Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Second Place is Better Than No Place

My Tennessee-based radio and record buddy Paul Glavin, alerted me to an eBay auction a few weeks ago - a 1967 battle of the bands LP with a Colorado group, the Action Brass, competing. I knew about the record, but also knew that it had previously booked for $500, so it was way out of my price range.

To my surprise, this one was listed at $9.99, but there was a catch - sadly, one of the LPs in the two-record set was missing, but not the one with the Colorado group. So I bid on it, and lost, by $1.00.

Flash forward a week, and the high bidder didn't pay. The seller asked if I still wanted it, for $9.99.

Heck, yeah!

So, enough about the "second place" backstory (it actually fits in well with the rest of the tale, below).

In 1967, 11,000 local bands, across 30 states, competed for a chance to appear in the national finals of the Weymouth, Massachusetts Jaycees Battle of the Bands contest. It was the fifth year of the event, and the winner was given the title, plus $2,000 cash, a Volkswagen bus, a wardrobe, a camera, and "guidance" from the Jaycees to pursue their musical careers. According to the LP liner notes, this included "information on recordings, bookings, radio and TV promotion, and all other areas relative to the music business."

In April of that year, Denver radio station KIMN broadcast the local Jaycees version of the contest, which determined which act would head to the finals. The contest included a who's-who of 1967 Colorado bands - Action Brass (Denver), Blue Angels (Alameda), Cavemen (Pueblo), Congress of Soul (Monte Vista), Dawn and the Twilights (Boulder), Echoes (Limon), Geneva Convention (Fort Morgan), Kicques (Northglenn), Misirlous (Aurora), Mixed Emotions (Sterling), Morning Rain (Colorado Springs), Perfect Strangers (Arvada), Phalanax Mass (Fort Collins) Precious Few (Greeley), Ravens (Littleton), Restless Ones (Lafayette), Runaways (Westminster), Sands of Tyme (Glenwood Springs), Tyler and the Bandits (Lakewood), US Male (Englewood), and Young Savages (Commerce City).

After a two night competition, the Action Brass picked up the first place prize, and represented the state in the national contest.

The Action Brass included band members Gene Brown (trumpet), John Gray (trombone),  Larry Greene (guitar), Marc Greene (trumpet), Jim Johnson (bass), and Doug Winegar (drums). All but five of the members attended Wheat Ridge High, while Gene Brown was a product of Denver Manual High School.

On August 17-19, 1967, a total of 16 finalists competed at the Ridge Arena, in Braintree, MA., for the grand prize. Joining the Action Brass were The Elegants (Maine), Diane and the Jades (Pennsylvania), The Disciples (Idaho), The Flares (North Carolina), The Gents (Utah) The Immortals (Florida), The Loved Ones (Connecticut), Mike and the Marvels (Delaware), Missing Links (Ohio),  Roots of Evil (Arkansas), The Sheffields (Massachusetts), The Soul Division (Alabama), The Tombstones (South Carolina),  Tony's Tygers (Wisconsin), and The Untouchable Men (Mississippi).

The Action Brass performed two songs that night - the (very) slow-paced, marimba-tinged "Morning of Carnival," followed by an energetic New Orleans jazz-style instrumental.

When all was said and done, the winner was The Gents, out of Utah. They dubbed their music "culture rock," with a set that included Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

Second place (you guessed it) went to the Action Brass. Their prize was $1,000 and a wardrobe.

 Battle of the Bands LP and the August 26, 1967 KIMN Top 50 chart, congratulating the Action Brass for its second place finish

According to the liner notes, the Action Brass "... a great group with a refreshing clean sound, halfway between rock and the Tijuana Brass."

Life Magazine and Billboard showed up to cover the event.

 Life Magazine
September 29, 1967
(click to enlarge)


September 2, 1967
 (click to enlarge) 

The following year, the Action Brass released a one and only single, "When The Spirit Moves Me" / "Livin' The Good Life," (Cartay 5335).

As for the Gents? They released a cool garage fuzz punk single on the Normandy label, "I Wonder Why," (the b-side was "Moonlight Sonata") and then shortly after disbanded.

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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rocky Mountain Radio Council

So I found this record, at the annual KGNU record and CD sale, last week - a one-sided, lacquer-coated, 33 1⁄3 rpm, instantaneous recording disc, on this very cool Rocky Mountain Radio Council label.

