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Chapel Hill Memories is for anyone who wants to relive and help preserve memories of Chapel Hill. We welcome your recollections of any subject related to Chapel Hill and The University Of North Carolina in written, photo, audio, and video form. We have the ability to scan and transfer photos, audio, and video if you do not. We do not charge for this, and will return your materials within a week.

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Steve Gillette's 1968 Performance at UNC Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

On March 23, 1968 I had the pleasure to see Steve Gillette, a phenomenal Southern California singer-songwriter, perform at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In spite of not yet releasing his first album Gillette was already a legend in my circle of friends. In 1965 his now classic song Darcy Farrow had appeared on Ian and Sylvia's monumental Early Morning Rain album, and several of his compositions were already staples around campfires and in the sets of several other great folk singers including Gordon Lightfoot. His fame was further cemented in 1967 when he dueted and played guitar with Linda Ronstadt on his song Back on the Street Again. In 1968 it seemed like everyone was covering his songs and Back on the Street Again was a national hit by a group called The Sunshine Company. I, along with most of the crowd around me, was awed by his performance that evening. He proved to be as a good a showman and singer as he was a songwriter. I had always admired a good song no matter what the genre, but to see a composer with such a great voice effortlessly ease through a set of his own songs with good humor made the show a transcendant experience. At the end of his performance the applause seemed to go on forever.

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Bland Simpson - Renaissance Man of Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

Bland Simpson is a Chapel Hillian with an absurd diversity of talents. He is a composer of highly regarded musicals, an author, teacher, sometime member of the renowned eclectic string band The Red Clay Ramblers, and a skilled house painter. In the late 1960s and early 70s it seemed like Bland was destined to become a singer-songwriter superstar like his friend James Taylor and mentor Bob Dylan.

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The Monkees Come to Chapel Hill in 1986

by Charly Mann

I have probably been to nearly 1000 concerts in Chapel Hill, but the one I am least likely to talk about is seeing the Monkees at the Dean Dome on October 17th,1986. That is because the Monkees' music has always been my one guilty musical pleasure. They were a totally manufactured group created by the Hollywood audition process to portray a television sitcom band that would resemble an American version of The Beatles. Worse than that, their songs were written primarily by Brill Building songwriters from another era, and none of the Monkees even played any instruments on their records. Nevertheless they did have a handful of memorable songs, and I especially loved the Neil Diamond-penned I'm A Believer, as well as Daydream Believer written by one of my heroes, former Kingston Trio member John Stewart.

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David Massengill - Troubadour from Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

Chapel Hill has produced many great singer-songwriters, but David Massengill is probably the best authentic troubadour to originate from our town. For the last forty years he has followed the classic troubadour tradition by composing songs in a wide variety of voices and styles that range from romantic, political, historical, lighthearted, deeply philosophical, to the nearly obscene.

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The Kingston Trio perform at UNC Homecoming in 1959

by Charly Mann

In the Fall of 1959 The Kingston Trio was the most popular group in the world. The previous year their debut single Tom Dooley, which was based on the 19th century North Carolina murder of Laura Foster by Tom Dula for giving him syphilis, was the #1 song in the country. Since then they had had four #1 albums and were the most popular concert attraction in the nation.

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The Original 1967 Demo of Carolina In My Mind

 by Charly Mann

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The Beatles Come to Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

Most people remember the start of Beatlemania as February 9th, 1964 when the Beatles first performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. That may have been true in the rest of the United States, but the Beatles had become a popular in Chapel Hill almost a month earlier. The Record Bar on Henderson Street began a campaign entitled The Beatles Are Coming in early January. As you walked in the door there were stacks of a free newspaper called National Record News with the headline SPECIAL BEATLES ISSUE and a large rack displaying the first album to be released by the Beatles in America called Introducing the Beatles.

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My Conversation with Janis Joplin

by Charly Mann

This article is about my 1970 summer vacation which led to me interviewing Janis Joplin, and seventeen years later to a great concert in Chapel Hill by legendary singer-songwriter Eric Andersen. Included is a wonderful story about former Chapel Hill resident Carey Raditz, the subject of Joni Mitchell's great song Carey.

