The Lost Souls: Found
The Lost Souls at the NCO Club on the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, Arkansas 1966
L to R: Bob Whitley, Mike Corbin, Mike Petray, Danny Goldman, Fil Griggs
Lost Souls: Found
first published in Ugly Things #27 2008
They say that every town across the US had their own garage group. After discovering that one particularly great group, the Lost Souls, was from my hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas, I made it my mission to find out their story, and seek out other 60s rock groups from Arkansas who were fading into oblivion. I went on a search for Lost Souls and my journey continues...
In 1966, Jacksonville, Arkansas was a town of about 17,000. The city was basically a suburb of Little Rock, the state capital, and also home to the Little Rock Air Force Base. There were two youth centers to accommodate the local and out of state teens living on Base. The place to hang out in town was Webb’s Dairy Diner. You could turn the corner and go to the Jacksonville Drive Inn theater that showed the subversive cinema of the 1960s idolized by enthusiasts today. After the movie, teens would dance to local bands and then head out to the edge of town to have a “woodsy” where they’d use headlights to make a space in the woods to do what teenagers do. Times were good, but as we all know there was a war on, and paradise was fragile at best.
The Lost Souls began as a four-piece combo: Fil Griggs on guitar and vocals, Mike Petray on lead guitar and vocals, Danny Goldman on drums, and Bob Whitley on bass. The group formed in May of 1966. Griggs was just coming out of another group named the Agents, who were the first garage band anyone remembers in the area. The Agents were Fil Griggs, Larry Lindsey, Bob Bankston, Richie Winkler, and Rusty Gwatney. Petray was also in some early groups, but their names have been lost to time. Griggs and Petray met shortly after the Agents' demise and decided to form their own group with Goldman, one of Petray's neighbors, and Danny's friend Whitley. The rest of the Agents formed the rival group to the Lost Souls, the Shans.
The proving ground for new groups was a skating rink attached to the Twin City Drive-In Theater in nearby Sherwood. After the last showing, the skating rink would be crowded with teens looking for a place to dance. The Lost Souls did well and were soon playing all over town.
One of the earliest shows was on May 20, 1966 at Jacksonville Junior High School, where Goldman was a freshman. Fashions-A-Go-Go was an event where students showed off their work while the Lost Souls played. This was a benefit show for the Home Economics Department and set a precedent for charity work that would gain them a lot of exposure in a few months.
Mike Corbin lived across the street from Griggs and tagged along to one of the early Lost Souls practices. Corbin stuck around and became one of the gang. After a few shows with Whitley on bass, the band decided to give Corbin a try. Soon Mike Corbin became the Lost Souls' official bass player. Whitley remained in the group for a short time as the tambourine player. This ended one night in an Air Base club when the owner asked why they had a tambourine player; he just didn’t get it. Shortly afterward, the Lost Souls solidified their lineup as a four-man group with Whitley out of the band.
One night, Griggs snuck into the Cimarron Inn, a top club in Little Rock, to hear the Spiders from Lawrence, Kansas. They were dressed in matching blazers and had a choreographed routine while they performed. Griggs rushed back to the band with an idea. Soon fter, the Lost Souls had houndstooth pants, Beatle boots, dark blazers with white dickies, and a more professional look. Next came the dancing. The group was in luck, Griggs was a great dancer. In fact, he was the first male cheerleader in Jacksonville. The group began rehearsing the synchronized kicks and shuffles that would prove to be their trademark.
The Lost Souls - L to R - Fil Griggs, Danny Goldman, Mike Corbin, Mike Petray
Fil Griggs’ father, Troy Griggs, began to take an interest in the group, seeing an opportunity to support his son’s talent and make the band more popular. He started booking gigs on Little Rock Air Force Base and anywhere else he could find. Soon the band was working nearly every weekend and Mr. Griggs became their manager.
The band was booked on Eye On Arkansas, a noontime local TV news program that featured entertainment on weekdays. They did well and were invited back for a second appearance. They also played shows for the March of Dimes and other charities. They even played a benefit for the Malvern cheerleaders, a nearby town where Petray’s cousin was on the squad. These events received coverage in the local newspaper, often with a photo of the band.
By the summer of '66, The Lost Souls started a Battle of the Bands in the Jacksonville Shopping Center. They would get on the back of a flatbed truck and invite their friendly rival band, the Shans, to play alternating sets. This drew huge crowds, up to one thousand teens, all dancing. There was no real battle exactly, just a place for friends to get together and support the local heroes.
