Gary McEwen - 2003

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Gary McEwen was the guitarist/songwriter for The Hombres, a wonderful Memphis, TN rock and roll quartet who hit it big in 1966-67 with the fluke single "Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)." It's one of my all-time favorite songs, so I was more astonished than dirt when I received an email from Mr. McEwen in October 2003 letting me know that he had seen my review of his old band's sole album ( and was pleased to see that people still remember the song 36 years later. I asked if I could interview him about those wild woolly days of weird music business strangeness, and he responded that he'd love to hear from me! The following interview is a combination of our one-hour phone conversation and some background information that he forwarded me via email. But I've magically strewn them together in such a way that one can't be discerned from the other. I'm a magicalicisionan! My questions are in bold; his answers are in plain text.


Hi there Mark, my name is Gary McEwen and I was one of the members of the Hombres that created the "one hit wonder" called "Let It All Hang Out."

That's great! It's good that we are talking on the phone.

I just wanted to write to you and say "Thank You" for taking the time to even mention the band's name.

Write? What do you mean? We're on the phone!

See that, readers? It's incredible! You simply CANNOT TELL which segments are from the telephone and which are from the email!

Oh alright, enough of this silliness.


Could I speak to Gary please?

Is this Mark?

Yeah! Hey!

Hey Mark!

Are you in the middle of dinner or anything?

No no, I'm just sitting here watching the news. It's bad here, just like it is there.

Oh yeah?

Yeah! (laughs) Where are you anyway?

I'm in New York.

New York. Great.

Home of the Yankees. Not that I've been following them, but that's alright.

What's the weather like in New York?

It's okay. It's been really nice actually. Today was a nice day.

It's beautiful here too.

Good. Hey, I was really surprised and kinda thrilled to get that email from you. How did you run across my review anyway?

Well, the other day, someone at work was asking about the group that I played in. This person was of another generation, so they may have never heard "Let It All Hang Out" before. I don't really know. Anyway, we decided to look the group up on the internet and bang! I saw your website. I believe your analysis was pretty close to correct in what you said, both good and bad. I couldn't help but grin as I read it.

Well, I really like the album! So what are you up to today?

Well, I was doing something kinda odd today. I was off work today, it was an off day, and I got on my computer and started wandering around, and I discovered that "Hang Out" had been done by David Lee Roth.

Yeah, on his new album.

I'm not sure if I downloaded it or not. I forgot to go back and look.

Oh, it's terrible. You know, I kinda like David Lee Roth, but he ruins that song.

Does he? Guess he's having a bad year.

Have you heard all the other covers of that song? The Nails and John Cougar -

I think I have a cassette tape of all of the versions on it. However, I couldn't tell you what the Nails did because I don't even remember hearing it but once. I believe there was a group called the "O.J's" that did a cut on it. As far as Mellencamp's version, I was sadly disappointed in what he did. Did you ever see the video that he did on it? It was terrible! I had a wonderful idea for the video of that song, but it never got that far. Besides that, he made the song look more sexual and it really isn't at all. He also tried to write another verse to the song and he didn't understand the pattern. He blew that too. I believe that John was going through some kind of mid-life crisis at the time and I believe he changed labels not long after the "Big Daddy" album. I found another one - there was a 60s oldies album that they put out that had "Let It All Hang Out" on it, which I didn't know anything about.

Oh really?

Yeah! I'm always the last one to know anything. And I found another "Let It All Hang Out" by a group called The Elements.

I haven't heard that one.

Nah, I hadn't either! And one other thing I found - I'm trying to remember whether it was.. I'm not sure if it was missing one of the terms on the label. I'm going upstairs to see if I can find it. This has really been an interesting day for me. I found a copy of "Let It All Hang Out" on eBay. And the guy who's selling it is from Canada, and there's a picture of it here and it says "Verve Folkways."

Huh? It's on Forecast, I thought?

That's right! It was! But on this one, it says "Folkways." And it's labeled "Let It All Hang Out"; it doesn't have "Let It Out." So I bid on it to see if I can get a copy.

You know, I wonder if it's the same single I have, because the single I have just says "Let It All Hang Out." But I never really looked at the label.

I'll tell you what they did, Mark. At that particular time, to say "Let It All Hang Out" just became such a seductive or such a negative type of connotation. Everybody's mind goes in the dirt immediately, you know. And they thought, "Oooooh! Wait a minute, that's too strong! That's way too strong!" You know? Because "Sock It To Me Baby" had just came out and that was really getting, you know, at that particular time, it was like, "Oh oh oh!" So what they did was shorten it and call it "Let It Out." And then when they found out that the whole world wasn't gonna erupt, then they went back and I think they made some copies with "Let It All Hang Out" on it. So if yours has got just that copy, cool. And not only that, but on the original record, the only name that's written underneath it as a writer is "BB Cunningham."

Yeah, that's what it says on my album copy. Who is who on the cover of the album? Which one is you? (READERS - Please take a look at or you won't understand this next part at all!)

I've got on a sombrero, and I'm standing up on top of the wall.. Hang on, my wife just gave me the album cover. Okay, I'm the guy on the top right corner. I can't believe I've got a cigar in my mouth.

Yeah, it looks like three of you do!

The guy standing there in the center with his sombrero on his back and his foot on the beer can - that's Johnny Hunter. Johnny was a fairly straight drummer - well, I shouldn't say "fairly straight." He was just a little odd sometimes. Johnny used to do some kind of strange things. And of course, you know, I got to know these guys on the road. I mean, when you spend 24 hours a day with someone, they kinda become your family, you know? I remember one time we were playing a show somewhere - I don't remember where it was; it could have been close to Indianapolis or something. But I remember we were staying in the Holiday Inn, which was not unusual, but this particular Holiday Inn was two stories high, and the pool was down to the right. There was kind of a covered walkway to it. So anyway, Johnny goes up, gets a brand new pair of my tennis shoes - not his, MINE! - because he don't want to hurt his feet on the rocks on top of the roof! And the fool jumped off that roof - flat roof - into the pool! And it's a wonder it didn't kill him! I mean, he went "WHEEEOOO-WUMP!" And he said, "Well, it was a little hard when I hit!" We thought he was gonna break his legs. That's when we should have known he was suicidal.


But later on, after our group broke up, he started playing with some other people, and he got into drugs. He wasn't really into it that much when he was with us, but apparently he'd been into some harder stuff, I think. And he ended up, I guess he just couldn't handle it or something, and one night he took a pistol and put it to his head.

Oh no.

And he had a wife and three kids.

Oh, that's awful.

Yeah, that's terrible. He was really a pretty nice guy. Kinda wacky, but nice. And standing above him, on the left side of the wall without the sombrero, is Jerry. Jerry was the leader of the group. He was the bass player. I mean, he was not a rock player at all. He and Charley Rich were old buddies and they would play together sometimes when we were in the clubs. We did a lot of shows with Charley, a great jazz pianist. But Jerry had been a jazz bass player, and he'd done SOME rock. And BB's the one on the left, sitting down. Yeah. He's tall, thin and a character. Now BB now wears kind of a, I guess you'd call it a Captain's Hat. You know, just to kind of make him distinguished.

What does he do now?

He's working with Jerry Lee Lewis as a bass player. He's been working with Jerry Lee now probably about five years. We did a lot of shows with Jerry Lee. And he still is the King - of JERKS.

Ugh. So how did the band form anyway?

The group was really formed in 1964 by a man named Ray Brown. He called me up one day and asked me if I played the guitar and could I sing. I told him, "Yes." He then asked me if I was available to travel or was I working somewhere. Well, I had just been laid off by the railroad. It was the only strike that the railroad ever had and I got severed. So, I was unemployed with a wife and a baby on the way. Ray Brown proceeded to tell me that a teenager in Nashville named Bucky Wilkins had recorded a record entitled "Little GTO." The record was about to go Gold, and they needed a group to become "Ronnie and the Daytonas," which was the name of the group on the record. He told me that there were studio musicians that played on the record and that Bucky Wilkins's mother was not about to let he still-in-school son go on the road.

Ray told me the place and time to meet three other musicians that I didn't even know then, and we became the Daytonas. Who was Ronnie? We didn't even know which one in the group was going to be Ronnie. I didn't want people calling me by another name. So we decided that no one was going to be Ronnie unless we had to have one. You know, like radio interviews, television and stuff.

What!? So if somebody wanted to interview "Ronnie," who did the interview?

We kinda drew straws! (laughs) We didn't know who was gonna be Ronnie!

That's ridiculous!

Don't be shocked. This type of thing was done all the time in the music business. So anyway, we didn't have time to rehearse and get a show together, so we made up a list of the songs that we could play and did them the way we wanted to do them. Some of those same songs ended up on the "Let It All Hang Out" album.

Anyway, about a week after the band was formed, we were on stage with some of the big groups of that day - The Animals, the Ventures, Chad and Jeremy, Chuck Berry and so on. We played with a whole bunch of them. They had package shows and you never knew half the time who you would be playing with the next night. No, I didn't ask for everyone's autograph and have a lot of pictures made with the stars! I just did my part, played the best I knew how, and enjoyed it when it was fun. Hated it when it was bad. Ronnie and the Daytonas stayed together - with several personnel changes along the way, for the better - and we did the tours and one night stands as long as the money held out. However, Bucky Wilkins stopped making the records and the group dried up.

So how did "Let It All Hang Out" come about?

We wanted to record a record on our own because we felt like we were just really a bunch of fakes - pretenders and not the real deal. We decided to stay home and played in a nightclub which at that time was called the "El Toro" lounge in West Memphis, Arkansas. We'd pack the people in on the weekends. We still did a few gigs out of town when the money was right, but most of the time we just played the lounge to keep some steady money coming in on a regular basis. It was while we were on tour in Texas that an opportunity came about. There was a promoter named Huey Maux that heard the group play one night and he invited us to stay over and record something in his studio located in Pasadena, Texas. It's just outside of Houston. And Huey had had some big hits - he had like Roy Head and two or three other groups.

So it was in a beat-down motel room that BB Cunningham and I began the writing of "Let It All Hang Out." B.B and I began the song but we waited until the next morning at the session to finish it up. Jerry and Johnny added to the song and we decided to cut it. We recorded the song the next morning along with a few others. There was some young engineer from New York City that got the cut on it. We recorded it one time - that's the reason there are mistakes on it. You remember on "Let It All Hang Out," at the very beginning where it says, "I preach, my dear friends, you're about to receive -"


That's Johnny Hunter. He was playing drums, so he's sitting down in this booth. And so they just turned the microphone over top. And that's why it doesn't sound real strong.

Yeah! It sounds like they -

The mic's probably two feet above. Now Johnny got that line off of some album somewhere, called something.."Wild". something "Whiskey and Wild Wild Women." I can't remember it! But it was some kind of thing he heard. We never heard it! But he did, you know, I forget what it was, but I remember him saying that occasionally. And just for some reason, he decided to throw that in! And the second thing that happened was "PBBLBLBLBLLLLH!" That was just BB just blowing into the microphone. You know, like you're blowing a fart or something. And what happened - we had written "Hang Out" and we didn't have any melody. That's why we didn't sing it!

Well, it's kind of a strange thing. The night before, BB and I wrote the first two verses because he and I were rooming together. I'll tell you that story in a moment. But the thing is - we went in the next morning just absolutely dog-tired to record this thing. And what's really terrible is that the studio was located in Pasadena, which is kind of a suburb of Houston. Well, they had a paper mill just over about a block or two from there, and they had literally moved the town over. Where we were, it was abandoned. It looked like a ghost town. We were staying in a little old dumpy motel. I don't even know what the name of it was - just "Motel"! And so we drove about six blocks down the street to Huey's studio, which I don't remember what the name of it was. It wasn't anything beautiful; it was just a room. And so when we went in to do "Let It All Hang Out," we didn't have any melody to sing. Because none of it was really designed for that. And they said, "Well, you need to come up with some kind of riff. Do something!" And so I just started playing, started whacking out a guitar lick. And when I started doing it, I wasn't thinking about WHOSE I was playing. I was just playing something that felt original to me, that sort of fit the times. And the rest of them just started playing! And so we said, "Hey! Well, that's cool."


