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Catching up with Cyril

Spring Hill man left his mark on Minnesota rock and roll scene

This 1963 photo was taken during Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars tour of the East Coast in 1963. (L to R) Dick Clark, Jerry Haacke, Joel Shapiro, Myron Lee, Free Scott, Curt Powell and drummer Stu Perry (front).

In 1963, a rock and roll band out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, called Myron Lee & the Caddies had the music world at its feet. Successful U.S. tours with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, Canadian tours with Buddy Knox, appearances with Bobby Vee, Dion, Everly Brothers and Ventures, and the release of 11 45s (at that point) made them a crowd favorite.

Myron Lee, leader of the band, enjoyed spending his summer touring central Minnesota, setting ballroom attendance records wherever they played and relaxing at the lakes in their spare time.

Myron Lee & the Caddies made regular appearances at the New Munich Ballroom in 1963, and the young crowd usually contained a 17-year-old named Cyril Winter. Cyril hailed from Belgrade and was working as a machinist at Cold Spring Granite at the time. Cyril had caught the rock and roll bug of the early ‘60s and had written two songs. The first song he wrote in two-three weeks, was titled I Went Down South, and the next song, Too Much of One Thing, came together in only one week.

Cyril was also working as a security guard at some of the dances when Myron Lee & the Caddies performed. Cyril approached Myron about using the Caddies as his backing band for the two songs he wrote that he wanted to record. Myron agreed and suggested using Kay Bank Studios in Minneapolis. Myron had already recorded there with the Caddies and had a good relationship with the staff and record producer George Garrett. George had his own record label and had produced music by Glenrays, Trashmen, Underbeats, Castaways, Jay Bee and the Kats and Rave-Ons, to name a few.

The spring of 1963 found Cyril and Myron Lee and the Caddies booked for a three-hour studio session at Kay Bank Studios.

The night before, they met up in a hotel room in the Twin Cities to go over the songs they were recording the next day. Myron and his lead guitar player, Curt Powell, spent hours fine tuning the arrangements that night.

Cyril in 2017 with his stock copy 45 and rare studio acetate. Photo by Tony Texley

Upon arriving at the studio the next morning they were greeted by George Garrett, who would be present in the control room during the recording process.

All the instrumental work was laid down first, then the Caddies went into the control room with George while Myron stayed in the studio with Cyril, who added his voice to the tracks. The two were seated on stools, and Myron would pat Cyril on the knee to keep him in time.

Both of Cyril’s original compositions were recorded that day, and one acetate copy was made of the recording. The 45 was mixed and released on Myron’s own label, M&L. A standard release quantity for 45s is typically 500, but Cyril insisted on 1,000 copies.

Myron gave a copy of the new release to the producer at KELO radio in Sioux Falls for airplay on the popular teen radio show Nite Rock, hosted by Lord Douglas. It received a fair amount of air play. Bobby Vee was also known to have a copy in his music collection.

Cyril soon had his 45 playing in every jukebox in central and northern Minnesota. He also sold copies by word of mouth and at dance halls.

Whenever Myron Lee & the Caddies were in the New Munich or Avon area and Cyril was in the crowd they would ask Cyril to come up on stage and sing his two songs with them. The crowd loved it. A hometown boy with a 45 record out singing on stage with a national music headliner. It would be quite a thrill for anyone at 17 years of age.

Fast forward 54 years to 2017. I am at the home of Myron Lee as we sat down for an interview of Myron and his music career. We were discussing his different studio recording sessions, and he brought up the name Cyril Winter, the only person his band ever backed up in the recording studio. Myron wondered if Cyril was still alive, and if so, where was he living? Myron challenged me to see if I could find him. Myron then presented the only studio acetate from that recording session to me for my personal collection.

The pressure was on; now I had to figure out where Cyril was.

Cyril at about age 17. Contributed photo

Well, it didn’t take long to find Cyril alive and well living in Spring Hill, Minnesota. A quick telephone call to him arranged a meeting a few days later. Cyril was surprised I was asking about a recording session from 1963. I showed him the rare acetate I had received from Myron. Cyril then presented me with a mint copy of the final release of that 45 on the M&L label.

What did Cyril remember about being in the recording studio that day.

“The Caddies guitarist, Curt Powell… it was like he could make his guitar talk,” he said. Cyril also mentioned the thrill of hearing the playback of the studio recording of his songs in the control room for the first time. Cyril also said they called Myron Lee “the king of rock and roll.”

Cyril said he had written a third song called Swing King Swing that Roscoe and the Green Men wanted to record with him because they said it would be a hit, but he never did. He did get it copyrighted. Cyril said the night he was singing it to Roscoe, Bobby Vee’s backing band, the Shadows, were at the same gig, and the Shadows put music to the words but never went into the studio with it.

Both of Cyril’s recorded songs can be found on YouTube. 

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