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: