The Trophies & rock 'n roll
BRATTLEBORO — It was 55 years ago that the Brattleboro-based rock 'n roll group, The Trophies recorded their first record, "Walkin' the Dog."
According to Discogs.com, "The Trophies hailed from Brattleboro, Vermont and got together sometime in 1963, before the British Invasion. Their first outing on vinyl was "Walking The Dog."/ "Somethin' Else" recorded in early 1964. It was a very popular record in their locale reaching the #1 spot on both WBZ and WMEX in Boston, MA. The band members were: Jack Dunham, Paul Olbum, Richard Eriksen, Wayne Harvey and Tom Howes."
According to Dunham, the group's drummer, the English Invasion was just beginning in the spring of 1964. The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time and their song "I Want To Hold Your Hand" hit number one across the country. It was in this environment that the Trophies adapted the rhythm and blues song "Walkin the Dog" to the Beatles-type sound and recorded it in Boston.
Harvey started the Trophies when he was just 14 by recruiting other members, Ericksen, Howes and Dunham. Eriksen would be on bass and keyboard, Howes on lead guitar and Dunham on drums. Harvey took his spot as the lead singer and also played guitar.
We invited the three living members of the Trophies - Dunham, Ericksen and Harvey - to sit and talk with us a year ago. Two of the five members of the Trophies, Oblum and Howes, have passed away. Erikson and Harvey live a town or two away from Brattleboro and Dunham now spends winters in Florida.
With the popularity of their new hit single, the Trophies bought a used van from R.S. Roberts, had it painted to look 'mod' and headed on the road to gigs in places like Saratoga, N.Y. and Boston. On these tours the Trophies would perform their songs and also act as the backup band for other artists. Dunham says he most enjoyed backing up Chubby Checker and Del Shannon but they also played with such notables as the Shirelles, Dionne Warwick and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.
Often The Trophies performed at the Hampton Manor, a nightclub just across the Vermont/New York border, that drummer Dunham recalled, "was a very volatile nightclub." On Wednesday nights, called "Star Night," The Manor would bring a national act in each week. Sometimes the Trophies backed an artist. On other occasions, The Trophies opened for an artist. According to Eriksen, "We played for all of them. Chubby Checker and then Fats Domino came and we opened for him. We didn't play with him, obviously, but we opened for most bands."
Harvey's singing style worked well with Del Shannon tunes, "So we backed him up," said Eriksen. "We knew his material, he showed up with a guitar and I don't think he had an amp or anything, so he just got on stage with us and we backed him up and he said we did a great job. They took some pictures of us with Del Shannon. He was the only friendly one involved."
Harvey says, "At The Manor they called us the 'house band' for the whole summer. That's what we were, the house band, and that might mean we'd play for the lunch hour through the afternoon, then go back at night, then we'd have plenty of time in the afternoon to goof off, practice . . . and we didn't have to move the equipment. We'd stay on stage all week long. We would truck back up here (Brattleboro) to play Monday nights. That's a great advantage for a band, not to have to be on the road, traveling. We had all that time to focus on the music."
On Monday nights you could find The Trophies at summer dances on Main Street at what was then known as "The Armory" or "The Rec." These were very popular with Brattleboro teens and had been for years before The Trophies arrived.
Dunham describes the scene. "We would have a 'Trophy Dance' at the Gibson-Aiken Center. We would have 200 or 300 kids; the floor would be shaking and we'd do a Trophy Dance where our managers would judge the people dancing and we'd give away a trophy each week. That lasted all summer of 1964."
Where did The Trophies' most famous recording, "Walking the Dog," originate? Eriksen explains, "The Trophies were recording a demo tape to get work at different clubs ... and the song that I brought in was 'Walking the Dog' because I had been on tour with another band in the Midwest and I'd hear that song on jukeboxes. Nobody had heard it around here." Turning to his bandmates Dunham and Harvey, Eriksen asked, "It was news to you, right?" The version Eriksen had heard had been released in Memphis by Rufus Thomas. Thomas' version has a very different feel and sound than the Trophies' version. Both songs were successful.
Growing popularity led to a recording contract with Kapp Records. This led to a recording session in Boston. Dunham explains, "We were at Sitzmark at Mount Snow playing weekends. We got up Saturday morning after playing Friday night and drove to Boston to the sound studios. And we just sat down and played 13 songs, singing and everything ... we just laid it down. I was out in the middle of the room. Richard was over hammering the organ ... some of the songs. We kinda just laid down the 13 songs. We went into the studio and just played the songs we had played the night before at the job. It was like playing a set, live. That's how we got so many songs recorded in such a short period of time, and then, like Richard said, we picked those two, then Wayne went back ... actually, I think Richard sang 'Walking the Dog' and ... Is that right?"
