The Hombres

Band members                             Related acts

  line-up 1 (1966-68)

- Billy Cunningham (RIP 2012) -- lead vocals, keyboards

- Johnny Hunter (RIP 1976) -- drums, percussion

- Lee Masters -- bass

- Gary McEwen -- lead guitar



- B.B. Cunningam (solo efforts)

- Ronny and the Daytonas



Genre: garage

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Let It Hang Out (Let It All Hang Out)

Company: Verve Forecast

Catalog: FTS 3036 (stereo)

Country/State: Memphis, Tennessee

Year: 1968

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5218

Price: $25.00


Keyboardist/singer Billy Cunningham, drummer Johnny Hunter and guitarist Gary McEwen first crossed paths while attending high school in Memphis, Tennessee.  Discovering a common interest in music, in 1964 they were hired to support of John "Bucky" Wilkin.  Wilkin was better known as the singer/frontman for Ronny & the Daytonas (of 'Little G.T.O' fame).  Desperate to get Wilkin on the road to support his hit, Mala Records ran into a roadblock when his parents refused to let him tour.  As was common, manager Ray Brown was directed to recruit a touring Daytonas band.   Cunningham, Hunter and McEwen were hired spending the next two years on the road as Ronny & the Daytonas.  Unhappy with their lack of recognition, in 1967 the three decided to form their own band and promptly began rehearsing, playing small Memphis bars, recording and shopping demo tapes. With the addition of bassist Lee Masters to the line-up, they were originally known as The Bandits before opting for The Hombres nameplate.  Their initial efforts to attract a label proved unsuccessful, but in 1967 the quartet attracted the attention of infamous producer Huey Meaux. Meaux recorded several tracks with the band, bringing them to the attention of Shelby Singleton who arranged for a recording contract with MGM"s newly formed Verve Forecast label. 

Released by Verve/Forecast without the band's knowledge (Meaux was not known as the most honest producer out there), they made their recording debut with a 1967 single:

- 'Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)' b/w 'Go Girl Go' (Verve Forecast catalog number KF 5058) 


An unexpected top-20 hit, as was standard marketing procedure, Verve/Forecast rushed the group back into the studio to record an album's worth of material in support of the single. Released as "Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out" the hastily recorded album wasn't particularly focused, but it had more than its share of charm.  Propelled by Cunningham' dry, country twang of a voice, the highlights included a freakout cover of 'Gloria' (with a nifty little nod to The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High') and 'Sorry 'Bout That ' which offered up a great slice of Texas-styled garage rock.  Reflecting their Ronnie and the Daytonas days, 'Little 2+ 2' offered up a pleasant if formulaic slice of hot rod music.  'Mau Mau Mau' and 'This Little Girl' both had commercial potential.  That wasn't to say the set was a complete success. Their cover of The Everly Brothers' 'So Sad' was forgettable.  The band original 'Am I High' sounded like a bad Roger Miller tune.  The goofy 'It's a Gas' was clearly written as a follow-up to their original hit.  Certainly not the best garage rock album you've ever heard, but it had its share of pleasures and I've heard far worse sets.   Needless to say, the material was largely shunned by commercial radio, though the parent album managed to hit # 180.  


Showcasing the members in Mexican sombreros the album cover would certainly fail today's political correctness standards,.   I've always wondered why the cover photo was seeming taken at a garbage dump in Marion, Arkansas.


"Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Let It Out (Let It All Hang Our)   (B.B. Cunningham, Jr.) - 2:05   rating: **** stars

One of Cunningham's first writing efforts under The Hombres nameplate, 'Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)' was reportedly inspired by Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'; albeit with a distinctive Southern blue-collar edge to the lyrics.  The track was recorded in one take.  Funny, but listening to Cunningham's drawl, if you can picture the late Roger Miller trotting out his best Bob Dylan impersonation you'll get a feel for this one.  Featuring drummer Hunterm the odd spoken word introduction "A preachment, dear friends, you are about to receive on John Barleycorn, nicotine and the temptations of Eve" was borrowed from Red Ingle and His Natural Seven's 1947 song 'Cigareets, Whuskey and Wild, Wild Women.'   YouTube has a wonderful August,  2009 performance of a slightly older Cunningham performing the song with backing from Jeffrey and the Pacemakers: Let It All Hang Out - YouTube  




Cunningham subsequently re-recorded the tune as a 1974 solo single.


