Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 29

An old fashioned “battle of the bands” takes center stage on this edition of Dirt City Chronicles, the podcast. The combatants in this instance represent New Mexico's polar opposites. North vs. South. It's an imaginary rivalry for the most part, made up by the state's broadcasters in order to drum up interest whenever the Aggies and Lobos face off in athletics. Other than that, it's doubtful that the average New Mexican gives the idea much thought. The very definition of what divides Northern and Southern New Mexico is not very well defined. New Mexico doesn't always lend itself to a clean North/South division. It's far more complicated than that. For instance, Clovis is further north than Socorro, yet Clovis is solidly in the southern camp and Socorro staunchly sides with the North.

When a community was first settled and by whom, plays a big part on what side these “border” communities identify with. Belen is firmly aligned with the north, though its located just a bit further north than Clovis. Vaughn, Duran and Yeso are south of Belen, yet are culturally Hispano communities that identify with the north. Fence Lake, Pie Town & Quemado are north of Socorro and they're culturally connected to the south. If I were to draw a boundary across the state separating the north and south, I would start at the Arizona border, north of Fence Lake, continue north of Alamo, jot down to include Magdalena in the south, skirt south of Socorro and San Antonio, swing north to include Corona in the south, northeast to Ft. Sumner continuing northeast to House and then east to the Texas border.

Now that we have a clear line of demarcation, allow me to muddy up the water once more by stating that in the spirit of fair play, I'm including El Paso, Tx. with Southern New Mexico. Reason being that Albuquerque has a huge advantage in both the number of bands that formed during the 1960s and in the number of recordings produced. Without El Paso, this battle of the bands would be akin to “Rice vs. Texas” as JFK once stated. The Northern half of the state is nonetheless poorly represented outside of Albuquerque. Nobody's Children from Gallup, The Morfomen & Era of Sound from Española and The Frantics (a band originally from Billings, Mt. that was briefly based in Santa Fe during the mid-sixties) being the only representatives from outside the Duke City that I could muster.

To avoid redundancy, no songs already posted on previous episodes of Dirt City Chronicles podcast were included. This favors the southern half of the state more than the northern. (the only band from Southern New Mexico previously posted being The Beckett Quintet from Portales by way of ENMU. While no Murderer's Row, it's still a strong line-up. A bunch of “fell through the cracks” tracks included here, though nothing that can't be found on YouTube. Most of these songs have found their way onto one 60s compilation or another (“From The Grass To The Outer Limits! The Goldust Records Story” “Chicago 60s punk vs. New Mexico 60s pop” “Norton Records, El Paso Rocks” “Sixties Archives Vol. 4 Florida & New Mexico Punk”) et cetera et cetera

On this episode, Lindy Blaskey lead off with Hank Ballard's “Annie Had a Baby” which he curiously renamed “Would You Believe” An inside joke perhaps? Ann Faught held the purse strings at Space Records, the label for which Lindy recorded and it's been insinuated that Lindy had a special business relationship with Ann. The two also hook up for “Meet Me Tonight in Your Dreams” for which Ann gets a co-writer credit, which in all likelihood was one of those “Norm Petty” arrangements to cop a few extra royalties. King Richard & The Knights weigh in with “That's the Way it Goes” a song garnished with sublime country rock flavor. In the 1960s, Española was well represented on the local scene, what with The Morfomen, The Defiants and of course, Era of Sound, led by the Naranjo Bros.

The Plague had a Dick Stewart/Knights connection. Their drummer was none other than Corky Anderson of the original Knights. Steve Erickson, Larry Shyrock and Billy Main rounded out the band, The Plague is best known for one song, “Go Away” a shameless Kinks ripoff released in 1966 on Epidemic Records. I didn't make any of that up, I swear. I know far less about Axis Brotherhood than I would like to know. Their sublime version of “Signed DC” by Arthur Lee & Love, is right on the money. Kartune Kapers were produced by Lindy Blaskey and recorded for Lavette Records. Their cover of The Seeds “On the Plane” is top notch and they give that old Eddie Floyd warhorse “Knock on Wood” a bubblegum pop makeover that brings The Ohio Express to mind.

The university experience has nurtured more than its fair share of musicians over the years. College deferment was a surefire way to avoid or at the very least, postpone the draft. As a result, Duke City garage bands revolved around musicians attending the U. of A. or UNM. Southern schools, NMSU and UTEP (Texas Western) also fostered their share of rock bands The Chains (originally The Dolphins from Larchmont, N.Y.) enrolled together at NMSU before transferring to UTEP. A surprising number of bands popped out of Portales N.M., home to ENMU. The Chandelles, The Apple Glass Cyndrom and The Beckett Quintet, who signed with Nick Venet's Gemcor Records and were in the process of recording an album for A&M with Herb Albert producing, when the draft dispersed them.

The Brentwoods, from Hobbs, N.M. recorded at Norman Petty Studios, self released a single “Yeah Yeah No No b/w Babe You Know” 1967 on Our Records. Both songs written by Alyse Paradiso. “Yeah Yeah No No” was included on the Big Beat compilation “Learning to Fly” a collection of psyche garage bands from the vaults of Norman Petty Studios. The Apple Glass Cyndrom from Clovis (Bill Aguirri-vocals, Dale Sills-drums, Jon Williams-lead guitar, Scott Rebtoy-bass, Johnny Mulhair-keys) also recorded for Norman Petty and released a single for Column Records in 1969, “Going Wrong/ Someday. The single also made it onto “Sixties Rebellion, Vol. 15 Psychedelia” A low budget compilation series. of unknown origin, that also includes Albuquerque's own Hooterville Trolley.

If you know country music, there's one member of the Apple Glass Cyndrom that immediately gets your attention. Having worked at Norman Petty Studios as head engineer, Johnny Mulhair started his own studio, Johnny Mulhair Recording Studio in Clovis, N.M. Mulhair produced and engineered LeAnn Rimes first album “Blue” which has since gone platinum an amazing eight times. Johnny was nominated by the CMA and ACM for his work on that landmark recording. An accomplished musician Johnny was nominated by Music Row magazine as one of the top ten guitarist in country music. He's toured with LeAnn Rimes, Chicago, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Will Banister, who records for Mulhair's own Clovisite Records.

Group Axis also from Clovis, also recorded for Norman Petty. They (I have zero band info for these guys) started out as The Shi Guys and recorded “Mystic Magic Movements” at Norman Petty Studios, which may have been an album, but in all probability was a single... either way it went unreleased. In 1968 Group Axis covered Buddy Holly and Howlin' Wolf on their next single “Not Fade Away / Smokestack Lightning” picked up for national release by Atco Records. Yet another single “Silly Ants” (b-side unknown) was recorded in 1969 and would later be included on the “Learning to Fly” Big Beat compilation album. According to the Norman Petty discography, Group Axis also recorded an album in 1970 that was never released. 

Annie Had a Baby (Would You Believe) Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells Albuquerque
I Want to be Friendly- The Wild Ones    El Paso
Girl in the Mini Skirt- Era of Sound Albuquerque/Española
I'm Getting Tired- The Grass Las Cruces
On the Plane- Kartune Kapers Albuquerque
Ode to the Wind- Danny and The Counts El Paso
St. James Infirmary- Nobody's Children Gallup
My Love- The Things El Paso
Signed DC- Axis Brotherhood Albuquerque
It's A Shame- The Chains El Paso
Go Away- The Plague Albuquerque
Alone and Crying- The Outer Limits Las Cruces
That's the Way it Goes- King Richard and The Knights Albuquerque
Why I Cry- The Pitiful Panics El Paso
Meet Me Tonight in Your Dreams- Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells Albuquerque
What Am I To Do- The Keymen Las Cruces
Write Me a Letter- The Morfomen Española
Going Wrong- The Apple Glass Cyndrom Clovis
Relax Your Mind- The Frantics Santa Fe
Yeah Yeah No No- The Brentwoods Hobbs
Stay With Me- Era of Sound Albuquerque/Española
She's Still a Mystery- The Chains El Paso

Friday, September 18, 2015

KOMA Oklahoma City Jan 5 1964 restored audio

This aircheck was originally posted on YouTube by Ryan Scriver, whose description reads; “recorded on to reel to reel off the radio in South Shore, South Dakota on January 5 1964” In its original form, frequent signal drops render it largely unlistenable. Not one song is spared the wrath of static, signal pollution and volume drops. Nonetheless, the original aircheck is amazing, as it was surely recorded during daytime hours under less than optimal ionospheric conditions. For KOMA's signal to reach South Shore, S.D. Located in the northeastern corner of the state, near the Minnesota border, wasn't out of the ordinary. KOMA had a tremendous reach with its directional antenna array and 50,000 watt transmitter. To do so during the day, was in fact quite impressive. 

Music and radio were both undergoing a number of changes in 1958 when Storz Broadcasting Co. bought KOMA, Todd Storz, owner of Storz Broadcasting, was of course the man who invented the “Top 40” radio concept. He introduced the same format at KOMA that he had used at all Storz stations, though two other OKC stations beat KOMA to the Top 40 format, (KOCY and WKY) leaving KOMA the odd man out. In 1961 KOMA went to a totally automated format. This January 5th. Aircheck in all likelihood captures an early moment during KOMA's return to “live” programming, which would have taken place on or about New Year's Day 1964. 

Drake-Chenault's “Boss Radio” format killed off this type of radio shows. Storz stations did follow a format, but as you can tell by this aircheck, things got a little loosey goosey at times. It's a Tuesday, pre-Beatles, British Invasion. It's elephant joke day and Don McGregor, like most KOMA disc jockeys is hitting his cues like clockwork, even as he stumbles with some of the jokes sent in by listeners. “How do you make an elephant float?.... a can of soda and two scoops of ice cream.” It's corny as hell, but after all it's Oklahoma, not Southern California. The song selection is an eclectic mix of soul, ballads and rockers... a little something for everyone in less than thirty minutes.

