The Centaurs were originally formed in 1964, by neighbourhood friends who attended Brookland Junior High, Richmond, VA. Members were Ron Moody (lead vocals), Gerry Spicer (drums), Donald Wright (bass), Wayne Gary (guitar) and Steve Buckingham (guitar). A horn section was added later which became part of their trademark. The band were signed to Columbia in 1969 for the release “If I Haven’t Got a Dime” backed with a version of Jimmy Holiday’s uptempo “New Breed”, a northern soul and mod favourite.
“Our musical influences were all the soul greats....Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Impressions, Ray Charles, Temptations, Four Tops, Miracles, anything on Motown, Sam and Dave, anything on Stax/Volt, Billy Stewart, and soul on Atlantic – the Drifters, Solomon Burke and others” says Ron. “Both tunes had been in our live repertoire and were always crowd pleasers. “New Breed” was actually our choice for the A side, but “Dime” took off in the US. The Centaurs played all over south east US. We were still in high school and college for much of that period, so extensive travel was somewhat limited to the southern region, particularly Virginia and the Carolinas. Our first public appearance was as an opening act for Bill Deal and the Rhondels at college in Richmond, VA on January 15, 1965. We played every type of venue available, from outside festivals, big halls, private country club shows, high school proms, to college fraternity parties....and everything in between! We played with many of the area and regional bands of the day and opened for national acts including the Drifters, Jackie Wilson, the Impressions, Billy Stewart, and Percy Sledge. Most of our beach venues were Virginia locations like the Peppermint Beach Club, the Rogues Gallery and Peabody's Warehouse. In addition to Columbia, we were also signed to MGM / South Records (through Bill Lowery Music, Atlanta) and ABC / Dunhill as Ron Moody and the New Dixie Line.”
An interview with Ron on Mike Dugo’s 60sgaragebands.com website provided some insight into the Centaurs’ early days and the recording of the Columbia single:
“The first voice I remember that had an impact on me was Elvis. My cousin, who was a few years older than I, was a huge fan and that's how I learned about him. I would save up my allowance money and buy the old EP 45s with two songs on each side. I have been a lifelong Elvis fan ever since. The band was formed during the height of the British Invasion in 1964. Our first gig was a private party and they passed the hat! We made $14.00 and put it towards band cards. We played parties, sock hops, school events, fashion shows - anywhere they would hire us! We played many teen-oriented functions, but one particular teen club was the Chamberlayne Teen Club in Richmond. It was the prestige gig for kids our age!”
“Gene Pitney originally recorded “If I Didn’t Have a Dime” as a ballad. There was a Carolina band called Bob Collins and The Fabulous Five who had reworked the song into more of a shuffle. We took that concept, changed it still more and added horns. By now we had a full blown horn section: sax, two trumpets and trombone. We picked the old obscure Jimmy Holiday tune called “The New Breed” for the B-side, borrowed $600 and found a studio outside of Baltimore. We drove up on a Sunday in March of 1969 and cut the two sides. The engineer was a young George Massenberg, who subsequently went on to worldwide fame as an engineer, audio equipment designer and producer. I remember being pretty much intimidated since this was my first attempt at recording under true professional circumstances. We were pleased with the results and proceeded home having no idea as to how the effort would be received. At that point, we were doing cover material and rearranging it. That was the extent of our creative efforts. Later I became very interested in the craft of song writing and it is one of my passions today.”
Whilst there were no further vinyl releases under the name Ron Moody and The Centaurs, there are several live recordings and demos, and a single on ABC as Ron Moody and The New Dixie Line, recorded in 1973.
“There is always a faction that wants to move ahead and one that does not. By the ‘70s, several of us had realized that we needed to broaden our horizons” says Ron. “This was the era of Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, Lighthouse, etc. and we needed a new direction. We became Centaur, and changed our image. Shortly after, several of us moved to Atlanta to pursue our dream under the tutelage of music publisher Bill Lowery. The original band was together from 1964 to 1971. I moved back from Atlanta in the mid-70s and in 1980, the second incarnation of Ron Moody and The Centaurs began. This band performed until September of 2001. I spent the next few years concentrating on song writing for other people, then in 2004, I decided to put the band back together again.”
Ron himself has spent 35 years in sales and marketing with ABC/Dunhill, Polygram, and Universal. He also continues with his song writing and has produced material for several beach and soul acts including Paul Craver, the Holiday Band and Archie Bell. Ron Moody and the Centaurs continue to tour today.
Copyright E. Mark Windle 2013.
Mike Dugo. Personal coms. 6 June 2012. Permission obtained to use interview excerpt obtained from www.60sgaragebands.com
Ron Moody. Personal coms. June and August 2012.