Friday, February 15, 2013

Dave Spielman and his Rhythm Rangers

There are (at least) four known country bands, using the name The Rhythm Rangers, noted in Colorado music archives.

The earliest appears to be Cal Shrum's Republic Rhythm Rangers, who got their start in Denver, in the 1930s, on KOA radio.  Cal later moved to Hollywood and made quite a career for himself in films. By 1946 he appeared in over 50 western movies. He passed away in 1996 (age 85).

Of note - Cal, and his brother Walt, teamed up in the Colorado Hillbillies.  Brother Walt also recorded on the Calico label (brother Cal's label).

After Cal, Shorty Thompson and his Rhythm Rangers appeared on KOA radio.  Shorty also recorded for Mercury and produced a couple of ditties, "Fishin'" / "Smiles Are Made Out of Sunshine" (Mercury 6012), and "Foolish Love" / "Smiles Are Made Out of Sunshine" (Mercury 6135).

Story in the February 15, 1942 issue of Down Beat (note mention of Albany Hotel, in Denver)

(OF NOTE:  Before he headed up the Rhythm Rangers, Shorty Thompson's group, Saddle Rockin' Rhythm, which also appeared on KOA, featured Shorty's wife Sue, her sister Sally, and a then-unknown guitar picker, Chet Atkins).

In 1950, Columbine (before it was Band Box) released recordings from Will Graves and his Rhythm Rangers.  I have two in my collection - "When the World Has Turned You Down" / "Guess I'm Better Off Without You" (104) and  "Iron Horse" / "You Two-Timed Me One Too Often" (108). 

Then, along came Dave Spielman's Rhythm Rangers.

In researching Mr. Spielman, I found a notation of a single on 4-Star (from 1951).  "Little Gal (from Across the Street)" / "Rich Man Blues," however I couldn’t find a label number in the 4-Star discography.

I found this brief blurb in a 1952 Billboard – “Dave Spielman and his Rhythm Rangers, who are headquartered in Colorado Springs, have two new sides out, one on the Ranger label, and the other on Rocky Mountain.  Spielman has also inked a five year pact with Four Star Records."

The invaluable Hillbilly Researcher website notes Ranger OP-129 – “Out of Nowhere” / “Ride, Ride, Ride” - (vocal trio featuring Billie Lane with Fran Strubble and Bud Walker), and Ranger  OP-148 – “It’s Paw Who Pays"/ “Colorado Waltz."

I have another Spielman/Rhythm Rangers 78 in my stash, with the band backing Sonny Le Barron on "Vagabond Dreamer" / "Much Too Old to Cry" (Ranger 506).

Sadly, Dave Spielman's life was cut short, when he passed away, in 1955, at the age of 35.  His wife (and singing partner) Billie passed away in 1986 (age 60).  Both are buried in Evergreen Cemetery, in Colorado Springs.

 Dave Spielman's contribution to early Colorado Springs country music lives on with the inclusion of "It's Paw Who Pays," on the Bear Family compilation, Foot Loose and Fancy Free.

Listen to a sample

Friday, February 1, 2013

C.D. Draper

Earl Waibel interviewed January 2013.

As the Super Bowl is this Sunday, I thought now would be a good time, if any, to feature the single "Super Bowl Game of Love," from Denver's Curtain Call label - the vanity label for C.D. Draper.

Curtain Call Discography:

3565 -   C. Dean Draper and the Outriders  - "We" / "The House of Love"(1965)
35671 - C. Dean Draper - "You're Touching Me" / "Bright Lights and Blues" (1965)
35691 - Gary Dean - "Gary's Melody" / "Bright Lights and Blues" (1965)
35691 - C. Dean Draper - "I'm the Only Hippie in Muskogee" (year unknown)
35701 - C. Dean Draper - "Walk Back Through My Mind" / "The Most Successful Failure in the World"  (1965)

The Most Successful Failure in the World
Curtain Call LP 372498

Curtain Call was pretty prolific in 1965, however I can find nothing released by the label for the next six years.  Then, in 1971, Draper and Curtain Call surfaced again, with the release the LP See the Eagle Die for Running Bear. That same year, Billboard mentioned that "C. Dean Draper and group just finished a stand with Doug Kershaw at Marvelous Merv's in Denver." Also in 1971, Draper would write "California Oakie," which Buck Owens would cover a few years later.

