This is a brief story of a how a teen rock-n-roll band was formed in Lemoore, California in the early 1960’s then proceeded to sign with a record label, record, and tour through-out the United States during the 60’s. Many individuals have asked what it was like to be in a rock-n-roll band during the 1960’s. It was mind-blowing and it can be best summed in three word: “Drugs, Sex, and Rock-n-Roll!”
Q1: Where does The Brymers name came from?
A1: The Brymers were originally called “The de-Fenders” and started out as a surf band in California (1963). The average age of all of the band members was 15. The founding members were Dick Lee (drums), Mike Wagner (guitar), and Ken Valentine (guitar). In 1964, the group was signed to Diplomacy Records and taken to Los Angeles to record. After the recording session, Diplomacy Records and West Coast Artists decided to take the members to a plush hair salon in Hollywood to get their hair cut off in front of fans and cameras. The label changed the name of the group to The Brymers in hopes that the audience would associate the name with the actor Yul Brynner.
Q2: How did you guys get started in music? I got understand you guys began on ¡1963!... Can you tell us the road from then to now?
A2: On a Saturday night in May 1962 I was attending a Melco Dance by Mel Simas, a local radio deejay in Lemoore. A good friend named Charlie Brown introduced me to Ken Valentine, a local guitar player. Ken and I stated talking about music and as the evening progressed we decided to start a band. Mike Wagner, another Lemoore resident and friend, was a guitar player, too. The music bug sort of hit all of us at the same time.
The next weekend all three of us were in my parent’s garage on Champion Street in Lemoore attempting to learn a few songs. Soon, another guitar player joined the group. His name was Frank Bento. Frank played with the group for a month or two then left. After a few months of playing we decided we needed a name. Hence, a new band with a new name was born. We were called The Challengers. Bass player Robert Virden (from Stratford) joined soon afterwards. We rehearsed at nights and on the weekends until we had enough songs for a gig. Our first gig was at the local Navy base. Needless to say we were excited, but the excitement subsided when we found out that only male Navy personnel were in the audience. We made the most of it and had a great time.
In late 1962, Mel Simas approached the group and asked if we would like for “Melco Int.” to become our manager. The group voted yes and our longtime friendship with Mel began. The surf sound was “in” so a lot of music played was from The Ventures, Dick Dale, etc..
In September 1963, an electric piano player joined the group. His name was Bobby Cox (from Chowchilla). During that same time period, Sharon Lee (guitar and vocals) joined the group. She added the female voice for high harmonies and for some of the girl songs out at the time (i.e., “A Thousand Stars”). What made it even better was that she was my sister.
To our surprise, we received a letter that stated we had to stop calling ourselves The Challengers as another group in town owned the name. Therefore, “The de-Fenders” (for Fender amps) was decided upon. After a period we began learning how to play our various instruments and started playing at local dances.
In November 1963, The de-Fenders were comprised of: Mike Wagner, lead guitar and vocals; Ken Valentine, lead guitar, vocals, sax; Robert Virden, bass guitar and vocals, and Dick Lee, drums. This line-up made two recordings in January 1964: “More,” an instrumental, and “Irritation,” an original tune. “Irritation” was our first attempt at an original song and “More” was taken from a movie, but with a surf sound added. The purpose of the recordings was for demo purposes and to press two tracks. The group rented a studio in Fresno, California and proceeded. During the same time period, Mel Simas became our manager. Mel heard the recordings and agreed to attempt to shop out the tracks to various record companies in Hollywood. Two days after the session, Mel was in Los Angeles and visited with executives of Dot Records, Liberty Records, Del-Fi Records, and numerous others. He returned to Lemoore and met with the group with the same message from all labels, “The tracks had no commercial value.” The group did not rehearse for two weeks and we began to wonder whether The de-Fenders were good enough to play professionally.
