Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Night Shadows

The story of  The Night Shadows begins in 1959 when Alex Janoulis changes the band name from "The Barons" to "The Night Shadows"   and the band evolves when Bobby Newell replaces Mike Moore on piano. Bobby "Bones" Jones (vocals & Harmonica) is hired as the first "front man" for the group and Hilton Dickerson joins the group as their first "road manager." The first public appearance as "The Night Shadows" is made on December 13, 1959 at the Maid of Athens' Annual Masquerade Ball. In 1960 – 1961 The Night Shadows became one of two alternating house bands playing shows at the skating rink at “Misty Waters". (The other group was The Zots, a.k.a. Mac Davis and The Zots). Although both groups' shows were primarily blues oriented, radio station DJ's and local concert promoters started to book the Night Shadows as the primary back-up band for solo rock & roll stars who were touring in the area. Their ability to quickly learn the songs of the traveling artists and arrange them in a show format (often just minutes before curtain call) gave The Night Shadows a virtual monopoly over other local bands. It also increased their bookings by giving them a lot of exposure in front of large crowds. They would "warm-up" those audiences with their own show which featured a great blues singer and harmonica player named Bobby "Bones" Jones. 
Go to: 

To order The Night Shadows recordings.

Some of the earliest tracks by the Night Shadows, "I Love You Baby" and "Honest I Do"  on the CD titled "Volume 1: The Rhythm & Blues Period 1959-1964" are live performances and are the earliest known recordings of the Night Shadows with Jones fronting the band. These primitive tracks were recorded on a tape machine with one microphone located near a telephone booth in Misty Waters in late 1959 or early 1960. If you listen closely, you can hear a conversation outside the phone booth and the static caused by someone stepping or tripping on the microphone cable. In 1962 After Jones left the group in the fall of 1961 the Night Shadows joined forces with Ervin Barocas and Helene Kopell, a male/female duo that fronted the band as Little Erv & Helene. It was during this period that the Night Shadows began to release records on independent labels. The group's first release was a risqué single titled "Garbage Man" backed with "The Hot Dog Man" The tunes were written and sung by Janoulis to break into the lucrative college fraternity market that was dominated by black artists performing party songs. Their earliest commercial release was a new dance called "The Elevator". Also joining the band on vocals during this time was an outstanding singer named Judy Argo.

                                            Above is a rare picture sleeve from the Little Phil era

In 1964 The Beatles headed the "English Invasion" of rock bands and the Night Shadows and the other American groups would follow this new direction in music. This broader scope of music became a factor in the change of lead singers later that year when Little Erv quit and Judy Argo departed for opportunities in New York. In June 1964 Little Phil joined the Night Shadows as lead singer. Little Phil had just completed the ninth grade in high school while the rest of the band members were college-age adults. Everyone except Janoulis thought he was too young to front the band. It turned out to be the right decision however, since Little Phil could sing rock and R&B equally well. He remained lead singer for the next five years and Little Phil & the Night Shadows era began.

                                                The very rare and valuable album from 1968



    Around 1966, I shared a place on Monroe Drive with Alex Janoulis, a fellow engineer at Lockheed with hair down to his shoulders. (Looked a whole lot better than these Pictures.) He always said, "Walt, I'll be the last engineer they lay off, cause these guys get beat up by the wife before leaving for work then park and come in and see me and feel superior to me, thus making me too valuable to get rid of."

    He was right.

    I had a grand piano downstairs in the duplex (probably 1969 Monroe Dr.) and when they got off a gig late at night, Bobby Newell, (another LH engineer) would get all the dust off every key doing Ramsey Lewis "I'm in With the in Crowd", whatever anybody yelled outfall by ear. If you could hum it he could play it, although he had studied classical music and could very well read the notes.

    I said, Bobby how do I tune this guitar? "Don't you hold one string here and tune the next string to it?" He said, "No, man, you just turn each knob till you're on,"  meaning if you had perfect pitch like he did you would recognize the right frequency when you heard it.

    Damn, where did the good times go?

    Till then:

    "Is there life as we know it on this planet?"


    WTF do we do now?

  2. Great story. Thanks for sharing.