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The Mandells

The Exclusive Story of The Mandells (Smart/Chess Records)
Thank You - Steven Kahn

In the 1950’s, multitudes of rhythm and blues and rock and roll vocal groups formed in cities across the United States. Many of these groups came together at people’s houses, social halls, and talent shows. Other groups were formed while the group members were serving in the military. The Mandells were one such group.

Before I continue, I wish to make a point of distinction in order to clear up some apparent confusion. The Mandells that recorded on Smart and Chess records are in no way related to other groups that went by the name “Mandells”. There was a Mandells group that in 1963 released a record on the York record label “It’s No Good (Being Apart)”/ “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got”. This group may possibly be related to a group going by the name Mandells that recorded a record for the Jubilee record label called “Doin’ The Look”/”True Love Is Hard To Find”. There was also a group calling themselves The Mandells that came from Chicago, and recorded for labels such as Moneytown, Moneytree, Hourglass, and Trans World Sound. The group that I am writing about is in no way affiliated with these other groups.

Our story begins on February 3,1938, when Eranious McNeil Murray (aka Neil Murray) was born in North Charleston, South Carolina to an AME Church minister and preacher. The area north of the City of Charleston is historically an area that consisted of large plantations, small farms, and, later, industry and business (North Charleston did not become its own city until 1972, the year that it was incorporated).  Eranious grew up during a tumultuous time in the 1940’s and 1950’s, years that are well known both for the wars that took place as well as for the diversity of the music. In the United States throughout the 1940’s, there were many different forms of popular music. There was swing music, different styles of jazz, different styles of blues, country, and folk. Jazz and blues in particular merged together in the late 1940’s to form a new style of music that became known as rhythm and blues, or R&B. This new form of music became very popular among black Americans in the United States. However, the new musical form did not become “mainstream” until the middle 1950’s and the arrival of artists such as Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & His Comets. “Rock and Roll” music can be thought of as a fusion of rhythm and blues, country, pop, and folk music, and this is the music that artists such as Elvis Presley made popular. Concurrent with the arrival of rock and roll music was the rise in popularity of music that later became known as “doo wop”. Specifically, we are referring to a style of vocal group/choral singing, which spread throughout the United States in the late 1940’s, and early to middle 1950’s. This style of vocal group music was also especially popular in the black communities, and began to really “take off” around 1956, the same year that rock and roll began to drastically increase in popularity. It was this unique fusion of musical styles that young Eranious Murray became exposed to as a youngster and which so greatly influenced him during this time.

Young Eranious Murray (he wasn’t known as Neil Murray until many years later) grew up involved in the church in South Carolina. He left Charleston, South Carolina in the fifth grade and moved to Union, South Carolina. Then, in the eighth grade, his family moved to Newberry, South Carolina. In the eleventh grade, his family moved yet again – this time to Saint Matthews, South Carolina. There, he attended John Ford High School. In the middle of 1955, Eranious Murray was a seventeen-year-old kid who had just graduated from John Ford High School in South Carolina. He was short – at 5 feet 2 inches and 106 pounds, and was looking at that point to leave the South as well as to try and save money for college. It was at that point that he decided to join the United States Air Force.

Eranious joined the United States Air Force in June of 1955. He first went to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for eleven weeks of military training. He then briefly went back home to South Carolina, after which he went to school for training as an engineering draftsman in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He finished this schooling about two weeks before Christmas of 1955. After that, he went back home to South Carolina again, for nine days. From there, he went to New York (his first time in New York) and Manhattan Beach Air Force Station in Brooklyn, which is where he got shipped out to Europe. In December 1955, he flew out to Frankfurt, Germany. From there, he took the train to Munich, Germany. He then took another train from Munich to Erding, Germany. Erding was a little town about nineteen miles from Munich, and this is where his U.S. Air Force base was located. At this base, they were teaching the Allied pilots to fly jets. Eranious remembers walking onto the base at Erding on the day after Christmas, 1955. He walked into the administrative offices of his squadron, into the office of the First Sergeant of his squadron. As he walked in, there was a popular song that was playing on the radio by the name of “Sixteen Tons” by an artist named Tennessee Ernie Ford.

In another building at Erding there was an airman’s club in which people were playing games and listening to music. It was at this particular club that Eranious heard four guys singing in harmony. However there was one problem – the group did not know the vocal changes of what they were singing. Eranious took it upon himself to join in and teach these guys harmony. He had been a second tenor up to that point but by now his voice had dropped. Therefore, he became a baritone/bass singer (which is what he remained as throughout his singing career). In mid-January of 1956, this group of military men decided to call themselves “The Supremes”. These Supremes pre-dated all other known “Supremes” groups. The guys were all at the same squadron at Erding, but did different jobs. Eranious was an engineering draftsman, another guy was a cook, another worked in the motor pool, and another worked in supplies. The Supremes were: Harry Golphin – first tenor, lead
            Wil ‘Dalas’ Hubbard – first tenor, second tenor, lead
            James Lay – second tenor, baritone, lead
            Eranious Murray – piano, second tenor, baritone, bass, lead

These were the original and main four members of The Supremes. Other guys later drifted in and out of the group, but these were the core members. Note that Neil started the very beginning as a second tenor in the group, but quickly became a baritone/bass when his voice “dropped down”. Wil ‘Dalas’ Hubbard was from Dallas, Texas originally. Harry Golphin came from Brooklyn, New York.