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Sherman Tate and The Blazers

by Charly Mann

The story of The Blazers began in the foothills of North Carolina in Rutherford County when in 1963 Sherman Tate got his first guitar. He soon became enamored by the music of the Rolling Stones and their charismatic front man Mick Jagger. Sherman's first band was called December's Children, which was the name of a 1965 album by the Rolling Stones.

The Blazers with Sherman Tate
The original Blazers: left to right - Rodney Underwood, Ronnie Taylor, Sherman Tate, Jimmy Weaver, and Joey Earth

In 1967 Tate came to Chapel Hill and established himself as one the central figures in the town's emerging rock 'n' roll music scene. In 1969 he put together and fronted the legendary band Frog Level with two of other of the best musicians in the state, Spiral Spurlin and Granny Grantham. In 1970 the band relocated for two years to Toronto so Tate could avoid the draft. In Canada the band really took off and might have made it to the big time if Sherman had not decided he wanted to return to Chapel Hill. When the band returned to Chapel Hill they became regulars at Fat City (now He's Not Here), and Sherman took a job in a store I managed, The Record and Tape Center. Later that year Frog Level broke up and Sherman took a brief hiatus from being a performing musician.

Sherman Tate - Mr Rock n Roll
Sherman Tate - Born to Rock 'n' Roll

In 1974 guitar wonder kid and marketing savvy Rodney Underwood convinced Sherman he was the man to front a polished rock and roll band with a strong rhythm and blues undertone, and the Blazers were born. The other original members of the group were Joey Earth (a nom de plume for Joey Sinreich) on bass, and long time Chapel Hill resident Ronnie Taylor on drums. The band quickly established a loyal following and remains the best looking foursome in Chapel Hill's history. Despite Sherman taking off a couple years to enjoy the serenity of northern California, the band revived in 1977 with the addition of Jimmy Weaver on keyboards. It was this line up that I saw several times at the Cat's Cradle and Town Hall music clubs in Chapel Hill. They impressed me so much that I signed them to my record label Cream of the Crop Records.

Cream of the Crop Records
Logo of my record company, Cream of the Crop Records, on which the first Blazers album was recorded

What made the Blazers an exceptional band was the amazing transformation of the mild mannered Clark Kent-like Sherman Tate into the outrageous bundle of energy known as Shakin' Sherman when the Blazers took the stage. To the trained eye the only visible difference were the dark glasses that were his trademark when performing, yet his personality was so different that it always seemed miraculous when he metamorphosed into a cross between James Brown and Little Richard.

Legendary Chapel Hill band Frog Level in 1974 featuring Sherman Tate (photo by Ric Carter) 

I produced the Blazers first album and the recording was done at Mega Sounds in Baily, NC in 1977. Besides the Blazers the album featured guest vocalist Adele FosterJim Henderson on tenor and alto sax, and Spiral Sperlin on harmonica. Richard Royal served as the engineer. The album was titled Store Bought and the cover photograph was taken inside the Record Bar on Franklin Street. On the cover the five members of the Blazers are surrounded and embraced by fourteen of Chapel Hill's most beautiful women. The album had many highlights including, I think, the best cover of the J.J. Cale song, They Call Me The Breeze as well as what several critics have hailed as the best rendition of  Wilson Pickett's 634-5780. My own favorite is their Southern rock treatment of Billy Joe Shaver's I've Been To Georgia on a Fast Train.

The Blazers Store Bought
Cover photo of the Blazers album Store Bought

The Blazers Store Bought album sold well in Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill and was reviewed favorably by all the local media. One local newspaper even rated it one of the top 15 albums of 1977 along with albums like Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town, Billy Joel's 52nd Street, Dire Straits debut album which included the song Sultans of Swing, Tom Waits's Blue Valentine, Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus, The Cars debut album, and The Who's Who are You. Even though the Blazers did not tour in support of the album, it found pockets of success nationally and around the globe. It was a hit throughout France, sold very well in Italy where it got great reviews, and even had decent sales in England where the prestigious New Musical Express made favorable comments about it.

