Archive Anomalies

Unidentified artists and unknown session dates • Puzzlers
Nothing written on the tape box to guide us
Well, this is no help at all...

There are more than 200 boxes of audio tapes in the Sonobeat archives. They contain tracks – from false starts to song fragments to raw jams to instrumental backing tracks to completed songs – by artists Sonobeat recorded from 1967 to 1976. We've catalogued them all. We've listened to all but the three or four tapes that have deteriorated beyond salvage. While most boxes are marked with artist name and recording date, some are unmarked, illegible, or undecipherable and some boxes contain tapes unrelated to the artist identified on the box.

Unidentified artists

Over on our Unidentified Artists page, we take a quick stroll through a sampling of recordings by artists whose names are mysteries to us because their recordings – both tape boxes and the tape reels themselves – are unmarked. Here's a recap:

Unidentified female singer: Unmarked box, two countrified tracks on the reel inside, just singer (nice voice) and acoustic guitar. We think she may be Karol Phelan, who sings with Jim Chesnut on the first Herman Nelson song demo album for Sonobeat's sister company, Sonosong Music.

Unidentified male singer: Box is marked "John" (yep, no last name) and has a session date of October 30, 1969, but it's not any "John" we recall recording. It's not John Inmon, Johnny Richardson, Johnny Schwertner, or Johnny Winter, all of whom Sonobeat records in the '60s. Still, there's a familiar sound to this John's voice...

Unidentified male-female duet: Lovely, harmonious voices accompanied by guitars, but there are no session notes and no markings on the tape box or reel. Curious...

Unidentified band: Another unmarked box containing recordings of a solid but country-rock group performing four unidentified songs. We like this group; they have a familiar early 1970s Central Texas flavor. But we've got nothing more to go on.

Unknown session dates

So far as we recall, Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. kept notes of all recording sessions, which he generally kept with the applicable session master tape boxes. In almost every case he wrote the artist name and session date on the tape box itself. Obviously, this isn't universally true, since we have many boxes without artist name, session dates, or session notes. Here are the artists whose recording dates are missing:

Rick Dinsmore: The Sonobeat archives hold just one track by Dinsomore, a song he identifies at the beginning of the tape as Bill, And, teasingly, Rick also identifies the recording date as "July 11th", but he doesn't mention the year. The session master tape itself is undated. We've estimated the likely time frame in which Rick recorded with Sonobeat by analyzing the tape itself: it's a 4-channel recording on quarter-inch tape stock; Sonobeat didn't start using a quarter-inch 4-track recorder until mid-1974, so we can safely say Rick recorded this between mid-'74 and mid-'76 (Sonobeat ceased operating in mid-'76).

Geneva: A nicely annotated session sheet is attached to the master tape box, but two important pieces of information are missing: the session dates and the names of the individual members of the band. However, we do have enough information to help bracket the time frame of the sessions: Sonobeat didn't have a stash of the Liberty Recorders box labels until January 1969, and Rim, who engineered the session, left Sonobeat in September 1970 to attend law school in Houston. We can also make an educated guess that Geneva recorded – at least the vocal overdubs – at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, but that's not a shoo-in, since the piano on the tracks sounds like a baby grand, which Sonobeat didn't have at its Western Hills Drive studio. Alas, still too many unknowns about the Geneva sessions...

Kingfish: Conqueroo guitarist Bob Brown returns to Sonobeat for sessions with his new band, Kingfish, sometime between mid-1971 and mid-1973. The Kingfish master tape is packed in a box that originally held a David Flack Quorum tape and that doesn't reference Kingfish. Nonetheless, we can bracket the time frame that Kingfish recorded with Sonobeat because the master is a half-inch 4-track tape and has a sonic quality we identify with Sonobeat Studios in the KVET Building in Austin. Sonobeat occupied that studio space only from late-1970 to mid-1973; and Sonobeat didn't use a half-inch tape deck after mid-1974, when it switched to a quarter-inch 4-track deck.

Jean Manor: Jean Manor recorded with Sonobeat sometime after mid-1970 and before mid-1973. Like the Kingfish tape, Jean's master tape is a half-inch, but its sonic quality is distinctively different from recordings made at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio and from those made at its North Lamar studio, which leads us to speculate that it's recorded "on location" at an Austin-area night club, although not before a live audience. Hard to be sure...

Rex Sherry: There's no session date on the only Rex Sherry tape in Sonobeat's archives. The box is marked "mix-down master", which means we should have found a half-inch 4-track master somewhere in the archives, which might have included session information, but, alas... Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley doesn't recall ever recording Rex, so we feel certain Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. produced and engineered the session sometime after Rim left Sonobeat in September 1970. We also place Rex's recording session in the late-1970 to mid-'71 range because it has a sonic quality we associate with Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, which Sonobeat vacated in late 1971.

Whistler: Although there are no session notes for Whistler and no session date listed on the band's master tape box, Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley recalls engineering the session and places it in the 1969 to mid-1970 time frame and believes it was recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. Good enough for us.

Everything's filled in on the tape box... except the date...