A Picture Of Me
Records with Sonobeat in 1967 & 1969
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1967)
Worldwide digital reissue on , Amazon Music, and more (2017)
Cover art for 2017 remastered digital reissue
courtesy Ernie Gammage
Sonobeat's first 45 RPM stereo single, by the Sweetarts, released in 1967; all 1967 releases feature Sonobeat's stippled yellow label
Original 1967 vinyl release sleeve using publicity photo supplied by band
The Sweetarts in 1966 (from left, Tom Van Zandt, Ernie Gammage, Dwight Dow, and Pat Whitefield)
courtesy Ernie Gammage
July 1967, Austin, Texas. A typical toasty Central Texas summer. Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Bill Josey Jr. have been planning the launch of their record label for months, gathering recording equipment and holding practice recording sessions. Bill Jr., a deejay at Austin's KAZZ-FM, who goes by the air name "Rim Kelley", and Bill Sr., KAZZ's general manager, know all the top local music venues – Jade Room, Club Saracen, Action Club, IL Club, Swingers A Go-Go, and New Orleans Club – where they're on the lookout for the "right" rock band to record for Sonobeat's first commercial release. Two months earlier, in May, using an Ampex 354 tape deck and microphones borrowed from KAZZ, the Joseys hold practice recording sessions with Austin semi-psychedelic band Leo and the Prophets, recording the band in the parking lot at Lake Austin Inn, and recording another hot Austin rock band, Sweetarts, at Club Saracen in downtown Austin; however, neither session produces useable tracks because of mixer distortion. By July, the Joseys are finally ready for a real recording session, again with Leo and the Prophets, this time using Swingers Club in north Austin as a remote recording studio. But the Prophets have only one finished song, so their session fails to yield a flip side for a commercial release.
Meanwhile, the Sweetarts have been waiting patiently in the wings. Rim has been following the 'Tarts for more than a year. The band has a strong night club and University of Texas fraternity fan base. Rim plays So Many Times, the Sweetarts' 1966 release on Dallas-based Vandan Records, frequently on his KAZZ-FM rock 'n' roll program. The song stays on the station's playlist for weeks and even in June '67 continues to get rotation on KAZZ as an "oldie". The band also wins the 1966 Austin Aqua Festival Battle of the Bands, further raising its public profile (the band wins again in 1968, demonstrating its staying power). But the tipping point is Rim's February 16, 1967, live broadcast over KAZZ of the band performing at Club Saracen. KAZZ is known for its weekly live music broadcasts from a cross-section of Austin clubs, which has given the station and the Joseys reputations as strong supporters of the developing Austin music scene. At the Club Saracen broadcast, the Sweetarts demonstrate they're a tight, virtuoso unit, playing both original material and familiar Beatles and Otis Redding covers. But it's the band's crowd-pleasing performance of its original song Without You that convinces Rim to offer to record the Sweetarts for the start-up Sonobeat label.
Ernie Gammage's lyrics from A Picture of Me
Although the session with Leo and the Prophets on July 11, 1967, yields insufficient material for Sonobeat's first single, Swingers Club , where the Joseys record the Prophets session, proves to be a good make-shift studio with plenty of floor space and good acoustics, so Sonobeat returns there for a July 18th afternoon session with the Sweetarts. The session yields the basic instrumental tracks for what will become Sonobeat's first release. A week later, in a late-night session at KAZZ-FM's studios in downtown Austin, Rim combines the stereo instrumental tracks with vocal, tambourine, and shaker overdubs on a mix-down from KAZZ's Ampex 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck to its Ampex 350 deck. KAZZ's facilities present a challenge and an opportunity: the station's offices and studios are on the 10th floor of the Perry Brooks Building. The north and south sides of the 10th floor are divided by a tunnel-like corridor. KAZZ occupies one side of the long hallway and Austin's classical music station KMFA-FM the other. For the overdub session, Rim sets up a mike at the far end of the hallway to capture its natural reverberation and a vocal mike at the end of the hallway nearest KAZZ's office entrance. He threads the mike cords into the KAZZ production room, then coordinates with KAZZ's deejay (KMFA doesn't broadcast late at night) to avoid recording when he's announcing on-air. Between each take the band members gather in KAZZ's production room to listen until all agree on the takes that are keepers.
Ernie Gammage's A Picture of Me is an innovative and well-crafted pop tune by any standard, with a lot going for it: thoughtful lyrics, Ernie's solid lead vocal, an infectious beat, a tight band performance with an unusual four bar break – probably influenced by the Beatles' We Can Work It Out – and polished backup harmonies that dramatically end the song on a minor chord. Without You, also a Gammage original, is an equally impressive and solid rock romp with a good bit of country influence, punctuated by Tom Van Zandt's Farfisa organ riffs, Pat Whitefield's clever bass break, and a neat little hi-hat trick courtesy of Dwight Dow. As good as both songs are, though, there is never any doubt in Rim's mind that A Picture of Me will be the single's "A" side. A few weeks later, Bill Sr. drives the Sweetarts master tape – along with the master tape for Sonobeat's first jazz single, by the Lee Arlano Trio, recorded a week before the Sweetarts' sessions – to Houston, Texas, where Houston Records, Inc. masters the lacquers and presses 1,000 copies of each single. Packaged in a black and white picture sleeve, the Sweetarts stereo 45 RPM single is released throughout Central Texas during Labor Day week in 1967. The Lee Arlano Trio single is released a week later.