The Blazers STORE BOUGHT produced by Charly Mann
Back cover dedication of the Blazers album Store Bought

The Blazers stayed together for more than ten years with original members Tate and Ronnie Taylor. They were joined by Rick Miller in 1979 and went on to record their second album called How to Rock. Miller later had a successful career under two different monikers,  Rick Rock and Parthenon Huxley. Many people who knew the Blazers believe if they had relocated to Los Angles, New York City, or Austin in the late seventies they would have also been able to achieve national prominence.

The saddest part of writing this piece was discovering that Rodney Underwood had died on June 4th, 2009. He was the vibrant force of the Blazers and an incredible human being. He had a successful career in advertising in both New York City and Pittsburgh. Just prior to his death he finished making a documentary film on the Pittsburgh blues scene called Getting to the Bottom of Our Blues. Rodney's wonderful vocals can be heard on the third track on the music player at the top of this article singing "I Ain't Got You." 

Rosney Underwood
Rodney Underwood (1951 - 2009)

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Chapel Hill's Jubilee Music Festival at UNC (1963 - 1971)

by Charly Mann

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The Song that Inspired James Taylor to Become a Singer

by Charly Mann

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Decatur Jones - Destined for Musical Greatness

In 1970 Chapel Hill seemed to be at the epicenter of the music world as James Taylor's chart topping album Sweet Baby James brought national attention to our little town. While our village was certainly the incubator for many great singer-songwriter talents in those days, including Bland Simpson, Don Dixon, and Mike Cross, the one person everyone knew was destined for stardom was Decatur Jones. He reeked of charisma and talent, yet for some inexplicable reason the stars did not align themselves for Decatur, and his flame has largely faded from our collective memory. Former band mate, and long time Chapel Hill musician, Skip Via recounts for us the recording of Jones’ album that sadly was never released. If any of you have photos or additional memories of Decatur please contact us at chmemories@gmail.com.

Decatur Jones, Chapel Hill singer, Coconut Grove, Florida 1982

Decatur Jones (center with orange t-shirt) and friends Coconut Grove, Florida circa 1982. (photo is by Wayne Sloop)

by Skip Via

In the summer of 1970, Chapel Hill native Decatur Jones assembled a group of local musicians and brought them to New York to record an album. Over the course of a week or so, we recorded 12 tracks in a small studio called Blue Rock Studios in Greenwich Village. All of the tracks were recorded as live takes with Decatur playing and singing in real time along with the other musicians. All of the songs were written by Decatur and arranged by the musicians that played them.

Decatur passed away several years ago at age 44. The album we recorded was never released.

Included here are two of the tracks we recorded with notes on the musicians.

Where Will You Be

Harlan Collins (known during high school as Paul) was living and performing in NYC at the time this recording was made and stopped in to record backing vocals on this track.

Decatur Jones: vocals, acoustic guitar
Jack Becker: double bass
Harlan (Paul) Collins: backing vocals
Corodon (Don) Fuller: piano
Jay Norem: drums
Skip Via: mandolin

Ode to Uncle Sam

The album's producer (name not remembered) brought in a "hot" bass player who was new on the NYC scene. He was a tall, thin, African-American who played excellent bass. Given the time of this recording and my memories of what he looked like, I like to think it was Stanley Clark. I have no proof at all--just my rock and roll fantasy, probably.

Decatur Jones: vocals, acoustic guitar
Unknown: electric bass
Corodon (Don) Fuller: exquisite blues piano
Jay Norem: drums
Skip Via: electric guitar

(Editor's note): Via claims that Corodon (Don) Fuller was possibly the finest musician ever to come out of Chapel Hill

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Hal Kemp - Chapel Hill's First Music Superstar

by Charly Mann

Before there were Arrogance, Mike Cross, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, James Taylor, George Hamilton IV, or Kay Kyser, one man put the University of North Carolina and Chapel Hill on the music map. His name was Hal Kemp, and he was as well known in the 1930's as Madonna, the Eagles, or the Dave Matthews band are today.

