Wednesday, October 30, 2019

G.S. Sachdev at Naropa Institute, Boulder (1975)

I've always enjoyed the sounds of a sitar, tabla, tambura, and bansuri. I played Ravi Shankar LPs so much that I had to replace them, repeatedly.

I read last year that one of my favorite performers, G.S. Sachdev had passed away (June 24, 2018). His beautiful ragas, on bansuri (bamboo flute), were transcendent.

In 1975, Sachdev performed at Naropa Institute, in Boulder. He was accompanied by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, for a performance of the Raga Bhupali. Naropa had only been open a year, but was already achieving notoriety for its world renowned campus performers.

While the Raga Bhupali is considered a classical piece of Hindu music, it's an often-heard piece in many Bollywood movies.

Four years after the concert, the Sachdev-Hussain event was released on the Unity Records label (pictured above). I was lucky enough to find this release, at the Denver Record Convention, last week.

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.