Monday, June 7, 2021

The Sprints / The New Things

The Sprints / New Things were a talented Santa Fe, New Mexico area rock group in the 1960's. The band released several 45's that charted on regional radio stations but unfortunately was not able to break thru nationally across the country. Recently I was able to talked to Bill Dimas who was one of the founding members of the band and he was very kind to share his memories and a brief history about the group.   Thanks Bill.

L to R:  Eric Knee,  Darrell Phillips,  Bill Dimas,  Lee Cooper,  Bill Waganaar,  Anthony Trujillo

   The Sprints originated in 1963. The group consisted of Darrell Phillips (rhythm guitar), Lee Cooper (drums), Eric Knee (lead guitar), Bill Waganaar (bass), Anthony Trujillo (rhythm guitar) and Bill Dimas (lead vocals). While in high school Darrell, Lee and I hung out together. The three of us graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1963.  Eric and Bill, who were also friends in school, graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1964.  Anthony Trujillo graduated from St. Michaels High School in 1963. Anthony was friends with Darrell Phillips, and Darrell introduced him to us. We all enjoyed getting together to jam and have fun. It was at one of these get togethers in 1963 we decided to start a band. Darrell came up with the group name “The Sprints” after the Ford Falcon Sprint sports car. In 1964 approximately six months after the band was formed my Grandmother paid $300 for us to make our first 45 record at the Zia Recording Studio in Santa Fe. We recorded “Shortenin’ Bread” and an instrumental song written by Eric Knee, our lead guitarist, called “Crash and Burn”. 

The record did really well, with both sides of the 45 being played on several different radio stations in New Mexico. We began touring in the southwestern states of Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico to very good crowds. We had a great time while on tour and many funny moments. One time when performing at a dance in Farmington, New Mexico we were on a stage that was about four feet high. I was standing on the right end of the stage playing keyboards when the band started doing some dance moves and swaying back and forth.  As I did this, I the fell off the stage! Funny thing is, the audience applauded and was laughing loudly as they thought it was part of our show. The band continued playing on while I climbed back up on the stage. I remember another time for a big dance that we were scheduled to perform at the University of New Mexico, we decided to buy these really nice matching Dave Clark style lime green jackets from a local discount store in Santa Fe. When performing at the show, all was going well when we started to notice around the second set of the night that the threads on three of the jacket’s sleeves started to unravel. By the time we had finished the show the sleeves had almost completely fallen off jackets. Needless to say, we never bought anything from that discount store again. 
  The Sprints enjoyed a lot of success until 1967. That’s when our bass player Bill Waganaar had to leave the group after being drafted to serve in the Viet Nam war. Anthony Trujillo also left the group at this time. There was a local group in town called “The Things” who had recently broken up. James Wheeler who played bass for The Things joined the The Sprints to replace Bill.  After James joined the band, we decided to change the name of the group to “The New Things”. The new line up consisted of Darrell Phillips (rhythm guitar), Lee Cooper (drums), Eric Knee (lead guitar), James Wheeler (bass) and Bill Dimas (lead vocals). In 1968, the group competed in a statewide “Battle of the Bands” contest and we took first place. The winning prize was a record contract with Accent Records located in Hollywood, California. We again went into the Zia Recording Studio and recorded the songs “I Want You Back” and “Dumbo.” 

This took about a day and a half of studio time to complete. After the master was sent to Accent Records we started receiving copies of the 45 in approximately one month. The record was instantly popular and charted on several local radio stations. One of Santa Fe’s most well-known night clubs at the time called “The Bottle and Glass” contracted us to perform for six weeks. The owner of the club didn’t advertise that The New Things would be there, so on the first night we performed for four hours to just one couple who sat in a corner booth and made out for the entire night. At the end of the night, they told us they really liked our music!  When our fans discovered that we were performing there, the place was packed for every performance throughout the remaining days of our contract. On one night the place was so crowded people were waiting outside of the building to come in to see our show. 

Lee Cooper, our drummer, decided to leave the group and was replaced by Jerry Sandoval. In 1969, Hurricane records who had recently signed an agreement with Musicor distribution, liked our music and signed the band to a record deal. We recorded the songs “This Little Lite of Mine,” and “The Only Woman You Can Trust (Mom)”. Hurricane Productions put on a concert just after the record release with The New Things as the opening act for The Grass Roots and The Turtles. The concert was at the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque and was sold out with about 10,000 people in attendance. The Hurricane 45 did pretty well in the New Mexico area but it never made the national charts. Eric Knee, our lead guitarist, and Jerry Sandoval, our drummer left the group. Jerry went to seminary school and would later become a priest. Charlie Ortiz became our lead guitarist and Damacio Dimas took over on drums. Both would remain with the group until the band broke up. The New Things released two more 45’s. Both were on the Corona record label. 

Corona Records was a record company I started back in the late 1960’s. I had my own music publishing company, R&D Productions, and even built a sound studio on the back of my house. The first Corona record had the Santana song Evil Ways part 1 and 2 that we recorded live at Plato’s Place which was located at the Santa Fe Airport. On our last record, Connie Gonzales sang “Don’t Call On Me” and “Rainbow Ride”. Unfortunately, Corona Records only lasted a couple of years, but it was certainly fun while it lasted! Ironically, playing in the group and recording 45’s lead me into having a career in broadcasting. When the Sprints 45 was released in 1964, I thought of ways to try to promote the record. I asked the Program Director of our top 40 radio station, KVSF, if I could emcee one of our local shows with him and he said yes! After the show, he asked me if I would be interested in possibly going into radio. He said he liked my voice and thought I would do well. I was in my junior year of college and decided to give it a try.  Needless to say, I loved it! Making a long story short, after a time, I became Program Director for KVSF and I worked for different radio stations, both full time and part time for the next 27 years. 

 In about 2012, Sprints reformed with Darrell Phillips , Bill Waganaar  and myself from the original Sprints, along with long time drummer Gene Varela, and the multi-talented recording artist, “Trinkie.  In 2016, the band released a CD entitled “Our Way,” containing 15 songs. The group would continue to performed together until 2018. 

There were so many memorable times for me to name them all, but the first time I heard our record on the radio in 1964 will always be one of the best and most special memories I’ll ever have! Thank you for your interest in the band.  - Bill Dimas