It was during this time period that Mike Wagner left the group due to his draft notice. Bobby Cox soon followed him. The de-Fenders now had only three members: Ken Valentine, Bob Virden, and me. The de-Fenders found a new guitar player/vocalist named Jim Mellick (from Lemoore and later Hanford). The group was up to four members: Ken Valentine, Robert Virden, Jim Mellick, and me and would remain so for several months.
We began playing at high schools, parties, and local events. We initially played a lot of local gigs for free and then someone actually paid us. This first paid gig was probably more of an event for us than our first record. It was difficult to believe that individuals would actually pay us to play music. It sort of made it more special because we were all such good friends. None of us ever took what we were doing seriously. On the weekends you could find The de-Fenders in my parents garage at 234 Champion Street or around the corner at my aunt and uncle’s garage on Hamlet Street. To this day, I often wonder why the neighbors never turned us in to the local police for excessive noise.
We began to play all over and also became a recording band for various other vocal groups. The 1960’s saw an explosion of musical groups. We traveled and backed up many groups and/or artists including: Chuck Berry, Ian Whitcomb, The Isley Brothers, Cannibal and The Headhunters, The Five Satins, The Penguins, Dick and Dee Dee, Roddy Joy, Chuck Berry, The Uniques, The Isley Brothers, Frank J. Wilson, The Coasters, Dick Dale and The Del Tones, The Drifters, The Pyramids, Bobby Freeman, and Paul Revere and the Raiders, etc..
To my surprise, one of the group’s recordings, “Sacrifice” has been a collector’s item for the past 35-40 years. I and the other Brymers band members had no idea that “Sacrifice” had been popular through out the United States, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. This new found information was accidentally discovered on a late September 2006 night while I was surfing the web. I wondered if The Brymers would show up on any web search. I typed in The Brymers and began seeing various web pages associating The Brymers with a B-side of one of our recordings called, “Sacrifice.” I accessed one website in the Netherlands and found that “Sacrifice” was on an Internet radio playlist. Additional web surfing revealed that “Sacrifice” was on numerous other Internet radio station playlists, in Italy, Japan, Australia, and the U.S. I emailed the owner of one station in the Netherlands and asked about The Brymers. I received a reply back stating, “I have always been a fan of The Brymers and the song ‘Sacrifice.’” The owner then referred me to an individual in Chicago whose website specialized in 1960’s bands. The owner, Mike Dugo, wrote back and stated the same thing and asked if he could do an in-depth interview about The Brymers and all their recordings. Joey D (a deejay from the Sacramento area and owner of Frantic Records) contacted me and said: “Where have you guys been? We have been trying to find you for the past 35-40 years.” Continuing, he mentioned that he was associated with Alec Palao (Ace Records/Big Beat Records) and wanted to know more about the group, if any more recordings existed, and a history of the band. After an hour-long interview, Alec called and also asked in-depth questions about the group. Alec mentioned that Ace Records wanted to do a compilation of California groups and would like to include “Sacrifice” and “I Want to Tell You” on the CD. Three weeks later I met with Joey D and Alec in Sacramento and provided more information, pictures, etc—
I was astonished that anyone even knew of The Brymers. I was then referred to a website that specialized in ‘60’s garage punk music. For the next two weeks I began receiving e-mails from all over the United Stated, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia inquiring about the band, its recording of “Sacrifice”, and pictures of the group. One individual from Portland, Oregon wrote, “Are you just finding out about the band’s continued popularity? ‘Sacrifice’ has long been a favourite.” Another individual from New York wrote, “The Brymers is a well-known 45 to all garage fiends (evidently, everyone refers to the ‘60’s music as garage punk music). I was lucky enough to find a copy years ago as did several other individuals on this forum.” Hans from Italy wrote: “Hello Dick! ‘Sacrifice’ has long been a favourite with its wailing harp and syncopated beat. I purchased a copy of it on a compilation CD a few years ago.” Michael from Australia wrote, “Hello Dick. Count me and my friends in Sidney as long time Brymers fans.”
