Sadly, we lost Bryan Hill on June 1, 2007, following a lengthy battle with MS. Bryan is survived by his wife, Teresa Quinn, daughter Arlee Anne of Lakewood, CO, uncles Edward Van Hill of Ponca City, OK, and Robert Annath of Okmulgee OK, and cousins Darragh and David Young. Bryan was a wonderful friend to all who knew him, and is dearly missed.
My Story of LEGION
by Bryan Hill
The Mini-Max was a great little band playing at the Camelot Club in Wichita in 1970. Original members Doug Terbush on organ and me on drums had been working as a duo for over a year. The crowds were good and the mood was upscale and always exciting. We had played six nights a week since June of 1969.
Sunday was a jam night where visiting musicians were asked to sit in with us. We were well paid for those days but it was a full time job with long hours and late nights.
Doug and the club owner decided we needed a little extra kick in the group to further stimulate the crowd. We liked the idea of adding horns and knew a lot of players due to the jam sessions.
Our best choice was the team of Richard Lamb on trombone and Robin (Chris) Church on trumpet. They had just come off a successful run with their band, The Family Circle.
Like myself, they were full time students at Wichita State University and liked the idea of joining our tight band. They were an immediate success with Doug and me. We were able to really increase our musical ideas including some of Doug’s fine original tunes. The audience was very receptive to the larger Mini-Max.
Doug wanted to go in some different directions and play a little less commercial style. He wanted to start a new group in late 1970. Our last night as the Mini-Max was to be New Years Eve 1970.
Richard Lamb had been approached by Gary Hamlin, owner of the Stage Door Inn, about he and Chris joining his band, The Board of Regents. Gary was also the guitarist in that group. They also needed an organist due to changes in the Regents line-up. Richard recommended me. My main qualification was that I owned an organ. Chris, Richard, and I decided to join the Regents.
The Board of Regents were an eight piece horn band that played to a full house of college kids. They were popular as the house band and played Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and Chicago, and top forty radio hits. It was a good group, full of interesting, entertaining personalities. The pay was not as good as the Camelot, but the band only played on Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I was thrilled to be learning my new instrument with this group. I had picked up a lot of stuff from Doug over the years, and my organ playing improved and filled out the large sound of the band. The parts were not demanding as the emphasis was on the horn section.
I was in Uhlik music in mid 1971 and purchased a used Hohner Key bass for $80. I always wanted to kick left handed bass since Doug had done it so well. I practiced with it at home.
Two weeks later, Gary called me and asked me if I could bring my Key Bass that night. He said he had just fired the bass player. The Regents were now a seven piece horn band and my job got a little more demanding. We all got a pay increase. The band actually sounded better. It also gave us more versatility as Richard was able to play some songs on bass guitar and Chris was able to play organ while I played bass guitar and six string guitar and drums. We were now a "show band".
This era of the Regents proved even more fun as we wrote original songs as requested as a contest by Gary. I wrote ''Reason for Living'' and ''Voices" . Richard wrote ''Someday You'll Know". Chris wrote "Spirit". We recorded these songs in the summer of 1972 and they were played on the radio.
The band was a success, but our pay was sporadic due to inefficient management of the Stage Door. Gary had quit the band and was replaced Steve Downey. This was a huge improvement to our sound. His vocals really added and his lead guitar playing was excellent. Gary spent more time managing the club, but the debt grew. We were soon receiving insufficient checks on a regular basis. I had an apartment and another mouth to feed and Richard, Chris and Steve as students needed that regular income. We had to do something. The band was good, the crowds were good, but we were not getting paid.
Thursday night, September 7, 1972, Steve and Richard and Chris and I drove to June Ann' s coffee shop after the gig. We all drove despite the fact that it was just across the street from the Stage Door. We knew that we wanted to play together, but we needed a new band in a different club. The Camelot was under new ownership and was interested in a good group.
