In the fall of 1964 three Wooster High School sophomores were drawn together by two vital elements - love of rock-n-roll, and a solid amount of musical ability. Joel Cupl was a guitarist with a few years of classical training behind him. Bill Ross was another guitarist who has started out on piano and folk guitar but jumped on the British Invasion express with a new interest in electric guitar. Steve Young was a drummer in the school band who could also play a little guitar. Collectively the trio began practicing as a guitar-wielding threesome, but soon Steve was behind the drums and the Cobras were born. The group's first performance came at a Christmas party for a school language club in December of 1964. It was a case where the guuys were approached and asked "Hey, you guys play music together, don't you?" and they replied "Yeah, I guess we can...". The first step taken and the journey begun.
In the spring of 1965 the group changed their name to the Ascots, acknowledging the blue Ascot ties they occasionally wore to their jobs. The first several months of existence didn't take them too far beyond the halls of Wooster High, as they played jobs such as after school hops and the intermission of the Junior-Senior prom. The group's repetriore at the time consisted of the Beatles, instrumentals, current hits, and standards like "Louie Louie".
The group decided they needed to fill out their sound so Joel suggested his friend Tom Taylor, another WHS student one year behind the others. Tom brought his bass into the group in the fall of 1965 and with the new member, a new direction and name change were in order. The group became "Me and the Guys" though the origin of the name is lost to the mists of time. For you fans searching for the answer to the question "which one was 'Me'","Me" wasn't any particular person. The group set themselves up with Steve Young's green Ford van and hit the local teen scene with a vengance.
Me and the Guys oriented their sound along the lines of the Lovin' Spoonful, the Hollies, and primarily the Byrds. They dug the clean guitar and harmony sounds and soon became very proficient at reproducing these sounds in their live performances. The group bought some nice Fender amps to go with their Gibson guitars. Bill Ross had started with a lime green Gretsch but 'graduated' to a Gibson. Joel Culp bought a Gibson 12-string electric to tackle to the folk-rock tones. Later, Bill Ross put his piano training to use by purchasing a Vox portable organ for use on "Summer In The City".
By the summer of 1966, Me and the Guys had carved out a nice niche for themselves in the local scene. They were playing 2-3 nights a week at places like the Wooster Y, College of Wooster functions, and the Blanchleville Grange. The big gig of the summer was a weekly job at a place called the Lazy J Ranch. The Lazy J was a nice piece of land and a few buildings that could be rented out for picnics ans such. The group struck an agreement with Lloyd Jennes, the Lazy J owner, to play a Friday night dance/fun event every week during the summer. The deal was something like $1.00 per head, split 50/50 for the first hundred emissions and 75/25 for the rest. On the best nights Me and the Guys would set up on a flatbed truck that was backed against the rear of one of the ranch buildings. If the weather wasn't permitting, they would move indoors. A typical crowd was 400 or so, but when circumstances were right, upwards of 1000 teens might show up. This worked out great for the group as it provided a steady gig and really helped grow the local following, as well as making a few bucks. After many Lazy J performances the group would blow some of the profits on burgers and fries at Bishop's Drive In at nearby Madisonburg. Another benefit of the Lazy J job was a weekly radio broadcast of the group over Wooster's local station WWST. Steve Young's father ran a local grocery, and in his advertising work he became acquainted with Quentin Welty, Wooster's music publishing, promotion, and production whiz. Through Welty, the group was able to arrange a taping of their Lazy J shows for broadcast the next Thursday evening. The "Master Of Ceremonies" for this was WWST DJ Gary Rhamy, later of United Audio and Peppermint recording studio in Youngstown. These broadcasts further increased their fan base. The band's hard work was paying off.
Summer of 1966 was also the time when the group decided cut a record. Joel Culp and Tom Taylor teamed up to write a couple songs that they first tried out live to a good response. According to Joel, the songs - "I Can't Take It" and "Why Can't You Be True", weren't based on any real events, but just typical of what the group was into at the time. On July 14, 1966, Me and the Guys loaded up the "Music On The Move" truck and headed to Audio Recording in Cleveland for the session. Quentin Welty came along to lend his knowledge. The group set up their gear and went to work. They layed down the instrumental part, and while listening to a playback through headphones, recorded the vocals. The whole process took about a half dozen takes and two hours of the weeknight evening. After the recording was completed, the group felt a bit let down. It seemed too simple. Steve Young said "With what I know now...we could have done a lot more". What the heck - the end result is mighty fine! Both sides are energetic, driving, guitar powered numbers with solid bottom and snappy folk-rock hooks. It certainly had hit potential. Unfortunately, these two songs were the only original material they ever played.
