Also spelled Roxters sometimes, they were founded by school buddies Don Ward and Jerry Johnson in 1957. Ward was on rhythm guitar and Johnson on accordion when they began to play and sang together. Later that year, they decided to form a band and searched for other musicians. It was Ward who came up with the spelling of the band's name and soon, the Roxsters were born. The band included Ward on vocals and rhythm guitar, Butch Watts on electric lead guitar, Keith MacKendrick on sax, Jerry Johnson who switched to piano and vocals, Bill Rinehardt on bass, and Dave Hieronymous on drums. Also, saxophone player Guy Brown and drummer Chuck Irwin played with the band at one point.
They were the first rock'n'roll band to appear in the area and since West Palm Beach was not too far away from Miami, the Roxsters got the chance to record. They were signed to Art Records, which was owned by Harold Doane. Doane recorded some of Miami's finest rock'n'roll acts and released them on his labels Art, Perfect, and AFS. Their first recordings, however, were not solo efforts but some songs they cut with singer Wesley Hardin. "Anyway" b/w "A Thing Called Love" came out in late 1957 on AFS and were two great rock'n'roll numbers with a powerful sound provided by the band. Vocalist Wesley Hardin had no own band and had recorded previously with Tommy Spurlin's Southern Boys on Doane's Perfect label.
In 1958, the Roxsters finally recorded some of their own songs. "So Long" and "Goodbye Baby" were similar in style and lyrics but nonetheless are awesome Miami rock'n'roll outings with an aggressive sax solo, an innovative rhythm guitar intro by Don Ward, and a solid drum performance. Both songs were written by Ward and Jerry Johnson. They also laid down some unreleased sides, including two versions of "I Was Doing It, Too" and "She's Mine." It is not impossible that there are more tapes by the Roxsters waiting to be discovered. Harold Doane sold his catalog and all his tapes to Miami based 2Tribes Entertainment in 1999, so they are probably still the owner of these rare cuts.
Sax player Keith MacKendrick left in 1960 to join the Apollos, recording for Mercury with them, and afterwards became a member of the Champs (of "Tequila" fame). He played in a country band during the 1980s in West Palm Beach and his son also became a musician. Don Ward retired from performing but continued to compose songs with his wife. After her death in 2011, he returned to performing and recording.
Wesley Hardin with the Roxters
Anyway (Wesley Hardin) / A Thing Called Love (Wesley Hardin)
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|Billboard December 23, 1957, C&W review|
Recorded ca. late 1957 poss. at American Recording and Transcription Service (119th Street - Miami, Florida)
Wesley Hardin (vcl), Don Ward (gtr), Butch Watts (ld gtr), Jerry Johnson (pno), Bill Rinehardt (bs), Dave Hieronymous (dms)
Unreleased recordings from possibly the same session include "I'll Be Leaving You."
So Long (Don Ward; Jerry Johnson) / Goodbye Baby (Don Ward; Jerry Johnson)
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Recorded ca. 1958 poss. at American Recording and Transcription Service (119th Street - Miami, Florida)
Don Ward (vcl/rhy gtr), Butch Watts (ld gtr), Keith McKendrick (sax), Jerry Johnson (pno), Bill Rinehardt (bs), Dave Hieronymous (dms)
Unreleased recordings from around the same time include:
- She's Mine
- I Was Doing It, Too (version 1)
- I Was Doing It, Too (version 2)
Since I have no other label scans of the above records, I used Terry Gordon's scans from RCS.
Special thanks to Don Ward for sharing his memories.