The Paragons

Ask most people about Abba, and they're sure to single out the Swedish group who hit it big in the '70's with the disco anthem, Dancing Queen. Those in the know, however, will immediately think of the classic pop nugget by The Paragons - most recently available on a volume of the Teenage Shutdown series. Lead guitarist Pat Walters - now with The Spongetones - gladly recounted his days playing with The Paragons for

An Interview With Pat Walters

60s: How did you first get interested in music?

Pat Walters (PW): My older sisters were teenagers in the early sixties, so I was always listening to rock n' roll and rhythm n' blues records and radio. When The Beatles and the other British Invasion bands hit our airwaves in 1964, that was it for me. I said, "I must have a guitar!"

60s: Was The Paragons your first band?

PW: My first "band" was The Sinclairs, which lasted for less than a year. Things really got going with The Barons which played from the summer of 1965 to fall of 1966. Our claim to fame was opening for Herman's Hermit's. We were only 13 and 14 years old.

60s: Tell me about The Barons..

PW: The Barons originally consisted of Phil Lowe, drums; Tim Moore, guitar and later on organ; and Kirk Mitchell, bass. They saw me playing with the Sinclairs and asked me to join The Barons as the band was being formed. John Bolick from the Sinclairs joined later. He played rhythm guitar and sang a bit. Also, Karl Jarvi played bass with us towards the end, after Kirk Mitchell moved to California . Karl later played with T.C.Atlantic, The New Mix, Jeremiah and was some of the stuff on The G.B.U. Anthology.

60s: From The Barons you joined The Paragons? When were they formed?

PW: I don't know when The Paragons was formed . I know that they were originally known as The Pagans. The organist from The Barons, Tim Moore, met Johnny Pace - The Paragons' drummer and vocalist at high school. Another guitarist left The Paragons, so I came in after that. I seem to recall The Barons trying to recruit Johnny Pace as a front man and I'm sure he sang at least one gig with The Barons.

60s: How did you originally hook up with the Paragons?

PW: The Barons just sort of fell apart but Tim was still a good friend. The Paragons needed a guitarist and I think they liked me and the way I played. We got together and played some and became fast friends.

60s: Were you familiar with them at all prior to joining the band?

PW: I think I was familiar with the Paragons and had seen them play somewhere, but my memory of it isn't clear.

60s: At the time you joined, who were the members that comprised the band?

PW: At the time I joined The Paragons, the band consisted of Johnny Pace, drums and lead vocal; Bobby Pace, bass and vocals; Danny Huntley, rhythm guitar; and Tim Moore, organ and vocals. I played lead guitar and added vocals. This was the group that played on Abba.

60s: Where did the band typically practice?

PW: The Pace family had a rec house with a pool table in it. It was referred to as "the little house".

60s: Did you play all the typical gigs, such as schools, parties, and teen clubs?

PW: Yes, we played at all those. We also played at a few colleges, shopping center parking lots, school dances and we opened a concert with The Hollies and, once again...Herman's Hermit's!

60s: Did you play any of the local North Carolina teen clubs? Were there many?

PW: There did seem to be a lot of teen clubs around . There was The Web, at the YMCA. We even had a Cavern Club here. Others were like Friday night at a park and recreation hall, pizza parlor or bowling alley. Sometimes someone would put on a show at a National Guard armory.

60s: Did The Paragons participate in any Battle of the Bands?

PW: Yes, we played a number of Battle of the Bands and won a lot of them. I can't remember who we played against. I recall playing We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet by The Blues Magoos at one. Other songs in our repertoire included I'm Not Your Stepping Stone, Walk Away Renee, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Just Like Me, Time Won't Let Me, Look Through Any Window and Psychotic Reaction.

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

PW: We liked all the pop and rock bands that were around then: The Stones, Yarbirds, Hollies, Left Banke; we were just trying to sound like everything that we liked.

60s: Did The Paragons have a manager?

PW: Yes, we had a manager - a woman by the name of Barbara "Bobbi" Cashman. Our record label was "Bobbi" Records.

60s: How popular locally did The Paragons become?

PW: It seemed liked we were pretty popular in our area.

60s: How far did your playing territory extend?

