downtown Cincinnati)
  • Pool Party at Cumberland Falls Motel, Kentucky

The Esquires perform at a Cumberland Hotel (Kentucky) pool party.
Dusty Rhodes

The Esquires had a very good relationship with WSAI, the hottest Radio Station in Cincinnati at the time and the giant of rock and roll music.  The WSAI deejays would play records during our breaks at many of our gigs which the deejays had  plugged on the air so we got to know them pretty well.  The deejays were Steve Kirk, Ron Britain, "Skinny" Bob Harper, Paul Purtan, and the legendary Dusty Rhodes (Dusty was our friend and mentor.  He was also one of the "Good Guys" sponsoring the Beatles' Cincinnati appearance during their first American tour.  In 1965 he was named Billboard's "Most Popular DJ" in Cincinnati and was later inducted into Ohio's Radio and TV Broadcasters Hall Of Fame in 2001). On a cold day in January 1966, I received a call from WSAI explaining that Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, who were in Cincinnati for a performance at Music Hall the next day on Sunday, January 16, were in their downtown Cincinnati hotel room.   Bob Gaudio, one of The Four Seasons, was in the midst of writing a song that just came to him out of the blue, and he had requested WSAI to see if they could arrange to get him an electric piano promptly so that he could write down the music which was in his head before he forgot it; he needed an electric piano in order to do what he needed to do.

I quickly gathered the band and we hurried downtown with an electric piano where we personally met with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons for about 15 minutes.  We were all just punk kids, and this was huge for us!  We were all so awe struck by meeting them as fans that we did not even have the presence of mind to attempt to get a photo with them, tickets to their performance, or to even ask Mr. Gaudio if he had a name yet for the song that he was in the process of writing down.  And to this day, we have no idea of whether this song that he was writing, while using our electric piano, was ever recorded.  We like to think that it was, and that it was one of their big hits, written while using our electric piano, and that The Esquires played a small part in helping make it happen.  This is our belief!  That's our story!! And we’re sticking to it!!!


The most famous artist that we backed up was probably the up and coming singer and songwriter Kenny Price of local Midwestern Hayride fame, who in later years would go on to star in the nationally syndicated Hee Haw TV show and who would record for RCA Victor and other labels, charting many records and having a #7 on the "Hot Country Hit Charts" with 'Walking On New Grass'.  Another equally famous artist was Bonnie Lou, who was also a performer on our local WLWT Channel 5 Television in Cincinnati (where I worked as a co-op student).  Several years earlier, Bonnie Lou had already recorded her own huge country crossover hit record with ‘Daddy-O’.  During our time as The Esquires, both Kenny and Bonnie would occasionally appear at benefits or concerts which we played, and on those occasions they asked us to provide instrumental backup for them, as their musicians did not travel around with them to their performances.

Other musicians who appeared occasionally with The Esquires included: Bill Kramer, a friend of Ted who occasionally played bass for Lonnie Mack around the tri-state area in the 1960 timeframe; Doug Rhodda, a friend of Wes who played the electric piano and guitar; Rod Bryan, another friend of Ted who played guitar and was quite a musician; and Gary, a friend of Steve, who also played electric piano and was our business manager for a short time near the end of the group.

Somewhere along the way we decided that we were going to "cut a record" as our beginning step to stardom, and we did--but it did not turn out well at all, and it was actually so bad that I did not even keep the master.  The local up and coming country artist Kenny Price, who we appeared with occasionally at some of our gigs, had a recording studio about one hour from Cincinnati in Burlington, Kentucky at the time and we scraped up just enough money to purchase one half hour of studio time.  We recorded a song that I had written and one that we had not even practiced much at all.  I can't even remember what it was now.  That pretty much speaks to how good it was, and how well we performed it!  We did not use any backup professional studio musicians, synthesizer or any other type of electronic enhancement as we were trying to keep the cost down to a bare minimum since none of us had any money at the time, and we didn't think we needed it.  I don't know what I was thinking?  The result was disastrous, the record was horrible, and I was so disappointed and embarrassed that we produced such an inferior record that I threw it away.  I had always intended to try to record again someday when we could afford to do it right, with all the bells and whistles, but the right opportunity just never presented itself.  How many times have you heard that story before?


The Esquires and WSAI deejay Bob Harper.

A few of our favorite songs back then that we hit pretty hard:

  • Walk Don’t Run/Perfidia – The Ventures
  • Memphis/Down In The Dumps – Lonnie Mack
  • Sleep Walk – Santo & Johnny
  • Twist & Shout – Isley Brothers
  • Louie, Louie – The Kingsmen
  • Money – Barret Strong
  • Finger Poppin Time – Hank Ballard & Midnighters
  • Twist – Chubby Checker
  • Surfin’ USA – The Beach Boys
  • Wipe Out – The Sufaris
  • I’ve Had It – The Bell Notes
  • Long Tall Sally – Little Richard
  • Blue Moon – The Marcels
  • Wild Weekend – The Rockin’ Rebels
  • Baby What you Want Me To Do – Jimmy Reed
  • Johnny B Goode, Roll Over Beethoven – Chuck Berry
  • Honky Tonk – Bill Doggett
  • First Love, First Tears, 40 Miles Of Bad Road – Duane Eddy
  • Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly
  • Hide Away, San Ho Zay – Freddie King
  • Hi Heel Sneakers – Tommy Tucker
  • The Watusi – The Vibrations 

NOTE:  We had about 100 songs that we could draw from at any one time, but we always took great pride in playing the most current (as well as very recent) Top 40 Billboard hits.


The Esquires and WSAI deejay Steve Kirk.

Just as with many of the '60s garage bands, despite our efforts to keep the group together, The Esquires started to splinter and unravel late in 1966 as a result of pending marriages, "real" jobs, and other business and family obligations. It fractured after experimentation focusing on additional singers without all of the original band members.  As the saying goes, all good things come to an end.  Nonetheless, the original members of the group are all very proud of their participation in The Esquires for those precious few years, and we are all still very good friends and communicate with each other to this day--all with the exception of Bobby Simpson, our beloved drummer who, unfortunately for us, has joined a much more talented group and is now playing in God's "All-Star Band" (causing quite a sensation I am sure).

This biography is dedicated to our drummer, and our Friend for Eternity, Bobby Simpson.  We would all give everything we own to bring you back.  You are still with us in spirit, and we will see you again someday, Bobby!  Keep hitting those sticks on those Zildjain symbols!


The Esquires at Max Gentry Shops' Battle of the Bands.