Laymen
Phil Watlington played bass in Pensacola's popular rock and roll combo, The Laymen.  The Laymen were different from other local groups of the area due to their versatility.  Although they also played driving rock and roll, they excelled at harmony, love songs and smooth melodies, and this sound was captured perfectly on their lone 45 single.  Watlington's rock and roll career ended with The Laymen, but he went on to bigger and better ventures; he's currently an author of two non-fiction books, with his first fiction book due for release this year.     
The Laymen with Edie Adams
An Interview With Phil Watlington

60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Phil Watlington (PW): High school friends, Bob Hardwick (saxophone), whose father was a local Pensacola doctor (I believe veterinarian) and Bill Foster (drummer), asked me to come by one day as they were forming a band. I couldn’t play anything, but they needed a bass player. So, they encouraged me to play bass. Being young and unafraid of anything, I bought a dilapidated off-brand bass and started learning to play. This motley crew of folks became The Tikis (in 1962, Pensacola, Florida). We played for some parties and at the Navy base, Enlisted and NCO clubs, but Escambia High (where we attended school) would not let us play there because the principal was afraid we would play 'Louie Louie' – he felt the words would corrupt the students. Ha! Members of The Tikis were: Robert Foster (lead guitar)—you’ll see him pop up in several other groups over the years—Six Pack I believe was one. Bob Hardwick (sax); Bill Foster (drums); Larry West (trumpet); and me, Phil Watlington (bass). Since I was under-age, I would sneak into some of the clubs about town and watch the bands' bass player and talk to them about playing.


60s: Where and when was The Laymen formed?
PW: The Laymen were formed in late 1964 or early 1965 – I'm not sure exactly – in Pensacola, Florida.  The original Layman were: Guy Penney (vocals); Susie Storm (vocals, tambourine, percussion instruments); Forrest Higgins (lead guitar, harmonica, 12-string guitar); Jim Lagregen (drums); Bill Motley (keyboards and any other instrument needed); and me, Phil Watlington (bass, guitar). 

Motley also set up the microphones and electronic hookups each evening we played. He even experimented with echo effects before they came into common use. Sometimes he had wires running all over the stage. We didn’t know how he had us wired; we were just there to play music. If something short-circuited, he would fix it somehow and we were back in business. Forrest Higgins and I lived in a trailer just north of Pensacola Junior College while we attended college there and frequently had jam sessions – when the neighbors were gone. The Sandpipers (three middle school girls who had great harmony) did come and sing a few numbers with us occasionally. Everyone loved them – sweet harmony. Their mothers, I believe, managed them. They couldn’t travel at that time. They always brought their own PA system so they would sound just perfect. Occasionally, a black group from the Navy base would come and sing a few R&B numbers, as well. They always brought the house down with some Marvin Gaye and Four Tops sounds. Finally, Motley also seemed to love to play trumpet—and he was pretty good as I recall. He liked to play some of the “long-hair” stuff and made us play Slaughter on 10th Avenue, which gave him a chance to show off his trumpet skills.  

60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?

PW: We played a wide variety of rock and roll, with a focus on songs Guy and Suzie could do well – such as Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Sonny and Cher, Mamas and Papas, Righteous Brothers, Turtles, and Four Tops.  We felt we had a new sound, since R&B dominated the era for so long. Our sound was harmony, many love songs, smooth melodies – but we also played the driving stuff as well by The Kinks, Raiders, some James Brown.  The Blue Notes (Jimbo Turtle’s band) seemed to be our competition – although they were heavy into R&B, but many were starting to like the new sounds (Beatles, etc). They didn’t last long after we came on the scene, but it wasn’t our band that drove them away. Members moved on I believe. (Don Francisco, excellent drummer for the group, later played some gigs with us on the road.)  The Blue Notes had a driving R&B sound; they always opened with 'Night Train' by James Brown.
 
