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The Most Forgotten Band Of the Century: An Oral History of the Escalator Boys

We took a deep dive to find out what happened to one of the most uninfluential bands of the century.

r.j. kushner
7 min readNov 30, 2022


The Escalator Boys were a doo-wop band of incredibly little importance throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Despite their complete irrelevance, several of the band’s tunes inexplicably topped the charts, among them such hits as, “Stale Breath of the Lonely,” “Pass the Vaseline, Bluebird,” and “Well, What About Your Sister? She Home?”

How could a band create so much music of such little worth and be so forgotten? We put together an oral history of the band and its formative members — including Wilson Kittleson, Lloyd Schasel, Joe Egstad and Rayne Hambrecht — in an attempt to understand exactly what happened.

Brian Hogshead (Talent Scout, RadioLand Studios, 1951–1951½): The Escalator Boys were the first band I ever signed for RadioLand Studios. I discovered them in a bathroom stall in Grand Central Station. They sang some of their greats, like “I’m A Blue Kinda Fella” and “Sorry I Did That, I Thought It Would Be Funny.” I knew right away I was hearing something special. I spoke with them after their set and they proceeded to methodically beat the shit out of me, one by one. A week later, they were signed to the label and I was fired for gross incompetence.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson (Bandleader, Escalator Boys, 1949–1966): Getting signed by RadioLand was our big break. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. But then, of course, the hat incident happened.

Rayne Hambrecht: (Lead Hummer, Escalator Boys, 1950–1945): What happened with the hat incident was Joey [Egstad] walked in one day to rehearsal wearing a top hat. Out of the blue, he walks in smiling with this top hat on. Well, we all kind of poked fun at him a bit, you know. Harmless stuff. But Lloyd [Schasel] — he reamed Joey out for it. Really let him have it. “You look like a fool,” he screamed. Kept calling him “Abraham Stinkin’. “Hey, ease up, Lloyd!” we said. But he didn’t. He made Joey promise to never wear the hat again, even made him sign a paper swearing it.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: The next day, who walks in with a top hat on but Lloyd [Schasel]. We says, “Lloyd, what are you doing?” He says, “What? This is mine. I always wear this. What?” Then he just starts marching around the room. I didn’t like that smugness. Very smug.

Scott Fowler (Manager, Escalator Boys, 1951–1954): Lloyd, as I understand it, wanted people to think the hat was his idea. He loved it, wouldn’t take it off. Obviously, Joe was crushed. But the paper agreement Joe signed was binding. Lloyd kept the agreement in the hat. Kept marching around the room.

Lloyd Schasel (Baritone, Escalator Boys, 1950–1956): This is my hat. I always wear this. Me, not Joe. It was my idea.

Joe Egstad (Scooby-Doo-Er, Escalator Boys, 1950-Death): My head hurts. May I go lay down?

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: The hat incident left a lot of scars. But somehow we managed to regroup and put out our first record, “Is Your Dad Mad At Me?” It was a big hit, people loved us.

Scott Fowler: The record bombed. Sold zero copies. But they were just so cute, looking up at me with their big wet eyes, I didn’t have the heart to tell them. How could I tell such a cold truth to such sweet angels?

Rayne Hambrecht: The records were flying off the shelves. We felt like gods.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: Things were going swell. Until, of course, the “incident.”

Rayne Hambrecht: I wish I could forget it…Basically what happened was, we were in the recording studio working on our follow-up record, “Show Me Where It Says That On Here.” Lloyd was strutting around with his hat, as usual, when suddenly a noise came out of his butt.

Scott Fowler: I’d never heard anything quite like it in my life.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: Everybody asked Lloyd what that noise was that came out of his butt. But Lloyd said, “What noise? I didn’t hear anything.”

Rayne Hambrecht: It was Joey’s idea to check the recording and see if it the mic had picked up the noise that came out of Lloyd’s butt. He wanted to analyze it. He kept saying, “Let’s analyze it.”

Joe Egstad: I really don’t feel very well.

Scott Fowler: Well, Lloyd went absolutely ballistic. He said there was no noise and that it was illegal to record him when he was strutting. He threatened to shut down production and sue everyone in the room. That’s when the smell hit.

Rayne Hambrecht: The smell.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: I don’t remember ever smelling anything quite like that cruel, sour smell.

Scott Fowler: Frankly, we thought the Russians had attacked. We were scared.

