Asheville’s ‘60s Garage Rock Scene: An Oral History (Part 1)

Band: The Satyrs [read the full article here]
High School: Lee Edwards High School (now Asheville High School)
Band Members: Jeff Phillips (vocals/guitar) – Class of ‘64
                          Bucky Hanks (vocals/bass) – Class of ‘65
                          Rick Haynie (guitar) – Class of ‘66
                          Bruce Smith (drums) – Class of ‘65
Years Active: 1964-1966
Recordings: One single 45 record, with A-side track “Blue Blue World” and B-side track “Don’t Be Surprised” 
Current Bands: Runners of the Green Laurel (Bucky Hanks)

 

 

                                                              Forming the Satyrs

Rick Haynie: We grew up together in West Asheville. We all were within blocks.

Bucky Hanks: West Asheville was a lot different than it is now. Much quieter, much more small-town feel. There were certainly no clubs. There were very few restaurants, and they were your working, blue-collar type restaurants. There were a couple small soda shops and things like that. It was just a very small, residential area.

Rick: One of the drugstores had benches out front, and you’d meet there at night, and somebody would bring a guitar. No telling who might show up. We’d be down there just hanging out, singing, flirting with girls. [Laughs.] You know it’s all about girls! That was the whole thing about music—all the attention. There you are, just an average Joe, with nothing outstanding. And next thing you know you’re playing in a band and the girls are just falling at your feet and going crazy. Man, I couldn’t get over it.

Bucky: The fact that all the guys in our group were good players, we could reproduce pretty much anything we heard. So we did a lot of cover stuff. We learned harmonies through listening to the early, black soul groups. The old doo-wop groups, things like that. The Platters, The Silhouettes. That was our cup of tea.

Rick: I looked up to Jeff and Bucky for their musicianship. Bucky was an excellent singer, excellent guitar player. He could play finger-style, chicken pickin’ country. He could play the banjo like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, there’s no telling, he could have played two or three other instruments as well. [Laughs.]
 
Jeff was older than me. And the coolest guy in the world. He was like the James Dean of West Asheville. He was listening to Bob Dylan and stuff before anybody. He was always finding unique stuff in music and then turning all the rest of us onto it. And he was a great singer, a great entertainer. He was older than the rest of us. We’re all just little high school boys, but he had maturity and experience.

Jeff was best friends with my uncle. He and my grandmother got Jeff to give me guitar lessons. So I went down there and took guitar lessons every Saturday, until I got good enough to play. And then we formed the Satyrs.

Bucky: Someone had given Jeff a set of gaudy, huge cufflinks—they were as big as a 50 cent piece—with a little Pan figure on it. A satyr.

Jeff Phillips: I started looking up the meaning of that, and found out that satyrs were the male counterpart of nymphomaniacs. So we just took the name because it sounded great, you know?

Bucky: The irony is that that name was totally misunderstood, and forever, people would get it wrong and mispronounce it. Finally we just quit trying to explain it.

Rick: I never knew how to pronounce the name, even when I was in the band. They Say-ters, the Sat-ters, the Sat-ires. [Laughs.] I never knew.

                                                              Playing Live

Jeff: You know, bands back then all dressed alike. And I’ve forgotten the name of the clothing store that was downtown—it’s gone now—but they used to sell clothes like you might find in New York. We ordered the Chesterfield suits like the Beatles, with a velveteen collar. And I think when we got our first pair of [Beatle] boots, we had to order those, too. They weren’t really in every store like they would become. 

And we had long hair for the time. I never got in trouble for it, but Rick got hassled some. As a matter of fact, there’s a funny story about that. Rick lived with his grandmother for a while. She was a pistol. A great lady. And the principal at school was giving Rick a hard time about his long hair. And she went over and explained to him that as long as the girls were walking around with skirts so short that the wind was blowing up their hollers, they really couldn’t say much about Rick’s long hair. [Laughs.] And they never said anything after that. 