And so BB said, "Well man, I still don't - I mean, how are we gonna sing this?" I said, "I tell ya what. Don't sing it - just SAY it." And what we were really doing was - we wrote it as a spoof on Bob Dylan. You know, because Bob Dylan at that particular time in the 60s was all like "AH CHA! VICTORY TO BE A FEE OH HEE BEE!"

Yeah, like "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

It was just a bunch of crap! And I knew it was crap, and he knew it was crap, but he was making all kinds of money on it. And so really, at that particular time, we just wrote "Let It All Hang Out" because we were pissed! We just did it to basically out-Dylan Dylan. Can you imagine that?

That's great!

You know, `cuz people'd say, "Why don't you come up with something different?" And I thought, "Well, if DYLAN can get away with that crap, WE'LL do it. And it'll be so nonsensical, NOBODY will be able to figure it out!"

Now. Where did "Let It All Hang Out" come from? Let me take you back to the night before. Like I said, we were doing a tour in Texas. We were Ronnie and the Daytonas. So we were doing, you know, doing shows as Ronnie and the Daytonas. And we did a lot of `em. A lot of shows with a lot of people. A lot of big-name acts, which kinda surprised me.

So we were driving down the highway. We were doing about 80 miles an hour in a Cadillac with a trailer on the back. Which is always a lot of fun. It's just constantly vibrating back and forth. And we'd reached a point - this was like right at dawn - I mean, we're talking about when the coffee in your mouth has just really gone bad, you know, kinda bad breath. And you're tired. You're just fatigued. You've been traveling hours upon hours in the back seat. And all of a sudden - you know, Jerry's doing the driving. And all of a sudden, he puts on the brakes and everybody leeeeans forward Like "What in the world are ya doin', man?" And Johnny says, "It's a chicken wreck!" "It's a what?" He says, "It's a chicken wreck!" And I looked up over the seat, and there were dead chickens all over the road. Some truck that had been filled with a whole bunch of cages full of chickens had jack-knifed or did something. And he was all over the road. And there were dead chickens and there were live chickens and there were chickens on the barbed wire. And the live chickens were picking on the dead chickens. And all this is going on, and BB is sitting over there in the left rear, and he just kinda opens up the door and begins falling out the door. You know, just kinda like sliding right out. And he says, "Well, let it all hang out!" And I broke up. I mean, it just - you ever had one of those times when you're just so tired and fatigued, somebody says some kinda stupid joke or something, and you laugh your head off until you cry? That's what happened to me. I just said, "'Let it all hang out'? Where in the hell did you ever come up with that?" He said, "Oh, it's just something we used to say when I was in the Air Force."

And so the next night, we're in Pasadena and we're getting ready to write this song. Now, we don't have any material to record. And so I'm sitting there and we're just thinking about all this crap, and I said, "BB, what in the world was it you said last night that just broke me up so bad? You know, earlier this morning?" And he said, "Uh, I don't. Well, I don't.It was uhh.. let it - let it all hang out! That's what it was."

So there I began. We were going to write all the lyrics with no rhyme at all. Absolutely no rhymes. Just "AH GABBA DEE GOBBLEY JOBBA DEE!" Just something dumb. And I told him, "I can't stand it. We've got to rhyme at least one line of this." So I started thinking of all the words - "about," "snout," "doubt" - think of all kinds of words that rhyme with it. And I said, "Hey, there's a bunch of `em!" And as we were sitting in that motel room, he's trying to shave. The water isn't workin' half the time. And so we started picking up things. I said, "Just tell me something. What's the craziest thing you can think of right now, off the top of your head? Just tell me." And he says, "I don't know, I can't think of anything - HOT DOG!" I said, "What's the matter?" He says, "My razor broke." I said, "Okay, I'll go with that!" (laughs)


He was talking about his Track II razor - that thing fell apart! He says, "Hot dog!," you know? "My razor broke." And see - oh no no no, I know what it was. I said, alright, I asked him, I said, "What's the first thing -" That wasn't the first thing though. The first thing - I said, "What's the first thing you can think of?" and he says, "No parking by the sewer sign."

Just out of nowhere?

And I said, "What!? Are you - What in the heck brought that on?" And he says, "I've never seen a sign that says `Sewer.' Have you?" And I go, "Well, I've seen Stop signs." And he says, "Well, you ever seen a `Sewer' sign?" "Come to think about it, no!"

So it was "No parking by the sewer sign/Hot dog, my razor broke." And here he is, trying to rinse off this razor with this water, and I said, "Well, how about water dripping UP a spout?" There's the water pouring down, and I said, "Why wouldn't this spout reverse? Water dripping up a spout? That rhymes with out! I don't care, let it all hang out!" So there's where the first verse came from.


I'm thinking about the idea of what about if a guy were walking upside-down on the ceiling, you know? And then we just started thinking just crazy things, like "Hanging from a pine tree by my knees." Man, you can't hang from a pine tree! Can ya? What would happen if you tried to hang from a pine tree? You'd fall on your head! "Sun shining through the shade." Well, how does sun shine through shade? I mean, shade is shade. It don't shine through it, not really. Just stupid crap like that. And here, the third line, "Nobody knows what it's all about. It's too much man, let it all hang out."

"Saw a man walking upside down." BB goes over and tries to turn on the television set, and the darn thing wouldn't work. You know, "My TV's on the blink." "Made Galileo look like a Boy Scout."

Yeah, what does that mean?

That came from an album from a guy named Brother Dave Gardner.

Oh! I have an album by him!

Do you remember him?

I have an album by him, yeah.

