Category Archives: Wisconsin

The Sultans Five

Sultans Five – original mid-60s lineup on the records
as noted on photo: Ken Allen, Lenny Juliano, Tim Mickna, Ray Polouski and Vic Weinfurter.

The Sultans Five were based out of Racine, Wisconsin, originally a three-piece when they formed in 1963. Original members were Len Juliano guitar, Tim Michna on bass and Vic Weinfurter, Jr. on drums. With the addition of Ray Plauske from the Sensations on lead guitar they became the Sultans IV. Farfisa organist and saxaphonist Ken Allen made them the Sultans Five.

Their recording career consisted of all or nearly all original songs, with Victor Weinfurter the main contributer along with Ray Plauske and Tim Michna.

Their earliest releases include two on the RAL label “Tonight Is the Night” / “Hey Little Girl” and “Walk with Me” / “Who’s at Fault”. Of these I’ve only heard “Tonight Is the Night” from its later release on Raynard. The flip of that release is “With You”, an original by Ray Plauske.

Their second on Raynard was a good rocker, “Daisy” that features a raucous, booming guitar sound on the breaks. It was backed with “Life Is Like a River”. Both were Vic Weinfurter originals.

Both Raynard 45s, along with their last, came with custom sleeves reading “Enterprise Thirteen presents the Sultans Five”, along with the band’s first names, song titles and composers, the Baker Building address and the optimistic message “more to come”.

Enterprise Thirteen would be the label for their last and most famous release, the fabulous “You Know, You Know” a song that would grab everyone’s attention whenever my pal DJ Bossy Boots played it out in clubs. The flip is the gentle “Calico”, a fine moody number written by Weinfurter and Ray Plauske.

After the recordings Tom Zager joined on bass and Butch Kieffer on organ. The band broke up in 1968.

Thanks to JP Coumans for the scans and transfers of the Raynard 45s. If anyone has good transfers of their RAL releases, please let me know.

Update, November 2009

Ken Allen, who played Farfisa organ with the group wrote to me about his time with the band, and sent in the photo at top:

The picture I sent you was taken from the Racine Journal Times, advertising for us playing at Ligits Beach Bar at Browns Lake, Wisconsin.

Vic called me and asked if I would play organ for the Sultans and I said yes, but I would have to order a portable organ first. I ordered a brand new Farfisa Compact Duo, with two Gibson Saber Reverb amps. It was a great high tech fold up organ for the day. I had to wait for a month and a half for it to come over to the USA on a boat. I was told that my Farfisa was the second one sold in the USA.

We played at Earls Club in Kenosha, The Nitty Gritty in Racine, The Kraut Festival in Franksville, Wisconsin. We also would play for private parties etc.

Yes I was on our records. The records were recorded at the [Dave] Kennedy Recording Studio in Milwaukee. King Sabornick a D.J. at WRIT Radio was one of the arrangers we had and the other one was from New York, but I can’t remmember his name.

To make a long story short… Tim Mickna and I resigned from the Sultans Five, and that is when Butch Keifer replaced me on keyboard and Tom Zager replaced Tim Mickna on bass. I can’t remember all the details, 44 years is a long time. We had a great time while it lasted though.

Ken Allen

A later lineup, standing from left: Len Juliano, Ray Plauske, Butch Kieffer, Tom Zager; seated: Vic Weinfurter
Photo from Gary Myers’ Do You Hear That Beat, original from the collection of Vic Weinfurter.

The Inspirations and the 13th Precinct

The Inpirations, from left: Mike Murphy, Keith Newell, Bruce Jensen, Kenny Newell and Dennis Milby

Updated February 2011 with info from comments below and Gary E. Myers book On That Wisconsin Beat

The original lineup of the Inspirations included Keith Newell on guitar, his identical twin Ken Newell on bass, Dennis Milby on drums and Michael Murphy on keyboards. The band was from Rock Falls and Sterling, Illinois, two hours drive west of Chicago.

Bruce Jensen joined on guitar by the time of their 45 on the Feature label. At some point the Newell brothers left the band and Don Dowd came in on bass.

Both songs on their August, 1966 single were written by Jensen and Murphy, with (I believe) Murphy singing lead vocals. “That Girl” has a brittle guitar sound and a loping bass line, with good lead and backing vocals. The organ takes a fine, trebly solo before the last chorus. “Baby Please Come Home” has a moodier sound that works well.

The Inspirations without the Newell brothers. Top left is Keith Pratt, middle may be Bruce Jensen (?), and bottom right with drum sticks is Steve King. I’m not certain of some of these attributions, so any help would be appreciated.

