Thursday, February 22, 2007


The Story of The SOC HOP Reunions

This is the story of The SOC HOP Reunions and the new Silver Tones. People mistakenly keep giving me credit for putting the reunions together. This is to set the record straight. I have played only a very small role in the whole affair. Both the reunions and the re-invention of The Silver Tones are the product of fate, which is to say, they were meant to be. The reunions have been a combined effort of many people, and I wasn’t even at the very first one.
In the early 1960's there were a number of good dance halls around Kansas City, but only two great ones, both the SOC HOP, old and new. It has elsewhere been written that, in truth, The SOC HOP made The Fabulous Silver Tones and The Fabulous Silver Tones made The SOC HOP. The same could possibly be said of The SOC HOP Reunions and the new Silver Tones. I was recently informed that, in part, it was the old pictures from my SOC HOP scrapbook that I had shared with others a number of years ago, that helped inspire that very first reunion which was actually more like a get together jam session. It took place in the spring of 2006 and was held in the home studio of one of Kansas City’s longtime professional Rock and Rollers, Ron Hodgden, aka Ron West, (of the bands ‘The Chesmann ’ and later ‘Missouri’). Ron volunteered his studio as a place for everyone to get together. It was one of those mostly unplanned, spur of the moment events. Many had dreamed of getting everyone together again, it just hadn’t happened yet. But the time had finally come. Many thanks to Ron and his wife Dayna for their help in making our dreams come true.
Another of those most instrumental in that very first reunion was Paul Schlapper, old friend and classmate of members of The Silver Tones. In the1960's, Paul’s band was known as The Night Riders. When I asked Paul for his recollection of the May 2006 event and what kicked it all off, he wrote me back saying, "After discovering Google a few years ago, I occasionally spent Saturday mornings typing in the names of old buddies, memories, (The Silver Tones; Frank Plas; Roger Calkins: etc). Usually nothing happened. Eventually, however, I found Dan Martin’s Blue Velvets website recalling memories of Frank Plas’ guitar playing. Dan had hooked up a link to Midnight Thunder, I clicked it and heard that song for the first time in nearly forty years.Dan and I had both played High School dances at many of the same schools with our respective bands. Through Dan I was able to join the newly formed Kansas Music Hall of Fame. Dan led me to Ron West. Ron and I became e-mail buddies, exchanged war stories, found we knew many of the same people and both agreed the Silver Tones were one of the two top bands we'd ever heard! I wanted to revisit Kansas City and we thought it would be a kick to somehow get together with whoever was left of the band. My friend Candy and I planned to meet Ron and Dayna at their home on my trip back and Ron mentioned maybe we could invite a 'few people' over and visit. If things went REALLY well, maybe the guys could go down to his studio and fool around with some of his instruments. How do we get these people together? He gave me Rich's e-mail; Rich and I wrote. Rich wanted to come over and visit –. I told Ron and Rich when Candy and I would be there and we started out with a three person get-together plan. In the meantime Ron got in touch with Mike Myers (the Fab Four) and Mike said he'd join us. While I had known Frank Plas quite well years ago, I hadn't seen him in nearly 38 years and had no idea how to get in touch with him. But Mike did and he talked to Frank who said he'd join us too".
Then Little Joe Sherrick called Ron. Little Joe was still playing bass with his Get-A-Room band and was also one of the all time most frequent of SOC HOP attendees. Little Joe had long dreamed of having a SOC HOP reunion, which he had discussed numerous times with his friend, Frank Hicks, owner of Knuckleheads Saloon in east Kansas City. Joe told Ron he'd heard about the get together and said he’d like to come. He was in touch with Danny Gregory of The Roulettes and Mac Truque and would bring him too.