The start of school gave them even more opportunities to play. They would have shows after football games and other school events. Mr. Griggs booked the group at the Non Commissioned Officer’s Club and the Officers Club on the Air Base, two places that were especially tough for teen bands to play since they were mostly performing to adults.
The group made their next television appearance in October at a Battle of the Bands at the yearly Livestock Expedition held in Little Rock. Although they didn’t win that night, it made them even more popular and set the stage for the recording of their sole 45 on Leopard Records, “Lost Love”/ “My Girl.”
After writing these two original songs, Petray presented them to the group. His inspiration for “Lost Love” was learning a Major Seventh chord from listening to the Byrds. “My Girl” came from listening to the Kinks. Mr. Griggs’ son-in-law sold insurance to Wayne Raney, a country harmonica legend who performed on the Grand Ole Opry and made a fortune selling harmonicas on the radio earlier in the decade. Raney had recently opened a recording studio in the tiny town of Concord, about 70 miles northeast of Jacksonville, deep in the country of Arkansas. Mr. Griggs booked the group for November 3, 1966.
The recording session was engineered by Wayne Raney and produced by his friend Jake Thomas. The studio in Concord, home to Raney’s Rimrock Records, mostly focused on country artists from the immediate area. Raney put Goldman’s drums in a booth and put the amps behind pianos and chairs around the main room. He then hung a single microphone. The band started with “Lost Love” and played several takes, but they thought it just didn’t sound right on playback. Raney suggested adding reverb using the studio’s echo chamber. The chamber consisted of a long, tall room with a speaker on one end and a microphone at the other. This created the reverb effect that varied based on how close the mic was to the speaker. The group loved the sound, and that's what you hear on the record. Next the group decided to tackle their other song, “My Girl.” It was done in two takes.
The group was invited to see the last of the records being made in the Concord pressing and printing plant. While the group was in town, they played a record release party to a small group of local admirers.
Little Rock was home to one of the biggest rock stations in the country, KAAY 1090 AM, “The Friendly Giant” at 50,000 watts of power. The range of the station reached the entire Midwest. Tommy Riggs, a legendary local rock and soul performer, also had a career as a DJ on KAAY known as Rock Robbins. Griggs and Petray decided to knock on the station door to meet Riggs, who they’d seen perform at the Cimarron Inn and heard on the radio. Riggs let the boys in and played “Lost Love.” It soon reached #1 on his call-in request show. They sold the record at the hippest place in Little Rock, Moses Melody Shop, a music store on Main Street. The record sold very well and they restocked with several 50-count boxes.
One of the most fondly remembered events of the Lost Souls was a one-song performance opening for James Brown in Little Rock at Barton Coliseum in the summer of 1967. There was an opportunity for a few bands to open the show, but they could only play one song apiece. The Lost Souls jumped at the chance to play with one of their idols. They played “Shake a Tail Feather.” At the moment where they sung, “bend over let me see you shake a tail feather” they would, in unison, put their butts to the crowd and shake them to the rhythm. The crowd went wild.
Soon after this performance, Petray began to lose interest in the group and eventually stopped performing shows. Two new members were brought into the group: Larry Hammons on organ, and Bill Ramsey on lead guitar. By mid-summer of 1967 the group had changed their name to Butterscotch Valley Freight Train.
In the fall of 1967, Corbin, Griggs, and Petray went off to Arkansas State Teacher’s College in Conway, about 40 miles west of Jacksonville. Goldman continued to go to high school and soon after stopped playing drums for good. Midway through his freshman year, Petray left school and was drafted into the Vietnam War. He didn’t see his friends for quite a while. After BVFT, Corbin was in a group called Alice's Restaurant and shortly after stopped playing bass. Griggs continued in bands throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s. He sang lead with an early version of Leviathan who later released an LP on London Records. Griggs also managed a group called Castle Magic featuring his friends from Jacksonville. He later joined back with Larry Lindsey of his first band, the Agents, to form Leavenworth in the early to mid ‘70s. In the late ‘70s, Leavenworth evolved into the band Snickers who made a demo that was courted by the major labels at the time. After Snickers, Griggs retired from music. For the past several years, Fil Griggs and Larry Lindsey join their other friends from the time of Jacksonville garage to reunite Leavenworth for a yearly show to raise money for cancer research.
The Lost Souls continue to inspire me to find the hidden gems of Arkansas that are still buried in the vault. My first collection: Lost Souls Vol. 1 - Garage and Psychedelic Music from the Un-Natural State: Arkansas 1965-1971 focuses on my favorite finds from the research. It is available at www.psychofthesouth.com
MORE BANDS FROM JACKSONVILLE!!!
The Back Door (members of the Agents)
The Systematic Sounds