Three forces seem to have driven our (The Laymen) unique sound and popularity: (1) Guy Penney and Susie Storm sang great harmony; I don’t believe there was another band with a male/female vocal collaboration. Guy and Susie began singing together at Pensacola High School for assemblies and events. They sang commercials. And, with their near perfect harmony, they were popular and well liked. They sang and made comments that entertained audiences; (2) The electric piano added a unique sound to the group. Most groups used electric organs, which The Laymen latter switched to; (3) Bill Motley (keyboards and various other assorted instruments he could play) developed the groups “reverb” system sound himself from tape recorders. As many others have remarked, Motley was a great musician and an electronics whiz kid. He was able to figure out just about any kind of song by just listening to it, although he could read music (and write music) as well. If any of us were having difficulty getting our part of a song correctly, he would step in and tell us the notes. On some songs that needed brass parts, he would show Susie the keyboard part, freeing himself up to play trumpet. Forrest Higgins also played harmonica and guitar at the same time on songs with harmonica segments in them. He wore a headpiece that held the harmonica so he could play guitar at the same time. He also played the 12-string guitar on numbers needing it. We all sang backup and some individual numbers, but Forrest and Bill were the key backup drivers for Susie and Guy. And, yes Susie’s voice was a driving force in our sound, as well. She was also a great looking lady that wore some sexy outfits that caught the attention of many. And, did I fail to mention that she played a mean tambourine, and other percussion devices as needed in some songs? All these elements made up our unique and versatile sound and defined the band and its sound!   

60s: What was the Pensacola rock and roll scene like in the '60s?
PW:
 Dances were held at the Armory, Firemen’s Hall, high schools, and the Beacon (the city of Pensacola ran it) for high school/college students. Everyone was into the music of the time. It was a defining time in history for music—we just didn’t realize it. For many of us, we needed money to go to school or spending money.

60s: Where did the band typically play?
PW: Pensacola High, Navy base (Enlisted, NCO, occasionally Officers club), Elgin Air Force Base, University of Alabama, Univ. of Florida, Florida State, Auburn, country club events, wedding parties, proms for schools around the region, couple colleges in Mobile, several venues on Pensacola Beach—I can’t remember names. We played a lot out of town.

The Beacon was the only teen club I remember. We played at Pensacola Beach – night clubs/teen clubs. The Beacon served some great punch (after we spiked it).

60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
PW: Northwest Florida, South Alabama, Georgia, and the North Florida region. We played a long-term gig in Panama City, Florida at the Old Dutch Inn just after Roy Orbison’s band played there. They were staying in Panama City while Roy Orbison was in rehab for drinking. We played a couple other week or two gigs in Alabama (Phenix City).

60s: Did The Laymen participate in any battle of the bands?
PW: A band called The Phaetons” came on the scene specializing in Beatles' harmony – and they were good at it. They tried to have the look and sound – and on many songs, they sounded exactly like them; on 'Michelle' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' for example. They lived in North Pensacola and one of their parents turned an outside building on their property into a studio for their practice facility. For the first battle of the bands, I think we were both winners – they for their specialty Beatles music and The Laymen for their variety of rock and roll and the male/female songs Guy Penney and Susie Storm could do.

60s: Did The Laymen have a manager?
PW: Not at first but later we did. I don’t remember his name. He worked at the Navy Yard. He got us into matching uniforms and sportcoats. He collected funds and paid us. I believe he was a man of integrity.

60s: What were the circumstances leading to the band's opportunity to record?

PW: Primarily Guy Penney and Forest Higgins wrote songs and wanted to try them out. We played them a lot at dances, etc. People learned we did them and actually asked for them – both 'Come My Way' and 'It's Not The Place Or The Time.'


60s: Where did The Laymen record?
PW: Out recording session was in Birmingham, Alabama. Forrest Higgins set up the recording session and funded it. The record was relatively popular in Northwest Florida. 'Come My Way' was more popular than 'It's Not The Place Or The Time.” I have a record left if I can find it.  At the recording session, we had to record several times since there was a noise coming through. We later found that it was the foot pedal on Bill Motley’s electric piano. I also played a couple of bad notes, which you can hear if you listen closely. The folks at the recording studio were impressed at Susie Storm’s ability to do backup parts in different harmonic ranges. We sold a few at performances. It got some playing time in Northwest Florida; not sure about outside that area.

