Recorded with Sonobeat in 1967 & 1968
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
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
The ostensible "A" side of the Conqueroo single; this promo copy is rubber stamped with a so radio stations and record reviewers will know the preferred side
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 outer 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. Regardless how categorized, the Conqueroo is a Vulcan perennial, 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 Jr.) first hear Conqueroo perform in January 1967 double-billed with the 13th Floor Elevators at Austin's Doris Miller Auditorium, a concert Rim emcees on behalf of the Elevators, who are the headliners. Ultimately, though, it's the Conqueroo's regular performances throughout 1967 at the Vulcan, where the Joseys tend to go to seek out new talent, that convince Bill Sr. and Rim that they should record the group.
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 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 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.
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, 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 of the era. 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 equally as "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.
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 Thirteenth Floor Elevators collaborator, founds the Conqueroo under the name St. John the Conqueroo, but Powell and co-founding members Bill Carr and Tom Bright have moved on by the time Sonobeat records the reorganized and renamed Conqueroo. Of the line-up Sonobeat records, only Ed Guinn and Charlie Prichard remain from the founding members. Conqueroo guitarist Bob Brown will return to Sonobeat between 1971 and 1973 in 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) root, 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
Laquers 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 (believed to be Longwear) and RS-104A-1
1 To 3: LW (believed to be Longwear) and RS-104B-1
Unidentified instrumental #1 (possibly None of Your Business, Waitress)
Unidentified instrumental #2
An attempt to capture both Conqueroo song titles in one image
The December 5, 1967, instrumental backing tracks master tape
Lead guitarist Charlie Pritchard