Recorded with Sonobeat in 1967 & 1968
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
- Progressive Rock Blues-Rock The Conqueroo • I've Got Time • "A" side of Sonobeat stereo single R-s103 (1968)
The December 5, 1967, instrumental backing tracks master tape
The ostensible "A" side of The Conqueroo single; promo copies are rubber stamped with a so radio stations and record reviewers will know the preferred side; Sonobeat co-owner Bill Josey Sr. decided this was probably the better side to push radio stations to play
The flip side of The Conqueroo's single, equally as great as the ostensible "A" side; technically, the label of both sides of the single don't indicate which is the "A" and which is the "B" because producer Rim Kelley couldn't decide which was the stronger of the two sides
If any Austin group of the late '60s can be called the Vulcan Gas Company's de facto house band, it has to be The Conqueroo. Although the Vulcan is self-billed as a psychedelic concert hall, The Conqueroo is psychedelic only at the genre's outermost edges, playing an eclectic fusion of folk, rock, jazz, and blues, punctuated by wandering, trippy lyrics performed with a dash of histrionics. True, many of the band's sets feature long, complex free-form jams, a trait sometimes associated with psychedelic music but just as often associated with improvisational blues and jazz genres. Regardless how categorized, The Conqueroo is a Vulcan favorite, featured prominently on Vulcan posters and handbills – from the hall's opening in October 1967 until its closing in mid-1970. The band often shares the stage with the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Johnny Winter, and Shiva's Headband.
Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) first hear The Conqueroo perform in January 1967, double-billed with the 13th Floor Elevators at Austin's Doris Miller Auditorium. Rim emcees the show on behalf of the Elevators, who are the headliners. Ultimately, though, it's The Conqueroo's regular performances throughout 1967 at the Vulcan, a fertile venue the Joseys frequent to discover new and rising talent, that convince Bill Sr. and Rim that they should record the band.
Ed Guinn on The Conqueroo's Sonobeat sessions, interviewed in Ricky Stein's Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s (2014)
Recording sessions at the Vulcan Gas Company – initially in December 1967 and again in March '68 – yield Sonobeat's fifth release (which is also its third rock single). The single pairs Ed Guinn's I've Got Time (featuring an enigmatically dramatic, yet strangely reserved, duet) with 1 to 3 (featuring an equally dramatic but uninhibited vocal by composer Bob Brown). Sonobeat uses no fancy recording techniques or special audio effects; the single is nothing short of two great songs performed passionately by great musicians, captured just a little raw at one of Sonobeat's favorite venues, Austin's iconic Vulcan. The Sonobeat single is The Conqueroo's only commercially-released single.
Doug Hanners' restrospective review of The Conqueroo single in his Texas music fanzine Not Fade Away (Volume 1 Issue 1; Fall 1975)
Sonobeat issues the single with a double-sided black and white picture sleeve designed by legendary Austin illustrator Gilbert Shelton, creator of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers underground comic (at the time the recordings are made, Gilbert lives with The Conqueroo and other assorted characters in an old house just off the University of Texas campus). An imaginative tableau staged by celebrated Austin photographer Belmer Wright (not to be confused with another great Austin photographer of the era, Burton Wilson) completes The Conqueroo's picture sleeve, which has much of the look and feel of the famous Vulcan Gas Company concert posters and handbills. Belmer also is a co-creator of the Jomo Disaster Light Show, a spectacular liquid light show projected on the walls and ceiling of the Vulcan during performances. Both sides of the single's sleeve are identical except for the song titles, which are hand lettered by Shelton. Shelton's sleeve art refers to "The Conqueroo", as does the Sonobeat single's label, but the group is known interchangeably as "The Conqueroo" and "Conqueroo". The Q in "Conqueroo" on the sleeve forms a long tail through the double OOs, proclaiming "Recorded Live at the Vulcan Gas Co.", but the single actually is recorded before only a tiny inner circle of band friends and family in an otherwise empty Vulcan – not, as the banner would suggest, during one of the band's public performances. That said, there is an ethereal "other worldness" to The Conqueroo's recordings, as rapturous as any of the band's live performances, that's enhanced by the vast acoustics of the massive empty cistern under the Vulcan's floor.
