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Double O's Demingos / James Bowen and the Agents / Bill Smith's Hitch Hikers

Cincinnati, 1967-mid 1970s

Double O's Demingos - or, depending on which of their records is used as a reference, the Double O. Demingos or Double O and his Demingos - released a run of acclaimed and highly collectible 45 within a couple years. 

A group that has 3 records that sell for $1000+ should have a well reseacrhed biography and reissue, right? No, there seems to be little detailed info out on the internet or in books. 

Here's what we can figure out. The roots of the group go back to the Emeralds/Luther Bond and the Emeralds from the 1950s. Charles Godfrey of the Emeralds was a member, and when interviewed by Marv Goldberg, says another Emerald, Willie King, was a member, both after the Emeralds broke up. Meanwhile, there was James Bowens and Bill Smith, who were also members. 

Smith and Bowens were part of what seems to be first version of the group, James Bowens and the Agents. In 1968 they made a nice soul 45, with Bill Smith's Hitch Hikers as the band. The record was produced by Cincy's Roosevelt Lee and issued on his label. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, as answer to the younger self contained funk bands, we assume the two seperate groups combined into a single group, Double O's Demingos. There is a rumor that Bowens was a big fan of the James Bond movie series that took 1960s pop culture by storm, so he named his groups in reference to Agent 007. 

Not long before the James Bowens and Agents 45 was released, the Emeralds with Charles Godfrey released a 45 on King. This version of the Emeralds is not documented, the record or group was not mentioned by Godfrey in the Goldberg interview. Prior to the King 45, Godfrey was credited on the the 45 by the Cincinnatians, released on Emerald records. The Cincinnatians were probably the King label Emeralds. Roosevelt Lee is credited on the Cincinnatians 45 so there is another link between Godfrey and the Smith/Bowens team.

In 1971 the first of the three Demingos 45s was released The record was the song "Storm Warning" - a Smith/Bowens original, not a cover of the Volcanos hit a couple years earlier. The song was split into two parts for the record. The group was using a custom label, Split, which seems to have been created by Bill Smith. 

The Demingos released record number 2 in 1972, the hard. aggressive funk of "the Crawl" and a ballad, "A Thousand Tears Too Late". The record label says they recorded at Rite studios, and the publishing is shared between Rite and Sannix. Sannix was one of two publishing names used by Smith/Bowens, the other was CITIF. CITIF must have been Roosevelt Lee's publishing as it was located at 1653 Jonathan, same address as his label. "Sannix" could have been reference to "Mannix", the very popular and violent TV detective show at the time. 

The last of the three 45s was recorded in January 1973 but pressed by QCA in 1973. The song "Color One Tear Black" looks like it's the same song across two sides but it's two completely different versions of the same basic song. While the first two, or three (counting the Agents 45) were good to excellent records, "Color One Tear Black" is fantastic, in both versions, a great song with stunning production. The label reads "From Album 'Breakthough'", by now the LP is assumed to be non-existent but certainly if there was a whole LP of songs close to the lever of "Color..." it needs to be found and heard. The label has an address for 6020 Waldway Lane in Cincinnati, could be Smith's home , the current building looks like a mid-century single family home.A survey of Cincinnati real estate records came up blank. 

There were no more records by Bowens or the Demingos for several years. In 1981, Split records was reactivated for a new recording of "Color One Tear Black", by Billy Pererson Jr. Bill Smith  was the credited producer. Randy Vandivier gets an arranger credit. The record uses the basic structure of Part 1 from the 1973 COTB version with a more standard late 1970s commercial production. 

The recording history comes down to 4 records by Agents/Demingos and a later record by Peterson. Many efforts to dig up any mentions in the Cincinnati papers, other regional papers, record trade mags, or other archival sources turns up nothing directly related to the all the names given here (Smith, Bowens, Godfrey, King, Peterson). Godfrey and Vandivier share the names with moderately well known athletes of the times. Around 1959-1960 the name James Bowens appears in the Cincy paper as a amateur boxer (Golden Gloves), that could be the same guy. A 1991 Cincinnati Enquirer story lists a sax player named Willie King, the WK in the Emeralds was a singer only. 

There is one other interesting bit. Bill Smith's Hitch Hikers were playing the Pirates Cove club in Cincinnati during the spring of 1964, seemily as a backing band for singers and vocal groups. One of the groups they were backing was the Charters. The idea came to mind that the Charters were related to James Bowens and the Agents, but after listening to the recordings, Bowens doesn't sounds like the lead for the Charters.

Hopefully, the story behind this group will come out someday.

Charles Godrey is deceased.

This Boy And Girl / Baby I Want You - Roosevelt Lee no # (Rite 21831/2), 1968
Storm Warning (Part 1) / Storm Warning (Part 2) - Split 1027, 1971
A Thousand Tears Too Late / The Crawl - Split 1028, 1972
Color One Tear Black (Part 1) / Color One Tear Black (Part 2) - Split  1, May 1973
(Billy Peterson Jr.) - Color One Tear Black / Party Man (Part 1) - Split 1 (Rite 41851/2), 1981