Thursday, April 25, 2019

Ann Boleyn





Ann Boleyn - Illya b/w Do the Kuryakin (Mammoth 445)
1965


The historical context -- and therefore, the rationale -- of most records is usually immediately apparent just by the song titles and the musical genre. The reasoning behind others, like this one, is far more elusive to modern listeners.  Time has not recorded why Scott and Vivian Holtzman decided to write a serious love ballad to a fictional television character, but their composition "He's a Loser" had improbably been featured on an episode of Gilligan's Island around this time; so it may have seemed like a good commercial move to next write a song about Illya Kuryakin, a spy from the current hip television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Perhaps the husband-and-wife team hoped that a producer with that show would hear it and want to use it. 

From our current perspective, however, everything about this record is mystifying, from the unfamiliar label with no address, to the odd instrumentation (including acoustic bass and bassoon); from the fact that both sides have the same lyrics, to the pseudonymous vocalist, named after one of Henry VIII's wives. The flipside, "Do the Kuryakin," veers into absurdity, but the listener cannot be sure if this was intentional. The date would also be difficult to guess (The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ran for four years, 1964-68) but for a disc jockey scribbling "9/19/65" on this copy. 

Although they are remembered solely for their songs today, Scott and Vivian Holtzman were better known during the 1960s for their involvement with the theater scene in Houston. Scott wrote, directed, or acted in many plays right up to his death in the 1990s, and Vivian acted as well. Their primary interest was theater, but many theater people crossed over into the music scene and vice versa. The Holtzmans were regulars at the Jester, a folk club that opened in the early '60s and stayed popular until the folk music craze faded, and both appear as vocalists on a promotional album the club put out circa 1963. Scott, of course, was a steady presence on the later rock scene as well, writing the "Now Sounds" column for the Houston Post and managing the Fever Tree. 



Scott Holtzman and Kay Oslin performing in the play 110 in the Shade at Theatre, Inc., Bellaire, 1966. (Clipping from The Bellaire & Southwestern Texan, April 20, 1966. Courtesy the Bellaire Friends Library & Historical Society.) Click to enlarge. 



Another frequent guest at the Jester was Kay Oslin, and she, too, was better-known at the time as an actress. In 1966, Oslin co-starred with Scott Holtzman in the play 110 in the Shade at Theatre, Inc., a playhouse in the Bellaire suburb. And it was Kay Oslin who was recruited by Scott in 1965 to sing "Illya" and "Do the Kuryakin." Kay's magnificent voice is well-featured on the ballad A-side, and would have worked better with a regular lyric, not one about a television character. Kay overdubs a second vocal onto her own vocal track, something new in Houston recording. Instead of pressing it locally, Scott pitched the songs to a friend at the Mammoth label -- an obscure San Francisco concern -- ensuring that the record would remain outside the Texas canon for the next 50 years. 

What to make of the bizarre "Do the Kuryakin"? The title never appears in the song; the lyrics are the same as "Illya," but recast with a new arrangement that is apparently supposed to put one in mind of rock music. One suspects that Scott said something along the lines of: "OK, let's do something that sounds really bad and stupid so Top 40 radio might play it." Folk and classical musicians trying to make a rock and roll dance record is something doomed to failure from the outset. Retaining the bassoon for "Do the Kuryakin" was ridiculous, but charming in retrospect. 


Kay Oslin and Frank Davis at La Maison (1964). 

Scott and Kay returned to the studio in 1966, continuing in the novelty vein with two singles on International Artists (released as Frankie & Johnny). Kay was also involved with the Underground, a studio group who recorded at Andrus for Mainstream Records. As far as I know, she would not record again until the 1980s, when she altered her name to K.T. Oslin and recorded many country hits. Her early days as "Ann Boleyn" would have been completely forgotten but for a total fluke: in the 1980s, Scott Holtzman gave his friend Christopher Clements a cassette with some of his old recordings, and there was "Illya," credited properly to Oslin. Clements recently confirmed that this was indeed the same performance as the Mammoth 45, which neither Holtzman nor Oslin had mentioned to him back in the day. 

Thanks to Christopher Clements for his help. 


"Illya"

Sometimes when I'm all alone
It seems inside of my dreams
He's standing right over there
Somewhere over there

Illya, look at me
Only me
Illya, reach for me
And call my name
It was always Illya
It was always Illya for me

In back of every dream
I ever dreamed was this:
That you should look at me
That I should know your kiss
That I should hear your call
It was always Illya
It was always Illya for me

(bassoon solo)

Illya, look at me
Only me
Illya, reach for me
And call my name

"Do the Kuryakin"

Illya, look at me
Only me
Illya, reach for me
And call my name
It was always Illya
It was always Illya for me
In back of every dream 
I've ever dreamed was this: 
That you should look at me
That I should know your kiss

It was always Illya
It was always Illya for me
Illya, look at me
Only me
Illya, reach for me
Call my name
Illya



KAY OSLIN 1960s DISCOGRAPHY

Kay Oslin
Brave Young Sailor
My Girl (with Frank Davis)

From the album Look, It's Us! (Jester no #) 1963-64

Ann Boleyn
Illya/Do the Kuryakin (Mammoth 445) 1965

The Underground
Satisfy'n Sunday/Easy (Mainstream 660) 1966
Get Him Out of Your Mind/Take Me Back (Mainstream 667) 1967

NB: Studio group comprised of Larry O'Keefe, Johnny Wright, Kay Oslin, and Susan Giles on vocals. 

Frankie & Johnny (Scott Holtzman and Kay Oslin)
Sweet Thing (International Artists 112) 1966
Right String, Baby (But the Wrong Yo-Yo)/Present of the Past (International Artists 117) 1967




"Illya"

"Do the Kuryakin"

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Passions



The appearance of an album entitled Texas Punk From the Sixties in record stores in 1985 would have presented a welter of confusion to any American who had lived through the 1960s and experienced its music first-hand. Music of that era had been largely defined by Top 40 radio. The songs played on the radio in Seattle were -- with a few regional exceptions -- the same songs played in the radio in Dallas, Miami, Cleveland, and Buffalo, forming a transcontinental tapestry of shared cultural experience and expectation in the minds of the young. Songs on local labels were, for the most part, not allowed to participate in this golden age, and were quite unwelcome when they began appearing out of nowhere in the 1980s and '90s. Their revival en masse gave notice to the Top 40 generation that what they had collectively experienced was actually a giant sham perpetrated on them by the music industry. The supposedly rebellious and questioning youth of the '60s had never questioned the logic of Top 40 radio, never questioned why or how major labels could dominate the market year after year. Rebellion had been packaged into a mass media consumer product, enriching the same corrupt, gray flannel suit establishment that the youth had imagined they were making irrelevant. Top 40 radio had actually prevented them from hearing most of the great songs of their generation.

So albums like Texas Punk From the Sixties were greeted with indifference or hostility by anyone who actually lived through the 1960s. The first problem with this particular offender was "Texas," a state known mostly for country music, not rock, though it was granted that a few people from the Top 40 canon had come from there (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison). The second problem was "punk." Why punk? The term had never been used in a musical context in the '60s. It was an association that only came much later, and only among bands in places like London and New York City. It was inconceivable to the Top 40 mentality that anyone would invent a term for a musical genre and retroactively apply it to that era, nor were they aware that its application to certain songs of the sixties pre-dated (and influenced) the emergence of that later trend.

