Ronny & The Daytonas
Nashville's greatest contribution to the hot rod and surfing craze of the early '60s came in the form of Ronny & the Daytonas. Centered around singer-guitarist-songwriter John "Bucky" Wilkin (son of country tunesmith Marijohn Wilkin, best known for composing "Long Black Veil" and "One Day at a Time"), their big moment in the sun came with their debut disc, the Wilkin-penned "G.T.O." After writing the song in physics class as a senior in high school, Wilkin's mom pulled a few strings, landed him a publishing deal, and had a session set up with Nashville producer (and former Sun session man) Bill Justis. Justis cut the tune with various Nashville session players who had a feel for rock & roll and instructed Bucky to come up with a group name to put on the record. Wilkin became Ronny Dayton with the anonymous backing group becoming the Daytonas. The record sprang to number four on the national charts, and an album was cut in two weeks using more or less the same personnel. Wilkin seems to have cared little about playing live and, after a short time fronting a thrown-together combo for selected dates (including a USO tour), simply put together a phantom group to go out and honor tour commitments. After the USO tour, Buzz Cason joined the group, becoming Wilkin's main writing partner. A shift away from the Beach Boys-styled hot rod and surf tunes came with the group's second hit, the ballad "Sandy." Another album, exploring the ballad side of the band, was recorded in Germany with Cason and various session players, including a full string section, then an innovative idea for a rock & roll record. The hits soon dried up, however, and the band moved on to RCA Victor with some success before Wilkin left to pursue a solo career with albums on United Artists and Liberty. He remains active today on the oldies circuit. ~ Cub Koda
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