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.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 26

I'm a miner searching for that mother lode of 'Burque's rock & roll gold. I've searched the world wide web, compiling a playlist that includes every 1960s Albuquerque/New Mexico band that I could dredge up. It's a fairly comprehensive look at an under appreciated period of 'Burque musical history. This is good stuff... fuzz laden garage punk rave ups, teener bop and moody sixties psychedelia. All products of homespun Albuquerque record labels, Lance, La Vette, Hurricane, Delta, Mortician. Mid-Sixties garage bands are now most often described as "garage rock," sometimes as "garage punk," "'60s punk," though at the time it had no specific name. It wasn't until the release of the 1972 compilation album, Nuggets, compiled by Lenny Kaye, that music fans and collectors began to define the style.
Garage rock peaked commercially and artistically around 1966-67, which coincides with the period most of 'Burque's garage bands thrived. Gilesi over at the amazing music blog “Cosmic Minds at Play” once mused about the Duke City garage band scene in 1960s: “I have no idea what Albuquerque, New Mexico was like as a place to live in the mid 60s but it certainly seems to have had more than its fair share of top class garage bands, so I can only assume that there was a wild scene going on among its young denizens.” 

Disclaimer: I know no more than the guy that knows next to nothing who knows less than the guy that knows everything. The band info and recordings I've compiled are from various online sources: Dick Stewart and The Lance Record website. Vintage Bands of Albuquerque's Facebook page, Vinnie G's YouTube channel “mrmusico1000”, the curiously named YouTube channel “puppetmastertoday” Vic Gabrielle who was there as it happened. Garage and Having spent countless hours scrolling through microfilm archives and digging through bins searching for “local” music. I can attest to the fact that the internet makes the job much easier. Visit these sites, subscribe, comment, or in Dick Stewart's case... buy something. I'm saving up to buy the Lance Records newsletter collection on cd-rom for $39 U.S. Dollars or 800 Mexican pesos at the current rate of exchange.

Not one aircheck from any Albuquerque radio stations in the 1960s seems to have survived to the present day. Forcing me to substitute radio excerpts from Danny Clayton at Denver AM rocker KBTR 1966 and British born, Tommy Vance on KOL, 60s AM powerhouse in Seattle. 

Pick up Your Head- The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
Who's Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab- Lincoln St. Exit
Papa Oom Mow Mow- Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells
No Correspondence- The Beckett Quintet
I Want To Love You- King Richard & The Knights
How Can I- The Kreeg
What I'm Going Through- The Morfomen
Say You Love Me- The Striders
We're Pretty Quick- The Chob
She's With Him- The Torques
Walk Away- The Feebeez
In Her Own Little World- Trademarques
My Angel- Viscount V
Baby Darlin'- The Morticians
When You Were Mine- The Morfomen
Sand and Sea- The Berrys
Working Man- CellarDwellers
Half a Man- Lincoln St. Exit
For Your Love- Mother Sturctman's Jams and Jellies
I Wanna Back Back (From the World of LSD) The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
No Silver Bird- The Creation
No Silver Bird- The Hooterville Trolley

'Burque Garage: Original Artyfacts from Albuquerque's First Rock Era 1964-69

I'm gonna tell you a story, I'm gonna tell you about my town

Had it not been for “We're Pretty Quick” a certifiable monster 60s garage punk classic. The Chob could have easily slipped into oblivion. Written by bass player Keith Bradshaw and lead guitarist Quinton Miller, “We're Pretty Quick wasn't a chartbuster, it didn't resonate with the teeny boppers at the time of its release. It didn't go national and rocket The Chob to fame, no major labels clamoring for a bit of the action, no inquiries from Brian Epstein. What is arguably one of the best songs to come out of New Mexico in the mid-sixties failed to rise above the regional level. Yet today, “We're Pretty Quick” is one of two songs (the other being “I Wanna Come Back, From the World of LSD” by The Fe Fi Four Plus 2) that garage punk fanatics worldwide identify with Albuquerque. (“No Silver Bird” is a distant third) If you're from Albuquerque and you've never heard this song, then shame on you. The Chob burned fast and flamed out young, leaving only a pair of tuff singles, “We're pretty quick” / “Ain't gonna eat out my heart anymore” Lavette LA 5016 and “Why Am I Alone?”/ “I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone” (QQ 724)

The QQ single was credited to the Choab. At times the band's name was spelled using an umlaut, The Chōb, which if you ask me, we can't have enough of in rock & roll. Love me some umlauts, tildes and in-line diacritics. Lead vocalist Dick Hanson , effortlessly spits out throw away lines like “You got love, the affectionate lie” "Now put your love in a bag and swing it around your head” and “I see by the clock that it's time on the wall” in his best Dick Dodd (Standells) meets Joey Levine (Ohio Express) snarl. Lead guitarist Quinton Miller snakes along like a lounge lizard, dropping riffs like a bar tab. Robbie Crnich- keys, Dave Elledge on drums and Keith Bradshaw, the bass player, poke along with cool detachment. It's all too perfect, as a matter of fact. 

The garage rock revival band The Fuzztones, posted song lyrics on their website and they are whack,
especially those that frontman Rudi Protrudi obviously made up “wrap your legs around my head, baby, we're all set” and “get on your knees, baby, that's my pick” That shit wouldn't fly in the mid-sixties... even with the advent of flower power and free love just around the corner. In Rudi's defense, the lyrics are almost as hard to decipher as The Kingsmen's version of “Louie, Louie” when a drunken Jack Ely, slurred and mumbled his way into the annals of rock & roll history. We're pretty quick to catch on, but I still don't know what swinging a bag 'round your head has to do with anything.

Compilation appearances have so far included: We're Pretty Quick on Mayhem & Psychosis, Vol. 1 (LP), Mayhem & Psychosis, Vol. 1 (CD), The Chosen Few, Vol. 1 (LP), Chosen Few Vol's 1 & 2 (CD), Songs We Taught The Fuzztones (Dble LP & Dble CD) and Teenage Shutdown, Vol. 4 (LP & CD); We're Pretty Quick and Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore on New Mexico Punk From The Sixties (LP) Sixties Archive Vol. 4 (CD); and Why Am I Alone? on Punk Classics, Vol. 1 (7" EP), Punk Classics (CD) and Teenage Shutdown, Vol. 3 (LP & CD). Excruciating cover versions flood in from around the world: Sonic Litter, The Fuzztones, Thee Garagekid, The Smoggers, The Kosher Pickles, The Preytells The Veed, Punkanation, Jon and the Vons, The Untold Fables, Those Bloody Snakes, The Madd. Wretched slugs, don't any of you. Have the guts to play for blood?