The third problem was the bands and songs actually featured on this album: there were no groups recognizable from the Top 40 era at all. Instead, it offered up groups like Kempy and the Guardians, Oedipus and the Mothers, and the Y'Alls. Surely bands with names like this did not actually exist in the 1960s, did they? Perhaps Texas Punk From the Sixties, which purported to originate in France, was an art school joke in which you collected songs nobody wanted, performed by groups no one had ever heard of, on an album no one could be expected to buy. At the very least, it was a product of the inscrutable European mind, like the eccentric Frenchmen who collected discarded, old neon signs in flea markets and displayed them in a Paris art gallery as if they were of great cultural import. More offensively, Texas Punk From the Sixties billed itself as "Volume Two" in a multi-volume series.



It's taken over 30 years to unravel all the mysteries and challenges that reissues like Texas Punk From the Sixties presented to the curious listener since they first stealthily appeared, unannounced, in the Various Artists sections of record stores across the USA as well as England and Europe. The young people encountering these albums had a completely different reaction than those who had inculcated a Top 40 mentality. These albums were instead perceived by them to contain lost treasures, rare sounds that had been unfairly resigned to a critical Sheol by the cruelties of time and fate. Their obscurity was perceived to be their greatest asset. These songs were never part of somebody's nostalgia trip; once liberated from their rare environments, they could live and pulsate on their own oxygen.

The Passions' "Lively One" was one such song liberated by Texas Punk From the Sixties. Raw, crude, sounding like an outtake from the first Rolling Stones album, "Lively One" oozed a certain quality that had been lost in the intervening 20 years. It was simple but somewhat dangerous sounding. The singer asks the listener in the first verse, "Don't I act crazy?" When he sings "dark-haired, dark-eyed," he pronounced "dark" in a way that no Texan has before or since. The point of the record was presumably to sound English, but they probably didn't fool many listeners.


***

The most surprising thing about the Passions is that, unlike most garage bands of the era, they were not teenagers, but somewhat older men: lead singer and bassist Bill Galyon was 23 or 24 when he sang "Lively One," and the ages of the rest of the group at that time ranged from 20 to 25. They had been playing together as a band since around 1962, and it's likely that at least one member had played in '50s bands. The other members of the Passions were: Gordon Eatherly, Jr. (lead guitar), Bill Sheridan (rhythm guitar), Larry Jannasch (drums), and Jerry Mullins (harmonica). The group lived in the North Texas town of Sherman (population 24,988 in 1963), and played all over the area, as far away as Dallas (60 miles south of Sherman), and into Oklahoma. Photos of the group are known to exist, but none have surfaced. (High school yearbook photos of individual members will have to suffice.)




The Passions' first single, "Mercy, Little Baby" (Shayon 101) from 1964. Lead vocals by Bill Galyon, who also wrote the song. (This copy autographed by Galyon and lead guitarist Gordon Eatherly, Jr.)


The next surprising thing about the Passions is that they had another record besides "Lively One." Their first single, "Mercy, Little Baby" on the band's own Shayon label, is rare and has only recently been reissued. It can be accessed on You Tube (clip below). Recorded at Sellers Studio in Dallas, probably in early 1964, "Mercy, Little Baby" is a fine Chuck Berry-ish rocker with strong vocals by Bill and a guitar solo from Gordon. The only flaw is its brevity -- 1:31. It has been called "rockabilly," and if we were to agree with this designation, the Passions would perhaps be the only Texas group to record both a rockabilly and garage record (the appellation that replaced "punk"). The band themselves would have tagged their first record as rock and roll, and their second as rhythm and blues.



Bill Galyon, lead vocalist of the Passions. From the 1959 Sherman High year book. 


"(In the 1950s) Gordon Eatherly and I, as young boys, used to go to the Sherman Municipal Ballroom," Bill Galyon explained to me. "About once every couple of months, a promoter would rent that out and have a big name black artist in: Ike and Tina Turner, Jimmy Reed,  Ivory Joe Hunter, Gatemouth Brown…these guys. Gordon and I would go down there on our bikes and peek through the windows. Blacks from all over that part of the country would come. Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, Etta James … you name it." These shows were hugely inspirational and motivated the youngsters to gravitate toward being musicians themselves. 

Bill couldn't recall most of the places that the Passions had played. Too much time had passed, he said. "We played North Texas, a little bit in Oklahoma. We would venture up in Oklahoma … little towns, podunk places. We began to kind of cook ‘em in Dallas. We did a couple of concerts with Jon and Robin and the In Crowd and the Five Americans. We played the Bronco Bowl in Dallas, a lot of clubs I couldn’t tell you the names of. And a lot of high school hops and things, pretty much like everybody else did back in those days.


Gordon Eatherly, Jr. -- lead guitarist for the Passions c. 1964

"We had a great response, had a great following. We did some concerts with Bruce Chanel when he was hot. He would travel around and pick up musicians (as a backup band). We were on a stage show with Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. We did a couple of dances with Trini Lopez. The Everly Brothers, we did a backup for them once. It was great fun."

There were other Sherman groups, but according to Bill "we pretty much dominated the area there for the period of time that we were together."

Most bands that had formed in the early 1960s looked askance at the British Invasion trend that started in 1964, but not the Passions. While they were intrigued by the Beatles, they were blown away by the Rolling Stones and soon began emulating their sound, repertoire, and style. 

"We were big fans of the Rolling Stones," Bill said. "I liked them. I liked the Beatles’ music, but we liked the Stones because ... we liked their “outlaw” image. We liked the fact that they dressed differently. That was unprecedented. All the bands then had (matching) outfits, you know, like little red jackets, or what have you. And when the Stones came out, and just had anything thrown on, we thought that was the greatest thing in the world. So, we adopted that. We chucked the uniforms and began to wear whatever we wanted, and each one us would try to look more bizarre than the other one. That was fun. And we began to grow our hair longer, and the whole nine yards. All bands then were kind of feeding off that British influence.  It was great."

This was probably when they added Jerry Mullins as a standalone harmonica player: "Jerry was great. He added a whole new dimension to the band. He was in it toward the last, but we were really cooking at that time. We got into the Stones and started doing the harmonica stuff, because initially, they had some harmonica. We’d do a lot of blues, Jimmy Reed. Jerry was terrific on harp."

Bill says, "We saw Jimmy Reed on more than one occasion (at the Sherman Municipal Ballroom). One night, Jimmy Reed had to be helped out of the car, just so completely drunk. They took him in and set him up, got him set down in that chair, but the minute he started playing, it was incredible. It was like he was as straight as an arrow. His wife would sit next to him, or stand next to him, and whisper the lyrics. I’ve seen them do that on more than one occasion. That was an absolute fact." 



       Jerry Mullins, harmonica player of the Passions. From the 1962 Sherman High year book.

Prior to April, 1965, the Passions returned to Sellers Studio. A lot had changed in one year, and their new record would sound nothing like the first. They recorded four songs: one group original ("Lively One"), one song offered to them by local songwriter Donald Mask (the Bo Diddley-esque "You've Got Me Hurtin'"), and two standards ("Ooh Poo Pah Doo" and "You Really Got a Hold on Me"). Some acetates were cut and sent around to various Texas record men, including Huey P. Meaux in Pasadena (a suburb of Houston). Only Meaux expressed interest, and soon a contract was signed. The record was released on the Pic 1 label, one of the eight labels he operated, around June of 1965. The original label had no "A-Side" designation -- perhaps so the disc jockey could "pick one" of his own  -- but Bill confirmed that the band intended "Lively One" to be the A-Side. 

Gordon shows tremendous restraint on both sides, playing only a basic chord progression while allowing Mullins to take all the solos on harmonica. This is particularly striking since Bill remembered Gordon as "an exceptionally talented musician." Meaux faded both sides earlier than the band intended. "Lively One" has a second harmonica solo, and "You've Got Me Hurtin'" was not supposed to fade out. (The full 3:09 version of "Lively One" finally appeared in 2015.)