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Alex Taylor

by Arthur "Dan" Gifford

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Loudon Wainwright III, Born in Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

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WKIX - The Station that Made Chapel Hill Rock

by Charly Mann

We almost all love the music of the sixties. In fact it still seems to have replaced Muzak as our dominant background music. In Chapel Hill, to hear the music of the sixties usually meant listening to WKIX in Raleigh, because Chapel Hill's only station, WCHL, played only easy listening.

I have several recordings of "KIX" shows from 1961 through 1968, and in hindsight I am amazed by the high percentage of mediocre songs and long commercial breaks we had to endure before we got to hear a worthy song. (Thank you Steve Jobs for the iPod, where we can listen to thousands of great songs without a single commercial.) I’ve included a segment from  a WKIX broadcast in August 1964 with dee-jay Gary Edens. He went to UNC and worked weekends during college at WSSB in Durham. WSSB also played some rock, but was not as hip as WKIX, and its signal was not as easy to pick up on our AM radios. Edens went to work at WKIX after graduating in 1964. This was a pivotal year in rock history, as the British Invasion had started in February with The Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  After this, British acts began to supplant American artists on the airwaves, and more and more acts also began writing their own songs.


Gary Edens at WKIX 1964

Charlie Brown was one of the original WKIX disc jockeys. His show was usually on from 6 to 9 PM weekdays evenings. The legendary, and still thriving, Nomads band from Chapel Hill did the theme song for his program. It precedes the excerpt of the Gary Edens show on our player.


                               WKIX's Charlie Brown - Then and Now

As a brief history lesson, you can study the charts of the top played songs on WKIX from 1961 to 1969 to see how much changed, but also see how much disposable music was still popular. Note particularly the top two songs in 1969, which many consider the pinnacle year of great rock music.

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Chapel Hill's 1960s Rock Bands & Hugh Taylor

by Charly Mann

The rock and roll band era stated in Chapel Hill in the early sixties. While the members of these groups were white, most of their repertoire were cover songs of black artists like the Tams, Wilson Pickett, and The Drifters. The roots of this sound can be heard in much of the original music performed by Chapel Hill musicians over the last four decades. James Taylor, our most well known rock star, and singer-songwriter, has had as many hit songs that were covers of this 60's music as those written by him. They include Handy Man, How Sweet It Is, and Everyday. His two most recent albums, Covers and Other Covers (which was released on April 8th, 2009), are made up almost exclusively of the music of this era.

The common denominator of all these bands is Skip Via on guitar, bass, or dulcimer. Two of these bands, the Sands of Time and Bedpost Reunion, feature lead vocals by members of the illustrious Taylor family. Livingston and Hugh in Sands of Time, and Hugh in the Bedpost Reunion. According to Via, the Bedpost Reunion did some studio recordings. They used a recording studio that was located on Estes drive near where the main Post Office is today. He believes Jack Becker, Chapel Hill High School Class of 1970, may still have tapes of these recordings.


This is The Sands of Time performing at Guy B. Phillips Junior High School in Chapel Hill in October of 1966. Hugh Taylor is the lead vocalist


Skip Via, Fender Telecaster playing through a Fender Deluxe Reverb, David Hackney, bass, Biff Bream, guitar, Hugh Taylor, vocals.


Corodon (Don) Fuller, Mel Jones, vocals

The song you can listen to here is Hugh Taylor's rendition of The Tams classic What Kind Of Fool. It was one of the songs done by him in the Sands of Time. On this rendition his back-up singers are siblings Kate, Livingston, James, and Alex Taylor, who are also from Chapel Hill. lt is from his CD, It’s Up to You, which you can order directly from him at 508-645-3511. Hugh now runs the Outermost Inn in Gay Head, on Martha’s Vineyard.


Hugh Taylor

The Sands of Time photos were provided by Skip Via
 

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The History of Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts

by Charly Mann

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The Mystery of the University of North Carolina Fight Song

by Charly Mann

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Elizabeth Cotton - Legendary Songwriter

by Charly Mann

Elizabeth (Nevills) Cotton was born at the railroad tracks between Chapel Hill and Carrboro in 1895. By the time she was eleven she was a sklilled guitarist and banjo player. She wrote one the best loved American songs, Freight Train, when she was about 15 and living on Llyod Street.

