I was out of town on business weekend before last so I missed the concert at the Mt. Vernon Theatre during the “Tallassee Now” event.
There was an obvious nostalgia vibe to the show featuring local legends the K-Otics and the Sweet Young’Uns, as well as an opening band named Todd & the Tone Deaf Hobos.
The audience was reportedly comprised primarily of Baby Boomers who came of age listening to those two veteran aggregations a half century ago. No surprise there. To my knowledge, neither band had performed in the Mt. Vernon Theatre before it closed in 1968.
For a town its size, Tallassee and the surrounding area have had a decent amount of memorable musicians and memorable music in its history. The Mt. Vernon Theatre hosted a performance by Hank Williams and the mid-1960s saw local teenagers forming combos after having seen the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964. In addition to the K-Otics and the Sweet Young’Uns, there were the Fantastic Playboys and other outfits.
The K-Otics had actually germinated at Troy State College before Beatlemania erupted. The “classic” lineup of that band would consist of Tallassee’s Tommy Mann (lead vocals), Ray Goss (bass) and Kim Venable (drums), as well as guitarist Marvin Taylor from Tuskegee and keyboard player Glenn Griffin from Dothan. The band had a bit of area success with a single called “Charlena” in 1965.
That annum would be a promising year for the K-Otics as the group appeared at one of the legendary “Big Bam Shows” (sponsored by radio station WBAM) at the state coliseum in Montgomery. Other performers on the same bill were Peter and Gordon, the Lovin’ Spoonful and Roy Clark. The band with Tallassee roots was noted for its choreography, having been inspired by the onstage antics of Paul Revere and the Raiders (who played at more than one Big Bam Show itself).
That same year, the K-Otics played at a large concert at the Houston County Farm Center in Dothan. Roy Orbison was the headliner and other performers included the Kingsmen of “Louie Louie” fame, Steve Alamo from “Where The Action Is” (Dick Clark’s afternoon music-oriented television show), and the Candymen, who were Orbison’s backup band but also performed and recorded independently (three members of the Candymen were among the founders of the Atlanta Rhythm Section).
In 1966, the band engaged in a national battle with a South Carolina band called the Swingin’ Medallions regarding competing versions of a beach music song called “Double Shot.”
Although the K-Otics’ rendition of the song charted higher in locales such as Miami, the Swingin’ Medallions would ultimately come out on top with their version of the hit. For decades, the “win” by the Medallions has been questioned by Mann and others, suspecting it had been facilitated by under-the-table music industry machinations. Mann recalled his band was supposed to appear on “Where The Action Is” but the booking was abruptly kiboshed.
The K-Otics finished its run in 1967. Venable and Taylor made their way to Atlanta and got involved in the local music scene. Venable played with a latter-day incarnation of Dennis Yost and the Classics IV, and recorded a primeval Christian Rock album called We Believe with Mylon LeFevre. Taylor also became ensconced in the studio business and played guitar in an underrated Southern band called Mose Jones.
The K-Otics began doing a few reunion gigs some years ago, including more than one at Tallassee’s VFW Club.
Taylor moved back to a rural area in Macon County and Venable is now deceased but the band’s fans from long ago are as enthusiastic about the group as ever considering their reception at the Mt. Vernon Theatre on June 9.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the Sweet Young’Uns and their own unique legacy.