Unbeknownst to the band, Huey's signing them had an ulterior motive: he needed original material for his new hit group, the Sir Douglas Quintet, and he wanted to secure the publishing on "You've Got Me Hurtin'" so they could record their own version of the song. They did so on April 12, 1965, at Gold Star Studios in Houston during the session for "The Rains Came," their third single. Meaux ended up rejecting the Sir Douglas version, and it would not be released until 33 years later on Edsel's The Crazy Cajun Recordings of the Sir Douglas Quintet. Meaux probably had little taste for "Lively One," as bluesy harmonica is a rarity in his catalog. 

Donald Mask "had little to do with the band," Bill said. "We just kind of threw the (song) together. Donald wanted his name on the label, and he ponied up a few bucks for some outfits and instruments. We kind of went to the well with the guy. Kind of tapped him a little bit. And he was just enthralled that he could have his name on the label. Candidly speaking, we kind of used the guy. He was tickled shitless, so it was cool." Mask remained a dabbler in music. His composition "In the Alley" was recorded by area soul group the Fabulous Capris in 1971. 

"Lively One" received a good amount of airplay on local Sherman radio station KDSX (where Gordon also disc jockeyed), and was presumably sold at the local vinyl emporium, Atherton Music Company. Meaux would have sent the bulk of copies pressed to Big State Distributors in Dallas for sales in the area. The record's scarcity today probably reflects low sales. The record was too raw for most salesmen at the time, but not most teenagers, had they been able to hear it. 

It isn't known how long after the Pic 1 record that the Passions scattered to the winds, winding down after several years making music together. They were getting older and without a hit record, they were finding themselves overcome by eager, younger bands. Bill laments, "I got to feeling like there was no future in it, and I needed to pursue other things. Big mistake. I got interested in radio work. I went to school and got into radio and television. I disc jockeyed for many years, and that evolved into television work. I did some anchor work in Lubbock. But radio is very unstable. It’s a very transient life in small markets.

"We had the talent and capability to achieve greatness but, I don’t know, we didn’t have proper direction or guidance, and it all kind of fell apart. That’s a shame."




Sellers Company acetate of "Hurtin'," re-titled "You've Got Me Hurtin'". The acetate is longer than the released version, and doesn't fade. 


THE PASSIONS DISCOGRAPHY

1964. Sellers Recording Company, 2102 Jackson, Dallas, Tx. 
Bill Galyon (vocal, bass), Gordon Eatherly, Jr. (lead guitar), Bill Sheridan (rhythm guitar), Larry Jannasch (drums).

Mercy, Little Baby (Bill Galyon) Shayon 101 (SoN 7871)
I Want You (Bill Galyon)

Early 1965. Sellers Recording Company, 2102 Jackson, Dallas, Tx. 
Bill Galyon (vocal, bass), Gordon Eatherly, Jr. (lead guitar), Bill Sheridan (rhythm guitar), Larry Jannasch (drums), Jerry Mullins (harmonica).

Lively One (The Passions) Pic 1 117
You've Got Me Hurtin' (Donald R. Mask)
Ooh Poo Pah Doo (unissued)
You Really Got a Hold on Me (unissued)

Note: Both stock and disc jockey copies were released of Pic 1 117. At least two Sellers label acetate copies exist containing the full, longer versions of "Lively One" and "You've Got Me Hurtin'". The full 3:09 version of "Lively One" was reissued from the master tape on the 2015 CD release Don't Be Bad: '60s Punk Recorded in Texas (Big Beat 327). 

Thanks to: Bill Galyon and Doug Hanners. Pic 1 label scan by Mark Taylor. High school yearbook photos taken from Classmates.com. Shayon label scan from Popsike.com. 




"Mercy, Little Baby"


 "Lively One"



"You've Got Me Hurtin'"



The Sir Douglas Quintet version of "You've Got Me Hurtin'"

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Lost in Tyme: the Things


Catacombs flyer for a Six Pents and Shadows show, Thursday, April 7, 1966. Within a year, the Shadows would change their name to the Things. (This was one of several different "grand openings" of the Catacombs between December, 1965, and April, 1966.) 


Although it seems incredible today, only a small percentage of Houston-area rock bands of the 1960s were able to release a record. The stacks of vinyl that one could compile would, at first glance, seem to ridicule any notion that the music scene was somehow negligent in this department -- Neal Ford and the Fanatics alone released 12 singles and a LP, and all other popular groups had at least one single. But this image is deceptive. The Houston Post estimated that there were several hundred groups operating in the city's Metropolitan area, to which one musician added that "it seems like thousands." The mind races contemplating the hundreds of great '60s songs that could have been.

On the other hand, we probably shouldn't make too big a deal out of this. We can safely assume that most groups that didn't produce a record were mediocre, had no original material, and viewed music-making as just another hobby, nothing so serious as to require the expense of studio time or getting real managers involved. Had they recorded, we would today probably have even more lame, unwanted versions of "Mister You're a Better Man Than I" than we already have.

This is definitely not the case with the Things, a highly competent local group who recorded four songs of original material at Andrus Productions in 1967 that went unissued until the 1980s. The reason for their songs' non-release is not known, but it ensured their total eclipse from popular memories of the '60s scene. Nobody I ever talked to remembered a group called "The Things." With one exception, their name does not appear in flyers or posters from the period. Their gigs are not listed (as so many others were) in the Houston Post's weekly Now Sounds calendar. They were not part of the in crowd that hung with the Fanatics, Sidewalks, Coastliners, and Countdown 5.



What little is known about the Things is that they were originally called the Shadows. A Houston booking agent still had one of their business cards in the 1990s (shown above). Most group business cards of this period list a variety of genres that the band could play ("rock - folk - rhythm and blues"), but the Shadows' card states simply that they play "rock & roll music." Their names are listed as Dave Turner, Greg Jones, Floyd Childers, Eddie Loudon, and Steve Owens. A sixth name, Joe Engle, has been marked out. As the Shadows, they were co-billed on a Catacombs flyer dated April 7, 1966, but this is the only time they are listed on any print ephemera for the best known of all Houston teen clubs. 




In July, 1967, the Shadows -- now known as the Things, with a new member David Huffman, replacing one of the others -- booked time at Andrus Productions to record their only known session. This was the same month the Golden Dawn recorded their Power Plant album at Andrus, and just shortly before the Elevators would begin laying down tracks for Easter Everywhere in the same room (there was no "Studio B" at Andrus). To the bands, it was a chaotic but propitious period. The Sidewalks' "99th Floor" (another Andrus production) had hit #1 locally and was moving nationally. The Clique's "Splash 1" would soon be released from recent sessions and become a local hit. Could it go national? Fever Tree and the Coastliners were also recording there. It seemed like things were finally happening in Houston. The Things had every reason to believe that they would be part of this excitement when their records were released. 

The most memorable track that the Things recorded that day was undoubtedly "In Your Soul." The relentless, martial two-chord beat, combined with some outstanding keyboard wizardry overcame the cliched refrain ("I can't love nobody but you..."). It's simply a great track that never gets old. 

A fuzztoned lead guitar -- barely evident on "In Your Soul" -- strongly kicks off their next song, "I Don't Believe It." A different lead vocalist is used. Five instruments are clearly heard -- lead guitar, rhythm guitar, organ, bass, and drums. This track makes it evident that everyone in the band can play their instrument well, as some aggressive drum fills really move the song along, though once again it's somewhat marred by a hackneyed chorus ("Why do I love you the way that I do..."). The agile keyboardist once again takes the solo. 

