Monday, July 31, 2023

Jones Band / Fortran (Streator)

The Jones Band formed around 1970 in Streator, Illinois.  It wouldn't be until 1976 however that the group would self-release their only single containing two original tunes: "20 Years (All Alone)" and "What We Always Wanted."

These songs are some of the earliest known recordings of the group's lead singer Kevin Chalfant and the only officially released tracks from a popular north-central Illinois band that was together for more than a decade.

In addition to Chalfant, other members of the group included Kurt Benckendorf (guitar), Stan Rapp (keyboards), John Chorak (drums) and Randy Wargo (bass).  Sometime in 1975 or 1976, Jerry Gingery of Ottawa, Illinois replaced Wargo.  With the addition of Gingery, the group's lineup would remain the same until 1982.

The single was recorded at Universal Recording Corp. in Chicago sometime in early 1975.   According to an article in the Streator Daily Times-Press from January 2, 1975, the band had a session scheduled in Chicago for that day and the next with the hope of recording four songs.

Both songs that ended up on the 45 were eventually mixed at Golden Voice Recording Co. in South Pekin, Illinois and engineered by Terry Jamison.   

The single was released in late 1976 but not on any label; instead it was self-released and self-distributed.  As a result, it is unclear how many copies were pressed at the time or if it was available anywhere outside of central Illinois.  

One thing is for certain, the record was widely available from various grocery stores and cheese shops in Streator in January 1977:
By this point Jones Band already had a strong local following around the Streator area and were regulars at the Red Lion in Bloomington in 1976.   They were also playing around the state and throughout the Midwest.

While performing in Ohio in the summer of 1977, the group was joined on stage by Ruby Starr, best known for her singing on Black Oak Arkansas' "Jim Dandy."

By September 1977, Starr had joined the group for a series of dates across the United States and Canada.   Together they opened for Rick Derringer, Head East, Brownsville Station, Cheap Trick, Foreigner and Black Oak Arkansas.

By November of 1977 the group began working on an album.  According to the Streator Daily Times-Press, the group had recorded four songs in Peoria which were written by guitarist Kurt Benckendorf.  The songs were being produced and mixed by George Tutko, a Streator native, back in California where Tutko was working as a recording engineer.

The four song titles mentioned:  "All In The Show," "Piece of the Rock," "Sweet Heather," and "Scotland Yard."

A number of other songs written by Chalfant and Benckendorf were copyrighted around the same time as well:  "Revelations," "Randy, My Friend," "On and On," "Reelin' Feelin'," "Eyes of Affection," "Sweet Earth Mother," "For One Night," and "Life Is A Natural."

Several more songs by the band were copyrighted in 1978:  "Blow Down," "When Will You Ever Learn?" and "Not Easy."   The album however never materialized.

By 1979 the group had parted ways with Ruby Starr and changed their name to Fortran.   

The group, despite the changes, were still hoping to make an album.  An article from 1980 states, "As the Jones Band, the group has done several demonstration records, but as Fortran they'd like to do an album for good record company."

In 1981 the group even announced plans to sign a recording contract with a major label soon and said they had been working with George Tutko to refine their sound.

It was not to be however.  In 1982, Chalfant left the group and joined the Los Angeles-based band 707, a group that Tutko was producing at the time.

Fortran continued on with a new singer, Mike Husler, who had previously been with the Slink Rand Group.  Husler however was replaced by Bob Barr of Marseilles, Illinois in 1985.  Fortran stayed together for just a couple more years, changing singers a few more times along the way.

As for Kevin Chalfant, he has performed and recorded with a number of groups over the last several decades, most notably The Storm which produced several hit singles and included former members of Journey.

Of the Jones Band / Fortran years, despite more than a dozen original songs being written and likely recorded, no album was ever released.  The only document of the band we are left with is this early single:

Monday, July 24, 2023

Bearded Clam [Springfield]

Bearded Clam from Springfield,  Illinois released just one single on Golden Voice in 1970.  The group had been playing together for a couple years and were previously known as Dean and the Sinisters.

Band members included lead singer and drummer Dean Huston,  his younger brother Dave Huston on bass, Wayne Castor on lead guitar, Rich Egizii on organ, Corwin Bentley on rhythm guitar and Gene Bennett on vocals.

At the time of the recording several of the band members were students at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.   Most of the group was from Springfield originally, except Egizii who was from neighboring Riverton and Bennett from nearby New Berlin.

The single was recorded at Golden Voice Recording Company in South Pekin, Illinois.   Both songs were original compositions.   According to an article in the Illinois State Journal, there were one thousand copies pressed.

"Please Don't Leave Me Blue" was written by Bennett who also sang lead on the track.   Huston and Caster are also credited on the single.

The flip side "I Wish I Could Be Here" was written by Bob Lloyd with lead vocals by Dean Huston.  Lloyd was a member of The Holidays, another Springfield group.

The group was still performing around the Springfield area as of March of 1972:

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Session (Carbondale)

The Session, one of the first nationally televised music programs to feature up-and-coming artists, was filmed and produced by WSIU-TV (Channel 8) in Carbondale, Illinois. 