The Brymers reunited in 2007 and began performing and recording. To date, the group has released Released five albums (1) Sacrifice, (2) where Are they Now, (3) 40 Year Brotherhood, (4) Never Too Old to Rock-n-Roll, and (5) The Love from our Soul. In addition to the albums Brymers tracks have been on numerous compilation albums. During the last four years – Brymers songs have appeared in Movies (JOBS, Chillerama, Apart, Alex of Venice, The Bronx Bull, and The Wedding Singer. Many of our tracks have also appeared on T.V.and commercials.
Q3: How has been The Brymers music been accepted sine you have reunited in 2007?
A3: Myself and the rest of The Brymers are always amazed that Individuals still enjoy the retro sounds of the 60’s. I frequently speak with station program directors and they mention the 25-40 year-olds appear to have re-discovered this 60’s music while the 55 year olds and older remember the music and the groups. Below, are a few reviews of The Brymers albums:
STILL TOGETHER AFTER ALL THESE YEARS !
If you were wondering where the Brymers have been since their 60’s hit “Sacrifice”, well look no further ! They have just come out with their latest CD entitled “40 Year Brotherhood”. The highlight tracks for me were “Treat Her Right”, a great up tempo number with a Kinks like riff that would make Dave Davies proud. Other top notch cuts include, “Bad Boy”, “Fit Me In” and “Do You Think You Love Me”, the last song mentioned being a fantastic little instrumental. 18 songs plus some studio chatter take you right into the heart of the Brymers’ world... a world where oldies from the 60’s meet the high tech production efforts of today. To quote The Iceman on the opening track, doing his finest Wolfman Jack voice, “It’s Time To Take Out Your Boogaloo” and enjoy the latest from the Brymers, “40 Year Brotherhood”.
Artist: The Brymers CD: 40 Year Brotherhood Style: Garage Rock
By Beeb Ashcroft (Indie-Music.com)
“There is a wide audience for this undiscovered gem, and I hope that they get a chance to hear it.”
“Sacrifice” and “I Want To Tell You” are Brymers songs from the 60s, and they are killer tracks. “I Want To Tell You” is a genuine, melodic track often compared to The Byrds, and it shines with its fantastic harmonies and rich sound. “Sacrifice” is an absolutely spot-on slice of dirty, frenetic garage rock. Lee mentioned that during the recording of this song, the amp burst into flames. Now that’s how music should be made! I am so glad that this band is starting to get some of the recognition they deserve. Their history is fascinating, and it holds a real value for listeners. There is a wide audience for this undiscovered gem, and I hope that they get a chance to hear it.
Q4: Do you have any funny stories to share?
A4: One of my favorite memories occurred while backing up Chuck Berry. It was late 1964 and we were on a concert bill with Chuck Berry, The Isley Brothers, and The We Five. Chuck Berry was the last act to perform. Fifteen minutes prior to his time slot he still hadn’t appeared. He finally arrived about five minutes prior to going on. Remember, that we did not have any time to rehearse any songs. I approached Berry and asked, “Chuck, what songs do you want us to play?” Berry looked at me and then said: “What do you mean boy – we are going to do Chuck Berry songs.” And with that he jumped out on the stage and began playing the intro to “Johnny B. Goode”. We collectively said, “Oh Shit,” and began following him through the beginning cord progressions of Johny B. Good. The Brymers performed with Chuck Berry many more times over the years and he always kidded me about the look on my face that evening. The night went well—but what an experience. I heard a recent interview with Bruce Springsteen and he described the same sequence of events with our hero and greatest influence – Chuck Berry.
Another crazy time occurred while the group was booked into a San Francisco venue in 1967. Bobby Hollister (lead guitar and vocalist) had hooked up with this beautiful young blonde after a concert. He proceeded back to his hotel with the young lady and both entered his room. The rest of the group was next door playing poker and having a few beers to unwind. At one point, we heard Bobby yelling and banging on our door. As we opened the door, Hollister came running into the room yelling, “ She has a dick! – She has a dick!” To his surprise, he had hooked up with a transvestite who was a working female impersonator in a North Beach nightclub. Needless to say, Bobby was always ribbed about the incident and always checked that future women did not have a “package.”
