Thursday, April 25, 2024

Maximus, Woof, Jack & Jeris Ross (Bloomington-Normal)

Psychedelic rock group Maximus was formed in late 1968 by Bloomington, Illinois native Jack Ross.  Prior to Maximus, Ross had played in one of the last incarnations of the popular Bloomington-Normal band, The Shattertones.

According to this 1969 ad, Maximus consisted of "four guys and a girl."  Timothy P. Irvin, a founding member of The Shattertones, briefly played in Maximus.  Except for Ross and Irvin, the other members of the group have not been identified.

The short-lived group released two singles on two different labels in 1969 but broke up before the end of the year.

The first Maximus single was recorded at Golden Voice Recording Co. in South Pekin, Illinois and released on the Golden Voice label:  "A Better Mind" b/w "Somebody To Care."  Both songs were written by Jack Ross.  The address printed on the record was Ross' home address.
 

The second single was released on Galico Records out of Macon, Georgia.  It included a re-recording of "Somebody To Care," now titled "Need Somebody" (erronously credited to Jack Frost).  The a-side was a cover of Delbert McClinton's "If You Really Want Me To I'll Go," originally released by the Ron-Dels in 1965.
 

An April 12, 1969 article in the Daily Pantagaph mentions that the group was currently recording in Nashville.  It unclear if that recording session became the Galico single or remains unreleased material.

After Maximus, Ross formed another local band, Woof, in 1970.  The group, described as a six-piece combo, played regularly at the Alley Club in Bloomington.  Jeris Hughes, a young female singer living in Bloomington-Normal, soon joined the group.   Hughes, originally from East Alton, Illinois, was a student at Illinois State University at the time.

Woof released one 45 in 1971 on Lelan Rogers' label House Of The Fox.  The mostly instrumental "This Is All I'll Say" written by Ross & Hughes was backed with "Gotta Get Home To You" which is credited to just Ross.  Both songs were very likely recorded at Golden Voice Recording Co. given that studio owner Jerry Milam is credited as a producer.
 

By 1971, Jack and Jeris got married and left Illinois for Nashville.  Doug Hauseman, a member of Woof, also moved to Nashville at the same time.  

An article in the Alton Evening Telegraph from 1972 mentions that Woof were originally signed to Liberty United Artists by a California promoter.  Jeris explains, "They promised us the world but nothing came of it.  The contract was dissolved after three months and the band broke up.  The organ player and Jack and I went to Nashville."

While in Nashville, Jack Ross initially went to work for Lelan Rogers Enterprises.  Ross is given songwriting credit on at least one other single released on House of the Fox.   By 1972 he began to work more as a session bass player around Music City.  

The article in the Alton Evening Telegraph mentions that Jack, in addition to guitar, could play piano, organ, trombone and saxophone.  It also mentioned that he was a former student of guitarist Johnny Smith and had played at Carnegie Hall with the NORAD Band while in the Air Force.

While Jack settled in as a session player, Jeris was developing a solo career in country music as a singer.   

She started out recording jingles and radio commercials but with Jack's studio connections was able to land a contract with Cartwheel Records.    Her first single was a cover of Melanie's "Brand New Key."  It reached #39 on the country charts.

Over the he next few years, Jeris released several singles on several different labels including one song written by Jack  - "I Wonder How The Folks Are (Back In Kansas)."  In late 1972, Cartwheel Records was absorbed by ABC-Dunhill and Jeris would eventually sign with the parent label.  

In the May 31, 1975 issue of Cash Box, Jeris was named Country Artist of the Week.   That same year she released a self-titled full length album on ABC-Dot.   

One of the singles, "Pictures On Paper," was a top 15 country hit.  The album also featured a single with one of the the all-time great country titles, "I'd Rather Be Picked Up Here (Than Put Down At Home)."
In 1978, the couple were featured in a story in Bloomington's Daily Pantagraph.  It mentions that Jack had become one of the top session bass players in Nashville.  His resume, at that time, already included recordings with the Kendalls, Freddy Fender, Jeanie C. Riley, Don Gibson, Stella Parton as well as an album by Webb Pierce & Carol Channing.