The half-hour show aired weekly on PBS stations across the country between 1971 and 1973.

It featured primarily rock, jazz and folk groups from downstate Illinois.  On occasion the show presented new artists from around the country, including a young "Piano Man" from New York.

The Session was the brainchild of Bruce Scafe, WSIU's television producer at the time.  Scafe was an Aurora, Illinois native that held a bachelor's degree in music and a master's in radio-television from the University of Illinois.  Before being hired at WSIU in 1970, Scafe played trumpet for two years in Les Elgart's band.  The Session was a natural marriage of Scafe's two main interests.

Between August 1971 and August 1972, Scafe directed and produced 67 shows in the series.  All of the camera and audio crew were students at Southern Illinois University.   Hosts of the show included London Branch and David Langdon. 

Initially the program was broadcast in Carbondale and re-shown on public television networks around the Midwest.  By early 1973, PBS picked 17 programs to broadcast nationally.  Before they aired however, Scafe left WSIU for a television job in Texas.

When asked about the show in 1973 for a syndicated article promoting the program, Scafe said, "We only had two cameras available.   It would have looked great if we had three.  I look at the program now and I find a lot that's lacking."  He added, "But we did the best we could and I think we actually pulled off miracles with the equipment we had."  

A year later Scafe went on to help create another music show for public television, now the longest-running music program in television history, Austin City Limits.

The Session - Performers (with original listing info):

The Session featured a number of rock, jazz and folk groups from the burgeoning music scenes of Champaign-Urbana:

  • REO Speedwagon
  • Head East - "who make use of their Moog-Synthesizer"
  • Mike Murphy & The One Eyed Jacks   - "play rock and roll"
  • The Finchley Boys - "a rock group perform with an electric violin"
  • The All Star Frogs 
  • Coalkitchen
  • Sunday - "group combines hard rock and jazz music"
  • The Ship - "a performance of the folk-rock opera"
  • Rocky Maffit - "composer-lyricist-singer-guitarist"
  • James Barton & Friends - "sing his original folk songs"
  • Ron Bridgewater Quartet - "perform 'Naima' and 'Arman,' characterizes its music as the black man's experience through jazz"
As well as rock and jazz musicians from the St. Louis / Metro East area:
  • Jake Jones - "a rock band whose instruments include a mellotron"
  • Ed Jenny - "sings excerpts from his three rock operas"
  • Spoonriver Band - "combining rock 'n' roll and soul"
  • Magna Crunch - "a six man rock band that blends rock and jazz with choreography and unique musical instruments"
  • Oliver Lake & Black Artist Group (BAG)
  • St. Louis Jazz Quartet
Occasionally the show featured up-and-coming national / international acts:
  • Billy Joel & Friends - "play 'Captain Jack' and other songs"
  • Brownsville Station - "from Ann Arbor, Michigan"
  • Ray Burton & Gino Cunico - "Australian folk rock duo"
  • Fanny - "all girl rock quartet"
Others musicians and groups featured:
  • Frank Bellino - "plays the viola d'amore"
  • London Branch Quartet 
  • Don Brown & The Ozark Mountain Trio
  • Olive Brown - "blues singer"
  • The Country Sounds
  • Rich Crandall Trio - "a contemporary jazz-rock group"
  • Don Crawford - "performs his own music, who is adept at six and 12-string guitars"
  • Dub Crouch, Norman Ford and the Bluegrass Rounders - "group from St. Louis has been playing together for 15 years"
  • Diamond Rio
  • David Earl - "composer-singer peforms his own work.  Puts his poetry to music"
  • Ron Elliston Trio - "all three (Fred Atwood, bass; Chuck Braugham, drums; and Ron Elliston on piano) are members of the renowned University of Illinois Jazz Band"
  • Equinox
  • Gand Family Singers - "Bob Gand and his daughter Gale and son Gary are joined by Joan Berstein in a performance of traditional American folk songs"
  • Gerry Grossman - "rock singer, composer and guitarist performs "When She Smiled" and others"
  • The Group - "a small jazz trio"
  • John Hicks Quartet - "jazz pianist"
  • Vince Huffman Quartet
  • The Illinois Quartet - "works by Will Gay Bottje"
  • The Jazz Progressions
  • Corey Jones - "guitarist plays folk-rock and bluegrass"
  • Oliver Lake & His Black Artist Group
  • Dalphene McAdory - "sings in a small nightclub atmosphere"
  • Oldfield, Branch & Company - "jazz trios"
  • Kay Pace & The Inspirational Wonders - "gospel singers from Freewill Baptist Church, Carbondale"
  • Bob Rembke - "folk-rock guitarist and comedian presents his own works and some by Bob Dylan"
  • The Riverfront Ragtimers - "features Jean Kittrel on piano, Don Frantz on banjo and Don Summers on tuba"
  • The Singing Sphinx - "combine with barbershoppers from Herrin, Illinois"
  • SIU Baroque Ensemble - "performs Bach, Handel"
  • SIU Faculty Brass Quintet
  • Stanton, Sullivan & Riley - "freedom and intense involvement are the cornerstone of this group, a folk trio from Carbondale, Illinois"
Very little footage of this series is in circulation although the American Archive of Public Broadcasting appears to have tapes of most of the programs in their collection.  A few shows however can be found on YouTube:





Saturday, June 17, 2023

Frankie Gem, Ted Ramirez & The Crystals (Galesburg)

In early 1961, 26-year-old singer Frank Hilligoss aka Frankie Gem of Galesburg, Illinois released his first single, "Return To Me," on the USA label.  The record is perhaps most notable however for the instrumental on the flip side, "Crystal Rock," performed by Gem's backing band at the time - The Crystals.

The Crystals' band leader was guitarist Ted Ramirez (pictured second from left), who was also from Galesburg.  Ramirez is credited with writing "Crystal Rock." (His last name spelled Rameriz on the record).

Other members of the group included Jim Sward on drums, Jim Ponce on bass, Joe Padilla on guitar and Ed Padilla on sax, piano and bongos.  Gem is shown on the far right.   Dick Hendrickson (not in photo) was an earlier drummer for the group and may have played on the  record.

Ramirez and The Crystals formed around 1960.  They performed in and around Galesburg in 1961 as Gem's backing band and on their own.

A few months after the single on USA, Frankie Gem recorded and released another single, this time on Ardore Records out of Chicago.  According to an article in the Galesburg Register-Mail, Gem recorded the single "in cooperation with a Chicago orchestra."

The single included "Without A Girl," a tune written by Gem and  Larry Hilligoss, along with a cover of "My Love."   

The Crystals, it appears, were no longer playing or recording with Gem.   They did continue to perform on their own around Galesburg until late 1962.

As for Frankie Gem, he continued to sing and perform around Galesburg for the next several decades, recording at least two more singles along the way.  

For many years Gem was backed by another Galesburg group called The Avenue Chasers aka The Chasers.  The main members of the group included Don Bitts on bass, Frank Mangieri on accordion and Bill Ballard on drums.  Other area musicians appear to have sat in or joined them at different times, including Ted Ramirez on at least one occasion.

In 1967, Frank Gem & The Chasers recorded a cover of Leiber & Stoller's "Loving You" at the Fredlo Recording Studios in Davenport, IA.  The single was released on Le Mann Records.  The b-side, credited only to The Chasers, was a version of the instrumental "A Taste of Honey."

In 1968, details of a collaboration between Gem and a Chicago songwriter were mentioned in Billboard magazine: 

Barbara Ruth reports that her Italian-flavored tune "Sofia Mia" is to be recorded by a Galesburg, Ill. (her home town), group called Frank Gem and the Chasers on either Hickory or Dot.  

It is unclear whether that recording was ever produced.  In 1971 however, Gem recorded a single for Nashville-based Action Records.    This included two songs written by Gem and Larry Hilligoss, "Foolish Love" and "Come In Blysville."

By the mid-1970's, Gem was performing the lounge and supper clubs of Galesburg as the Frankie Gem Trio.   By the 1980's he dropped Gem and was often billed under his given name.

Frank Hilligoss passed away in 2020.  According to his obituary, "he never gave up on his music and continued singing his entire life, bringing joy to all those who listened."

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Barn (Peoria)

In the early 1970's, concert promoters Bill Love of Love, Inc and Jay Goldberg, then owner of Budget Tapes & Records in Peoria, organized a series of rock concerts at the Barn (9201 N. Galena Rd., Route 29) just north of Peoria, Illinois.  These shows featured some of the top touring rock bands of the era along with various local groups.  Nearly two dozen shows have been identified over a one year period but there were likely several more.   

We need your help documenting this short-lived but important venue in central Illinois' rock history!  If you attended a show at the Barn in '71-'72 and can add to the list of shows or just have a story to tell we'd love to hear it.  Also, if you have any photos, posters, flyers or recordings of any kind we'd love to see and hear them.  Please reach out to us at: 

  • Jun 4, 1971 Bloodrock
  • Jun 19, 1971 Spirit
  • Jul 9, 1971 The Byrds, Sunday, Godzilla
  • Jul 16, 1971 Edgar Winter's White Trash, Morning Morning, All Star Frogs
  • Jul 23, 1971 Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station
  • Aug 14, 1971 Crow, Fanny, Podipto
  • Aug 21, 1971 Teagarden & Van Winkle (Bob Seger), Brownsville Station
  • Aug 27, 1971 Sugarloaf, Remedy, Morning Morning
  • Sep 4, 1971 Black Oak Arkansas, The Mackinaw Valley Boys
  • Sep 11, 1971 Mason Profitt, Wilderness Road
  • Sep 22, 1971 Alice Cooper, Mike Quatro Jam Band
  • Nov 9, 1971 Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes, Savage Grace
  • Dec 31, 1971 Edgar Winter's White Trash

  • Jan 23, 1972 Uriah Heep
  • Feb 20, 1972 Allman Brothers, REO Speedwagon
  • Feb 25, 1972 James Gang, Point Blank
  • Mar 10, 1972 King Crimson, Black Oak Arkansas, Sweathog
  • Mar 17, 1972 Ajax Maggot, Mannish Boy
  • Mar 24, 1972 Mike Quatro Jam Band, Finchley Boys
  • Mar 31, 1972 Saylor, Smack Water Rye
  • Apr 8, 1972 Cactus, Bloodrock, Pot Liquor
  • Apr 20, 1972 Ten Years After  (CANCELLED?)
  • May 7, 1972 Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • May 13, 1972 Fleetwood Mac, McKendree Spring, Ashton Gardner & Dyke
An incomplete live recording of the King Crimson set from March 10, 1972 has been released by the band in several different formats over the years.  One track from the set, "Peoria" aka "Groon Peoria," was included on the band's 1972 live album Earthbound.   

