Clockwise from top left: Boomer Hough, Bernie Leadon, Don Felder,
Barry Scurran, Tom Laughon
The Maundy Quintet were a ‘60s Gainesville band that had a lot going for them: two future members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, four part harmonies, excellent musicianship, a great work ethic, and a record that still sounds amazing after more than forty years. Tom was the lead singer and this is his story.
My mom and dad and my sister and I were sort of musically blessed—I was a baritone, Dad was a tenor, my sister was a soprano and my mother was an alto. Being good Baptists, we grew up singing in youth choirs, as we grew up the four of us would be in the talent shows at church camps or we'd sing in church. It was at a church camp where I learned baritone ukelele and I started a little folk group, around 1959, called Tryon, three of us, the first year at U of F we had another guy in the group who lived at SAE, John Pearson, and we called ourselves The Southgate Singers. I switched to a guitar, a cheap Mexican one.
Learning how to sing was through the family and churches. I was a typical preacher's kid. My dad was a very special guy, he was not what I would call your typical Southern Baptist; he was extremely broadminded and interested in world religions; his quest was 'what is it that creates a need in us to have faith, what are the commonalities, what's the need that drives that?' and he was a great storyteller. He was a leader and my mother was seen as a preacher's wife, but she could have been a CEO at any company, she had that ability from an operational and leadership point of view to make things happen. She was the president of the Women's Club in Gainesville, and because of her it became a really incredible venue for bands that paid good money.
My mother said to my dad, "Fred, you picked the ministry as your passion; let's let our kids pick whatever their passion is," so as I began getting interested in the band and as my hair grew that was never an issue with my parents. People in the congregation would call Mom and say "What is your son doing in a rock band, what's he trying to be?" and my parents would say "whatever he wants to be, and he'll be great at it."
We moved to Gainesville from South Carolina in 1958 when I was in the ninth grade. I went to P.K. Yonge Laboratory School and graduated in 1961. P.K. Yonge is an intriguing part of who I am today. We had more freedom than Gainesville High School students did, the way we were allowed to express our creativity. I got a lot out of P.K.
The harmony singing, that was the base mark of our band, that we did have the harmony. I don't know if it was from the church, or that we were in folk groups. Bernie was an acoustic genius and his interest was much more into acoustic than rock 'n roll. It was kind of magic. Barry could always go up to a high falsetto, I was lead singer but basically in that baritone range; Felder was lower than me. We did four part harmonies. And that's what set us apart. We could just grab it and do it. To me that was one of the main magic's of the group.
Boomer, our drummer, was also a DJ at WGGG. All the local bands were starting to make local records. Barry was our sales guy, he booked us from Miami to New York, and we got top dollar for what we did, he knew how to negotiate.
We started around 1963 but it wasn't the final lineup. The Beatles came out and everyone cashed out their acoustics and started getting electrics. The first version of my band was Larry Lipham on drums, he was going to be our drummer, but he couldn't even play drums, and he could get free drums, but we booted him out anyway. Then there was Boomer Hough and me, we got a couple of guitar players and bass players, and we were called The Pink Panthers. The reason we were the Pink Panthers, Boomer had a girlfriend, he won a giant, human sized Pink Panther at the State Fair for her, so that was our mascot, and my mom made us pink Nehru jackets to look like Beatle jackets, we had white turtleneck shirts, and Beatle boots, and we looked like shit. We even had wigs, while we were letting our own hair grow out, and we were pitiful. Bernie Leadon came in, and then we got rid of our lead guitarist and got Don Felder, who had been in The Continentals. Me, Boomer, Don, Barry Scurran on bass and Bernie. And we had a sixth person ultimately, whose name was David Mason, he was a child prodigy, we got a B-3 organ, we had to get a van to carry the damn thing in with all of our equipment, so we had six people in The Maundy Quintet and never changed our name.
The Pink Panthers played for about a year, having a very small repertoire, figuring out what music to play, how to play it, and basically figuring out, how do you get a group to party with you, and finding the right people. The Maundy Quintet I think we played five or six years, then Barry and I decided to go back to college, and that broke up the group.
The Maundy Quintet was making enough money, about $1000 a gig. Barry was in one of the two Jewish fraternities, and he became the social chairman and then the president. The Jewish fraternities paid more money than any of the fraternities for a band. And they were dueling each other, they'd bring in Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons for a gig! So we got some good gigs! If you went over to Daytona and played the little clubs there. We met The Allman Joys [Duane and Greg Allman's band] at the Women's Club. We'd hang out at bars and clubs there and see them all the time; neither band was making anything in Daytona, maybe $300, $400, something like that.