The group's vocal harmonies threaten to overpower the lead on the mix of "Another Girl Like You," their most commercial and radio-friendly track. The same vocalist used on "I Don't Believe It" returns. There is no proper guitar solo here, only a repeat of the introduction, and the organist is only briefly heard at the end of each refrain. But aggressive, driving drums continue to bolster the song and retain the driving intensity of the previous two songs. 

Finally there was "Loveless Lover," featuring the return of the same lead vocalist as "In Your Soul." The weakest of the four songs, and mixed badly for the reissue, it features no solos, and brings in the addition of what sounds vaguely like a reed instrument (alto sax?). The drumming is frantic as usual. 




Walt Andrus in his studio in 1970. (Photo by Roy Covey, printed in the Houston Post Tempo magazine, August 9, 1970.)


Had "In Your Soul" b/w either "I Don't Believe It" or "Another Girl Like You" been released as a single in 1967, it may not have gone anywhere (Top 40 airplay having nothing to do with a song's intrinsic merit), but would have since been regarded as one of the greatest Houston singles of the '60s. But the hoped-for release never came. The producer is unknown, but it was most likely Roy Ames, not the most reliable person on the Houston music scene. In a similar fashion, an album by Lightnin' Hopkins recorded by Ames in 1968 would not be released until 1975. Perhaps-- assuming Ames was the producer -- the songs were pitched to several labels but were rejected by all of them, and Ames had no interest in releasing it on his own label of the time, Cascade. Ames was mostly into R&B, and these songs are uncharacteristic for him. It may seem remarkable to us today that record companies would reject such commercial material, but once we consider that such excellent songs as Neal Ford's "Good Men," the Chapparels' "I Try So Hard," and the Coastliners' "My Kind of Girl" -- to name but three local examples -- were also rejected, it becomes less surprising. The business revolved around the often inscrutable whims of producers and salesmen.

***

There it stood until 1983. By this time, a small market had opened for what was confusingly called sixties "punk" as well as obscure psychedelic music, and into this fell the unlikely figure of Roy Ames. Ames had been an R&B producer (supervising albums by not only Hopkins but T-Bone Walker, Arnett Cobb, Clifton Chenier, and Juke-Boy Bonner), but had fallen on hard times and was in prison in the early 1980s. Ames' tapes were stored in the vault of ACA Studios, then located at its final commercial location on Westpark Drive in Houston. The exact sequence of events is now unclear, but Ames or his lawyer probably wrote to ACA president Bill Holford asking if he could find someone interested in reissuing his old tapes, as he would be released from prison soon and would need an income. One of Holford's employees, Andy Bradley, went through Ames's tapes and recognized a few things that may be of interest to Voxx Records' Greg Shaw (Bradley was familiar with Shaw's Pebbles reissues and Bomp magazine). The album that eventually resulted, given the highly misleading but salable title Acid Visions, was drawn from the few odds and ends Ames had (mostly Johnny Winter-related material, giving an overinflated impression of Winter's actual influence on the scene when included on the album), plus a few vinyl singles Ames had never heard of, missed by Pebbles and the Flashback series, such as the Stoics, Satori, and the Pandas -- loaned by Shaw, Peter Buesnel, Ronnie Bond, or David Shutt. Two Things songs ("In Your Soul" and "I Don't Believe It") appeared for the first time ever, in new rough stereo mixes, from the master tape (still a rarity in those days of needle-drops).

Transferring from the original master tape had obvious advantages, but there were also drawbacks. Most engineers in the 1980s working from '60s tapes could not help but hear them through contemporary tastes, and mixed them accordingly, with no thought whatsoever given to how the original engineer or band "would have" theoretically mixed them 20 years before (the underlying assumption being that any '60s mix -- since the technology was so old compared to the '80s -- was de facto "bad"). This resulted in many reissues sounding quite different from what '60s fans expected to hear, and this approach continues to persist among some labels to this day. The Things tape is a prime example of this tendency. Had the songs been mixed by Andrus in 1967, the drums would have been much lower, the backing vocals much higher; the inverse mixing reflects 1980s attitudes, not '60s ones. (The exception is "Another Girl Like You," where the backing vocals overpower the lead in parts.) They would have also been mixed down to mono for release. The ACA transfers use stereo mixes, which may not not have been too objectionable had the channel losses clearly audible in "Another Girl Like You" been fixed. 

Acid Visions sold quite well, prompting a "Volume 2" in 1988. There had been no indication on the first volume that more unissued songs existed by the Things, but here they were: "Another Girl Like You" and "Loveless Lover." The songwriters' credit on both went to "Don King," an in-joke. ("Don King" was a pseudonym for Roy Ames, based on the infamous boxing promoter. The actual writers for all four songs are unknown.) This time, the album carried the crucial information -- omitted from the first volume -- that the entire Things session had been recorded at Andrus Productions in July, 1967, and the band members' names were listed, which allows us to connect them to the Shadows. This new data might suggest that Ames did indeed produce the session and had a contract with this information, but with Ames anything is possible. He might well have had nothing to do with it, acquiring the tape through some other means, as he would do with others to which he retroactively applied his producer credit. ("Volume 2" was also technically an ACA production, though by this time Bill Holford was the only employee and he was running it out of his Meyerland-area house. A lot had changed in the five years since Volume 1. This was probably the last rock-related project that Holford worked on in his long career.)

News of the release of the long-dormant tape apparently did not filter to the members of the Things themselves, as reissues and compilations often did. In the 36 years since Acid Visions was first released, no member of the Things is known to have come forward, and for all I know, the members are still unaware that their '67 session has been publicly known and loved by '60s fans for over a generation now. Someone named Floyd Mason Childers, born in Houston in 1949, died at age 31 in 1980. Is it possible that this person was the same Floyd Childers who played with the Things?

***

In the 1990s, Roy Ames sold or leased the Acid Visions tapes to the Collectables label, who began a series of wretched compact disc reissues. Highly "digitally enhanced" versions of the Things' songs appear on these discs, and these versions -- still further ruined by computer remixing and speeding up -- are the basis of the versions heard today by thousands on YouTube. This is a shame. Below we have included the original vinyl pressings of all four songs, with no digital enhancement at all, only channel loss restoration on "Another Girl Like You."



"In Your Soul"






"I Don't Believe It"






"Another Girl Like You"(Channel losses in original 1988 transfer partially corrected by making the new digital transfer in mono and leveling. Some slight loss may still be audible in places.)






"Loveless Lover"

Friday, August 3, 2018

"No One Else Sounded Like Us": The Brother L Congregation

               

The Brother L Congregation at the Paisley Frog Studio, Houston, TX, circa 1969-1970. From left: Randy Vaughan (bass), Baren Hyphenfinkle (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Brother L (manager), Mike Cupid (drums, vocals), Rick Vaughan (lead guitar, vocals).  



The Texas Sixties rock scene has, by now, been fairly well documented. The major groups have been interviewed; reissues have poured forth; books and articles have been published. Studio tapes have been excavated and restored. Films have been made. Groups like the Moving Sidewalks and 13th Floor Elevators have had high-profile reunions, attended mostly by people who weren't even born when those groups last hit the stage. And the original vinyl singles have long since passed into totemic status, traded like Oxyrhynchus papyri by private specialists in Stockholm, Tokyo, London, New South Wales, and even Texas itself. The whole thing has been demystified, if not quite satisfactorily explained. Perhaps another hundred years will need to pass before sociologists can put this period in a logical-sounding context, one devoid of the nostalgia or cheap sensationalism it is usually viewed with today. 