In 2011, King Crimson officially released more of their set digitally (seven tracks total though several are incomplete) and again in 2017 on CD & Blu-Ray audio as part of their Sailors' Tails box set.

A bootleg recording of the Alice Cooper show from July 23, 1971 can be found on YouTube.

Special thanks to Bill Risoli for sharing these images. 

REVIEWS & ADS (click image to enlarge)

Located seven miles north of Peoria, the Barn was build in 1937 and was originally known as Riverview Stables.  At the time it was one of the best showplaces for horses in central Illinois and was once home to the Peoria Riding Club.   In 1949 it was bought by Max Baty who renamed it Baty's Barn.  In addition to horse shows, the venue hosted farm auctions, hog and cattle sales as well as tractor, boat and RV shows.  

By September of 1954, Baty had replaced the arena floor with concrete and started to hold dances and benefit concerts.   Here are some of the shows we were able to identify from 1954-1967:
  • Sep 10, 1954 Leo Lukehart & His Band w/ Barbara Waldron
  • Sep 11, 1954 Bill Reardon & His Rambling Playboy Entertainers
  • Sep 17, 1954 Joe Evanick & His Orchestra w/ Sharon Evans
  • Sep 26, 1954 Leo Lukeheart & His Band
  • Nov 12, 1954 The Rhythm Rascals w/ Dusty Rhoads
  • Nov 20, 1954 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Nov 27, 1954 The Rhythm Rascals w/ Dusty Rhoads
  • Dec 18, 1954 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Jan 22, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Jan 30, 1955 Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm
  • Feb 5, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Feb 12, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Feb 15, 1955 Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
  • Feb 16, 1955 Leo Peeper & His Orchestra w/ Judy Martin, Penny Kunard and Jackie Jay
  • Feb 22, 1955 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Mar 12, 1955 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Mar 19, 1955 Ted Lewis, His Orchestra & Revue
  • Mar 26, 1955 Rudy James & His Orchestra
  • Apr 8, 1955 Jimmy Palmer & His Orchestra w/ Julio Maro
  • Apr 17, 1955 WPEO Barn Party: Oklahoma Wrangers, Tommy Sosebee, Buddy Wright and Viola Trussley
  • Apr 23, 1955 Art Mooney & His Band
  • Apr 24, 1955 WPEO Barn Party: Oklahoma Wrangers, Tommy Sosebee, Buddy Wright and Viola Trussley
  • Apr 30, 1955 Jerry Mercer with David Carroll & His Orchestra
  • May 13, 1955 Sammy Kaye & His Orchestra
  • May 14, 1955 WPEO Barn Party: Oklahoma Wrangers, Tommy Sosebee, Buddy Wright
  • May 21, 1955 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • May 28, 1955 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Jun 3, 1955 Oklahoma Wranglers, Kay Clark, Tommy Sosebee
  • Jun 4, 1955 Johnnie Kaye & His Orchestra
  • Jul 9, 1955 Pee Wee Hunt & His Band
  • Jul 23, 1955 Webb Pierce w/ His Wondering Boys, Red Sovine, Peach Seed Jones
  • Jul 30, 1955 Ray Anthony & His Orchestra
  • Aug 6, 1955 Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys
  • Aug 13, 1955 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Aug 18, 1955 Billy May Orchestra
  • Aug 27, 1955 Leo Lukehart & His Orchestra
  • Sep 2, 1955 The Crew Cuts
  • Sep 10, 1955 Pat Boone, Ernie Rudy & His Choral Recording Orchestra
  • Sep 17, 1955 Jan Garber & His Orchestra
  • Sep 23, 1955 The Commanders w/ Eddie Grady
  • Sep 24, 1955 Harry Cool w/ Freeddy Stevens Orchestra
  • Sep 30, 1955 Night Beat Record Hop w/ DJ Johnnie Coy
  • Oct 1, 1955 Ralph Marterie & His Downbeat Orchestra
  • Oct 8, 1955 Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
  • Oct 23, 1955 Blue Barron & Orchestra
  • Nov 4, 1955 Wayne King & Orchestra
  • Nov 12, 1955 Jimmy Palmer & His Orchestra
  • Nov 26, 1955 Freddy Barnes & His Orchestra
  • Dec 10, 1955 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Dec 18, 1955 Les Elgart & Orchestra w/ Don Forbes
  • Dec 31, 1955 Freddy Barnes & His Orchestra
  • Jan 21, 1956 The Crew Cuts, Bill Hardesty Orchestra
  • Feb 4, 1956 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Mar 3, 1956 Jimmy Palmer & His Orchestra
  • Mar 24, 1956 The Hilltoppers w/ Jimmy Sacca, Bill Hardesty Orchestra
  • Apr 21, 1956 Freddie Barnes & His Orchestra
  • Apr 28, 1956 Ted Weems & His Orchestra
  • May 19, 1956 Bill Viehmeyer & His Orchestra
  • Jun 9, 1956 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Jun 23, 1956 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Jun 30, 1956 Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
  • Jul 28, 1956 Ted Weems & His Orchestra, Phyllis Powell
  • Sep 2, 1956 Ray Anthony & His Orchestra  (CANCELLED)
  • Sep 8, 1956 Ray Pearl & His Musical Gems
  • Sep 22, 1956 The Four Aces
  • Sep 29, 1956 Dick Jurgen's Orchestra (CANCELLED)
  • Oct 6, 1956 Chuck Foster & His Orchestra
  • Oct 20, 1956 Bill Wimberly & His Country Rhythm Boys
  • Oct 21, 1956 Dixieland Jam Session
  • Oct 29, 1956 Chuck Willis & Roy Gaines
  • Dec 31, 1956 The Crew Cuts, Tommy Allen & His Orchestra
  • Jan 18, 1957 WIRL Night Beat w/ DJ Johnny Coy, Freddie Stevens Orchestra
  • Jan 19, 1957 Fred Dale & His Orchestra
  • Feb 1, 1957 WIRL Night Beat w/ DJ Johnny Coy, Cary Robards Jr. & His Orchestra
  • Feb 2, 1957 Chuck Foster & His Orchestra
  • Feb 23, 1957 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Mar 17, 1957 The Hilltoppers, Jimmy Featherstone & His Orchestra
  • May 21, 1957 WSM Grand Ole Opry: Marty Robbins, Louvin Brothers, Lee Emerson, Smiley & Kitty with Rita Faye, George McCormick and the Teardrops
  • May 25, 1957 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Aug 20, 1957 Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys, Wanda Jackson, Joe Carson, Buddy Wright
  • Oct 19, 1957 Fats Brown & His Rhythm Ramblers
  • Nov 9, 1957 Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1957 Bill Viehmeyer & His Orchestra
  • Apr 11, 1958 Spring Swing Teen Dance:  DJ Wayne West, Joe Kilton & Band, The Rockin' R's
  • Apr 26, 1958 Chuck Foster & His Orchestra
  • May 24, 1958 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Jun 8, 1958 Hank Locklin, Jimmy Louis, Buddy Wright, Carl Trantham
  • Sep 27, 1958 The Rockin' R's, Clover Club Trio
  • Oct 5, 1958 Don Reid
  • Dec 31, 1958 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • May 16, 1959 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1959 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Apr 2, 1960 Bill Carver's Orchestra
  • May 14, 1960 Walt Coughlin's Band
  • May 20, 1960 WSM Grand Ole Opry: Kitty Wells, Marvin Rainwater, Bobby Helms, Johhny & Jack, Bill Phillips, Tennessee Mountain Boys, Webb Pierce
  • May 21, 1960 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • May 28, 1960 Zeke Sanders & His Orchestra
  • Aug 28, 1960 Bill Carver's Orchestra
  • Nov 12, 1960 Ralph Marterie & His Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1960 Paul Wireman & His Orchestra, w/ Carol Jackson
  • May 6, 1961 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Sep 9, 1961 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Dec 31, 1961 Paul Wireman & His Orchestra
  • Feb 3, 1962 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • May 26, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Jun 2, 1962 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Jun 16, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Sep 15, 1962 Ray Price & Band
  • Sep 22, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Sep 29, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Oct 13, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Nov 10, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Nov 24, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Dec 8, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Dec 23, 1962 Booker T. & The MGs (CANCELLED)
  • Dec 31, 1962 Biddie Biddison's Orchestra
  • Nov 15, 1963 Ralph Flanagan & His Orchestra
  • Jun 13, 1964 Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
  • Jan 23, 1965 Jackie Wilson & His Upsetters
  • Aug 28, 1965 Seven Sounds, Lee Brown, Miss Joanne Baker & The Harvey Scales Revue
  • Sep 8, 1967 Tiny Hill & His Orchestra
  • Sep 23,1967 Bud Sherman & His Orchestra
  • Sep 29, 1967 Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
  • Oct 7, 1967 Gary Newton Orchestra
Exact dates for other shows from the 1960's such as James Brown, Sam Cooke, and Ike & Tina Turner  have not yet been identified.

In 1962, Max Baty passed away and the Barn was sold to E.T. Biddison who renamed it the Riverview Ballroom.  The number of musical events at the venue declined greatly in the years that followed. One notable dance in particular, sponsored by the Challengers Club of Peoria, had disastrous results.    