I restored all the music and as much of the deejay banter that I could, I cut two commercials that ran way too long (one for an appetite suppressant that wouldn't air today) In all there were about three minutes of air time that weren't salvageable. This aircheck captures a rather sedate and milquetoast period in the station's history. KOMA wouldn't really hit its stride until the following year, with its classic period coming between 1968-72.  KOMA reached out to New Mexico and the Western States nightly read all about it here:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Plastic Fantastic Vinyl


The third installment of 'Burque Garage, clocks in with twenty five tracks designed to keep your Tote-a-Tune portable stereo bumping for well over an hour. Have those D-cells handy, these tunes will have you cutting a rug like a Veg-O-Matic. You'll slice and dice like a Feather Touch Knife, you gotta hear these songs. They'll change your life, I swear. Albuquerque's music scene in the mid-1960s was prolific and what's even more amazing is that a high percentage of what was recorded is actually pretty damn good. I'm three installments in and there's been little drop off from the first installment. Albuquerque, while lacking a big “breakout” act during the 60s nonetheless holds up well when compared to other cities in the region during the same time period.

El Paso had Bobby Fuller, but the talent thinned out real quick after that. Ditto, Tucson and The Stone Poneys w/ Linda Ronstadt. West Texas churned out some heavyweights in the mid-1950s (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison) but outside of J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers from San Angelo, 60s bands from Amarillo, Lubbock & Midland-Odessa had little impact outside of the region. In fact I'll even go out on a limb and declare that 'Burque's music scene was equal to that of Denver, which checked in The Moonrakers and The Astronauts (who were actually from Boulder) and a roster of lesser bands that weren't any better than what Albuquerque produced.

As is my custom, I've interspersed DJ platter throughout the mix. In this case the interruptions come courtesy of Tommy Vance, The Monkees (appearing on Bob Shannon's show on KRUX in Phoenix, Az.) and Steve Crosno doing his “Cruising with Crosno” thang on KVLC in Las Cruces. “all accordions all of the time, night & day, day & night” The Monkees work their shtick, improvising a farm report and commercials for Beeline Dragway while keeping the wackiness to a minimum. At one point Davey Jones reminds listeners to come out to their concert the following night, tossing in a snarly aside “and if you don't believe we play our own instruments, come and find out” 

Of all the “Burque bands, King Richard & The Knights were the one that you could say had a distinct sound of their own. This was due to Dick Stewart's distinctive guitar style and the fact that they stayed clear of cover songs, sticking with their own material for the large part. Lindy Blaskey was capable of writing his own tunes, though his best known songs were in fact covers. “Out Here in Vietnam” is credited to Lindy Blaskey (sans the Lavells) and it's.... gasp! A pro Vietnam war song. Those were easy to write, especially if you weren't “Out there in Vietnam” It's some rather trite jingoistic bullshit “thanks be to the day when the Viet Cong will say that they've had enough” Coming from someone who obviously avoided service in Vietnam, it comes off as insincere and self serving. “It's a hard-ball world, son. We've gotta try to keep our heads until this peace craze blows over!”

Dave Rarick and The Morfomen as they tended to do, blow everyone away with three solid tunes. When compared to his contemporaries, Dave was on a whole other level. Quiet, unassuming and  loaded with talent, he worked every angle from doo wop to poppy harmonies and fuzz buster rave ups. Too good to be forgotten and too good to be ignored. The Morfomen are my pick of the week for best band ever. The Fireballs w/ Jimmy Gilmer chime in with a timeless folk rock song, that should have been a hit “Ain't That Rain” Written by George Tomsco and his wife Barbara, “Ain't That Rain” did top the charts... in Hong Kong, when it was covered in 1969 by Michael Kwan, Hong Kong Superstar, singer/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist. All things considered and despite some “lost in translation” glitches, Kwan's version ain't half bad. Plus, I can imagine that George and Babs picked up a nice fat residuals check courtesy of Mr. Kwan.

The Fireballs (especially George Tomsco) had a major role in the evolution of New Mexico rock & roll music. They were the first to score a Top 40 hit and the first and only New Mexico based band to record a #1 hit song. The Fireballs transitioned from an instrumental combo that matched beats with The Ventures and their ilk, to a vocal group that shot to the top of the pops (#1 song of 1963 w/ Sugar Shack) once Amarillo vocalist Jimmy Gilmer signed on. They also kept evolving with the changing music scene. A pet project of Norm Petty, The Fireballs worked all genres equally well. Sunny pop numbers, folk rock, frat rock, psyche, garage beat.... before finishing up their long careers as a country rock outfit (for contractual reason they called themselves Colorado)

Speaking of Norm Petty, in the mid-60s he sold off some of his recording equipment to Bennie Sanchez, matriarch of the Sanchez clan and owner of Hurricane Records. Which accounts for part of the reason that The New Things sound “all Buddy Holly” on “This Little Lite of Mine” (yes that's how it's spelled on the label) right down to the rolling toms. The New Things recorded for Hurricane Records (I have no idea who they were) Their other track on this playlist “The Only Woman You Can Trust” (is dear old mom) is straight up a blatant Standells knock off. Right down to the snarling vocals and flippant attitude. Back in those days you could do that and not get sued into bankruptcy.

I've said too much already, it's time for me to shut up and for you to start listening. Text accompanied by music is how I describe the Dirt City Chronicles experience. Outstanding in a field of one, Dirt City Chronicles and don't you forget it.

How About Now?- King Richard & The Knights
Let It Be- Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells
Sunny Sunday Dream- Lincoln St. Exit
Mr. Sweet Stuff- Fe Fi Four Plus 2
Thinking of You- The Morfomen
Ah, You're Dead- The Kreeg
How Far Up is Down- The Burgundy Runn
Please Don't Stop- The Sprytes
This Little Lite of Mine- The New Things
Ain't That Rain- Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs
You're Not Alone- The Morticians
Why Am I Alone- The Chob
She Doesn't Know- The Viscount V
Give Me a Break- The Striders
Don't Go Baby- The Morfomen
Don't Kill My Mockingbird- The Kreeg
The Things You Do- King Richard & The Knights
Sweets for My Sweet- Lindy & The Lavells
The Only Woman You Can Trust- The New Things
Route 66- The Monkey Men
She's The One- The Torques
Rod Hot Rod- The Kingpins
Out Here in Vietnam- Lindy Blaskey
Groovy Motions- Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs
What's Happened to Me- The Morfomen

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Acid Visions: Best of The 60s Texas Punk & Psychedelic_Vol. 2 _ Cassette to MP3

Acid Visions: Best of The 60s Texas Punk & Psychedelic_Vol. 2
Cassette to MP3_Collectables, COL504

Just as my vinyl collection went from several hundred long players down to two and a handful of seven inchers... I whittled my massive cassette collection down to a hundred or so, which includes a few odd cassingles, many moons ago. I've been meaning to convert them to MP3, post 'em on YouTube or burn 'em to CDR. Well, the stars are aligned and now is the time. Acid Visions: Best of The 60s Texas Punk & Psychedelic Vol. 2 shall be the first entry in this long delayed Cassette to MP3 series. Acid Visions Vol. 1 is already available on YouTube. Seek it out, it makes a nice companion piece for Vol. 2.

Acid Visions: Best of The 60s Texas Punk & Psychedelic Vol. 2 was originally released as part of the Priceless Collection on the Collectables label. A series of low budget compilations, that true to their nature, could be found in cut out bins at music stores across the country. Such as Hastings in Rio Rancho where I found my copy in the early 1990s. “Collectables is a reissue record label founded in 1980 by Jerry Greene. It's the largest independently owned reissue label in the U.S., maintaining a catalog of over 3,400 active titles, mostly on compact disc, but also available on vinyl.” The CD versions usually combine at least two volumes on each disc.

Collectables releases have been criticized for their poor recording quality and Acid Visions Vol. 2 is no exceptions. The audio is heavily processed, which gets rid of the pops inherent with 60s vinyl, but it renders the music dull as dishwater in the process. Since the mid-1990s Little Walter DeVenne has remastered and restored many of the label's reissues to good results. (Acid Visions Vol. 2 was released in 1991, pre-Little Walter) A popular Boston radio personality, Little Walter DeVenne was also the host of the syndicated oldies program “Little Walter's Time Machine” on Clear Channel “Real Time Oldies Channel”

The Acid Visions series clocks in at a half dozen volumes with diminishing returns. It's a strange and spotty collection of tracks. A few gold nuggets salted into a slag heap of dubious material. Not for the casual listener for sure. However, it you have a thing for trashy 60s garage/psyche/punk from Texas, this will surely punch your ticket. Amazingly there's three bands on Vol. 2 that share names with El Paso bands from the same era, The Bobby Fuller 4 originally went by Bobby Fuller & The Fanatics, Neal Ford & The Fanatics from Houston, never reached those heights, but it wasn't from a lack of trying. Bill Taylor & The Sherwoods hailed from El Paso, The Sherwoods were based in Houston. The Things, from Houston should not be confused with the Things from El Paso... comprendes mendes? 

You can't tell your Texas 60s garage bands without a scorecard

“From the era of hip huggers, bell bottoms and miniskirts”, Neal Ford & The Fanatics, from Houston, worked really hard to establish themselves as stars. They seemed destined to break through, yet never had much of an impact outside of Texas. The Fanatics released on album on the Hickory label, along with a number of singles on Hickory and other labels. (“Good Men” a compilation released by Ace Records is a great introduction to this highly underrated band) Neal Ford – Vocals, Lanier Greig – Keyboards, Johnny Stringfellow - Lead Guitar, Jon Pereles - Rhythm Guitar, Dub Johnson-bass, John Cravey-drums.

