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.

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