Summer of 1961: JFK had just been inaugurated. The Yankees' Roger Maris was in the midst of hitting 61 home runs. Stamps cost 5 cents and you could buy a brand new Chevy for under $2000. Zip codes and area codes were not yet in existence.
In Roanoke, Virginia, we highschoolers were spending days at the Lee-Hi swimming pool or watching such brand new movies as Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Guns of Navarone, and Splendor in the Grass at majestic old theaters with names like the American, Jefferson, Park, Roanoke, Salem, Rialto, Grandin and Lee. Social evenings were spent cruising Lendy's Restaurant , making out at a drive-in, dancing at the Candlelight Club, or parking on a winding country road called Route 419.
|Allen, Lane and Tommy at work in 1961.|
Every teen's radio was tuned to WROV, where disc jockeys named Ron Sunshine and Fred Frelantz were spinning hits that included Big Bad John, Can't Help Falling in Love, Runaround Sue, Mother In-Law, Quarter to Three, and Stand By Me.
Folk music was In. The Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, and the Highwaymen were hot.
My best friend Allen Nelms and I had just completed our junior year at Jefferson High School and were anticipating our upcoming senior year at the newly built Patrick Henry. Allen had a summer job at the Shopwell grocery store on Brambleton Avenue and I was working at my dad's store, State Office Supply, cleaning typewriters.
One hot Saturday afternoon, Allen and I rode downtown in a city bus (which displayed a sign that read, "Whites to Front, Colored to Rear, State Law") and purchased two $25 guitars at a pawn shop.
We wanted to start a folk group.
I spent many hours in my room trying to master the three chords contained in the first song I learned, Frog Went A-Courtin...F was a killer chord, especially on a guitar with strings about one-half inch above the fret board.
Since Allen and I wanted to do Kingston Trio-type material, we needed a third member. We were excited to learn that "veteran" folk singer and guitar picker Lane Craig was available.
Lane was the proud owner of an old Kay banjo (the strings of which sounded not unlike stiff cardboard). And, by an unplanned stroke of luck, our voices blended well: Lane sang bass, Allen was baritone, and I sang tenor.
|The Vikings recording at WDBJ in 1961.|
In the early autumn of '61, our little band recorded a couple of songs at the old WBLU radio station in Salem. Barney Nash, an announcer at the station, wanted to play the songs on his show, a real breakthrough for three young aspiring folk music heroes.
We had one problem: no group name.
We had narrowed the name down to two rather uncreative ideas: the Cavaliers and the Vikings. Aleta Jo Nash, Barney's wife, chose the Vikings to use temporarily. The name quickly became outdated and we attempted to change it several times throughout the years, but it never worked; people knew us as the Vikings and, like it or not, we became stuck with it.
So, in '61, people began asking us to perform. We sang at high school functions, beauty pageants, parties, telethons, and social events. We considered $30 to be great pay; after all, $10 a man went a long way in 1961. More often than not, we played for free. The money was just icing on the cake; we were having great fun.
The Vikings got lots of early local exposure. Jesse Chapman, entertainment editor of The Roanoke Times at the time, wrote a feature article on the band which included a picture, taken at the WDBJ radio studio, of three skinny guys gathered around an old RCA microphone. And in the spring of '62 the band landed its own TV show on WSLS-TV. We taped these extravaganzas on Saturday mornings and the shows aired each Saturday evening during the "prime time" of 6:15-6:30.
Wherever we performed, we dressed just like the Kingston Trio: matching striped shirts, same-color pants, big-buckle belts, white socks and Weejuns.
Always white socks and Weejuns.
In September of '62, Allen and I left for college at the University of Virginia. During the next four years the Vikings played occasionally during holidays and summer breaks, engagements which included two Miss Virginia Pageants.
|The Vikings were on Channel 10 on Saturdays after Roy Rogers and the local news in the early 1960s. See the whole day's listing here.|
Upon college graduation in '66 we heard about a folk group called the Innkeepers (the members of which were Kit Bond, Steve Snedegar, Ed Jones, and Tyler Pugh) that was playing to SRO audiences at a restaurant/bar called the Rathskeller, located in the basement of the American Theater.
As fate would have it, the Innkeepers were nearing a breakup. Taking advantage of the situation, we became the Rathskeller's house band with Innkeeper Tyler Pugh joining us on acoustic bass.
While playing the Rathskeller we met Fred Frelantz, a popular local personality who had built a large personal following as a disc jockey on WROV radio. Fred, who had been a member of a folk group in Oklahoma and who was a talented showman and singer, began sitting in with the band.
