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Legends (1950's)

The Legends -- Milwaukee's Legends, that is -- have become precisely that in their hometown and neighboring parts of Wisconsin, and with good reason. They started out in 1961, or possibly a little earlier, playing a tough brand of rockabilly-flavored rock & roll, and when the British Invasion hit three years later, they were able to switch gears without losing a beat, to a slightly heavier guitar sound and three-part harmony singing that emulated the work of the Beatles and, even more so, the Searchers. Of course, as blessed as they were musically, they were cursed with a name that was as ubiquitous as it was cool, and forced them into awkward shifts and additions in their billings when they played certain parts of the country in competition with local talent with an equal name to the same moniker, so that they were sometimes known as "Sam McCue's Legends." For the record, Sam McCue sang and played lead guitar, and was generally regarded as the sparkplug of the group -- the other members were Billy Joe Burnette on vocals, Larry Foster on rhythm guitar, John Rondel on lead guitar (probably succeeding McCue), Jerry Schils on bass, and Jim Sessody on drums. They were cutting albums as far back as 1962 in a punchy rockabilly style, making their long-player debut that year with Let Loose, which originally appeared on Ermine Records but was picked up by the Capitol label. Their relationship with Capitol lasted through 1962-1963, which was enough to put them into the record books as the first local band from Milwaukee to get a national recording contract. Following the advent of the British Invasion, they retooled their rockabilly sound a bit, punched up the beat and the wattage, and from 1964 through 1966 bounced between Warner Bros., Parrot, and Date with a sound that was steeped in the Merseybeat-influenced rhythm guitars and harmony singing -- on-stage, however, they had a somewhat more rootsy sound, and they never went far from their American rock & roll origins; even their last single, from 1966, included a cover of a Buddy Holly song ("Raining in My Heart"). They were pretty much regarded as the best band in Milwaukee during the early/mid-'60s, and among the others who credit the Legends as an inspiration is longtime Johnny Winter sideman Jon Paris. Not surprisingly for one of the better Wisconsin-based bands of their era, at least a few of their members endured in the business, not least of them McCue, who played with the Everly Brothers (and can be heard all over their Warner Bros. live double album) and re-emerged in the 1970s alongside Russell DaShiell as a member of the last incarnation of Crowfoot, for their final LP. ~ Bruce Eder
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Clearly not from the '50s when all their music here was recorded from 1965 on.

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