Al's Untouchables

2007 - Band

One of the wildest speaker-rattlin’, eardrum-breakin’ slabs of wax to ever come out of the state of Iowa is “Stick Around / Come On Baby” by Cedar Rapids’ Al’s Untouchables. The two-sided rock masterpiece has since become the Holy Grail for garage band record collectors.

The group, or at least this version of the group, was formed in 1964 when Al Huntzinger decided to disband his rock combo, Al & The Untouchables, to concentrate on his flourishing booking business. Since the “Untouchables” already had a loyal following Al decided to extend the life of the band by recruiting an all-new lineup. The new members would be more in tune with the rapidly changing music scene brought about by the British Invasion. Al would act as the group’s manager.

Cedar Rapids High School students Tom Hankins (bass/organ), Bruce Nunemaker (guitar), Scott Bascomb (guitar) and Mike Curly (drums), were recruited. After about six months Dickie Douglas replaced Scott. Douglas was rapidly gaining a reputation as the best young lead guitar slinger in town via his stint in The Legends (another popular local band). Wild-eyed skin-basher Ron Bressler ended up taking Mike’s place behind the drum kit. Later on group friend Eddy Hood became a “Frequent” fifth member. Eddy was a Byrds fan and would sit in from time to time with his twelve-string guitar.

This version, christened Al’s Untouchables, played the hits of the day but would often put their own signature spin on them. Their repertoire tended to lean towards the hard rock of the Rolling Stones, Animals and Yardbirds. The group’s wild clothes, scruffy long hair and high-voltage performances earned them their well-deserved bad-boy persona.

Their first major gig occurred in December 1964 when they opened for the Dave Clark Five at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, Nebraska. This began a series of opening shows for Top 40 acts like The Kingsmen, the Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Jay & The Americans and Paul Revere & The Raiders. Many national acts didn’t tour with their own musicians when they went on the road. Instead they would use one of the talented local groups as their backing band. In that role Al’s Untouchables backed up hitmakers like Chuck Berry, Ike & Tina Turner, Paul & Paula, the Everly Brothers, Dick & Dee Dee and Lou Christie when they came through Cedar Rapids.

In 1965 Al’s Untouchables took their first shot at recording. They cut a cover of  “Stagger Lee” and a Hankins/Douglas original, “Why Don’t You Love Me?” Although they were happy with the results the record remained unreleased due to financial reasons.

The second time around proved to be the charm. It was a fateful day in 1966 when Al’s Untouchables headed to Sound Studios in Chicago to record the two original tunes that would earn them garage band immortality. “Stick Around” is a raunchy blues-rocker written and sung by Dickie. The gnarly grunge of “Stick Around” would have seemed right at home on an early Stones album. The frantic “Come On Baby” is a thumping pre-punker that explodes with “in-your-face” attitude.

Tom Hankins wrote and belted out this revved-up raver. “Come On Baby” sounds like a Yardbirds 45 that’s been cranked up to 11! The genius of Dickie Douglas’ lightning-fast lead guitar prowess comes through loud and clear on both tracks. Eddy Hood made the trip with the guys and handled the bass parts with Hankins playing the organ on the sessions.

The engineer was Stu Black. Stu was a top-flight Chicago soundman that recorded the Rolling Stones as well as many of the artists on the legendary Chess record label (Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, etc.) The single, released on Al Huntzinger’s Hunt Records, received positive response from local radio and began to garner airplay alongside the Beatles, Kinks and the Who. Nowadays the record has become a certified garage band classic that fetches big bucks on eBay.

In 1966 Al’s Untouchables were hotter than a pistol. They scored a hit record; they were headlining all the popular venues of the day (Danceland, Armar, Dance-Mor, etc.) and were hands-down the most talented, hardest-rocking band around.

An executive from Liberty Records heard “Stick Around / Come On Baby” and expressed interest in the group. Liberty flew the guys, and manager Al, out to Hollywood to audition at a showcase that was being held at the Hullabaloo Club. The other groups performing on that showcase included Buffalo Springfield, the Doors, the Dillards, the Palace Guard and the Yellow Payges. Liberty liked what they saw but wanted to make a few changes to which our headstrong longhaired heroes said no. They soon retreated back to Iowa.

Back home the band and Al were having some disagreements and they decided to part ways. Since Al owned the “Untouchables” name the guys were forced to undergo a name change. They became the Orphans and returned to California with Eddy Hood taking Bruce Nunemaker’s place in the band.

National fame continued to be just out of the reach of their calloused fingertips. They entered, and won, the Vox Battle of the Bands contest at the Cow Palace, recorded a few demos and played some prestigious gigs, but never caught the big break that would put them over the top. Talent they had; luck proved elusive.

In September 2007 Al’s Untouchables will rightly take their place as an inductee in the IRRMA Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame.

Post Al’s Untouchables:

Dickie Douglas: In the ‘70s Dickie formed the highly successful hard rock band Enoch Smoky. Today Dickie is still very active on the local music scene. He plays with several groups and is working on a new album to be released in 2007.

Bruce Nunemaker: Today Bruce lives in Colorado with his three sons. He has played guitar in the Jim Hyatt Band for almost twenty years.

Tom Hankins: Tom returned to California for good and had a very successful career as a professional wrestler.

Ron Bressler: Ron lives in Cedar Rapids where he plays drums with various groups.

Eddy Hood: Eddy lives in California with his wife Janet. He is an artist and played guitar in the band Kentucky Wonder.

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