The Sherwoods, a psychedelic garage punk outfit based in Houston, Texas, though originally from Corpus Christi. The Sherwoods peaked during 1968-69 when they signed with Mercury Records subsidiary label Smash Records. The band languished at Mercury (recording three singles) before the draft and lack of success broke them apart. The Sherwoods were Michael Claxton (lead and backing vocals), Johnny Clary (drums, lead and backing vocals), David Franklin (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Jim Frye (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals), and Kenny Blanchet (bass).

Thursday's Children were from Houston, they recorded for International Artists and they're best know for their single “Help, Murder, Police” written by Jan Pedersen. The Brother Love Congregation has a great 60s psyche name and little else going for them, probably from the Houston area. The Things from Houston were not the Things from El Paso.... that's all. Long before Space Cadet was synonymous with airheads, there were The Space Cadets who without a doubt hailed from Houston, the Space City. Warlocks was Dusty Hill and brother Rocky Hill's first musical venture. They were joined by Frank Beard, making Warlocks a primordial version of ZZ Top, sans Billy Gibbons. Later on they dyed their hair blue and started calling themselves American Blues.

The flip side of Homer's single “Dandelion Wine” was an obscure Willie Nelson composition “I Never cared For You” recorded long before the “Outlaw Country” movement took shape. Galen Niles, guitarist and songwriter from San Antonio, was the driving force behind The Outcasts, Homer and Ultra. Homer released one album “Grown in the USA” for International Artists in 1970. The final track on this compilation “Outside Looking In” is credited to The Unknowns, claims they're actually The Bad Roads from Lake Charles, Louisiana, though keeping with the Texas nature of this compilation, I would bet that they're The Unknowns from Corpus Christi.... don't mess with Texas punk, ya'll.

I Can't Believe- The Fanatics
I Will Not Be Lonely- The Fanatics
Bless Me Woman- The Sherwoods
I Know You Cried- The Sherwoods
You'll Never Be My Girl- Thursday's Children
I Don't Want to Go- BLC
Loveless Lover- The Things
Nothing Will Stand In My Way- Space Cadets
Love-Itis- Space Cadets
Another Girl Like You- The Things
Life's A Misery- The Warlocks
Dandelion Wine- Homer
Sunrise- Homer
Outside Looking In- The Unknowns

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Decline and Fall of Prince Bobby Jack

History of a hip hustler who became a homeless husk”

Much of the information I've been able to gather on Prince Bobby Jack comes from comments posted on a general discussion thread on Duke City Fix from 2010. The topic of Prince Bobby elicited a number of responses, not all favorable towards him. As it were, unsubstantiated rumors and hearsay is all I really had to go by. I've borrowed the title for this chapter from Solid Ghost's track description for their composition “The Legend of Prince Bobby Jack” from the album “Normal Musik” more on that further down the page. Outside of a grainy photograph and a mention or two in the local papers. Prince Bobby Jack left little trace of his existence in the city he called home for almost forty years. The scrapbook that he carried around with him would fill in many of the gaps, but it's probably buried at the bottom of a landfill. While there is a lack of physical evidence, a large number of locals not only remember him, but can still recall his eccentricities and quirks in detail.

He was an accomplished professional musician and singer, with a career that spanned four decades and yet, to come across even one recording that features him would be akin to stumbling upon Sasquatch at Starbucks. To quote Winston Churchill (or was it Joe Pesci?) Prince Bobby Jack was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. In lay men's terms; he was a strange bird, possessed with an idiosyncratic personality and prone to peculiar behavioral characteristics. It's generally agreed that Prince Bobby first turned up in Albuquerque around 1958. Why he came here remains a mystery. The locals took to him immediately, as he passed out his bright red business cards embossed with gold lettering “Prince Bobby Jack, Mr. Ink Spot” It opened doors that a man working this entertainment starved neck of the woods could turn to his advantage.

In all fairness to the denizens of the Duke City, fact checking was a whole different ballgame without the internet. One could claim to be the original drummer in Canned Heat or one of the “original” Ink Spots and who would know otherwise? It wasn't long before Prince Bobby was a fixture in local clubs, including the Chesterfield Club where he played alongside Dick Bills and Eddie Gallegos in a latter day version of Bills' Sandia Mountain Boys. Stranger things have happened, but we're talking Albuquerque in 1959, East Central, The Chesterfield Club. Let me muster up as much discretion as I possibly can and say that a fly in the buttermilk would have gone over like shit on sherbet. If this is true, then I have to give Dick Bills all the credit in the world for being such a visionary. It does change my opinion of the man or maybe I just didn't know shit from shinola to begin with.

Obviously this version came along after Glen Campbell departed to start up his own band, The Western Wranglers. Dick Bills probably saw an opportunity to flex his musical chops. I wonder if they ever played the old K-Circle-B theme song: "Headin' down the trail to Albuquerque, saddle bags all filled with beans and jerky..." Emeritus... so it must be true, ¿que no? The Dick Bills/ Prince Bobby Jack/ Sandia Mountain Boys musical connection comes courtesy of "Albuquerque, ¡feliz cumpleaños! Three Centuries to Remember.” written by Dr. Nasario Garcia with Richard McCord. A leading folklorist and a professor emeritus of Spanish, Dr.Garcia is the author of 18 books, some co-written with the likes of Marc Simmons, John Nichols, Nedra Westwater and Richard McCord, a journalist, who founded the weekly Santa Fe Reporter and was for 14 years its editor and co-publisher.

The Albuquerque Journal ran this blurb: Mr. Ink Spot, Prince Bobby Jack former lead vocalist of The Ink Spots featuring The best of Ink Spots, Best of Nat King Cole, Best of the Mills Bros. Luncheon Show Nightly at the Port O' Call” This clue gives us a rare insight into Prince Bobby Jack's musical style. Despite all his notoriety, few folks around the Duke City knew what he actually sounded like. No recordings were made during his dubious stint with “The Ink Spots” though Prince Bobby did record at least two singles, circa 1959. Bill Stephens, a man who claims to have known him better than most, recalls that he gave two seven inch singles to Duke City DJ, Bobby Box, which he assumes are still in Box's collection. An internet search turned up two items, a recording on the Jaco label (#711) is mentioned and referred to as, Prince Bobby Jack: Introducing.... which sounds more like an album, though the website deals only in 45 rpm singles. No song titles were mentioned.

The other item is interesting, a review from Billboard magazine dated April 13th 1959. Prince Bobby Jack “How Does One Know b/w Margie” Corvette 1009 “Prince Bobby Jack who has a style similar to Tommy Edwards, sings this pretty rockaballad with feeling over a simple arrangement. Pleasant rendering of the standard 'Margie' by the lad.” Tommy Edwards was a smooth R&B singer best known for “It's All in the Game” Rockaballad was an archaic term preferred at Billboard in those days to describe soft rock ballads. The review was placed right next to an ad for Taller Than Tall Paul's single “Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy” a nifty number that was covered with some success by Annette Funicello “I wish I had What Jo-Jo had Drove the crowd Stark raving mad”

Bill Stephens, supposedly Prince Bobby's neighbor on Alvarado SE. remembers Prince Bobby having a wife and daughter (Bobbi) living with him. (also confirmed by Prince Bobby's ward nurse at Casa Real) His wife worked at UNM and passed away from cancer, with Bobbi going to live with Prince Bobby's mother in New York as a result. If Bobbi actually existed, she certainly wanted nothing to do with him in the coming years. Prince Bobby often drove his gold Eldorado to Las Vegas where he had engagements, playing the lounges though never as a headliner. John Truitt, a musician who knew Prince Bobby professionally remarked, “The car was always spotless, appointed with whatever accessories were in fashion, and had his monogram on the door...painted on the older models, stick on letters on the last one.” He was known to frequent a restaurant at Coronado Center (Vip's Big Boy?) and the Village Inn at Central and San Mateo.

There he would hold court. Splendid in a sharkskin suit and tie with a royal crest on the pocket, heavy makeup, pomaded “Eraserhead” hair- do, patented leather high heeled boots, diamond pinkie ring, designer sunglasses and always close at hand, a silver chalice from which he drank. At times he would hold up his Holy Grail as if to bestow upon his fellow diners its special powers designed to provide happiness, eternal youth and food in infinite abundance. “The best things in life are free” The silver chalice was among his most prized possessions, he carried it in a velvet bag, stashed away in the glove box of his Eldorado. John Truitt recalled that whenever he dropped off one of his caddies (he owned several over the years) for service at Galles Cadillac, he would loudly proclaim that if anyone touched his silver chalice, he would have them arrested. Needless to say, no one wanted to work on his car, due to his inevitable complaints that the work had been done improperly or that his belongings had been tampered with.

Address unknown (not even a trace of you)

Prince Bobby Jack's purported association with the Ink Spots opened doors for him, though upon closer examination, his claim to fame was paper thin. Bobby Jack would tell folks that he was an “original” member of The Ink Spots as opposed to being a founding member. It's a fine line that hundreds of “Ink Spots” impostors have walked upon going back to the World War II era. The history of The Ink Spots is well documented, perhaps more so than any other musical act prior to the “rock” era. The Ink Spots formed in the early 1930s in Indianapolis. The founding members were Orville “Hoppy” Jones, Ivory “Deek” Watson, Jerry Daniels and Charlie Fuqua. When lead singer Bill Kenny joined, he introduced the ballad style that would make the group a crossover success in both the white and black communities.

Near the height of their popularity, Hoppy Jones collapsed on stage at the Cafe Zanzibar in New York City and died in October, 1944. This ignited a series of disputes over the rights to use the Ink Spots name. The original group was a partnership, not a corporation, thus Hoppy Jones death effectively terminated the partnership. Over the next ten years, various founding members found themselves locked in court battles for control of the brand. This led to a succession of impostors striking out across the country performing as either The Fabulous Ink Spots, The Famous Ink Spots, The Amazing Ink Spots, The Sensational Ink Spots, The Dynamic Ink Spots and many more. The travesty would culminate in 1967 when US federal judge Emmett C. Choate ruled that since so many groups had been using the name “Ink Spots” it had become “public domain” and free for anyone to use.

