Sonobeat Recording Company operates from 1967 to 1976 in Austin and Central Texas. During it's early years, Sonobeat has no recording studio of its own, so it rents Austin-area night clubs during off hours and hauls its microphones, mixers, and tape decks from one location to the next to record dozens of acts composed of hundreds of singers, songwriters, and musicians. Among the venues Sonobeat uses as makeshift recording studios: Swingers Club, Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest Inn, Vulcan Gas Company, and the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church auditorium, all in Austin. During 1967, Sonobeat also uses the KAZZ-FM studios in downtown Austin (where co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Bill Josey Jr. work at the time they launch Sonobeat) for overdub sessions and occasionally even use the living room at the Josey family home. Eventually, the Joseys co-opt the bedroom suite on the ground level of the family's split-level home in northwest Austin, repurposing it as a small recording studio. The home-based studio is suitable for tracking solo acts and small combos, recording vocal overdubs, and mixing sessions. We provide this background to illustrate the challenges Sonobeat faces without a studio during its launch years and to put its milestones in perspective.
It begins with a tiny Austin radio stationOctober 5, 1964
Future Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Jr., a University of Texas freshman majoring in Radio-TV-Film, begins working as a deejay at Austin's KAZZ-FM. Using the air name Rim Kelley, he launches the first regularly-scheduled rock 'n' roll program on FM radio in the U.S. Two months later his father, Bill Josey Sr., starts working at KAZZ-FM as its sales manager. Because both Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. work at KAZZ, many mistakenly believe the Joseys own the station, but it's actually owned by Austin restaurateur Monroe Lopez.
Austin's KAZZ-FM starts live music broadcastsLate 1965 through late 1966
By September 1965, as part of an aggressive strategy to increase ad sales, KAZZ-FM's Bill Josey Sr., now station general manager, begins broadcasting half-hour live music remotes from Austin-area night clubs. The first broadcasts feature jazz and pop acts performing at Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest Inn and the New Orleans Old World Night Club, both in downtown Austin. Soon other night clubs, including the Jade Room and Club Saracen, both featuring rock bands, and The 11th Door, a folk music cabaret, join in the weekly live broadcasts that showcase top local music acts. Over more than a year of KAZZ-FM's live remote broadcasts, the Joseys meet dozens of Central Texas musicians and toward the end of 1966 begin thinking about forming a record company to give a wider audience to the diverse Austin music scene.
Practice recording sessionUnknown date in November 1966
In November, the Joseys, who work at KAZZ-FM in Austin, make practice recordings of folk duo John and Cathy using microphones plugged directly into KAZZ's Ampex 2-track tape recorder. The recordings are good enough to get airplay on KAZZ's evening Folkways program, encouraging the Joseys to begin planning in earnest to launch an Austin-based record label.
Fran Nelson test recordingsUnknown date(s) in early 1967
Early in 1967, perhaps in February or March, Bill Josey Sr. makes test recordings with pop vocalist Fran Nelson, who has appeared on his KAZZ-FM live remote broadcasts from the Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin. The recordings are simple – just Fran self-accompanied on guitar – but they encourage Bill Sr. to keep Fran in mind when Sonobeat officially launches later in 1967. Fran's test recordings are made at the KAZZ-FM studios in downtown Austin.
Sonobeat is born in Austin, TexasThroughout Spring 1967
The Joseys name their nascent record label Sonobeat, rhyming with "oh-no-beet". They decide all Sonobeat 45 RPM singles will be released in stereo, going against the record industry standard of releasing only monaural singles. Although they're able to borrow microphones and tape decks from KAZZ-FM in Austin, where they work, they're unable to afford a professional mixing console, so they commission KAZZ-FM's chief engineer, Bill Curtis, to build a portable, battery-powered 6-input microphone mixer.
Leo and the Prophets and Sweetarts test recording sessionsUnknown dates in May 1967
In mid-May, using microphones and tape decks borrowed from KAZZ-FM, where they work, Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Bill Josey Jr. make test recordings with Austin rock band Leo and the Prophets. Since Sonobeat has no recording studio, the Joseys record the band in the Lake Austin Inn parking lot. At the end of May, the Joseys make stereo test recordings of the Sweetarts at Club Saracen in downtown Austin. In both instances the recordings are distorted, but the sessions are good learning experiences. Bill Curtis, who has designed and built a portable mixer for the Joseys, takes it back to the drawing board to solve the distortion issue.
Leo and the Prophets reduxJuly 11, 1967
After more than a month of tinkering, Bill Curtis solves the mixer distortion problem, so the Joseys are ready to officially launch Sonobeat. They start over with Leo and the Prophets, this time thinking the band will provide Sonobeat's first commercial release. Sonobeat rents The Swingers Club in north Austin during off hours to record the Prophets' basic instrumental tracks for three original tunes, using mikes and an Ampex 354 tape deck borrowned from KAZZ-FM, where the Joseys work.