If you thought that Española rock & roll didn't exist before Electricoolade/Frankie Medina/The Dirty Hearts... guess again. The Morfomen also known as the Movin Morfomen were repping España long before Frankie was but a glimmer in his daddy's eyes. Behind the multi-talented Dave Rarick, The Morfomen have long since earned garage band cult status among vinyl collectors and garage aficionados around the world. Besides Rarick, the band consisted of Danny Gavurnik, Eddie Valdez, Anthony Martinez and Rudy Maestas. The Morfomen recorded on Lance, Nel-Ric, Goldust, Delta, scoring a handful of regional hits including their version of “Try It” (originally recorded by the Ohio Express, but made famous by The Standells) which they called “We Tried, Try It” produced by R.C. Nelson, engineered by John Wagner on the Nel- Ric label. Dave Rarick who was also a DJ on KABG Big Oldies 98.5, reminisced on that era “We played Rolling Stone songs and everything and they were good to dance to. But most of the Santa Fe groups were known for the romantic ballads. “The End of the Highway” (by The Defiants w/Dave Salazar, another popular Española band) was like that, Maybe that's part of the Spanish influence. We Liked romantic stuff”

The Morticians... not to be confused with the group by the same name from River Rouge, Mi. led by the Girrbach Bros. who's family owned a funeral home or the Morticians from New Jersey that recorded for Roulette Records in 1966. These precocious rockers hailed from Manzano Hs. (Zack Head lead vocals, Stan Hirsch guitar, Pat Massera guitar, Keith Elliot lead guitar Pete Loomis bass Tom Dodge drums John Huckmalla keys,bass) One of the Abq. papers did a write up: “The name of the group is only one part of what seems like a consistent motif of death. The Morticians record on the Mortician label, but they publish sheet music for the Headstone Music Co. and tool around in their very own hearse” Marketing 101: make them stand up and take notice.

The Morticians got their first big break when they landed a gig at the Teen Beat Club in Las Vegas, Nv. pretty heady stuff for a high school band. Eventually they would go on to play on the same bill as Paul Revere & The Raiders, Buffalo Springfield, The Turtles. In the mid 60s the draft and how to avoid it was an overriding concern for young men coming of age. The Mortician's original lead guitarist, Keith Elliot was drafted. The band would soon be in need of a replacement. An advert was posted and Stan Hirsch (along with a lobby full of prospects) showed up for an audition. Hirsch played a surf tune and much to his surprise, got the job. “The Morticians was a well oiled machine before I was hired” Hirsch recalled.

Even a finely tuned machine can be brought to a grinding stop. Hirsch writes: “In a sense our careers had been cut short. If there had been no draft and no war going on, we the band were going to move to LA swim in a bigger pond. We had real good momentum built, and were being looked at by some major players in the business” The Morticians weren't the first local band stymied by the draft, nor would they be the last. Zack Head moved to Los Angeles, played bass with several bands... dropped out moved to Napa Co. After college, Stan joined Zack in Napa and formed a band that was derailed, not by the draft, but by artistic differences.

The Gleicher brothers (Don, Rick, Michael) toiled around Albuquerque in a number of “minor” bands. (Monkey Men, Piggy Bank, Nomads, Celler Dwellers, Plain Jane, Continentals) That's not to say they weren't as talented as other local bands.... they just didn't achieve the same level of success or recognition. The Monkey Men recorded a great version of Bobby Troup's “Route 66” on QQ Records. It's a unique take that seems to blend elements from every version of Route 66 ever recorded into one glorious jaunt down that mother road.

"Mojo" b/w "Route 66" was recorded and released by Jerry Wilson in Albuquerque and charted high on Albuquerque's leading AM rock station, KQEO. Members of the Monkeymen included Vic Gabriele- lead vocals Wes Snipes keys-vocals George Orona - Guitar Don Gleicher- Guitar,vocals Wes Smythe- guitar, keys Terry Bradley- drums Fred Smythe- bass and Noel Rozelle, who recalls “I was also one of the 1st members of the Monkeymen. I filled in When we went to TorC New Mexico on one of our 1st gigs. I had a 58 Merc that we painted our logo (the Monkey with the Top Hat) on the doors.”

The Striders got their start in 1966 when Carl Silva, drummer for Lindy and the Lavells left that group to start his own in 1966. Considering they were once signed to a major label, information about The Striders is surprisingly scant. Other than Carl Silva and Bob Barron (The Pallbearers) I have no idea who was in the band during its Duke City period. The Striders put out a single on John Wagner's Delta Records, “Give Me a Break” but again no clue as to the b-side. This was followed by a single on Lindy Blaskey's LaVett Records "Sorrow" b/w "Say You Love Me" On the strength of that single, Blaskey was able to get the Striders signed by Columbia Records.

Produced by Lindy Blaskey "Sorrow" b/w "Say You Love Me" was re-released as Columbia 4-43738. Lindy' Music Scene, Blaskey's column from Lance Newletter, April 1967, reported the following: Columbia recording artists, The Striders, have arrived in Hollywood to work on their next release. Rumors are that it will be “Do it Now” b/w “When You Walk In The Room” The group decided to make Hollywood their home in order to be closer to the music business. Columbia plans to send them on an extensive promotional tour when the record is released. In the meantime, they'll be playing well-known clubs in the Los Angeles area and appearing on the locally produced TV shows.”

In Hollywood, Carl Silva, Bob Barron & Vic Gabriele were joined by keyboardist Arnold Bodmer, who had moved to Laurel Canyon from his native Switzerland to try his hand in music. Despite Lindy's optimistic report, The Striders were drilling a dry well, they packed it in and returned to Albuquerque with Arnold Bodmer in tow (he made New Mexico his permanent home) Back home again, Carl, Bob Barron and Arnold added Danny Burnett, David Butterfield and Robert Mora to form Heart, a band that merged blue eyed soul with hard rock to create a funk of their own. Working with John Wagner. Heart would go on to release three highly acclaimed but obscure albums. Heart (Look Records,1969) Have a Heart (King, 1970) and Heart (1972) by which time the group was down to Carl Silva and Bob Barron.

The Cellar Dwellers released one single on Lance Records, a cover of the Young Rascal's “Love is a Beautiful Thing” b/w “Working Man” The Dwellers consisted of Michael Gleicher- lead guitar Frank Cotinola- drums Steve Serencha- organ Pete Springer- the bass player. The Piggy Bank,( Vic Gabriele, George Orona, Don Gleicher, Wes Smythe and Benji Martinez) recorded at least one single on Lavette Records “Thoughts of You”/”Play With Fire” (a Stones cover) Lance Monthly newsletter declared “There is a strong indication that the flip side will be the one that will go” And go it did, straight into the bin of obscurity. If you happen to find a copy, please post and save it from “hot single” purgatory.

David Butterfield (Heart) first kicked it with a local teen cover band fronted by the Farfel Brothers, Doug and Tim. the eternal nothings (always in lowercase and italics) are notable for the presence of Steve (Miller) D'Coda on lead guitar and Barry, a 13 year old drummer that was so good, girls threw money at him when he soloed. Their slogan was way too cool as well “we play eternally, but not for nothing” Butterfield was “the tambourine bashing lead singer” who quit the band, moved to San Francisco and barely made it back alive, declaring “ The so- called “Summer of Love” was anything but” He sold his PA and Shure microphones to the Feebeez, Albuquerque's only all girl band (they released one single on the Stange label “Walk Away” written by S. Westcott, b-side unknown)

