Sonobeat History Milestones II: The '70s

As Austin, Texas-based Sonobeat Recording Company enters a new decade, at just 2-1/2 years old, it's graduated from exclusively using local nightclubs as make-shift recording studios to recording many acts in its small Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. It's beefed up its recording equipment, too, adding two half-inch 4-track tape recorders, assorted dynamic and condenser microphones, a steel plate reverb, and additional audio-processing equipment. Turning this corner, Sonobeat's ready for more complicated, more sophisticated recording sessions, but it also will face a series of increasingly more more difficult challenges leading to its demise in 1976.

Ohio Express sessions

January 1970

Nationally famous bubble gum band Ohio Express takes a detour through Austin to regroup. This is just one of many incarnations of the band responsible for half a dozen top 40 best-sellers, including Beg Borrow and Steal and Yummy Yummy Yummy. Ohio Express' sessions, recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin, yield three completed songs – Beauty So Deep, Greyhound Shuffle, and Sweet Genie – that mark a musical departure from the band's former teeny-bopper sound. Sonobeat is frustrated to learn as the sessions are wrapping that the band is still under contract to its original label, Buddah Records, so none of the Sonobeat recordings is ever released.

Building the custom 16-input mixing console

February-March 1970

Sonobeat has outgrown the 10-input portable suitcase mixer it's built in 1968. With two half-inch 4-track tape decks that can be sync-locked to form a virtual 8-track recorder, Sonobeat needs a more powerful mixing console. Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley uses audio integrated circuits to design a 16-input console that includes features found on hundred thousand dollar professional consoles used by the major Hollywood, New York, and Nashville recording studios: mike and line-level preamp modules with built-in audio compressors, equalization controls, reverb send and receive, and headphone mixing controls. Rim mass produces the printed circuit boards needed for all the mixer functions, and Bill Josey Sr. builds the console units themselves – he breaks up the console into three units that fit together to form an "L" – outfitting them with VU meters and linear slider volume and pan controls. The main mixing console unit is completed in time for the Mariani sessions that will begin in March.

Mariani (group) sessions

March-April 1970

Mariani, a power trio built around drummer Vince Mariani, records an early version of Last Milestone plus complete tracks for a pair of originals, Re-Birth Day and Memories Lost and Found, that will be released as a stereo single in September. Recorded at Sonobeat's home-based studio in a quiet northwest Austin neighborhood, the Marshall-amp-powered band is incredibly loud, attracting neighbors' complaints, so the Mariani sessions relocate to a vacant 100 acre ranch near McDade, Texas (east of Austin). There Sonobeat records the band's basic instrumental tracks for what will become the Perpetuum Mobile album. The vocal overdubs and a series of jazz instrumental "intercuts" are recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in the weeks that follow. These sessions are the first that use the new custom 16-input mixing console that Sonobeat has just completed.

Ohio Express mix-down session

March 8, 1970

Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley mixes final versions of the material recorded two months earlier by Ohio Express, but Sonobeat soon learns that Ohio Express is still under contract to Buddah Records, so release plans are scrapped and Sonobeat's Ohio Express recordings are permanently shelved.

The David Flack Quorum sessions

August 11 and 17-18, 1970

San Antonio-based jazz-rock-classical fusion composer/keyboardist David Flack and Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. begin work on an album at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin that will end up taking three years to complete and two more after that before release. David's first sessions result in five near-complete tracks. This will be the last material Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley engineers before departing the company to start law school.

Liberty/UA buys Sonobeat's Afro-Caravan album

September 1970

Earlier in the year Liberty Records and United Artists Records merge to form Liberty/UA. The new entity buys Sonobeat's Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound), an Afro-jazz album by Wali and the Afro-Caravan. This marks Sonobeat's second sale to a national label (Johnny Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment was the first, sold a year earlier to Liberty Records).

Mariani's 45 RPM single release

September 8, 1970

Sonobeat releases it's 20th 45 RPM single, Mariani's progressive rock single Re-Birth Day backed with Memories Lost and Found. In addition to a general public release in a plain sleeve, a limited number of copies, circulated to radio stations and record reviewers, are packaged in a high-gloss white sleeve marked with the band's name and "advance copy".

Progressive rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s118

Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley departs

September 1970

Married in June 1970 and then taking a break from Sonobeat for a 6-week ROTC summer camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley departs in mid-September to start law school in Houston. But he'll return during school breaks at the end of 1970 and into summer 1971 to assist with vocal overdub and mixing sessions.

Wildfire sessions

October-November 1970

In 1969, California trio Wildfire treks to Austin to play a gig at Hill on the Moon at City Park on Lake Austin but ends up staying on. By 1970, the band has gained popularity throughout Austin and Central Texas and records a demo album at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. The band pays for the sessions, so Sonobeat doesn't retain the right to release the album, which remains "in the can" until the band itself finally issues it 36 years later, in 2006, under the title Smokin'.

Herman Nelson's second Sonosong Music demo album issued

November 1970

Sonobeat issues its second album of Herman Nelson's original songs on behalf of sister company Sonosong Music; the limited edition white-jacket album is circulated only to national record company A&R executives in hopes that they will select some of Herman's songs for national recording artist cover versions. Most songs on the album are performed by Bill Wilson (guitars and vocals) and Mike Waugh (bass).

