Sonobeat Seasons - Winter 1968-'69

The artists Sonobeat records from December 21, 1968, to March 19, 1969
Winter 1968 focuses on recording an Afro-jazz album with Wali and the Afro-Caravan

Austin, Texas-based Sonobeat Recording Company begins winter on December 21, 1968. It's just wrapping a hectic year of recording sessions and vinyl record releases. Sonobeat's commercial release output in 1968 hits eleven 45 RPM stereo singles and one – it's first – 12" stereo album. But things really heat up in an otherwise chilly December '68 as Sonobeat benefits from a national magazine story featuring a blues artist Sonobeat has recorded earlier in '68; the article opens the door to the still-fledgling record company's growth as it enters 1969. But we're getting ahead of ourselves...

Johnny Winter

Winter 1968-'69 in Austin and Central Texas, where Sonobeat is headquartered, begins on a crisp but clear 42° Saturday morning. A couple of weeks earlier, Rolling Stone magazine has run a feature story on hot Texas musicians, calling out rising stars Janis Joplin (from small coastal town Beaumont), The Sir Douglas Quintet (from San Antonio in Central Texas), and Johnny Winter (also from Beaumont but based at the time in Houston). By the time winter '68 begins, Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley are in active negotiations to sell Los Angeles-based Liberty Records the Johnny Winter album Sonobeat has recorded only four months earlier. The negotiations occupy much of Bill Sr. and Rim's time, so there are no Sonobeat recording sessions scheduled for the balance of December '68.

The sale to Liberty closes in January 1969, and the proceeds fund a year of expansion and experimentation for Sonobeat.

Wali and The Afro-Caravan

Sonobeat's successful 1968 release of The Afro-Caravan's stereo 45 RPM single Comin' Home Baby leads to recording sessions with the group during January and February 1969. The sessions focus on recording enough material to release an album by the Austin-based Afro-jazz combo, which by now has changed its name to Wali and The Afro-Caravan. The majority of the album is recorded on Sonobeat's 4-track half-inch Scully 280 tape deck, providing an opportunity for producers Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley to better fine-tune the mix for each track. Notably, the album features a mixture of covers of other artists' material and Afro-Caravan original material. A particularly fine track is Wali's arrangement of the traditional song Hail the King. Although Sonobeat will release a limited-edition advance pressing of the album later in 1969, it will eventually place the album with Liberty-United Artists records for national release in 1970.

Sonobeat conducts no other recording sessions during winter 1968-'69. The sale of the Johnny Winter album to Liberty requires a road trip to Los Angeles, California, in early January '69, where Bill Sr. and Rim hand-deliver the Winter album masters to Liberty and tour LA's famous recording studios. Returning to Austin fueled by the sale of the Winter album and inspired by the many LA recording sessions they've attended as guests of Liberty Records, Bill Sr. and Rim turn their attention to recording the Afro-Caravan album, pushing other recording sessions off into spring '69, when things will heat up again...

Sonobeat's Johnny Winter album makes its national debut in March 1969, a couple of weeks before winter ends