Sonobeat Seasons • Autumn 1967
Austin and the artists Sonobeat recorded from September 23 to December 22, 1967
Pop crooner Don Dean is the first artist Sonobeat records in autumn 1967
Despite its name, South Canadian Overflow is an Austin band that Sonobeat records in autumn 1967
Perhaps the most sought-after Austin band of the late 1960s is Lavender Hill Express, which will record three singles with Sonobeat; the first, Visions, is recorded in autumn 1967
Austin, Texas-based Sonobeat Recording Company launches in May 1967 after months of planning, but it isn't until September 4, 1967, that it releases its first single, the Sweetarts' rocker A Picture of Me. The jazz single There Will Never Be Another You by the Colorado-based Lee Arlano Trio follows a week later. By the time Sonobeat issues its next two singles, colorful leaves from pecan, ash, maple, and live oaks have begun to carpet the Central Texas landscape. With the arrival of autumn, many a kid begins the weekend chore of raking the front lawn, piling and bagging what seems a neverending supply of crisp and crunchy leaves... with a portable transistor radio tucked in a jeans pocket, tuned to the local top 40 station. If that kid's in Austin, A Picture of Me might be playing on KNOW or KAZZ-FM.
Sonobeat's recording sessions during autumn 1967 provide momentum as the young record label heads into what will be its most productive year – 1968 – during which it will release eleven singles and its first album. Sonobeat Seasons • Autumn 1967 is the first in our new series of quarterly features looking back, yes, season-by-season, at Sonobeat's recording sessions and releases in the '60s and '70s.
It's hard to overstate the importance of Don Dean to the birth and early successes of Sonobeat. To appreciate Don's influence, we step back to 1965 and Austin's KAZZ-FM, where Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley work as station manager and deejay, respectively. Don manages Austin's elite Club Seville supper club, which sports a 360° view of Austin from atop the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin. The Club is one of Bill Sr.'s favorites in Austin and it's a regular advertiser on KAZZ-FM. In fact, Don is the first to sign up for KAZZ's weekly live remote broadcasts originating from Austin's hottest night clubs and that feature regional, national, and even international music acts. Bill Sr. hosts KAZZ-FM's live broadcasts from Club Seville, and it's in that context that Don introduces Bill to dozens of pop and jazz acts that Don books into the Club. Sonobeat eventually will record several of these acts, the first of which is the Colorado-based Lee Arlano Trio, whose jazz instrumental There Will Never Be Another You is Sonobeat's second 45 RPM single release (September 11, 1967). But Don is more than the Club's dapper manager; he's also a talented vocalist who often takes the Club stage to belt out a pop tune or two backed by the house band, The Michael Stevens IV. Don cuts Sonobeat's third single release early in autumn '67. The single ” featuring covers of Willie Nelson's classic Night Life and pop standard Where Or When – is released October 30, 1967. The single sells primarily at Club Seville itself, and it's the Club's pre-purchase of 1,000 copies that finances Don's sessions and the manufacture of the single, which bears a black and white picture sleeve.
South Canadian Overflow
If any act Sonobeat records sounds like it's from somewhere far from Texas, it's South Canadian Overflow. In fact, the band is formed and based in Austin. The reference to "South Canadian" is to a tributary of the Arkansas River that runs east to west from Oklahoma to New Mexico, cutting through the Texas panhandle. The "overflow" in the band's name is a reference to a spillway that two of the band's founding members – who at the time are in another band – see from an Interstate 35 overpass while driving from Austin to Oklahoma City. South Canadian Overflow rapidly becomes an Austin and Central Texas favorite, playing its own brand of psychedelic rock at all the usual night clubs and at University of Texas frat parties. Sonobeat records South Canadian Overflow in October 1967, but the recordings are never completed with vocal overdubs and, therefore, are never released. Among the talented members of South Canadian Overflow is Texas music icon John Inmon, who in 1969 will record a rock single for Sonobeat as a member of Plymouth Rock, still another Austin-based band whose name is misleading.
Lavender Hill Express
Likely to be remembered as Austin's first "supergroup", Lavender Hill Express begins a three record relationship with Sonobeat as autumn 1967 is nearing its end. The band exists solely because of the near-simultaneous 1967 break-up of two of Austin's hottest club and party bands – The Wig and Babycakes – each of which provides two of Lavender Hill Express' members, who are joined by a defector from another hot Austin band, The Reasons Why. Lavender Hill Express' first Sonobeat outing is an elaborate and challenging production for the small-town label: it combines a lively band instrumental performance, an equally spirited vocal performance by composer Layton DePenning accompanied throughout by smooth harmony punctuation, and a string quartet and harpsichord overdub to create what may be Austin's first bona fide "sunshine pop" single, Visions. The recording sessions span October and November 1967, and the single sees its release on December 18th, selling out quickly enough to get a second pressing in January 1968. The single picks up a Best Bet review in record industry trade journal Cash Box in February 1968. Sonobeat Historical Archives will release a 50th anniversary digital remaster on December 18, 2017.
Not an Austin band – its origins are Florida – The Thingies swing through Austin, Texas, enroute to San Francisco... except they never make it to California. The band begins performing in and around Central Texas, first in Waco (100 miles north up Interstate 35 from Austin) and eventually relocates to Austin, where it rapidly gains a strong following for its own style of psychedelic rock. Sonobeat records the band's instrumental backing tracks for several songs at the iconic Vulcan Gas Company on December 3, 1967, and completes vocal overdubs for two songs – Mass Confusion and Rainy Sunday Morning – on December 10th. These songs will become Sonobeat's sixth 45 RPM single release, but not until April 1968. The tracks sit in the can, awaiting release, for four months in large part because of these next guys... The Conqueroo...
The de facto house band of Austin's iconic hippie music hall, Vulcan Gas CompanyThe Vulcan is Austin's first successful hippie music hall, opening in 1967 in an old warehouse at 316 Congress Avenue and closing in 1970., The Conqueroo is the final act Sonobeat records in autumn 1967. The band performs a unique fusion of folk, rock, jazz, and blues, often as long jams performed to the ever-evolving liquid light projections of the Jomo Disaster Light Show. The Conqueroo's only commercial release is Sonobeat's 45 RPM stereo single of the band's original songs I've Got Time backed with 1 To 3. However, there's a hiccup: the basic instrumental tracks The Conqueroo records at Vulcan Gas Company on December 5, 1967, end up shelved while the band works on new arrangements, and the sessions aren't resumed until March 1968. To capitalize on the band's popularity, its release is moved ahead of The Thingies' single, but both are released in the first weeks of April 1968 and both become Sonobeat best-sellers.