by John Wenz
The Rumbles should be a familiar name to Nebraskans. It's a little unfair to the spirit of Echoes that a band still gigging gets a feature. But we know them as the soundtrack to street dances, familiarly lumped in with other cover bands and small town street fair attractions. Also, they technically started in Council Bluffs, but we can't hold that against them.
So what this is more about, then, is a band with a greater history and weightiness than we imagine out of this notion.
Formed in suburban Omaha in the 1963, they did what most of the garage bands of the era did — gigged around the Nebraska-Iowa-Missouri region, becoming familiar faces at teen dances. And on the side, they cut a few records, including this one, a surf rock number released in 1964 under the billing Rich Clayton and The Rumbles:
"Flip Side" was an original composition by Clayton, released by Omaha's Dawn Cory Records. They didn't let the lack of coast stop them from unleashing a pure slab of fine instrumental garage rock. The band's regional reputation grew, their recorded output increased and, eventually, they charted a bonafide No. 1 regional hit in 1967 with "Jezebel," a then standard among garage rock bands. That single served up a weird mixture of R&B, surf rock and a spaghetti Western intro, and proved the most popular record of their multi-single career.
But as the band stuck by its circuit of teen dances, at the same time, outside musical forces were reshaping that audience. As they put it on their official bio, "As psychedelic music started to win over young people in the late '60s and early '70s, the Rumbles witnessed an unprecedented phenomenon — kids sat down to listen to the music rather than bolting for the dance floor. Consequently, attendance at dances rapidly declined and The Rumbles were soon forced to disband."
So, 1970 saw the end of the Rumbles, but 1979 saw their resurrection at a Peony Park (Omaha) concert. And they never really stopped playing. Some of the originals left, but drummer Steve Hough remains with the group nearly 50 years later.
What we see now may not be the same group, but behind those small-town gigs wasn't simply a cover band — it had its own musical legacy, and served as one of the Omaha-area's earliest rock bands. We also see an ever-evolving musical chameleon, which started out with surf rock and made its way to the pop world, before having to face a post-Revolver rock world.
In their wake are 12 singles from the first era (both on major labels like Mercury and smaller outfits) and countless other contemporaries, who haven't had the same staying power to span generations of Nebraska music fans.
John Wenz is the Echoes columnist for Hear Nebraska and a garage rock nut. Have something to share? Comment below or email him at email@example.com.