Let me hit on a few bands that hardly ever receive any mention at all. Before original music was all the rage on the local scene, cover bands ruled (as they would again during the 1980s) one of the best was The Pallbearers. Originally known as The Agent, they started out as teens playing frat parties and high school dances. The rhythm section of Bob Barron- bass (Striders, Heart) David Goodnow-drums, front man, vocalist Jerry Beardsworth and lead guitarist Jim Callahan. The Coffin Bangers and Weed had signed with Lance Records just as Dick Stewart transitioned to Spanish music, no recordings were ever made. Love's Special Delivery (named after Thee Midnighters' hit song) was a racially mixed band that recorded one single for Lance Records and that's all I know about them. The Bounty Hunters were popular,(they opened for Cream on Oct. 5th. in '68) but I found scant mention of them and no band roster or recording info.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention John Wagner. Practically every band that recorded for Lance Records, Lavette Records, Red Feather or John's own label, Delta Records passed through the doors of John Wagner's state of the art studio in the 1960s. Wagner arrived in Albuquerque in the early 60s after a short stint at Norm Petty Studios as a frustrated musician looking to work on the other side of the glass. He's released a handful of singles and at least two albums since, including “Shades of Brown” an album of James Brown cover songs. Credited to The John Wagner Coalition “Shades of Brown” was recorded at his studio in 1976 and released for national distribution by Motown's Rare Earth subsidiary. The John Wagner Coalition was a who's who of Albuquerque musicians: Ralph Gonzales, Mike Weatherly, Steve “Miller” D'Coda, Rich Oppenheim, Mike Maddux, Janis Russell, Richard Davies, Robert Seely, David Nunez, Jose Jimenez, Chuck Klingbeil, Roger Jannotta.

*this is the A.P. report of the accident that took Wayne Galio's life, as printed in The Roswell Daily Record the day after. This should clear up some of the misinformation that surrounds the tragic event. 
Student Dies As Auto Hits Parked Car By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS March 10th 1969
A car carrying four Eastern New Mexico University students from Albuquerque slammed into a car parked on Interstate 40 west of Santa Rosa Sunday night killing Wayne David Galio. 20, Albuquerque State Police said the parked car belonged to a Las Vegas Nev. man, identified only as Adams, who was sleeping in the back seat. Hospital officials in Santa Rosa said Adams wasn’t seriously hurt. Police identified the driver of the car carrying Galio as George Bryan. Albuquerque, who received a broken right shoulder. the other passengers were identified as John Morris, 19, Albuquerque, and Tiborcito Felix Barreras, 19, Albuquerque. Barreras wasn’t hurt seriously. Morris received facial cuts and possible internal injuries. All three youths were being transferred to Presbyterian Hospital, Albuquerque. State Police report that Adams’ car was parked on a paved shoulder of the freeway about 15 miles west of Santa Rosa. The four youths were on their way back to school at Portales.

"New hit label! New hit song! New hit group! Lance Records presents the Fantastic Kreeg!" screamed a full-page ad in the Nov. 1966 issue of The Lance Monthly newsletter. Originally known as the Goldenaires (which sounds like a bird dog to me) The Kreeg were borne of the Prophets in 1966. Their lineup consisted of the brothers Sturtcman, Bob & Russ, Hap Blackstock (replaced by Ray Trujillo) and Larry Inks. Given the fact that umpteen different bands were calling themselves the Prophets across the U.S., a decision was made to change the name. Bob Sturtcman proposed The Blitzkrieg, which with memories of WW2 still fresh on the minds of many vets in Albuquerque, simply wouldn't do. The Krieg was kicked around as an alternative before they settled on the Kreeg.

The Kreeg went down a musical path that strayed much closer to melodic garage than any of their Duke City contemporaries. To their credit, they wore it well. The Lance newsletter hype was followed up with a single on Lance Records “How Can I” b/w Impressin” Search “The Kreeg” on YouTube and a pageful of videos featuring those two songs pop up. It damn near rivals the search results for The Fe Fi Four Plus 2's “I Wanna Come Back” and far exceeds those for Hooterville Trolley's “No Silver Bird” Nothing more from The Kreeg was forthcoming on Lance and by 1968 they transitioned to Mother Sturtcman's Jams and Jellies and The Kreeg was kaput.

Jams & Jellies released one single for Lance that year, a top notch version of the Yardbirds “For Your Love” which is often credited to The Kreeg by mistake. The rest of the story is all too familiar... the draft, avoiding the draft, college etc. Back home in Taos, the Sturtcman brothers put together a band during the early 70s called Albatross. Bob Sturtcman became an architect and lives in Ranchos de Taos. Russ Sturtcman passed away in 2014. In 1995, Bob Sturtcman & Dick Stewart compiled all The Kreeg's (Jams & Jellies too) known recordings into one handy long player titled “Impressin” which is probably still available online through the Collectables label.

I Got me a complication and it's an only child

Albuquerque's pioneering “psychedelic” band, The Fe Fi Four Plus 2 grew out of The Playmates, a nondescript local band playing Top 40 sounds and requests. The Playmates never recorded and as a dance band, probably never intended to. Vic Roybal, Ernie Gonzales, Mike Layden, Eddie Roybal and Joe Abeyta were all high school buddies just tool-in around, until one day when fame, if not fortune caught up to them. It all started with Joe Abeyta leaving the band to train as a cleric. In need of a rhythm guitarist the Playmates added Danny Houlihan, a superb singer and songwriter with guitar skills that were rudimentary at best. This necessitated the addition of experienced guitarist Eddie (James) Garcia and expanding the band to six members.

The reworked lineup called for a new band name. During a brain storming session, Danny Houlihan jokingly suggested “Fe Fi Fo Fum” as in Jack & The Bean Stalk. It was shot down as too out there and corny. But as the session went on, they tweaked it down to “Fe Fi Four” and then when someone pointed out that there were six of them... it became Fe Fi Four Plus 2... a psyche classic if I ever heard one. The next step in the evolution of the band came when Lance Records house producer Tommy Bee left his calling card on the band's van (emblazoned with the band's name, phone number and their catchy slogan “For A Great Boss Band”) They gave Bee a call and he agreed to handle the band and set up a recording session for them at Norm Petty Studios in Clovis.

Danny Houlihan had written a hypothetical song about a bad acid trip "I Wanna Come Back (From The World of LSD)" and while the Fe Fi Four +2 would become synonymous with acid rock and the band described their music as psychedelic, they were a clean cut bunch. Vic Roybal explained: “We were always asked by flower children whether we were experienced ala Jimi Hendrix. As far as I know, none of us took acid although it was plentiful at the time.” Much has been written about “I Wanna Come Back” being one of the first examples of psychedelic music, but the band was simply looking for a new and original sound to record. Vic Roybal added “After the release of the 45-rpm [on Lance Records], the song was characterized as "anti drug." I don't think that was the intent however. The song was simply about someone trying to come back from a bad trip on acid.”

Fe Fi Four Plus 2 recorded two tracks at Norm Petty Studios with Tommy Bee producing and Norm Petty engineering the tracks. Vic Roybal recalls the session: “Norman Petty was very nice to all of us. At the time, we were all very impressionable. When we walked into his studio offices, I remembered being overwhelmed by all the gold records on the wall of Buddy Holly and the Fireballs. In the recording studio, he was very knowledgeable and freely made suggestions. All in all [it was] a great experience.” The session would result in the single "I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD)" / "Double Crossin' Girl" (Lance 101A/102B) “Double Crossin' Girl (co-written by Tommy Bee) had previously been recorded as a demo by The Sheltons, their label mates at Lance Records.

