The White Bucks

by Stan Martin

The story of the White Bucks began in my first year of college at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I became roommates with a young fellow named Max Crook. Our first meeting however, was at a piano in the lounge of Smith-Burnham Hall. Max was playing the piano when I approached him after dinner. He asked if I could play, and I responded, "Yes, a little." This was the beginning of a long friendship that would last a lifetime.

It wasn't very long before Max and I got the crazy notion to put together a band. We began searching the campus for other individuals who could play music. Our first encountering was a funny guy named Norm Murdock. He played sax and had a laugh that just wouldn't quit. We decided to take advantage of his eerie laugh, so we cut two sides onto acetate in a basement studio. Our top side was titled "We've Got A Crazy Beat," featuring Max, our front man, on vocals. It was a great rocking number that featured a hot sax, guitar, and burning piano. But oddly enough, it featured a drum lick that used only one drumstick. We hadn't yet acquired a drummer in the band, and so this awful toy drum was used. The flipside was called "The Laughing Hyena," making use of Murdock's hyena-type laugh. Our guitarist was a man named Eddie Lynch, whom we managed to scrounge up from somewhere. Sadly, Norm soon became a college drop-out, and so we began looking for more talent.

The White Bucks in 1958

We continued to play at the piano in the lounge when a kid came out of the crowd and said he played saxaphone. His name was Tom Sabada, and he played a beautiful sax. It wasn't much longer after that that we were told the noise was too big, and the crowd too loud. Mr. Potter told us that we would have to go somewhere else to play. Max and I found an old piano in the dorm's basement, and we soon set up there. There we played music of the day, such as "Got A Match" in which we sometimes pounded on the poor unsuspecting Wurlitzer. As the group got better and better with practice, the only thing wrong was this silly toy drum with one drumstick. As fate would have it, a guy in a suitcoat wandered in one day and said that he was a new student and had a set of drums in the car. It didn't take long for the rest of us to scramble upstairs and help Brian Woodworth pull his drum set from out of his car and down into the basement. The group finally "looked" like a band now, surrounded by this impressive set of drums. Tom Sabada then announced that he also had a string bass at home, and Max and I now knew that our band was now complete. Alas, "The White Bucks" were born!

We began working hard between classes and after classes to perfect our sound. Max was always into gadgets, and he had this old reel-to-reel tape recorder that he probably "appropriated" from his father. We began making demo tapes of our practice and jam sessions, and Max soon took the tapes to a disc jockey he knew in Ann Arbor: Ollie McLoughlin. Max came to know Ollie while volunteering as a firefighter in Pittsfield Township. Crook was always in and out of the radio station with little diddies and radio spots that he was doing. To make a long story short, Ollie thought Max had something there amongst all the songs, and so McLoughlin had the group caravan to Detroit to professionally record two of Crook's compositions, "Get That Fly," again with Max on vocals, and "Orny," co-written with Tom Sabada. The studio that we recorded at was the same studio where "The Lone Ranger" radio show was recorded out of for years during the 30's and 40's. We recorded "live" using their two-track Ampex machine. Microphones were strategically placed to balance out the sound between the two tracks. In February of 1959, "Get That Fly" backed with "Orny" was released on Dot Records. Pat Boone was currently on the label, and I remember Max having high hopes for the group because he figured there would be heavy promotion for the record. Although our single was a double-sided regional hit, it didn't receive the promotion and airtime necessary around the country to establish the group. However, the offers for the White Bucks to come play record hops came pouring in. Many friday and saturday nights the White Bucks could be found playing a hop at the Kalamazoo Armory.

A Crowd Gathers Around the White Bucks

The White Bucks played at many high school dances, proms, and hops. The kids screamed at the top of their lungs, especially the girls. The crowds would get rowdy when we played our single, but also when we played favorites of the time, including "Rebel Rouser" and "Summertime Blues," which always seemed to go over well with the younger crowd. We wrote jam numbers like "G-Jam Rock" and C-Jam Blues." A follow-up to "Get That Fly" was written and recorded as a demo, but as the 1959 school year came to an end, so did the "fame and fortune" of the White Bucks. Dot Records failed to promote the record, and we began fighting amongst ourselves about our future. I had to get a summer job to make money if I was serious about getting a degree. Max married Joann that year, and soon had a growing family to support. Brian Woodworth became a disc jockey in Allegan, Michigan for "WOWE" radio. And so, the White Bucks went their seperate ways. We did, however, stay in contact with one another and occasionally got together just to jam.

It was the summer of '59 that Max assembled built his now infamous Musitron synthesizer, and we accompanied him to Detroit to cut a few of his new compositions at Berry Gordy's early Motown studios.

In the fall of '59, Max was adopted by Del Shannon's Battle Creek "Big Little Show Band" via an audition set up by another known local drummer, Dick Parker. Max was hired as Del's pianist and organist, bringing to the Kellogg crowd a new and fresh sound that they were surely ready for.

Max Crook and Del Shannon went on to spend the next year and a half at the Hi-Lo Club in Battle Creek writing and recording new songs, which resulted in the 1961 mammoth hit "Runaway." The parallel stories of Max Crook and The White Bucks and Charles Westover with The Midnight Ramblers are most intriguing. The rest, as they say, is history.

(Stan Martin, former bass player for the White Bucks, now resides in Peoria, Arizona with his wife Pat. Crook and Martin, still lasting friends, continue to record together on and off. Their latest collaboration, "Standing Pat: Say It In Love," is an album featuring Stan and Pat Martin on vocals, with special accompaniment by Max Crook.)


Copyright 1998-2007 Max Crook, Backdraft Music. All Rights Reserved. The borrowing of verbiage and pictures is permissable provided credit to the source is made and a link to is established.