Sonobeat History • 1975

The story of Austin's Sonobeat Recording Company, Sonobeat Records, and Sonosong Music in the 1960s and '70s

Beginning of the end

Arma Harper practices just outside Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas (1975)

It's 1975, and Sonobeat is entering its eighth year of operation. Coming off two important but mostly barren previous years, during which Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. spends months outfitting his new recording studio nestled in the hill country of Central Texas, Sonobeat releases its first record in almost four years, Arma Harper's folk single, Just One Too Many Times backed with Plea for Freedom. For Arma's single, Bill moves vinyl single mastering and pressing away from high-end Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, which Sonobeat has used exclusively since 1968, to less expensive Nashville Records.

While taking as much custom work as he can get in 1975, Bill also continues to develop artists for potential Sonobeat releases at his Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas. Among the artists Sonobeat records are country/western singer/songwriter Tom Penick (who also helps Bill around the studio in exchange for free recording time), punk-rock band Nasty Habit, country artist Rex Sherry, cover band Austin Blues-Rockers, and country-folk artist Larry Boyd and Group.

But early in '75, Bill begins to experience medical problems that are soon diagnosed as cancer. By spring Bill's condition worsens, finally debilitating him. His son Jack moves to Liberty Hill to care for his father. Bill undergoes exploratory surgery in fall '75 and, on returning from the hospital, receives a "get well" card from the Liberty Hill Cafe, one of Bill's favorite hangouts; the card appears to be signed by everyone in the community. Bill's surgery is followed by chemotherapy treatments that often leave him too weak to drive or conduct recording sessions. Tom Penick is extremely helpful to Bill during this period and on into '76, keeping the studio clean and ready for the few sessions that Bill is able to conduct, setting up mikes, running cables, positioning sound baffles, making sound checks, and preparing the recording equipment. Although better in some ways than 1974, 1975 is an all-around tough year.

Sonobeat's 1975 commercial release

Arma (Harper)Just One Too Many Times b/w Plea for Freedom • PF-121