Around that same time, Draper hooked up with the house band, performing in Central City, at Earl's Toll Gate.

"I had been working there, commuting back and forth from Denver," said Earl Waibel, who played with Draper in the Toll Gate house band, and was somewhat of a Central City band veteran, previously playing at Gilded Garter.

Earl Waibel (on keyboards) performing 
at the Gilded Garter, Central City (1968)

In 1971, the summer tourist season ended, and the work in Central City dried up, so Waibel and Draper began looking for gigs in Denver.  They eventually regrouped as the house band at the 400 Club, a strip joint in downtown Denver.

"We always had a few Denver Broncos players drop by," Waibel said.  "But I won't reveal their names."

One Sunday, after a football game, an audience member requested a song about the sport.

"Everyone knew "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was the consummate baseball song, but there was really no song anyone could identify with for football."

For Waibel, the timing was perfect.

"I had actually been working on a song about football, so I said 'I have a song,' and so I sang it.  The audience had lots to drink, and though it was funny."

Draper saw the reaction and, being ever the marketer, saw an opportunity.

"He pressured me to finish it, so he could record it," Waibel said.  "It took about a year for me to do it."

Recorded in 1973, "Super Bowl Game of Love" was performed by Lois Lane, a Waco, Texas country singer, working in Colorado, who had previously toured with Tex Ritter, Red Foley, Flatt and Scruggs, and numerous other country luminaries (Lane was inducted in the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000).  

(Note above Waibel's name is misspelled)

Draper marketed the record around the country, but the single failed to see the enthusiasm shown at The 400 Club.

"It won 'Pick of the Week." on a Nevada radio station," said Waibel. "I received a royalty check for $3.87, but that was it."

 Draper would go on to re-release Super Bowl Game of Love (year unknown) with singer Chris Taylor (b-side "We")...and he still misspelled the songwriter's name.

Draper would later release the LP Bright Lights, Blues and Lonely Memories - C.D. Draper and Crisser (Chris Taylor?).

Earl Waibel would leave country music to join the dixieland band The Boomtown Stompers. He went on to become an accountant. He has since retired, in Denver.

Pueblo East High - Les Jongleurs

(NOTE: Edited on Oct. 4, 2014 with addition of 1968 LP)
I'm a product of Pueblo East High School (class of '79).

Lots of great memories of my time there: Tennis practice, writing for the Eagles' Cry newspaper, my basketball team boyfriend Dennis, Styx, REO Speedwagon, T.J. Swann parties, wrecking the family car trying to drive up a frozen road, near the campus... but I digress.

Back then the EHS choir group, Les Jongleurs, were considered about as cool as the chess or math club. "The L.Js," as they were called when I was there, were made up of vocally talented teens, who dressed in formal attire and performed concerts throughout the state, and won lots of awards.  That's about all I remember.

I had a few friends in the group, namely Carol, Mike, Cheryl, and my next-door-neighbor, Bill.  Couldn't tell you where they all are now.

My Pueblo buddy Dwight Hunter clued me in to a 1970 album, the self titled Pueblo East High School Les Jongleurs, languishing on eBay with nary a bid - until I nabbed it on the cheap.

Released on the prolific Century label, the album lists Herbert Goodrich as the group's director.

Lots of classical choral stuff here, but the group has fun with "Happiness Is," and "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," both from the 1967 musical.

The last song on side one features vocalist Ron Rivera on "Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In".

Man, I really, really wish he had been mic'd better.  Wow.

Earlier this year another dear friend, Pueblo record dealer Joel Scherzer, found the follow-up to above LP.

Songs of the Pride School was produced in 1971, on the Audicom Corporation label. Herbert Goodrich is still listed as the group's director.

The selections on this one are almost all spiritual or public domain standards, but the group gets to let loose on "Heaven on Their Minds," from Jesus Christ Superstar, and the rock cantata, "The Creation."

Listen to "The Creation"

Listen to "East High Hail to Thee"

Go Eagles!