Four-piece combo from McKinney, Texas, formed in 1963
Inducted into the Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame in 2006
Wrote and recorded "Let's Dance"
(If you recognize any faces in the pictures from a Saturday afternoon concert at Gibson's Discount Center, let me know - firstname.lastname@example.org)
|First promo photo 1963||
James Goode - Rhythm guitar
|Newsletter from Gibson's Discount Center||"Let's Dance"||"Walkin' The Dog"|
|Ron Vermillion on Lead Guitar||Ron, James, Danny||James|
|Newsletter||Col Tom Emerson at Excel's concert Gibson's Discount Center||Jimmy Gotcher, Ben Rich||Mike & Beverly Cain|
Goff, Gloria McIntire,
|Nancy Goode, Tom Emerson||Carl Short, James Wylie, Bill Bass, Johnny Hudson, Tom Emerson, Sam Turner|
|Darlene Rutledge||Linda Kay Russell, Janice Cave, Tom Emerson, Johnny Hudson, Freddy Harris||Reunion at Poor David's in Dallas, 2007, with the original band.|
The Excels -
The Excels began as four McKinney High School kids who loved to play music and would get together periodically for practice sessions at the home of Gibson ‘Gib’ Harris. Gib, on drums, along with Danny Goode, lead singer and bass player, and Roger Bennett, lead guitar, were juniors at MHS, while Danny’s brother, James, a student at North Texas State in Denton, joined in on rhythm guitar and backup vocals. James also worked at Gibson’s Discount Center in McKinney, where the band’s first paying gig came about for an employee’s Christmas party at the store. The event was such an astounding success that the manager of the store suggested that the boys record "Let’s Dance" and even created a record company to produce it; thus Gibson Records came into being. The band’s first promotional tours consisted of playing on flatbed trailers in parking lots of Gibson’s stores around the North Texas area.
James Goode: "Danny and I lived on the poor side of town down by the cotton mill. My mom worked at the Haggar Pants Factory, while my dad, a disabled veteran from World War II wasn’t able to work. He had an old acoustic guitar that he played while my brother and I would sit and listen. He was our hero. The two of us picked it up over the years and guitar playing became one of the most important things in our lives."
Danny Goode: "My first electric guitar was a Silvertone from Sears & Roebuck that had the amplifier built into the case. Until I could afford to get a real bass, I’d just play the bass notes on the top two strings."
Gib Harris: "I played saxophone in the junior high band, and tried my had at football in high school. But I wasn’t very good at that, so when Danny and Roger started playing guitars I decided to take up the drums. We would practice upstairs at my house on Davis Street, which was fine with my dad; he’d been a musician before he met my mom, and even played with Lawrence Welk."
Roger Bennett: "I was a country boy who grew up on a farm near Melissa. I chopped and picked cotton to get enough money to buy my first guitar."
The exact way the band got its names has become somewhat of a faded memory over the years. James and Danny have two different recollections of how it came about, but both agree it could be either one. James: "We were throwing around names for the band but nothing we came up with seemed quite right. There was a mop leaning against the wall that was labeled ‘Excello Mop Company’ and somebody said, ‘How about the Excellos!’ And I said, how about the Excels?"
Danny: "The way I remember is Gib had a 1964 Ford Galaxy 500 XL. We thought that would make a good name, so XL became the Excels."
As the Excels’ popularity grew, the band performed at some of the hottest nightclubs in Dallas and at fraternity parties and high school dances. The band would eventually go on to bigger and better things, rubbing shoulders with acts such as The Ventures and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and appearing on various television shows in Texas and Oklahoma.
Danny: "The first time I really knew we had something special was at the old Commercial Hotel in downtown McKinney. I remember that gig most of all. We were playing a dance for the Anna High School prom and with every song we played the dance floor was packed. There was an excitement in the room that is hard to describe. We ended up playing two hours extra, free of charge of course."
James: "One of our most fun gigs was for a North Texas State homecoming dance at the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas. When we started playing there were about 250 people in the room and as the night progressed the big dividers to other ballrooms were slid open and by the time we finished there were probably 1000 people in there dancing and having a great time. At one point I saw some sort of commotion on the dance floor; it was Jayne Mansfield. There were all kinds of guys gathered around her. The mayor of Dallas, Earl Cabel, was also in the crowd."
