With a guiding hand and loving heart: Unbelievable Uglies' former manager reflects on days with the band
As manager Reuben Kincaid once was to the fictional Partridge Family, so George Paul was to the real-life rock-and-roll band, The Unbelievable Uglies.
"I felt they should have somebody to help them -- they needed guidance," says Paul, a longtime Detroit Lakes resident.
And George, as the father of Greg Paul -- one of the band's founding members -- fit the bill. For four years during the band's 1960s heyday, he served as manager, mentor, and father figure to the five teenagers: Greg Paul, Bob Eveslage, Mike Shannon, Dave Hoffman and Dave Prentice. All of the boys hailed from the Detroit Lakes-Frazee area.
During that time, Paul served as the group's driver -- most of them were too young to qualify for a driver's license when they started -- advisor and chief cheerleader.
Well, sort of. After accompanying the fivesome to Warroad for their first high school dance gig, Paul told them, rather bluntly, "You'll never make it with just your music."
"I enjoyed those kids so darn much," he says, but at the same time, "I hated their music."
However, he admits, most adults were not fans of rock and roll when it first burst onto the scene. And many of the boys were not seasoned musicians when they joined the group, Paul adds.
So his advice to them, he says now with a smile, was to develop a top-quality stage show -- so people would overlook the fact that the music wasn't that good.
They took his advice to heart -- and somewhere along the way, Paul admits, their music got better too.
In fact, they got good enough to record a few records through the years. One of the songs on their first record, "Sorry," was produced by none other than Bobby Vee, who was one of the band's early mentors.
But their stage show remained the hallmark of the Uglies, whose popularity grew steadily through the mid-1960s.
In his travels as an insurance agent -- which was his 'day job' -- Paul helped promote the band by approaching the managers of local clubs, VFW halls and other music venues all over the state to book appearances for them, Paul says.
"I worked for about a year without charging them a booking fee," he says. "I did most of the driving for them too -- but they did buy the gas."
One of their more unusual gigs, he recalls, was at Flag Island, located at Lake of the Woods.
"We got a letter from a lady who said she'd pay us $200, plus (travel) expenses to come to Flag Island and play," Paul says. "The boys said they wanted to go."
As the island was only accessible in one of two ways -- by air, or by water -- the island was surrounded by canoes on the night of their performance.
"They played until 3 a.m.," Paul says. "They all (band and audience) had a good time."
And then there was the night in Grand Forks, N.D., when some of the younger members of the audience were busted by the cops for underage drinking.
"They (the police) called the kids' parents to come pick them up," Paul says. "But a couple of hours later, they snuck back in (to the dance)."
That was just one sign of the group's popularity. Another was the fact that WDAY-TV in Fargo approached them about doing a live television show, where they performed and promoted their "Teen Commandments."
The "Teen Commandments" were the Uglies' trademark, Paul adds. They included such memorable lines as "Stop and think before you drink" and, "Avoid following the crowd. Be an engine, not a caboose."
Yes, for all the group's wild on-stage antics, they were a pretty clean-cut bunch.
"They never did anything dirty -- they had clean music," Paul says, noting that in spite of this, they were immensely popular. Eventually, he adds, he no longer had to go looking for venue managers and promoters -- they found him.
The Uglies became one of the Upper Midwest's most popular rock and roll stage shows of the 1960s. They played in venues all throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
They also opened for many national acts including The Beach Boys and The Who.
But through the years, the Uglies went through a few personnel changes, and in time -- as the original Uglies left to attend college or pursue careers -- Paul left too. In fact, most of the original lineup hadn't played together in more than three decades when the Minnesota Rock & Country Hall of Fame came calling three years ago.
But when they learned their fellow inductees -- which included Bobby Vee, Sherwin Linton and the Runaways -- were all planning to perform at the induction ceremony, Greg Paul and Bob Eveslage began a quest to reunite the group.
That quest led to an official reunion, and the recording of their first CD of original music in 30 years ("The Original Unbelievable Uglies" is available at the group's Web site, www.unbelievableuglies.com). They meet 2-3 times a month at Eveslage's home in New Ulm, Minn., to play together.
And this Saturday, Sept. 8, the group will be taking the stage at the Detroit Lakes Pavilion once again, for an 8 p.m. concert/dance. Though their appearance is officially part of the Detroit Lakes High School Class of 1967 reunion, the show will be open to the public, Paul says.
In fact, it will be a reunion of sorts for them as well. Paul says many of their friends -- and his -- from the band's touring days will be in attendance. And of course, he'll be there too.
"Wouldn't miss it," he says.