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The Conqueroo

Updated If any Austin group of the late '60s could be called the Vulcan Gas Company's de facto house band, it would have to be the Conqueroo. That, despite the fact that the Vulcan was self-billed as a psychedelic concert hall and the Conqueroo was hardly psychedelic although certainly a hippie favorite. If any musical genre could have been attached to the eclectic Conqueroo, it would have been not one but a fusion of many: folk, rock, jazz, and blues. Nonetheless, the Conqueroo was a regular at the Vulcan -- featured prominently on many Vulcan handbills and posters -- from the hall's opening in October 1967 until its closing in mid-1970. Sonobeat owners Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Jr.) first heard the Conqueroo perform with the 13th Floor Elevators at Austin's Doris Miller Auditorium in January 1967. But ultimately it was the Conqueroo's regular performances at the Vulcan, frequently attended by the Joseys to seek out new talent, that convinced Bill Sr. and Rim that they had to record the group.

 

The Conqueroo's Sonobeat stereo single, I've Got Time

Recording sessions at the Vulcan Gas Company -- initially in December 1967 and again in March '68 -- yielded Sonobeat's fifth release and third rock single, a pairing of Conqueroo Ed Guinn's I've Got Time (featuring an enigmatically dramatic, yet strangely reserved, duet) and 1 to 3 (featuring an equally dramatic but uninhibited vocal by its composer, Bob Brown). No fancy recording techniques were used; 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. It remains the only commercial single release by all founding members of the Conqueroo, who often shared the Vulcan stage with the Elevators, Johnny Winter, or Shiva's Headband.

   
The Belmer Wright-Gilbert Shelton sleeve. From left, Charlie Pritchard (guitar), Gerry Storm (drums), Bob Brown (guitar), Ed Guinn (bass), four kids and a dog.
 

Sonobeat issued the Conqueroo's single with a two-sided black and white picture sleeve designed by legendary Austin illustrator Gilbert Shelton (who lived with the Conqueroo and half a dozen other assorted characters in a large house just off the University of Texas campus).

An imaginative image by celebrated Austin photographer Belmer Wright (not to be confused with another great Austin photographer, Burton Wilson) completed the sleeve, which has a bit of the look and feel of one of those famous Vulcan Gas Company concert posters. Both sides of the sleeve are identical, except for the song titles, hand lettered by Shelton. Shelton's sleeve art refers to "The Conqueroo", but the group was better known as just "Conqueroo". A banner flowing through the OOs in "Conqueroo" proclaims "Recorded Live at the Vulcan Gas Co.", but the single was not actually recorded before a live audience. The Sonobeat archives don't explain this odd discrepancy.

   

Originally scheduled as Rs-104 (which collectors will note is the matrix number etched in the single's dead wax), the Conqueroo release moved up a notch on Sonobeat's schedule after Shiva's Headband had second thoughts about the release of their single, also recorded at the Vulcan and originally scheduled for release ahead of the Conqueroo's. Bill Josey Sr.'s handwritten notes on the Conqueroo master tape box indicate both songs were recorded using two 2-track Ampex recorders. The second recorder was used for vocal overdubs that were recorded immediately after the band laid down the instrumental tracks. There is an ethereal "other worldness" to these recordings, imparted by the band itself but enhanced by the vast acoustics of the cistern under the Vulcan's floor.

While cataloging the Sonobeat master tapes in 2008, we discovered two instrumental tracks that the Conqueroo recorded during the March '68 session. Both are instrumental tracks that probably were intended to have vocals but that were never completed. One of the tracks may be titled None of Your Business, Waitress. Unfortunately, there's no additional information about these tracks in the Sonobeat archives, so we're uncertain why they were never completed and released.

In addition to sound bites from the Conqueroo's Sonobeat single, we also present sound bites from the unused instrumental backing for an early version of I've Got Time and two previously unreleased and untitled instrumental tracks.

Sonobeat Sound Bites

 
I've Got Time (Sonobeat stereo single R-s103 - "A" side)  
 
I've Got Time (instrumental track recorded Dec, 5, 1967, with a faster tempo than the single's "A" side)  
 
1 to 3 (Sonobeat stereo single R-s103 - "B" side)  
 
Untitled instrumental 1 (unreleased)  
 
Untitled instrumental 2 (unreleased)  

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