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 but it sure sounds like it could be Johnny Stringfellow on lead. Neal, Johnny, and Jon Pereles would form the Fanatics not long after this.

Below: Earliest photo of Neal Ford and the Fanatics, Houston, 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"

Above: Bill Gibbons and the Coachmen V, working the teen circuit in Houston, late 1965 or early 1966.

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.

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, but passed on "99th Floor.")

I believe both versions of "99th Floor" feature the original line-up of Bill Gibbons (vocal, lead guitar), Dan Mitchell (drums), Kelley Parker (organ), 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).

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.