1965

  

Sometime in late summer/early fall 1964, Tom Willett’s younger brother Charlie (or “Chuck” to many) joined the Newports, and Tom and Charlie began fronting the band together. “The Willett Brothers” brought an amazing dynamic to the Newports. Each was an impeccably gifted singer; and together they sang Everly Brothers, Righteous Brothers, and other duet material flawlessly and compellingly, plus they lent their unique style to countless R&R and R&B hits. With the Willetts fronting the group, the Newports popularity grew, and we began appearing more frequently in D.C. clubs, including The Keg, The Rabbit’s Foot, The Roundtable, The Crazy Horse, The Bayou, The Rocket Room, plus Bethesda’s Red Fox Tavern. We also traveled some, and played a weekend at the Kings Arms nightclub in Durham, N.C. , and opened for Herman’s Hermits at a concert in Norfolk -- among other excursions.  

We also produced our most memorable records with the Willetts, including Little Heart, which became a local hit for the band, and The Trouble Is You -- which was picked up nationally by Laurie Records.

     

The Rocket Room, Summer 1965

    
During the summer of 1965, the Newports played for five weeks -- Tuesdays  through Sundays, 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. nightly -- at D.C.’s famed Rocket Room nightclub, at the corner of 12th St. and New York Ave. Here are some photos from that engagement; the bikini-clad women on stage were not band members but “discotheque dancers” hired by the club. Other memories of this hard-core D.C. nightspot are of a bouncer named Dutch, paid $5.00 nightly, who on occasion would escort an unruly customer out the front door horizontally. The female servers also wore swimsuits, and smoking was so intense among patrons that one often couldn't see across the room.

Photo #10 shows on stage Washington DJ Jack Alix, who spun records each night during the Newports' breaks.

   

Marquee on the roof of The Rocket Room

On stage: John Hurd (Hammond, far left), Tom Willett, Charlie Willett, Bill White (bass)

   

(L to R) Blaine Smith (guitar), Tom Willett, Charlie Willett

Closeup

    

(L to R) Blaine Smith (guitar), Tom Willett, Charlie Willett, Bill White (bass)

Closeup

    

(L to R) John Hurd (Hammond), Blaine Smith (guitar), Tom Willett

Closeup

   

(L to R) Blaine Smith (guitar), Tom Willett, Charlie Willett

Closeup

      

(L to R) John Hurd (Organ), Jack Alix (DJ), Tom Willett

Closeup

           

Band barely visible in this one

View toward the rear section of this large club, with discotheque dancer in back

      
     

The Newports
P.O. Box 448
Damascus, Maryland 20872
mbs@nehemiahministries.com

   

Celebrating Washington, D.C.’s Legendary Oldies Band