We four all liked the Stage Door and all the members of the band but there were really two factions. Three members were heavy party guys and were closer with Gary. Three members were more serious players in need of income. One member could go either way. Steve said he would ask Thane Rogers to be our drummer. Thane had played with Steve in Axis and with Richard and Chris in The Family Circle. He was to play with us that weekend (8th and 9th) because the Regents drummer was on his honeymoon that weekend. I said I would go the Camelot that night and pitch the five of us as the new house band. Our meeting adjourned and we were buoyed with hope.I went to talk with the Camelot owner and he was very interested in our new group. He remembered me with the original Mini-Max and thought we could draw a good audience in the private club. I was hopeful. Thane played with the Regents that weekend and he added a sharp snap to the tightness of the band. We approached him to be our drummer with the new group and he agreed to join us. Steve, Chris, Thane, Richard, and I decided that Saturday night, September 9th would be our last night as Regents. I ran a tape of the last night performance and it sounded really good. Our final paychecks were not sufficient, but we were already gone. The remaining Regents were shocked when they entered the Stage Door on Monday to find an empty stage and two P.A. speakers. We owned all the equipment.
We moved all the gear to my folks' house to rehearse on Sunday, September 10, 1972. The first song we learned was "Valdez" by Cold Blood. It sounded tight from the beginning. We made plans to practice each night until our new gig. That night I went to the Camelot again to make sure we had the gig. The owner said he had decided to go with the Hard Road instead of us. I went back to my apartment, crushed. That night, I cried in bed because we had dissolved a great band to make a new start and now it seemed doomed. My girl comforted me. I have not cried since.
The next day I told everyone about our lack of work, but we decided to keep rehearsing and learning new material. We all looked for other places to play, but there were none. By Wednesday, despair was becoming contagious and Steve and Thane had some other opportunities. I asked them not to give up on us yet. I needed some income.
Monday, September 18, 1972, I made one desperate last call to Leon who had operated the Casino Club. He suggested that I call Terry Graham who was leasing the Casino from him along with his brother Bud. Leon said they were about to go under and Leon did not want the club back as his full time business.
I called Terry at 8:30 P.M. and he was interested but he had to go to work for Santa Fe. He worked all night but agreed to meet me in the morning after he got off I didn't have class, so my girl, Diane, and I drove out to the Casino and prayed on the way. It was 6:30 in the morning. Terry liked my new car and thought my girl was cute. I explained who we were and how we were now a new group. Terry said they would give us a try for a week. He was about ready to give up the business but he had an offer from the Soul Survivors to play there and they were trying to hang on a little longer. The marquee said "Steady Eddy" and they had not been a very good draw in the large club. I told Terry that Steve had played there with Axis and had been a member of The New Destinations who had had much success while Leon managed the Casino. We had a week.
I went home and called Steve at 7:30 A.M. He came to my folks' house and we loaded equipment in my 1966 Volkswagen van and his Chevy. It took four trips to get everything to the Casino. I called Thane's house to leave a message for him to bring his drums when he got home from school in Hutchinson. He had been rehearsing on my set. Richard and Chris were notified to come when they could with their horns. Steve and I and Diane sat up the stage. I went home to call Terry and he said we needed a name so that radio spots could be made for that night. We had tentatively been the new Mini-Max but needed something better and new. I thought about it for about twenty minutes and decided on Legion from a book that began, "Legion is my name...". Can you guess the book?
Diane pointed out that the Casino looked liked the American Legion building. That did it. The name also kind of rhymed with Regents and we needed all the name recognition and suggestion that we could get. I called Terry and he liked Legion too. The ads were on the radio (KLEO) twenty minutes later. We went back to finish setting up and now the whole group was present. We ran through some songs and we were excited and I was tired. We agreed to meet at 8 P.M. and start playing at 8:30.
Steve, Diane and I went to a movie! We had a gig. Everyone was satisfied with the name Legion. That night, Tuesday, September 19, 1972, Legion began the set with "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is", by Chicago. The crowd was thin, about ten people, but they were enthusiastic and the band sounded tight from the start. Thane's crisp drumming gave a solid sound to the group. Chris played Steve's RMI piano on some songs and Richard played bass on some material. Everybody sang. Steve emerged as an excellent lead singer and our comic frontwork made the evenings fun. We did some impromptu arrangements of some Regents material, and we had new parts to play and sing with less people on stage. It was good practice. Steve was a guitar virtuoso. He could play anything well. Richard and Chris were outstanding on their horns and got really good on bass and piano. Each of us became a better singer. We had to.
