James Goode Recalls The Excels
A Standout ‘60s Garage Band from McKenney, Texas
Mike Dugo notes: From McKinney, Texas, The Excels released two singles on the Gibson label in 1965: "Let's Dance" b/w "Walkin' the Dog" and "Merchant of Love" b/w "The First Kiss." James Goode, along with his brother, Danny, comprised half the band. Here are his recollections:
Our Dad was a disabled Vet from World War II. He could not work. Our Mom worked as a seamstress at Haggard's Pants to support us. Dad would sit in his chair and strum an old acoustic and sing some of the old country and swing songs that he knew. Danny and I started getting interested in playing by watching him. He was our hero and we wanted to be like him.
The Excels was our first band. Danny, Gibson, and Roger got together to do a talent show for high school. I watched them and asked to sit in. This was in 1963, when the guys were juniors in high school. I had been out of school for a year and attended North Texas State University. The Excels stayed together until 1967. [That's] when I got married, Gibson joined the service, and Roger got drafted. After the talent show, I told the guys that it would be fun to play together and form a real band. They agreed.
The guys in the band were Roger Bennett, lead guitar; Gibson Harris, drums; Danny Goode, bass and vocals; James Goode, rhythm and back up vocals. Ronnie Vermillion joined the band after Roger was drafted and stayed with us for about two years.
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We couldn't come up with a name that we could agree on and we just started throwing names out. Danny was looking at a dust mop propped against the wall (an Excello brand). He said, "How about the Excellos?" We started laughing and then I said, "How about the Excels?" They agreed; we were tired of trying to come up with a name by then.
We practiced at Gibson's house. His dad was a retired bandleader from the 1940s and he loved to listen to us play. We started out playing locally at private parties for free. I started booking us to play frat parties at North Texas, SMU. We played the homecoming for North Texas in 1965. I remember watching Mayor Cabell of Dallas dancing and also saw Jane Mansfield walk in with her husband (wanted to see what all the noise was about, I guess). I sent a letter to Ms. Ann Bovis asking for an audition at LouAnn's (a popular nite club for the younger crowd.) We played there a dozen times or so. We also played at the Red Jacket Club, but I can't remember where that club was located. We also played at Roys' on Collette Street in Dallas as well as the Keyhole. We played at Sadie's on the strip in Grand Prairie, Panther Hall, Alfred Disco on Lake Texhoma, The Pirate's Nook, and The Point After.
We were influenced by guys like Chuck Berry, the Stones, Booker T., Jimmy Reed, Lightening Hopkins, T Bone Walker, The Beatles, and The Night Caps. If we liked it we tried to play it.
(We recorded) "Walkin' the Dog," and "Let's Dance" with Roger Bennett at lead. We did covers of "Little Latin Lupe Lu," "Heart Full of Stone," "Shapes of Things To Come," "Til The End of the Day," and "Ramblin'," an instrumental, with Ron Vermillion at lead. "Rock When You Need To" has never been published. The story behind it is that it was [the] last day that Gibson (drummer) and Roger (original lead) left for the service. I just wanted to put something on tape. I got Danny and Roger and me down, but Gibson just walked away. I had to use a really cheesy drum machine that I borrowed from Ron Vermillion, our new lead player. "Walkin' The Dog" and "Let's Dance" were recorded in '64 (I think); "Rock When You Need To" was recorded in '66. The demos of the covers were done in late '66 or early '67.
I booked the band for about two years, and Hugh Fowler booked us for a while. We were fairly popular, I guess. When we started playing out of town, our local popularity faded. We were on TV in Sherman and in Oklahoma a lot. We toured from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.
I am currently teaching and coaching in Garland. I have a band called the Groove Kings. We play about two times a month.
The Excels was the best thing that ever happened to Danny and me! We were raised in very poor conditions. Dad and Mom wanted to give us things in life that they never had. They gave us their love, [and] love for music, and what little talent we had, we got from them. We were very shy in school, but that's not a problem for us any more. Music brought us out of our shells and motivated us to do better with our lives.
Playing in the band and getting to know some of the other bands in the area was great. Getting to tour with the Ventures and to open for Gary Lewis and the Playboys was the greatest. We never thought that anything like that would ever be possible for us. We were there when it started and now we are thankful for the experience.
To read more about James and The Groove Kings, visit www.groovekingsband.com
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