To unleash the disc upon the world, Me and the Guys ordered 1000 copies, pressing to be done at the RCA custom plant in Indianapolis. Quentin Welty provided his B-W publishing and together with Gary Rhamy and the band they came up with the ingenious "PLA ME" label. In August the shipment or records arrived by Greyhound bus and the group geared up for the big sales push. Copies were sold in the Wooster Music Center and to a lesser degree at the live jobs. As the record 'hit the racks' a problem was discovered. Someone noticed that copies of the records were skipping while playing, due to a process flaw in the pressing - and not just a few copies, but most of them. Figuring the problem was caused by RCA, they asked for 1000 new copies. Meanwhile, skipping or not, the record made it onto the WWST rotation and moved up fast. By the third week in August, "I Can't Take It" was number one on the WWST hit line. Obviously, the group was thrilled, but they were not able to capitalize on this as much as they could, since there were not suitable copies of the record to sell. By the time the new batch arrived, "I Can't Take It" had passed it's peak, but ove time the local teen population bought up most of the copies.
Around the time that the record was released, a Me and the Guys fan club was born. Cheryl Rice was a girl from nearby Orrville, a small town between Wooster and Canton (and home of Smuckers jams and jellies for you toast and afficianados). Cheryl, with the group's blessings, masteminded the enterprise, with the primary feature being a monthly newsletter. These newsletter included live date info and answers to goofy questions in the spirit of 16 and similar 'teeny bopper' publications. She would send each of the Guys the same list of questions and they would send back replies. Other hip swag for Me and the Guys fans included a membership card and pinback button displaying "Me and the Guys" in black letters on a white background. The club lasted until the groups disillusion.
Wooster was a city of 26,000 people, one high school, and one college in 1966/7, so their was a decent band scene during those years, and Me and the Guys were right on top. Their biggest high school 'Rival' was the Streys, and there were a couple bands with college age members like the Spoonjobs. The Streys were more like the Rolling Stones and had their own following. Me and the Guys travelled a fair amount to places like Ashland and several small northern Ohio communities. One job in Ashland teamed them with the Wildlife, whom Bill Ross recalled as "Great". They also teamed up on a few bills with Mansfield's biggest hitmakers at the time, the Music Explosion. A pretty strange bit happened with some of the posters for these shows. A local nut, apparently not won over by the big beat of Me and the Guys, went around town tearing down the bands various gig announcements. Shortly after being posted, placards would mysteriously disappear. A 'cease and desist' notice was posted by Bill Ross' attorney father, and cease the unknown perp did.
In the winter of 1966-67 the group continued to play gigs like the Wooster Armory and various 'Y' sponsored functions. Me and the Guys also played a set at a Wooster High talent show. The group went over very well, although no prizes were awarded. On their way down the hall, still wearing stage outfits, the group caught the attention of the WHS principal, who spied Bill Ross' pea coat with shirt tail hanging out. The principal delivered a warning to "tuck it in or take it off'!
As the summer of 1967 came Me and the Guys were back at the Lazy J ranch for another series of Friday nights. Steve Young. Joel Culp, and Bill Ross had graduated from school in the spring, so they could grow their hair a little longer and dress a little wilder. One day they went to a park outside of Wooster and shot a bunch of promo photos. Steve Young thought they would make nice album cover shots but unfortunately for us the LP never was. Just after graduation, the group headed up to Wisconsin for a week long vacation and the first and last Me and the Guys concert tour. The tour was but a one night stand at a private party - no small time thing but a one for the bigwigs, family, and friends of the Bull Durham Tobacco company. It happened that Joel Culp's father had connections with owner Frank Durham and one thing led to another as it were and the deal was made. The group decided to make a vacation of it, holing up at a cabin for a week until showtime. On the night of the party, Me and the Guys set up on a wooden dock over the lake and socked it to 'em. After the scheduled gig was finished, their swingin' sound had won enough fans to request an all-night encore with a deal they couldn't refuse. With fatter wallets, Me and the Guys cranked up again and every partied through the summer night.
By August of 1967 the group faced a problem - Joel, Bill, and Steve were entering college soon. Rather than try to keep things going the group decided to pack it in. After saying goodbye in the fan club newsletter, the guys announced their last show at the Lazy J. The group usually played it straight on stage, but for the last night, they roughed it up a bit, like knocking over mike stands and speakers. Someone brought the last stash of 45s and, in a flash, the the group realized the 'Frisbee' potential of the records and....well, you can figger it out, right? So ended the life of Me and the Guys. Or...did it? One small final act in the drama...
About a month or two after the last gig, with three former members at various colleges and Tom Taylor a HS senior, an interesting phone call was received by one of the families' households. Some shirt manufacturer had heard either the record or a Lazy J tape, and was interested in signing the group to a contract. The deal was to be some sort of promotional campaign. So, after securing the necessary parental and other approvals to drop out of school, the guys decided to go for it and awaited the specifics to arrive in the mail. They waited, and waited...and never heard a thing.
There was one more job, a 1977 high school reunion, but for now this history is history. Joel Culp would have a successful musical hobby, playing concert mandolin with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, along with time in Cleveland country-rock bands the Buckeye Biscuit Band and Deadly Earnest and the Honky Tonk Heroes. The other members retired from music and have enjoyed successful lives. When I asked the guys about what they wanted the final testament to be, they all said "It was a lot of fun....the best times we could have had".
Story by George Gell, based on interviews with Steve Young, Bill Ross, Joel Culp, and Tom Taylor. A slightly different version of this story was 'published' in Rebel Teen magazine #3, 1989.