This is a tribute to some of the unique and forgotten music and artists of the past.
Some of this music and the artists never received the chance they deserved,
some deserve to be forgotten. None the less, enjoy my tribute to Retro Rarites

This installment is as much about the group’s founder as well as several of the songs they recorded that didn’t make it big. The original Gentrys were a seven-member group from Memphis, Tennessee that included Bruce Bowles, Bobby Fisher, Jimmy Johnson, Pat Neal, Larry Raspberry, Larry Wall (who was later replaced by Rob Straube), and at one point Larry Butler, as well as its most famous member, Jimmy Hart.  Later to be known as “The Mouth of the South”, you can read up on Jimmy here:


The Gentrys were formed in May of ’63 as a rock 'n' roll group for local dances, and were quite successful playing high school gigs. According to Wikipedia, in September 1964 they won third place in the Mid-South Fair Talent Competition and then auditioned for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. They soon became the most popular teenage band in the mid-South and later won the Memphis Battle of the Bands. In December 1964 they were given a contract by local record label Youngstown Records, and made their first record of "Sometimes", which was very popular in the Memphis area in early ’65.


It was at that time in 1965 they hit the charts with “Keep On Dancing”, which was their biggest hit to date, number four nationally. Along with follow-up singles “Every Day I Have to Cry”, “Spread It On Thick” and a Bubbling Under entry, “Brown Paper Sack” which only reached number 101 in 1966. They later went on to have some success on Sam Phillips's Sun label and put three singles into the Billboard Hot 100: "Why Should I Cry" (which peaked at No. 61 on 7 March 1970), "Cinnamon Girl", charting before Neil Young's version and peaking at No. 52 on June 13, 1970 and “Wild World”, No. 97 (2/71), a cover of the Cat Stevens tune. Cinnamon Girl, while not a huge hit, nevertheless did get quite a bit of airplay, especially here in Syracuse, making it to number 28 the week of June 10 on the WOLF Hot 30. I personally love the song, but after hearing the Neil Young version it does lack the “balls” of that grunge guitar that Young added.

But “Why Should I Cry” and another Bubbling Under tune released later in 1970, both written by Jimmy Hart, were IMHO among their best. “He’ll Never Love You” never received the recognition it deserved and only charted at 116 in August of 1970.  Possibly because it sounded much like “Why Should I Cry”, who knows?


A quick story about Jimmy Hart, a true gentleman: WrestleMania was about to happen in Toronto. (WrestleMania VI in Toronto, Ontario at the Skydome, April 1, 1990 in front of 64,287, a sell-out crowd. WWF IC Champion Ultimate Warrior pinned WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan to win the title. After the match, Hogan presented Warrior with the world title belt. Both championships were on the line in the contest.)  It was on Pay per view with all the bells and whistles, as the WWF at the time was probably at their peak. Three days after the Toronto appearance they were scheduled to be here in Syracuse, only four and a half hours away. (WWF - Syracuse, NY - held in the Onondaga County War Memorial on April 3, 1990. WWF World Champion Ultimate Warrior pinned Rick Rude.) My son, just short of his 9th birthday at the time, was very big into the WWF. Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, The Bushwackers and the lot, he loved them all.


The station at which I worked was doing a promotion and giving away tickets for the show and the AE had set up an interview. Since I had watched many of the wrestling shows with my son, I was asked to do the interview because of my familiarity. I was doing what was essentially a phone interview with none other than Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart, who managed many WWF teams over the years.  We talked about Wrestlemania VI and also what to expect when they came to Syracuse some days later. He did his act, everything you would expect and all went fine.

After the regular interview, I asked if I could chat with him about some non-wrestling stuff. I explained that I presented the number one radio show in town on Saturday evening, “The Saturday Night Oldies Show” and wanted to chat about The Gentrys. I could hear the smile on his face, as it seemed he was instantly pleased and quite interested in my questions. He explained that after all the years that had passed, he owned the name “Gentrys”. He spoke quite fondly of the years with the group, appearances on Hullabaloo, Shindig!, Where the Action Is, and that they toured with The Beach Boys and Sonny and Cher, as well as Dick Clark’s Bandstand shows. He briefly mentioned that the original group disbanded a short time after appearing in a 1967 movie (“It's a Bikini World”, which I didn’t even remember).


He talked about the ’70 line up, which included Steve Spear, David Beaver, Jimmy Tarbutton, Mike Gardner and, of course, him. He was quite impressed that I had much of the “Sun” vinyl and I liked “Why Should I Cry” and especially “He’ll Never Love You”. At the end of our conversation he asked if my son and I would be at the Toronto or Syracuse show and I replied, “Syracuse, yes.” He insisted I come earlier in the day with my son and let him introduce us to some of the crew. I did and he was every bit as accommodating as expected. We didn’t see very much as, let’s face it, they had to keep up appearances for TV, but we did get to see a bunch of the WWF stars playing cards back stage and clowning around, including recognizing The Bushwackers.

A short visit, to be sure, but memorable nonetheless, and one I will never forget especially the hospitality of Jimmy Hart.

Please enjoy stereo versions of “Why Should I Cry” and “He’ll Never Love You”, both penned by Jimmy Hart.

Why Should I Cry  &  He'll Never Love You - The Gentrys

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Please check out my tribute to WOLF, The Syracuse Rocker

Copyright © 2012 Retrorarities Music