In addition to his studio work and managing his wife' career, Jack owned his owned his own production companies, Crystal Blue Music and Crystal Blue Productions.

By the early 1980's however, Jeris' country career had fizzled out.  Jack and Jeris eventually divorced.  

Less than a decade later, Jeris (now Jeris Ford) revived her singing career as a member of an oldies group from Tulsa, OK called Bop Cats.

Jack spent the rest of his career as a studio musician in Nashville and was a lifetime member of the Nashville Association of Musicians #257.   He passed away on Nov. 2, 2013.

Monday, March 18, 2024

3's A Crowd (Springfield)

Three's A Crowd from Springfield, Illinois recorded two singles between 1966 and 1968.  At the time of their first release, the trio had never performed in public together.

The group consisted of Roger Humphrey on bass and vocals, Bob Cellini on guitar and vocals and Mike Bertucci on drums.  

Humphrey, who was 37 at the time of the first single, had been a trombone player in Bill Cellini's orchestra (Bob's brother).  In the early 1960's, Bob Cellini led his own band, the HI FIs, before joining his brother's group.

Humphrey and Cellini began playing together for fun, working on original material.  By 1966 they were joined by Bertucci.

They recorded their first single, "Making Do" b/w "I Don't Mind At All" for Ro-Do Records.  Both songs were written by Humphrey.

The single was released in the spring of 1967.  Despite being virtually unknown in the Springfield area, the single did well on the local charts.

An article in the Illinois State Journal from May 29, 1967 mentions that the group had another song ready to go called "Run, Sheep, Run" and were hoping to cut an album.  

There is however no evidence that the group recorded an album or ever played live.

In 1968, they did record two of Cellini's originals at the Golden Voice Recording Co. in South Pekin, Illinois.  "Keep On Walking" b/w "No Where" was released on the Golden Voice label.   

 

Note:  Bob Cellini is the nephew of Al Cellini who was featured in our recent post about Space Records.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Dave Bell Trio on Space Records (Springfield)

Dave Bell Trio's 1952 single "I Dreamed Of A Lifetime" b/w "I'm All Wrapped Up In You" was written, recorded and released in Springfield, Illinois.  Initially, it was reported that it would also be the first record manufactured in Springfield at a brand new pressing plant.  However, that doesn't appear to have happened.

The 78 rpm record was officially released locally on September 25, 1952 by the newly-formed Space Records, a Springfield label started by two of the songwriters:  Fred Spagnoli & Al Cellini.

The label's name was a combination of the first few letters of their last names.   Its motto: There's Always Space For A "Space" Record. 

Both Cellini and Spagnoli were Springfield residents.  At the time, Cellini, 2031 N. Nineteenth St., was in the poultry business (Cellini Bros Poultry) and Spagnoli, 2224 S. Thirteenth St., was a salesman for the Eastern Packing Company.

Cellini was also a part-time musician and bandleader.  He played saxophone and clarinet and led various combos in the Springfield-area as far back as the mid-1940's (Venetian Serenaders, 4 Sharps and Al Cellini & His Rhythm Boys).

The music of "I'm All Wrapped Up In You" was written by Cellini with lyrics by Spagnoli.   "I Dreamed Of A Lifetime" was written by the pair along with Cecil Hassinger.   According to various newspaper advertisements, Hassinger had been a band leader in central Illinois in the late 1940's.  Hassinger also played guitar in one of his Cellini's bands.

Click image to listen

While this would be the first record on their label, it was not the first record that Cellini and Spagnoli had collaborated on as songwriters.  

Two year prior, they wrote "I Spoke Too Soon," which was recorded by the Lee Kelton Orchestra and released on Dix Records out of Pittsburg, PA.   It was also issued on the Rondo label.

To record their latest compositions, the two men worked with the Dave Bell Trio.  Bell and his band were a popular Midwest combo that played the Springfield clubs frequently in the early 1950s.  

In an advertisement from 1952, it mentions the group featured Art Williams on the drums and Charlie Straub on the piano.  Dave Bell is referred to as "Frankie Lane's protégé."

Several months before its official release, it was announced that the Space record would also have the unique distinction of being the first record pressed in Springfield by a new business, Independent Artists Recording Company.   