"All I can say," continued Paul, "is the Kansas City Soc Hop gang's roots must run deep because by the time the evening of May 24th came we had Danny Gregory; Little Joe Sherrick; Jackie Foster and several members of Shelter; myself, Ron West (first time Kansas Music Hall of Fame Inductee); Mike Myers and most of the Fabulous Four; Scott Nelson of Ann Brewer & the Flames; and Frank Plas, Rich Stoy and Joni Calkins representing the Silver Tones. I'm sure I must have missed someone. I think that night kicked off a lot of things - the day after the jam, Scott Nelson posted a synopsis of it on the HOF website; Ron and I had managed to get the Silver Tones name on the roster as nominees for the previous Hall Of Fame induction, but not enough board members had heard them (only heard OF them); then Bill Lee, HOF president, started talking about the Silver Tones and the Fabulous Four; Frank and Joe decided to form the new Silver Tones, a Soc Hop Reunion was born, you and I connected and got the Silver Tones music to those-who-were-inspired-by-them but never heard them.
So which part do you pick as the kicker that kicked it off? That would be impossible. Sometimes I think had I not made the trip back, it wouldn't have happened. And for SURE had Ron & Dayna West not opened up their home and offered to host the 'unknown' it never would have happened. And what if Frank and Rich hadn't started playing again (unbeknownst to each other)? Or was it the fact that Mike Meyers was still in touch with them. We could go on and on forever but all I can say is, It’s great being back in touch with everyone and I’m having fun being a part of it. The answer probably lies in that old Bob Seger song; Rock n Roll never forgets." What an elite group of local celebrity this was.
To again use Pauls words, "I hate to sould like a campaign manager but - Danny and Gary of The Roulettes and The Mac Truque; The Fabulous Silver Tones and The Fab Four all provided thousands of hours of incredible entertainment, inspiration and music on the Kansas City area rock scene - it wouldn't be close to the same without them.
All three groups need to be inducted into the Kansas Music Hall Of Fame. Try to imagine Danny Gregory singing Stormy Monday Blues with Frank Plas playing guitar and Mike Myers on keyboards - that's what we had (at the jam). To be in the studio mingling and chatting and listening as spontaneous jams broke out was an unbelievable experience."
So this is how it all ‘re’-started. A spontaneous get together that was so much good and so much fun that everyone agreed it had to be done again - and this time, with an invite to all of the old Rock & Roll SOC HOP era friends who wanted to come. Well, one thing led to another and Little Joe’s friend, Frank Hicks, volunteered Knuckleheads as a place for a public reunion. Knuckleheads is, after all, one of the city’s best blues bars, a place where all of the city’s best play, which makes it a natural descendent of the area’s greatest dance hall of the sixties, The SOC HOP. Back in the day, The SOC HOP was ‘the place’ where the best of the best played. It was where everyone who played dreamed of playing. It is where most who were gathered together on this day had played at one time or another.
And so it began. A little planning, a little practicing, a couple of KKFI radio shows, a bunch of emails, and a hundred days later, the night so many of us had dreamed of finally came to pass. The Knuckleheads calendar read, " Thursday 8/31/06 - The SOC HOP REVISITED, step back to the 60's when being cool was cool, featuring Lil Joe Sherrick (of Get A Room Band), Jackie Foster (of Shelter), Danny Gregory (of The Mac Truque), and Frank Plas ( of the Silver Tones) and other guests with guest of honor Michael Weaver of the Weaver family, founders of the original Soc Hop. You won’t want to miss this one! The fun starts at 8:30PM and lasts to !!:30PM. $5.00 cover" It was, in fact, a dream come true - for me, at least. Forty six years earlier, when my dad and my uncle, Ed Bowers, opened The SOC HOP, I was just fourteen. It lasted just a little over four years. The fifty month life of The SOC HOP would live on, however, in my memory - with the dream of a chance, just one chance, for a Redo. OH, to be able to be there again, if only for a little while. . What wonderful times those were. We were all so young and carefree and having such a fun time. So for years, I have had this dream. Then I came to realize that my dream was really ‘our’ dream. The dream of many old SOC HOPpers who would like a chance to relive that special time of our lives. The SOC HOP was something special - and not just to me - but to many. Especially, in 1960, in the beginning at The Barn