In the spring of 1956, Eranious and his vocal group The Supremes won the championships (an annual air force talent competition called ‘Tops in Blue’) held at their base. They then went to perform at the European championships on another base, in Wiesbaden, Germany, and won there as well. Also that spring (late in the spring), he and his squadron moved to Bordeaux, France. The Supremes continued at Bordeaux, and were doing well. They did a lot of practicing and rehearsing, with Eranious sitting at the piano and coming up with the harmony. In mid fall of 1956 (around October), Eranious and James Lay (another member of The Supremes who today is a preacher in St. Louis, Missouri) volunteered to go to Wheelus Field Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya for thirteen months. They were in the Libyan Sahara Desert in Libya. The Supremes at that point ceased to exist as it had. Eranious and James became the nucleus of another vocal group, which was called “The Desertiers”.

In the spring of 1956, Eranious and his vocal group The Supremes won the championships (an annual air force talent competition called ‘Tops in Blue’) held at their base. They then went to perform at the European championships on another base, in Wiesbaden, Germany, and won there as well. Also that spring (late in the spring), he and his squadron moved to Bordeaux, France. The Supremes continued at Bordeaux, and were doing well. They did a lot of practicing and rehearsing, with Eranious sitting at the piano and coming up with the harmony. In mid fall of 1956 (around October), Eranious and James Lay (another member of The Supremes who today is a preacher in St. Louis, Missouri) volunteered to go to Wheelus Field Air Force Base in Tripoli, Libya for thirteen months. They were in the Libyan Sahara Desert in Libya. The Supremes at that point ceased to exist as it had. Eranious and James became the nucleus of another vocal group, which was called “The Desertiers”.
The Desertiers got started in a similar way as The Supremes had. Eranious and James met a group of guys at Wheelus, and started to teach them harmony. The Desertiers also varied between four and five members. The Desertiers were:

? – (from Jacksonville, Florida) – first tenor, second tenor, lead
                           Eranious Murray – baritone, bass, lead, piano
 Henry ? (from Atlanta, Georgia) – first tenor, second tenor, lead
                        James Lay – second tenor, lead
Soon afterward, The Desertiers performed at the North African championships held at Wheelus. These were the various divisions of the air force that competed. Eranious remembers beating the group there that later recorded the song “Stranded In The Jungle”. The Desertiers also beat four other groups, and went on to win the North African championships in the spring of 1957. In late spring of 1957, they went back to Wiesbaden, Germany, and performed at the European championships once again. In the fall of 1957, Eranious and James Lay left Libya. This was the end of The Desertiers as it had existed. In addition to being a part of two vocal groups, Eranious had flown out to and visited more than twenty countries during his time as an engineering draftsman in Germany, France, and Libya. These were very exciting times for him.

On December 27, 1957, Eranious arrived at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Kirtland is located in southeast Albuquerque, and is right near the Sandia and Manzano mountains.  It was at Kirtland that he met a vocal group that needed a bass singer, and he decided to join this group. In around January of 1958, this group became known as “The Vocaltones”. It was the Vocaltones that eventually evolved into “The Mandells”. The members of The Vocaltones were as follows:

The Vocaltones - 1958 
Milton Smith – tenor, lead
                        Jimmy Smith – tenor, lead
                        Wayne Boswell – baritone, tenor, lead
                        Barry Boswell – tenor, lead
                        Eranious Murray – bass, baritone, lead, piano

It is important to note that the three tenors in the group were very versatile, and were able to sing different tenor positions. In addition, they also went forth and sang the lead vocal at various times. Milton Smith was an extremely talented “navy guy” who was originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. Milton was a particularly good lead singer. Jimmy Smith was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was not related to Milton Smith. Jimmy worked at Kirtland as a fireman in the U.S. Air Force. Jimmy was “quick” and extremely talented musically. Eranious and Jimmy would become the best of friends. Wayne and Barry Boswell were actually twins, but they looked different. They, too, were at Kirtland Base. Barry did not last long in The Vocaltones, however, and the group was then left with just four guys. In addition to his singing, Eranious would also play piano with The Vocaltones, whenever there was one available.

The Vocaltones had a lot of performing talent, and began to grow in popularity. They entertained people around Albuquerque and won various competitions. In the spring of 1959, The Vocaltones won the talent championships held at Kirtland Air Force Base. They were the winners of their division. They then went on to the world championships held in Cheyenne, Wyoming (in the late spring of 1959), where they came in at second place. These championships were also popularly known as the “Tops In Blue”.

The Vocaltones in Shades 

In this photo, we see the group that Neil was in that The Mandells were formed out of. The group was called The Vocaltones, and they were from Kirtland Airforce Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This photo shows the Tops In Blue competition that took place on different bases throughout the United States, and The Vocaltones were winners in the air research and development command of the airforce. The other people shown in the photo were other division winners. The Vocaltones are the men on the right hand side of the photo wearing shades. From left to right, they are:

Jimmy Smith (was from Philadelphia, PA)
Neil Murray (was from South Carolina)
Milton Smith (was from New Orleans)
Wayne Boswell (also came from Philadelphia)

The Vocaltones as a group existed from January 1958 until mid-1959. Many things happened for Eranious during this time. Eranious was in the Air Force from 1955 until he was discharged on June 7, 1959. After that date he was out of the military, and was then considered a civilian. His dad had passed away by that time, and he took a train to South Carolina to visit some friends. His mom was living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the time. Shortly after that, he took a train back to Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the fall of 1959 (and lasting until the fall of 1960), Eranious got a job working as an engineering draftsman for the US Army Corps of Engineers in downtown Albuquerque. The US Army Corps of Engineers was and is responsible for water control. In January 1960, he began college at the University of New Mexico. The Vocaltones continued to exist as a group throughout the beginning of 1959. However, there was a big problem. Wayne Boswell and then Milton Smith had left the group. Therefore, the only two people left in the group were Jimmy Smith and Eranious Murray.

