Records with Sonobeat in 1967 & 1968
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
- Progressive Rock Blues-Rock
The Conqueroo • I've Got Time • "A" side of Sonobeat stereo single R-s103 (1968)
The December 5, 1967, instrumental backing tracks master tape
The ostensible "A" side of The Conqueroo single; promo copies are rubber stamped with a so radio stations and record reviewers will know the preferred side; Sonobeat co-owner Bill Josey Sr. decided this was probably the better side to push radio stations to play
The flip side of The Conqueroo's single, equally as great as the ostensible "A" side; since producer Rim Kelley thinks both songs on the single are equally strong, neither side is labelled as its "A" side
The Conqueroo's Sonobeat single picks up a Best Bets review in the June 29, 1968, issue of record and radio trade magazine Cash Box
If any Austin group of the late '60s can be called The 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.'s de facto house band, it has to be The Conqueroo, a quartet featuring Bob Brown (guitar and vocals), Ed Guinn (bass, keyboards, woodwinds, and vocals), Charlie Pritchard (lead guitar, bass, and vocals), and Gerry Storm (drums). Although The Vulcan is self-billed as a psychedelic concert hall, The Conqueroo is psychedelic only at the genre's outermost edges, playing an eclectic fusion of folk, rock, jazz, and blues, punctuated by wandering, trippy lyrics performed with a dash of histrionics. True, many of the band's sets feature long, complex free-form jams, a trait sometimes associated with psychedelic music but just as often associated with improvisational blues and jazz. Regardless how categorized, The Conqueroo is a Vulcan favorite, featured prominently on Vulcan posters and handbills – from the hall's opening in October 1967 until its closing in mid-1970. The band often shares the stage with the 13th Floor Elevators, Johnny Winter, and Shiva's Headband.
Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) first hear The Conqueroo perform in January 1967, double-billed with the 13th Floor Elevators at Austin's Doris Miller Auditorium. Rim emcees the show on behalf of the Elevators, who are the headliners. Ultimately, though, it's The Conqueroo's regular performances throughout 1967 at The Vulcan, a fertile venue the Joseys frequent to find new and rising talent, that convince Bill Sr. and Rim that they should record the band.
Ed Guinn on The Conqueroo's Sonobeat sessions, interviewed in Ricky Stein's Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s (2014)
Recording sessions using The Vulcan Gas Company as a remote recording studio – initially in December 1967 and again in March '68 – yield Sonobeat's fifth release (which is also its third rock single). The stereo 45 RPM single pairs Ed Guinn's I've Got Time (featuring an enigmatically dramatic, yet strangely reserved, duet) with 1 To 3 (featuring an equally dramatic but uninhibited vocal by composer Bob Brown). Sonobeat uses no fancy recording techniques or special audio effects; the single is nothing short of two great songs performed passionately by great musicians, captured just a little raw at one of Sonobeat's favorite venues. 1 To 3 is The Conqueroo's only commercially-released single.
Doug Hanners' restrospective review of The Conqueroo single in his Texas music fanzine Not Fade Away (Volume 1 Issue 1; Fall 1975)
Sonobeat issues The Conqueroo's single in a double-sided black and white picture sleeve designed by legendary Austin illustrator Gilbert Shelton, creator of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers underground comic (at the time the recordings are made, Gilbert lives with The Conqueroo and other assorted characters in an old house on Grandview Street, a couple of blocks off North Lamar near Shoal Creek in Austin). An imaginative tableau staged by celebrated Austin photographer Belmer Wright (not to be confused with another celebrated Austin photographer of the era, Burton Wilson) completes The Conqueroo's picture sleeve, which shares much of the look and feel of The Vulcan Gas Company's famous concert posters and handbills. Another shot from the same photo session appears in the December 4, 1973, edition of The University of Texas' newspaper, The Daily Texan, as part of a '60s Austin music retrospective. Belmer also is a co-creator of the Jomo Disaster Light Show, a spectacular liquid light showPut water and colored oils in a small glass tray, add heat and an overhead projector, and you get a kinetic visual experience that plays well with hallucinogens. projected on the walls and ceiling of the Vulcan during performances. Both sides of the single's sleeve are identical except for the song titles, which are hand lettered by Shelton. Shelton's sleeve art refers to "The Conqueroo", as does the Sonobeat single's label, but the group is known interchangeably as "The Conqueroo" and "Conqueroo". The Q in "Conqueroo" on the sleeve forms a long tail through the double OOs, proclaiming "Recorded Live at the Vulcan Gas Co.", but the single actually is recorded before only a tiny inner circle of band friends and family in an otherwise empty Vulcan – not, as the banner would suggest, during one of the band's public performances. That said, there is an ethereal "other worldness" to The Conqueroo's recordings, as rapturous as any of the band's live performances, that's enhanced by the vast acoustics imparted by the massive empty cistern under the Vulcan's floor.
Originally scheduled as release R-s104 (collectors will find this etched in the single's dead wax), The Conqueroo release moves up to R-s103 on Sonobeat's schedule after Shiva's Headband has second thoughts about the impending release of its Sonobeat single, also recorded at the Vulcan and originally scheduled for release a week or two ahead of The Conqueroo's. Rather than have the acetates (used to make the vinyl record pressing plates) remastered with the new release number inscribed in the dead wax, Bill Sr. simply has the labels for The Conqueroo single printed with the new catalog number and proceeds with its release ahead of schedule. Neither side of the single is the "A" side because both songs are equally strong; however, when Sonobeat mails out promo copies to radio stations and reviewers, Bill Sr. rubber stamps 1 To 3 with a , indicating it's the side he believes has the greater potential for airplay. The single is released during the week of April 8, 1968, and six weeks later The Conqueroo performs at HemisFair '68, San Antonio's world's fair, joining another Sonobeat act, Wali and the Afro-Caravan, on the tage at the fair's Project Y sports and games pavillion. In its June 8th issue, Billboard Magazine reports that Houston's progressive rock station KFMK-FM has named the single as the station's "Biggest Leftfield Happening".
