West Michigan Mid-Sixties Interviews
The following interview was published in R.P.M #4 back in February/March, 1984, pages 14 - 18. I have received permission from David Walters, author of Children of Nuggets, to use this interview here.
Dave Walters Talks with Ray Hummel of the JuJus
Among the many collectable independent labels of the sixties, Fenton Records, ranks high on the want lists of many collectors of "Garage Band" music. The label was started sometime during the early sixties, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, by Dave Kalmbach. The vast majority of records released by Fenton, during its heyday, fall into the category of "Garage Band" rock. Because so many young American bands formed in the afterglow of the "British Invasion," it isn't surprising to find this phenomenon in Grand Rapids, Michigan's second largest city.
The following interview was conducted at the Grand Old Country Record Store in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with Ray Hummel, former lead singer of the JuJus, a Grand Rapids group from the mid 60's. The group had a hit with "You Treated Me Bad"/"Hey Little Girl" on the Fenton label that went as high as Number 2 on the local charts.
- Dennis Loren
Dave Walters: When did the band start?
Ray Hummel: in about 1963, but I joined the band in '64.
D: How did you come to join the band?
R: This is a really wild story. I had a friend who played what we called a "gut bucket" with an old Washtub and we were singing in a parking lot behind a restaurant called Don's Kitchen on Division Avenue in Grand Rapids and the man who owned the restaurant said, "You might as well sing in my restaurant." So we started singing at his restaurant. One of the JuJus who happened to live in that area heard me sing, liked my singing, and said "Why don't you join our group? It's called the JuJus."
The way they got their name was, the sax player's little brother couldn't say Junior which was a nickname for him, so he called him JuJu. And that's where the band got the name.
D: Would you name the members of the JuJus?
R: The original group: Rod Shepard played bass and did some lead guitar work; Bill Gorski played the drums; Max Colley played the sax; I played the rhythm guitar and harmonica and sang.
D: When and where were the first gigs you and the JuJus played? Do you remember?
R: We did a lot of gigs at Godwin High School, where a lot of the guys were from. We played all the high schools in this area. We played the Ponytail and a lot of clubs in Holland, Michigan and a lot of cities around Grand Rapids.
D: Where did you first record, and was that recording issued? Did you record a demo some place first?
R: I'm glad you asked that. A friend of mine let me use an audio disk for our first recording session and we did a tune called "Runaround" which is a song that I wrote. We also put on old George Gershwin tune called "Summertime," and "Hey, Little Girl," the beginning version without bass guitar in it as a demo.
D: When was your first single released?
R: In 1965.
D: That was the Fenton single?
R: Yes, "You Treated Me Bad"/"Hey Little Girl."
D: Why did you leave the group?
R: I left the group because I was getting married. The truth is, I shouldn't have gotten married and left the group because I had a real good recording contract offered me because I was the writer of the songs.
D: With who?
R: With Drummond Records in Detroit.
D: You left the band and recorded again for Fenton, when was that?
R: '67. What I did was, I took parts from two different bands and put them in the studio together, recorded the single, and released it under my own name.
D: Who were the members of that band?
R: There were some members from the Legends, and some members from the JuJus. Bill Gorski was the drummer, Max Colley directed that session and played the sax, Ray Vasques played the organ, and we had a couple of brothers who played on it but I can't remember.
I recorded "Gentle Rain" and "Fine Day" in two different studios and I have two different versions of it: one at Chess in Chicago and one at Dave's Fenton studio. We chose his over Chicago.
D: That was the one issued on Fenton?
R: Yes, but I have the other one on tape, if people want it, I have the masters for both. They are both good, just different flavors to them.
D: How well did your solo project sell?
R: It never got that much exposure. About that time I got married and started traveling the circuit, and was not home enough to promote it. At that time I was quite young and did not know the right people to get it to. It never went as far as it could have because of lack of hype and promotion.
D: You talk about playing the circuit, where was that and what type of music were you playing?
R: At first it was 60's music because it was the 60's when I firsts started traveling. As I started traveling west and north and south, I saw there was a big call for country music, for contemporary music, for show tunes - there was a call for a lot of things. Because I was playing so many types of clubs, I had to be versatile, and that's what I strived to do during those years on the road. In the beginning, I to everything from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and Simon and Garfunkel; and then I began to get into country.
D: Did you record after leaving the Fenton label?
R: We recorded a lot of things that were not released.
D: When was the next actual released record?
R: That would be the release on Renegade Records, "You Can't Keep a Good Memory Down"/"Daily Grinds and Neon Signs," which was recorded in '78.
D: So you didn't record anything between '67 and '78?
R: No, there was a big time lapse there. It cost a lot of money and I was financially embarrassed at the time.
D: So you were basically playing the club circuit, but not doing any recording.
R: Yes, then I decided to come home, get off the road and concentrate on recording. I had just gotten remarried then and decided that this was a nice place to bring up my family.
That was when I got my new producer, went to Nashville and recorded in '78.
D: How did the Renegade records do? Did they chart at all?
R: Yes, they did, in Grand Rapids as well as in Windsor, Canada. Then I really started promoting it in Europe and Manfred wrote an article in Europe and we sold the records out of the magazine. Then Otto from Denmark wrote about me and offered me on a cassette with Danish artists. Also Country Korral in Sweden did an article.
D: Did it chart on Billboard's Country Charts?
R: No, but it was mentioned in The Gavin Report and Radio and Records.
D: What are your current plans?
R: I am releasing things on Renegade, but I am interested on getting on a major label.Last updated on May 24, 2004.