Lee Arlano Trio sessionJuly 12, 1967
The day after its Leo and the Prophets session, Sonobeat records Boulder, Colorado-based Lee Arlano Trio during its regular tour stop in Austin. The unit tracks two jazz instrumentals for a Sonobeat 45 RPM single. Sonobeat uses The Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin during off hours to record the Trio, again using equipment borrowed from KAZZ-FM, where producer Bill Josey Sr. works.
Leo and the Prophets vocal overdub sessionJuly 16, 1967
Leo and the Prophets record vocal overdubs for the band's original semi-psychedelic rock song Flowers On The Hill at KAZZ's studios in downtown Austin. But this is the only finished original song in the Prophets arsenal, so there is no flip side and plans for the band to be Sonobeat's first commercial 45 RPM single release are abandoned.
Sweetarts backing track sessionJuly 18, 1967
On a roll, Sonobeat records popular Austin rock band the Sweetarts, cutting instrumental backing tracks for two original songs. Sonobeat rents The Swingers Club in north Austin during off hours to record the band using mikes and tape decks borrowed from KAZZ-FM, where producer Bill Josey Jr. (who goes by the air name Rim Kelley) works.
Lee Arlano Trio backing track session for Don Dean and Fran Nelson singlesJuly 19, 1967
The Lee Arlano Trio lays down the basic instrumenal backing tracks for proposed pop vocal singles by Club Seville manager Don Dean and Club Seville regular Fran Nelson, again using Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin as a remote recording studio. Ultimately, the Arlano backing tracks don't provide adequate "room" for the vocals, so they're shelved.
Sweetarts vocal overdub sessionJuly 25, 1967
The Sweetarts record vocal overdubs for the band's Sonobeat single release, A Picture of Me and Without You, in the hall outside the KAZZ-FM studios on the 10th floor of the Perry Brooks Building in downtown Austin. The long, narrow hallway provides natural reverb for the vocals. The instrumental tracks are played from KAZZ's Ampex 350 deck and mixed with the vocals to the station's Ampex 354.
Lee Arlano Trio sessionsJuly 26 and 27, 1967
The Lee Arlano Trio lays down enough material for an album plus a second single. Sonobeat records the Trio at Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin. All tracks, except one Arlano original entitled School Daze, are covers of jazz classics and pop jazz tunes.
Sweetarts 45 RPM single releaseSeptember 4, 1967
Sonobeat releases its first stereo 45 RPM single, A Picture of Me backed with Without You by the Sweetarts. The single features a picture sleeve. Sonobeat selects Houston Records, Inc., for lacquer mastering and record pressing. Sonobeat self-distributes the single to Austin-area record retailers.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s101
Don Dean sessionsSeptember 30 & October 1, 1967
The Michael Stevens IV, house band at Club Seville in downtown Austin, cuts the basic instrumental backing tracks for two pop songs that Club Seville manager Don Dean will sing, one a cover of the Willie Nelson classic Night Life. Don overdubs his vocals at the KAZZ-FM studios the following day.
Cash Box reviews the Sweetarts' A Picture Of MeOctober 7, 1967
Cash Box Magazine reviews the Sweetarts' single A Picture of Me, saying "Somewhat better than average rock side presented with a good group showing is set out of the run-of-the-mill category by excellent stereo recording that should bring considerable attention among discerning teens and disco listeners."
South Canadian Overflow sessionOctober 10, 1967
Sonobeat returns to The Swingers Club in north Austin to record rock band South Canadian Overflow. The session yields instrumental backing tracks for two original tunes, but the tracks will be scrapped and rerecorded at Vulcan Gas Company in December.
Lavender Hill Express sessionUnknown date in October 1967
Austin's hottest new rock band, Lavender Hill Express, cuts the instrumental backing tracks for two original songs, Visions and Trying To Live A Life. Sonobeat records the tracks during off-hours at the Swingers Club in north Austin.
Don Dean 45 RPM single releaseOctober 30, 1967
Sonobeat releases its third stereo 45 RPM single, which is also its first pop single, Night Life backed with Where Or When by Don Dean. The single is packaged in a picture sleeve featuring an artsy high contrast headshot of Don and is sold primarily to patrons of The Club Seville in downtown Austin, where Don is club manager.
Pop • Stereo 45 RPM single • PV-s401
Sonobeat regional distribution network establishedThroughout November 1967
To increase sales reach for the impending release of Sonobeat's first Lavender Hill Express single, the Joseys consult with Houston Records, Inc., which presses Sonobeat's singles, for advice on rack jobbers who can cover a larger regional area and then hire H. W. Daily Company in Houston, Santone Record Sales in San Antonio, and Jay Kay Distributing Company in Dallas to represent Sonobeat's catalog to record retailers throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
Lavender Hill Express string and vocal overdub sessionsNovember 25 & 26, 1967
A string quartet and harpsicord comprised of members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra and arranged by Richard Green lay down a lush overdub for Lavender Hill Express' first Sonobeat single, Visions and Trying To Live A Life. The vocal overdubs for both songs follow the next day. Both overdub sessions are recorded at the KAZZ-FM studios in downtown Austin.
