Friday, February 18, 2011

New Oldies - No Friend Of Mine by The Sparkles


Have you been wondering how long I could keep posting great unknown oldies from the 1960's? When I play songs like this for veteran Oldies radio programmers, they sometimes say, "Yeah, I'm sure a few potential hits got overlooked back then. But there can't be that many of them, right?" Uh, yeah. There can be. There are. In fact, I have found so many potential hit songs and artists from the 1960's that I couldn't possibly live long enough to blog about them at this pace. They may not all be good enough to have become hits, I'm sure. But, then again, there were many songs in the 60's that did become hits that weren't nearly as good.

Here's another example which I like to call Bob Dylan meets Green Day. I could almost hear this song on a rock station today, that's how much ahead of its time it was back when it came out in 1967!




The great state of Texas was an incredibly fertile ground for rock music. I only need mention Buddy Holly to prove my point, but there have been SO many others. The Sparkles got started back in 1957 in Levelland, Texas. The group consisted of Stan Smith and Carl Huckaby on guitar, Bob Donnell on electric bass, Johnny Waller on piano, brothers Guy and Jesse Balew on saxophones, and Gary Blakey on drums. They made their first recordings in 1958 for the legendary Norman Petty, but nothing from that session was ever published. The group broke up for a bit, then got back together again with some new players. Most of the guys moved to Lubbock to work with a band called the Raiders. Stan Smith hung around and re-formed the Sparkles by adding Lucky Floyd on vocals and drums and Bobby Smith on bass. But before this song was recorded, Stan Smith, the last remaining founding member, also resigned from the band. Lucky Floyd, along with Bobby Smith, pulled in some new talent to get the band up and running again in 1965. They added a couple of hot guitarists named Gary Nunn and Louie Holt, and drummer Jimmy Marriot. The drummer for Roy Orbison, Larry Parks, agreed to produce the band and he got them signed to the Hickory label. Their first release, The Hip, was a major regional hit in the Austin area. They had become the hottest band in town, especially at the University of Texas. They followed this up with a couple more singles, Something That You Said, then Jack And The Beanstalk in 1966. Then, in 1967, they cut this awesome track. By this time the group was very polished and tight, having played countless gigs around the Austin area.

The passionate, Dylan-esque vocals on this track showcase the talents of Lucky Floyd, while the incredible guitar licks are provided by Gary Nunn. It's hard to believe that this song did not break out and become a nationwide hit in 1967. Oldies stations should still be playing this one today! The guys put out one more single, Hipsville 29 BC, before Nunn and Holt called it quits. Lucky Floyd, Bobby Smith, and Jimmy Marriot moved the whole band to California and changed their name to The Pearly Gate. While working there, they landed a gig playing a rock band on a TV show called Judd For The Defense. Legend has it that they were scheduled to play at a benefit for Bobby Kennedy on the same night he was assassinated. Eventually, they returned to Texas and changed the group's name back to The Sparkles. At one point, they added a guitarist named Steve Weisberg, who later went on to play with John Denver. In 1972, when Lucky Floyd left for California to join a folk-rock group called Red Wilder Blue, the band finally had to call it quits for the last time.

If the song sounds familiar to you, you probably bought the first Nuggets box set. This song was one of the many gems on that compilation.

4 comments:

  1. Excelent write-up for this 45. I've been playing 'No Friend Of Mine' since discovering the song in the mid 80s and I'll NEVER tire of it.

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  2. Incredible tune! What stands out for me are the really fat drum and guitar tones. A bit reminiscent of Paul Revere and the Raiders but they approached this kind of heaviness only occasionally.I agree it should have been a hit.Possibly a little too hard-hitting for the times.

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  3. Hi, I was wondering, since you featured this record, if it would be possible to also feature the b-side titled "First Forget".

    It's a slow ballad, so I've heard. I've never actually heard the entire song. If you can upload it also, that would be cool.

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