Well somewhere in one of Brother Dave's albums, he says that line - "Made Galileo look like a Boy Scout." I don't know which one it is, but I do remember - it's like, "Whoo! Shoot this thing! One of us has got to have some relief!" That's Jerry Clower, you know? Well then, if I would throw out a line like that, I would understand it, but nobody else would. We took the unfinished song to the studio that next day where Jerry and Johnny added more verses to it such as "Sleep all day, drive all night." You would usually say, "My brain is numb." Well, we said "Brain my numb." "Can't stop now" - in other words, we couldn't stop. We'd been up all night, we'd been sleeping during the daytime - my brain is just numb. We're just fatigued. "Brain my numb, can't stop now. For sure ain't no doubt. Keep an open mind - let it all hang out."

"It's rainin' inside a big brown moon."

Where'd that come from?

Well, let me ask you something. You ever mooned anybody? You ever stuck your butt out the window? Well, Johnny come up with that one. And you know what it would mean if you said it was a BROWN moon. Now there was a phrase going on at that time, during that era - now we said this line, "How does that mess your baby up, leg?" - everybody would say, "How does that mess your mind up, Jack?" And so after a while, if you're four guys together, you get to where you start inverting things, like "How's that mess your leg up, baby?" "How's that mess your baby up, leg?" "How's that mess your mind-" You see, just stupid crap. It's stuff you're doing at the supper table or in the Holiday Inn room. "Well, how's that mess your baby up, leg?"

"Eating a Reuben-"

"-sandwich with sauerkraut." I think one of the guys ordered a Reuben sandwich one time just `cause it was on the menu. I took a bite of it; it was horrible. At least, I didn't like it. But that's just something, you know, we found it on the - see, we stayed in every Holiday Inn, so we knew the menus pretty good. "Don't stop now baby/Let it all hang out."

So that's what we did. And BB just talks funny. I don't know - a lot of people seem to think that it was some kind of Texas drawl or something. Naw! This boy just talks that way! (laughs) Huey was down the hall on the phone the whole time we were recording. So, after he got off the phone, he came to hear what we had done. When he heard it, he said, "That @!X#** is a monster!"

Did you call yourself The Hombres? Was that a name you came up with?

Well actually, Huey Maux, who was the producer, was the guy who came up with that. What we did is we went ahead and recorded "Hang Out" and a couple of other things. And then we headed on back to Memphis. When we weren't working the road, we were working a lounge. Working like 9-2 during the week and 9-4 on the weekends or something. So we were just a club group. And we'd actually thought about the idea - we had been talking - now this is kinda, you'll have to hang with this for a minute - We had been talking to Eddy Arnold. You know, the country star Eddy Arnold. BB and I had gone and talked to him, and he was trying to hook us up with his agent. And we were thinking about trying to record some things through him, but they're dragging their feet. Nothing's happening, you know? And they're thinking, "Well, what's the name of the group? What kind of group name do you wanna use?" And so we said, "What about the Bandits?" And they said, "Well alright, I guess that's okay." But we never recorded anything under that name. We never used it.

So we were up there playing a gig one night, and some guy comes into the bar and says, "Whoa, you suckers! I'm gonna tell ya - ya'all are crazy!" "What do you mean?" "Man, you got a wild bustin'-out hit, man! I just got back from Birmingham and that thing is red-hot!" "What are you talking about?" He says, "Man, there's a record out - `Let It All Hang Out' by The Hombres!" "There IS!?"

That's unbelievable! What the heck was going on in the record company business back then?

Well, what the deal was - Huey Maux was a crazy Cajun anyway. What he did was he shopped it, he took it to Nashville, I guess. And he looked up a fellow named Shelby Singleton. Now Shelby Singleton had had some pretty big hits. Like "Harper Valley PTA," that girl, and a couple other things. He was pretty well established. In Nashville, he was like a pretty big guy! And I guess what he did is he went to Shelby Singleton, and Shelby said, "Okay, I tell ya what. I'll go in with you on the thing, and we'll sell it to MGM." So that's what they did. They shopped it to MGM. And so MGM said, "Well, I tell ya what - we're gonna take a chance on this. Let's try it on a new label." So they invented this `Verve Forecast,' which we'd never heard of either. We thought it'd be on the MGM label or something. But when the record came out, we didn't have a copy of it. We didn't even know it was there, you know. And to make matters worse, we had been talking to this agent of Eddy Arnold's. We were trying to call this guy to get him on the phone, "Hey man! We've got a number one hit going right now in the nation!" You know? This thing's number one in L.A. and New York and Chicago and New Orleans and Miami, and that guy wouldn't even return our phone call! Probably would've been a great agent, but we couldn't get any response out of him. So we went to the next guy we knew, who was the same guy we were working with before, Alex Migliara. And we managed to get in there - we hustled and got the copyright done and the publishing and everything. Huey really got tore up when he found out that we'd already assigned the publishing. Oh, he got tore up! Because see, he was gonna do it himself. Oh, he was a real scoundrel. He really was. He cheated a whole bunch of artists. He'd had two or three gold records, and he cheated them out of every penny. And we didn't want to be his next victim, "one-hit" or not! So that's really what we knew. If we hadn't made that move, we probably wouldn't have got a dime out of anything.

Was he involved with the whole album? Did he produce the whole album?

Actually, what we did - let's see, I'm trying to think. I think we took one or two of the things we cut down there - in Texas. I think we took a couple of cuts from there. And they were saying, "Hey, we need an album! We need it like NOW!" Because I don't think they really expected anything to happen with it, but all of a sudden they're screaming, "Hey, get us an album!" And so what we did is we went to Sun Records in Memphis where Elvis cut, and Jerry Lee and all of them? This guy named Stan Kessler was our engineer, and he was a friend of ours. And they just said, "Hey, put something together and send it to us!" You know. "Get us an album photo shot. Get us something quick." And you see that garbage dump? That's outside the El Toro Lounge in West Memphis, Arkansas. Let me see - let me look at the thing again. Okay, you see the - there should be a road sign in the back. You see where the guy is on the -

Yeah. It says "Marion" or something.

Yeah! Marion, Arkansas!

Wow! That's just where you were at the time?

This is the garbage dump to the left of where our lounge was that we played all the time. And this is what it looked like. They cleaned it up the next day, but we got it like it was - nice and ripe. But we thought, you know, not that we were trying to send a signal that it was trashy. We just thought, "That's pretty funky looking!" You know, `cuz usually you get all this beautiful scenery and close-up pictures on albums. And we were just a little wacky. So we had the sombreros and we had those cover things - somebody had cut those for us there in the El Toro Lounge. See? The place was done up in Mexican style. So that's where we took the picture and got it off quick. And we went into Sun Studio, and we didn't have any material!


Well, I mean, you know, we weren't expecting all this to happen so quick. You know, I mean, because the last time we'd been playing, we'd been playing some r'n'b and rock and roll and all kinds of - you know, a variety of stuff. In clubs, man, you'd just be playing everything. So we'd just be doing cover stuff of other people or whatever. And of course I'd been writing stuff, but lord, I wasn't prepared to put together a whole album. And so we went in there and they said, "Just put something together quick!" And that's the reason that the album sounded so lame - because we had to do it in such a hurry. They wanted the album out like yesterday. They wanted to make as much money as possible. To heck with doing it right - just do something!

There were some things on the album that I didn't have any control over. When we did "Am I High," we only took one cut on it. I began to play in the key of F# -- which no one in the world plays in. It's just simple - you don't ever go there! And I go "DANG-a-da-DANG-a-da-DANG-DANG!" And they just fell in with what I was doing! I don't even know what timing it was! And I said, "You guys just follow me." And I started doing this "Am I High" thing. You know, I was just making it up! And so we took one cut on it and that was it. And we thought, "Well, that's strange." I just sang the stupid song because I thought it was a funny subject. I have never seen a flagpole setter in my life. I was trying to add some humor, but at the time I was too tired to be funny.

I just noticed something - how come "Go-Go Girl" isn't on here? From the single?

Ah, I don't know. I think we just probably figured -

It's already out there?

They just didn't want to put it on there. But I wrote that one. I don't know if I got credit for it or not, but I wrote it. But remember that "Little GTO" by Bucky Wilkins was basically intended to be a surfing song, you know, like the Beach Boys sound. Well, that's what we were basically doing. They just kinda like threw us out there on the road and told us to do some kind of Beach Boys thing. So we ended up not doing Beach Boys songs, but we had to do a few surfing sounding things. So, you know, I wrote a couple of them. Like "Little 2 + 2." That's a type of car that was around back then. I'd never seen one of those cars! I was reading some kind of brochure or magazine or something that was talking about a car called the 2+2, and it was just kinda giving the lowdown on the kinds of things it had. So I just wrote the song, never having been around one of the suckers in my life. Don't know anything about racing. And I just threw it together.


Yeah, I thought it was kinda strange too.

I really like every song on there, except maybe "Sorry About That."

Oh yes. I know it wasn't my best effort, but what really happened is this. At that time there was a guy named "Sam the Sham." (Sam Sumuito) He had a gold record on "Wooly Bully."

I love that song!

What a character! Well, Stan Kessler, who was his producer as well, needed some songs for him, and he gave me the title and said, "Now, go home and write it." The next day I came back with the song as I wrote it, and Stan took half writer's on the song. After all, 50% of something is better than a 100% of nothing. Sam recorded it on the "Wooly Bully" Album. I haven't written a song with Stan since. Again, because we needed songs and fast, we covered the song.

But you know, it was just the best we could come up with at the time. Later on, after they said, "Okay, now put together a second album," we went in the studio and got serious then. We actually put together a second album. And the song we were planning on putting out was a song called "Take My Overwhelming Love and CRAM IT Up Your Heart." You like that?

(laughs) I do like that.

And of course the second thing they put out was "It's A Gas." I don't know if you ever heard that one or not.

Yeah, it's the last one on the album.

That song was supposed to be funny, but it turned more serious as time went on. It was just the sign of the times. That was the wild sixties.

So what happened to the second album?

They never put it out.


I don't know! Oh wait..

What's that?

My wife says that they did put it together, but I never saw it. The distributor didn't have their act together. They were going to release the album, but you couldn't buy it in the stores because the distributor never got them there. One of our follow-up songs, "Take my overwhelming love and cram it up your heart" was getting a lot of airplay, but the public couldn't buy it in the stores. I really don't know what happened. I guess it's kinda like however hot you are at the time.

Ohhh. Do you still have a copy?

I don't think so.


I mean, there's a whole album that I don't even have. I mean it's kinda crazy, I know, but I've got a lot of songs, things I've recorded and all, that I still don't have copies of. I mean, you know they're in a can somewhere, or moving I lost copies of the stuff. I know it's terrible.

Yeah. Did the album sell?

Oh yeah! It sure did. As far as I know, it sold pretty well. I don't know how much, but they tell me that it was a hit album.

So I guess when they didn't put out a second album, the band just kinda broke up at that point?

Well, it just kinda unraveled. I mean, if you don't have a good follow-up single, they're not gonna spend a lot of time wasting money on you. Music companies are like - if your record isn't really busting the chart in the first couple of weeks, they'll just pull it and put somebody else out there. And they do the same thing with country music here in Nashville, and in L.A. If you've got an Alan Jackson going, you're not gonna put a whole lot of emphasis on Terry Clark or something. I don't know. It's probably a wacky thing.

So what did you do afterwards? Did you play in other bands?

Well, what I did afterwards is stay home and begin working for Sounds of Memphis recording studios. It was a pretty nice, at that time pre-high tech, studio. It was really nice. And I did a lot of studio work. I did some with BB, and then I started working with a couple other musicians there, and we kinda worked as a staff band. As a matter of fact, we even went over to Isaac Hayes' studio and worked with him for a short time. I wasn't too comfortable with that. I think the clients kept coming in and getting so high, it would take us 12 hours to get through one song. That wasn't too good. So after that, we kinda faded back into the studio, and I kept playing music. As a matter of fact, I started playing with a group that was a country group. You know, country/western? Rock and roll? And believe it or not, that's what I was doing until.. I became a deputy sheriff!