"I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD)” hailed since as “an absolute mindblower, 60s acid punk at one of it's finest moments” was an immediate regional hit, but the b-side “Double Crossin' Girl” garnered just as much attention. The first batch of promo copies were labeled as "I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD)” before record distributors began requesting that (From the World of LSD) be removed, which it was on the subsequent copies. The single did well enough to raise interest across the Atlantic. The Lance Newsletter announced in April of 1967 that the single would be leased to Stigwood Yaskiel International, a division of Brian Epstein Enterprises. The agreement called for a European release on Polydor Records bearing the credit “A Lance Records Production U.S.A.” and “produced by Tommy Bee”

The article went on to state that several major label were bidding on the single for a U.S. And Canadian release. “I Wanna Come Back, is presently experiencing above average sales and radio exposure in the Southwestern states.” The newsletter then adds that the band members “are all college students at Highlands University in Las Vegas and St. Michael's College in Santa Fe” Sir Peter Knight of Stigwood intoned in a distinct British accent “I Wanna Come Back will receive the full benefit of our promotion facilities and I think this record will be a great help for our future business transaction.” Copies of I Wanna Come Back with a Polydor imprint have never materialized, so we have to conclude that the Brian Epstein thing fell through and the major labels clamoring for a piece of the action were simply a figment of someone's vivid imagination.

Within a few months, Tommy Bee and Lance Music Enterprises were at each other's throats. The Fe Fi Four Plus 2 and their red hot single became collateral damage. The Fe Fi Four Plus 2 quickly found themselves at the center of an escalating legal dispute. It's a legal matter, baby. They did eventually release another single “Mr. Sweet Stuff/ “Pick Up Your Head” recorded at John Wagner's studio in Albuquerque and released on Odex, one of Reginald Hines' many dodgy recording labels. Was the band in the dark as legal action raged around them? Vic Roybal states: “Tommy Bee was handling who and where the single was released. I don't know of anything which precluded Lance Records from releasing the single.” Vic Roybal is now an attorney.... so, he had to be saying that with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

More Popular Than Baby Jesus

Though often hailed as the first Native American rock band signed to a national label, Lincoln St. Exit at its inception was a multiracial band. The lineup at the time they recorded "Paper Place" / "Who's Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab" in 1967 on Lance Records included Paul Chapman-keys, Sigi Chavez- guitar, Frank Viramontes- 12 string electric guitar, Mike Martinez- lead guitar, Lee Herrera- drums and Mac Suazo- bass. At one time or another, Larry Leyba (Hooterville Trolley) John Burnett and Steve Hubner were also band members. Back then Lincoln Street Exit was hardly considered a Native American band, quite to the contrary Lincoln St. Exit was aligned with 'Burque's Eastside music scene. (i.e. white)

Albuquerque was divided up into East & West in those days. White folks lived in the Heights. Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans in the Valley or the West Mesa with the Rio Grande more or less serving as the demarcation line. Musical influences ran along the same lines, Eastside: Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds.... Westside: James Brown, James Brown, James Brown. “the long-hair hippies and the afro blacks they all get together across the tracks” Lincoln St. Exit's next single was The Bummer b/w Sunny Sunday Dream on Ecco in 1968. Produced by Tommy Bee. It was followed by a three song ep on the Psych Out label, Sunny Sunday Dream/ Half a Man/ Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus...

The Psych Out ep is interesting because it shows Lincoln St. Exit transitioning from a garage psyche style to a blues based heavy psychedelic sound. Sunny Sunday Dream is the same version that came out on the Ecco single, Half a Man is straight up garage punk. Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus is a blues rock epic that clocks in at over six minutes. According to Mike Martinez it's a true story about an Albuquerque narcotics agent named Baby Jesus. It's obviously the work of Lincoln St. Exit's classic lineup... Mike Martinez, Mac Suazo, Lee Herrera & R.C. Garris. and would be right at home on the Drive It album, Martinez admits that Baby Jesus was left off the album because “we didn't want to offend anyone” Years later, Rudi Protrudi and the Fuzztones covered "Baby Jesus" and though they tried, failed to offend no one at all. 

Mainstream Records was founded in 1964 by Bob Shad, and released primarily jazz & blues reissues up until 1967 when Shad signed Big Brother & The Holding Company w/ new singer, Janis Joplin and The Amboy Dukes and their gonzo guitarist Ted Nugent. Both turned moderately successful sales, motivating Shad to dip his toes a little further into the murky waters of rock & roll. Lincoln St. Exit an unknown band from Albuquerque was signed in 1969. A few months later, the band and their manager made the pilgrimage to Norm Petty Studios in Clovis, N.M. With Tommy Bee and Norm Petty in the booth, they recorded their first album “Drive It” Norm Petty sat in with the band on Mellotron ( an electronic keyboard instrument in which each key controls the playback of a single pre-recorded musical sound)

Somehow the thought of Norman Petty jamming in studio with Lincoln St. Exit on Dirty Mother Blues blows my mind every bit as much as Norm playing the Mellotron on Hooterville Trolley's “No Silver Bird”, which he also did. A single was issued on the Mainstream label in late '69, the rather curious pairing of “Soulful Drifter b/w “Time Has Come, Gonna Die” The album was released in early 1970 and while it garnered some airplay on stations experimenting with album rock formats, overall sales were poor and both the single and the album flopped. Mainstream had no interest in financing another album. A new direction was needed, a name change was in order.... newly christened Exit, they started incorporating Native American motifs and rhythms into their act.

I have a theory that Lindy Blaskey who had just ditched Albuquerque for good to accept an A&R job with Motown in Los Angeles (the label was in the early process of moving its operation from Detroit to L.A.) had a hand in Exit/Xit, getting signed by Motown. It makes as much sense as the single bullet theory to me. Blaskey lands at Motown, starts pumping the Duke City pipeline for talent, signs Heart (by this time down to a duo, Carl Silva & Bob Barron) which leads to the release of “Heart” on the Motown subsidiary label, Natural Resources. Next, Lindy lands Tommy & the fellas a sweet deal with Motown's rock label Rare Earth Records. Lindy then does his old amigo John Wagner a solid by signing The John Wagner Coalition to Rare Earth, Wagner promptly took full advantage of the opportunity to release an album of James Brown covers... Hit Me!

A common online myth has it that Lincoln St. Exit's Mainstream single “Soulful Drifter” somehow received enough airplay in the Great Lakes region that Motown founder, Barry Gordy heard it playing on his car stereo, mumbled “whatdafuckisdatshit” and drove straight to the radio station to find the name of the band. Truth is Barry was already basking in the warm California sun and the single didn't “catch the ear of anyone at Motown” Exit was signed by Motown because Tommy Bee had solid connections in the music biz and friends in high places. Timing played a big part too, Motown while still a force was seeing decreasing returns, the move to Los Angeles had stretched their resources. In order to recoup, Motown had to increase its catalog.

Rock music was making money, Hitsville U.S.A. wanted in on some of the action. A major newspaper once wrote "These guys are to the Indians like the Beatles were to the White folks." Don't ask which major newspaper said it... I've seen that same quote repeated online countless times (including on Tommy Bee's SOAR website) and nobody has a clue as to its origins. They just keep on repeating it. Lots of misinformation floats around online concerning Lincoln St. Exit/Exit/XIT. YouTube geeks keep referring to the band as New Mexico Sioux, that one is funny... very few Lakota in New Mexico. If Xit was the “Indian” Beatles then wouldn't that make Tommy Bee, the “Indian” George Martin, Brian Epstein.... or at worst the “Indian” Yoko Ono?

