The Cavaliers Mural
Texas muralist Stylle Read captures the spirit of the 1960’s rock ‘n’ roll in this 20-by-16-foot painting on the east side of the original Accurate Sound Company (ASC) building at 15 N. Tyler Street in San Angelo. The mural inspiration comes from the original ASC Studio and the hit song, "Last Kiss,” recorded there by J. Frank Wilson and his band, The Cavaliers.
The original Cavaliers started in 1956 with band members Alton Baird, Carroll Smith, and Sid Holmes. Holmes has written a book titled “Rockabilly Heaven” that chronicles their work in the West Texas music business.
Rhythm and blues singer Wayne Cochran wrote and recorded the first version of “Last Kiss” in 1961 for the Gala label out of Vidalia, Ga. He produced several additional recordings with varied tempo and lyrics with Boblo Records, King Records and Aire Records. The song all but flopped, and Cochran resorted to playing small clubs in Texas. It was at one of these clubs that Texas promoter Sonley Roush heard and liked the song, so he bought it for one of the San Angelo bands he was promoting.
In early August 1964, Roush and Ron Newdoll, ASC Studio owner and engineer, J. Frank Wilson (vocalist), Gene “Buddy” Croyle (guitar), Roland “Snake” Atkinson (drums), Lewis Elliott (bass) and Jim Wynne (piano) were all at the ASC Studio where they taped the song that would make them famous. “Last Kiss” reached No. 1 on the charts the week of Nov. 7, 1964.
But, unlike a lot of one-hit wonders that earn a Gold Record and then disappear forever, The Cavaliers rolled on for almost 40 years. During that time, they seemed to maintain ties to Angelo State University, too. Former ASU students who played in the band include Elliott, James Thomas, Ronny Harrison, James Patterson, W. Mike Jones, and Janice Burke.
The original ASC building sign with the recording microphone on the top is featured on the left side of the mural. Four of the band members, excluding Wynne, are centered standing behind their Tamara label hit record. A slightly smaller Josie label record jacket is to the left of center, and the popular Billboard HOT 100 and Cash Box Magazine TOP 100 record charts are to the right.
In the ASC Studio, Newdoll also worked with Martin (Theophilus), an amateur recording technician who marveled that Newdoll was using the professional quality reel-to-reel Ampex 350s when he recorded the number one hit, “Last Kiss,” for The Cavaliers. Newdoll later moved his studio to Dallas and subsequently to Menlo Park, California, where he built and serviced Ampex reel tape recorders and duplication systems.
On Oct. 23, 1964, Roush, Wilson and Bobby Wood (a Memphis recording artist for Joy Records), with Croyle and Phil Trunzo in the back seat, were traveling from Parksburg, W.V., to Lima, Ohio, for a scheduled evening performance. Roush was driving, fell asleep at the wheel, and drifted across the road into a head-on crash with a tractor-trailer truck. He was killed instantly, and all the others were injured.
In 1999, “Last Kiss” once again became a hit when it was re-recorded by the rock group Pearl Jam. Fans of the “American Video Hits One” show on VH1 voted “Last Kiss” No. 3 in the all-time top 10 cover songs. J. Frank Wilson is honored in the West Texas Music Hall of Fame.