The Outta Town Players
band photo
Ron Carlson: 6 string & 12 string guitars, vocals
Rich Robinson: Percussion, vocals
Brian Sparks: Piano, vocals
Date formed: Summer 1970
Date disbanded: Fall 1970
The Outta Town Players were formed in the wake of Ron and Brian’s departure from Road. The idea was to have a band that could do a variety of things in a variety of ways. Simply said, they wanted to do a mix of acoustic and electric material coupled with simple percussion.
   The name for the band was inspired by Brian’s piano and was used as the title for their only original song. The piano Brian used for practice was a upright player piano with the “player” mechanism missing. There was never any thought of how to transport the piano to still future jobs.
   Ron was acting as guitarist and vocalist. He had a Kent semi-acoustic electric guitar with 2 pickups with a yellow to cherry sunburst finish. The Kent was ran through a Magnatone M7 amp. For acoustic Ron played a Kay 12-string he had purchased from Klocksiem’s in Ogden. This instruments biggest drawback was the absence of a truss rod in the neck. Over time, as the guitar was tuned to standard pitch, the neck warped enough to make playing beyond the 4th fret in tune impossible. In 1972 Ron sold the Kay to a friend he had made while working in Yellowstone that summer.
   Rich was asked to join by Ron and was happy to accept. He had gathered a few rhythm toys by this time and used them in lieu of a drum set. Tambourine, bongos and the like served him–and the music–well.
Brian’s father had purchased the old school building in Beaver, IA–Brian’s hometown–and that’s where the band practiced. Brian had taken over one of the classrooms on the second floor. He had brought in a couch and some chairs along with his stereo and an old upright piano. This, by the way, is where all the photos here were taken.
   The guys practiced quite often that summer, but never built up a large repertoire. In fact the only song that was fully worked up was an original tune written by Brian and Ron. The song was entitled “The Outta Town Player”; it’s title being inspired by Brian’s piano. Since the player mechanism was gone it was out of town, so to speak. Brian came up with the basic piano chord riff for the tune and he and Ron both worked on the lyrics and melody together. Other than the title, the song had no connection with the piano subject wise.
   Some of the cover tunes they had intended to work up included “Good Shepherd”, “A Song for All Seasons”/Jefferson Airplane; “Happiness Runs”, “I Love My Shirt”/Donovan; “Coming Into Los Angeles”, “The Motorcycle Song”/Arlo Guthrie; “Rocky Raccoon”, “All Together Now”/Beatles; “Mr. Spaceman”,“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”/Byrds; “Down Along the Cove”/Dylan and “Punky's Dilemma”/Simon & Garfunkel. Alas, these were never worked up.
The only known public performance by the band was at a talent show held at the United Community High School building in the early Fall of 1970. They performed their own song, “The Outta Town Player”, figuring that no comparisons would or could be made like there might be if they did a cover tune. The song went well; they did not place in the competition.
   The band’s breakup occurred simply due to it being the end of the warm weather season. The school building in Beaver was not heated. The individual members were also being socially separated due to the fact that Brian and Ron were now attending junior college in Boone, IA, while Rich was still in high school at Ogden. The distractions of this situation brought the band to a rather peaceful conclusion.
   This point also brought an end to Brain and Rich’s involvement in any further known bands. Brian passed away on June 20, 2014 at Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames, IA. He had been living in Ames and worked at ISU as a groundskeeper at the time of his death. Rich is living in Alexandria, VA and works for the American Red Cross. Ron went on to play in more bands down the road. He is currently living in Boone and playing occasionally for his own enjoyment.
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