Feature Records was owned by Ken Adamany, a legend in the Madison area. Janesville, Wisconsin is about 25 miles southeast of Madison, just short of the Illinois border. Adamany also ran Rampro Records, then became a major promoter of bands in lower Wisconsin and owner of the Factory club in Madison, but he’s best known now as the first manager of Cheap Trick. In an interview with the band back in the 70’s, Rolling Stone described him as “the son of Lebanese immigrants …. a slight, swarthy fellow … with the cool, disinterested air of a camel trader.” Nice profiling RS!

Ken had himself played in a band callled the Nigh Tranes who had one release, “Hangover” (aka “Swamp Fever” / “Rockin’ Abe” on Cuca. That band included Boz Scaggs, Tim Davis, Ben Sidran and Steve Miller in later lineups (as the Ardells?).

The 13th Precinct from left: Mike Murphy, Bruce Jensen, Down Dowd and Tom Kurtz

Image from The Meadow site.
In 1967 the group changed it’s name to the 13th Precinct, with a lineup of Mike Murphy, Bruce Jensen, Don Dowd and Dennis Milby, and cut some demos in Chicago.

Gary Myers wrote in On That Wisconsin Beat, “These caught the ear of New York producer Paul Tannen who took them to Nashville for sessions that resulted in the TRX release [“Junk Yard” / “You Gotta Be Mine”, January, 1968]. The 13th Precinct worked often in Oshkosh and Appleton, and as the house band at The Barn outside Sterling. Drummer Dennis Milby was forced to leave with an injury shortly before the band appeared on ABC-TV’s Happening ’68 with Paul Revere & the Raiders in Los Angeles.”

Michael Bryan Murphy left the band in 1969 to join the One-Eyed Jacks in Champaign, Illinois, and then went on to sang with REO Speedwagon on their third, fourth and fifth albums.

Tom Kurtz replaced Dennis Milby on drums, and then Tim Dowd joined on guitar and vocals as the 13th Precinct continued into the 1970s.

Thank you to Kevin McLaughlin for the top photo and to Heidi Dowd for the second photo.

Sources include: Gary E. Myers book On That Wisconsin Beat, the FolkLib Index and Like a Rolling Stone: Why Madison’s Music Scene Is Slightly Discordant.

The 13th Precinct onstage

The Dynastys on Fan Jr., Coulee and Jerden

Dynastys Coulee 45 Go GorillaOK, it’s not as heavy as the Shandells, but I can’t believe no one ever mentions this version of “Go Gorilla”. The original of the song was done by Chicago r&b group the Ideals in 1963, who had a #3 regional hit with it on KQV in Pittsburgh.

The Dynastys version come out of Wisconsin in September of ’64, followed by the Shandells a few months later. The instrumental flip, “Birmingham”, shows how accomplished a band they were as it really swings. Neither song has been comped before to my knowledge.

The Coulee label was out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, owned by Bill Grafft, who also ran the Boom, Knight and Transaction labels. The Dynasty’s 45 (Coulee 108) comes just before Dee Jay and the Runaways’ “Love Bug Crawl” / “The Pickup” (Coulee 109).

The Dynasty’s definitely honed their skills pre-British Invasion, with large helpings of rockabilly, r&b and even surf and folk music in their sound. They originally came from Oskaloosa, Iowa. Their first 45 came out on the Fan, Jr label in 1964, a cover of the Eldorados’ “I’ll Be Forever Loving You” backed with another cover, Harold Dorman’s “Mountain of Love”, which Johnny Rivers made a hit not long after the Dynasty’s version came out. Production by Orlie Breunig.

As Gary Myers wrote in a comment below, the band came from Milwaukee. Band members were George Shaput (guitar), Duane Schallitz (guitar), Mark Ladish (organ), Dave Maciolek (bass), Jim Serrano (lead guitar) and Kenny Arnold (drums).

Dynastys Jerden 45 Forever and a DayAt the band’s request to play on the West Coast, their manager Lindy Shannon booked them into the Longhorn in Portland, Oregon. Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records saw them there and heard their demos, leading to their final 45 in 1966, “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” / “Forever and a Day”.

On “Forever and a Day” the band manages to create a memorable harmony pop ballad without sacrificing their strong rhythm and drumming.

Not long after this release George Shaput joined the Shades of Blue and then played with Conway Twitty. The band reunited at a La Crosse show to honor Lindy Shannon in 1994.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

The Glass Candle

Glass Candle Target 45 Light the Glass CandleThe Glass Candle is an excellent psychedelic 45 from early 1969. “Light the Glass Candle” has piercing guitar lines; “Keep Right on Living” chugs along to steady tom tom beats with vocals that sound either very young or speeded up.