In early summer of 1959 (before Eranious was honorably discharged from having served his four-year term in the U.S. Air Force), a competition of vocal groups took place at Sandia Air Force Base. Eranious and The Vocaltones competed against a group from another local base called Manzano. There were three bases in Albuquerque at the time. Kirtland was a complete air force base. Sandia Base had many functions.  Sandia Laboratories was located there, there were barracks there, a great deal of research and development took place there, and every branch of the military was represented there. Finally, Manzano was a secret air force base that stored nuclear warheads. Manzano Base was located beneath the Manzano Mountains. This group from Manzano had a talented singer by the name of Chuck Young. Chuck was originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and he had joined the base at Manzano. Chuck knew that The Vocaltones were very good. The Vocaltones also liked Chuck and decided to take him into their group. The group at this point consisted of Chuck Young, Jimmy Smith, and Eranious Murray. Just after Eranious got out of the air force, two more members (possibly also from Manzano) soon joined the group. One member was Charles Clemons, who was a baritone/bass but mostly a baritone/second tenor. The other was a young guy named Russell, who Eranious remembers as “Peesburgh” because he can’t recall his last name but who came from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Vocaltones at this point had five group members. None of the members worked on Sandia Base, but they traveled through Sandia to get back and forth from Kirtland and Manzano. Chuck Young and Jimmy Smith came to Eranious with a new name, and the group decided to call themselves “The Mandells”. Eranious says that Chuck Young was probably the one who had the name originally, but he doesn’t recall where the name came from. The members of The Mandells were as follows:

Charles “Chuck” Young – first tenor, lead
                        Jimmy Smith – first tenor, second tenor, lead
                        Russell (aka “Peesburgh”) – second tenor, lead
                        Charles Clemons – baritone, bass, lead
                        Eranious McNeil Murray – bass, baritone, lead, piano

The Mandells existed as a group from 1960-1962. Not one member of The Mandells was from Chicago, as has been speculated. The only connection between this particular Mandells group and Chicago is that their record “Darling, I’m Home/Who, Me?” got released on Chess Records, which was a Chicago record label.

Around the same time as the birth of The Mandells, Eranious started up another local group that was known as “The Swinging Supremes”. This was an actual band, and not a vocal group. The members of The Swinging Supremes were as follows:

Eranious Murray – lead singer, arranger and pianist
                       Mike Silva – saxophone, arranger
                        Frankie Lerma – lead guitar
                        Emilio Armijo – bass guitar
                        “Hollywood” – drums (thereafter replaced by Charles Brown, Jr.)

Swinging Supremes - 1960
In this photo, we see Neil's other early 1960's group, which 
was called The Swinging Supremes.

Shown in the photo clockwise from the top left are:

Neil Murray (holding the microphone), Emilio Armillo, Frankie Lerma, 
 Charles Brown (the drummer), Mike Silva

The Swinging Supremes existed as a group from 1960-1963, but they did not record anything. They were a band that played local gigs around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Some of these gigs were together on stage with Eranious’s other group, The Mandells. In addition, The Swinging Supremes were the featured band at the University of New Mexico on Wednesday night band nights at the Student Union Building. They also performed at new hotels that opened up around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sadly, Emilio Armijo later passed away in an accident after having served in the navy.

1960 was an exciting year for Eranious because he was in college, was working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was busy performing with both The Mandells and The Swinging Supremes. In the fall of 1960 Eranious got a new job, and was working back at his old desk at Kirtland Air Force Base. He returned to his old job as an engineering draftsman - however, this time as a civilian (as opposed to being in the air force). He worked in the civil engineering office at the base at Kirtland from the fall of 1960 until 1967. When he first started this new position, the other members of The Mandells were still serving in the military.

 The year 1961 was a busy year for The Mandells. Eranious was at Kirtland Air Force Base working as a full time engineering draftsman, as a civilian. Jimmy Smith met a young woman from Albuquerque named Priscilla (who he would later marry) in January 1961, just prior to the group’s record deal. Chuck Young also met a woman named Eva (also from Albuquerque) around this time. On one particular day in 1961, the five members of The Mandells took an eight-hour car ride from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona. Arriving at Phoenix, the group was then directed to the Audio Recorders Record Studio in Phoenix, Arizona, where they were to cut four songs which would get released on Smart Records. Smart was an Arizona-based record label that had been around since 1949. It was during the long car ride that Eranious Murray wrote the song “Who, Me?” as well as his bass voice intro to the song “Darling, I’m Home”. “Who, Me?” was a “funny-sounding” song in the vein of the popular group The Coasters. The officers at Kirtland Air Force Base had always been fans of this particular type of song. “Darling, I’m Home” was a song that lead singer Chuck Young had mostly written, and prior to the trip to Phoenix. Now added to that song was Eranious’s distinctive bass vocal intro that went “you know I turn back the calendar, I mark mark off the days, I’m hoping and I’m praying that you’ll come back some day, do do do”. Eranious wrote this part so that the song would have an open intro, rather than just horns or something similar.