- 1974's 'Let It All Hang Out' b/w 'Take Me Back Wife' (Janus catalog number J-235)






2.) Little 2 + 2   (B.B. Cunningham - Jerry Lee Masters - John Will Hunter - Gary Wayne McEwen)  - 1:40   rating: **** stars

Their Ronnie and the Daytonas roots were clearly on display on the surf-rocker 'Little 2 + 2.'  I'm not a big fan of the genre, but other than being way too short, this was a great "car" tune.
3.) So Sad 
(Don Everly) - 3:47   rating: *** stars

Nice Everly Brothers cover ..  I'm not a big country fan, but have to admit they turned in a nice version of the tune.
4.) Gloria   (Van Morrison) - 5:43  
rating: **** stars

There are so many covers of this Them classic it's hard to get too excited about the thought of yet another one.  That said, this version isn't bad.  Musically it wasn't all that different than the original with Masters turning in a suitable rugged vocal.  What made their cover special was the sly nod to The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High' at about the 2.30 mark.   Totally unexpected and totally cool !!!

5.) Am I High   (Billy Cunningham - John Hunter - Lee Masters - Gary Wayne McEwan) - 2:49  rating: ** stars

I'm not a big fan of gimmick songs; especially those that remind me of the late Roger Miller.  I guess it was meant to be funny, but it wasn't.  Clearly a throwaway tune, the song reappeared as the "B" side on their 'It's a Gas' single.

(side 2)

1.) Mau Mau Mau   (B.B. Cunningham - John Hunter - Lee Masters - Gary Wayne McEwan) - 2:15   rating: **** stars

Well there are few things that scream mid-'60s as blatantly as Farfisa organ.  Add in some sweet Merseybeat-styled harmony vocals and this was one of the album's hidden charmers. Curiously the song was tapped as a Spanish single:





- 1968's 'Mau Mau Mau' b/w 'The Prodigal (Verve Forecast catalog number 58 907)






2.) This Little Girl   (B.B. Cunningham - John Hunter - Lee Masters - Gary Wayne McEwan) - 1:58  
rating: *** stars

Few folks have heard it, but 'This Little Girl' was a classic slice of mid-'60s garage rock with a touch of bubblegum pop added to the backing vocals.   Sweet.
3.) Sorry 'Bout That 
(Gary Wayne McEwen - Stanley Kessler) - 2:15   rating: *** stars

Cunningham's opening jittery organ fills instantly recalled The Sir Douglas Quintet, or Sam and the Shams.  Shades of 'She's About a Mover.'  Add in a nice McEwan guitar solo and this was ready for the dance floor.
4.) Ya Ya   (Clarence Lewis - Lee Dorsey - Morgan Robinson) - 3:11 
rating: *** stars

Yeah, let's be honest and admit it would be hard to beat the Lee Dorsey original.  Still propelled by some energetic Johnny Hunter drums, a great Cunningham organ solo and his dry voice, their cover of 'Ya Ya' wasn't an embarassment.
5.) Hey Little Girl   (Billy Cunningham - John Hunter - Lee Masters - Gary Wayne McEwan) - 1:46  
rating: *** stars

Imagine a Buddy Holly and The Bobby Fuller Four mash-up and you'll get a feel for 'Hey Little Girl.'  Again, way to short, but quite energetic.
6.) It's a Gas   (B.B. Cunningham - John Hunter - Lee Masters - Gary Wayne McEwan) - 1:56  
rating: *** stars

'It's a Gas' was an obvious attempt to replicate the title track's success, though with the expected diminishing returns.  Another Roger Miller-styled slice of humor (the opening belch still makes me smile); with the band injecting a touch of social commentary to the mix.  Where have I heard the sha-la-la-la chorus?  Shame the song faded out just as Gary McEwen's guitar solo was starting to take off.


1968's 'It's a Gas' b/w 'Am I High' (Verve Forecast catalog number KF 5076)




The song was also tapped as their first single:







The band apparently recorded a follow-on album (tentatively titled "The Hombres"), but the project was shelved by Verve/Forecast.  Following a pair of non-LP singles for Verve and a one-shot single for Sun, they called it quits in early 1970.

- 1968's 'The Prodigal' b/w 'Mau Mau Mau' (Verve/Forecast catalog number KF-5083)

- 1968's 'Take My Overwhelming Love (and Shove It In Your Heart)' b/w 'Pumpkin Man' (Verve/Forecast catalog number KF-5093)

- 1969's 'If This Ain't Love You, Baby' b/w 'You Made Me What I Am' (Sun catalog number # 1104)



Sadly this is one of those outfits with a high mortality rate.


Only 34, drummer Hunter committed suicide in February, 1976.

Working as a security guard at a Memphis apartment complex, the 70 year old Cunningham was shot and killed in October, 2014.


For anyone interested, I stumbled across an interesting 2003 interview Gary McEwen did with Mark Prindle at: Gary McEwen interview (