Thursday, October 17, 2019

Denver-area Thrifting Unearths Rare Alaska Garage Band Demo!

Going to post a non-Colorado vinyl find, only because, well because it's such a cool story....

So I'm digging at the Littleton ARC Thrift, yesterday, when I spotted this large bag of Audiodisc records.

I love finding these, as you never know what might be on these often-unlabeled, homemade recordings. More times than I can count, it's usually some sermon, or an off-key opera singer, but for $3.99 for the whole batch, I thought I would take a chance.

When I got home, I noticed one of the labels indicated they were from Alaska.

I spent the better part of the day discovering dubs of previously-recorded Blood Sweat & Tears, Major Lance records, and a few other cuts I couldn't make out. There were some Anchorage radio commercials, and even some jingles for Buffalo, New York and Toronto radio stations. Truly an odd mix of audio.

Then I got to the very last song, on the record pictured below - an incredibly beautiful, raw teen garage band, sound I had never heard before. Jaw drop doesn't begin to describe my reaction to hearing this gem.

(YouTube video - 2:12)

Because I am up for a challenge, I immediately hit the Internet, trying to find anything on this song. I tried lyric searches, and Google'd Anchorage garage bands - nothing. So I hit Facebook, to see if there was a group dedicated to Alaska-produced records (surely there are folks in other states, as obsessed about state music history as I?)

I hit pay dirt on the invaluable Anchorage Memories page, where group members thought it might be a band called the Heartbeats (also known as the Pulsating Heartbeats). I was directed to this fantastic interview by Michael R. Dougherty, with band member  Raphael (John) Apostol, the group's guitarist and singer.

Thankfully, there was a link to audio of the band's single "Anne."

I thought they were similar enough to track down Raphael, in Anchorage, and play this recently-discovered song.

"Yes, that's a demo of our song, 'Wait Till Then.' I think we recorded that in 1968."

I wish there were an "Oh my God, I'm freaking out right now" emoji. Yeah, it was one of those moments.

"The demo was probably recorded at somebody's house, in Anchorage. I really don't remember."

The song would go on to the B-side of the group's single, "Run Around Kind," recorded in a San Francisco studio, and released on the Golden Gate label (the group also changed its name to the Hartbeet Band). With this new information, I then tracked down the studio single version of "Wait Till Then."

(YouTube video - 2:26)

"I didn't really write 'Wait Till Then' for any girl, in particular. It was just one of those when you fall for someone, and they leave, and you are waiting for them to come back, songs."

 According to Raphael, only a handful of "Run Around Kind" / "Wait Till Then" were produced.

"They sold out in Anchorage, and we didn't make anymore," he said.

The group hung around the Bay Area, trying to make it big, but quickly came back home to Alaska, where they were the opening act for The Grassroots, Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs, The Seeds, and The First Edition (you can read more in that Michael R. Dougherty interview link). They broke up in 1968. (SIDE NOTE: Skip Conte [I've seen it also spelled Konte], who was the keyboardist for the band, later joined Blues Image and co-wrote their big hit "Ride Captain Ride." After the band broke up, he joined Three Dog Night).

The band's first single, "Talkin' About You," would later be re-released on the Back from the Grave CD series (Volume 8), and "Anne" would show up on the Grains of Time CD series, and the Last of the Garage Punk Unknowns CD series (Volume 7&8). It has booked, on Popsike, for over $1,000 (the most recent record of a copy selling, in 2018, was a still-impressive $644).

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The First Snow of the Season

Colorado has been hit with some weird and wacky weather, this week. We had temperatures in the 80s yesterday, and today....

It's still coming down!
Coming back to Colorado, after 30+ years in Texas, I've missed the snow. Don't necessarily love driving in it, or shoveling it, but it has always given me a feeling of home.

So I thought I would dive into my obscure Colorado music stash, to find an appropriate weather song. I've always loved this one, from Jo Ann and Avel. Enjoy (audio below)!

Jo Ann & Avel

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

RIP Fernando Martinez (Sonics lead guitarist)

Sad news to report. Just got word from Isaac Frame, the grandson of Sonics rhythm guitarist and singer Angelio DeHerrera, that the band's lead guitarist, Fernando Martinez passed away yesterday, in Pueblo, after a long illness. Obituary in the Pueblo Chieftain, along with funeral arrangements forthcoming.

