Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Neal Ford and the V.I.P.s on Mindi

Neal Ford's '60s singles have been pretty well documented by now, but this fun frat-rocker apparently eluded everybody. Credited solely to the V.I.P.'s, this is obviously Neal on vocals (he's credited as songwriter) and probably Kim Espy on harmony vocal, i.e., the same duo who performed and recorded as The Ramadas. Why the name change? Who knows? I'm guessing this dates from 1963-64. Mindi appears to be a one-off label. The backing group is unknown. Neal and Jon Pereles would form the Fanatics not long after this.

Below: the V.I.P.'s, also known as the Ramadas: Kim Espy (left) and Neal Ford, 1963-64. 

Below: Earliest photo of Neal Ford and the Fanatics, Houston, early 1965. L to R: Johnny Stringfellow, Neal Ford (back), John Cravey, W.T. Johnson, Jon Pereles.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Coachmen V - "99th Floor" and "Stay Away"

Above: Bill Gibbons and the Coachmen V, at Foley's in downtown Houston, late 1965. From left: Kelley Parker (organ), Dan Mitchell, Bill Gibbons, Mike Frazier, Bob Braden. (Dan Mitchell Collection)

 The Coachmen V had not yet changed their name to the hipper "Moving Sidewalks" when they recorded their "lost" debut session at Gold Star on April 22, 1966. It took only two hours to record the two group originals, "99th Floor" and "Stay Away." Bob Lurie engineered. Steve Ames (who was still in Neal Ford & The Fanatics at this time) was also present, and claims this was the session that started his career as a producer. His brother, Richard Ames, had rolled out the first Tantara release around this time.

The Coachmen V outside of Gold Star Studios, April 22, 1966. From left: Mike Frazier (bass), Dan Mitchell (drums), Kelley Parker (organ), Bill Gibbons (vocals, lead guitar, harmonica), and Bob Braden (rhythm guitar). (Dan Mitchell Collection)

If this first attempt at "99th Floor" sounds flat and anemic, we should remember that these were 10th grade students in the studio for the first time, with an engineer who probably hated rock and roll. The group ordered six acetates but wisely decided to not release anything. A few months later, they went to Andrus Productions to re-cut the much stronger "99th Floor" we all know today. (They were in the 11th Grade by then.) As he had with the Elevators, Walt Andrus worked his magic to make a good song sound great, and it's hard to believe only a few months separate the two versions. The second "99th Floor" was a huge regional hit when it was eventually released on Tantara in March, 1967. (The delay was due to Mainstream Records, who originally signed the group, along with Fever Tree and the Six Pents. They released the latter two but passed on "99th Floor.")

This version of "99th Floor" features the original line-up of Bill Gibbons (vocal, lead guitar), Dan Mitchell (drums), Kelley Parker (organ), Bob Braden (rhythm guitar), and Mike Frazier (bass). Parker and Frazier were replaced by Tom Moore and Don Summers by early 1967, when Steve Ames drafted a promotional letter introducing the group (see below).

As Dan Mitchell remembered in 1992:

"We started playing all of these Battle of the Bands against the Interns from Memorial and the Surfside VI, a surf band, from Memorial. Somehow, we got a job at St. Luke’s Methodist Church on Westheimer near River Oaks. A guy concerned about youth had started something called the Teen Canteen over there every Friday and Saturday night. He’d throw a dance for the kids. It was the gym of the church. Every time we played, like a thousand kids showed up. They charged $1.00 each to get in and they’d give us the money. And we would be the band to beat at the Battle of the Bands.

"We had some problems. A couple of guys had to quit the band. So Gibbons and I decided to change the name to “The Eleven Mile An Hour Moving Sidewalks.” That was a joke parody on the 13th Floor Elevators. They actually had a moving sidewalk at the Dallas airport. It had a little plaque next to it that said, “Moving Sidewalk.” I think that’s where we first saw that. So, Gibbons and I were sitting around and we said, “The Eleven Mile an Hour Moving Sidewalks” as kind of a joke. And then we said, “Wait a minute. Let’s just make it the Moving Sidewalks.” The Elevators had a big influence on us. 

"Originally, it was me, Gibbons, Kelley Parker on keyboards, and Mike Frazier on bass. We recorded “99th Floor” at Gold Star. We took that record (acetate) to everybody from Don Robey to Fred Carroll. Robey turned us down. We ended up going back to Steve Ames and said, “Here’s our record, are you interested?” Steve and Richard Ames always had this rivalry thing going. Steve saw this as a chance to do something on his own. He wanted to be our manager. He agreed to put up the money for the label. "

Below: Gold Star Studio receipt for the Coachmen V, April 22, 1966.

Below: Earliest known photographs of the Moving Sidewalks, taken at the Catacombs in Houston on or before October, 1966. Pictured is the original group (Bill Gibbons, Dan Mitchell, Kelley Parker, Mike Frazier). Click images to enlarge.

Below: Steve Ames promotional letter introducing the Moving Sidewalks, 1967. Note reference to Mainstream release of "99th Floor." Click image to enlarge.

The Continental V

Continental V - Wake Me Up Girl / Tell My Why (Continental 101 & Radel 107)

Very little information has surfaced on the mysterious Continental V, the group who crafted the psych classic "Wake Me Up Girl." A surviving studio receipt, however, gives us some clues. The session was done at Gold Star in Houston on July 29, 1967, with Jim Duff engineering. Karl Horn of 1818 Wayside Drive, Texas City, paid $219.50 for the studio time and 100 records. This was not an insubstantial investment -- $219 being the equivalent of spending $1,400 today. Both sides were recorded and mixed in three hours.

One hundred copies were pressed on the band's own Continental label, but these must have sold out quickly, and it was soon re-pressed on the Radel label. The producer credit shifted in the meantime from K. Horn to Ray Dale Boynton. And that was all from Texas City's number one psych band. I'm guessing that they didn't survive into the '70s.

Deniz Tek of Radio Birdman fame has recorded a new version of "Wake Me Up Girl" that is scheduled to be released this year.

Below: Gold Star Studio receipt for Continental V session.