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 several 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:firstname.lastname@example.org
Jun 4, 1971Bloodrock
Jun 19, 1971Spirit
Jul 9, 1971The Byrds, Sunday, Godzilla
Jul 16, 1971Edgar Winter's White Trash, Morning Morning, All Star Frogs
Jul 23, 1971Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station
Aug 14, 1971Crow, Fanny, Podipto
Aug 21, 1971Teagarden & Van Winkle (Bob Seger), Brownsville Station
Aug 27, 1971Sugarloaf, Remedy, Morning Morning
Sep 4, 1971Black Oak Arkansas, The Mackinaw Valley Boys
Sep 11, 1971Mason Profitt, Wilderness Road
Sep 22, 1971Alice Cooper, Mike Quatro Jam Band
Nov 9, 1971Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes, Savage Grace
Dec 31, 1971Edgar Winter's White Trash
Jan 23, 1972Uriah Heep
Feb 20, 1972Allman Brothers, REO Speedwagon
Feb 25, 1972James Gang, Point Blank
Mar 10, 1972King Crimson, Black Oak Arkansas, Sweathog
Mar 17, 1972Ajax Maggot, Mannish Boy
Mar 24, 1972Mike Quatro Jam Band, Finchley Boys
Mar 31, 1972Saylor, Smack Water Rye
Apr 8, 1972Cactus, Bloodrock, Pot Liquor
Apr 20, 1972Ten Years After (CANCELLED?)
May 7, 1972Quicksilver Messenger Service
May 13, 1972Fleetwood 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.
FLYERS & POSTERS
Special thanks to Bill Risoli for sharing these images.
REVIEWS & ADS (click image to enlarge)
HISTORY OF THE BARN
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 1955, 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 for 1955-56:
Jan 30, 1955Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm
Feb 15, 1955Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
Mar 19, 1955Ted Lewis, His Orchestra & Revue
Apr 30, 1955Jerry Mercer with David Carroll & His Orchestra
May 13, 1955Sammy Kaye & His Orchestra
May 21, 1955Freddie Stevens' Orchestra
May 28, 1955Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
Jun 2, 1955Oklahoma Wranglers, Kay Clark, Tommy Sosebee
Sep 30, 1955Ralph Marterie & His Downbeat Orchestra
Oct 8, 1955Buddy Moreno & His Orchestra
Nov 4, 1955Wayne King & Orchestra
Nov 12, 1955Jimmy Palmer & His Orchestra
Dec 10, 1955Eddy Howard & His Orchestra
Dec 31, 1955Freddy Barnes & His Orchestra
Jan 21, 1956 The Crew Cuts, Bill Hardesty Orchestra
Feb 4, 1956Bill Hardesty & His Orchestra
Mar 3, 1956Jimmy Palmer & His Orchest
Apr 28, 1956Ted Weems & His Orchestra
In 1962 the Barn was sold after Baty passed away. The new owner, E.T. Biddison, tried to bring live music back to the Barn that year but with 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.
No concerts between 1963 and 1971 have been identified. After the year of rock shows in '71 and '72, 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.
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 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 as 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.
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.
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:
Who Wants To Be The Next In Line 2:57
La-La Song 4:43
She's My Girl 4:08
Before You Turn And Walk Away 2:29
I Want Love 4:33
Little Bit Of Mother 3:50
You've Got Your Nerve 6:00
Look What You've Done 3:26
Because It's You 4:22
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:
The Nightmares' lone record opens with a cackling announcement of LISTEN... YEAH... BABY! as the group launches into their rock-n-roll instrumental "Greyhound." The song is three and half minutes of pounding piano coupled with primitive proto-surf guitar sounds. On the flip side, "The Nightmare!" is an equally fantastic instrumental with spooky sound effects and menacing hoots and hollers all drenched in reverb.
The Nightmares appear to have been, at least in part, students at the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Throughout 1960 the group performed regularly as Speedy Gonzales and the Nightmares at the Red Fox Nite Club in Rock Island, Illinois. The single (Cat# 6007) was recorded that same year at Fred and Lois Mauck's Fredlo Recording Studios in Davenport.
"Greyhound" was written by Elmer E. Gonzales of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Elmer had been playing music, primarily fiddle, from an early age. Prior to coming to the Quad Cities, he served in the Army Special Services where he played in the Circle A Wranglers. As a member of that group he performed with many of the greats in country music, including Faron Young, Roy Drusky and Roger Miller. In 1957 Elmer won first place in the "All Army Entertainment Contest."
By 1960 Elmer and his brother, Rodolph "Rudy" Gonzales, were enrolled at the Palmer School in Davenport. Elmer graduated with his Doctorate of Chiropractic in 1961 and returned to New Mexico.
"Nightmare!" was written by Robert "Robin" Jarmain of Queens, New York. He graduated from the Palmer School in 1963. In 1965, after returning to New York, it appears he may have recorded a single as Robin Jarmain and Friends.
While the Nightmares did not last, both Gonzales and Jarmain went on to have long careers as chiropractors in their home states. Fiddlin' Doc Gonzales passed away in 2017.
If you have any additional information about other members of this group or the single PLEASE get in touch at email@example.com
Richie Deran and the New Tones put out just one record, "Little Willie" b/w "Girl And A Hot Rod." The single was released by the Pontiac Record Company of Canton, Illinois in late 1959.
Deran, who wrote and sang both songs, was from Burlington, Iowa. Most of the members of the New Tones were also from the Burlington-area including Don Bowman on guitar, Larry Gustin on guitar and Bob Baldridge on drums. The one exception was saxophone player Dave Parkinson who was from Canton, Illinois.
According to a 2012 article in the Canton Daily Ledger, the Pontiac Record Company was owned by Canton businessman Jim Aloian. The Deran record appears to have been the label's only release.
A few color variations of the single exist as well as reproductions and bootlegs.
Not long after the release of the single, Deran joined Gary Stites on tour. Stites, who was from Colorado and had recorded for the Carlton label, had performed in Burlington on New Years Eve 1959.
Together they were billed as "Rock and Roll Stars from Dick Clark's American Bandstand." The New Tones served as the backing band for both singers on the tour.
An article written at the time mentioned that the tour would take them to 600(!) cities across the nation. Despite the claim only a handful of dates in central and southern Illinois could be identified.
Feb 19, 1960: Canton High School (Canton) Feb 22, 1960: Illinois State Normal University Ballroom (Normal)
Feb 24, 1960: Illinois Theater (Jacksonville)
Mar 2, 1960: Granada Theatre (Mt. Vernon)
Mar 3, 1960: Orpheum Theater (Marion)
By April, the tour had come to a halt. Deran continued to perform with the New Tones around Iowa over the next few years. A 1961 article lists the members of the group as Joe Coleman on rhythm guitar and Terry Hiensly on lead guitar (both of Burlington) along with Baldridge and Parkinson. By 1963, Warren Wunnenberg had replaced Baldridge on the drums.
Deran, whose real name was Korschgen, appears to have left his music career behind shortly afterward. In the early 60's he opened Richard's Upholstery in Burlington which he owned and operated for more than 40 years.
Parkinson (with sax) to the left of JB
As for Dave Parkinson, the group's saxophonist, his long musical journey was only just beginning in the early 1960's. Most notably, Parkinson went on to play and record with James Brown, Bobby Byrd, Hank Ballard and others as a member of The Dapps in Cincinnati. Back in Illinois, Parkinson would later be known as the leader of Dave and the Dynamics.
A detailed history of The Dapps that includes an interview with Parkinson can be found on the blog Zero To 180. In it Parkinson mentioned another legendary musician from Canton, bassist Tim Drummond, who played with Brown around the same time before going on to work with Neil Young, Bob Dylan and many many others.
Things were looking up for the Galaxies in the spring of 1961. The popular Decatur-area combo, comprised of two college students, a couple of high school kids and a gas station attendant, had just recorded a pair of instrumentals for a major record label.
