Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I don't know what the weather's been like in your part of the good ol' USA, but here in NJ we're havin' a heatwave (a tropical heatwave.....OK, I'll stop there). Like a week straight of 100+ degree temperatures. Which got me thinking about this record, one of my all-time fave crazy talkin' soul 45s.

"Rolls" Royce was actually Royce McAfee, a jazz/R&B organ player from Texas who had his own combo in the early 60s (cutting "Cairo Twist" on the Gayla label). He later went on to promote many local artists in the Dallas area, and reputedly hired a young Teddy Pendergrass to play drums in his band in 1965 (and cut "Afro-Au-Go-Go" for the Ara label). In 1964, the biggest rage in swimwear fashion was the one-piece topless bathing suit out of France - everyone talked about it, though very few women dared to wear it. Early that summer, Royce had a chance to record a dance tune he'd written, "The Frog", and needed something for the flip side. Royce's wife, Judy, was at the session, and suggested they do a tune about the risque piece of beachwear everyone was talking about. Royce and the band laid down a backing track, and then Royce, Judy, and another woman (possibly his sister-in-law) recorded a spoken dialogue about the topless bathing suit.

The result was absolute genius. You can actually hear the leer on Royce's face when he sees a woman wearing a "topless". The two women react with hostility at first, but one of them begins to come around to Royce's way of thinking, saying, "well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!" Which causes the other woman to retort, "if you can't join 'em, BEAT 'em!!" Sage advice, indeed.

"Rolls" Royce and The Wheels - Topless (Constellation 133) - 1964


  1. It's hot here in the great mid west too. This song just made my day a whole lot cooler.

  2. Hello. Royce is the drummer and Pendergrass (not Teddy) is the keyboard player.

    1. Royce was an organ player who also happened to play drums, most notably on the Lady Wilde single on Ara. As for the mysterious "Pendergrass", perhaps it's Teddy, perhaps it's not - all the research I've done is split down the middle. Some say it's Teddy, some say it's not. Teddy WAS a drummer (that's how he started with Harold Melvin). Either way, I don't think the mysterious "Pendergrass" is on this record. Were you at the session? If you have some insight on this record I'd really like to know more about it.

    2. This info is directly from Royce. Drums are his primary instrument and he's quite good. Although Royce has a long history in the pop music biz, he's never met Teddy Pendergrass. The "mysterious Pendergrass" you refer to still plays keys with Royce to this day.

  3. Royce is my grandfather and to this day i love hearing him play.