We formed a bond and a band. Once in a lifetime! The next night saw a smaller crowd but the band played better. Thursday saw a few more familiar faces as the audience was beginning to find out what was going on. We also saw our old band members from the Regents who were still a little aggravated, but friendly.
Friday night saw a full house in the Casino. It was a first for Bud and Terry Graham because they had never seen the club packed. We repeated that on Saturday and played even better with all the dancing and applause. We knew we had something.
Saturday night after Legion had concluded the evening, Terry called me into the office and complimented our group. He paid me in cash for the week. He said we had done a great job and that the Soul Survivors would start next week. I almost started to cry again. I thanked him for the week and then I begged him to give us some more time to build something new for him and the Casino. I told him we could play anything and draw all our old fans through the week and build a new younger audience of people who lived closer to the Casino. He thought about it and said he liked the Soul Survivors better. They had played to an older crowd in private clubs and had a better name.
I said soon we would have a big name. He finally agreed to let us be the house band. I asked him for more money per week and he said yes. I paid Richard, Chris, Thane, and Steve and told them we were in. We had a gig with real income. We left as a happy band and I now could pay the rent and eat that night.
We played Tuesday through Saturday and rehearsed on Monday nights at the Casino. We learned much new material and played all the radio hits plus some tricky horn band songs. People loved our Chicago music. Richard and Chris got really good on their second instruments and played piano and bass more of the time when the songs demanded. I still played the Key Bass on the songs where they played brass. We played our original songs from the start. Steve contributed some of his own songs and we had a goal to play some of our own stuff and do fresh arrangements of top forty music. The crowds grew and our fame grew. Our incomes grew also with regular pay, in cash.
Thane Rogers left the band in February 1974 and was replaced by Pat Kelly on drums. Pat had played with Steve in Axis. Pat was a great guy and versatile as he sang lead and also played guitar. I played drums on some songs and Pat played guitar. It took us in some new directions and Pat was loved by our audience. Still, we hated to lose Thane. Legion had constant crowds and we recorded original songs and even did some songs for a local film "King Kung Fu". We would have had a film credit but the film was sold and new music dubbed in. Steve's "Gorilla Rag" still closes the film.
Records were pressed of our contribution and they are very rare. Richard Lamb left Legion for a new life in Arizona in August 1975. There was some disagreement over the brass section that led to his ultimate decision to leave. Chris, Steve, Pat, and I carried on as a four piece band for two months more, but our versatility was cut due to the lack of horns. My heart wasn't in it anymore. A big new disco was opened that took some of our audience at that time. We amiably agreed to dissolve Legion on November 22, 1975.
We had had a three year and two month run at the Casino. We made the owners rich and entertained thousands. We recorded, played concerts. played many proms, and paid for our educations. Steve Downey, Robin Church, Pat Kelly, Thane Rogers, Richard Lamb, and I all went on to other careers and we all played music and play music. All of us have experienced life and have been fulfilled in many ways, but we will never forget the great songs, great crowds, great girls we loved, and the tremendous brotherhood that we shared when we were
Bryan Hill 2003 all rights reserved Feel the Power of Legion
Bryan and Harlan
In July of 2016, Thane dug up these publicity shots he took of Bryan with his ventriloquist dummy, Harlan.
"I had a lot of fun with this shoot. Again Bryan wanted some 8x10's to make promo flyers. We did these at Bryan's house. He had all these ideas for different poses he wanted and I came up with a few more. We were laughing the whole time.
Bryan's dad was with the Sheriff's Reserve and also a Western Auto store manager at the time. Bryan had his dad come over & change into his uniform to get of shot of Harlan getting cuffed. I shot a whole roll of 36 that morning. What fun.
The guy was always thinking. God, I miss Bryan."