Originally scheduled as release R-s104 (collectors will find this etched in the single's dead wax), The Conqueroo release moves up to R-s103 on Sonobeat's schedule after Shiva's Headband has second thoughts about the impending release of its Sonobeat single, also recorded at the Vulcan and originally scheduled for release a week or two ahead of The Conqueroo's. Rather than have the acetates (used to make the vinyl record pressing plates) remastered with the new release number inscribed in the dead wax, Bill Sr. simply has the labels for The Conqueroo single printed with the new catalog number and proceeds with its release ahead of schedule. Neither side of the single is the "A" side because both songs are equally strong; however, when Sonobeat mails out promo copies to radio stations and reviewers, Bill Sr. rubber stamps 1 To 3 with a , indicating it's the side he believes has the greater potential for airplay. The single is released during the week of April 8, 1968, and six weeks later The Conqueroo performs at HemisFair '68, San Antonio's world's fair, joining another Sonobeat act, Wali and the Afro-Caravan, on the tage at the fair's Project Y sports and games pavillion. In its June 8th issue, Billboard Magazine reports that Houston's progressive rock station KFMK has named the single as the station's "Biggest Leftfield Happening".
While inventorying the Sonobeat master tape archives in 2008, we discover two instrumental tracks recorded during The Conqueroo's March '68 sessions. Both sound like instrumental beds for vocals that are never overdubbed, so the tracks remain incomplete and somewhat mysterious. One unfinished track may be titled None of Your Business, Waitress.
Backing up a bit: in 1966, Powell St. John, a frequent 13th Floor Elevators collaborator, founds The Conqueroo under the name St. John the Conqueroo. Powell and Conqueroo co-founding members Bill Carr and Tom Bright have moved on by the time Sonobeat records the reorganized and renamed band. In mid-'67, also before the Sonobeat sessions, the band plays San Antonio venues almost every weekend, with a line-up including Guinn, Prichard, and Brown, but also including Wallace Listening Tree on bass, organ, and tamborine, and New York City native Stephen Petrovcik on drums. Of the line-up Sonobeat records, only Guinn and Prichard remain from the founding members, along with semi-newcomer Brown. Brown will return to Sonobeat between 1971 and 1973 in the country-folk band Kingfish. By the way, Powell's original naming of the band is a clever, mystical combination of Powell's last name and a reference to High John the Conqueroo (or sometimes John the Conqueror), the root of the Ipomoea purga plant that's a staple in African-American hoodoo folk magic. Lyrics in Willie Dixon's blues standard Hootchie Cootchie Man refer to John the Conqueroo root as well as to a black cat's bone (an original Johnny Winter song bears the title Black Cat Bone in homage to Willie) and a mojo tooth (also used in African-American lore to cast magic spells).
Bob Brown: guitar and vocals
Ed Guinn: bass, keyboards, woodwinds, and vocals
Charlie Pritchard: lead guitar, bass, and vocals
Gerry Storm: drums
"A" side: I've Got Time (Edward Guinn) • 3:14
"B" side: 1 To 3 (Bob Brown) • 2:17
Produced and engineered by Rim Kelley
Double-sided black & white picture sleeve
Basic instrumental tracks recorded at the Vulcan Gas Company, Austin, Texas, on December 5, 1967, March 18, 1968, and March 23, 1968
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, Ampex 350 and 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape decks, custom 6-channel portable FET stereo mixer, Scotch 201 tape stock
Between 1,000 and 1,500 copies pressed; approximately 100 copies rubber stamped "PROMO COPY"; 1 To 3 side of promo copies also rubber stamped with a to indicate the side radio stations should play
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Houston Records, Inc., Houston, Texas (this is the last Sonobeat single to be mastered and pressed by Houston Records)
Double-sided black and white picture sleeve
Label blanks and picture sleeve printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
I've Got Time: LW and RS-104A-1
1 To 3: LW and RS-104B-1
"LW" in the matrix number is believed to reference Longwear, a manufacturer of lacquer blanks, but does not in itself identify the company that cut the lacquer master
As of January 7, 2017, a copy in its original double-sided picture sleeve is available on eBay at just under $600
Unidentified instrumental #1 (likely None of Your Business, Waitress)
Unidentified instrumental #2
Travis D. Stimeling gives a nod to The Conqueroo and Sonobeat in his 2011 book Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin's Progressive Country Scene, counting The Conqueroo among the more progressive bands of the era and noting its interracial personnel, unusual during Austin in the '60s. Notably, Ed Guinn was the first African-American member of the University of Texas Longhorn marching band before joining The Conqueroo. Ed's also quoted frequently in Barry Shanks' 1994 book Dissonant Identities: The Rock 'n' Roll Scene in Austin, Texas to illustrate the diversity of Austin music in the '60s and '70s. And, Ed's a man of many talents: he appears as a cattle truck driver in Tobe Hooper's 1974 cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, filmed around Austin and Central Texas.
Gilbert Shelton (artist) and Belmer Wright (photographer) collaborate to create The Conqueroo single sleeve
From left, Charlie Pritchard, Gerry Storm, Bob Brown, Ed Guinn, plus kids and dog
Lead guitarist Charlie Prichard
Bass guitarist Ed Guinn