KAZZ-FM soldDecember 2, 1967
KAZZ-FM owner Monroe Lopez announces the sale of KAZZ-FM to Austin's dominant AM country music station, KOKE. Since Sonobeat has been borrowing microphones and Ampex tape decks from KAZZ, within a month it will have to find other sources for recording equipment.
The Thingies backing track sessionDecember 3, 1967
Sonobeat returns to The Swingers Club in north Austin, where it previously recorded Leo and the Prophets and the Sweetarts, for a session with The Thingies. The off-hours session yields five tracks, two of which will become a Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single release in 1968.
The Conqueroo backing track sessionDecember 5, 1967
The newly-opened Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin serves as a remote recording studio for Sonobeat to cut the instrumental backing tracks for The Conqueroo's I've Got Time and One-Two-Three; however, these tracks are scrapped and fresh versions will be recorded in March 1968.
The Thingies vocal overdub sessionDecember 10, 1967
The Thingies lay down vocal overdubs for the original songs Rainy Sunday Morning and Mass Confusion at the KAZZ-FM studios in downtown Austin. The instrumental backing tracks for three additional original songs recorded a week earlier at The Swingers Club remain unfinished. This will be the last overdub session Sonobeat records at KAZZ-FM, which has been sold and will close down in early January 1968.
Lavender Hill Express 45 RPM single releaseDecember 11, 1967
Sonobeat releases its fourth stereo 45 RPM single, Visions backed with Trying To Live A Life by Austin supergroup Lavender Hill Express. This release also gets a picture sleeve using a publicity photo furnished by the band.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s102
South Canadian Overflow sessionDecember 12, 1967
Sonobeat turns to the newly-opened Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin as a remote recording studio for a second session with South Canadian Overflow. This session yields an instrumental backing tracks for an original tune tentatively entitled Why Even Try, but none of the South Canadian Overflow's material is ever released.
Shiva's Headband backing track sessionDecember 27, 1967
Sonobeat returns to Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin to record Austin-based psychedelic-progressive rock unit Shiva's Headband. The recordings yield instrumental backing tracks for the band's originals Kaleidoscoptic and There's No Tears, but, like The Conqueroo's tracks recorded earlier in December, Shiva's Headband's tracks are scrapped. The band will return to re-record the tracks in February 1968.
KAZZ-FM shuts down
As its broadcast day ends on Thursday, January 4, 1968, KAZZ-FM signs off the air as "KAZZ"; it's been sold to Austin AM country music station KOKE. A few weeks later, after its studios and transmitter are relocated to KOKE's facilities in south Austin, the station will change its call letters to KOKE-FM and will begin simulcasting KOKE's signal. When KAZZ closes, the entire staff is pink-slipped, so Sonobeat owners Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley have no jobs and will nlo longer be able to borrow KAZZ's microphones and tape decks. As the station shutters, they buy KAZZ-FM's Ampex 350 tape deck and several of its ElectroVoice 665 microphones, then scramble to find other local sources of recording equipment. As a stopgap, they rent an Ampex 354 tape deck from Andy Porter, owner of Austin's New Orleans Old World Night Club, where they've broadcast many live remotes over KAZZ.
Bach-Yen sessionJanuary 13, 1968
The Michael Stevens IV lays down the instrumental backing tracks for Vietnamese songbird Bach-Yen's Magali and What Now My Love; Bach-Yen records her vocal overdubs in the same session, singing Magali in French. The Michael Stevens IV is the house band at Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin, where the sessions are held. Bach-Yen's master tapes are put aside for several months while Sonobeat decides whether to "sweeten" the tracks with an orchestral arrangement overdub.
Shiva's Headband "re-do" sessionFebruary 11, 1968
Shiva's Headband, featuring an amplified violin played by band co-founder Spencer Perskins, re-records the basic instrumental tracks for two original songs, Kaleidoscoptic and There's No Tears, during off-hours at Vulcan Gas Company. This is a do-over of the first session with the band held two months earlier at the Vulcan. Both the instrumental backing tracks and the vocal overdubs are recorded in the same session. Sonobeat producers Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley intend to release the Shiva's Headband single and have lacquers cut and a handful of 45 RPM test pressings made, but the band is dissatisfied with the recording quality, so release plans are scrapped and the tapes shelved.
Building the custom 10-input portable mixerThroughout February & March 1968
Outgrowing the 6-input Curtis mixer, Sonobeat's Rim Kelley and Bill Josey Sr. design and build a 10-input mike and line-level mixer using homemade printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. For portability, the mixer is fitted into a suitcase with a removable lid. The new mixer is completed in time for the Lavender Hill Express sessions in mid-March.