Folk Pop • Mono LP • WEJ-287/WEJ-288M

Fast Cotton sessions

November 11-12, 1970

A retooled version of the Sweetarts, with added musicians and a new focus on soul and experimental music, Fast Cotton records five original songs at Sonboeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. The instrumental backings are tracked on November 11th followed by vocal overdubs on the 12th.

Tom Van Zandt session

November 14, 1970

As the Fast Cotton sessions end on November 12th, the band's keyboardist, Tom Van Zandt, tracks three of his original songs, accompanying himself on keyboard and guitar. The recordings are intended to attract cover versions by well-known national acts, like Bobbie Gentry (Ode to Billy Joe) and the Carpenters, rather than for release by Sonobeat itself.

Bill Miller Group sessions

November 17-18, 1970

Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. begins a series of sessions that will span months with an unnamed psychedelic band led by Bill Miller; the band, in its previous incarnation, is known as Amethyst, but now Bill Sr. refers to it as the Bill Miller Group. It will eventually be known as The Daily Planet and, later, as Cold Sun. Uniquely, Bill Miller plays electric autoharp, which proves to be a challenge to record. The sessions at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin produce wildly inventive but esoteric tracks.

Fast Cotton sax overdub session

November 22, 1970

Fast Cotton band member Cato T. Walker overdubs alto sax on three of the four songs the band has recorded ten days earlier, back on November 12th. Cato claims he's blues icon B.B. King's cousin, but nobody believes him. In fact, he is.

Solid State releases Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound)

December 1970

At long last, Sonobeat's Afro-Caravan album, recorded in January and February 1969, gets a national release via Liberty/UA's Solid State label. The album sports a gatefold jacket with both color and B&W photos by Renate Taylor and L'Azul.

Jazz • Stereo LP • SS-18065

Bill Miller Group vocal overdub session

December 9, 1970

The Bill Miller Group returns to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin to record the vocal overdubs for Number 1, a song that doesn't make the final cut for the proposed Cold Sun album.

Jean Manor sessions

Unknown date(s) in 1971

R&B vocalist Jean Manor records two songs at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. Beyond the titles of the tracks – Woke Up This Morning (My Baby's Gone) and Sorry 'Bout That Shuffle, we know nothing more about Jean, her Sonobeat sessions, or the backing band.

Genesee sessions

January 19-20, 1971

Austin progressive rock band Genesee tracks its original song Littlefield Fountain at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin on January 19th, overdubbing vocals the following day. The song's title refers to the iconic Littlefield Memorial Fountain that marks the South Mall entrance to The University of Texas campus, but ironically the song's lyrics don't mention the fountain.

Wali and the Afro-Caravan second album session

February 2, 1971

Wali and the Afro-Caravan return to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin to begin recording a second album. The first album, Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound), has been sold to Liberty/UA and released nationally months earlier. The Afro-Caravan's February 2nd session yields instrumental tracks for the group's three-movement opus entitled Shades of Africa, which will become the working title of the album.

Genesee session

February 2, 1971

Genesee returns to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin to begin recording two additional original songs. The sessions, starting on February 2nd, are staggered over a two week span to accommodate the band's gigs around Austin. They'll return to the studio in February 11th.

Phoenix sessions

February 4 and 8, 1971

Sandwiched inbetween the Genesee sessions, Austin rock band Phoenix records its original songs Changes and I Found Love at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. A notable founding member of the band is Leonard Arnold, a former member of Lavender Hill Express, who will go on to become a major force in Austin's progressive counry movement in the years immediately following his stint in Phoenix.

Genesee sessions

February 11 and 14, 1971

Genesee finishes two additional original songs that it began recording on February 2nd at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. Both songs remain untitled and unreleased.

Don "Skipper" Young session

February 14, 1971

Flutist Don "Skipper" Young brings his band to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin on Valentine's Day to record a unidentified song. The lilting verses feature harmony vocals by Austin guitar icon Jim Mings and his sister Martha. The band also features bassist Pat Whitefield, a founding member of the Sweetarts and Fast Cotton, both of whom Sonobeat has recorded. Skipper's session is held on the same day that Genesee finishes up its sessions at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, which is unusual since Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. rarely schedules recording sessions with different acts on the same day.

James Polk album sessions

March 1-3, 1971

Keyboardist James Polk, whose band James Polk and the Brothers has recorded Sonobeat's 1969 single Stick-To-It-Tive-Ness, returns to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin to begin work on a potential album, which will use a variety of different musicians on each track. Polk's early March sessions yield jazz-funk instrumental covers of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and Here Come The Judge.

Bill Miller Group session

March 27, 1971

The Bill Miller Group returns to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin to record the instrumental backing tracks for Marble and Forever. Just as the sessions are starting to produce results, Sonobeat is forced to move its studio to a new location, disrupting the cadence that producer Bill Josey Sr. has just achieved with Miller.

Sonobeat's studio relocates

May-June 1971

Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. relocate his studio from Western Hills Drive in northwest Austin to the KVET radio station building, a far more spacious facility, at 705 North Lamar in Austin. But the move into a radio station's building requires Bill to soundproof the walls and ceiling of Sonobeat's ground floor studio and build sound baffles to muffle electrified instrument speaker boxes, which delay his ability to start using the new studio for recording sessions. Although it's on North Lamar, the KVET building is only about five blocks north of the Colorado River that divides north and south Austin. Today, the KVET building is gone, replaced by a restaurant in the shadow of Austin's iconic Graffiti Park at Castle Hill.