The Mandells

In this photo, from left to right are: "Peesburgh", Charles Clemons, Jimmy Smith, Chuck Young.
Chuck is seen all the way on the right of this photo, and he appears to be talking to Neil Murray,
who is not seen, but is playing the white colored piano behind him.

Just prior to recording their four songs in Phoenix (the songs were “Darling, I’m Home”, “Who, Me?”, “I Don’t Have You”, and Because I Love You”), The Mandells ate lunch at a local restaurant. After this, they went on into the studio for the recording session. The session itself was relatively quick, and lasted for only about two or three hours during the early afternoon of April 8th, 1961. The songs were recorded completely live and all in one take. Ray Esquivel (from TheAlbuquerque group The Gliders) played saxophone on the session. No other songs were recorded at the session other than the four songs. “Darling, I’m Home” was recorded first, followed by “Who, Me?”, and then the other two songs. “Darling, I’m Home” was a particularly strong recording, and it featured Eranious Murray’s distinctive bass vocal intro, Chuck Young’s unique “Smokey Robinson-type” lead vocal, Jimmy Smith’s beautiful tenor voice, and Russell and Charles Clemons singing along in harmony. Eranious sang the bass vocal intro, followed by Chuck Young on lead singing “darling I’m home, here by your side”, and Jimmy, Russell and Charles singing the “ho, ho”, in the background together. Jimmy Smith is the “highest-sounding” voice in that background. “Who, Me?” featured Eranious Murray’s bass vocal and had Russell carrying the melody. “Because I Love You” was a beautiful song that Eranious Murray had written specifically for Jimmy Smith to sing lead on. Eranious wrote “Because I Love You” in honor of Jimmy Smith having met Priscilla, and he wrote it prior to the trip to Phoenix, and specifically for the recording session. “I Don’t Have You” was a ballad that once again featured the lead vocal of Chuck Young. This, too, was written by Eranious, and was written specifically for their recording session.

Four members of the New Mexico group The Gliders served as the back up band on the session. Like The Mandells, the Gliders also travelled from New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona for the session. The Gliders on the session were: Ray Esquivel - leader and saxophone,  David Trujillo - piano, Ray Lopez - drums and Eddie Gallegos - guitar. Bass on the session was played by a local musician by the name of Buddy Wheeler, who is better known for having been the bass player on some of Duane Eddy's early recordings. The recording engineer was a man by the name of Jack Miller. The musician's union contract for the session reads that the session was done for the "Desert Recording Company of PO Box 1026, Sierra Vista, AZ," and was signed for by a man named Gaither E. Stepp. Stepp was the producer of the sessions, and probably came from Sierra Vista, ArizonaHe was a white guy, probably in his thirties at the time. The group did not meet Stepp until they had arrived in Arizona to record. Stepp did not actually write any of the songs (even though he is credited as a co-writer on the record label).  The Mandells themselves did all of the collaborating on and writing of the songs, and much of it on the car ride on the way to the studio itself. It is likely that Stepp was the connection for The Mandells to a man named Bill Hillman, who owned the Smart record label. Smart Records was started back in 1949 in Phoenix, and the label had a small studio at the time as well. In the late 1950's, Bill Hillman moved his amusement business further south to Sierra Vista, Arizona, which was located next to a United States military base at Fort Huachuca. When the Mandells session took place, Smart was still based in Sierra Vista. However, the label did not have its own studio at the time. That is why the session took place elsewhere - in this case, at the Audio Recorders studio in Phoenix.


“Darling, I’m Home” received some local airplay at the time. The two records were pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield Custom Record Pressing of Phoenix, AZ. "Darling, I'm Home" (with “Who, Me?” as the flipside), was first released on Smart #323, and then got leased to the Chess label out of Chicago. "Because I Love You" (backed with "I Don't Have You") came out on Smart #325. Eranious thinks that Stepp may have known someone over at Chess, and did a good job at promoting the record. Eranious remembers that “Darling, I’m Home” came out at about the same time as the popular song “A Little Bit Of Soap” by the Jarmels. Eranious can today remember driving west one day on Route 66 in Albuquerque, shortly after his record had come out. A popular jockey named “Pal Al” Tafoya was playing “Darling, I’m Home” on the local KLOS radio station. Eranious was thrilled when he heard his song being played on the radio. The Mandells had been well known around Albuquerque, but being on the radio was a whole new situation for them. It triggered memories that would last a lifetime. The group went out and continued to perform after the songs had come out.

On one particular Saturday, The Mandells went on the local Johnny Appleseed show and performed. Charles Clemons sang with the group most of the time, particularly when the performance venue gave Eranious access to play a piano. Charles was able to sing bass as well, and the four guys would often be seen singing and dancing their “in-step group moves”, while Eranious would sit and play at the piano. In addition to singing their own songs, The Mandells also would sing popular hit songs of the day. Jimmy’s ex-wife Priscilla (who now goes by the name Priscilla Conkrite) remembers the popularity of The Mandells peaking during this time. She says that “Mostly, they sang at Kirtland and Sandia NCO Clubs (Chuck was stationed at Manzano) and once or twice they performed at the Albuquerque Civic Center. Once, they also sang at one of my high school dances (I attended Harwood Girls School). Neil didn’t want to sing at my school dance - - as I recall, Jimmy had to talk him into it. I guess Neil thought my school was a waste of their time; however, my friends and I were thrilled and Jimmy understood how much it meant to me.” Priscilla also remembers the group practicing two or three times a week “when they could reserve a small room with a piano on base.” She would attend many of these practice sessions. Eranious was, however, the “unofficial leader” of The Mandells. He was a little older than the other guys, was the one who scheduled the rehearsals, and made sure that everyone in the group would take turns singing lead on some of the songs at their live performances (including Charles Clemons). The rehearsals, of course, went on throughout 1961 – both before and after they made the records.