One Texas Sixties group that has heretofore received little of this renown is the Brother L Congregation. For a long time, their records were known only to the few who had original copies; reissues appeared in the late 1980s, but did little to raise their profile. People who attempted to track them down in the 1990s were met with frustrating dead ends. They were presumed to be from Houston only because their singles were pressed in that city -- a deceptive clue, since groups from New Mexico, Louisiana, and Missouri also had their records pressed there. Their name did not appear on any known posters or advertisements, in Houston or anywhere else. 

It was a name that had a somewhat forbidding ring to it. Even by the wildly imaginative standards of the times, "the Brother L Congregation" sounded weird. It darkly suggested a Christian rock group that got caught up with the hysteria of the Sixties, and scattered to the winds after their charismatic prophet overdosed on drugs, or tried to move his "congregation" to some exotic locale outside the continental United States one day in a frenzy of paranoia and bizarre visions. Groups like this did actually exist in the period, so such imaginative speculation did not seem as far off base as it would for any other time. Nobody knew. No one on the Houston scene seemed to remember them. 

But the Brother L Congregation were no underground cult, nor were they trying to be mysterious, though pseudonyms were used in both the band name and within the band itself (as a joke). They were, one is somewhat relieved to learn, a normal teenage rock group of the late Sixties, one of the hundreds that were active in the Houston area during the latter half of that decade. The city's size had swallowed them up. Had they existed in a smaller town, they may have left a large imprint in local memory, but cities of one million or more create little space for cultural impact. The hyper-accelerated pace of pop song trends in the Sixties further ensured rapid obsolescence for any band not wedded to traditional music. And within a few years, young people would look confused when someone mentioned "local" record labels and "local" records. The radio by then only played major labels, creating the false impression that these were the only labels in existence -- or had ever existed. 

The Second Wave

The Brother L Congregation were among what could be called the "second wave" of post-British Invasion bands to form locally in the Sixties. The first wave came in 1965 with groups like Neal Ford and the Fanatics, the Rogues, the Misfits (later Lost and Found), Thursday's Children, the Six Pents, the Baroque Brothers, the Dave Starky V (later Just Us), the Coachmen (later the Moving Sidewalks), Bostwick Vines (later fever tree) and many more. (This is not meant to imply that these groups solely played British songs, just that their overall approach and image was strongly influenced by British groups.) The second wave were groups formed in 1967 or '68: Matchbox, the Starvation Army, Saturnalia, United Gas, Josefus, Blackwell, Jerimiah. Fewer in number, and less remembered today, this second wave had mostly evolved out of the first, but they were now older, more experienced, bored with Top 40 songs, and ready to move on to hard rock and adult audiences. But there were not as many opportunities by that time as there had been in '65. Bands no longer played in the fading teen clubs; Milby Park, where you could smoke a joint and not get arrested, and Love Street, where you could score acid, were the new hip places frequented by bands and music fans. "Battles of the Bands" had given way to rock festivals. People were not starting as many labels as before. The Congregation is atypical in part because while they belonged chronologically to this second wave, they were still teenagers, and they still played with the frantic, youthful intensity that characterizes the first wave. This is what gives the records their lost-in-time atmosphere. Their music is heavy, but not too heavy. It's psychedelic, but not too psychedelic. Their songs are both conventional and unusual. Their influences ranged from Top 40 bubblegummers to heavier groups like Iron Butterfly and regionalists like Shiva's Headband. 

The group was a quartet comprised of brothers Randy Vaughan (bass) and Rick Vaughan (lead guitar, vocals), plus Baren S. Hyphenfinkle (not his real name -- lead vocals, rhythm guitar), and Mike Cupid (drums, vocals). "Brother L" was manager Lynn Anderson (1938-2003), who did not perform with the group. They mostly performed at places like Buddy's Roller Rink on the North Side of Houston, away from the trendy hotspots in Montrose, Allen's Landing, and Memorial, and this relative isolation further distanced them from their peers in the music scene. They were too young to fit in with the hippie crowd, who probably would not have liked the raw attack of their music anyway. Despite this seemingly unpromising situation, Anderson strongly encouraged the group, and managed them ably. He believed in their potential enough to invest in the best equipment, and in 1970 brought out two singles by them on his Kumquat label. They were even working on an album when they broke up in 1971. The only misstep Anderson made was recording at country music studios instead of rock-friendly ones like Andrus Productions or International Artists. The fidelity suffers from using engineers deaf to rock music. Even with this handicap, both records are great, and just as good is the unissued "Tomorrow May Be the End," a Hyphenfinkle nuclear war lyric adapted by the band's friends Jerimiah for the only other single released on Kumquat (under the title "Forever Never Comes"). Fortunately, this and other unissued songs survived and have been linked below. 

I recently interviewed both Randy and Baren and gathered their recollections of the band. Understandably, their memories don't harmonize at every point, and the dates remain hazy, because no contemporary documentation survives except an undated gig poster. Perhaps at some future date we can collect Rick Vaughan and Mike Cupid's memories, as well. 

                      

Randy Vaughan (bass): 

At first, it was just me, Rick, and Mike. We were in search for another guitar player. We searched around the neighborhood, and we knew of several guys. Baren Hyphenfinkle was one of them, so we asked Baren if he wanted to come try out with us — which he did. He and my  brother Rick hit it off pretty good, as far as writing songs. Both Rick and Baren played lead and rhythm guitar. And actually, I was on guitar, too, but then we decided we needed a bass player. (Music) was real popular in the neighborhood where we grew up. A lot of people wanted to play guitar, play drums … the Beatles were going really big. 

We were practicing in Mike’s garage …we said, “We need a bass player.” None of us wanted to play bass. So, Mike pulled a broom out and broke three straws, and said, “Y’all will have to draw straws.” That’s how we found out who the bass player was. (Laughter) I drew the short straw. 

We were very young, didn’t have hardly any money — very poor. Mowing lawns and selling watermelons was all we had for money. I tried to play on the top four strings of my guitar, but it just wasn’t working. We needed that deep, low bass. 

I didn’t have an amp at that point. Baren, he was really into electronics. He said, “I’ll build you an amp.” I was playing through my guitar amp, and the bass didn’t sound right. He built and amp with a speaker. I tried it with my bass, and it sounded perfect. It sounded good. He built it out of old TV and radio parts. 

So, now we were in business. I had a bass amp, Mike’d dad helped him improve on his drum set. Baren and Rick started working on (original) songs. One day, we were all playing at my mother’s house, and we were all standing outside, and Brother L — he lived a couple of streets over. He was a lot older than us. He’d heard us play. He drove by and saw us all sitting on the driveway. 

He walked up and said, “Do y’all have a manager?” 

We said, “No.” 

He said, “Do y’all want a manager?” 

We said, “No.” (Laughter) We thought managers just take all the money. It wasn’t the money, we just enjoyed playing. We didn’t even think about money. 

He said, “You know, with a manager, you can get a lot more jobs — get well-known.” We went over to his house, and he told us there was no obligation, no nothing. He said, “Y’all are too young to sign a binding contract, anyway. I just want to help you guys out, because I like the way you sound.” Baren starting talking to him, and he became the lead man of the band. He was a little older than us. We decided, “All right, let’s go for it.” Then we got that job at Buddy’s Roller Rink. Then we got a job at the North Houston Theater on Jenson Drive. We played the Conroe Ballroom — things started picking up. 


Brother L had a place we could rehearse. He said, “I’m going to take this den, and this will be your rehearsal room.” We brought all our equipment over there and we just left it there, and that’s the way it stayed from that point on. 