When Booker T. & The MGs failed to show up for their performance on December 22, 1962 a riot ensued.   A crowd of 400 angry customers began breaking windows and plumbing fixtures.   The police responded in force with shotguns and tear gas resulting in at least one patron being treated for a head injury.    

In 1967 the Barn was sold again and remained Donovan's Ballroom.  Other than a few dances that year music did not return to the Barn until the rock shows of 1971 and 1972.   

After 1972, music at the location seems to have stopped for good.  Around 1990, the Barn returned to its original purpose, a place for horse shows and auctions.   It is currently the Heart of Illinois Arena.

This story was updated on 5/26/23.

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Rooks (Chicago)

The Rooks formed in the western suburbs of Chicago sometime in late 1964 or early 1965.  The original lineup consisted of:  

Tony Pietrini - vocals, harmonica
Jeff Pranno - lead guitar
Steve McGreer - rhythm guitar
Billy Haack - bass
Loren Charles (Pranno)* aka Loren Raphael - drums

Like so many other bands of the era, the group got their start by playing suburban teen clubs and dances with their biggest influences being the British R&B / rock groups of the day (The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Pretty Things and Them).  

In early 1966 another Chicago-area band with similar influences, The Shadows of Knight, had turned a cover of Them's "Gloria" into a regional smash hit for Dunwich Records.  By the summer of 1966, The Rooks had landed a recording contract of their own with Chicago-based Mercury Records.

The band recorded two songs for Mercury in 1966: "A Girl Like You" written by Pranno and Raphael as well as a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Empty Heart."  White label promotional copies of their 45 were produced later that year.
Mercury # 72644, YW1-38898 / YW1-38899
Pietrini & Haack in studio
The group's drummer Loren Charles remembers the early recording session(s) being done at Sound Studios in the Carbide & Carbon Building in downtown Chicago (230 N. Michigan Ave).  Incredibly, a photo of two of the band members in the studio ran in the Sunday magazine of the Chicago Sun-Times on July 24, 1966 as part of an article about the "Chicago Sound."  

One of the group's biggest live performances came a week later when they opened for Herman's Hermits and The Animals at Chicago's International Amphitheatre on July 31, 1966.  Earlier in the month the group was one of several bands to open for The Dave Clark Five in Madison, Wisconsin.

Things seemed to be on the way up for the group.  They even had an official fan club (c/o Miss Carol Kedzior).  A photo of the band (below) ambitiously refers to them as "Mercury Recording Stars."

Unfortunately Mercury failed to promote the group.  The result was the record received little to no radio airplay at the time.   It likely didn't help that the English group The Troggs had released a similarly-titled track ("With A Girl Like You") that same summer.

Whatever the reason, Mercury decided against officially releasing the single and instead dropped them from the label.   For several decades afterward the few surviving promo copies of the 45 would serve as the only document of The Rooks' original lineup.  That is until Sundazed Music gave it a proper release in 2006 (more below).

Sometime after the Mercury recordings, guitarist Steve McGreer decided to leave the group.   He was replaced by John Brian Szmagalski who had been playing in another Chicago-area band called The House Of Blue Light.
New lineup: Haack, Pranno, Szmagalski, Raphael, Pietrini

Despite the Mercury debacle, the group continued to perform around Chicago and its suburbs.  For the Sundazed reissue, guitarist Jeff Pranno recalled, "we used to play the Hut, the Wild Goose, the Cellar, Surf's Up, Gospel Zone (!!!)... there were so many."

Another big performance for the group was at the World Teenage Show held at Navy Pier in June- July 1967.  Headlining the ten day event was Neil Diamond, The Crying Shames, The Electric Prunes and The Yellow Balloon.  The Rooks were scheduled to play two days (June 24th & 25th) which included opening for Dino, Desi & Billy.

Sometime in 1967 lead singer and harmonica player Tony Pietrini decided to leave the group as well.  

The group found a replacement in Tom Engel, a friend of bassist Bill Haack.  Prior to joining the group, Engel had been singing in another Chicago-area group called The Henchmen.  

A rehearsal / demo tape from August 9, 1967 captures Engel and the Rooks working on a few covers together:  The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight", Them's rendition of "Turn On Your Lovelight" and The Who's "Substitute."

In September of 1967 the group's manager, Jerry Young, opened a short-lived teen club in the Edison Park neighborhood called the Spectrum (formerly the Batcave, 6684 N. Oliphant Ave).  The Rooks were one of the first bands on the bill.
Photo of the band taken at The Spectrum:  Haack, Pranno, Engel, Raphael, Szmagalski
Not long after their performance at the Spectrum however, the band decided to change management.  The Chicago Tribune reported on October 6th that Michael de Gaetano, manager of the group The Faded Blue, had taken on two more Chicago-area bands, The Sons Of Adam and The Rooks.

With a new singer, the band's sound had evolved since the Mercury days and new management likely wanted to get them back into a recording studio.  Before the end of 1967 the group had signed with the Jo-Way Recording Company and recorded two new original songs written by Engel and Szmagalski (listed as John Brian):  "Turquoise" and "Ice And Fire."  Two versions of the single exist though it is not clear if they are the same recordings or not.  

Jo-Way Demo Record, S-5236 / S-5237
Jo-Way #5000, TM 2771 / TM 2772

The gold "demo record" version was produced near the end of 1967 whereas the blue label version came out in the spring of 1968.  Loren Charles remembers the band playing on Rush Street a lot during this period including week-long runs at Mother's.  

Twinight #115, TM 3204 / TM 3205
In early 1969 the band recorded two more songs for Jo-Way: "Hoping To Be Gone Soon" and "Free Sunday Paper."  Again, both songs were written by Tom Engel and John B. Szmagalski.  

Curiously, this single was released on Twinight Records which was primarily a Chicago soul label.  DJ copies exist but it not clear if there was ever an official version.

Around the time of this final single, the band went through more lineup changes.  Drummer Loren Raphael (i.e. Charles) decided to quit the group.  Bassist Bill Haack left as well.   Two new members soon joined, Russ Neiman (drums) and Willie Forst (bass).   Both had been in The House of Blue Light with Szmagalski.  This however seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the group.   Neither the Jo-Way or Twinight single made much of an impression and the band appears to have called it quits by 1970.

It would not be until 1985 that The Rooks would be recognized again when both sides of the Mercury single were included on Pebbles Vol. 17, a compilation of  garage-punk rarities from the psychedelic 60's.  

Over the next two decades the legend of this mysterious band with an obscure 45 on a major label continued to grow, culminating with the 2006 reissue by Sundazed Music which was remastered from the original tapes.  In their press material, Sundazed refers to the original 45 as one of the RAREST of all '66 garage singles.  

While perhaps not as desirable as the Mercury single, both the Jo-Way and Twinight singles have proven to be equally rare. 

Three of the four songs however were included on a 1997 CD compilation, The Quill Records Story (The Best of Chicago Garage Bands), despite the fact that none of The Rooks records were released on Quill.   Curiously, "Hoping To Be Gone Soon" was excluded and has gone mostly unheard for more than 50 years... until now (see video below).

In 2018, Loren Charles was kind enough to provide me with a detailed account of his time in The Rooks.  It is filled with memories and stories about the Chicago music scene in the 1960s and beyond.  For anyone interested, you can read his full here: The Story of the Rooks

* Loren Charles no longer uses his given surname of Pranno.  While in The Rooks he often used the stage name Loren Raphael.  In the Sundazed reissue he was erroneously listed as "Charles Pranno," a name he has never used.  Loren Charles and guitarist Jeff Pranno are cousins.

THE MUSIC  (All the audio comes directly from the original 45s / demo reel.)

Author's note: While this blog is typically reserved for bands and records from downstate Illinois, I've included this detailed post on The Rooks because of a personal connection and deep appreciation for their music and story.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Lykes Of Us (Bloomington-Normal)

If you were a student at Illinois State University in the late 1960's chances are you saw The Lykes of Us perform on or around campus at some point.

The popular group formed in the fall of 1966 with all five original members attending the same high school in Rockford before coming to ISU.

Originally called the Young Bloods, the combo soon changed their name to The Lykes of Us to avoid any confusion with The Youngbloods who had recently released a record.   (Little did they know that there was also a lesser-known group from Michigan called The Lykes of Us that would soon release a 45 as well.)

By the fall of 1967, the group consisted of brothers Dave (singer) and Dennis (organ) Belfield, Jim Boitnott (bass), Gary "Snuffy" Smith (guitar) and Wes Morgan (drums).   All were ISU undergrads except for Smith who commuted from the University of Illinois.  Later members of the group included Paul Hansen and singer Margo Meek.   In late '68 Meek was replaced by Leslie Aguillard because of chronic laryngitis.  

While the group played a number of dances, parties and concerts on the campus of ISU, they also toured around Illinois and across the Midwest.   In 1969, the group told the Vidette, ISU's student newspaper, that "their greatest on stage experience was is Oshkosh, Wis., but they recalled ISU, SIU, WIU and Bradley as having really great dances."  Drummer Wes Morgan added, "schools in Indiana and Kansas were also good."

The group was managed by the Champaign-Urbana talent agency Blytham Ltd and as a result were sometimes promoted as being from Champaign.  Other times, when playing gigs outside of Illinois, they were occasionally listed as being from Chicago.  

In an article in the Vidette in October of 1967 the group mentioned plans to make a record "perhaps in the next three or four months."   If they did make any recordings at that time they do not appear to have been released.  

The group announced their breakup at the end of the school year in May of 1969.   The main reasons given were hardships caused by frequent changes in personnel, the loss of equipment in a flood and the overall difficulties of the music business.

After the breakup however not all members left the music business entirely.  Dennis Belfield, the group's organ player, went on to a long successful music career as a bass player.  He was a member of Rufus with Chaka Kahn in the early 70's and then joined Three Dog Night in 1975.   In the years that followed Belfield became a top notch session player that performed with an impressive list of artists:  Neil Young, Roy Orbison, The Monkees, Ringo Starr... just to name a few.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Mike Murphy, The One-Eyed Jacks & The Lost 1971 Album

A July 1971 article promoting a One-Eyed Jacks concert at the YMCA in Moline, Illinois mentions Mike Murphy, the lead singer of the group, "has just completed an album produced by Paul Leka, staff producer for Columbia Records, which will be released in the fall."   That record however never saw the light of day.

