Going into the New Year of 1960, we decided to build up the
group. We needed a sax player and someone needed to play bass. Three guitars were nice, but a little much. Allen Lutes played
the tuba in the high school band and began telling us about him playing in a group back in his old hometown in Kentucky. Billy Shelton played tenor sax in the high school band and we asked him to join us. After a couple of gigs, Butch Hamill dropped out of the group and Bill Shelton decided
he didn’t want to continue. One of the other varsity cheerleaders was a
pretty good singer and asked that we perform with her at a couple of gigs. Her
name was Frankie Davis and we did several performances with Frankie. I thought
it worked out great but Frankie was strictly a single and didn’t want to be associated with a group unless she was the
headliner. I couldn’t argue with her because she was really good and we
were just beginning to get it together. So, we agreed to break the association. By now we had made several variations of our name.
One of my favorite movies at the time was “The Black Shield of Falsworth” with Tony Curtis. All the young guys in the movie were Squires, training to be Knights. So, I suggested using this name since it was close to what we had been using (the Squares), and there were
no objections. Hence was born “The Squires”.
We were now:
Ted Ledford, lead
Larry Blanks, rhythm
Buddy Spann, drums
Allen Lutes, bass
In the spring of 1960, we met a woman named Louise Shields who owned a small
recording studio on South Broad Street. Small is an understatement, it consisted of
one Wollensack (sic) tape deck and a couple of microphones. She asked us to “audition” for her by coming
out to a school in Tiftonia one Saturday and play. As it turned out, she was
being paid by a local politician to furnish entertainment for an election campaign barbecue he was having. Louise was getting us for free and calling it an audition (typical Louise as we later learned). At the same rally was a 15-year-old piano player and singer that was performing solo. He was self taught, a bit rough on his timing, but could sing and beat out that piano like no one I had
ever seen. I talked with Ted and we approached him to join our little band and
he agreed. That was our first introduction to Jimmy Harris.
Jimmy had learned to play the piano by listening to Jerry Lee Lewis records
in his room. This was because his girl friend had fallen for a musician and Jimmy
wanted to win her back by learning to play too. (He did the same thing when she later fell for a guitar player and later a
sax player, learning to play all three).
Now The Squires had settled, after about four months in existence, to the following:
Ted Ledford, lead guitar;
Larry Blanks, rhythm guitar;
Buddy Spann, drums;
Allan Lutes, bass and
Jimmy Harris, piano.
Toward the end of our junior year at Red Bank, we met a disc jockey from WRIP
radio named Sterling Bright at one of the Red Bank sock hops. We talked with
him about our group and he wanted to hear us so we set up a time to get together. Sterling
decided he liked us and wanted to help. Just after that, he left WRIP and joined
WDXB using his real first and middle name, reversed… Allen Dennis (AKA Dennis Allen Glab).
Coca Cola was sponsoring a contest as part of their “Coca Cola Hi Fi
Club” which we entered and became finalists. The contest was judged by
Eddie Arnold and eventually won by another group from Red Bank that formed just to perform in the contest. They were Carole Waller, singer; Ted Swingle, guitar; and Billy Clements, drums. Carole was a very cute and talented singer that went on to become a successful nightclub performer settling
in the New York area.
We played at small gigs all around Chattanooga such as the Stuart Heights swimming
pool, the Lions Club in Red Bank, skating rinks and bowling alleys and a couple of other places including “Ox Biggs
Chickamore Barndance” out on highway 58 (I’m not kidding, I couldn’t make up a name like that). At some point, Ted, Buddy and I got into a silly argument (I can't even recall what it was about)
just at the end of the school year and we broke up the band. That was the spring
It wasn’t long before Ted and I patched up our friendship and by that
time, he had met, through Louise Shields, a young singer from Central High School, named George Peele (Byrd). Louise had asked if Ted could get some musicians together to back a recording at her studio, so we met
there and helped Louise out. (another Louise freebie) I don’t remember
the girls name that sang, but we did the track and afterwards, decided to put The Squires back together. I remember the song the girl recorded was “As I look Through My Window”. There was another drummer in the Red Bank High school band named Butch Thomas. Ted, who was now the head drummer in the high school band, was impressed with Butch and we asked him to
join us. Our first gathering was at a little recording studio that was in the
basement of the Dome Building where WDXB was located. A guy with “pink
hair” was running the studio by the name of Carl Allen and several of us met there for the reforming of the group. This consisted of Ted Ledford, Allen Lutes, myself, Butch Thomas and George Peele
(Byrd). Allen Dennis had put this together for us and I still have the acetate
(record) we made that day. Jimmy couldn’t make it so Ted played piano and
Allen Lutes “faked” lead. In all, it was pretty pitiful and the recording
I have of that day confirms it.
We still didn’t have a saxophone player but probably the best one in
the state of Tennessee was right there in the Red Bank Band. That was Don Jackson,
an “All State” musician and the past Drum Major for the Red Bank Band. The
only problem was that Don was going off to college in the fall.
