Tehee: Brymers were part of 1960s burst of Central Valley rock 'n' roll

The Fresno BeeFebruary 5, 2014 

A undated photo of The Brymers from Dick Lee's website dedicated to the band and other Valley rock 'n' roll groups from the 1960s.

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Dick Lee's collection of '60-era Valley rock-n-roll is vast.

In terms of records, there's 50 or more 45s — those 7-inch singles that were popular at the time.

While it was expensive to do, most local bands recorded and pressed records they could give away as promos, or sell at their shows.

"I would collect all of those," says Lee, who played drums in the Brymers (pronounced "brimmers"), a band that gigged up and down the Valley for five years during the early 1960s.

The Beatles had just hit the U.S., and every town had a band.

"These little bands started popping up everywhere, in all these little towns," Lee says.

There was Jim Doval and the Gauchos from Fresno and The Implicits from Visalia. Al Garcia and the Rhythm Kings were from Delano and played Santana-style Latin rock before Santana did, Lee says.

Lee collected an archive of the scene, with the records and pictures and event fliers. He even kept a journal of his experiences at the time.

"I kind of threw them in a closet," he says.

It wasn't until the Brymers reunited in 2007 that Lee realized there was an audience for this kind of music. Through a Google search he found the Brymers song "Sacrifice" was featured in a few compilations of garage-band music from the era. He had no idea how they got there.

As a test, he put a few old Brymers 45s on eBay. There was a boxful that had never been played. They sold out in two hours — at $100 apiece.

Since then, Lee has converted those other Valley rock records to CDs. It comes out to 11 disks worth of music; 20 songs per CD; a total of 150 tracks.

Currently, he's working with English label Mono Records to release the music in a series of compilations. Each record — and these will be actual records — will focus on a particular style of music from the time. For instance, the first would be "Fuzz, Mod Rock and Psychedelic Sounds of the Central Valley: Vol. 1."

It's a working title, Lee says.

He's also started an online archive on the Brymers website — www.thebrymers.com — with an extensive list of bands and venues that were operating at the time along with pictures and stories.

Lee is always looking to add anything he's missed. Feel free to contact him through the website with any leads.

Some of these musicians did go on to find big success.

Lee remembers a four-piece from Lemoore called the Sullies. They had a drummer named Steve Perry. "He was a great drummer," Lee says. "But when we heard him sing, oh man." The majority, of course, fell off into obscurity. The musicians got married and started careers to support their families. But the sum total of what they created is a sound and style that was distinct to the Central Valley, Lee says.

"I just want recognition for some of these bands."

This columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6479, jtehee@fresnobee.com or @joshuatehee on Instagram and Twitter. Read his blog at Fresnobeehive.com.

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