Back Then - by Scott Hoyt

    The 1960’s were a time of great changes in the world.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the music of the 1960’s.  “The Beatles” arrival on the American music scene in 1964 changed everything.  Their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan television show mesmerized a generation.  It seemed that, suddenly, everyone wanted to sing and play the guitar or the drums.  The light bulb went off in millions of peoples’ heads:  “What a great way to make a living”!  Dreams of fame and fortune filled every aspiring musician’s head.  The inspiration was not lost on Orange, Texas either.  Several bands popped up on the scene like tulips on a warm, spring day.   There were bands like “The Surfsides”, “The Filaments“, “The Innovations”, “The Blue Reaction”, “The Royal Coachmen“, “Moss“, “Heat Wave”, “The Stoned Age“, “Otis”, “Brer Rabbit”, “The Inquiry”, “Scarlet”, “Stoned Black”, “The Fun Fair”, and “Sweetbriar”. 
     Friday, June 16th, 2006, there will be a reunion of several of these bands at the VFW Hall on north Highway 87, in Orange.  Some of them will be performing together for the first time in 37 years!  So, who are these bands and what are their stories?
     “The Inquiry” was formed in 1967.  The original band consisted of Derek Forsberg, age 11, on organ, Ralph Gilmore, 11, on the drums, Bob Granaghan, 12, on guitar and Robert Putnam, 11, on bass guitar.  All were attending Jones Elementary at the time with the exception of Granaghan who was attended M.B. North Junior High.  Later, vocalist, Scott Hoyt, 13, rounded out the lineup.  “The Inquiry” played the Top 40 hits of the day and made two television performances on Channel 4, KJAC, including Henry Larcade’s “Comments” Show.
 In 1969, “The Inquiry” was dealt a crushing blow when Forsberg’s father, who worked for DuPont, was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware.  Derek, an accomplished keyboardist, moved to Wilmington, finished school and later went on to tour the U.S. with the “Jamie Morad Revue“. After several years of the road, he settled down in Wilmington, performing with the local band, “Whale”.  Derek now works for Computer Sciences Corporation and is the music director for the Immanuel Church. 
     The band tried to stay together, but Bob Granaghan was losing interest when he found a new passion: surfing.  The final nail in the coffin was when Bob’s father, another DuPont employee, was transferred to Metairie, Louisiana.  Bob went on to graduate from the University of Texas with a degree in engineering.  He now resides in Fort Worth, Texas.  Gilmore, Putnam and Hoyt called it quits, for the time being. 
     Shortly thereafter, “The Stoned Age”, led by Rob Axelson, convinced Hoyt to buy a bass guitar and join their band.  Axelson, who’s father was the editor of the Orange Leader at the time, played guitar.  The band featured vocalists Andy Purcell and Keith Bergeron as well as Bob Lacy on drums, Larry Campbell on organ and the aforementioned Hoyt on bass.
     But, Gilmore, Putnam and Hoyt had a bond that was very strong.  They were not through yet.
     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 Orange.
     “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 younger generation.
     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 Lynn.
     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 college. 
     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.