The Progressions


In the Beginning. A group called The BFR Trio was formed coincident with the disbanding of the original Spontanes in the spring of 1964. The BFR Trio was in essence the Spontanes' rhythm section. The group consisted of Barry McCoig, bass; Fred Holland, drums; and Randy Whitesides, piano and flute. For several months the trio worked occasional local Gastonia and surrounding area venues that supported a gentler environment of instrumental mood and dinner music. The trio moved to Carolina Beach in June 1964 to fill a long-term nightly engagement aboard the moonlight cruise vessel The Cheerio II. During this summer engagement original Spontanes vocalist Joel Doby frequently joined the trio, greatly augmenting the group's repertoire.

A Horn Section Emerges. Upon returning to Gastonia in the fall of 1964, the trio expanded to full-band size with the addition of trumpeters Tim Frye and Larry Stroupe. Fred Holland moved to the alto saxophone.

John McDonald was acquired to replace Holland on percussion. The group assumed the name "The Progressions." The derivation of the name is no longer known. Holland assumed the additional role of business manager and booking agent while Whitesides scored musical arrangements for the horn section. Rehearsals were held in Holland's residential basement on Archwood Drive in Gastonia. Not being accomplished vocalists, McCoig, Holland, and Whitesides uncomfortably covered vocals of contemporary popular artists.


The Music. The addition of vocalist Ron Ownbey in winter of 1964-65 broadened the group's repertoire, allowing coverage of then popular R&B artists such as Major Lance, Little Anthony, and James Brown. The musical ensemble tended to perform covers of cross-over jazz artists such as Mongo Santamaria, Ramsey Lewis, and Horace Silver. Memorable performed musical arrangements included Milt Jackson's Bag's Groove and Cannonball Adderley's Jive Samba.


The Venues. The Progressions secured jobs consisting of public and private dances in addition to local high school proms. The group was hired frequently by local promoter Billy Calhoun and played engagements at the Gastonia Armory and Memorial Hall. On one occasion Calhoun engaged the group to provide the music in a come-back effort for Dianne Ray, during her vocal performance of Please Don't Talk to the Lifeguard on WSOC-TV's Kilgo's Canteen.

A Consolidation. The expanded, now six member group, returned to Carolina Beach for another summer-long engagement aboard the Cheerio II in 1965. Stroupe left the group in August. While working Gastonia area jobs during September 1965, The Progressions were approached by The Counts drummer and business manager Luther Blair to discuss a consolidation of the two organizations. (The Fall of 1965 had brought the departure of several college-bound members of The Counts). The musicians of the two groups, less drummer McDonald, were combined shortly thereafter and dubbed The Take Five Orchestra (TFO). The standalone Take Five Orchestra performed an R&B/pseudo-jazz genre and provided the music for the original Count vocalists Susan Boys, Baxter Harrell, Ron Ownbey, and Ted Van Tassel. This four member vocal group was billed as The Counts.

Resurrection. The Spring of 1966 brought additional college-bound departures from the TFO resulting in the re-grouping of the original five member version of The Progressions, less McCoig on bass. John McDonald rejoined the group for a third, and final, summer-long Carolina Beach engagement. The Progressions disbanded in August 1966.


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