The Royal Lights Singers session

June 25, 1971

Austin gospel group The Royal Lights Singers – still together in 2017, albeit with different personnel – records four songs at Sonobeat's new North Lamar studio. The songs are intended for back-to-back releases as Sonobeat 45 RPM stereo singles, but one of the two is intended for the group's exclusive distribution at its performances throughout Central Texas. The Royal Lights Singers' songs are Sonobeat's only gospel recordings. And these are the first sessions known to have been recorded at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio.

The Royal Lights Singers 45 RPM singles release

July 1971

Sonobeat releases two singles, it's 21st and 22nd, by The Royal Lights Singers, although it's unclear in the Sonobeat archives whether the second single is intended for distribution only by the gospel group itself rather than through record retailers. The first single features the group's original songs Will You Be Ready backed with My Rock; the second single features the originals Creation backed with I Know My Jesus Is Watching. These are Sonobeat's only gospel releases.

Gospel • Stereo 45 RPM single • G-s119

Gospel • Stereo 45 RPM single • G-s120

Bill Miller Group mixing sessions

July & August 1971

Bill Miller Group puts the finishing touches on its album at Sonobeat's new North Lamar studio in Austin, primarily tweaking overdubs and spending weeks mixing and remixing to perfect the tracks and sequence the album. Bill Miller tentatively names the album Cold Sun. Producer Bill Josey Sr. then attempts to sell the album to a national label, but it's considered too odd and esoteric. The album is never released on the Sonobeat label. Years later an unsanctioned release makes its way onto the market.

Synthesis sessions

July 17-19, 1971

Ohio-based progressive rock band Synthesis treks to Austin for sessions at Sonobeat's new North Lamar studio. Core members of the band have recorded with Sonobeat a year earlier as members of a touring incarnation of nationally-famous teeny-bopper band Ohio Express. Sythesis, however, has a completely new progressive sound and tracks four original tunes for producer Bill Josey Sr., including vocals Parliamentary Magistrates and Hocus Pocus plus two instrumentals.

Sonobeat takes on custom sessions

Fall 1971

Sonobeat's costly studio move from Western Hills Drive to North Lamar, both in Austin, strains its financial resources, so co-founder Bill Josey Sr. takes on custom sessions in which singers and musicians (mostly rock and country bands) pay hourly rates for a package of studio time and Bill's producing and engineering services. But the artists retain all rights in the material they record, including the master recordings, so none of these recordings are candidates for release on the Sonobeat label. Other than a rare protection dub here and there, the Sonobeat archives hold no custom tapes, so we're unable to identify all music acts that hired out Sonobeat's studio facilities. Bill will continue to provide custom services into the first months of 1972; the fees help pay both living expenses and the studio lease.

Throughout 1972

No Sonobeat releases during 1972

1972 marks the first year in Sonobeat's history in which there are no releases on its own label. Nor is there any sale of a Sonobeat master recording to a national label during the year. 1972 marks the line of demarcation between the end of Sonobeat's salad days and the beginning of its decline. But things are far from over...

January-April 1972

Prepping for quadraphonic recording experiments

Even as Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. continues to offer out Sonobeat's North Lamar studios and his producing and engineering services on a "work-for-hire" basis, attracting music acts that want to own their master recordings, Bill begins prepping for experiments in quadraphonic recording, which he believes will be the next big trend in consumer audio systems. Quad places sound in a 360° environment, completely surrounding the listener. To record in quad requires the addition of new mixing modules to Sonobeat's 16-input recording console and investments in new monitor amps, speakers, and Dolby noise reduction systems. Although Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley has left the company in 1970, he designs the quad modules and printed circuit boards that Bill fabricates and installs in the mixing console. Within a few months, Bill is ready to start his quad recording experiments.

Base (first incarnation) sessions

June & July 1972

Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. hand picks musicians from among many Austin bands Sonobeat has previously worked with; the select group, that he calls Base, includes Eric Johnson from Mariani, Jay Meade and Mike Reid from New Atlantis, and Danny Galindo and Ronnie Leatherman from the 13th Floor Elevators to serve as studio musicians on Bill's first quadraphonic recording experiments. The sessions produce many song fragments and only a few finished tracks since the purpose of the recordings is to experiment with 360° quadraphonic techniques. Although this set of experiments wraps in July 1972, Bill will reboot Base with a different mix of musicians in 1973.

Michele Murphy sessions

July through December 1972

Liberty Hill folk singer/songwriter Michele Murphy (not to be confused with Michael Murphy, a major figure in Austin's progressive country movement that starts about this time) begins recording at Sonobeat's North Lamar studios in Austin. Michele offers up a mix of original compositions along with covers of pop standards, such as the Gershwin classic Summertime from Porgy and Bess. During the longest span Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. will devote to any artist, Michele will record with Sonobeat off and on during 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976. Amazingly, for the number of tracks Michele records over this span, none are ever released commercially.

Cody Hubach album sessions

October 1972

Austin folk singer/songwriter Cody Hubach returns to Sonobeat studios (he recorded three original songs with Sonobeat in May 1969) to record a potential album release. He records a new version of his signature tune Hoolie (this time spelled slightly differently from the 1969 version), several additional original tunes, and covers of the 13th Floor Elevators Spash 1 and other songs by Austin songwriters, including Cody's friend Bill Wilson. The sessions are held on several days during October at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin and include additional local musicians. Nothing comes of the album and the track remain unreleased.

