In the summer of 1962, 17-year-old Gabe Lapano moved to San Diego with his family. He enrolled at Helix High School, the school Linda Young attended. During that first fall semester, Gabe caught Linda’s attention as he sat playing the piano in the choir room and she asked him if he wanted to stop by one of the Accents’ rehearsals.
Gabe brought his Wurlitzer electric piano over to Tony’s parents’ house, where the band rehearsed in the living room. Like Don, Frank, and Tony, Gabe was already a seasoned musician and singer, having played consistently since the age of 14 with well-known bands in the Spokane area. As the Accents had no male vocalist, Gabe’s pure, high tenor was a needed, and very welcome, addition.
Shortly thereafter, Linda had to leave the band because of health reasons, so the four-piece early core of the Accents was now set. The band was gigging steadily and in 1963 expanded the roster by adding Don Beck on tenor saxophone.
At this time Doug Meyers was in the horn section of San Diego’s most prominent band, the Nomads, who played every Wednesday night during the summer at the La Mesa Youth Center. This was a big, rocking band with multiple singers and four or five horns doing choreographed steps. For reasons that no one seems to remember clearly, Meyers left the Nomads and joined the Accents, and Beck left the Accents and joined the Nomads. There were no hard feelings on either side, however.
Another band on the scene at the time named the Valiants featured a female vocalist named Sandi Rouse. Meanwhile, the Accents had decided to add a girl singer to the band, and made an announcement about upcoming auditions at their Sunday dance. A friend of Sandi’s convinced her to give it a try, although she felt torn about leaving her group.
After joining the Accents, she was an immediate hit with the fans. The band’s repertoire could now be expanded to include songs that became favorites of the dancers, such as “Heat Wave,” “Be My Baby,” and Ike and Tina Turner's “A Fool In Love.” She also joined Gabe for duets on songs like “Unchained Melody” and “Goodnight, My Love.”
A small record company soon was interested, and the band traveled to record at a top L.A. studio. The result was their first single, “Better Watch Out Boy,” a song composed by one of Sandi’s acquaintances, George Semper. The record climbed to the top 10 in San Diego and top 20 in L.A. and a few other major cities. They followed this with “I’ve Got Better Things To Do,” written for Accents by the L.A. team of Sloan and Barri, the composers of “Eve of Destruction” and “Secret Agent Man.” “What Do You Want to Do” and “On the Run” were the next releases, both written by the Accents’ own Gabe Lapano. All of these were top 20 singles in Southern California.
But by the summer of 1966, it was time for the Accents to move on. They had offers of record deals from big labels but had not been comfortable with the virtually total control the companies sought over their bookings and image.
An August 1966 farewell show came to a close as Sandi and Gabe, for the last time, sang the Jesse Belvin classic, “Goodnight, My Love.”