The Intruders have the very first release on the Rofran label from Urbana, Illinois. Both sides are very good guitar instrumentals, originals composed by R.S. Little. “Deception” is particularly sharp.
I don’t know of any other releases by the Intruders, and the R.S. Little name does not appear on additional Rofran 45s that I’ve seen, so this may be their only recording.
The codes on the labels, S-4272 and S-4273 indicates Sheldon in Chicago did the pressing – anyone have a way to date those Sheldon numbers?
In the mid 1960’s the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana became a center for innovative jazz and avant-garde electronic and computer music. Starting in 1967, the Red Herring Coffeehouse just off the main quad on W Oregon became a center for folk artists. And of course there was a thriving band scene at the Illini Brown Jug and other student beer joints. For those not familiar with that area’s geography, the school is located in eastern-central Illinois, roughly equidistant from Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
Roger Francisco began recording out of a home studio to the east of campus in Urbana, Illinois circa 1964. Rofran (a combination of the first syllables of his first and last names) was the name he gave to his studio, one of his labels, and also the name of his production and publishing companies. It’s an open question as to how prominent the studio was in that area, as many bands recorded at other studios: Dean Carter, the One Eyed Jacks and the Bacardis for example.
I’ve only heard a few of these records. The Cliques has had the most exposure, showing up on Back From the Grave vol. 7. I’ve heard one side of the Keepers, which is good harmony pop, and the first Prodigies 45, “Kysmyph (KIS-MIF)” a bluesy instrumental with sax and some odd organ sounds, backed with “Don’t Look Back”, which starts out with a hip bossa groove but the vocals are square, mimicking the complex harmonies on brazilian groups from the time.
Mike Markesich filled me in on some Rofran releases:
The Sound Studio Production (Rofran 1010) was a label printing goof – the real group is the Prodigies, university guys from Champaign IL. I have the 45 crediting the Prodigies. They have a second 45 on Rofran 1013 “I Want To Do It” / “What I’d Say”, both released in ’66.
Quarternotes “My Baby Left Me” crude thumpin’ garage rocker with a kinda ‘rural’ vocal vibe.
There are other Rofran releases on different-named labels. One that comes to mind is the Ravins “Andy” on the Syndicate label (#1028). Very cool, moody organ swinger with a crisp guitar break. Flipside is “I Had a Feeling”, which is more aligned to a pop sounding jangle ballad. This was their only recording. One of the songwriters on the 45 made a solo Rofran record.
The Cliques “So Hard” / “Ballad Of A Destitute Man” on Custom 1020 (Jan ’67) is a Rofran release. Ditto the Keepers “Why Have You Changed” / “Tiny Teardrops” on Custom 1021 (Jan ’67).
Although early releases seem commercially-minded, Rofran became a studio for more adventurous music sessions towards 1968 and 1969. Some of those musicians, like James Cuomo and Howie Smith, came out of the jazz and experimental music programs at UICU.I asked Howie Smith about his time with the Prodigies at Rofran studio:
The studio, indeed, started in the basement of Roger’s home in Urbana, and at some point he leased a much larger space in a building on Race Street for the studio.
At the time I enrolled at the University of Illinois, the band with Roger Francisco, Gordy Wilson and Bill Steffen was looking for a sax player and I got the job. I played with them on a nightly gig at The Beacon (a bar/roadhouse located just south of Rantoul Air Base) for about 2 years. Roger played guitar and electric bass, Gordy played some sort of electronic keyboard (my memory is that it was an early Farfisa, but I could be totally wrong about that), Bill was the drummer, I played tenor sax and electric bass, and we all sang.
I don’t remember whether the band went under the name of The Prodigies at that time or not, but it was under that name that we recorded “Don’t Look Back” and “KYSMYPH.” At some point the name of the band was changed to Sound Studio One, but I’m almost positive that didn’t happen until later.
As The Prodigies (a name that always made me cringe) we also released a Christmas recording of “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer” backed with “Sleigh Ride.”
As Sound Studio One we recorded “Never Tell” backed with a very strange “Never Marry a Woman Who is Taller Than You” that richly deserves (and should maintain) its status as unknown by virtually everyone.
The Prodigies/Sound Studio One was also used as the band behind various singers who recorded at rofran. One of those was Al Ierardi, who I believe had some success with “Drifter” backed with “Dureen.”
I was also doing some writing and arranging for other groups in the area and remember recording horn parts at rofran for at least one song by Feather Train.