I guess we were pretty rebellious. We knew we were pushing the envelope. I remember adults, when I was a little fella, almost having a nervous breakdown when Elvis came along. Now I look at some of those old pictures of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, when they first came around, and their hair was really short. You know, the things that felt so radical then are pretty conservative now.

Bucky: We played all the time. We played the talent shows at school, or the big shindigs at the end of the year. Other schools heard about our band, and they would call us and we would come and play for them. But more what we were playing we’re little private functions, little bar gigs, and things like that. Someone would say, “Oh, we heard about you guys, come play at our place.” I would say we were played at least two or three times a month.

Jeff: Back then if you played for two or three hours, you made $20, $30, $40 bucks a piece. That was a lot of money. Back in those days, gas was what? A quarter a gallon? [Laughs.] I had a ’55 Ford and I could fill it up for less than $5.

Bucky: Jeff was convinced that there should be a real performance, a show aspect to it, instead of just standing there playing. And he was certainly not above taking off his guitar and getting down on the floor and wriggling around and things like that.

Jeff: We got into it. I guess there was some sort of unwritten rule that if you’re an entertainer, you should entertain. That if you get into it, then the audience gets into it. And that was pretty much the truth. We’d go out while we were playing and dance with people in the audience. I remember doing a show at Lee Edwards that was particularly raucous. One of the groups before us had sort of come across like us, so we switched in mid-stream, and instead of doing some British tune, we did Ray Charles’s “What’d I Say.” I think I was writhing on the floor, and actually took my coat off and threw it into the audience, that sort of thing. [Laughs.] It went over big at the time, as I recall.

Bucky: There were lots and lots of clubs. The Brown Derby was in the basement of a building just up the street from where the Orange Peel is now. We played there. And some of the hotels, like the Battery Park Hotel and the George Vanderbilt Hotel—which are now apartments for the elderly—they had ballrooms, and people would rent the ballroom for a night to have a party—birthday parties, things like that—and they’d hire a band. We’d play a lot of those.

Rick: I can tell you a funny story about the Battery Park Hotel. We played up there for some kind of big banquet, some kind of shindig, I don’t remember what it was. But we’re up there on stage, and we’re playing, and my uncle Bob—who had just gotten home from the navy—he was coming to the hotel to see us play. And I don’t know if Jeff and he had this worked out beforehand or not—they probably did because they were kind of pranksters like that—but here were are at Battery Park, and the room’s packed and everybody’s dancing, having a blast. And then my uncle Bob walks through the door…

Jeff: It was actually at the Asheville Country Club. And it was not planned. But I knew Bob would pick it up and go with it. He walked in and I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have for you a great surprise. Here he is, straight from Washington, D.C., here to do his brand new record ‘Long Tall Texan.’ It’s Robert Douglas!”

Rick: [Jerry Woodward’s] “Long Tall Texan” had just come out recently, but I guess nobody figured it out. Everybody started clapping, and the crowd split, and my uncle came up and sang “Long Tall Texan,” and everybody thought he was the recording artist. [Laughs.] Afterwards he was shaking hands and signing autographs.

Jeff: He was signing Robert Douglas—that’s his name—so I don’t guess that was illegal. But you know, we used to do spontaneous things like that a lot. Some people thought it was amusing, some didn’t, I guess. It was fun, anyway.

Rick: We were the only local band to ever play at The Pines. Have you ever heard of The Pines? It was the super, rhythm-and-blues place where all the high school kids went, and you’d bring your own bottle and all that thing. They had big-named bands: a lot of black groups, great vocal groups, all that. And we were the only local band that ever played there. We had a pretty big following back then.

Jeff: We all looked drinking age. We were west end slum kids, but we stayed out of trouble. A lot of that was part of it, trying to stay out of trouble. ‘Cause we knew if we got into too much trouble we couldn’t play anymore.