on 95th Street in Overland Park. The Barn had it’s own special mystique, part of which was in the uniqueness of the physical structure itself, part was in the western decor in which my family had decorated it, and a large part, was in the sounds of early Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll, that emanated from the magnamosity of the upper floor. I have previously given detail as to many of my SOC HOP experiences, but I don’t think that I have mentioned that a friend of my dad’s and uncle’s was the photographer for the county. Fortunately, he took numerous photo’s of our times in the old barn, many of which I have kept and are displayed on this blog along with others that I took and have saved and shared. It would have been wonderful if The SOC HOP could have stayed in that barn - but that was not to be - we had to move - in the two years we were there, the City of Overland Park had incorporated and made lots of rules - they would not issue a new business license as the residential area was now so close, so we had to move - the city said so - it had been a two year great time, but it was over - time to move on. So to Lenexa The SOC HOP moved, in early 1962. It was a different kind of place - special in it’s own way - it lasted a short two years there as well. It closed very early in 1964. There were many reasons for it’s demise, which is another story altogether. What is important for this story is the fact that, at sometime in those early days I had acquired a big, portable, reel to reel tape recorder. I had tried taping Roger Calkins and The Fabulous Silver Tones once when we were still at the barn, but I didn’t like the way the tape came out and did not keep it, though I don’t recall what I did do with it. Then Roger left The Silver Tones and formed The Holidays. One night in July of 1963, I sat my recorder on the stage, laid a microphone down beside it, and recorded Roger and The Holidays. I didn’t do it for posterity, or to distribute or anything - I just wanted to have it to listen too. And listen to it I did. For years - over and over and over again....Somewhere along in the 70's, as the reels began to warp and I began to worry about the tape breaking or going bad, I sat my portable cassette recorder down next to the reel to reel, with the cassette’s built in microphone next to the reel to reel’s built in speaker and recorded it onto cassette. The quality, as you can imagine, only got worse. But it was what I had, and it was good enough for me. But now, in the twenty-first century, it needed to be transferred onto a CD.
So, fast-forward to the spring of 2006. (The timing is ironic here). On or about May 6th, 2006 , while randomly searching the internet for anything about Roger Calkins or The Silver Tones, I had visited The Kansas Music Hall Of Fame website. Just taking a shot, I sent it’s president, Bill Lee, an email asking if he knew anything about Roger or The Silver Tones. He sent me this response "Mike, You need to join the Yahoo group I moderate and share stories with the rest of us about those days gone by. I love the years and musicians you mentioned.
To sign up, click on this link...Yahoo! Groups : KS_and_KC_GenOne_Rockers. Bill"
I followed up on Bill’s suggestion and joined the group and began getting their emails. I posted an email to the group asking if anyone knew how I might get my cassette of Roger and The Holidays converted to digital and onto a CD. Several people responded saying they could help. One was Paul Schlapper, who, much to my surprise, was also posting emails to the group describing the get-together they had all just had at Ron’s house. I began emailing Paul. I discovered he had been a classmate of Roger’s, Frank’s, Rich’s and Mike’s at Indian Hills Junior High and at SM East, and was a SOC HOP fan who now lives in southern California, just a few miles from my oldest son, who I was preparing to visit within days. Paul told me that if I brought my cassette with me, he would get it onto CD for me. I took the cassette with me and met Paul for lunch. When he returned the cassette and CD to me, he also gave me a CD of The Fabulous Silver Tones, recorded by someone in 1961 or so. I think this may be the tape I made and did not keep but don’t know for sure, it may have been made by someone else. Paul also gave me a CD that is a compilation of actual records of some of the bands from that time period - The Silver Tones and The Holidays, Larry Emmett & The Sliders, The Bygones, Danny Gregory and Garry MacComas and The MacTruque, Paul’s band The Night Riders, Little Jimmy Griffin, etc. Also he gave me a DVD of the May jam session at Ron’s house. They had had an excellent time. (Unfortunately, I missed it...).
In early July, after I returned home, Paul forwarded me an email from Little Joe Sherrick, who I contacted and vaguely remembered as one of those ‘cool dancers’ at The SOC HOP. Little Joe told me that a real reunion had been planned for Knuckleheads and he invited me to participate. I was ecstatic. I could hardly believe it - after all these years - it was really going to happen. I began making CD labels and Jewel case covers and began burning off the CD’s I had gotten from Paul, making copies to distribute at the reunion, The Rockin 60's compilation, Roger Calkins & The Silver Tones, Roger & The Holidays and a compilation CD I called Roger Calkins - KC Star. Joe invited me to come to see his Get-A-Room band play, which I did. They were pretty good, I thought. Then Joe invited me to join him for lunch at Knuckleheads and to meet Frank Hicks. After that, it became just a matter of planning for that special night which I, and so many others, had waited so long for - a SOC HOP Redo. I took several of my old SOC HOP pictures and had large posters made to display and Little Joe had a bunch of Tee shirts made with the old SOC HOP logo on them. I got a Guest Book for people to sign so we could start a mailing list for any possible future events.
Then on a Thursday night, opposite a Chief's football game, a couple hundred folks showed up at Knuckleheads for the first SOC HOP Reunion. Jackie Foster and Shelter started the night off, with Danny Gregory singing. Garry Mac joined in and they put on one heck of a show. Following a short break, Little Joe Sherrick ‘s band took the stage, joined by Frank Plas. This was the beginning of The new Silver Tones, who were joined on stage by several local legends, including Bud Ross and Jim Wilson, both original members of the 1959 Sliders. What a night it was. Just way to good not to repeat.
So here's where we’re at now. Rich Stoy, who didn’t make it that night, but has made it to several of the subsequent events, is the VP of a manufacturing company and travels in business to actively to commit to a band now, though he does show up and sit in occasionally. Mike Weakley, changed his name to Michael Fortune years ago when he moved to southern California and became the drummer for The Electric Prunes. I have talked to him several times and he says he is just to busy to come back this way at this time. Roger Calkins has retired from his music store business. He had several stores in the SF Bay area and sold electronic equipment (like Bud Ross Kustom amps) to everyone, from Janis Joplin to The Grateful Dead. Roger still lives in San Francisco, and though blind, still gets around a little. I talk to him frequently and he still has a great sense of humor, an amazing memory, and can recite the words to most any of the old songs I name.
As of this date there have been four more reunions with music provided by the new Silver Tones. Little Joe plays the bass and sings a few tunes, Frank plays lead, of course, and does most of the vocals, and Beachey Biondo keeps a good beat for them on the drums. Also, Mike Meyers, who played keyboard with Roger and the guys in school, but then formed his own band, The Fab Four, sits in with them occasionally. Ron West sings a few, and Jack Nead (The Jumpin Jacks ) came out to blow his sax. There is still a lot of great old talent around. One never knows who is going to show up. As for me, I don't play anything. I just show up, dance a little, and enjoy being there, in the midst of it all. It is wonderful - just like old times. I am also keeping an email list and sending out announcements of upcoming Silver Tone Boogies which I hope will continue on a routine basis. I still have copies of the CD's I made which I am passing out to anyone who wants one. I am delighted to have been even a very small part of the SOC HOP Reunions and the re-invention of The Silver Tones. It has indeed been a dream come true. Thank You, Paul & Joe & Frank & Ron & all who have attended these wonderful events.
I will end with a note of praise and congratulations. Frank Plas is dynamite, especially for someone who hasn't played for years. He gets better with every performance. Keep your eyes on this fantastic talent. I joined the Kansas Music Hall Of Fame last year and did a little cheerleading in the Yahoo chat group promoting The Fabulous Silver Tones as worthy of induction into the HOF and with the considerable help of others - like Paul Schlapper - IT Did Happened. The Fabulous Silver Tones were inducted at a ceremony in Lawrence on January13th 2007. Frank and Rich played and got the only standing ovation. Frank now has his own business cards and website ( and The new Silver Tones are just getting started. ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel’, Frank’s card and website says. It is hard to say where they might go from here. But no doubt the Silver Tone Boogies will continue.