At Rofran we were also writing and recording music and voice-overs for some ad agencies in the area. “Oh Boy, Tom Boy” was a commercial jingle written for a short-lived drive-in restaurant a-la McDonald’s.
At some point after leaving Sound Studio One I worked for a time with The Nickel Bag. The band at that time consisted of T.T. Coleman singing lead vocal, Bob Crownover on guitar, Rick Raines on organ, Pat Hammond on bass, John Phillips on drums, Rick Bendel and Ron Meng on trumpets, and Ron Dewar and me on tenor saxes). The group was very popular and quite busy in the Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin area, but we never released a commercial recording.
I haven’t been in touch with Roger or Bill for quite a long time, but I get back to Champaign-Urbana a couple of times a year to do a jazz gig, and Gordon showed up at one of then a couple of years ago.
Roger Francisco wrote to me:
I still have file copies of most of the singles we released on RoFran (which I backed and promoted) and the Custom label (for which I was just studio for hire and processed the pressings for). I remember our ongoing special was a few hours of studio time and a hundred 45 RPM pressings for $100.
As we moved into the 70’s, I got involved with the annual Red Herring Coffee House folk festivals, location recording and producing their LPs, and ultimately got involved co-managing and publishing The Ship, running sound for their live gigs and mixing their Elektra album in LA, and also recording the early efforts of Dan Fogelburg.
I sold the studio operation to Al Ierardi (the Drifter single) around 1974-75 and ultimately became chief engineer at Creative Audio, home to Columbia artist Champaign. I eventually transitioned into commercials and industrial sound track production, and ultimately to Human Kinetics where I put together a corporate recording studio and produce all their DVD and web streaming soundtracks.
The Spoils of War consisted of James Cuomo, Roger Francisco, Frank Garvey, Al Ierardi, Anne Whitefish-Williams and James Stroud. They made a seven-inch, 33 1/3 rpm EP (sometimes listed as You’re Invited to Hear the Spoils of War) in 1969, running over seventeen minutes with five songs: “What Happend Now”, “Now Is Made in America”, “Henry T. Joseph”, “Void of Mystery” and “The Greyness Moves in Quietly”.
In 1999 the Shadoks label released recordings made in 1968 without Anne, and a second CD, The Spoils of War II unearthed further live and studio material from James Cuomo’s archives.
Rofran produced another lengthy seven-inch, 33 1/3 rpm, five song EP in 1970 for James Cuomo, known as Cuomo’s Record and featuring Al Ierardi, Charlie Braugham, Bob Witmer, Cal Drake, Larry Dwyer and Steve Larner. Side A: Suzan Never Smiles”, “Remembering”, “Ring, Magic Telephone, Ring”, and “Victoria Falls”; Side B: “Crimson Uniform”.
Rofran productions and discography(incomplete, any help would be appreciated):
Early 45s on Rofran, Custom and Syndicate seem to follow a 10xx numbering system:
Rofran 1001 – The Intruders “Deception” / “Intrudin'” Rofran 1002 – The Rogues “Gone To Stay” / “Wait Till the Summer” Rofran 1003 – Lee Rust “Scramble” / “Do You Ever Kinda Wonder?” Rofran 1004 – Lee Rust “Mystery House” / “Come on Back” Rofran 1005 – Lee Rust “Try, Try to Leave” (W.L. Rust) / “I’m Spoken For” Rofran 1006 – Lee Rust “She’s Gone Tonight” / “World Made of Romance” 1007 – ? 1008 – ? 1009 – ? Rofran 1010 – Sound Studio One “Kysmyph (KIS-MIF)” (Instrumental by Wilson-Smith-Steffen) / “Don’t Look Back” (H.A. Smith) (1966) Rofran 1010 – The Prodigies “Kysmyph (KIS-MIF)” (Instrumental by Wilson-Smith-Steffen) / “Don’t Look Back” (H.A. Smith) 1011 – ? Rofran 1012 – The Impalas “Kristina” / “Lost Beat” (both by R. Dilling) Rofran 1013 – The Prodigies “I Want To Do It” / “What’d I Say” (1966) Rofran 1014 – The Quaternotes “My Baby Left Me” / “You And I (Are In Love)” 1015 – ? 1016 – ? 1017 – ? Rofran 1018 – The Lindsey Triplets “Tomorrow’s Another Day” (C.F. & R.E. Francisco) / “Terry” Rofran 1019 – Al Ieradi – “Drifter” / “Dureen” Custom 1020 – The Cliques “So Hard” (J.D. Vance, J.S. Walbillig) / “Ballad of a Destitute Man” (Jan. ’67, produced by Tim Abel) Custom 1021 – The Keepers “Why Have You Changed” (S. J. Beresford) / “Tiny Teardrops” (Jan. ’67) 1022 – ? 1023 – ? Custom 1024 – The Dearly Beloved “Cindy” (M. Gallivan) one-sided record 1025 – ? 1026 – ? 1027 – ? Syndicate 1028 – The Ravins “Andy” / “I Had a Feeling” 1029 – ? Shades 836R-1030 – The Shades of Blue “Not the Way Love Should Be” / “You Must Believe Me” 1031 – ? 1032 – ? 1033 – ? 1034 – ? Custom 1035 – The Camaros “I Need You No More” / “Just For The Love Of A Man” (836R-1034) Psychedelic Sounds 1035 – Howie Thayer and his Psycho-Electric Happening “Movin’, Groovin’ Fairy Tale” / “If Death Don’t Get You (Then the Government Will)” – 1968 -“A Custom Product of Rofran Enteprises” 1036 – ? 1037 – ? 1038 – ? 1039 – ? 1040 – ? 1041 – ?
