POP QUIZ

Test your knowledge of Sonobeat and the Austin music scene in the '60s and '70s

How much do you know about Sonobeat, the artists it recorded, and the Austin music scene from the mid-'60s to the mid-'70s? A little fuzzy? We assure you all you need to know to answer these questions is right here, scattered around Sonobeat.com.

Here's a clue for a question in Pop Quiz #1

Here's a clue for a question in Pop Quiz #2
Pop Quiz #1

What famous Austin artist created his first album cover for a Sonobeat release?

Jim Franklin, best known as one of the founders of Austin's iconic '70s live music venue, the Armadillo World Headquarters, was commissioned by Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. in 1968 to draw a sketch of the Lee Arlano Trio. Jim's sketch adorns the cover of Sonobeat's first album release, Jazz to the Third Power. At the time he drew the Arlano sketch, Jim was artist-in-residence at the equally iconic Vulcan Gas Company, predecessor to the Armadillo, and had never before had any of his art featured on an album jacket. And now some really deep Jim Franklin trivia that appears nowhere else on the Sonobeat website: Bill also commissioned Jim to paint portraits of his children; Jim did one portrait of Bill's two daughters and another of Bill's two sons.

What unusual vehicle did Johnny Winter use as his "tour bus" during the mid-1960s?

A black hearse. Read more.

In the late 1960s, who was the house band at Austin's Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest Inn and provided instrumental backings on several Sonobeat pop 45 RPM stereo singles?

The Michael Stevens IV. The quartet provided the backings for Sonobeat's Don Dean, Fran Nelson, and Bach-Yen 45 RPM singles.

In what rural community in Central Texas' rolling hills did Sonobeat owner Bill Josey Sr. set up his "Blue Hole Sounds" studio in the mid-1970s?

Liberty Hill. Bill's "Blue Hole Sounds" on the outskirts of town was housed in an old stone church that at the time was used two Sundays a month by the local A.M.E. congregation.

When two top '60s Austin rock bands broke up, some of their former members formed the Lavender Hill Express, which recorded three singles released by Sonobeat. Which bands contributed which members to LHE?

The Wig's bassist Jess Yaryan and drummer Rusty Wier and the Babycakes' guitarists Layton DePenning and Leonard Arnold formed Austin supergroup Lavender Hill Express. Johnny Schwertner left The Reasons Why to co-found Lavender Hill Express with Jess, Rusty, Layton, and Leonard. Read more.

What was the location of Sonobeat's only live recording that was commercially released? (Hint: it was a 45 RPM single released in 1968.)

The Afro-Caravan's single Comin' Home Baby was recorded at a live performance at the 1968 Hemisfair in San Antonio, Texas. Read more.

Which Sonobeat 45 RPM single release was the first that Sonobeat recorded?

The Lee Arlano Trio's There Will Never Be Another You was the first material Sonobeat recorded for release but was Sonobeat's second single, not its first. The Sweetart's A Picture of Me, recorded the week following the Arlano sessions, was Sonobeat's first release.

How many albums did Sonobeat commercially release on its own label?

Only three: the Lee Arlano Trio's Jazz to the Third Power, The David Flack Quorum's Mindbender, and Helmer Dahl's Toe-Tapping Tunes. Sonobeat's other commercial albums, Johnny Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment and Wali and the Afro-Caravan's Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound), were both released by Liberty Records labels under license from Sonobeat. Sonobeat also released many albums that were never intended for commercial sale but, instead, were circulated to record companies to demonstrate material in the Sonosong Music catalog.

What Austin FM radio station of the 1960s is credited with spawning Sonobeat?

KAZZ-FM, which had studios and offices in the Perry Brooks Building in downtown Austin, until the station was sold and shut down in January 1968. It resurfaced months later as Austin's KOKE-FM, sister to and simulcasting country station KOKE-AM. The KAZZ-FM call letters were later assigned to an unrelated station in Spokane, Washington. KAZZ's live remote broadcasts from a variety of Austin music venues and dance clubs in the mid- to late-'60s provided the seed for Sonobeat's birth. Read more.

What bubblegum group of the '60s, that had several hit singles on the Buddha label, recorded experimental material at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studios in Austin?

The Ohio Express, famous for their top 10 teeny-bopper singles Yummy Yummy Yummy and Chewy, Chewy. Yep, really. None of the material Ohio Express recorded at Sonobeat has been commercially released. Read more.

Pop Quiz #2

Who welded the huge frame for Sonobeat's steel plate reverb?

Singer/songwriter Cody Hubach, who also recorded an unreleased single with Sonobeat in 1969 and an unreleased album with Sonobeat in 1972. Read more.

All but one of Sonobeat's 24 commercial 45 RPM single releases were in stereo. Which artist's Sonobeat single was released only in monaural?

