By Jim L. García
Jim L. García, the Baby
I was born in Santa Clara, Cuba, but while still a pre-teen, my mother and I moved to Havana, Cuba. My mother was at the time divorced and lived with her parents. We shared a two bedroom apartment with no running water. Water had to be pumped in by a pump installed by my grandfather. Obviously, the apartment did not have either central heat (not needed in Cuba) nor air conditioner (do required in Cuba). Also, since there was no water heater, we had to heat up water in the stove in order to mix it with the cold water so we could take warm baths. We had no phone line at the time, and no television until much later. However, for some reason, I cannot say that I had an unhappy childhood. Actually, those years were very happy since I had friends about my age and we played ball, and also played music.
My first adventure in music was “drumming” by banging on the wooden doors of a hallway in a public place in the neighborhood. My first companions were a nice African American by the name of Juanito (“Johnny”) and another little guy whose name I cannot recall. We just had a great time just banging on the doors and pretending we were as good as the bands of the time we heard on the radio. Actually, we were pretty pitiful. At times, I frequented a shoe-repair/shine shop in the neighborhood who was full of music-lover folks. Most if not all, were African American and they were constantly talking about music and banging on any leather surface they could find. One of my favorites was a big black guy by the name of Mario who was one of the nicest guys you ever wanted to meet. His sense of music was awesome and his tempo in banging on leather surfaces, was incredible. I would have to say that I first learned how to play bongos and conga drums from Mario.
Also at the time, there was a black guy by the name of Miguelito (“Little Michael”) who fancied himself as a band leader. The funny thing was that he would tell us that he was not “black” but that he really was “Mexican”. At that time, I had never seen a Mexican, so I believed Miguelito. Miguelito got me and other guys together in a band called “Miguelito’s All Stars” and I was the conga player. Another black kid played the bongos, and a white guy with a gold tooth and real thick and heavy black hair was the upright bass player. I believed we had a piano player but I cannot recall who that was. Actually, Miguelito did not sing or play an instrument, but he was the “director” of the band. I don’t think we played any actual gigs but I do recall practicing and tuning the conga drums leather with a lantern flame (at that time, only pro musicians could afford conga and bongo drums which had the gear to tune them. The rest of us had to straighten out the leather with lantern flames, a very customary way of doing things at that time.
Jim Playing Congas at Miriam Taboa’s 15th
Birthday Party in Havana, Cuba
After a while, I moved to a better part of Havana to live with my godmother who did not have any children and she really wished I was her son. She was very sweet to me. My father, who was remarried by that time, lived in an apartment next door with his wife and my half-sister, Sonia. My father was a very creative person - he had been an excellent basketball player in his youth. In fact, he and his twin brother were in the Cuban Olympic basketball team that was held in the Dominican Republic around the 1940s. He could also sing very well, he wrote poetry, and was a “man’s man”. I remember hanging around my Dad sometimes in a bar with his friends, or at a baseball game in which he was usually the 4th batter, and was proud of how much he was admired by his friends. Unfortunately, my Dad was also a womanizer and somewhat of a drinker and that created some problems for him, and for the rest of the family, including me.
When living with my godmother, my musical activity was limited to taking out some pots and pans and believing they were drums, I beat the hell out of them in sync with whatever was being played in the radio. My step mother thought I was not only crazy but she also thought that banging pots and pans to the rhythm of salsa music, was below a white person’s status. She thought that only the blacks, should engage in that type of music. My stepmother was not a racist but she really did not care much for people who were not white - and at the time in Cuba, there were only two types: you were either white, or you were black - although there were a number of mulattos (mixed race) and quite a few Asians (mostly Chinese).
Me, and the guitar.
I did not pick up a guitar until I was about 14-15 years of age. As it turned out, one of my mom’s relatives, actually, a cousin of my mother who everyone called “China” since she was a beautiful women with some Asian features (although she did not have any Asian blood), had started taking guitar lessons with an instructor whose nickname was “Rabo de Nube” (meaning “cloud tail”). The nickname, who no one said in front of him, was because he sported a hair do which look like a cloud with a tail behind.
I did not own a guitar and I did not think my other could afford one. So, one of my other relatives, Divaldo, who was married to another one of my mom’s relatives, loaned me an old guitar. This guitar was a solid body guitar but was not an electric guitar. The sound was not bad, but it was old and not very good. The distance between the strings and the neck was so large that trying to play bar chords was almost impossible. I then started taking lessons with Rabo de Nube and before long, I was playing songs all by myself. Of course, most of the songs I played were very simple and usually the 3-4 chord type.