I will always remember the time that we were performing with six other rock acts in Los Angeles (1967). We were in the middle of our show and two young fans had gotten past security and made their way on the stage. We playing our hit “Sacrifice” and both fans were trying to unzip my pants while we were playing the song. Needless to say – I got off time with the song.
Q5: I understand that the Brymers dis-banded in 1968 and you joined a group called “Fapardokly.”
A5: It was 1968 when I became the drummer for Fapardokly. The group was formed by surf guitartist Merrell Fankhauser (composer of “Wipe Out”). We played a more psychedelic sound and recorded an album called “Fapardokly.” Merrell thought of the idea of taking the last few letters of each member’s sur name and forming the band’s name – hense – “Fapardokly.” It was a rather cool album with all original songs. To our amazement – the album has become a collector’s item. About three years ago Warner Brothers released a compilation album called “Where the Action is 1965-1968 Los Angeles.” One of Fapardokly’s songs was placed on the album and it was nominated for a grammy in the historical category. The album did not win, but it has an honor to be nominated. Since then, I have been on numerous albums with Merrell.
Q6: I understand that you currently host a classic rock radio show that is being picked up by several stations around the world. How did this happen and how did you become a D.J.?
A6: The Brymers were performing at a concert about 15 months ago and a classic rock station was there to do a remote and broadcast the concert live. After the concert, the station owner came up to me and said he enjoyed the show – especially how my self and The Iceman would present the songs to the audience. He asked if I would like to try the D.J. gig on a weekly basis. I thought it would be a blast so decided to do it with The Iceman (Bill Brumley and bass player for The Brymers). I produce the show in my studio and try to give the listeners a feel of what it was like to listen to an FM station during the 60’s with the explosion of garage rock groups. The show has radio spots from the 60’s announcing concerts, brief interviews with rock musicians, and telephone calls from listeners to The Iceman. Some of these calls are very funny. In addition to the national hits of the day, I play many garage rock nuggets from California during the decade of the 60’s. All of you garage rock heads out there need to join me and The Iceman every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. (U.K. time) on “FAB Radio” for “Dick Lee and 60’s Garage Rock from California.” I guarantee it will blow your mind! And, in the words of The Iceman, “If you can remember the 60’s – maybe you weren’t having a good time.”
1) CD: (compilation) “The Birth of Surf Vol 3.” (Ace Records- released 9.2015)
2) CD (compilation) “California Nuggets: Fuzz, Mod Rock, and R & B Unknowns Vol 1 (1960 – 1970) (Valley Grown Records – Released – 8.2014).
3) CD: “The Love From Our Soul” (17 tracks – release date: 3.1.2013)
4) CD: “Never Too Old To Rock-n-Roll” (20 tracks -released 10.1.2009)
5) CD: “40 Year Brotherhood” (18 tracks -released 10.1.2008)
6) CD: “Where Are They Now” – (14 tracks – released 10.1.2007)
7) CD: ‘Sacrifice” (24 tracks of Brymers 1960’s recordings – released 6.1.2007).
8) CD: Garage Punk Unknows (Unauthorized Release -“Sacrifice” featured on this compilation – Released: 6. 5.1992)
9) LP: “Boulders # 4” (Unauthorized Release – 1980 – featuring “Sacrifice”)
10) “Sacrifice” (45 rpm) Diplomacy Records (released 9.1.1966)
11) “I Want To Tell You” (45 rpm) Diplomacy Records (released 9.1.1966)
12) “Under My Thumb” (45 rpm) Commonwealth Records (released – 9.1.1966 )
13) “Make Love Not War” (45 rpm) Mercury Records (recorded 9.1.1966 – unreleased)
14) “Irritation” (recorded 1963 – un-released)
15) “More of More” (recorded 1963 – un-released)