The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Buddy Randell, Beau Charles)

Challenge 59321

No. 20    January 22, 1966




For a time splinter, they were the hottest group in the land; the first American group to successfully capture

on vinyl a sound so vibrant and similar to the Beatles that to this day some still believe that “Lies” was yet

another Fab Four 45.


There was Beau Charles (b. Oct. 21,  1944/Bergenfield, NJ/guitar), Buddy Randell (b. Bill Crandall, November

9, 1941, Dumont, NJ/sart, vocals)  and Jimmy Walker (b. April, 1940, Brooklyn, NY /drums, vocals), Johnny

Charles (July 3, 1943, Bergenfield, NJ/bass) and they had the sound down; but not the look…


“There wasn’t a time my brother and I weren’t into music,” said Beau Charles in an exclusive interview.  “I

started taking guitar lessons in ’58 and by ’59 Johnny and I were played in the bands that played the high

school dances.     By ’60 we named ourselves the Supremes; a name we lifted from the  liquor store in the

area.   We played VFW’s and sock hops.   It was American Graffiti time.


“Now, Buddy was a famous guy.    We’d heard of him long before he joined us.   He was this wild guy–from

a neighboring town–that could play all this down-on-your-knees sax stuff.   He was a good musician; had

been in the Royal Teens, co-wrote ‘Short Shorts’…    He was a star at 16; quit school and later regretted it.”


After “Big Name Button” and a few further 45s, Buddy left the Teens to join the Vikings.   After a few

mutual gigs, Buddy–who was impressed with the Charles brothers’ vocal  abilities-­ joined the Supremes.   “I

had just graduated high School, when Buddy joined in the fall of ’62.   We became the Knickerbockers; the

name  for Buddy’s street in Dumont, NJ.   We lived on Felps Avenue; that didn’t work.   For awhile there was

also  Skip Cherubino (drums) and Red Brown (organ).”


By the spring of  1963, the line-up came together around  the Charles brothers, Buddy and Jimmy Walker.

“Jimmy–what a big fat voice.   He could sing, though we weren’t interested in what he was doing at the

time. He’d been in this rockabilly outfit, the Castle Kings.   He’d been in the Rockin’ Saints, too; a big road

group out of New Jersey.   Neither had recorded anything and he was ready for a change; and we were it.


“We played this place–the Village Inn–in Glens Falls, New York, for three months; lived above the hall and

we got tight.   This is the tri-cities area–and it was here at the University Twist Palace in the spring of  ’64 that

we met Jerry Fuller.”   Jerry, who would later write “Young Girl” and “Lady Willpower,”  was an aspiring teen

idol recording artist with the Gene Autry-established Challenge Records. The Knickerbockers were a cover

band, quite good at imitating the Beatles; and Jerry took notice.   With his assistance, the group was signed

to the label.


Their initial singles, “Bite, Bite Barracuda” and “Jerktown,” did not sell very well.   Neither did an oddball

and now highly-collectible debut album,  Sing and  Sync- Along with Lloyd:    Lloyd Thaxton Presents the 

Knickerbockers.   The LP made  use of a gimmick called  “Trick   Track”:  when  you put the stylus in the

grooves, anyone of five different cuts could be heard.   For example the listener might hear  “Hully Gully,”

“It’s Not Unusual,” or the  Knickers’ fine rendition of  “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”    Cute idea, but what

if you  wanted to hear the fellows bounce about with the “Hully Gully” and nothing else?  Odds were that

th e record’s  owner would have to  stick that disk several times before he could get the right tune at the

right time.


“I don’t even have a copy of that thing,” said Beau.   “…I never did figure it out; making it is all kind of a blur,

now.   Lloyd’s niece did vocals on that…it was kind of a nepotism thing.”


“Lies,” the third Knickerbockers  45, was filled with so much energy, so much Beatie vibs that it could not be

denied hit status.   “Me and Buddy came home one night from playing the Excellsor House; couldn’t sleep.