By the time Prince Bobby Jack came along in the mid-1950s, The Ink Spots were several degrees removed from the founding members and bore little resemblance to the real Ink Spots other than the fact that they performed some of the same music. Bobby Jack's whispy claim becomes even more questionable when you consider that he performed with an offshoot of Bill Godwin's Ink Spots, Bill Godwin's own ties to The Ink Spots were tenuous. If you're still keeping score.... Prince Bobby didn't perform with Bill Godwin, but with a group of musicians that broke away from one of Bill Godwin's impostor Ink Spots. There were dozens of these groups playing at every lounge, nightclub or casino in the U.S. that would have them.... and some are still out there. I guess it beat digging ditches or washing dishes.

Was Prince Bobby Jack an actual Ink Spot?.... yes, he was. Although according to Judge Choate's 1967 ruling, so are you and so am I... if we so desire. In the late 1960s, Prince Bobby Jack was one of a group of musicians that took control of Albuquerque's musicians union. Prince Bobby was appointed or elected to head up the union. This allowed Bobby and his cronies to cherry pick the best jobs for themselves at the expense of their fellow brothers. This did not go over well and in all likelihood led to an event that started Prince Bobby Jack on his downward spiral.

I found this item online, reprinted from The Eugene Register-Guard, dated Sept. 10th. 1975.
Musician put on probation   Dateline: Albuquerque N.M.
Prince Bobby Jack former member of the Ink Spots singing group has pleaded guilty to embezzling $127 dollars from a musicians union he headed and was given three years probation.
U.S. District Judge Howard Bratton granted probation after Jack's attorney, William Snead, told the court a psychiatric report indicated incarceration would be “destructive” to Jack as an individual.
“I deeply regret the wrongs I caused” Jack told the judge, who made restitution of all funds embezzled a provision of Jack's probation.

I guess the Caddy needed an oil change. Overnight he went from being Mr. Ink Spot to roadkill. His arrogance and condescending demeanor caught up to him. Nobody trusted him and over a period of time, everyone shunned him. John Truitt reports that as a young musician he was advised “that in matters of business, I should keep him at a distance” Prince Bobby Jack tried to keep up appearances, but he was coming undone. Bobby Jack had always had a habit of hitting people up for money, two or three dollars at a time... loans that were never repaid. Bill Stephens, who had maintained a friendship with Bobby Jack, started noticing that he only called to ask for money, two and three hundred dollars in loans that Stephens never got back. Tired of being burned, most of his acquaintances stopped taking his calls or seeking him out.

It wasn't long before people started to notice his black Cadillac parked overnight at Coronado Center or around the University area. He appeared to be living in it. His homeless state took a turn for the worse a few years later when he took to living in the bus stop at Central and Girard. He had with him the telltale shopping cart train full of his belonging, among which he may have stashed his beloved silver chalice and the legendary scrapbook. Then just like that he disappeared from public view. Prince Bobby Jack's fall from grace and subsequent decline played out in slow motion. John Truitt said “Prince Bobby Jack was shunned to the end by those who knew him, and for reasons that went back to his arrival in the Duke City some four and a half decades before.”

In 1993, having retired and taken a job as a pharmaceuticals courier, Bill Stephens found himself delivering to Casa Real, a long term care facility in Santa Fe. There to his surprise he found Prince Bobby Jack. Bill paints a picture of a happy reunion with a “dolled up” Prince Bobby entertaining the residents, “He seemed pretty lucid to me” declared Stephens. His nurse (she posted anonymously) at Casa Real however contradicts Bill's account. “Your memory of a lucid person and that he was his old self, dolled up... couldn't be further from the truth” According to her, Prince Bobby was at Casa Real for three years “He was penniless, homeless, no car, no clothes and no family. He was a ward of the state” Bill Stephens claims he was able to visit him several times a month, adding that Prince Bobby never once mentioned his daughter Bobbi.

The ward nurse recalls Bobby Jack having just one visitor in those three years (Stephens) She mentions that the caller attempted to pry information from the nurses concerning royalties. “The other nurses and I would laugh, because we knew there were no royalties” While making his weekly rounds, Bill Stephens stopped at Casa Real to check on Prince Bobby and found out he was gone. He asked around and discovered that he had been transferred to the state hospital in Las Vegas. The unit charge nurse confirms that Prince Bobby was transferred, though not to a state facility, but to a locked unit at Casa Real to keep him away from the insistent solicitor (Stephens) she then taunts Bill “If you know about the facility as you say you do, then you also know why he was behind those locked doors”

The plot thickens... I remind you that this is all conjecture and hearsay. One side paints a rosy picture and the other views the matter sans rose colored glasses. If I had to pick a side, I would tend to go with the ward nurse, I trust nurses. Although she does mention that Prince Bobby used to serenade her at the nurses' station which totally contradicts her previous statement concerning his lucidity. Prince Bobby's mental state deteriorated and he passed away shortly after his “transfer” “Upon the hill a pauper's grave had been dug to await it's new occupant. A black hearse carrying an indigent casket slowly wended it's way down the central lane followed by a small procession of workers and a backhoe. Over the years, those few that mourned forgot all about Prince Bobby. Dooming him to the worst fate that a vainglorious man could suffer.... eternal anonymity.”

“At first the ghost was no more than a chill in the air, a shimmer of mist, diffuse.” Slowly it congealed into the recognizable form of a man with vacant white eyes, translucent mahogany skin and a toothy smile. Draped in a purple robe, clasping a silver chalice, the ghoul spoke with the rasping tones of a man cultivating a two pack-a-day habit. “Where the fuck all these people come from? I have been playing in this shit hole for years, I ain't never seen this many people in here at once.” He opened his mouth as if to sing, but only a scratchy whisper emerged. At first it was distant, but it came steadily closer and all the while becoming more distressed “I don't want to set the world on fire, I just want to start a flame in your heart” gingerly tinkling the keys of the old forlorn piano, his eyes unfocused “I've lost all ambition for worldly acclaim, I just want to be the one you'd love” as his form dissipated into the misty night.

In 2008, Solid Ghost, a creative duo from the East Mountains, composed of Justin Parker and Arnold Bodmer in collaboration with Dwight Loop, released “Normal Musik” (some people think... this music is normal) which they describe as “a symphony of montages and grooves extracted from the chaos of white noise” “Normal Musik” features “The Legend of Prince Bobby Jack” a homage of sorts to Prince Bobby, which they describe as the “history of a hip hustler who became a homeless husk” It's a dark self propelled piece interspersed with disembodied voices that one could image to be that of Prince Bobby Jack interacting with the pedestrian and vehicular traffic swirling around the bus stop at Girard and Central that became his home.

Arnold Bodmer should be quite familiar to Dirt City Chronicles readers. Arnold's musical legacy stretches back to the mid-1960s when he first hooked up with The Striders in Los Angeles, where he was hanging around Topanga Canyon having just arrived from his native Switzerland. When The Striders returned home, Arnold came with them and has since been involved in enough musical projects and groups to merit his own write up. Dwight Loop of course was the host of Earwaves on KUNM for 23 years (it's now hosted on Dwight is an electronic music producer, performer, music writer/critic (Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, Crosswinds, I.E.) plus he's also the founder of Third Ear, a recording label. Justin Parker (not to be confused with Justin Parker the English songwriter and record producer best known for his work with Lana Del Rey & Bat for Lashes) is also involved with Rampant Egos, a Third Ear project that includes Bodmer and Loop.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Viva Las Vegas!

We can't stop here! This is bat country!!

“Las Vegas is the expression, in glitter and concrete, of America's brittle and mutating id"
~ John Burdett ~

“Lost Wages” “Sin City” “Vegas” whatever your sobriquet of choice is, you're talking about the entertainment capital of the world... Las Vegas. Thanks to a questionable “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” marketing scheme and that shitty trilogy of Hangover movies, a Vegas vacation without self degradation and scandal is no vacation at all. So you would think. That's the Hollywood version of course. In reality the average visitor drops a few hundred in the casinos, drinks too much and fends off time share salesmen at every turn. Every solo artist that hits Vegas needs a band as does every dance troupe and revue. Not everyone playing on the strip travels with their own band like Elvis did. Most have to rely on the venues to supply musicians capable of playing that artists' songs and music exactly as recorded.

No problemo, Vegas has them covered, some of the best musicians in the country if not the world gravitate towards Vegas. Here's something you may not know, for years New Mexico musicians have shuffled to and fro between the land of enchantment and Las Vegas, Nevada. A number of local musicians have made names for themselves there, if nowhere else. Al Hurricane pulled an eight month tour of duty playing behind Fats Domino in the late 1960s. Spinning Wheel worked as an opening act during the same time period. The Killers may be big in their hometown, but I bet the average local knows as much about Sidro's Armada and Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns as they know about Mr. Brightside. “What kind of rat bastard psychotic would play that song- right now, at this moment?”

For all its glitz and glamour, Las Vegas is a factory town. It's a city of clock punchers, everyone from dishwasher to horn player is a working stiff keeping one eye on the clock and one foot pointed towards the door. It gives a whole new meaning to the term ”music industry” Jerry Lopez, who started out playing alongside his father and brothers in a Santa Fe based band, Los Hermanos Lopez y La Compania, remembers how after several years of driving thousands of miles across the western states, playing Vegas was such a refreshing change. Looking around, the Lopez brothers, who had been living on the road and staying in motels away from family, saw that “the road trips were smaller, the musicians had nice cars, nice homes” It was easy money.