Both sides written by Jimmy Tillmann. Two other members named Roger and Danny have signed my copy of the 45. There must have been at least one more member, as the lineup includes guitar, bass organ and drums.

The 45 was produced by Alan Posniak, and seems to be their only recording. The Target label was based in Appleton, Wisconsin, but I’ve read the band was from Milwaukee, about a hundred miles south of Appleton.

Glass Candle Target 45 Keep Right On Living

The French Church

l-r: John Spratto, Gordon MacDonald, Mike Cleary (seated), and Warren MacDonald.

The French Church were a band from Marquette, Michigan, a small town on Lake Superior about 180 miles north of Green Bay. Members were Mike Cleary vocals, John Spratto guitar, Gordon MacDonald bass, and his brother Warren MacDonald drums.

I asked John Spratto how the band was named: “A good friend of the band, Floyd Maki, suggested we name it the French Church which is what St. John’s Catholic Church in Marquette was known as amongst the old timers. We were a little rebellious and figured that might get a rise out of certain people which would bring notoriety to the band. Some people, my mother actually, didn’t care for the name at first, but it was OK after a while, didn’t cause too much consternation.”

A sign for Slapneck inspired Gordon MacDonald and John to write a song imagining life in a small community in the woods. The band paid Princeton label owner Fred Krook to release the song, recorded in a studio located in the basement of a Marquette lumber company in early 1968.

Harry Walker, he’s the milkman there,
No bills are paid, ah, he’s not well
Slapneck, come on along with me yeah,
Come on along with me,
Yeah if you want to be free

Mrs. R.J. Green, she runs a restaurant there
The tables they’re clean and the manners they’re clear
Slapneck, come on along with me,
Come on along with me,
Yeah if you want to be free

The lyrics are quaint, but the playing is ferocious. From the sliding chords that open the song, John Spratto lays down some of the heaviest distortion ever put to vinyl.

The flip is a more conventional number, Without Crying, written by MacDonald and Mike Cleary.

John Spratto: “I am all grown up now and a Managing Partner in a CPA firm. Gordon recently retired as a music teacher and his brother Warren still owns MacDonald’s Music Store in Marquette.

“We got together about 5 years ago and recorded a dozen original songs that we wrote together and individually over the last 42 years. We got together again a couple of years ago with our boys who also play and recorded another 6 original songs. They are all very good songs. (My opinion anyway). One of the ones with our boys was a remake of Slapneck 1943.”

Sources: My correspondence with John Spratto, and Steve Seymour’s blog on Upper Peninsula music, Rock n Roll Graffiti.

The Ethics and the Invasion

The Ethics took part in the Milwaukee Sentinel Rock’n’Roll Revue on December 30, 1965, their version of “Down the Road Apiece” preserved on a lo-fi LP of the event that I haven’t heard.

In 1966 they released “(A Whole Lot Of) Confusion”, featuring a tough rhythm with guitar and vocals to match. The flip, “Out Of My Mind” is a folky-pop number written by the band.

This was their only 45 as the Ethics before changing their name to the Invasion in 1967. “The Invasion Is Coming” was a catchy start. This song was also done as “The Invaders Are Coming” by the Young Savages on the same label (Dynamic Sound 2006), but I prefer the vocals on the Invasion’s version.

The lineup at this point included Don Gruender guitar, Mark Miller bass, Gene Peranich keyboards and Mike Jablonski drums. Later on members would include Bob McKenna and Tony Menotti on guitar, P.T. Pedersen and Gary Frey on bass, Rick Cier keyboards and Bruce Cole on drums.

Wailing farfisa, fuzz guitar: their last 45 “Do You Like What You See?” gets all the elements right. It’s also the rarest of these three by far! Gene Peranich and Mike Jablonski wrote this song, unlike much of their other material.

Lennie LaCour (aka Lenny LaCour) was their producer, publisher and principal songwriter. LaCour was born in Louisiana and had a half dozen rockabilly releases on Academy and his own Lucky Four label before going into production. Besides Dynamic Sound, he was also running Magic Touch, known more for soul music.

The Ethics – (A Whole Lot Of) Confusion / Out Of My Mind (Dynamic Sound 2001)
The Invasion – The Invasion Is Coming / I Want To Thank You (Dynamic Sound 2004)
The Invasion – Do You Like What You See? /The Wind Keeps On Blowing (Dynamic Sound 2009)

The Mustard Men

Really don’t know anything about the Mustard Men other than that they were from Wisconsin.