Allen Dennis had lined us up with a record salesman from Southern Distributors
in Nashville, named Don Hodge that was looking for talent for a new record label. The
company was Chan Records and one of the owners, Lloyd Linville, was a record promoter for United Artist Records. Lloyd was
based in the New Orleans area and Don was based in Nashville. Don came down to
Chattanooga and listened to us play. This audition took place at Ronnie Rothwells
home in Red Bank during the summer of 1960. Don asked us to make a demo tape
and give it to him so he could send it to Linville. We made the tape right there
at Ronnie’s house and he took it with him. He wanted other talent too,
so Dennis introduced him to E. White “Yogi” Patton III who managed a local singing quartet called “The Cupids”. One night, we got together down at WDXB and recorded a demo of the Cupids back in
the sales office. I brought my old “Voice of Music” tape deck and
we recorded three songs back in the sales room. One was the Cupids version of
“I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover’ and another was one they said they wrote called “What’s
Your Name?” and the third was “Mardi Gras”. We sent the tape
to Linville and didn’t think any more about it.
We became good friends with The Cupids and did a number of gigs with them including
backing them one day at Howard High School for an assembly program. If I’m
not mistaken, that was the first “mixed” appearance on the stage at Howard, an all black High School during the
final days of segregation.
One day Allen Dennis called me in a panic and asked me to get down to WDXB
right away. On the way, I stopped by and picked up Ted. When we arrived, Allen played a demo record they had just received at the station by a new duet named Don
and Juan. The song was “What’s Your Name” and was identical
to the one the Cupids had recorded as a demo with the exception of the added bridge in the Don and Juan’s version. I never found out the truth about the song and don’t know to this day if the
Cupids actually were the original writers or not.
After a while, we heard from Lloyd Linville and were both invited to come to
Memphis, Tennessee to record our first record, under contract to Chan Records.
We entered our senior year at Red Bank and began playing all around Chattanooga,
North Georgia and even traveling up to Nashville to the Noel Ball TV show on WSIX TV.
George Peele (Byrd) became our lead singer and, off and on, joined by female singer by the name of Jane Nobles, also
known as Jana DeOra.
George had recorded a session that was released on “Briar Records”,
one of Paul Cohn’s labels in Nashville. “Number One Doll” and
“These Things I Remember”. Everyone just knew this was going to be
a big hit. I still think so today. As
we all know, if you don’t have promotion, even the best ones don’t make it.
That was what happened to George’s record. George’s Mom had
paid for the session with all the top session guys in Nashville; Hank Garland on guitar, Floyd Cramer on piano, Buddy Harmon
on drums, Boots Randoplh on sax and Kelso Hurston on bass. The background
singers were none other than “The Jordannairs” who regularly sang behind Elvis Presley on his RCA sessions. You just couldn’t lose with talent like this behind you. RCA had made George an offer to take the session and release it.
But someone (good old Louise again) counciled George and his Mother into holding out for more royalties than RCA offered. They did and that’s how the record ended up being released on Briar label instead
At this point, Allen Dennis became our manager.
The Squires was now complete with:
Ted Ledford, lead;
Larry Blanks, rhythm;
Butch Thomas, drums;
Jimmy Harris, piano;
Don Jackson, sax; and
George Peele (Byrd), lead singer.
This was about the best-rounded group we had up to that point. The balance and timing was there and we could all anticipate one another.
We were developing our own sound and we were going great!
We were regular performers at the YM/YW Youth Center on Friday nights and we
gave dances on our own at the St. Elmo American Legion hall across from the Incline Railway at the foot of Lookout Mountain. These were profitable for us, but keep in mind, $100 for a gig was big money, even
after we split it six ways.
In Memphis, we recorded our first record at Fernwood Studios and together with
the Cupids, whom we backed in their session, spent over twelve hours in the studio.
The Squires recorded two songs, “Movin’ Out’ (actually named by Cortez “Winky” Greer
when I asked him what he thought would be a good name) backed by “Our Theme” which was written by Jimmy Harris,
originally as a joke, but turned out to be a very good melody.
The Cupids recorded an upbeat song called “Goin’ to New Orleans”
backed by a great slow "doo-wap" song called “Wanda” (which I played piano on).
The bass singer for the Cupids, Bobby, had a tremendous range and sang both the bass part as well as the high tenor
lead on “Wanda”. Winky, or “Tez” as he became known later,
sang lead on “New Orleans”. Winky was both a super singer and a fantastic
performer as well as a really nice person. He later became very well known as
a single performer and toured the Playboy Club circuit as well as performed at the Sahara Tahoe, Underground Atlanta and many
Our record was released in the spring of 1961 and got a lot of airplay in the
southeast and southwest. We sold approximately 50,000 copies and received absolutely
zero dollars in royalties. However, The Squires enjoyed success in and around
Chattanooga for that summer and into the fall when Ted Ledford, our lead guitarist, decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
When Ted left in September of 1961, we needed someone else for lead guitar. Tommy Parnell was a good friend of Jimmy Harris and we asked him to join The Squires.