Paul New sessionsMarch 7 & 8, 1968
Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest Inn once again serves as a remote recording studio for Sonobeat, this time for sessions with pop vocalist Paul New. Paul's combo records instrumental backing tracks for Johnson "City" Rag and All That's Left Is The Lemon Tree and the instrumental Balboa on March 7th; Paul overdubs his vocals on Johnson "City" Rag and All That's Left Is The Lemon Tree the following day, also at Club Seville. Sonobeat has test pressings made of a 45 RPM stereo single featuring All That's Left Is The Lemon Tree and Balboa, but the single is never released.
The Conqueroo "re-do" sessionMarch 18, 1968
Their December 1967 tracks scrapped, The Conqueroo returns to Vulcan Gas Company during off-hours to re-record the instrumental backing tracks for I've Got Time and 1 To 3.They lay down two additional untitled instrumental tracks at the same time.
Lavender Hill Express sessionsMarch 19 & 20, 1968
On March 19th, Lavender Hill Express lays down the instrumental backing sessions and some vocal overdubs for its original songs Watch Out and Country Music's Here To Stay during off-hours at Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin. Overnight, recording engineeer Rim Kelley "flanges" Watch Out to give it a whooshing sound prior to lead guitar and vocal overdubs, which the band records the following day, along with vocal overdubs for Country Music's Here To Stay. The overdub sessions are recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio.
The Conqueroo vocal overdub sessionMarch 23, 1968
The Conqueroo overdubs its vocals for I've Got Time and 1 To 3 during off-hours at Vulcan Gas Company. Sonobeat hasn't had a release yet in 1968, so producer Rim Kelley rushes the master tapes to Houston Records for mastering and pressing.
The Conqueroo 45 RPM single releaseApril 8, 1968
Sonobeat releases its fifth stereo 45 RPM single, which is also it's third rock single, I've Got Time backed with 1 To 3 by The Conqueroo. The single features a double-sided picture sleeve with a photo by Belmer Wright and artwork by Gilbert Shelton. This will be the last Sonobeat single mastered and pressed by Houston Records.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s103
The Thingies 45 RPM single releaseApril 15, 1968
Sonobeat releases its sixth stereo 45 RPM single, which is also it's fourth rock single, Mass Confusion backed with Rainy Sunday Morning by The Thingies. This is the first Sonobeat rock single that isn't packaged in a picture sleeve. With this release, Sonobeat moves lacquer mastering and vinyl pressing from Houston Records to high-end Sidney J. Wakefield & Company in Phoenix, Arizona.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s104
Go Central Texas feature on SonobeatApril 1968
Austin-based Go Central Texas magazine features a story about Sonobeat Records and emerging Austin and Central Texas musicians. The magazine also features a cover story about San Antonio's world's fair, HemisFair '68, where Sonobeat will record The Afro-Caravan later in the year.
Allen Damron sessionApril 22, 1968
Austin folk music icon Allen Damron records his signature originals, Nancy Whiskey and Requiem for a Balloon, in the living room of Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr.'s northeast Drive home in Austin.
Lee Arlano Trio album releaseMay 27, 1968
Sonobeat releases its first album, Jazz To The Third Power by the Lee Arlano Trio. All tracks on the album are covers of jazz standards. The album features a sketch of the trio by Austin artist Jim Franklin (better known for his famous Vulcan Gas Company and Armadillo World Headquarters poster and handbill art) and liner notes by Austin American-Statesman entertainment editor John Bustin.
Jazz • Stereo LP • PJ-S1001
Lavender Hill Express's second 45 RPM single releaseJune 2, 1968
Sonobeat releases its seventh stereo 45 RPM single, which is also it's fifth rock single, Watch Out! backed with Country Music's Here To Stay by Lavender Hill Express. This is the second single Sonobeat releases by the popular Austin band. The release is packaged in a double-sided two-color picture sleeve.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s105
Sonobeat's first permanent studioMay 1, 1968
Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. moves his family into a sprawling split-level home in northwest Austin. In June, he and Bill Jr. co-opt the bedroom suite on the ground level as an intimate recording studio. By "intimate", we mean "small and cozy" because the studio is barely large enough to comfortably record a trio or quartet, but it's perfect for vocal overdubs and mixing sessions.
Billboard calls out The ConquerooJune 8, 1968
Billboard Magazine reports that Sonobeat's Conqueroo single 1 To 3 is Houston progressive rock station KFMK-FM's "Biggest Leftfield Happening" of the week.
Cash Box reviews Lavender Hill Express' Watch Out!June 20, 1968
Cash Box Magazine names Lavender Hill Express' single Watch Out! a Newcomer Pick, calling it "a powerhouse single that borrows from many, but imitates none".
Billboard recognizes Lee Arlano Trio's Jazz To The Third PowerJune 29, 1968
Billboard awards the Lee Arlano Trio's album Jazz To The Third Power in its jazz album reviews for the week.