Don’t be surprised if The Silver Tones become famous - AGAIN. Stay Tuned ...


The Story Of The Fabulous Silver Tones

Everybody has a story. Some stories are fiction. Some stories are actual fact. This is the story of The Fabulous Silver Tones. It is a story of fact as recalled by several of those who knew them, living there in the suburbs of Kansas, just across the state line from Kansas City, Missouri. The story begins in the late 1950's with two teenage boys, who lived in the same Johnson County, Kansas neighborhood. These boys were friends and they both liked music. One of them sort of played the trombone, the other one liked to sing. They both had good musical ears, extra good, in fact. Now as fate would have it, on Friday nights these two boys would go to the local movie house, The Fairway Theater, in Fairway, Kansas. Many of their peers went there too, as Friday night was ‘teen night.’ One night in particular the movie was "Rock Pretty Baby" a California beach ‘Rock & Roll’ movie. It starred John Saxon, who was a minor heart throb in those days, and a young newcomer, crooner Sal Mineo. The movie was full of lively music and song. Everybody in the audience got real excited and moved to the beat of the music. All the girls swooned. After the movie, the two boys followed their friends down the street to Allen’s Drive Inn to get something to eat, and it was there, watching the curbhops, that they decided to start a Rock & Roll Rhythm & Blues band. This was an interesting decision as neither of these boys really knew how to play anything or even had useable instruments. One of the boy’s father, who thought it was just a passing fancy, volunteered to rent guitars for three months so the boys could take lessons. They went to the Toon Shop in Prairie Village, Kansas, rented two guitars, signed up for classes and took lessons. They both learned quickly, practicing and practicing, filling all of their spare time with learning as many different songs as they could. Another of their friends played piano and practiced with them. Soon they had become quite good and had developed a pretty good repertoire. It wasn’t long before the boys were at the Sears and Roebucks store on The Country Club Plaza over in Kansas City looking at all the guitars. The Sears brand of guitar was made by Nathan Daniel’s company, Danelectro, and was called the ‘Silvertone’. After discussing it with their parents, the boys each bought one. They began taking their instruments to school with them and practicing on the stage of the multi-purpose room after class. Other students would come in and listen to them practice. One day a fellow classmate came in carrying a gold colored Kay guitar. He got up on the stage with them and started playing. He played a bunch of chords and most of one whole song. The other two boys were impressed with his skill and asked him if he wanted to be the lead guitar player in their band. He said, "OK". Now they were three. They still needed a drummer, and also name. So what could they call themselves? The HonkyTonks they thought. No, that was to country. They needed a name with some flash, like the shinny chrome name on the guitars they had bought . Wow, now that sounded just to fabulous to pass up. So now they had a name. They would call themselves The Silver Tones, though they accidently called it two words instead of one. The word Fabulous got added to their name after they began performing, and someone called them that. As best as anyone can remember their very first actual performance was in the spring of 1959 at the ninth grade talent show at their school, Indian Hills Junior High School in Prairie Village, Kansas. Original band members included Frank Plas, who played lead guitar, Rich Stoy, playing back up guitar, and Roger Calkins, playing rhythm guitar and singing. Mike Meyers played the piano and a drummer named Dale Price sat in with them.

They were all in the ninth grade and headed for high school the next year. Mike’s parents disapproved of the other boys hairstyles and their long duck tails and made him drop out of the group. ( Mike later was in another popular local group known as The Fab Four.) Dale was a good drummer, but the fit wasn’t just right. An eighth grade classmate, Paul Schlapper, rode to school on the bus with Roger and admired his playing. Paul decided to put together another group for this same talent show. One of Paul’s classmates, Mike Weakley, was the drummer for this group. Mike was a fabulous drummer, one who made you want to move to the beat of the music. Rich, Roger and Frank began going by the school auditorium in the mornings to watch Mike play when this group practiced. They were also in the Talent Show audience when this group performed. After the performance, Mike went to the restroom and Rich and Roger followed him. Mike thought they were going to beat him up. They approached him from behind, each tapping one of his shoulders at the same time. Instead of trouble, they told him they were starting a Rock and Roll band and would like him to audition to be their drummer. Mike was thrilled that the older boys liked him and he nailed the job as their permanent drummer. Now they were complete: Roger, Frank, Rich, and Mike. The four of them began to practice and then practice some more. This was the beginning ‘The Fabulous Silver Tones’. When school let out that summer they all discovered a place for teenagers called Barry's Barn. This run down old dairy barn was located on a farm just north of Olathe, Kansas at about 119th street on what was then New 50 Highway, (now I-35). It was out in the country, about fifteen miles from their homes. On weekends Mr. Barry would sit on the steps to the hayloft in the barn and collect fifty cents from all those who entered. The crowd seemed to grow every week. Mr. Barry had an agreement with a young man named Larry Emmitt, who had a band called The Sliders. The Slider’s played in the hayloft of Mr. Barry’s barn every weekend and the boys from Indian Hills Junior High School spent a lot of time there listening to, and learning from this great group. When Rich saw The Slider’s bass player Buddy Ross play, he was intrigued by the sound and traded his guitar for a bass. (Bud Ross went on to play in several other bands before founding Kustom Electronics, makers of amplifiers and other electronic equipment.) On at least one occasion, The Sliders let the boys take the stage, use their instruments, and play a song or two. It wasn’t long before The Fabulous Silver Tones were good competition for Larry Emmitt and The Sliders. (The Sliders, it should be noted, are remembered to this day as the very first of the original popular Rock & Roll bands of the Kansas City area, with The Fabulous Silver Tones right behind them). Barry’s Barn began attracting lots of kids. Enough, in fact, that Mr. Barry hired off-duty sheriffs deputies as chaperones. One of these deputies was Ed Bowers. Mr. Bowers thought the teen town in a barn was a great idea. In fact it was such a good idea, that in May of 1960, he and his brother-in-law, Mike Weaver, leased another old barn to open their own place. It was just west of 95th & Metcalf in Overland Park, Kansas. It was huge - much larger than any other teen place around. They completely renovated this old barn and made it a very clean, very nice place especially for teenagers. The upstairs dance floor measured 45' X 100' and the downstairs had dining, billiards and pin ball machines. They called their place The Soc Hop. As Mr. Bowers had worked at Mr. Barrys barn, he had gotten to know many of the patrons there, including the boys in the band from Indian Hills Junior High, who, coincidently, he had met previously when he had worked off duty as a chaperone at the Fairway Theater.
When Mr. Bowers announced that he was going open his own place, he invited Roger to stop by to see the place. Roger and friends showed up three weeks before The Soc Hop opened, brought their guitars and gear with them and played for Mr. Bowers. That was the beginning of a wonderful business relationship. The Fabulous Silver Tones became The Soc Hop’s regular Saturday night band, playing there sometimes two or three nights a week. The band developed very quickly, playing around town at other places as well, like at some of the local high school proms, or the Indian Hills Country Club. They also played at other Kansas City locales like The Promenade Ball Room, The Prom Coke Bar, The Chicken Coop, The Combo Club, The Flamingo Lounge and occasionally, even at Barry’s Barn. There were numerous other popular places in those days, whose names are too numerous to mention. But if it was a popular place, The Fabulous Silver Tones probably played there. There was, however, no place else that came even remotely close to the mystique of The Soc Hop. It was truly a one of a kind place. It was the home of The Silver Tones. It has been said that The Soc Hop made The Silver Tones and The Silver Tones made The Soc Hop. That is a fact, if there ever was one. Someone always has to be the leader, make the decisions, be in charge. Roger was The Silver Tones leader. He was glue who held it all together. He was the business manager and the one who set up most of their jobs, scheduled their rehearsals, figured out the music. He had a huge record collection, which he added to daily. He would listen to a record several times, then write down the