Jess DeMaine session

October 29, 1972

Austin country guitarist/singer Jess DeMaine returns to Sonobeat for a second session (his first is a year earlier), tracking cover songs including Hand Of Hurt and Your Kind Of Man. Jess will return still again in 1973 to record additional songs with Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr., but none of his Sonobeat recordings is ever released.

Tommy Hill and the Country Music Revue sessions

November 1972

By 1972, country music is taking Austin by storm, but it's a new breed called progressive country popularized by the likes of Willie Nelson and Michael Murphy (who coins the term "cosmic cowboys" to describe the movement). Nonetheless, Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. gets on the country bandwagon by recording Tommy Hill and the Country Music Revue. The sessions at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin yield ten tracks for use as a band demo. All songs are covers of country and country-rock hits popularized by other artists, including Willie's Funny How Time Slips Away and Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie.

Throughout 1973

No Sonobeat releases during 1973

1973 is the second year in a row in which Sonobeat has no releases on its own label nor any master recording sale to a national label.

Adobie Flatz sessions

January 1973

Sonobeat starts the year recording three original tracks with El Paso-based blues-rock band Adobie Flatz. The sessions are recorded at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin, Texas. The tracks are intended only as a demo for the band and are never released. Although the songs are recorded on Sonobeat's 4-track Scully, producer Bill Josey Sr. makes only monaural mixes.

Gary York and Evelyn session

January 1973

Austin pop artist Gary York is joined by Concordia College divinity student Evelyn (whose last name isn't mentioned in the Sonobeat archives) to record just one song, People, at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin. Although the song shares the same title as Barbra Streisand's #1 hit, People is one of Gary's original compositions. Gary hangs around the Sonobeat studio weeks before and after his session, learning the ropes from Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. Years later Gary opens his own recording studio, crediting Bill as a mentor.

Vita sessions

February 17 & 19, 1973

Local jazz-rock band Vita records four original songs at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin, Texas. Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. records the Latino-influenced band in quadraphonic and in March approaches his friends at Columbia Records in Nashville with an offer to record an album with the group for national release, but there's no sale to Columbia, Bill holds no further recording sessions with the band, and Vita's material is shelved.

Joyce Spence session

March 1973

Traditional country singer Joyce Spence records seven original songs at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin. Joyce is joined on five tracks by Glenn Proctor on guitar, and Glenn composes one of the songs, Swimming In The Bottle. Austin's Country Nu-Notes provide back-up on two tracks that seem earmarked for a Sonobeat release, but as it turns out none of Joyce's tracks is ever released.

Johnny Lyons & Janet Lynn session

March 18, 1973

Austin country duet Johnny Lyons & Janet Lynn record two untitled songs at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin. They're backed by Johnny's freshly-minted band, the Country Nu-Notes, who will return to Sonobeat early in 1974 to record a massive 29 tracks. Although Johnny and Janet are solid country singers, nothing comes of the March '73 session. By the way, Johnny founds the Texas Hall of Fame in Bryan, Texas, that celebrates Texas' country music heritage. The Hall of Fame closes in December 2011, a year after Johnny's death.

Michele Murphy session

April 20, 1973

Liberty Hill, Texas, folk and pop artist Michele Murphy returns to Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin, recording the original song When I'm With You, that producer Bill Josey Sr. uses, along with Michele's original Round Mountain Road, as demos to help Michele land a spot on stage at the 2nd annual Kerrville Folk Festival later in 1973 (she indeed lands the gig, in part on the strength of her Sonobeat recordings).

The David Flack Quorum sessions

May 1973

David Flack's San Antonio-based trio has begun work in August 1970 on an album of jazz-rock-classical fusion originals at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin but the sessions are interrupted by David's departure for a tour of duty in the Army. By the time David returns in 1973, Sonobeat's studios have moved to North Lamar in Austin. There, David's trio completes the tracks it has begun years earlier. To cap the May 1973 sessions, Austin jazz and blues singer overdubs vocals, including imaginative scat here and there.

Sonobeat relocates its studio again

August 1973

As June 1973 ends, Sonobeat's lease at the KVET building on North Lamar in Austin expires. Michele Murphy, who has recorded on and off for Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. in 1972 and the first part of 1973, suggests that Sonobeat relocate to Liberty Hill, about 30 miles north of Austin. She has the perfect location in mind: an old stone A.M.E. church with plenty of floor space and that's used only two Sundays a month by the small local congregation. The church sits on acres of ranch land nestled in the idyllic Central Texas hill country. Bill leases the church and moves in his equipment in August, also bringing a mobile home onto the church property where he'll live. The church needs lots of work and a sizeable investment – soundproofing, rewiring, air conditioning, and furnishings – before it's ready to use as a recording studio. This will take Bill several months, delaying his ability to use the studio for money-generating recoridng sessions.

Sonobeat's "Blue Hole Sounds" studio opens

Fall 1973

Following Sonobeat's studio move from Austin, Texas, to the outskirts of Liberty Hill, Texas, in August '73 and after than two months of retrofitting the old stone A.M.E. church Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. has leased into a recording studio, Bill distributes flyers announcing the availability of his new "Blue Hole Sounds" studio for custom recording work. Bill needs the hourly fees the custom work generates to help offset living expenses and the costs of the studio move and subsequent retrofitting of the the church. The few sessions that Bill conducts in the final months of '73 are almost entirely custom jobs with singers and musicians who pay for and keep their master tapes.

