The In-Men Ltd. (originally known as The In-Men Combo and In-Man Ltd.) were from Burlington and Graham, NC. They were hugely popular throughout the south, running as the In-Men Ltd. from 1966 until 1971, with a reunion and further recordings in 2004. The band should not be confused with Bob Kuban's In-men of "˜The Cheater" fame, another beach music favourite but who hailed from St. Louis, Missouri.
"Wilson Rogers (the founder of the band) grew up in Graham, NC just next door to Burlington and Elon College" says guitarist Sonny Long. "His brother Tommy was our drummer. Moose Smith (keyboard) also grew up in Graham and knew Wilson and Tommy well. The original saxophone players, Tommy Burgess and Johnny Lindley, were from the Burlington and Graham area. Wilson also played baritone sax when he wasn't singing lead. Tommy Burgess was also a student at Elon College where he, along with our two trumpet players (Garth Hutson and Howard Eaton) were members of the highly touted college jazz band called The Emanons. The head of the music department at Elon at the time was Jack White, a well known jazz trumpet player and the founder of The Emanons. Garth and Howard trained under Jack and were considered two of the school's best musicians. Wilson recruited both of them and Tommy Burgess from the music department at Elon. In early 1966, Freddy Owens, a Burlington native replaced John Lindley on sax and Moose also took over on keyboard. "At the time, I was a student at Elon majoring in biology. I had played for a short time with a local college band at a couple of fraternity parties. When Wilson was putting the band together and looking for a guitar player, one of the people he contacted was the sax player in that local college band who recommended that he gave me a call. The rest is history!"
Beach music fan Bob McNair recalls: "The guys were initially the house band at the Castaways Club and then later at the Jokers Three Club in Greensboro, NC. They used to play there regularly on Sunday afternoons in Greensboro, which was one of only a few cities in North Carolina where you could buy cold beer on Sunday". In 1966 The In-Men Ltd. signed with Jokers Three Entertainment Agency, who set them up for frat parties and debutante balls. A reputation was quickly built. The band ended up supporting visiting national artists such as The O'Jays, Barbara Lewis, B.J. Thomas, various Motown acts and The Impressions.
Two In-Men 45s were released, appearing on Pyramid, the same label that produced Mac and Barb and the Gamuts' "Hold Me Tighter" (Pyramid 6-6392), and The Avalons, a precursor to The Chashers (who recorded the "Without My Girl" obscurity on Uncle). "Little Girl" (Pyramid 7-7454) is a typical horn dominated beach sound, and "The One Who Really Cares" (Pyramid 6-72008) has a melody constructed in The Impressions vein. The recordings were laid down in August 1967 at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte. The band line-up varied throughout the sixties but on these Pyramid recordings members included Sonny Long (guitar), Freddy Owens and Tommy Burgess (saxophone), Tommy Rogers (drums), Garth Hutson (trumpet), Howard Eaton (trumpet) and Moose Smith (keyboard).Â Skip Hinshaw, brother of The Monza's Sharon Hinshaw, provided lead vocals.
"We recorded four songs over two sessions" remembers Sonny. "The songs were all written by Moose. At the time, he was a first year college student at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Boone is about two hours west of Burlington in the North Carolina Mountains so we only saw Moose when the band was performing. He wrote the songs in his dorm room without access to a piano. He drew a keyboard on a flat piece of cardboard and "played" the cardboard piano while creating the music and words for the songs. We had never heard the songs until we were in the studio, so we worked them up on the spot. Once processed, we were given the 45s packed in cardboard boxes for us to distribute. After his first year, Moose transferred to Elon so that he could be closer to the band. He was a history major and still teaches history and music today in high school. He still performs professionally too."
An In-Men Ltd. release on Jokers Three label of The Radiants' "Voice Your Choice" is listed in the comprehensive US publication Mighty John's Record Collector's Price Guide. However Sonny Long comments that while they did play a live version of The Radiant's classic northern soul track, this was never committed to vinyl.
Their live shows quickly made them a very popular horn band, playing in venues such as The Castaways Club, The Cellar and on campus at the University of Georgia and University of North Carolina. Gigs also took them out of state to Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia. By 1968, Skip was married and had left the band. Mickey Combs took over lead vocal. In October the following year, The In-Men Ltd. caught the attention of Bill Futterer, a student at the University of North Carolina.
