THE GEMINI FIVE and THE ODDBALLS (Westerly, RI)

Promotional shot taken shortly after the Gemini Five's record release. Clockwise from top left: Dave Nugent, guitar; Eugene Burrows, bass; Richard Thomas, guitar; Mitchell Spencer (center), guitar and vocals; Bobby Korrus, drums. Photo courtesy of Mitch Wayne.
The beach parties must have been in full swing when the Gemini Five shimmied onto the scene in the early 1960s. Hailing from the scenic oceanside town of Westerly, R.I., on the Connecticut border, the Gemini Five cut one frat-inspired disc on the Planet label which, like a few of its other releases in 1965, never made it past the white-label DJ promo stage. Led by North Carolina-born Mitchell Wayne Spencer (a.k.a. Mitch Wayne) on guitar and vocals, the Five included Richard Thomas and Dave Nugent on guitars, Eugene (Gene) Burrows on bass and Bobby Korrus on drums. Unlike the legions of high-schoolers inspired by the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Mitch Wayne, born in 1938, began writing and performing country and rockabilly songs as a teen in the 1950s. The Gemini Five — named for the NASA spaceflight program — gigged around Westerly and nearby Norwich, Conn., and caught the ear of a rich fellow who hired them to play his son's wedding. He liked the band so much that he paid for the Planet recordings and subsequent vinyl 45 in September 1965. While the outfit basically mined the rockabilly and early rock and roll territories, Mitch realized that they must adapt to the new post-Beatles landscape, and "Can't Say No" was his resultant stab at a Fab Four-styled harmony ballad.

At some point, the Gemini Five lost Nugent and Korrus and picked up a new drummer, Eugene Rickey, and morphed into the Oddballs. The band's schtick consisted of dressing in ridiculous outfits such as a straw hat, sportscoat with a t-shirt and tie, and pants ripped at the leg. (But perhaps the oddest quality of all is that they still played straight-up rockabilly numbers in 1966!) The Oddballs headed up to Ace Recording Studios in Boston to record two tunes penned by Mitch in the late 1950s, "Rockin' In The Jungle" — complete with monkey noises by Gene Burrows — and "That's My Baby." These tracks wound up on the now-infamous Rocket label (home of Mel McGonnigle's mega-raw "Rattle Shakin' Mama" from 1958), and though the exact date is unknown, Mitch states it definitely was after the Gemini Five, placing the release most likely in early 1966.

Update: It's been discovered that the Oddballs 45 appeared in the October 3, 1964 issue of Cash Box magazine, placing the release date most likely around a month or two earlier.

The Oddballs live at the Ritz Cafe in Westerly, R.I. From left: Mitch Wayne, Eugene Burrows and Richard Thomas (with Eugene Rickey on drums in the background). Photo courtesy of Mitch Wayne.

Mitch continued to play music throughout the decades, though he has lost track of his Gemini Five and Oddballs bandmates. He still enjoys a vibrant solo country career and his new music can be found here.

Attention: Rip It Up RI still needs a copy of the Oddballs "Rockin' In The Jungle" for the local collection. If anybody out there has a copy, please get in touch!



THE GEMINI FIVE
A Go Go Baby / Can't Say No
Planet
(No. 56) Sept. 1965






THE ODDBALLS
Rockin' In The Jungle / That's My Baby
Rocket
(110) Sept. 1964


No comments:

Post a Comment