I persisted in continued to play the guitar and even after I stopped taking lessons, I had learned sufficiently by then, that I started improvising on my own. I remember at the time that I came across a book by Mel Bay, that had a bunch of guitar chords and I poured over that book like it was a rare find. At the time, you had to learn to play by whatever means you could since there were not much instructional materials available. At the time, I played mostly Cuban tunes. However, American music was popular in Cuba, especially with the teenagers and we could listen to the Key West and Miami radio stations late at night. Also, there was a Cuban radio station (Radio Suaritos) that played only American music. I listen to this station, all the time. So, with the help of Mel Bay, and the American tunes on the radio from the US, I started learning to play some American music in the guitar. This must have been around the time that rock and roll was staring I the mid 1050s since I remember listening to Bill Haley and the Comets, and Elvis, among others. Also, believe it or not, one of my favorite singers was Doris Day.
1959 - Leave Cuba for Good.
On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro took over Cuba. While my family was not exactly opposed to Castro, they did not like Castro all that much and were somewhat fearful of what was to come. Therefore, my mother made arrangements for me to leave Cuba to attend school in the United States. While I had only visited Miami but never actually lived in the US before, I had a good, if not overly fluent of the English language. My mother had always insisted that I had to learn English and even hired a Jamaican lady tutor to teach me. Also, during my years in Cuba, for a couple of years I attended a private school (The Phillips School) that conducted the morning sessions in English and the afternoon sessions in Spanish. Therefore, when I first came to “stay” in the US, my English, although not perfect, was quite good. I had no problems in communicating with native speakers.
Jim returns to GMC in early 2000s when visiting
his son Jim, Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia
My first stop in the US was to enroll at Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Ga., which my mother and my godmother were able to raise the funds to send me there. While at GMC, I developed some very good friendships with other Cuban guys who were attending but also with other guys from Georgia and other parts of the US. One of the guys I met there was a gray-eyed Salvadoran, Hugo, whose last name I cannot recall. He had been in the US for a while and had a passion for American music. He loved Elvis and I recall that he and I developed a good friendship with me playing the guitar and he singing songs such as “Don’t be cruel”, etc. etc. Also, I met another guy at GMC who was from Pensacola, Fla. The guy, whose name is Hugh Lamb and I found recently through Facebook, was also a good singer and he loved to sing a song called “A white sports coat and a pink carnation”. I was always the guitar player and tried to learn every tune these guys wanted to sing, For a very short time, I was asked by a group by the name of The Hi Fi’s to play with them. However, they wanted me to play the conga drum in some of the group’s Latin tunes. The group was composed of a piano player, a sax player, a drummer, and the bass player who was the leader of the group. By the way, at that time, there were no things such as an electric bass, and all bass players played the straight up bass.
My time with The Hi Fi’s did not last long since they mostly play jazz tunes and that was even before the real breakthrough of rock and roll. I had to date those years, I would say it was around 1959.
University of Florida - 1959:
After my stay at GMC I decided to attend the University of Florida at Gainesville. Frankly, I did not have any idea of where I wanted to attend college and I had applied and accepted by other schools such as University of Alabama, Auburn University, Tulane, etc. The only reason I decided to attend University of Florida was because one of my buddies from GMC were going there and told me it was a good party school. My mother also encouraged me to attend the University of Florida because the buildings were covered with ivy. Don’t know what my mother was thinking, but I enrolled at the University of Florida in the Fall of 1959.
When I enrolled at UF I recall that somehow I had either acquired a guitar or borrowed a guitar and that somehow, I also had a conga drum that I had no idea where it came from. The guitar I had was a decent Spanish guitar with nylon strings. I should mention that at this time I did not us a pick to play the guitar, I had originally learned by plucking the strings with the fingers, Spanish-style, and had never used a pick in my life.
Jim playing bongoes with The Panamericans.
Next to him, in white dress, is Vivian Holt.
For the first year or so, my musical activities at the University of Florida were limited and I did not have much participation in any musical groups. However, on or about that time, I met a Cuban guy by the name of Carlos Piedra who had a passion for chorus such as Percy Faith, Mitch Miller, etc. and was trying to organize some “folk” group. Carlos played a decent piano and we started getting together and playing. Sometimes I accompanied him on the guitar and sometimes on the conga drum. Finally, Carlos recruited another members of a folk group who became “The Panamericans”. The other members of the group were Vivian Holt and Barbara Nichols, both American students at the UF and two other Cuban guys, Ahmed Rodriguez and Manolo Alvarez. Vivian Holt and I became very close and that was one of my first romantic relationships in the US. Carlos started by being the leader and arranger of the group and for some reason, I became the lead singer for most of the American tunes we played. One of the most memorable tunes as I recall, was Tom Dooley, which was popularized at the time by The Kingston Trio.