Oh wow!

That's really strange. But what it was - we put together a sheriff's band. They were good. They were real good.

Where were you a deputy sheriff?

In Shelby County, a large county around Memphis. It was actually the largest county in the state of Tennessee. So it wasn't like a one-bullet kinda thing. I think it was the fourth largest sheriff's department in the United States.

How did you get interested in doing that?

Well actually, there were a couple guys who played musical instruments who worked with the sheriff's department. And they invited me one night to come over to sit in with them. "Hey, you've got some experience. Come on over and give us some pointers." So I said, "Okay." Well, I was just over there, you know, pickin' and grinnin' with them. And one guy was a dispatcher, and so he stepped in the other room and called the sheriff and asked him to come over there. Of course, I didn't have any idea that this was going on. And so the sheriff comes walking through the door. And this is like a big deal! This is like asking the president to come in, you know. And he hires me the second verse of "Proud Mary"!


(laughs) He just said, "Hey! Would you like a job?" "Come to think about it, I COULD use a job right about now!" So we formed a sheriff's department band called The Deputies. And what the sheriff did - he said, "Okay, but you're gonna have to cut your hair!" And I said, "Okay." And so the next Monday morning, I'm on the third floor of the maximum security jail with about 150 of the baddest dudes you've ever seen in your life. And I'm thinking, "What in the world am I doing here?" But what we did over the next three or four years is I got some other musicians hired on, and man we put together one kickbutt, tight group. `Cause we would go play some of these conventions and stuff, or play for fairs and all, and people would see us up in these uniforms and they would call us crap until we started knocking down on it. And then the brothers would come out, "Man! I can't believe this! Them suckers cook!" So it was fun. I did that for a number of years. Eight and a half years. And then (sigh) I was going along just fine minding my own business, and God called me.


Yeah. Oh that's another whole chapter. (laughs) You don't need that one! But I actually ended up leaving the department, leaving Memphis and starting up a whole different chapter as a ministerial student.

How did that happen though?

Oh.(laughs) Only God can do that, man!

Yeah, I can imagine!

I'll have to tell you that story some other time. Every one of these are a new chapter. So it's really been interesting. And I spent 24 years as a Southern Baptist minister.

Did anybody know that you were the guy who did "Let It All Hang Out"?

Yeah! Yeah. I didn't make a whole lot of announcements about it..

That was never one of your sermon topics?

(laughs) It was not one of them that I was proud of! But I've just absolutely talked your ear off. Tell me a little bit about you, Mark!

Oh, I'm just in New York.

Oh, you don't just BE in New York. What part of New York are you in?

I'm in New York City.

New York City - been there twice.

Oh yeah?

Yeah, it was a real experience.

Yeah, I live here with my wife and my dog. And I've been writing the music reviews just for fun, you know, for about seven years. And "Let It All Hang Out" was just one of those - you know, I grew up in the `70s listening to all my Dad's old records, which I still have. And that was just one of my favorites!

Ahh, I love playing it.

It's a great song!

Now at least you know the story behind it.

Yeah, yeah. It's unbelievable. I never would have imagined I would have spoken to the guy who wrote it!

Well, you know, I think all these things when people are writing them, they actually know what it means, but most of the other people don't. But how did you get interested in listening to your Dad's stuff?

Yeah, I just listened to my Dad's stuff and then growing up, I started - you know, he would have all these records from that era, like that record and the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" and the Beau Brummels and all this stuff that, you know, these bands who only had one or two hits and none of my friends had heard of them, but the hits were so good. Then when I grew up and started buying albums of my own, I tried to see if these bands had albums. And that's how I found yours on eBay!

Have you ever traced down any of the other people before?

No, I never have managed to.

Oh wow. That would be a lot of fun. I've done a lot of- you remember Booker T. and the MGs?

Oh yeah.

They're still playing, I think, on uhh -

There was another one of my favorite singles - "Green Onions."

Yeah, "Green Onions." Well, Steve Cropper went to the same school I did. And Duck Dunn, who was the bass player. There were two white guys and two black guys. And that's where I grew up, in Memphis. And they were playing for Stax Recordings. I bought Steve's first guitar he had - I bought his guitar and like a fool I went and got rid of it. Oh, I could kill myself for doing that. But anyway, Steve Cropper's still around. And Duck Dunn. They did a lot of the stuff for Otis Redding and all that stuff - they were the guys playing behind all of that. Aretha Franklin - just a bunch of it. But anyway, so I really kinda came up with what you'd call the r'n'b type of music. That's really what I kinda cut my teeth on. Rhythm and blues and stuff. And that's what I kinda like to play now.

Do you still listen to a lot of that stuff?

Well, here in the house, I've got a little small studio where I just mess around. And I'm still in the process of switching over from analog to digital. I'm trying to catch up with the rest of the world. And of course, by doing this stuff on computer now, it's just a whole different ballgame.

Yeah, I know. I have some friends who do that. Where you can manipulate every single second of recording?

Yeah, well the problem is I haven't quite finished reading the manual yet.


Well, tell me a little more about yourself. What kind of work are you doing now?

I was doing work for some videogame companies and things for about seven years, and then I got laid off a few months ago, so now I'm just doing some freelance writing and copywriting and interviewing different underground-type musicians for little zines and things.

Boy, some of them are really strange too.

Yeah, I have way too many albums. But I love it. I've just always been really into music.

Well, some of `em are straight like me, but man some of them are really strange!

But it seems like you guys were strange when you look at this album cover and listen to this music?

Yeah, well I guess we were! Ah well. It was just really in a sense kind of a joke. But the thing is when the money got right, the joke took the laughs and quit! Said, "Hey, wait a minute! I think there may be something to this!"

Do you still get royalties from it?