Bill Sr. is dissatisfied with the quality of the Houston Records mastering and decides to try an experiment with high-end Fine Recording in New York City. He ships the Sweetarts master tape to Fine, noted for its customized Scully lathes and high-powered Westrex cutting heads, for new lacquers to be mastered. The new lacquers then are shipped to Houston Records for test pressings. But the Joseys find no significant sonic difference between the two versions – that mastered by Houston Records and that mastered by Fine in Manhattan – so Bill Sr. lets it go for now, thinking the deficiencies may be caused by Houston Records' pressing facilities rather than by its mastering, an issue he'll revisit in 1968.
October 7, 1967, Cash Box Magazine Newcomer Pick review of A Picture of Me
Sonobeat promotes A Picture of Me as the first monaural-compatible stereo 45 RPM single in the U.S., although a few major labels previously have dabbled in, then abandoned, stereo singles. The Sweetarts' single also is the first that Sonobeat packages in a picture sleeve, an unusual extra expense that small regional labels typically eschew. Although the Sweetarts' single is distributed only in Austin and Central Texas record stores, the Joseys consider their first release a success particularly because, somewhat unexpectedly, it picks up a national review in music industry trade journal Cash Box. The single is San Antonio, Texas, radio station KTSA's "pick hit of the week" (as reported in the September 17, 1967, edition of the San Antonio Express and News) and a featured pick of the week by San Antonio's top rated rock station KONO (as reported by record and radio trade journal Record World in its October 7, 1967, issue).
Ernie's first composer royalty statement from Sonosong (Sonobeat's music publishing arm), dated in February 1968, shows sales of 627 copies during the single's first four months of release. Ernie's royalty for each composition is one cent, so he receives $12.54 total, equal to about $96.25 in 2021 dollars. As an example of art coincidentally imitating art, country star George Jones releases a top 10-charting single in 1972 entitled, yep, A Picture of Me (Without You).
The Sweetarts return to Sonobeat in July 1969 to start recording new original material. These sessions occur during a musical transition for the 'Tarts, who in mid-'68 have added guitarist Steve Weisberg, and the group has shifted from top 40-style frat rock to rhythm and blues and experimental original material. The 1969 sessions focus on Ernie Gammage's ballad Lady, recorded in multiple versions. There's debate about a second song attributed to the Sweetarts in the July '69 sessions: Summer Sunshine is a complex, highly crafted tune and performance with instrumentation that largely parallels that of Lady, but the vocalist is not Ernie Gammage. The label on the session master tape in the Sonobeat archives credits Summer Sunshine to the Sweetarts, but no one in the band recalls composing or recording it. Perhaps it's a Steve Weisberg or Randy Thornton song; Randy joins the Sweetarts sometime in late-1968, after the 'Tarts have won the Austin Aqua Festival Battle of the Bands on August 8, 1968. We're left with an air of mystery and uncertainty about Summer Sunshine, which we can't say with authority is a Sweetarts recording but that we'll continue to attribute to the 'Tarts unless we find convincing evidence to the contrary.
In addition to the Sweetarts new sound, the 1969 sessions, recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, are technically superior to the 1967 sessions. By 1969 Sonobeat has built an intimate studio on the lower level of the Josey family's split-level home in northwest Austin. The small studio includes a drum and vocal isolation booth. Between the Sweetarts' 1967 and 1969 sessions, Sonobeat has acquired a top of the line half-inch 4-track Scully 280 tape recorder and an array of professional microphones, including a matched pair of Sony ECM22 electret condenser mikes, and has built a 10-channel custom solid state mixer and massive steel plate reverb. In January 1969, the Joseys deliver their master recordings of Johnny Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment album to Liberty Records in Los Angeles and visit Liberty's Hollywood recording studios, where Rim grabs a stash of Liberty Recorders tape box labels. Weeks later, back in Austin, he uses one of the labels to document the Sweetarts's 1969 sessions, thinking Sonobeat may be able to sell this new batch of Sweetarts recordings to Liberty, too. But work on the second Sweetarts single ends with little completed as the band makes significant personnel changes and before the sessions are completed regroups as Fast Cotton. The timing isn't right to shift the sessions to the band's new incarnation as Fast Cotton, but that moment will arrive in 1970, so the second round of Sweetarts tapes are shelved.
