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