The Noblemen 1966-1969
We started The Noblemen In Grandview Heights Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, in April of 1966. It was a classic garage/basement band though we did play quite a bit around Columbus. Our main lineup was:
Joe Caldwell: rhythm guitar, Jeff Linn: lead vocal & founding member, Frank Marshall: lead guitar & founding member, Chris Calvin: bass, Randy Huff: drums, Davey Culp: lead vocal, Jeff Wells: Farfisa organ, and I must mention: Marie Clark: driver, den mother, confidant & enabler
We all attended Grandview High School at the beginning, lived with our parents, and were age 14-16 in 1966. We probably wouldn’t be doing this bio had it not been for renting amps from Larry McKenzie and recording a cut on his infamous “Hillside ‘66” LP. The LP was a snapshot of his customers for his amp and PA rental business and it was all so off the cuff. He asked if we wanted to record, of course we said yes, and he made the LP as a tool for us to sell ourselves. It was a brilliant idea, the amp rental, because he had the good stuff we couldn’t afford and in return we got him to lay tracks for the record, which we were thrilled to do by the way. We were 15 and green as could be. It was one step closer to the dream. There is little reason to know of any of these bands beyond the local folks of the day had it not been for this LP.
The Noblemen were blessed with 2 hugely talented members in Frank Marshall and Randy Huff. Frank (now deceased) was a guitar prodigy and way out ahead of his time. He was self taught, but had perfect pitch and an insatiable desire to learn the next tune. The Noblemen went from Kingsmen, Stones, Beatles, Motown, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, Doors, Hendrix, Cream and beyond on the strength of his ear. Randy as well, stands as the best drummer I ever worked with and learning bass with a guy like that serves me well to this day. (He’s now with McGuffey Lane.) We practiced in Randy’s basement. While our other high school buddies were chasing women and looking to rumble, we were learning the craft of live combo band music in Huff’s basement. I basically lived there. I went from Latin Lupe Lu to Mahavishnu with those 2 guys from ’66-’74.
We got lucky and hooked up with 610WTVN and Dave Logan in 1966-7. We played many of the teen centers in Columbus as well as Lockbourne AFB. These were early evening teen dances where the band played ½ hour and Logan DJ’d ½ hour and then repeat, giving a 2-hour show. Pay was $10 (or $15 if it was a long drive!) We learned how to perform, how to pace the show, dressing and acting for success. He reamed us if we got too cocky and built us up if we were scared. Otherwise, First Community Church was in our neighborhood and we played there 3-4 times with other bands. I saw my first real shit kickin’ band there, The Dantes. My God they were wonderful and with the Vox AC 100’s, Gretsch, Rickenbackers, Hofner, it was the dream realized in front your eyes. Their first single lit us all up to the max. It still has legs today. The Dantes were the prototypical garage band gone to heaven and were well ahead of their time around here with their solid sound. They were just kids too.
Keeping in mid that this was all 40 years ago, can I say that things were a bit different then? Playing live music is still just that, performing the music. But, back then, the “music industry” was something that Elvis and The Beatles were just developing. At the local level you had a couple of agencies for booking, but there really was only 1 decent studio in town (Musicol) that could press records. The rest of it was a complete mystery and, at age 15, it’s probably good that it was. I say all this to explain what a forward thinking guy Larry McKenzie was. At a time when most adults barely talked to you, Larry engaged us on our level and was all jacked up about making music as we were. Hence, Hillside ’66.( He had those fine amps to rent too!) Our parents weren’t buying us that pro gear that he had. All this was the most fun I’d ever had and the main reason I flunked biology and geometry in 10th grade! I couldn’t be bothered with mere scholastic achievement when there were bands jobs out there to dream about.
I recall a date The Noblemen created at the Grandview Wyman Woods shelter house in the summer of 1967. It was a teen dance and we charged admission. We made $60. McKenzie got it all ‘cause that’s what the amp rental was! In my Noblemen picture folder, I included a pic of me playing a Sunn amp from that night and it was a rental from Larry. It just kicked so much harder than my Ampeg B-15.
Among the places I recall playing: St Christopher church hall, Holiday Swim Club, most of the city rec centers, Boulevard Presby.Church in Grandview, Valley Dale battle, Chillicothe battle, Grove City HS, Grandview HS, Tremont Middle School, Whetstone Park of Roses, YMCA downtown, Neil House, Grandview Ox Roast, & numerous private parties. We were all underage so no bar work until about 1970. Back then there were bands everywhere and most of them never made it out of the garage. The Noblemen was a tight knit group of neighborhood guys and we spent most of our free time together. We were absolutely consumed with learning the next great song that came out and each tune taught you a bit more about your passion. When we nailed down a song it was confirmation that you could play like the big boys. By age 17, we were all playing very well. By age 22 we were writing original jazz/rock fusion music. The little basement band was like music college in a way.
As we got towards the end of high school, class of 1969, it finally fell apart. Randy joined “The Sound of Us” and I did too a year later. I recall one of the last Noblemen gigs was at Studio 35, playing between movies (The Thomas Crown Affair, Steve McQueen!) I’m still friends with all those guys, some close, some far. Now, when I tell folks I started playing music for money at age 15, they seem amazed. I guess I am too at this late date, but it did really happen. We rode some kind of wave that we couldn’t see ‘cause we were on it! I’m inclined to say “nuttin’ special” but the very fact that people still remember gives me pause. I guess it was something special and shared by scads of guys who never talk about it anymore. The Ohio garage bands! Yea, I lived it.
The Noblemen snapshot archive1.First Community Church teen dance, spring 1966:
2. FCC dance:
3. FCC dance:
4.rec center dance, fall 1966:
5.Grove City HS dance, fall 1967:
6. shelter house, summer 1967:
7. shelter house '67:
8. basement practice, 1967:
9. basement practice '67: