Last month, The Lance Monthly detailed the history of Lance Records' great soul-garage band, The Sheltons. In this issue, we are very
excited in presenting to you an interview with one of the members of perhaps New Mexico's best known '60s band, the Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2!
A special thanks to Victor Roybal for sharing his memories with The Lance Monthly.
New Mexico's First and Finest Psychedelic Band: Lance Records' The Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2
An Interview with Victor Roybal
[Q] What was the rock and roll scene like in New Mexico during the mid-sixties?
[A] Chaotic! A lot was going on with Viet Nam, protests at the University of New Mexico and everywhere else: flower children, drugs, etc.! The Beatles and other British groups were dominating the music scene here in New Mexico. I can remember there being a lot of concerts in this area. Specifically, I recall some of the greats coming to this area such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Page.
[Q] What inspired the Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2 to form a band? Who was the "leader?"
[A] The original members of the group were me, Ernie Gonzales, Mike Layden, Eddie Roybal and Joe Abeyta. We were known as the Playmates. Joe Abeyta left the group and we needed a rhythm guitarist who could sing. We approached Danny Houlihan. Danny had a terrific voice but his guitar skills were not considerable. We then contacted Eddie Garcia, who was a former member of the Champs. Both were outstanding as a duo and we formed a group of six rather than five.
[Q] What years did the Playmates perform?
[A] The Playmates were together from 1964-1966. Joe Abeyta left the group to join the Christian Brotherhood as a cleric and teacher. After some years, it didn't work out for Joe and he ultimately got married. Most of us knew each other from high school. Danny was in the same class with Joe. I was the youngest in the group.
[Q] Did either the Playmates or Eddie's band, The Champs record?
[A] The Playmates never recorded. The Champs recorded "Tequila."
[Q] So it was the same Champs!
[A] I'm not sure when Eddie Garcia played with the Champs. He would know more about when and where he recorded, if at all and the circumstances of his association with the group.
[Q] Who came up with Fe Fi Four Plus 2 as the name of the band? What did it stand for!?
[A] With the addition of two new members to the group, we decided a new name was in order. Danny came up with the name "Fe Fi Fo Fum" after the fairytale, "Jack in The Bean Stalk." We all thought the name was crazy and corny. We played with the name going back and forth. As a compromise, we agreed with "Fe Fi Four." The only problem was that there were six members in the group. So we added "Plus Two" and everybody was happy.
[Q] How popular locally were the Fe Fi Four Plus 2?
[A] We performed primarily within New Mexico. I can remember playing for teen clubs, high schools, some night clubs and at concerts with headliners like ? and The Mysterians and The Yardbirds. Concerts were held at JP's Palace in Santa Fe or the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque. We played all over New Mexico including Las Cruces, Silver City, Deming, Clovis, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and most of Northern New Mexico such as Taos, Espanola, etc.
[Q] How did the Fe Fi Four Plus 2 hook up with Lance Records?
[A] Through Tommy Bee, our manager-producer. Incidentally, we recorded "I Wanna Come Back" at the Norman Petty Studios with Norman Petty engineering the tracks.
[Q] What do you recall about Norman Petty? What was it like recording with him?
[A] Norman Petty was very nice to all of us. At the time, we were all very impressionable. When we walked into his studio offices, I remembered being overwhelmed by all the gold records on the wall of Buddy Holly and the Fireballs. In the recording studio, he was very knowledgeable and freely made suggestions. All in all [it was] a great experience.
[Q] What do you recall about Tommy Bee? Dick Stewart?
[A] Tommy Bee left his card on a van emblazoned with our group's name. We called him and he agreed to handle our group. I don't recall having much contact with Dick Stewart although we knew he had a group of his own [The Knights] and was promoting other groups in the area.
[Q] Much has been written about "I Wanna Come Back (From The World of LSD)" being one of the first examples of psychedelic music (and most likely THE very first example from a New Mexico band). Was the band aware that it was helping to issue in a whole new sound?
[A] We were looking for a new and original sound. Much of what we had been doing [was] performing top 40 sounds which people requested to hear. Danny came up with the song and we all liked the sound. After the release of the 45-rpm [on Lance Records], the song was characterized as "anti drug." I don't think that was the intent however.
[Q] Do you have any idea what the intent of the song was? Did Danny have any special meaning/reason for writing the song?
[A] The song was simply about someone trying to come back from a bad trip on acid.
[Q] How exactly would you describe the Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2's sound?
[A] We referred to it as "psychedelic" as did others.
[Q] Did the band have any experiences with LSD prior to recording "I Wanna Come Back (From The World of LSD)?"
[A] We were always asked by the "flower children" whether we were "experienced" ala Jimi Hendrix. As far as I know, none of us took acid although it was plentiful at the time.
[Q] According to Ray Avila in last month's Lance Monthly, his band, The Sheltons, recorded a demo of "Double Crossin' Girl." What do you recall about the origins and recording of this now classic Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2 song?
[A] As I recall, "Double Crossin Girl" was a song brought to our attention by Tommy Bee. I'm not sure whether he had a hand in writing it or not. When "I Wanna Come Back" was to be released, we needed a B-side and we ended up recording "Double Crossin Girl" as an after thought.
[Q] Other local bands that recorded for Lance Records were the Sheltons, Lincoln Street Exit, Celler Dwellers, and The Kreeg. Do you recall anything specific about any of these groups?
[A] I remember all of them. They were all excellent groups in their own right. They were all particularly popular here in Albuquerque. They were so good, we had trouble getting bookings here in Albuquerque. Tough competition! I recall some of their hits included "Impressin'," "Who's Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab," "For Your Love," and "Love Is a Beautiful Thing'. As I recall, the Sheltons were an outstanding R&B group.
[Q] The-Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2 recorded a final single on the Odex label ("Mr. Sweet Stuff" b/w "Pick Up Your Head"). What do you recall about this single? Were there any circumstances precluding the single from being released on Lance Records?
[A] The only thing I remember is recording at the John Wagner Studios here in Albuquerque. Tommy Bee was handling who and where the single was released. I don't know of anything which precluded Lance Records from releasing the single. [Editors' note: Tommy Bee and Dick Stewart parted ways before this single was released.]
[Q] How long was the band together, and why did you break up?
[A] The original group was together five to six years. The military draft in the sixties disseminated the group. I formed another group known as the Glass Sun, but it was never as successful as the Fe-Fi-Four-Plus 2.
[Q] How long did the Glass Sun last? Did that band ever record?
[A] The Glass Sun lasted maybe a year. We did record in Phoenix, Arizona but the tracks were never released.
[Q] Are you aware of any unreleased recordings of The Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2?
[Q] Do you still play? What keeps you busy today?
[A] I play occasionally for my own amusement and not professionally. I am a practicing trial attorney and limit my practice to injury law which keeps me very busy. I have been practicing for approximately the last 24 years here in Albuquerque.
"Copyrighted and originally printed on The Lance Monthly