Records with Sonobeat in 1972
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
So, in 2008 we're indexing the Sonobeat master tape library and come upon two reel boxes marked "Pleasant Street". For over 40 years, we've had a mysterious, unlabelled 33-1/3 RPM LP test pressing in the Sonobeat archives. The LP is a little folksy, a little bluesy, with tinges of gospel here and there, and features vocals that sound vaguely familiar to us. 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! And the voice we recognize singing lead is Bill Wilson's. Wilson has some pre-Pleasant Street Band history with Sonobeat: initially, in 1969, he records a non-commercial demo album showcasing songs composed by Austinite Herman Nelson, followed by a demo album of his own original compositions. In 1970, he's recruited to sing lead on Sonobeat's hard rock album by Mariani.
Wilson returns to his native Bloomfield, Indiana, in 1972, taking a factory job in nearby Indianapolis. A popular local club act, the folksy 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 Pleasant Street Band, Wilson takes his bandmates on a road trip to Austin 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 leads us to believe that the band also includes Scott O'Malley, Tom Williams, Chuck Cline, and Greg O'Haver. There is also a "Pleasant Street Blues Band", originally formed in the '60s in Springfield, Ohio, and still performing 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.
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. And 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). Still 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 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 during mid- to late-1972 at its North Lamar studio in Austin, Texas. We also know that Sonobeat recorded a live concert by the band, probably in Austin, since we have a copy of that tape in the Sonobeat archives. And, because we have the Pleasant Street 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 was fairly successful in and around Indianapolis, opening The Pleasant Street Music Hall, a restaurant-bar-music hall 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, moves on to a solo career, eventually landing a recording contract with Columbia, and becomes somewhat of a folk legend in his hometown. Bill's 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.
Although unverified, we believe this list to be correct:
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.