Country Nu-Notes

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1974
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
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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 New-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 artists 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 "outlaw" country music movement, but, bucking that trend, the Country Nu-Notes' music clings to traditional country motifs but occasionally ventures out into folk and faux-progressive country. For example, the Nu-Notes Sonobeat session includes covers of Ray Price's classic My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, Gordon Lightfoot's folk-rock Sundown, Willie Nelson's pop standard Night Life, 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. Since the Country Nu-Notes backs Johnny Lyon and Janet Lynn on Sonobeat sessions a year earlier, in 1973, we're pretty sure the Nu-Notes consists of Johnny Lyon on guitar and vocals, Janet Lynn on vocals, Phil Tucker on lead guitar, Jimmy Plaqert on steel guitar, Bob Garrett on drums, and Micky Rice on bass.

In fact, the Country Nu-Notes is Johnny Lyon's band. The Sonobeat recordings are made during the band's first year together. And, remarkably, Johnny keeps the Nu-Notes together and performing for over 30 years, albeit with many personnel changes. The Country Nu-Notes' recordings and Sonobeat's stereo 45 RPM single by the Afro-Caravan – recorded at HemisFair '68 in San Antonio – 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 at all but, rather, are recorded 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.

Country Nu-Notes founder Johnny Lyon hails from Bryan, Texas, a little over 100 miles east of Austin; in 1978, Johnny founds his 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.

Country Nu-Notes personnel

Bob Garrott: 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
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
Red Neck Mother
Red Red Wine
Sangria Wine
She Calls Me Baby Baby All Night Long
Silver Bells
Silver Wings
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

Final word

As we mention above, the Country Nu-Notes backs country artists Johnny Lyon and Janet Lynn on 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