In 1966, prior to the existence of “The Inquiry” and
“Stoned Black”, a group of Little Cypress students formed a band calling
themselves “The Innovations”. The lineup consisted of Keith Kyle and Johnny
Siler on guitars, Mike Poutra on organ, Sammy Parish on drums, Eddie
McFarland on bass, and Jimmy Lampman on lead vocals. “The Innovations”
quickly became a local favorite, performing at high school dances and
private functions. The band performed with that lineup until Jimmy Lampman
joined the Air Force. Lampman was replaced in 1967 by Pat Shelton
Shelton, who was attending Stark High School, had been
the drummer/vocalist for the quartet, “The Surfsides”. “The Surfsides” also
featured Ordway Jacobs, Don Fullen and Rob Axelson on guitars. Pat became
friends with Mike Poutra when they played little league baseball together.
Shortly thereafter, the two realized they had another connection: music.
With Lampman leaving “The Innovations”, the band was anxious to find a vocal
replacement. Mike heard Pat at a “Surfside” gig and invited him to join the
band. Not too long after Pat joined the band, guitarist Johnny Siler left
to attend college. It was at this point, in 1967, that “The Innovations”
decided to change their name to “The Fun Fair, Inc.”
Once established, “The Fun Fair, Inc.” was the top band around. They
performed at high school dances throughout the Golden Triangle and
throughout southeast Texas. They could be seen opening for such groups as
“The Music Machine” (“Talk Talk”), “John Fred & His Playboy Band” (“Judy In
Disguise”) or with “The Moving Sidewalks”, whose lead guitarist, Billy
Gibbons, would later go on to worldwide fame with the blues/rock trio, “Z.
Z. Top“. When the “Fun Fair, Inc.” wasn’t opening for someone else, they
were headlining their own shows at The National Guard Armory, the D.E.R.A.
or the Y.M.C.A. in Orange. They even embarked on a gulf coast tour,
performing in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
With the war in Viet Nam in full swing, the draft became
a very real factor for many young men and musicians were no different. As
previously stated, Jimmy Lampman had entered the Air Force. In 1968,
bassist Eddie McFarland followed suit and also joined the Air Force.
McFarland was replaced by Billy Burrow on bass guitar. In May of 1969, Mike
Poutra left “The Fun Fair, Inc.“ to join the National Guard. He was
replaced by Paul Robinson, formerly of the group “Moss”. Robinson played
for a short while until Larry Campbell became the permanent replacement.
Campbell had previously played organ for the “The Royal
Coachmen“, “The Blue Reaction“ and “The Stoned Age”. When Poutra was in
town he would occasionally get up and perform with the band. Mike Poutra is
now the President of Dominion Business Forms, in Orange.
With the current lineup of Pat Shelton/vocals; Keith
Kyle/guitar; Larry Campbell/organ; Billy Burrow/bass and Sammy Parish/drums
the “Fun Fair, Inc.” continued dominate the local music scene until
disbanding in 1970. Drummer, Sammy Parish went on to become a black belt in
karate and taught self-defense for a while. He now works for Inland/Owens
Illinois in Orange. Billy Burrow is the Vice President of County Bank in
“The Fun Fair, Inc.” disbanded, but several of the
members weren’t through yet.
In the late 1960’s “The Fun Fair, Inc.” was at the top of the
Orange, Texas musical heap. They continued to pack in the crowds with the
showmanship of their charismatic lead singer, Pat Shelton and their
renditions of the Top 40 hits of the day. But, music was starting to change
in the late 1960’s. The “Bubble Gum” music of the early 1960’s was giving
way to a new type of “underground” music. Groups like “The Jimi Hendrix
Experience”, “Steppenwolf”, “Deep Purple”, “Cream”, and “Led Zeppelin”
ushered in a whole new sound and style of music that appealed to a war weary
The new music had a much “heavier” sound, not to mention
being a lot louder. One group in Orange, “Moss”, modeled their sound after
this new, emerging style. Backed by a wall of Vox amplifiers, “Moss” was
not only heard, but felt as well. The band consisted of brothers Sam
Anderson on guitar and Bennie Anderson on drums. Paul Robinson, who did a
short stint in “The Fun Fair, Inc.”, played organ. Robbie Cullen played
bass and the lead vocals were handled by Robert Witkowski. The band was not
around very long. They too, like “The Inquiry”, were broken up when Robbie
Cullen’s dad, another DuPont employee, was transferred to Wilmington,
Delaware. But, they did make quite an impression on three young, Orange,
Texas aspiring musicians.
Scott Hoyt, who had originally sung for “The Inquiry”
until they broke up, had been playing bass in another “heavy” band, “The
Stoned Age”. Inspired by Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, he borrowed an
electric guitar from a neighbor and began teaching himself the guitar. He
called up his former “Inquiry” bandmates, Ralph Gilmore and Robert Putnam
and started “jamming” with them. They made if official when “The Stoned
Age” broke up and named their new trio “Scarlet”.
“Scarlet” was Scott Hoyt on guitar/vocals; Ralph
Gilmore/drums; and Robert Putnam/bass. The band spent every day after
school learning songs and “jamming” for hours on end. Anytime a band was
performing in the area, “Scarlet” would attend the show to pick up “tips” or
a new drum lick or guitar riff. Nowadays, you can buy an instructional
video to show you just how to play the guitar solo to “Fire” by Jimi
Hendrix, for example. In the 1960’s you just had to listen to the record
and try to figure it out for yourself or, hopefully, pick it up from some
other guitar player.
The Y.M.C.A. on W. Park Avenue in Orange became a great
place to see groups like “The Fun Fair, Inc” and “Winchester” from Houston.
“Scarlet” went to all “Fun Fair” shows, taking notes and dreaming of the day
of performing on the Y.M.C.A stage. And it wasn’t long before “Scarlet” did
their first show on that very stage.
“Scarlet” continued honing their skills but Hoyt wasn’t
satisfied with playing guitar and singing. He wanted to focus more on his
guitar playing and get a singer to front the band, which was the in vogue
thing in those days: every band needed a front man. Hoyt knew a singer who
would be the perfect person to front the group!
“The Stoned Age”, which was composed of Rob Axelson/guitar;
Larry Campbell/organ; Scott Hoyt/bass; Bob Lacy/drums and Andy Purcell on
vocals, used to rehearse at the Thomen Community Center in Orange. They
rehearsed in a room at the end of one of the wings of the building. One
night while rehearsing, the band noticed blue and red flashing lights coming
from an adjacent wing. The band took a break and walked around to see what
was going on. There, through the darkness, beneath the flashing lights was
“The Blue Reaction” performing for a private party. “The Stoned Age”
acknowledged that the band was good. But, Hoyt kept commenting on how good
the lead singer was. Later that night Hoyt introduced himself to “The Blue
Reaction‘s“ singer, Keith Bergeron. Hoyt persuaded Bergeron to come and
“check out” “The Stoned Age”. Impressed by what he saw and heard, Bergeron
soon joined the band.
Fast forward to 1970. “Scarlet” (Scott Hoyt/guitar & vocals; Ralph
Gilmore/drums; and Robert Putnam/bass) were wanting a lead singer. Hoyt
remembered Keith Bergeron and gave him a call. After hearing “Scarlet”,
Bergeron joined. With Bergeron as the new lead singer, the band quickly
changed their name to “Stoned Black”.
“Stoned Black” played a mixture of hard rock tunes
ranging from “The Electric Prunes” to “Grand Funk Railroad. But, one thing
that set them apart from all the other bands at the time was the fact that
they also performed original material. Hoyt and Putnam had written several
songs that they mixed into their repertoire. Keith Bergeron’s smooth vocals
added just the right touch and help land them an exclusive 30-minute
performance and interview on KBMT television, Channel 12, hosted by Lois
Larry Campbell, who was also in “The Stoned Age” with
Hoyt and Bergeron, was now ensconced as the organist for the ever-popular,
“Fun Fair, Inc.” When he came over to visit one day and heard “Stoned
Black”, he was floored. He was impressed with their musicianship, their
sound, and the fact that they actually had written their own songs! He
asked if he could play with the band, whenever he wasn’t doing “Fun Fair”
shows. “Stoned Black” was more than happy to add the organist to the
lineup. Having Larry Campbell of “The Fun Fair, Inc.” in the band was like
a stamp of credibility. To differentiate, whenever “Stoned Black” performed
with Campbell on organ, the appeared under the name “Brer Rabbit”.