XIT being at the forefront of a new movement, needed something to tie their new name in with the “Back to our roots” chants and war cries that characterized their new sound. Thus some hokum about how XIT was an acronym for “crossing of Indian tribes” was made up. It's all horseshit, they went with XIT because it's just a cool fucking name for a band and made for a great band logo. Motown had good money invested in XIT, so to safeguard their investment, Barry Gordy sent veteran Motown studio hand Mike Valvano to Albuquerque, with orders to ride herd and keep them pointed in the right direction. Valvano handed them just enough rope and the results, though flawed gave rise to a new rock music genre. “American Indian Rock”

“Plight of the Redman” came out in 1972 and the Native American community ate it up. Produced by Valvano and Russ Terrana, Tommy Bee's primary contribution seems to be that of “musical and historical consultant” The music is a heady brew of tribal drums, guitars, bells and whistles, garnished with string arrangements and strident Billy Jack sociopolitical jingoism. The only single pulled from the album “I Am Happy About You (Nihaa Shil Hozho) clocks in at over seven minutes, necessitating some heavy handed editing on the radio version. The music, as we would expect from XIT is superb and ultimately that's what makes “Plight of the Redman” listenable to non-Native Americans. It's the beat, that people want to hear.... not Mac Suazo diatribes over a hey-ya-hey-ya-hey chorus.

The lyrical content of “Plight of the Redman” falls somewhere between sophomoric and hackneyed. A paint by numbers recap of the white man coming to America from the native's perspective. The music is its saving grace. “War Cry” a statement about identity and empowerment, shows what “Plight of the Redman” could have been if Motown's overriding need to distill XIT's music into hippie friendly radio fodder hadn't taken the piss out of it. Hey-ya-Hey-ya-Hey. In line with their new traditional identities, the band members tweaked their names, Mike Martinez became A. Michael Martin, Mac Suazo- Jomac Suazo, Lee Herrera- Leeja Herrera while R.C. Garris Jr. must have been absent that day. Tommy Bee was way ahead of that game, having changed his name from Tom Benegas years prior.

Strip away the cloak of the conquistador, but not so much that you have to petition the courts to make it legal. “Silent Warrior” didn't steer far from the established pattern, a rock steady cadence adorned with strings, horns, woodwind instruments and strident vocals. “Silent Warrior” was released in 1974, to enthusiastically positive reviews. The sole single released from the album, “Reservation of Education” reached to #5 in France and made the charts in other European countries as well. Album sales in Europe grew beyond expectations while in the U.S. “Silent Warrior” was bound for the cut-out bins. No way the album didn't at least break even, but no matter, it would be the last XIT album released by Motown.

That's a drag. , they were on the right track, one more album and they may have figured it out. The three songs that credit Mac Suazo as co-writter are the strongest on the album. The sizzling hit single “Reservation of Education” the rousing anthem “We Live” and the surging anti war paean “Young Warrior” Predictably, the rest of the album sinks under the weight of Mike Valvano & Tommy Bee attempting to rehash the “concept” formula from“Plight of the Redman” with diminishing returns. Valvano & Bee did manage to squeeze out one decent tune, “Cement Prairie” a song that combines an innocuous instrumental bed with a message of urban despair and longing that damn near pulls free of all the crass commercialism that marked XIT's tenure at Motown.

XIT released one more album in the 70s, “Relocation” (1977) by which time, all the notoriety and expectations from the old days were long gone. As a result “Relocation” gives off a funky vibe, it's a relaxed, natural effort, largely free of sociopolitical bantering. Mac Suazo, Tom Bee, Mitch Taylor and William Bluehouse Johnson share the songwriting credits. “Relocation introduced some beloved fan favorites “Nothing Could Be Finer Than A 49er “Riding Song” and “Relocation” to the band's set list. After a long hiatus, three more albums would follow, Entrance (1994) Drums Across the Atlantic (1995) and Without Reservation (2002) Entrance, is a compilation of Lincoln St. Exit recordings from the post-Lance Records period up to the “Drive It” Norm Petty sessions.

Pick up Your Head- The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
Who's Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab- Lincoln St. Exit
Papa Oom Mow Mow- Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells
No Correspondence- The Beckett Quintet
I Want To Love You- King Richard & The Knights
How Can I- The Kreeg
What I'm Going Through- The Morfomen
Say You Love Me- The Striders
We're Pretty Quick- The Chob
She's With Him- The Torques
Walk Away- The Feebeez
In Her Own Little World- Trademarques
My Angel- Viscount V
Baby Darlin'- The Morticians
When You Were Mine- The Morfomen
Sea and Sand- The Berrys
Working Man- CellarDwellers
Half a Man- Lincoln St. Exit
For Your Love- Mother Sturctman's Jams and Jellies
I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD) The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
No Silver Bird- The Creation
No Silver Bird- The Hooterville Trolley

Monday, August 10, 2015

'Burque Garage: Original Artyfacts from Albuquerque's First Rock Era 1964-69

Well I love that muddy water Oh, 'Burque you're my home

I'm a miner searching for that mother lode of 'Burque's rock & roll gold. I've searched the world wide web, compiling a playlist that includes every 1960s Albuquerque/New Mexico band that I could dredge up. It's a fairly comprehensive look at an under appreciated period of 'Burque musical history. This is good stuff... fuzz laden garage punk rave ups, teener bop and moody sixties psychedelia. All products of homespun Albuquerque record labels, Lance, La Vette, Hurricane, Delta, Mortician. Mid-Sixties garage bands are now most often described as "garage rock," sometimes as "garage punk," "'60s punk," though at the time it had no specific name. It wasn't until the release of the 1972 compilation album, Nuggets, compiled by Lenny Kaye, that music fans and collectors began to define the style.

The term “garage band” (not to be confused with Apple's music making software Garageband) grew out of the notion that many of these groups started out rehearsing in the family garage. While true to a certain degree, that wasn't always the case, many were formed by professional musicians who had already cut their teeth playing varying styles of music. Frat rock's city cousin and the precursor to psychedelic rock. Garage was characterized by a snarly vocal delivery, distorted guitars and carefully cultivated rebellious posturing that was in reality.... mundanely conformist when compared to flower power and the hippie culture that eventually supplanted it. Garage rock peaked commercially and artistically around 1966-67, which coincides with the period most of 'Burque's garage bands thrived.

Gilesi over at the amazing music blog “Cosmic Minds at Play” once mused about the Duke City garage band scene in 1960s: “I have no idea what Albuquerque, New Mexico was like as a place to live in the mid 60s but it certainly seems to have had more than its fair share of top class garage bands, so I can only assume that there was a wild scene going on among its young denizens.” Countless semi-pro and professional bands drew inspiration by watching The Fab Four’s landmark appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Albuquerque (or New Mexico for that matter) was no exception. The gates opened up spewing forth a legion of youth ever eager to emulate Brian Epstein's faux mod fashion with their Nehru jackets, Cuban heeled ankle high boots and stylized mop tops. Thanks to a long tradition of music instruction in New Mexico schools, Albuquerque wasn't lacking in musicians. 

Have Guitar, Will Travel

It's rare for a band from a small town to rise to national prominence, but The Fireballs from Raton, N.M. bucked those odds and reached a level of success that no New Mexico musicians have yet been able to surpass. The original Fireballs consisted of: George Tomsco; lead guitar, Stan Lark; bass Eric Budd; drums, Chuck Tharp; lead vocal, Dan Trammell; rhythm guitar. George Tomsco was the creative force behind the band and remains an influential figure in New Mexico music to this day. With out a doubt, The Fireballs were a precursor to the surf and hot rod instrumental groups that would soon burst upon the American music scene. Their big break came in the form of an iconic New Mexico recording studio and its resourceful owner.

In the fall of 1958, The Fireballs drove to Clovis for an audition with Norm Petty. He liked what he heard and penciled them in for a recording session that produced "Fireball" and "I Don't Know" (with vocals by Chuck Tharp). Released on Kapp Records in January, 1959, the single fizzled out, but it did earn the band a return trip to Norm Petty's studio. During that first recording session, the band had an encounter with Buddy Holly, George Tomsco described the scene: "Through the double pane glass window, I could see this guy playing my brand new guitar with his foot up on my brand new amplifier. I was a little bit ticked off about that, also he's playing it better than I could! (laughs) So, I stormed into the control room to Norman Petty and said 'Who's the guy playin' my guitar?' He kind of looked at me and said 'Oh, that's Buddy Holly.' I had an immediate attitude adjustment."

The following sessions would produce a string of hits for The Fireballs, all instrumentals. "Torquay", "Bulldog" and "Vaquero." Next Petty negotiated a contract with Top Rank Records, a British based label looking to break into the U.S. market. All three of their singles would chart, culminating with their first appearance on American Bandstand. Their next single "Quite a Party" released on Warwick Records in 1961, would be the band's last chart hit for two years. The Fireballs continued to work with Petty, in fact they stayed with him longer than any other artist or band. In 1963 Norm Petty took a song written by Keith McCormack (of the String-A-Longs) and matched up The Fireballs with Jimmy Gilmer, a singer from Amarillo, Tx. That song "Sugar Shack" released on Dot Records was a monster, it shot up the charts to number one, where it stayed for five consecutive weeks.

"Sugar Shack" would sell over 1.5 million copies (the best selling single of 1963). Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs weren't done yet, after a long dry spell, Norm got them back on the charts with a raucous cover of Tom Paxton's "Bottle of Wine" which made the US Top 10 when it was released on ATCO Records in 1967. The band kept working and touring but "Bottle of Wine" would be their last hit. The Fireballs would eventually break away from Norm Petty, but a legal agreement kept them from calling themselves The Fireballs for a period of five years. During that period the band was called Colorado and included Tomsco, Stan Lark and Keith McCormack (lead vocalist for the String-A-Longs, and author of Sugar Shack) Over the years, George Tomsco has kept the band's legacy alive, while You Tube videos and online sales have introduced the band to a new generation of fans. The Fireballs are honored in their hometown of Raton, the same way that Buddy Holly is honored in Lubbock, deservedly so, for they did their hometown proud.

Jyck Monkey Time

The Knights from Albuquerque, were cut from the same cloth as The Fireballs and The Ventures. Instrumental rock designed for the express purpose of getting folks out on the dance floor. They revolved around irrepressible lead guitarist Dick Stewart (who cites George Tomsco as one of his biggest influences) and included guitarist Larry Longmire, bassist Gary Snow and drummer Corky Anderson. The Knights 1964 single “Precision” released on the Red Feather label, was a regional hit and set the record for most times at #1 (by a local band) on 'Burque's AM powerhouse, KQEO “the Good Guys” not bad considering this was at the height of Beatlemania.

Similar to Huey Meaux and The Sir Douglas Quintet, Dick Stewart soon realized that connecting the band with the British Invasion trend was a smart move and The Knights quickly transitioned into King Richard and The Knights. At least they didn't attempt to emulate the Fab Four's mop top antics as Stewart refers to this as the band's frat rock/vocal period. Dick Stewart on lead guitar & vocals was the sole holdover from the original Knights. He was joined by Larry Reid on sax and lead vocals, Jack Paden & Les Bigby- percussion, John Milligan- guitar, Jerry “Toad” Hutchins- bass and Mike Celenze- keys. Three singles on Delta Records and one on the Loma label followed

Today those singles are sought after by vinyl collectors, though at the time of release they didn't garner much attention outside of the Duke City. The times they were-a-changing and the Knights weren't all that keen on keeping up with the times. "The more the music changed," recalls Stewart, "the less inclined the Knights wanted to be a part of the expression." The band called it quits in 1967, though Dick Stewart stayed connected to the scene with Lance Records and his newsletter “The Lance” since praised as “an elaborate accounting of the '60s rock happenings in the SW that has never been equaled in historical musical content for that part of the U.S.”

Dick Stewart shut down Lance Records in 1968 to focus on Spanish music by New Mexican artists. Having already released an album by Manny & the Casanovas on Lance, he formed Casanova Records, a successful venture that according to Stewart, represented “the first time that I made any real money in the music business” Dick came by his interest in Spanish music naturally, he's fluent in Spanish having grown up near Los Griegos in Albuquerque's NW valley. At Valley Hs. he was exposed to Pachuco culture, picking up the peculiar street argot favored by 'chucos. “El Chuco Blanco” (from the Jyck Monkey Time album) replete with vocals that echo Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke, chronicles Dick's early years, including his membership in a Pachuco gang during the late 1950s.

Since 1979 Stewart has made his home in Sandia Park, a world removed from Los Griegos though just a short drive through the pass from Albuquerque. King Richard is still active and he can still bring it. His newer releases celebrate his love of surf music and New Mexico culture. For those who favor his older stuff there's “Those Things You Do” a compilation of The Knights singles from the 1960s. If you like both the new and older recordings “Then & Now” which combines original 60s recordings with updated version of the same songs is right up your alley. A quote that Michael Gleicher (Celler Dwellers, Yellow Brick Road) attributes to Dick's wife Judi, borrows from Gen. Douglas MacArthur's Old Soldiers speech “Old musicians don't die, they just go on and on.” Long live King Richard.

Albuquerque's Finest

Lindy Blaskey wore many hats: promoter, record producer, singer and musician. He ran his own label La Vette Records, acting as the creative director, writing or choosing material, supervising the arrangements, conducting sessions... covering all phases of the recording process. Lindy even found time to write a monthly column for The Lance newsletter. Blaskey was an influential figure in the annals of Albuquerque rock & roll in the 1960s. He played an important role in the emergence and development of the local music scene and yet seems to have vanished by the end of the decade. Vic Gabrielle (Monkey Men, Piggy Bank, Striders) who worked with Lindy, recalls that Blaskey went to work for Motown in the early 1970s. Dick Stewart recalls that Lindy ditched being a musician to take a job with a major label in Los Angeles. 

At the height of his success in 1967, Blaskey had a stable of bands and artist unmatched by anyone save Dick Stewart and Lance Records. The Striders' had been picked up by Columbia Records, which needless to say was a momentous occasion for Lindy Blaskey Productions. The Burgundy Runn's LaVette single “Stop” was making some regional noise (years later it was covered by The Chesterfield Kings) The Berrys on the strength of their regional hit “Midnight Hour” had been signed by Challenge Records, a Los Angeles label originally founded by Gene Autry (though he quickly sold his interest just one year later) Lindy & The Lavells also signed with Challenge and they were in good company as Jan & Dean, Gary Usher, The Knickerbockers and Jerry Fuller were also on the label's roster at the time.

