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:

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