When we went up north around '68 we made good money, playing Greenwich Village. We opened for The Young Rascals when they played the University of Florida and they invited us up to a club in New York and we made some pretty good money that summer. It was called Ondine's, where they got their start, it was an eye-opener. Up until then we were just a cover band.
Before we came to New York we were doing covers, we were on the circuit, playing the fraternities in town, and Barry would get us gigs down in Miami at The World, a club with four stages, we'd play with The Byrds, The Turtles, pretty good bands, we were getting some good bucks.
But when we went up to play Ondine's, the bands there weren't playing what all the bands were playing in Florida, they were doing original stuff, or would do an amazing interpretation of a Beatles song. And that's when Barry, Bernie and Don said 'Man we gotta get some original stuff.' That's when we came back and really started interpreting songs differently, and when Bernie and Don said, we need to record a single. And Bernie wrote "2’s Better Than 3" and "I'm Not Alone" very quickly, it really wasn't a collaborative thing, he worked with Felder on both of them for a very short time, Don helped him with some of the riffs, and a week later we did the two songs live, and then we went down to H&H Productions [Gil Cabot Enterprises] in Tampa and recorded them. They came out on a "vanity" label called Paris Tower, so there was no label promotion of the record.[Both songs are on YouTube]
It was four-track, it was a little studio, the studio's whole mission in life was to get bands like ours to come and pay for a session, they made you feel like they could help promote your record, but they had no connections, so it was just order your minimum amount of records, and good luck and God speed.
Bernie Leadon was our arranger and producer, and on "I'm Not Alone" he laid down a little banjo segment, and he had me playing a tambourine and had us all come back and do a finger clicks in the song, it didn't take us long, we'd never heard ourselves recorded before, Don and Bernie worked with the engineer on the mix, and we had a record, and our drummer Boomer was a DJ at WGGG, so we had somebody who would play our record, and I remember calling, and requesting our own record so we could hear it. And, it got us more money! Having the record made us more money. It went to #1 airplay at WGGG for a while, because when you have six guys in a quintet calling up for requests you can get some good air time going on. We felt like we had a #1 world hit, and we made more money for gigs.
Our equipment went from hodge-podge at first to Fender stuff, we had Fender Showman amps, there was a group called The Nation Rocking Shadows, they were the band that had amazing equipment, and that influenced our guys, they all wanted the best, all I wanted was the best sound system, five mics, even Boomer had one or two songs he would sing, Ringo songs. We spared no expense. I just needed a microphone and a tambourine. Fender guitars, Don and Bernie both had three guitars each, Don had Gibson Les Pauls. Don was really into jazz riffs, he also liked a lot of hollow body guitars.
I always laughed, because when we heard The Allman Joys, they always had taped-together sort of gear. Then when the Stones came out with "Satisfaction," everybody had to get a fuzz tone! Everybody's getting a fuzztone, we had to get it for that night, but the Allman Joys, they just went and got an old beat up Sears and Roebuck guitar amp, a little teeny thing, took a screwdriver, busted the speaker, and they had a fuzztone sound. They had crap equipment but they were just incredible musicians, and here we're investing in top line gear and fuzz tones, and they had a better sound than we did because they were just so incredibly talented.
Barry and I invested all our daylight time practicing. It's the best team I've ever been on. No egos, never late for a practice or a gig, everybody did whatever it took to get the job done, setup, takedown, whatever, it was harmony, and a lot of work. At first we practiced at my house, in the "Florida room," with jalousie windows, Bernie [Leadon] always complained if the air conditioning wasn't cold enough, that was the only moody thing that ever happened in the band. Then we got a storage warehouse and set up and left our gear there. We also had a lake place out on Lake Geneva and we'd set up and practice there too. I taught Bernie and Don both how to water ski!
The only part time job I was doing at the time was working at Fordyce Realty, but we'd get together every day and practice if we didn't have a gig, around afternoon, we'd somehow congregate and start practicing. Another thing, we'd pick up songs really fast. Don Felder and Bernie were incredible, just the way the Felder would listen and listen and get it exactly right, that's what he did, but he didn't do it with us, he'd come to the practice and he'd know the song, and Bernie was the same way, he just had that ear. And Barry was a great, thumping bass player, so it didn't take long for us to make a song.
