Suzy Storm

Lived in Sheffield, AL

R&B, Rock, Country Background Vocals Muscle Shoals Studios

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

 

...Garrett’s tales of shows he promoted at the old Fort Brandon Armory, beginning with

guitar-slinger Travis Wammack and continuing with bands like The Preachers (whose

single “Inspiration" ranks in Alabama’s All-Time Top 10), Suzy Storm and the Laymen,

The Distortions and Big Ben Atkins and the Nomads catch the spirit of the era....

Source: http://www.heybabydays.com/HBD_Tusc_News.pdf

 

The Laymen (1966-1967)

 

The summer of ’66 marked a number of thresholds for me.  I graduated fromhigh school at the end of May, recorded my first record in early June and as a result of trying to emulate James Brown I had severely damaged my vocal chords requiring surgery in late June.  How about that for irony—my first record is released and I can’t sing at the time (and wouldn’t be able to sing until mid to late August)?  Because I was out of commission and The Soul-7 needed to play (needed the money), several of them joined up with other groups and The Soul-7 was no more.  More irony—my first record and no band to perform it with.  I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do about a band at that point in my life. In fact, the surgery I had was experimental at the time and the doctors could not assure me that I would have a singing voice when all was said and done.  Like I said, I was just beginning college, Vietnam was in full blossom and many of my friends had been drafted, were gonna get drafted or had already joined something like the reserves or National Guard, and for a young man of 17, I had a lot on my plate. (I tried to join the Navy reserves but was told the doctor wouldn’t give me a physical unless I cut my hair.  At that particular moment, I would have cut off my arms before I’d cut my hair, so I bid adieu to the Navy.)

The end of the school year was a threshold for a lot of guys in the bands.  Many were going off to college in addition to the losses attributable to the military situation.  As a result, the end of a school year also precipitated the break-up and reformation of a lot of groups.  I’ve already mentioned the break-up of The Soul-7.  The Laymen had also broken up by the loss of the bass player (Phil Wadlington), the drummer (Jimmy Lagergren), and one of the lead singers, Guy Pinney.  The original 13th Hourglass was formed around this time and Guy Pinney started as the lead singer for that band.  The members of this “original” 13th Hourglass were: Robert Lewis (bass), David Dorman (lead guitar and one of Pensacola’s first true hippies), Allen Heinrich (organ) and Rick Harris (drums).

The original Laymen was a really good band with a unique, mellow sound.  They were clean-cut and wore button-down collar madras shirts and weejuns.  During my time with The Soul-7, I only heard them one time ‘cause they didn’t compete with us for the gigs and seldom played battle of the bands, which we often participated in (i.e. two bands at the same gig splitting sets).  The reason The Laymen didn’t compete for the local gigs was because they mostly played out of town doing college gigs, especially in Alabama and Louisiana.  This continued after I joined the band.  I estimate that during my nine-month tenure with The Laymen, we played approximately 50 gigs.  Approximately 15 to 20 were local, or within 50 miles of Pensacola. The rest were all out of town.

 

I saw being asked to be part of the new, re-formed Laymen as a real boost to my situation.  Bill Motley ran the band with a very business-like approach and everyone was expected to do his or her part to make the band a success.  The other members of the group as we reformed it in August of ’66 were: Suzy Storm (lead singer), Johnny Lowe (the fastest man with a pair of drumsticks I have ever to this day seen), Forrest Higgins (lead guitar and part of the original Laymen) and Newman Gersin (bass).  Newman was really responsible for my presence as he and I had been together from the start, Xenos to Soul-7 to the present.  Motley was the organ player and had retired the old Wurlitzer.  He was using a Vox Continental organ played through a Vox Super-Beatle amp.  Forrest also had a Super-Beatle and Newman had a Vox Bass head pushing two 15” Vox speakers.  I too was “all Vox” by this time and we were certainly proud of our gear.  The extent of our pride was expressed by the power of the sound we could create.  Needless to say, The Laymen played really, really loud.  We loved that gear so much that we included it in our promo picture.

I attended my first practice with The Laymen in mid-August of 1966.  We discovered that Suzy and I had a good blend with our voices and with Forrest and Newman being passable singers, we had the ability to do some ass-kicking harmonies.  Some of what we did:  ‘I Got You Babe’ (and a lot of other Sonny and Cher stuff), ‘Happy Together,’ ‘Don’t Talk to Strangers,’ ‘Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,’ everything The Righteous Brothers did, ‘Nowhere Man,’ ‘Paperback Writer,’ ‘Turn Turn Turn,’ and ‘Bus Stop.’  Additionally, we did a soul set of R&B stuff and Suzy, Forrest and Newman would be the “three black chicks” providing the backup on: ‘Try Me,’ ‘Bring it on Home to Me,’ ‘Hitch-Hike,’ ‘My Girl’ and ‘Somethin’ You Got.’  Motley was a musical genius and he would lay out each harmony part separately so everybody would be in sync.  Each singer would work with Motley to get the part right and while the singers did that, the players were working out their respective musical parts.  Once we had all our parts, we’d do the song together and see how it worked, make any changes necessary, explore suggestions (re: syncopation, tempo, emphasis, and an ending) and then play it again. We seldom took more than 45 minutes to work up a song and pretty much had it down after playing it three to four times.  I’ve always figured that to be a good way to measure the ability and experience of the players.  If they ain’t got it after playing it three or four times, they probably ain’t gonna get it at all.