Roger: "Being small-town boys, we’d never really been anywhere, and going some of the places we went was really something. We had a gig in downtown Dallas, which we went to in three cars, following Gib. Once we got down there we could see the building, but couldn’t figure out how to reach it. We stopped at a red light, one behind the other, and a cop pulled up with his red lights flashing. He looked at us and said, ‘I guess y’all picked the wrong leader.’ We were on a one-way street going the wrong way. We told him we were just some country hicks in a band and had never been in the big city before. He didn’t give us a ticket. As a matter of fact he led the way to that building."
There was a fifth and very important member of the group, although he wasn’t in any of the pictures or newspaper articles, Jimmy Gotcher, who took care of transportation, handled the equipment, lights, and everything else that was required to put on a show. James: "We couldn’t have done any of the things we did without Jimmy."
In May of 1966, Roger, the only married member of the group, received his draft notice and would serve his country as a helicopter mechanic for the US Army in Korea. Later that year, Gibson Harris, then a student at North Texas State, enlisted in the Army and served with a top-secret security agency for three years in Germany. Although other musicians were brought in to take their places, the Excels would never be the same and ceased to exist in 1967. James went on to earn a PHD and became a teacher and a football coach, while Danny continued to play music. Jimmy would go on to have a long illustrious career as a McKinney firefighter.
However, the story of the Excels did not end there. During the 1980s, American Rock-A-Billy music would undergo a resurgence in Europe and "Let’s Dance" would begin appearing on compilation albums and be recorded by a new breed of young rockers. In 2006 the Excels would be inducted into the Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame.
Roger, now retired, resides in Pottsboro and plays regularly with a band affiliated with his church. Gib, in the insurance business, has been a long-time resident of Richardson and hasn’t sat down behind a drum kit in years; Danny, co-owner of Oak Cliff Glass and Mirror in Dallas, lives with his new bride, Dana, in North Richland Hills. At 61, he is still playing guitar and singing with a rock n’ roll band. James, retired, lives in Garland and still plays bass occasionally. The guys recently got word that a band in Norway has just recorded "Let’s Dance", forty-nine years after the Excels first played it on the Gibson Discount Center parking lot in McKinney.
A Little film about rock and roll history
"If you were booked at an A-Go-Go, you were a star"
Featuring: Lenny Kaye, Billy Miller, Ira Robbins, The 5,6,7,8's, Bruce Channel, King Coffey, Johnny Reno, Joe Nick Patoski, Ron Chapman, Bobbie Wygant, John Nitzinger, Bugs Henderson, The Elite, Larry & The Blue Notes,The Barrons, The Cynics, The Mods, Jack & The Rippers, The Novas, Kandy Kanes and more…
change in Rock and Roll started with some teenagers, alone in the parents'
garage, banging away at three chords.
MARK NOBLE, Film Maker: "Thanks for the mention. The Excels have been great to us. They are important to the film. We interviewed over 70 people and more than a dozen bands. As you can imagine it was pretty tough to make the final edit and many great guys and stories have been left out simply due to time constrains (I'd love to make a 4 hour movie but my distributors are less excited). The Excels appear multiple times. Their presents and stories were simply that strong. I just can't say enough about them."
For more information on the film go here: http://www.myspace.com/teenagogogaragebands
Pictures from Teen-A-Go-Go Film Premier after party.
Notes from James Goode: The Teen-A-Go-Go movie, produced by Mark Nobles and directed by Melissa Kirkendall, was screened Sunday, November 16, 2008, at the Lone Star International Film Festival in Fort Worth. The movie is a documentary on the music of the ‘60s in the Fort Worth area. I have yet to figure out how that little ole band from McKinney (The Excels) could have screen time in the movie. The guys in the Excels, Roger, Danny, Gibson and me, never took ourselves and our playing seriously, we just had a great time playing, and shoot, we actually got paid some of the times we played. Any way, I just want to say that we were very flattered (can a guy say that?) and we were blessed to have had the opportunity to be in the movie and we also got to play in the after party too!! I've attached a few pictures of us playing the party and I've also included a few shots of Jim Gotcher, Bugs Henderson, and even a shot of Bobbie Wygant (remember when she was on television?) A special thanks to Kent Horn for doing a great job on drums!!!
|The Excels performing at the
Lone Star Film Festival in Ft. Worth
|Roger Bennett||Kent Horn (filling in for Gibson Harris)||Danny and James Goode|
|Bobby Wygant||Jimmy Gotcher||James & Bugs Henderson||Roger|
EXCELS still going in France
Date: Thu, 28 May 2009
The Excels on stage at Teen-A-Go-
"Let's Dance" performed by the Tawny Owls,
"Let's Dance" performed by the Hi Q-'s at the