Toward the end of 1970, “The Fun Fair, Inc.”, was
starting to wind down. Things were seeming to stagnate. Band members were
developing other interests. There seemed to be no spark left. That’s when
the light went off in Larry Campbell’s head!
In late 1970, “The Fun Fair, Inc.” had just about run it’s
course. They had survived numerous band member changes over the years
and had kept it going. But interest was waning. Everyone had different
ideas about where they wanted to go musically. Especially, since the
“pop” music they had been so well known for, had given way to the harder
edged music of the day.
Larry Campbell, organist for “The Fun Fair, Inc.”, had been
moonlighting with Keith Bergeron, Scott Hoyt, Ralph Gilmore, and Robert
Putnam, otherwise known as “Stoned Black”. Excited by their sound and
propensity for “underground” music, Campbell thought it would be a great
idea to merge the two bands together. He persuaded fellow band members
Keith Kyle and Pat Shelton to go and listen to “Stoned Black”. Kyle and
Shelton soon agreed that merging the two bands was a no-brainer and
opened up a whole new world of musical possibilities.
So, in late 1970, “The Fun Fair, Inc.” and “Stoned Black”
merged to become “Sweetbriar”. And what a successful merger it was!
The “Sweetbriar” lineup was: Keith Bergeron/lead vocals; Larry
Campbell/keyboards; Ralph Gilmore/drums; Scott Hoyt/lead guitar/vocals;
Keith Kyle/rhythm guitar/vocals; Robert Putnam/bass; and Pat Shelton;
lead vocals. The music reflected the many personalities of the band,
performing everything from “James Taylor” to “The James Gang“;
“B.J.Thomas” to “Bloodrock“; and “Bread” to “Three Dog Night”.
“Sweetbriar’s” first performance was for the Little
Cypress Football Banquet, and they never looked back. The band performed
throughout east Texas for private parties, high school dances, Lamar
University dances, and concerts, including a multiple act concert at
Lamar University Stadium.
The band featured two lead singers up front, Keith Bergeron and Pat
Shelton, harkening back to the old days of the “Boogie Kings” with G.G.
Shinn and Jerry “Count” Jackson” fronting the band. It was new music
with ties to their roots from the 1960’s.
But, fate, via the U.S. military, would step in once
again. Singer, Keith Bergeron, was selected to be drafted into the
service and joined the U.S. Navy in July 1971. He served as a hospital
corpsmen in San Diego, California. He now resides in Abita Springs,
Louisiana working for Dameware Development.
“Sweetbriar” broke up in 1972 when Pat Shelton and Keith Kyle left for
Pat Shelton now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and
works for American Solutions for Business.
Keith Kyle has a successful dental practice in Orange.
Larry Campbell also lives in Orange, operating a mobile advertising
company and performing locally with “Moe Haynes Band”.
Robert Putnam lives in Boston, Massachussetts and
works in computer sound/music at Boston University.
Scott Hoyt lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Hoyt
retired from performing in 1999, after a successful career as a solo
country artist. After the breakup of “Sweetbriar“, Hoyt headed up the
highly successful group, “Tangerine”, with his sister, Helen. He toured
with “The Grass Roots” from 1978 to 1980, and appeared on “Star Search”
in 1986 with the rock band, “14K“. He is currently managing and
producing his 20 year-old daughter, Erica, and driving tour buses for
various country and rock celebrities.
Ralph Gilmore, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona, is
the only “Sweetbriar” member who stills plays music professionally.
Gilmore also toured with “The Grass Roots” and made an appearance on
Dick Clark‘s “American Bandstand”. He stays busy performing in several
bands and doing studio work.
Tonight, at the VFW Hall on North Highway 87, at 8
p.m., there will be reunions of the bands: “The Inquiry”, “Scarlet”,
“Stoned Black”, “The Fun Fair”, and “Sweetbriar”. There may also be a
few “special guests”. Admission is $10.00 at the door.