An excerpt from Rhythm Message by yours truly:
The Jokers Wild were originally an all-white Richmond, VA band formed by some Tucker High School friends in late 1964, as an off-shoot from The Regents. Members originally included Buzz Montsinger (saxophone, and relative of Chip Wood from The Greater Experience), Randy Moss (lead guitar), Wayne Leake (bass) and Greg Duncan (trumpet). They were managed initially by John Richardson and his partner, promoters who went by the name of “The Society of Richmond Orgies”, and then later by Charlie Bradshaw. The band name was extended when their manager introduced black vocalist Bernard Smith to the band a couple of years later. Wayne Leake moved on early in the set up to play with the Soul Senders who had a regional hit with "I'm Hurt" backing Little Tommy. Paul Thomasson and Steve Bassett also appeared in the line up at one point. The final Jokers Wild profile included Herbie Atkinson who replaced Wayne, Larry Hamilton (drums), Howard Awad (trumpet) and Walter Sheely (Hammond B-3), and of course Bernard Smith.
“We backed and opened for a number of national stars, including Sam and Dave, Jr. Walker, Spyder Turner, Clyde McPhatter and Bo Diddley” remembers Buzz Montsinger. “The Jokers Wild played all over Virginia, including the Mosque Ballroom, Tantilla Gardens, Tilly’s, Wigwam, Sheik Restaurant, Jamaica County Club and every frat house at every college in the state. At Virginia Beach, owners of The Tiki opened a new club in the summer of 1967 at Peabody’s Warehouse, where the Jokers Wild became the house band as a replacement for (then unavailable) Bill Deal and the Rhondels.”
“I do have some fond memories of the Southern soul era” says Randy Moss. “I didn't realize untlil later years what a unique musical culture that it was. Peabody’s Warehouse was opened by two lifeguards / entrepreneurs who ran the local lifeguard hangout called The Tiki. They were Ed Ruffin, who now owns the Hyatt complex (as well as vast holdings of beach real estate) and Nabil Kassir. Part of the contract was that we had to hire an organist called Danny Jones. We had previously been playing with a guitar, bass, drums, two horns and of course a killer front man....Bernard . We modelled the band after our heroes Sebastian and The House Rockers. Every week a local or National recording act would be brought in and we would back them up. Pretty cool for a bunch of 19 year old kids. We backed Lenis Guess, a local hero with a national hit “Working for My Baby”, and Clyde McPhatter. Clyde got arrested on stage for a drug charge at one point. Robert “Barefootin’ “ Parker became our front man for a week when Bernard got sick. At Peabody’s the Jokers Wild played with Spyder Turner too, who had a hit impersonating all the soul men of the time. We went out and played a gig with Spyder later that year. We also did one with Sam and Dave in a hanger at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds around '68, shortly after Martin Luther King was killed (that is, the beginning of some strained black/white relationships we musicians had gotten beyond). Bernard wowed them. The crowd was about 5,000 strong. We only white people there. Sam passed out backstage, so Dave went on by himself. Later someone got shot and in the panic the front door of the airplane hanger collapsed injuring lots of people. We thought we were toast. The band left everything and came back next morning to get it - all untouched.”
The Jokers Wild sole original 45 release “Gotta Be a Reason” (Groove G-504) was only pressed in the initial ‘standard’ 500 quantity, and not promoted properly. Consequently no further pressing runs occurred. Copies have remained elusive ever since; nevertheless catching the attention of rare soul collectors. In the UK it was played on the northern soul scene most notably by DJ Keb Darge around 1985 at the ‘Stafford’ all-nighters, although another soul collector Paul Franklin may have had a copy of this at least a couple of years before. “Gotta Be a Reason” is an out and out brassy beach sounding affair with a strong up-tempo beat.
The flip “39-21-46”, is a take on The Showmen’s beach classic. The Showmen’s original version was released in 1963 (though first written in the late 1950s). This track was recorded by many beach bands in the later 1960s following The Showmen’s release, but a similar approach to the tempo was usually taken each time. Bernard Smith and the Jokers Wild, on the other hand, decided to completely update the song and presented another very up-tempo, extended, soul dance take on things.
There is some lack of clarity over exactly where and when the session was recorded, but it appears to be recorded at Edgewood, Washington DC in 1967 or 1968. The boys travelled up, recorded and returned home the same day. The producer was named as Martin / Marty Gary.
Available information indicates that no other tracks were made at the session other than a second longer vocal version (by about 20 seconds or so) of “Gotta Be a Reason” and an instrumental version. In 2005, both of these takes were put out on 45, with label logo graphics very similar to the 1960’s release. This 45 received a 250 pressing run. Some of these reached UK shores and 45 were sold by dealer John Manship who procured them from a Virginia soul CD Compiler.
By the end of the decade, like many other bands of the era, individual members were turning their attention to other developing sounds such Cream, Hendrix, Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears. “After a great summer of '67 playing with all those stars, we came back to Peabody's for a week the following summer. They had converted the decor into something very psychedelic and had a huge picture of Frank Zappa on EVERY window...bye bye soul music. Then came insult to injury...disco. I hung it up for several years and became a farmer.”
“Bernard Smith tragically drowned trying to save a friend in a riptide. The band hired Dave Lashon to replace him, but by then things had moved on” says Buzz. “I had obtained a football scholarship and eventually went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys. I remained involved in music and played with Ron Moody and the Centaurs for several years.” In 2006 Buzz suffered a serious accident and whilst he has undergone physical rehabilitation. Determined to stay in music however, he has since been involved in a number of projects including the Richmond Soul Music Review. Howard Awad became a respected restaurateur, and has opened a number of establishments over the years.
Randy Moss continued his career with various bands and is still playing guitar and is in a duo with his wife. “In 1980 Steve Bassett had a hit record on "Sweet Virginia Breeze" asked me to play on his CD and go on the road with a nine piece band. We ended up doing 300 nights in a year. Soul and beach music...cost me my first marriage (and part of my liver) - she got the farm!”
This and other artist bios from "Rhythm Message" by E. Mark Windle, prices and backcover blurb available in the new book section.