Records with Sonobeat in 1969
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1969)
Digital reissue on and Amazon MP3 (2015)
The 2015 digital reissue cover art
A rare Plymouth Rock publicity photo
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 only single 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 the college and high school crowd. A solid and seasoned group of musicians, Plymouth Rock is made up of South Canadian Overflow-exes John Inmon and Donny Dolan, Kenny Hoelscher, Frank Harrison, and Lavender Hill Express-ex Johnny Schwertner. John and Johnny previously are bandmates in The Reasons Why, another popular mid-'60s Austin rock band. Johnny, Plymouth Rock's lead vocalist, takes over keyboards when Frank is drafted into the Army, but it's Frank who plays 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 the 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 lead and harmony vocals and additional instruments – including John Inmon's intertwining double guitar solo on Memorandum – Rim focuses on creating a balanced monaural radio mix. Although he experiments with stereo remixes, they prove too difficult to achieve with analog equipment, so Memorandum and Just A Start are released only in their mono mix versions. Rim's experimental stereo mixes from 1969 can't be located in the Sonobeat archives, and even his work tapes in the archives are monaural mixes. The single's label says "MONO VERSION", as if there also is 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 numbering system, "s" means "stereo" and "m" means "monaural", so R-s114 is clearly incorrect. In 2011, Sonobeat Historical Archives finally makes a quick and dirty stereo remix from the original 4-track masters to provide a sound bite here on Sonobeat.com. By any standard, in mono or stereo, Memorandum is one of the best crafted rock tunes released by Sonobeat.
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 MP3. This is the first time the single is available in a stereo mix.
Donny 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 studios, 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.
On September 18, 2015, Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues Memorandum and Just A Start on iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, Rhapsody, and Groove. Available as individual tracks or together under the title Memorandum, Plymouth Rock's single is the fourth of many scheduled reissues from the Sonobeat vaults. Plymouth Rock's single, originally released on vinyl in 1969, until now has been unavailable for more than 45 years. For the digital reissue, Sonobeat Historical Archives digitally restores, remixes, and remasters the single, originally released only in monaural, from the original half-inch 4-track analog session master tapes, creating the new stereo mix.
There are no unreleased songs by Plymouth Rock in the Sonobeat archives
- Memorandum (original 1969 mono mix as released)
- Memorandum (2011 stereo remix)
- Memorandum (2015 stereo remix digital reissue version)
- Just A Start (original 1969 mono mix as released)
- Just A Start (2011 stereo remix)
- Just A Start (2015 stereo remix digital reissue version)
- Memorandum work tape (1969)
- Whisper and doo wop as vocal overdub of Memorandum begins
- Isolated piano and lead guitar overdub excerpt from 2015 remix of Just A Start
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 label notes that the single is a "MONO VERSION", but no "STEREO VERSION" is ever released on vinyl; this is the only single Sonobeat commercially releases in monaural, which we rectify with our 2015 digital 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; their use of the label for the Plymouth Rock tracks doesn't necessarily mean the Joseys are contemplating selling the master to Liberty, but only that the labels are a convenient way to document recording sessions.
The final master tape, in monaural, used to make the lacquers for the Sonobeat 45 RPM single