The Panamericans began playing at parties, functions, etc., but our biggest event was a performance at the Gator Growl. I wish I could remember the year, but frankly, it escapes me and some of the materials I have kept from those days, are not dated. As I remember, we had to do rehearsal for the Gator Growl and when we did the rehearsal at the Florida Stadium, the sound was pitiful. We did not have any amplification and I don’t think anyone could hear us a foot away. However, as I recall another group, a black do-wop group that was performing told us that the only way to perform was to record our numbers and then lip-sync at the actual performance. Armed with this information we requested to be recorded at the University’s radio station and we performed at the stadium, they sound could be heard over the loudspeakers. We sounded good and we were different. I remember getting a lot of “attaboys” from people.
Interestingly, at the time, we met a guy by the name of Bob Norris, who happened to be a disc jockey for WUWU, a local Gainesville station and record store owner. For some reason, Bob liked our group and he became our “manager”. With Bob, and his radio station contacts, we were able to travel to a studio in Tampa and record a number of songs. Some of those songs were recorded on a reel-to-reel tape and later on, Ahmed had the tape transferred to a vinyl 78 rpm record. Since then, I transferred the recording into a CD but the sound is poor.
For some reason or another, we did not stay for long with The Panamericans. Just as soon as the group was formed, the group was disbanded and my musical activities came to a halt, except that I continued to play music with others. For example, at the time, there was a student at UF whom everyone called “El Chivo” (the goat) who was from Venezuela. El Chivo was a terrific piano player and was in love with the music of Perez Prado. I remember a number of times getting together with El Chivo and playing Perez Prado’s tunes either in the guitar or the conga, most of the times, the conga.
Jim Turns Redneck:
Jimmy Tutten and The Rockets, 1962.
Some time after the Panamericans, I had flunked out of school and had gone to work at the Plant Pathology Lab. The job was working on a plant nursery that was miles outside of town and the work was extremely boring as I had no interest in plants. My boss was a nice man who was very interested in the production of peppers and I was in charge of watering, re-potting plants and doing all other things involved in the experimentation of pepper plants without really knowing what the hell I was doing. While working at the Plant Pathology Lab, I happened to meet a young man by the name of Jimmy Tutten. Tutten fancied himself a musician and he even had a little group that played the 3- chord tunes - mostly rockabilly. For some reason, and despite the differences in culture, background, etc. between me and Jimmy Tutten, we became real good friends and after he heard me playing guitar one time, he invited me to join his group as the lead guitar player. However, I did not have an electric guitar. But, as far as Tutten was concerned, that was not a problem because he saddled me immediately with an old Kay electric guitar. As I recall, at the time, I still was playing with my fingers and had never used a pick. However, I soon learned that in order to play an electric guitar with steel strings and do the heavy strumming of rock-a- billy tunes, I need to use a pick. So, I got myself a thumb pick and started using that thumb pick to play the guitar.
The group which was called Jimmy Tutten and the Rockets consisted of Jimmy Tutten as rhythm guitar and lead singer with a skinny guy playing bass and a curly short guy playing the drums. I was the lead guitar player since I knew more chords than Jimmy Tutten who was limited to the 3 chords: A, B, and E. However, to his credit, I started to move Jimmy and the group to more complicated progressions and we finally played with some success tunes such as “Walk Don’t Run” popularized by The Ventures. Clearly, we were not The Ventures and our amplification was not as good as the other bands who had much better equipment. We did not even have a PA system. We used one old microphone plugged into one of the guitar amplifiers. However, we were able to maintain a decent beat and played some good tunes.
Jimmy and His First Fender Stratocaster -
Gainesville, Fla. Early 1960s
It was fun playing with Jimmy Tutten, and actually, we became real good friends. I was single at the time, and Jimmy’s young sister developed a crush on me. She was real cute, but because of my friendship with Jimmy, I did not make a move on her.
While playing in Tutten’s band, I first learned how to use a pick. Before Tutten, my playing was mostly finger-style, like Spanish guitar players. However, when playing an electric guitar with steel strings and the need for the loud strumming, I was forced to use a pick for the first time. The first pick I used was a “thumb pick”. However, this limited my speed and gradually I got used to playing with a regular pick.
The Uniques/The Big Beats
The Big Beats Playing at Dub’s.
Gainesville, Fla. 1960s
While playing with Tutten and the Rockets was somewhat fun, it was not very productive or challenging. Most of the tunes we played were the three-chord, Jimmy Reed style, and very song sounded like “Honky Tonk.” But, somehow, while playing with Tutten, I met a guy by the name of Brian Grigsby. Brian was a sax player who impressed me with his talent. I believe that Brian was then playing with a band called “The Madhatters” with another guy named David Webb. David was the lead guitar player and singer. I really cannot recall the rest of the members of that band. As the Rockets slowly disbanded, I was asked by Brian to sit in with his band and since I was a more skilled guitar player than David Webb, I became the lead guitar player. From there on, the band became known as “The Uniques” and “The Big Beats”. By that time, we had acquired a drummer by the name of Ed Mayton. Mayton was a real “show boat” and a heavy beer drinker. As I remember, Brian and Ed never got along well. I think that Brian simply tolerated Ed because there did not seem to be another drummer around.
The Big Beats was initially composed of Ed Mayton on drums and vocals, Dave Webb, rhythm guitar and vocals, Brian Grigsby, sax, Jim Call, bass, and Jim García on lead guitar. Although that was the main personnel, there were changes from time to time, especially on the bass. At one time, we had a guy by the name of Rod Wink, who was a tall redheaded redneck playing bass (he was actually rather good), a so-called classic guitar player whose name I cannot recall, and one of Brian’s friend, Ron Halverson, who was not a very good bass player. For a while we also had a trumpet player by the name of Vince McGuinnes. Vince was an excellent trumpet player and despite his goofy looks, he was a real hell raiser. Vince and Brian on the metals made a very good sound and believe it or not, I think we were precursors to Chicago who became on the scene many years after that.
One of the biggest things about playing with The Big Beats/Uniques was that for some reason, either Brian or David Webb knew a guy by the name of Tommy (last name I cannot recall) who owned a large club in Gainesville. This club was originally called The Hootenany and it was the largest “night club” in Gainesville at the time. On or about that time, bands either played in college-hangout bars and/or fraternity parties. Sometimes bands played at events, but playing at a place like The Hootenany was a real mark of distinction. We became the de facto “house band” and played there every weekend unless we got a gig at a fraternity party that payed more. As I recall, I believe that our pay was about $10-$15 per musician per night. When we played fraternity parties the pay was better and sometimes, we ended up with about $20-$25 per musician.
The Big Beats/Uniques continued to play as the house band for The Hootenany for a while and then, the name of the place was changed to the Orleans. We continued to play there. Finally, the place was bought or leased by Dub Thomas and renamed “Dub’s”. Dub had owned Dub’s Gym. in Gainesville and was a very imposing man. He was not that big, but he was “broad” and you know that Dub was not someone to be messed with. We continued playing at Dub’s as The Big Beats, but as it is always the case with bands and musicians, The Big Beats came to an end.
As I recall, the end of The Big Beats came around when Brian had some issue with Ed Mayton and Brian threatened to leave the band if we did not get rid of Ed. Well, we did get rid of Ed Mayton who was replaced by Paul McArthur, a local guy from Gainesville. Paul is now a successful home builder in Gainesville.
The Merge with The Playboys:
Early Picture of The Playboys featuring Bill, Randy,
Paul, Brian, and Jimmy. Photo taken after a night
gig at Dub’s.
The Playboys with the Red Coats in a picture
taken inside Dub’s after a gig
The Playboys playing at the Bernadette Castro
I really cannot recall when part of The Big Beats, namely, me, Brian Grigsby, and Paul McArthur, joined The Playboys. However, I remember The Playboys before we joined. The first time I saw the Playboys was at a gig at the Florida Union. I distinctly remember Frank Birdsong and Bill Carter. I cannot remember anyone else in the band at the time. Also, I had seen The Playboys at a bar on 13th Street and I do remember sitting in with The Playboys at the bar. I remember that one of the numbers I played was “Girl from Ipanema” and I was very happy to hear that Bill Carter thought that my rendition of that song was real skilled. By this time I had heard enough of Bill Carter’s skills and speed in the guitar. The guy was amazingly fast and accurate - not a note out of place. To say I was very impressed would be an understatement.
For some reason, The Playboys seem to change from time to time. Sometimes Frank Birdsong was in and sometimes he was not. Also, Ron Gause eventually became the organ player but I believe that at the beginning, the organ was played by Brian (using a small portable Farfisa organ). Also at times, Jim Biggart, who I used to play with in The Challengers, played bass.