The business was founded by E.H. Overman and Bud Hashman, both from Springfield.  According to the Illinois State Journal, "both men were formerly in show business, as vaudeville artists.  Overman was 'hoofer' and Hashman a song and dance man."

By the time the two men joined forces, Hashman owned a jukebox business in Springfield while Overman was operating a makeshift recording studio out of his home.  

According to the April 4, 1952 newspaper article, "Since about 1937 Overman has been engaged in cutting records.  Hashman became associated with the enterprise last September.   The two men make 'cuttings' in their studio at 903 N. Seventh St., for independent artist throughout the middle west."

In early 1952, Hashman and Overman decided to expand on their recording operation and go into the production of records.  With little experience or instruction, the two men set out to build a pressing plant from scratch.  

The newspaper gives a detailed account of the various steps involved with record manufacturing.  It also laid out the struggles the two men had getting their operation off the ground.

"Handicapped by an almost total absence of printed technical instructions on the procedure they managed to secure a  hard to find, several years old, manual on the production method and went to work.  They worked out many 'bugs' an the procedure by their own ingenuity." 

Despite the claim, there is no evidence that Overman and Hashman's pressing plant ever became operational.  The Dave Bell Trio record was to be their first, however when the record was released in September an article in the Illinois State Journal mentions that the master discs were cut in Rock Island and the pressing was being done in Janesville, Wisconsin.

As for Independent Artists Recording Co., the only other reference found was a 1953 advertisement for the Bobby Lane "Special."   There is no evidence that any commercially available records were ever recorded or pressed in Springfield by the company.

Sadly, Elmer Overman and his wife were seriously injured in a 1956 explosion at their home, which was the same address as the studio.

As for the Dave Bell Trio, they recorded at least one other single, "Moneyback Guarantee" b/w "Rock 'N' Roll Pins," which was released in 1958 on Window Records out of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. 

Al Cellini appears to have gotten out of the record business but he continued to perform and lead his combo / orchestra in the Springfield area for several more decades.

Fred Spagnoli became the Lake Springfield chief of police by 1958 but hadn't given up on writing a hit song.  An article in the Illinois State Journal at the time mentions that five of his songs had been recorded.

It appears that Spagnoli and Cellini collaborated on at least one more song after the Space record.  In August 1954, both men are credited for "Dora," in the Catalog of Copyright Entries.   According to the listing it was likely released on Dix Records but the actual artist and record have not been identified.

A few months earlier, Spagnoli copyrighted, "Much To My Sorrow," with Ola Budde supplying the music.   Budde appears to have been from Springfield as well.  Again, the song was likely recorded and released on Dix Records but no more details are available at this time.

As for Space Records, the label's entire output consisted of just the one single: 
  

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Dan Fogelberg - The 1971 RoFran Demos

While attending the University of Illinois, Dan Fogelberg became a popular performer in the Champaign-Urbana area, especially at the Red Herring Coffeehouse.   The Daily Illini once described him as "astounding audiences with his versatility and magnetic stage presence as a folksinger in the David Crosby-Neil Young mold."  

By the summer of 1971 however, it was clear that Dan Fogelberg had outgrown the local folk scene.  He had dropped out of school earlier that year and was starting to perform in Chicago more than Urbana.

As a result, his return to the area in late June of 1971 was already newsworthy.  A Daily Illini article wrote "a regular Red Herring performer until he made it big in Chicago, Fogelberg will return Wednesday at 9 pm for a benefit concert."

A few weeks after the show, while still in town, Fogelberg approached local musician and sound engineer Roger Francisco about using his studio to record some demos.  Dan explained that his manager, Irving Azoff, wanted to take them to California in search of a record deal with a major label.

The RoFran Enterprises Studio would have been well known to Dan at that time.  Some of his earliest studio recordings were done there as part of the Red Herring Folk Festival compilation albums.  This includes early versions of his songs "Looking For A Lady" and "Hickory Grove."