Determined to find their niche, Lopez recalled “We kept coming back to Vegas” though their gigs weren't exactly on the Strip. “Our first gig, we were still playing Spanish music, was at a bar in North Town called the Scarlet Wagon” it was every bit as bad as it sounds “We were the band and the bouncers, it was a rough place, you would never go there.” But as luck would have it, while working the Scarlet Wagon they were introduced to Bobby Morris, an agent who's very first question was “Do you guys mind playing in front of topless girls?” Los Hermanos Lopez gave him a resounding “We have no problem with that” this landed them their first big break as musicians for “Get Down” a topless revue that packed the room and had a very successful run (as if it wouldn't, amirite?)

With a foot finally in the door, Jerry Lopez pushed the band in a new musical direction, a contemporary horn driven sound not unlike early Chicago, Tower of Power, Sons of Champlin. Bobby Morris was all in, suggesting that the band would need a new name and since they played like Chicago they should be named after a city. “Where you guys from” Morris asked “Santa Fe” the Lopez brothers replied “That's it!, that's your new name” Morris declared. “We morphed into a lounge band, but not a lounge band in the traditional sense” Jerry goes on “We worked the local nightclubs first, we did lots of original stuff” Jerry Lopez was trying to sidestep a trap that many Vegas bands would fall into “We didn't really want to work the lounges”

As Jerry explains, “Then (the late 70s) being a lounge act meant wearing polyester and ruffles, or tuxedos and playing Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” It's not what Jerry had in mind for the band's long term future. Jerry honed his skills as a band leader, musical director and front man as Santa Fe worked an overnight shift, midnight to 5 a.m. Their act quickly became a popular hangout for other musicians working Vegas and the word got around, these guys are good. Soon Jerry found an ally in the entertainment director at The Mint, who encouraged Santa Fe to work their own material in their own way. It was a big deal and Jerry sings a song about the reaction they got “We had our hair grown long ~ we were looking kind of scruffy ~ the old school cats didn't dig our look”

Santa Fe generated a buzz on the strip earning the respect of the “old school cats” while gaining a reputation as a “must see” act. But, eventually the business end of Vegas started to change. Casinos cut back on entertainment budgets and as Jerry explains “the entertainment directors were no longer entertainment directors, they were coming out of food & beverage, marketing and even the gift shop” It was time for a change ”They didn't respect the musicians” Jerry went out on the road with Tom Scott, Bill Champlin, Kenny Loggins and Luis Miguel. He also found plenty of work as a back up and session musician, touring, recording jingles, television soundtracks. Eventually the road brought him back to Vegas and he assembled Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns (no connection to the Albuquerque band, Fat City.... fairly certain Jerry named them after the song “Fat City” by The Sons of Champlin)

This 15 piece, revamped version continues to work in Vegas to this day. (I don't recognize any of the current musicians other than Jose Jimenez, who I believe worked on The John Wagner Coalition's album “Shades of Brown” in 1976) Along the way Jerry Lopez was nominated for a Grammy in 2009 for his work on the “Tortilla Factory's All that Jazz” album and then was up for nomination again in 2011 for his Spanish music album “Mis Raices” which was an inherently personal project, recorded as an ode to his father Gilbert. The CD was on the ballot for Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album. “It was just something to do to honor my father, but we did a really good job with it,” Lopez says. “Maybe that warmth came through, and that’s how it got all this attention.”

I have a hunch that folks don't go to Vegas for introspective entertainment, they want a buzz saw of excitement to go with their free drinks. By it's very nature, Vegas lounge music is tailored so as not to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable. Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns give 'em what they want. A good time delivered in the same fashion as those mythical Vegas buffets that always fall just short of our expectations. Big heaping plates of musical meatloaf topped off with mounds of musical mashed potatoes and a huge helping of corn. Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns ooze talent, they grind like no others, the music rips and roars but it's soul music without the soul, funk music without the funk. It just don't stick to your ribs..... let the healing continue, Check Please!

Turn the music up! My heart feels like an alligator!”

Sidro Garcia arrived in Las Vegas long before the Lopez clan. In fact he may well have been one of those “old school cats” that Jerry Lopez sings about. By the time Los Hermanos Lopez morphed into Santa Fe, Sidro and his then wife Beverlee Brown were well established, not just in Las Vegas but all over the U.S. When Beverlee & Sidro first hit Las Vegas in 1966, it was during a transitional period. Howard Hughes was just settling in, having bought the Desert Inn after he was asked to vacate the penthouse to make room for New Year's Eve guests. Elvis Presley who would marry Priscilla Beaulieu at the Aladdin Hotel the following year, was the talk of the town. Actual Mobsters and the Memphis Mafia rubbed elbows on the strip. Rat Pack holdovers jockeyed for photo ops with the King. Squares still ruled this corner of the world, hippies be damned.

Elvis had been scorned and lambasted after his very first Vegas appearance in 1956 "He stands up there clutching his guitar, he shakes and shivers like he is suffering from itchy underwear and hot shoes," wrote Ralph Pearl of The Las Vegas Sun. "For the average Vegas spender or show goer, [Elvis is] a bore," wrote another of the Sun's critics, Bill Willard. However, “Viva Las Vegas” in which Elvis co-starred with Ann Margaret changed all that. Two years hence, Elvis would play his first sold-out Vegas show at the International, where he would hold court, posting a record 837 consecutive sold out performances over seven years, drawing a total of 2.5 million paying customers to his shows. Over that seven years, Elvis is said to have sold $43.7 million in tickets alone. Cue..... Also sprach Zarathustra, the dawn of a new era was upon us.

Sidro Garcia was destined for success, either in athletics or music. He grew up in Willard, N.M a village located on highway 60, east of the Manzanos. Sidro excelled on the hardwood and diamond, enough so that St. Joseph's college in Albuquerque recruited him to play basketball. He also received an offer to play pro baseball with The Albuquerque Dukes, then playing in the class A Western League as an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. His choice was made easier when The Western league and The Dukes folded the same year Sidro graduated from Willard Hs. One of fourteen children, Sidro had started playing guitar at an early age, playing alongside his father and brothers, continuing a long tradition of Garcia family musicians. By the time he graduated from high school he was adept at playing guitar and singing. 

The College of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande (changed to University of Albuquerque in 1966) was a Catholic liberal arts college located at the present site of St. Pius Hs. 6'4” Sidro Garcia arrived on campus ready to suit up for the basketball team and pursue his other passion, music. He was a success on the basketball court (supposedly he received All- American honors) and it didn't take him long to put together The Sneakers, a band that included his brothers Sal, Ray and his cousins Willie and Levi. During Sidro's Junior year at St. Joseph, singer Sue Thompson, touring in support of her hit singles “Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry” and “Norman” came through Albuquerque. The Sneakers either opened for her or someone introduced Sidro to Sue, with Sidro joining her touring band as a result.

A good looking blonde, Thompson's high girlish singing voice had made her a teen favorite even though she was pushing forty at the time. Sidro dropped out of school and spent the next eight months touring the country as Sue Thompson milked her two hits (both written by schlockmeister, John D. Loudermilk) Once the whirlwind tour wrapped up, Sidro returned to Albuquerque and slipped back into The Sneakers. It was at this point that Sidro met his future wife Beverlee Brown, a leggy six foot plus gal who could also sing. Beverlee joined The Sneakers as a vocalist changing the entire dynamic of the band... for the better. Sue Thompson having established herself in Las Vegas, played another important role in Sidro's future when she convinced the band to move to Vegas.

The Sneakers did just that, opening for Jackie Mason at the Aladdin in 1966. Now billed as Beverlee Brown & The Sneakers , they became a show band with a knack for variety while incorporating choreography and comedy bits into their act. Sidro took on the persona of guitar virtuoso and straight man for Bev's antics. Sal Garcia acquired the stage name of Sal Riccardo. (Ray Garcia was no longer with the band) Willie Sisneros- bass, Al Zepeda- guitar, Chris Hamilton- keys and drummer Tom Cross filled out what would be the band's classic lineup. It was the start of a good run as they wowed 'em at the Frontier, Stardust, Sahara, Dunes and the Sands with extended gigs at the Maxim and the Mint. Television appearances on Merv Griffin, Steve Allen, Jim Nabors and Glen Campbell's network shows followed.

Beverlee embodied a slinky Cher Bono persona, while Sidro worked a poor man's Tom Jones shtick. Beverlee's Cher sound-a-like vocals complimented Sidro's deceptively rich vocals perfectly. Naturally, most of the attention went to Beverlee. Chicago Tribune critic Will Leonard noted: “Beverlee is too much. She's a stunningly beautiful gal, an inch or two over six feet tall, in a mini skirt that bestows upon the public some of the lengthiest and prettiest gams on the Near North Side. Wayne Harada writing for Billboard agreed: “Leggy and lovely Beverlee is what singing's all about. She handily delivers the goods” One would think that good legs are essential for good singing.... Wipe the drool off fellas, it's unbecoming of critics. 

The Sneakers opened for Johnny Mathis, George Burns, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson and others. Elvis Presley came to see the band at the Frontier and invited the members to his show - and his parties - at the Las Vegas Hilton (The International) But, as I'm fond of pointing out; “the times they were-a-changing "Disco came along and audiences wanted to dance” Garcia said. “We had worked on being showy. We continued to do that, but we played for dancers as well." That would explain those matching, sea foam opened front jump suits that both Beverlee and Sidro wore.... sexy, yet cringe worthy.... I'm willing to bet that either one of them could still fit into those. Believe it or not the music was important and for all the glitzy lounge act trappings, The Sneakers could play... have you ever seen a bass player and keyboardist play trumpets while also playing their respective instruments? It's totally awesome.