Brother L's real name was Lynn Anderson. Hardly anybody called him Lynn. Everybody called him “Brother L.” He liked the ring of that. What happened was — we started to get a little bit of a following. It got up to about 50 people hanging out at Brother L’s. It grew even more after that. 

This guy who used to hang out there called Tipatoe (Thibodeaux). He had a pretty nice Chevrolet Impala — everybody back then was into muscle cars. He drove up one night while everybody was out front. Brother L may have been barbequing or something. He had a table out there, and we were all sitting at the table. Tipatoe drove up and looked at everybody and said, “Hey, what is this — the Brother L Congregation?” (Laughter) He was just kidding around. (But) Brother L liked it! He said, “I like that name. I think that’s what we’re going to call the band.” 


We went over to his house to rehearse on day, and as we walked up, we saw a brand new van. We went back to the rehearsal hall, and he said, “Did y’all see the van? That’s the band’s van. That’s what we’re going to use to haul the band’s equipment.”

I said, “What equipment?”

He said, “We’re fixing to go get some.” We went down to H&H Music on Caroline Street (in downtown Houston). He told Baren, “You and Rick get a PA system.” Baren, being into electronics, he knew exactly what to look for. He picked out the best one they had. Brother L said, “Randy, pick out a bass and amp. Rick, Baren, y’all go get you guitars.” We were shocked. It was like Christmas day. He said, “Money’s no object — get what you need.” I picked out a beautiful Fender Jazz bass and Bassman amp. Rick and Baren picked out two Rickenbacker guitars — the most expensive guitars they had. Twelve-strings. And Fender Twin Reverb amps. Rick and Baren each bought Echoplexes. They got all the sound effects stuff that they had at H&H Music. Mike’s dad had just bought him a new drum kit. So we were set. We were ready to go. We started getting really serious. 

                   


I was thinking that both of our records were made at Nashville Sounds on Jensen Drive. But my brother corrected me — we did “She’s Gonna Lose That Boy” at (Ray) Doggett’s Studio out in the Heights. We did that and “Bringing Me Down” at Doggett’s Studio in 1969. 

“What Can You Do When You’re Lonely” was done at Nashville Sounds, (owned by) A.V. Middlestedt. A.V. and Brother L were real good friends. Brother L and Ray Doggett were real good friends, too. He knew a lot of people. I was really surprised at all the people he knew. He’d go all over the place. He did country, rock, he did all kind of stuff. He had a lot of experience in the entertainment business, but he was actually an architect. He worked for an architect firm in Houston.

Brother L was just the manager. He did play the piano, but he never played with us. In the picture of us, Brother L is sitting on a piano bench. He had a piano in his den. On the wall behind the piano is a painting Brother L did. I asked him, “What is that?” He said, “It’s a paisley frog.” Paisley Frog Studios is on the record (labels). 


Rick sings lead on “She’s Gonna Lose That Boy.” “Bringing Me Down” is Baren. He also did “What Can You Do When You’re Lonely” and “I Don’t Wanna Go.” Mike the drummer does the back-up singing on “She’s Gonna Lose That Boy.” 


We did this song called “Transplant.” I asked Rick why we didn’t press that. He said it was because we hadn’t finished it yet. Him and Baren were still working on it. They would stay up for 30 hours in row playing that song — out walking the streets, playing that song. The radio station was thinking about putting them on top of the Astrodome (while they played “Transplant”). (Laughter) 

The actual name of “Transplant” was “Baby, You Broke My Heart, But I Just Don’t Have Time for a Transplant.” Brother L hit the ceiling when he heard that name. He said, “How are we going to put that on a record label?” It was a long song, like “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” It was probably going to take both sides of the record. 

Before they ever came out with the cordless microphone, Baren had invented that. He said, “We’re going to walk to the bayou. Let us know if you can still hear us playing over the amp.” They started walking off down the street and we could hear them. I said, “How did you do that without a cord?” He said, “Radio waves.”

Baren and Rick did most of the songwriting. Mike and I mostly did the percussion. Mike sang back-up vocals. He was a good singer. But Baren and Rick did all of the lead vocals. Brother L told me I wasn’t allowed to sing. (Laughter) 

Most of the local bands knew each other. We knew the Moving Sidewalks. I jammed with them a couple times. I remember when we auditioned for the Catacombs. They put out an ad on the radio — they were looking for a house band. We said, “Let’s go for it.” We went out and talked to the guy, and he said, “I’m having an audition Saturday.” They were fixing to have their grand opening (at the new location in University Village in 1969). Only three bands showed up that day — us, the Moving Sidewalks, and Ten Years After. We asked Billy Gibbons if he’d heard of Ten Years After. He said, “No, but I’ve heard of them. They play at the Sportsmen’s Lounge on Almeda-Genoa.” 

We got up and did our audition. And then the Moving Sidewalks did theirs. And we all sat down. And Alvin Lee gets up there, and guess what he plays? “I’m Going Home.” Billy Gibbons and my brother Rick, both of their mouths drop. Alvin Lee tore that guitar up. 

The manager called us in office and said, “I’m glad you came out, but we chose Ten Years After.” I was heartbroken. I wanted that job so bad. They had their grand opening the following weekend. I went to it. They had a big marquee sign that said, “Welcome to the Catacombs, home of Ten Years After.” (Note: Ten Years After played at the new Catacombs on August 30, 1969.)

                     


“What Can You Do When You’re Lonely" was the A-side of our second single. We recorded the song, but it was a while before they pressed it. I’d say (it was pressed) maybe a year later. I don’t think any of them went past 1970. They were either ’69 or ’70. It seems like they were maybe a year apart. 

I think they (AM radio stations) did play “What Can You Do When You’re Lonely.” It may have been (played on) KILT.


The North Houston Theater, 8720 Jensen Drive, in its later incarnation as a dry cleaners. The Brother L Congregation played here in 1969. Photo by Roy Bonario/Earl Blair Collection (Retro Houston)

Brother L did keep us pretty busy. We played a lot at North Houston Theater on Jensen Drive. We would play at Intermission time. Everywhere we went, he knew these people.

Brother L’s architect firm backed us. They were the ones who bought all that equipment, and the band (i.e., they trademarked the name under their ownership). They were putting a lot of money into us. 

John Tyler was the guitar player for Jerimiah. He lived two blocks over from us. Like I said, the neighborhood was full of people who played guitar. John was born with polio. We’d known him all our life. He would be inside playing guitar while the rest of us were playing football. John somehow got to know Brother L. I don’t know if we introduced him. John got a band together, and so Brother L decided to manage them, as well. There was no competition — we all got along, like a big family. Brother L also had three other bands. He had a band called Daybreak. We really didn’t compete with each other. We were all different types of music. 


Rick’s wife said, “It’s either me or the music.” Baren, the same thing happened with him. The same thing was happening to Brother L and his wife — we called her “Miss L” (laughter) — because he had so much going on music-wise. I think it got to be too much for her. His architect firm moved to Malibu, California. So, he moved to California. 

Brother L treated us fair, he really did. He really did try to do something with us. He had his life problems, and the band had theirs. From that point on, it kind of went downhill.



                     

Circa 1970. from left: Rick Vaughan, Baren Hyphenfinkle, Randy Vaughan, Mike Cupid. Sitting in front: Brother L (Lynn Anderson). 

Baren Hyphenfinkle (lead vocals, rhythm guitar):

I go by Baren Singleton Hyphenfinkle as a stage name. I actually went downtown and applied for an assumed name of business under that name.  We used to have a TV show every Saturday night called “Weird.” They always had these horror flicks. That’s where I came up with “Hyphenfinkle.” Baren came from a CB license I got when I was 13. I was “Blue Baren.” Singleton — all these famous people had middle names, and I was single, so: “single-ton.” 

