Volume 2: The Little Phil Era 1964-1967

The Night Shadows have been in my top five for the last three decades - their great 45’s and the classic standard, “The Square Root of Two” album is legendary and essential. When the Chesterfield Kings originated in the late 70’s, Little Phil and the Night Shadows were a driving force and a major influence in our direction along with other icons like the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds. “60 Second Swinger” appeared on our first album, Aleck Janoulis designed our logo which appeared on our 2nd 45 “Hey Little Bird,” and Aleck produced our 2nd album, “Stop!” Night Shadows’ numbers have been, and to this day, still are staples in our set, from “60 Second Swinger” to “The Way It Used To Be”... The Night Shadows- A group of the Future, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

-Greg Prevost
Chesterfield Kings/Outasite Magazine
Rochester, New York

This CD is the second volume of a limited edition musical anthology featuring the legendary Night Shadows. The Night Shadows are well known to serious record collectors as one of the pioneer “garage bands” of the 1960’s and was the paragon of psychedelic music in the Deep South. The group’s infamous 1968 album, “The Square Root of Two” on Spectrum Stereo Records is currently valued at more than $1000 in mint condition (Ref: Jerry Osborne’s Rocking Records Price Guide 1997 Edition). The 1979 vinyl reissue of that classic album on Hottrax Records has already increased in value by 700% over its original retail price. According to information found on the Internet, an unauthorized compact disc of “The Square Root of Two” is being bootlegged in New York City.

Volume Three of this anthology will feature the authorized version transferred from the original master.

In Volume One, it may have surprised some collectors to find out that the Night Shadows were organized almost a decade before the release of their 1968 masterwork by Aleck Janoulis, the group’s bass player and vanguard. Volume Two spans the period between June 1964 and July 1967, which is considered the Little Phil Era of the Night Shadows. The group joined forces with Little Phil to front their performances in June 1964, and soon became known to their new fans as Little Phil & The Night Shadows. To present a proper historical perspective of the band during this period, it is necessary that a chronology of important events should begin several years prior to 1964 when Janoulis first met Little Phil.

Randy Little of Randy & The Holidays introduces Aleck Janoulis to Phil Ross (a.k.a. Phil Rosenberg), a twelve year old school kid who wants to break into show business as a professional entertainer. When Bobby Jones, blues frontman for the Night Shadows, leaves the group in the fall of 1961, Phil’s mother contacts Janoulis to solicit an audition for her son. Her request is denied and Little Erv & Helene, a male/female duo, are hired as the new front for the group.

The Steak & Trumpet, an after-hours club featuring a great show band called the Diplomats, becomes the favorite haunt of Atlanta’s night people and glitterati. One night Janoulis meets Judy Argo, a tall vivacious singer, at the S&T after she makes a guest appearance. Thinking she was twenty-something, he offers her Helene’s job when there is a major split-up of the Night Shadows in September, 1963. Hearing about the personnel changes, Phil’s mother tries convince Janoulis that he should hire her son instead of Argo. Once again her offer is rebuffed. The new band line-up featuring Little Erv & Judy is a smash on the college circuit and demand for the group begins to soar.

At first the older members of the band were unaware that Judy Argo and Jimmy Callaway (lead guitar) were only in their mid-teens since they both looked and acted very mature for their ages. Callaway even married his high school sweetheart a few months after becoming a Night Shadow. However, both junior members of the group quickly earned the respect of the veteran players after they saw the great response to their new show. This set the stage for Janoulis to hire the even younger Ross when Little Erv & Judy quit the group the following year.

During 1962 & 1963, the Night Shadows came into contact with the fringe of Atlanta’s counter culture by partying with the late night set. “Uppers” known as “bennies” (slang for Benzedrine, a legal amphetamine) and “grass” or “weed” (marijuana) began showing up at gatherings of the city’s artistic community. However, it was plain alcohol (and an occasional “upper”) that supercharged the high energy level of the early to mid-1960’s. This was reflected by fast stock cars, hot rods, the so-called “Jet Set” and the birth of up tempo garage rock.
In early November 1963, Spinks and Janoulis happen to see TV newscasts of the rock & roll “mania” sweeping Britain. The coming “English Invasion” of rock bands was postponed, however, by the tragic assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. This allowed the Night Shadows to get a three month jump start on other American groups that would follow this new direction in music after the “mop-top invasion” started in February, 1964.