At some time during those early times, and before the British Invasion, we got all kinds of “band uniforms”, like the collarless shirts shown in the picture on the last page. We also wore “dickies” like the British groups.
Eventually, we somehow resolved to get a red coat which was built by a local tailor. This was the most elegant uniform we had and I was so proud of wearing that red blazer that I wore it even when I was not playing. A picture of The Playboys with the red coats is shown on the picture on the left (taken after a gig at Dub’s) and below (Bernadette Castro’s party). I also remember playing a gig with The Playboys at a real fancy house in Ocala which I believed belonged to the father of the gal who owned Castro Convertibles. I remember that in that particular gig, Frank Birdsong became the “lead singer” very much like Mike Love of the Beach Boys. In that gig, in order to look like the lead singer, Frank did not wear the red coat, but a dark coat. I believe that in those days, the “lead singer” usually dressed differently than the band members.
Playing with The Playboys was one of my most cherished and happy moments during my musical career. First of all, we were not only band members - we were friends. Further, we appreciated each other as musicians. I thought that Bill Carter was a fantastic guitar player, and who could doubt Paul McArthur’s steady, heavy drum beat. Brian on sax was number one in town and when Ron Gause joined us, we became one of the best bands around. My memory has faded a lot and there is much I cannot remember in detail - just in general. I do remember going over at nights to see Bill Carter at Chandler’s Hamburgers, where he worked at nights during the week, and trying to work on songs and arrangements for song during Bill’s breaks. I also remember rehearsing at either Ron Gause’s house and/or at Randy’s. I also remember one time that we were practicing at Ron Gauze’s house and Brian Grigsby and I went to the 7-11 to buy some beers. The store clerk then asked me for an ID which I didn’t have and he refused to sell me the beer. However, pointing to Brian, he said “I will sell it to him”. Brian bought the 6-pack and the funny part of this story was that Brian was younger than I was. I guess being taller and “looking older” had some merit back then.
Turning into The Rare Breed:
Ad for Dub’s Steer Room
Poster for The Rare Breed.
Some time during this period of time, The Playboys turned into The Rare Breed. Frankly, the reason why and when I cannot recall and I am sure that some of the other guys who have better memories, will tell this part of the story.
When The Rare Breed started to play, as I recall, the members of the band were almost the same ones that used to be in The Playboys. For some reason however, Frank Birdsong was not in town at the time and we recruited a young kid by the name of Randy Ratliff to be the lead singer. Randy was very young and extremely nice. I remember that he used to play with a band of younger guys and when he “stepped up” to The Rare Breed, that was a big move for Randy. I also remember that Randy’s father was a real “religious right”, evangelical type and he was very concerned that Randy would be playing with The Rare Breed. Somehow I believe that Randy’s father probably thought that being older and a more well known in band circles, we were doing drugs and other bad things and we would corrupt his young son. Actually, it took some doing to talk Randy’s father into letting us have Randy as our lead singer. The funny thing about it is that at the time, most bands that I knew of were pretty “clean”. Other than drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and screwing around with girls, the guys were very straight. No drugs and no weird behavior. None of us ever had a drinking problem and much less, a drug problem. With respect to vices, as I can recall, the only one in common is that most of us smoked cigarettes. A far cry from what you see in show business today. Actually, I can say that as of this date, I have never done any drugs, except when I first came to Houston, I was invited to a party where I took a couple of drags on a marihuana cigarette. Like Clinton, I did not inhale and I really did not think it was that big of a thing. Never again I smoked or took a drag from a marihuana cigarette. Also, I have never seen what cocaine looks like, much less try it.
While in The Rare Breed, we played mostly the fraternities, and other events, including the college bar hangouts, the high school proms, and other such events. Our biggest claim to fame was that we were the house band at Dub’s. It is interesting that I played at this place since my days with The Big Beats and that despite the changing of bands and personnel, we continued to play as Dub’s house band.
While playing at Dub’s I remember that we picked up a “go go dancer”, Peggy Sue, who did not go topless but was a real cute gal. Actually, Peggy Sue was a little bit of a flirt and without divulging any secrets, I have to say that some band members had a little fun with Peggy Sue. She was a very sweet kid and I have no idea of whatever happened to her.
Also, while playing at Dub’s, two significant events happened. Dub decided to bring in a topless dancer from California. At that time, topless dancers were not totally topless but they covered their nipples with cups or some other decoration. Obviously, this created a lot of excitement around town since there had never been a topless dancer at a bar in Gainesville. I remember that I was playing with The Rare Breed when that first gal showed up to dance. The place went wild and I believe that even the authorities were concerned about this type of entertainment.