Chuck Young, Neil Murray, Jimmy Smith, Mike Silva, "Peesburgh"

Here is yet another photo of the Darling, I'm Home Mandells. Here they are shown performing at the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Mandells were a vocal group that performed all around Albuquerque, New Mexico in the early 1960's, as they were stationed on two airforce bases there.

Here the group is singing a Hank Ballard and the Midnighters song, with "Peesburgh" shown singing lead on this particular song. The group was very versatile, and various members sang the lead at various times. Mike Silva is shown playing saxophone, along with the rest of Neil's other group at the time - the Swinging Supremes.

Jimmy Smith was discharged in February of 1962, and The Mandells thereafter broke up. Jimmy went back to Philadelphia at that time, and Priscilla joined him in Philadelphia in August of 1962. The two were married in April of 1963. Back in Philadelphia, Jimmy (his legal name was James) found a job working for Boeing Vertol – first as a firefighter, and then becoming a crew chief. After years of doing that, he got a job working for the Los Angeles Times newspaper. He became enormously successful working for the newspaper. Jimmy had a charming personality, and was well liked. Chuck, Charles, and Russell remained in the service until they retired. Russell worked in intelligence in the air force. Chuck reenlisted and went to Southern California.  Chuck was a good friend of Roy Lott, who is the father of the famous football player Ronnie Lott.

Eranious Murray got married to a lovely woman from Albuquerque named Juanita Cole. He went on to work in local (Albuquerque) radio and television. In around 1963, he started working as a disc jockey for KBNM FM in Albuquerque.  He was a popular local disc jockey with the air name of “The Priest From The East” (many still remember him by that name today). He had a busy day because he would be working as a civil engineering draftsman at Kirtland Air Force Base during the day, and would broadcast on the radio at night. Word started to get out around Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico about him at that time, and he also was on KUNM, which was the University of New Mexico’s own radio station. Being that he got such good ratings, he then got a job working for KOB radio/77 AM in Albuquerque, which was an enormously popular station. It was at this point that he really started to be called “Neil Murray”. After that, he worked at KDEF, another local station. There, he was on the air from 6-8 pm as “Neil Murray” and from 8pm to midnight as “The Priest From The East”. He really started being called “Neil Murray” after he started in Albuquerque television in 1973. He started his work in television doing promotion, and then in 1974 went on the air on KOAT/Channel 7 TV (the ABC affiliate there) as a sportscaster, after which he worked as an investigative reporter and doing a feature called “On Your Behalf”. Neil currently lives in Golden Valley, Minnesota, where he still records in his own recording studio to this day. Sadly, both Chuck Young and Jimmy Smith have passed away. Jimmy died of cancer around 1998 and Chuck passed away in 2008. The Mandells were a fantastic vocal harmony group, and are fondly remembered to this day by all who experienced them live, and well as all who continue to appreciate their recorded output.

Darling (I'm Home) / Who, Me?  - Mandells - Smart 323
Because I Love You / I Don't Have You - Mandells - Smart 325
Darling, I'm Home / Who, Me? - Mandells - Chess 1794

I want to thank Eranious “Neil” Murray, John P. Dixon and Priscilla Conkrite for helping me
with my research, and to The Mandells for being the amazingly talented vocal
group that they were
Steven Kahn, November 2009
You can contact Steve -  stkahn1@gmail.com

Neil Murray - 2009



On January 15, 2005, Smoothie was inducted into the New Mexico Hispano Music Hall of Fame Foundation at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
His main instrument is tenor sax. He also plays alto & baritone sax, clarinet and sings lead and background vocals.

Smoothie started his career in 1964 with the Majestics. He continues to be part of the New Mexico Music Scene in 2006 playing with the Albuquerque Blues Connection. He also is working at Santa Fe Center Studios with producer Daryl Piper and Samara Music, ASCAP on a local original project.

Smoothie, on a national level, has played with Rosie, who recorded the hit song Angel Baby, toured with Cleveland Duncan and the Penguins (Earth Angel) and Kenny Sweet lead singer of the Drifters. He has been the featured perfromer in the opened act for numerous major concerts and shows to include Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Lightening Hopkins, Tower of Power, The Diamonds, Tierra, Malo, El Chicano, Jimmy Edward, Latin Breed, Little Joe Y La Familia, Sunny and the Sunliners, Ruben Blades Y Son Del Solar, Lorenzo Antonio, Sparxs, Sidro's Armada, Mark Seven Unlimited, Los Chavos, Kan-Dells and Stephanie Montiel.

