Geneva and Her Gentlemen

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat circa 1969-1970
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
Listen to more below
Austin American-Statesman newspaper ad (February 21, 1965) for a Jade Room appearance by Geneva and Her Gentlemen; during the mid-to-late '60s, Jade Room customarily books rock bands but makes an exception for Geneva's talented pop-jazz combo

From early in 1965 through the late ‘70s, Geneva and Her Gentlemen is a frequent pop jazz act at many Austin, Texas, nightclubs. The combo's first gig is February 14, 1965, at The Jade Room in downtown Austin, and features the band's namesake, Geneva Marie Taylor Rawlins, on piano, vibes, and vocals, Fred Smith on tenor sax, T.J. Cleaver on bass, Jimmy Hamilton on drums, Austin newspaper columnist Jim Langdon on trombone, and Geneva's husband Lionel Rawlins serving triple duty as the band's conductor, master of ceremonies, and bassist. Beginning in 1966, The Club Seville at the Crest Motor Inn (now The LINE Austin) on Town Lake (now Lady Bird Lake) books Geneva and Her Gentlemen for frequent playdates, and from the early- to mid-‘70s Geneva and Her Gentlemen serves as The Club Seville's house band, usually playing Monday through Saturday nights from 9 to midnight, stepping aside only when the club hosts a guest act for a night or two. At various times, Geneva's "gentlemen" include Don "Skipper" Young on a variety of instruments, including vibes and flute, and Billy Joe Walker (who passes away on June 3, 2020, at age 83) on drums.

Smooth ballroom soul.
February 1975 issue of Texas Monthly magazine describing Geneva and Her Gentlemen at The Club Seville

Although Club Seville manager Don Dean introduces Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr. to Geneva in late 1966, years pass before Bill decides to record the group, which by then has downsized to a trio consisting of Geneva, Lionel, and Leotis Duffy, known best in Austin jazz circles simply as "Duffy", on drums (at one point in 1967, Geneva does a stint as pianist in Duffy's Trio).

The Sonobeat archives don't include information about the exact dates Geneva's tracks are recorded, but we're able to bracket the time frame during which the sessions occur because the master tape box is labeled using a Liberty Recorders tracking sheet that Sonobeat doesn't have in its possession until January 1969, when Bill Sr. and Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley trek to Liberty Records in Los Angeles. It's then they grab a stash of the tape box labels during a visit to Liberty's Hollywood recording studios. Rim recalls tracking the Geneva sessions on Sonobeat's half-inch 4-track Scully 280, but because he moves to Houston at the end of August 1970, we confidently can place Geneva's recording sessions between late-January 1969 and mid-summer 1970. Our educated guess is that the sessions occur during 1969. Rim also recalls recording the basic instrumental tracks at The Club Seville, Sonobeat's favorite venue for recording pop and jazz artists, including the Lee Arlano Trio, Don Dean, Paul New, Bach-Yen, and Fran Nelson. Vocal overdubs are recorded at Sonobeat's small home-based Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin, likely within a few days after the basic instrumental tracks are recorded. Bill Sr. indicates in his notes on the master tape box that Woke Up This Morning, a cover of the B.B. King classic, and the instrumental You Got Me are candidates for a Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single that never materializes. The 4-track session master of Woke Up This Morning in the Sonobeat library contains a poorly-recorded vocal guide track, but the final 2-track stereo mix features a clean overdub, although we're unable to locate that version on any of the Geneva 4-track masters in the library. None of Geneva and Her Gentlemen's Sonobeat recordings are ever released.

The 4-track session master tape contains five cuts: two versions of the instrumental You Got Me, Duffy's jazz vocal interpretation of Woke Up This Morning, Geneva's languid solo vocal take on Nobody Else But Me from the Broadway classic Showboat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, and Geneva and husband Lionel's harmonious duet on the jazz classic Mood Indigo, composed by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard with lyrics by Irving Mills. We like the sultry smooth jazz of Geneva and Her Gentlemen and think you will, too, so take a listen to exerpts below.

Although Geneva and Her Gentlemen ends its run as an organized band toward the end of the 1970s, Geneva continues to perform as a solo jazz pianist and vocalist in Central Texas throughout the '80s and '90s, often donating her time and musical talents in support of Austin's Women & Their Work non-profit that focuses on nurturing and public exhibition of contemporary art by women in Texas. From 1977 to 2007, Geneva also serves as Director of Music for Wesley United Methodist Church in Central East Austin. Lionel, by then Geneva's ex-husband, passes away on December 8, 2014, at age 83. We also lose Jimmy Hamilton on September 4, 1993, and Leotis Duffy. Born on January 9, 1930, in Guthrie, Oklahoma, as an adult Geneva makes Austin her home, passing away on June 10, 2020, at age 90.

Sonobeat Tags

Geneva and Her Gentlemen personnel

Leotis Duffy: drums
Geneva Rawlins: piano and lead vocals
Lionel Rawlins: bass and harmony vocals

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings
Mood Indigo (Duke Ellington/Barney Bigard/Irving Mills)
Nobody Else But Me (Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II)
Woke Up This Morning (Jules Bihari/B.B. King)
You Got Me

Produced by Bill Josey Sr.
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Basic instrumental tracks recorded at The Club Seville in the Sheraton Cress Inn, Austin, Texas, between January 1969 and mid-summer 1970
Vocal overdubs recorded at Sonobeat’s Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin, in the same time frame as the basic instrumental track recordings
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track recorder, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track recorder, custom 10-channel portable stereo mixer, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock

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The Geneva mix-down master shows multiple takes of several songs with two selected as a possible Sonobeat 45 RPM stereo single release
The Geneva 4-track session masters get archived with other artists' tracks on a 10-1/2 inch reel