The band could play just about anything you can think of. They even had a routine where members of the audience would call out their hometowns and the band would play a tune associated with that city. Sidro Garcia, is truly a talented guitarist.... possibly the best to ever come out of New Mexico. His tour de force has long been a performance of Ernesto Lecuona's “Malagueña” seguing effortlessly to Mason Williams' “Classical Gas” it was the showstopper. Sidro and Beverlee also took a crack at pop music stardom, releasing a handful of sunshine pop/bubblegum singles on a variety of labels including "It's Just Not Funny Anymore" b/w "I'm Nothing as of This Day" on John Wagner's Delta Records in 1966 (the single now sells for $150)

Beverlee and Sidro had a son (Sortero) fell out of love, divorced and she left the band. Sidro didn't miss a beat, renaming the band, Sidro's Armada (after the formidable yet so vulnerable Spanish fleet) He sailed on with new female vocalists. Brother Sal remained the only constant, "Counting the time we performed together as kids, Sal and I have been onstage together for more than fifty years” Sidro remarried in 1985. Beverlee rejoined the band and they found their second wind. Gradually, in response to changing times and budget constraints. Sidro downsized the band to a quartet. Now in his mid-70s, Sidro still lives in Las Vegas and plays on occasions. His hands are failing him, but the unsinkable Sidro's Armada, having survived the broadsides, isn't quite ready to sail off into the sunset. Sail on, sail on, sailor.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

From 'Burque to Blackpool, The Classic Era of Duke City Soul

"Children, go where I send you ~ (Where will you send me?)
I'm gonna send you to the land of a thousand dances”

This was a different scene, one that the displaced mid-westerners of the heights could never get hip to. Down here the music was emotionally charged, majestic in scope, musically supreme. The music communicated a will to escape the limits of ordinary life and the constraints of a city built on the false premise that if you're white, you're right... If you're brown, stick around and if you're black, get back! “Pride in the face of prejudice” is how the Austin Chronicle's Margaret Moser describes the brown eyed soul that flowed out of the American Southwest in the 1960s. Self expression in the face of oppressive racial prejudice in a city where whites make up just over half of the population... it comes like fire. It becomes something that you summon from deep within your soul.

Once a man reaches that boiling point, you hand him a horn, guitar, drumsticks or a microphone and stand back to marvel what is man. This would explain why James Brown was deified in the barrios of Albuquerque. Brown's raw emotive pleas such as “Please, Please, Please” “Try Me” “I Won't Plead No More” “I Want You So Bad” were tailor made for Hispanic audiences. Kenny Burrell on guitar, George Dorsey on alto sax and Clifford Scott on tenor sax essentially invented the sound that would become the inspiration for every brown eyed soul band that ever played. James was all in, no half measures, he was relentless and that somehow struck a nerve among 'Burque Chicanos, because there's just no quit in the Duke City hustle. Hit Me! 

 Westside Story

The music that helped launch volumes of East Side Story and countless other Chicano Oldies compilations was recorded on the same equipment that Norm Petty used to record Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, The Fireballs (with and without Jimmy Gilmer) Bennie Sanchez (Al's mother) bought Norm's gear when Norm Petty Studios upgraded in the mid-1960s. In deed, many attribute Hurricane Records iconic “oldies” sound to the fact that they were actually using vintage equipment from the 1950s. Before they owned it, Al Hurricane & The Night Rockers test drove that equipment recording a series of singles at Norm Petty Studios starting in the early 1960s.

Based in Hollywood, Challenge Records had stumbled upon one of the biggest hit singles of 1958 almost by accident. In need of a b-side for a Dave Dupree single (aka David Burgess) the rag tag studio pros led by Danny Flores (credited as Chuck Rio for contractual purposes) slapped together a dirty sax line, and a snappy guitar riff with Flores shouting Tequila after every bridge and just like that they had a #1 hit. Three weeks after its release “Tequila” now the a-side was at the top of the charts and well on its way to a gold record. Danny Flores was dubiously credited as the “Godfather of Latino Rock” (though he quit the Champs within a year disgusted by the studio musicians inability to put on a good live show)

Not to mention that in their long history, The Champs never added another Chicano musician, though Glen Campbell, Dan Seals and Dash Croft were all once members. Smitten by the instant success of “Tequila” Challenge set out to find another Chicano King Midas and that's where Al Hurricane & The Night Rockers came in. If the formula works once, than why shouldn't it work repeatedly? Released in 1961 on Challenge, distributed by Warner Bros., Al Hurricane's “Lobo” b/w “Racer” was an obvious attempt to cash in on the success of “Tequila” Al & The Nightrockers were game but the finished product sounds like the producer ran tape after instructing Al and band to play like The Fireballs and The Champs

“Panchita/ La Mula Bronca” also on Challenge Records were the first tracks to feature vocals and apparently brought the Warner Bros./Challenge business arrangement to a close. “Mexican Cat/ Pedro's Girlfriend” has the distinction of being Al's first single on the Sanchez family's own label, Hurricane Records. (In April of 1967 “Mexican Cat” was still on the local charts) Al's first instrumental single "South Bend / Burrito" was released on Apt Records in 1960. Al & The Night Rockers were always in demand as a backup musicians for solo artists that Bennie booked to appear in Albuquerque (Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Little Richard, Tina Turner, Jimmy Clanton etc. etc.) That in a nutshell covers Al Hurricane's rock & roll period.

Al released his first album “Mi Saxophone” in 1967 and it set the tone for years to come as his music became synonymous with Northern New Mexico's Hispanic community. Bennie Sanchez, the family matriarch, gave up a career in nursing to become their full time manager as president of Hurricane Productions. Gifted with a knack for concert promotions and a shrewd businesswoman, Bennie built up a regional musical empire that rivaled and eventually surpassed that of Norm Petty. She had her Duke City contemporaries eating dust. Years later, Hurricane Productions was still going strong, a trend that continued well into the next century. Bennie Sanchez passed away in 2011, an amazing woman who's trail blazing accomplishments have never been fully recognized.

Smile Now, Cry Later

Down in the valley even the love songs were sad .... melancholy being the main ingredient of Duke City Soul. Tommy G, the mere mention of his name brings tears to their eyes. Thirty eight years since his death, the voice of Tommy G (Gonzales) still resonates with those who heard him sing. “Love me or leave me, don't keep me hanging on” Only a gifted vocalist, at ease with baring his soul, can run an audience through an emotional wringer such as “Please Don't Fool With Me” and bring the proceeding to a close by gently sobbing into the microphone and not end up the object of scornful derision. Only Tommy G could cover James Brown's masterpiece of unattainable love “I Want You So Bad” and somehow improve on the original.

Tommy G was blessed with singular talent and it's on full display as he steadfastly embraces the audience, tightening his grip with each chorus as the horns push him towards the fringe. Each plea more wretched with emotion than the last until the refrain of “I Wonder, Will I Ever, Will I Ever.... Stop, Stop... Being All Alone! Brings Tommy to his knees in moaning supplication. Rarely does one witness a song coming together with such perfection, that improving upon it is impossible. Recorded in 1966 at Hurricane Productions, with Tiny Morrie (Al Hurricane's brother) in the booth. It stands unchallenged as the best single recording ever produced in the Duke City's long and storied musical history. IMO.

“If you ain’t got enough soul, let me know. I got enough soul to burn.” It's mind blowing that Tommy G was just 19 years old at the time the three Hurricane singles were recorded. “The days I wonder, the nights I ponder and time is running out, though all the while, we burn brighter than a thousand suns” Upon its release “I Want You Bad” b/w “I Know What I Want” (an excellent James Brown knock-off written by Tiny Morrie) held down the #1 spot at ABQ Top 40 station KLOS. The single proved successful enough that it was re-released in 1967 on Hollywood Records (a subsidiary of Starday Records of Madison, Tn.) for national distribution and from there was picked up by London American Recordings for distribution in the UK.

The Charms followed up with “Please Don't Fool Me” b/w Hey! Hey! (You're Too Much) in 1966 and “Something You Got” b/w “Don't Cry” in 1967. The Charms consisted of Tommy G. vocals, Rockin' Ray Lucero on lead guitar, Alfred Bourget on trumpet, and the rhythm section of Robert “Boykie” Chavez- drums and Fred Garcia-bass. Ray Lucero went on to play with Thumper, Spinning Wheel & The Freddy Chavez Foundation. Robert “Boykie” Chavez played with Spinning Wheel & The Freddy Chavez Foundation. Alfred Bourget turned up in Johnny J. Armijo's Thee Fabulous Chekkers. (a revival of the original Thee Chekkers with nary an original member in sight)

Information on Tommy is rather spotty, some folks say Tommy grew up in Barelas, while others recall his family running a grocery store at the corner of 12th and Bellamah, which is in the Sawmill/Old Town area. Apparently he was involved with a band called The Rockin' Midniters prior to The Charms and they played a gig at San Felipe School in Old Town. The Journal's entertainment calendar mentions Tommy G's Broadway opening for Al Hurricane's Night Rockers at Al's Far West Club throughout the latter part of 1968. “When You Say That You Love Me” could be from this period. The song features Chuck Klingbeil sailing along on a jazzy organ riff while Tommy flows right alongside like a Vegas lounge singer. It's unlike anything Tommy ever recorded, beautiful and bizarre at the same time. “All the years would mean nothing, Oh my darling, for what good is life without you”

Originally called Mudd, (probably to distinguish themselves from Mud, an English band that had been around since 1966 and finally enjoyed a spell of success once they teamed up with glam rock producers Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman) Mudd was Albuquerque's first rock super group Steve (Miller) D'Coda lead guitar Arnold Bodmer- keys Chuck Klingbeil- keys, sax Vic Gabriele- bass and Randy Castillo on drums. Each one the best at his instrument on the local scene and with Tommy G on lead vocals... it goes without saying. Mudd signed on with Al Klein's Buffalo Bill Productions, who in turn secured a recording contract with Uni Records for the band.

