Rick's Continentals

Formed as The Continentals, Ray Vaughn’s teen rock & roll group would become Rick’s Continentals after Rick Spence joined the fold.  Spence was an experienced performer who added another dimension to the already established band.  With the assistance of manager Rip Choard, Rick’s Continentals would shortly thereafter score a top 100 Billboard hit with ‘Live It Up.’

For more on Rick's Continentals:
Web site 
Wiki
MySpace


An Interview With Ray Vaughn

60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Ray Vaughn (RV): I became interested in music at an early age. I began classical piano lessons at the age of eight and continued for five years. At 13, losing interest in the classical master’s music, I was drawn to the easy melodies and lyrics of rock & roll music and the stories the songs told. I began playing my mother’s guitar (my mother sang and played guitar and was particularly fond of country music and Hank Williams). My parents bought my first electric guitar and amp when I was 14 and I began learning from guitar music books and working out chord progressions trying to recreate the music I was hearing on the radio. At the age of 15, I began practicing with Stan Suire of The Continentals rock & roll band. We would get together two-three times a week and practice songs at his home. We were especially interested in playing instrumentals by The Ventures while working on our guitar skills. Soon, I was invited to join The Continentals band, which later became known as Rick’s Continentals. During the next five years, we played and performed together as a rock & roll band, traveling to do performances, live radio and TV shows, radio DJ talk shows, college fraternity parties, and recording records and promotional tracks and really having a fun time living the life of music we all heard on the radio and loved so much. We would frequently encounter other contemporary rock artist from the south like Paul Davis and his group (originally The Soul Survivors and later The Endless Chain), David & The Giants, John Fred and The Playboys, The Jagged Edge (Johnny Hozie’s band) and others.

The Continentals members were Stan Suire, lead guitar; Ray Vaughn, rhythm guitar and bass; Bob Minnis, bass guitar; Darrell Ross, drums; and Rick Spence, guitar and lead vocals.  Later members included Al Mayo, drums; Ray Hare, drums; and Glen Johnson, keyboard and lead vocals.

60s: How did you hook up with Rick Spence?  Were you familiar with him prior to his joining the band?
RV: Rick was introduced to us through our manager. We needed someone solid in the lead vocals department and Rick was this person. He was from New York and his father owned a radio network in that area.  Rick was an experienced DJ and had performed with The Kingsmen (pre-Lovin’ Spoonful) before they became well known and he also knew The Young Rascals.

60s: Was there any personnel other changes upon Rick's joining?
RV: No.  He was added to our group to complete the band.

The Continentals, prior to Rick Spence joining
60s: Once Rick joined and the band became “Rick's Continentals,” did the gigs become more frequent and larger?
RV: Yes, the gigs did become very consistent.  We were working usually two nights a week and began to travel to do bigger shows and much more radio and TV.

60s: What was Paul Davis' exact involvement with the band?
RV: Paul frequently visited us and listened to our music.  He shared his music that he was writing sometimes playing and singing his arrangements on piano at a local club to see what we thought and to ask for suggestions.  Paul was a good friend to all of us during those early years, between 1965-1970. He recorded with the band on our first two recordings (that would have been his earliest recordings) which were recorded at RAP Records in Meridian, Mississippi.

60s: What type of gigs did The Continentals typically play?
RV: Local teen events, large adult balls and private parties, concerts on radio and TV, college fraternity concerts, state fair concerts, music competitions (talent shows and band battles), KFC concerts.  We also performed at popular adult night clubs like The King of Klubs, The Vapors Club, Chalfon Club, and military entertainment concerts for the Enlisted, Officers and CPO Clubs. The local teen club in Meridian was the teen center and we played it frequently, especially during the first year. We were regular performers during our first year at our high school and at the local community teen center near our high school.

60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
RV: We traveled to Louisiana, the Florida panhandle, Alabama, Georgia and all over Mississippi and to Alabama. Our live performances were mostly in the Southeast.

60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
RV: We were much like The Beatles musically (lead guitar, rhythm, bass and drums). We played real basic music without any special effects or background fillers like we had later on. This was a time prior to synthesizers and strings that later became very popular in rock & roll music.  We were influenced by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Johnny Walker and Johnny Rivers, to name a few. After Rick Spence joined the band, our sound and music depth broadened as he brought a rich and powerful voice that could do almost anything including the rich baritone sound of The Righteous Bros.