Yeah! Yeah. That's a wonderful part about it, because I'm not making any big money but I just got - a lot of times we get what they call a BMI Check - that's Broadcast Music Incorporated. And what they do is they pay you a certain amount for each time you get airplay of your song. And so I make a little bit on that. But what's really interesting is you're getting royalties from all over the world - you know, Australia, Ukraine, India, the Netherlands, Italy. And you're thinking, "Good gosh almighty!" You get just a little airplay or something in all these different places.

Do you get any payment from like if people buy this new David Lee Roth CD?

Well, the thing is if they buy the album, we would get paid songwriters' royalties on it, yeah.

You're not listed as a songwriter on it.

(laughs) I know that!

But you are still getting royalties, right?



I was picking up some things off the Internet today that these people are writing. It's kinda interesting some of the things that they say.

That he formed the group?

Well, some of this stuff is not quite accurate. But it's kinda like interviewing witnesses of a car wreck. Everybody kinda comes up with something different, you know? Let's see - this is from Chuck Eddy from the Accidental Evolution of Rock And Roll.

Oh, I know him. He writes for the Village Voice.


He writes for a big newspaper up here called the Village Voice.

Oh really?

Yeah, and he has a book out about his favorite heavy metal albums. I've actually corresponded with him a few times! What did he say?

Well, he said, "In 1967, the Hombres, a Memphis garage frat?" F-R-A-T? I guess that means fraternity.


"A garage frat foursome with blood alcohol levels too high to drive -" (loud laugh from Gary's wife in the background) "-opened with what almost sounds like a digital sample - namely a preacher railing against John Barleycorn, nicotine and the temptations of Eve." Well, I told you, that was Johnny. "Then someone farts -" Which he actually didn't fart - he just "Pblllll!" "Then a guitar riff taken from the Shadow of Knights' `Gloria' kicks in." I didn't even know who the Shadows of Knight were! "- and is repeated hip-hop style the entire song." You know, and this would really break some people up, but do you realize that was the first rap song? And it was done by a white boy! Don't let that get out!


Isn't that crazy? Well, when you stop and think about it, it was! "The singer anticipates what Beck would sound -" Who's Beck? "The singer anticipates what Beck would sound like in the distant future by drawling a ridiculous Dylan parody that compares Galileo with an Eagle Scout and warns against parking near sewer signs." So I mean, well he got part of it right!

Yeah, it's one of those songs - did you think people would be remembering it 35 years later or whatever?

Probably not.

Well, I've taken about an hour of your time. I guess I should probably get off the phone.

I'm sorry I've kept you on the phone this long.

Oh no, that's fine! I really appreciate your time. It's just so interesting to hear that story.

Keep in touch with me!


But now, let me make sure now. Do I write you at "toasterman"?

Either one of those is fine.

Well, I mean, I didn't know who I was talking -

Yeah, the thing is that there used to be another guy named Rich who would update the site for me. I would do the writing and he would take care of the site. And he just got too busy - he's in college. So just within the last week, I took it back. So I'm reachable now at either of those email addresses. I'm now checking both of those all the time.

Okay, I'll just kinda keep in touch with you from time to time.

Cool! Okay, and I'll let you know when this is written up, and I've got a rock and roll zine interested in seeing the interview and maybe running it, so -

Cool! I'm trying to think if I can think of some other people for you to talk with. Of course, I've been out of the loop for a while too. The crazy part about it is that I'm not even involved in the Nashville scene at all. I mean, I don't play anywhere.

When did you stop? Back when you left the Deputies?

Yeah. I play, but basically I just create my own band at home. I'm just like, "Well, you gotta play all the parts, son!"

Yeah, that's what I do actually! Since I've never had any luck getting a band together, I just have some stuff at home to record on.

You do that?


Oh cool! Well, you'll have to send me some of it.

I'd like to hear some of your newer stuff too.

Oh good! Well look, we've been on the phone too long.


Thanks for calling, Mark! I hope I didn't bore you too much!

No, not at all!

You may have some stuff there. I know I went kinda haywire both ways.

No you didn't.

If anything, nobody's ever heard the explanation of what that song was about.

Yeah, that's great!

"Nobody knows what it's all about."

I do now!

"It's too much, man!" Well listen, I gotta go. It was nice talking with you!

You too.

Bye bye.


Reader Comments (Gary Heidrich)
Great fucking interview! (Rick Heckler)
Your inteview with Gary McEwen is really fun to read. I guess I am a little older than you as I just turned 50 on the 22nd of this month. I was a little young in the 60's but loved the music from then and didn't care much for most of the 70's stuff. So like you I dug up the Beu Brummells and Prunes and made my eight tracks with what I liked. I was writing some fun stuff tonight for our Corvette club and I like to throw some old song titles or artists in here and there and play a game of "Who did that" or "What was their big hit" you know just fun stuff. I wrote down "Little GTO" (car club stuff) and I knew most of our group would not know who did that so it was one of my questions. Then later I threw in "Let it all hang out" but I could not remember who did it (really makes me mad when I don't remember) so I hunted it up on the internet - Your interview was what I pulled up! Man was I surprised when he said he played in the "Ronnie and the Daytonas group" - anyway I spent a while reading the whole interview and really enjoyed it! Thanks for putting it out there!
Mark, That was a great interview. It answered a lot of questions. It reminded me of the interview with Dave Allen and the Arrows . He basic job was to come up with a rif for the movie "Wild Angels" . He claimed that he came up with an instrumental in fifteen minutes and had no idea that it would have gotten so popular. Nice job Mark.
Terrific interview. The jack-knifed chicken truck anecdote is wonderful. Actually, one of my favorite quotes in the exchange is this bit of spot-on deadpan: "No no, I'm just sitting here watching the news. It's bad here, just like it is there."

