MARIANI

Austin, Texas

Recorded with Sonobeat in 1969 & 1970
Two commercial 45 RPM single releases on Sonobeat Records (1969 & 1970)
Vince Mariani, the soloist
Vince Mariani's drum solo 45 RPM single, an anomaly but a great experiment in stereo drum recording techniques
The master tape box, sent to Sidney J. Wakefield & Company in Phoenix, Arizona, for mastering and vinyl record manufacturing

Vince Mariani, outside the Sonobeat Western Hills Drive studio, circa November 1969

Eric Johnson, outside the Sonobeat Western Hills Drive studio, circa November 1969

Bill Josey Sr.'s notes (he's famous for his lists) on next steps for Mariani

An early mix of Last Milestone that Bill Josey Sr. sent to his contacts at Liberty/United Artists Records in Los Angeles in an effort to make a national label deal

Vince Mariani (solo)

IIt's 1969 in Austin, Texas. Sonobeat Recording Company is searching for another super group to replace its 1968 successes with Johnny Winter and Lavender Hill Express. Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) make a one-album deal with Johnny, sell the album (The Progressive Blues Experiment) to Liberty Records, then watch it climb to #49 on the Billboard Top 100 album chart in mid-April '69. But Johnny has moved on to sign a $600,000 multi-album deal with Columbia Records in which Sonobeat does not participate. Sonobeat has released three successful singles with Lavender Hill Express but plans for an album with LHE have been scrubbed. Although 1968 has been prosperous for Sonobeat, with the release of 11 singles and three albums, '69 is shaping up to be lean. It's against this backdrop that the Joseys make a fortuitous connection with drummer Vince Mariani, freshly returned to his home base in Austin after working with several bands in Colorado. When the Joseys meet Vince, he's jamming around town but unaffiliated with any band.

Vince has has spent years developing a stunning jazz-rock style and uses a larger kit – including double bass drums – than most other rock or jazz drummers. In 1968, when the Joseys deliver the Johnny Winter master tapes to Liberty Records in Los Angeles, they visit several Hollywood recording studios and at Wally Heider's legendary studio meet session drummer Sandy Nelson, who has released a string of successful drum solo singles and albums throughout the '60s. Back in Austin, Bill Sr. recalls meeting Sandy and proposes that Vince record a pair of drum solos for release as a Sonobeat stereo single.

The Joseys have just completed a drum and vocal isolation booth at their Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin, and there they record Vince performing his compositions Pulsar and Boots. Because there are no other instruments to simultaneously record, almost every piece in Vince's kit is individually miked, providing a very detailed stereo mix. Despite what many think after hearing Vince's single, Vince has overdubbed nothing. He's just that good. Nonetheless, Rim suggests adding effects to Pulsar, and, in keeping with the song's title, gives it a light flanging, much like he had done with Lavender Hill Express' single, Watch Out!, the year before. The flanging imparts a distinctive otherworldly swooshing or tunnel sound to Pulsar. It becomes the "A" side of Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single R-s116, which Sonobeat releases near the end of '69. By now, the Joseys have stopped creating custom picture sleeves for Sonobeat 45 RPM single releases.

Mariani featuring Eric Johnson

Although Vince's single is a commercial failure – drum solos are already wearing thin when Pulsar is released, as Doug Hanners notes in his 1977 Not Fade Away article about Sonobeat – Vince's remarkable talent and charismatic personality seem the perfect centerpiece for a blues-rock band that the Joseys can custom-build around him, so they begin searching for guitar and bass players. At Vince's invitation, fifteen-year-old Eric Johnson, who Vince had met a year earlier, drops by the Sonobeat studio to audition and blows the Joseys away with his ear-popping guitar pyrotechnics. Bassist Bob Trenchard, a solid Austin musician, rounds out the band in its initial incarnation.