Bucky: The Sky Club was more upscale. When we played places like that, sometimes the owner would tell us, “We don’t want a lot of loud rock ‘n’ roll. Can you guys play more soft listening music?” And we’d say, “How much does it pay? OK, yeah, we’ll play that.” [Laughs.] If you had the money, we could tailor it to whatever you wanted.

Jeff: I remember playing at a club downtown, on Biltmore Avenue, called The Ozark. Must have been sometime between ’63 and ’65, I would say. It was downstairs, and it was a pretty nice place.

There was a club on Amboy Road. That was an interesting place to play. It was a rough and tumble bar, especially on Friday nights when all the race fans got done with the race and came down to have a beer. [Laughs.] It could get a little wild sometimes. But they liked us. Which was good. You could be in trouble if they didn’t.

Bucky: We were off in our own little world. Often we’d be hired to play places where it was an older adult group who probably wanted more country. You know that scene in The Blues Brothers? We were playing in some of those type places, where are music probably wasn’t exactly what they were expecting.

Rick: Tell you a funny story. We were playing at some kind of really raunchy bar down on Amboy Road, I forget the name of the place. It was just a cinder block, hole-in-the-wall. We were playing in there, and the people weren’t that crazy about us, because it was more of a country place. 

Well, we finished the night, and we were glad we were through. All we wanted to do was get our stuff packed, out to the car, and be gone, you know? So we’re packing up, and this one redneck was really drunk and was giving us a bunch of lip. He even got up and walked over to us. And we’re just trying to ignore him. But I guess the guy just kept saying stuff to [Satyrs drummer] Bruce [Smith]. Bruce was a little guy, but he was stout. I don’t know if he lifted weights or what. But his chest and arms, he was very muscular.

Well, Bruce was folding up his drums, and he just all the sudden jumps out on the floor in front of this drunk guy, with his legs spread in some karate stance or something. And he’s holding his folded-up snare stand in both hands, pointed toward this guy. And before anybody can say anything, the guy threw his hands up. ‘Cause all he was seeing was a hole in the end of that metal drum stand. He started backing up going “Don’t shoot that thing! Don’t shoot that thing!” [Laughs.]

He backed up and ran straight out of that club.

                                                              The ‘60s Scene in Asheville

Jeff: They were great times. There were a lot of musicians around here, but there wasn’t a lot of dope, and there wasn’t a lot of guys drinking. Nobody even smoked pot much, if at all. And I would say not at all.

Rick: Johnny House [from the Centurions] and Bruce McTaggart [from the Fabulous Wunz] and I were friends, but, you know, rival guitar players. We were all in competition trying to be the best guitar player.

I hooked back up with Johnny House several years ago, and went to see him in Asheville. Have you heard his band? The Nightcrawlers. They’re great. Well, he was playing at a bar downtown. And I went over and I told him, I said “Hey man, I got a confession.” He said, “What’s that.” And I said, “Well, you know back in the day when we were all in competition over who was the best guitar player? And some would you were and some would say I was, and some would say Bruce McTaggart?” And he went, “Yeah.” And I said, “Well, you were the best.” [Laughs.] “I knew it back then, but I didn’t say anything.”

Bucky: I wouldn’t say it was competition. It was always friendly, and we were all good friends. If there was any friendly rivalry it was between The Wunz and The Satyrs.

Jeff: And of course there was a group from around here back in those days called the Tams. It was a black group, and they were super. They had some songs in the national top ten. That was a little earlier than the Satyrs.

Bucky: My dad came here right after WWII. He was a piano player. He came to Asheville because he’d heard about it being a place for musicians, a place for potential work. Some of the old guys my dad played with, they’d been playing here since the ‘20s. And then the next group comes along. We’re all part of this movement of music that’s been here since Asheville was basically a city. From our grandfathers, fathers, to ourselves. And now our sons are playing.

It just shows you the wealth and the richness of the music tradition of this area.

