An Interview with Wayne Proctor of Florida's Sixties Group, We The People
Loyal followers of the garage band movement regularly think of the We The People duo as the Lennon and McCartney of the '60s Florida music scene. It's therefore no wonder to discover that the composers patterned themselves after this century's most proficient and dynamic songwriting team. The Lance Monthly is pleased to be able to present the background on one half of this amazing team: Wayne Proctor. (The other half is Tommy Talton.) Wayne's experiences with '60's garage bands actually lasted much longer than his somewhat short tenure with We The People. Special thanks to Wayne for sharing his experiences with us.
[Lance Monthly]How did you first get interested in music?
[Wayne Proctor] My first memory of getting interested was because of my uncle, who was a brilliant guitarist in the Chet Atkins sound. He was incredible, and when I heard him play I got "goose bumps." From then on, I just knew that I had to create those sounds. I thought what a wonderful feeling it would be for me if I could make others feel the same way that he made me feel. My first electric guitar was a Gibson Melody Maker single-pickup, but my first ever guitar was one that my Dad bought for me from Sears. I think he paid around $15.00 for it brand new!
[Lance Monthly] What were some of your early bands prior to We The People?
[Wayne Proctor] The first band that I played in was a three piece called The Vibrations. We had a piano (a real one!), one rhythm guitar (me), and one lead guitar ([by]an incredible guitarist named Ron Skinner, who later formed the band called The Nation Rocking Shadows). I learned a lot from him, but we later became rivals. Next came a wild and crazy, college frat-party band called The Coachmen. I basically grew up in this band, and had the most fun in my life. I was the youngest member, and we did everything from The Kingston Trio to James Brown. Then, several members of the Nation Rocking Shadows defected, and I joined them to become The Trademarks. I later defected from them, and joined a few members of the Offbeats, and we became We The People. And the rest is now history.
[Lance Monthly] What exactly led to the merger of the Trademarks and the Offbeets?
[Wayne Proctor] Randy (Boyte) and I were high school mates, and he was an incredible musician. I was approached by a couple of Nation Rocking Shadows members, and the best that I can remember was asked to come to one of their practice sessions. We met in a little town called Clermont, Florida, where the two members were from. We talked about the merger, as well as their dissatisfaction with where the Nation Rocking Shadows were headed (they were more like the Ventures), and now the Beatles were just coming on the U.S. scene. Of course, EVERYONE wanted to be like the Beatles, and our new group, The Trademarks, Ltd., wanted to be famous just like them. I was still loving playing with the Coachmen, but the Nation Rocking Shadows were a VERY popular band, and I thought it would be a good career move. And it was.
[Lance Monthly] How familiar were you with the Offbeets before the merger?
[Wayne Proctor] I can't recall ever hearing about them before. When I went to hear them play once, it knocked my hat in the creek (so to speak). They were dynamic, and were so very "tight." I knew that if I could just get in with them, that I would advance to a much higher level. (Tommy) Talton was unbelievable as a young musician of only sixteen, at the time I heard him play. David Duff was a small, frizzy-haired guy with an explosive voice that could mimic just about everyone, from John Lennon to James Brown! He can be heard on several We The People songs, such as "Ain't Gonna Find Nobody," "Declaration Of Independence," "Proceed With Caution," and "Follow Me Back to Louisville."
[Lance Monthly] How long was We The People together before you started recording?
[Wayne Proctor] If my memory is correct, probably about two or three weeks! Once Ron Dillman (our manager) finally got us together, he told us that he needed a good song to record within the next two weeks or so. Talton and I were the main songwriters, although David was very good. I don't think that we ever really took it all too seriously, so we started playing around with some weird sounds, etc. One of the songs that I came up with was a very stupid sounding song (so I thought at the time), called "My Brother, the Man." There was a short-lived TV show around then called "My Mother, the Car" and that title just stuck in my mind when I created "My Brother, the Man." The funny part was that there were never any written words to the song. I just made them up every time we played it! David Duff wrote one called "Proceed With Caution," which had a strong freight-train like bass and drum beat. I played bass on that song, and Talton played lead guitar. We put that one on the backside of "My Brother, the Man." I can remember the studio engineer saying to us that it was one of the coolest bass/drum sounds that he'd ever heard. That was saying a lot, because just two weeks before we recorded it (at Criteria Studios in Miami), James Brown had just recorded there - I think he recorded "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," but I can't remember which song for sure.
[Lance Monthly] You wrote some absolutely classic tunes for We The People, particularly "In The Past" and "My Brother, The Man." Which song of yours is your favorite?
