By Dennis Grubb
John Payne and I both played guitars, sang vocals and were together in the band, “THE SENSATIONS” from 1964 thru 1968. We formed in Midland in early 1964, right after the top rated band I had been playing in for several years (“THE MYSTICS”) disbanded. Everyone in that group were several years older than me and went on their separate professional ways. I was still in high school. The graduated members of The Sensations enrolled at Odessa College until our drummer and myself finally graduated, then we all went to Texas Tech together and were based out of there until we broke up in late 1968. John was in your MHS Class of 1963. Our other band members were Bill Thomas, (who played bass guitar), was in the MHS Class of 1964, our drummer, Byron (Bo) Barber was a member of the MHS Class of 1965 and I was an LHS Class of 1965 member. During our time together, we too became one of the top rated Rock n’ Roll bands in Texas, and one of West Texas’ favorites as well. The Sensations and The Sparkles led the way back then, hands down.
In early 1965, The Sensations went into the “now famous” Tommy Allsup studios in Odessa (Tommy used to play with Buddy Holly and gave up one of the seats on the plane of the deadly crash that killed him, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens). We recorded our first record on the Kingco Label (which had been established by a KCRS former DJ, John Bowden, aka, Jon King. He became our booking agent as well. We recorded our first single, which was a re-cut of Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man”. John Payne sang the lead and played the fabulous harmonica part on the track as well. It made the Top 40 and reached #21 on the charts. The flip side was a song by Chuck Berry, entitled “Sweet Little Rock And Roller”, which I sang and played lead guitar on. Both songs have held up after all of these years, and this past year, our cut of “Sweet Little Rock And Roller”was the Lead Single off the newly released album, “WE ARE THE ROCKERS” – VOLUME 2, which was released initially in Barcelona, Spain on a Spanish owned label, then distributed to Europe, where it became a Best Selling Nostalgic Album, just like the initial Volume 1 Album. Ironically, The Sparkles single, “Oh Girls” was the last song featured on that same album, so it was great that the two biggest West Texas Rock Bands at the time both were placed on that album. (LOTS OF PHOTOS POSTED for all of this story).
Just think…..that has been almost 55 Years ago, and in Europe, they are still “diggin” our old music….just incredible!!! BTW….The Sensations went into the “also famous” Ben Hall Studios in Big Spring (many famous acts recorded there, including Roy Orbison and others) and recorded two original singles, both written and performed by John Payne...”That’s Hard To Do” and “What’cha Gonna Do”. This was around late 1966, but we never got them released on a label.
HOWEVER…the Europeans have always embraced America’s old music, that we here in America just listened to briefly and passed off, then the Europeans got them, listened and held on to them forever. That’s a key reason why America’s early rockers like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Little Richard had so much influence with the early European rockers like The Beatles, The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, The Searchers, etc. The next thing you know, America’s Youth began buying music from these British Acts, who had recorded the same songs from our early rockers, and loved them like they had never heard them before…..and those songs had been originally recorded and become hits here in the U.S. only 6-7 years earlier. So, it was like seeing a New Mouse Trap Invented, LOL. But, it was great for business and for all of us that were playing it back in the day.