Friday, June 21, 2024

The Furniture, Uncle Billy & The Vagrants (Peoria)

The Vagrants from Garbagepool, England were in fact a popular Peoria, Illinois band that was active from 1965-1967.  The group was often billed as Uncle Billy & The Vagrants and was later known as The Furniture.

In addition to the name changes, the group went through a number of lineups over the course of a few short years.

According to WWCT Basement Tapes Who's Who (The Gilded Book), the group included Greg Williams and "Uncle Billy" Kendall on guitars, Dave Taylor and Robyn Sleeth on drums, "Snake" King and Ken Anderson on bass, Rick Henson on keyboards and Mike McCabe on sax.

Garage Hangover post regarding another Peoria group, North Bridge Company, mentions the Furniture may have briefly included NBC's Gary Shawgo as well Ron Stockert and Jerry "Pork" Armstrong (though both were likely in A.J. & The Savages NOT The Vagrants around this time).

Starting in the summer of 1965, the Vagrants played a number of dances around the Peoria area.  They also performed regularly in Galesburg, Illinois at Wayne Dennis' Teen-A-Go-Go.  Dennis appears to have been the group's manager.

On Sunday October 9, 1966, The Vagrants opened for Paul Revere and the Raiders at Spaulding Auditorium in Peoria.  Tommy Roe also performed along with two other Peoria groups - The Coachmen and The Shags.


Sometime near the end of 1966 the Vagrants recorded their only single in Chicago for Stature Records.  Sam Cerami, the label owner, is said to have changed the band's name to The Furniture.  By December of 1966, the group was starting to be billed under the new name.

On December 28th, the Furniture (along with the Coachmen) opened for the Yardbirds at the Expo Gardens in Peoria for two shows.   The Yardbirds lineup for the show included Jimmy Page on guitar, Keith Relf on vocals and harmonica, Chris Dreja on bass and Jim McCarty on drums.  Jeff Beck had left the tour prior to the Peoria performance.  

The Furniture's 45 was eventually released in early 1967.   The a-side was a cover of the Spencer Davis Group's "Keep On Running."  The b-side was an original tune, though strongly-influenced by the Kinks, called "I Love It Baby."


"I Love It Baby" is credited to Randy Moody who doesn't appear to have been a member of the band.  Thanks to a comment that Moody left on the above YouTube video for the song, we have his version of the story:

I wrote this song in 1966 for a group from Peoria, Il. who at that time were named Uncle Billy and The Vagrants. Sam Cerami, the owner of Stature Records, re-named them "The Furniture" which I wasn't wild about...We recorded this at Sound Incorporated Studios in Chicago...The engineer was the great Stu Black, who was famous for making many hits for other artists...I was approached on a Wednesday night by the agent of the Vagrants (The Furniture) who told me he needed two brand new songs sounding similar to the Kinks for a recording session THAT Saturday!...I wrote "I Love It Baby" that night and "Maybe I'm Trying Too Hard" the next night...I intended for "Maybe" to be the "A" side, but it was never released..."I Love It Baby" was receiving great airplay by DJ's who liked it even though it was the "B" side...Then for unknown reasons, Sam pulled it out of publication and off the air, so it never became as popular as it would have been otherwise...

The rumor was that Sam was an A.R. man for London Records and they viewed his label as a conflict of interests...Footnote: I never made a penny from this song despite my contract, which is typical of the Music Industry...Please forgive me if I've bored anyone with this history of the song...David R. (Randy) Moody.

Curiously the group went back to being billed as Uncle Billy (listed here as Uncle Billie) and the Vagrants in March 1967 despite having a record out as the Furniture.   

The group does not appear to have lasted much longer under either moniker.  

Guitarist Greg Williams would go on to join the Galesburg group the Buster Browns.  The Buster Browns released one single on Golden Voice in 1968 with  both songs being written by Williams.

According to the Gilded Book, which was published in 1981, Uncle Billy Kendall "went on to become a Berkeley grad" and "is now in the recording and production business." 

One additional note:   Randy Moody mentions in his comment above that the Furniture recorded his other original "Maybe I'm Trying Too Hard" but it was never released.   The Gilded Book however refers to "Maybe I'm Trying Too Hard" as the band's first 45.   It erroneously credits the song to Williams.  It refers to the "Keep On Running" as the Vagrants' second disc.

I've never seen any proof that "Maybe I'm Trying Too Hard" was ever pressed, even as a demo, but it is certainly possible.  If you have any additional information please reach out to us at: