Records with Sonobeat in 1972
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
The cover of a promotional pamphlet issued by the band circa 1968-1970
courtesy Anne Cline
Pleasant Street Band drummer Charles "Chuck" Cline
courtesy Anne Cline
For decades we have a mysterious, unlabelled 33-1/3 RPM LP test pressing in the Sonobeat Records archives. The tracks on the test pressing are a little folksy, a little bluesy, with tinges of gospel here and there, and feature vocals that sound familiar to us, but we just can't place who the recording is by. Then, in 2008, we're re-indexing the Sonobeat master tape library and come upon two reel boxes marked "Pleasant Street". On a hunch we compare the ten songs on the test pressing to the ten songs on the Pleasant Street master tapes and, voilà, they're the same! Suddenly we realize the band's lead vocalist is Bill Wilson, a virtuoso folk-blues singer/songwriter who Austin, Texas-based Sonobeat has recorded a few years earlier to showcase his original songs and in 1970 as, of all things, a guest singer on Sonobeat's Mariani hard rock demo album. Still another voilà!
Wilson, following completion of his military service at Austin's Bergstrom Strategic Air Command base, returns to his native Bloomington, Indiana, in 1972, taking a factory job in nearby Indianapolis. A popular local folk act, The Pleasant Street Band, is looking for a dobro player at the same time. Wilson doesn't play dobro, but that doesn't stop him. He learns dobro almost overnight in order to audition for the band. Soon after being invited to join The Pleasant Street Band, Wilson takes his bandmates on a road trip to Austin, Texas, to record an album with his friend, Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr. Although we don't know for sure who besides Wilson performs on Sonobeat's Pleasant Street recordings, a bit of online research and emails exchanges with daughters of former band members help us conclude that the band is comprised of Wilson, Scott O'Malley, Tom Williams, Charles "Chuck" Cline, and Greg O'Haver. There also is a Pleasant Street Blues Band, originally formed in the '60s in Springfield, Ohio, that still performs today, but that unit is unrelated to The Pleasant Street Band from Indianapolis that records with Sonobeat. Although we don't know the inspiration for the band's name, there's a Pleasant Street in Indianapolis' Fountain Square district of Victorian-style homes built in the early 1900s, and we suspect the band may have been formed in this neighborhood and, perhaps, even on this street. We also note that the band is formed in 1968 as, simply, "Pleasant Street", and expands its name to "The Pleasant Street Band" in 1971 or '72.
The titles of the songs on the master tapes and test pressing aren't listed anywhere in the Sonobeat archives, so we have to guess at many of them. But we do recognize covers of Rod Stewart's Seems Like A Long Time, Neil Diamond's hit Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, and Harry Nilsson's The Rainmaker made famous by The 5th Dimenson. One more is a guitar-accompanied spoken word adaptation of a Japanese and Chinese folk tale about the difference between heaven and hell (hint: they feed each other in heaven). And two more are Bill Wilson compositions, Father Let Your Light Shine Down and Following My Lord, that eventually will appear on his Columbia Records solo album Ever Changing Minstrel. All the tunes are lovely folk-inflected, inspiring renditions.
Although The Pleasant Street Band LP has an unusual sonic quality, often sounding muddy and just as often with vocals buried in the instrumentation, we feel fairly certain the group recorded with Sonobeat at its North Lamar studio in Austin, Texas, during mid- to late-1972. We also know that Sonobeat has a live concert tape of the band, perhaps recorded in Austin, in its archives. And, because we have The Pleasant Street Band LP test pressing in the archives, we know that Bill Sr. sends the master tapes off to Sidney J. Wakefield & Company in Phoenix, Arizona, for perhaps no more than a dozen copies to be mastered and pressed. We surmise that by having test pressings made he intends to circulate the album to his contacts at the major U.S. record labels, hoping to sell the album masters for a national release, but there's no sale, and the album remains unreleased, even on the Sonobeat Records label.
The band finds success in and around Indianapolis, opening The Pleasant Street Music Hall, a restaurant-bar-music venue combo. But, as 1974 comes to an end, The Pleasant Street Band breaks up, and its members spread to other Indianapolis-area bands. Bill Wilson, however, has already begun and, after Pleasant Street Band's break-up, focuses on his solo career, landing a recording contract with Columbia. Bill becomes somewhat of a folk music legend in his hometown. His career tragically ends when he suffers heart failure in November 1993. Greg O'Haver continues to perform as a member of the current line-up of the folk-rock group The New Christy Minstrels.
Charles "Chuck" Cline: drums and vocals
Greg O'Haver: guitar, banjo, and vocals
Scott O'Malley: rhythm guitar, keyboards, and vocal
Tom Williams: bass and vocals
Bill Wilson: dobro and vocals
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation show (Neil Diamond)
Father Let Your Light Shine Down (Bill Wilson)
Following My Lord (Bill Wilson)
Rainmaker, The (Harry Nilsson & Bill Martin)
Seems Like A Long Time (Rod Stewart)
Five unidentified songs
Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at Sonobeat Studios on North Lamar, Austin, Texas, in the second half of 1972
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 tape deck, custom 16-channel quad-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 and Ampex 681 tape stock
Album test pressing:
Test pressing includes all ten tracks recorded by the band at Sonobeat's North Lamar studio in Austin, Texas
Approximately 10-12 copies pressed; plain white unprinted labels; plain white unprinted jacket
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
In the dead wax (both sides): 16194 and HEC 624
What's that flower-shape in the dead wax? It's the Sidney J. Wakefield logo, stamped into the lacquer masters next to the matrix number.
HEC is believed to be the initials of the Sidney J. Wakefield & Company mastering engineer.
Sonobeat works with Bill Wilson on and off over several years: first, in 1969, Bill records a song demo album for Sonosong composer Herman Nelson. Next, Bill records a song demo of his own compositions. Then, he joins the "cast" of vocalists performing on Sonobeat's Mariani album in 1970. Finally, he returns with his Indiana-based folk quintet, Pleasant Street Band, in 1972. Post-Pleasant Street, Bill enjoys a solo recording and performing career based in Indianapolis and Nashville. He succumbs to massive heart failure in 1993.