Denver's Own Wild Ones
Name tag from a show.
The above shots were taken at the "Rug-ged Room and appeared in The Jefferson Sentinel on May 27, 1965. Members from L-R are: Roger Liston, Dan Johnson, Ron Morgan, Danny Clapper and Mark Bretz.
Quick History: The Wild Ones was a group that had its beginnings with Roger Liston and Ron Morgan while they were still in high school. I joined the group in September of '64 upon my return from France while they were performing at Sam's Lookout which was on top of Lookout Mountain and served 3.2 beer. At this time, Dennis Keil, Saxophonist/Vocalist, was leading the group and Danny Clapper had not yet replaced our main singer, Al. Danny Clapper joined when the group traveled to Ft. Collins to perform at Clancy's bar from about January-May of 1965. After we quit Ft. Collins, Mark Bretz joined the band on keyboard and we played the Rug-ged Room through about the end of November of that year and spent the Christmas season at the Peppermint Lounge in Hawaii. The group broke up about March of 1966.
Sam's Lookout Period: This is the time when I joined (Sept.-Dec. '64). The group was in a transformation. As I recall, there was a difference of opinion in what the direction of the band should be. Our singer/guitarist, Al, was a bit older than the rest of us. Our younger members were quite excited about "making it" or getting to the recording contract stage. as it has become know amongst musicians. Al had a regular day job and was not inclined to move around to play. The band left the mountain club and moved to Ft. Collins to perform at Clancy's with new singer/guitarist, Danny Clapper.
Clancy's @ Ft. Collins Period: (January-May, 1965) When we moved from Denver, it was the start of our maturing as a band and as a team of friends. We worked, ate and partied together. I sometimes wonder just how we survived those five months. There was so much that happened during that time that it seems to be much longer in retrospect.
One of the first orders of business was to get established in the community. This all started off with several brawls with the group of young men that we called "townies". As we were to find out later, these young guys were a great bunch. The problem was that we had just moved into their "turf" and justifiably they weren't going to stand for this action. We had a bit of celebrity status with the young ladies and this competition was not welcomed.
Roger, our drummer, in a recent telephone conversation spilled the goods on me. He recalls how I was playing pin-ball one afternoon at the club when two guys proceeded to jump me and start a fight. I made my way quickly to a spot under the pin-ball machine with my two assailants pouncing on me. In hot pursuit were two bouncers that were trying to grab the perpetrators of the fight. We all ended up in a huge pile with me on the bottom. Roger came running into the area and when I finally came up for air he had asked me what had happened. Apparently, bruised and battered a bit, I responded: "I just had to kick some "a**". He says that he has told this story--at my expense--for the past forty years.
Ft. Collins is the home of Colorado State University and we were adopted as the official band of the Tri-Delta fraternity. We did a bit of partying with these guys during our stay in town. One of the craziest moments that I recall was when a group of us were together just after closing down Clancy's. Several "townies" decided that we should be dressed down a bit in the parking lot. We jumped into our car and took off for town.....bad guys in pursuit. The chase car bumped our rear bumper several times until Roger pulled out his single-shot .22 rifle and took a pot-shot at them. They backed off and the incident came to an end. We ended the evening partying at the Tri-Delta house.
After our on-going battles with the local guys, we ended our stay in Ft. Collins with a truce in the form of a football game. We all met in one of the local parks and chose up sides. I can't remember which side won but I do know that there was a large stack of round shaped aluminum cans with the Coors logo along the sidelines.
Our apartment at Prospect Plaza was an absolute filthy mess. Our girlfriends took matters into their own hands and suggested that we get together and decide what duties were to be assigned to whom. This worked well except for the one duty that remained unassigned: taking out the trash. Our pile kept growing and would end up being the "ammunition" that broke the camel's back. It seems as though our girl friends got in an argument with someone in the parking lot from our third floor window. Something was thrown and all of the trash was tossed out the window and ended up on this poor guy's car. Can you believe that we were evicted?
Rug-ged Room Period: (June-November '65) These few months were some of the greatest for us. We played a local teen club called the Rug-ged Room which was a converted pool hall and was completely carpeted. The owner, Len Goldberg, became our manager and we began to become quite popular in the Denver area. We were voted best band of 1965 by a radio station and were just on top of the world.
It was during the summer of 1965 that we had the opportunity to open for Herman's Hermits, Wayne Fontana and the Mind Benders Freddy and the Dreamers and The McCoys (Hang on Sloopy). In this time period, we backed Freddy Cannon (Tallahassee Lassie) and Charlie Rich (Behind Closed Doors).
Danny Clapper and I had the opportunity to do some modeling of the "English Look" as it was called. The clothing designer was Caroline Charles who as of 2008 is still in the business. The shot to the right is of the local auto show where we performed. I believe that it was at the Denver Coliseum.
#1 #2 #3
The photos above were taken at the Freddie and the Dreamers concert:1965.
Notice the name on the bass drum. We were still the Wild Ones. I think that we were having an identity crisis.
#1: (L-R) Ron Morgan-guitar, Dan Johnson-bass, Roger Liston-drums
#2: Dan Johnson-bass, Roger Liston-drums
#3: Ronnie Morgan and Dan Johnson
Here's some promo shots in our "surf" costumes. Notice that we're not wearing shoes. During this period, this was our trade-mark.
