The “Golden Hits 

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(Allen A. Jones, Willie David Young)

MGM 13379

No. 4    October 30, 1965




“We started in 1963.   We were all in Treadwell High School [Class of ’65],” said Gentry guitar man Larry

Raspberry to Goldmine’s Randal C. Hall, “except Pat [Neal], the bass player.  He was a man, 27, 28; married,

worked for the railroad.”   Besides Larry and the “man,” the initial Gentry’s were comprised of Bruce Bowles

(vocals), Bobby Fisher (sax, piano, guitar), Jimmy  Hart (vocals), Jimmy Johnson (trumpet, organ), and

Larry Wall (drums)–basically a sock hop, school function band of wanna be musicians.   They came in  third

place in the Mid-South  Fair Talent Competition; got better and appeared on Ted Mack’s “Amateur Hour,”

and won top honors  at the Memphis Battle of the Bands.


In 1964, producer Chips Moman thought he heard something in the Gentrys and signed them to his newly

formed Youngstown label.   “Little Drops Of Water” sold less than modestly.   “When we cut our second

record, it was the only time I had sung ‘Keep On dancing,'”said Raspberry.


“It was done as the flipside, so there was nothing to be lost with my not having a good voice.  It took about

35 minutes from the time we decided to cut it until Chips said, ‘That’s the take.’   Our version ran only one

minute­ thirty seconds–too short even for  a  B-side–and Chips taped the beginning over and stuck it at the

end.   It sounds as if the song starts all over again; really, what you hear is a ending took a considerable

amount long.   “We went in after school one afternoon, around three-thirty; started recording at five and

recorded until midnight.”   When the latter disk–the hastily dashed and patched B-side, in  particular–

showed some sparks, Moman contacted MGM’s Jim Vienneau, acquired the waxing for national release.


Like many one-shot top 40 moments, “Keep On Dancing” was a fluke hit, a flipside; what the industry calls a

“throwaway.”   A group called the Avantis–three black guys who modeled themselves after the Isley

Brothers, and who had toured with, and befriended, the Gentrys–had recorded the original version of “Keep

On Dancing” for the Chess subsidary Argo.   “We very much changed ‘Keep On Dancing’ from the way the

Avantis did it,” said Raspberry, “but did keep the words and the background vocal part.   Their version was

much like the Isley Brothers’ ‘Twist and Shout,’ mid-tempo, like a cha-cha.


All parties involved were  surprised at the Gentry’s early success.  “We were young kids,” Raspberry said.,

“and not great musicians.   We didn’t know anything about tuning drums or even  tuning  guitars or how to

make things really sound good…Chip wanted us to be competitive with the musicians being recorded in

Nashville, and yet here he was with kids 17 years old who couldn’t play worth a darn.”


Despite it all, the Gentry name returned to the national listings several more times.  “Spread It On Thick”

{#50, 1966) and “Everyday Have The  Blues” (#77, 1966) sold moderately well, though it was clear that

momentum was being lost.   Fisher and Johnson were gone by this point; Larry Butler was brought in from

Nashville to play the organ.   Three further 45s appeared on MGM; three more on Bell, before what remained

of the Gentrys broke up in 1970.


“Our world broaden, when ‘Keep On Dancin” hit,” he said. “There’d only been  the Watermelon Festival, or

the White River Water Carnival, or  the Cotillion Dance in Grenada, Mississippi, for us, till then.  Then–bam-

-we opened for Jerry Lee Lewis, the Beach Boys, Paul Revere; did ‘Shindig,’ ‘American Bandstand’ twice,

‘Where The Action Is’ least twice…  We were a one-hit act.”


Hart, singing lead with a completely newline-up–Dave Beaver  (keyboards), Mike Gardner (drums), Steve

Speer (bass), and Jimmy  Tarbutton (guitar)–revived the group’s name for three chartings on the legendary

Sun label:  “Why Should  I Cry”  (#61,  1970),  “Cinnamon   Girl” (#52, 1970), and “Wild World”   (#97, 1971).

This version  of  the Gentrys also recorded for Capitol and Stax.


Jimmy  Hart went on as the “Mouth of the South,” to become a successful wrestling  manager with the World

Wrestling Federation.   Rick Allen resurfaced in a later addition  of the Box Tops.   Bruce Bowles is a sales

rep at a Memphis radio station.  Bobby Fisher is a civil engineer with the city of Memphis.   Jimmy Johnson

is a physician.   Pat   Neal  works for  the railroad and moonlights with local  country bands.   Larry Wall is a

promo man with Columbia/Epic Records.   Raspberry formed a hard-rock band called Alamo that recorded

one self-titled LP for Atlantic in 1970; he has since fronted the High-Steppers for at least four albums.


In 1971, “Keep On Dazncing” produced by JONATHAN KING became the first homeland major hit for  the

Scotish group the Bay City Rollers.