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.