The Viscount V released “My Angel” a song that brings teenage tragedy songs such as Last Kiss and Teen Angel to mind. “She Doesn't Know” is “jingle jangle” folk rock proving that The Viscount V had some great range. The Chob had just released their frantic classic garage single “We're Pretty Quick” which “Cosmic Minds at Play” refers to as “Surely, everything we are looking for in a garage punk monster... a frantic intro, followed by ultra cool verse and chorus, totally wigged out reverb laden guitar solos and a singer so hip that he almost throws the words away” They also recorded as The Choab for QQ Records, releasing one of the first versions of Boyce and Hart's classic “Stepping Stone” in 1966. Chob was apparently slang for a pimple, though today it means to act like a complete moron, ass hat or ass clown, take your pick.

With all that going on, it would be easy to overlook the fact that Lindy & The Lavells were also one of the best garage rock bands in the Southwest. Beginning in 1964, Lindy (vocals, rhythm guitar) Art Flores (keys) Carl Silva (harmonica) Danny Valdez (bass) Steve Maase (lead guitar) and Chuck Buckley (drums) simply put the pedal to the metal with their egg beater blend of Standells, Count Five & Music Machine influenced rockers. Lindy & The Lavells released four singles on Space Records including “My Baby Done Left Me” a hyper garage rave up that jitterbugs like a bugged out speed freak and “You Ain't Tuff” swaggering textbook 60s punk. A distillation of everything that’s great about garage rock. Both songs can be found on countless 60s compilations.  "You Ain't Tuff" written by Knox Henderson & Larry Puckett, was originally recorded in 1965 by The Uniques from Shreveport, La. A band that featured future country star, Joe Stampley.

You Ain't Tuff/ Let it Be (not the Beatles song) was re-released as a single by Challenge Records, Lindy & The Lavells sole release for that label. Steve Maase, The Lavells lead guitarist joined the band after a successful run with The Kingpins, an instrumental group that recorded at Norm Petty's studio in 1965. The Kingpins' single 94 Second Surf/Rod Hot Rod (on Larse Records) garnered enough attention that MGM signed the band. Re-releasing the single with “94 Second Surf” (written by Steve Maase) now retitled “Door Banger” for national distribution. “Rod Hot Rod” stands out due to its cheesy female chorus, which apparently was removed from “Door Banger” on the MGM single

I'm an under assistant west coast promo man

Some thoughts on Lindy Blaskey from Dick Stewart: “Lindy was well known in Albuquerque for his pushy promotional tactics but he did get the job done for his group, The Lavells, as well as the other artists who were signed to his Lavette label. John Wagner of Delta Records, Bennie Sanchez of Hurricane Productions and Lindy Blaskey of the Lavette label were the most successful Albuquerque promoters in placing their artists with major labels during the mid-'60s.” Stewart knew Lindy about as well as anyone and Blaskey did get his bands signed.... only to have them flame out after one release. With rare exception, where Albuquerque bands are concerned, that's been par for the course down through the years. The least likely of the three Blaskey produced acts that landed on a nationally distributed label would have to The Berrys.

Formed in1965, The Berrys earned their stripes playing teen dances and opening for such well-known groups as Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Beach Boys and Mitch Ryder. Joe Corazzi, was the lead guitarist and acknowledged leader of the group, Jimmy Franchini the lead singer, Mike Abraham- bass, Frank Coons- organ, Sonny Johnson-drums. For some strange reason Albuquerque took to the band's single “Midnight Hour” in a big way... though there's really nothing outstanding about The Berry's version, a hyper take on the Young Rascal's languid effort. The Berry's “Midnight Hour” would spend at least three months on the local charts including an unprecedented six consecutive weeks as Albuquerque's #1 song. Joe Corazzi penned the flip side, “Sand and Sea” an impressive moody garage number.

"In the Midnight Hour" originally recorded by Wilson Pickett in 1965, (composed by Pickett and Steve Cropper) it shot to #1 in the U.S. The Young Rascals covered it on their 1966 debut album, “The Young Rascals” the album went to #15 on U.S. Album charts, however they never released as a “Midnight Hour” as a single. Yet, the song is best associated with The Young Rascals, more so than any other act beside Wilson Pickett himself. The Berrys recorded their version in 1967 at John Wagner's studio and it hit the record shops as Lavette 0011. There was something about the song that teens liked in 1967, The Wanted, a garage band from Detroit, Mi. released their version at the exact same time as The Berrys and they held down the top spot at WKNR, Keener Radio, for several weeks in a row.

Due to the strength of “Midnight Hour” Blaskey was able to pitch the group to Challenge Records, based in Hollywood, Ca. (Champs, Knickerbockers, Jerry Usher, Jerry Fuller, Jan & Dean, Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells) Midnight Hour b/w Sand and Sea was released in 1967 as Challenge 59358, produced by Lindy Blaskey. An all too common scenario for New Mexico acts followed, the single went nowhere, Challenge dropped them and The Berrys drifted apart. At the height of the band's local success, Lance Newsletter's “Las Cruces, El Paso Area” correspondent, Tim Miller III (three tries and the Millers still didn't get it right) threw a dismissive broadside at them, “And by the way, how many more people are going to record “Midnight Hour” You can add the Berrys, Billy Riley and The Wanted to the list. Chee!” Indeed.

The Great Rock & Roll Swindle

On Dec. 4th, 1967, Gary Garman, then with The Albuquerque Journal, wrote up The Hooterville Trolly (sometimes spelled Trolley) describing them as a hard hitting psyche group. The group members were Martin Nassif - Lead and Rhythm Guitar, Don Kinney - Bass Guitar, Wayne Galio - Lead and Rhythm Guitar, Bill Chreist - Organ, and Doug Borthwick – drums. Garman pointed out that “all compose the songs performed by Hooterville Trolly” Wayne Galio adding “We play with a style of our own... Martin is the brain power behind most of our songs” Both songs on the band's only known single “No Silver Bird” / “The Warmth of Love” were written by Ernest Phillips, who was a school teacher by day.

Phillips was given songwriter credit even though Bill Chreist claims that, Nassif, Kinney & himself rewrote the lyrics because “they weren't heavy enough” the song only has six lines of lyrics, repeated twice.... not sure how much they may have improved on the original. Nonetheless, they were far more generous to Phillips than Al Klein would prove to be. In August of 1967, Tommy Bee, house producer for Lance Records and one of three partners in Lance Music Enterprises resigned from the corporation. The reason isn't entirely known. Dick Stewart has stated that Bee (also known as Tom Benegas) had balked at Stewart's plans to focus primarily on Spanish music.

Either way Bee's departure resulted in a bitter dispute between himself, Stewart and Ross Benavidez, the third partner. Tommy Bee then filed a $25,000 damage suit in District Court accusing Stewart and Benavidez of “wrongfully and maliciously” releasing recordings produced by Bee with his name stricken from the label. He also alleged that Stewart and Benavidez were interfering with his company, Tommy Bee Productions by preventing bookings by acts signed to his agency. The Sheltons (a band that included drummer Randy Castillo) found themselves caught in the middle of the dispute. T. Bee claimed that he had signed the band to an exclusive contract prior to them signing with Lance Records.

