I wanted to be a drummer.
Occasionally I would sit in for different bands when their regular
drummers got sick or couldnt make a job. Once, at a rehearsal
for a band called E.G. and the Hi-Fis, where I was
hoping to take over for this existing drummer, I somehow ended
up singing a song while waiting for the singer to show up. Lets
get our drummer back and fire the singer said E.G., known
to his mother as Emilio Garcia. And I became the singer for E.G.
and the Hi-Fis. After a short while I figured out that he
was making all the money, so I paid him back for his generosity
by taking his band with me and joining up with three other guys
who were putting a band together known as The Mystics.
& The Mystics 1963
We eventually evolved into an eleven piece
band doing primarily rhythm and blues. Not long after we became
the House Band at the Clearwater Auditorium, which
later became the premier venue for big name artists at what was
to become the WLCY Star Spectacular. At that time
the successful record acts were not bands, but single artists
who would tour to support their current record release. Since
the guys in my band were good music readers we ended
up backing up most of the big artists like Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney,
Fabian, Ray Stevens, Neil Sedaka and Bobby Vee. Just about anyone
who had a hit record from 1961 to 1965 was backed up by Rodney
and the Mystics, as we had become known, due to the suggestion
of the promoter, Paul Cochran, (who later became my manager).
& The Mystics 1964
The first single artist to eventually travel
with his own band was Roy Orbison. The rhythm guitarist in his
band, the Candyman was a guy named Bobby Goldsboro.
When Bobby scored a hit of his own called See the Funny
Little Clown, Roy asked if I would take his place. The thought
of making less money than I was already making appealed to me
immediately, so off I went to see the world.
The Candymen managed to sneak in a top 40 hit
with a song called Georgia Pines which naturally meant
Roy wasnt long for this world and needed to start looking
for another back-up band. I never was in a better band (The
Mystics were a close second), but sometimes bands just dont
last. So after 4 1/2 years and two albums for ABC and an appearance
on American Bandstand.... The Candymen came to an
I joined up with some local guys who had a
band called Noahs Ark and we had a record out
called Purple Heart on Liberty Records. When the record
came out and it said Noahs Ark featuring Rodney Justo
(same manager) the rest of the guys werent exactly happy...
Goodbye Noahs Ark.
with Roy Orbison and The Small Faces
featuring Stevie Marriott (far left)
We want to start the first super group
from the south, the voice said. Move to Atlanta, youll
be the musicians on the other peoples records and make plenty
of money while were recording our own album for Decca.
Ive got all the other guys lined up, but we need you
to be the singer. So began the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
with the Candymen
The money part was true...for them. After two
years and a moderately successful, but critically received album,
ARS was still more interested in studio life than band life. During
a tour with Deep Purple headlining, we were told that
we would be returning to Atlanta to begin cutting soundtracks
for a cartoon TV show called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids.
I decided that maybe the Atlanta Rhythm Section wasnt
New York, New York. If Im going to be
a studio musician, I may as well go to the pinnacle of studio
activity. While my soon to be ex-wife and family went to Puerto
Rico, I moved to New York City. I was the bandleader for B.J.
Thomas, whom I had gotten to be friends with as a result of singing
on his records while in ARS, so that gave me some income. Thank
God I made some friends who introduced me to the right people,
notably Allan Schwartzberg, arguably the most sought after session
drummer in the country. So I was a jingle singer singing
for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Hardees, Mazda and Flagg Bros. Shoes. At
the same time, I would go on the road with B.J. Thomas. I even
went to Europe for about six weeks to sing with the legendary
guitarist, Roy Buchanan. Singing jingles can be very lucrative,
but other than the money, theres not a lot to look forward
Justo with the
Atlanta Rhythm Section
Back to Tampa, just re-married, after six months
I get a phone call that the singer/drummer for Beaverteeth, (a
band I hired made up of some of my old friends from Alabama, including
the guitarist from The Candymen to go on the road
with B.J. Thomas) had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Would I come help them out? Two years and two albums later, Im
forced to make a decision...Is it more important to be a successful
musician or a successful father? No contest. At the age of almost
34, I got my first job, 24 years later, Im still
here. By the way, in 1983, I did go back with ARS for a year doing
concerts on weekends only so as not to jeopardize my real job.
So here I am, a sales manager for beer and
malt beverages at Southern Wines and Spirits. The worlds
largest alcoholic beverage distributor. I didnt know I could
get a job, much less keep one.
HERE to view our write up in the Garage Bands section.