A cover of "My Blue Heaven" along with the original composition "Tremble" were released on Dot Records (45-16212) in early May of '61. The single was also released in Germany on the London label (DL 20 431). Billboard reviewed both songs giving "Tremble" its top rating of four stars.
The Galaxies had formed just a few years earlier in Mt. Zion, Illinois. The original lineup included Kenny Monska on guitar, Gary Warnick on piano, Danny Goveia on drums, Mike Lee on saxophone and Dick Underwood on bass.
At some point Jack Anderson, a music education major at Millikin University, replaced Mike Lee on saxophone. The leader of the group, Gary Warnick, was also a music education major at Millikin University at the time. Both Warnick and Anderson had been members of the Millikin Civic Symphony.
As for the Galaxies, they had become a popular group around the Decatur area performing the top hits of the day at many local bars and clubs as well as teen dances and other events. Interviewed for the Decatur Daily Review, Jack Anderson said, "We'll play anything but westerns."
The single was recorded in Nashville where Dot was based. "Tremble" had originally been titled "Rockin' Raindrops" but was changed by the label to avoid confusion with another similarly named song. All five members shared in the songwriting credit.
Concerning the recording session, Anderson said, "we don't rely as much on electronic gimmicks but we do get a different sound in the studio." He added that the studio was "really fabulous."
The group was hoping the Dot release would help launch them into a long successful career in the music business but the single would prove to be the group's entire recorded output. They continued to perform around Central Illinois for the next couple of years before calling it quits.
In 2012, Gary Warnick self-published a memoir called Gigs: True Stories About Playing Music For Sixty Years.
Bobby Carter's two singles on Cardell Records are some of the finest examples of rockabilly to come out of downstate Illinois. Released in 1960-1961 on an unknown label, both remain extremely rare and shrouded in mystery.
The first record however contained a few clues. Printed on the label was "Bloomington, Illinois" as well as the names of some of the other musicians: H. Sherman, A. Miller and Johnny Lawrence.
Carter it turns out was a native of Danville, Illinois (not Bloomington). Born in 1935, William Robert Carter actually had a long career as a singer and musician, despite having one of his lungs removed as a child. Carter claimed that singing helped strengthen his remaining lung.
In the 1950's, while still in Danville, Carter was a member of the rockabilly group The Varieteers. Other members of the Varieteers at one time included: Arlie Miller, Jim Foley, George Foehrer and Curley Arnett.
In a 2015 interview, Carter remembered playing in downtown Danville in the 50's for hundreds of people with some protesters carrying signs saying "Sinful Music." Danville's WITY once billed Carter as "the Illiana Elvis Presley."
In 1957, Carter moved to Phoenix, AZ for his health where he signed with Rev Records. It is unclear whether he recorded for the label or not. By 1960 Carter had returned to Illinois and settled in Bloomington.
It was during this time that Carter released his two singles:
"Before We Part and Go" / "If You're Gonna Shake It" (1960)
"Destiny, I Love You" / "Run, Run, Run" (1961)
Both were released on Cardell Records. While the second 45 listed Carter's backing band simply as The Spotlites, the first provided us with the names H. Sherman, A. Miller and Johnny Lawrence.
Given the Danville connection, it is likely that A. Miller is Arlie Miller who recorded his own single in Danville around the same time and like Carter had been a member of the Varieteers. Miller's single "Lou Ann" / "You're The Sweetest Girl" was released on the Lucky label. Jim Foley, another member of The Varieteers, also released a single on Lucky in 1960.
Arlie Miller would go on to open the Midnite Sound Studio in Danville and start Milky Way Records with Arlie Neaville (aka Dean Carter) a few years later. As for H. Sherman and Johnny Lawrence, it is unknown if they were from Bloomington, Danville or somewhere else entirely.
