• By Kirk Gaw

Born From A Walkerton Garage Remembering The Swinging Stingray's

The 60's was a time of change and diversity. It was the first decade to reflect the aperture of the baby boomer youth. Probably, the most gainful era of culture and resistance in US history! It was also an age of wonder for Rex Masterman, Rick Maze, Wilbur Ritchie, Pat Gaynor, and Rod Sanders who regularly gathered in the garage since 1958 to play music and experiment with the sounds they heard from the "sockhop" era. They even gathered to arrange music in Mike and Joe Spinsky's basement if they could! Their music evoked the pride of their neighborhoods and inspired others to take part!

The Swingin Stingray's performing at the Walkerton Youth Building in the early 1960's.

Young groupies remember "Teen Queen," "Big Fat Woman," "Tom Tom," and "Searchin" some of the Stingray's hits. These guy's took their passion all the way to vinyl and recorded a few 45's with Fujimo Records of Elkhart. They scored big and landed spots on WLS radio in Chicago. The Swinging Stingray's shared the stage with Diana Ross and the Supreme's, the Everly Brothers, The Kingsmen, The Byrd's, and Tommy James & The Shondell's!

On the Fujimo Records label spinning on a 45 in the 1960's played by WLS - Chicago.

The Swinging Stingray's played clubs all over the Michiana / Chicago Region.

I spoke with Rex Masterman this week while reminiscing about the group. He spoke of how the guys got out of the garage and ended up renting a rehearsal hall in Hamlet. It led to Sunday night teen gigs off the US 30 cruise circuit there. He said they got big and ended up hiring Jeff their saxophone player once the Swinging Stingray's began the wedding circuit. Their tune "Searchin" got 2 to 3 requests per night. Rex said, they always regretted not recording that one. Anyhow, the Stingray's were noticed for their talents.

They played teen dance halls from Walkerton, South Bend, Elkhart, Knox, Chicago, Niles, and Plymouth. Dex Card, Bernie Roberts, and Clark Weber from WLS in Chicago played and hosted them. Also, the Stingray's came in 2nd at the Indiana State Fair "battle-of-the-bands" contest. Something they held dear.

Rex and Debbie are in Dallas today, here, posing with 3 of their 6 grandchildren.

They always dreamed that they would make it so big that each band member would own a Stingray Corvette! Rex recently bought his first last November, a 1979 T-top convertible. It was purchased to celebrate the 45th anniversary of his and wife Debbie's marriage! She and he met while he was on stage. He still considers her a groupie.

I asked Rex if they have any plans to reunite? He said, "Rick Maze and Wilbur Ritchie reunited until Wilbur's untimely death in the 1980's. Rick Maze is still playing music around the region." But, no plans for the group to get back together.

Their legacy lives on for Walkerton children. The Stingray's inspire talents. Today, Rex Masterman works for a Dallas builder and celebrates life with wife, Debbie and their 6 grandchildren.

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