Genesee

Austin, Texas

Recorded with Sonobeat in 1971
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
The band's name is Genesee, with just one "s" followed by "ee", but it's constantly misspelled in Austin newspaper ads for nightclubs where the band regularly plays. You'd think those clubs would eventually get it right...

It's the end of January 1971 in Austin, Texas. Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr. records progressive rock band Genesee at his Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. Genesee is a short-lived progressive rock band that plays the Club Saracen and the Jade Room in downtown Austin but has little traction with or interest in the waning frat party scene at The University of Texas. Tommy Taylor, longtime drummer with Eric Johnson and our go-to guy for Austin '60s music geneology, and Layton DePenning (formerly of Lavender Hill Express) recall that Genesee has two incarnations, the first featuring Layton himself, Chuck Rogers, Gary P. Nunn (also formerly of Lavender Hill Express), Jerry Potter (brother of Bubble Puppy guitarist Todd Potter), and Dallas native Richard Dean. When this first version of the band fails financially, it regroups following the departure of Richard and Jerry and shifts musical directions. Layton recalls that the first incarnation disbands after about a year. It's the second incarnation of Genesee that Sonobeat records in 1971.

This [second] group also succumbed to financial deprivation after about a year. [It] was intended to be a hard rock four piece [playing] some of the Who, Blue Cheer, the Rolling Stones, etc. True to form, however, our folk, country, and country rock roots caused us to write and perform all types of styles prevalent at the time.
Layton DePenning in a Sonobeat.com interview

Genesee's second line-up features John Inmon (formerly of South Canadian Overflow and Plymouth Rock), Layton DePenning, Chuck Rogers, and Gary P. Nunn. Tommy Taylor recalls that Genesee's roadies are Jack Borders and Danny Gibson, who drive a green and white Ford van.

The Genesee sessions – yielding three tracks – are recorded on Sonobeat's half-inch 4-track Scully 280 and half-inch 4-track Stemco. Bill's session notes for the third track demonstrate how he bounces a 4-track mix down to two tracks in order to open up two more tracks for vocal overdubs. The third track, written by John Inmon, is titled Littlefield Fountain, a reference to the Littlefield Memorial Fountain, a University of Texas landmark on the 21st Street entrance to the campus; the fountain and its massive bronze sculpture mark the entrance to the long South Mall on the campus. Layton recalls John's inspiration for the song was likely John's heartbreaking split from his long time childhood sweetheart.

The band is plagued with constant misspellings of its unusual name. In the dozens of Austin newspaper ads for clubs where the band performs, Genesee is sometimes referred to as "Genesse" but more often as "Genessee". It's pretty rare that it's referred to correctly as "Genesee".

Thank you!

Our thanks to Tommy Taylor, Layton DePenning, John Inmon, and Ernie Gammage for their recollections of Genesee, which Tommy declares to be "the best progressive rock band that ever played Austin."

Genesee personnel

Richard Dean: rhythm guitar (leaves the band before the Sonobeat sessions)
Layton DePenning: lead guitar and vocals
John Inmon: guitar
Jerry Potter: bass (leaves the band before the Sonobeat sessions)
Chuck Rogers: drums
Gary P. Nunn: keyboards and (when Jerry leaves) bass

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

Littlefield Fountain (John Inmon)
Unidentified song #1
Unidentified song #2

Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studios, Austin, Texas, on January 19-20 and February 4, 11, and 14, 1971
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, AKG D707E dynamic microphone, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Stemco half-inch 4-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
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Final word

Genesee is the name of several small towns across the US, a street in Los Angeles (and in a lot of other cities and towns), and a major river flowing from Pennysylvania through New York to Lake Ontario. But Genesee, the band, is named for none of these. Band co-founder Richard Dean, before relocating to Austin in 1969 or '70, works the folk music circuit across the mountain states with fellow Dallasites B.W. Stevenson and Michael Martin Murphy (who will become seminal figures in Austin's progressive country movement in the mid-'70s). It's in Colorado that Richard finds love, not once but twice: first, he's smitten with the sheer beauty of the state and, second, he marries a Native American woman – they're introduced by Townes Van Zandt – from the Denver area. Richard particularly loves the beauty of Genesee Mountain Park, just outside Golden, Colorado, which covers almost 2500 acres of mountains and valleys. A couple of years later, in Austin, he suggests the name to his bandmates as Genesee is forming, and the name sticks. "Genesee" is a Native American word for "shining valley".

A work tape containing material by Genesee and Phoenix; both bands recorded with Sonobeat in the same time frame
Bill Josey Sr.'s shorthand session notes, showing track assignments on the Scully 280 and how they're mixed and bounced down to two tracks on the Stemco
Sonobeat's protection dub of Genesee's session misspells the band's name