Western Hills Drive studio expansionThroughout July & August 1968
Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Bill Jr. begin an expansion of their home studio on Western Hills Drive in northwest Austin, initially building a drum isolation booth in a portion of the garage that faces into the studio. With the help of local musician/installation artist Cody Hubach, they build a steel plate reverb, also mounted in the garage. They purchase new equipment over July and August, adding a Scully half-inch 4-track tape recorder, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape recorder, multi-band equalizer, and a stereo compressor. To mount all the new equipment, Bill Sr. and Cody build a steel frame that fits into the studio closet. Installation of all the new equipment will be completed in time for the second Johnny Winter session at the beginning of September.
Herman Nelson Sonosong Music sessionsUnknown dates in July & August 1968
Even as Sonobeat is expanding its Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin, producer Bill Josey Sr. begins working with longtime friend and prolific songwriter Herman Nelson on a series of song demo recordings. Although not the design at this time, eventually Sonobeat will issue an album of Herman's original songs in an effort to attract cover versions of nationally-known recording artists. In these early sessions, spread over a couple of months, Herman records demos of A Girl Named Sue and Critter of Love as well as a pair of songs that Bill Sr. picks for a Sonobeat single that Jim Chesnut will record in September.
Afro-Caravan live session at HemisFair'68August 10, 1968
Making it's first live recording, Sonobeat hauls its equipment to the Project Y Pavillion at San Antonio's worlds fair, HemisFair '68, to record Afro-jazz group Afro-Caravan. The Afro-Caravan's HemisFair tracks will become Sonobeat's only commercial release of live recordings.
Ray Campi Establishment sessionAugust 15, 1968
Rockabilly star Ray Campi brings his band to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio to record Ray's original, Civil Disobedience, and the Irving Berlin classic, He's A Devil (In His Own Hometown). Instrumental backing tracks and vocal overdubs are recorded in the same session. Bill Josey Sr. overdubs kids laughing "on cue" on one version of Civil Disobedience, but that version remains "in the can".
Johnny Winter sessionAugust 18, 1968
Johnny Winter's blues-rock trio, consisting of Johnny, Tommy Shannon, and Uncle John "Red" Turner, cuts eight tracks, a mix of originals and covers, at Vulcan Gas Company. The session includes instrumental backing tracks and harmonica and vocal overdubs.
Bach-Yen string and horn overdub sessionAugust 29, 1968
Richard Green, who has arranged and conducted a string quartet and harpsicord overdub on Sonobeat's first Lavender Hill Express single, returns to provide a crisp string and horn sweetening session atop Bach-Yen's simple band and vocal performance recorded months earlier. The string and horn sections are recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio.
Johnny Winter "solo" sessionSeptember 1, 1968
Johnny Winter stops by Sonobeat's newly-outfitted Western Hills Drive studio to record two acoustic tracks, Broke Down Engine and Bad Luck and Trouble, that will round out a 10-track album. Johnny is the first to record on Sonobeat's new Scully half-inch 4-track recorder, which makes it possible for him to multi-track standard guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and vocals.
Afro-Caravan 45 RPM single releaseSeptember 2, 1968
Sonobeat releases its eighth stereo 45 RPM single, which is also it's second jazz single, Comin' Home Baby backed with Afro-Twist by The Afro-Caravan. Sonobeat's release cataloging system would seem to indicate the single is in the "rock" or "rhythm and blues" category, but it's actually a category unto itself: Afro-jazz. This will be Sonobeat's only commercial release of live recordings.
Jazz • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s106
Ronnie and the West Winds sessionSeptember 8, 1968
Popular Austin swing band Ronnie and the West Winds records two originals, Can't Win For Losing and the instrumental Windy Blues during off-hours at the Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin. Both the instrumental backing tracks and vocal overdubs are recorded in the same session. This is Sonobeat's first country band.
Johnny Winter 45 RPM single releaseJune 2, 1968
Sonobeat releases its ninth stereo 45 RPM single, Rollin' and Tumblin' backed with Mean Town Blues by Winter, the simple and straightforward name producers Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley call Johnny Winter's trio. Sonobeat catalogs the single in the "rock" or "rhythm and blues" category because it consists of two high-intensity blues-rock tracks culled from the eight tracks Johnny has recorded in August. The single is packaged in a picture sleeve with photo by Austin's Burton Wilson.
Blues-Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s107
Lavender Hill Express backing track sessionSeptember 10, 1968
Lavender Hill Express lays down the instrumental backing sessions for two new songs, Outside My Window and Trouble, once again recording during off-hours at the Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin.
Jim Chesnut sessionSeptember 19, 1968
Folk/pop artist Jim Chesnut records two of Herman Nelson's original songs, About To Be Woman and Leaves, at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. Jim doesn't have a band, so the backing musicians are hand-picked by Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. and include Bill's favorite session bass player, Mike Waugh. Instrumental backing tracks and vocal overdubs are recorded in the same session.