After that first topless, Dub imported several others, and as I recall, there were other local gals who actually did the stripping gig. I remember one called “Flo”, and “Juicy Lucy” and others. Most of these girls were actually pretty nice but frankly, I thought that they were somewhat lightheaded and some times, weird.
The second significant event in this period of time was that Dub had partnered with a local disc jockey and record store owner by the name of Bob Norris, to form a production company and record and manage artists. The name of the company was “D &B Productions” and the address was at Dub’s.
Dub and Bob decided that we were ready to make some records, something significant at the time. While today anyone can cut a recording, in those days, asking a band to make a record was a big thing, if not the biggest things that could happen to a band. I remember that of course, all the songs in the recording had to be originals. Thus, Bill Carter and I decided to become songwriters. I believe that in a record time we composed the words and the music to all the songs we recorded. I want to say, although it is probably not correct that we composed and rehearsed the songs the night before the recording session.
Fuller Studios, Tampa, Florida:
Bill Carter and Jim García Recording at Fuller
Studios, Tampa, Florida.
A copy of what our records looked like. Actually,
the first 45 rpm released was “In the Night” and
side B was “I Need You”. The picture shows
actually the second record.
WUWU survey for June 9, 1967. Note that
“In the Night”/”I Need You” were ranked No. 44
in the list of hits.
The Rare Breed Playing at The Pier, Daytona
The Rare Breed
As it happened, one day we traveled to Fuller Studios, in Tampa, Florida to record our first recording. As I recall, I rode on the way over with Bill Carter in the truck and we kept repeating the words to the songs all the way from Gainesville to Tampa.
Fuller Studios was an older type of studio but a very comfortable one. I can’t remember the entire equipment etc. but I believe that it was more than adequate for our needs. Another Gainesville band by the name of The Royal Guardsman had recorded their hit, Snoopy and The Red Baron in that studio, so the studio had its reputation.
On the day of the recording, the recording artists were The Rare Breed, and then Gene Middleton, Linda Lyndell, and Gene’s group called the Blues’ Kings. We recorded for the whole day and finally, we got tapes of the recording. On the way back, I kept telling Bill Carter something like, “man, I can’t believe that we sounded that good on the recording” and Bill telling me “don’t tell that to anyone since they will think that we are not that good in person.”
In the Tampa recording, the musicians were: Ron Gause, organ and vocals, Bill Carter, lead and vocals, Jim García, lead and vocals, Randy Ratliff, vocals, Randy McDaniel, bass and vocals, and Paul McArthur, drums. I believe that Brian Grigsby was also at the recording session and he played sax with Gene Middleton’s band recording. I frankly cannot recall why Frank Birdsong was not at that recording session but the fact that Randy Ratliff was the lead singer in that session indicates that at the time Frank was not in Gainesville. Also, I believe, although I am not sure, that at the time, Brian Grigsby had been drafted but he was on leave from the Army at the time. It was interesting that even after Grigsby went into the Army, he showed up at gigs while on leave and played with the band. By the time, I remember that Grigsby had learned what seemed to be an Army slang to express “no” and Brian used the term “negatron” a lot.
After the recordings in Tampa, at least 4 of our songs were issued in 45 rpms by Dub and Bob using a label by the name of “Cool as a Moose”. I have no idea of where the record came from but it was highly exciting having a record out at the time.
Although we never made any money from royalties, the records apparently sold well and in fact, they became “famous” in the Gainesville radio of the time. Again, although we never made any money from the recordings, the recordings were our gate to get the good gigs and higher paying jobs in the music business at the time.
Again, although we never made any money from the recordings, the recording were our gate to get the good gigs and higher paying jobs in the music business at the time. I remember taking a bunch of 45 rpms to gigs, and giving them away. Never sold one at the gig.
I also remember that in order to pump up the ranking in the radio stations in Gainesville, some of us got our wives, girlfriends, and others, to call the stations and request playing the Rare Breed records. I frankly do not know whether this have an effect or not, but it was thrilling to be driving somewhere and having your recording come through the car’s radio. I felt a little bit of what Elvis probably felt when his recordings became real hot.
