We The People, a band from Orlando, Miami, released their 4th single in 1966 on Challenge Records. The A-Side In The Past, is a beautiful 60’s jam with a unique psychedelic sound. This is probably caused by the use of an eight stringed local instrument they used, instead of the then popular sitar. I contacted Wayne Proctor, from We The People, and spoke with him about the song and the band.
As I find the sitar-like instrument in the song really fascinating, Wayne told me the facts behind this rarity.
I call it an “Octachord,” Jasper, because it has eight strings. Not much is known about the instrument, but I bought it from a high school friend whose grandfather made 50 of them by hand in Ohio, USA. It has no relation to a sitar, and is larger than a mandolin. Back when I recorded with it, there were no strings available for it’s size, so I had to buy two sets of banjo strings to fit it. When I bought it, an old acoustic guitar electric pickup made by Kent, model WC-18, had been mounted on it, and it was played through a Fender Bandmaster amplifier head, with a large homemade speaker cabinet with two 15″ Jensen speakers, as well as a separate Fender Reverb unit.
The song was covered about a year later in Belgium, Charleroi by Delphine. In the beginning I thought it was a bit strange how fast the relatively small succes of the single made it across the Atlantic. Now it turns out to be the single was also released in France under the London label. I reckon this press landed on the record player of Delphine Bury, what then caused here to cover both the A and B side on her 1967 EP (released on Decca). The first track on this EP is a french version of St. John’s Shop entitled Ne T’En Va Jamais , the third track a cover of In The Past entitled La Fermeture-Eclair. At the time, We The People didn’t know about this cover.
I became aware of Delphine’s version sometime around 1983, and when I heard it I realized she had used the original We The People sound track/background music, and overdubbed her voice on top of it. In other words, the music behind Delphine is ours (We The People), and that is us playing for her. No one in WTP knew of this until about 15 years later…
Not only did the record fly across the atlantic, it was also heard in California. The record was covered in 1968 by San Jose psych outfit The Chocolate Watchband. After having made small fame with their first LP No Way Out, their second LP The Inner Mystique contained a cover of In The Past. Producer Ed Cobb (co-responsible for Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love) gave it a slight different vibe. This cover also wasn’t heard at the time by We The People.
I learned of their version in the 1970’s, and was very excited that someone else recorded one of my songs! I think it is a very interesting rendition, although not true to the original effort to make it dynamic. However, that being said, I think the Chocolate Watch Band did a great job, and was trying to achieve a different, more psychedelic song than the original.
I’m always curious about the band’s influences music-wise. What influenced We The People?
All of us in the band were influenced by so many, many different styles, and we tried to interject each of our favorites into our own style. Back in those days, it was customary to play mostly cover songs for our audiences, because that’s what the kids wanted to hear. But, they allowed us to play our own songs, too, especially after they hit the airways on the local radio stations, and in record stores. We loved the Beatles, of course, and the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, the Stones, theYoung Rascals, Little Milton, Wilson Pickett, and James Brown. The old 60′s rhythm & blues songs were highly respected, as well.
Nowadays the song is considered a garage classic among a lot of people I guess. How did the single do back in 1966, did the songs get any recognition at that time, and if not, maybe later?
Yes, “In the Past” got a lot of airplay and recognition in 1966 due to our favorite radio stations WLOF and WHOO in Orlando, Florida, but it wasn’t until much later when it began to catch on with a much younger audience in the 1980′s, and even through today. I am amazed at how it has been accepted worldwide!!!
Finally, I wonder what stopped We The People and what happened next?
That’s a long story, Jasper. We had been traveling on the road for a long time, and trying our best to hit it big. I guess the pressure and fatigue just caught up with us, and we were all just “burned out.” That, and the fact that I had been classified as 1-A for the military draft about that time. The only way I could keep from being drafted and going into the Vietnam war was to return to college, so I sold my guitar and equipment to pay for my school tuition. I returned to college, but the rest of the band members stayed together for a while, and found another guitar player, etc.
Go check out We The People!!