Progressive Blues Experiment album advance releaseSeptember 23, 1968
Sonobeat issues a "white jacket" advance release of Johnny Winter's Progressive Blues Experiment album, intending a commercial release later in the year. Sonobeat's white jacket advance releases are not offered for sale, instead circulated to record reviewers, radio station music directors, and, often, to A&R departments of major record labels to solicit covers of Sonosong-published songs by nationally-known recording artists. Approximately 100 copies of the white jacket Progressive Blues Experiment album are pressed, and each is individually numbered and signed by Johnny Winter.
Blues-Rock • Stereo LP • R-s1002
Lavender Hill Express vocal overdub and acoustic sessionSeptember 28, 1968
Lavender Hill Express overdubs the vocals for Outside My Window and Trouble at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. Extending the session, band drummer Rusty Wier records Silly Rhymes, his acoustic guitar track augmented by electric bass, the only Lavender Hill track recorded on Sonobeat's half-inch 4-track Scully tape deck.
Bach-Yen's 45 RPM single releaseOctober 6, 1968
Sonobeat releases its 11th stereo 45 RPM single, which is also it's second pop single, This Is My Song backed with Magali by Bach-Yen, who travels the U.S. as a musical emissary for South Vietnam, stopping along the way for a series of performances at the Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest Inn in downtown Austin. This is Sonobeat's only recording with an international act and its second release on October 6th.
Pop • Stereo 45 RPM single • PV-s109
Fran Nelson "re-do" backing track sessionsUnknown date(s) in October 1968
Sonobeat again turns to The Michael Stevens IV, house band at the Club Seville in downtown Austin, this time to record the basic instrumental backing tracks for Fran Nelson's single, consisting of a cover of the Beatles Yesterday and Fran's original No Regrets. Fran overdubs the vocals at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio about a week later.
Lavender Hill Express's third 45 RPM single releaseOctober 20, 1968
Sonobeat releases its 12th stereo 45 RPM single by Austin supergroup Lavender Hill Express, Outside My Window backed with Silly Rhymes. This is last of three singles Sonobeat releases by the group and the only Lavender Hill Express single not bearing a picture sleeve. Two versions of the single are released; one for sale to consumers and one for radio station airplay. The radio station edition features Outside My Window in stereo on one side and in monaural on the flip side.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s110/R-m110
Ray Campi Establishment's 45 RPM single releaseOctober 20, 1968
Sonobeat releases it's 13th stereo 45 RPM single, Ray Campi Establishment's Civil Disobedience backed with He's A Devil (In His Own Home Town). This is Sonobeat's only novelty release. Although two versions of Civil Disobedience are recorded – one with children laughing as punctuation to the song's funnier lyrics and the other without laughter – only the unembelished version is released. This is Sonobeat's second release on October 20th.
Pop • Stereo 45 RPM single • PV-s111
New Atlantis sessionsOctober 23 & 30, 1968
Austin progressive rock band New Atlantis records the instrumental backing track for five original songs, including I Know You So Well, during off-hours at the Vulcan Gas Company in downtown Austin. While they're at it, the band lays down the instrumental backing track for its cover of Jimi Hendrix's Fire. The following week, the band overdubs guitar lead and vocals at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. Producer Rim Kelley uses the Sonotone Black Box to radically alter the sound of the lead guitar on Fire. This is the first of two incarnations of New Atlantis that Sonobeat records.
Jim Chesnut's 45 RPM single releaseNovember 10, 1968
Sonobeat releases it's 14th stereo 45 RPM single and fourth pop vocal, Jim Chesnut's About To Be Woman backed with Leaves, both songs written by prolific Sonosong Music composer Herman Nelson. The single is packaged in Sonobeat's final picture sleeve.
Pop • Stereo 45 RPM single • PV-s112
Fran Nelson's 45 RPM single releaseNovember 24, 1968
Sonobeat releases it's 15th stereo 45 RPM single, which is also its fifth pop vocal, Fran Nelson's bossa nova cover of the Beatle's Yesterday backed with Fran's steamy original No Regrets. Fran is backed by Sonobeat's go-to band, The Michael Stevens IV.
Pop • Stereo 45 RPM single • PV-s113
Cash Box reviews Lavender Hill Express's Outside My WindowDecember 7, 1968
Cash Box Magazine names Lavender Hill Express's Outside My Window a Best Bet Pick, saying "This group has had some fine outings before, and could have a winner here to give them the breakthrough step."
Rolling Stone feature story on Texas musicians and sale of Johnny Winter album to Liberty RecordsDecember 7, 1968
Issue #23 of Rolling Stone includes a feature story on hot Texas musicians, including Janis Joplin, the Sir Douglas Quintet, and newcomer Johnny Winter. The article, Dispossessed Men and Mothers of Texas by Larry Sepulvado and John Burks, sparks major record company interest in Sonobeat's Johnny Winter album, The Progressive Blues Experiment. Liberty Records immediately engages in negotiations with Sonobeat to purchase the album, and a deal comes together quickly, and a month later Sonobeat hand-delivers the master tapes to Liberty Records in Los Angeles.