 

                                                              The Songs

Bucky: We wrote several songs. Jeff wrote a tune [“Blue Blue World”], we combined on a couple tunes. [Listen to “Blue Blue World” here.]

Jeff: Rick wrote a couple of songs, too. Everybody had a lot of ideas. And everybody thought their song was going to be a hit. [Laughs.]

Bucky: On my song [“Don’t Be Surprised”], everybody kind of put their part in to it. Rick put that interesting, tremolo-sounding guitar part in there. We all sang. That was one thing that was kind of neat about our group, was that we didn’t have what you’d call a lead singer. We all were able to sing lead, and we all were able to sing harmony. And we did a lot of harmony. We probably did more three-part harmony—pre-Buffalo Springfield, pre-Crosby Still and Nash—in ‘64 and ‘65 than any other group around here.   

Jeff: I’ve always sort of liked jazz. And to me [“Blue Blue World”] sort of had a jazz flavor: the tune was a little off, the chords were a little different. I just basically sat down with my guitar and came up with that. I’m not sure if we’d ever even played it very much before we recorded it.

                                                              Recording the 45

Rick: To tell you the truth, I forgot we even did a little 45. That’s how long ago it was, because I don’t even remember it. I am just floored that anybody plays the thing. That is a trip, man. I’m just floored that anybody would even want it.

Jeff: As I recall we just sort of went in [to High Fidelity Sales] and did the thing. I don’t remember the records coming back, but I’m sure I was waiting for them. And one day they were here, and the next day they were gone, I guess. I remember having a couple of them. I don’t remember ever selling any of them, but surely we did. We knew about money. [Laughs.] We played for money. It was better than having a paper route or working at the drug store.

Bucky: You’ll have to find some line straight from God to determine who came up with that idea [of the band screaming/moaning during the breakdown of “Don’t Be Surprised”], because I don’t know! It may have been the guys who were recording it, saying “Let’s do something in there during this instrumental thing, let’s do something to liven it up.” I remember that one real sensual groan in there is Jeff, and the rest of us throwing all these other things in there. But why we did that I don’t know. [Laughs.]

Jeff: I think the idea was just to create a little excitement. I think someone in the midst of that break down yelled “Pluck it!”, as they were hoping people would mistake that for something other than “Pluck it.” [Laughs] Things like that really gave your group an edge if people had the idea that you got away with saying something off-color. You know the song “Louie Louie”? It was a really out there, taboo thing if you could get away with doing that, or listening to that. It was all harmless, though.

Bucky: We were never satisfied with the take we got. And part of the criticism from some of our friends was that it wasn’t a very good recording, that it sounds like an instrumental with maybe the echo of a vocal track in the background. It’s obvious that it was set up as an on-the-spot, “do this until you get it right or as right as you can get it.”

The only regret I have is that when we recorded it, that it wasn’t recorded in a better recording studio. With better equipment and engineers who really understood what they were doing. And then pressed and possibly marketed and promoted in a much better way. Because obviously it was almost done as an afterthought.

But I think that for what it was at the time, and what it was intended to be, it was quite good. I won’t denigrate our efforts. Because I think that for 17, 18, 19 year old kids, we were pretty precocious in what we were able to do.

Rick: I don’t remember how many copies were made, but we probably didn’t make but a couple of hundred. If we made that many.

Bucky: Obviously there must have been a few. They may have pressed a couple of hundred, 250. I don’t know who they had press it, but there may have been a minimum that they had to have done. It may have been 500, I don’t know. There could still be more out there floating around.

 

                                                            The Lost Recordings

Bucky: Within a year of making that little 45, we were contacted by a fellow to record in an actual, state-of-the-art studio. He was producing some bands in Greenville, and he came to Asheville and heard us and said, “I’d like to get you guys down there and record some of the things I’ve written. Do you have some songs?” And we said, “Yeah, we’ve got a couple songs we can do.” So we went down to Mark V Studio in Greenville. We recorded some of the song he wrote and a few of ours, and we redid “Don’t Be Surprised”. There was talk then of trying to get it on a label, that sort of thing. We had a starry-eyed outlook there for a short little window.

