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Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Jr. left Sonobeat in September 1970 to attend law school in Houston, turning over Sonobeat's day-to-day operations to Bill Josey Sr. In mid-1971, Bill Sr. moved Sonobeat's studios to rented space in the KVET building on North Lamar in Austin. Two years later, he relocated the studios to an old stone church near Liberty Hill, about 35 miles northwest of Austin. From 1971 until Bill Sr.'s death in September 1976, Sonobeat issued less than a handful of releases on its own label. Beginning with the studio relocation to the KVET building, Bill Sr. took on custom recording work while continuing to seek out artists for Sonobeat's own releases. Sonobeat released at least one single by each of the following artists.

1971

The Royal Lights Singers

   

On June 25, 1971, Sonobeat recorded gospel group The Royal Lights Singers (who are also sometimes credited as The Royal Light Singers, with no "s" at the end of "Light") at the then-new Sonobeat Studios in the KVET Building on North Lamar in Austin. The sessions resulted in two singles, Will You Be Ready backed with My Rock (G-s119), that was commercially released, and Creation backed with I Know My Jesus Is Watching, that was scheduled as G-s120 but that, for reasons not documented in the Sonobeat archives, appears to have never been commercially released and instead may have been a custom pressing for the group's direct distribution.

Although James Polk's 1969 Sonobeat single, Stick-To-It-Ive-Ness, had a slight gospel feel, The Royal Lights Singers was the only true gospel artist Sonobeat recorded, adding another distinctive musical genre to the label's eclectic output. The Royal Lights Singers appeared at an early -- possibly the 1972 inaugural -- Kerrville Folk Festival, held annually in Kerrville, Texas, about 105 miles west of Austin.

Sonobeat Sound Bite

Creation (Sonobeat stereo single G-s120 - "A" side - apparently never commercially released)

1975

Arma (Harper)

   

Folk singer, composer, and Round Rock, Texas, native Arma Harper recorded at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas, during 1974 and 1975. He performed his compositions Just One Too Many Times and Plea For Freedom for Sonobeat single PF-121, produced by Sonobeat owner Bill Josey Sr. Although recorded in '74, the single wasn't released until '75. This was Arma's only release on the label and Sonobeat's only release in 1975. And, Arma's single was Sonobeat's only commercial folk release, although Sonobeat had recorded many other folk artists, including Allen Damron, over its 9 year existence. Arma's is one of two Sonobeat releases in which the artist is listed only by first name; the other was Jeannine, who you can read about below.

Arma recorded enough material in his Sonobeat sessions with Bill Sr. for an album, including Why She Left Me Only God Knows, All I Guess I'm Trying to Say, Queen Jade, Love Fades, She Didn't Say, Saturday Afternoon Ditty Song, The Hard Way Down, I'll Be a Leaving in the Morning, Intellectual Spiders, Road to Nowhere, When Comes Tomorrow, and I Feel for You, Brother of Mine. There's no indication in the Sonobeat archives why the album was never released, although Bill Sr.'s failing health, which had stretched him out financially, was probably the reason.

In a candid 1974 snapshot from the Sonobeat archives (above), Arma practices with his Martin acoustic guitar outside the Blue Hole Sounds studio. Take a listen to clips from Sonobeat's next-to-last commercial release and from Arma's unreleased Saturday Afternoon Ditty Song.

Sonobeat Sound Bite

Just One Too Many Times (Sonobeat stereo single PF-121 - "A" side)

Saturday Afternoon Ditty Song (unreleased)


1976

Jeannine (Hoke)

 

Country singer Jeannine Hoke recorded Sonobeat's 24th and final release in spring 1976. the "A" side (incorrectly listed on the label as PS-122 B) is Your Touch Is Like a Whisper, a catchy country-folk tune featuring guitars, dobro, harmonica, and double-tracked lead vocal. The true "B" side, Let's Get to Houston Today (also listed on the label as PS-122B), is an urgent but hopeful country ballad, featuring similar instrumentation as the "A" side, but adding a recorder in harmony with Jeannine's vocal. Both songs are Jeannine's compositions.

The sessions were recorded at Bill Josey Sr.'s "Blue Hole Sounds" studios outside Liberty Hill, Texas. Jeannine's is the second of only two Sonobeat releases in which the artist is listed only by first name; the other is Arma's (see entry above).

The Sonobeat archives hold no additional information about Jeannine or her backup musicians. And, with this single, we come, quite literally, to the end of the Sonobeat label's story.

Sonobeat Sound Bite

Your Touch is Like a Whisper (Sonobeat stereo single PS-122 - "B" side)


Updated Helmer Dahl

     

We were surprised in March 2014 to find a previously undocumented Sonobeat commercial album release that followed The David Flack Quorum's 1976 album Mindbender. We always believed David Flack's album was Sonobeat's final release. But, as we were checking online to see what vinyl collectors were paying for rare copies of Sonobeat singles, we fell upon Helmer Dahl's Toe-tapping Tunes, attributed to Sonobeat, so we bought it. And, when the vinyl album arrived, in pretty good condition, indeed we found it was a Sonobeat release produced and engineered by Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. and his studio handyman Tom Penick. Although the Sonobeat archives contain no indication that any album was released after David Flack's in early 1976, we did know that Helmer Dahl was the final act to record for Bill Sr. in sessions that took place after David's album was released. The Dahl sessions were held at Bill's "Blue Hole Sounds" studio outside Liberty Hill, Texas. The sessions were spread over April 11-13, 1976. Bill's session notes (see below) indicate the April 13th session was not originally planned. There are no later master tapes in the Sonobeat archives, and only very soon after the Helmer Dahl sessions, Bill became too ill to continue to operate the studio.


   

Helmer Dahl was a busy and highly sought after Central Texas musician of Swedish ancestry. His home base was Hutto, Texas, a small town about 15 miles west northwest of the Blue Hole Sounds studios in Liberty Hill, but he performed frequently in Austin and throughout Central Texas. Helmer offered up a combination of pop standards, such as Release Me, and traditional northern European folk songs like Beer Barrel Polka and Westphalia Waltz, which he performed on a Baldwin electric organ with sonic enhancements via an Arp Pro-Soloist synthesizer perched atop the Baldwin. The Arp provided sound effects, fiddles, and rhythm sounds that Helmer used to create the impression an entire band was playing. And, unless you saw Helmer perform at a VFW or Lions Club event or private party, you wouldn't have suspected the sound was generated by just one person at the keyboards. Of course, today, a solo artist using a digital workstation and MIDI keyboard can sound like an entire orchestra; but Helmer -- flying solo -- sounded like an entire band long before such digital wizardry existed and was a Central Texas celebrity because of his extraordinary keyboard talents.

To complete Sonobeat's final album release, Bill Sr. brought Helmer back into the studio for an impromptu session on April 13, 1976, to record two additional songs, Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue and Cotton Eyed Joe. These tunes brought the total running time of the album to about the 40 minute vinyl standard. We believe Cotton Eyed Joe was the final recording made by Bill Sr. and Sonobeat, and there's no doubt that Helmer's album, Toe-Tapping Tunes, was Sonobeat's final release, in summer '76. Bill Sr. succumbed to cancer in September '76, the Helmer Dahl sessions and album his final contribution to the Central Texas music scene.

Sonobeat Sound Bite

Cotton Eyed Joe

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