Fred and I, both single at the time, became hard and fast "drinking buddies," frequenting such now-defunct local establishments as the Driftwood, the Yard Room, the Red Lion, and even Papa Joe's, the seedy club that gained national attention for its topless go-go girls. Wherever we went, Fred was the center of attention; everyone knew his name.
On one occasion Fred and I went to a local restaurant for dinner. At some point in the evening Fred left the table for a couple of minutes. Upon his return, a waitress called out, "Telephone for Fred Frelantz!" Fred yelled, "That's me!" and made a big deal of answering the phone. When he came back I asked who had called; Fred replied that he had phoned himself from the pay phone at the restaurant. "Name recognition...that's important, Tommy."
I began to see why everyone in Roanoke knew Fred Frelantz.
In '66 Tyler Pugh was called to Vietnam by the Navy and ex-Innkeeper Steve Snedegar joined the group on acoustic bass. Also in the fall of the year Lane left the band for a short period. During this time Allen, Fred, Steve and I continued to play at the Rathskeller using various group names.
On Halloween night we played as "Count Sore Throat Pain and the Isodettes." Fred dressed as Dracula and the rest of us donned white medical coats. We carried Fred onto the stage in a wooden coffin; he rose from the dead and we proceeded to sing dirty songs for the entire evening. Later as we left the club, Fred (still in his Dracula get-up) stopped some passing traffic on Jefferson Street and we ended up, as usual, at the Texas Tavern for some "bowls with" and cheesy westerns.
Such was life for the Vikings in 1966.
|Count Sore Throat Pain and the Isodettes at the Rathskeller on Halloween, 1966. Allen, Tommy, Steve, Fred.|
In 1967 the Rathskeller closed. Lane rejoined the group and Allen, Fred, Lane, Steve and I officially became the Vikings V.
But we were a band with no place to play.
One evening we happened into a neighborhood bar called the Coffee Pot. Built in the '30s, it was frequented by a handful of regular customers and had not featured live music for years. One room was an abandoned barber shop (barber chairs still in place) and another room was used for storage. The only occupied room contained scattered tables, a jukebox that played lots of country music, and a circular bar on which sat several large mason jars full of dill pickles and pickled eggs.
We thought the room had great potential for our type of music. The Coffee Pot had only recently been purchased by three young men: Jerry Nesbit, Bill Crews, and Ki Luczak. They agreed to give the group a try.
Though we would never have predicted it at the time, the Vikings were destined to perform at the Coffee Pot for the next nine years...and beyond.
The early Pot gigs were rather tedious: our sound system was tiny, the stage was shaky, and the bar area, which was in the same room where we performed, was still filled by the regular customers, many of whom were none too happy about their nightspot being invaded by a folk music crowd.
But as the audience grew, many physical changes were made to the Coffee Pot, particularly by Jerry Nesbit. The club became one of Roanoke's most popular night spots, partially due to such dedicated employees as Betty McKay, Bonnie Carroll and Bill Arnold.
|An early Vikings publicity shot from around '67. Allen, Tommy, Lane, Steve, Fred.|
Soon after we began playing the Pot, we were approached by a local promoter who wanted to manage us, insisting he had strong ties with Nashville recording companies.
The promoter was in the business of staging local concerts by well-known performers; he booked us on one such show which featured Archie Campbell.
Campbell liked the band and got us connected with Mary Reeves , Jim Reeves' widow and a highly respected lady among Nashville's elite "clique." After recording several audition tapes the Vikings V were signed to a recording contract.
Early one morning in 1967, we packed four guitars, a banjo, a stand-up acoustic bass, and five enthusiastic guys into Fred's '65 Thunderbird and headed for our first taste of the "big time": a Nashville recording session.
Our designated record producer was a well-thought-of country gentleman, Clarence Selman. We met with him a couple of days before the session to decide what two songs to record for the 45 RPM record. This may give you an idea of how things have changed in the recording industry: we were in Nashville, had a recording contract, the session was booked, and we had not even heard the songs we'd be recording!
Clarence played us numerous "hillbillyish" songs from the archives of Mary Reeves' publishing company. We finally agreed upon two of the least country-sounding tunes: The Goodie Wagon and New Grass to Walk On.
|The Coffee Pot, shown here in 2005, was home to the Vikings for 9+ Years.|
The recording session was booked at RCA's Studio B, the source of early country and rock hits including many Elvis Presley classics (Studio B has been preserved and is currently included in the Country Music Hall of Fame tour). By today's standards the recording equipment was antiquated; multi-track recording was just coming into national play and RCA still utilized the old-style two-track equipment.
