LR: Lance Nelson, Mike Lewis, Don Jobe, Guy Berley, and Virg Callendar
Note: Portions of the following interview with Don Jobe of The Ghosters originally appeared in MISTY LANE #18. Massimo Del Pozzo, a frequent collaborator with 60sgaragebands.com, hooked us up with Don, and we were able to expand the interview to find out a bit more about The Ghosters' recordings and appearances. Here is the complete, never-before-printed interview with a member of one of Benton Harbor, Michigan's most in-demand '60's rock and roll groups...
A Spooky Dose of Rock & Roll: An Interview With Don Jobe
By Massimo Del Pozzo and Mike Dugo
60sgaragebands.com (60s): Did you have an early interest in music? Tell us about your childhood and your first instrument.
Don Jobe (DJ): I was born in Hot Spring, Arkansas, on July 10, 1946. Both of my parents were musicians. My Father played guitar and my mother played a Gibson Mandolin . In fact, my mother played in a country and western band with her brother, sister, and cousins and was featured on a weekly radio show in Louisiana in the late '30s and early '40s. My father served in World War II and the Korean War in the U.S. Air Force so he wasn't able to pursue music as much as he would have liked. Both parents encouraged me to learn a musical instrument of my choice. I chose drums. They sent me for private lessons which I took from six years old until sixteen years old. I was in quite a few competitions for drums throughout high school and received first place in many of them. I began teaching private drum lessons myself at a music studio in Benton Harbor, Michigan at age 14. I became a member of the Twin Cities Symphony Orchestra in St. Joseph, Michigan, at age 15 and stayed with them until age 17. After high school, I was accepted at the University of Michigan Music School in 1964 where I was a member of the orchestra and Marching Band. I was fortunate to appear with the Michigan Marching Band in the 1965 Rose Parade and Rose Bowl in California. My first instrument was, of course, the drums - but I also took private lessons for guitar and piano. I also had private lessons in violin and trumpet.
60s: Was The Ghosters your first band? Which year was that?
DJ: Yes! My first and only band was The Ghosters which I formed in 1964. I did play as a substitute in a few dance bands ('40s music) in the early '60s.
60s: Where did you practice?
DJ: We practiced in the living room of my home. My parents would find other things to do during practices so we could have the room to ourselves. We couldn't practice in the garage because we didn't have one. I guess that would make us a "living room band".
60s: What was the first concert that you attended?
DJ: The first major concert I remember was when I was seven or eight years old in 1953 or 1954. My aunt had front row seats for a Hank Willians, Sr. concert. I remember I had a plastic guitar and was imitating Hank as he sang. It seems he got a kick out of it and brought me on stage to imitate him while he sang another song. I guess you could call that my first major stage appearance. I also have memories of attending an Elvis concert in Louisville, Kentucky when I was 10 years old. I couldn't hear much though - the girls were screaming too loud.
60s: What about your first gig? Tell us about that.
DJ: My very first gig was with a dance band in 1961 playing '40's music at the Whitcomb Hotel in St. Joseph, Michigan. It was a weekly gig that lasted a couple of months. I sat in for a drummer who had his appendix out. Otherwise, I performed with the Symphony Orchestra and high school band.
60s: What type of gear did The Ghosters play?
DJ: Our first Ghosters band gear was sparse. To sing vocals, I used an Air Force bomber microphone (truly from an actual airplane) that my dad gave me. It was hooked to a pair of 40's vintage Gibson guitar amps. One guitar player had a cheap Gretsch guitar with a Silvertone amp (manufactured by Sears Dept. Stores). Another guitar player and the bass player both used Silvertone amps, a Silvertone bass guitar, and the best guitar in our group, a Fender Telecaster. It took us about six months, after we decided to play full time, to upgrade the equipment to all Gibson and Fender guitars amps, Gretsch drums, Hammond organ, and ElectroVoice microphones. Later we used a mixer board and Shure microphones with ElectoVoice speakers. We made our own stage lights.
