Country Nu-Notes

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1974
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
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A 1971 Austin American-Statesman newspaper ad refers to the "Country-Western Nu-Notes", which will later drop the "Western" from its name

It's February 24, 1974, a chilly Sunday in Austin, Texas. Sonobeat co-founder/producer Bill Josey Sr. hauls his Dokorder 7140 tape recorder and portable audio mixer down to The Broken Spoke, one of Austin's most popular honky-tonk dance halls, where he records the Country Nu-Notes. The Nu-Notes sessions seem intended to yield a live album for release on Sonobeat Records; spanning three full 7" tape reels, the total running time of the recorded material – 29 songs in all – is about 90 minutes. It's unclear from the Sonobeat archives whether Bill circulates any demos of the Country Nu-Notes to national record labels to gauge interest, as he's done with material by so many other acts he's recorded. But it is clear from the archives that Bill never releases a Country Nu-Notes album or single on the Sonobeat label.

By the mid-'70s, Austin is firmly rooted as the center of the progressive ("outlaw") country music movement, but, bucking that trend, the Country Nu-Notes' music clings to traditional country-western motifs but occasionally ventures out into folk and faux-progressive country. For example, the Nu-Notes' Sonobeat session includes covers of country star Ray Price's classic My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, Gordon Lightfoot's folk-rock Sundown, Willie Nelson's pop standard Night Life (recorded by Don Dean as a Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single in 1967), and This Drinkin' Thing (first recorded by honky-tonk country star Gary Stewart). The band even channels a mariachi band with a cover of the polka standard Peanuts.

The band is known by many names, often in the same time frame: for example, in 1971, Austin American-Statesman newspaper ads refer to the band as the "Country-Western Nu-Notes"; by 1974, Johnny Lyon is sometimes advertised as headlining the band, and in other newspaper ads Johnny Lyon and Janet Lynn are co-headliners. When Bill Sr. records the band at the Broken Spoke in '74, it's often referred to in newspaper ads as just the "Country Nu-Notes", which Bill reflects in his session notes and markings on the session master tape boxes. Whatevever the band's called, we're certain that when Sonobeat records Johnny Lyon and Janet Lynn as a duet in 1973, it's the Country Nu-Notes backing them, and we're equally certain that when Sonobeat records the Nu-Notes in '74, the band consists of Johnny on guitar and vocals, Janet on vocals, Phil Tucker on lead guitar, Jimmy Plaqert on steel guitar, Bob Garrett on drums, Micky Rice on bass, and a guest appearance on Peanuts by Paul McLaughlin on trumpet.

In fact, there seems no doubt that the Country Nu-Notes is is Johnny Lyon's band from the beginning. Remarkably, Johnny keeps the Nu-Notes together and performing for over 30 years, albeit with several personnel changes along the way. The Country Nu-Notes' recordings and Sonobeat's stereo 45 RPM single by The Afro-Caravan – recorded at the HemisFair '68 world's fair in San Antonio, Texas – are the only known live recordings made by Sonobeat; however, we don't hear any actual audience noise, such as applause or chatter, on the Nu-Notes' tapes, suggesting that the Nu-Notes sessions may not be "live" recordings after all but, rather, are recorded on a Sunday evening when the Broken Spoke is closed to the public.

So, if these are not actually "live" recordings, why does Bill record the Country Nu-Notes at The Broken Spoke rather than at Sonobeat's studio? In mid-'73, Bill relocates the Sonobeat studio from Austin into an old stone A.M.E. church on the outskirts of rural Liberty Hill, Texas, about 35 miles north of Austin. It takes Bill almost a year to get the new facility set up. Blue Hole Sounds, as Bill calls his new Liberty Hill studio, is still not ready in February '74, when he records the Nu-Notes. So, Bill records the band where it's become comfortable performing... at the Broken Spoke.

Nu-Notes founder Johnny Lyon hails from Bryan, Texas, a little over 100 miles east of Austin; in 1978, Johnny establishes the Texas Hall of Fame, celebrating Texas country music, in Bryan. Johnny passes away on November 28, 2010. Just over a year later, in December 2011 and after 33 years celebrating traditional live country music, the Hall of Fame closes down. Meanwhile, soon after the Sonobeat Nu-Notes session, Janet moves to Nashville to build her singing career but returns to Austin several years later, where she has remained since.

Country Nu-Notes personnel

Bob Garrett: drums
Janet Lynn: vocals
Johnny Lyon: guitar and vocals
Paul McLaughlin: trumpet (on Peanuts)
Jimmy Placker: steel guitar
Mickey Rice: bass
Phil Tucker: lead guitar

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

The Back Door to Heaven
Big Blue Diamonds
Cinderella
Holding Things Together
I Can Help You
I Honestly Love You
It Was Always So Easy to Find That Unhappy Woman
Jolie Blon
Keep on Smiling
My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You
Night Life
The Only Thing I Have on My Mind Is Loving You
Peanuts
Red Neck Mother
Red Red Wine
Sangria Wine
She Calls Me Baby Baby All Night Long
Silver Bells
Silver Wings
Sundown
Tell Me a Lie
This Drinkin' Thing
Whiskey River
White Lightning

Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at The Broken Spoke, Austin, Texas, on February 24, 1974
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 10-channel portable stereo mixer, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Ampex 611 and 681 tape stock
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Coda

As we mention above, the Country Nu-Notes backs country artists Johnny Lyon and Janet Lynn on their 1973 Sonobeat sessions. What's odd is that Johnny Lyon is the founder of the Country Nu-Notes and Janet Lynn is one of the band's lead singers. So, why are there separate sessions with Johnny and Janet backed by the Country Nu-Notes if they're actually one and the same? We really can't explain this one...
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First of 3 seven-inch reels holding the Country Nu-Notes' Sonobeat recordings