By now, Don Jackson had dropped out of college for a while and had perfected his “jamming”
style on the sax, which he had learned from a fellow sax player, Ed Lehman. We had a great sound. Tommy was way ahead of the time in his lead guitar style and audiences didn’t really know how to
take him. Ted was very professional and played a set lead part to most songs. Tommy, on the other hand, just let it all go, with the volume turned up and him on his knees with
his head back on the floor. Unbelievable for the time, and maybe not appreciated.
(I always said that Jimmy Hendrix copied Tommys style.)
Chan Records asked us to come out to Oklahoma City to record our second record,
which we did in late September of 1961. Just before leaving on the trip, Chan
had sold the rights and the master of our first recording to MGM records, which they released on their MGM label. Don Jackson’s mother wasn’t thrilled about him going with us to Oklahoma City and it took all
the convincing power we could muster to convince her to allow him to come. We
had gotten one advanced copy of our recording on MGM’s “DJ Demo” label and had given it to Mrs. Jackson
to convince her we were really doing something positive. She consented and we
We recorded at Hi Fi Recording Studios and were produced by a fellow named
Gene Sullivan, a seasoned performer in country music in the 1930’s and 1940’s and the writer of hits like “When
My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”. The studio was interesting in
that it was apparently in an old garage building. It was open for two stories
and had long curtains hanging from the ceiling to absorb the sound. There was
a 1957 Cadillac parked on one side and the control room was on the second floor with a glass window looking down at us. We spent about five or six hours in the studio laying down several tracks. There was a large organ in the studio and Jimmy was playing around on it.
It was the first time he had really jammed on one. We ended up adding
an organ track to the “A” side of the record. We released “Mean
Misery” and “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” around November of 1961.
Squires now consisted of :
Tommy Parnell, lead guitar;
Larry Blanks, rhythm,
Allen Lutes, bass;
Jimmy Harris, piano;
Don Jackson, sax;
Butch Thomas, drums and
George Peele (Byrd), lead singer.
On returning to Chattanooga, we continued to play gigs at the University of
Chattanooga, YM/YW Youth Center and many high school and private dances. Including
I remember one such gig probably around the spring of 1960 with our original
group at the Baylor Senior Prom when one of the faculty asked us to play a waltz. Now
you were talking to a bunch of rock and rollers and remember my comment on Jimmy Harris’ timing. The only thing I could think of was the Jerry Lee Lewis version of “Good Night Irene” (don’t
laugh, it was a waltz tempo!). That was an event I will never forget. Buddy Spann keeping up with the “boom-chick-chick” beat of a waltz and Jimmy doing his rock
and roll version of Good Night Irene.
One other memorable appearance was at the old UC Tennis Courts for a Sorority
party around the spring of 1961. Someone requested we play the Doug Clark and
the Hot Nuts favorite, “Hot Nuts”. When we did, a number of the UC
“jocks” got the mic and started ad-libbing their "blue" version of the song.
When we finally finished, I was approached by the UC Chaplain who informed me we were no longer welcomed at UC functions. We were a hit with the students, but the Chaplain wasn’t impressed. Word went out that The Squires were “persona non-grata” at UTC functions from then on.
We were now members of the Chattanooga Musicians Union and were handling everything
right down union guidelines. In the fall of 1961, WFLI had scheduled a Rock and
Roll show at the National Guard Armory with Dion as the lead performer. WFLI
asked The Squires to be the lead group, backing Dion in the show.
As WFLI was a non-union radio station and beginning to take top 40 ratings
away from WDXB, who was union, WDXB management advised us that if we played the WFLI show, they would see to it that our record
would be placed on the “blackball list” by all union radio stations.
Being concerned about the future of both the group and myself, I went to the business agent
of the Musicians Union and told him the problem. He asked if we were being paid
union minimum and I assured him it was considerablely above. At which point he recommended we
go ahead and play. We did, and airplay for our records was indeed blackballed
on all union radio stations, including WDXB.
Our second recording was not selling like the first, and quite frankly, I wasn’t
enjoying myself as much without Ted in the group. Tommy was good, you could call
him a great guitarist, but very different. In my opinion, without Ted, we had
lost our unique sound.
In February of 1962, I left the group and also joined the U.S. Marine Corps. I was fortunate to be stationed with Ted where we formed another group in November,
1962 called “The Mark V”. This, of course, is a totally different
The Squires lived on, with wonderful musicians going through the ranks. Allen Lutes developed into one of the best bass players in Chattanooga, playing in
both the rock group and the Chattanooga Symphony. Ken Bell along with Ronnie
Cass and Coye Reeves, although not part of the Squires alumni, joined with Allen Lutes and put together a super group, “Playthings
Inc.”. (Interestingly enough, I had worked at a toy store in Chattanooga
during the summers called “Playthings Inc.” which Ken and the guys took the name from.) Ken has gone onto being a very successful session player and song writer in Nashville writing such hits
as, “Touch Me When We’re Dancing”, “I just Came Here to Dance”, “I Just Need You For Tonight”
and many more.
am proud to have been one of the founding members of The Squires and to have seen the legacy we started that December day
in 1959 in Mrs. Caballero’s chemistry homeroom grow into the legend it became around the city.
Any additions/deletions or corrections should be provided to Larry Blanks at
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