Herman Nelson's third Sonosong Music demo album issued

Fall 1973

Although Sonobeat's new Liberty Hill studio, Blue Hole Sounds, doesn't come on line until the final months of 1973, and most of the recording sessions Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. conducts to finish out the year are custom jobs, he does manage to work in a third and final Herman Nelson song demo album for Sonobeat's sister company, Sonosong Music. This time, however, Bill circulates the album, consisting of 12 Herman Nelson originals, to major label A&R departments using less expensive audio cassette dubs instead of vinyl records. The purpose of the demo album, which isn't commercially released, is to attract cover versions of Herman's songs by major recording artists. All songs on the album are performed by Herman (guitars and vocals) and Mike Waugh (bass).

Folk Pop • Stereo audiocassette

Throughout 1974

No Sonobeat releases during 1974

1974 is the third year in a row in which Sonobeat has no releases on its own label nor any master recording sale to a national label.

Custom recording sessions continue

Throughout 1974

It's become a financially necessity for Sonobeat to continue to accept custom recording work, in which music acts rent Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio facility in Liberty Hill, Texas, for hourly fees, As a result, the acts, not Sonobeat, own the master tapes the sessions produce. During the year, Tom Penick begins to assist Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. around the studio, and Tom eventually will record his own country song as partial payment for his services.

Country Nu-Notes marathon session

February 24, 1974

Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. has worked with Johnny Lyon's band, the Country Nu-Notes, twice before, first as backing band for Joyce Spence and then as backing band for Johnny Lyon & Janet Lynn recordings in 1973. Now it's a whirlwind session with the Nu-Notes themselves. Pulling what looks like an all-nighter starting Sunday evening, February 24th, Bill records an astounding 29 songs, all country and country-pop standards, with the Nu-Notes at Austin's popular Broken Spoke honky-tonk dance hall. Bill certainly ends up with enough well performed country material for two or three albums, but nothing from the session is ever released. Perhaps the Country Nu-Notes are too traditional in an Austin music scene that's already shifted to progressive country.

Arma Harper sessions

Fall 1974

Sometime in the second half of 1974, Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. begins working on an album with folk singer/songwriter Arma Harper, a Mississippi native who by the time he begins his Sonobeat sessions has moved to Round Rock, Texas, not far from Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill. Although documents in the Sonobeat archives don't pinpoint precise session dates with Arma, Bill Sr.'s notes indicate that his work with Arma spans months, on into 1975, and that his plans with Arma are complex. However, by March 1975, Bill will abandon the album and, instead, release a stereo 45 RPM single by Arma.

Custom recording sessions continue

On and off throughout 1975

As he's done throughout 1974, Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. continues to take custom recording jobs to "pay the bills" and maintain his Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas. Although we've titled 1974 as the "Beginning of the End", there are several bright spots during the year, including sessions with acts whose master recordings he hopes to sell to national labels or release on the Sonobeat label.

Michele Murphy sessions

Unknown dates in 1975

Liberty Hill, Texas, folk and pop artist Michele Murphy continues to record on and off at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio, also in Liberty Hill. In fact, she influenced Sonobeat's Bill Josey Sr. to relocate his studio from Austin to Liberty Hill in mid-1973. Although there are many Murphy tapes in the Sonobeat archives, few are dated.

Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. diagnosed with cancer

Spring 1975

After months of feeling increasingly more sluggish and with diminishing appetite and energy, Sonoobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. is diagnosed with a form of lymphoma that will progressively worsen during the year. Bill's illness explains why he will conduct relatively few recording sesssions in 1975.

Arma Harper 45 RPM single release

April 1975

Sonobeat releases it's 23rd 45 RPM single, Arma Harper's stereo 45 RPM single, recorded in late 1974. The single features Arma's original folk songs, Just One Too Many Times and Plea For Freedom, both described as protest songs. It's the first Sonobeat single release in four years.

Folk • Stereo 45 RPM single • PF-121

Rick Dinsmore session

July 11, 1975

Country singer/songwriter Rick Dinsmore (who at the time is based in Houston) checks into Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas, to record Bill, his modern Western story song (that's definitely not about Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr.). It's a solid performance, to be expected from Rick, since just a couple of months earlier he's won Best New Folk Artist at the 1975 Kerrville Folk Festival.

Tom Penick session

August 1975

Country singer/songwriter Tom Penick, who has been Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr.'s studio assistant for since late 1973, takes a turn himself at the microphone, recording just one song, his gentle country-folk original This Old Cowboy. Tom lives only a few miles from Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio (located just outside Liberty Hill, Texas), in Leander. It's highly it's likely Tom records other original material during his tenure assisting Bill, but there are no other recordings by Tom in the Sonobeat archives.

Rex Sherry session

August or September 1975

Singer and guitarist Rex Sherry, who also may be a member of Austin country-blues band Rocking Horse during the '70s, records four unidentified country songs (one of which is likely titled The Apple Tree) at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas. Although his Sonobeat recordings are never released, Rex will continue to record and perform throughout Central Texas for four decades, in the '80s forming Austin-based country band The Thoroughbreds. Oh, and Rex opens a private detective agency in Austin in 1993, which he operates until his death in 2011.

