March 4, 2016


Flanked by their own go-go dancers, Little Don & The Roulettes featured all of the Alright Five players (plus two). From left: Peg Dame, Elroy Dame, Rod Lavigne (kneeling), "Little" Don Kimball, Ralph Dame, Don Cail, Gary Walker, Janie Putnam. All photos and memorabilia courtesy of Gary Walker.

The Alright Five was a group of young neighborhood pals from Eliot, Maine, who performed with and without Alan Burn under different configurations for more than three years. The crew started off as The Agents in late 1965, with lead guitarist Ralph Dame and rhythm guitarist Gary Walker. Gary recalls: “The Agents performed on Portland Maine’s WCSH “Club 13” TV show as well as WTSN Radio’s Friday Night Dance, aired from Dover, N.H. I was in eighth grade at Eliot Elementary School and Ralph was a freshman at Eliot High School.”

Ralph's brother Elroy joined on bass, and Rod Lavigne took over on drums, and at this point the band changed their name to The Stars, named by their “music mentor” Bobby Herne, who was a cousin by marriage to Ralph and Elroy. To further the family connection, the Dames’ mom, Sis, functioned as the band's manager!

(The surname Dame should sound familiar, since extended family member Freddy Dame had a solo career — a major label 45 on Reprise — and also sang for The Outside In, who released a noteworthy garage 45 in 1967. And to boot, Freddy's brother Greg played with The Agents for a while…)

Alan Burn got hooked up with The Stars via Bobby Herne, and at this time their name changed again, to The Alright Five. Despite the age difference — Alan being in his early twenties with a major label release under his belt, and his new backing band being 8th and 9th graders! — the band gelled and recorded upwards of 10 tracks in the studio at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in 1966. Two of these tunes were selected for release in September 1966 on Alan's own Tuesday label, the poppy “Tiny Tagalong” and a no-frills British Invasion style rocker, “Turn Off, Next Exit.” Ralph and Gary wrote the music, presumably after listening to “Gloria” a few times, and Alan supplied the cryptic verses. Says Gary, “Tiny Tagalong was the a-side and received the most air time on the radio stations. But I do remember hearing some of the DJs playing “Turn Off, Next Exit.” It is definitely cool to hear your own record on the radio.”

The band’s live repertoire ranged from early rock and roll (“Land Of 1,000 Dances,” “Alley Oop”) to soul (“My Girl,” “To Love Somebody”), to teen dance staples (“Twist And Shout,” “Louie Louie”) and even the now-sounds of 1966/67 (“Mr. Spaceman,” “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” and one of the band's favorites, Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It's Worth”). And what venue could in good conscience turn down an outfit with these credentials? Personality-wise, this is the friendliest group going. They like and appreciate audiences of all ages, and always set a good example. They always dress properly for the stage. (Courtesy of an Island Enterprises promotional booking letter.)

December 1965: Ralph Dame, Gary Walker, Jimmy Satalino, Dwight Satalino, Danny Maynard, Greg Dame.

Alan departed in early 1967 and The Alright Five hired a new lead singer and a sax player, coincidentally both named Don — vocalist/guitarist Don Kimball and saxman Don Cail — and rechristened themselves as Little Don & The Roulettes. Gary remembers a busy schedule: “We played for over a year at the EM club at Portsmouth Naval Base on Thursday and Sunday nights. About six months on Saturday nights at the Little Shanty Night Club in Salisbury Beach, Mass. We played a lot of frat houses as well as high school dances and other venues.”

Now, about the Alright Five band name … turns out there is an amusing story behind it that only could have evolved through the thought processes of 14-15 year-olds.

Ralph Dame: “The band was sitting around and trying to figure out what we would call ourselves and were talking about the Dave Clark Five. Someone wondered aloud how we compared to the Dave Clark Five. One of us responded, ‘Well, I guess we are all right’ … Someone else piped up, ‘We should call ourselves The Alright Five’ — And we did.”

Special thanks to Gary Walker and Peg Dame.

Gary: “All of the Roulettes business cards were printed in the Marshwood High School Industrial Arts Shop – on the manual printing press. I printed them as part of a project my freshman year.”

Turn Off, Next Exit / Tiny Tagalong
(No. 7 / No. 8 • TK4M-1985/86)
September 1966

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