OC garage band: Kempy and the Guardians

Candy’s Flare, the music venue that was inside the National Guard Armory on Red Bird Lane in the 1960s, came up in conversation last week.

Had to google it. That led me down the rabbit hole to garagehangover.com, an online archives for mid-century garage bands the world over.

And that’s how I found Kempy and the Guardians. The Oak Cliff-based band started when most of its members were in junior high. They scored a regular gig in the mid-1960s as the Saturday night house band at Rocket skating rink on Cockrell Hill, replacing the Penthouse Five.

The Guardians’ claim to fame is the single “Love For a Price,” which sometimes appears on compilation albums of Texas garage or punk bands, including “Texas Garage Bands Vol. 1,” which was released in July.

The song is just under 2 minutes and features the fuzzy guitar sounds of Dean Brown and the dreamy boy-band vocals of Gary “Kempy” Rawlings.

 

According to this oral history from Brown, the band won the Montgomery Ward Battle of the Bands in 1966, and part of their prize was a recording session.

“I never saw so many garage bands in one place,” Dean says of the competition. “It took two days to complete.”

The band first recorded “Love For a Price” at a recording studio called Lucky, according to Dean. But the studio was not well equipped, and the band insisted on re-recording the single. They recorded the second version, the one you can hear above, at Sumet Sound, the famous recording studio in Lake Highlands.

The Guardians often shared stages with The Chessmen and The Briks, which both featured Jimmie Vaughan. Dean says Vaughan impressed him. “He knew all the Jeff Beck licks,” he says.

The flip side to “Love For a Price” is “Never.” To hear it, we will have to go find the 45.


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