fast cotton

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1970
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
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Dwight Dow in the drum isolation booth at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio
courtesy Ernie Gammage/Phil Gammage

Tt's 1970 and the Sweetarts, who enjoy a multi-year run as one of Austin's premiere frat bands from 1966 through 1969 and who in 1967 record Sonobeat's first release, have morphed into Fast Cotton. A year earlier, core Sweetarts members Ernie Gammage, Dwight Dow, Tom Van Zandt, and Pat Whitefield are joined by lead guitarist Johnny Richardson (formerly of Georgetown Medical Band), vocalist Misty Browning, and saxophonist Cato T. Walker in the new band. By the time Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr. records Fast Cotton in November 1970, Danny Galindo, formerly of the 13th Floor Elevators, has replaced Pat Whitefield. The addition of Johnny, Misty, and Cato has thickened up the old Sweetarts sound (which was real good by any standard), and, in its new incarnation as Fast Cotton, the band has shifted its focus away from top 40-style frat rock to rhythm and blues and experimental original material.

Cato [Walker] always told us he was B.B. King's cousin. We never believed him, but he actually is! Instead of the top 40 cover tunes the 'Tarts had concentrated on early in their career, Fast Cotton did obscure album cuts and much more interesting material, including the originals we cut for Sonobeat. Before Fast Cotton could really get rolling, Tom joined the Peace Corps and left for Ethiopia and I moved to England.
Ernie Gammage in an interview at Beyond the Beat Generation

Fast Cotton records five songs at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. All are solid, tight performances of original material. The only complete mixes in the Sonobeat archives are monaural trial mixes made from the original half-inch 4-track session tapes. Bill and Ernie select two songs for final mix down in stereo as a potential Sonobeat 45 RPM single release, but Fast Cotton unexpectedly breaks up when Tom leaves for the Peace Corps and Ernie moves to England less than a month after completing the Sonobeat sessions. Without a band to support the release, Bill is forced to scrap plans for the single and shelve the tapes. But Ernie and Tom will return for still another appearance on the Sonobeat roster in 1972.

There are very few surviving photos of the interior of Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. Many of them (along with Sweetarts photos) are at Ernie Gammage's new website and are definitely worth a visit.

Danny Galindo passes away in 2001. Cato T. Walker passes away in March 2012. Pat Whitefield (who's just fine) leaves Fast Cotton to work with Austin's developing jazz scene, eventually joining the Fabulous Thunderbirds. In 2001, Pat reunites with Tom Van Zandt and Misty Browning to form Austin rhythm and blues/pop band Smokehouse, which then becomes the Leghounds when Misty departs. Misty (also doing just fine) still lives in Austin. Ernie Gammage goes on to record with Base, an experimental studio band that Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. puts together in 1972 and '73. Today Ernie continues to perform throughout Texas in several bands incuding Ernie Sky and the K-Tels and The Lost Austin Band, and his son Troupe is a co-founder of popular alt band SPEAK, also based in Austin.

Fast Cotton personnel

Misty Browning: vocals
Dwight Dow: drums
Danny Galindo: bass
Ernie Gammage: rhythm guitar and vocals
Johnny Richadson: lead guitar
Cato T. Walker: tenor sax
Tom Van Zandt: keyboards
Pat Whitefield: bass (didn't record on the Sonobeat sessions)

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

I'm Not The Fool You Made Me
Lady
Out Like A Light
That's What My Man Is For
There's Something About A Fifteen Year Old Girl

Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio
   Basic instrumental tracks recorded on November 11, 1970
   Vocal overdubs recorded on November 12, 1970
   Sax overdubs on I'm Not the Fool You Made Me,That's What My Man Is For, and There's Something About A Fifteen Year Old Girl recorded on November 22, 1970
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, AKG D707E dynamic microphone, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Stemco half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
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Final word

Fast Cotton is named for a greyhound dog that drummer Dwight Dow sees at a race track in Corpus Christi, Texas. Not sure whether Dwight bet on him, though.

Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr.'s track assignment notes for each of the five songs recorded by Fast Cotton
The mix-down master of Fast Cotton's Sonobeat recordings