Track: “Stay With Me”
Release: Stay With Me (7″)
Steve McNicol is the pen behind this single. This is also the second version of the song he recorded, with the first one laid down by his previous group, The Rugbys. The Rugbys, featuring Glen Howerton on drums (no not that Glenn Howerton), released two singles in 1968, with “Stay With Me”. The B-side to “Stay With Me” ended up being The Rugbys biggest hit ever, “You, I”.
Before we learn about Steve, though, we should go back a bit further to a man named Shelby Sumpter Singleton. According to the Wikipedia page entry for The Rugbys, Shelby is partially (albeit heavily accused of being) responsible for the demise of the group and lack of success due to not conforming to the trending FM radio styles of the late 1960s. Seems like a bit of a stretch, but I get it. Shelby started out at Mercury Records doing promo and production work in the 1950s. By 1960, he had produced his first big hit, Brook Benton’s “The Boll Weevil Song”.
Shelby worked for Smash Records for 9 years, producing more minor hits, and then in 1962 purchased the master recording of “Hey Paula”. Releasing that single provided him even more clout in the music scene. Four years later, in 1966, he would resign from Mercury to form some of his own labels; including Plantation Records and Amazon Records. Plantation would release the smash single “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley. This move now made Shelby a big player in the industry. In 1969, Shelby bought Sun Records from Sam Phillips and began reissuing many of the old hits from that catalog throughout the 70s.
Elvis Presley was one of the most famous Sun artists and Shelby knew that. Shelby was the guy behind the infamous Orion, the masked Elvis lookalike claiming to be the King-reborn. Well, sort of claiming. People just drew those conclusions themselves and Shelby ran with it.
So now that we know who Shelby is, let’s dig in to “Stay With Me” a bit. This recording is the Lazarus version, which from what I can tell is not quite the same band as The Rugbys but must share some similar personnel. The re-recording is almost identical to the original one, other than the splash of acid that’s been laid over the top of it. The original has that mid-sixties garage band sound, and the later version is a bit more psyched out, which a guitar solo and horns added.
The B-side to “Stay With Me” is…”Stay With Me”. I cannot tell the difference between the two recordings, so I’ll assume they are the same track. According to Discogs, it is the same recording.
In 2007, Garage Hangover did a write up of The Rugbys that talked about their history as a band, starting out as The Oxfords. Rugbys/Lazarus lead guitarist and songwriter Steve McNicol actually dropped into the blog to respond and provide some more info. A handful of people close to him and the Louisville ’60s scene also dropped in to add to the thread. Steve died in 2018, but his niece added her thoughts on the group’s legacy to that same thread afterward.
In honor of McNicols and Shelby Singleton, let’s give “Stay With Me” one more spin. Thanks for reading!