Jeff: It was just about the time people started getting married and going into the military. So nothing ever came of any of that.

Bucky: I have no idea whatever happened to those tapes. It was a much better recording, with good mics and great analog equipment. But no one ever attempted to press it, to sell it to a record label, or do anything with it.

Jeff: I had a copy of those tapes. The thing finally wore out. It’s the only copy I know about, and it disintegrated years ago.

                                                              The End of an Era

Jeff: We had fun. But then everybody grew up. Everybody fell in love with different girls. People had to go into the military, because there was that damnable war going on. Everybody went their separate ways after we got a little older. It was a sad thing, but I guess it was inevitable. Groups never stay together forever. Even the Beatles.

Bucky: At that point in time, too, the music scene was changing. The Beatles thing that we had pursued through high school was beginning to wane. American music was beginning to get more and more into the soul music, people like Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett, Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs. Rick and I were going that way. Before he left for Alabama, we played in a few soul bands together.

Rick: I got married when I was 18, and I had to get a real job. That lasted about three months. Then somebody called me and said, “We need a guitar player in Atlanta. Do you want to go?” And I went, “Yes!” [Laughs.] Six, eight months later a friend of mine, Tim Hayden—he was a guitar professor at the university there in Asheville and a super jazz guitar player, he was kind of my hero—he called me and told me he had a job and needed a bass player. And I said, “Well, I’ve never played bass…” And he said, “Ah, it’s easy. Man, just get you a bass and come on.” I ended up working with him for nine years playing bass, and never really went back to the guitar.

Then I met a girl in Pell City, Alabama, and got married and took a job at the phone company. And that turned into a 22-year career. And now I’m retired. I’m not doing much of anything. [Laughs]

Bucky: I stayed here and continued to play, and became more and more a part of the bluegrass scene. That was the way my career went. A lot of the guys that were playing early rock ‘n’ roll went into bluegrass.

Jeff: At different times we played together in different bands, different kinds of music. I guess ’79 was the last time any of us really got together fairly seriously. It was Bucky, and me, and Bruce. We got together and had a little combo for, maybe, a summer. We were playing some of the old rock songs, that sort of stuff. We played a few gigs, then that kind of went by the wayside because everybody had a day job.

Rick: I haven’t played in a band in probably ten years. I play guitar for my own amusement now, that’s about all. I’m a frustrated jazz guitar player. That’s what I always wanted to be, a jazz guitarist, but I just never really had the formal education and stuff you need. So I just play by ear for my own amusement in the basement. It’s just one of my hobbies.

Jeff: I don’t play with a group anymore. I did for years, mostly bluegrass. And now I’m semi-retired, I’ve taken up the old-time banjo. Not the Scruggs-style, but the old drop-thumb, clawhammer-style banjo. And that’s quite satisfying. Just sitting in the parlor, picking my banjo. Occasionally I have some friends over, and we pick a little bit. But nothing serious anymore.

You know, Bucky is probably one of the world’s best banjo players. Literally. Bucky was playing the banjo when the rest of us thought that was kind of a kooky thing to do. “Nobody plays the banjo. The banjo? You crazy?” I always sort of secretly liked it, but some of the other folks thought that was a goofy thing to do. Course, I remember even before we had a band, Bucky could play the guitar like Chet Atkins. And everybody thought that was kind of hokey, too. “Country music, are you kidding?”

I guess you have to get a little older to appreciate what’s real.

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One thought on “Asheville’s ‘60s Garage Rock Scene: An Oral History (Part 1)

  1. mbritton

    Just added a link to hear the Satyrs A-side “Blue Blue World” in The Songs section. Enjoy.

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