Category Archives: Feature

The Voyagers on Feature Records

The Voyagers came from Racine, Wisconsin, cutting two 45s for the Feature Records label out of Janesville.

The band first recorded as a quintet with:

Mark Peterson – vocals
Jay Sieger – lead guitar
Ed Hauser – rhythm guitar
Lance Davenport – bass
Steve Porter – drums

Their first 45 was the excellent “Away” backed with “I’m So Lonely”, both songs written by Sieger and Davenport, from August 1966 on Feature Records 817R-111, an RCA custom press. Spad Music would publish all their original songs.

Voyagers Feature 45 Can't Save This Heart

Voyagers Feature 45 I Want You Back

By the time of their second single, in 1967, Marc Peterson and Ed Hauser had left, replaced by Joey Carrion (Tino Gonzales) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. This lineup recorded two more originals, “Can’t Save This Heart” by Sieger / Davenport, and “I Want You Back” by Carrion. It was released as Feature Records F-101, and produced by RAM Prod. After the single, Jay Sieger left and was replaced on lead guitar by Bob Spock.

Steve Sperry in Chicago, 1966
Steve Sperry in Chicago, 1966

Arthur Sullivan sent me Stephen Sperry’s photo and business card, and wrote to me with some information:

This group, The Voyagers was produced by Steve Sperry who operated Ram Productions during the 1960s. This group was probably managed for bookings by Ken Adamany who lived in Janesville during that time. Steve lived in Janesville WI and also managed Dick Campbell of Monroe WI for a while. I don’t know where it was recorded but it has a very good clean sound. There was Leaf Studio in Janesville or Cuca at Sauk City. 

Stephen Sperry Ram Productions, Janesville
Stephen Sperry & Ram Productions card, Janesville
Steve Sperry had an early 45 on Cuca J-1008 “That Ain’t So” / “Our Summer Love” before starting Ram Productions artist management and the Rampro label.

Arthur Sullivan had his own release on Swan Records ‎S-4153 as Artie Sullivan with the Rhythm Beats ‎– “It’s Time” / “Suzanne”, and produced singles with vocalist Dick Campbell on Camsul Records out of Worcester, MA (The Wild Ones “Surfin’ Time Again” for example), and CineVista Records out of Monroe, Wisconsin, among many others.

Sources: Gary E. Myers Can You Hear That Beat and On That Wisconsin Beat, and 45 cat

The Converts

The Converts
The Converts, photo from Lost and Found #2

The Converts Rampro 45 Don't Leave MeThe Converts were seminary students, I believe at the Holy Name Seminary in Madison, Wisconsin, though two sources (Lost and Found & Teen Beat Mayhem) give Beloit, Wisconsin as their base. Beloit is a town of 35,000 just across the Illinois state line, just south of Janesville where Ken Adamany ran the Rampro and Feature labels, and an hour southeast of Madison.

According to Gary E. Myers’ On That Wisconsin Beat, the band consisted of Bob Henneman (lead guitar); Duane Millard (guitar, keyboard and bass); Charles Millard (bass and guitar), replaced by Terry Johnson (bass); and Robert Fixmer on drums. Gary writes “None of the converts joined the ministry”!

In early 1967 the band released their only 45, the ballad “A Guy Without a Girl”. Listeners these days prefer the b-side, the excellent “Don’t Leave Me”. Hear it on Teenage Shutdown Vol. 15, She’s a Pest. The singer tries to convince his girl not to go by saying she’s “not so hot”, and threatening she’ll never “get another man” or “hold another hand”. Both songs were written by Fixmer & Hanneman for Spad Music, BMI.

Rob Fixmer played percussion with Jim Spencer for his albums previous to the Major Arcana LP, Landscape (1973, on Thoth) and 2nd Look (1974, on Akashic). Fixmer became a journalist whose credits include publishing an interesting interview with Frank Zappa in Milwaukee’s alternative newspaper, the Bugle American.

Terry Johnson was in the Southbound Band, who released an LP in 1985.

The Converts Rampro 45 A Guy Without A Girl

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