Austin rock band Plymouth Rock. The single, Memorandum backed with Just a Start, was Sonobeat's most successful commercial release in 1969. Sonobeat Historical Archives restored, remixed, and remastered a stereo version in 2015, now available on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music. Read more.

Who was the first artist Sonobeat ever recorded, but whose material was never released?

Sonobeat made its first experimental recordings in early 1967 with popular Austin band Leo and the Prophets. Only months later, the band had a regional hit single, Tilt-a-Whirl, on the Totem label, motivating Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Bill Josey Jr. to move forward with their plans to launch their own record label. Read more.

Not including the Vulcan Gas Company and other night clubs that Sonobeat used as "remote" recording facilities, how many recording studios did Sonobeat have over its nine year history?

Depending on how you count, either three or four: The first, on Northeast Drive in Austin, is often overlooked and not counted as a "studio", because it was nothing more than the Josey family living room and was used just once, to record Roy Headrick. The second, and the first truly permanent facility Sonobeat had, was on Western Hills Drive in northwest Austin. The third was at the KVET radio station building at 705 North Lamar in Austin. The fourth and final studio was in an old A.M.E. stone church on the outskirts of Liberty Hill, Texas, and was called Blue Hole Sounds.

What was "Base"?

Base was a studio recording group assembled by Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. for his experiments in quadraphonic recording techniques. In 1972, Bill enlisted a group of top Austin musicians for the experiments and probably called the constantly-changing group Base as a double-play on words: first, the group formed a base for Bill's experiments and, second, Bill used three different bass players, and on some tracks two bassists performed together. A year later, in 1973, Bill brought together another group of luminary Austin musicians for a reconstituted version of Base, but this time, Bill intended to produce commercial releases in quad. Nonetheless, none of the Base quad recordings was ever commercially released. Read more.

Who contributed artwork and photo to the sleeve for the Conqueroo's Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single and what "mistake" appears on the sleeve?

The double-sided black and white sleeve features Vulcan Gas Company poster-style artwork and lettering by celebrated Austin illustrator Gilbert Shelton and a truly cool photo by another Austin icon, Belmer Wright. The sleeve reads, in small type appearing in the "OO"s in Conqueroo, "Recorded Live at the Vulcan Gas Co." Although the single indeed was recorded at the Vulcan Gas Company, Austin's first successful psychedelic music venue, it was not recorded before a live audience; Sonobeat frequently rented the Vulcan during hours it was closed to the public for use as a remote recording studio.

What Sonobeat album took more than five years from its first recording sessions to its final release in early 1976?

Recording of the jazz-rock-classical fusion album Mindbender by The David Flack Quorum started in 1970, but because of Sonobeat's disruptive studio relocation in '71 and David's departure shortly thereafter for a two-year stint in the military, the album wasn't completed until '74. And even when completted, it wasn't released until '76.

How many 33-1/3 RPM song demo albums did Sonobeat release in limited, non-commercial editions on behalf of its sister company, Sonosong Music?

Four: The first to be recorded but last to be pressed was by singer/songwriter Roy Headrick. The first and third pressed were of Herman Nelson's rich catalog of pop, rock, and folk songs. The second pressed was of singer/songwriter Bill Wilson's original songs. Bill Wilson also performed and sang Herman Nelson's second song demo album; Jim Chesnut, who also recorded a Sonobeat stereo single, performed and sang Herman's first song demo album. All four song demo albums were intended only for distribution to major record company A&R departments in hopes of attracting covers by well-known artists and were pressed in monaural. A fifth demo album, featuring Herman Nelson's songs, was issued only on audio cassette tape.

What was the longest span between releases of Sonobeat 45 RPM singles? (Hint: it was years, not months.)

Four years. From 1967 to 1971, Sonobeat issued at least one single per year and in 1968 peaked with 11 singles. However, after releasing two singles by the same group in 1971, there were no further Sonobeat releases until 1975.

What West coast trio of the late '60s and early '70s relocated to Austin, recorded an album at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin, and finally released the album in 2006?

Wildfire is the band and Smokin' is the album, consisting of eight songs produced and engineered by Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. in late 1970. What made these sessions particularly unusual is that they represent the first time Sonobeat offered its studio and producing services on a "work-for-hire" basis, meaning that the album was not recorded as a potential Sonobeat release but, instead, was commissioned by the band.

Pop Quiz #3

Which artist recorded the most number of 45 RPM singles commercially released by Sonobeat?

Lavender Hill Express, whose three singles on Sonobeat include Visions, Watch Out!, and Outside My Window, all digitally reissued in 2014 via the iTunes and Amazon Digital Music stores. The Lee Arlano Trio and The Royal Lights Singers tie for second place, each with two singles.