In November '69, the newly formed trio begins work on fresh material. At the same time, the Joseys and Vince began looking for a name for the unit and planning an album. Prior to committing to the album, Bill Sr. requires that the band record demo material, which ends up being two unnamed instrumentals. Shortly after recording the demo tracks, Bob Trenchard leaves to join Pall Rabbit and is replaced by bass guitarist and vocalist Jay Podolnic, son of Josey family friend Earl Podolnick (in 1968 Earl and Bill Sr. co-produce The Ray Campi Establishment's Sonobeat single).

Satisfied with the demo material, Bill Sr. asks the group to record a single – which turns out to be Sonobeat's only 45 RPM release in 1970 – as a sort of trial balloon before committing to a full album. Re-birth Day, composed by Vince and Eric with lyrics by Sonosong tunesmith Herman M. Nelson and a double-tracked vocal by Jay, is selected as the "A" side. The song provides a solo break that shows off – no, outright flaunts – Eric's lightning fast lead guitar. The "B" side is a Mariani-Johnson-Podolnick collaboration, Memories Lost and Found, again sung by Jay and again providing a spectacular guitar break on which Eric shines. The single is a good first draft by the fledgling group, but it doesn't have quite the magic the Joseys have hoped for and doesn't attract much attention from reviewers or radio stations. Believing the trio needs something "more" to succeed, the Joseys begin recruiting additional musicians and singers, looking to build a modular band that will better support Vince and Eric. Jimmy Bullock replaces Jay on bass. But because Jimmy isn't also a strong singer, the band now had no vocalist.

The Joseys recruit folk-blues songwriter/singer Bill Wilson, an airman stationed at Austin's Bergstrom Air Force Base, and Vince brings in St. Edward's University junior Darrell Peal. The group works up four new songs, two vocals and two long instrumental jams and, with new versions of Re-birth Day and Memories Lost and Found, finally are prepared to go into the studio to cut an album.

After several practice sessions, Bill Sr. realizes Sonobeat's tiny Western Hills Drive studio – occupying a suite on the lower level of the Josey family home in a quiet northwest Austin neighborhood – is too inhibiting for the group, so he rents a 100 acre ranch near McDade, Texas, about 30 miles east of Austin on US 290. There, following a massive spring rainstorm that leaves the dirt and gravel road into the ranch as treacherous as quicksand, Vince, Eric, and Jimmy set up their equipment in an open field and prepare to record. The Joseys truck an entire studio of equipment – including Sonobeat's 4-track Scully 280 tape deck and new 16-channel custom mixing console – to the ranch, getting stuck in the muddy access road for hours and enlisting everyone, including Vince, Eric, and Jimmy, to free the truck. Eventually, the console, tape deck, and monitor speakers are set up inside the vacant ranch house, in front of a picture window that faces the field where the trio will perform at maximum volume, and microphone and power cables are carefully run over a 50-80 yard stretch into the field. Over a three day period, Sonobeat burns through half a dozen 12 inch reels of half-inch tape to complete the basic instrumental tracks. The Joseys expect that recording in an open field will yield completely clean tracks, but, surprisingly, the microphones pick up a slight delay echo bouncing off the ranch house and the thick stands of trees surrounding the clearing where the trio performs at full volume. The Mariani sessions are filled with these kinds of surprises.

Returning to the Western Hills Drive studio, the Joseys select the best takes for vocal overdubs and begin sequencing the album. Bill Sr. thinks side one is disjointed and suggests that the tracks be linked with short jazz intercuts. The album, with additional instrumentation, vocal overdubs, special effects, and the jazz intercuts, is completed over the month following the ranch sessions. The final version of the album is peppered throughout with audio stunts, including a frenetic performance by Bill Kolb on his one-of-a-kind synthesizer (no, not a Moog but, instead, a custom synth built by Austin electronics engineer Barry Brooks) as the opener on side one and bizarre bubbling sounds created by suspending a Slinky from the ceiling, stapling a piece of cardboard to the end nearest the floor, taping a microphone to the cardboard, and then strumming the coils. One of the more interesting sonic treats is Eric's use of an Echoplex tape delay machine on his lead guitar; the Echoplex adds discrete and continuous delayed repeats of the notes he plays. Rim names the album Perpetuum Mobile. The album is a tour-de-force of every musical trick in the band's repertoire and every recording trick in Sonobeat's arsenal.

