An Interview With Keith Seccombe
Lead Vocalist for Michigan’s Me & Dem Guys
[Interviewer’s note: Having already been a member of New York recording group The Dead End Kids, Keith Seccombe was asked to join Grand Rapids recording artists Me & Dem Guys. The band was already somewhat successful, and they continued recording and touring after Seccombe joined their ranks. From 1968 - when he joined - through 1972 - the band's last year together - Seccombe performed with one of Michigan's more popular late '60s rock and roll bands.]
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
Keith Seccombe I came from a show business family. My mum was a pianist and dancer, and I studied music at school. I won a scholarship studying classical clarinet at Trinity College of Music in London.
[Lance Monthly] You joined Me & Dem Guys after playing with The Dead End Kids in New York. How did you hook up with them?
Keith Seccombe I was on the road traveling with The Dead End Kids and met them when we played Grand Rapids, the Guys' home base. When the Kids broke up in Chicago in 1967, I got a call from them asking me to join because they wanted to add another vocalist/horn player.
[Lance Monthly] How long were you with The Dead End Kids?
Keith Seccombe 1966-1967.
[Lance Monthly] Did you ever record with them?
Keith Seccombe We cut one record: “Old Man River,” backed by “Land of 1000 Dances.”
[Lance Monthly] Where was Me & Dem Guys formed?
Keith Seccombe In Jackson, Michigan, in 1964. The original band [was] comprised of Frank Eimer on guitar/vocals; Bobby Stiles on bass/vocals; Jan Porter on keyboards/vocals; John Jennings on horns/vocals; and Lynn Riggs on drums. Doug Cassens, horns/vocals, joined in 1967. I joined shortly after, in '68. John left, Frank was replaced by Donny Rogers, and Terry Kay joined as a second guitarist/vocalist. I lost my voice in 1971 and went back to England for a year. Terry and Jan then called it quits. George Voss replaced Jan on keys/vocals.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically play?
Keith Seccombe We were primarily a road group, traveling across the states playing clubs and bars, and occasionally doing concerts opening for such acts as The Boxtops, Ides of March and Bobby Sherman, amongst others.
[Lance Monthly] Did you play any of the local Michigan teen clubs?
Keith Seccombe We played The Place and the Black and Silver Room at the Welsh Auditorium.
[Lance Monthly] How far was the band's "touring" territory?
Keith Seccombe Nationwide.
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound?
Keith Seccombe Heavy harmony with a lot of horns. We were influenced by Chicago, The Moody Blues, Three Dog Night, Sly & The Family Stone, Beatles, and Uriah Heep.
[Lance Monthly] Did Me & Dem Guys have a manager?
Keith Seccombe Tom Johnson, who owned the Coral Gables chain here in Michigan, managed us for a while.
[Lance Monthly] Was he active in promoting the band?
Keith Seccombe Not very, but he did pay us to take one week off a month, go stay at his hotel/bar in Saugatuck (The Old Crow) and work on original material during his spell as manager.
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally did Me & Dem Guys become?
Keith Seccombe We were very big in Michigan and the Midwest for years.
[Lance Monthly] Why did the band travel to Nashville to record its first singles in 1966?
Keith Seccombe We wanted to do some professional recordings and felt that was the best and closest place to go. Me & Dem Guys recorded “Black Cloud,” “Come On Little Sweetheart,” “Gone, Gone, Gone,” and “Don’t Bug Me.” This was before I joined the band.
[Lance Monthly] The band did record again in 1969, when you were a member.
Keith Seccombe We recorded “Smiling Phases,” “Mercy, Mercy,” “Simple Thoughts of Love,” “She Cried,” “Da Man,” and “The End is Coming” at Midwest Sounds Studios in Grand Rapids, and “Return To Reality,” and “Thoughts” at the Butler Hotel. It was a lot of fun.
[Lance Monthly] What year did the band form its label, Pyrenees?
Keith Seccombe In 1969. We weren't having success promoting our songs with the major labels so thought we'd try it ourselves. We recorded all of the songs we recorded in '69 for Pyreness except “Thoughts.” In 1971 the band released its last record, “Elevator Man” and “Separation.”
[Lance Monthly] Where was that final single recorded?
Keith Seccombe At a studio in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but I don't remember the name.
[Lance Monthly] Did Me & Dem Guys write many original songs?
Keith Seccombe Jan wrote “Come on Little Sweetheart” and “Don’t Bug Me.” Keith and Donny wrote “Simple Thoughts of Love,” “Return to Reality,” “The End Is Coming,” “Separation,” and “Thoughts.” Bobby and Donny wrote “Da Man,” and “Elevator Man.”
[Lance Monthly] Did the band make any local TV appearances?
Keith Seccombe We appeared on local and national TV but alas, no film remains—just lots of photos.
[Lance Monthly] Which shows did you appear on?
Keith Seccombe Nationally we were on “Scene Seventy” twice. Locally we were on the “Buck Matthews Show,” an NBC affiliate here in Grand Rapids, a few times.
[Lance Monthly] Do any (other) Me & Dem Guys’ recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings or unreleased songs?
Keith Seccombe I still have 45 copies of the records and they're now on CD. We wrote songs like “Watching Comets Fly” and “Thoughts,” [which] never made it to disc. I have “Thoughts” on tape, but it never went to disc. “Watching” only made it to demo tape.
[Lance Monthly] What about the songs “Old Dan Tucker,” “Free Again,” and “Don't Cross That River?” What can you tell me about them?
Keith Seccombe “Old Dan Tucker” was recorded live at a club in Michigan, and the other two were recorded at the Royal College of Music in London in 1971 when I was back in England recouping from my voice loss.
[Lance Monthly] What was it that caused you to lose your voice?
Keith Seccombe Typical long term abuse: smoking, drinking, and abusing the voice overall.
[Lance Monthly] How long did the band continue on without you?
Keith Seccombe A year. In fact, after I got my voice back and returned from England, I booked the band's last gig at the East Grand Rapids High School Prom!
[Lance Monthly] Why did the band finally call it quits?
Keith Seccombe After eight years everyone felt the band had run the gambit and decided to call it quits.
[Lance Monthly] Did you join or form any other bands after Me & Dem Guys?
Keith Seccombe Jan and I had a group for a short while called Merge. Doug and I then had a popular group around town for a couple of years called Aerosmythe!
[Lance Monthly] What about today? How often, and where, do you perform?
Keith Seccombe I got out of the biz in the mid-'70s. Today—after over 30 years in car sales—I devote my singing to the Music Ministry of Resurrection Life Church here in Grand Rapids. We have over 7,000 members! I also do some modeling, voiceover, and video work around the area to keep my hand in (the business).
[Lance Monthly] How do you best summarize your experiences with Me & Dem Guys?
Keith Seccombe They were some of the most happy and fun times of my life. People still remember us to this day!