Fran Nelson

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1967 & 1968
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
  1. Sonobeat 50th Anniversary Artist Pop
    Fran Nelson • No Regrets (1968) 
Listen! to more below
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

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 with Sonobeat at the KAZZ-FM studios in downtown Austin. The 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 accompanied just by 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 session, influences Bill Sr.'s decision to record a single with Fran once Sonobeat has formally launched in summer '67. When Sonobeat finally starts work on Fran's single in July 1967, the Lee Arellano Trio (better known as Sonobeat's first jazz act under the name Lee Arlano Trio) provides the instrumental backing, but it's eventually 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 Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest Inn (now the Radisson Hotel). The Michael Stevens IV frequently performs with vocalists at Club Seville, whereas the Arellano (or Arlano) Trio is a jazz instrumental combo with no experience backing vocalists, which is why the Arlano tracks are scrapped. The Michael Stevens IV also provides the instrumental backings on 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 Club Seville, and Fran records her vocal overdubs at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. The Sonobeat archives hold no additional information about Fran, but it seems likely that Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. is introduced to Fran through Don Dean, manager of Club Seville, where Fran occasionally performs. We also have a vague recollection that 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, noting Fran's performances in several UT Drama Department plays during 1968 and 1969. We don't think Fran is related to either outlaw country icon Willie Nelson or prolific Sonosong composer Herman Nelson.

Fran Nelson personnel

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

Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM release PV-s113 (1968)

"A" side: Yesterday (Lennon-McCartney) • 2:40
"B" side: No Regrets (Fran Nelson) • 3:43

Released week of November 24, 1968* • PV-s113
Produced by Bill Josey Sr.
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Generic sleeve
Instrumental tracks recorded at Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest 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
Vinyl collector information for PV-s113

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
Generic sleeve
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

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

Beg Me Blues
Come Back Baby
Sad Stranger Blues
Tomorrow When I Wake Up
Unidentified song

Previous Artist  Next Artist
Fran Nelson's Sonobeat 45 RPM stereo single, released in November 1968
The master tape for Fran's Sonobeat single; what's not shown here is that the first set of instrumental backings for her single are recorded by the Lee Arellano Trio (also known as the Lee Arlano Trio) but are scrapped because the Trio, an instrumental act, isn't experienced in arranging songs for vocal accompaniment. Fran's final instrumental backing is provided by The Michael Stevens IV.