lyrics, the melody and the chord progressions, and arrange the music to fit for Frank and Rich. He also wrote some of the music the band played. Frank Plas also wrote a number of pieces, including one titled 'West Coast Walk'. When The Silver Tones recorded it on acetate at Damon Studios in Kansas City, they renamed it ‘ Midnight Thunder ’ with the sound of thunder added at the beginning. ‘ Louise, Louise’ was also recorded at Damon Studios in 1960 barely a year after the band formed. It was pressed on the same 45 as ‘Midnight Thunder’. On July 8, 1960 ‘Midnight Thunder’ B/W ‘Louise, Louise’ hit #7 on Kansas City’s KUDL Radio Top 38 Chart. The next week it was listed as ‘Midnight Thunder ‘ only and hit #4. Midnight Thunder BW/ Louise, Louise received a 4 bullet rating from Billboard magazine – unheard of in that era by a bunch of mostly 16 yr old, non-union kids from Johnson County, Kansas. Their music was so good that old man Vic Damon recorded their first cut in the middle of the night to give them a chance. Remember, those were strong union days and the Silver Tones were not union! Vic took a BIG chance. One that paid off with two singles in KUDL’s Top Ten.That very first recording session also produced at least two other tracks. There was another instrumental called 'Pay Toilet ' and then a vocal of Slim Harpo's 'King Bee' which was great. Roger wrote’ Louise, Louise ‘ in about 10 minutes the day before the recording session and it just sounded good so it was used vs ‘King Bee’. The Fabulous Silver Tones next record was ‘Dimples’, a take-off of a John Lee Hooker tune, with ‘Wee Wee Hours’ on the flip side. It was recorded at Midwest Studios in 1961 and released the same year. The KUDL chart shows’ Dimples’ going to #8. Then in either early in1962 ‘Hey Sally Mae’ was recorded in Lawrence, Kansas with a remote system out doors. It was backed with ‘Stranger in Paradise’. Obviously Mr. Damon was 'the man' as far as quality recording is concerned because his recording of ‘Louise, Louise ‘ handled Roger’s voice the best by far. Roger had the spirit but he needed some reverb to fill out his voice when recorded. All of the Silver Tones records were on the ‘West Coast’ label. Four teenagers became local celebrities, at least in the minds of the areas other teens. Mike Weakley was considered the very best of band drummers in the Midwest. Actually he is the drummer who started the flat ride cymbal side hit that just roared and filled in all the holes. It made the Silver Tones sound so big. And when it came to playing the bass, nobody around could play like Rich Stoy. He had a keen ear, and never missed a lick. Frank Plas could play the guitar like no one else except maybe the big time pros. And Roger Calkins was, without a doubt, the areas most charismatic young entertainer. He had a knack for taking many of the old classics and putting them to the wonderful Silver Tones back beat. He not only had an incredible memory but he really knew how to work a room. He would mingle with the crowd during the breaks and get to know the fans by name and what their favorite songs were. Then during the next set he would play their requests and dedicate the song to them. It was not uncommon to hear him call out people’s name when they entered the room or change the words of a song to use a fan’s name. He truly made people feel a part of the whole experience. Not only that, he was a showman extraordinaire. Only someone with Roger’s extraordinary enthusiasm would think of going to the local premium threads store, Matlaw’s Clothiers, purchasing a custom made suit, and then having silver sequins sown onto it. During a performance he would step back into the dressing room while the rest of the band played, put on this suit, then return to the stage with a flash, right on cue from the band, at just the right moment in whatever song they were playing. He would jump up and down and spin all around under the colored lights. He was, indeed, a real sparkler. Only the likes of Liberace had so much flash appeal. Years later, someone said they thought Roger was the inspiration for those revolving disco balls that hung from the ceiling in so many dance halls. During those years in the early 1960's The Fabulous Silver Tones were the biggest draw around. Wherever they played, that is where everybody went. It was not uncommon, on a good Saturday night at The Soc Hop, for The Fabulous Silver Tones to draw between twelve to fifteen hundred teenagers. There were many wannabe bands, but nobody even came close to being as loved as they were. The Fabulous Silver Tones played together for over three and a half years. But like they say, nothing lasts forever. And sometimes, that’s to bad. Roger Calkins left the Silver Tones in early 1963 to go on a very successful national tour, which he did for a number of months. After Roger left the Silver Tones, Frank managed them and they continued with the same great sound and featured vocalists like Little Jimmy Griffin and Priscilla Bowman until their demise a few years later. When Roger returned to Kansas City, he collaborated with brothers Bill and Danny Organ and formed his second band, The Holidays. For the next few years they played at many of the same venues as The Silver Tones. Both bands dissolved during the mid 1960's. . Few people would have guessed, way back then, that a little over forty years later, The Fabulous Silver Tones would be inducted into The Kansas Music Hall Of Fame, but that is just what happened on January 13th, 2007.

