Proctor Amusement Co.

Though Chuck Kirkpatrick would eventually find fame and wider success in the 1970's with Game and Firefall, he began his musical journey as a member of several local Florida bands - namely Gas Company, which would undergo a name change to Proctor Amusement Company. Though Proctor Amusement Company was successful enough to record a handful of singles, appear regularly on Florida TV, and play all the top area hot spots, the rejection of the band's still unreleased LP caused great grief to Kirkpatrick. Fortunately, it didn't deter him from the music business, and he's parlayed his talent into being a session musician, and a jingles/commercials composer.

An Interview With Chuck Kirkpatrick (60s): How did you first get interested in music?

Chuck Kirkpatrick (CP): When my family moved to Florida in 1955, my mother took up guitar and learned some Bahamian songs. I and my younger brother liked to harmonize with her. I started messing with her guitar - a Martin 4-string baritone - when she wasn't playing it. Pretty soon I was teaching her!

60s: You were in a few bands prior to joining The Gas Company...namely The Impalas and The Aerovons. Did any members of those bands join you in The Gas Company?

CP: Nobody from either The Impalas or Aerovons came over to Gas Company.

60s: Where was The Gas Company formed, what year, and by whom?

CK: Gas Company was originally Tim Mitchell (bass), Gary Carter (lead guitar), Sandy Meyer (drums), and Ken Byers (organ). I don't know who actually started the band but these were the original guys, and I knew they'd been around awhile, probably since 1965. I joined in '66. Right after I joined, Tim Mitchell was replaced by George Terry, and several months later, Cleve Johns became our front man and lead singer.

60s: How did you hook up with them? With you familiar with them prior to joining them?

CK: I had heard of Gas Company and knew that they were pretty popular. I don't think I ever actually heard them play before I actually joined. The Aerovons broke up at the end of '65 because Denny Williams was heading off to Notre Dame with a scholarship and we didn't feel we could continue without his enormous talent. Word got to Gas Company about my availability. They were very interested because of my vocal arranging abilities and wanted to be a good vocal group. I was - if I remember correctly - 'propositioned' on the phone by Sandy Meyer at the time.

60s: What type of gigs did The Gas Company land?

CK: Ken Byers was very tight with a couple deejays from WQAM so Gas Company got some pretty good gigs. We played the Action, Tiger's Den North, the World, Winterhurst, Mallory Square (Key West), and a bunch of high school dances and clubs on the west coast of Florida. We even played for a fashion show at Burdines. And we were regulars on the Rick Shaw Saturday Hop TV show.

60s: Did you ever work with a mananger?

CK: Ken Byers pretty much took care of business. I did my share of handling bookings and payroll, plus arranging all the harmonies. We did acquire the services of one Mr. Tommy Beauregard somewhere around 1968 for a short while. He did little more than get some gigs and try to keep us looking neat and orderly on stage - something we were beginning to tire of. Through some unknown circumstance, he got himself arrested in central Florida and wound up in prison for a time.

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

CK: We went to the Tampa / St. Pete area almost weekly. There was an agency up there, PED-DYN Productions, that kept us pretty busy. We played Gainsville in the fall at a lot of frat parties.

60s: The Gas Company participated in a Battle of the Bands for the National Tea Council. What do you recall about this?

CK: It was sponsored by radio stations all over the U.S. - by WQAM in Florida. The idea was to promote tea as a beverage appealing to the younger generation by having a national battle of the bands. We in Gas Company had gone to the trouble of creating our own version of The Tea Song (they supplied the necessary lyrics but gave carte blanche to musical style - whatever you wanted to do) and submitting the necessary forms. But when we found out that the preliminary/first "battle" was on the same day as a paying gig, we said, "fuck it". The following week while at a gig in Tampa, we received a frantic call from a WQAM deejay - I can't remember who now - who begged us to come to the final competition that very day. And I mean this guy was frantic. We figured we were out of it totally by not even showing up for the preliminaries and told him so. "Don't worry...", he said. "Just show up". We drove all the way back from Tampa straight to the venue - tired, sweaty, and pissed off at ourselves for agreeing to this stupid contest. We took the stage in rumpled street clothes, not giving a damn, and started playing our required three songs. Before we even got through the first tune, I could see the judges smiling while writing things in their notebooks and closing them. In a matter of moments, the local/regional winner was announced......guess who?! We were to fly to the national competition in New Jersey several weeks later. WQAM would be represented there along with many other stations from around the country and they wanted to show up with a really good band. I felt a little bad for the competing bands who had gone to way greater lengths than we had, but we were way better than most of them. We went to Jersey thinking we'd be the only real vocal group there. Gas Company at the time was known for its stunning harmonies, doing Four Freshman a capella stuff, Four Seasons, and Beach Boys. During warm-ups at the nationals, we strolled through the dressing room singing a capella, trying to 'scare' all the other groups with our harmony. Wouldn't you know it - the very first group to perform was from California, The Five Sierras or something like that. They kicked our smart asses all the way back to Miami with an absolutely perfect a capella rendition of Pennies From Heaven. (NOTE: For more recollections such as this from Chuck and other notable memebrs of the '60's Florida music scene, visit Jeff Lemlich's Limestone Lounge at

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

CK: There were so many bands: The Mama's Boys; The Ambassadors, who then became Bridge - from whom we stole three key members!; Kollektion; 7 Of Us; Gents 5; Shaggs...the list is endless but the memory fails me.

