Nashville's greatest contribution to the hot rod and surfing craze of the early '60s came in the form of Ronny & the Daytonas. Centered around singer-guitarist-songwriter John "Bucky" Wilkin (son of country tunesmith Marijohn Wilkin, best known for composing "Long Black Veil" and "One Day at a Time"), their big moment in the sun came with their debut disc, the Wilkin-penned "G.T.O." After writing the song in physics class as a senior in high school, Wilkin's mom pulled a few strings, landed him a publishing deal, and had a session set up with Nashville producer (and former Sun session man) Bill Justis. Justis cut the tune with various Nashville session players who had a feel for rock & roll and instructed Bucky to come up with a group name to put on the record. Wilkin became Ronny Dayton with the anonymous backing group becoming the Daytonas.
The record sprang to number four on the national charts, and an album was cut in two weeks using more or less the same personnel. Wilkin seems to have cared little about playing live and, after a short time fronting a thrown-together combo for selected dates (including a USO tour), simply put together a phantom group to go out and honor tour commitments. After the USO tour, Buzz Cason joined the group, becoming Wilkin's main writing partner. A shift away from the Beach Boys-styled hot rod and surf tunes came with the group's second hit, the ballad "Sandy." Another album, exploring the ballad side of the band, was recorded in Germany with Cason and various session players, including a full string section, then an innovative idea for a rock & roll record. The hits soon dried up, however, and the band moved on to RCA Victor with some success before Wilkin left to pursue a solo career with albums on United Artists and Liberty. He remains active today on the oldies circuit.
G.T.O.: The Best of the Mala Recordings
1. Ronny & The Daytonas - G.T.O. (2:32)
2. Ronny & The Daytonas - California Bound (2:18)
3. Ronny & The Daytonas - Bucket "T" (2:39)
4. Ronny & The Daytonas - Hot Rod City (2:06)
5. Ronny & The Daytonas - Hey Little Girl (2:16)
6. Ronny & The Daytonas - Little Rail Job (2:19)
7. Ronny & The Daytonas - Antique '32 Studebaker Dictator Coupe (2:06)
8. Ronny & The Daytonas - Little Scrambler (1:53)
9. Ronny & The Daytonas - No Wheels (1:48)
10. Ronny & The Daytonas - Beach Boy (2:06)
11. Buzz And Bucky - Tiger-A-Go-Go (1:59)
12. Ronny & The Daytonas - Sandy (2:48)
13. Ronny & The Daytonas - I'll Think Of Summer (3:00)
14. Ronny & The Daytonas - If I Had My Way (2:57)
15. Ronny & The Daytonas - When Stars Shine Bright (2:45)
16. Ronny & The Daytonas - Nanci (3:14)
17. Ronny & The Daytonas - Then The Rains Came (2:43)
18. Ronny & The Daytonas - Somebody To Love Me (2:34)
19. Ronny & The Daytonas - Goodbye Baby (2:21)
20. Ronny & The Daytonas - Teenage Years (2:24)
After years of suffering from various bootleg compilations direct from noisy 45s of dubious legality and awful fidelity, Sundazed puts together simply the best collection available on everybody's favorite Nashville hot rod group. John Bucky Wilkins -- aka Ronny Dayton -- was the nominal group's focus as songwriter, singer, and lead guitarist, doing most of his hot pickin' on a nylon-string classical model. As a songwriter, his principal inspirations were Brian Wilson and Chuck Berry. His producer was Sun Records alumni Bill Justis ("Raunchy"), a supposed rock hater, who nonetheless knew how to cut a hit. As a result, the handful of singles and two albums from Ronny & the Daytonas' Mala Records period (1964 to 1966) stand as not only some fine Beach Boys-influenced music, but some great rock & roll that actually goes somewhere, and isn't merely imitative. This 20-song comp is split almost evenly between the styles of their two biggest hits, with the first 11 tracks echoing the rocking, gas'n'go call to arms of "G.T.O."; the balance features the lush harmonies and Beach Boys ballad style of "Sandy." The big news here is that for the first time ever, first-generation master tapes have been used for everything -- and even an original, multi-layered, mono on mono (i.e., noisy and hissy) recording like "Sandy" sounds better than it ever has. The secret delight on here is "If I Had My Way," probably their musical high point as a band. And with a few tracks and some extra liners lopped off, it is also available on vinyl.