Whistler
Records with Sonobeat circa 1970
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
  1. Updated January 22, 2017 Folk-Rock Whistler • We Crossed the Line (unreleased; 1970) 
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Although the session dates are not documented in the Sonobeat archives, folk-rock band Whistler records with Sonobeat during the first half of 1970. Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. produces the sessions, but because co-founder Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.), who recalls engineering the sessions, leaves Sonobeat in August 1970, that's the latest the Whistler sessions could occur. Lending credence to our educated guess that the group most likely records with Sonobeat during summer '70, Whistler is one of three acts that play the opening night – August 7, 1970 – at Armadillo World Headquarters, which will become one of Austin's most iconic music venues. The band also performs frequently at the original Soap Creek Saloon in Austin as well as other central Texas venues.

Although we're not certain, it's very likely that Whistler records at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. The sessions yield two tracks – Jean Harlow and We Crossed the Line, both written by the band's guitarist and lead vocalist, Roy Robinson – that appear to be intended as a demo of the group, since there is no other information in the Sonobeat archives. We've been unable to locate the original half-inch 4-track session masters; the archives contain only monaural mix-downs of Whistler's songs, an indication that the recordings probably are not intended for a Sonobeat 45 RPM single release, since Sonobeat's singles are released in stereo. There's nothing in the archives to suggest that Bill Sr. offers the group's material to any national record labels, although by 1969 that has become Sonobeat's pattern.

Whistler is formed in Austin during 1967 by Roy Robinson (professionally known today as Amos Staggs), Jenkins Garrett, Bill Dorman, and Linda Blackmon, and play together for three years. With instrumentation and vocal harmonies reminiscent of '60s groups the New Christy Minstrels, the one-hit wonder We Five, and even the Mamas and Papas, Whistler performs in a folk style heavily influenced by Austin's strong late '60s rock music scene. By September 1970, Whistler has reorganized as country-boogie trio Cross Country, continuing to regularly perform at the Armadillo as well as at Austin's iconic folk music venue The Checquered Flag.

Thank you!

Thanks to Jerri Lynn Robinson for providing the names of the members of Whistler and details of the band's background.

Whistler personnel

Linda Blackmon
Bill Dorman
Jenkins Garrett
Roy Robinson: guitar and lead vocals

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

Jean Harlow
We Crossed the Line

Produced by Bill Josey Sr.
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, Austin, Texas, early- to mid-1970
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
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Final word

As unlikely as it may seem for as folksy a folk-rock band as is Whistler, from 1968 to 1970, the group frequently plays gigs at Austin's legendary psychedelic music hall, the Vulcan Gas Company. Then, in August 1970, Whistler is the opening act at the Vulcan's successor, Armadillo World Headquarters, and becomes such a regular there that it's considered a 'Dillo house band. Sometime around 1970, a singer/songwriter on the verge of starting the outlaw country movement opens for Whistler: his name, Willie Nelson. Whistler goes on to open honky tonk venue Soap Creek Saloon in 1973.
The Whistler master tape box; there are only monaural mixes in the Sonobeat archives