Thursday, August 6, 2015

Archie Thomas Interview About The Bondsmen

Ken Haywood and I had formed the band in 7th grade. I believe that would have been in 1965. In 1967 Ken came by my house one day and asked if I would be interested in joining another band which became The Bondsmen. I’m thinking this is when I officially met Jim Bowen who became our bass player and Phillip Pearson (Phil Lee) who became our drummer. We were all in school together but different grades so didn’t really know them. 

At some point in time I stopped playing guitar and became the lead vocalist. Most of the gigs we played were teen clubs and occasionally at Willohaven Country Club parties. A lot of people wanted to dance so our sets consisted mostly of top 40 dance tunes and some rock and roll hits. We played basically what we thought people wanted to hear. One memory for me early on was playing on the radio at a weekly Saturday event put on by Belk's department store. 

I really don’t remember how we heard about Justice Records. I believe the cost was 300 dollars for a recording session.Two horn players from an older band called the Checkmates sat in on the recording of "Out Of Sight" and "I Love You Yes I Do", two James Brown hits. I believe we had 300 copies pressed and we all hawked them at Northern High School. I think this was the time when I really got the bug for performing. I would guess we played at least once a month and probably practiced once a week at Jim Bowen’s parents home.We played enough to have spending money but maybe not a lot. 

Phil’s Grandmother had some houses at Carolina Beach. She would take us down and put us up for free. At that time we played a few times at a club there.Maybe the other guys remember when Gene Galligan, keyboard player and Tim Hutchinson, trumpet player joined the band. It seems like they were always there to me. I think we were more popular than I realized in those days now that I look back.There were several other local bands around The Dukes Of Durham, The Generations, and we all got along pretty well. By 1968, I think that we had lost Gene and Jim Bowen to graduation. Jim Ward came on as bass player and Hubert Deans replaced Gene on keyboards.

Winning the 1968 Raleigh Battle Of The Bands was truly a great experience. At the end of the battle I remember girls coming up from the audience on stage. I felt like a rock star. I think we won a Peavey p.a. system, the use of a new van for a year and a recording contract with AMH records in Chapel Hill, N.C.. We wanted to do something original and of course this was a time when the Vietnam War was wearing thin. There were many protest songs on the air waves at that time so we wrote "Our Time To Try". The band members at this time were Ken Haywood, Jim Bowen, Phil Lee, Tim Hutchinson, Gene Galligan and myself. How we settled on I" See The Light" escapes me but it seems it turned out to be the most popular song. 

The end of The Bondsmen came when the last of us graduated High School or at least that was it for me.I went on to college for a short time and then married and had three children Julie, Adam,and Brent.In 1974 Ken Haywood recruited me again to sing with his band The Castaways Ltd. I think I was in for less than a year. After that the only time I ever sang was at karaoke parties.

Since the Bondsmen 45 years went by and I pretty much lost touch with all of the band members. When I received the message from Daniel about a Bondsmen reunion in Charlotte, I was delighted and a bit apprehensive at the same time. Daniel said he would make it happen, and he sure came through on his promise. None of us would have believed it ever possible. To be reunited with all of the band members words can’t express. To have my wife Kaye, my children and younger brother and sister whom had only heard stories about my band days be able to actually hear us was something I could have only dreamed. Not meaning to brag, but I feel we were even better this time. Ken said we actually played the correct chords this time. Getting on that stage again was truly something I will never forget. The Bondsmen were a pretty decent garage band in the Sixties, now that I look back. I must say that today the guys from the Bondsmen are truly professional musicians who stayed with music their entire lives and it truly was an honer to be a part of this.      

Archie Thomas
July, 2015   

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