This claim would give Bee and not Stewart and Benavidez control over that popular group's recordings. Ultimately the two sides settled out of court with Dist. Judge D.A. Macpherson Jr. dismissing the suit (with prejudice) Judge Macpherson also dismissed a cross-claim by Stewart and Benavidez on the motion that all parties involved had come to a mutual agreement. Details of the settlement were not made public. It is known however that Tommy Bee wound up with the licensing rights to a handful of Lance Music recordings (Fe Fi Four Plus 2, Doc Rand & The Purple Blues, The Trademarques and The Sheltons) and that he continued to handle at least two of those groups (Fe Fi Four+2 & The Sheltons)

The Hooterville Trolley (not Trolly) session took place at Norm Petty Studios after Tommy left Lance Records, with Bee producing and Petty engineering the recording. Finished product in hand, Tommy Bee approached iniquitous record executive Reginald Hines in Greeneville, Ms., he licensed “No Silver Bird” and a handful of recordings already released by Lance Records for release on several of Hines' nefarious recording labels. The Fe Fi Four Plus 2, (Odex) Doc Rand & The Purple Blues (Landra) The Trademarques (Reginald) The Sheltons (Bar-Bare) Hooterville Trolley (Lynette) In all likelihood what little money was made from these odoriferous dealings never made it back to the musicians involved.

'Curiouser and curiouser!”

Here's where things start to get a bit convoluted. The Creation, an Albuquerque band of which little is known other than the fact that they released two singles on the Centurion label in late 1967. One single was none other than “No Silver Bird” (written by Ernest Phillips ) One year before The Hooterville Trolley recorded “No Silver Bird” at Norm Petty Studios, The Creation releases a nearly identical version. If that's not strange enough for you, both songs on The Creation's first single “What the Daisies Know/Sun and Stars (I miss Her So)” were co-written by none other than school teacher, songwriter Ernest Phillips. The Creation's version of No Silver Bird is slightly different from Hooterville Trolley's though not enough to dissuade one from thinking that The Creation was in fact, Martin Nassif & Co. recording under a different name.

It sounds like Martin Nassif of the Trolley on lead vocals... same intonation, same inflections. Tommy Bee's all too familiar production tricks and tweaks and the Ernest Phillips connection cast a shadow of suspicion upon the project. The Duke City music scene in the 60s was tight knit and well documented, yet these guys flew well under the radar. I chalk this one up to Tommy Bee pulling a fast one on his former partners at Lance Music Enterprises. On March 9th 1969, Wayne Galio former guitarist for Hooterville Trolley was killed in a car accident on I-40 west of Santa Rosa. At the time Galio was a student at ENMU in Portales. Its long been rumored that the Trolley broke up after Galio's death, which simply wasn't the case. Galio was no longer involved in the group having been replaced by Larry Leyba prior to the recording session for “No Silver Bird”

That's not the end of this twisted tale. Remember that I mentioned Al Klein?... a former sales rep for Warner Bros and head of Duchess Records in the early sixties. Klein was the Southwest Dist. rep. for Motown Records during the late 60s. By 1970 he had started Buffalo Bill Productions and moved to New Mexico. According to a clipping posted by (possibly from Billboard) Klein claimed that his company would score five motion pictures being filmed in New Mexico. Klein also announced plans to purchase Bishops Lodge in Tesuque and convert the resort into “recording studios facilities, sound stages, film printing and editing facilities.”

It would appear that Al Klein's plans fell through. Bishop's Lodge, once owned by the Pulitzer family, who sold it to James R. Thorpe a Denver mining scion, remained unsold until 1998. As for record production, the keystone of his musical empire, Klein managed to get out just four albums. Esperanza Encantada, a trio of young Latin musicians of indeterminate origin, were signed by Certron and released an album, produced by Klein in 1970. Ten milquetoast hippie psyche tunes, sung in Spanish. Five are credited to Al Klein, who's Spanish language skills must have been exemplary for a gringo. I guess not even Klein was brazen enough to claim authorship of the other five songs on the album which included Spanish covers of Gimme Shelter, Let it Be, If I Had a Hammer & Hey Jude.

Vic Grabiele who worked for Al Klein, describes Magic Sand as “a compilation of left over tracks by several groups that Al Klein pieced together and sold to Uni Records” But here's the rub, the clipping says otherwise, “Mudd and Magic Sand, two groups, have been set on Uni Records. Album and singles will be forthcoming from both groups” Where most compilation albums credit individual artists and songwriters, that courtesy is not forthcoming on Magic Sand. Al Klein receives most of the songwriting credits. This includes “Get Ready to Fly” which is in fact, Hooterville Trolley's “No Silver Bird” lifted straight from the Norm Petty Studios master tape. Mud ( now minus one d) appears on one track, “Listen To What's Not Being Said” That song title speaks volumes.

Let's suppose that the Magic Sand project was meant to be the foundation to build an actual group around and Klein had already sold Uni on a group that simply didn't exist. This is all conjecture, but hear me out. Al then pulls an album of disparate tracks out of his.... back pocket, passing it off to Uni as a new recording by an up and coming group. Could a record label be that dumb? I'll leave that question open to discussion. In retrospect, Al Klein's intentions were clear... songwriter credits equals cash money. The music biz is a dirty business and if every musician ever screwed over by a record label received a dollar for every musician screwed over by a record label, they would all be rich men. But, a man who purportedly possesses the capitol to buy property such as Bishop's Lodge, shouldn't have to resort to pinching songwriter credits.

Al Klein produced two albums for Mud, both on Uni Records. Mud on Mudd (1970) and Mud (1971) Klein cops songwriting credits on both albums. The absurdity of a record executive not named Barry Gordy suddenly becoming such a prolific songwriter is staggering. Mud's run of the mill 70s funk rock, was saved from the scrap heap by Tommy G's extraordinary vocal talents and the band's overall high level of musicianship (Randy Castillo-drums Vic Grabiele-bass, vocals Steve (Miller) D'Coda- guitar Arnold Bodmer- keys Chuck Klingbeil- sax, keys) Mud was much better than the material they were working with. To this day, as close to a local super group as the Duke City would ever have. Shame about Tommy G, he was a once in a generation vocal talent.

Double Crossin' Girl- The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
My Baby Done Left Me- Lindy & The Lavells
I Don't Need You- King Richard & The Knights
We Tried Try It- The Morfomen
Paper Place- Lincoln St. Exit
I'm Over You- The Kreeg
I Wanna Get Back (From the World of LSD)- The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
Stop- The Burgundy Runn
Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore- The Chob
Midnight Hour- The Berrys
Little Latin Lupe Lu- The Morticians
Codine- The Fireballs w/ Jimmy Gilmer
Sorrow- The Striders
Why- King Richard & The Knights
You Ain't Tuff- Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells
Mojo Workout- The Monkey Men
Impressin- The Kreeg
Baby Blue- The Beckett Quintet
Door Banger- The Kingpins
Precision- The Knights
The Bummer- Lincoln St. Exit
Bullmoose- The Fireballs w/ Jimmy Gilmer
Run Girl Run- The Morfomen
Stepping Stone- The Chob