An Interview with Bob Gulley of The Youngmen
One of Santa Ana, California's Standout Garage Bands of the '60s
Bob Gulley has had a long and varied career in the music business. Starting with the Youngmen, Bob has been a member of many bands, and is still going strong. Of course, it's the Youngmen that we're primarily interested in, but Bob was kind enough to fill The Lance Monthly in on many of his other accomplishments.
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
[Bob Gulley] My Dad always had our family singing ever since I can remember. Old country things mostly. He got a cheap acoustic guitar when I was in third grade and I picked it up and fell in love with it.
[Lance Monthly] Were the Youngmen your first band?
[Bob Gulley] The Youngmen was my first band and we were together for four years.
[Lance Monthly] Where were the Youngmen formed, what year, and by whom?
[Bob Gulley] We were eighth graders at Lathrop Jr. High in Santa Ana, California when we put the band together. That was in February 1965. Bob and Ed Johnson were the original founders of the band. They had a surf band prior to The Youngmen and when I joined in we changed the name. We had a great vocal blend and with the help and guidance of our manager, Pat Gagnebin - who was a music major from Santa Ana College at the time, he taught us how to sing and read harmony and put us in a class of our own in the area.
[Lance Monthly] Please document the names of each member of the Youngmen, as well as the instruments each played.
[Bob Gulley] Bobby Johnson - rhythm guitar and vocals; Eddie Johnson (Bobby's twin brother) - lead guitar and vocals; Gary Gabler - drums; and Bob Gulley - bass and vocals. The three of us were all lead singers. About a year into the group we changed drummers and added Doug Altman. He helped to make the band as strong musically as we were vocally. We had arrived.
[Lance Monthly] What was the reason for the change from Gary to Doug?
[Bob Gulley] We changed drummers because Gary was our weakest link musically and Doug kinda wormed his way into an audition behind Gary's back. It was probably the wrong way to handle things but it turned out to be the best move we ever made.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically practice?
[Bob Gulley] We practiced in Bob and Eddy's garage and sometime in my back patio.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically play?
[Bob Gulley] At first we played for schools and teen clubs, but got quite successful early on and started doing major concerts.
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally did the Youngmen become?
[Bob Gulley] The band became quite popular locally. There were lots of bands in the Orange County area at the time and many of them were quite good.
[Lance Monthly] Which ones do you particularly recall?
[Bob Gulley] The Dimensions Five(later became Jamie & The Jury); The Fifth Calvary (later became The Surreys), The Moods, The Royalties, The Scotchman, The Black & Blues, Stack, and The Chestmen.
[Lance Monthly] Did the Youngmen record?
[Bob Gulley] We recorded in L.A. with some amazing studio players. I can't remember much of the sessions or the players. It was all paid for by our manager, L.A. Deejay Sam Riddle.
[Lance Monthly] What happened to these recordings? Do you recall the titles?
[Bob Gulley] We never released our singles. [They were] "What Am I Gonna Do" and "In The Night Time." The B-side, "In The Night Time," was written by Bobby Johnson and our previous manager, Pat Gagnebin.
[Lance Monthly] Do the recordings still exist? Are there any vintage live recordings?
[Bob Gulley] The recordings from the L. A. sessions do exist as well as some very early reel to reel stuff: Coasters, Righteous Brothers, old R&B, and some great old instrumentals. Our guitar player, Eddy, was excellent for the times and we took advantage of his talents with stuff like "Sleepwalk" and countless other great instrumentals.
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound? What band's influenced you?
[Bob Gulley] We were influenced by a group called The Sundowners out of New York. They came to the O.C. area and played at a place called Harvy's Goldstreet in Garden Grove. They were amazing and everything they played sounded better than the record. The Hollies, Beatles, Chad and Jeremy, The Four Seasons, The Letterman . . . mainly great vocal bands.
[Lance Monthly] I'm not familiar with the Sundowners. What can you tell me about them?
[Bob Gulley] The Sundowners took Orange County by storm. Their vocals were amazing. One guy sounded like John Lennon; another did "Cara Mia" by Jay & The Americans to the tee; and the guitar player was a one man orchestra. He showed everybody how to best use a volume pedal for effect, introduced us to the Fender Twin, and worked an Echo Plex to the max. The drummer, Tony Dee, later became the drummer on my group Churchills' second album, "Counterspies 38."
[Lance Monthly] Did the Youngmen participate in any Battle Of The Bands?
