"We were more raw and loose, and louder than many of the other groups."
In October 2001, THE LANCE MONTHLY was pleased to have published an interview with John Mascaro and Dewey Bond of Florida's the Modds. [Editor's note: see archives] We're now equally pleased to present an interview with Carter Ragsdale of the Montells, another key '60's Florida garage band. A sampling of each band is available on Gear Fab's "Psychedelic States In The '60s: Florida, Volume 3" CD and album. Special thanks to Carter for sharing his story.
An Interview with Carter Ragsdale of The Montells
Another Key '60s Florida Garage Band
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
[Carter Ragsdale] I have always had a huge interest in music that was fueled by my mother. She purchased me the 45 of "Rock Around The Clock," and all the early Elvis Presley singles. As a small boy I would sing along with the current hits.
[Lance Monthly] Were the Impalas your first band?
[Carter Ragsdale] The Impalas was the first band that I was involved in. We were together as the Impalas thru the Montells from l963 thru l968. Jeff purchased a used drum kit that already had the name Impalas painted on the bass drum. So conveniently they became the Impalas. That changed when someone threatened them with a lawsuit for stealing the name Impalas. So on the way to get the bass drum painted we passed a dance studio called the House of Montell. We thought that would be a good name so we became the Montells. Later, we always thought that The Montells sounded like a black singing group, but it stuck.
[Lance Monthly] Who formed the band?
[Carter Ragsdale] John Weatherford and George Walden took classical guitar lessons and along with a friend from school, George Hall, who conveniently played bass in the school band. They used to get together in the afternoons and play their instruments together. Jeff Allen was a neighbor who wanted to join in so they told him that if he purchased a drum kit he could be the drummer. They played together as the Impalas for about a year or so, doing instrumental stuff at private parties. I was asked by George Walden to sing when I was a junior in high school. So the group was formed in late l963. I joined in l964.
[Lance Monthly] Were there any personnel changes at any time?
[Carter Ragsdale] I was the lead vocalist. George Walden played lead guitar, John Weatherford played rhythm guitar, George Hall played bass guitar, and Jeff Allen was on drums. That was the original line up. Danny Murphy replaced George Hall on bass. He also sang lead and back up and played guitar on certain numbers. Don Ricketts played bass guitar for a while. When Ricketts was with us we were six members--that was probably our strongest line up. Ted Napoleon played drums for us toward the end.
[Lance Monthly] What were some of the popular venues that you played at?
[Carter Ragsdale] We played private parties in the beginning--Frat parties and that sort of thing. When "Don't Bring Me Down" became popular, we hooked up with radio station WFUN who ran dances on Wednesday in Hialeah, Saturday in Ft. Lauderdale, and Sunday in North Miami Beach. We did that stint for quite a while. We traveled to Gainesville to the University of Florida. We also played at a club in Winter Haven that was owned oddly enough by Gram Parson's dad. We also played in Daytona at the Surf Club.
[Lance Monthly] Why was "Don't Bring Me Down" released under the name of H.M. Subjects? Whose idea was that?
[Carter Ragsdale] That was Mort Downey's deal to make us seem more English. That episode with Downey made front-page news in the Miami Herald, and finally lost him his job at WFUN.
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally did the Montells become?
[Carter Ragsdale] There were quite a few groups at that time and each had their own following. We were very popular with a certain crowd.
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
[Carter Ragsdale] We were more raw and loose, and louder than many of the other groups. The Pretty Things, Rolling Stones, and the Yardbirds were some groups that we were influenced by.
[Lance Monthly] Prior to "Don't Bring Me Down," the Montells released "Daddy Rolling Stone" b/w "You Can't Make Me" on the Thames label. Where was the 45 recorded?
[Carter Ragsdale] These were recorded in 1966 at Criteria in North Miami. I can remember that the session was in the evening about 8:00 pm. Bill Lachmiller was there. He played guitar in a soul group. Also, Bob Lovett was there. Jim Sessody was the engineer that night. I do remember that we had to do it all in quite a hurry because of the recording costs. " Daddy Rolling Stone" made it to number 14 on the local charts. "You Can't Make Me" didn't do so well, only going to number 45 or so. I still have the old surveys.
[Lance Monthly] What about "Can't Explain" and "Watch Out For That Guy." When were they recorded?
[Carter Ragsdale] Those songs were done at Dukoffs Studio about a year before. We did them for an audition for a job in Naples, Florida. We sure weren't very smart because there was ample opportunity for a live recording but we never did one. We did a cover of Them's "Gloria" that was lost, and also a song by the Fairies called "Get Yourself Home" that was lost. There are some others that were lost, too.
[Lance Monthly] Did the Montells participate in any Battle of the Bands?
[Carter Ragsdale] No, we didn't have to.
[Lance Monthly] What about TV? Did the band make any local TV appearances?
[Carter Ragsdale] No, we didn't make any TV appearances.
[Lance Monthly] Who were some of the national acts that appeared in Southern Florida with whom the Montells played? Did you tour far from your home base at all?
[Carter Ragsdale] Paul Simon did the North Miami Armory without Art Garfunkel who was ill that night. We backed Jackie Wilson at the Highleah Country Club. We went North to Gainesville, and west to Tampa.
[Lance Monthly] Who were some of the local bands that you especially recall?
[Carter Ragsdale] The Shaggs, the Modds, the Evil, the Kollection, Deltonas, Twilights, Tiger Tiger, the Intruders and Dr T, and The Undertakers.just to name a few.
[Lance Monthly] In the October 2001 issue of THE LANCE MONTHLY, John Mascaro of the Modds recalled that "the Montells were bad-mouthing us and telling everyone they were better than us." And Dewey Bond stated that he "wanted to cold-cock Carter Ragsdale." Did you have a particular rivalry with the Modds?
[Carter Ragsdale] I don't recall bad mouthing them at all. George Walden drew a flyer for some Frat party that we were playing at, and in the corner drew a gravestone that had "Modds RIP." I still have a copy of it. Dean Liapis, their singer, and Dennis O'Berry, their lead guitar, and I were very close. They were especially tight, and did good harmonies. They were almost the opposite of us. What we lacked in music ability we more than made up in stage presence. We were more about the show; they were more about the music. I can't recall any rivalry with The Modds. Now, we did have one with the Shaggs . . .
[Lance Monthly] Why did the Montells break up in the '60's?
[Carter Ragsdale] The Viet Nam thing had a lot to do with it. Hall and I went there along with John Mascaro of the Modds, and a few others.
[Lance Monthly] Jeff Allen later joined Evil. Did you join any bands after the Montells?
[Carter Ragsdale] I put together a group with Steve Chase on guitar, and Billy Demoya on organ, called Carter's Pills. We played the armory in North Miami and the Place also in N. Miami. It really didn't last too long.
[Lance Monthly] What was the catalyst for the recent Montells reunion?
[Carter Ragsdale] John Weatherford is my best friend, and we have remained in touch thru all the years. We thought that it would be fun to see how many of the old group we could get together. We contacted John Doyle of Evil and he helped us with the planning. We did have a very nice turn out and one hell of a good time. We even made a CD to commemorate the occasion.
[Lance Monthly] Aside from the reunion, how often, and where, do you perform today?
[Carter Ragsdale] My father was a hall of fame saddle bred horse trainer, and that has been my life's work. I train horses. I try to sing with the radio when ever possible, and in the shower, too.
[Lance Monthly] Do the Montells have plans for another reunion?
[Carter Ragsdale] We will get together in June of 2002 for another reunion.
[Lance Monthly] Will we ever see an authorized CD of vintage Montells material?
[Carter Ragsdale] Probably not.
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