For the next decade or so, Bob Carter's musical activities are also uncertain. In 1973 however, he moved to Nashville and recorded a demo that eventually landed him a deal with Oweman Records. It is not clear whether he ever released anything for the label. He did however have one single released on the Royal American label: "As The Fire Grows" b/w "Soakin' Up Suds."
While living in Nashville, Carter worked at various recording studios, label and production companies. He eventually moved back to the Danville area where he continued to perform with area bands. According to the Commerical-News, "when he wasn’t playing music, Carter worked numerous jobs, including selling shoes and managing stores. A barber, he also had several barber shops in the area, and started the Tilton Teen Club."
In 2015, at age 80, Carter was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Music in the Heartland Society. Carter passed away in 2017.
Today (May 12th) marks the 50th anniversary of the first Rites of Spring on the campus of Illinois State University. From 1972 to 1977 the music festival became the most anticipated day on the campus calendar.
The event was originally intended as a way for students to relax and enjoy some live music on the Quad before final exams. The free concert was meant strictly for the ISU community however that proved difficult to enforce. In a matter of a few years, Rites became the "festival of the Midwest" much to the dismay of university administration and Town of Normal officials.
Open drug and alcohol use on campus during the event (Normal was dry until 1973) along with minor injuries, excessive garbage and damage to the Quad were just a few of the reoccurring problems associated with the festival. Efforts to limit the attendance by non-students mostly failed. By the last year of the festival, the crowd totaled somewhere between 18,000 - 25,000 with a large portion coming from outside the university community.
The music of Rites varied from year to year but often included well known national acts. Below is a list of the performers with a brief synopsis of events for each year.
Rites of Spring I : Friday May 12, 1972
Attendance was between 2,000-3,000. This would be the longest scheduled Rites festival with music set from noon until midnight with the last hour and half being open to any band "wishing to jam." The event was mostly without incident. As one attendee told the student newspaper, "It's the greatest thing that has ever happened at ISU."
Rites of Spring II : Saturday May 19, 1973
Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign
The day's events lasted from noon until 10:30 pm with an estimated 7,500-10,000 people gathering on the south end of the Quad. The concert was marred by poor sound quality however which was blamed on high winds. Another complaint was there were too many "bar bands" and not enough big-name acts this year. There was one drug overdose and a few broken windows on campus but no arrests despite a blatant disregard for drug and alcohol bans. One of the organizers told the Vidette, "People were a little bit too obvious about things. For instance, people bringing out bongs and caseloads of beer."
Rites of Spring III : Friday May 3, 1974
Mighty Joe Young
Country Joe McDonald
In an attempt to limit the crowd size, organizers did not officially release the date of the festival until the day of. Still the crowd totaled around 10,000 people. The concert was originally scheduled from 3 to 10:30 pm but due to delays with equipment it didn't end up starting until 4 pm and lasted until midnight. As in the previous year, security on campus was managed by student volunteers. The ISU police did not patrol the Quad but made it clear they were prepared to make arrests if necessary once attendees left campus. Despite all the built up, the event was fairly peaceful. The only exception being some minor vandalism and tire-slashing of vehicles in a nearby parking lot.
Rites of Spring IV : Monday May 5, 1975
Joe Vitale's Madmen
In the months prior to the festival, dozens of ISU students were arrested in drug raids conducted by the Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group (MEG). Concerned that Rites was contributing to the local drug problem, university officials decided to move the concert to Hancock Stadium where the crowd could be better controlled, especially the use of alcohol and marijuana. The official announcement of where and when it would take place was once again withheld to the last minute however the Vidette had provided unconfirmed details several days prior.
The official Rites ran from 1 pm to about 6:30 pm with Golden Earring ending their set early due to "inefficiencies in their soundsystem." The entire event was emceed by comedian Jimmy Whig with the crowd fluctuating between 1,000 - 4,000 people throughout the afternoon. The director of the event was quoted in the Vidette as saying, "You could bring your mom, your kids and your dad to this one."