60s: What were some of the records you used to listen to?
DJ: Some of the records I loved, that influenced our sound, and songs that we maintained in our repertoire to the end were" Louie Louie by The Kingsmen; Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones; House of the Rising Sun by The Animals; Not Fade Away by Buddy Holly (and The Rolling Stones); Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry; and many others too numerous to mention. I would say we maintained fifty to sixty songs from the '50's and '60's on our repertoire for 25 years, and they were always the most requested songs at our gigs.
60s: What were the circumstances leading to The Ghosters recording?
DJ : Fortunately, the right people happened to hear us at a performance and offered us a one record contract. Our record was recorded for T & R Records in Chicago. It sold pretty well, but we didn't realize much money for ourselves. That's when we decided to incorporate and licensed our own label, Ghost Records. Our first five records were recorded at RCA Studios in Chicago.
60s: Who were these "right people"?
DJ: The "right people" wanted to be anonymous then, and I assume they still do. They were not directly in the music business, but had good contacts. They wanted to make an investment in us after hearing us at a performance hosted by a WLS Chicago disc jockey. They paid for our studio time at RCA studios in Chicago, and their connections hooked us up with T&R.
60s: What year did you form Ghost Records? What was the spark behind the formation?
DJ: Ghost Records was officially trademarked and registered in 1967. We wanted to retain a higher percentage of any profits, so the main "spark" was greed.
60s: Did Ghost Records release any singles by other groups, or by The Ghosters only?
DJ: No other groups released records on Ghost Records.
60s: What do you recall about the recording sessions?
DJ: There are great memories from all of our sessions, but I guess none were more exciting than the first. The biggest kick we got out of recording was hearing our songs on most of the major radio stations and having people actually wanting to buy our records. The records were successful regionally (Southern Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois). We had four records make the charts on regional radio stations: Going To Have A Party, (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet, Hey Lover (which even made the charts in Denver), and Traveling Light. I'm not sure how many records were pressed of each because distribution was handled by a national promotion company.
60s: Which company was that?
DJ: I can't find the contracts we had with them and I don't remember the name of the company, but it was a distributor in Nashville that only did distribution and promotion and was not affiliated with any specific label.
60s: Who was the band's primary songwriter?
DJ: Of the eleven songs we recorded, I wrote seven. I wrote many others that we performed, but, as with most of the bands of the era, we were primarily a cover band.
60s: What were The Ghosters' performances like? Did you actually experience any of the famous Beatle-like hysteria?
DJ: The girls did seem enthralled at most gigs. In fact, at dances, the girls just gathered around the stage watching instead of dancing. The guys at the dances weren't too happy with us though. The major "hysteria" was reserved for the major groups however: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, etc. We did have a lot of wild nights at our gigs that made playing even more fun.
60s: According to a 1965 newspaper clipping, The Ghosters performed at "spooky sock hops" in the St. Joseph area. How did you become involved with these?
DJ: We were hired by the "Spooky Sock Hop" sponsors, The Fraternal Order of Police, after their representatives heard us at other performances.
60s: Did you perform at multiple Halloween sock hops, or just the one detailed in the clipping?
DJ: We participated in them for three years.
60s: Is that how the band got its name, The Ghosters?
DJ: The name had nothing to do with Halloween, although, through the many years, we were in high demand for that season because of the name. The name actually came from a club we formed in high school. The term "Ghoster" was an expression used by soldiers in the Viet Nam War. Soldiers who didn't want to work hid when the sergeants came around for work details. These guys were referred to as "Ghosters" because, like ghosts, they disappeared.
60s: One of the other bands mentioned in the clipping that also appeared at the '65 Halloween sock hop was The Upper Crust. What do you recall about them?
