Larry Rai &
The Red Tops
2016 - Band
Band Members: Larry (Rai) Brown, Ray Armstrong, Doyle Debolt, Dan Josephsen
Larry Rai & The Red Tops were formed in May, 1963 in Atlantic, Iowa. They were one of the first complete live rock & roll bands in Southwest Iowa and among the earliest pioneers of rock and roll in the state of Iowa. Band members were: Larry (Rai) Brown, from Atlantic, leader of the band and bass guitar player, Ray Armstrong, drummer, originally from Lewis, Doyle Debolt, guitar player from Carson, and Dan Josephsen, guitar player from Exira.
Larry Brown was previously acquainted with each of the band members individually, but they had never played together until a Sunday afternoon in late May of 1963. Larry had set up a rock and roll jam session in a laundromat on the west side of Atlantic. A huge crowd of teenagers gathered around both outside and inside the laundromat while the jam session was taking place in front of the washers and dryers. That was something never seen before by most people in Atlantic, and it was the beginning of Larry Rai & The Red Tops. The band went on to make a large impact in Southwest Iowa and pave the way for several other later bands, several of which are now in the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame.
The group performed hits from the late 50’s and early sixties. This included tunes from new rock & roll artists such as Buddy Holly, Tommy Roe, and Eddie Cochran, as well as the popular guitar instrumentals from the Fireballs and the Ventures. Later, the group excelled in Surf Music with tunes from The Astronauts, The Chantays, The Beach Boys, The Surfaries, and Dick Dale and the Deltones. As the group became known in the area, huge crowds from all around
gathered at Sunnyside Park in Atlantic on Sunday afternoons to see them at impromptu jam sessions on
the park pavilion.
In 1964 Larry Rai & The Red Tops were the backing band for a rock and roll show in Atlantic featuring a popular vocal group from California called “The Ripchords”. The Ripchords had a top national hit that year called “Hey Little Cobra” and toured the country in a station wagon. They did not play instruments, but instead hired locals groups to be their backing band for each show. Larry Rai & The Red Tops were selected to be the backing band for the Atlantic show at the Cass County 4H Building in Atlantic. After one short practice in a local motel room, the show was held and it was a great success. An interesting note is that The Ripchords recorded their music using the famous singing duo “Bruce & Terry” as vocalists. Bruce Johnston later became the permanent keyboard player for the Beach Boys. Terry Melcher was the son of Doris Day and later became one of the most famous record producers of all time in California.
Larry Rai & The Red Tops played at many rock & roll venues that were just getting a start in Southwest Iowa in the 1960’s. They also played in parades, on pavilions, and in city parks. Many other later groups in that area acquired their interest in starting a band from having seen them. The band was promoted by KJAN Radio in Atlantic who sponsored many events for them including a live radio show from the roof of a Dairy Sweet. The group also wrote two original songs, “Mississippi Surfers” and “Coverin’ Up Your Love”, which were recorded at the KJAN Radio station and played locally in the station’s listening area along with promotion of events involving the band.
In late 1964, Dan Josephsen left the group to attend college and was replaced by Bob Fields of Harlan, Iowa. The influence of “The British Invasion” had led the group to change it’s style, as well as to change it’s name to “The Great Imposters”. Under that name they toured the Eastern United States until the summer of 1965 when Ray Armstrong left that group and reunited with Dan Josephsen, creating a new group “The Fortes”. Since then, both The Great Imposters and The Fortes have been inducted into the IRRMA Hall of Fame. It is unlikely that either of those bands would have ever existed if it had not been for the pioneering work of Larry & Rai & The Red Tops who met at that
laundromat in Atlantic in 1963.