The Majestics - 1964
Freddie Chavez, Dale Rodriguez, Charlie Jaramillo, Ernest (Big Boy) Turner, Smoothie


People have heard his smooth sax at sit in jam or gig sessions behind artists like: Taylor Dayne, Pop Diva Queen of the 80's and 90's, Bruce Gibson of the Platters, Jimmy Edward and the Latin Breed, Johnny Hernandez, Randy Castillo former heavy metal drummer for Ozzy Osborne, more sit in sessions with the back up band of the Platters, members of the band War, George Tomsco and the Fireballs, Greg (Sticks) Brown former drummer of Stevie Wonder.

Los Chavos - 1975
Smoothie, Danny Jojola, Joe Chavez, Oscar Lozoya, Mike Garcia

Locally Smoothie has played in bands in his forty year career. Some of the Albuquerque bands Smoothie has been a member of are: The Majestics, Thee Broadway featuring Tommy G, Los Chavos, Amigas y su Grupo Ritmo, Seven Plus Tax, Night Shift, Brown Sugar, Flipside, Saxy, David & Co., Smoothie & The Funky Taco and The Big Kahuna Rhythm and Blues Revue, just to name a few. Smooth Man's Saxophone and Vocals can be heard on about twelve CD's with other artists. His influences on Sax are King Curtis, Boots Randolph, Stan Getz, Sam Butera, Lenny Picket, Maceo Parker, Kirk Whalum and Gerald Albright.

Smoothie's Band - 1976
Mike Garcia, Smoothie, Willie Barela (Top), Oscar Lozoya

 Smoothies personal statement - It is a challenge to play various styles of music, one of the most important assets a musician can acquire. In the music field, an entertainer must work hard to keep up with the continuous changes of the music industry. The key to true success is DEDICATION! I enjoy performing because the music I project in my own pronounced style comes from my heart and soul and my improvising with feeling will be appreciated by the true music listener.

I want to thank the musicians I have had the honor to work with, so many greats, Thank You.

Xit / Lincoln St. Exit

Mike Martinez - Mac Suazo - RC Gariss - Lee Herrera

In early 1969 Lincoln St. Exit, Mike Martinez, Mac Suazo, RC Gariss and Lee Herrerra recorded in Clovis New Mexico at the Norman Petty Studios and the song "Soulful Drufter" emerged from the "Drive It" Album. The album was distributed by Mainstream Records.

Groups like Janis Joplin (Pre Columbia Records) and Amboy Dukes (Ted Nugent’s group) recorded for the label at the same time.  Soulful Drifter gained radio station play and Exit had a hit record along the Great Lakes Area.  The airplay was enough to catch the ear of Motown records in Detroit.

At that time Motown was looking to increase it’s catalog of new artists on their new Rare Earth label and Exit filled the need.  Motown liked the group, a new sound, a new look and a new direction was needed.  So the idea was that they would return to their roots and create.  A new sound in music was born “American Indian Rock”. Under the management of Tom Bee the new sound emerged and the new Xit name was born.  The acronym was XIT for Xing of Indian Tribes came about because of some of the group’s ethnic background.

The first album for Motown was “Plight of the Redman” released in 1971.  It’s a history lesson from the beginning to end sung by member Mike Martinez and tells the story from the beginning of peace in the New World to their struggles with the white man in America and finally to the climatic end of the narrative speech by Mac Suazo.

The album garnered critical acclaim and grammy consideration.  It is still for sale.The album has withstood the test of time.  Their second album on Motown was “Silent Warrior”.

XIT played many venues including the Whiskey A Go-Go in Hollywood and in 1972 the 8th International Music Festival in Venice Italy.  This festival was broadcasted to over 30 million people throughout Europe, along with countless concerts in cities and reservations across the United States and Canada.

Today (2007) members Mike Martinez and Mac Suazo have started writing songs again.  These songs have to do with the Plight of the Native Americans but now include world problems.  They have a new CD “Exit From The Rez” available on cdbaby.com.  Album CDs on Soar Records www.soarrecords.com

Plight of the Redman
Motown Records - Rare Earth Label


Silent Warrior
Motown Records - Rare Earth Label

Martinez and Suazo

No Exit
Martinez and Suazo

All Xit - Lincoln ST. Exit Pictures and Bio provided by
Mac Suazo 2007
eMail -

Wumblies / Gremlins

Randy Castillo's band . One of the best R&R bands I ever
saw. Also part of the Albuquerque invasion in Denver.

Wumblies at the Stage Door Club December 1978 Wichita, Ks.
Randy Castillo Drums, Rick Wilson Bass, Dave Martin Lead Guitar, Kevin Jones Keyboards and George Gargoa Lead Vocals.

Information and Photo provided by Mark Andrews - May 3, 2006


The Gremlins
Gene Romero, Fred Radman, Randy Castillo and Chuck Klingbeil

Randy Castillos' first group. The Gremlins

Randy was 14 years old. Members from left to right are Gene Romero- guitar, Fred Radman- bass, Randy Castillo- drums, Chuck Klingbeil-keyboards. We were too young to play night clubs, but we gigged doing one nighters for a few years at frat houses and private parties, we opened up for Jimmy Clanton, when he was popular. You know about Randy, Chuck played with many groups in Albuquerque and died a few years before Randy. Fred retired from UNM and doesn't play anymore, Gene retired from the public schools and is still playing and has played music all his life. His newest band can be seen and heard on 

Thanks to Gene Romero - November 2007 - for picture and bio 

Wish / Third Wish


During the mid 1980s Third Wish was a popular Albuquerque favorite. This rock band was one of several that played the club scene with great success. Although fans in New Mexico were more familiar with the mid-eighties group, most may not know the history of the group and how it evolved over the years. At the core was lead singer Kenny Romero and guitarist Gary Cook. Both started the group in Santa Fe after Don Lovato (guitarist) introduced Gary to Kenny. That was in winter of 1980. From that point on the duo performed together for a couple of years until creating Wish which later became Third Wish. The following is a History of the band and its various members:

1981-1983 -This was the first band formed in Santa Fe. The group started as an original rock band but also incorporated various covers to complete a 2-hour stage show. They were the first rock band in Santa Fe to producer their own rock concerts at the Armory For The Arts.

