The Stairway to the Stars came from the Pittsburgh area, but cut this 45 for the Brite-Star label out of Newberry, Ohio, near Cleveland. Newberry is only a couple hours from Pittsburgh, but the labels indicate a Nashville base.
One side has a moody, echoing vocal, “Cry”, written by Tom Sellosi and Dave Benard. The intensity grows for the short recitation at the end.
On the flip is “Dry Run” a great instrumental featuring a lot of tremolo on the guitar, a strong three note riff that sounds like a keyboard more than guitar, and a long and dissonant middle section for the lead break. Phil Dirt pointed out the similarity of the opening melody to the Vistas “No Return” on Tuff, but the Stairway to the Stars really expand on that theme in the rest of the song.
John Barbero produced the 45. The Rite account number is 728 and the release numbers are 17909 (“Dry Run”) / 17910 (“Cry”), released in September or October 1966.
The Library of Congress has a registration for “Cry” from September 12, 1966, to David Benard and Thomas Sollosi. The “Dry Run” label lists T.R. Sollosi, but this song wasn’t registered.
Teen Beat Mayhem indicates this came with a picture sleeve, which I’ve never seen. Anyone have a scan of it?!
On 45 cat, DeadWax suggest the band could have been from Monongahela, outside of Pittsburgh.
Here’s an unknown group, the Four Counts, or the Counts Four, possibly from Reading, Pennsylvania. There’s a chance they could have evolved into the Counts who came from Valley View and cut “Last Train” / “I Will Lose My Mind” for the Kingston label in July of 1969, but from the small b&w photo I’ve seen of the Counts I’d say this is unlikely.
Barry Elam sent in the photos of his band the Specters, and wrote the following about the group:
The Specters from Kirksville, Missouri were active from 1967-1972. They were a popular band in Northeast Missouri and played many area dances, fraternity parties at Truman State University, and private events. The band’s material covered originals as well as top hits of the day.
Band members were Randy Crowder on vocals and guitar, Barry Elam guitar, Randy Grissom bass and vocals, and Charlie Harrington, drums.
The Specters did not release any records but we were friends with another local band that did, Friar Tuck and The Merry Men. My original guitar teacher was Bud Porter who was the lead guitarist for Friar Tuck. They had a regional hit called “Peanut Butter” on Sherwood Forest Records, released in 1966.
Here’s an excerpt of an alternate version of Baker Knight’s original “Are You Satisfied Now”.
The Reprise single version of “Are You Satisfied Now” has horns, a female chorus, a completely different band and a smoother vocal from Baker. It was the b-side of “The Verge Of Success”, Knight’s seventh and last release on Reprise Records from April, 1968. That version was produced by Jimmy Bowen.
This demo definitely comes from an earlier session, I’d guess around 1966 given the folk-rock backing and grittier vocal. Although this demo lists Hill & Range publishing, by the time Knight registered the song in 1968 that had changed to Smooth Music / Noma Music as it is on the single. In fact I don’t find any evidence of Baker publishing through Hill & Range during the mid-60s.
I only wish Knight would stop singing long enough for a guitar break, but he had plenty of lyrics to get through.
Along a scenic mountain parkway stretch of I-65 heading south, past Bowling Green and just north of the Tennessee border, in a tiny Kentucky town called Mundfordville, in Hart County, tucked on the hill above the moving Green River, a group of teenage boys formed a band in the winter of ’65.
Hearing the happening mid-sixties sounds of the Byrds, the Animals, the Beatles and the Stones, these boys got stars in their eyes and took up instruments, calling themselves December’s Children, named after the cold season upon them.
The members were:
Mike ‘Hoot’ Gibson / guitar, vox (Gibson ES 330)
Sam Goodman / lead guitar, fuzz ( Fender Telecaster)
Clint Nichols / bass (Fender)
Mike Rife / drums, vox
Honing their skills and gaining local popularity in Munfordville at the town’s teen club called ‘The Nightmare’ – the group of high school boys shortened their name to ‘The Children’ and went on to play Hart County ‘courthouse fairs’, gigs in nearby Glasgow and also competed in the State Fair in Louisville about an hour north.
With a solid high school fan base and local support, the community was pushing them to make a record. By 1968, the members were all seniors and would graduate that following summer- all except Sam who was already a few years older and had his own wheels. The band had about 50 cover songs in the pocket, mostly dialed in on current rock radio hits of the day.
Disappearing to the parent’s basement, Mike and Sam penned two original songs that year and a recording session was appointed at Atwell Studio about an hour and a half’s drive south in Lafayette, Tennessee. The band loaded their gear in Sam’s car and excitedly roared down the road. The resulting session yielded two amazing tracks, done in one take that summer of ’68.
“I Long To See Her” b/w “Lost Soul Seeker In the Rain” was released later that year on the Atwell label and was issued with a simple picture sleeve of the band with a portrait that was made in a small photography studio along the way in Glasgow. It is not known how many copies of the record were pressed. Sources say that Lorne Atwell would often only have 100 run pressings done of the secular groups that came through the door, as Atwell was mostly a gospel/country label. The group never had any other draft or sketch of another original song, but stayed active as the Children until around ’72. Nonetheless, the two sides made for Atwell that summer have forever set them in garage punk unknown history stone.
Mike Gibson still lives in Mundfordville and continues to write and perform contemporary christian music. Many thanks to him for sharing his memories of the band from which this article was produced and for the photo from the class of ’69 Hart Co. High School yearbook that shows the band in action (Christmas of ’68).