60s: What was the Mississippi rock & roll scene like in the '60s?
RV: Rock & roll in Mississippi in the ‘60s was much like everywhere else. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones—of course anyone who was top 40 pop—was popular and the sound was emulated because of demand.

60s: How did you land the 1967 Junior Miss America Pageant gig? 
RV: This was probably our best and most memorable gig.  Our manager, Rick (Rip) Coard, was very successful in booking us on a regular basis and he was the inspiration and drive behind our band's success. He had a vision that led us to accomplish more than we could have dreamed.  We opened this show playing a set of songs including our hit smash ‘Live It Up’ to the cheers of the audience, both adults and teens.  The sound during this period was phenomenal using the classic Fender and Gibson instruments played through Peavey and Fender powered amps.

The band was very close and personally involved with Hartley Peavey (Peavey Electronics). After Hartley returned home from college with an electronics engineering degree and a vision to found the Peavey Amplifier and Electronics Company, Peavey personally built much of Rick’s Continentals’ first major equipment and was very connected to the band, inviting feedback and suggestions regarding the musicians’ needs. He made this same connection with others like Paul Davis and George Soule to name a few. You know the rest of the story. Hartley Peavey’s company became a major international music electronics giant from the hometown of Rick’s Continentals, Paul Davis, George Soule and yes, Jimmy Rogers, the father of country music.

60s: How did you hook up with Rip Coard?
RV: Rip discovered us at a local gig and asked to represent us.  We were begging for gigs at that time and after he took the management helm things started to happen—fast. He was extremely successful, had a very charismatic personality and was made for this kind of public relations and marketing work. Within a year he had negotiated our first recording contract, followed by another that produced our two hits in addition to laying out bookings for weeks in advance and a Southeastern marketing plan that took our band into Georgia and Florida.

60s: Did you think when you recorded ‘Live It Up’ that it would become such a sizable hit?
RV: No, I did not think that it would be as successful as it became. I remember working on the arrangement with Rick Spence and his commenting that he was inspired to compose Live It Up from the song ‘Look Out For The Cheater’ by Bob Kuban & The In-Men. The original recording took about 11 hours to complete in the studio. It was a lot of hard work trying to get the final cut complete and as near flawless as possible, especially with the recording technology of that period. But on stage, the song was awesome when performed by our group and we would get requests over and over to do it.  And it was also a real high listening to it play on radio broadcast when we were driving, especially on the request call-in shows.  Or dropping by the radio station and chatting with the DJ and doing a spontaneous on-air radio interview broadcast in between record plays.  An even better treat was hearing our songs played somewhere far away like WNOE or WLS or a station in Chattanooga or Nashville or Pensacola. And the autograph parties with girls, girls, girls wanting an autographed copy of the record. Great fun when you’re a 17 years old rock & roll star.

The song played extensively in the Northeast and became a regional hit in multiple places. This was in great part to DJ friends and to the father of Rick Spence, who owned a radio network with multiple stations in the New York area.

60s: Where did Rick's Continentals record?
RV: We recorded at RAP Records in Meridian. This label was owned by Robert Reetz and was one of the smaller record labels. It was like so many others that appeared around the country hoping to record great and undiscovered artists that could be marketed or sold to a major label.  So, the smaller labels were quick to sign new artists if you had something to record—especially if it sounded good.  We recorded 'Live It Up' and 'Cold Lonely Winter' followed by 'I Don't Know' and 'Who Are My Friends.' Paul Davis made his recording debut with Rick’s Continentals playing keyboard on two of the recordings at RAP Records recording studio.

60s: How many singles did Rick's Continentals release in total? 
RV: We released four songs and recorded several promotional tracks that were album length. The promotional tracks have all disappeared but we do have the original single tracks which were re-mastered by Eric Coard, Rip Coard’s son, in April 2009.

60s: Did Rick's Continentals write many original songs?
RV: Our band wrote the lyrics and arrangements for four songs that were scored and recorded. Rick Spence and Stan Suire along with Rip Coard did most of the work. 
George Soule added to a couple of the arrangements. George co-produced two of our songs and recorded on two of the arrangements.  He is a very talented artist and has written and produced several hit songs. Rick wrote some additional numbers that we worked with but they were never recorded or released.

60s: Per your Web site, "The group went on to produce several promotional recordings for marketing and distribution".  Can you please elaborate on what these recordings were?
RV: These recordings were our own original numbers and cover songs. They were sent to prospective booking agents for marketing purposes.