We played our own instruments on the session with added help from two Nashville studio musicians: legendary lead guitarist Fred Carter Jr., who had done the fine guitar work on Marty Robbins' El Paso and has played on scores of hit records; and drummer Willie Ackerman, who was later the resident drummer in television's "Hee-Haw" band. Fred Carter Jr.'s daughter, Deanna Carter, is now a big Nashville star.
The session went as well as could be expected even though we left a couple of mistakes on the recording, something that would never be done today. But we thought it sounded terrific; even Clarence Selman and Mary Reeves seemed pleased.
We gathered in the control room after the session and Fred, who had consumed several Budweisers during the process, put his arm around the dignified, stately Mrs. Reeves and blurted out, "We're gonna make you a star, baby!" The rest of us cringed, but Mary Reeves apparently had a good sense of humor.
The result of the session was a nationally released 45 on the London label, a major label on which the Rolling Stones' first hits were produced. The record actually got a mention in Billboard Magazine as an "up and comer". To this day, taking later experience into account, I am amazed at how easy it was to get a record released.
I have always thought that, at this point in time, we were close to "hitting the big time." We had broken into the hard-to-crack Nashville clique and we were signed with a respectable company which was willing to back us.
Unfortunately, it was not to be.
|On the way to Nashville! They made it about as far as Shawsville in Fred's black Thunderbird and had a flat, then ended up having to buy 4 tires. Allen, Fred, Lane.|
Evidently Reeves Enterprises had booked us for an important promotional engagement in Nashville through our local promoter. We did not find out about it until the last minute and it was impossible to get to Nashville on time. When we didn't show, Reeves Enterprises understandably broke ties with us. We never heard from them again.
Summer of '69: Woodstock. Chappaquiddick. Moonwalk. Vietnam. Student unrest. We saw the first 747 and the first Concorde. Hollywood was producing movies like The Wild Bunch, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, and I Am Curious, Yellow. New songs playing on the Coffee Pot's jukebox included Leaving on a Jet Plane, A Boy Named Sue, Suspicious Minds and Wedding Bell Blues.
Having caught a touch of "freedom fever", I left for Atlanta and obtained a job singing and playing guitar at a lounge in a Marriott hotel. During my six months in Atlanta, the Vikings replaced me with a petite 26-year-old lady with a very big voice named Joy Willey.
Steve Snedegar left the band at the same time and Tyler Pugh, home from Vietnam, rejoined the group on bass, replacing the old stand-up acoustic model with a new electric bass.
On my return to Roanoke in early '70 we became The Vikings VI: the members were Joy, Allen, Lane, Fred, Tyler, and myself.
I consider the next four years to be the band's most productive; we played at the Coffee Pot almost every weekend, performed regularly at a nightspot called the Colonial Lounge in Lynchburg, and sang at many private functions.
The Vikings VI became very popular, appealing particularly to middle-to-upper-class folks who enjoyed the universally appealing kind of music and the sit-down, concert-type atmosphere.
The popularity of the band could be attributed to several factors, among them the familiar music, the variety, and the diverse personalities contained within the group.
While many bands of the early '70s were dance-oriented rock groups, the Vikings VI concentrated on a combination of familiar soft-rock hits, folk music, country and bluegrass tunes, and sing-along music. The audience was often invited to participate; indeed, the audience was usually part of the show.
|The stately Mrs. Mary Reeves was once hugged by Fred who told her "We're gonna make you a star, baby!" Photo courtesy of www.jim-reeves.com.|
The various talents and personalities within the group contributed to it's versatility. Everyone loved Joy; she was so shy that she often appeared to be afraid of the microphone; but then she would step up and belt out a song like Old Blue or Silver Threads and Golden Needles and the crowd loved it. Fred's wit and ability to involve the audience held much appeal, and his version of Mr. Bojangles often brought tears. Allen also added humor and his voice suited many of the country and Kenny Rogers-type songs. Lane's deep bass voice enhanced the harmonies and he became adept on five-string banjo. I was the straight man and usually ended up singing the soft ballads. And finally there was Tyler Pugh, always perfectly dressed, stoically playing bass in the background except for times when he would take to the microphone for such "classics" as a comedic version of Tiptoe Through the Tulips.