The Sonics (left to right) 
 Lee Mestas - Bass Guitar 
 Joe Martinez - Vocals/Drums 
Angelio DeHerrera - Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
 Fernando Martinez - Lead Guitar 

According to Angelio, who I had the opportunity to talk with, a few months ago, Fred Brescher left the group, in 1963, to join The Trolls (link to interview with Trolls bassist Monty Baker, in 2011). It was at that time the band added Fernando, along with Lee Mestas. The group lineup would stay together until 1965, when it disbanded.

Fernando Martinez (2019)
Photo courtesy of his cousin, Michele Stewart

I will have much more on the history of the Sonics, very soon. In the meantime, in honor of Fernando, crank up his fantastic guitar talents, on "No Credit."

Monday, September 23, 2019

Richard Stewart Custom Recording Tape and Disc

You know, you always hope that each obscure Colorado record find has a happy story attached to it. For the most part they do, but then you find something that goes in the complete opposite direction of cheerful.

So, I've had this homemade two-sided, 10" compilation for years. I always loved the Fort Collins label, showing three skull and crossbones. The selections on the disc include Johnny Cash, Elvis, Bob Wills, Red Foley, and the Light Crust Doughboys. I thought it was time to investigate the Richard Stewart Custom Recording Tape and Disc label further.

I wasn't prepared for what I found.

Richard "Dick" Stewart was known around Fort Collins as a popular local organist, and senior at CSU. He married his sweetheart, Clarice, on March 24, 1957, and they immediately started a family.

On June 16, 1958, Dick Stewart was robbed of his wallet. The offender then burglarized the family home, and fled to Wyoming, where he was arrested for the crimes.  Just 11 days later, Dick Stewart died, at the age of 25. The cause of death was believed to be diabetes. His death was so shocking, at such a young age, it made the front page of the paper.

 Fort Collins Coloradoan - July 28, 1958
Click to enlarge

Dick Stewart Found Dead
Richard “Dick” Stewart, 25, local musician and Colorado State University senior was found dead in his home at 823 South Shields Street Sunday night. The discovery was made by a friend Alan Char-key, of 712 West Olive Street, who had gone there to 'visit him.  Mr Stewart, the son of Dr. and Mrs. James D. Stewart of Albuquerque NM,  formerly of Fort Collins, had long been afflicted with diabetes. The young man was born at Chicago, July 7, 1933, and came here with his parents in 1946. He had lived in the Shields Street home since Dr. and Mrs. Stewart moved to Albuquerque several months ago. He was church organist. Mr. Stewart had served as organist for several Fort Collins churches most recently for the First Christian Church where he played for the service Sunday morning. He was graduate of Fort Collins High School and was to have begun his senior year at CSU this fall.

I couldn't find any additional information on the Richard Stewart Custom Recording Tape and Disc label. It's quite possible this was simply a test pressing for homemade recording equipment. The address of the studio, 825 S. Shields, is now home to a travel agent, and a family planning center.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Al DiNero and the Esquires

Going through a large stack of Duodisc, Silvertone, National Hollywood, and Wilcox-Gay Recordio records this week, which I had obtained, several years ago, from my Pueblo record buddy, Joel Scherzer.  There was always a mystery to these, as the labels only showed a few notations (in pencil), with the names "Al," "Art," "Frank," "Virgil," and "Jim." A few others only noted songs, including "Mona Lisa," and "Twilight Time." Thankfully, several showed 1946 and 1947 dates, so I had that to go on.

The records are in poor shape (as are most home recording discs of this age), but I could make out jazzy, accordion-heavy, 1940s-era instrumentals, from a pretty tight band.

Just when I was about to dive into my Internet search, I saw one other record in the box.

Sadly this 1946 record, a cover of the Ink Spots "To Each His Own," is not in great shape, so I can't offer up a sound clip. Even trying to digitally clean it up proved unsuccessful. While the male singer is uncredited, the label mentions that it was recorded by the group, The Esquires.

