Jean Manor (Jean and the Rollettes)

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat circa 1970-'71
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records

There are some "unknowns" in the Sonobeat Records archives, and here's one of them: we can place the location but not the date of blues vocalist/guitarist Jean Manor's (pronounced "May-nor", like the well-known east Austin road) recording session with Sonobeat. Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) doesn't recall producing or engineering Jean's session, so we feel fairly confident that co-founder Bill Josey Sr. records Jean after Rim leaves the company in Augusst 1970, placing the session somewhere between late summer 1970 and mid-1971. There are no session notes in the Sonobeat archives, so we have to do some online digging to gather information about Jean, where we learn that Jean is headliner for Austin rhythm 'n' blues and blues-rock band Jean and the Rollettes (sometimes spelled Rolletts, without the second "e", in newspaper ads). In the July 4, 2003, issue of The Austin Chronicle, Jean is listed as one of two dozen Eastside "MVPs" – singers and musicians who made their mark in East Austin before the 1970s. We also trace Jean back to December 1959, through Austin Statesman newspaper ads, when she begins performing in the Rollettes. In fact, we find Jean's still performing as the Rollettes' frontwoman as late as 1989, playing gigs throughout Texas. Unfortunately, none of this information helps us pinpoint the exact date of Jean's Sonobeat session which produces only one track, Jean's instrumental original that she introduces at the head of the master tape as Sorry 'Bout That Shuffle. Jean plays a wicked Chuck Berry-inspired lead on the track. The Sonobeat archives contain no other information about the session, but we have no reason to believe any band other than The Rollettes backs Jean in this club-style performance, although the funky horn vibe could be provided by James Polk and The Brothers's horn section. Jean and James are contemporaries, and James records a 1969 Sonobeat 45 RPM release.

At the time of her Sonobeat session, Jean's brother Leo Brown manages Jean and the Rollettes and plays bass for the band, so we're betting Leo plays bass on Sorry 'Bout That Shuffle. Also at the time of her Sonobeat session, Jean is married to renowned Austin blues singer and trumpeter A.J. Manor, so we can safely assume that A.J. plays trumpet on the Sonobeat track, perhaps alongside James Polk's horn section.

Though originally from La Grange, Gloria Jean Brown-Manor played guitar and led Jean & the Rollettes in Austin from 1959 through the 1970s. The Rollettes ran the gamut of Eastside venues musically speaking, performing R&B and soul tunes at the Victory Grill and Charlie's Playhouse, also bending notes on bills with Johnnie Taylor, Joe Tex, and Freddie King.
Margaret Moser writing in The Austin Chronicle (December 30, 2011). We note that Jean and the Rollettes play gigs in Central Texas well into the late '80s, not, as Margaret suggests, only through the '70s.

There's no stereo mix-down of Jean's Sorry 'Bout That Shuffle in the Sonobeat archives, just a half-inch 4-track master with a stereo mix of the basic instrumental backing on tracks 1 and 2 and horn overdubs on tracks 3 and 4, so in 2018 we create a new stereo mix. We feel pretty certain the recording is tracked at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. Because Jean's combo is small, the guitars and bass appear to have been plugged directly into Sonobeat's mixing console to bypass guitar amps and speaker boxes, the horns are clearly overdubbed after the basic track is recorded, and Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio includes a drum isolation booth, this is an easy, comfortable session to hold in Sonobeat's small home-based studio.

Born in 1941 in La Grange, Texas (home from 1917 until 1973 to the Chicken Ranch brothel made famous in the Broadway musical and subsequent feature film The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and whose closure is celebrated in ZZ Top's 1973 raucus roadhouse rocker La Grange), Gloria Jean Brown-Manor passes away in 1999. She's inducted posthumously, in November 2011, into the Austin Music Memorial.

Music journalist Norman Darwen takes a deeper dive into the story of Jean and the Rollettes in the Texas Blues Tapes feature in the September 2020 (No. 352) edition of the U.K.'s popular Blues & Rhythm magazine.

Thank you!

Thanks to U.K. music journalist Norman Darwen for important details about Jean family, including husband A.J. and brother Leo, both likely contributors to Jean's Sonobeat recording session.

Jean Manor personnel

Leo Brown: bass
A.J. Manor: trumpet
Jean Manor: vocals and guitar
Remaining members of backing band: unknown

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

Sorry 'Bout That Shuffle

Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in Austin, Texas, circa 1970-'71
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Stemco half-inch 4-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console
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Gloria Jean Brown-Manor at home in Austin, Texas (from a June 17, 1988, feature on Austin blues legends appearing in the Austin American-Statesman)
Jean Manor headlines Jean and the Rollettes (misspelled as Rolletts in this ad) for three decades, appearing regularly at Austin nightclubs; this Austin American-Statesman newspaper ad dates from December 1963. For trivia buffs, The Playboy's phone number, above, is shown as "GL 3-8809". The prefix letters "GL" refer to "GLendale" and maps to the numbers "45" on old rotary and push button land line phones. The prefix names, which were assigned to telephone company exchanges, or central offices, were promulgated by AT&T across the U.S. in 1955 after research was conducted to determine which exchange names would be most memorable. The U.S. abandoned the central office prefix names and shifted to all digit phone numbers in the late '70s.