And we created several characters of our own. Lane's "Ralph Peck" was a takeoff on a local car dealer radio commercial. Allen's "Ersal Pedigo" was a country bumpkin who hailed from Compost, N.C. He owned a gas station with no gas pumps, but it boasted a huge men's room which contained hundreds of machines that sold "birth preventative devices". These devices came in different shapes and sizes including wide ovals, recaps (less expensive) and steel belted radials (for the tough guys). Fred's irreverent "The Reverend J.J. Goodbreath" held a tent meeting every night and cleansed his followers of sin and degradation while he guzzled beer and jumped up on the patrons' tables.
The Vikings were never a tight instrumental band (the group did not have a drummer in those days) but the vocal harmonies were strong. All told, I would say that perhaps the biggest appeal of the Vikings VI was the obvious fun we were having. The audience felt that and it was contagious.
In 1971 we recorded an album at a small Roanoke studio, paid for by the three owners of the Coffee Pot. We now call it our "white album" because there was nothing on the cover (as in the movie Spinal Tap). Though the sound quality left something to be desired, the record did capture some of the fun quality of the band.
|The Famous RCA Studio B in Nashville, exterior and interior.|
Also in 1971 Lane quit the group and was replaced by Dewey Anderson. Dewey, an accomplished guitarist and banjo picker, added yet another realm of versatility to the band.
In 1972 we recorded another album at a good-quality studio in Greensboro, backed financially by Roanoke realtors Jim Body, George Overby, and Jim Ailstock. This album featured some original songs and included string and horn arrangements; and this time we put pictures on the cover. The record was well-received locally.
In late '73 Joy left the group and was replaced by the talented Ann Francis. Soon after, I quit to move to Atlanta once again and Lane rejoined the band.
The Vikings would enjoy two more years of popularity.
When I again moved back to Roanoke in the fall of '75, Joy and I discussed the possibility of starting a new band; we acquired the services of Leroy Smith, Grant Ellis, Gene Elders, Ralph Nash and later Joey McCray, and Woodsmoke was born. (Tim Ferguson would later replace Ralph Nash on drums.) Gene, an accomplished fiddle player, now performs with George Strait, Lyle Lovett and others.
Woodsmoke lacked the stage personality of the Vikings but made up for it with a hard-driving, instrumentally precise approach that made the band quite popular. Ironically the band, most members in their early 30s, appealed to a younger and more raucous crowd than had the Vikings.
In the meantime, the Vikings, growing weary of performing the same show for so many years, attempted to change their image. They added drums and changed their name to Paydirt.
This was a short-lived venture. Families began to take precedent over playing; the inevitable breakup came in 1976.
In 1978, Gene Elders and I left Woodsmoke. Ex-Viking Ann Francis replaced me and Woodsmoke performed until 1980.
|The Vikings V in 1967: Allen, Lane, Steve, Fred & Tommy.|
1982: Personal computers. Reaganomics. Herpes and AIDS. Popular movies were E.T., On Golden Pond, Rocky III, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Porky's. Current hit songs included Ebony and Ivory, Always on my Mind, I've Never Been to Me, and Chariots of Fire. Simon and Garfunkel gave a reunion concert in New York's Central Park.
I was again living in Atlanta; the Vikings had grown very much apart, all members settled into their individual lifestyles.
I became nostalgic while watching the Simon and Garfunkel reunion on TV and conceived the notion of a Vikings reunion. As it turned out, Lane Craig had the same idea; he was instrumental in getting the reunion together. All the band members were excited at the prospect.
We booked three nights in May of '82 at Caesar's Club in Roanoke which contained a large room that held over 500 people. I traveled back and forth between Roanoke and Atlanta often, beginning months before the event, for rehearsals with Joy, Ann, Allen, Lane, Fred, Tyler, and ex-Woodsmokers Leroy Smith and Ralph Nash.
We hired an answering service to take reservations and placed a newspaper ad. The response was phenomenal; all three nights were sold out in a matter of days, with long waiting lists. Chris Gladden wrote a feature newspaper article about the band and Channel 7's PM Magazine did an extended segment about the Vikings.
I was amazed. I had predicted a moderately good response but nothing like this. I was also nervous; I had not played with the Vikings for nine years and the group had not performed at all for six years.