Upon putting it on the turntable, I heard a photography-related instructional program, performed with a Dragnet radio show narrative.

No idea who the announcers / voice actors are, as there are no credits listed. There is very faint writing on the label, but I can't make it out. There is no etching on the runoff.

In 1937, University of Wyoming President A.G. Crane, proposed a radio project, similar to that of the University Broadcast Council of Chicago. He called it the Rocky Mountain Radio Council. It was one of the first set up by the National Committee on Education by Radio (NCER), funded by John D. Rockefeller.

According to an Internet search. "Crane envisioned a wider radius of broadcasting, proposing that a multi-state consortium, centered in Colorado and Wyoming, create a regional broadcasting initiative in which widely separated populations would have access to the same free education"

Within its first year, RMRC provided more than 200 education programs to radio stations, from 30 college and university partners.

1941 Radio Annual

The RMRC was housed at the Brinton Terrace row houses, located just off of 17th and Lincoln (21 E. 18th Avenue), behind Trinity Methodist Church.

Brinton Terrace Row Homes
(Demolished 1956) 

In 1949, A.G. Crane was elected governor of Wyoming. A year after his election, the RMRC folded (given this date, and the fact the Dragnet radio show ran from 1949-1957, we can probably assume this recording was made, shortly before the group disbanded, in 1950. However the Graflex 22 camera, mentioned in the narrative, was made from 1952-1956), but not before it joined up with Denver Public Schools, the Denver Public Library, and the University of Denver, to discuss the concept of educational television for the city. Through those efforts, in 1956, KRMA-TV became the state's first public television station. In 1970, KRMA became a member of the national Public Broadcasting Service (rebranding as Rocky Mountain PBS, in 1997).

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Labor Man on Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!

Now that my own laborious task of moving is done, and I have all of my Colorado records unpacked and back on the shelves, I thought I would offer up some audio, related to particular days or events, in upcoming blog posts.

I dug out one of my favorite Colorado (by way of Minnesota) LPs, the self-titled Danny Holien. You will find lots of online posts elsewhere, on this stunning vinyl gem, so I won't copy and paste the details, but if you get a chance it's worth reading up on him, and finding his one and only 1972 album recording.

Have a safe holiday!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Beethoven's Boogie


Record digging near Fort Collins, several years ago, I spotted this Loveland-based LP, Beethoven's Boogie. Conceived by Bill Gleichmann and Pat Jones, the mostly-instrumental 1983 recording couples classical music with boogie - a genre I can't say I had ever heard, prior to this find.

I was about to be schooled on this ABBA-styled mashup.

 The album... is the culmination of research on the origin and development of boogie, or boogie-woogie, as it was first called. The title song adheres to an early boogie formula derived from an adopted classical melody, combined with a typical boogie rhythmic pattern. - Liner notes

Liner notes also indicate that Pat Jones, who provides vocals on the above clip, is a Colorado native who began studying piano at the age of six. There is little other information regarding her contribution to the recording.

Bill Gleichmann is noted as a University of California graduate, who worked in Hollywood for "radio/TV, and motion pictures." An Internet search finds that he lived in Loveland, and passed away in 1994.

The LP was produced by Bruce Brunson, who at one time was affiliated with the Charley Butler and Linda Rinaldo group, Colorado Sunshine Company.

The back of the LP shows a P.O. Box, located in Denver, which was pasted over with a sticker noting a Loveland address.

Monday, August 5, 2019

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live

Attended the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, last week, where I scored a substantial cache of Colorado-published sheet music. Some fantastic additions to the esoteric state-related music collection, but one particular piece made me mutter a silent "%&@#," when I saw it (it was a public place, after all - grin).

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live features a little girl, holding a doll, and I'm thinking, "Wait, why would she want to go to heaven. Who died? The little girl? Her doggie?"

Think again. The song is about her mother.

Fro, the yard 'cross the way, strayed a baby one day
To look for her mama, so dear.
Her doll in her arms, seemed to add to her charms
And check could be noticed a tear.
A police man passed by, saw this little one cry,
And asked her, with hand on her head.
Why from home she had strayed, then he kissed the wee maid
As wistfully to him she said...
I'm trying to find where the angels live
My mama is there you see
They called her away, on bright summer's day
And left daddy dear and me.

