It's somewhat well documented that music producers Kasenetz & Katz regularly sought out a few groups that had a healthy local following, changed their name and image, and proceeded to transform them into the next bubblegum rock and roll band. Though not as well remembered as The 1910 Fruitgum Company or Ohio Express, Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box found themselves on the same path as those other K&K acts. Before joining the K&K roster, however, HJ Boyle's band was rather successful locally as, first, The Echoes and, later, The Scoundrels.
An Interview With HJ Boyle
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
HJ Boyle (HJ): I saw Elvis on TV and said to myself, "I'd like to do that."
60s: Your first band was The Echoes. What year was that band started, and how long did it last?
HJ: The Echoes was actually a vocal group who happened to play some instruments. We started in 1960, and recorded a song called Baby Blue that became a hit record in 1961 - going as high as #9 nationally. At that time the members were: Harry (HJ) Boyle - guitar; Tom Morrissey - guitar; and Tom Duffy. Ralph DePalma accompanied us on recordings playing drums but was not one of The Echoes. We stayed as The Echoes until 1965, making our last record, Candy Kisses, with Jimmy Tragas playing bass and replacing Tom Duffy. Boyle, Morrissey, Tragas, and Depalma was the final line-up for The Echoes. Our next record, La Bola, was released in 1966 as The Scoundrels.
60s: So The Scoundrels was in essence the same band as The Echoes - only with a new name?
HJ: Yes, it was just a name change, because by that time we had evolved into a four-piece rock and roll band playing in nightclubs all around New York City. We all lived in Brooklyn, and officially changed the name sometime in late 1965.
60s: How would you describe The Scoundrels' sound? What band's influenced you?
HJ: We played all the old rock and roll stuff: Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, etc. plus the Doo-Wop sounds we had started with - along with some folk rock, too. We played the hits of the day - such as Hang On Sloopy - (and songs by) The Beatles, Stones, etc. We sounded like many of the other bands of the times, heavily influenced by early rock and roll. I particularly liked The Shadows, The Ventures, Link Wray, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Roy Orbison, plus the Doo-Wop (groups).
60s: Did the band perform many Doo-Wop songs as The Scoundrels - or were you more of a rock and roll band by then?
HJ: Yes we did. Remember, we had a huge hit record in 1961, with Baby Blue reaching #9 in CASHBOX and #12 in BILLBOARD - and going to # 3 in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City. Some people still remembered us, and would request it along with our other Doo-Wop style stuff. We just evolved over time because we were a working band, making our living playing music, so we kept learning new songs: Beach Boys , Phil Spector stuff, Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc.
60s: Did you play any of the local teen clubs?
HJ: No. We were all in our twenties by that time and working professionally at night clubs all over the East Coast.
60s: Did you ever tour nationally? HJ: We toured up and down the East Coast - Miami to Maine - but luckily we were popular enough in New York City to be able to stay (there) most of the time.
60s: Did The Scoundrels have a manager?
HJ: Yes. His name was Joey Napoleone, a childhood friend who volunteered to help us out while he was pursuing an acting career of his own. He managed us until we became Lt. Garcia, leaving because he did not agree with the direction we chose to go in.
60s: Why not? What were his plans for the group?
HJ: He thought we were selling out, and that "bubblegum" (music) was beneath us. We thought, "pop" music is "pop" - whatever you label it. We had recorded Doo-Wop, folk, and country, too, so we saw it as a chance to ride Kasenetz & Katz' coattails and have a chance to be "national" again. The fact that we didn't own any rights to the name pissed him off, too. We were young, kind of desperate, and hoping good fortune would come our way. We made decisions, I think in retrospect, that weren't right for us.
60s: How popular locally did The Scoundrels become?
HJ: We were well known in New York City as a good "cover band" (playing radio hits). Our recordings weren't successful so nationally, few people knew who we were. In the recording industry, people knew we had been The Echoes and were happy and eager to work with us.
60s: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?
HJ: We worked in the same area as The Young Rascals and The Vagrants. We met The Allman Brothers when they were called The Allman Joys, and we were friendly with Tony Orlando, Dion and Murry The K from our Doo-Wop days.