[Wayne Proctor] I guess my favorite was "In The Past," because it was so unique. It was during the time when the Indian Sitar was popular, and the sound was sort of Mid-Eastern. It was more fun to play "My Brother, The Man," however. When we played "In The Past," it was so incredibly stressful to me. When we started playing it, EVERYONE stopped dancing (or whatever), and just stood there watching me! I was rather shy, and all of those eyes looking at me made me quite tense (and, by the way, no note was ever played the same way either - every time we played it, my brain just couldn't keep up with my fingers, so I just let them run wild!). The instrument that I used was a little strange, too, and making the switch from electric guitar in mid-stream, was very stressful. I bought it from a friend of mine whose grandfather made fifty of them. It is something like a large mandolin, but no mandolin strings would fit it because the neck was too long. There were eight strings, but I had it tuned like the first four strings of a guitar. The only way to find strings to fit it, was to buy two sets of four-string banjo strings; and the rest is, again, history. And, I still have the instrument. We called it an octachord. I don't know why, but somebody called it that once, and the name stuck.
[Lance Monthly] What are your thoughts of the Chocolate Watchband's version of "In The Past"? When did you first hear it?
[Wayne Proctor] I was totally flattered that ANYONE had recorded one of my songs. I think that the version had it's own kind of mystique, and sounded nice to me. When I heard it for the first [time], however, I was just sitting there wondering when "all hell was going to break loose" like our version, but it never came. I had expected more drive and tension in the sound, but still I understood that maybe they didn't WANT that hard-driving, take-the-bull-by-the-horns sound in their version.
[Lance Monthly] Please detail your relationship with Tommy Talton.
[Wayne Proctor] One of the reasons that We The People is so highly revered today is due to the fact that the band had two very diverse and talented song writers.
[Lance Monthly] Did you ever collaborate together? Was there any competition between the two of you?
[Wayne Proctor] I was about two years older than Tommy, but we always got along very well. Unbelievably, however, because our sound and styles were so different from each other. For instance, I played a Gretsch Country Gentleman, and he played a Fender Strat. Somehow we got together in sound when we sat down to write together. Tommy would come to practice all excited about a new song that he'd just written, and when he sat down to play it for us, I just automatically jumped in with my suggestions. And, vice versa. For instance, in "You Burn Me Up & Down" (Talton's), that wild, slippery slidin' guitar was my contribution. We were all so impressed with the Lennon/McCartney collaboration, that we thought we should do it, too. At first, every Talton song was pinned as a Talton/Proctor song, because I had input into his, and he into mine. The same went for Proctor/Talton songs. That later changed, but I can't really remember why. I guess there may have been a little subtle competition, but it was never pronounced. All guitarist go through that, however. Tom and I always remained friends, and sometimes he would come in with a new song, and ask me for my ideas about how to present it. I did the same with him.
[Lance Monthly] Tommy did write two incredible songs that have really become classics of the '60s garage band sound: the aforementioned "You Burn Me Up And Down" and "Mirror of Your Mind." Do you recall your thoughts when you first heard and played these songs?
[Wayne Proctor] I thought that he was totally wacked out, but they were sooooo interesting! It all became just a big game, and we always tried to do something totally unique in every song that we did together. We played those songs to have fun, and we did. I remember the studio engineer begging us to turn down our instruments in the studio, but we just laughed, said "ok," and pretty much kept playing as always. They were really fun to play, but you just can't take songs like that too seriously, or you'll ruin the energy level!
[Lance Monthly] Other than Lennon and McCartney, did either you or Tommy have any songwriter influences?
[Wayne Proctor] Lennon and McCartney were the biggest influences, but the Kinks, Young Rascals, Rolling Stones, and a group called Them were right up there, as well.
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally did We The People become?
[Wayne Proctor] Extremely popular . . . as in locals asking us for our autographs!!!
[Lance Monthly] Did We The People participate in any Battle Of The Bands?
[Wayne Proctor] I can't remember if we did, but I don't think so. Ron Dillman was a shrewd manager, and he protected us from such "immature" confrontations. He always said that when you put yourself in a competitive position along side another band, you immediately become "like" them. He wanted people to believe that we were always more professional than that.
[Lance Monthly] What other local bands of the era were you especially impressed with?
[Wayne Proctor] The Impacts, Ron & The Starfires, Big Dave & The Come-ons, etc. There was another --a band from the Tampa area--but I just can't remember their name right now. These bands were truly awesome when performing live, but they just never seemed to come across as powerful on wax. They were all fantastic performers and musicians, however.
[Lance Monthly] Did We The People make any local TV appearances?
[Wayne Proctor] If we ever did, I can't remember. They may have after I left the band, however. I have heard rumors of such, but I don't know anything about it.
[Lance Monthly] What "national" bands did We The People open for?
[Wayne Proctor] You know, it's tough for me to remember everything that we did, but I do remember opening for Ray Stevens in Nashville once. He needed a backup band to play "Ahab, the Arab," and that just cracked us up! We didn't know it, of course, and he got rather angry with us! I talked with Archie Campbell (of "Hee Haw" fame), and he told me that Ray was a great guy, and he couldn't imagine him getting so upset. I'm here to tell you that he did, however! Being the first band to EVER grace the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, however, I just don't think he liked our long hair!