In April, 1964, Little Erv announces that he is going to get married and may have to quit the band. Janoulis starts the search for a replacement to work with Judy Argo. Once again, Libby Rosenberg, Phil’s mother pleads for an audition for her son. Since Phil is several inches shorter than Argo and would look like her kid brother, Janoulis turns down her plea once again. A month later however, Argo gives notice that she is quitting the band for opportunities in New York. Faced with the dilemma that both lead singers were quitting at the same time, Janoulis decides to drop the singing duo format for a strong solo artist to front the band. This time he contacted Phil’s mother and said he would give Phil the audition he had been trying to get for almost three years.

For the next month, Phil along with two other lead singers auditioning for the job, were allowed to perform as guest artists during the Night Shadows’ few remaining shows with Little Erv & Judy. Although Phil was the best of the three vocalists, the other two put on a better show and got a far better audience response. Phil was also the youngest of the three (He was still in the ninth grade), so it came as a complete shock to the other band members when Janoulis hired him.

What the other members of the group didn’t know was that Phil was collaborating and recording songs with Phil Jackson, an extremely talented songwriter. When Janoulis heard their demo tapes, he felt that the tunes were potential hits if they were re-arranged and produced properly in a good studio. He also made Phil agree to use the stage name “Little Phil” (since he was replacing Little Erv) and promise to learn some of the dance routines that black singers used in soul bands. When Little Phil performed his first power-split dancing on stage at Funtown, a large outdoor amusement park, the crowd of several thousand on-lookers went wild with applause. By July of 1964 the Night Shadows had a dynamic new show, an energetic lead vocalist that could sing either rock or soul tunes equally well, and access to some great original songs to record.

However, In the fall of 1964, Janoulis detected two new problems that had to be overcome. First of all, the college music market in the southern U.S. did not accept the “English (Rock) Invasion” that was exploding across the country. Fraternities in eastern states continued to book acts that played what they called “beach music” (rhythm & blues and soul music). Secondly, some booking cancellations were unavoidable because the sexy male/female duo in the Night Shadows had been replaced by a “high school kid”. Since Judy Argo was in New York, Helene Kopell was called back to sing with Little Phil in order to comply with some contractual agreements. This still did not please some of their old accounts, so Janoulis realized new audiences and accounts would have to be acquired. A two market approach was initiated in the band’s repertoire. Both rock and soul (“beach music”) would be incorporated in their shows. More rock for the high school set and more rhythm & blues for the college market. This worked well for the high school audiences, but only had limited success on southern college campuses where students did not want any “white band rock and roll”, just “(black) soul” music. (White bands actually experienced reverse discrimination by white fraternities in the 1960’s.) Even though the Night Shadows played “beach/soul music”, talent agents still had difficulty booking the band in a number of places. For this reason the tongue-in-cheek tune “I Wish I Could Sing Soul Music” (Track #11) was written by Janoulis. The situation finally started to improve in the late 1960’s after four or five years of incoming students weaned on rock replaced the college students that graduated.

This was a watershed year for the Night Shadows. Several important events occurred that would impact the group for the next four years. Johnny Brooks, a studio engineer Janoulis had worked with since 1959, opened his own recording facility and was seeking artists with original material. This gave the group an opportunity to record both the tunes Little Phil had collaborated on and some others that Janoulis had written. The end result was a label deal with Dot Records, a very successful record company based in Hollywood, California. Everything seemed to be going their way until the “conflict” in Viet Nam suddenly escalated into “war” and all able-bodied, single men between the ages of 18 to 26 were made eligible for the draft. Even married men under 26 with no children to support could be drafted. Luckily, Little Phil was still in high school and Janoulis , Spinks, and Newell were all in college. As fate would have it however, Jimmy Callaway’s 14 year old wife got pregnant forcing him to quit the band to support his family as a fireman. (Firemen had to work 24 hour days and weekends which made booking shows almost impossible). Janoulis contacted their original lead guitarist, Ronnie Farmer, and got him to return to the band after an absence of two years. For a short period of time both Callaway and Farmer worked alternately with the group and sometimes together. Callaway continued to collaborate on recording projects for another year, but was eventually phased out. “The Hot Rod Song” [Track #4], recorded in July 1965 was the last tune Callaway and Janoulis worked together on. Farmer remained lead guitarist for the Night Shadows until the group disbanded in 1969. He was married and had a family that kept him from being drafted into service. When Janoulis and Newell graduated from Georgia Tech as aerospace engineers, they managed to get occupational deferments for critical skills by working at a nearby aircraft plant. Although deferments kept all the band members out of the war, it hampered them from going on tour to support their record releases.