Meanwhile, back on the Quad, an alternative and unsanctioned Rites known as "People's Park" was also taking place. A crowd first started to form at the south campus park by noon. As the crowd grew it eventually moved to the amphitheatre at the south end of the Quad. University officials however refused to provide the group with electricity so they rented generators and proceeded to hold a concert of their own. According to the Post-Amerikan, "Music was provided by just about anyone who decided to walk onto the stage. Most of the people who played together hadn't played together before. They sounded great."
School officials made several attempts to get the crowd to disperse, repeatedly informing them that they were in violation of university regulations. The size of the gathering however meant that police action was not an option. By 7:30, the crowd had grown to about 3,000 people. As darkness fell, no electricity meant no lighting on the Quad. The crowd's solution was a bonfire which resulted in Normal firefighters arriving on the scene, spraying the fire, the stage and onlookers indiscriminately. A brief melee ensued, bottles were thrown. The firemen and their police escort soon retreated. According to the Post-Amerikan the music on the Quad lasted until about one in the morning.
Rites of Spring V : Friday April 30, 1976
ISU Black Arts Jazz Band aka Creative Arts Ensemble
After the mistakes of the previous year, it was decided that the event would return to the Quad for 1976 however organizers conceived of a new plan to limit attendance from outside the ISU community.
For the first time, admission to the Quad was by button only with each student receiving up to four buttons in the days leading up the festival. In previous years ROS buttons were produced mainly as a souvenir however this year they were your ticket in. The festivities, which ran from 3:45- 11:30 pm, were deemed a great success by organizers with few problems reported. At peak periods, the crowd reportedly swelled to about 10,000 people although some estimates were as high as 18,000.
Rites of Spring VI : Saturday, April 30, 1977
The Undisputed Truth
Unlike previous years, the details of the festival were announced a few weeks in advance with the lineup announced five days before the event. Buttons were once again given to students as their only way into the event. It was reported that 33,000 buttons were distributed. The theme for this year's event was "Safety and Ecology."
The event was scheduled to begin at 3 pm on Saturday however people started camping out as early as Friday evening. The crowd would grow to be the biggest of all the Rites with estimates being between 18,000-25,000 people. With the large crowd came problems. Due to understaffed security, large groups of people without buttons were allowed on the Quad. There were multiple arrests made off campus throughout the day with local police receiving more than 85 noise and behavior complaints.
The biggest problem of all however was the estimated 200 cubic meters of garbage and broken glass left on the Quad. The situation was made worse when heavy trucks used to move equipment crushed the glass and cans into the ground. It took days for the garbage to be picked up with the Office of Enviormental Health and Safety declaring the Quad a health and safety hazard.
After the events of 1977 it was quickly decided by university officials that there could not be another Rites of Spring. Newly-hired University President Lloyd Watkins officially cancelled the event on July 25th while most of the students were away for the summer. Watkins, only ten days in the office, never attended a Rites and in fact knew nothing about it when he took the job. He provided the following reasons for his decision:
Rites was not, and never could be, a controllable event.
The potential for serious injuries or fatalities is high.
The laws of Illinois and the regulations of ISU were repeatedly disregarded.
The cost of the event, direct and indirect, was very high.
Damage to university grounds and buildings has been severe.
The event offers no apparent contribution to the educational mission of the university.
Students of course strongly protested the decision when they returned to campus. Particularly upset by the fact that students were not consulted, a new political party, Rites of Spring Party (ROSP), formed on campus that fall with a platform of shared governance. The party ran a slate of 13 candidates in the Student Association elections that year but failed to win a single seat in the Assembly.
In 1978, as an alternative to Rites, the university came up with Springfest. Rather than a day-long concert on the Quad, Springfest was a week of events that included carnival rides and free movies with local jazz and folk acts (including a young Suzy Bogguss) performing on the Quad in the afternoons. All of the big-name concerts were moved indoors and spread across multiple evenings: Stanley Turrentine in the Union Ballroom, the Bar-Kays in the Union Auditorium and the Grateful Dead at Horton Fieldhouse.