The Young Raiders and Southern Flavor


Who were the Young Raiders?

The following story is a good start in answering that question.

In l975 a band called Southern Flavor was playing a week long gig at a college club in Spokane, Washington.   During the third set the band Kansas came into the club and was sitting at the back of the club listening to the band.   At break time, Dave Hope, bass player for Kansas went up to the stage and started questioning the lead singer for Southern Flavor, Tom Tucker, about the band.   "Where are you guys from?"   "What's your name?  "Do you travel much?"   Tucker didn't  know that Kansas was in the house and amused by the sudden inquisition  said,  "We're booked out of Phoenix, Ariz and we're called Southern Flavor.  Hope was not satisfied and kept saying,  " sure sound familiar.   I've heard you guys somewhere."    Tucker again said that they were called Southern Flavor and had been playing on the east coast much of the previous year.  About that time the leader of the band, Steve Clark, walked back on stage and  Hope yelled,  "Southern Flavor my ass,  you're the Young Raiders.  I knew you were  a Kansas Horn Band!"

So what's a Kansas horn band?   A Kansas horn band was a rythmn and blues or soul band booked  by Mid-Continent Entertainment Co. out of the Red Dog Inn, in Lawrence, Kansas by John Brown and Mike Murfin  in the mid-l960's and early l970's.   They were not as large as the 15- 18 piece soul reviews like  Ike and Tina Turner or James Brown or the large  12 or 13 piece  R&B Bands of the South like Wayne Cochran or the Boogie Kings but were usually 8 piece bands  with a rock rythmn section,  a lead singer and a 3 piece horn section. 

The best of these was The Fabulous Flippers, followed closely by the Red Dogs.   The best of the rest included, Spider and the Crabs,  The Rising Suns and the Young Raiders.    The band Chicago admitted in a  interview that they had based their sound and instrumentation  on the Flippers who they had seen  in the upper midwest   For the next ten years a whole generation of musicians would imitate these bands, booked by Brown and advertised over 100,000 watt KOMA radio in Oklahoma City.  A half continent and five years removed, Dave Hope still  knew the sound.   Four years after they left Mid-Continent and 14 years after some young musicians in Topeka  had started the band,  The  Young Raider  sound still held true. 

The Young Raiders was the most successful name used by a band started in Topeka, Kansas in about l961.   The band at first used the name The Dante's.   Later that band led by Greg Thompson merged with the Ascots led by Ron Mikkelsen.   By 1965, John Brown had talked them into joining his new organization headed by the Flippers and the name of the band was changed to The Rising Suns.  Brown, the master communicatior and promoter  designed their logo to be somewhat similiar to the Sun Recording Studio in Memphis.   Following a couple of bus wrecks, the band had to leave the road and the Rising Suns name was given to a capable band from Coffeyville, Kansas called the Dalton Gang led by Walter Downing and Bill Snow.    After recovering the "old Topeka Rising Suns" rejoined John Brown and his Mid-Continent Co.  as The  Young Raiders.   The Young Raiders/Rising Suns  had their best years in 1966, l968, 1970 and 1971.  The l966 Rising Suns and l968 Young Raiders were led by vocalist/organist and  front man  John Neal who still performs as Johnny Neal in California.     Other members of those two  bands  were Greg Thompson, Ron Michelson, Jim Parks, Lonnie Johnson,  Donnie Wierman, John Murray, Steve Clark, Ken Weidenbach, Larry Lingle, John Bush,  David Newman, Gary Muck  and Rick Meyers.    The  1970 band was  led by Steve Clark and Ken Wiedenbach and  the l971 band by Clark.     Clark and Wiedenbach's l970 band was probably the strongest of the three on stage and in the studio  and also flirted with a national  recording contract because of the song writing talents of Rocky Grace, Jeff Severson and Greg Ayers.    The 1970 band consisted of Clark,  Weidenbach,  Ayers, Grace, Al Trollman, Bill Leacox, Doug Owen and Jeff Severson.    Several members of the l971 band would perform well into the l970's as Southern Flavor.  Members of that band were, Clark, Trollman, Cleve Warren, Tom Taylor, Chris Shaeffer, Stan Koran, Bruce Dunlap, Ajax McKennen, Steve Solmonson, and Robbie Barker.  

On July 4, l971 the band left  Mid-Continent and like the Flippers and Red Dogs before them, they had to leave their name behind them.  Brown, Murfin and later Gary Crawford put some able replacement Young Raider bands together in the early l970's.   Leaving Mid-Continent, the band  moved to Chicago, as "Waite" and then were booked out of Phoenix, Arizona, first as "Peabody" and finally,   "Southern Flavor"  which they used for about 6 years  until their final gig in April,  l978.  During that time the band traveled through all 50 states and appeared in such cities as Boston, Dallas,  Denver,  Miami, Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Anchorage, Cincinati, New Orleans, Nashville, etc.  They backed up, opened or played with  the likes of Ike and Tina Tuner(Vancouver, B.C), Rufus Thomas,  The Marvellets, Major Lance,  The Righteous Brothers(in St. Louis and Honolulu) The Guess Who,  Poco, Kenny Rogers, The Drifters,  etc.   They recorded three albums and the 1966  Rising Sun hit single, "Concentration".  The master to the first 1968  Audio House session has been lost but the 1970 and l977 sessions will be released.

Possibly only  in l970 were they ever as good as the Fabulous Flippers or Red Dogs  but as Kansas learned,  the Sound was always there, regardless of the name they were using or the musicians on stage.   Even  Clark, the longest playing member of the band,  with  ten years,  was not present at either  the band's beginning nor  end but that special  sound endured almost regardless of who was on stage.   The end finally came in l978 in Houston, Tex.    Playing as Southern Flavor with a line up of Clark, Marlin Butcher, Steve Schmitz, Dale Stinson, Don Birnie and David Sisson., the band played without any membership changes for over two years and even recorded again in Jackson, Miss. in 1977 for legends  Huey Meaux and Bob McCree. In Sept. of '77, Sisson left.   Clark stayed on to work in Sisson's replacement and then gave notice  himself after 10 years.  The band replaced Clark with a sax player and a female singer and played for  another 3 months with Marlin Butcher as the last band  leader. 

 Definitely Mid-Continent's blue collar band,  they once played 63 one-nighters in a roll and after joining the club circut they played 53 weeks in a row.  Over the years they wore out 4 buses, 3 vans and numerous cars.    It seemed as if the Young Raider talent pool would never end as first the Red Dogs, then the Flippers and numerous  other  nationally known bands would dip into the talent pool for yet another Young Raider musician.   Bill Leacox still continues to tour with America.  Rock Grace and Tom Stephenson  played with Joe Walsh.  Band Leaders John Neal and Steve Clark both continue to play with their current bands,  as do most of the Young Raiders and Southern Flavor members, many now in their  fourth decade of playing music.   

The 1967-1971 Young Raiders were  inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame on March 7, 2009 at Liberty Hall, Lawrence, Kansas


The Original Topeka Rising Suns were inducted into the Kanas Music Hall of Fame on Jan. 13, 2007.