The first night of the reunion Allen held a pre-concert party at his South Roanoke home where Lane presented us with red warm-up jackets imprinted with the Vikings logo. The atmosphere was festive and we truly felt like a family.
|Joy, circa 1971.|
All three nights of the reunion were wonderful. The band performed well, but it was the audience that made the concerts special. People who had long-since moved from Roanoke returned for the event. At the end of each night we were approached by members of the crowd with tears in their eyes. The year 1982 was Roanoke City's Centennial celebration and I had written the official Centennial song; when we sang it the audience stood and sang along. There existed a true sense of hometown camaraderie.
The weekend following the Caesar's engagement we played at Festival in the Park. The crowd was huge and, once again, the hometown closeness was evident.
After one of the 1982 reunion concerts I was approached by Jim Body, a friend and long-time Vikings fan who had backed one of our albums years earlier. He had an idea: why not put the band back together and gather investors to finance it as a full-time venture? Jim said he thought it would take $1 million to do it right and believed he could attract the interest and raise the money.
The band was on a real high from the reunion concerts and when I presented them with Jim's idea it was met with excitement...and much doubt that we could ever raise that much money. For various reasons several band members declined to commit to this risky venture.
In the end count, Joy Willey (now Joy Ellis), Allen Nelms, Fred Frelantz, Leroy Smith and I decided to "go for it." It was not a simple decision for any of us; in Jim's words, we would have to commit our lives completely to the project and, to the extent of paying back the money, the investors would "own us." That was not a happy thought, but how often is one offered the possibility of raising a million bucks to back something he loves to do?
Jim's idea was to create a Subchapter S corporation and offer 35 shares at $30,000 per share to interested investors. Body, who owned the Library Restaurant at the time, arranged a meeting at the restaurant with several local bank presidents and influential lawyers to discuss the feasibility of the project and to attempt to gain their early support.
|Fred as The Rev. J.J. Goodbreath preaching at The Coffee Pot, 1972.|
The general opinion was that it would never fly.
Also attending the meeting was businessman Sands Woody, who sat quietly and listened throughout the meeting.
When the meeting adjourned, I was pretty discouraged about the possibilities, but Jim was unruffled. Sands stayed around and offered his support both as an investor and fund-raiser. If nothing else, we already had two investors ... Jim and Sands ... even though some of Roanoke's professional financiers had discounted the idea.
As it turned out, the bankers were both right and wrong; it was decided later to lower the price per share to $20,000 to make it easier to attract investors. But the bankers did underestimate Roanoke's potential to back a project such as this.
Jim approached George Cartledge, a most well-respected supporter of many worthy community projects. Cartledge, who had attended one of the reunion concerts with my parents, had been familiar with the band for years. He and John Hancock, another one of Roanoke's most respected backers, showed interest in the concept.
Their presence attracted interest from other potential investors. Several informal meetings were held to discuss the approach.
It became obvious that, in order to raise the money, we needed a commitment from a national manager, one with impressive credentials who had experience and contacts in the music industry.
I was acquainted with an entertainment lawyer in Atlanta named Bob Stagg who suggested the name Wes Farrell as a candidate for group manager. Stagg had worked with Farrell on other projects and put us in contact with him.
|Fred, same night as above, is guzzling an audience member's beer.|
Wes, who lived in Miami, expressed interest and traveled to Roanoke to hear the band at an outdoor market concert in the early fall of '82 (yet another "reunion"). Following the concert I joined Jim, Sands, Wes and his wife for dinner at the Library Restaurant.
The first thing that struck me about Wes was his appearance: he was 43 and looked younger, slight of build, rather handsome, and immaculately dressed in a dark pinstriped suit. He was articulate and had a strong New York accent.
During dinner we learned some of Wes' history in the entertainment business. He had co-written some classic rock 'n' roll songs: Twist and Shout, Hang On Sloopy, and Come a Little Bit Closer, among others. He had been married to Tina Sinatra, Frank's daughter. He had owned a record company, Chelsea Records, which produced several hits and helped to launch the career of Roanoke's own Wayne Newton. He had been involved as either publisher, manager, or producer with such successes as the Partridge Family, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Rick Springfield, Barry Manilow, and Bruce Springsteen. He had once roomed with Neil Diamond. The Beatles recorded two of Wes' songs on their first album, Twist and Shout and Boys, and Wes had actually attended the session. He was also a friend of a number of record producers including "wall of sound" producing mogul Phil Spector.
An obvious source of concern was the fact that all of Wes Farrell's accomplishments were past tense. Wes explained that he had gotten burnt out amid the pressure-filled L.A. lifestyle and had moved to Miami to relax and start a family (his wife, Jean, was pregnant at the time of our meeting); but now Wes missed the business and was looking for a vehicle such as the Vikings project in order to return.
I surmised that Farrell would work especially hard for us because it would be a personal triumph for him to re-enter the industry with a hit.
|The Vikings in '72: clockwise from top: Allen, Dewey, Fred, Tommy, Joy, Tyler.|
He produced a proclamation contained in the Congressional Record signed by the Hon. Thomas Rees of California, a member of the House of Representatives, which praised Wes as being a "unique combination of artist and businessman...Over the last 18 months, Farrell as writer, producer or publisher has sold approximately 40 million records and tapes." The proclamation was dated April 28, 1972.
Wes Farrell's accomplishments...and his demeanor...were impressive. And he liked the Vikings. In the fall of 1982 Wes Farrell seemed perfect for the job. He was our man.
Shortly after Wes' Roanoke trip, Jim Body, accountant Jim Dillon, Allen and I flew to Miami to discuss with Wes details concerning contracts, projected numbers, etc. We met at his Coconut Grove home. His walls were lined with gold records and pictures of Wes with celebrities including John Lennon and Frank Sinatra. On the trip to Miami Jim Dillon was skeptical of the whole idea; on the return trip he was excited about the prospects.
The legal aspects of the project were quite complicated, to say the least. Everyone's name had to be on a contract before we could even start seriously pursuing investors. Bob Stagg, the Atlanta lawyer, drew up the initial contracts between the corporation and Wes, and between the corporation and the band members. Local firm Woods, Rogers and Muse handled much of the corporation paperwork: contracts were needed for the investors and an agreement had to be drawn up between the band members themselves. At some point the corporation hired a well-known New York entertainment lawyer, Ted Nussbaum, to help with negotiating Wes Farrell's contract and to assist in checking his background. I lost track of all of this, but I do know that money was spent settling the many legalities of our situation.
With the contracts signed and the Sub-chapter S corporation organized, a general prospectus was printed and Body's organization began looking for interested investors.
In the spring of '83, about 15 investors had verbally committed to the project and Body suggested that it was time for me to move back to Roanoke. I sold my house in Atlanta and returned in June of '83.
I arrived to find that the project had lost much of it's steam. For his own personal reasons Jim Body had decided to dissolve his Roanoke business and move to Charlotte. We had only five firm commitments; 30 more were needed.
|Another early 70s shot: Dewey, Tommy, Tyler, Allen, Fred, Joy.|
It is not my intention to discredit Jim Body in any way; I'll always be grateful for his interest in the band. Jim conceived the idea, he had only the best of intentions, and he truly wanted it to work. He is a good friend, one I've always been able to count on. Jim has since moved back to Roanoke and lives in a beautiful historic mansion which he restored to it's original state.
So, in June of '83, the project was on the verge of crumbling. It might have done so without the support of Sands Woody and two other young men, Steve Musselwhite and Frank Selbe. Their enthusiasm was a guiding force in our ultimate success of raising the needed backing.
When Body moved from Roanoke, Steve, Frank and Sands took over as the corporation's board of directors. These guys were to devote much time—all uncompensated—to our cause. To my knowledge they ran the corporation honestly and with dignity and stuck with us until the end.
With the support of the new board of directors, the band began setting up meetings with potential investors at my Timberline condominium. On each occasion the plan was presented and the band sang informally (often 'til midnight, much to my understanding neighbors' chagrin). The project was presented as not only a potential money-maker but also as a vehicle to help promote the Roanoke Valley.
|The 1982 Reunion at Caesar's. The RT&WN ad had it as a "Viking VI" reunion even though nine former members were in the ad photo and in the show.|
These "smokers" lasted all summer, and by September we had sold 33-1/2 shares out of the possible 35 and had $670,000 in the bank ... not the original $1 million conceived, but a formidable amount.
Because of the strong connection with the community, it was agreed upon to name the group "Roanoke." I understood the reasoning but I was never really comfortable with the name. The corporation itself was called The Vikings Group, Inc.
Our investors were an interesting mix of influential supporters and smaller businessmen. It was then—and is now—difficult to believe that these people had invested so much in our little band.
We were naturally elated and enthusiastic about gathering the needed funds. But I was also beginning to feel a certain uneasiness about the situation. The innocent euphoria felt at the reunion was gone. We had raised all this money but now we were obligated to pay it back. The band that had been an enjoyable diversion for so many years had turned into a business that was to compete in one of the most difficult of worlds: the music industry.