A Child Lost at Sea
Records with Sonobeat in 1969
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
- Progressive Rock
Georgetown Medical Band • A Child Lost at Sea (unreleased; 1969)
Austin American-Statesman newspaper publicity photo of Georgetown Medical Band in 1968
Let's set the stage: it's Austin, Texas, during the late '60s. Performing regularly at Austin's hottest college and teen music venues, Georgetown Medical Band pioneers a folksy psychedelic sound featuring guitarist extraordinaire Johnny Richardson. GMB, as the group becomes known, is formed in 1967 by students at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, a few miles up Interstate Highway 35 from Austin. Founding members are Richardson, Chuck Greenwood, Bob Snider, Jim Abston, Rick Cobb, and Bill Dodge. Although he joins GMB later, Gary P. Nunn recalls in his 2018 memoir At Home With The Armadillo that the founding members all are pre-med students, though not many go on to med school.
GMB rapidly gains popularity in Austin, performing at the downtown hippie dance hall Vulcan Gas Company in January and February 1968 and again in March, May, and June 1969. The band also frequently plays Austin's Jade Room and rapidly becomes well-known throughout Central Texas, playing gigs in Brownwood, Temple, and Waco. Only a week after taking 5th place in Austin's 1968 Aquafest Battle of the Bands, GMB takes 1st place in the Teen-Age Fair Battle of the Bands at Houston's Astrohall, winning a $400 gift certificate from Fender Guitars and $150 in cash – the package is valued at over $4,000 in 2019 dollars – and the opportunity to sign a recording contract with International Artists Records (the Houston-based label for which the 13th Floor Elevators record). The band passes on the International Artists offer, opening the door for a recording session with Sonobeat.
GMB stops in for a session with Sonobeat in May or June 1969. By then, the band has downsized, and the personnel has changed in a veritable revolving door: shortly after the band forms, Bill Dodge leaves to attend The University of Texas in Austin. And soon after Dodge's departure, Gary P. Nunn replaces Jim Abston. Next, Steve Anderson replaces Gary P. Nunn (who leaves to join Lavender Hill Express), Don Lupo (formerly of one of Austin's best known '60s bands, The Baby Cakes) replaces Bob Snider, Ronnie Hudgins (formerly of Pall Rabbit) replaces Rick Cobb, and Jeff Gant joins on organ. By the time the band gets to Sonobeat to record, only Johnny Richardson and Chuck Greenwood remain of the founding members.
The GMB session is recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. Steve Anderson recalls that Jeff Gant doesn't participate in the recordings. The discerning ear can hear Sonobeat's steel plate reverb on Anderson's lead vocal. Although Anderson recalls coming into the studio to record two songs, we've found only one master tape in Sonobeat's archives. The track on that master is tentatively entitled Man Is Too Young To Love, but its composer, Johnny Richardson, now refers to it as A Child Lost at Sea, mirroring its opening line. Whatever the title, the song sounds as fresh today as when it's recorded 49 years ago. A Child Lost At Sea shows off Richardson's imaginative and engaging dobro noodling and Steve Anderson's multi-tracked lead and backing vocals. The song structure is experimental, with a soft three-line set-up followed by the first verse and, immediately thereafter, a lead guitar break. After all its personnel changes, the band breaks up in August '69, a few months after the Sonobeat session, which is likely the reason Sonobeat never records that second song Steve Anderson recalls or releases a single by the group.
Don Lupo relocates to Tucson, Arizona, in 1971, where he continues his musical career and is inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame in 2015. Gary P. Nunn is inducted into the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2001.
Jim Abston: organ
Rick Cobb: drums
Bill Dodge: guitar
Jeff Gant: organ (leaves band before recording with Sonobeat)
Chuck Greenwood: rhythm guitar and vocals
Don Lupo: bass
Gary P. Nunn: organ
Johnny Richardson: lead guitar, dobro, and vocals
Bob Snider: bass
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio circa May or June 1969
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, AKG D707E dynamic microphone, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Stemco half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, 3M (Scotch) 202 tape stock
Georgetown Medical Band bassist Bob Snider recounts that shortly after the band forms and is struggling to find a name, the group happens to drive past the Georgetown Medical and Surgical Clinic (now Georgetown Hospital) and, voilà, the name Georgetown Medical Band jumps out at them. Lead guitarist Johnny Richardson recalls that the band even considers painting a big syringe on its equipment van.