the X-Cellents / Vacant Lot / Original Playboys
One of Dayton's top bands from 1965-1967, the X-Cellents released a couple big local hit 45s.
The band started around 1962 as the Original Playboys. Original members were Jerry Thomas (drums) and Jerry "Moon" Ditmer on bass. Roger Sayre joined them on guitar. Later, Ray Bushbaum was the keyboard player. Ray had been in the Young Americans.
They became the house band for the Leisure Time (or LT ) club in Dayton, a spot they held until 1967/8, even after the club went "psychedelic" in the summer of 1967 and added a light show.
The band's first 45 came out in 1963, with a club rock sound typical of the time. The record was recorded at Commercial and released on the one-off Vous label
The band's next 45 was issued on the Leisure Time label, run by club owner Bill Leasure. It was a local hit and picked up for national release by Smash records. The hit side "Hey Little Willie" was basically a Bo Diddley song with their own lyrics, made to fit the Leisure Time club scene.
The band's next recording was a cover of a Freddie Scott 45, "The Slide" backed by an original "And I'm Cryin". The band's name was misprinted as the E-Cellents on all the copies. The record was issued on the Sure Play label, which was also financed by Bill Leasure. "And I'm Cryin'" shows a lot of progression for the band, as they jumped right into the Rubber Soul style to good effect.
In March 1966 the band had another original song placed on the "WONE the Dayton Scene" compilation. "Walk Slowly Away" is probably their finest moment, another fine Beatles influenced song that should have been out on a 45 to get more exposure.
The band's biggest hit was released in the fall of 1966, the "I'm A Man" influenced song "LIttle Wooden House" with a break time style instrumental "Hang It Up". This record was also issued on Sure Play, with a picture sleeve to go with it. The sleeve was printed twice, with blue and black ink printings. This record was the band's biggest hit and must have sold a good number of copies. "Hang Iy Up" has a few vocal interjections like "77" that were in-jokes for the LT club crowd.
Prior to the "Little Wooden House" 45, Bill Weicht had replaced Jerry Thomas as the drummer. Thomas had quit either because of family obligations (keep in mind the band members were nearing their mid 20s in age) or because of the military draft. Weicht had been playing in his own named trio.
The band changed names around the beginning of 1967. The Vacant Lot was the new name, with the same foursome (Sayre, Ditmer, Bushbaum, and Weicht). The carried on at the LT club, but changes were in the making. In May 1967 the club decided to add a light show in the style of the east and west coast fashion. The band recorded another 45, also in May, a cover of "Don't You Just Know It". The other side was an original "This Little Feelin'", which is another good Roger Sayre original, with the band moving in a soulish direction, probably necessary to keep the LT club dance floor moving. The 45 wa on the LTD label, another Bill Leasure name. All 4 of the band's 45s with Leasure's backing used consecutive numbers (0001-0004). The Vacant Lot didn't last long though, as the group split in July. According to the newspaper account, there was disagreement between the club and the band.
The July 1 Dayton newspaper lists the band playing on a local TV show called the Rising Generation.
Roger Sayre and Bill Weicht stuck together, and while the article mentions them forming a new X-Cellents, a few months later they were playing in rebooted Marque V, with Sonny Flaharty. In 1970, they were together in the 3rd Trick.
Roger Sayre was known for his talents as an sculpture artist, more so than his musicianship. His artwork was exhibited and sold worldwide. He also taught art at a couple different SW Ohio colleges. He passed away in 2010.
Now That I'm Somebody / You'll Be Mine - Vous no # (Rite master 11059/60), 1963
Hey, Little Willie / I'll Always Be By Your Side - Leisure Time 0001/Smash 1996, Sept 1965
The Slide / And I'm Cryin' - Sure Play 0002, 1966
Work Slowly Away - from the WONE the Dayton Scene LP, Prism 1966, March 1966
Hang It Up! / Little Wooden House (picture sleeve) - Sure Play 0003, October 1966
Don't You Just Know It / This Little Feelin' (picture sleeve) - LTD 0004, May 1967