Sonobeat History Today

Today: Rebirth

The Sonobeat master tape library and the Otari half-inch 4-track tape deck used to transfer the tapes to a digital music workstation
The Sonobeat half-inch tape library
Ricky Stein's 2014 book, Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s, racked in the Texas History section of an Austin-area bookstore
Sonobeat Historical Archives' first digital reissue (2014)

On Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr.'s death in September 1976, Sonobeat ceases doing business, and the Sonobeat master tape library – about 200 quarter-inch and half-inch boxed reels – are stored away, first in the back of Bill's old station wagon and then variously in attics, garages, and closets. For the past 30 years, they've been stored in a climate-controlled environment in sealed containers that were opened only to make digital transfers.

During the years since Sonobeat shutters in 1976, copies of Sonobeat singles and albums, including ultra-rare vinyl test pressings and "white jacket" limited editions, regularly change hands at record collector conventions around the country and over the internet on sites like eBay. Sonobeat gems, such as the Mariani, David Flack Quorum, and Cold Sun albums; vinyl singles by the Sweetarts, Lavender Hill Express, Conqueroo, Thingies, and Plymouth Rock; and Sonobeat's song demo albums by Herman Nelson and Bill Wilson, have brought extraordinary prices among collectors. Even today, in 2016, Sonobeat's stereo singles are avidly sought out by Texas music aficianados around the world (for example, earlier in 2016, bidding on eBay for Sonobeat's Johnny Winter single reaches $625 and the Conqueroo's, $600).

The earliest Sonobeat tapes, now 49 years old, are recorded on fragile Scotch 201 acetate tape stock. In 1968, Sonobeat began recording on Scotch and Ampex Mylar-based tapes, which have a long shelf-life. Surprisingly, given how haphazard conditions in which the tapes are stored until the late-'80s, most masters survive with little damage, although a few recordings on the Scotch 201 stock have deteriorated beyond salvage. In the early 2000s, Bill Josey Sr.'s son Jack begins the tedious and delicate tasks of inspecting, repairing, and restoring the tapes. In 2004, the Josey family forms a collective, Sonobeat Historical Archives – operated by Jack and brother/Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Jr. – to create SonobeatRecords.com (mirrored at Sonobeat.com) for the dual purposes of celebrating the singers, songwriters, and musicians, most from Texas, who Sonobeat recorded from the mid-'60s through the mid-'70s, and memorializing Sonobeat's history and contributions to the Central Texas music scene. A Who's Who provides an alphabetical listing all acts and individuals who are known to have recorded with Sonobeat and our Songbook catalogues all the songs known to exist in the Sonobeat archives.

Over the years we've reconnected with dozens of the artists who recorded with Sonobeat. We've rekindled old friendships and recounted the stories of songwriters, singers, and musicians who built Austin's amazing music heritage and created the Live Music Capital of the World. We owe a deep debt of gratitude and give heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed to Sonobeat.com for their memories and music.

In January 2014, History Press publishes Austin musician Ricky Stein's Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s, an expanded and enhanced version of his 2013 University of Texas American Studies thesis. The Sweetarts, who record Sonobeat's first single in 1967, perform for only the second time time in more than 40 years at Ricky's book signing party at Antone's Records in Austin.

In March 2014, Sonobeat Historical Archives begins a series of digital reissues of select material from the Sonobeat catalog. The Sweetarts' 1967 A Picture of Me and Without You, which comprise the first Sonobeat vinyl release, fittingly are first to be reissued digitally via the iTunes and AmazonMP3 stores. Sonobeat's second vinyl single, the jazzy There Will Never Be Another You and Meditation by the Lee Arlano Trio, and an album collecting the three Lavender Hill Express singles plus a previously-unreleased bonus track, Trouble, are digitally reissued in July 2014 and supported by live reunion performances in Austin by both the Sweetarts and Lavender Hill Express. On September 18, 2015, Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues Plymouth Rock's 1969 single Memorandum and Just A Start in a new stereo version never before available. The reissue process dates from 2008, when Jack embarks on a two year project to make new high resolution digital transfers of every analog tape in the Sonobeat archives, acquiring an Otari half-inch 4-track tape deck specifically for that purpose. Today, Jack and Bill Jr. have been digitally restoring and remastering each reissue for every generation of Texas music lovers to enjoy.

In October 2015, Sonobeat's first album release, 1968's Jazz to the Third Power by the Lee Arlano Trio, is digitally remastered and reissued on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music. The album includes two previously unreleased tracks pulled from Sonobeat's archives, both recorded in 1967. On the horizon: more Sonobeat singles from the '60s and previously unreleased material by seminal Austin '60s bands, hidden gems from the Sonobeat archives.

And now – in 2017 – Sonobeat celebrates it's 50th anniversary with surprises sprinkled throughout the year. The (Sono)beat goes on.

Sonobeat's 2014-2015 digital reissues

All available on iTunes, Amazon Digital Music, eMusic, Rhapsody, and XBox

SweetartsAustin, TX 1967 • includes 1967's A Picture of Me and Without You (2014)
Lavender Hill ExpressVisions • includes all three LHE singles plus a previously unreleased bonus track (2014)
Lee Arlano TrioThere Will Never Be Another You • includes 1967's There Will Never Be Another You and Meditation (2014)
Plymouth RockMemorandum • includes 1969's Memorandum and Just A Start (2015)
Lee Arlano TrioJazz To The Third Power • includes all tracks from the 1968 album plus two previously unreleased tracks (2015)

Sonobeat Historical Archives' second digital reissue (2014), collecting all three Lavender Hill Express singles plus a previously-unreleased bonus track
Lavender Hill Express with special guests the Sweetarts perform in July 2014 to celebrate the digital reissue of all three of their 1960s Sonobeat singles
Sonobeat Historical Archives digital reissue of the 1969 Plymouth Rock single (September 2015)