Afro-Caravan album sessionsJanuary 21-23, 1969
Over three intensive days, the Afro-Caravan records instrumental backing tracks for seven Afro-jazz songs at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, which is housed in the Josey family home. In fact, the sessions are recorded in the family room of the Josey home. Five of the songs are Afro-Caravan originals, and one song tracks out at almost eight minutes.
Sonobeat and Sonosong incorporateMarch 14, 1969
Sonobeat Recording Company and its sister company, Sonosong Music Publishing Company, which have been partnerships between Bill Josey Sr. and Bill Josey Jr., incorporate in the State of Texas.
Afro-Caravan vocal overdub sessionMarch 21, 1969
The Afro-Caravan returns to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio to overdub vocals on Afro Blue, Arcane Message, Hail The King, and Zulu For Hugh. This session completes all tracks for an album that producer Bill Josey Sr. calls Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound). By now, Bill Sr. has started callling the group "Wali and the Afro-Caravan".
Imperial's The Progressive Blues Experiment release
Liberty Records' Imperial label releases Sonobeat's Johnny Winter album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, beating Columbia Records' first Johnny Winter album to market by two weeks. Johnny's is the first Sonobeat recording released nationally and the first Sonobeat recordings released on a label other than Sonobeat itself.
Blues-Rock • Stereo LP • Imperial LP-12431
Cash Box Magazine reviews The Progressive Blues Experiment
March 29, 1969
On the heels of the Imperial release of Sonobeat's Johnny Winter album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, Cash Box praises the album in it's March 29th issue, saying "Winter is likely to generate widespread interest with this excellent set".
Jim Chesnut sessionApril 22, 1969
Anticipating an album follow-up to his 1968 Sonobeat single, Jim Chesnut returns to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio to record covers of By The Time I Get To Phoenix, The Impossible Dream, They Call The Wind Maria, Woman Woman, Games People Play, Where's The Playground Susie, Husbands And Wives, and Wives And Lovers. Because Jim has no band, producer Bill Josey Sr. hand-picks a selection of Austin area musicians to record the instrumental backing tracks.
Cody Hubach sessionMay 5, 1969
Manchaca, Texas, folk and country singer/songwriter Cody Hubach, who has welded the frames for Sonobeat's steel plate reverb and recording equipment racks, records three original songs, including his signature tune Hooley, at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. Manchaca (pronounced man-shack) is a tiny town only a few miles down Interstate 35 from Austin. Producer Bill Josey Sr. considers but finally abandons plans to release two of Cody's three songs as a Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM single, deciding Sonobeat should focus on rock and rhythm & blues releases. Cody will return for more recordings in October 1972.
Home Lost and Found advance album releaseMay 1969
Sonobeat issues a white-jacket advance pressing of Home Lost and Found (The Natural Sound) by Wali and the Afro-Caravan. Approximately 100 vinyl copies are pressed, the majority of which are distributed to national record labels in hopes of attracting a sale much like Sonobeat had done the year before for Johnny Winter's The Progressive Blues Experiment album. Copies of the white jacket advance pressing are not offered to the public.
Jazz • Stereo LP • R-s1003
The Progressive Blues Experiment charts nationallyApril through June 1969
Imperial Records' release of Sonobeat's Johnny Winter album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, enters Billboard's Hot 100 Album chart on April 12th at #112 and peaks weeks later at #60. It enters Cash Box Magazine's Top 100 Albums chart on May 3rd at #60, peaks at #47 on May 31st, and continues to chart through June.
The "new" New Atlantis sessionsAugust 11 & 18, 1969
Sonobeat rents the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church auditorium – it's big enough to hold a basketball court, which makes it an ideal remote recording studio – to record the second incarnation of New Atlantis. The band records instrumental backing tracks for its original songs She's A Country Girl and World In A Jug on August 11th. The band records the vocal overdubs a week later at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, which is only a few miles away from the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Vince Mariani drum solo sessionsAugust 15 & 16, 1969
Jazz-rock drummer Vince Mariani records a pair of drum solos – Pulsar and Boots – at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, using separate microphones covering almost every piece of Vince's entire kit, Sonobeat's Scully 4-track recorder, and the studio's new drum isolation booth. Vince's tracking session is on August 15th; the next day, Producer Rim Kelley mixes down the tracks, adding a swooshing "flanging" effect to Pulsar.
James Polk and the Brothers sessionAugust 16, 1969
Austin jazz-funk keyboard maestro James Polk brings his band (they're not just the "Brothers"; the band's vocalists are all women) to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio to record Stick-To-It-Tive-Ness and The Robot. Vocal overdubs for Stick-To-It-Tive-Ness are recorded in the same session. The Robot is an instrumental.
Plymouth Rock sessionsOctober 12 & 19, 1969
Austin band Plymouth Rock records its originals Memorandum and Just A Start at the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in northwest Austin. This is the second time Sonobeat uses the church's basketball court-sized auditorium to record bands that have too many personnel to comfortably record in Sonobeat's small Western Hills Drive studio. However, a week later, the band overdubs additional instruments and vocals at the Western Hills Drive studio.