We deliberately tried to write something like the British Invasion; wrote it in less than an hour.   We demoed

it at Variety Arts in New York; Jerry like it and asked me to rearrange it.   Bruce Botnick, who went on to do

 the Doors, engineered it, when we recorded it at Sunset Sound in LA.    Things weren’t right so we took the

master track up to Leon Russell’s house in Hollywood Hills.    Jerry knew Leon and Leon had this great little

 studio.   It was a freaky place; lot of girls and stuff.   I can say it was the first hippie situation, I ever  lived

through.   It was just a four-track and we did our vocals there; with me adding my guitar part again, distorted

though through this beat Fender amp.    This could have gave it that meaty feel that people refer to; still have

that amp…



“One, two takes, that was it.   We had it.   Things were so simple then.”



Within weeks,  “Lies” was to be heard everywhere.   “KRLA played it and the phone lines filled up; 20,000

copies sold in two days.   We were all over the trades and teen magazines.   It was unstoppable.   We were

playing the Red Velvet on Sunset Blvd.; lines went around the cornor.   One station played us for a week with

out identifying us.


Listeners thought we were the Beatles.    Just this last saturday, I’m at a party and ‘Lies’ was played; this kid

said to me ‘That’s the Beatles.’    The confusion helped, immediately–though  later  the association would



With in weeks the Knickenbockers were invited to be a regular on Dick Clark’s daily   broadcasted “Where

The Action Is.”   “We were on like every other day; in the studio cutting stuff, always.    The pace was wild,

but it was a mistake…  Dick Clark was tight with the buck.   It was good exposure, but in the long run it hurt,

’cause if we had toured we would have made a lot more.     We only got a nominal amount–scale money.After

Six, eight months they didn’t pick up our option and went with this other group, the Robbs.   They had the

look, long hair, handsome guys,” said Beau.


Their   follow-ups, “One Track Mind” (#46, 1966) and “High On Love” (#94, 1966), did not chart as  well as expected.    “Leon produced most of our Lies album, but we should have probably recorded the voices again at his home studio, ’cause something was missing.   Everybody around us thought they knew what a hit was.    Dave Burgess [member of the Champs, of  “Tequila” notoriety], [label head] Joe Johnson, and Jerry Fuller had a major impact on what we were allowed to record.   It was frantic, trying to find that next hit,” Beau adds.



More than a half-dozen further 4Ss were issued in rapid succession, but not one of  them  even flirted with

the charts.



“We got bad press, ’cause we could sound like anybody.   We were versatile.   They called us a copy band and

that hurt.   We should have drank beers or smoked the stuff and found our sound.   But, I suspect what hurt

most…we didn’t look the part.    Our  mode of dress was a flash from the past.    Eventually, it hit that we’d

have to change our wardrobe.    The people parking our cars in Hollywood looked cooler than we did.   We

finally got hip quick…but by then not many noticed.”


Problems arose with Challenge Records.   “They were sending us some real garbage to record and it got to the point where we weren’t speaking.

We couldn’t sign with anybody else, and they won’t let us go.   We were young and dumb. We were

managed by the record company.   We were sunk.” said Beau.


Buddy was the first to leave.   “About ’67, he had a emotional breakdown, of sorts; his wife left him.   Then

Bobby Hatfield had Jimmy fill in for Bill Medley in the Rigtheous Brothers.   John and I hired some others

and carried on; recording some stuff for George Tobin [composer of DEREK’s “Cinnamon”].”


In 1970 the Knickenbockers were signed to Motown’s MoWest subsidary.   Due to contractual difficulties

with Challenge the one album–produced by Bob West, composer of “I’ll Be There”–issued by the group

was credited to Lodi.   Beau recorded solo sides; never issued.   The following year, Buddy sang lead on an

obscure  one-shot 45 by a group called Blowtorch.   “Come And Get It” was the tune–almost no one did.

Beau went on to create station IDs, commercials for KFC, Figaro, local banks; recording of-camera vocals

for  the  Kojak TV series and flicks Across The Great Divide (1977), The Laughing Policeman (1974), and

Grease (1977).      John runs a catering business.    Buddy, a born-again, sings for the Lord and works a “

9-to-5.”   Jimmy lives in Napa Valley; sings the blues, works as a free-lance  musician.


The Knickerbockers reformed in 1990–all original members–to play the first of sporadic gigs at Charles’

Place in Del Ray, Florida.


“It was great; we were kids again,” said Beau, “but we had to play the bills.   We stay in touch…and if the

chance offers itself–we’re  here and tight.”