"I ran a beach and soul radio show on a family AM station in Rockingham, NC during last two years of high school" remembers Bill. "I had interviewed Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash from The Impressions several times before I started college. During my last interview with Curtis just before I left for college in August 1968, he suggested I continue to work part-time for them. I ended up working for Curtis and Curtom Records on radio promotion throughout NC, SC and Va from then and through college until May 1970, when I had to drop out because of jaw surgery. In October 1968 The Impressions had an album called "This is my Country" and were releasing two 45s from it, "Fool For You" and the title track. I travelled to Chicago just before college started and met Curtis. He added the guitar track to a couple of songs at his home whilst I was there. That was a pretty tumultuous time though. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been recently assassinated. Southern and northern cities on fire. Demonstrations related to race issues and Vietnam...even the feminist movement was starting. My job was to get Impressions songs played on white radio stations in the south. Not easy during that time,"
Bill was aware of Curtis Mayfield's fondness of soul influenced regional bands such as The O'Kaysions and Jay and the Americans. He managed to coordinate a concert with The Impressions and the In-Men Ltd. in Charlotte, NC:
"I knew Wilson Howard, a booking agent and long-time friend who also ran the Coachman and Four Club in Bennettsville. Wilson worked with Larry Pressley, owner of the Cellar club in Charlotte, to get The Impressions and The In-men Ltd. booked for the same night in the Cellar. Summer of 1969. I wanted Curtis to hear The In-men Ltd. They did a great version of both "People Get Ready" and "I've Been Trying". Curtis loved them. Shortly thereafter he signed them to a contract."
Bill took the band to Copeland Sound Studios in Greensboro, NC later that year to record a fourteen track demo. Tracks included "Wear It On Our Face"; "I Thank You"; "Never Gonna Give It Up"; "I'm A Fool For You"; "Piece of My Heart"; "Since You Came My Way"; "Vehicle", a medley of Rascals tracks; "I'm Gonna Miss You"; "I've Been Trying"; "The Letter"; "People"; "Does Your Mama Know About Me" and "Don't Look Back".
"Curtis sent the In-Men Ltd. the sheet music to "I'm The One Who Loves You", Bill notes. "This was the record that he wanted them ultimately to record, but for some reason the band didn't cover it on the demo. In the end, nothing was recorded for Curtom. Not sure why nothing materialized. It could have been that my having jaw surgery sort of took things off the road they were on. I ended up getting a job writing and broadcasting sports and veered off the music track for a while."
By 1970, the band's musical influences were beginning to lean more towards the likes of Janis Joplin, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago and The Rascals. At this point the In-Men Ltd. underwent a further change in line up. Mickey and other band members left, a new lead was provided by Eddie Middleton and the band's name was changed to Peace Core - partly to avoid potential legal issues and general confusion with using a similar name to Bob Kuban's In-Men, as well as reflecting a change in the times. Moose and Sonny were both not comfortable with how far the music scene had moved away from the innocent and soulful days of the previous decade, and the band broke up in 1972.
In 2012 the "In-Men Ltd. Legacy Sessions" CD (Rare Reads / Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music) was released, containing material from a reunion session and the late sixties Copeland Studio demo recording.
"The In-Men Ltd. got back together in 2005" says Sonny. "We recorded several songs at Studio East, formerly Arthur Smith Studio, in Charlotte, NC where the Pyramid singles were recorded. One of the songs, "Rhythm", was released in November, 2006 and by the following March was a hit in Cashbox Magazine in the Beach Music category. It remained at number one for seventeen months. "Rhythm" was written by Curtis Mayfield and initially recorded by Major Lance in 1965, with The Impressions providing the back-up vocals. When we were recording our reunion, Fred Cash and Sam Gooden of The Impressions just happened to be recording at Studio East at the same time we were there and agreed to sing back-up on our version. At the urging of Greg Haynes (author of The Heeey BabyDays of Beach Music), a CD containing all of the material we recorded during those sessions was recently released called "In-Men Ltd: Legacy Sessions". It features the original band members along with two of Moose's children who provide some outstanding vocals. His son Geoff sings lead on "Rhythm" and several other songs. Moose's daughter, Suzanne, does a great vocal on the Etta James classic "At Last". The version of The Temptations' "I'm Losing You" on the CD is also one of my favourites. The idea to record it came spontaneously when we had just finished laying down the horn tracks for another song. One of the guys suggested we record it. Lead vocals are by Skip Hinshaw who also did the lead on "Little Girl". Skip has continued to sing and still has a great soulful voice. He was the lead vocalist for our last performance in 2008 when we did a three hour concert for the Homecoming at Elon University. That was exactly 40 years after we had played the same concert with The Temptations. Eddie Middleton, another former lead vocalist, did the vocals on "I've Been Loving You Too Long" on the CD. It was amazing to watch because Eddie didn't know until that day that we were doing it, but stepped up and did the vocals in one take. He is currently a preacher in the Atlanta area. His sermons are full of soulful songs from the 1960s. Both of these guys were and are great singers. The lead vocalist on "I'm Going to Miss You" was Mickey Combs, a former Monza who took over for Skip when he left the band. Mickey is another great singer and sang lead on most of the late sixties tracks."
Some members in later years followed a career in some facet of music or the music industry. Others chose a different vocational path. Sonny has pursued a very successful career in dentistry. Moose became a music director for TV, a contemporary religious music vocalist and currently teaches history and music. Mickey is a rules official for the PGA tour. Freddy Owens became a lead singer for Bill Deal and the Rhondels, but was tragically murdered in Richmond, Va in the late seventies.
An excerpt from Rhythm Message by E. Mark Windle, available in the new book section.