Some of the gigs that we got after the recordings were at real fun places. One of the most memorable ones was playing at The Pier in Daytona Beach. As I recall, The Pier was a stand alone dance hall that sat in the middle of the water across the beach. To reach The Pier, you had to walk over a mile of sand, then walk through a very long, wooden dock that took you to the dance hall. Clearly, we were very young then and the physical exertion was not felt as much as it would be today. However, moving the equipment all the way from the truck in the parking lot, through the sand, and then, through the wooden dock, was a labor of love and physical endurance. I remember that at the time, Ron Gause was playing a huge Hammond Organ with the Leslies that weighed a ton. We had to drag the organ and leslies all the way to the pier and the exertion was incredible. Also, at the time, we had purchased new big amps for Randy and Bill Carter, and we had acquired other equipment such as PA system and strobe lights, etc. That made the playing of that job a real exercise in strength. I frankly cannot tell how we did it, but we did, and we enjoyed the large crowd and the real affection shown by the dancing folks at The Pier.
In summary, my years with The Rare Breed, were the most exciting years of my musical career. I felt like a “real musician”, not just an amateur. I felt good about playing, the band members were great mates, and in fact, we continue to be in touch after more than 40 years. Although there were some changes in personnel with The Rare Breed, during the exciting years of the mid to late 60s, the musicians remained same with some changes from time to time due to circumstances beyond our control. However, in all, I have to say that The Rare Breed has a very dear place in my life and there is no other band, or group of musicians that I admired the most, had most fun with, and I am proud of than the members of The Playboys/The Rare Breed.
The End of the Dream Years:
One of the last photos of The Rare Breed,
including original members Randy McDaniel
(sitting right), Ron Gause (sitting on left),
Jim L. García (standing on left) and a new drummer
and singer whose names I cannot recall but who
were very nice guys.
As I recall, the gigs became less frequent and the enthusiasm for playing became less intense. Again, the final years of The Rare Breed were good in terms of new, but good guys, and good musicians, but the excitement was not there. The dream had faded away.
1969: Houston, Texas.
I graduated from the University of Florida in the summer of 1969 and was hired by Humble Oil & Refining Company (now ExxonMobil) to work at its principal headquarters in Houston, Texas. I, with my wife and baby, left Gainesville for good in my trusty, non-air conditioned, VW to seek fame and fortune as a big shot for a big corporation. I do remember leaving Florida and while driving through north Florida towards the west, I knew I was leaving part of my heart and my love in Gainesville and in Florida. Gainesville had become such a big place for me that I considered it to be “home” and leaving was painful.
The first year or two in Houston were non eventful. I managed to make just a handful of friends who were not musicians, except for a couple of amateurs that liked playing drums, etc., but had never played in a band. Those evenings with just a couple of friends jamming were the only musical activity during my initial years in Houston.
Back to the Cuban-Salsa Music:
Curiously, although Houston, Texas is huge city (1), and there are a lot of Hispanics, most of the Hispanics are either Mexican born, or Mexican descent. Although I was very fluent in Spanish, I never made any acquaintances or friendships with Mexicans or other Hispanics in Houston since although the Spanish language is a common bond, that is where the bond stops. Cubans are very different from Mexicans, and especially of the Mexican “Chicanos” or the Mexicans who have a lot of Indian blood. I do not mean to sound like a racist but Cubans and Mexicans do not have the same ethnic background. Most Cubans are descendants of Spaniards from Spain, who are mostly very white/European type, and Mexicans are mostly, although not all, descendants from Indians mixed with Spaniards. But, not only our ethnic backgrounds are different, our cultural backgrounds are also different since Cubans are recent immigrants to the US that have never suffered discrimination. On the other hand, Mexicans and Mexican Americans have a long history of discrimination. Believe me, a Cuban normally does not think in the same wave length as a Mexican American, although a Cuban may have more in common with the white Mexican born, educated Mexicans. In addition, Cuban music, which is based on the African beats of the “salsa” is totally different than Mexican music which in this part of the country, is dominated by what is called the “Norteño” music which is more like a Mexican country song/ballads type.
But, enough about the differences between Cubans and Mexicans. Nothing I have said should be construed as discriminatory or detrimental to Mexican culture and its people. I just wanted to refer to those differences to relate that the first handful of friends that I met in Houston, were Cubans or Cuban-descent. The glue that united us was that there were not many of us in Houston at the time, and we enjoyed partying together, and living the “Cuban social life”.
Salsuprema ‘78 featuring Angelucho (in white shirt).
Domingo Fernandez in the background on bass.
This first band actually slowly disintegrated but by the time, I had met another set of guys who like, the first band members, were also Cubans.
