One of the most unusual stories of the Sixties had to be that of the Hombres, a group that started life as something else but then went on to record a strange, genre-crossing hit before eventually fading from view. The song was a novelty country-rock hybrid called “Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out),” and it would be the only hit for the group, a band that actually began as an offshoot of Ronny and the Daytonas, which was itself a sort of faux-group. Confused yet?
Ronny and the Daytonas was the name of a Nashville-based combo that had hit it big in the mid-Sixties with the surf song “G.T.O.” The group actually consisted of John “Bucky” Wilkin, a young musician with family ties to the local music scene, and several anonymous studio musicians. When “G.T.O” hit it big, producers put together a touring band under the same name, but populated with some experienced guys from the Memphis music scene.
Guitarist Gary McEwen, drummer John Lee Hunter, and organist B.B. Cunningham were all talented musicians, and the road band did well enough for a couple of years, especially after adding bassist Jerry Lee Masters. Their breakaway occurred when Cunningham and McEwen teamed up to write “Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)” and — after some initial failures — managed to talk their way into a recording contract. By then they were calling themselves the Hombres, and when the record was issued in 1967 it found a receptive audience.
The song was an unusual one, to be sure. It had a definite Dylanesque flavor, mixed with a spoken introduction straight out of the novelty-songbook of Spike Jones’ contemporary, Red Ingle. Unfortunately, the band was unable to match the song’s popularity with any later records (although “Am I High” is a good song) and the Hombres soon disappeared.
A little later, British pop star Jonathan King had some success with the song (video below) as have a few others, including John Mellencamp. It also showed up a few years ago on the soundtrack of the quirky film, Elizabethtown — an appropriate spot for a strange song.