Rim Kelley's intro for the band on a February 1967 KAZZ-FM (Austin) live broadcast
You'll find a thorough history of the Sweetarts, beginning with the group's roots as the Fabulous Chevelles and continuing through its rebirth as Fast Cotton, and audio clips from the KAZZ-FM broadcast of the Sweetarts from Club Saracen in Austin, at the Sweetarts retrospective site.
Sometimes great bands take long breaks: on March 13, 2013, during SXSWSouth By Southwest, also known as "SXSW" or "South By" and whose name is inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock thriller North By Northwest, begins in 1987 as an Austin-based music festival and since has expanded to cover feature films and interactive media. SXSW pretty much takes over Austin during The University of Texas spring break every March. in Austin, the Sweetarts reunite at Tom's Tabooley/Antone's Records for only their second performance since disbanding in 1969 to form Fast Cotton. Rim Kelley introduces the 'Tarts at the 2013 event. On February 9, 2014, the Sweetarts reunite again, also at Tom's Tabooley/Antone's Records, to support Ricky Stein's book signing event (for his History Press edition of Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s). In March 2014, Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues restored and remastered versions of A Picture of Me and Without You on iTunes and Amazon Music. The band takes a final bow with an appearance on July 26, 2014, at Saxon Pub in Austin with fellow Austin bandmates Lavender Hill Express to help celebrate the digital reissue of all three Lavender Hill Express Sonobeat singles. In 2017, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sweetarts' A Picture Of Me, replacing it on iTunes and Apple Music and adding more than a dozen other digital platforms worldwide with a spectacular Apple Digital Master edition remastered by Colin Leonard of SING Mastering in Atlanta, Georgia. We also reissue a 50th anniversary remastered digital edition of Without You.
Sweetarts bass player Pat Whitefield dies in Austin, Texas, at age 72 on August 5, 2019, following brain surgery on July 3rd to remove a glioblastoma.
Dwight Dow: drums
Mike Galbraith: vocals and percussion
Ernie Gammage: guitar and lead vocals
Randy Thornton: vocals (replaces Mike Galbraith in 1968 and may sing lead on Summer Sunshine)
Tom Van Zandt: keyboards
Pat Whitefield: bass
Steve Weisberg: guitar (joins in 1968 and performs on Lady and, possibly, Summer Sunshine)
"A" side: A Picture of Me (Ernie Gammage) • 2:25
"B" side: Without You (Ernie Gammage) • 2:17
Released week of September 4, 1967* • R-s101
Produced and engineered by Rim Kelley
Black and white picture sleeve
Basic tracks recorded at Swingers Club , Austin, Texas, on July 18, 1967
Vocals and percussion overdubs recorded at KAZZ-FM studios, Austin, Texas, on or about July 25, 1967
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, Ampex 350 and 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape decks, custom 6-channel portable FET stereo mixer, 3M (Scotch) 201 tape stock
Between 1,000 and 1,500 copies pressed; 50-100 copies overprinted with "PROMO" and "NOT FOR SALE"; A Picture of Me side of promo copies also overprinted with a to indicate the side radio stations should play
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Houston Records, Inc., Houston, Texas
Single-sided black and white picture sleeve
Label blanks and picture sleeve printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
A Picture of Me: LH-3510
Without You: LH-3511
"LH" in the matrix number means "Location Houston", which identifies Houston Records, Inc., as the mastering and pressing plant
There are no copies of the test pressing in circulation, but for the record, in the dead wax:
A Picture of Me: LH-3510-IFM-NY
Without You: LH-3511-IFM-NY
Early in 2021, we find an ultra-rare copy, in a plain sleeve, offered on eBay for $134. Of course, this is the asking price and isn't an indication that a buyer will actually pay that much for the copy.
On September 4, 2017, fifty years to the day after its release as a vinyl 45 RPM single, Sonobeat Historical Archives reissues a restored digital version of A Picture of Me, remastered by legendary audio engineer Colin Leonard of SING Mastering, now available worldwide on all major digital music download and streaming platforms. A spectacular Apple Digital Master version also is available on iTunes and Apple Music. The flip side, Without You, restored and remastered by Sonobeat Historical Archives, also is available worldwide on the same download and streaming platforms.
Lady (Ernie Gammage)
Summer Sunshine – Although markings on the master tape box indicate this tune was recorded by the Sweetarts, and the "sound" and instrumentation feel distinctly similar to Lady, which is a confirmed Sweetarts recording, none of the members of the band recall the song or recording it.
- A Picture of Me • "A" side of Sonobeat stereo single R-s101 (1967)
- A Picture of Me • 2017 50th anniversary remaster
- A Picture of Me • Instrumental backing track (1967)
- Without You • "B" side of Sonobeat stereo single R-s101 (1967)
- Lady (unreleased; 1969)
- Lady • Ernie Gammage standard guitar isolation (unreleased; 1969)
- Summer Sunshine (unreleased; 1969)
- Summer Sunshine • isolated harmony detail (unreleased; 1969)