Thanks to an interview conducted with Roger Francisco in 2015 by the Sousa Archives and the Center for American Music, we have a few details about how the 1971 demo session came about.  Here is the story in Francisco's own words:

Dan Fogelberg ‐‐ he was always helpful for other people. He'd come in and play on sessions with other people. And then all of a sudden, one day, “I've gotta have this demo tape for Irv Azoff is taking it out to LA, and I'm gonna do that. I don't have any money to pay it.” “Okay.” “Come on, you can – you know, day at the studio, we’ll hold it for you.” So we spent a day in the studio and he took the album out."

The RoFran Enterprises sessions log book shows the exact recording date to have been July 21, 1971.  What Fogelberg recorded that day however was not preserved in the ledger.

Incredibly, a tape bearing that same date and Dan's name (misspelled as FOGELBURG) has recently surfaced.  The tape contains three songs, all studio recordings, feature Fogelberg with a backing band. 

The names of the other musicians playing on the session are not known at this time.  The song titles, according to a handwritten note inside the box, appear to be: "Another Daydream," "There Is A Reason (Who Has The Time)," and "Little Miss Mindy."

    

Two days after the recording session, the Daily Illini, somewhat prophetically, ran an article about the impending success of some of the area's talent.   "Don't be surprised if you walk into a record store one day and find an album recorded by a former Red Herring regular.  It may soon be a reality."   

The article tells of Mormos and their new album released in France.  Members of the group, many of which were former Red Herring performers, included Jim Cuomo, Elliott Delman, Rick Mansfield and Annie Williams.  Regarding Dan, the article proclaimed that he was "likely to be recording soon under a national record label."

In fact, Fogelberg soon left Champaign and headed to Los Angeles himself where he waited for months while Azoff worked on securing him the right deal.  Fogelberg wrote about this period in his life on the Super Seventies Rock Site:

David Geffen had just formed Asylum, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel had just been signed to Columbia, and Irving was trying to sell me.  

I was a big fan of Joni Mitchell's. She was a big influence on my songwriting. I'd seen that Geffen had set up this label for singer-songwriters, and I said, "What a great idea. This is where I want to be."

At the same time, Clive Davis had heard about me through Irving, and Clive was offering me a singles deal. I said, "No, I want an album deal, or we don't do it."

Geffen's label sounded like a haven for progressive artists, so I showed Irving an article about Geffen in Rolling Stone, and Irving said, "OK, I'll call the guy."

We got David's number and got him on the phone. He said, "I have no idea who you are, or what you're talking about, but if you send me a tape I'll listen." The rest is pretty much history. Irving went to work for David, and they hollered at each other across Sunset Boulevard.

But the ironic thing was, I didn't go with Asylum. It didn't feel exactly right, and Irving was saying, "Look, there are a lot of places to go here." He wanted to play the record companies, and for six months he just made the rounds. Every day I'd be sitting out in the Valley, in this little apartment, eating chili and waiting for a record deal.

Irving would come home and say, "Well, it's A&M, definitely."  I'd say, "Oh, great. When do we start?"  And Irving would say, "We'll talk about it tomorrow." The next day he'd come home and tell me about another record company.

He did this to me for about six months. Finally I said, "I'll believe it when I see it." In the end, we went with Columbia and Clive, but for an album, not just a single. 

Fogelberg returned to Champaign-Urbana briefly in October of 1971 for a concert at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.  He opened for REO Speedwagon and the All Star Frogs at the first ever rock concert held in the Great Hall.

In ads promoting the concert, Dan was bill as being "Back from California."  An article in the Daily Illini mentions that he had been on the West Coast "studying with Neil Young."

A review of the concert in the Daily Illini a few days after the show was however less than impressed with the "new" Dan Fogelberg. 

"Seeing Fogelberg perform used to be an almost mystical experience.  He'd come on stage looking dragged out and sullen, say hardly an audible word during his entire set, giving nothing but his music and the feeling in it.  The cheerful, clean, talkative Dan Fogelberg of Saturday night seemed like a different person altogether, and not necessarily a better one.  The California experience polished him, but it took some of the mystery and appeal away from his stage personality."

The reviewer conceded that "neither his songs nor his playing lost any of their sensitivity or beauty during his stay on the West Coast."