The Laymen really liked medleys and we had prepared medleys in categories that were long enough to fill a whole 45-minute set.  We had a rock medley, a Cher medley that featured Suzy, a soul medley that featured me, a Beatles medley, a Byrds medley and two or three others I can’t recall.  As a general rule, once the band started playing, the music was continuous unless we were on break.

 

I’ve more than once referred to Bill Motley as a genius.  He truly was a genius in many ways.  In addition to being a versatile musician, he was an electronics wizard.  As soon as he bought a new piece of equipment, regardless of the cost, he would bring it home and take it apart to see how it worked and how he could improve it for his purposes.  As a musician, he played organ, and every kind of brass instrument there is from trumpet to French horn to tuba, and he was proficient on all.  I recall one gig we played in Mobile, Alabama, for a high school sorority; it was a very formal affair and each girl in the sorority was “presented” by her escort as they walked across the dance floor under a spotlight.  They wanted us to play something during this event that was consistent with the theme of the dance, which was “1001 Arabian Nights.”  Of course, they didn’t tell us this at the time we booked the gig, this was sprung on us as we arrived and were setting up the gear.  I was sweating bullets as I couldn’t even think of a song that came close, let alone know one to sing, but Motley was cool about it and reassured them that we could comply with their wishes.  When the time came for this “promenade,” Motley told all of us except Johnny Lowe the drummer that we could go on break.  Motley always carried his trumpet with him, but I hadn’t seen it out of the case in months.  He got his trumpet out, tapped out a waltz beat to Johnny and then he, that is Motley, by himself, played ‘The Desert Song’ on his organ using his left hand and played the lead part on the damn trumpet with his right hand at the same time!  I was truly amazed but to him it was not a big deal.  Bill never found anything that truly challenged him.  He was temperamental and unpredictable at times, but his ability as a musician cannot be denied.

Motley had converted the garage at his parents’ house into a music/practice room by lining the walls and ceiling with egg carton dividers and placing several layers of carpet on the floor.  He had a record player all connected to speakers scattered about for listening to new material and the garage door opened up for easy access and exit for the gear.  We practiced twice a week and played practically every Friday and Saturday night.  The further we had to travel, the more we got paid.  We played for practically every college in the SEC and then some (and some you never heard of).  We played at University of Alabama more than others, partly because Suzy Storm was known to be a “friend” of Joe Namath.  (If you look up the issue of Time Magazine—or it may have been Look or Life—that featured Namath after he won Super Bowl III, you’ll see Suzy’s picture lounging in her bathrobe in Namath’s hotel room in Miami the night before the game.)  Have I mentioned that in addition to having a powerful, husky “Cher” kind of singing voice, she was also gorgeous?  She was a blonde with beautiful features, a great body, super legs and a powerful stage presence, especially when she wore a short hemline.  For the times, the length of some of the dresses she wore on stage was considered just-on-the-verge of scandalous.  To this day, I’m not sure if we got those gigs because we were a great band (and we were) or because Suzy was so damned good-looking.  It didn’t really matter to us at the time, ‘cause we were making a lot of money playing the college circuit.

 

There were two other people involved with The Laymen at this time that made a large contribution to the band and its condition as healthy and profitable.  One was Ben Kenter, our booking agent and Herb Lance, owner of the Town and Country Record Shop and Newman’s brother-in-law. Ben Kenter got us some great gigs, we had great exposure, and we made twice the money than any other band in Pensacola was making.  I can’t fault him for that, but I learned many years later that he was skimming from us by booking a gig for $900 then telling us it was for $700 and then taking his 20% out of the $700.  All through my band career, I seldom worked with a booking agent that I felt was totally honest in his financial dealings with us.  I kind of saw it as a curse on garage bands that we just had to suffer.  An honest agent was inconsistent with the orderly function of the universe.  Ultimately, it was my relationship with Kenter that caused me to leave the band.

Herb Lance, on the other hand, was always a straight-shooting kind of a guy.  He always lived up to the promises he made to us, never lied to us and never cheated us out of a dime.  In fact, I’m certain that he lost money on his various projects with local bands, but we could tell that he was having a helluva lot of fun doing it.

In the spring of ’67, Motley moved out of his parents’ house and we started practicing in Herb’s garage at his house on Summit Blvd. in Pensacola.  Herb knew how successful the band was and he decided to put up the money for us to cut a record.  He was considering using Cosmos’s in New Orleans again (this was where The Soul-7 recorded the last record he financed) and by chance, The Laymen landed one of the slots in a battle of the bands that was being put on by Universal Studios at the Jung Hotel in New Orleans.  This was a really big deal with national exposure (the whole four-hour thing was to be televised) and held the potential of a role in an upcoming motion picture for the winner.  Herb decided to kill two birds with one stone and book some studio time at Cosmo’s Studio in the French Quarter for the same time we would be in New Orleans for the Universal gig.  We decided on two songs, one for me to sing and one for Suzy to sing.  Both songs were previously released on albums.  I was to sing a Blues Magoos’ song called ‘Sometimes I Think About.’  I can’t remember the song Suzy was to do.

