The band achieved some local notoriety in a Dallas bar called The Pirate's Nook. There they came to the attention of a local record label called Abnak Records. John Abdnor, president of the label, took the group under his wing and provided them the resources to write and practice their own songs. With the onslaught of the British Invasion by bands with strange sounding names, the group also took on a new handle. They were not bugs or beasts of any kind, they were simply Five Americans. In the summer of 1965, after a couple of failed efforts, the band released an original tune entitled "I See The Light", which climbed to #26 on the Billboard chart. "I See The Light" was followed by "Evol Not Love" which also charted in the Top 50 nationwide. Five more singles were issued, but none met with much success.
While passing through a small town in Oregon, the band saw a sign that said Western Union and quickly formed the idea for a song about someone receiving a Dear John letter by telegraph. Released in early 1967, "Western Union" rose to #5 on Billboard and #3 on the Cashbox Best Sellers list. The single sold in excess of one million records and paved the way for the group to appear on The Steve Allen Show, American Bandstand twice and Where The Action Is four times.
"Western Union" was followed by a less gimmicky and more melodic song entitled "Sound Of Love" which charted in the top 40 as well. Then, bowing to pressure from DJ's the world over to write another communication song, they followed "Western Union" with "Zip Code", which also went Top 40.
In 1971, after releasing eight more low charting singles, the boys simply got tired of touring and each went his own way. Mike Rabon signed with UNI records for one album and a single. Despite a good effort on Rabon's part, most of the record company's promotion and attention went to the only other artist that UNI had signed at the time, Elton John. However, Rabon's group, Michael Rabon And Choctaw went on to become a very successful touring band through the mid-seventies in the South-Western states.
Eventually, Mike Rabon went back to college and got his masters degree in education and became involved with school administration and teaching music in his home town of Hugo, Oklahoma. He married and had two sons. Bassist Jim Grant formed his own successful logo company in Dallas. One of his designs is the Chili's restaurant logo, a huge restaurant chain in the Southwest. Jim passed away on November 29th, 2004. John Durrill was hired as the organ player for The Ventures, the group that strangely enough influenced The Five Americans in their early years. He also became a successful song writer, penning such hits as "Dark Lady" by Cher. Guitarist Norman Ezell became a school teacher in Northern California. He died of cancer on May 8th, 2010 at the age of 68. Drummer Jimmy Wright continued residing in Durant, Oklahoma where The Five got their start and played on commercial jingles from time to time. He passed away on January 30th, 2012.
The Five Americans where the first to achieve what no other group in Texas had done in five short years...selling millions of singles and albums. "Western Union" still gets airplay on oldies radio on average of 5000 times per month in the U.S. and Canada, and as of January of 1998, "Western Union" achieved the one million mark in airplay according to BMI, Broadcast Music INC.
Over the years the group still got together to play an occasional show. A double album called "Now and Then" was issued with most of the band's hit songs on it, however the masters were sold to Sundazed Music around 1985 without The Five Americans' knowledge and the band received no royalties from the sales.
For more, be sure to read Gary James' interview with Mike Rabon