The Five Americans

Gary: “I never really knew very much about this group, except they where from Oklahoma and in 1967, I purchased this 45 rpm record and wore it out.  They had limited success and unfortunately two of the original members are no longer with us.
The Five Americans

Original group members

  • Mike Rabon – lead guitar
  • John Durrill – organ
  • Norm Ezell – guitar
  • Jim Grant – bass
  • Jimmy Wright – drums
Videos:
From the Steve Allen Show/ 1967 Western Union/
.
and
.
From Shivaree 1965/ I see the light/
.
1.  I See the Light/ HBR 454/ February 1966/ #26


2.  Western Union/ Abnak 118/ March 1967/ #5


3.  Sound of Love/ Abnak 120/  June 1967/ #36


4.  Zip Code/ Abnak 123/ September 1967/ #36


.

The members of Five Americans first met in Durant, Oklahoma at South-eastern Oklahoma State University in 1962. Under the leadership of lead guitarist Mike Rabon, they formed a group called “The Mutineers”.

The band played local beer joints and frat dances until the summer of 1964 when Mike suggested that they go to Texas to try and make enough money to pay for tuition for the following semester.

The band achieved some local notoriety in a Dallas bar called The Pirate’s Nook. There they came to the attention of a local record label called Abnak Records. John Abdnor, president of the label, took the group under his wing and provided them the resources to write and practice their own songs.

With the onslaught of the British Invasion by bands with strange sounding names, the group also took on a new handle. They were not bugs or beasts of any kind, they were simply The Five Americans.

In the summer of 1965, after a couple of failed efforts, the band released an original tune entitled “I See The Light“, which climbed to #26 on the Billboard chart.

I See The Light” was followed by “Evil Not Love” which also charted in the Top 50 nationwide. Five more singles were issued, but none met with much success.

While passing through a small town in Oregon, the band saw a sign that said Western Union and quickly formed the idea for a song about someone receiving a Dear John letter by telegraph. Released in early 1967, “Western Union” rose to #5 on Billboard and #3 on the Cashbox Best Sellers list.

The single sold in excess of one million records and paved the way for the group to appear on The Steve Allen Show, American Bandstand twice and Where The Action Is four times.

Western Union” was followed by a less gimmicky and more melodic song entitled “Sound Of Love” which charted in the top 40 as well.

Then, bowing to pressure from DJ’s the world over to write another communication song, they followed “Western Union” with “Zip Code“, which also went Top 40.

In 1971, after releasing eight more low charting singles, the boys simply got tired of touring and each went his own way.

Mike Rabon signed with UNI records for one album and a single. Despite a good effort on Rabon’s part, most of the record company’s promotion and attention went to the only other artist that UNI had signed at the time, a guy named Elton John.

However, Rabon’s group, Michael Rabon And Choctaw went on to become a very successful touring band through the mid-seventies in the South-Western states.

Eventually, Mike Rabon went back to college and got his masters degree in education and became involved with school administration and teaching music in his home town of Hugo, Oklahoma. He married and had two sons.

Meanwhile, bassist Jim Grant formed his own successful logo company in Dallas. One of his designs is the Chili’s restaurant logo, a huge restaurant chain in the Southwest. Jim passed away on November 29th, 2004.

John Durrill was hired as the organ player for The Ventures, the group that strangely enough influenced The Five Americans in their early years. He also became a successful song writer, penning such hits as “Dark Lady” by Cher.

Guitarist Norman Ezell became a school teacher in Northern California. He died of cancer on May 8th, 2010 at the age of 68.

Drummer Jimmy Wright continued residing in Durant, Oklahoma where the Five got their start and played on commercial jingles from time to time. 

–o–

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