The first WISH band (1981) featured, (L to R): Gary Cook (guitar), Alan Medrano (drums), Andrew Gallegos (bass) and Kenny Romero (vocals/harmonica) in front center.

1983 - 1985
Danny Duran
Kenny Romero
Gary Cook
Mark Kennedy
Eddie Garcia
Bass Vocals
Leader - Guitar

Wish picture and info provided by
Eddie Garcia - July 2006


Third Wish
Jeff Donohoe, Brent Valentine, Gary Cook, Kenny Romero, Eddie Garcia

Around the autumn of 1985 Gary called in his old band mates… drummer Eddie Garcia and singer Kenny Romero (what a voice) from the earlier versions of Wish to play with us. We learned enough cover material that we could be booked in the local bars, and we started gigging around the end of 85 with a combo of cover tunes and our own non-descript songs with titles such as Urban Escape, Albert’s Complaint, Hold On, One in One and What’s The Matter With You. Of course the natural name for the band had to be Third Wish since three members of Wish were still there. Needless to say, we got a lot of funny looks from the dance floor and our agent, but the band sounded good and we were very well received. We were having a lot of fun on stage, and people seemed to like what we were doing (even if it was a little weird for the mid-80s)

Jeff Donohoe, Bass and Vocals(February 2007) - As an update (my version) of the Wish / Third Wish story... I started writing songs with Gary Cook (Guitar/Vocals) and Brent Valentine (Keys) in the Spring and Summer of 1985. I had played with Brent in Face to Face in 83 and 84. Brent was one of the two keyboard players in Face to Face (very cool sound with two keyboard players). Gary had played with One of a Kind that had formed around the Face to Face drummer (Bob Gordon) and the other FTF keyboardist (Mike McDade). One of a Kind also featured John Herschkorn (vocals) and Bob Sweet/Jeff Johnson (bass).

I met Gary while he was playing with my old FTF band mates. When Gary left One of a Kind after doing the winning song (Time Again) for the Strohs/MCA Records Talent Search, he wanted to work on more original stuff, so we started collaborating in my kitchen on Garcia street. We were exploring styles that we had never really messed with before, and when Gary and I combined our writing with Brent’s very stylistic keyboard playing, we ended up with a sort of rock/jazz/fusion feel that was a lot different from the mainstream rock we had been used to playing. We started recording our sessions, sometimes with Bill Veitch on drums, and we laughed a lot (especially when Brent did his infamous chicken impersonation).

1985-1986 THIRD WISH w/ Jeff Donohoe and Brent Valentine - This was the most progressive of all the bands. Combining hard rock with jazz/fusion for a unique live show with great musicianship. The band recorded some original demos at Ricci Dustin's studio and in the kitchen, bathroom and shower at Jeff's house. Jeff has photos of Gary and all his gear crammed into the shower stall with a mic (an impromptu method of creating natural re-verb for the guitar solos). 1986 also saw the band's return to Club West in Santa Fe along with a totally different sound.

 1986-1987 Final Lineup
Mark Simma, Gary Cook, Kenny Romero, Carlos Cordova, Derek Hilland

Mark Simma (drums), Gary Cook (guitar), Kenny Romero (lead vocals), Carlos Cordova (bass) and Derek Hilland (keyboards). Also, not pictured is Thor Spangler who played bass guitar briefly before Carlos joined the band.

Gary Cook and Kenny Romero remained as core members throughout the history of the band. The group’s final performance was at Senior Buckets in Fall of 1987.

This photo provided by - Mark Simma

Jeff Donohoe, Bass and Vocals (February 2007) - Third Wish was the first of three bands ( * ) I played in with Eddie, who later went on to Vegas where he played with Tower of Power, Ricky Martin and spent several years playing with Clint Holmes, the headline act at Harrah's (I'm very proud of Eddie, he is an amazing drummer). Incidentally, Ricci Dustin, an Albuquerque Sound Tech (Showtech Inc) who worked with a lot of the bands on the New Mexico Band History Site, was Clint Holme's sound man until Clint left Vegas. Ricc is still the sound man at Harrah's as we speak.  Wes Wesson, (the Off The Wall Warehouse-Party-Doorman-Turned-Sound-Guy) who ran sound for Third Wish, went on to Nashville where he ran sound for Marty Stuart and toured with The Charlie Daniels band for many years. Last I heard, Wes had settled in Austin.

Third Wish played well into 1987 (maybe 88). I played Bass and sang with Third Wish until July of 1986 when I was replaced by Thor Spangler and later Carlos Cordova. Brent Valentine also left in 86 and was replaced by Derek (Daaakkk) Hilland who now plays keyboards for Rick Springfield after several years in LA and on various world tours with Iron Butterfly and David Coverdale of Whitesnake. Third Wish was Derek's first real "Rock" gig, and he had to borrow money from his dad to buy equipment because he didn't have ANY when he joined the band! He was right out of high school and also had very little hair at the time…but boy did it grow. Derek and I later became roommates and played together in 87 and 88 in The Exchange with John Herschkorn, Bill Veitch, and Dave (Adonis) Thomas. Eddie also left Third Wish sometime in 87, and he was replaced by Mark Simma.