Folksound 836R-1042 – K. Sandra Wyman (Spud Baldwin, guitar) “Until It’s Time For You To Go” / “Where Does It Lead” (W4KM-5157) with picture sleeve 1043 – ? Psychedelic Sounds 1044 – Howie Thayer and his Psycho-Electric Happening – “Bazap!” / “Side 2” 1045 – ? 1046 – ? Custom 836R-1047 – Linda Fanakos “Candyland Town” / “Let’s Make It Clear” (both by Linda Fanakos). Yellow label with RCA custom press X4KM-2636/2637, which indicates this was mastered in the second half of 1969. (label reads -“A Custom Product of Rofran Enteprises”) Rofran 836R-2005 – Sound Studio One – “Never Tell” (Roger Francisco, H.A. Smith) / Never Marry (A Woman Who Is Taller Than You) prod. by Howie Smith, W4KM-4773, 1968
Other Rofran productions:
Rofran XALS-2605 – The Spoils of War “What Happend Now”, “Now Is Made in America”, “Henry T. Joseph”, “Void of Mystery”, and “The Greyness Moves in Quietly”
Depot Records (RoFran 0608) – James Cuomo (Cuomo’s Record) – “Suzan Never Smiles”, “Remembering”, “Ring”, “Magic Telephone”, Ring”, “Victoria Falls”, and “Crimson Uniform” 1970
Century 44090 – Mad John Fever “Breath & Thunder” / “One World Lost To Another” (1971?)
Century 35921 – Marvin Lee & the Midwesterners “I’ve Made My Mind Up (To Leave Today)” / “Until My Dream Come True”
Marvin Lee & the Midwesterners – album featuring Sandy Kay, Wil Wilson, Don Markham and Cousin Hi
The names on the Prodigies 45 are Howard A. Smith, Frederick W. Steffen III, and James Gordon Wilson. BMI listings show Wilson and Smith wrote a song I haven’t heard, “Oh Boy Tom Boy” with Roger Francisco.
The Keepers is not related to the New York group who cut “She Understands” on the Bravura label, nor do I believe it’s the same group that recorded “Now She’s Gone” for the Mystic label of Hazen, North Dakota.
From a reader:
The “Lindsey Triplets” are identical triplets and were a very popular singing group at the time. They traveled the tri-state area performing at various venues. They also traveled on various U.S.O. tours to entertain the troops and made a few guest appearances on then popular variety shows on national television. For a short time they also were ‘fashion’ models (not Playboy Bunnies) for Playboy.
The group went by two different stage names “The Lindsey Triplets” and “The ABC Triplets (Their first names were Anita, Becky and Cathy). The song ‘Terry’ was sung by Becky with accompaniment from her sisters. While they looked alike their voices were distinctive and each triplet sang their own solos when performing.
They actually did a number of demo tapes of their songs. The group was very talented but did reach the notoriety they deserved due to poor management and not being adequately promoted.
The Lindsey Triplets had one commercial release, “Jiminy Jum Jum” / “Fallin’ in Love” on Top Rank 2010.
Thank you to Adam Lore for the loan of the Sound Studio One 45, to Mike Markesich for much information, to Myskatonic, Bob of Dead Wax, Jeff LaSee, Tim Adams, Ryan Luellwitz and Laurent Bigot for help with the discography.