Wish I owned this business card myself, but I saved $50 by just buying the 45.

The band recorded at Dave Kennedy Recording Studios in Milwaukee and released this on the Raynard label, the same label that featured the Bryds great “Your Lies” among others.

“I Lost My Baby” opens with a perfect guitar and organ intro, settles into a nice groove with good vocals that occasionally get excited, and features a fine bluesy guitar solo which kind of falls apart towards the end as some of the notes miss the intended pitch. Still, an A+ in my book for the overall sound they achieve.

The flip is “Another Day”, credited to Donne & the Mustard Men.

Thanks to Gary Myers for the photo.

Robin and the Three Hoods

Robin and the Three Hoods released this spirited and crude cover of the Strangeloves’ Bobby Comstock’s “I Wanna Do It” four separate times. The first was on the yellow Fan Jr. label out of Madison, Wisconsin, backed with a fine surf instrumental with a good drum break, “The Marauder”. Then again on Fan Jr., with the same label number, FJ-1003, but this time the band is listed as Marrell’s Marauders.

Next on the green Fan Jr. label with the b-side changed to “That’s Tuff”, a neat tune by one Mr. Bernhagen. Finally this was picked up for national release by Hollywood Records, with “That’s Tuff” again as the b-side.

Skip Nelson is credited with production on each release. The Hollywood pressing is of relatively poor quality. They have another 45 on the green Fan Jr. label that I haven’t heard yet, “A Day You’ll Never Forget” (an original by Bernhagen and Jim Schwartz) b/w “We The Living”.

Rob Bernhagen played bass, keyboards and sang lead vocals as ‘Robin’. He wrote to me about the band:

The Marauders, with Mike Warner on drums, all graduated from Madison East High in 1963. We had joined the Musicians Union that April and had played school gigs and a few actual paying gigs around Madison.

We borrowed “I Wanna Do It” from Bobby Comstock and recorded it in Dec. of 1963. Our manager, Frederick Arthur Nelson, aka Skip, did own a music store and produce all our records. We started playing around Wisconsin and Northern Illinois and found many “Marauder” bands so we changed our name and the label on the records …. same recording. I found a paperback book about Merrill’s Marauders from WWII and plagiarized the name….and changed the spelling. As the leader of the band, I became “Bobby Marrell”.

I played bass and keyboards and was the lead vocalist. Dave Reed played lead guitar and Jim Schwartz played rhythm guitar. Bruce Benson was our drummer, he lives in Northern California. The only personnel change from the Marauders was at drums, Mike Warner was our first drummer and he played on the first version with “The Marauder” on the flip side.

We were all in college and playing part time within a couple of hundred miles of Madison. Mike Warner decided to drop out of college and try music full time so Bruce Benson joined us and we borrowed the costume idea from Paul Revere and the Raiders and came up with “The Hoods”. Once again, as leader and vocalist, I became Robin Hood. We all wore Robin Hood outfits….and tights…

We played the entire state of Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, and border towns in Northern Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota. Went as far south as Springfield, Il. We broke-up the band 1/31/69 when Jim and I graduated from college.

We got limited airplay because of the suggestive title which is why everyone loved the song to begin with. We got a “pick to click” from Billboard and a review in Cashbox which is why Starday got involved. They were to handle national distribution… which never happened. We stayed on Wisconsin statewide charts for over a year.

Funny story behind “The Marauder”… we went in the studio to record “I Wanna Do It” and when that was finished, we started to pack up. The engineer asked about the flip side to our 45 RPM and we were dumbfounded. In our youthful ignorance, we hadn’t even considered a flip side. Faced with the problem we jammed “The Marauder” from an instrumental “break song” that we were using during shows. One take and it was done. We never played the entire song on any gig … just enough of it to announce a break.

I’m the only member who continued to play professionally….I’m in an oldies band today, the Tom Tayback Band. Jim quit altogether, Bruce plays a little on the side, and Dave is deceased. I’m not in contact with Mike so I’m not sure about him.

We did produce a couple of other records but had nothing to do with the “green bean” thing.

Thanks to Kim D. for sending in the photo card with signatures above. Kim wrote to me “I saved this card for years which Robin and the Three Hoods signed and gave to me in the 60’s at a place they performed at called “The Illusions” in Neenah, Wisconsin. We had alot of bands frequent that place. You had to be 16 years old to enter, but I always looked older, so they let me in. Good times!”

Also thanks to Eric Randle for the scan of “A Day You’ll Never Forget.”