Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Oldies - What A Girl Can't Do by The Hangmen

Well, I'm in the mood for another moody garage rocker. How about you?


This record was actually recorded by a band called The Reekers from Bethesda, Maryland. In 1964, three kids from Walter Johnson High School, Tom Guernsey, Mike Henley and Joe Triplet got together to form a rock band. They called themselves The Reekers because they often thought they "reeked" on stage.

Here's What A Girl Can't Do by The Hangmen on Monument 910 from 1965:



And here's the flip side, The Girl Who Faded Away:



Tom Guernsey was born in 1945 and started taking jazz guitar lessons when he was 12 years old, right around the time Elvis was dominating pop music. When the Beatles came along, Tom began playing rock and roll. The Reekers took second place in a Battle Of The Bands contest that was being judged by two members of The Mugwumps, Mama Cass Elliot and Zally Yanovsky, later of the Mamas And The Papas. The Reekers recorded What A Girl Can't Do at Edgewood Studios in Washington D.C. under the direction of engineer-owner Ed Green. Shortly afterward, the band members graduated and went off to different colleges, with Tom attending Montgomery Junior College in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland.

Tom decided to assemble a new band. Tom would play lead guitar and backing vocals. He met fellow student and rhythm guitar player George Daly in 1965. They searched around campus to find other members for the band and picked up Mike West (Walters) on bass and Bob Berberich on drums. But the guys needed a lead singer and they wanted someone who sounded British. George Daly called the British embassy to see if they could help them find someone, and they put him in touch with a female singer. She turned them on to Dave Ottley, and that's how he came on board with The Hangmen. Believe it or not, Dave was was actually a hairdresser from Glasgow, Scotland at the time! He was later replaced by Tony Taylor, and bass player Mike West was later replaced by Paul Dowell. But don't forget, the Monument single wasn't The Hangmen, it was The Reekers.

The Hangmen (Tom, George, Tony, Paul and Bob) on The Jerry Blavat TV Show in Philadelphia

A bit later, the owner of Monument Records in Nashville, Fred Foster, listened to What A Girl Can't Do and decided that he'd like to release it. He insisted there should be an actual band to back up the release, but the original Reekers were no longer available. Fred Foster suggested they release the Reekers recordings under the name of Tom's new band, The Hangmen.

The song topped the charts on Washington's WEAM-AM 1390 after it was released in 1966, actually bumping We Can Work It Out and Day Tripper by The Beatles into second place. The band later put out an album called Bittersweet on Monument, which is a nice collector's item if you can find it!


Here's an incredibly cool version of Gloria from that album!



You can hear lots of great garage rock from the 1960's on MusicMaster Oldies, surrounded by every other genre of pop music from that era. The context, I think, makes the garage rock records really stand out and sound great. Check it out!

2 comments:

  1. Guitarist Tom recently passed away in October 2012

    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/music/2012/10/12/tom-guernsey-hangmen-guitarist-who-had-a-no-1-d-c-hit-in-1966-has-died/

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    1. Sorry to hear that. Thanks for the update!

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