So where are they now?

Roger made another road trip to San Francisco in 1966. He took some of Bud Ross’ Kustom amplifiers with him. When he got to there, he asked the cabby where the kids went to listen to music? The cabby told him "The Fillmore." So, he went there and took his equipment with him. That night two of the bands performing were The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. Both Jerry Garcia and the lead guitar player with Jefferson Airplane liked one of Roger’s amps which they called a ‘freak box’, but Roger only had one of these with him.. So they flipped a coin on stage and Jefferson Airplane won. Jerry Garcia asked Roger if he would send him one when he got back to Kansas City. Roger said he would and did so shortly thereafter when he returned to K.C. He then did a stint at Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic training in the Army National Guard. One day when his unit was on an exercise out in the boondocks, he was called to the field training office for a long distance phone call.. It was Jerry Garcia. Jerry said, "Private Calkins, this is Jerry Garcia in San Francisco...we want another’ freak box’." Roger replied, "I am getting out of basic training soon and I am coming to San Francisco so I can open my first music store." Jerry said, "We are going to L.A. to record our first album." Roger said he would take the southern route and take a ‘box’ with him. When he pulled into the motel in L.A., here came The Grateful Dead. Their road manager gave Roger $195, who then went on to San Francisco where he opened Roger Calkins Music Company.Roger became the first west coast distributor of Kustom Amps. He engineered the agreement that allowed Creedence Clearwater Revival to use Kustom equipment on their tours. Everybody bought their equipment from Roger. The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, The Hoo Doo Rhythm Devils, Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, etc, etc, etc, it doesn't end. At his pinnacle Roger operated a half a dozen stores in northern California. He is now retired and still living in the Bay area. Frank Plas, was and still is, simply one of the best in the business. He can still share the stage with the best of the best. If you type his name into Google along with keywords like `guitar player' or Fabulous Silver Tones you'll find testimonials from major players as to Frank being an inspiration in their career. For example Dave Pettison of Gamma and many other groups mention learning guitar and spending endless hours of pleasure watching Frank Plas just lay back and play. The man is a real treat. He is currently in the process of reinventing The Fabulous New Silvertones and will be playing at local clubs in the Kansas City area. Both he and Rich Stoy still live in Johnson County, Kansas. Rich Stoy was probably the most solid and unheralded bass player ever. He became involved in the industrial equipment industry many years ago, but he still loves music. Recently, he joined with Frank for a jam session, and without question, the man still has it.Michael Weakley, changed his surname to Fortune and abbreviated his middle name Quenten to Quint, becoming Quint Fortune. In the mid 1960s he moved to California and was an original member of The Electric Prunes. He recorded with them as recently as 2000. He currently lives in southern California and is heavily involved in the entertainment industry.The Fabulous Silver Tones still have recordings featured on compilation CDs sold ALL OVER THE WORLD, from the Netherlands to Los Angeles! Ron Hodgen/West leader of The Chesmannn and founder of ‘Missouri" once commented that the two best live concerts he ever saw were `The Who' and `The Fabulous Silver Tones'. Now what could be better said than that?
Copyright 2006



Roger Calkins and Paul Schlapper in 2006 - Long time since junior high...

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