Mike Rife died in Mundfordville in 2011.
The other band members are still residing in Kentucky, and were unable to be contacted for this article.
Extra special thanks to John Freeman, mayor of Mundforville for sharing his memories, sourcing the record and arranging the interview with Hoot.
The Continentals cut two fratty originals, “Rufus Rastas” / “Donna” on Tortoise Records. I found a copy with an inscription on the “Rufus Rastas” label “First copy to Jim McKee, Oct. 12, 1965 … Joe Doll, President, Tortoise Records”.
I wrote to Mr. Doll and he while he didn’t recall Jim McKee, he replied,
I was president (and janitor, too!) of Tortoise Records. I began college at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio in 1963, then transferred to U. of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1966 to complete my Electrical Engineering degree.
I most likely met the Continentals when they were entertaining at one of the numerous fraternity/sorority parties in Delaware. Too bad, I have no recollection or documentation of the band members. I do remember the general parameters of the recording session with The Continentals, at the WSLN studios in Delaware, OH, north of Columbus. I also remember thinking at the time that their “Rufus Rastas” made a pretty good side. I don’t think we did a test pressing, so what you found was probably the top copy in the shipment from the pressing factory.
When it was over, they departed with their box of pressings and we had no further contact.
Tortoise Records was named for the very first band on the label, the Turtles, with their “Pungfoo Watusi” from 1964:
“Pungfoo Watusi” was the not-very-carefully-conceived B side of “Pungfoo”. It was the first record I produced.
“Pungfoo” originated with me and some fraternity brothers fooling around with a piano, sax, and drum set in the parlor of our fraternity house. We whimsically called ourselves Tuggy and the Turtles. The original title and lyric was “Fungu”. It was a made-up word, but someone thought that meant something bad in another language. One unreleased recording is “Fungu” recorded on cheap equipment in the fraternity house.
The record was taped at Fortune Studios in Detroit. I played piano, whistled, and hollered into some sort of trash can. Jim Guiness played saxophone. Our usual drummer, “Tuggy,” could not make it, so we picked up a drummer in Detroit. That’s why the group name is just The Turtles. A couple others assisted with clapping, which I believe we overdubbed.
I had done some work for the [Fortune] studio the previous summer, and they allowed me to use it without charge. I didn’t do a lot of work there, just came in to help them adjust and maintain their equipment from time to time.
Frank Uhle, who took on the project to do a 50th Anniversary re-release of the Beau Biens record, at one time contemplated a vinyl album that would contain some unreleased material. I have about a half hour of covers recorded by the Mark V, a pretty good rock band that played fraternity/sorority parties at Ohio Wesleyan. I recorded them in the WSLN studios, like the Continentals. There was an outfit called the Crystal Set Radio Band for whom I taped several tunes, originals I believe, in the WCBN studios. Ken Phillips, a U of M student, recorded with a small group a couple of tunes he had written and had them pressed as a demo record.
Joe Doll would become a DJ at WCBN at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he would record the Aftermath and the Beau Biens on Malibu Records. For more info please look at Joe’s website.
Tortoise Records discography:
Tortoise T 64001 – Turtles “Pungfoo” / “Pungfoo Watusi” (both by Joe Doll)
The Penetrators came from Crown Point, NY, on the west shore of Lake Champlain above Ticonderoga.
Members included Dan Rabideau and Larry Rabideau, Kim Joiner and Joe Dugan on bass. John Hoffman seems to have been a later member of the group.
In March of 1968 they made their first record, the cool garage original “I’ll Make You Mine” by Dan Rabideau and Kim Joiner, backed with a good instrumental, “Splitter Splatter” by Dan Rabideau and Larry Rabideau.
The 45 came out on Ferus Records FR 4958. Ferus had an address of 64-12 60th Pl., Brooklyn 27, New York. Tommy Wilde produced the single, I’m not sure how the band came to find Ferus.
This is a styrene 45 with the Columbia custom pressing code ZTSP 124958/9. Both songs published by Ferus Music BMI.
As Danny and the Country Penetrators they put out a single that I haven’t heard, “She’s My Mother-In-Law” / “I’ll Be Waiting” on Delta Records in June of 1968.
The band was well known locally as as Danny and the Penetrators. They appeared on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and continued with local bookings into the 1970s.
From a 1971 news item, it appears the Rabideau’s mother Doris managed the band.
The Ugly Z are a mystery band to me. There are plenty of names on the labels, but it may be that none of them belong to the band’s members.
“Down to My Very Last Tear” has a cool twelve-string guitar opening and a good band performance full of harmony singing. It was credited to the Ugly Z and Steve Fazio Jr.
Chris Crocket wrote “Kathy’s Back” which is similar to the flip in sound and almost as catchy.
Rick Lawrence, Stuart Richard produced the record, with Richard also arranging both sides.
It was released on Rondo 9158 in June, 1965, as shown from the Alco delta numbers: ∆57098 / ∆57098-X. Rondo had its address at 15101 Magnolia Blvd in Sherman Oaks, CA, and also published the songs through Rondo BMI.
Steve Fazio would show up about a year later as a talent scout for Valiant Records and producer Al Kavelin. Steve Fazio, Jr. also wrote “All Because Of You” recorded by Guiseppi Apollo with the Revels & the Mapes Sisters on Impact 12-IMX, published by Anthony Music.