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.

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