by John Timmons
Several months ago I wrote an article soliciting help in finding out and learning more about the 1960s instrumental rock group, The Exports. As I noted in the article, their hit record, "Car Hop", was certainly a favorite instrumental of mine and my intention was to write an expose on this band that contributed to 1960s Hot Rod rock music. Despite many hours of research, I found it odd that there was virtually no information on this group, but rather just a few references to "Car Hop" (A side), the B side, "Seat Belts, Please", and one other recording, "Mustang '65". In all my time researching 60s bands, from the super star groups like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, etc., to "one hit wonder" bands like The Rivieras, The Shadows of Knight, The Murmaids, etc., I have never failed to find biographical information. However, when it came to The Exports, thats when I hit the proverbial "brick wall" and could find absolutely nothing. Hence, my plea for help.
One morning recently, help arrived in the form of an e-mail The 60s Official Site
Webmaster received from a gentleman by the name of "Bruce". To make a very long story short, the few bits of information Bruce provided were enough for me to do a bit more sleuthing and voila, I hit paydirt! After one enlightening telephone call to a music store in Lansing, Illinois, I found myself talking to Ron Jongsma in northwest Indiana, one of the founding members of The Exports. After two very cordial and helpful telephone conversations, the mystery of the 60s rock group, The Exports had been solved. Here is the very first story ever written post 1960s of The Exports as told by the group's co-founder and guitarist, Ron Jongsma.
The Exports formed in late 1963 or early '64 in Glenwood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The band consisted of four members, Ron Jongsma (guitar), his 2nd cousin, Tom Barnhart (guitar), school classmates George Felaney (guitar), and Howard Friedman (drums). Ron's father had been a musician and the whole family often got together, including cousin Tom, to do some heavy "jammin'". One thing led to another and soon the four musicians formed a band called Bubba and The Crossmen, later to become The Exports. The band would often play at Maduras Dance Land in Whiting, Indiana, a previous 1930s swing dance venue that in the 60s became a dance outlet for rock and roll. A promoter at Maduras had a connection with the Midwest record label King Records, who at the time, was the recording label for the late, great James Brown. Shortly thereafter, The Exports found themselves recording their first and most important hit record, "Car Hop".
The Hot Rod rock instrumental was primarily heard throughout the Midwest with little to no airplay on either coast. This was ultimately the major reason why the band never achieved significant acclaim as other instrumental groups such as The Ventures. The song did well in the region, especially on Chicago's powerful and influential rock station, WLS, where it peaked at #9 on the stations famous Silver Dollar Survey. In Windsor, Ontario, Canada, "Car Hop" topped the charts at #1. The popularity of "Car Hop" made The Exports a favorite of the WLS Hot Bands who frequently were engaged to play rock and roll gigs in the Chicagoland area. The band members often were able to work with such well-known station DJs as Ron Riley, Clark Weber, Dex Card, and others.
By 1966, differing opinions on the type of music the band should play led to the groups disbanding. Ron Jongsma went on to work with Summit Distributors, a branch of Epic Records, where he worked to get major airplay on radio stations for many nationally known 1960s bands. Jongsma would later continue his work in the music industry, working for such noted companies as Peavy Electric, Fender and Ovation Guitar. Currently Ron works in sales for a national company involved in the sales, installation, and service of wine cellars. Tom Barnhart, now deceased, worked for many years at King Records in Cincinnati. George Felaney, also deceased, worked at various entities in the music industry, along with Howard Friedman who was employed for over 30 years at Fender Guitar.
Today "Car Hop" may be heard on five or more Hot Rod rock compilation CDs. In addition, Ron related that in the 1980s the song was actually heard fairly often on several national TV shows that reflected a brief resurgence in Hot Rod and Surf Instrumental rock music.
There are a few interesting factoids about The Exports and their single big hit, "Car Hop" that are noteworthy. These interesting bits of trivia include:
* The Exports initially tried to emulate the already successful rock instrumental band, The Ventures
* The idea for "Car Hop" came from the band members frequently going to Dog 'N Suds hamburger drive-ins and always talking to the car hops. Ron stated he would always go to the burger joints in his '55 cream and red Chevy that was a real "chick magnet"!
* Guitarist George Felaney was the actual writer of "Car Hop"
* At the beginning and end of "Car Hop", a loud and powerful car engine can be heard being revved up and down. The sound was that of a Corvette whose V8 engine was revved and recorded on a very inexpensive portable tape recorder in the alley in back of Ron's home and ultimately integrated into the recording of the record.
* The only lyrics for "Car Hop" are heard in the beginning of the song when you hear the phrases, "Hey car hop. I want a hamburger with mustard and onions, give me two coffees with cream and sugar, how 'bout a milkshake, I want onions, man". These few words are spoken by Ron Jongsma.
The mystery surrounding one of the 60s Hot Rod rock music bands is now solved. It is my hope, however, that this short expose may serve as the jump-start needed to prompt other enhanced biographies to be written about this hard-working band from Chicago that certainly deserves acknowledgment for their contribution to 1960s Hot Rod music. Thank you Ron Jongsma for your assistance in making The Exports story known to 60s music afficionados around the world.
Labels: 1960s, 1960s Hot Rod Music, Car Hop, Exports, Ron Jongsma, WLS