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Kampus Kids / Teen Kings / Riki and the Rikatones / Rick Palmer

East Liverpool 1957-60s

From modest beginnings, a group of East Liverpool teens ended up covering a lot of miles and musical trends. In the beginning, around 1957, 4 local teenagers started a rock-n-roll band. Rick Palmer was the leader, on guitar and vocals, with Don Hay on guitar, Jerry Nolan on bass (upright at the time), and Bill Pipes on drums. Pipes was from Chester and the others from East Liverpool. They called themselves the Teen Kings and played dances in the area for a year or so. They all graduated high school in 1957/8. 

A year or so later, the group members were Palmer, Nolan, Pipes, Jay Stewart (of Murdocksville), and William Hawthorne (backing vocals). According to the article in the paper, Rick Palmer, through his agent Elmer Willet, recorded some songs with studio musicians and after some time and effort, got them released on Carlton records from NYC. Palmer and the group appeared on a couple local radio and TV shows to promote the record.

In early 1960, Harry Seybold, a former East Liverpool resident whose family moved to Cleveland, partnered with Bill Brown (from Calcutta, near to EL) started Manhattan Record and Talent Agency. Seybold used the name Bill Crain (also spelled Crane) and they started B.C. publishing. One of Manhattan's goals was placing songs for artists to record. They brought the Teen Kings up to Cleveland to record a couple of client songs, "Whiplash" and "T.N.T."  The result was a killer two sided rocker! Rick's vocals are almost proto-punk and the guitar sound is aggressive and hard! Crain & Co changed the band's name to the Rikatones (or Ricatones) and the record came out under the moniker of Riki and Rikatones. 

Crain, Brown, and Manhattan were getting busy in 1960. Sometime in the spring or summer of 1960 they connected with Platters manager Buck Ram. Ram was looking for Tony Williams' replacement and selected Clevelander Sonny Turner. Somewhere in that process is where Crain, listed as Turner's manager in a 1960 newspaper story, and Ram seem to connect. Ram signed up the Teen Kings/Rikatones to go on the road, renamed the Kampus Kids. It's not 100% sure when the band started using the Kampus Kids name, but this sequence seems to be most likely. During the summer and fall of 1960 they played New York City, Wildwood NJ, and Norflok,Virginia  Back then, a travelling band usually needed a record as incentive for people to see them, so Ram had the group record a 45 on  his Ensign label. The song "Leave Me Alone" was a hit in a few markets, enough to get the group steady work. An August, 1960 ad for the band in EL mentions United Artists records, possibly the record was pitched to UA.

After returning home to East Liverpool, the group played locally for a few months in late 1960/early 1961. The group still included Palmer, Nolan, Stewart, and (sometimes) Pipes. In the spring of 1961 they went out on the road again, as a trio, with out Pipes. After playing in Wisconsin they returned to Norfolk (where "Leave Me Alone" was a big hit), and stayed there. By 1963 the group included Palmer, Nolan, Rick's wife Jean, and Buzzy Rose. They were known as Rick and the Legends and recorded a few 45s with a comtemporary 1960s teenbeat sound. 

In addition to their own 45 as the RIkatones, the group played on at least one Manhattan recording session. They are  the band on the Cletis Lilly 45 on Patrice (a Manhattan label offshoot). It's possible some or all of the band played on other Manhattan related 45s, Symphonics, Jimmie Contenta.

You Threw A Dart / My Greatest Wish - Carlton 491, April 1959
Whiplash /T.N.T. - Manhattan 201, c. April 1960
Leave Me Alone / Mr. Rainbow Man - Ensign 5000, Oct 1960

Thanks fo Matt Baker