Records with Sonobeat in 1969
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1969)
Digital reissue on and Amazon Music (2019)
A rare Plymouth Rock publicity photo used as the cover for our 2019 digital reissue
courtesy Johnny Schwertner
It's October 1969 in Austin, Texas. Sonobeat co-founder/producer Rim Kelley records rock band Plymouth Rock in sessions that culminate in Sonobeat's 16th 45 RPM single release (R-s114), Memorandum backed with Just A Start. Plymouth Rock's is the first of only two 45 RPM singles commercially released by Sonobeat in monaural rather than in Sonobeat's signature "solid state stereo", but we'll get to that in a moment. The catchy Memorandum, with its power guitar intro hook, is John Inmon's composition and the shuffling, jazzy Just a Start is a collaboration between bandmates Johnny Schwertner and Frank Harrison.
Plymouth Rock (not to be confused with the Plymouth Rockers, a '60s Seattle band), named as you might guess as a play on the place the Pilgrims landed in 1620 and the musical genre the band plays, rapidly becomes one of Austin's most popular bands, playing wall-to-wall gigs at University of Texas fraternity parties and Austin night clubs catering to both college and high school crowds. A solid and seasoned group of musicians, Plymouth Rock is made up of Kenny Hoelscher, Frank Harrison, South Canadian Overflow exes John Inmon and Donnie Dolan, and Lavender Hill Express ex Johnny Schwertner. John and Johnny previously are bandmates in The Reasons Why, another popular mid-'60s Austin rock band that also features John Inmon before he moves on to South Canadian Overflow. Johnny, Plymouth Rock's lead vocalist, takes over keyboards when Frank is drafted into the Army, but it's Frank who plays keyboards on the Sonobeat single. The band is managed by Paul Harrison, an Austin rock 'n' roll radio deejay and Sonobeat friend (we lose Paul on December 2, 2012).
The basic instrumental tracks for Plymouth Rock's single are recorded at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church's basketball-court sized auditorium in northwest Austin, and additional instrumental and vocal overdubs are recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, also in northwest Austin.
Ricky Stein writing in Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s (2014)
Because of how the instrumental backing is originally tracked as well as the complex overdubbed harmony vocals and additional instruments – including John Inmon's double guitar solo on Memorandum – Rim focuses on creating a balanced monaural radio mix. Although today Rim recalls experimenting with stereo mixes for the 1969 release, he admits creating a balanced stereo version at the time proves too elusive, so Memorandum and Just A Start are released only in their mono mix versions. We can't locate Rim's experimental stereo mixes from 1969 in the Sonobeat archives, and even the band's work tapes in the archives are monaural mixes. The single's label says "MONO VERSION", as if there's also a stereo version, but no stereo version is ever released on vinyl. Somewhat enigmatically, but probably just a simple labeling mistake, the Plymouth Rock single is numbered R-s114. In Sonobeat's commercial release cataloging nomenclature, "s" means "stereo", so the single is mislabelled and should have been issued as R-m114.
In 1973, John Inmon and Donny Dolan join Lavender Hill Express exes Rusty Wier and Gary P. Nunn in Jerry Jeff Walker's celebrated Lost Gonzo Band, a seminal band that helps launch Austin's cosmic cowboy movement – country music strongly influenced by late '60s hippie culture.
In September 2015, Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues a restored, remixed, and remastered digital version of Plymouth Rock's 1969 single on iTunes and Amazon Music. This marks the first time the single is available in stereo, made possible using today's sophisticated digital audio workstations. The stereo remixes are made from 88.2KHz/24bit digital transfers from the original half-inch 4-track analog session masters, and each of the four individual tracks is then broken up into component stems that are remixed to create the first "official" stereo version using Logic Pro, Adobe Audition, a half-dozen specialty audio plug-ins, and iZotope's Ozone mastering suite. But wait, there's more!
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, in November 2019 we give Memorandum a brand new, wider stereo remix. Remastered by Colin Leonard at SING Mastering, Atlanta, Georgia, using SING Technology® (Patented), the single is now available in a spectacular Apple Digital Master version on iTunes and Apple Music. In addition, the 50th anniversary reissue is available on 24-7, 7digital, 8tracks, Akazoo, Amazon Music, Anghami, AWA, Deezer, iHeartRadio, iMusica, InProdicon, KDigital, KKBox, Kuack, Line Music, MediaNet, Napster, NetEase Cloud Music, Pandora, Quobuz, Saavn, Shazam, Slacker Radio, Spotify, Tencent Music Entertainment, Tidal, UMA, Yandez, and YouTube Music. We've added some interesting (we think) audio excerpts from our 2019 remix sessions below , along with an excerpt from the official Apple Digital Master reissue.