This second set of guys actually were better musicians and we started to get together and practice at my house. During this time, a young man who
had a terrific voice, joined the group. The guy’s name is Angelucho Bermudez and goes by his first name. Angelucho had a terrific voice and with
Angelucho at the lead of the band, we started to play some gigs. Most of the places we played were private parties, like birthdays, weddings,
etc. We played only Cuban music or salsa. I continued to play with Angelucho for a while but Angelucho was looking forward to moving on more
advanced musicianship and he began to sing with more professional musicians. The guys who played in Salsuprema ‘78 were not professional
musicians. By that time, I had graduated from law school and was a lawyer for Exxon. Domingo Fernandez was an engineer, and the other folks, such
as my very good friend, Ed Pellón was a businessman during the day. None of us felt that we were really either good enough to be professional
musicians or had the desire to leave our jobs for the music world.
(1) Houston is the 5th largest city in the US in terms of population.
Jim García - The Record Producer
Front sleeve of first of Angelucho’s two recordings:
Isabelita and Ven Amigo
Back sleeve of first of Angelucho’s first
record/Liner Notes by Jim L. García
Angelucho’s First 45 rpm
After playing with Angelucho for a while, our little band, Salsuprema ‘78 ended when Angelucho started joining other professional musicians and playing with these bands. These bands were composed of mostly Mexican musicians who were highly skilled - they read music, composed, and arranged. The typical band at that time consisted of a piano player, bass player, bongo drums and conga players, drummer (timbales and regular drums ) , trumpets, trombones, and singers. These bands played mostly Cuban/Salsa music but the musicians were good enough that they could play any type of music, including rock and roll.
Sometime during those years, Angelucho approached me with the idea of cutting a record. I really got excited and although I was not going to be playing in the recording, I was being asked to produce the record. So, I gathered a couple of my law clients and another lawyer friend and we put together a small company called “Miramar Records”. Of course, the only artist we had was Angelucho. We then pooled some money and made plans to record a record (LP) in Houston. We had to pay the musicians for their practice time and then, for the recording session. The first recording session was held in Infinity Studios in Houston, Texas, which was at the time a “state of the art” recording studio. As I recall, the studio had been built by a very wealthy home builder in Houston for his wife, who was an aspiring singer. We cut the first 5-6 tracks of Angelucho’s record at that facility.
While we started our recording venture, we had no idea of the manufacturing of the record, distribution, etc. We were only having fun. However, some time within this period of time, we met a guy by the name of Ray Gruart who at the time was a salesman for a record distributor in Miami, Florida. Somehow, Ray convinced us that he had the connections and the expertise to promote the record, and we, being totally uninformed, believed in Ray.
After we joined forces with Ray Gruart, the first thing he suggested was to record the other half of the album at a recording studio in Miami, Florida, with real Cuban musicians. So, on we went to Miami to record the second half of the album. The studio in Miami was an old studio and did not seem all that fancy. However, we heard that the studio was one of the most famous at the time and that a bunch of recording artists, recorded in the studio. The band that Ray Gruart had put together for the recording session were excellent Cuban musicians. Probably, some of the finest musicians I had ever heard. The piano man, a guy named “Edito” (Little Eddy) was a prodigy and made all the arrangements. To say the least, we stayed a long weekend in Miami and recorded the second half of the album.
Shortly thereafter, Gruart suggested the pressing of about 1,000 albums and cassette tapes. At the time, the 8-track tape was popular and we then became the proud owners of a bunch of albums and 8-tracks.
To say the least, although the album had some success in the Houston area, it was never a hit. Several reasons for this. In Texas, Mexican music is the predominant Hispanic music heard by the folks. Cuban music or salsa music is not heard or played throughout the nite clubs, radio, or the cantinas. It’s kind of saying that in Houston there are about 1 million Mexican restaurants for every Cuban restaurant (there are only 3-4 Cuban restaurants in Houston). Also, a number of problems developed with Ray Gruart. While we had placed our faith in Ray’s ability to promote the record, Ray for some reason, became somewhat distant from Angelucho and he started to concentrate on convincing us that he had other artists which were more worthy of distribution than Angelucho.
Angelucho’s First Album - El Rey del Mundo
Ardiente - Playa Records
Angelucho’s Second Album - La Candela -
Produced by Crystal Clear Records, a company
of Jim L. García.
Back cover of Angelucho's La Candela
The End, End
Needless to say that with the last Angelucho’s album, my career as a musician, producer, and record mogul, has now come to an end. I have stopped all musical activities except for listening to music every once in a while. I have lost all speed in the guitar and have forgotten most chords and leads that at one point in time I could played in my sleep. Other interests such as computers, graphics, and the law, have taken the place of my musical interests. While I no longer play or produce, I still remember the good old days and I wish I could place myself there again one more time.
Jim L. García Houston, Texas April, 2012