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Coach Cliff Ellis cut records before nets

Cliff Ellis' band The Villagers had this regional hit, a cover of The Tams' "Laugh it Off." The flip side was a Beatles cover.

Did you know that former — disgraced? probation-creating? I can’t remember, am I supposed to dislike him? — Auburn basketball coach Cliff Ellis, now at Coastal Carolina University, sang for a garage band called The Villagers? Pictured above is their first record recorded by Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals in 1966. I found these MP3 files (scratches and all!) and the photo above at the blog “Obscure & Unusual 45 & LP’s.” Enjoy!

The A-side of The Villagers’ 45 is a cover of The Tams’ “Laugh It Off“:

The Villagers’ flip side of their 45 is a cover of The Beatles’ “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” (I like The Villagers’ version better):

In chapter six of “The Winning Edge” — Cliff Ellis’ book with plenty o’ help from Phillip Marshall — you can learn all about Coach Ellis’ early music career with The Villagers, who hailed from Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla.

Another interesting note is that Coach Ellis showed up at Fame Studios (also noted in chapter six of his book) and got to play tambourine on the Etta James song “Tell Mama.” The tambourine skillz of Ellis comes in at the 35-second mark:

What I find interesting is that Ellis neatly ties his music career to his coaching career: Both a musician and a coach must promote their product in order to succeed. Ellis mentions the long-since-dead “Cliff Dwellers” as an example of this:

… [T]he promotion of our Cliff Dwellers in the student section and the refurbishing of our coliseum have helped create fan interest never before seen at Auburn.

From the music business, I learned a long time ago that when you put on a show and they don’t like the atmosphere, they are not coming back. This goes for any performer. In basketball, I have tried to use these ideas I learned a long time ago from the music business. People love to be entertained. Basketball is a great entertainment sport, on and off the court.

If that’s the case, I hope Auburn fans are ready to rock out at the new digs. But it helps if the musicians and athletes can perform, right? You don’t want all style and no substance. (*cough cough* Lane Kiffin *cough* I can’t tell if that comparison is old and dusty or if it is just dusty in here. *cough*)

One last clip (from a post already so heavy with them that it feels like filler) features “Laugh It Off” with a nice little bumper at the beginning from WDLP out of Panama City, Fla. and a collection of photos of Cliff Ellis, the coach and musician:

I’d guess that it was easier for Coach Ellis to laugh it off with his parting gift of $750,000 on his way out of Auburn.

One final note: It seems that there were 12 different bands calling themselves The Villagers in the ’60s … so many that there was even one band out of South Carolina that went by The Original Villagers to set themselves apart. (Had there been a set of Villagers from Auburn they could have called themselves The Loveliest Villagers, maybe?)

Another set of Villagers (also from South Carolina i.e. “The Land That Lacks Original Ideas”) was the house band of a nationally syndicated show called “The Village Square.”

About J.M. Comer

J.M. graduated from Auburn in 1998 and again in 2000 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. He is currently a copy editor in Washington, D.C., and lives in Baltimore, Land of Pleasant Living. If you find yourself in beautiful Baltimore, he recommends Faidley's crab cakes, a stop at Atomic Books, an O's game at Camden Yards and plenty of Natty Boh.

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