This resulted in two albums, the first Mud on Mudd released in 1970. Uni put out a single from the album “Medicated Goo b/w The Lights Gonna Shine” Medicated Goo being a cover of a Steve Winwood composition from Traffic's third album “Last Exit” Not even the novelty of Tommy G singing like Steve Winwood saved “Medicated Goo” from being little more than a sound-a-like cover version. Mudd did fare better on their own songs, especially “If We Try” (a Vic Gabrielle composition and one of many that Al Klein latched onto as co-writer) “Mud on Mudd” wasn't groundbreaking by any means, but it did provide an avenue for Tommy G to make a smooth transition into rock music.
On the second album “Mud” (down one d) the band neither regressed nor progressed. Same Mud channel, same Mud station. Zap! Pow! Biff! Released in 1971, a handful of songs on “Mud” jump right out at you “I Go Crazy” “She” and a cover of The Beatles “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” the rest ain't froggy at all. It's a bit of a bummer that given all the talent assembled in the band, nobody at Buffalo Bill Productions could find them something other than covers & filler to record. Even by Al Klein's low standards “Smacking Cowboy” and “Cruel Ruler” are fucking awful. I know it's mighty presumptuous of me to think that Al actually wanted the band to succeed or that he had their best interest in mind, but as the kids like to say... that's a fail!

Mud unceremoniously went the way of the buffalo after that album. Tommy G drifted off, though he eventually turned up in a version of Zozobra (along with Chuck Klingbiel) that apparently didn't include Sugie. The 800 lb. Gorilla in the room was always the monkey on Tommy G's back. Randy Castillo's Wiki page which has been endlessly copied and pasted onto websites near and far. Speaks of heavy drug use among the members of Mud and of Tommy G dying from kidney failure brought on by his addiction to heroin. An event that led to Randy swearing off heroin for life. David Butterfield, who played with Heart (the Burque version) alongside Arnold Bodmer, mentions Tommy's passing on his website “Mudd was the most ferocious NM band of the day, that is until Tommy G od’d. No Tommy No Mudd.”

Butterfield got it wrong, Tommy passed away in 1978, Mud or Mudd, was just a hazy memory for those who remembered anything at all. It's long been rumored that Tommy G died of an overdose and as a result, Mud broke up immediately. Consider that myth busted. Several hours spent scrolling through rolls of microfilm trying to find either an article mentioning Tommy's death or an obituary amounted to nothing. I would tend to believe the Castillo account over the rest. “To die—To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause”

Six Degrees of Randy Castillo

Randy Castillo got his start in a rather inauspicious way, while practicing in the garage, A member of The Sheltons happened by.... pounded on the door and when Randy answered, informed him that their drummer had quit and invited Randy to try out for the gig. Still a novice, Castillo was elated, but the feeling wouldn't last. Barely a month later The Sheltons original drummer Toby Romero asked back in to the band and Randy was unceremoniously dumped. He later recalled: “One of the guys called and said: 'Randy, don’t come to practice.’ I asked, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘’Because Toby’s back. He’s back in the band.’ I couldn’t say anything. I just hung up the phone, and started crying.” Castillo channeled the hurt and disappointment into improving his skills,taking lessons from Albuquerque drum pro Nick Luchetti.

The Sheltons: George (Bud) Lucero, lead guitar; Steve Lucero, sax, keyboards, lead vocals; Toby Romero, drums; Robert Elks, guitar; and Ray Avila, bass. (plus at one time or another: Eddie Sanchez, Max Peralta, Jerry Chavez & Randy Castillo) were quite popular around Albuquerque and seemed on the fast track to success. A fact that didn't escape the eyes and ears of a busy Tommy Bee, who brought them into the studio to record a series of demos with Tommy singing lead (Tommy Bee & The Stingers) including a demo for a song Tommy had written, “Double Crossin' Girl” (which he would later pass along to The Fe Fi Four Plus 2)

Randy Castillo was juggling classes at West Mesa Hs and sitting in on late night bar gigs with Thee Chekkers (which his parents would chaperone and then help him load up his gear) when The Gremlins (Gene Romero- lead guitar, Fred Radman-bass & Chuck Klingbeil-keys) came together. The band members were all too young to play in clubs or bars, (Randy was 14) but they stayed busy playing frat parties and one nighters around town. The Gremlins were one of Tommy Bee's early projects, recording at least one single “Hoochi Coochi Coo/ You Better Think It Over” on Stinger Records, Prod. By Tommy Bee (Gene Romero recalls that they recorded two singles)

With studio experience under their belts, The Sheltons recorded their first single in 1967 “Find It b/w Yesterday's Laughter” at Dell Studios with Tommy Bee at the controls. Released on Lance Records, “Find It” co-written by Tommy Bee, garnered regional airplay, apparently to the point that Lance Music Enterprises announced the impending release of a Sheltons album, which never came to fruition. The Sheltons followed up with a Lieber-Stoller song “I Who Have Nothing b/w Knock on Wood” the requisite Eddie Floyd cover. In spring of 1968 (after Tommy Bee's split with Lance Music Enterprises) Tommy licensed “I Who Have Nothing b/w The Cat” for release on Dot Records.

For Randy the experience paid off when he was asked to join Doc Rand & The Purple Blues, “We had a singer, this black guy. He could dance like James Brown. Couldn’t sing like him, but he could dance great!” Randy recalled. It was a step up, the band had a horn section and played original numbers, though their act pretty much revolved around James Brown covers “We learned every song that was on James Brown’s Live At The Apollo album.” Gene Romero, bass player for the Purple Blues describes Doc Rand as dancer/vocalist which falls in line with Randy Castillo's opinion. Pete Cockroft-trumpet, Max Peralta- sax, Ray Cruz- lead guitar,, and OJ Metzgar- guitar, rounded out the band.

The Sheltons quickly found themselves smack in the middle of a legal dispute between Tommy Bee and his former partners at Lance Music Enterprises, Dick Stewart & Tom Benavidez. Bee claimed that The Sheltons and their potentially lucrative recording rights belonged to him and not Lance Music Enterprises. After a flurry of accusations, suits and counter suits, the two sides settled out of court and Tommy Bee appears to have walked away holding the rights to a handful of recordings previously released on Lance Records. As a result Tommy Bee licensed “Find It b/w I Who Have Nothing” for release on Bar-Bare, one of Reginald Hines many shady labels. Reginald Music picked up publishing rights as well.

Doc Rand wasn't a terrible singer, though in all honesty, fans didn't care, they just wanted to watch him dance like James Brown. Under Tommy Bee's direction, Doc Rand & The Purple Blues released two singles on Lance Records, “Hold On I’m Coming b/w Something You Got and “I Want You (Yeh I Do) b/w I Need A Woman” Both produced by Tommy Bee and released in 1967. The ongoing feud between Tommy Bee and Lance Music Enterprises, also impacted Doc Rand & The Purple Blues. The band was essentially grounded until the two sides came to an agreement. This resulted in “I Need A Woman / I Want You (Yeh I Do)” being licensed for release on Reginald Hines' Landra label in 1968.

As for The Sheltons.... they got the satisfaction of knowing that their music would live on for years to come on those lucrative East Side Story compilations, for which Reginald Music got paid. The Sheltons went into a holding pattern as several members shuffled off to boot camp. Once Ray Avila, George Lucero and Ed Sanchez returned from active duty they transitioned into Zozobra, one of Albuquerque's best known club bands. Doc Rand boogalooed into obscurity and The Purple Blues donned Army green. Thanks to Uncle Sam and Tommy Bee's ill timed palace revolt, this chapter of Duke City Soul closes with a resounding thud.

At this point, Gene Romero and Randy Castillo hooked up with Gremlins band mate Chuck Klingbeil in The Tabbs, who as everyone knows, wore gold nehru jackets and according to The Abq. Journal, played “pop, rock tunes” at The Daily Double on East Central throughout late 1968. The Tabbs never released any official recordings. Though Randy, Chuck & Gene did journey out to California to take their shot at stardom, “It didn't work out” said Romero, a common complaint heard from Albuquerque musicians returning from the coast. Gene continued to play with Thee Chekkers and Freddy Williams before joining Roberto Griego's band, the first of many Spanish music bands that he would work with.

For Randy Castillo, after the Tabbs came Mudd/Mud and then Cottonmouth, which was predominantly a cover band that started out in Albuquerque before relocating to Española N.M. Cottonmouth featured Robert Plant knock-off George Gargoa on lead vocals, the hi jinks and shenanigans of lead guitarist Dave Martin and keyboard player Kevin Jones... by comparison the rhythm section of Randy Castillo- drums and Rick Wilson- bass was quite sedate. They changed the name to Wumblies (slang for the wooziness or wumbly jumbly effect felt when loaded on downers) then moved to Denver and became a force by bringing a full arena rock show to little podunk towns starved for entertainment. The Wumblies stage act included “skits” and costumes as well as parachutes hanging from the ceiling... though to my knowledge they did stop just short of pyrotechnics.

Some like to refer to The Wumblies as “the best unsigned band from the 70s” If not for the major labels aversion to signing cover bands with a habit of naming themselves after side effects associated with drug use... All jokes aside, Wumblies did record some strong original material and the demo tracks floating around on the internet show a band oozing with talent... they could have been the next Kingdom Come, ten years before the first Kingdom Come. Online you often see Wumblies referred to as Randy Castillo's first rock band or even worse as Randy's first band. Total horseshit. But thanks to the magic of copy and paste, the Randy Castillo story (including egregious errors) has spread to every nook and cranny of the internet. At least nobody's referred to him as New Mexico Sioux.

After the Wumblies wobbled off into the sunset, Randy found himself in The Offenders, an ill conceived band that featured bassist Randy Rand, who would later join Autograph and guitarist Glenn Sherba, who went on to join the final version of Badfinger (the one that recorded the “Say No More” album)“Sometimes I wish I would have stuck it out with the Offenders, but I was too impatient. I wanted something to happen now” Didn't we all... The Offenders released a single album, in 1981 and went belly up. Randy received an offer to join Code Blue in Los Angeles, but before he could settle in Warner Bros. dropped 'em cold. Code Blue, originally called Skin, was formed by Dean Chamberlain, an original member of The Motels. The band also featured Gary Tibbs of The Vibrators on bass.

