How It All Began….

The Innocents


One night at a party thrown by the car club-The Innocents-members Darron Stankey and Al Candelaria were singing in harmony together and Jim West stepped up and began to sing along with them. The room grew very quiet and then exploded in applause. They had a unique three part harmony blend that broke out into Jim’s lead with a two part harmony behind him, They began singing at their club parties when Jim would drive home on weekends from Camp Pendleton where he was serving in the Marines.
Darron and Al invited Jim to a recording session that Herb Alpert was producing on Andex Records for their group The Echoes. After hearing the high harmony part Jim added to “De De Di Oh” (written by Darron and Al) he was asked if he had a song he could do. He did “Time” a song he had been doing with The Camp Pendleton Stars, the black R&B group he was singing with on the base, performing for the troops and at the officers club doing Rhythm and Blues tunes. Andex released “Time” and “Dee De Di Oh”. At that point, Darron, Al and Jim became a trio and took their car club’s name, THE INNOCENTS.

They rehearsed and drove to Hollywood to the various recording studios to see what they could make happen. When they went to American Studios, Kim Fowley was in the office with his feet up on the desk, leaning back in the chair and on the phone. He gave them a disinterested look when they walked in. Darron began to strum his guitar and the trio began softly singing. Fowley said, “I gotta go”, got off the phone and leaned forward to listen. After the song he asked if they had any others. Yah they said. He called his partner, Gary Paxton in from the other room and especially liked “Honest I Do”. “Come back this afternoon and we’ll record it” was their offer. The song wasn’t finished and the guys were yelling lyrics back and forth from their 2 cars on the Hollywood Freeway going home to clean up for the session. “Honest I Do” was recorded that day along with “Tick Tock”. Fowley and Paxton got them signed to Indigo Records with “Honest I Do” (and kept “Tick Tock” which they released themselves on Trans World as “Honest I Do” went up the charts).

“Honest I Do”, shot up the charts to #1 in Los Angeles for 11 weeks and to #28 nationally. It crossed over to #9 on the R&B charts as well. They began working in the studio with members of the celebrated Wrecking Crew session musicians of the L.A. recording scene of the time. Their next single release, “Gee Whiz” (Joe Dahlin covered Darron’s part-who was so upset with the label by this time he refused to come to the studio-Joe also stepped in on a few songs while the album was being recorded), also quickly rose up the west coast charts and into national chart territory where it reached #28 and again was on the R&B charts.

While performing at the Wink Martindale shows at Pacific Ocean Park they were signing autographs after the show when a teenage girl came up to them saying she could sing and wanted to record. “See that guy over there-(pointing to their producer Jim Lee) go talk to him”. He auditioned her and Kathy Young came on board Indigo. Indigo contracted the guys to arrange and sing background harmony with label-mate Kathy Young as Kathy Young with THE INNOCENTS, utilizing THE INNOCENTS success who had 2 hits by now to help break their new artist. Kathy Young with THE INNOCENTS hit big with “A Thousand Stars” which went to #3 nationally and earned a gold record and and a second top 30 song was released, “Happy Birthday Blues”. They recorded 2 albums while on Indigo, one on their own and one with Kathy Young.They appeared on various music shows including Dick Clark, Merv Griffin, and Shebang both together and on their own.

Indigo, through poor business practices went under after not paying their artists much less the pressing plants! To release Jim from his contract, they had him do 2 sides, where he appears as Bobby James (aka Jim West)-produced by Skip Batten of Skip and Flip with The Blossoms backing him on one tune and Richard Berry (of Louie Louie fame) on keyboards and also doing harmony with Jim on the other. Afterwards they recorded on Reprise, Decca and Warner Bros doing what the trio considers some of their best work. At a Goldstar recording session, Reprise labelmate Ral Donner who was also recording-came into The Innocents room, listened and asked them to do some background on his session. They were glad to oblige.

THE INNOCENTS reunited briefly when Jim produced a 4 song Cd-“Midnight Snack” (the cover art showing 2 crackers-a ritz and a saltine -and a pinto bean, a private joke on themselves referring to Jim and Darrons country backgrounds and Al Candelaria’s hispanic background! The recorded a redo of the song “Oh, How I Miss My Baby” done much earlier by them, the R&B classic “Pledging My Love”, a country flavored song, “Angel with A Heartache” and an original song written by Jim, “Our Love”. If you preview the 2 versions of “Oh, How I Miss My Baby” you will see how music and vocals changed in the interim! When they recorded “My Heart Stood Still” on Warner Bros., it was done with Jim and Al only-with Darron’s melody part overdubbed by Jim. Jim and Al were to demo 4 songs a year or two later. Even with only 2 voices there is a good blend of Al’s wide soft voice and Jim’s higher clear tones.

Ace Records released a 25 song compilation CD, “The Innocents, The Complete Indigo Recordings” . The trio worked together in 1994 in Los Angeles at a fundraiser after the Northridge earthquake at the Pantages theater hosted by KEarth Radio. In 1996 they were part of The Legends of Rock and Roll show at the Los Angeles Greek Theater. In 2001 the trio appeared with Kathy Young on the Rock, Rhythm, & DooWop show taped live for Public Television and released by Rhino Records on VHS, DVD, and CD. THE INNOCENTS performed at the annual Southern California DooWop show in Long Beach to a sold out audience and were honored to appear at Universal Amphitheatre with many of the legends of early Rock & Roll as part of The Ultimate Doo Wop Show. Sadly, Darron Stankey passed away in 2003. Jim and Al remain close (really like 
Family) to this day.