PW: We mostly played within 50 miles of Charlotte .We played in Myrtle Beach once, which is about a four hour drive from Charlotte.

60s: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?

PW: The Hodads. They were big into The Beach Boys. The Young Ages, they liked Eric Burdon and the Animals. The Stowaways, T.C. Atlantic...Steve Stoeckel from The Spongetones was in that band. The 18th Edition, later known as The New Mix . They had an album on United Artists that was pretty cool. Spongetones drummer Rob Thorne was with The New Mix.

60s: T.C. Atlantic was also the name of a Minnesota group. Is this the same band?

PW: I haven't heard of the Minnesota T.C. Atlantic...but I was told by Steve Stoeckel that the singer was a guy who had moved from Minnesota named Denny Yeager and he came up with the name - so who knows!

60s: Your group released one single: Abba backed with Mr. You're A Better Man Than I. Where was the 45 recorded?

PW: Abba was recorded at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte. It was owned by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, also the writer of Duelin' Banjos from the film Deliverence. James Brown recorded Papa's Got A Brand New Bag there. It's a great studio with a large room. We just went in and they told us what to do. Abba received some airplay and was on a lot of juke boxes. It seems like it was pretty popular. People around Charlotte still mention it to me.

60s: Who wrote Abba? It really stands out from other recordings of the era. It's fabulous!

PW: There was a guitarist named Jim Charles who had played with The Paragons before me and I have been told that he wrote it. I heard him sing Abba with a band called The Abbadon and The Paragons were doing it, too. As you say, it really stood out! Anyway, I wasn't there when it was written. The credits on the record say Johnny Pace, Danny Huntley and Jimmy Charles.

60s: Did The Paragons write many original songs?

PW: We didn't have any other original material.

60s: What about other recordings? Do any other Paragons recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings?

PW: I don't know of any other recordings. We recorded a couple of covers and I remember tape recorders being around at some gigs but I don't know what happened to the tapes.

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

PW: We appeared on a regionally syndicated show featuring a band called The Villagers. I don't know of any (other) films, but Mrs. Pace, Johnny and Bobby's mother may have something.

60s: Why and when did the band call it quits?

PW: Johnny got a chance to play with The New Mix and later a band called August. Tim Moore got a Hammond organ and played with a couple of bands - Hector and Eros. Danny Huntley went to college and quit playing in bands. I formed a new band called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (GBU) with Bobby Pace and Phil Lowe, The Barons' drummer. We were into a Cream/Hendrix/Traffic/Procol Harum thing and were writing our own material. There is a CD, GBU Anthology, that is available from Not Lame Records. You can go to and follow the links . We started playing in Atlanta, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham.

60s: And after GBU?

PW: In 1970 I played guitar on an album by a band called Jeremiah. It was fronted by singer /songwriter David Brown from the afore mentioned New Mix and was on Uni/Decca Records. Also on the session was drummer Denny Seiwell and Dave Spinozza, who began recording with Paul McCartney on Ram shortly after that. Johnny Pace played drums on the few live gigs that Jeremiah did. He and I played in some other short-lived bands until the summer of 1971. In 1972 I played some "bluesbreaker" style lead guitar on an Aaron Neville single, Mojo Hannah, for Mercury Records. It is on a CD collection called The Classic Aaron Neville on Rounder Records. I formed The Spongetones with Steve Stoeckel and Rob Thorne in 1979. Jamie Hoover came with us in 1980. We have been performing and recording together since then. These days we mostly play in North and South Carolina though we recently went to New York to play at IPO on a show with The Kennedys and The Flashcubes. We have seven CD's out of our own material and we're starting a new one soon. I fill in with several other bands as well, so I usually play at least a couple of times a week. I also have a business repairing guitars and have been involved with guitar repair since the late 1970's.

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Paragons?

PW: We had a lot of fun in The Paragons. It was one more step towards becoming a professional musician. None of us had been playing very long, so we learned that you didn't have to be great musicians to make great music. They were a great bunch of guys! We all tried to outdo each other with the latest cool mod clothes and records. The Pace family did so much for us. Their dad bought a hearse for us to travel in. People still talk about that! That period of the '60's was such a great time in pop music and it was a great time to be young and in a band.

"Copyrighted and originally printed on by Mike Dugo".
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