What groups that Sonobeat recorded over a five year span did Ernie Gammage appear in?

First was the Sweetarts, whose single A Picture of Me, was Sonobeat's first commercial 45 RPM single release; second was Fast Cotton, whose material was never commercially released by Sonobeat; and third was Base, an experimental studio recording group – a short-lived Austin version of the famous Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles – Ernie headlined in 1973.

The Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin was a favorite Sonobeat recording venue in the '60s. What gave it its unique booming sound?

The legendary Vulcan Gas Company music hall occupied what was, beginning in the 1880s, the warehouses of the W.B. Smith dry goods establishment, for which the building itself is named. The W. B. Smith Building, now a Texas landmark, was built over a deep cistern that stored and supplied water for the business. By all accounts, including more than a dozen distinctive-sounding Sonobeat recordings, the cistern added a remarkable reverb to the acoustics of the Vulcan.

Where did Sonobeat make its first recordings?

Trick question, since there's not a clear answer: the Sonobeat archives don't indicate whether the first recordings were made at The Ozone Forest, a popular Austin night club at 34th and Guadalupe, or at the Lake Austin Inn, but we're certain it was one or the other. The first group Sonobeat recorded, Leo and the Prophets, whose Sonobeat recordings were never released, was the house band at Ozone Forest, which makes the club at least a somewhat likely first Sonobeat remote recording venue. However, Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley, who co-engineered the Leo and the Prophets sessions along with Bill Curtis, recalls the sessions were recorded in the parking lot at the Lake Austin Inn.

Speaking of strange places Sonobeat used as remote recording studios, there's a common misconception that the Thingies recorded their Sonobeat 45 RPM stereo single in an Austin-area motel room. Where was the single actually recorded?

Sonobeat's 6th 45 RPM stereo single, Mass Confusion backed with Rainy Sunday Morning, was recorded at the KAZZ-FM studios in Austin, Texas, late at night (or more accurately, in the wee early morning hours). The band set up its drums and amps in KAZZ's reception room and its speaker boxes in the long hallway down the middle of the 10th floor of the Perry Brooks Building, where KAZZ's studios were located in downtown Austin. The instrumental tracks were recorded while KAZZ's all night deejay, Stan "the Man" Parks, played several records in a row. The vocals were overdubbed in the long hallway to provide natural reverb.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Bob Brown performed in what two groups Sonobeat recorded?

Bob Brown wrote and performed 1 to 3, the "B" side of Sonobeat's 5th stereo 45 RPM single release, by the Conqueroo and later performed as headliner in country-rock band Kingfish. Sonobeat's Kingfish recordings were never released.

Austin guitar wizard Eric Johnson got his start in what Sonobeat band?

Mariani. The band was organized around spectacular jazz-rock drummer Vince Mariani, who had recorded a pair of drum solos that Sonobeat released as a stereo 45 RPM single in 1968. Producers Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley realized that if teamed with a talented guitarist and bassist, Vince could headline a great progressive rock band. Lightning fast guitarist Eric Johnson was only 15 when Vince invited him to audition for the new band. Read more.

Besides being the location from 1973 to 1976 of Blue Hole Sounds, which was Sonobeat's final recording studio, who and what made Liberty Hill, Texas, famous?

Liberty Hill hosted outlaw country music icon Willie Nelson's annual Fourth of July picnic concert in 1975. Popular myth has all of Willie's Fourth of July concerts placed in Liberty Hill, but, in fact, Liberty Hill hosted it only once, but it must have been a doozie, since Willie was fined for public nuisance. Other venues for Willie's picnic extravaganzas include nearby Dripping Springs, Luckenbach, and even Austin.

Who was the last artist to record at Sonobeat?

On April 17, 1976, a week after Helmer Dahl completes his album of polkas and pop standards – Sonobeat's final release, Toe-Tapping Tunes – pop and folk singer-songwriter Michele Murphy cuts the final four songs recorded by Sonobeat and its co-founder Bill Josey Sr. Michele's session at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas, brings to an end Sonobeat's nine-year run as Central Texas' most prolific record label of the era. Read more.

Pop Quiz #4

Who wrote all the original songs that Sonobeat recorded by the Sweetarts and Fast Cotton?

Ernie Gammage, co-founder of both groups. During his career, Ernie also has been in many other hot Central Texas bands, including The Fabulous Chevelles, Ernie Sky and the K-Tels, Plum Nelly, and the NewMatics.

Where did Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. record the Country Nu-Notes?