By January of 1966, the group’s first single featuring Little Phil [“So Much” (Track #1 ) b/w “The Way It Used To Be” (Track #3)] was on several Top 40 charts in various regions of the country. This prompted very tempting offers by booking agents and promoters for concert appearances. Extensive touring, however, posed a serious problem for band members who could lose their deferments and be drafted. The Viet Nam War created a terribly restrictive situation on all draft age bands and limited the Night Shadows to weekend concert appearances within a few hundred miles of Atlanta. Nevertheless, a national fan club based in Texas and Oklahoma was organized for the Night Shadows and letters from all parts of the country and Canada started pouring in.

The group’s growing popularity also created an unexpected demand for their risqué single, “The Hot Dog Man”, which was out of print. To accommodate the demand, the band recorded a live updated version (with Janoulis singing lead again), and backed it with “The Hot Rod Song” (Track #4). Although the record company’s A&R staff went wild, management gave it a “thumb’s down.” To make matters worse, the record label then made a surprising decision to cater to the growing country market. This slowed distribution and promotion of most pop products including “So Much.” In a effort to keep the momentum of the group going, the party tunes were released as a single 45 in February 1966 on Banned Records while the group was still under contract. Two years later, the record was inserted in their infamous 1968 album, “The Square Root of Two” as a surprise bonus.

Little Phil graduated from high school in June 1966 and was soon enjoying his new freedom, national fame and letters from his fan club. To avoid the “war” he had applied and was accepted to an Atlanta area college. South of Atlanta, a new AM radio station (WBAD) went on the air and began programming records by the Night Shadows. After a few concert promotions with the station, Little Phil was made a part-time host on one of the afternoon shows which gave him access to new, promotional record releases.
In the summer of 1966, Farmer began experimenting with different guitar sounds using a combination of fuzz-tone, vibrato and reverb. Newell also developed a new, slightly distorted sound for his keyboard by overdriving his amp and speakers. To keep up with the new intensity, Janoulis started using two amps for his bass. The result of this experimentation was the creation of the group’s trademark acid-punk and psychedelic sounds.

In July, the aircraft company Janoulis worked for sent him on a six month special assignment in Ohio. To keep the band together until the next record deal materialized, Janoulis booked a house gig for the Night Shadows at a showbar called the Pigalley. His cousin Danny Stephens and Dave Gallagher (a.k.a. Microwave Dave) substituted on bass for him while he was away. Finally, in the fall of 1966, a new contract was negotiated indie label Gaye Records. “60 Second Swinger” (Track #14) b/w “In The Air” (Track #6) was released the following year with a color picture sleeve which featured the photograph on the cover of this CD. “60 Second Swinger” was covered 16 years later on an album by The Chesterfield Kings from Rochester, New York.

January - June, 1967
By 1967, the Night Shadows were working steadily in two markets. The college circuit was where the big money was, but they also performed at many teen clubs to promote their records. Following a show at Mercer University, a hit and run accident with a tractor trailer truck destroyed their classic 1959 band trailer and most of their equipment. Luckily, there was only one minor injury. As a result, a van and new equipment had to be purchased before their March trip to Florida and Jamaica.

During their stay in Miami, the Night Shadows found out about the psychedelic music scene in San Francisco. When they got back to Atlanta, Janoulis got Little Phil to borrow all the psychedelic promotional records sent to radio station WBAD (where Phil was a part time DJ). In April, 1967 the Night Shadows performed their first psychedelic show, complete with strobes and liquid lights, at Emory University.

In late Spring Janoulis met with Jan Cox, one of Atlanta’s intellectual illuminati and blues piano-man extra ordinaire, about doing a project for Cox’s Baja Records. Aware of the Night Shadows’ satirical party records, Cox wanted the group to record several “tongue-in-cheek” tunes he had written concerning socio-political and psychedelic themes. The Night Shadows were still under contract to Gaye Records, so they recorded the tunes under the fake name,” The Square Root of Two”, to avoid legal problems. The single, “Don’t Hold Your Breath” b/w “Turned On,” was released on Baja Records in the Summer of 1967. “Dancing To A Different Beat” [Track #8], another Cox classic, was also recorded but was never released.

In the summer of 1967 Janoulis started work on “The Square Root of Two,” a psychedelic album. By the time he had completed it, the major labels were past their acquisition frenzy for this type of product. The only remaining option was another independent release.

July 1967- June 1969
Events during this period will be covered in more detail in The Legendary Night Shadows: Volume #3, The Square Root of Two/The Psychedelic Years 1967-1969.

Thank You & Kudos
Volume 2 is dedicated to David Lindsey (rock musicologist savant), Greg Prevost (artist, songwriter, freelance writer), The Chesterfield Kings and all the record collectors around the world for their 30+ years interest in the Night Shadows.

Read more about the Night Shadows development in Volume 1.

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