Because he's co-written Memories Lost and Found, Jay Podolnick returns to sing lead on the re-recorded, longer album version, but Bill Wilson takes over primary vocal chores, singing both new tunes, Last Milestone and I Can't Hurt Myself. Darrell Peal sings lead on the remake of Re-birth Day, with wild harmony parts provided by members of other Austin bands. Using a variety of vocalists throughout the album who are not regular members of the group is an innovation, something that other studio-based groups, notably the Alan Parsons Project and Mike + the Mechanics, will adopt years later because of the flexibility it offers.

Perpetuum Mobile is a recording and mixing challenge – and occasionally a nightmare – but the Joseys and the band ultimately are pleased with the results. Bill Sr. sends an early mix of a long instrumental, Mendor-Breaker, to his contacts at Liberty/United Artists Records in Los Angeles, hoping to drum up their interest in the band. Oddly, Bill Sr. uses the name "Sonobeat Recording Laboratory", the only known instance of this, on the tape box he sends to Liberty/UA. When the final mixes are complete and the album sequenced, Bill Sr. orders an advance pressing of 100 copies of Perpetuum Mobile – packaged in a plain white cardboard jacket – for distribution to national record companies, reviewers, and the band members and their families. Vince, Eric, and Jimmy sign dozens of copies that are given away. A rare surviving copy offered on eBay in 2008 sells for $2,850 and includes Vince's handwritten note, "This is one of only 100 copies ever made. It has become a great collector item in certain galaxies."

While Bill Sr.'s trying to sell the album master for national release, Vince, Eric, and Jimmy begin touring throughout Texas. They're joined on some gigs by synth player BIll Kolb. At one of those gigs, Mariani performs with a then-obscure Houston band of longhair hippies better known today as ZZ Top.

No national record labels bid for the Mariani masters, a disappointment to both the band and the Joseys, and Sonobeat never releases the album commercially. Eventually, dubs of the master tapes leak out, and specialty label Akarma Records issues a version of the album in 2001, with the the "B" side of Vince's drum solo single and the Mariani single (the original versions of Re-birth Day and Memories Lost and Found) added as bonus tracks. But Akarma misstates song titles. Over the years, beginning even before the Akarma release, the album engenders both critical acclaim and disdain, but it remains a testament to the strength of a manufactured but friendly and close collaboration of diverse talents.

After Mariani disbands, Eric joins Austin band The Electromagnets. Eric makes guest appearances on many other artists' albums and singles including Christopher Cross' eponymous album and issues many solo albums including the acclaimed Ah Via Musicom (1990) and Up Close (2010). Cliffs of Dover from the Ah Via Musicom album takes home a 1992 Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Eric holds the record for the most artist awards (33 in all) given at the Austin Music Awards. His most recent album, with Mike Stern, is the jazzy Eclectic (2014).

Artist personnel

Jimmy Bullock: bass
Eric Johnson: guitar and piano
Bill Kolb: synthesizer
Vince Mariani: drums
Darrell Peal: vocals
Jay Podolnick: bass and vocals
Bob Trenchard: bass (records on demo tracks, then leaves to join Pall Rabbit)
Bill Wilson: vocals

Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM release R-s116 (1969)

"A" side: Pulsar (Vince Mariani) • 3:09
"B" side: Boots (Vince Mariani) • 3:22
Released week of September 8, 1969* • R-s116

Produced by Bill Josey and Rim Kelley
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Generic sleeve
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, Austin, Texas, in August 1969
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 10-channel suitecase stereo mixer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
Vinyl collector information for R-s116

Approximately 1,000 copies pressed; approximately 100 copies marked "PROMO" and "NOT FOR SALE"
Laquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
Generic sleeve
Label blanks printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
   Pulsar: Wakefield tulip logo 12719, R-S116A, and HEC
   Boots: Wakefield tulip logo 12719,R-S116B, and HEC
What's that flower-shape in the dead wax? It's the Sidney J. Wakefield logo, stamped into the laquer masters next to the matrix number.

Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM release R-s118 (1970)

"A" side: Re-Birth Day (Mariani-Johnson-Nelson) • 3:09
"B" side: Memories Lost and Found (Mariani-Johnson-Podolnick) • 3:04
Released week of September 8, 1970* • R-s118

Produced by Bill Josey and Rim Kelley
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Generic sleeve
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, Austin, Texas, in August 1969
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 and 354 tape decks, custom 10-channel suitcase stereo mixer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
Vinyl collector information for R-s118

Approximately 1,000 copies pressed; approximately 100 copies marked "PROMO" and "NOT FOR SALE"
Laquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
High gloss solid paper sleeve rubber stamped "Mariani" at the top and "Advance Copy" at the bottom
Label blanks printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
  Re-Birth Day: Wakefield tulip logo 12719, RS-118A, and HEC
  Memories Lost and Found: Wakefield tulip logo 12719, RS-118B, and HEC
What's that flower-shape in the dead wax? It's the Sidney J. Wakefield logo, stamped into the laquer masters next to the matrix number.

Sonobeat advance pressing album release HEC-411/HEC-412 (1970)

Perpetuum Mobile (HEC-411/HEC-412)
First Half (side 1):
   First Song (Last Milestone)* (Mariani-Johnson-Wilson) • 5:43
   Jazz Intercut (Mariani-Johnson-Bullock) • 1:30
   Second Song (Re-Birth Day)** (Mariani-Johnson-Nelson) • 5:53
   Jazz Intercut (Mariani-Johnson-Bullock) • 2:30
   Third Song (Memories Lost and Found)*** (Mariani-Johnson-Podolnick) • 4:45
Jazz Intercut (Mariani-Johnson-Bullock) • 3:30
Fourth Song (I Can't Hurt Myself)* (Traditional; lyrics: Wilson) • 2:53
Second Half (side 2):
   Mendor (Mariani-Johnson) • 8:00
   Breaker (Mariani-Johnton) • 11:30
   Pulsar (drum solo) (Mariani) • 2:16
* Vocal: Bill Wilson
** Vocal: Darrell Peal
*** Vocal: Jay Podolnick

Not commercially released; used only for promotional purposes • 1970 • HEC-411/HEC-412
Produced by Bill Josey and Rim Kelley
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Instrumental backings (except jazz intercuts) recorded on location at a 100-acre ranch near McDade, Texas
Vocals, FX overdubs, and jazz intercuts recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive Studios, Austin, Texas
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, 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, Ampex AG350 and 354 tape decks, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
Vinyl collector information for HEC-411/HEC-412

100 copies pressed
Laquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
Plain white pressboard jacket rubber stamped (clockwise, from top left, in each corner) with Mariani, Perpetuum Mobile, Sonobeat Stereo, and Advance Copy
Label blanks printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
   Side 1: 13510 and HEC-411
   Side 2: 13510 and HEC-412

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings
Demo song #1
Demo song #2
Tribute to Jimi
Listen!
Final word

The Mariani album Perpetuum Mobile is named in tribute to how rapidly Eric Johnson hammers out notes on his guitar. In this context "perpetuum mobile" doesn't refer to perpetual motion, the hypothetical physics concept, but instead is synonymous with the musical term "moto perpetuo", meaning notes played very fast and continuously.

Mariani, the group featuring Eric Johnson
Mariani (the group) stereo 45 RPM single, Sonobeat's only release in 1970
Mariani's 45 RPM stereo single (1970) didn't get a picture sleeve, but it did get a rubber stamped "advance copy" sleeve

Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. sends an early mix of Mendor-Breaker to his contacts at Liberty/UA Records, hoping to drum up a potential national release for Mariani
Mariani guitarist Eric Johnson (right) meets Winter drummer Uncle John "Red" Turner at the Sonobeat Western Hills Drive studio
From left, Eric Johnson, Jay Podolnick, and Jimmy Bullock, on stage in Austin circa May 1970
Sonobeat's "white jacket" advance pressing (1970) of Perpetuum Mobile, circulated to national record labels