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CARGOE: Tulsa To Memphis and Back

CARGOE: Bill Phillips, Max Wisley, Tim Benton, Tommy Richard

"I have always believed that the Cargoe story was a huge tragedy and missed opportunity. Chalk it up to inexperience and delusions of grandeur. It was still the sixties and we did not have a full understanding of how to handle magic, and we certainly did not know how to build a musical career."

disc jockey
KAKC, Tulsa (1965-68)
WHBQ, Memphis (1969-70)

Even typewritten, Robert W. Walker's words reach out from the page and grab those of us who knew Cargoe by the throat. Had the band gone down in flames or ended up at the business end of a dirty syringe, the tragedy would not be less because these four young Tulsa musicians had everything right there within their grasp only to see it evaporate right before their eyes. No crash and burn. No explosion. Instead, a slow and painful dissipation of what could have been, totally reachable until the very end, sometime in 1973.

Pieced together over a few years in the late sixties, the band began life as Rubbery Cargoe, a name handed them by the owner of an upscale Tulsa teen club known as The Machine. Jim Peters, a KAKC disc jockey cohort of Robert W. Walker, took them under his wing, booking them into The Machine alongside popular locals, Steamer's Trunk. Rubbery Cargoe started honing skills and soon turned heads when they played third on the bill to The Animals and Sweetwater at Tulsa's Civic Center, a show which caused Eric Burdon, in all seriousness, to ask Peters, "Are these guys The Beatles?"

The next handful of years saw them move to Memphis, record an album, have the album torn asunder through an incredible series of circumstances, record another album (this one for Ardent), wait while that album followed the fate of the first (though it at least made it to vinyl), then disband in an explosion of frustration and disillusionment. Everyone close to the band saw it coming but no one wanted it, because as Jim Peters put it, "We had it. We had it! And we knew we had it!!!" But it was not to be. Just when they knew they had it, they didn't. And in the end, Cargoe was no more.

Most bands could be put to rest with the epitaph, "They had a good run" or "It just wasn't in the cards," but not Cargoe. Too many people who knew music and radio and everything it took to make it knew that these four guys were going to be the next big thing, that elusive musical entity sometimes referred to as the American Beatles, not because of the style of music but because of the depth of the entity, the creativity, the excitement, the music. Or, as Robert W. so aptly put it, the magic!

That magic, dormant these 30-plus years, recently brought the music, if not the band, back from the dead. In 2003, Japan's JVC re-released the Ardent album on CD, the first time it had been touched since the LP vanished in 1973. Then Terry Manning, the producer of the Ardent album, uncovered a tape of a live studio recording of the band from 1972 and released it on his own Lucky Seven label. From zero to two in 30 years!!! Cargoe should have been so lucky during their existence!

Those releases have reaffirmed that the magic still exists, that somebody still cares. Nothing that lies dormant that long is brought back to life for no reason. But to understand, you have to know how a can't-miss band, chock full of talent and desire, missed the golden ring completely. Read the complete story here. If you want to know more, follow the colored links: