The Rock & Roll scene in Charlotte during the 1960s
by Daniel Coston
co-author of There Was A Time: Rock & Roll In The 1960s In Charlotte, And North Carolina, by Fort Canoga Press.
“Was there a Rock & Roll scene in Charlotte during that time?’ The question was often asked while I worked on a book on that subject, and to honest, I might’ve once asked that same question, myself. To my delight, I discovered that there was a popular scene in Charlotte during those days, and the fruits of their labors are only recently beginning to be appreciated.
Like many other scenes during that time, many of the Rock & Roll bands in Charlotte during the 1960s were still in College, High School, or even Junior High School. Many youngsters heard the records coming out of England, or in the growing Rock scene in America, and quickly acted on this new obsession. They learned how to play their instruments, joined a band (or did both in the reverse order), and found a quick audience in their own classmates at school dances, and Battle Of The Bands competitions. It wasn’t until the 1970s that being in a Rock band became a more adult pursuit, be it part-time or full-time.
Due to the age of many of the group’s fans, many of the Rock & Roll venues in Charlotte were teen clubs. Often, they were in the basement of recreation halls, or churches. The Crested T., The Tin Can, and the Spyder Web were among the most popular teen clubs in town. The Spyder Web was located in the basement of the YMCA on Morehead Street, and did not allow anyone in older than 19 years of age. There were some other clubs that catered to an older (i.e. alcohol drinking) crowd. The Purple Penguin, which was located on the corner of Central and Pecan (where CVS is now), the Box, on South Boulevard, the Cellar, which still sits on Morehead Street, and in the late ‘60s, Phantasmagorica, which was on the outskirts of Charlotte, near Matthews. Many of the bands in town still played these venues, despite not being old enough to drink, or legally step foot in the venue. Many venues told the musicians, “Don’t tell anyone your real age,” so they didn’t.
Not a lot of bands got the chance to record during that time. Recording was expensive, and the parents of many of these groups didn’t think that people would someday be collecting these records for amazing sums of money. In all, eight groups in Charlotte recorded during that decade. The New Mix (which featured future Spongetones drummer Rob Thorne) was the only Charlotte band to record for a major label, releasing their sole album on United Artists Records in 1968. They also recorded a couple of singles under their previous name, the 18th Edition. The Stowaways recorded an album in 1967 for the Winston-Salem based label, Justice Records. That album now goes for $400 to $600 in collector circles.
Perhaps the best-known single to come from Charlotte was “Abba”, which was released by the Paragons in 1966. “Abba” is now revered as a Garage Rock classic, and has been embraced by a new generation of collectors and fans. That single, which the band sold in the halls of their high school, has brought more than $1,800 on Ebay. The Grifs, who were all of 19 when they recorded “Catch A Ride” in 1965, got more attention from the Midwest when their single got airplay in that part of the country. “Catch A Ride”, with its nasty Fuzztone sound, and follow-up single “Keep Dreaming”, are two of the best singles that ever came out of a Charlotte band, period, and listening to these singles on Youtube is highly recommended. Also recording singles during that time were the Damascans, and the Good Bad & The Guy (featuring future Spongetone Pat Walters). The Young Ages, who were based out of North Meck High, recorded a two-song demo for Decca Records in 1968, which can now be heard on their website.
It has been a pleasure and a joy to put together this book on the Charlotte scene, as well as the rest of North Carolina. I’m glad that I could help to put this together, and my only regret is that someone else didn’t do this sooner. All of these years later, the music that came from North Carolina can be heard on Youtube, or in compilations like the Tobacco A Go Go series. Go out, and discover this music. It’s new, it’s hip, and it’s cool, just like it was when it was first recorded.
“There Was A Time” will celebrate its release with a show at the Neighborhood Theatre on June 28th. Doors will be at 7pm, and show will start at 8pm. The bands will be Good Bad & The Ugly (first Charlotte show since 1994), Young Ages, Abbadons (first show since 1967), Bobby Donaldson & The Ravens/Premiers reunion revue, and the Mannish Boys (featuring book co-author Jacob "Jake" Berger). The show will be emceed by yours truly, Daniel Coston. Tickets will be $15, and copies of the book will be available for purchase at the show. You can get info about the show at www.neighborhoodtheatre.com. We will also be doing a book signing for the book at Park Road Books, in Charlotte, on June 26th at 7pm. Also, check out the book’s website at