60s: The Scoundrels released three singles. Where were the 45s recorded?
HJ: All were recorded at Bell Studios in New York City. The first, La Bola b/w Come Home With Me, was started by us and finished by producer Bo Gentry. The ABC recordings (second and third singles) were done with Terry Cashman (from Cashman & West). He later produced Jim Croce's hit recordings. I remember being excited about all the songs, but was really hopeful for Easy. I think that's the best Scoundrels' song.
60s: Do you recall the circumstances that led to your recording with Bo Gentry and then Terry Cashman? How did The Scoundrels' hook up with them?
HJ: We produced La Bola and Come Home With Me along with Joey all through 1965. He shopped it around and made a deal with Kama Sutra, who asked Bo Gentry to sweeten and finish the record. Joey got screwed big time, and so did we. I always thought he fucked it up really good. The original was better. Kama Sutra leased the record to Verve. It got rave reviews - so what do I know? When Terry Cashman saw the reviews in BILLBOARD and CASHBOX he came to see us play and - finding us unhappy - he offered to record us for ABC. He was a staff producer there at the time. (The records we did with him) are my favorites. He liked us because we were song writers and producers, too. He'd been in a Doo-Wop group (The Chevrons) too, so we had a lot in common.
60s: Up There was popular enough to be featured on "The In Sound," an Army radio program that featured brief interviews with the bands. Do you recall this?
HJ: Yes. I recall the day we did it. Our manager Joey got it for us. I'd like to hear it. I forgot there was an interview.
60s: You've mentioned that The Scoundrels' were a cover band, yet the band wrote all of its singles, correct?
HJ: Yes . We wrote Easy, Come Home With Me, The Devil's Daughter and The Scoundrel. We were song writers (and had) hundreds published.
60s: Did any famous bands or artists record your songs?
HJ: Only one famous person. Ray Charles recorded a song Tom Morrissey and I wrote. We had about 100 or so artists record songs we wrote, but no hits.
60s: Do any (other) '60's Scoundrels recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased songs that exist?
HJ: Yes there were, and I hope to release some of them in 2004 on a new CD.
60s: How many?
HJ: There's not many - four or five. I'm putting a couple on the new CD.
60s: Did the band make any TV appearances?
HJ: Yes. We made many local TV appearances on deejay shows like AMERICAN BANDSTAND. Tom Morrissey and I appeared twice on BANDSTAND: March 1961 The Echoes and January 1970 as The Ohio Express (that's another story). I'm not sure but I believe our BANDSTAND stuff is in Dick Clark's archives.
60s: As The Ohio Express? I'm sure that was a K&K ploy, no doubt!
HJ: I guess it was. Remember - we turned down the job in 1966. We had two new members and were really at the end of our rope with K&K. They promised we could actually record as The Ohio Express because sales were slumping on their Joey Levine productions, so we believed them when they said they wanted to make a change. They did, but they didn't choose us. I always believed they weren't dishonest but they were shrewd business men who always put their needs first and not the artists. I still have great memories of hanging out with Jeff. I think he liked and enjoyed us.
60s: What type of offer was made to you in 1966?
HJ: K&K already had a deal with Cameo Parkway to release Beg Borrow & Steal. They had the finished product, but for some reason didn't have a band. I don't know if they actually produced the record or purchased it. I believe the band on the record was called The Rare Breed, but I'm not positive. We were popular in New York City at the time, so one day they approached us and made us an offer. We had just met Terry Cashman about a week before and liked his deal better because we thought we could make better records with him - and not have to "be" something we weren't. Years later, out of desperation, we wound up doing it anyway. I don't think we would have stood still and let them make the Joey Levine records without us (as great as they were!).
60s: Did The Scoundrels become Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box, or was it a totally different band altogether?
HJ: The Scoundrels and Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box are the same four guys.
60s: How did you hook up with Kasenetz & Katz?
HJ: I told Andy the story; check his site. He did a great job. (NOTE: To read more about Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box, click here: ( http://home.att.net/~bubblegumusic/ltgarcia.htm