The dots were all about to be connected.

Al DiNero (the "Al" on all of those home recordings) and the Esquires, were a southern Colorado music staple, from the 1940s through the 1970s. Based in Pueblo, the group would perform up and down the front range, but mainly in the immediate Pueblo/Colorado Springs area.

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
December 21, 1968

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
February 12, 1970

When Al wasn't performing, he was running Al DiNero Accordion and Music stores at several locations along Northern Avenue, then in the Sunset Shopping Center, in Pueblo.

Al passed away in 2007, at the age of 87. According to his obituary, in the Denver Post  "He began playing at age 5. By 14, he went to local beer gardens to play in the evening and came home with $2, which he gave to his family."  The story goes on to quote Frank Caruso, who played with Al in the Esquires (and I assume the "Frank" listed on these home recordings), and would later form his own group, the Serenaders. “His love was the accordion."

Born in Pueblo on Dec. 21, 1919, Al graduated from Central High School. According to the obituary, he had his own orchestra while still a teenager. Later on, he toured with the USO, with Rex Allen and Roy Rogers. He worked at the CF&I steel mill, was a jeweler and trained racehorses.

Al's musical impact on the Steel City was mentioned in 2011, during the 125th anniversary of the Bessemer neighborhood. A story in the Pueblo Chieftain refers that, "Generations of Italian and Slovenian families took lessons from him, including former U.S. Representative, [the late] Ray Kogovsek." The story mentions, "Kogovsek remembered promising his dad, Frank, that playing the accordion would 'be my life’s work' if he bought a shiny new $300 accordion from DiNero. 'Three months later I gave it up,' he said."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Never Judge a Gospel Record - Ever.

 So I was visiting the local thrift chain today, digging through the LP bins, when I spotted this Greeley family faith-based recording, from the Parker Quartet, entitled Unshackled, featuring former Shook-Parker Gospel Singers members Don and Alvera Parker.

The Shook-Parker foursome disbanded in 1960, after releasing two fantastic old-fashioned country gospel albums.

While the Shook side of the group went on to record several albums, I hadn't seen anything from the Parker side, until today. There was no year indicated on the album. but I noticed it was a Rite pressing. According this fantastic Rite record pressing site, I was able to determine that it was recorded in 1971. The pink-colored label on Unshackled noted the price was half off the $1.99, so I decided to invest a buck in yet-another Colorado religious LP (not that the discount would have mattered, as I still would have purchased it, at $1.99 - 😀).

So I get home, and put my latest vinyl find on the turntable. Sure enough the album was your typical family, heavy-harmony, gospel recording. So I leave the room, to make lunch, with the record playing in the background. Then I hear this:

(2:34 - wait for the surf rock-vibe, starting at :43)


Oh it gets better. Yet another surprise, from the next cut - a moody, Byrds-vibe, instrumental:


The back of the album indicated that it was sold at "church activities and meetings." Don and Alvera later moved to Longmont.  Alvera passed away in 1997. Don passed away in 2011.

Don and Alvera Parker tombstone - Lyons Cemetery, Lyons, CO
 (note the name of the LP is added to the tombstone).

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Solve the Mystery: Presto 3628

Hey all! So I found this unmarked, 78rpm, Presto aluminum plate lacquer disc at the KGNU record show, last week. It was in a box next to a few others I grabbed (including the Rocky Mountain Radio Council disc). There appeared to be grooves on only one side, so I plopped it on the turntable, to give it a listen. Out came this very amateur country recording - just a guy and his guitar:


The recording runs almost 5:00 long, and it has its share of goofs, but the singer sings on. There is absolutely no information regarding who the singer is, what the name of the song is, or even if it was made in Colorado. The disc shows "3628," along with the Presto logo. The fantastic Phonozoic website shows that this most definitely a 1940s-era recording.

I'm taking a stab in the dark that someone on here might be able to solve the mystery.

Yes, I did an exhaustive search on some of the lyrics, and came up empty.

Presto sold lots of blank discs, as well as recorders, of which amateur singers used to make demos, or gifts for family and friends. I'm idly wondering if this might be the case here, and we will never know who this mystery singer is.