My best friend Wayne Bettis and myself would sneak into Love Street at Allen's Landing and listen to the bands before I even thought about singing in front of anyone. I was around 16 back then. My favorites were Shiva's Headband,the 13th Floor Elevators and the Moving Sidewalks. Wayne drove a taxi at 17 years old. We would sneak out on the weekend to Allen's Landing. I remember writing on toilet paper at the park there and would tear it off and kids would grab and read it.

I didn’t even want to be in the band. I used to walk to my girlfriend’s house — I lived on Bentley Road (in North Houston) — and I walked down Sagebrush to Foy Lane. I passed this house and heard this band playing. I walked up there, and there was Ricky, Randy, and Mike in the garage trying to learn some songs. I gave them a few pointers. Every once in a while, when I heard them play, I’d stop and talk to them. This was probably in ’66, ’67. 

My girlfriend, Carol Brown, lived like four doors down from Brother L’s house. There was a commotion out front — not really a commotion, but a bunch of people gathered around Brother L’s — so we walked down there, and they said he was having auditions for a band. Ricky or Randy, or one of them said, “Hey, you ought to try out.” I said, “I’m not interested in being in no band.” However, they talked me into singing. And Brother L insisted that I be the singer. He talked me into it. 

                         

We ended up having to sign contracts. Our parents had to sign, I think, a three year contract. Anything we wrote belonged to him, our recordings belonged to him — I guess the standard recording contract for a manager. 

This may be late ’66. See, I didn’t graduate (high school) until 1970. I think in ’68, I moved into Brother L’s house. I lived in his garage, (which he) turned into a room, like a den. in ’70, I graduated, and in ’71, I got married. I was sick as a child, and they held me back two years. I had double pneumonia, double bronchitis — I was in the hospital during elementary school for several years. I should have graduated in ’68, I guess, but didn’t until ’70. 

Ricky and Randy were playing bubblegum when I met them. I changed all of that for the most part. I had a vision of having a different sound from all other bands so our music couldn't be copied by others. I did not want to sound generic like so many garage bands did at the time. It was our differences in music that made us unique.

Brother L bowled at Little York Bowling Alley with my parents — the Wednesday Night League. I think he was in the same league as them. They knew him and trusted him. That’s why they let me move into his garage while I was still going to school. 


I remember us practicing five hours a day, at least five days a week. We had a couple of days off, but we’d usually end up practicing on those days (as well). 

Brother L had a record. I heard his 45. I said, “Brother L, that’s pretty good.” He said, “No, that’s crap.” He wouldn’t let me listen to it again. Five or ten years before we did it, he had his own record. He was going to college (at the time he made the record) and had his own band. 

One of the local FM stations played our song one time. They called on the phone and I answered it in the room I was staying in at Brother L’s. The deejay put me on the air live. Ricky, Randy, and Mike walked in the door, and I said, “Be quiet, I’m on the phone with a deejay,” and they said, “yeah, right.” But somebody turned on the radio and they heard it. It might have been “She’s Gonna Lose That Boy.” But then, they wanted payola. Brother L went and met with the station manager, (but) he didn’t want to put that kind of money up every time they play one of our songs. I think this was KRBE. 

We went and slid our record under the front door. The deejay told us, “Yeah, if you bring it own here, we’ll play it.” They were on Kirby Drive. I brought it down late at night — it was 10:30 at night. He said, “Just slide it underneath the front door.” I shoved it right under there and he got it. He called me back a couple of hours later to interview us. He played it that one time. 

I thought (the first recording session) was ’68. Randy thought we recorded at some studio somewhere else, but actually we went to Gilley’s (Night Club) in Pasadena. Back then, it was all open fields — nothing was built on Spencer Highway. It seems like you had to drive forever to get there. But behind Gilley’s place there was a little recording studio. This guy (Ray Doggett) was an old country recording guy. He didn’t know nothing about rock and roll. We had to teach him a little bit. (Laughs) 

We did a couple of singles, and I don’t even know what happened to this one song called “Julianna.” We recorded it there and overdubbed some harmonies. I think it was just a tape that we made. 

I sang 99 percent of all the songs. I think “She’s Gonna Lose That Boy” was the only song that somebody else sang. 

(On "Bringing Me Down") we had a tape-fed Echoplex, and that’s what Ricky used to run his guitar through. The fuzz was overdrive. I don’t know if I built it for them. I’ve been doing electronics all my life. But I think I build a three-transistor overdrive. He plugged that in and put a loop through the Echoplex and into his amplifier. The engineer said, “We can’t have that! You’re going to blow my microphones!” We kept half of it out — what I was going to use (i.e., Baren’s guitar part), but he let us keep Ricky’s stuff. I always liked to experiment with the sound. 

My parents were pissed off at me. They wanted me to go to this college in Dallas to be an electronics engineer. I told them, “I know all there is to know about electronics.” Typical teenager. (Laughter) So I proved it to them later. In the mid-1980s, I went to NASA out here at JSC (Johnson Space Center), and I said, “I want a job working in your video display.” They said, “What kind of degree?” I said, “I ain’t got none. I don’t need any. Give me six months. If I don’t work circles out of these guys just coming out of college, you can fire me. I won’t ask for unemployment or nothing.” I worked there for two-and-a-half-years, and I worked circles around everybody. Because they go to college and they learn the theory. Well, the theory don’t fix nothing. I had all this experience. 

Brother L started out real good, and then he started drinking a lot. To me, that was our downfall. I think he had other problems — like his work or something. The band was taking too much time away from his work. Maybe family problems or something. I don’t know what the deal was, but I noticed a drop-off there. 

He bought this building on Aldine-Westfield (Road) called Plastic Grandmother. We started playing there all the time. Friday and Saturday nights. Here’s the funny part: they charged $1.50 to get in, but it was all Ricky, Randy, and Mike’s friends and girlfriends. I’d bring my girlfriend. And they all got in for nothing. So he never made no money. (Laughter) 


I remember the North Houston Theater. Every Saturday before a show (movie) started we’d get up there (laughter) and play. They’d call it a “contest.” 

Buddy’s Roller Rink was right down the street from our house, on Bentley, close to Little York. We played there every Saturday night. We’d play music and they’d dance to it on skates. We did it at least ten times — that’s probably ten weeks, maybe more. I think it was a quarter to get in. Ricky, Randy, and Mike were kind of jokesters to me. I don’t know if they resented me being older, or what. I broke up with my girlfriend, so I told them, “I need you to go find me a blonde with blue eyes.” So they did, but all her teeth were rotten. (Laughter) I broke that girl’s heart. I said, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t stand to look at you.” She lived right behind Buddy’s Roller Rink. 

Brother L worked for Timmerman Engineering downtown close to Hermann Park (on) Sunset Boulevard. He took me to his office several times. His boss came out to hear us play. We needed some instruments — we were using old, junky stuff. We went to H&H (Music). They (Timmerman) got a loan and financed all our equipment. And then something happened, and I think Brother L had to buy them out. I think that’s when his financial problems started. 

We had two Rickenbacker guitars — back then, they were at least $1,200 apiece. 

“What Can You Do When You’re Lonely” I wrote in my mother’s garage when me and my girlfriend had a spat. I said, “I’m going to write a song about this.” 

