Records with Sonobeat in 1967
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1967)
The dapper Club Seville manager and house vocalist Don Dean (circa 1967)
A picture postcard promoting the Sheraton Crest Inn on Town Lake in Austin; The Club Seville, managed by Don Dean, occupies the second floor with a spectacular view of Town Lake
The "A" side of Don's 1967 Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single
From December 1965 to June 1968, dapper Don Dean manages The Club Seville, a members-only dinner and dance club at Wilbur Clark's Crest Motor Inn (now The LINE Hotel) on Austin's Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake). Don is what you might call the "founding manager" of The Club Seville, relocating to Austin only weeks before the club's grand opening in early January 1966, having previously served in a similar role at Wilbur Clark's Crest Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. Years before, Don apprentices at the world famous Cocoanut Grove night club at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. And even before his stint at the Coconut Grove, the Los Angeles native serves six years overseas in the Navy's Special Services unit, producing talent shows for the troops that feature A-level performers such as Harry Belafonte, Eddie Fisher, and Judy Garland. Returning to Los Angeles following active duty, Don performs with the Freddy Martin Band and is the original emcee of the annual Miss Universe Pageant – originated in 1952 by Catalina Swimwear and Universal Studios – held in Long Beach, California. So, through this experience, Don gains a sophisticated eye and ear for talented entertainers.
When Don arrives in Austin, he brings The Club Seville a mix of local pop and jazz acts, including the Kings IV (headed by Michael Stevens, who'll later serve as The Club Seville's house band under the name The Michael Stevens IV) and Geneva and Her Gentlemen, and rising stars from afar, including Vietnam's exotic songbird Bach-Yen, the jazzy Colorado-based Lee Arlano Trio (both also Sonobeat recording artists), Paul New and the Crew (who Sonobeat also records but whose material is never released), Tony Daryll, Mavis Rivers, and Ketty Lester.
Almost as soon as The Club Seville officially opens in January 1966, Don signs on for a package of weekly KAZZ-FM live remote broadcasts, all hosted by KAZZ station manager Bill Sr., a tradition that continues through KAZZ's final live broadcast on New Year's Eve 1967. Don also frequently performs with The Club Seville's house bands (which at one point includes the Lee Arlano Trio) and can belt 'em out with the best of the pop stylists of the era, his voice and phrasing reminiscent in many ways of that other Dean (Martin), for which he earns the moniker "Austin's Ol' Blue Eyes". KAZZ's remote broadcasts from The Club Seville lead to a strong friendship between Bill Sr. and Don, so it's almost inevitable that when Bill Sr. co-founds Austin-based Sonobeat Records in May 1967, Don joins the label's embryonic roster. Don's Sonobeat single Night Life, a production subsidized by The Club Seville, becomes the label's third stereo 45 RPM release.
If any Sonobeat recording fully embraces Austin's indigenous pop jazz scene in the second half of the 1960s, it's Don's free-swinging interpretation of Rodgers and Hart's Where or When (from the 1939 Broadway musical Babes in Arms), the single's "B" side. The "A" side, Night Life, is Don's literate and lively reading of Willie Nelson's 1959 classic, a big hit in 1960 for country singer Ray Price. The original backings for both singles and for a third, Bye, Bye Blackbird, are furnished by the Lee Arlano Trio while it's doing a stint as The Club Seville's house band, but Bill Sr. isn't happy with the Arlano arrangements. Although a contemporaneous article by Wray Weddell in the Austin Statesman newspaper credits Paul New and The Crew as the backing band, both sides, as released, actually are backed by the versatile Michael Stevens IV, the jazzy combo that also backs Sonobeat's Fran Nelson and Bach-Yen singles in 1968.
Recorded in the spacious Embassy Room at The Club Seville on September 30, 1967, Don's instrumental backing tracks are mixed "wet" – in a single pass – to a quarter-inch 2-track Ampex 354. Don overdubs his vocals a day later at the KAZZ-FM studios in downtown Austin. The result is pure, adult pop jazz. And, of course, in 1967, jazz rhymes with KAZZ, which is how this relationship all started.
Subliminal Sounds online review
Don's single gets the third Sonobeat custom picture sleeve, a high contrast photo of Don in a layout created by Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley, who also engineers Don's Sonobeat sessions. The single sells surprisingly well, not just at The Club Seville as a must-have souvenir to remind lovebirds of a delightful evening of dining and dancing, but also at downtown Austin music stores J. R. Reed and The Record Shop.
Don Dean quoted in an August 5, 1969, Ginger Banks article in the Austin Statesmsn newspaper
Notwithstanding his formidable stage presence and intense personality, Don is modest and, instead of recording an album for Sonobeat, encourages Bill Sr. to spend his time and resources recording other performers who grace The Club Seville's stage. As Don's contract with the Crest ends in June 1968, for his last hurrah he brings back one of The Club Seville's most popular and exciting acts, Tony Daryll, who Sonobeat wants to record but who already has another record contract in place. When Tony's two-week run ends on June 22, 1968, Don's run at The Club Seville also ends. In July 1968, Don starts to put together plans to open a new dinner and dance club in Austin, but nothing comes of it. But by September 1968, Don's hosting a one-hour weekday big band and jazz music program, The World of Dean, on Austin's KHFI-FM. Rim Kelley produces and engineers Don's KHFI program, which is pre-recorded for several months before switching to a live in-studio program. In 1969, Don emcees the Austin Aqua Beauty pageant, presented in conjunction with the Austin Aqua Festival, and, in 1970, takes over as emcee for the Miss Highland Lakes Universe Pageant held in Kingsland, Texas. Pageantry in his blood, in 1974 Don is named chairman and emcee of the Miss Sun & Fun Beauty Pagent, held at the Austin Municipal Auditorium. Don resurfaces on the night club scene in April 1978 as the "Ringmaster" at the then-new Circus Club at Austin's Villa Capri Hotel, where he produces and directs the, yes, circus-themed nightly entertainment. A man for all seasons and all occasions, Don Dean.
Don Dean: vocals
The Michael Stevens IV: backing band
Mark Chaney: bass violin
Ike Ramirez: trumpet
Michael Stevens: piano and vibes
Billy West: drums
"A" side: Night Life (Willie Nelson) • 3:14
"B" side: Where or When (Rogers & Hart) • 2:17
Produced by Bill Josey Sr.
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Single-sided black & white picture sleeve
Basic instrumental tracks recorded at The Club Seville at the Crest Motor Inn, Austin, Texas, on September 30, 1967
Vocals overdubbed at KAZZ-FM, Austin, Texas, on October 1, 1967
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, Ampex 350 and 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape decks, custom 6-channel portable FET stereo mixer, Scotch 203 tape stock
Between 1,000 and 1,500 copies pressed
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Houston Records, Inc., Houston, Texas
Single-sided black and white picture sleeve
Label blanks and picture sleeve printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
Night Life: LH-3922
Where or When: LH-3923
"LH" in the matrix number means "Location Houston", which identifies Houston Records, Inc.
Bye, Bye Blackbird (backed by the Lee Arlano Trio)