Roger, our drummer owned a 1938 Studebaker Hearse which became our band wagon. It was powered by an Olds 347 motor as I recall. I am amazed that we didn't wreck this vehicle. The steering linkage around the motor was a lot like "Lincoln Logs" and creaked like I do today. I can remember driving an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) in Vietnam that had better handling. The second picture is one that was used as an advertisement for the Herman and the Hermits show. I think that I do recognize a couple of fans in this shot.
Here's Freddy "Boom, Boom" Cannon with Wild Ones.
Ron Morgan, Dan Johnson, Freddy Cannon, Roger Liston, Mark Bretz
I almost forgot about this story: We did a gig at the Whisky a Go Go at some point while we were in Los Angeles. The Wild Ones did the afternoon show to kick things off. The early evening show was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Frank was in rare form and complained about the air conditioning and what a lousy gig it was. The evening show was capped of with Johnny Rivers. I hadn't remembered the sequence of events but Roger Liston, our drummer, states that we did a full week at the Whisky just prior to our leaving for Hawaii and the Peppermint Lounge gig in Waikiki.
We played the Whisky several times during our stay on the west coast. We mainly played rock n roll so anything prior to 1955 we didn't know or care about. One evening a man walked up to me and asked if we would play "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael. I said that we didn't know the tune and the man pointed a few feet over from my side of the stage and said: "That's Mr. Carmichael, the composer." When we took our break, I was invited over to his table and we were introduced. That was a memorable night! On another night, I had the opportunity to meet the famous Soupy Sales.
In December of 1965, our group traveled to Hawaii and played a month gig at the Peppermint Lounge. This club was named after the hit song: Peppermint Twist. The one thing that we learned from this job is to not play so loud that you can't hear your mistakes. The owner of the club was named Dave and he was quite hard on us for playing too loud. The above picture is one of Ron and Roger in the main picture with Danny Clapper on the right. We returned to Colorado and immediately went to Aspen and played at Galena St. East. Our fans were amazed at our improvement. Now, when we turned up the volume, it all worked
Wild Ones @ Galena St. East in Aspen, CO 1966
Ron Morgan, Roger Liston, Danny Clapper
I don't have any pictures of our time in Hawaii but a good side story is the following: We were sitting in LAX waiting for our flight. I kept looking at this particular man. It's always been a laugh in my family that I never can go anywhere that I don't know at least one person. It finally dawned on me who he was: Chuck Berry! I walked up to him and asked him: "Are you Chuck Berry?" He replied: "Yeah, man, be cool." I told him that I was a big fan of his and that we were going to be performing at the Peppermint Lounge. On our opening night, he showed up at the club with his lady friend and I had the honor of singing one of his songs, "By, By, Johnny" for him. What a great memory!
Roger Liston @ Hermits Show
In August of 1965, The Wild Ones performed with Herman and the Hermits. It was a fantastic experience for our group. When we were around the age of 19-20, Peter Noon (Herman) and I looked very much alike. There were many times that I was mistaken for him. I think that Roger has a picture of us together. When we had our cavalcade prior to the concert, many of the fans chased the Wild One's car as they thought that I was him. We all were young and had a great time partying together. Some twenty years later, the Hermits were doing a show at the Denver coliseum where it was an open access show. I had a wonderful time talking and reminiscing about our show in 1965.
While performing in Denver during 1965, we played several gigs with Johnny Green and the Green Men. These guys were quite the show. Johnny Green would eat fire on stage. We'd never get away with something like that today. The best part of the show was that all of the guys had their hair dyed green and combed into huge pompadour style. Denny Lee was their lead guitar for a bit and we later met up in LA and did a few things together.
With Colorado Bands and Fan Clubs
By JUDY KNIGHT
The Wild Ones. Remember them? A year ago they were probably the most popular band in town. In fact, they very nearly stole the show when they appeared at DU Stadium with the Hermits. We receive many calls asking about them. Just last week, a not-too-hip local representative of a record company referred to them as one of the top three bands now In Denver. As reported here last fall, the group broke up when two of the members were drafted. This week we received news of the other three ex-Wild Ones and thought we'd pass it on to you.
Roger Liston, drummer, has formed his own group. They've just signed contracts and leave shortly for a 14-week club engagement in Hawaii.
Guitarist, vocalist, Danny Johnson is on the west coast with a group called, Where It's At. They've just signed a contract with Mitch Cowen for a long string of west coast club dates.
And, Ron Morgan, lead guitar, is also an the west coast with a group called Peter and the Wolves. Their leader is Loretta Young's son. By the way, Peter and the Wolves are presently looking for a longhaired bass player who can also sing. If you qualify and are interested, give me a call,
That's it for today, Next week, should be able to fill you in on a top British group's plans to record a song written by members of one of Denver's top bands!
From the KBTR All American Newsletter, about July, 1966
Sadly, everything changes. Each of us moved on to different things. I can't say bigger and better because, really, the band the Wild Ones will always be the best of the best when it comes to how it shaped and moved each of us. Unlike many bands, we broke up and remained friends. We all had a love for each other that only we experienced and never lost. Two of our group as of this writing have left us: Ron Morgan in 1989 and Mark Bretz sometime after 2000. I miss each of them sincerely.
EXTRA! EXTRA! Over the 4th of July week-end of 2008, I got a call from Roger Liston and Ron Morgan's brother, Robert. We haven't been in contact for about 40 years so look for some more Wild Ones info and pics.
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