Raymond Floyd's All-Girl, Topless Rock Band

Raymond Floyd is a Hall of Famer. He's one of golf's greats, the winner of three different majors with four major titles total. And he once promoted a rock band comprised of female musicians who performed topless.

In the latter half of his playing days, and up to the end of his competitive golf career, Floyd's reputation was for steely-eyed dedication and concentration, a fierce front-runner, an intimidator, a clutch performer on the course, a straight-shooter on the straight-and-narrow off the course.

But in the first half of his career? He was a wild party animal whose nickname was "Pretty Boy," a hard drinker, a hard gambler, the co-owner of a go-go nightclub in San Francisco.

And the "manager" of an all-girl rock band that performed topless, called the Ladybirds. (The reason we put "manager" in quotations marks will become clear as we tell the story.)

It was his wife, Maria, who finally tamed Floyd's wild ways and helped him turn his mostly wasted 1960s (although he won his first major in 1969) into a great career in the 1970s and 1980s. Maria passed away in 2012, and in December of that year the Golf Channel's Randall Mell wrote a nice piece about their relationship that included this:

"It was a remarkable whirlwind romance that staggered Ray's friends on Tour because Ray had built such a reputation as a playboy. Floyd owned a piece of a bar in San Francisco called Coke's. He sometimes played guitar on stage and was an investor in the Ladybirds, a topless band. He was probably more like Walter Hagen than Hagen actually was, but Floyd’s affinity for the nightlife didn’t serve his game well.

" 'I was in awe of being in the limelight in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago,' Floyd said. 'I had a heck of a time as a young bachelor, but I went through periods where I didn't apply myself.' "

But knowledge of Floyd's part-ownership of Coke's club in San Francisco and his role with the topless Ladybirds goes back much farther. It was well-known when he was on tour in the 1960s, although the general golfing public might not have been aware. In a 1980 book, Peter Alliss wrote about Floyd's early days:

"Golf came a poor second to nightlife. In the 1960s Floyd was quoted as saying that the color of his eyes was 'usually pretty red' and 'if there's anything better than women I don't know what it is.' Three or four in the morning was his bedtime ... Ray also had an unusual business on the side: he managed 'The Ladybirds,' who claimed to be the first topless band."

(Related article: Ray Floyd's sister Marlene played LPGA, was once named Most Beautiful Golfer)

The Ladybirds were a topless rock band promoted by golfer Raymond Floyd

In 1998, Sports Illustrated ran an article about golfers carousing in San Francisco that included a stripper's recollection of Floyd:

"Ask Floyd if it's hard to have a good time in San Francisco. Back in the late '60s and early '70s, when he was single, Floyd was a regular along the Broadway strip. He was part owner of a bar, Coke's, an investor in a topless girls band and one of Carol Doda's many admirers.

"Doda, who is memorialized in Tom Wolfe's book 'The Pump House Gang' because she was one of the first topless dancers to enlarge her breasts with silicone, remembers the scene well. 'I just knew him as Raymond Floyd,' she says. 'What did I know about golf? I never went out with him, if that's the next question. He was a bachelor having a great time.'

"Doda runs a lingerie boutique on Union Street these days and sings in her band, Carol Doda and her Lucky Stiffs. From 1968 to '87, though, when she had a show at the Condor Club (it's a sports bar now), she was the top act on Broadway. To start the show, a piano, with Doda aboard dancing topless, would be slowly lowered from the ceiling. 'I did eight or nine shows a night,' Doda says. 'I felt like an elevator operator, I was going up and down so much. Raymond and the guys [she recalls Miller Barber and Bob Rosburg, among others] would come in, watch the show and then hang out and talk to me at the bar. That could go on for hours.'

"After hours, there was golf. Doda says that her former manager Voss Boreta and the Tour pros would step out of the Condor Club and onto the toughest dogleg in San Francisco. 'They'd get up in the middle of Broadway at three or four in the morning and hit balls to Columbus Avenue,' she says."

The SI piece calls Floyd an "investor" in the topless girls band, not the manager of the Ladybirds, and I think that's the better description. Floyd was not involved in the day-to-day management of the band, but he put up money to help get them on the road and get them publicity. (He also booked them into his own Coke's club in 'Frisco.)

Once the Ladybirds hit the road, however, generating publicity wasn't difficult. In the 1960s, women performing topless (regardless of what it was they were performing) was sure to generate controversy.

A newspaper article from Feb. 24, 1968, in the Windsor Star related the Ladybirds' visit to Toronto:

" 'It's fun,' said Barbara Branch as the Ladybirds, billed as the world's first all-girl topless band, concluded a precedent-setting, two-week engagement in a Toronto nightclub.

'It's makes you feel so ... free,' says Marcelle Mitchell. It was 'a great, daredevil idea,' says Robin Sherwood. And Debbie Dayan, a girl in love, said: 'When you're in love the whole world is topless.'

"That's how four bare-breasted musicians summed up their experiences."

When you're in love the whole world is topless. Ahhh, the '60s ... (Rosita Quintana was the fifth member of the band.)

Robin (the guitarist) explained that Ladybirds members were working as showgirls in San Francisco when their manager (no name given) came up with the topless gimmick. Marcelle (who played bass) told the newspaper she used to work for a foundation garment firm "before I found out how fantastic it is to play guitar bare-chested."

Another article in the Windsor paper explained that the band did a special preview for an inspector with the Toronto police in an attempt to quell any trouble with the morality squad. The inspector needed a special preview? I bet he did, I bet he did.

Things went fine in Toronto in 1968, but not everywhere. Booked at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas in 1967, the Ladybirds were thrown offstage by the head of the Las Vegas Musicians Union. The union boss declared the topless rockers indecent, an affront to the reputations of musicians, and declared the name of the band an insult to the President of the United States and the First Lady, Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson. That article goes on to state that the Ladybirds were pulling in $2,500 per week playing in Las Vegas — and that fee was expected to double after the fracas.

A 1968 article in the Los Angeles Times says the Ladybirds were ordered offstage in Mexico City and might sue in an attempt to get the wages they were promised.

One of the later dates at which the Ladybirds show up in newspaper archives is June 22, 1970. An ad that day in the Toledo Blade advertises a show by the Ladybirds. "They're entertainment plus they're terrific," the ad declares. That was a sentiment not shared by music reviewers who caught the Ladybirds' act. They were described as performing pedestrian rock and pop music. There was a lot of stage banter between songs, with the band members dropping a lot of double entendres and sexual innuendo. One reviewer wondered whether they should be referred to as musicians or strippers. (But they were, in fact, members of the national musicians union of the time, San Francisco local.)

And they toured around the United States and into Canada through the last few years of the 1960s, but appear to have disbanded by the early 1970s. (A Danish band called the Ladybirds was also all-female and performed topless, in the mid- to late-1970s, and is unrelated to the Raymond Floyd-promoted Ladybirds.)

Perhaps it's just coincidence that Ray Floyd met his future wife Maria (whom he married in 1973) in the early 1970s, which appears to be around the same time the Ladybirds disappeared.

The Ladybirds did cut a few records in their time together, and they appeared in a B-movie (or maybe it was a C-movie) in the late '60s. And yes, if you really want to see photos of them topless, you can find a handful of publicity pics if you do a web search.

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