Though not compiled on the Nuggets 4-CD box set, The Parade's Sunshine Girl first became known to many collectors as a result of
its appearance on earlier Nuggets compilations (both LP and CD versions). One of the earliest examples of "sunshine rock," the
song practically ushered in a whole new musical genre. Far from being your corner neighborhood garage band, The Parade was in
reality comprised of a diversified group of individuals, who utilized some of Los Angeles' finest session players. Part-time
musician, part-time composer, part-time actor Allen "Smokey" Roberds was a member of the unit that was known as The Parade, and
agreed to clear up a few misconceptions for us - while concurrently providing information on some of his many other impressive
An Interview With Allen "Smokey" Roberds
60sgaragebands.com (60s): There has been some confusion over the fact that certain songs by the Parade credit a Roger Nichols as songwriter, while other sources for the same song credit Smokey Roberds. Could you please clarify this: Do you also compose using the name Roger Nichols?
Allen 'Smokey' Roberds (SR): Roger and I are NOT the same person. We were roomates for awhile and did write songs together. One example is I Can See Only You on the Small Circle Of Friends album (Roger, Murray MacLeod and Melinda MacLeod). Murray MacLeod and I were a song-writing team before that, which is how I met Roger. He and Roger grew up together. There was some similarity in their writing styles musically because of their familiarity, similar music backgrounds and philosophy. Neither of them considered themselves lyricists, but Murray did have talent in that area. Although I wrote music AND lyrics on most of my songs, with Roger I wrote lyrics only and with Murray sometimes both. With Sunshine Girl, Murray basically wrote the melody with input from Jerry Riopelle. When they finished, I then wrote the lyrics to their melody. She Sleeps Alone, which I solo'd on the Parade album, was begun by Henry Capps. He brought the idea to us, then Murray and I finished it. It is one of my favorites, along with Desiree (never published), as a song and as a recording. Many of the others were more of a collaborative effort.
I can only guess at the reasons for the name mix-ups.
60s: What was your musical experience prior to The Parade?
SR: Prior to the Parade, I had a high school band called the Hi Fi's. I started out as the manager and became the lead singer. That's when I started writing. I was also the Pop Deejay on the local radio station, from my sophomore year until graduation. Later I was on the original L.A. Underground station in Pasadena (KPPC) from 9PM until 1AM. What a great experience and fun that was, rewriting the rules of broadcast radio! I graduated from the Pasadena Playhouse in '61 and had my first song recorded while a student there (On A Merry Go Round, by Jerry Wallace of Primrose Lane fame). I also wrote music for "Dark Of The Moon" and other Main Stage productions there. I traveled on the road some as lead singer with The Ramblers, as well.
60s: How did you become involved with The Parade?
SR: Murray and I were having some success as a writing team. We presented a song to Phil Spector - which he declined, by the way - and we met Jerry Riopelle, a very talented producer there. Jerry wanted to work with Murray and me and produce a record. So we wrote Sunshine Girl, took it to Chuck Kay at A&M Records, who took us to Herb Alpert, and we signed a contract as The Parade. None of us played much on sessions, but we all three played enough guitar to write and audition our material. Murray was probably the most accomplished on the guitar.
60s: So you used studio musicians on the Parade's recordings?
SR: Yes. Murray, Jerry and I did the vocals. The arrangers were were Murray, Jerry, and I again, with Leon Russell, Jim Prigmore and Nick De Caro. The rest were: Drums - Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer; Guitars - Jimmy Messina (another old roommate), Ray Pohlman, Mike Deasy, and Larry Zempel; Bass - Jimmy Bond and Ray Pohlman; Sax - Jim Horn and Steve Douglas; Trumpets - Chuck Findley and Tony Terran; Flute - Gene Cipriano; Keyboards - Larry Knechtel, Leon Russel and Victor Feldman; Vibes - Victor Feldman; Bass Marimba - Emil Richards; and Percusssion - Stuart Margolin, Murray, Jerry and I.
60s: Was Jerry Riopelle the main creative force behind The Parade?
SR: In my estimation, it would be very difficult to ascribe the "main" creative force to any single member of the Parade. Everyone was creative on a variety of levels and we all really admired each other's talents. Because of our different points of view and abilities, it was exciting when we got together, to experience how that "mix" worked for us. We enjoyed working together. Jerry was certainly the main administrative force in terms of arranging for a record deal and organizing the recording sessions and production. I would say that Murray was the main musical creative force as he had a passion for musical correctness, just as Jerry was passionate about production values and I was about lyrical meaning and flow. We all contributed to the artistic developement of the sessions, and Stuart Margolin was an important contributer as well. As young as we were I imagine each of us felt that our own contributions were most important at the time, but it was the "mix" that made it work.
