Unidentified artists, unknown session dates, missing recordings • Puzzlers
Nothing written on the tape box to guide us
Well, this is no help at all...
There are more than 200 boxes of audio tapes in the Sonobeat archives. They contain tracks – from false starts to song fragments to raw jams to instrumental backing tracks to completed songs – by artists Sonobeat recorded from 1967 to 1976. We've catalogued them all. We've listened to all but the three or four tapes that have deteriorated beyond salvage. While most boxes are marked with artist name and recording date, some are unmarked, illegible, or undecipherable and some boxes contain tapes unrelated to the artist identified on the box.
Over on our Unidentified Artists page, we take a quick stroll through a sampling of recordings by artists whose names are mysteries to us because their recordings – both tape boxes and the tape reels themselves – are unmarked. Here's a recap:
Unidentified female singer: Unmarked box, two countrified tracks on the reel inside, just singer (nice voice) and acoustic guitar. We think she may be Karol Phelan, who sings with Jim Chesnut on the first Herman Nelson song demo album for Sonobeat's sister company, Sonosong Music.
Unidentified male singer: Box is marked "John" (yep, no last name) and has a session date of October 30, 1969, but it's not any "John" we recall recording. It's not John Inmon, Johnny Richardson, Johnny Schwertner, or Johnny Winter, all of whom Sonobeat records in the '60s. Still, there's a familiar sound to this John's voice...
Unidentified male-female duet: Lovely, harmonious voices accompanied by guitars, but there are no session notes and no markings on the tape box or reel. Curious...
Unidentified band: Another unmarked box containing recordings of a solid country-rock group performing four unidentified songs. We like this group; they have a familiar early 1970s Central Texas flavor. But we've got nothing more to go on.
Unknown session dates
So far as we recall, Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. kept notes of all recording sessions, which he generally kept with the applicable session master tape boxes. In almost every case he wrote the artist name and session date on the tape box itself. Obviously, this isn't universally true, since we have many boxes without artist name, session dates, or session notes. Here are the artists whose recording dates and other data are missing:
Rick Dinsmore: The Sonobeat archives hold just one track by Dinsomore, a song he identifies at the beginning of the tape as Bill, And, teasingly, Rick also identifies the recording date as "July 11th", but he doesn't mention the year. The session master tape itself is undated. We've estimated the likely time frame in which Rick recorded with Sonobeat by analyzing the tape itself: it's a 4-channel recording on quarter-inch tape stock; Sonobeat didn't start using a quarter-inch 4-track recorder until mid-1974, so we can safely say Rick recorded this between mid-'74 and mid-'76 (Sonobeat ceased operating in mid-'76).
Geneva and Her Gentlemen: A nicely annotated session sheet referring simply to "Geneva", which we know is a reference to pop-jazz pianist and vocalist Geneva Rawlins and her jazz combo Geneva and Her Gentlemen, is attached to the master tape box. However, two important pieces of information are missing: the session dates and the names of the individual members of Geneva's band, which throughout the late '60s and into the late '70s performed regularly at The Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin. However, we do have enough information to bracket the time frame in which Geneva's sessions were held: Sonobeat doesn't have a stash of the Liberty Recorders labels, one of which is taped to the Geneva master tape box to document the sessions, until January 1969, and Rim Kelley, who engineers the session, departs from Sonobeat in September 1970. We also feel certain that Sonobeat records Geneva's basic instrumental tracks at The Club Seville for two reasons: first, it's a favorite venue for Sonobeat's recording of jazz and pop artists during the late '60s and, second, the instrumental backing tracks feature a baby grand piano, that Sonobeat never has at any of its studio facilities but that The Club Seville does. We also can make an educated guess that the vocals are overdubbed at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, which is a common practice during the 1968-1972 time frame. Through online research using the Austin American-Statesman newspaper archives, we're able to identify the "Gentlemen" as Geneva's husband Lionel Rawlins on bass and Leotis Duffy (referred to in Austin's jazz circles in the '60s and '70s as just "Duffy") on drums. Alas, we're still left with many unknowns about Geneva's sessions.
Kingfish: The Conqueroo's guitarist Bob Brown returns to Sonobeat for sessions with his new band, Kingfish, sometime in the second half of 1971. The Kingfish master tape is packed in a box that originally holds a David Flack Quorum tape and that doesn't reference Kingfish. Despite a lack of direct information about the Kingfish sessions, we can bracket the time frame during which the band records with Sonobeat because the master is a half-inch 4-track tape and has a sonic quality we identify with the Sonobeat Studios in the KVET Building in Austin; Sonobeat relocated to the KVET Building just before summer 1971. We also know from a survey of Austin night club newspaper ads that Bob Brown leaves The Conqueroo and forms Kingfish by June 1971 but that by later in '71, Bob moves on to form Moon Pie. So Kingfish is a short-lived band, leaving us with a narrow window between June and September '71 during which Sonobeat records the band.
Jean Manor: Jean Manor records with Sonobeat sometime after mid-1970 but before mid-1973. Like the Kingfish tape, Jean's master tape is a half-inch 4-track, but its sonic quality is distinctively different from recordings made at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio and from those made at its North Lamar studio, which leads us to speculate that it's recorded "on location" at an Austin-area night club, although not before a live audience. Hard to be sure...
Rex Sherry: There's no session date on the only Rex Sherry tape in Sonobeat's archives. The tape box is marked "mix-down master", which means we should find, but don't, a half-inch 4-track master somewhere in the archives that might include session information. Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley doesn't recall recording Rex, so we feel certain Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. produces and engineers the session sometime after Rim leaves Sonobeat in September 1970. We also place Rex's recording session in the late-1970 to mid-'71 range because it has a sonic quality we associate with Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, which Sonobeat vacated in late 1971.
Whistler: Although there are no session notes for Whistler and no session dates listed on the band's master tape box, Sonobeat co-founder Rim Kelley recalls engineering the session, places it in the 1969 to mid-1970 time frame, and believes it's recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. Good enough for us. Our online research of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper archives helps us identify members of the band.
We find a 10-1/2 inch tape reel box – holding a half-inch 4-track tape – in the Sonobeat archives marked with the dates of three sessions with "Jerry Storm" that purportedly yield four songs. We know a Gerry Storm, who in 1967 and 1968 is drummer for The Conqueroo, whose stereo 45 RPM single 1 To 3 Sonobeat records and releases in early 1968, so we're pretty sure Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. makes one more of his infamous spelling errors when documenting Gerry's sessions. However, that's the easy piece of this particular puzzle; mysteriously, there's no recording on the tape housed in the box that remotely resembles the distinctive sound of drummer Gerry Storm. In fact, we're certain there's no Gerry Storm anywhere on this tape.
Inside an unlabeled 10-1/2 inch tape reel box, we find an empty metal reel onto which Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. has affixed masking tape marked "CMR", "15 IPS MASTER", and "JUNE 14, 1973". Our best guess is that "CMR" refers to Tommy Hill and The Country Music Revue, a solid Austin-based counry band that Bill records in 1972, but we come to this conclusion solely because we find nothing else in the Sonobeat archives that "CMR" reasonably can refer to. The reel is marked in such a way that we believe Bill records an additional track or two with the Country Music Revue a year after his original recording sessions with the band, perhaps for a potential 45 RPM stereo single release that never happens. But we'll likely never know, since the reel is empty.