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.

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.



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)
Sylvia, You're a Bitch
Meet Me by the River

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 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"

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
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" 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hangin' Out with the Blox

The Blox are well-known among sixties fans today for their 1967 single "Hangin' Out" on the Solar label. The single did not make any impression at the time of its release, but it was rescued from oblivion by inclusion as the lead-off track on Flashback (later known as "Texas Flashbacks") Volume 3 in 1980. Yet the group themselves have not factored into too many memories of the Houston '60s scene.

The core trio of the Blox (Robert Turner - lead guitar; Tim Oliver - lead vocals, organ, rhythm guitar; and Jared Satterwhite - bass) played together in several bands with different names over the second half of the '60s, and these frequent name changes probably contributed to their later obscurity. They recorded as early as July, 1965, but did not see a vinyl release until they hooked up with Fred Carroll at Andrus Productions in 1967. A McCoys' album track, "Say Those Magic Words," was immediately recognized for its commercial potential, and their cover version was rushed out on Carroll's new label, Solar, in June, 1967. This was indeed a hit, but only locally. Nevertheless, it probably inspired the McCoys' to release their own version a couple of weeks later as a single just in case, thereby "covering" a cover. As a nice bonus, the Blox were invited on The Larry Kane Show to mime their record.

Released in November, 1967, Robert Turner's original "Hangin' Out," sung by Tim Oliver, had a much tougher sound and attitude, with punk lyrics ("my whole world is out of place"), fuzz bass, and a psychedelic tape-phased instrumental break. Though listed among radio station KFMK's "most requested" in the Houston Post on November 26, 1967, this second single didn't make much impact, and today it is far rarer than copies of "Say Those Magic Words."

When Lelan Rogers left International Artists in February, 1968, IA President Bill Dillard hired Fred Carroll to return to the label that he started. Fred brought the Blox with him, and work on a third single commenced in the early spring of 1968. But Carroll, who had a combative personality, didn't last with IA very long, and when he left, the band's hoped-for release went into deep-freeze. While a lot of "lost" and unissued IA tapes and acetates have been excavated in the decades since, no one has ever found the Blox tapes.

The group soldiered on, but had run out of steam by 1969.

Robert Turner and Jared Satterwhite shared their memories of the Blox with me, and Jared kindly provided photographs of the group.

Houston teen club, 1966. From left: Jared Satterwhite, Robert Turner, Tom Cramer, Tim Oliver. (All photos courtesy Jared Satterwhite Collection.)

Robert Turner / lead guitar, songwriter 

We had a group that was a little radical at the time [1966] called the Third Institutional Commitments. We played the Catacombs, La Maison … we went into the studio to record a couple of tunes and met Fred Carroll, who managed the Coastliners at that time. That’s when we changed our name to the Blox. We were about 18 or 19. Fred was a really talented guy who seemed sort of like a frustrated musician himself. He could play keyboards and he wrote a lot of songs. He locked into the music business through Andrus Studios. He was real close to being the best record producer down here, and he had the best ear for music. He’d tell everybody he was 25 when he was really only about 21. 

The Third Institutional Commitments at the Shamrock Hotel swimming pool, 1966. Mike Kahn (drums), Robert Turner (lead guitar, left on diving board), Jared Satterwhite (bass, center), Tom Cramer (rhythm guitar, right), Tim Oliver (lead vocals, organ, in pool). Click to enlarge. 

He wanted to expand his horizons when we met him, because he had the Coastliners, who were very bookable. So if somebody couldn’t afford, or didn’t want to pay the money the Coastliners were asking – which was like $2500 – Fred could offer them the Blox for $750-1000. So we could kind of ride on their coattails without doing surfer music. 

We made the Top 30 on KILT and KNUZ with “Say Those Magic Words.” We had to keep ordering copies from United Distributing. Mercury was fixing to pick it up, but the McCoys released their version on a 45. 

Nowsounds Calendar in the Houston Post, July 23, 1967. Click to enlarge. The Blox are playing at the University of Houston Student Center the following Friday, and Mount Carmel High School the next night. 

La Maison was started by a guy named Jerry Clark. It was the first avant-garge, counterculture dance hall in Houston. La Maison was on Richmond and had been a grocery store before being converted into a teen dance club. After it closed down, the Hullaballoo Club moved into the same location.