[Bob Gulley] We were in I believe twelve Battle of the Bands. We won ten and did not place in the other two. I think we had an enemy in the judges of one and the other one we were told not to win by the promoter, Sam Riddle, who contacted us the next day and ask to be our manager. That was one of the lowest moments and turned out to be the highest. Sam did not want us to place in the Pepsi Boss Battle because he wanted us to come out of nowhere to become his great discovery (or something like that).
[Lance Monthly] With Sam as your manager, did you ever appear on "Boss City?"
[Bob Gulley] The band performed regularly on the "Boss City" T.V. show in L.A. Sam was the star and emcee.
[Lance Monthly] What are your thoughts on Sam?
[Bob Gulley] Sam was a very powerful figure in the '60's and early '70's. He was very bright and handsome and married a fox. He knew what he wanted and went for it. He once told us he was going to be a millionaire and said we were going to help him get there. We played for all his and every other DJ's parties in L.A., including Humble Harve, Loyd Thaxton, and Charlie Tuna. He was very cool to us. He bought us outfits from the best places in Hollywood and treated us right.
[Lance Monthly] With Sam's clout, did the Youngmen get to open for any "national" acts?
[Bob Gulley] We opened for all the national acts of the time. We were sponsored by Vox. They gave us Super Beetle amps and we had to have them set up at all the concerts for the main acts to use. We never got out of L.A. or O.C. counties. The Temptations, Buffalo Springfield, The Four Seasons, The Who, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Frank Zappa, The Hour Glass (Allman Brothers early group), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band . . . the list goes on and on.
[Lance Monthly] Why did the band break up in the '60's?
[Bob Gulley] I quit the band because I thought the focus had died and the interest got away from the group's growth.
[Lance Monthly] What became of the Youngmen? Did they continue performing?
[Bob Gulley] After I left the Youngmen they broke up as a group. It was a bomb shell for Bob and Eddy. Doug went on with me and we formed a group called Southern Comfort and we continued to play concerts for Sam For awhile. (This was not) the Same Southern Comfort that had record success. They came awhile later.
[Lance Monthly] Aside from the Churchills and Southern Comfort, didn't you also play awhile with Stark Naked & The Car Thieves?
[Bob Gulley] Stark Naked and The Car Thieves was a show band. We traveled from Canada to Cincinatti doing shows. We were a very hip show band. Churchill was the group I had right after the Youngmen. We did a couple albums. One for Atterack Heller and the other for Mike Curb on MGM. It was a nine piece horn band. I sang lead and the band was truly a force. There was a band we put together called Paperayne. The guitarist was Dave Ammaro. He went on to join forces with Airto/Flora Purim and married one of the gals from Brazil 66.
[Lance Monthly] Please tell me about your career today. How often, and where, do you perform?
[Bob Gulley] Today I am 50 years old and still carry a deep passion for my music. It's harder to deal with gigs and putting up with the "same ol' crap." if you will: club owners, agents, etc. I am working with Larry Hanson of Alabama fame. He is one of the side members and has played guitar, sax and keyboards with the group since 1987. He owns a studio in Nashville and we are doing a CD together. I'm packing to leave this week for a 10 day writting session and we plan on recording in late June. I also have a project with Bill Medley of the famed Righteous Brothers. Bill and I have done several things together. He produced my CD for Curb Records. I have a small studio at my house and I'm doing a CD of jazz standards and a few other projects. My wife and I live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado during the summer.
[Lance Monthly] What are your plans musically for 2001 and beyond?
[Bob Gulley] My goal this year is to complete the projects I told you about and to write a great song or two. I own a publishing company and I want it to start paying for itself. When it comes to my music I'm still 14 at heart. I love what I do and though it's not the easiest path I could have taken it's the one I woudn't have changed for the world. I am blessed to still be able to sing/play guitar and bass and entertain the masses. I still think my best is yet to come. I enjoy working with young artist and passing on a few olds tricks from an aging yet youthful rock and roller from the sixties.
[Lance Monthly] Thanks, Bob.
[Bob Gulley] Thanks again Mike for your time. Peace.
At the end of April, I received an email from Bob: "I'm leaving for Nashville today to do some writing with a life long friend of mine. His name is Larry Hanson and he plays with Alabama. He plays guitar/sax/trumpet and keyboards for the band as one of their backup players. He has been with them for over ten years now. Larry and I played for Bill Medley in the early '80s and we did Alabama's Roll On Tour in 84. The guys needed another player and remembered Larry and the rest is history. We are going to do a CD this summer at his studio in Nashville (Fatback Studio). Larry and I will write most of the stuff and both of us will share guitar duties and I will sing all the songs."
To keep up-to-date on Bob's current projects, visit his web site at: www.netrockrecords.com