The Monuments

Winners of the 1966 Tulsa Battle of the Bands, the Monuments were kings of their hometown of Ada, Oklahoma. Like many bands of the era, they had much success in their region, and were slated to tour with the Beach Boys before facing the same harsh realities that were forced upon many other bands of the era. Though they never broke out nationally, guitarist Jerry Sims still looks back fondly at the days when his band ruled the Tulsa area.

An Interview With Jerry Sims How did you first get interested in music?

Jerry Sims (JS): I was a band nerd and clarinet player since 1958. In 1963 I wanted to take up guitar. I was very close to my cousin, Gary Sims. Unknown to me, and without us talking about it, we had gotten guitars on the same day. We spent that summer learning and playing together. During my sophomore year in high school, my band director made light of the "pseudo" instrument that had my interest so I quit the school band. But I was hooked on guitar.

60s: What did he mean by "pseudo" guitar? Was he insinuating that a guitar wasn't a real instrument?

JS: Yes. He would bug me about the guitar not being a real instrument like the clarinet or horn. He was putting it down. By the way, he died just last month.

60s: Was the Monuments your first band?

JS: No. Gary and I formed a group we called the Dimensions. It consisted of Gary, me, Howard Collings, Steve Gregory and Ed Wheeler. Our first big gig was at the Vendome Teen Dance in Sulphur, Oklahoma. We made $27 a piece and we were sky high. This was in 1964. The next year we lost Gary to the U.S. military and added Tom Wilds on lead guitar.

60s: Is this when the band became known as the Monuments?

JS: In 1965 we formed the Monuments by adding Terry Bell on drums. He and Howard had performed a double drum thing for an Ada High talent show. It sounded cool so we experimented with double drums for a while. The two sets of drums got to be a hassle so Howard became a stand up singer and lead man. Sometimes he'd go back and play drums for Terry. Steve became a "big man on campus" and got interested in other areas so we replaced him with an organist, Burl Moore. This was the group that recorded African Diamonds. Burl left the band when we booked a gig at Silverton Co and we got Gary back after his stint in the National Guard. He played rhythm guitar and did harmony.

60s: Where did the band typically practice?

JS: We always practiced in Terry Bell's basement or sometimes quickly in his living for an audition or something.

60s: And what type of gigs did you typically land?

JS: We played proms, school assemblies, teen towns in Oklahoma, and after game parties. We also played some college functions and frat parties. We did not play adult clubs until our last gig. We played the Oklahoma State Fairs in Tulsa and in talent shows in Oklahoma City.

60s: Did you have a manager?

JS: We had a great manger in Monte Bell. He was Terry's father. He helped us so much. He was in radio and TV locally. I thought it was amazing that we never went anywhere where somebody did not know him. Through him I met Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph and Spanky McFarland of the Little Rascals. He came up to us and he knew Monte Bell. Monte helped us with personal problems, our material and our performances, and took care of advertising and booking us. He helped me through an awkward period in my life. Terry's mom Jean also helped us a great deal. She made us outfits by hand to wear on stage and also turned off the power to the basement when we got out of control. They often went to gigs with us and occasionally Monte would sing a song or two. They were great.

60s: How popular locally did the Monuments become?

JS: I think we were quite popular locally. I think we were the top band in the Ada area and we're still remembered by many to this day. If we got together for a reunion date we could still draw a crowd. We were the first band to have an organ and we set the standard for other local groups.

60s: What was the Oklahoma music scene like?

JS: Oklahoma's music scene was fun. It was live music. There were lots of bands. There were eight working bands in Ada (alone), and many more in the outlying areas. Grab a vacant building, advertise and you had a teen dance. No security was required. You just needed somebody to watch the door and to take money and the kids would have fun.

60s: What were some of the other local bands?

JS: I remember the Fugitives, Fanatics, Jerry and the Mustangs, the Five Americans, Centuries, Jim Edgar and the Roadrunners, Disciples, and Wes Reynolds and the Houserockers. I also remember the amazing group, the Rhythm Rebels. And who could forget Little Joe and the Ramrods with Little Matt?

60s: What were some of the area hotspots to play at?

JS: The Attic in McAlester and the Vendome in Sulpur. Lonnie Mack played at ECU Homecoming but we had a gig (and I missed him). One year Bo Diddley played but I missed him, too. I did catch the Detroit Wheels here.

60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?

JS: We toured around Oklahoma in a 100-mile radius of Ada. We went as far south as Denison, Texas. We also went to Silverton, Colorado for a month.

60s: Your group released a single, African Diamonds. What was the flip side?

JS: The flip side of African Diamonds was called I Need You. These were recorded at KVOO Studio in Tulsa. I remember the session well as it was my 18th birthday. It was Feb 6th, 1966. They had a big C3 Hammond and Burl played it on the record instead of his Farfisa. It was fantastic with the Leslie's. African Diamonds went to the Top 10 on KAKC in Tulsa. It was played on KADA in Ada and later on KKAJ in Ardmore. Part of the song - the very end - was on a commercial on WNOE in New Orleans.

60s: Who wrote the song?

JS: Howard Collings wrote African Diamonds. He was the main songwriter. We did a dozen originals probably that Howard wrote. I wrote the lyrics that we recorded but after Howard put the music to it I hardly recognized one song, Don't Blame Me.

60s: How would you describe the band's sound?

JS: Harmonic. We were blessed to have great singers. The early Monuments had great harmony. Many bands struggled with coming up with a lead singer. We had three of them at all times and they could harmonize. We could play solid but could out do most bands with our vocals. The Beatles, Hollies, Animals, Lonnie Mack, Astronauts, Kingsmen, and Paul Revere and the Raiders all influenced us.

60s: Do any (other) '60's Monuments recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings?

JS: Yes. I have some vintage recordings but some are poor quality. I have some studio work we did. I am trying to put together enough that are good so that I can fill up a CD. I also have some acetates.

60s: Can you tell me anything else about these recordings?

JS: Well…nothing else was ever released. I have some original songs on acetate. I have some audio dubs on tape. Terry has some masters on tape but it is getting brittle after 36 years. Some of the songs are Where Bad Boys Go, You Always Hurt The Ones You Love, Don't Blame Me, and Cold Winds Of March. All of these were originals written by Howard. We also redid a demo tape that we did for Floyd Cramer to take around Nashville that nothing happened with called She's A Gas.

60s: What do you recall about the 1966 Tulsa Battle of the Bands that the Monuments entered?

JS: KKAC, Pepsi and the Guitar House in Tulsa sponsored The Battle of the Bands. It we part of the first Toys For Tots in Vietnam by the Marine Corp. Some unknown girl that had heard us play sent an application for us and we went and played. It was done over ten weeks time with a weekly winner. We won our week. There were 95 bands from five states in the battle. The finals were held at the Cimmaron Ballroom in Tulsa in 1966. The only song I can remember playing for sure is We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. It was our signature song. The only band I remember was the Magnificent Seven. They were a soul group with horns.

60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances?

JS: We did make TV appearances on DANCE PARTY. I think that was on KVOO Channel 6 in Tulsa. We also did several shows on KTEN in Ada and later did a couple of shows on THE SCENE with Ronny Kaye in Oklahoma City. We also performed on the Cerebral Palsy Telethon with Johnny Tillotson and Barbara Parkins in 1965.

60s: Why did the band break up in the '60's?

JS: After coming back to Ada from Colorado, we had to enroll in college. We had an agent, Jack Blue in Colorado, and had a tentative offer to go tour with the Beach Boys to open for them. But, unless we were in school, we could not keep our deferments. We sucked it up and went back to Ada. Tom quit the band and we continued as a four-piece with Terry, Gary, Howard, and myself. Terry and Howard did not keep the grades up so they went to Vietnam and served our country proudly.

60s: Did you join or form any bands after the Monuments?

JS: After the Monuments, I played in a psychedelic band, then a soul band, and finally went country. I played in a country trio for the next three years. In 1974, I hooked up with Howard, Eddie Fergusson and his wife Debbie. She had been the lead singer with the Angels and we played a couple of years at the Holiday Inn in Ada.

60s: And today?

JS: Today I teach Social Studies at McLoud Junior High in McLoud, Oklahoma. I try to get together with the Monuments once or twice a year. I am available for any various local groups that need a bass player.

60s: How would you best summarize your days spent playing in the Monuments?

JS: I would describe my time with the Monuments as the best of my life. It was so much fun and I still have a lasting relationship with all the guys. Ada was and still is a big football town and school. Most guys who were popular played ball or wanted to play. I think we were just as well liked and popular as any of the jocks in every social circle except maybe their own. I made some money and a lot of friends through my music. The money is long gone but most of the friends are not. I just have wonderful memories of the experience.

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