60s: Do any other Rick's Continentals recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased tracks?
RV: Four of the original sound track recordings still exist and they are full sound with no Dolby applied.  They have been kept by Sandy Reetz, wife of Bob Reetz who owned RAP Records. The re-mastered tracks are so fine that you can even hear the tambourine Rick is playing. As I mentioned earlier, they have all been re-mastered professionally and digitized to make our current sound tracks on our Web site.

60s: The band was apparently set to sign with Capitol Records but it never materialized.  Why?  Was the group very discouraged at the time that it never happened? 
RV: I’m not sure what happened with this as our producer and manager, Rip Coard, handled all these negotiations.  We were kept informed and were close. Negotiations with Capitol were on a positive and promising course. There was even a news story released in the local and state newspapers about the expected outcome of the recording contract that seemed sure to happen. But, it did not and the negotiations finally fell silent.  We never received the call or letter for the final meeting and formal signing of a contract with Capitol. This was a great disappointment to all members of the band and to our manager, Rip.

60s: What TV appearances did the band make? 
RV: We have been looking for video footage of the band. One very short and early 8mm film has been found without any sound from 1965 (the first gig) and can be seen on our Web site under the Movies section.  We made several TV promotional tapes in which we performed our ‘Live It Up’ hit. The Junior Miss Pageant was televised. None of the TV recordings have been found to date. The TV stations have changed their network affiliations and none of our material was retained.  As you know, during that time period, one did not receive a copy on DVD of finished work as we do today, and the video photographer or studio owned the footage. The recordings were done on high-end video cameras for broadcast and could only be viewed in that format. I believe there is some footage out there somewhere; we just haven't found it yet but will continue to look. I have an uncle who recorded several band performances and practice sessions on his home video recorder . He has been converting these old videos to DVD format but so far has not found any of the band video reels.  But, I am optimistic that one day he will find one.

60s: What year did the band break up?
RV:  The breakup was sometime in 1969. Bob Minnis moved, and Darrell Ross and Rick Spence went off to school at various colleges.  With band members displaced, we were unable to continue to perform our songs and reproduce the sound we were known for in our recordings.  The band split and I went to college.

60s: Did you join or form any bands after Rick's Continentals?
RV: I did not join another band. Our lead guitar Stan Suire and my cousin, Glen Johnson, continued to play and perform as musicians.  Stan and Glen formed a band known as The Park and recorded a couple of singles including one song written by David Huff (David and The Giants)  on the Malaco Records label.  Paul Davis, George Soule and David Huff (David & The Giants) were also
recording on this record label.  Stan and Glen toured for a couple of years in the south performing in some notable venues including BigBam shows in Alabama. Eventually one member joined a group called Wet Willie from Mobile, Alabama. That group enjoyed considerable popularity in the southeast and other parts of the country.

60s: What keeps you busy today?
RV: I am a healthcare consultant and hospital administrator. I do Internet articles
on healthcare administration, marketing and personnel management. I play at home and occasionally with others but not as much as I should or as much as I want to. During the past six months I have begun to play more and am working at writing some new arrangements.  I am also actively involved in producing contemporary Christian music videos today working with and highlighting music by artists like David Huff.

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Rick's Continentals?
RV: I loved it all.  It provided a very stimulating challenge for our group of teenagers working in the music industry often performing for a diverse audience and coming to grips with our new found notoriety.  I still have vivid memories of the band playing in concert on stage with the awesome sounds of the classic rock of the ‘60s, blowing by us through big Peavey and Fender amps, with the beautiful (and now classic) instruments that we played—Gibson, Hoffner and Hammond. These times together with the band members I now call my band of brothers, created a lifetime of memories. We lived and worked together for several years and literally became adopted by our band members’ families. These were awesome times that we love to remember.  During the past year, after learning of Rick Spence's death, and then a few weeks later of Paul Davis' death, bringing the band back together to relive our wonderful memories of our times together and sharing our feelings of mutual respect and admiration for each others’ contributions to the band and our accomplishments has become very important for me.  The group was successfully reunited in April 2009 in Meridian at Stan Suire’s home where we were joined by Eric and Rick Coard (Rip Coard's sons) for the occasion. We hope to continue reuniting every year. It was great seeing my old band buddies after all these years.  Stan still has his quick but serious humor, Darrel is always joking and having fun and Bob still has his big, friendly smile. The reunion was a success with a guitar cake to celebrate the Rick’s Continentals reunion along with Bob and Stan’s birthdays.

Rick's Continentals