60s: Do any other '60's Laymen recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased tracks?
PW: I am trying to find my last copy of the record, but don’t know if there are others.  Bill Motley, our electronics whiz kids, rigged up recordings for many of our performances. I have one he gave me on an old (I believe 8-track reel).

60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances? Does any home movie film footage exist of the band?
PW:  We did have interviews by local radio stations, but I don’t recall being on TV.

60s: What year and why did the band break up?
PW: Several of us had completed Pensacola Junior College and it was time to continue our lives in other directions (some of us at least). I headed for the University of Missouri in Kansas City to study Business Management (later earning an MBA Degree in Finance). I later served in the USMC when my number was drawn. I think I was one of a handful of Marines back then on the base with Masters Degrees. (And, the drill sergeants hated us educated folks.) Jim Lagregan (drummer) headed for college as well (I don’t remember where) and later went into Naval Aviation (back in Pensacola). Guy Penney I believe went to school—I don’t remember details. Guy was a great golfer—I believe he got a scholarship in golf to go to college. Bill Motley stayed in Pensacola and continued to do some performances with others and also began doing heating and air-conditioning repair work, primarily at the beach. Where he learned it no one knows. We think he just learned it on his own because he needed money. His office was at a bar on Pensacola Beach and if you called his number the bar tender would call him to the phone, or take a message. I do not remember the name of the bar and don’t know what kind of arrangement he had with them. Forest Higgins also went to work at the Westinghouse Plant in Pensacola, but his love for music pulled him away. He still plays today and has been with a tour band for some years, I believe. I don’t recall the year, but one year when I went back to Pensacola to visit the guys, Motley had gotten married, bought a home, and appeared to be settling into a family life. About two weeks after I returned to Kansas City I got a call that he and his wife died when their home burned down. I have many fond memories of Bill – perhaps a book’s worth. He was in many ways the leader of The Laymen and the person that made everything work.

60s: Did you join or form any bands after The Laymen?
PW: No, I sold my bass while at the University of Missouri and never looked back, except to say what a great way to get through junior college by playing in a band. Those who have known me over the years cannot imagine that I ever played in a band because I worked in finance and accounting – not a field typically flushed with rock and roll performers.

60s: What keeps you busy today?
PW: I did not perform any after The Laymen. I went on to get an MBA degree in Finance & Accounting and worked for several large corporations, the last being the General Electric Company for 17 years (last nine years in Global Finance). I have been in many areas from beginning as an accountant to CFO and Board of Directors; so I don’t regret my choices at all. Through it all, I’ve continued to love the '60s music and I play it every day on Sirius radio. I am retiring on April 11, 2010 (this year), and will continue to teach and write. In recent years I have begun teaching finance, strategy, innovation, and management courses through the University of Phoenix to undergraduate and graduate students. I now have two non-fiction books published: The World Is at Your Door (2006) and my latest book, The Rise of Powerful, Influential, and Caring Women (Dec, 2009, Infinity Publishers). These are available on Amazon.com and from the publisher (Infinity Publishers) at www.bbotw.com, or on my Web site. My book for this year will be fiction: One Step From Heaven, Two From Hell. It is a story of greed with many life lessons. Be watching. My wife retired early from teaching and she is one of my editors for writing since she has a Masters Degree in English and Writing.   

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Laymen?

PW: I didn’t consider it work because it was fun and in some ways like a continual party/celebration. Those who came to hear us play were always in a great mood because they came to have fun. I also remember how talented the guys and Susie were who were in the band. We made money for school and spending funds by working just on weekends. The pay was good in terms of the times then. I was the poor member of the band, as in no livelihood except part-time jobs and band earnings to pay tuition at PJC (Pensacola Junior College), but I was rich in spirit. None of us every thought about who was what. Music was our common thread. It was a great time to be a young person and be able to play in a band. It was the age of innocence.  We just didn’t know it.