Nasty Habit sessions

August & September 1975

Austin proto-punk band Nasty Habit records several sessions at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio just outside Liberty Hill, Texas, beginning in August '75. Austin punk rock icon Jesse Sublett performs on some of the tracks but has moved on by the time the tracks are completed. The sessions yield half a dozen hard-rockin' originals plus one cover (Nils Lofgren's What About Me), and Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. considers releasing a pair of the band's originals as a stereo 45 RPM single, but Bill is unable to follow through because of mounting medical expenses that divert his resources.

Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. undergoes surgery and chemotheraphy

September through November 1975

Diagnosed with a form of carcinoma earlier in the year, Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr.'s condition worsens as the year progresses, despite a medication regime he's been taking. In fall, he undergoes exploratory surgery at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Temple, Texas, an hour's drive from Sonobeat's studio in Liberty Hill. Following the surgery, Bill begins chemotheraphy, which progressively makes him still weaker. Bill lives in a mobile home on the Sonobeat studio multi-acre property, where his son Jack moves in to provide support and to drive Bill back and forth to the VA hospital for weekly chemo treatments. Bill's illness functionally shuts down sessions at Sonobeat until he regains some strength as the year comes to an end.

Blues Rock Group session

December 21, 1975

The generically-named Blues Rock Group from Austin begins recording at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas, laying down several different versions of House Rocker, Snatch It Back And Hold It, and It's Hard To Stop, all covers of hit R&B and blues songs. Frieda Borth is the band's vocalist, and she belts it out. Frieda previously recorded with Sonobeat as lead vocalist for Contraband. The Blues Rock Group will take a break to regroup and return to continue its sessions in early January 1976.

Blues Rock Group session

January 3, 1976

The band that later in the year will become the Austin Blues-Rockers continues its sessions at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas, recording Chicken Shack and fresh versions of It's Hard To Stop and Snatch It Back And Hold It", which it has first recorded at Sonobeat studios back in December 1975. The band features Frieda Borth knocking out fantastic multi-tracked vocals.

White Light mix-down session

January 10, 1976

Producer Bill Josey Sr. mixes down the instrumental backing tracks for prog rock trio White Light's original songs, recorded at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio on the outskirts of Liberty Hill, Texas. The band's layered multitrack recordings are complex, if not somewhat esoteric.

Larry Boyd and Group session

February 14, 1976

Country band Larry Boyd and Group records covers of two songs, Paul McCartney's Sally G and John Denver's hit ballad Back Home Again, at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas. The band makes a short 20 mile trek from its home base in Burnet, Texas, to Liberty Hill for the session.

White Light session

February 21, 1976

White Light, originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, records vocal overdubs for its original songs Solar Offerings, Spirits On The Wing, Fields, and Oceans at producer Bill Josey Sr.'s Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas, about 30 miles north of Austin. The band members are inventive, using vocal sounds as instruments in a series of inspired and well-crafted progressive rock tracks.

Larry Boyd and Group vocal overdubs

February 22, 1976

Larry Boyd and Group records the vocal overdubs for its two cover songs, Sally G and Back Home Again at producer Bill Josey Sr.'s Blue Hole Sounds studio on the outskirts of Liberty Hill, Texas. Bill uses these tracks as a demo of the band, sending audiocassette dubs to his major label contacts in Nashville and Hollywood.

White Light remix and vocal overdub session

February 26, 1976

Producer Bill Josey Sr. remixes White Light's Oceans and rerecords vocal overdubs for Solar Offering, Spirits On The Wing, and Fields at his Blue Hole Sounds studio. Bill's sessions with White Light have spanned three intensive months and yielded an album's worth of finished original prog rock material.

White Light mix-down sessions

March 1976

From December 1975 into early March 1976, progressive rock trio White Light has tracked out a dozen original songs at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas. As March begins to wane, Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. mixes and sequences eight of the band's songs into a proposed album and ships audiocassette copies to national record labels in hopes of attracting a sale of the master recordings.

Austin Blues-Rockers sessions

March 1976

Austin Blues-Rockers completes its sessions at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio on the outskirts of Liberty Hill, Texas, with two final songs, Soulful Dress and Ain't Nobody (Gonna Turn Me Around). All songs the band records over a span of four months are covers of R&B and blues hits. None are ever released.

Jeannine Hoke session

April 1976

Country singer Jeannine Hoke records her original songs Your Touch Is Like A Whisper To Me and Let's Get To Houston Today. Producer Bill Josey Sr. records Jeannine and her back-up band at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio just outside Liberty Hill, Texas.

Helmer Dahl session

April 1, 1976

He plays a monster Baldwin organ at the same time he plays an Arp Pro-Soloist synthesizer and sounds like an entire band. Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. begins recording an album's worth of material with Hutto, Texas-based Helmer Dahl, one of Central Texas' most popular solo acts during the '70s. Helmer plays birthday parties, weddings, VFW and Lions Club events, and Central Texas nightclubs, covering dozens of pop standards, waltzes, and polkas. Helmer's first session with Sonobeat is taped at Bill's Blue Hole Sounds studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas, on a 4-track quarter-inch Dokorder deck. Helmer will be back to Blue Hole Sounds in a month...

Michele Murphy session

April 17, 1976

Liberty Hill, Texas, pop and folk singer Michele Murphy, whose recordings with Sonobeat have spanned almost five years, records her final session at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio, also in Liberty Hill, on April 17, 1976. Her final session with Sonboeat producer Bill Josey Sr. yields Easy Chair, Finest Man, Give Me A Window, and I'm Glad I Did It But I'm Sorry I Did It To You, none of which is ever released.