Bill Wilson Sonosong Music demo album sessionOctober 24, 1969
Bill Wilson records eleven original songs at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio. The tracks are intended for a song demo album that Sonobeat will issue on behalf of its sister company, Sonosong Music Publishing Company. Wilson, an Indiana native, is an airman stationed at Austin's Bergstrom Air Force Base at the time he records these tracks. On the strength of his recordings, he'll be invited to work with progressive rock group Mariani the following year.
Austin American-Statesman feature article on SonobeatOctober 25, 1969
The Austin American-Statesman newspaper runs a feature article about Sonobeat entitled Song Capitols Ask Austin For New Music Sounds. The article contains several factual inaccuracies but is generally a fair picture of Sonobeat's successes to that point and future plans.
Plymouth Rock's 45 RPM single releaseNovember 3, 1969
>Sonobeat releases it's 16th stereo 45 RPM single, Plymouth Rock's Memorandum backed with Just A Start. Notwithstanding the band's name, it originates in Austin. This is Sonobeat's 9th rock single release, if you count Winter's blues-rock single and The Afro-Caravan's jazz-rock single, both of which Sonobeat categorized as "rock" on its release schedule.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s114
James Polk and the Brothers' 45 RPM single releaseNovember 10, 1969
Sonobeat releases it's 17th stereo 45 RPM single, James Polk and the Brothers''s Stick-To-It-Tive-Ness backed with The Robot. Sonobeat's release numbering system assigns the letter "R" to both the rock and rhythm and blues categories; both sides of James Polk's single is definitely not rock and might better be described as soul or funk rather than rhythm and blues.
Rhythm & Blues stereo 45 RPM single • R-s115
Bill Wilson sessionNovember 14, 1969
Bill Wilson returns to Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio to record two additional original songs, The Man In Black and Wanna Go Back. These tracks are recorded too late to be included in Wilson's song demo album, which has already been pressed and is about to be issued, and instead may be intended for a Wilson single that's never released.
Bill Wilson's Sonosong Music demo albumUnknown date in November 1969
Sonobeat issues Bill Wilson's song demo album, a non-commercial release provided only to major label A&R executives for their label's nationally-known artists to cover. The album features eleven of Wilson's original compositions; he sings and plays guitar on all songs and is accompanied by Cindy Reynolds (harmony vocals) on The Merry-Go Man.
Mariani (group) sessionsUnknown dates in November 1969
The first incarnation of blues-rock band Mariani begins sessions at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. The trio is built around drummer Vince Mariani and features 15-year-old guitar whiz Eric Johnson, who will find much greater fame in the years to follow. The recordings made in these sessions are tests of how the group works together and are not intended for release.
Herman Nelson's first Sonosong Music demo albumUnknown date in November 1969
Sonobeat issues Herman Nelson's first song demo album, Songs from the Catalog of Sonosong Music: Herman M. Nelson, Composer. The album, featuring a mix of 19 original folk, country, and pop songs, is circulated only to A&R executives at national record labels in hopes of attracting their stable of recording artists to cover Herman's songs. Songs on the album are recorded by Nelson (guitar and vocals), Jim Chesnut (guitar and vocals), and Karol Phelan (vocals) on and off from late 1968 through October 1969.
Vince Mariani's 45 RPM single releaseNovember 24, 1969
Sonobeat releases it's 18th stereo 45 RPM single, which may also be its most unusual, Vince Mariani's's drum solos Pulsar backed with Boots. The single will not sell well, because there's not really a market for drum solos at the time, but the single remains notable and impressive because Vince overdubs nothing on either track. These are just stellar performances by one of Austin's greatest drummers.
Rock • Stereo 45 RPM single • R-s116
Roy Headrick Sonosong Music demo album sessionNovember 28, 1969
Americana and folk singer/songwriter Roy Headrick, self-accompanied on standard guitar, tracks an album of his original tunes in the living room of the Josey home in northwest Austin. The album, which will be used to market his songs to major artists but will not be released commercially, will remain "in the can" until spring 1971.
Lee Arlano Trio's second 45 RPM single releaseDecember 8, 1969
To close out the '60s, Sonobeat releases it's 19th stereo 45 RPM single, the Lee Arlano Trio's School Daze backed with Meditation. The single is unusual for three reasons: first, School Daze is the only Arlano Trio original that Sonobeat releases. Second, it's the only vocal Sonobeat records by Lee Arlano Trio, although it's not intended as such when the basic track is recorded in July 1967; with music written by the trio's pianist, Sam Poni, Sonosong composer Herman Nelson contributes the lyrics that vocalist Cindy Reynolds records more than a year after the Trio lays down the instrumental track. And third, the flip side, Meditation, makes its second appearance on an Arlano Trio single, previously appearing as the flip side of the combo's first Sonobeat single released 15 months earlier.
Jazz • Stereo 45 RPM single • PJ-s117