Gary Cook went to LA where he attended Groves School of Music, became the VG-8 expert for Roland Corp and headed up the Guitar Department for Yamaha for several years. Gary has worked with a diverse list of artists including Sting, Joni Mitchell, Clint Black, Neal Schon, Mike Elizondo, Scott Reeves, Greg Adams, Igor Len, Andrew Strong and a host of others. (Visit his site, listed at the end of this page).

All the guys f rom the various Albuquerque bands mentioned in this bio still play in some capacity or another. We've all remained on friendly terms, and over the years many of us have ended up playing together in various line ups. In January of 2006 I was fortunate enough to reconnect with Gary and we have played a few gigs together as a break from our other gigs (pretty fun and very nostalgic for both of us). Its really been amazing for me to watch these players evolve over the years, and I count myself very lucky to have some shared history with all of them. A history that I am now sharing with you and also with my son Dustin Vaughn who gets a big laugh out of all the crazy things his dad and his friends used to do. I still retain this one image of Kenny singing “Whats The Matter With You” at the Launch Site with a pair of his girlfriend’s pink panties on his head. Wild Times!”

Rock on guys!


John Herschkorn, Bob Gordon, Gary Cook, Mike McDade, Bob Sweet

One of A Kind pictured (L to R):  John Herschkorn (vocals), Bob Gordon (drums), Gary Cook (guitar), Michael Mcdade (keyboards) and Bob Sweet (bass). When Gary left One of a Kind after doing the winning song (Time Again) for the Strohs/MCA Records Talent Search, he wanted to work on more original stuff, so we started collaborating in my kitchen on Garcia street. We were exploring styles that we had never really messed with before, and when Gary and I combined our writing with Brent’s very stylistic keyboard playing, we ended up with a sort of rock/jazz/fusion feel that was a lot different from the mainstream rock we had been used to playing. We started recording our sessions, sometimes with Bill Veitch on drums, and we laughed alot (especially when Brent did his infamous chicken impersonation). 


All Third Wish Pictures and Bio provided by 
Jeff Donohoe
eMail -
Jeff Donohoe, Bass and Vocals...
(Off the Wall, Face to Face, Third Wish, The Exchange, Kid Rhythm,
*Dr. Know, *Sassy Jones [92-93], Donohoe & Grimes)
Third Wish Pre-History and Timeline provided by Gary Cook - March 2007
February / March 2007

Whiskey River Band

Ron Nemec-bass, Michael Donathan-lead, Wayne Brewster-drums, Ron Sodos-Steel


Submitted by: Gayle Donathan - 09/2011

This Group broke up in 1978

The "Whiskey River Band" who also performed in and around Los Alamos 
in the mid eighties.  

They are probably best known for appearances at the famed "Line Camp"  in Pojoaque NM. 

This picture and info was provided by 
Eddie V. Harrison and Bill Hutchinson - Los Alamos - Nov. 2010 .


The "Westerners"  played in the middle fifties in and around Los Alamos.

The pictures and info was provided by
Eddie V. Harrison and Bill Hutchinson - Los Alamos - Nov. 2010


John Sherwood, Stefan Filer, Troy Romero

Triax was formed in 1986 by leader and virtuoso bassist / vocalist Stefan Filer (previously from the band "Fate") and songwriter / guitarist Randy Troy Romero (Previously from the band "Terminator"). They were joined by Phil Romero on percussion (also from "Terminator") soon to be replaced by John Sherwood from the band "Manifest" in the same respect.

After Troy's untimely death at the age of 23 (may he rest in peace), the band was joined by Vic Andrews adding his melodically powerful and distinct guitar talent (from the notorious band "Hard Attack"). To honor the spirit of Troy, Stefan decided to change the spelling of the band's name from "Triax" to "Tryax" ("Y" for Troy's undying spirit and love for music). Tryax released one album "Le Commencer", meaning "The Beginning" in French. 

The beginning, unfortunately was also the end as this is the only album that this band recorded (aside from a few compilations). "Le Commencer" is an extremely rare and in many cases a very sought after work as it was engineered and produced by the late, great Eric Larsen on 2" analog media in a beautiful signature dark, yet fierce portrayal of "Albuquerque's own metal". The popular power ballad on the album "Lost Time" won the award for "Best Heavy Metal Song" in the very first New Mexico Music Industry Awards ceremony (Stefan has since won MIC awards for his musical works).

In 1989, Tryax split with each member deciding to pursue other endeavors, but the spirit of NM music lives on!

All Pictures and Bio provided by
Stefan Filer - January 2007


Ray Lucero - Joey Ansi - Joe Jama - Ron "Wolf" Garcia

Ray plays lead guitar, lead and background vocals and doubles on trumpet, flute and sax. While a member of Spinning Wheel he performed all over the USA.

Wolf plays keyboards and is the lead singer. His accomplished songwriting "Easy Nites", "Ain't Nothing Like Your Sweet Love", "Summer Crusin", and many others have been recorded by many local groups.

Joe Jama from San Antonio, TX. He is a bass player and vocalist. He was a member of the legendary tejano group "The Royal Jesters".