[Lance Monthly] You left We The People a few years prior to the band disbanding. What were the circumstances leading to you parting ways with the group?
[Wayne Proctor] The Vietnam draft was breathing down my neck at the time, and I knew that I had to get back into college if I were to avoid it. I kept getting notices at home to go take my physical for the draft. Rather than open them, we all left for Nashville, and my parents forwarded the notices to Nashville. When they finally arrived in Nashville some three or four weeks later, we left for Florida, and had them forwarded back to Orlando. That went on a few times until I finally got a nasty "certified" letter telling [me] to either be there, or "we will take action, etc." Since tensions had become very high between Ron Dillman and me, I just gave up and quit.
[Lance Monthly] Did you actually end up in the service?
[Wayne Proctor] Fortunately, I escaped the bloodshed of 'Nam, but had several friends who didn't. Some never made it home. I enrolled in college, and that kept me out.
[Lance Monthly] Why were tensions high between you and Ron Dillman? Typical band pressures?
[Wayne Proctor] Dillman was extremely controlling, and didn't like girls. I'm not sure why, but I have my suspicions. He wanted no women ANYWHERE near us, and as teenage boys that were sort of "famous," that was a MAJOR demand. It didn't go over well with Talton, either, but I'm not exactly sure how they got along. I think Tommy just tolerated him.
[Lance Monthly] You continued to write songs after leaving We The People, but did you join any other bands?
[Wayne Proctor] I wrote a few here and there. One for an R&B lady singer named Patty Drew, and one for a band called The Lemonade Charade. I even went to [the] Bill Lowry Studios in Atlanta once to audition for a band called The Standells (Dirty Water). I got a call later from someone in California who represented them, and wanted me to move out there. I thought I was in love at the time, and decided to stay in Florida. I should have gone, because the marriage failed.
[Lance Monthly] What year was the audition for the Standells? Do you remember any of the songs you had to play during the audition?
[Wayne Proctor] It was before my marriage of September, 1968; I think it was in late '67. I don't recall a particular song - we just talked and jammed together, and played some standard old rock tunes. I traveled to Atlanta by myself for the interview. I believe that it was Tony Moon that set it up for me, but I just can't remember. After We The People (and for fun), I began helping a group of young guys who called themselves The Kolor Korporation. I had to start from scratch with this group, but it was so much fun! I had to practically teach the drummer, keyboard player, and bass player how to play, but we (they) REALLY became a great show band. I played with them for awhile, and it was the most fun that I've ever had in a band!! We played to have fun, and never really took ourselves seriously! We recorded one 45-rpm, however; but that was all.
[Lance Monthly] What else do you remember about the Kolor Korporation? Do you recall the songs on the single?
[Wayne Proctor] I know the band members VERY well, because we all went to school together, although they were a bit younger. The songs were called "Love That Drives Me Crazy," and "Sunshine on Your Love" (both my songs). I played on the sessions, as well, and because their guitarist just couldn't do the songs live, I began to play in the band with them for fun. The "fun," however, turned out to be a lot of work, but I hung in there with them until they got very good. They were more of a show band - kind of like a younger version of The Impacts. The leader singer, Mike Stegall, could get an audience in his hand quickly, and they soon developed quite a following. The label was called Hype Records, and it was recorded in Orlando at BeeJay Studios.
[Lance Monthly] Do you recall anything about the Lemonade Charade? They recorded a song of yours, "Follow The Yellow Brick Road." What year would this have been in?
[Wayne Proctor] Probably around late 1967, or '68. I have their 45-rpm of the song.
[Lance Monthly] Please tell me about yourself today. Do you still write or perform?
[Wayne Proctor] Due to a once depressing period of my life, I have fallen into writing "the blues" material. I love the blues: Clapton, Stevie Ray, Buddy Guy, etc. I only perform with a blues band around Upstate South Carolina sometimes, but only for a few songs at a time. It's great fun, but I just don't think I could handle being on the road again.
[Lance Monthly] Are you aware of the cult following that We The People has? How does it feel to know that music that you wrote and recorded 35 years ago is still being listened to and enjoyed today?
[Wayne Proctor] I have heard of this, because occasionally I'll get a fan letter from Sweden, Germany, England, and as far away as Australia! It is still very hard to imagine this, but I am soooo grateful if this is true. I would love to hear from anyone out there! It was a VERY interesting time to be into music then. I had no earthly idea that what we were doing would become so historically significant. Talton and Duff can't believe it either! As I said, we were just having fun, and didn't really realize the impact of our presence.
[Lance Monthly] Thanks for sharing your recollections with The Lance Monthly, Wayne.
[Wayne Proctor] I really appreciate your interest, as well, Mike. Please keep moving forward, because it's people like you that will keep history alive.