I'll give you a second to get a hankie...

Written by Harry J. Jones and Robert F. McGowan, the 1910 tearjerker was put out by the Denver Publishing Company, located at 218 Coronado Building, which was original located at the corner of 15th and Stout (it was demolished in 1953, and is now home to a parking garage).

I also located another copy of the sheet music, with an illustrated cover:

The story gets even better, when I tracked down the composers.

Robert F. McGowan was born in Denver, in 1882. He is listed, in the 1904 Denver City Directory as a musician, with a residence at 2428 Larimer. I found another reference that he served as a Denver firefighter.  In 1905, he and Jones penned "I'll Come Back Some Day," published by the prolific Tolbert R. Ingram company.

He left the city in 1910 (I found another story, which noted 1913), to move to Los Angeles. While there, he met up with a young producer named Hal Roach, who gave him a job as the director of a new series of silent films he conceived... Our Gang.

How. About. That. 

Robert McGowan, with the cast of Our Gang

Shortly after McGowan began directing the Our Gang series, he became ill, and turned the director's chair over to nephew, Robert A McGowan.  The senior McGowan recovered, and took the series back over, during what was considered the height of the silent film and the early talkie eras of the series, with the popular characters, Farina, Stymie, and a young Jackie Cooper (the character of Buckwheat didn't appear until 1934. The character of Alfalfa joined the cast in 1935). McGowan left the series in 1933 (when the character of Spanky was introduced), to direct several Paramount motion pictures.  He returned to Our Gang, one more time, to direct Divot Diggers (1936).

McGowan died in 1955. He is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA.

According to the 1904 Denver City Directory, Harry J. Jones was a clerk at the Colorado National Bank, who resided at 3826 Gilpin. I could find no other information on this lyricist.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Joe Bob Mundell and The Ballad of Highlands Ranch

Back in 1978, Denver was growing so big, there wasn't enough space to accommodate the influx of new residents enamored with Colorado (thanks, John Denver). The Mission Viejo Company, seizing the opportunity, purchased a large parcel of land, 12 miles south of Denver, in unincorporated Douglas County - home to nothing more than herds of cattle, and a handful of ranches. The suburban plan included thousands of new homes, a library, schools, parks, and shopping centers.

But not everyone was happy with the plan. Namely the ranchers who were put smack dab in the middle of an eminent domain fight, for their land.

Back then, Joe Mundell was a student teacher in Nederland. The former University of Colorado-Boulder physical education major, and football player, dabbled in songwriting, and the story about the ranchers versus the ranch homes caught his attention.

"I was reading about the story, in the Rocky Mountain News, and saw a picture of a dummy hanging with a sign on it," Mundell told me. "It had kind of a last cowboy standing vibe to it. The developers ended up winning, and I thought it would make a good song."

Mundell recollects that he wanted to record the ode to the expropriating of private property as a bucket list project. "It was something I always wanted to do, make my own record. I recorded that in Boulder, in somebody's basement. The studio had carpet on the walls, and an old 8-channel, half inch tape recorder."

He estimates 500 copies of "The Ballad of Highlands Ranch" and its flipside, "Talking to the Waterfall" were pressed. "I sent them off, but out of the 500, I think I still have about 200 left," he laughed.

Mundell took a chance in Nashville, but admitted, "I got smashed around there, and I needed to pursue a living, so I came back to Colorado. It really wasn't a crushing thing to not get a recording contract. It was just a realization."

He put his degree to use in Alamosa, coaching high school sports, before moving to his hometown of Walsh, located in far southeast Colorado. The bulk of his teaching career would be in nearby Lamar, where he taught math, and served as the track and cross country coach, and offensive coordinator for the school's football team, for 35 years. "I was also sponsor of the Knowledge Bowl team, which I was very proud of."

In between teaching, Mundell continued to pick up his guitar, and play in a few local and area bands, including the Black Water Band, Prairie Fire, and a duo known as Stereo.

He and his wife Darla are the parents of two grown children, a daughter Mandi, and a son Blake, who has followed in his father's musical footsteps. "My son lives in Nashville, and performs under the pseudonym, Courier," Mundell said.  In 2017, he released his 13-song LP The Present Tense.