We would play "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen, "House of the Rising Sun," "Summer in the City." "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the M.G.'s, and Beatles songs. We did "No Reply," our version, after we came back from New York, we made it a really heavy, funky rock 'n' roll song, and it became ours, it had some great harmonies.
When The Animals came out with "House of the Rising Sun" we had the Hammond B3 organ and the speakers that came with it but we didn't have the Leslie, that neat swirling sound. But I had the key to the church, and so on a Friday night, we would go over there and we would borrow the two speakers from the sanctuary and take them to the SAE house or the KA place, the frats that paid well, and we'd set those things up and they'd sound like a million dollars, and then we'd sneak 'em back in on a Saturday night after a gig. We had a great college following at the church because you could always smell that little hint of beer from the organ after a party, it was something that kind of pulled you in. I don't think it was Dad, I think it was that little whiff.
I can just tell you that when we finally got the band, I mean the six of us, we had the longevity, and we really had a brand, the forefront of that brand would be the harmonies, and just the incredible musicians we had in the band. There was a sense of pride, you knew you were in a top thing, you knew you worked hard to be there, but it always worked, the connection with your audience was always top-notch; you made some decent money...and we had fun. And then being around Greg and Duane Allman...
Tom Petty at the time, he was Tommy Petty, to me he was a Paul McCartney pretender wannabe, he bought a Vox left hand bass and he was right-handed, he bought Vox equipment, so he was trying to do everything Paul McCartney did, but the joke around our band was, but he sounds like Donald Duck, he doesn't sound like Paul McCartney! So, to watch him evolve and become true to himself was really cool to watch, and like I said, to be around the Allman Brothers, so all the sudden you're around folks that, if you could look into the future at the time, you'd go, "these are all Rock and Roll Hall of Famers that are right here in your back yard!" Steve Stills was around and crossed paths with Don, I'd seen him in Gainesville hanging out. In that little space in time, and in that part of geography, there was just some really incredible stuff going on, and I loved it because it gave me the freedom to figure out who I was and what I was all about.
Our band...we were dedicated, we were committed to each other, we were holding each other accountable, we got results, our conflict was positive conflict, about songs and arrangements, but everybody had a say, ultimately when the decision was made there were no egos at the table. We teach Team and, that was the best team I've ever been on. That, and my mom and dad and my sister and me.
We were the Pink Panthers; we had the pink panther, we were dressed up like Looney Tunes...we knew we had to do something different, and the Beatles influenced everyone early on, and then the Rolling Stones, because we realized, we don't have to dress alike, we don't have to sound like pure choir boys, there's another direction we can experiment with and we've got to have another name. We were trying to think of something that wasn't a standard name, so Bernie says "how about something with Maundy in it?" And we're thinking wow, that sounds kind of British, that sounds cool, what does it mean? Bernie, being Catholic, said Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. We knew we couldn't just be Maundy, and we wanted it to sound British, so we thought Quintet; there's the Sir Douglas Quintet, we could be the Maundy Quintet; but to show how stupid we were, all of us figured the Sir Douglas Quintet was English, because they he was a Sir...so we were Maundy Quintet. Even when we got Dave Mason on B3 organ we stayed a quintet. So here's six people showing up for a gig, the people were happy; they got a value added. Sextet didn't sound good, quintet is better.
If you listen to "2's Better Than 3" you'll hear the harmonies taking on that little bit of English, Boomer started picking up an English accent and he started telling people he was English; and they thought we had an English drummer, and we made more money. The Maundy Quintet and we had an English drummer! The one thing I wish we had done, and it probably would have happened, and that was starting to do more of our own songs. That's my only regret, but I never regret going back to school.
I was in Dallas and I had graduated when the Eagles played there, and Bernie said "Can I stay at your house? We just came up with a really good song, "Take it Easy," we're playing at the bowling alley,” he and his dad stayed at my house, they opened for a band at the bowling alley, three weeks later they were back and they were in the Coliseum in Dallas, the song had gone straight up the charts.
The year that Bernie quit, about six years into it, and the few times I saw him, he hated it, and the relationships that were in that band, the egos, and he was miserable, and he told me in Richmond when he stayed with me that he was gonna quit the band, and he did. And that's when they brought in Don Felder and Joe Walsh.
I have no regrets. I loved what we did, loved how we did it, loved knowing those guys, but never really thought about "what did I miss?"