Rayne Hambrecht: Lloyd insisted that he couldn’t smell anything, but his eyes were watering real bad. He wouldn’t let anyone open the door because he said we were being paranoid.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: We all felt very tired all of the sudden and went to sleep. When we woke up, Lloyd was standing at the recorder and told us everything got erased.

Scott Fowler: Lloyd said someone must have broken in and erased all the recordings. We’d lost the entire album.

Rayne Hambrecht: It was a real blow. We had to start over again from scratch. It was probably the worst fight we ever had as a group.

Lloyd Schasel: I don’t remember any of that.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: We probably would have broken up if it wasn’t for Hammy’s [Rayne Hambrecht’s] illness…

Rayne Hambrecht: I got the croup. They say only babies get that, but I got it. And I was not a baby. Explain that to me. That’s why I don’t trust doctors no more. Joe Rogan says the —

Scott Fowler: We all took turns holding Rayne in the bathroom with the shower running. The steam helped him. Nothing bonds a band like gentle rocking and skin-to-skin contact.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: That’s how we wrote our next hit, “Don’t Mind Bein’ Fourth Choice, Sugar (Let’s Dance).” We were all in the bathroom together and we just started harmonizing.

Scott Fowler: It was like magic. I just stood there and watched the Escalator Boys make music history. It was like they pulled the song right out of the steam.

Rayne Hambrecht: No one was wearing a shirt. I remember that.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: The song skyrocketed to number one on the radio. But it also become our first big battle with the censors. Censors were stricter back then and people had a lot of issues with one of the lines.

Scott Fowler: The line, of course, was, “In the back of the car / we’ll discover our love / but Jesus not so hard / you’re gonna tear it off.”

Rayne Hambrecht: The line…we should have cut the line. We didn’t need the line.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: It was Lloyd who insisted we needed the line. It was the hill he wanted to die on. “They’re censoring Shakespeare!” He kept saying that. “They’re censoring Shakespeare!”

Joe Egstad: What? Did you say something? It’s so hard to focus…

Scott Fowler: Anyway, they didn’t cut the line and the song was banned from the radio. We could have fought it more, taken it to court, maybe, if we weren’t all so distracted by the “Dracula” thing.

Rayne Hambrecht: The Dracula thing…that was really our undoing.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: Lloyd was convinced that he had been bitten by Dracula.

Rayne Hambrecht: It supposedly happened when he was walking home one night from the studio. Lloyd was always getting into scuffles back then. He couldn’t help himself. Every time he walked by a group of more than three people he’d say, “Hey, look, a herd of idiots!” Well, I figure this is what happened that night and someone just, I dunno, bit him or something during the fray. But Lloyd, he convinced himself he’d been “chosen” by Dracula.

Lloyd Schasel: Look into my eyes.

Scott Fowler: Needless to say, Lloyd refused to work in the daytime anymore. All of the recording sessions had to be at night.

Lloyd Schasel: Look into my eyes.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: Yeah, it was a strain on the group. Definitely a strain. Even before he bit Joe.

Scott Fowler: That was a long night. We were recording their next single, “How About A Mint First?” The band was taking a break and suddenly Lloyd said he needed “nourishment” right away or he was going to “do something crazy.”

Rayne Hambrecht: Ketty handed him an applesauce cup, but Lloyd slapped it out of his hand. Then Lloyd looked at Joey and we knew something was wrong.

Joe Egstad: Melm.

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: We said, “Run, Joey, run!” But it was too late. The poor slob tried to wiggle under the drum, but Lloyd got him by the ankle and bit his calf.

Scott Fowler: I hit the record button and got everything.

Lloyd Schasel [from recording, February 8, 1955]: Hold still, derelict! I thirst!

Joe Egstad [from recording, February 8, 1955]: YEEEEOOOWWWWIEEEEEEEEEE

Rayne Hambrecht: Things were weird after that. One by one we just kind of stopped showing up to practice. Found other projects. Life happens, you know? I’m healthier and more in touch with my body than ever. As Joe Rogan says, you have —

Wilson “Ketty” Kettleson: The Escalator Boys were a huge stepping stone for me. It’s where I grew up. I’ll never forget those days. But no, to answer your question, I’m not speaking to any of them right now.

Scott Fowler: Yeah, they are pretty much dead to me. But the music — the music lives on.

Joe Egstad: Melm.

Lloyd Schasel: Look into my eyes.



r.j. kushner

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