Instead, another up-and-coming Champaign-Urbana group produced by Paul Leka at his Bridgeport, CT studio had their debut album hit record stores later that same year.  That band, of course, was REO Speedwagon.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Now 50+ years later, a few details about the lost Mike Murphy album are starting to come to light.
The discovery of these two tape boxes appear to reveal the track list and times:
  1. Who Wants To Be The Next In Line   2:57
  2. La-La Song   4:43
  3. She's My Girl   4:08
  4. Before You Turn And Walk Away   2:29
  5. Georgia   6:03
  6. I Want Love   4:33
  7. Little Bit Of Mother   3:50
  8. You've Got Your Nerve   6:00
  9. Look What You've Done   3:26
  10. Because It's You   4:22
  11. Ain't Got Time For Trouble   3:50   
Both indicate that the recordings were produced by Paul Leka & Billy Rose II for Connecticut Recording Productions.   While there is no date on either box, this almost certainly is the album referenced in the July 1971 article.   

Unfortunately, the tapes found inside these boxes were not the Mike Murphy album at all.   They had either been taped over or were swapped out with other tapes sometime in the last five decades.  It would take another tape discovery to give us a glimpse into what this album might have sounded like.

Thanks to John Anderson of Reverberation Vinyl, a reel of 1/4" tape labeled BLYTHAM BANDS was discovered a few years ago that contained unreleased recordings from several Champaign-Urbana groups managed by Bob Nutt and Irving Azoff's talent agency, Blytham Ltd.  The tape was compiled around 1972 or 1973 and contained two tracks listed as being by Mike Murphy & The One Eyed Jacks: "Who Want To Be The Next In Line" and "Before You Turn And Walk Away."

While both tracks match song titles from the lost 1971 Mike Murphy sessions, it is not at all clear that these were in fact the same recordings.   It is very possible that the Blytham Bands tape contained demo versions of songs that Murphy would record with Paul Leka.   We just don't know.  Still, they offer us a glimpse at what the 1971 album might of sounded like.
Another mystery is who, besides Murphy, is playing on these two tracks.  Was it a Mike Murphy solo project or do the songs include members of the One-Eyed Jacks and if so, which members?

Mike Murphy joined the One-Eyed Jacks in early 1969 when he replaced founding member and lead singer Budd Carr.  Prior to that, Murphy had been in a couple different groups in northern Illinois including the Inspirations and the 13th Precinct.  Murphy had recorded a single with each group in 1966-67.

The One-Eyed Jacks had started out as a frat band on the University of Illinois campus back in 1965 but by 1969 they had become one of the more popular groups from Champaign-Urbana with a huge following in the Chicago area and across the Midwest thanks to their live performances.   While they had recorded a few singles by this point, they had yet to come up with a hit song.

Murphy joined the group in time to record their second single for Roulette:  "Sky Of My Mine" b/w "Getting In A Groove."   This too failed to make much of an impression and would end up being the group's final official release.  Another track, "Wake Me, Shake Me," recorded around the same time as the Roulette single was included on a 1989 compilation CD celebrating Record Service's 20th Birthday.
The group continued to go through a series of lineup changes over the next few years.  In 1969 the last of the original members were replaced by Tom Kelly and Doug Livingston.  By the summer of 1971, the group had changed members once again and now consisted of Mike Murphy on guitar, organ and electric piano, Terry Murphy on organ, Perry Hamilton on bass and Greg Saegesser on drums.

In early 1972, Mike Murphy and the One-Eyed Jacks recorded a television performance in Carbondale, Illinois for WSIU's The Session that aired all over the country on PBS that year and again in 1973.  By the time of that performance, Bruce Hall had replaced Perry Hamilton on bass and Van Gray, a conga player, had joined the group.   On the show they performed four of Mike's originals and a cover of Burt Bacharach's  "The Look Of Love."  Two of the originals mentioned, "You've Got Your Nerve" and "La La Song," are titles that Murphy had recorded in 1971.

By 1973, the One-Eyed Jacks came to an end.  Mike Murphy and Bruce Hall formed a new band, Silver Bullet, but before the end of the year Murphy had joined REO Speedwagon to replace Kevin Cronin who had left the group during the recording of their third album.  Between 1973 and 1975, Murphy would go on to record three albums with REO.  That period of the group's history continues to be a favorite among many fans.

As for Mike Murphy's 1971 "lost" album, it is likely still out there somewhere.  Perhaps even the One-Eyed Jacks' performance on The Session will surface someday.  Other performances from the show continue to pop up on YouTube including REO's from 1971 with original singer Terry Luttrell:

UPDATE:  In February of 2023, Dave Leake and LA Fredrickson, hosts of the WKIO Homegrown radio show, interviewed Mike Murphy on their podcast and asked him about the possibility of an early "lost" album.  Unfortunately Mike had no recollection of the recordings.   You can listen to the entire interview here.