Jerry Masters
Mark, my name is Jerry Masters and I was the leader and after we went democratic, after Ronnie and the Daytonas, one of the members of the Hombres. I don't want to criticize or demean Gary McEwen's interview with you, but there were some major mistakes in his interview, but I'm not going to go into that. What he told you was mostly the truth. I just want to set ONE thing straight, and you can check with BMI on this or just look at the credits on the "ELIZABETHTOWN" Soundtrack. "Let It All Hang Out" was written by FOUR people, BB Cunningham, Johnny Hunter, Jerry Masters, and Gary McEwen.

I just wanted to set the record straight. It's true it's 38 years old and I think Gary has lost maybe a little of his memory, but I love him anyway.

Thanks for your time.............

I just now read your interview...and I am dying from laughing. I love it! After almost 40 years, all the mysteries of the lyrics are now revealed...including that "how's that mess your baby up, leg?" That one had me wondering if anybody in the group was an Army brat. See, "leg" is paratrooper slang, short for "straight leg." It's how they refer to soldiers who aren't paras. Apparently not what you'd call a term of endearment.

I think 1967 must've been a year for parody songs with nonsensical lyrics. There was one out that year by Guy Marks, making fun of the old big band-Lawrence Welk-radio show style. You may remember it:

"Oh, your red scarf matches your closed your cover before str-r-r-iking...Father had the shipfitter blues...loving you has made me bananas..."

Thanks again!

Burton Stahl
Hey Mark,

This is Burton Stahl, bass player with the "Music Explosion". After reading Gary's interview I had to go back in my memory room and recall when we did our one and only show with the Hombre's. We played at the Cleveland Public Auditorium with the Hombres and the Holly's. It was certainly a fun show. They were all nice guys and we all liked the song because it was different. It certainly was a lot different than any songs that were out in that time. The show wasn't long after the songs release. Just a thought after checking out your sight. Hey to the Hombres. Thanks for the memories.
I was in touch with Gary and then my e mail started coming back to me unanswered. Does anyone know how to get ahold of Gary McEwen? Can someone let me know if there is a wasy to contact him? tyvm (Heather Hunter Chastain)
I read your interview with Gary McEwen from 2003. My name is Heather Hunter Chastain. My DAD was Johnny Hunter. I was 6 years old when he committed suicide. That wa a very hard thing for my Mother, myself and siblings to go through. He was a GREAT drummer. The times I remember with him, I will cherish forever. I enjoyed reading your interview with Gary McEwen. I am so glad that Gary straightned out that my dad Johnny Hunter said the beginning words" I preach my dear friends...." for Let it all Hang Out. It was said on the internet that BB Cunningham said that. It was my dad Johnny Hunter. I love hearing the song and telling my daughter "that's you grandfather!" I would love to talk to Gary McEwen and Jerry Masters. I would love to talk with them about my dad Johnny Hunter. My mom, Bobbie Ann Hunter and I would sit for hours and talk about him....WE loved him so much despite his troubles. I lost my mother in 1998 to cancer, it was devastating and still is. Now I have no one to talk to about my dad and things he would do and say. If you could have them contact me I would so appreciate it.

Thanks for the letting me enjoy the interview..... I love hearing stories about my dad. He loved playing music with the HOMBRES band.

Thanks again!
My name is Marcus Bowen. I knew Gary before the Hombre's, we played at sock hops & clubs under a different name with Jerry Minch as a guitarist, a drummer who was great on both drums and the keyboard, and we practiced at my house during the era of 'garage bands' around Memphis. My dad, Thomas Bowen actually encouraged the formation of the band, but it never fully developed and Gary went on to bigger & better things. I even remember Gary's mom, Gwen, as a great nightclub singer. I actually went to school with his wife Becky. It was great to see his accomplishments being remembered, but what about the other hit, "take this job and shove it" or is that just a line from "let it all hang out?" At any rate, it was great to read about it all. . . thanks

P.S. It is interesting that 2 of us have been SBC pastors . . . it must have been something in the garages. . .
My name is Becky O'Bannon Wilson and Gary McEwen was my first boyfriend. We lived in Memphis, attended Messick High School and went together from around 1959 to 1961 when I was in 8th -10th grade. He and his best friend Jerry Minch both played the guitar and had a band called "The Emeralds" during that time. I and my friend Daralene Kinney who dated Jerry would go with the band to a lot of their gigs, which due to their young age were mostly school dances. Sometimes when a new store opened in Memphis, they would play on the parking lot for the grand opening.

Gary and Jerry were hilarious together. They could repeat Jonathan Winters comedy albums verbatim and crack everybody up. He got his sense of humor from his mother Gwen, a singer and comedienne who toured with Pappy Graves. She did a hilarious take on Phillis Diller.

Gary was an outstanding guitarist as a teenager. He taught my brother to play guitar. He could also play drums and was a snare drummer in the Messick High School Band (although he never learned to read came natural to him.) He was also a great dancer and taught me to "bop". We had some cool moves and we once won the dance contest on the local Memphis TV show Top 10 Dance Party.

The first time I saw Gary I was in elementary school. Two policemen Captain Kelly and Lieutenant O'Malley who played guitar and sax used to visit the schools to play music and give a safety program. Gary who was probably around 13 or so was asked to play his guitar with them and sang the Clarence Henry song "Ain't Got No Home". Needless to say he was a big hit with all those kids. It was several years later when we met and "fell in love".

We went to Cherokee Baptist Church on Sundays and would go to his house for dinner. It was usually a concoction of salmon and oatmeal eaten over toast prepared by his Grandma who lived with them. Yuck. Around the time we were about to break up to date other people, he met a beautiful girl at church named Carol who he eventually married.

After many years and a move to a different city, I was singing in the choir at my church one Sunday and saw Gary in the congregation. I could hardly believe my eyes! He was just passing through and by chance stopped at the church I attended. He came home with my husband and me and caught us up on his life. He related the story to me of how he was driving down the highway and God spoke to him, calling him to the preaching ministry. He was about to begin school to prepare himself for the ministry. I have not seen or heard from Gary since then.

I was thrilled to read your interview with him from 2003 and it brought back so many memories. Gary is a great guy and the years we dated made a lasting impression on me.

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