1966 - 68

  

In February 1966, Blaine Smith moved on from the Newports, and within a short time formed the Sons of Thunder, a Christian rock band that became his musical focus until 1974. Chris Tobey replaced Blaine on guitar for a few months, and then Larry Swacker, who had graduated from University of Hawaii and returned to D.C., came back to the band on guitar. The Newports continued after Blaine’s departure for almost three years under the able leadership first of Bill White, then Larry Swacker. The Willett Brothers left in late spring 1966, and Robert Gordon (Robbie, then) joined the band as lead singer for about a year. The Newports went through other personnel changes during this period, and at different times, drums were covered by Bruce Davis, Steve Lawrence, and Mike Walls, and keyboards by Bob Koch and Bob King. For a short time in later 1968, Jerry “Bonzo” Maddox fronted as singer, and Bill Griffith played drums.

A couple other notes: In 1969 Tom Willett married Fangette Engle, a gifted Washington songwriter who has penned many notable songs, including Walter Jackson's Uphill Climb to the Bottom. Read No Rainbows for Me: The Fangette Willett Story, for a fascinating article on her sojourn as a songwriter.

In 1972 a Wake Forest grad named Tom Willett, from northern Virginia, joined Blaine's band Sons of Thunder, as bass player and later as music director. He is no relation to his namesake in the Newports, and to this day, people are still trying to sort that one out!

     
    

Robert Gordon Fronting the Newports -- 1967

   

We lack photos from 1966-68, and if any visitor to this site has any, please send them to us and we’ll post them. We do have this one, though, and it’s an important one, for it shows the Newports when we were fronted by Robert Gordon. Gordon was the band's lead singer from summer 1966 - summer 1967. He is the one Newports member who then went on to launch a career in music performing, and he has been highly successful. He helped spearhead the rockabilly revival of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, and has released numerous albums, including many on RCA. A YouTube search brings up countless videos of Robert in action, including a performance of “Twenty Flight Rock with Link Wray around 1979 (view video), and of  “Devil in Disguise on the Conan O'Brian Show in 2008 (view video).

   

(L to R) Bob Koch (keyboard), Don Williamson (drums), Robert Gordon (singing), Larry Swacker (guitar),
Bill White (bass)

     

Robert Gordon RCA Album

The front of Robert's 1979 RCA album Rock Billy Boogie -- one of many he has
produced over the past several decades.

       
      

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

   

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