Donnie Dolan: drums
Frank Harrison: keyboards
Kenny Hoelscher: bass
John Inmon: guitar
Johnny Schwertner: vocals (and keyboards after the Sonobeat sessions)
"A" side: Memorandum (John Inmon) • 2:50
"B" side: Just a Start (Johnny Schwertner-Frank Harrison) • 3:33
Produced and engineered by Rim Kelley
Basic instrumental tracks recorded at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church auditorium, Austin, Texas, on or about October 12, 1969
Additional instrumental and vocal overdubs recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive home-based studio, Austin, Texas, on October 19, 1969
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, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
Approximately 1,500 copies pressed; labels overprinted "MONO VERSION"; approximately 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:
Memorandum: 12706 and R-S 114A
Just a Start: 12706 and R-S 114B
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
Entering 2021, we find an ultra-rare copy offered on eBay for $150. Of course, this is the asking price and isn't an indication that a buyer will actually pay that much for the copy.
On December 15, 2019, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of Memorandum, Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues the single in a spectacular new stereo edition, remixed and remastered for the 2020s. Now available as an Apple Digital Master on iTunes and Apple Music and on 24-7, 7digital, 8tracks, Akazoo, Amazon Music, Anghami, AWA, Deezer, iHeartRadio, iMusica, InProdicon, KDigital, KKBox, Kuack, Line Music, MediaNet, Napster, NetEase Cloud Music, Pandora, Quobuz, Saavn, Shazam, Slacker Radio, Spotify, Tencent Music Entertainment, Tidal, UMA, Yandez, and YouTube Music, this edition replaces our 2015 stereo remix, previously available on a more limited selection of digital download and streaming platforms. For the 2019 reissue, we create a brand new remix from an 88.2 KHz/24 bit digital transfer of the original 4-track analog studio session master tapes. The 2019 reissue, now crisp and clear, is mastered by Colin Leonard at SING Mastering, Atlanta, Georgia, using SING Technology® (Patented).
There are no unreleased songs by Plymouth Rock in the Sonobeat archives
- Memorandum (original 1969 mono mix as released on vinyl)
- Memorandum (2019 50th anniversary stereo reissue)
- Memorandum (isolated drum, bass, and organ track from 2019 remix)
- Memorandum (isolated stereo harmony vocal tracks from 2019 remix)
- Memorandum (2019 alternate unreleased remix)
- Memorandum (1969 work tape)
- Memorandum (whisper and doo wop as vocal overdub begins)
- Just A Start (original 1969 mono mix as released on vinyl)
- Just A Start (2015 stereo remix)
- Just A Start (isolated piano and lead guitar overdub excerpt from 2015 remix)
Although Sonobeat producer Rim Kelley knows Plymouth Rock co-founder Johnny Schwertner from Sonobeat's work with Lavender Hill Express, Rim and Johnny end up in a history class together in fall 1969 at The University of Texas. Rim vaguely recalls the class is about the Prussian Empire and the Austro-Prussian War. This is one of the last classes he needs to graduate, but the class isn't engaging him, so he's paying little attention to the lectures. The class is taught in a large-capacity auditorium-style classroom. Rim and Johnny sit toward the back of the room and talk music. That leads to Sonobeat recording Plymouth Rock in October '69.
The Plymouth Rock record label notes that the single is a "MONO VERSION", but no "STEREO VERSION" is ever released on vinyl; this is one of only two singles Sonobeat commercially releases in monaural, which we rectify with our 2019 50th anniversary digital stereo reissue
When Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Jr.) deliver Johnny Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment master tapes to Liberty Records in Los Angeles in 1968, they grab a stash of Liberty Studios tape box labels, but their use of one of the labels for the Plymouth Rock tape box doesn't mean the Joseys contemplate selling the master to Liberty, but only that the labels are a convenient way to document recording session information.
The final master tape, in monaural, used to make the lacquers for the Sonobeat 45 RPM single