Joe Mundell retired from the Lamar school district, in 2016, to move back to Walsh. He is currently the high school math teacher, there.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trudy and John


So yesterday, I hit the thrifts in the Longmont area...and unearthed a mother lode of esoteric Colorado records, at various store stops. Over the course of the discovery of my newly-acquired cache, I ventured into Absolute Vinyl, to see my friend, Doug Gaddy, who immediately presented me with an album from an Evergreen couple - Trudy & John With Love.

Upon the first listen of this adult contemporary, faith-based album, I was taken by the haunting softness of the production, along with Trudy Horth's complementary vocals.

"My family moved to Evergreen, from Kansas, when I was 11 years old," Trudy Horth told me, when I contacted she and her husband, John. "John's sister Sue was my English teacher, at Northglenn High School. That's how we met. We started singing together, and got married a year later."

The couple were active members of Evergreen's First Baptist Church, playing in worship bands. Trudy became a prolific songwriter, and after several years of performing her original compositions for parishioners and friends, a co-worker suggested the couple take the next step - record an album.

"So I was actually working with a guy [Geoff Landers] who had a recording studio, and we talked music all of the time at work, and he said, 'Why don't you guys come over, and record?.' said Trudy.

"Packing House Studios was the office for a meat packing company, right by the stockyards," said John. "The building itself said Cattleman’s Association. Geoff bought that and he lived on the top floor of it, and the recording studio was in the basement of it."

(NOTE: Geoffrey Landers and his Packing House Studios released some amazing experimental ambient and industrial albums, made with Bob Drake, including Habitual Features, and The Ever Decimal Pulse, along with producing the Fort Collins-based group, Endgame single ("Nothingness"), Crank Call Love Affair's release ("What's Wrong Yvette"), and Spray Pals Project A ("Happy Go Lucky")

While Trudy took on the lead vocals and acoustic guitar, John handled the synth and strings. The couple enlisted the help of drummer Kevin Meilinger (formerly of The Young Weasels), who was a friend of Geoff's, along with Vance Ortiz, on acoustic guitar. "Vance was one of our best friends." said John. "He was in a band with his brothers. They once opened for Strawberry Alarm Clock." Producer Geoff Landers handles acoustic guitar on "Set the Spirit Free." and bass on "For Grandma."

Released in 1983, Trudy describes the album as a contemporary Christian record, with a very personal meaning. "The songs reflect all of those things that are important to us, and we wanted the songs to be a thanks to God. He is not a separate part of my life. He brings my whole life together."

Side One
Freedom's Secret
Is it Just a Dream
Set the Spirit Free
For Grandma
Turn Around Child

Side Two
Thank You Lord
See the Love
Make Me Strong
Happy Just Lovin' You
Sinful Nature

The album was offered to friends and family, but received no promotion or radio play. Trudy says her goal was never to become famous. "We never pursued anything like that. Music is my ministry. My feeling was that I didn’t write the songs, I’m just the one who put it on paper. It was God who wrote those songs. I felt it was such a privilege."

In between their full-time jobs (the couple worked in computer drafting, along with taking on various remodeling and construction projects, including helping to design and build the body molds for Denver's 16th Street Mall electric hybrid buses), Trudy and John went on to raise two children - a daughter, Elicia, and a son, Jeremy (who tragically died, in 1998). They would later produce five other recordings (on CD), and tour Japan and Europe, as a musical ministry. They are currently working on additional material, for future releases.

"Basically we build things," said John. "We also built a lot of street rods. And we are building another house... and still working on the music."

After 46 years, living on a mountain top in Evergreen, the couple moved to Missouri, in 2015.

"We started a new phase of a music career in Missouri," said Trudy. "The church we attend is a little country church, and I’m the choir leader."

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Here I Am in Denver... ( Crystal River Band )

So I'm digging through the mountain of bags and boxes, from the move up to Denver, and rediscovered a recent addition to the Colorado stash, courtesy of Austin, at Recollect Records.

