Sonobeat Seasons - Spring 1968
The artists Sonobeat records from March 20 to June 20, 1968
The Conqueroo's spring 1968 Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single, with cover photo by Belmer Wright and artwork and layout by Gilbert Shelton
Austin hippie favorites The Thingies' Sonobeat single is released in Spring 1968
Austin, Texas-based Sonobeat Recording Company launches in spring 1967 and in less than a year releases four 45 RPM stereo singles featuring Austin rock bands Sweetarts and Lavender Hill Express, the jazzy Colorado-based Lee Arlano Trio, and Austin pop stylist Don Dean. Austin's last day of winter – March 19th – offers the promise of a pleasant spring with a daytime high of 69° and a mild southerly breeze. Spanning the last day of winter '67-'68 and first day of spring '68, Sonobeat is hard at work recording Lavender Hill Express' second Sonobeat single, Watch Out! that will be released in June '68. Although 1968 starts well for fledgling Sonobeat, it's not until spring '68 that the next batch of Sonobeat's singles is released. In fact, spring '68 is the real start of Sonobeat's busiest year of releases.
The Conqueroo, a psychedelic rock band whose Austin contemporaries include the 13th Floor Elevators and Shiva's Headband, regularly performs at Austin's iconic Vulcan Gas CompanyThe Vulcan is Austin's first successful hippie music hall, opening in 1967 in an old warehouse at 316 Congress Avenue and closing in 1970.. But unlike the Elevators and Shiva's, The Conqueroo pioneers a psychedelic fusion of folk, rock, jazz, and blues performed to the background of a pulsating liquid light showPut water and colored oils in a small glass tray, add heat and an overhead projector, and you get a kinetic visual experience that plays well with hallucinogens. projected on the Vulcan's walls and ceiling. The band's original songs I've Got Time and 1 To 3 are recorded as winter comes to an end in March 1968 using the Vulcan Gas Company as a remote recording studio. Sonobeat releases The Conqueroo's single with a double-sided black and white picture sleeve in spring 1968. Although the sleeve says "Recorded Live at the VULCAN GAS CO.", the recordings are not recorded live; they're recorded during off-hours, when the Vulcan is closed to the public. The single picks up a Best Bet review in the June 29, 1968, issue of national record and jukebox industry trade journal Cash Box.
Still another psychedelic band, The Thingies, are on Sonobeat's spring 1968 release schedule. Although the band hails from Florida, they've made their way to Texas en route to California. But in '67, they get stuck in Texas for a variety of reasons and end up in Austin, where the music scene's especially great for rock and progressive rock bands. Within months, The Thingies have amassed a solid following in the vibrant Austin night club scene and land the house band gig at The Match Box in downtown Austin. Although The Thingies' Sonobeat single is recorded in winter '67-'68, it's shelved for several months to make way for other releases, finally making it into Austin and Central Texas record stores in mid-April '68. Much to Sonobeat's disappointment, the single gets no national record industry trade journal reviews. The band never makes it to California and breaks up in Austin soon after the Sonobeat single is released.
Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Austin enjoys a folk music boom that spawns two popular night spots: The 11th Door and The Chequered Flag, both in downtown Austin, where they're easily accessible to both University of Texas students and Texas government employees (yes, Austin's the capital of Texas). The Chequered Flag opens in September '67 with nationally-known folk singer Allen Damron performing and serving as master of ceremonies. Allen, in fact, manages The Chequered Flag for its equally well-known owner Rod Kennedy, an Austin FM radio pioneer and founder of both the Longhorn Jazz Festival and the Kerrville Folk Festival (an annual Central Texas shindig that continues to this day). In 1970, Allen buys The Chequered Flag from Rod and opens its musical menu up to include rock acts such as Genesee, a short-lived Austin band that records with Sonobeat in 1971. Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley, respectively manager and deejay at Austin's KAZZ-FM, broadcast Allen's folk performances from both The 11th Door and The Chequered Flag, which leads to a recording session in spring 1968. Allen has several "signature" tunes he regularly performs, and his Sonobeat sessions focus on two: Irish folk tune Nancy Whiskey and Allen's own Requiem For A Balloon (The Balloon Song) (both of which Allen records for another label two years earlier in a duet with another Austin folk favorite, Carol Hedin). Although Sonobeat releases none of Allen's material, the Sonobeat archives are graced with Allen's solo vocal renderings of these timeless pieces. Notably Allen's Sonobeat recordings are made in the den of the Josey family home in northeast Austin.
Lee Arlano Trio
Sonobeat's first commercial recordings, made back in May 1967, are of the Colorado-based Lee Arlano Trio. Lee's jazz unit tours the western United States throughout the mid- to late-'60s, making frequent stops to play Austin's Club Seville at the Crest Motor Inn. Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. hosts dozens of live remote broadcasts of the band's performances from The Club Seville during 1966 and 1967; the live broadcasts are a regular feature Bill creates for KAZZ-FM, where he's station manaager at the time. Sonobeat's second stereo 45 RPM release, There Will Never Be Another You, in September 1967, is by the Arlano Trio, and the same July 1967 sessions that produce that single also yield enough tracks for an Arlano album. But Sonobeat holds back release of the ten track Jazz To The Third Power until the label is more established and can afford the much greater expense of an album release. The album finally makes it into record stores in late May 1968 and sports jacket art – a pencil sketch of the trio – by Austin legend Jim Franklin. Austin American-Statesman amusements editor John Bustin provides the album liner notes. National music industry trade journal Billboard awards the album four stars in its June 29, 1968, issue. Sonobeat's not done with the Lee Arlano Trio; there will be another stereo 45 RPM single in 1969.
Lavender Hill Express
Lavender Hill Express is one of Austin's bona fide '60s supergroups, born from the collapse of two other great Austin '60s bands – the Baby Cakes and The Wig ” with the addition of a transplant from the popular Central Texas band The Reasons Why. Every member of Lavender Hill Express is a talented singer, four of the band's five founding members contribute original songs to its repertoire, and the band's musicianship is polished even when occasionally experimental. LHE's first single for Sonobeat, Visions, is released in December 1967 to much local acclaim, and in spring '68 the band is back with its second Sonobeat single, the hard chargin' Watch Out!, written by drummer Rusty Wier. In the early '70s Rusty will become one of Austin's iconic outlaw country legends. Watch Out! is backed with the clever and prescient Country Music's Here To Stay by band co-founder Leonard Arnold, who also will register as one of Austin's outlaw country pioneers. Country Music's Here To Stay says what it means and foreshadows by three or four years the Austin outlaw country music phenomenon that makes national stars of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Although Lavender Hill Express' second Sonobeat single is recorded on the last day of winter '67-'68 and first day of spring, it's not released until June 2nd. The single earns a Newcomer Pick review in the July 20, 1968, issue of national record and jukebox industry trade journal Cash Box.