While inventorying the Sonobeat master tape archives in 2008, we discover two instrumental tracks recorded during The Conqueroo's March '68 sessions. Both sound like instrumental backings for vocals that are never overdubbed, so we assume these are incomplete versions. One unfinished track may be titled None of Your Business, Waitress.
Paraphrased from Barry Shank's Dissonant Identities: The Rock 'n' Roll Scene in Austin, Texas (1994)
Backing up a bit: in October 1965, Powell St. John, who by 1966 will be a frequent 13th Floor Elevators collaborator, founds The Conqueroo under its original name St. John the Conqueroo Roots. The band's first line-up is Powell (harmonica), Tary Owens (guitar), Johnny Moyer (percussion), and future 13th Floor Elevators co-founder Tommy Hall (amplified jug). The band is billed as a jug band and specializes in a mashup of ragtime and blues with an added dash of rhythm and blues. Only months after the band forms, Bill Carr and Tom Bright join, and the band drops "Roots" from its name. All of the founding members have moved on by the time Sonobeat records the band, which has rebranded itself as simply The Conqueroo. In mid-'67, before the Sonobeat sessions, The Conqueroo plays San Antonio venues almost every weekend, with a line-up including Guinn, Prichard, and Brown, but also including Wallace Listening Tree (bass, organ, and tamborine) and New York City native Stephen Petrovcik (drums). Of the line-up Sonobeat records, only Guinn, Prichard, and Brown remain from the earlier incarnations. Drummer Gerry Storm has a long history in Austin jazz music circles, and before joining The Conqueroo is a founding member of jazz combo The Blue Crew, which is credited with reinvigorating the Austin jazz scene in 1965 and '66. By 1969, The Conqueroo treks to California, playing the Bay Area for a few months before finally breaking up. Although Brown and Prichard remain for a few months in California after The Conqueroo disbands, briefly playing in the Angel Band, Brown returns to Austin and in 1971 records again with Sonobeat, this time fronting the country-folk band Kingfish. In case you didn't make the connection (and we did a double-take when it finally hit us), Powell St. John's original naming of the band is a clever, mystical combination of Powell's last name and a reference to High John the Conqueroo (or sometimes John the Conqueror), quite literally the root of the Ipomoea purga plant that's a staple in African American hoodoo folk magic. Lyrics in Willie Dixon's blues standard Hootchie Cootchie Man refer to John the Conqueroo root as well as to a "black cat's bone" (an original Johnny Winter song bears the similar title, Black Cat Bone, in homage to Willie) and a mojo tooth (also used in African American lore to cast magic spells).
Charlie Prichard is inducted to the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2004. He passes away in April 2017.
The Conqueroo National Review
Cash Box Magazine names The Conqueroo's single 1 To 3 a Best Bet in its June 29, 1968, issue, saying "Good guitar work highlights the production on this vocal outing from the Conqueroo. Danceable beat is never lost in the improvisational fireworks."
Similar to its better known competitor Billboard, Cash Box is a weekly music trade publication aimed at radio station program directors, deejays, record labels, record wholesalers and retailers, and coin-operated juke box operators. Cash Box ceases publishing in 1996.
Bob Brown: guitar and vocals
Ed Guinn: bass, keyboards, woodwinds, and vocals
Charlie Pritchard: lead guitar, bass, and vocals
Gerry Storm: drums
"A" side: I've Got Time (Edward Guinn) • 3:14
"B" side: 1 To 3 (Bob Brown) • 2:17
Released week of April 8, 1968* • R-s103
Produced and engineered by Rim Kelley
Double-sided black & white picture sleeve
Basic instrumental tracks recorded at Vulcan Gas Company, Austin, Texas, on December 5, 1967, March 18, 1968, and March 23, 1968
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, Ampex 350 and 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape decks, custom 6-channel portable FET stereo mixer, 3M (Scotch) 201 tape stock
Between 1,000 and 1,500 copies pressed; approximately 100 copies rubber stamped "PROMO COPY"; 1 To 3 side of promo copies also rubber stamped with a to indicate the side radio stations should play
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Houston Records, Inc., Houston, Texas (this is the last Sonobeat single to be mastered and pressed by Houston Records)
Double-sided black and white picture sleeve
Label blanks and picture sleeve printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
I've Got Time: LW and RS-104A-1
1 To 3: LW and RS-104B-1
"LW" in the matrix number is believed to reference Longwear, a manufacturer of lacquer blanks, but does not in itself identify the company that cut the lacquer master
On June 8, 2018, a rare copy of I've Got Time, in its original double-sided picture sleeve, sells for $355 on eBay
Unidentified instrumental #1 (likely titled None of Your Business, Waitress)
Unidentified instrumental #2
Travis D. Stimeling gives a nod to The Conqueroo and Sonobeat in his 2011 book Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin's Progressive Country Scene, counting The Conqueroo among the more progressive bands of the era and noting its interracial personnel, unusual during Austin in the '60s. Notably, Ed Guinn was the first African-American member of the University of Texas Longhorn marching band before joining The Conqueroo. Ed's also quoted frequently in Barry Shank's 1994 book Dissonant Identities: The Rock 'n' Roll Scene in Austin, Texas to illustrate the diversity of Austin music in the '60s and '70s. And, Ed's a man of many talents: he appears as a cattle truck driver in Tobe Hooper's 1974 cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, filmed around Austin and Central Texas.