                                 

“I Don’t Wanna Go” — I was depressed after me and my girlfriend broke up. They sent me to this doctor — Dr. Gottlieb. He gave me some anti-depressant pills, and I’d gotten into Brother L’s refrigerator and was drinking beer. They did not go together. That’s when I wrote “I Don’t Wanna Go.” I don’t know what it’s about. I tell people it’s about the Vietnam War. (Laughter) It’s just a bunch of crap that I wrote on anti-depressant pills and drinking beer. 


That was done on Jenson Drive at Nashville Sounds Recording Studios. That guy (engineer A.V. Middlestedt) told me not to blow up his mic. He wouldn’t let me use some of my equipment. I remember that Brother L wanted each one of us to do one song. He was trying to make an album. It went from about 6 o’clock to 12 at night. I think he (Brother L) went for the economical recording time. It was like after hours. 

(On vocals) Brother L told me, “You need to make it louder.” I guess I sang too soft. So I started screaming basically. (Laughter) It became my trademark. 

No one else sounded like us. Before I sang every time I would scream into a pillow for a few minutes to make my voice more raspy.


My name is on one of Jerimiah’s records. That’s because John Tyler and I wrote that (“Forever Never Comes”) in Brother L’s den one night. I wrote the words, and we both kind of wrote the music. Jerimiah then said, “Can we do our own version of that song?” I said, “I don’t have no problem with it. It’s as much John Tyler’s as it is mine.” 

"Sunday sand ..." In a nuclear war, the sand turns to glass. There, again, I was taking anti-depressants. (Laughter) 

I never did LSD. I smoked a joint every once in a while, (but) it really wasn’t my thing — it didn’t do nothing one way or another. I had more fun with the prescription drugs. In fact, they gave me chemical shock treatments for awhile. That didn’t work. They broke out the big guns, giving me some drugs that had just been approved by the government. That worked. It brought me out of depression. My girlfriend left me, and I didn’t like it one bit. (Laughter)

Ricky and Randy and Mike had their group and had their songs, and I didn’t want to tell them that they couldn’t play them. So I learned them with them. People want to hear something they’ve heard before. They don’t want to hear all original music in a band. So we’d use that (Top 40 covers) to entrap the people to listen to us. 


Dr. Michael DeBakey just did a heart transplant (in 1967) and my brother called me up and said, “I’ve got a great idea for a song: ‘Baby, You Broke My Heart But I Just Don’t Have Time for a Transplant.” (Iron Butterfly’s) “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was out at that time (released June, 1968). That intrigued me. That was so good to me. So that’s what inspired “Transplant” to be so long. I said, “If they can do it, I can do it.”

Brother L gave each of us a couple of boxes of the two singles he had pressed. I gave at least 30 away and my brother-in-law had some put into a few jukeboxes of restaurants he frequented on Jensen Drive. 

We probably broke up in late ’70 or early ’71. They — Ricky and Randy — were fighting all the time. Randy would say, “I can’t hear my bass.” Ricky would say, “Oh, you’re too loud.” One time, they had a physical, knock-down, drag-out fight at the Plastic Grandmother. Ricky’s girlfriend wanted him to quit the band. And my soon-to-be wife said, “You know, this is getting ridiculous.” I said, “Let’s go.” I put my guitar down, turned my amplifier off, and we left. And I never returned. I got married in March of ’71, and there was no more band. I walked out and left my equipment there.


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Sessionography

1969. Ray Doggett Recording Studio, Houston, Tx.
Producer: Lynn Anderson. Engineer: Ray Doggett
Rick Vaughan (lead vocal*, lead guitar), Baren Hyphenfinkle (lead vocal**, rhythm guitar), Randy Vaughan (bass), Mike Cupid (drums, backing vocal). 

Kumquat 1

She's Gonna Lose That Boy* (Rick Vaughan-Lynn Anderson) JH-59
Bringing Me Down** (Baren Hyphenfinkle-Lynn Anderson) JH-58

Probably released in early 1970. 

1970. Nashville Sounds Recording Studio, 9717 Jensen Drive, Houston, Tx. Producer: Lynn Anderson. Engineer: A.V. Middlestedt

Baren Hyphenfinkle (lead vocal, rhythm guitar), Rick Vaughan (lead guitar), Randy Vaughan (bass), Mike Cupid (drums). 

Kumquat 3 (as B L C)

What Can You Do When You're Lonely (Baren Hyphenfinkle-Lynn Anderson) JH-344
I Don't Wanna Go (Baren Hyphenfinkle-Rick Vaughan-Lynn Anderson) JH-343

Note: Rick Vaughan's name is spelled "Vaughn" incorrectly on the labels. 

Released in late 1970. 

Unissued songs
Tomorrow May Be the End/Sunday Sand
It's a Lonely World
Baby, You Broke My Heart But I Just Don't Have Time for a Transplant
Someday I'll Be a Star
Randy's Song (instrumental - title unknown)
Sherry
Sylvia, You're a Bitch
Meet Me by the River
Julianna

Related record:
Jerimiah - Jerimiah (D. Kibodeaux-Lynn Anderson-Et Al.) JH-341/Forever Never Comes (John Tyler-Baren Hyphenfinkle-D. Kibodeaux-Lynn Anderson) JH-342 (Kumquat 2) 1970


NOTE: No documentation has survived from Houston Records, so outside sources must be sought to establish possible release dates. The Brothers Seven's cover version of Santana's "Evil Ways" was given the master number JH-96, a number close to the first Brother L Congregation record. Santana's "Evil Ways" peaked at #9 on the Billboard chart on March 21, 1970, suggesting that the Brothers Seven's record was pressed around that time. If so, this would probably put the release date of "She's Gonna Lose That Boy" b/w "Bringing Me Down" in early 1970. 

Bobby Made and the Outcasts' "I'm Lonely" on RoTab (JH-367) was advertised as a new release in the Galveston Daily News on December 25, 1970. Since the master numbers on the second BLC record are very close to JH-367, it was probably released around the same time. This means that the second single was released just shortly before the band broke up in late 1970 or early 1971. 

Unfortunately, all reissues of the Kumquat singles have been sourced from inferior vinyl transfers. There has yet to be a proper, high quality reissue of the Brother L Congregation. 

Lynn Anderson did not contribute to the writing of any of the songs. He added his name to the writer's credits as part of his managerial agreement with the band in publishing the songs, not out of any dubious claim to have been the actual songwriter. 

The record made by Lynn Anderson alluded to by Baren has not been identified. It is not the "L. Anderson" single "Neck Bones and Hot Sauce" on Cindy; that is by the black saxophonist Leonard Anderson, and it's an instrumental. 




"Tomorrow May Be the End" / "Sunday Sand"(Hyphenfinkle-Tyler)

Sunday sand remains 
and the Sun came out and they played games
and some broke out in tomorrow's name

Take my brain through the wind
Where charts have never been
and in the sea you see they do see me   
tomorrow
Tomorrow may be the end  

Tomorrow never comes
We'll never see the sun
For your dream 
What I scream
Tomorrow may be the end
Tomorrow may be the end
Tomorrow may be the end



"I Don't Wanna Go"
(Hyphenfinkle-Vaughan)

Standing all alone on the road
when the rain came down
I was on my own had no home 
yea going to town

Hey there son you're the one
 for my gun
But I don't wanna go

It's a shame 
I'm the blame 
for what is there
Call my name 
 I'm the blame 
no I don't care

Cats and dogs on the smog
well way over there
but I don't wanna go
No I don't wanna go
Yeah I don't wanna go

We went away
wasn't the same
but things cooled down
In the park
by the air 
or on the ground
People were there
everywhere
but they couldn't be found

No I don't wanna go 
No I don't wanna go 
No I don't wanna go


"It's a Lonely World" 

"Meet Me By the River"