Records with Sonobeat in 1967 & 1968
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
About a year earlier than she records her Sonobeat single, Fran makes some test recordings for producer Bill Josey Sr. at KAZZ-FM's studios in downtown Austin
A February 1967 Austin American-Statesman newspaper ad for Fran Nelson's appearance at The 11th Door Folk Cellar in Austin alongside the club's manager Allen Damron; The 11th Door and The Match Box (which features undergrond films and rock acts) are co-owned, so their newspaper ads frequently appear together
It's a relatively mild Austin, Texas, October in 1968, and singer/songwriter Fran Nelson – who seems to specialize in torch songs – records Sonobeat's 15th stereo 45 RPM single, the last of Sonobeat's releases in the year. Fran's "A" side is a gentle bossa nova cover of the Beatles' 1965 hit Yesterday. The "B" side is Fran's original song, No Regrets, delivered in a smoky jazz club style enhanced by Sonobeat's stereo steel plate reverb. You can almost feel Fran's hot breath in your ear and might even need a gin and tonic to make it all the way through her torrid performance.
This is not Fran's first session with Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. In early 1967, Fran records a test session at the KAZZ-FM studios in downtown Austin, where future Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. is station manager and the on-air host of many of KAZZ's live remote broadcasts. Fran's 1967 session features Beg Me Blues (which may be Fran's original composition), Sad Stranger Blues, Tomorrow When I Wake Up, several takes of her sultry cover of Stevie Wonder's Come Back Baby, and a simple version of No Regrets, all self-accompanied on guitar, but the recordings (on off-brand Sheraton AP-12 tape stock) are of poor quality. Nonetheless, Fran's performances, captured somewhat raw in the KAZZ sessions, influence Bill Sr.'s decision to record a single with Fran once Sonobeat has formally launched in spring '67. When Sonobeat finally starts work on Fran's single in July 1967, Bill turns to the Lee Arellano Trio (better known as Sonobeat's first jazz act under the name Lee Arlano Trio) to provide the instrumental backing, but these backing tracks are scrapped, and Fran's single is back-burnered for more than a year. The final 1968 release versions of No Regrets and Yesterday are backed by Sonobeat favorite The Michael Stevens IV, a versatile pop-jazz combo that regularly performs as house band at The Club Seville in the Crest Motor Inn (now the Radisson Hotel) in downtown Austin. The Michael Stevens IV frequently performs with vocalists at The Club Seville, whereas the Arellano (or Arlano) Trio primarily is a jazz instrumental combo with less experience backing vocalists, which is why the Arlano tracks are abaondoned. The Michael Stevens IV also provides the instrumental backings for Sonobeat's Don Dean and Bach-Yen singles.
Sonobeat records The Michael Stevens IV's basic instrumental backings for Yesterday and No Regrets during off-hours at The Club Seville, and then Fran overdubs her vocals at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. The Sonobeat archives hold no additional information about Fran, but we're pretty sure Bill Sr. is introduced to Fran through Allen Damron, manager of The 11th Door, where many KAZZ-FM live remote broadcasts originate from 1965 to 1967 and where Fran frequently performs. During the time frame of her recordings, Fran is a University of Texas student and quite likely a drama major, which is reinforced by articles in The University of Texas student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper noting Fran's performances in several UT Drama Department plays during the period 1967 through 1969. Fran seems to be unrelated to either outlaw country icon Willie Nelson or prolific Sonosong composer Herman Nelson.
Fran Nelson: standard guitar and vocals
Backing band: Michael Stevens IV
Mark Chaney: bass violin
Ike Ramirez: trumpet
Michael Stevens: piano and vibes
Billy West: drums
"A" side: Yesterday (Lennon-McCartney) • 2:40
"B" side: No Regrets (Fran Nelson) • 3:43
Produced by Bill Josey Sr.
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Instrumental tracks recorded at The Club Seville at the Crest Motor Inn in Austin, Texas, in October 1968
Vocal overdubs recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, Austin, Texas, in October 1968
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Ampex AG350 and 354 tape decks, custom 10-channel portable stereo mixer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, 3M (Scotch) 201 and Ampex 681 tape stock
Approximately 1,000 copies pressed; 50-75 copies marked "PROMO" and "NOT FOR SALE"
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
Label blanks printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
Yesterday: SJW 10907 and PV-s113 A
No Regrets: SJW 10907 and PV-S113 B
"SJW" in the matrix number identifies Sidney J. Wakefield & Company as the lacquer mastering and pressing plant
Beg Me Blues
Come Back Baby
Sad Stranger Blues
Tomorrow When I Wake Up