60s: How popular locally did The Gas Company become?

CK: I'd have to say we were one of the top 10 bands in South Florida, especially after the release of Heard You Went Away.

60s: Heard You Went Away was written by Bobby Puccetti of The Birdwatchers. How did the band end up recording it?

CK: The track to Heard You Went Away had already been recorded by some of the Birdwatchers and studio players. We did the vocals at Dukoff on 7th avenue. I was working at Criteria as an engineer at the time, so everything else thereafter was done at Criteria. We did our own tracks for everything else, and I pretty much engineered and co-produced with Steve Alaimo. I was arranging four-part and five-part very complex harmonies at the time, and I had no formal schooling so I couldn't write the parts out. I had to memorize all of them and teach them to the guys, just like Brian Wilson did. That was pretty hard, remembering all those parts. But the guys were all great singers and we pulled off some pretty good stuff.

60s: Why was the record released as by Proctor Amusement Company? Whose idea what it to change names?

CK: We learned through our record company at the time, that the name Gas Company was registered by another group, so the record was released with Proctor Amusement Company on it. And I still have no idea who came up with that name!

60s: The Proctor Amusement Company also recorded another single.

CK: At the time, we were signed to ALSTON (Steve ALaimo and Henry STONe's label), and they had those tunes in their catalogue. One of my tunes, Two Wonderful Girls was the B-side of one of those releases. Actually, I think Call Out My Name was the B-side of our second release, You Don't Need A Reason which featured Cleve Johns on lead vocal.

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

CK: The only other stuff by Proctor, were a couple things done at Criteria, one of which was a remake of Only In America that featured tons of harmony and a very majestic arrangement - much slower than the original. Other than that, I have hours and hours of live stuff - stuff done live in my Wilton Manors apartment with just acoustic guitars, and live recording of us at the World, the Action, etc.

60s: There are rumors of an unreleased Criteria Studios album from '68 in the vaults. Is this true?

CK: That 'unreleased' album was somewhat experimental, and came about after Sandy Meyer, Cleve Johns, and Ken Byers had left the group. Eddie Keating replaced Cleve, Scott Kirkpatrick replaced Sandy, and Les Luhring replaced Ken. We had been doing tons of recording late at night, thanks to Mack Emerman who had given me keys to the studio. All of us were writing. And we had acquired a real manager, Steven Goldberg, who began making trips to New York with our tapes in hopes of getting us a deal. We put together this album that we thought was very good. The labels did not. That album was like my Pet Sounds, and I had a near-breakdown over the rejection. One record executive did recognize our studio chops, and sent Steve back to Miami with some songwriter demos for us to produce. The tunes we thought were garbage, but we took the attitude "We'll show them......". And we did. We got two national releases from those sessions by turning crappy sounding demos into killer masters. And, the label even released one of my tunes, My Kind Of Morning from the reject LP, as a follow-up single.

60s: How did your breakdown affect the rest of the band?

CK: Well, my breakdown really wasn't all that serious. I did a 'freak-out' at Criteria when I got the bad-news phone call from Steve in New York. I remember walking out the front door crying and just walking East on 149th street until Mack Emerman, God bless him, pulled up along side me in his car and took me to lunch to calm me down. Mack was a musician himself and he knew what I had put into that album. We licked our wounds for a week or so, and then went to work on the Bonner & Gordon demos. I have recordings of all those, by the way.

60s: Did the group break up after all the personnel changes and splintering?

CK: The band didn't ever really break up until 1976. It simply kept evolving. By the time we actually did break up, we were Game, the Los Angeles club band, with Eddie, Les, and I the only remaining original members. Our drummer was David Robinson (ex-Bible drummer), who had left us once before in 1973 and returned in '75. I should mention that I briefly left Proctor in the middle of 1967 following my marriage to Nancy (also a fine singer and a participant in many of our studio vocal sessions). I thought leaving the band was the manly thing to do, being married and all. And it was during Proctor Amusement Co.'s most profitable time too, because Heard You Went Away was on the charts and the gigs were plentiful. My replacement for several months was a bassist named Mike Day. That allowed George Terry to play guitar for awhile. I drove Nancy so crazy she made me re-join the band. Several months after that, she joined Kane's Cousins.

60s: What about today? How often, and where, do you perform?

CK: I play every Monday night at Bayside in Miami with a group called S.D.C., a classic rock band. We don't do clubs anymore, just a private party here and there. We're all family men now, with other careers. I have managed to stay somewhat close to the business, producing jingles and doing voice-overs on commercials which are nationally syndicated. I had a pretty busy schedule as a session singer in the mid-eighties, and I toured extensively with Firefall for five years. I am currently finishing up an album of my favorite '60's songs that I recorded totally by myself at my studio that will be available to any interested parties. (NOTE: Check out Chuck's website at

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Proctor Amusement Company?

CK: My experience with Proctor Amusement Company was for the most part, terrific. I think I took alot of it too seriously, but I was passionate about being a good harmony group. I drove the other guys nuts alot of the time, but the few tapes there are will show it was worth the effort.

"Copyrighted and originally printed on by Mike Dugo".
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