60s: What was your relationship with Riopelle like?
SR: Jerry and I got along well - as we all did. We all spent a lot of time together writing and in the studio, but we also became good friends and bonded in a way, in the unique times that were were living in. I'm sure you know of course, that "they" say, "anyone who remembers the '60's wasn't really there!" Later on, different paths led us in different directions.
60s: You've mentioned him, but what exactly was Stuart Margolin's role with The Parade?
SR: Stuart was also a graduate of the Playhouse and we met there originally. Later he saw me in a Cellar Theatre Production in Hollywood of "Brewsie and Willie" and approached me about doing the lead in a one act play he had written called "Involution". Subsquently Charlotte Stuart and I starred in a very successful run of that show at the Cellar. Stuart and I became friends and he had a great love of music and was interested in my music career, so I introduced him to my partner, Murray. Through Murray and I, he met Jerry. Stuart was a very talented actor (LOVE AMERICAN STYLE, THE ROCKFORD FILES), director and playwright. He was not a singer, as he will attest, but it was fun to listen to him try, when he had a song idea.
60s: Did The Parade ever tour or play live, or were you primarily confined to the studio?
SR: We did very few personal appearances as The Parade - maybe a few television appearances where we lip-sync'd the record.
60s: Sunshine Girl was a Top 20 hit. To what do you attribute its success?
SR: Sunshine Girl was pretty much the first of the "sunshine" genre, and so was new and unique, to me in that regard. Also there was an innocence and light heartedness to the music and vocal delivery - which we referred to as the "bubblegum" sound - that juxtaposed what I felt was a kind of musical sophistication for pop music at that time, in terms of voicing and harmonies. I think that all of this underscored a subtle sensualness in the lyrics for the newly "awakening", and "coming of age" of the baby boomers. That's just my opinion, of course, because it could have all been plain old-fashioned dumb luck!
60s: Why do you think you were never really able to duplicate its success?
I think the fact that all of us had other professional interests, and were disinclined to go on the road, was the main reason. Aside from writing music and getting songs recorded, Murray and I both were active in theater, television and motion pictures at that time, and Jerry was a producer for Phil Spector's label.
60s: You recorded one solo single that I'm aware of: God's Fool b/w Love Is The People's Choice. Did you record many solo singles?
SR: I solo'd She Sleeps Alone on the Parade album. It is one of my favorites as a song and a recording. There were other artists who recorded it but I cannot recall them. When Murray and I recorded as Ian and Murray for Epic Records, I solo'd on a song called My Mary, which I wrote in my car one day while driving to Air National Guard Summer Camp. I was in the Air Police, so I was acutely aware of the irony of me writing the rather joyous bit of psychedelia. Another song I wrote and recorded was called The Odyssey, and chronicled a young rock 'n' roll singer's rather long and happy trip down Sunset Boulevard. I'm afraid it was even purer (although tongue in cheek) psychedelia. I recorded Irma Jackson, which Merle Kilgore wrote, for Capitol Records. It was produced by Al Delory, of Glen Campbell fame. Then, among others, there was The Califirnia Special, Good Mornin' and the original version of We've Only Just Begun.
60s: You've clarified this for us already: Roger Nichols was not an alias, and was in fact a very qualified song-writer in his own right. He also wrote many songs with Paul Williams. What about you? Did you ever write with Paul Williams?
SR: Roger was a tremendously gifted composer and I really liked writing with him. Paul and I never actually wrote together, although Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss at A&M Records tried to make it happen on several occasions. Be that as it may, Paul and I got along great, too. Paul was one of those delightful characters that everybody just naturally liked. However, there is an interesting story here. One day I was listening to the radio, and a Bank Of America commercial came on. It caught my ear, because it sounded so familiar. It definitely had a Roger Nichols signature on it. Roger was no longer living in Hollywood, so I called him and asked him if he had indeed written the commercial. He said "yes," that he wrote the music, and that Paul had written the lyrics. At the time, I was doing some production work for White Whale Records (The Turtles and Happy Together record label) and running their publishing company, Pequod Music. There was a group which we were about to sign to a recording contract with White Whale that I was going to be producing, so I told Roger to make that commercial into a full length song and that I would record it with that group. So, he and Paul got together, finished it, and had it to me in a couple of days. But then, as things happen, the deal with the group fell through, so Roger and I went in the studio, and did a quick head session demo of We've Only Just Begun, with Roger on piano and me singing the vocal. Lee and Teddy, the owners of White Whale Records and Pequod Music, wanted to release my version of it, as a single. However, I was under contract as an artist with Al Delory at Capitol Records at the time, so Lee and Teddy called Capitol to get special permission to release my version of We've Only Just Begun. They said, sure, as long as you don't use the name, Smokey Roberds on the record. We were sitting in Lee's office, and he turned to me and said, "We can do it, if we change your name. What's your given name?" I told him it was Fred Allen Roberds, and he said, "That's it, let's call you Freddie Allen." And, believe it or not, We've Only Just Begun by Freddie Allen was a California hit. Due to extenuating circumstances, revolving around sales and record promotion at that time, the song never really took off beyond California. Six months later, The Carpenters recorded it, and the rest is, as they say...hysterical/history. I've had over 50 songs recorded, by such artists as The Vogues, Trini Lopez, Leonard Nimoy, Al Martino, Leslie Uggams, Lorne Green, and Andy Williams.