The unreleased Sonobeat recordings of the Country Nu-Notes were taped at Austin's celebrated Broken Spoke dance hall, which opened in November 1964. Ten years later, in 1974, Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. was retrofitting an old stone church just outside Liberty Hill, Texas, to house Sonobeat's new recording studios, but when the opportunity arose to record the Country Nu-Notes, the studios weren't ready, so Bill hauled his recording equipment to the Broken Spoke, where the Nu-Notes were scheduled to perform on Sunday, February 24th. Johnny Lyon, who Bill had recorded in 1973 at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin, founded the Country Nu-Notes; the band performed throughout Central Texas into the 2000s.

What Austin church auditorium did Sonobeat use as a remote recording studio in 1969 and '70?

The First Cumberland Presbyterian's, at 6800 Woodrow in north Austin. The church's auditorium housed a full-sized basketball court and had lively acoustics. Sonobeat used the auditorium to record the basic tracks for Plymouth Rock's single Memorandum and Just A Start and for unreleased material by New Atlantis and the Ohio Express. To protect the basketball court floor, producers Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley rolled out area rugs, on which the bands set up their amps and speaker boxes.

What Austin outlaw country icon wrote Don Dean's Sonobeat single, Night Life?

Willie Nelson. Don recorded Night Life for release as Sonobeat's 3rd stereo 45 RPM single in 1967. In 1973, Sonobeat owner Bill Josey Sr. moved the Sonobeat studios to Liberty Hill, Texas, the small Central Texas town that hosted Willie Nelson's 1975 Fourth of July Picnic and concert. Read more.

What were the Sonobeat studios in Liberty Hill, Texas, called?

Blue Hole Sounds, named by Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. in tribute to his favorite Central Texas natural swimming "pool", also in Liberty Hill. Blue Hole Sounds occupied an old stone A.M.E. Church on the outskirts of Liberty Hill.

Sonobeat recorded several albums used solely to promote the songwriting careers of Sonosong Music Company composers. Whose was the first Sonobeat recorded but the last Sonobeat issued?

We tipped you to this one in an earlier question. Composer Roy Headrick's album of original songs was recorded at Sonobeat's home studio in northeast Austin in 1967 but wasn't released until 1970. Sonobeat's composer demo albums were pressed in a limited quantity – usually only 100 copies – packaged in simple white jackets rubber stamped with the title and artist name and were mailed to national record label A&R executives in hopes of attracting a cover by a major recording star.

Who took the sleeve photo for Sonobeat's Johnny Winter 45 RPM stereo single and the jacket photos for Johnny Winter's debut album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, produced by Sonobeat and released nationally on the Imperial label?

The Johnny Winter photos were taken by Austin's legendary Burton Wilson, who made a career of photographing musicians who helped create Austin's robust music scene. Burton's photos are collected into several great books, including his own Burton's Book of the Blues and Austin Music Scene: Through the Lens of Burton Wilson. Burton died at age 95 on June 2, 2014.

What were the brand and models of the stereo tape decks Sonobeat used for its early recordings?

Ampex 350 and 354 quarter-inch 2-track recorders, borrowed from Austin's KAZZ-FM, where Sonobeat owners Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) worked as station manager and deejay, respectively.

What was the connection between Wildfire, a progressive rock band that recorded at Sonobeat studios in 1970, and the chart-topping California band, the Beach Boys?

Wildfire guitarist Randy Love is Beach Boy Mike Love's cousin. The eight song demo album Wildfire recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin in 1970 stayed "in the can" for more than 35 years. The band finally released the album in 2006. Read more.

What female singer recorded unreleased material for Sonobeat as a member of the groups Contraband and Austin Blues-Rockers?

In 1969, Frieda Borth belted out a spectacular cover of Janis Joplin's bluesy Try as a member of Contraband in a demo tape recorded by Sonobeat as a favor to band manager Mike Lucas, and, in 1975, Frieda returned to Sonobeat to record several original tunes as a member of Austin Blues-Rockers. Frieda, who also played guitar, arrived in Austin in 1968 and attended the University of Texas.

Extra Credit #1

What is "Hippie Hollow"?

This famous park at Lake Travis, part of metro Austin, Texas, is the only legally recognized clothing-optional public park in Texas. Until 1983, when the land, owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority, was leased to Travis County, the 119 acre area was called McGregor County Park but now is officially known as Hippie Hollow Park. County ordinance requires the park's use to be limited to nudists 18 years and older.

Extra Credit #2

How many holiday songs did Sonobeat record between 1967 and 1976?

At least one and maybe two. An instrumental by South Canadian Overflow entitled Silent Night Blues has a holiday-sounding title, but after a listen, we're pretty sure it's not actually a holiday tune. But the Country Nu-Notes' Silver Bells definitely sounds like a holiday song, although we don't believe it's the same tune as the Bing Crosby classic from 1950.

Here's a clue for a question in Pop Quiz #3

Here's a clue for a question in Pop Quiz #4