A Short History of the True Tones

The True Tones began in 1961 when two friends, Gerald Barber, who played guitar, and Gary Long, who played drums, got together and decided to start a band. The newly formed band began performing at various venues around Knoxville and soon developed a reputation for having a good sound and playing very danceable music. During the first few years, the band went through various lineup changes, finally arriving at the 7 members who would gain the most success.

The first big break for the True Tones was being hired as the house band for the weekly WNOX Shower of Stars show at their auditorium on Whittle Springs Road in Knoxville, TN. The band backed up all the various performers who appeared as well as being featured themselves. During that time, the group appeared with performers such as Tommy Roe “Sweet Little Sheila,” Billy Joe Royal “Down in the Boondocks,” Joe South “The Games People Play,” The Tams “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am?” and many other popular groups of the time. After their first record was released, they co-headlined a show with Dolly Parton, who had also just released her first record.

The second big step was securing a recording contract with Spot Records in Johnson City, TN. The studio created quite a buzz in Nashville by producing very professional sounding recordings. The first record released, “Lovin’ from My Baby,” written by Joby Wheat, quickly gained a lot of air play, becoming the No. 1 record in Knoxville. It was played all over the country and reached No. 39 on one of the national charts.

The band gained a lot of popularity in Knoxville and drew huge crowds to all of their performances. Once over 30,000 fans flocked to one of their shows, the annual Halloween Party sponsored by the Knoxville Police Dept. Soon they became the highest paid band in the area and Spot Record’s most lucrative group. Their popularity increased when Variety sent a reporter to Knoxville to see and review the group. After his positive review, the Dave Brumett Agency in Atlanta, GA signed the group to a management contract. Soon they were performing all over the country. They were so busy that they once turned down an opportunity to appear on one of Dave Clark’s shows in California.

But this was a very troubling time for the country. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Vietnam War. The guys had to decide if they wanted to be drafted and sent to Vietnam or stay in school and be exempt. This and other personal problems proved to be the demise of the True Tones. Some of the fellows still like to get together and reminisce about old times. They all agree that this was the most fun time in their lives, and their friendships continue after all these years.

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