In anticipation of this really important trip to New Orleans, we practiced the material more than we needed to and got our clothes together.  (All during my time with the Laymen—and The Soul-7 for that matter—the bands I was in wore “uniforms” on stage.)  Each male member of The Laymen had three matching outfits so we agreed on what we’d wear and we were just waiting for the time to come.

 

I mentioned earlier that Motley could be temperamental and unpredictable at times.  Well, this was one of those times.  About two weeks before the day we were to leave for New Orleans, Motley quit the band.  This was quite a blow as you can imagine the importance of his role to the group.  Fortunately, we were aware that Jim Roark was in-between bands at the time and we solicited him to join us.  We worked our butts off over the next two weeks to acquaint him with our song list and especially the songs we planned to record.  He did a helluva job for The Laymen and rose to the occasion like a champion.  He played the organ for the Universal gig and on our recording session and did a fine job filling in for Bill Motley.  However, after hearing the playback on her song, Suzy just wasn’t happy with the sound or her performance so the only song that came out of that session was ‘Sometimes I Think About.’ Herb called the label Sumit in recognition of the street he lived on and we put the vocal version on one side backed/with an instrumental version.  It is both ironic and unfortunate that Suzy Storm cannot be heard on the only record The Laymen ever cut.  It’s also sad that Bill Motley, whose organ constituted an essential part of the Laymen sound, did not play on that record.  I’ve often wondered how he would have played that organ solo.

As an aside, let me mention that part of the scurrying we had to do before this New Orleans trip was getting Jim Roark a proper uniform to match the rest of the band.  Jimmy is very tall and has very long arms.  Buying regular clothes is sometimes a problem and it’s even harder when one is limited to a certain color and style.  Somehow we managed and he had a full set of Laymen uniforms in his dad’s car as we rolled into New Orleans.  While we were sightseeing in the French Quarter, Jim’s dad’s Mercedes was broken into and all Jim’s clothes, including his uniforms, were stolen.  The Universal gig was the first (and only) gig I played with The Laymen not wearing the same clothes.  Little did I know that in about two months I would be in a different band that scorned uniformity and everything considered “ivy-league.”

I left the Laymen shortly after we recorded ‘Sometimes I Think About’ and joined The 13th Hourglass.  At the same time, Guy Pinney who had been the lead singer for The Hourglass once again became the lead singer for The Laymen.  Guy didn’t stay with the Laymen very long as he was not in good health, and I don’t know much about what happened with The Laymen after I left.

Source: 60sgaragebands.com

 

 

 

 

Sylvan Wells of the Nightcrawlers, and Tommy Ratchford of the Soul-7/Laymen are also attorneys. Jim Roark from the Laymen (aka Suzy Storm & The Laymen) is a judge in Pensacola.

 

 

Source: The Hey Baby Days: Would you believe there are “More Tempests in the Teapot?”

 

 

Ben Burford

Whoa! How about The Tropics and The Chair, who used to play at Oporto Armory all the time. Or Tina Turner, who was also an armory staple at that time.

Poo Nanny & the Stormers, Suzy Storm and the Laymen, Buddy Causey, The Homestead Act, my brother Jim and Kent Peterson in The Five Dynamics?

At Berry we had more garage bands than we had garages. I was in The Acemen and then The Odds and Ends. Rick, Milton, Andy, Hoffine in a million bands like Trestle, Mama Baunches Blues Band; Joe Terry playing horns in The Second Warning were always tough battle of the bands competition....

Source: Music Scene (12)

 

Video interview: YouTube - UZ News Popular 60's Band The Laymen Reunite 02-08-08

In the early 80’s, Ronnie Milsap invited Barbara Wyrick, Suzy Storm and me to tour with him.  That association lasted more than 7 years.  We shared stages with Kenny Rogers,  Reba McEntyre, Barbara Mandrell, Vince Gill, Alabama, Ricky Scaggs, Dwight Yoacum, The Judds, Oak Ridge Boys, and others.  In addition we were involved in television specials featuring Dukes of Hazzard, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Ray Charles, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters and The Merv Griffin Show.  Milsap also included us in his music videos such as "Lost in the Fifties" as well as most of his records during our years with him.  Also for Milsap, I co-wrote “Carolina Dreams” with Dennis Morgan and Kye Fleming.  Despite the many times I wanted to quit, we remained with Milsap for 7 years, and for a girl from a little town in South Alabama, it was The Big Time and always something to write home about!...

Source: Marie Lewey » My Musical Journey

The Essential Ronnie Milsap, Ronnie Milsap

Listen: Ronnie Milsap - Download Ronnie Milsap Music on iTunes

Listen: Amazon.com: ronnie milsap lost in the fifties tonight: MP3 Downloads

 

 

 

 

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