Helmer Dahl sessions

May 11-13, 1976

Adding to the session Helmer Dahl has recorded at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas, a month earlier, Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. completes an album of material with Helmer over a three-day stretch in mid-May. The album includes covers of popular hits Somewhere My Love and Release Me plus a mix of pop standard waltzes and polkas. In all, over the four days of sessions, including the April 1st session, Helmer tracks 17 covers. All are instrumentals.

Al & Alec sessions

May or June 1976

According to the Sonobeat archives, folk-country-rock duo Al & Alec hold the distinction of being the last act Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. records before becoming too ill to continue running his Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas. The archives hold no known later-recorded tapes. Although little is known of Al & Alec, the Sonobeat archives indicate they cut five songs that appear to be originals, including White Walls of Santa Fe and Rebecca Lynn. At least two songs are backed by a country-rock band whose members are not named in the archives. None of Al & Alec's master tapes is dated but other markings on the tape boxes make it clear the recordings are made after Michele Murphy's final session in mid-April '76. None of the duo's tracks is released.

The David Flack Quorum album release

June 1976

An album of progressive jazz-rock-classical fusion pieces, all written by San Antonio native David Flack, first begun in 1970, delayed by Sonobeat's studio move and David's two years of active duty in the Army, and completed in 1973, is finally released in February 1976 after an unsuccessful effort to sell the master tapes to a national label in 1975. Even though recorded in pieces over a multi-year span, The David Flack Quorum's Mindbender is a well-put-together body of music, solidly performed by David's trio, and sung with passion by Austin jazz and blues artist Marva Jackson. This is Sonobeat's second album release and the first of only two releases by Sonobeat that will not use its signature logotype on the disc label.

Jazz • Stereo album • DFQS-100

Jeannine Hoke 45 RPM single release

June 1976

Sonobeat releases it's 24th 45 RPM single, Jeannine Hoke's stereo 45 RPM single Your Touch Is Like A Whisper To Me backed with Let's Get To Houston Today. Jeannine double-tracks her vocal on Your Touch Is Like A Whisper To Me. Although Sonobeat markets the single as "pop", it's really country-folk. Jeannine's will be Sonobeat's final 45 RPM single release, coming  more than a year after the previous single release by Arma Harper.

Country • Stereo 45 RPM single • PS-122

Helmer Dahl album release

July 1976

Sonobeat releases it's third and final album, Helmer Dahl's Toe-Tapping Tunes. The album features Helmer playing a concert Baldwin organ and Arp Pro-Soloist synthesizer and sounding very much like an entire band. But it's just Helmer, a sought-after Central Texas solo act during the '70s. Because Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. is financially strapped as he continues chemotherapy treatments for cancer, Helmer finances the album release. Helmer's album holds the distinction of being Sonobeat's final commercial release and, like The David Flack Quorum's album released the prior month, does not use Sonobeat's signature logotype on the disc label.

Pop Polka • Stereo album • S7976

Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. enters hospital

August 1976

Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr.'s cancer accelerates in mid-1976, and following release of Helmer Dahl's album, Bill closes up his Blue Hole Sounds studio just outside Liberty Hill, Texas, and enters the Veterans Administration Hospital in nearby Temple, Texas. This occurs only a couple of weeks after he walks his youngest daughter down the aisle on her wedding day in July. Within a week or two after entering hospital, Bill is cleared for a day trip back to Liberty Hill and his studio. Returning to hospital, his condition worsens.

Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. succumbs to cancer

September 28, 1976

Weeks after entering the Veterans Administration Hospital in Temple, Texas, Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. succumbs to lymphocarcinoma. Sonobeat's Liberty Hill, Texas, studio that Bill has fondly named Blue Hole Sounds after a nearby natural swimmming hole shutters, and Liberty Hill friends, learning of his death, pack his boxes of master tapes and documents into his station wagon, leaving it on the studio property for Bill's family to discover weeks later. The materials, forming the Sonobeat archives, are then stored away in various relatives' attics, garages, and spare bedrooms for more than two decades following Bill's death.

Master tape library rescued

Mid-1980s

On Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr.'s death in September 1976, Sonobeat's master tape library is stored away in various relatives' attics, garages, and spare bedrooms. In the mid-'80s, Bill Sr.'s son Jack collects all the tapes, begins a massive cataloging effort, and stores them in sealed containers in a climate-controlled environment. The cataloging of hundreds of tapes in the Sonobeat library is a hobby and takes years to complete.

Sonobeat Historical Archives formed

MId-2004

Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr.'s heirs, including Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Jr., form Sonobeat Historical Archives to preserve the tapes, photos, and documents that have been stored away for decades. The heirs agree to launch a website to document Sonobeat's history and the history of the dozens of artists Sonobeat recorded over its nine year life span from 1967 to 1976. Jack Josey begins digitizing sound bites from Sonobeat's master tape library, focusing on the singles and albums Sonobeat has released on its own label. In August 2004, Sonobeat Historical Archives purchases the sonobeatrecords.com domain and brothers Jack and brother Bill Jr. begin creating the Sonobeat website.

Sonobeat website launches at SonobeatRecords.com

November 27, 2004

SonobeatRecords.com launches on November 27, 2004. This first version of the site, designed for 640x480 resolution computer screens, features individual pages for the artists for which there is the most information in the Sonobeat archives: Sweetarts, Lee Arlano Trio, Don Dean, Lavender Hill Express, Conqueroo, Johnny Winter, Afro-Caravan, Ray Campi, and Mariani, along with shared pages for other artists. The site features a limited selection of short audio clips, encoded using Flash, taken from Sonobeat's commercial 45 RPM and album releases.

