NEAL FORD INTERVIEW (Excerpt)
Courtesy of VICKI AYO
("Texas Music Writer" and author of forthcoming book on 60's Houston
TMW:Where did you grow up? If it was Houston, what part and what
memories of growing up there?
NF:My dad was a steel worker so I traveled all over the US but Houston
was always home base. We had a home over in the old Gulfgate area just
off Telephone Road. Very modest neighborhood at the time. I went to
Jr. High and Jesse Jones High School. I was somewhat of an athlete most
of my young life and went to Howard Payne College on an athletic
scholarship. I was a pole vaulter. Houston 10AAAA champion.
TMW:How did you get started in music? What bands were you in? I read
about the Ramadas and it said you formed the Fanatics in 1965 from them.
NF:While living in the athletic dorm at Howard Payne, I met and began
singing with Ray Hildebrand and Kim Espy. We sang around campus and on
a local radio station in Brownwood TX. We formed a group called The
Prisoners. We wore actual striped prison shirts and played a few Texas
dates. This was in 1961 or 1962. We were all writing little songs and
playing them just for fun.
One day Ray came to my room and brought a song and asked me to sing the
high part he had written for a boy/girl duet. A few weeks later he and
another student Jill Jackson made a record in Ft. Worth with record
producer, Major Bill Smith. The record became an international monster
hit. It was "Hey Hey Paula" by Paul and Paula. Ray and Jill had become
Paul and Paula traveling with Dick Clark tours. They really hit the big
time. They were still in college and would come back and forth from
touring still living in the dorm.
One day Ray invited Kim Espy and I to go to Ft. Worth where they were
scheduled to do a concert with many other stars. Claude King "Wolverton
Mountain", Bruce Channel "Hey Baby" and many others. We went and were
standing just off stage and the host from the radio station came over
and asked if Paul and Paula or Bruce Channel had an extra 20 minutes of
show because they were short an act and had to fill 20 minutes. Both
artist said no and I spoke up and said."We have 20 minutes". The host
looked at me and said, "Who are you"? This was back when Ramada Inns
had just started building their hotels and I had seen a billboard on
the road coming to the venue. "The Ramadas", I said. He looked at Ray
and said, "is he for real"? Ray said, absolutely. Kim and I
went on and did a 20 minute show and brought the crowd to their feet.
When we walked off a man sitting back stage asked us if we had a
recording contract. We said no and he said you do now. Can you be here
Thursday with some original material to do a recording session? We said
sure and we cut our first record, "Teenage Dream" by The Ramadas that
was released on a national label, Philips Records. The same label as
Paul and Paula.
TMW: Who did your LP cover?
NF: I owned my own Photo Studio back then. It was called Century
21. I staged the photo shoot myself. I also wrote the liner notes. In
the third edition of Osborne & Hamilton's original Record
Collectors Price Guide the album cover is featured. Pretty cool being
there with all the biggies. Weren't the audiences great back
then? Funny thing, whether we were playing The Catacombs, which
we owned with our manager, Richard Ames, or an Elks Lodge or a 20,000
seat venue it was all the same. Just a great time!
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