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:
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.