Sonobeat Historical Archives acquires the Sonobeat.com domain

June 2006

Sonobeat Historical Archives acquires Sonobeat.com, which previously had been unavailable. Sonobeat.com launches as a mirror of SonobeatRecords.com.

Sonobeat website v.2.0 launches

October 2008

During the four years from launch of SonobeaRecords.com in 2004 to its relaunch in mid-2008, Sonobeat Historical Archives adds greater depth to its artist biographies and dozens of fresh audio clips and new graphics. The 2008 version of the website is redesigned to accommodate 1024x768 screen resolutions.

Ricky Stein's book on Sonobeat's history is published

January 21, 2014

Austin musician and music historian Ricky Stein adapts his University of Texas American Studies senior thesis into a book entitled Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s, published on January 21, 2014, by History Press. Besides referring to Sonobeat.com as a resource, Ricky conducts extensive interviews with former Sonobeat recording artists, painting a picture not just of Sonobeat's history but of the rapid development of Austin's live music scene from the mid-60s to the mid-'70s. The Sweetarts, whose single A Picture Of Me launches Sonobeat in 1967, perform for the first time since 1969, appearing at Tom's Tabooley in Austin on February 9, 2014, in support of Ricky's book.

Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues the Sweetarts single on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music

March 11, 2014

In collaboration with all original members of the Sweetarts, Sonobeat Historical Archives restores and remasters the Sweetarts' Sonobeat single A Picture Of Me and Without You, which launches Sonobeat in 1967, reissuing it digitally on the iTunes and Amazon Digital Music stores. Later, the release rolls out to eMusic, Google Play, Rhapsody, and XBox.

Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues the first Lee Arlano Trio single on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music

July 15, 2014

Sonobeat's first jazz single, also its second commercial release in 1967, gets restored and remastered for a digital reissue on the iTunes and Amazon Digital Music stores, later rolling out to eMusic, Google Play, Rhapsody, and XBox. The Lee Arlano Trio's There Will Never Be Another You and Meditation, originally recorded at Austin's Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest Inn on Town Lake, are covers performed with aplomb.

Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues Lavender Hill Express' catalog on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music

July 22, 2014

In collaboration with the living original members of the Lavender Hill Express, Sonobeat Historical Archives restores and remasters the band's three Sonobeat singles, Visions backed with Trying To Live A Life, Watch Out! backed with Country Music's Here To Stay, Outside My Window backed with Silly Rhymes, and the previously unreleased Trouble, reissuing digital versions of the seven tracks under the collective title Visions. The reissue rolls out to the iTunes and Amazon Digital Music stores and, later, to eMusic and other digital music download services. On July 26, 2014, Lavender Hill Express and the Sweetarts reunite at the Saxon Pub in Austin in performances celebrating their respective digital reissues.

Sonobeat website v.3.0 launches

August 1, 2015

In a massive site overhaul, switching from Flash to HTML5 and other modern web technologies that make the site viewable on mobile devices and scale to any computer screen resolution, Sonobeat's website relaunches. Version 3.0 of the site features a separate page for every artist Sonobeat recorded, upgraded and new graphics, all audio clips re-encoded as standard HTML5 MP3s (with dozens more than previously available), and a new and deep site navigation system. New to Sonobeat v.3.0 are special features ranging from the connection between Sonobeat and KAZZ-FM in Austin to details of how Sonobeat recorded Lavender Hill Express' complex Visions and Trying To Live A Life to a complete chronology of Sonobeat's commercial record releases. The site continues to add new features quarterly.

Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues Plymouth Rock's single on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music

September 18, 2015

In collaboration with the living original members of Plymouth Rock, Sonobeat Historical Archives restores, remixes, and remasters the band's Sonobeat single Memorandum and Just A Start for reissue on the iTunes, Amazon Digital Music, and other digital music download stores. Unlike its previous digital reissues of the Sweetarts, Lavender Hill Express, and Lee Arlano Trio singles, Sonobeat Historical Archives returns to the original half-inch 4-track session masters to rebuild fresh stereo mixes of both Plymouth Rock songs, which were originally issued only in monaural versions. In fact, Sonobeat's vinyl release of Plymouth Rock's single was the label's only monaural single release; all other Sonobeat singles were released in stereo.

Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues the Lee Arlano Trio album Jazz To The Third Power on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music

October 2, 2015

Sonobeat's first jazz album, Jzzz To The Third Power by the Lee Arlano Trio, gets restored and remastered for an October 2015 digital reissue on iTunes, Amazon Digital Music, eMusic Google Play, Rhapsody, and XBox. Originally released on vinyl in 1968, the album is reissued with its original ten tracks plus two previousy unreleased bonus tracks.

Sonobeat Historical Archives celebrates Sonobeat's 50th Anniversary

Throughout 2017

Officially launched in May 1967, Sonobeat Recording Company recorded dozens of music acts and hundreds of musicians, singers, and songwriters during its active nine years in Austin and Central Texas. Throughout 2017, as we celebrate Sonobeat's 50th Anniversary, we're adding new sound bites, upgrading our graphics, and creating new features. And, along the way, other surprises. The (Sono)beat goes on...