Fred Carroll and I started Solar Records. We later signed with International Artists, but it all fell apart because Fred left, and we were stuck without a record producer, and the guys over there didn’t know what they were doing. There was nobody at IA that knew anything about producing records. We went into the studio and had started recording when all this was taking place. We eventually hired a lawyer to release us from our contract. It was all kind of falling apart at that point (1969). Fred had started IA, but sold it to the two lawyers (Bill Dillard and Noble Ginther, Jr.). In the meantime, we had started Solar. He had a falling out with Don Robey, and the Coastliners didn’t make him a millionaire. That’s when he signed a new producer’s contract with IA. 

“Say Those Magic Words” was released at the same time that the Who came to town for the first time. We opened for them in Beaumont. About 500 came and probably 300 were there to see us. When they played in Houston, they did real well, but the day before they played at the Beaumont Auditorium which holds 3,000 people. The Who sounded great. There were two shows … we opened both of them and still played a night club that night. Keith Moon and the bass player came down to see us that night at the club we were playing. After the show we sat down and drank beer. Keith and John were very refreshing, the other two (Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry) were more standoffish. 

We tried every trick in the book on “Hangin’ Out” and we got a little airplay. We sold about ten thousand copies of our first record, but I bet we didn’t sell more than a thousand of “Hangin’ Out.” 

We’d all play this little circle of clubs. Everybody played Mount Carmel High School, then they’d go up to Bay City, then down to the Golden Triangle (Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange).

Houston Post, November 26, 1967. "Hangin' Out" mentioned as KFMK's "most requested."

Jared Satterwhite on stage, possibly at the Cellar Club, Houston, 1968 or '69. 

Jared Satterwhite /  bass

Robert Turner, Tim Oliver, and I started the Falcons V. We played for private parties. I trained a falcon to sit on my bass. 

Then we became the Outsiders (in late 1965/early 66). We did a lot of Beach Boys stuff. We had madras tuxedos we wore with knee-shorts and long black socks for formal occasions. We played a lot in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the Puppy Pen, owned by Eddie Arceneaux. It was an old, abandoned air force base. It was kind of a low-rent Catacombs. 

We played with Sam the Sham in Galveston at the Moody Center. He had a sentry posted in front of his room – I don’t know if it was to keep us out or them in. 

We played one week-long gig at a place called the Plantation on West Gray, across from the River Oaks Theater. It was a gay private club. You talk about a weird gig, man. We’d never been exposed to that before. Girls dancing with girls, guys dancing with guys, and some unidentified. We didn’t go back. 

We played at UH (University of Houston) at the Cougar Den. We played a lot of stuff at UT (University of Texas). Rice University used to have what we called a “Gross-Out” party. God, they just backed up the beer trucks to this place. Man, when they left and the lights came on, there would be beer bottles, vomit, parts of bodies all over the place. It was horrible!

The Blox on stage, 1968 or '69. Jared Satterwhite (bass) and Don Stott (drums). 

We played for (wealthy society matron) Candace Mossler. She had a coming out party for her daughter and hired us. We played at her house, outside. She’d send down notes that, at first, said, “Turn your instruments down.” But then she sent down requests. None of which we knew, songs like “Old Smokey.” That was a freaky gig. 

We played Love Street quite a bit. Even played the Cellar. That was the real “hard” place. Girls would just get up and start dancing – some would take off all their clothes. 

The music business is a dream world. It’s like, you always want it to happen, but you don’t think it ever will. So I don’t think there was ever any disappointment. 

The Blox on stage, 1968 or '69. Tim Oliver (organ, vocals) and Robert Turner (guitar, vocals). 

Postscript and Discography

I believe Robert is mistaken about the sales figures of "Hangin' Out." Only an estimated dozen or so copies of this record exist today, so the possibility that it originally sold 1,000 copies is extremely unlikely. 

The Stumbling Blox who recorded the unissued "It's Gonna be Alright" (Texas Punk 1966 on Cicadelic Records, 1984) are a different group.

Solar 235 - Say Those Magic Words/The Way I'm Gonna Be [KILT chart: #37 6/23/67]
Solar 237 - Hangin’ Out/Everyday’s Gonna Be Fun [Houston Post mention: 11/26/67]
(Solar 237 also exists as a one-sided DJ copy with only "Hangin' Out.")

The Solar singles were recorded at Andrus Productions in 1967. A version of “Every Day’s Gonna Be Fun” was recorded at ACA-Gold Star Studios [as the Falcons V] July 3, 1965, and may be the master used for the B-side of Solar 237.

Below: International Artists ad from Mother magazine, 1968, showing the Blox among bands whose "singles (were) in progress." This was a chaotic time for the label, and none of these were released except for Beauregard. Click to enlarge.