Eriksen replied, "Yes, I did the original demo."
Dunham continues, "Then we went back and Wayne did a double track and got the English sound. It was just recording it, and then recording over top of it. In 1964 we recorded our first record, 'Walking the Dog' which was probably the most popular. That summer we were playing five nights a week at Terra Mar Yacht Club in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Tuesday through Saturday. Then we'd drive home on Sunday and play on Monday night, 'cause that's the only night we had open."
The Trophies released, "Baby Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "Everywhere I Go." Their last song with Kapp was "Leave My Girl Alone." 'Baby Doesn't Live Here Anymore' made the billboard top 10. The DJs were going to play it, "but they never did because, as Richard Eriksen explains, "We had bad connections, I guess, in the business."
In the beginning, how did the band members find one another to put this prolific group in motion? Harvey and Eriksen were in a band called the M Tones that included Orchard
Street's Ralph Kotkov. That band broke up when everyone went back to college. A few months later, not long after the semester started, the M Tones reformed with a new name, The Trophies. They went to New York and recorded a song that Harvey created titled "Well, I Been Thinkin.'" Kotkov left the band, resigning right after the Trophies recorded in "late October or early November of 1963." Eriksen says, "I can't recall exactly when it was, but Tom, our lead guitar player knew Richard, because Tom Howes was in my first band when I was 17 years old and so, we were in another band before The Trophies, so he knew me, and he recommended me, I guess."
Harvey remembers, "The first time we met Richard, we were playing at Mount Snow. That winter we were at Sitzmark (near Mount Snow, Vermont) and I used to pick up Paul Olbum in Boston. I was in Providence and he lived in Boston and that's where I met Richard. He was out there walking up Newberry Street. Anyway, so Richard joined the band just a month after it was created."
The Trophies stayed together for almost four years and then went their separate ways. The Trophies' last gig was at Bryant College in Providence, Rhode Island in 1967. The band had started in September of 1963. Harvey says, "I mean, we had a lot of great jobs. We played at Palisades Park, New Jersey with Freddie Boom Boom Cannon. We opened for Dionne Warwick in Palisades Park. And she did the lip sync or something."
Howes, lead guitarist for The Trophies, passed away in 2006. At that time he was a college professor at Middlebury College - in the music department. Bass player Paul Olbum had left the group in 1966. Olbum played bass on all The Trophies' records. After that, they went to a four-piece lineup. Says Dunham, "We changed what we were doing. We went from playing standard Beach Boys material to playing the Lovin' Spoonful. I remember when we worked on our harmonies."
Harvey adds, "When rehearsing Beach Boys we went out on your (Dunham's) boat at midnight, on Lake Spofford, and we would do 'Surfer Girl' right out on Spofford Lake. It was a lot of fun. Sound would carry. It was pretty cool, no instruments, until 3:00 in the morning whether people liked it or not."
Eriksen credits the 'Brattleboro scene' with fostering the atmosphere that led to The Trophies and other area bands' success.
"Brattleboro ... was a wonderful place for musicians to play ... imagine, back in the '60s, what I call these honky tonks all over downtown and there were some nicer places up on Putney Road and that's why people like me, in Greenfield, would come up here to find work because there was an opportunity to get your foot in the door. We were just kids. I was just 17 years old. But yet, we could find a job playing here and learn our craft. So I've been eternally grateful for Brattleboro. And even now I'm playing in Brattleboro, in nursing homes and stuff. So Brattleboro has been my musical home."
Dunham and Eriksen reunited and formed the Solid Gold Cadillacs with other local musicians. This oldies band performed steadily into the mid-1990s. The Solid Gold Cadillacs would eventually break up and Dunham and Eriksen would later come together to play as a duo. They continue to occasionally perform together today and Dunham works alone doing shows during the winter months in Florida.
Editor's note: A half hour radio program featuring the The Trophies, titled 'Tracking the Tracks' and produced by the Film, Music & History class at Brattleboro Union High School may be found at https://archive.org/details/Trophies.TTTmp3
The program will air at 8:30 a.m. on Brattleboro's WTSA-FM 96.7 on Saturday, July 13. If you are outside the listening area you can live stream here: https://wtsaradio.com/player/?playerID=1931
Brattleboro Historical Society: 802-258-4957, https://brattleborohistoricalsociety.org/
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