Randy landed on his feet, when bassist Michael Goodroe, also from Albuquerque, convinced The Motels that Castillo was the perfect drummer for their upcoming U.S. Tour with Cheap Trick. Afterwards he teamed up with Wumblies band mate Rick Wilson in U.S.S.A. a Chicago area “supergroup” that included lead singer Cliff Johnson (Off Broadway) Pete Comita (ex Cheap Thrill bassist) and guitarist Tommy Gawenda (Pezband) no recordings were made. The rest of the Randy Castillo story is quite familiar and well documented. For the sake of brevity I won't pour over the details. Randy went on to become the most recognized musician Albuquerque has ever produced, and lest we forget, he started out playing that Duke City Soul. 

Northern Soul

Imagine my surprise upon discovering that “They'll Never Know Why” by Freddy Chavez is probably playing on a radio station somewhere in the north of England at this very moment. It's sounds crazy, but it's true. Freddy, raised in the South Broadway area of Albuquerque, was the creative force behind Thee Chekkers, remembered by some as the band that Randy Castillo played with prior to The Gremlins, filling in for their regular drummer, thirty minutes a night (1:30 am to closing) while his parents hovered nearby. Thee Chekkers were loaded with talent. The legendary Freddy Chavez on vocals & keys, Rolando Baca- lead guitar, Severo Flores- sax, Gabby Gabaldon- trumpet, Gene Romero- bass (Randy's longtime running mate) and Ralph Gonzales-drums.

Thee Chekkers made their mark once they hooked up with a man who knew his way around soul music, John Wagner of Delta Records, who also owned the best studio in town. This collaboration resulted in one awe inspiring single “Please Don't Go / Lack of Love” released in 1965 on Look Records a subsidiary of Starday Records. Produced by John Wagner, both songs written by Freddy Chavez. Both did well locally due to the fact that records by local artists actually got played on local radio stations... a novel concept if ever I've heard one. Thee Chekkers don't appear to have recorded anything else until 1967 when a single credited to Freddy Chavez came out “They'll Never Know Why/ Baby I'm Sorry” written by Freddy Chavez on Look Records, produced by John Wagner.

Then something odd happened, DJ Colin Curtis bought a copy of “They'll Never Know Why” added it to his playlist at The Golden Torch and devotees lapped it up. Soon other singles by Duke City Soul bands, Thee Chekkers, Tommy G & The Charms, Tom Barsanti & The Invaders found their way onto British turntables. Confused?... sit right down and let this old guy explain it to you: Northern Soul was a cultural phenomena that had its roots in the R&B music favored by England's Mods. It swept through Northern England, the English Midlands, Wales and Scotland in the late 1960s, having originated in cavernous venues such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, the Catacombs in Wolverhampton, Blackpool Mecca, the Golden Torch at Stoke-on-Trent, Va-Va's in Bolton and the Mecca of northern soul music.... Wigan Casino in Wigan. Home of the All-Nighter

While the Mods had a preference for Motown, Northern Soul fanatics did not, unless it was unreleased or obscure. All recordings deemed as too popular or too commercial were snubbed. The music most prized by the enthusiasts was American soul music issued on small regional labels and that's where the Duke City Soul bands gained a foothold. The music had to adhere to a certain beat... for example, The Four Tops “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” … the template for the Northern Soul sound, though no self respecting dance hall would play it, as it was deemed too commercialized. The dress evolved from classic Mod fashions to wide baggie trousers, teamed with tanks, vests, polo shirts, track jackets and leather soled shoes for the gents. Ankle- length circle skirts, vests, patterned slim fit shirts, platform shoes and knitted tanks for the gals. Adorned with Northern Soul patches representing their venue of choice.

The dancing evolved into an energetic and competitive style similar to early forms of break dancing. By the late 1970s most music being played in the dance halls was still music from the mid-60s, until Colin Curtis started incorporating newer American music such as funk and disco. That change would cause a split between Wigan traditionalist and the modern soul faction that sprang from Blackpool Mecca's Highland Room. “They'll Never Ask Why” a Wigan classic made its way onto “Northern Monsters” a compilation album compiled by Kent supremo Ady Croasdell for Ace Records, an album that did for Northern Soul what Nuggets did for 60s Garage. “They'll Never Ask Why” has since appeared on countless other compilations and is still being played on many of England's Northern Soul and Oldies Stations. The 45 Club Channel on YouTube has it ranked at #59 in the Northern Soul Top 500. Keep the Faith.

At the end of the story, it's all been told

After his brush with international fame, Freddy Chavez turned up in the Majestics, a popular Chicano soul band that included Freddy, Dale Rodriguez, Charlie Jaramillo, the omnipresent Luis “Smoothie” Soto and Ernest “Big Boy” Turner. Hardly any information on the Majestics online and zero recordings posted anywhere. Next up for Freddy Chavez was The Spinning Wheel, a show band with a full horn section that toured the Western states (they were big in Spokane) and enjoyed a successful run on the Vegas strip alongside fellow New Mexicans Sidro's Armada and Santa Fe w/ Jerry Lopez. Spinning Wheel was Freddy Chavez on lead vocals and bass guitar. Robert “Boykie” Chavez on drums. Mike Coulter on sax Eloy Armendariz on keyboard & trumpet. Ray Lucero on guitar & trombone Ray Esquibel on sax. Gabe Baldonado and David Nunez and a host of other musicians were also on board at one time or another. Recordings are available online, including a schmaltzy version of Sinatra's “My Way” and some really cool live tracks, posted by Mike Coulter.

The Freddie Chavez Foundation started in 1974, 41 years later the group is still active. Original members were Freddie Chavez, Ray Lucero (guitar) John Sargent (drums) Bennie Torrez (guitar & trumpet) The Foundation went through more drummers than Spinal Tap, including Robert "Boykie" Chavez, Pete Gabaldon, Jay Blea, Sonny Johnson, Ralph Gonzales, Bennie Padilla & Johnny Vigil. Ricky Lucero (organ) Louie (Smoothie) Soto (sax) & Jackie "JJ" Jaramillo (guitar) Don Rood (keyboards) figured in the mix. The Foundation favored jazzy soul numbers, pop standards, every style of Spanish music and even backed Freddie on an album of religious music and another that featured patriotic songs. Versatility and longevity are the hallmarks of greatness.

The Star Sapphires, recorded in Albuquerque during the mid-60's. The band consisted of RC (Roger) Chavez- guitar and Robert Chavez- guitar and keyboard, Larry Montoya drums and Charles Murray on bass. Robert Chavez went on to join the Vandels, not to be confused with Robert “Boykie” Chavez of The Charms & Spinning Wheel. Other than that, I know nothing about these guys except that they recorded a peerless version of “Cherry Pie” a song made famous by Skip & Flip (Clyde Battin and Gary S. Paxton) which was a cover of Marvin and Johnny's original recorded for Modern Records in 1954. The Star Sapphires released one single “Cherry Pie b/w Sapphire on their own Sapphires label. “Sugar plum, sweet as they come”

Tom Barsanti and The Invaders were quite active during 1966, recording three singles, the best known being “For Your Precious Love /You Can't Sit Down” on the local QQ label. “For Your Precious Love” was re-released on John Wagner's Delta records (which gives a good clue as to what studio the three singles were recorded at) and wound up becoming one the Duke City Soul singles that made it way to The Northern Soul circuit in England. Two more singles followed, “Sticks & Stones/Stormy Monday Blues” and “Do The Dog One More Time/ St. James Infirmary” both on QQ records. Tom Barsanti was the lead vocalist, Joe Bravo the lead guitarist and that's all I know about band personnel. Tom Barsanti worked as a disc jockey at KLOS alongside Pal Al Tafoya, broadcasting out of the KIMO building downtown. He wound up moving to Chicago and is now retired and living in Mexico. *Nobody's Children a garage band from Gallup, N.M. also scored a regional hit with "St. James Infirmary.

The Vandels, featuring Martin Duran on vocals, Robert Chavez on Keys (Star Sapphires) Tony Ramirez sax, Paul Harrison bass, Simon Chavez trumpet, Rubel Martinez trumpet, Bill Dauber, drums Harold Garcia guitar, Paul Duran guitar, Randy Valley drums and Anthony Aragon sax. Formed around a group of friends from West Mesa Hs. The Vandels had been playing for about two years when Tommy Bee signed them to Tommy Bee Productions. Heavily influenced by James Brown (that's why they sported two drummers) The Vandels decided to record “Try Me” as the b-side to “Danger Zone” The single “Try Me / Danger Zone” was released in July of 1967 on Lance Records and within a month the b-side was climbing up the local charts (peaking at #7 on KQEO) Unfortunately for The Vandels, “Try Me” came out just as Tommy Bee fell out with Lance Music Enterprises.

For that reason their next single, a cool cover of Maxine Brown's “All In My Mind b/w Soulin” (aka Boo Ga – Louie) produced by Tommy Bee for Tommy Bee Productions was released on Souled Out Records.... C.L. Milburn's label out of Pasadena, Texas, that Bobby Rosales & The Premiers recorded for. “I think that you don't care, And it's more than I can bear, I don't know baby, Maybe it's all in my mind, all in my mind” Speak of the devil.... in 1968 “Try Me b/w Boo Ga- Louie” was licensed by Tommy Bee to Reginald Hines' for release on the Lynn label. Tommy Bee was resourceful with plenty of friends in low places. “At the end of the highway there's no place to go, at the end of the rainbow you'll find the gold” unless Reginald Hines got there first.