I put this fantastic homemade bluegrass disc on the turntable, and my ears perked up, when I heard this catchy, and oh-so-appropriate chorus, which became an instant unpacking earworm:

I hit the Internet to see if I could find out more about the Crystal River Band. It didn't take long to locate former-member Russ Rueger, who graciously offered to tell me more about his involvement in the band, and the recording:

"I joined the band in the fall of 1982. A friend brought me to a small bar that was at the intersection of Hog Back Road and I-70, in Golden. A bunch of guys were jamming, and I joined in on harmonica. They invited me over to their next practice, and I brought a guitar and mandolin. Over the next few weeks we played a lot in the basement of a house, in Arvada, and Saturday nights at the same bar. The band settled into six of us, and we named ourselves "The Crystal River Band," after the river out by Carbondale. The band was: Andre Lefebvre - guitar picker and banjo; Charlie Mueller - bass; Kevin Knudsen - rhythm guitar; Kent Knudsen - banjo; Dan [didn't recollect last name] - drummer, and me on mandolin-harmonica-guitar.

Crystal River

We got into the Medicine Man Saloon up on Lookout Mountain, and became their house band. We played there most Friday and Saturday nights through 1985. We gigged some other clubs in the Denver area, and were the top billing for Bailey Days in 1984 and 1985. We also did a couple of festivals and weddings.

We recorded that album in one cocaine-fueled night in a small studio in Denver. Our drummer had left the band, and the producers brought in a studio drummer [Phil Gonzalez] a few days after our sessions. Mostly I remember being really tired.

We fell apart in 1985. Kevin and Kent disappeared, Andre moved back to Nebraska after a nasty divorce and job loss, Charlie met a woman and spent all his time with her, and I got serious about raising my four kids. I moved the family to Vermont in 1987 [Listen to Russ's new music, on his website].

Here's a pic from our heyday - minus the drummer. Left to right: Charlie, Andre, me, Kent, Kevin."

Russ told me there were probably less than 100 of these LPs pressed. The extensive website located a copy, and reviewed it:

"I suspect this disc was simply a souvenir of a summer that a few buddies spent smoking pot and picking out tunes by campfires in the Rocky Mountain nights...  There are a few cover songs -- "Ghost Riders In The Sky," Ian Tyson's "Summer Wages," Doc Watson's "Deep River Blues."  It's exactly the sort of stuff you'd expect mellow '70s dudes with guitars to strum along to at a barbeque party or whatever. There are also a fair number of original tunes by mandolin picker Russ Rueger, also in a raggedly folkie vein. Anyway, this is a real record made by real people..."

Of note, and not to be confused, there was also a faith-based Colorado Springs group, going by the Crystal River Band, around the same time period. 


Monday, June 24, 2019

Back in Business...

Hey all! Well, I'm now a Denver resident! You may remember, back in April, I announced that I was moving up the Interstate, after a little more than three years, in Colorado Springs. It took a bit longer than I would have liked (more than a month to get the house packed up and ready for sale, but then it only took 48 hours to go under contract - wow!).

Finding our next home took a bit longer, but we think we have  the perfect Denver house, for us. We close in mid July. I can't wait to get all of the records back on the shelves!

In the meantime, we are doing the temporary extended-stay hotel housing, and I'm having a blast exploring all of the local thrifts and record stores!

Less than 24 hours after we checked in to our short-term accommodations, I got back into the record diggin' game. First stop, visiting my Denver Record Convention bud, Austin, at Recollect Records.

1255 Delaware St, Denver, CO 80204
(720) 542-8785

After taking in the fantastic Denver Art Museum, the walk over to Recollect is easy peasy, and makes for a fun Sunday afternoon.

Recollect is, by far, the cleanest record store I have ever entered. While I love getting all dusty and dirty, going through unsorted boxes, there is something to be said about leaving with your purchase, minus sneezing and immediately needing a shower. Dare I say, there is a elegance about this place. A nice glass of wine would be completely appropriate here, while rummaging through the neatly sorted selections.

 Austin saw me coming, and directed me right to the Colorado vinyl area. There are $3 local LPs in the back, while the higher dollar, but very reasonably-priced, state-made albums are located in the front left bins of the store. While my ever-supportive, but non-record-collector hubby sat in one of the comfy chairs, I got down to business.

This store did not disappoint. I walked out with a grand total of 20 Colorado albums! Ohhhh yeah, I plan to be a regular.

I already have plans to highlight several of these new finds on this blog, as well as play several of these on the radio show (UPDATE: new Elk Bugles shows are in production, now, and I will also have some cool news, about a SECOND Colorado vinyl show, coming soon, on KGNU - stay tuned).