Fogelberg would return to perform one last time at the Red Herring in January of 1972.  That night he shared the stage with Elliott Delman and Annie Williams, both back from Paris.  Like Dan, the two were only in town briefly.  (Recordings of the concert appear to exist and it may have been broadcast live on WPGU.  Later, the three went to the radio station and had a late night in-studio jam session.)

The Daily Illini review of the Red Herring performance was titled, "Fogelberg, Delman Unchanged."  Despite the sentiment, things would never be the same again.  In many ways the concert served as Dan's farewell to his "college years" and to his home state.

Still, Fogelberg shared a new song that night proving he had not forgotten where he came from:  "Three thousand miles east / I may miss the harvest / But I won't miss the feast."  The chorus adds: "It looks like your gonna have to see me again / Illinois, oh, Illinois / Illinois, I'm your boy."

Other Early Fogelberg Recordings

 
 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Bill Keen And The Tradewinds (Bloomington-Normal)

Bill Keen and The Tradewinds were a Bloomington-Normal quintet that included three Illinois State University students.  Members of the group were:

Bill Keen, 19, of Urbana, a music major at ISNU and vocalist for the group
Jerry King, 18, of 910 S. Summit, Bloomington, an ISNU student, guitar
Jim Griner, 19, of Cheneyville, another ISNU student, bongos
Don Abbott, 35, 523 N. Main, Bloomington, organist at the Hi-Do-Ho
Neal Kenny, 22, of Louisville, KY, the drummer

In the summer of 1961 the group released a single on Lesley Records out of Louisville, Kentucky.  An article in the Daily Pantagraph from August 6, 1961 mentions that their record was the first on the new label.

The a-side, "Summer in the Lowlands," was a ballad written by Keen (which was actually a stage name used by Lawrence William Ostema Jr.).



The flip side contained a rock n' roll number, "Don't Call Me," which was written by Al Jones of Bloomington (616 S. Clinton).  According to the Pantagraph, Jones, who was not a member of the group, "has been writing music for about eight years and said he got most of his inspiration for tunes while working in the noisy Eureka Williams plant where he's a machine operator."

Curiously, the article mentions that the Kentucky label, Lesley Records, would be opening a talent office at 614 S. Clinton in Bloomington (next door to Jones) in the near future.   

It is unclear whether or not that office ever opened but at least one other group from central Illinois, Mike Brewer and the Galaxies from Champaign-Urbana, recorded for the label.   Also, between 1961 and 1962, Lesley Records had a bowling team in the Bloomington area.

As for Keen and Tradewinds, their record was reviewed in the September 11, 1961 issue of Billboard magazine with the ballad, "Summer In The Lowlands," receiving three stars or "moderate sales potential."

The group however does not appear to have lasted very long.  Ostema dropped "Keen" and performed under his own name in the years that followed.
 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Bill Warren And The Country Wildcats (Tiskilwa)

Bill Warren and the Country Wildcats from Tiskilwa, Illinois.     The group, also known as the Tiskilwa Wildcats, recorded just one single in 1960 for Fire Records.

The a-side, "Heart Stepping Stones," was written by Warren.  The b-side, an instrumental track called "Redwing Bongo," was arranged by Warren and the group.  Both songs were published by Poll-Bart Music of Glendale, CA which appears to have been the publishing company of country singer-songwriter Billy Barton.

The Fire record label, which was based in California, appears to have been closely associated with Barton.  All of the known singles on the label have some connection to him including two released by Barton himself.

In a March 30, 1960 article in the Wyoming (IL) Post Herald, Warren's single is mentioned as being released by B & B Enterprises.  Again, this suggests a possible connection with Barton.

How exactly Warren and the Wildcats ended up being in business with Barton is however still a mystery.  Curiously, another north-central Illinois group, the Nite-Caps from LaSalle, also released a single on Fire Records around the same time. Their single was produced by Barton.

As for Warren and the Wildcats, they performed in and around Bureau County and western Illinois throughout the first half of the 1960s.  For several years in a row the group provided the entertainment at the "Annual Kentucky Reunion & Picnic" held in Wyanet, Illinois. 

If you have any more info, photos or memories of Bill Warren and the Country Wildcats please reach out to us at: downstatesounds@gmail.com