60s: You're also an actor, and I have found two screen credits for you: PROUD AND THE DAMNED and DAY OF THE WOLVES. Like Margolin, you were an actor during your Parade days, too...
SR: Yes. I was in the original PLANET OF THE APES, did episodes on DR. KILDARE, T.H.E. CAT, the one act play "Involution", which Stuart wrote for two characters - roles which Charlotte Stewart (LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE) and I played at the Cellar Theater in Hollywood, and which was later shot as a movie, again with Charlotte and me playing the two characters. Stuart directed. I wish I could get my hands on a copy of that. The play/movie was quite avant garte for it's time. Stuart was, in addition to being a very entertaining friend to hang out with, a very original and sensitive director. "Involution" was all about the struggling would be actor scene in Hollywood, in a backdrop of the newly emerging psychedelic phenomenon with young peoples resultant explosively changing personal roles, especially in the context of the new male/female relationships. I look back with awe at these people - Charlotte Stewart, Stuart Margolin, Henry Capps, Murray McLeod and Jerry - because we were all in our early twenties at the time. It was a marevelous time and I thank you for reminding me to remember it.
60s: What are you currently working on? What primarily keeps you busy today?
SR: In 1975, I left Los Angeles and moved to Nashville. Bill Justis, Kris Kristoffersen's musical director and arranger, and also of Raunchy fame, and I formed a publishing company and produced an album of Smokey Roberds songs, sung by Smokey Roberds. The album was never released, but the single, California Special / Good Mornin' was released. (One of my all time favorites is a song on that album called Desiree, which we decided not to release, because of Neil Diamond's record) . In 1977, at the age of 36, another of my dreams came true, after going back to school and finishing another year of pre-med I entered Texas Chiropractic College in Pasadena, Texas. I was fortunate enough to be the Student Chief Staff Supervisor Of Interns there and graduate with honors in 1981. My wife, Marla, and two very young daughters, Jennifer and Claire with Ben on the way (my dreams again!) and I moved back to Nashville. We opened a practice, had our son, Ben, and because I knew so many people in the music business there, and thanks to KLAC's Ruth Ann Leach, I was referred to as the "Chiropractor to the Stars." I also started doing a syndicated radio program, called "Second Opinion." And then, in the words of Michael Corleone in GODFATHER III, "just when I thought I was out of it, they pulled me back in," and I found myself founding, directing and producing the Benefit Gala "Stars for Chiropractic's Special Children", with Roseanne Cash (one of my patients) as the co-host and our national spokes-person, and - you guessed it - I wrote a song, and produced the record, You Are Special, with Keith Whitley, Becky Hobbs, John Andersen, Skip Ewing, Stella Parton, The Wright Brothers, Donna Fay and Tim Malchak. My old friend Al Schmidt (Jefferson Airplane, Earth Wind & Fire) flew in from Los Angeles to mix it. Everyone donated their talent for what they said was a good cause.
In 1995, we moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I am semi-retired. I have a long time associate doctor, Dr. Valerie Grevers, and our practice focus is on chronic illness and/or pain utilizing Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Nutrition, at our clinic, "The Center for Advanced Thinking and Healing". Dr. Grevers and I host, with my wife, Marla, a local version of "Second Opinion" and of course my old deejay instincts surface and we feature a different CD every week for bumper music, going into and out of the breaks.We have fun with it while educating the public to drugless, non-surgical healthcare. Only recently have I become aware of all the people on the Internet who are into the '60's music and I have heard from people all over the world. It has been very gratifying to "talk" to them.
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