Born on December 31, 1941 in Dothan, Alabama, John Rainey Adkins would later be known as one of the most talented guitarists to ever come from the Wiregrass region of Alabama. Although his father (John Sr.), who worked as a mechanic, claimed not to have a penchant for music, his mother, Lillie Ida Rainey, played piano well. In addition, his younger brother, Dave Akins, remembered that he was about nine himself when John Rainey started teaching him guitar.
John Rainey was a self-taught guitar player who had a natural ear for both rhythm and melody. Upon listening to blues recordings and early rock n’ roll music, he was known for being able to pick out musical parts note by note. While attending Dothan High School, he also played bass horn in the marching band and started local blues and rock bands. He started Spider and the Webs in the late 50s (which later became The Webs and ultimately The Candymen). John Rainey hired the young Bobby Goldsboro, also a fellow Dothan High School student, to be the lead singer of The Webs. After graduating, John Rainey enrolled at Auburn University for a year and then later left to pursue music full-time.
His big break came when another former high school friend, Buddy Buie, who was working as Roy Orbison’s road manager, hired The Webs to be Orbison’s back-up band at The National Peanut Festival in Dothan in the early sixties. Apparently, John Rainey rehearsed the band tirelessly, learning Orbison’s entire set list before the gig. Orbison was so impressed by their playing ability and sound that he hired them on the spot to become his regular touring band. He also re-named them The Candymen, a nod to Orbison’s 1961 radio hit “The Candy Man”.
The Candymen toured the world with Orbison throughout most of the sixties and opened for huge acts like The Beatles, The Yardbirds, and the Hollies. They also recorded songs with Orbison with John Rainey adding his memorable guitar stylings to Orbison’s music. One can find video clips circulating online of John Rainey and the Candymen playing the number one hit, “Pretty Woman,” with Orbison on the Ed Sullivan Show on July 4, 1965.
The Candymen also started showcasing their musical abilities when they were not supporting Orbison. While playing in New York City in 1967, the Candymen became known as a favorite amongst famous musicians (e.g., the Jimi Hendrix Band, The Young Rascals, and others) who would gather at the nightclub, “The Scene”. At this club, the Candymen made an indelible impression by playing flawless renditions of popular songs like the Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers” to the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” This was most likely in part to John Rainey’s perfectionist tendencies to hone the musicianship of the band. In addition, when touring in England, their keen sense of musicality impressed a young Jimmy Page, who reportedly asked John Rainey if he was interested in playing in a band he was thinking about forming called Led Zepplin.
Besides attracting the attention of these famous musicians, the Candymen also went onto to cut two of their own albums (i.e., The Candymen and Candymen Bring You Candy Power) on ABC Records in 1967 and 1968. They ended up having success with the song “Georgia Pines” (co-written by Rainey and Buddy Buie) that hit the Billboard Hot 100 spot at 81 in November 1967. The group also performed the song on American Bandstand on December 2, 1967.
On the heels of this accomplishment, John Rainey returned to Dothan to focus on his growing family. His other Dothan music friends were also finding success in the music business at this time. Bobby Goldsboro started racking up hits on the pop and country charts as a solo artist. Likewise, Buddy Buie found success in starting and producing the Classics IV which then led to the formation of the southern super group, the Atlanta Rhythm Section and the subsequent release of some of their Top 10 hits like “Spooky,” “So Into You,” and “Imaginary Lover.”
In 1972, John Rainey and David, his younger brother, formed the band Beaverteeth. They played throughout the Florida Panhandle as well as in Southern Alabama. In 1973, Rodney Justo, who had at times sang lead for the Candymen and was the first lead singer of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, called to say that the famous singer, B.J. Thomas (i.e., with hits like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling”), needed Beaverteeth as his back-up band. At that point, Justo also joined Beaverteeth and the group hit the road with B.J. Thomas.
In 1975, Beaverteeth was featured on NBC’s late night musical variety show, Midnight Special, narrated by the famous DJ, Wolfman Jack. They performed with B.J. Thomas on his No. 1 Billboard hit “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong” song. The show was instantly viewed by millions and the video of the performance continues to attract widespread viewership on social media. Beaverteeth also released two noteworthy albums on RCA Victor in 1977 and 1978, entitled Beaverteeth and Dam It, respectively.
Towards the end of the seventies and into the eighties, John Rainey focused more on his songwriting and being a devoted father to his three children (i.e., Traci, Derek and Tara) and then later a grandfather. According to Justo, John Rainey had just finished co-writing “Shenandoah’s” first single and was signed with Tree Publishing at the time of his death, on June 18, 1989 at the age of 47. He is forever memorialized (along with his brother David and Dothan High School friends, Buddy Buie and Bobby Goldsboro) in the Music Mural in downtown Dothan, a fitting tribute to one of our area’s most influential and gifted musicians.