DJ: The Upper Crust didn't last that long, only about a year. Some of the better known bands in the area were The Princetons, Five Emprees, The Jeepers, Phanthom Five, Johnny and The Cardigans (who also had their own record label, BECE Records), and The Firebirds.
60s: Did The Ghosters tour at all?
DJ: Since most of us were going to school or had day jobs, we didn't do tours. Work was very steady and there were lots of places that hired rock bands. We played weekly - two, three, four and sometimes five nights per week. There were about six years when we didn't have even a single weekend off.
60s: What was the local scene like in the Benton Harbor area?
DJ: There were a number of teen venues in the area that mainly held dances during the spring and summer months (except for a few indoor places that held them year-round). Some venues were once or twice a week and others twice a month. It was probably the best time for teen bands before or since.
Some of the hottest places (we played them all) were Ramona Skating Rink in Sister Lakes, House of David outdoor beer gardens (we played there once a week for two summers as their official teen band), Silver Beach Ballroom, North Shore Beach Club, and two other outdoor venues: Glenlord Beach in Stevensville, and Blossomlanes in Benton Harbor (dances were held in the parking lot of the bowling alley).
Typically, 200 to 500+ teens from a 25-mile radius would show up at these dances and two to three bands would share playing time. The most popular radio station was WLS in Chicago, so many of the dances were hosted by various WLS deejays. There was no better era than the mid to late sixties.
60s: What led to the end of the group?
DJ: We always kept a large '50's and '60's repertoire, but we also had to cover contemporary hits of the '70's and '80's later on. The music of those two decades ('70's and '80's) just didn't have the same "punch" as the early music and just wasn't as much fun to play. After all, that's what it's all about - having fun. Another reason was that competition among nightclubs drove many of them out of business, so there were fewer places to play, spread out at greater distances. Also, in the mid '80's, country and western music became dominant in the bar scene, and we just weren't into that. (It was) rock & roll or nothing (heavy metal or rap was also out of the question).
60s: Did you keep any of the band's memorabilia, such as articles, photos, and records?
DJ: I have some of the old material - records, business cards, pictures, etc.- but they've been stored away for years. I had some trouble trying to remember where some of it was when trying to find things to send you. Much of the stuff I have sent you, I haven't seen myself in thirty years.
60s: Are you aware of the actual interest in the mid-to-late Sixties era, and the fact that the band you've played with has become sort of legendary?
DJ: I have to admit that I am not aware of the interest in the '60's, especially in forgotten and basically unknown bands like ours. I think it's a bit of an overstatement to say we're "legendary", but I definitely am surprised by it all.
60s: What about today? Are you still involved in music?
DJ: I am no longer involved in music except as a pastime. Maybe one day I will become more involved again, but I can't bring back those great early times. Anyhow, it's a good feeling to have the old record resurrected. It's definitely exciting to know that there is an interest, and we're a part of it.
60s: Finally, what's your opinion about current bands that play '60s-style beat music today?
DJ: I think that it's fantastic that there are still bands doing the oldies and being successful with it. I really do think that the best, most original, and most fun music to listen and dance to was from the '60's. It seems most television commercials in the U.S. use that same music, so it must have some wide-spread appeal. It was a special time, and I don't think anything like it will happen again. But I hope it does.
1) Going To Have A Party* / Brand New Ways (1965) T&R Records 801J-1283
2) (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet / A Taste Of Honey (1967) Ghost 832G7101
3) Hey Lover / Drums, And Then Some (1967) Ghost 832G7103
4) Gone / Give It A Try (1969) Ghost G101
5) Traveling Light / Come Cry For Me (1969) Ghost G102
6) I Get A Little Bit Lonely / (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet (1976) Parts re-recorded, re-mastered, and re-released in 1978 G105
*Going To Have A Party was included on CD collection 50 Early Rockin' Tracks (1998) Collector Records CLCD 7751/A/B
L-R: Guy Berley, Mike Lewis, Don Jobe, Virg Callendar, and Lance Nelson
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