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A Chapel Hill Christmas Story

by Charly Mann

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Carolina In The Morning is About Chapel Hill

by Charly Mann

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Chapel Hill's Kate Taylor -- Biography and New Album

by Charly Mann

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Top Played Songs on WKIX from 1961 to 1969

1961

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Chapel Hill Superstar Musical Reunion Concert 2010

The past is about to become the present. Come see the heartthrobs of 1960s Chapel Hill reunited for a one time event at the American Legion. Flashback to the voice of Carter Minor and other legendary Chapel Hill musicians including Don Sparrow, Skip Via, Mel Jones, Bif Bream, Jay Cole, Andy Preston, and JP Mitchell. We hope the surprise guests include several members of the Taylor family who were also part of this musical fraternity.  We understand at least one set will contain music of The Sands of Time band. 

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Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.



Chapel Hill is located on a hill whose only distinguishing feature in the 18th century was a small chapel on top called New Hope Chapel. This church was built in 1752 and is currently the location of The Carolina Inn. The town was founded in 1819, and chartered in 1851.

 

 

What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.

-- Charles Kuralt

 

 

Dark Side of the Hill -- Pink Floyd, the creators of the most popular album in history, Dark Side of the Moon, took the second half of their name from Floyd Council, a Chapel Hill native, and great blues singer and guitarist. He once belonged to a group called "The Chapel Hillbillies".

 

 

Check out Charly Mann's other website:
Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies

http://oklahomabirdsandbutterflies.com

 



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There would probably be no Chapel Hill if the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees in 1793 had not chosen land across from New Hope Chapel for the location of the university. By 1800 there were about 100 people living in thirty houses surrounding the campus.

 

 

The University North Carolina's first student was Hinton James, who enrolled in February, 1795. There is now a dormitory on the campus named in his honor.

 

 

 

 

The University of North Carolina was closed from 1870 to 1875 because of lack of state funding.

 

 

 

 

William Ackland left his art collection and $1.25 million to Duke University in 1940 on the condition that he would be buried in the art museum that the University was to build with his bequest. Duke rejected this condition even though members of the Duke Family are buried in Duke Chapel. What followed was a long and acrimonious legal battle between Ackland relatives who now wanted the inheritance, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina, each attempting to receive the funds. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1949 UNC was awarded the money for the museum. Ackland is buried near the museum's entrance. When the museum first opened, in the early sixties, there were rumors that his remains were leaking out of the mausoleum.

 

 

The official name of the Arboretum on the University of North Carolina campus is the Coker Arboretum. It is named after Dr. William Cocker, the University's first botany professor. It occupies a little more than five acres. It was founded in 1903.

 

 

Chapel Hill's main street has always been called Franklin Street. It was named after Benjamin Franklin in the early 1790s.

 

 



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Chapel Hill High School and Chapel Hill Junior High were on Franklin Street in the same location as University Square until the mid 1960s.

 

 

The Colonial Drug Store at 450 West Franklin Street was owned and operated by John Carswell. It was famous for a fresh-squeezed carbonated orange beverage called a "Big O". In the early 1970s, I managed the Record and Tape Center next door, and must have had over 100 of those drinks. The Colonial Drug Store closed in 1996.

 

 

Sutton's Drugstore, which opened in 1923, has one of the last soda fountains in the South. It is one of the few businesses remaining on Franklin Street that was in operation when I was growing up in the 1950s.

 

 

Future President Gerald Ford lived in Chapel Hill twice. First when he was 24, in 1938, he took a law couse in summer school at UNC. He lived in the Carr Building, which was a law school dormitory. At the same time, Richard Nixon, the man he served under as Vice President, was attending law school at Duke. In 1942, Ford returned to Chapel Hill to attend the U.S. Navy's Pre-Flight School training program. He lived in a rental house on Hidden Hills Drive.

 

 

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