Thursday, December 26, 2019

Favorites Recordings & Music Reads from 2019

SOLEIL-Lollipop Sixteen
Tetsuko-I Love You
The Resonars-No Exit
The Ugly Beats-Stars Align
Rock Juice-Drink All Night

 Reissues & Collections

The Chances-Baby, Listen to Me
Sachiko Kanenobu-Misora
Various-Cumbia Beat Vol. 3
Various- Curt Boettcher & Friends Looking For The Sun

2019 music books read and enjoyed

The Association 'Cherish'-Malcolm C. Searles
Face It-Debbie Harry
Sunday Will Never Be the Same: A Rock & Roll Journalist Opens Her Ears to God-Dawn Eden
More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy of L.A. Punk-John Doe and Tom DeSavia
Begin the Begin: R.E.M.'s Early Years-Robert Dean Lurie

The Cats!: Volume 1: On the Bandstand of Life with Master Musicians by Jake Feinberg

Along with his gale-force enthusiasm, Feinberg has an intimate understanding of the music he covers and demonstrates his intuitive sense when to break it down and when to step back and let the musicians expand the horizons in broad stroke fashion. Being a long-time listener of the music released by Beachwood Sparks and their offshoots, I benefited from learning more about the late Neal Casal through Feinberg’s fitting centerpiece that works as a sort of eulogy. Through the author’s transcriptions of two sprawling radio interviews with Casal, Feinberg aptly captures how Casal was able to successfully overlap so many disparate scenes ranging from West Coast cosmic country out to the space occupied by the indefatigable jam bands. Further, Casal is able to expound upon his useful analogy that one must spend their time in the weeds in order to get to the gold. Other sage wisdom is liberally scattered throughout the pages of The Cats!  Especially salient is David Spinozza’s insight regarding the vast difference between demanding and commanding respect when it comes to leadership. 

Jake has also been an ardent champion of the legendary, yet largely unsung vibraphonist & percussionist Emil Richards. Feinberg is able to tap into Richards’ vast experiences as musical and spiritual seeker.  Richards reveals the alignment of the stars when John F. Kennedy asked Frank Sinatra to do an international goodwill tour of children's hospitals in 1962. Richards accompanied Sinatra on this tour which spurred his collecting of percussion instruments from around the world.

The book finishes on a strong note with the spotlight on Pat Martino and his hard-won road to accepting life on its own terms.  While this noble approach, effortlessly embraced by the very young and the old would seemingly open one up to disenchantment and weariness, it actually may lead to new levels of understanding and gratitude.  Feinberg discloses that his interactions with Martino has helped guide him out of his own way as Martino imparts the paramount importance of being aware of intent vs. results when it comes to ambitions and aspirations. Lastly, Pat’s airport anecdote impels readers to step back and consider what truly matters in this life.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Various ‎– Cumbia Beat Vol. 1 (Experimental Guitar-Driven Tropical Sounds From Perú 1966/1976)

During the prolonged summer here in the Arizona low desert, I share the local tendency to yearn for cooler weather, yet once it finally arrives music emblematic of warmer climes (Afro-Latino, Caribbean-Tropical) quickly returns to the listening rotation.  Spurred by hearing the stunning “Guajira Sicodélica” by Los Destellos (included on this collection), the recent tilt away from the sun has brought about an extended exploration into Peruvian Cumbia Beat (aka chicha). The effervescent folk melodies interwoven through the constantly shifting syncopated rhythms leads to a sound that is at once dashing, dexterous and hypnotic. The vast majority of this music is instrumental and guitar-centric; prompting many in Northern Hemisphere to instantly note the prominent Southern Californian surf, Spaghetti Western and British beat influences. Equally important are the unbridled percussive patterns lent from Colombian cumbia and Afro-Cuban rhythms that make these sounds crack, whack and gallop along with the dashing folk melodies imbued with Peru’s Coastal, Amazonian and Andean influences. To top things off, these ground shaking groups incorporated the entire spectrum of emerging guitar effects of the innovative era. Some standouts like the merengue-tinged “Cabalgando Con Ella” by Los Mirlos and the coiling “Captura De Lobos” from Los Orientales De Paramonga employ the watery guitar effect like some sort of balmy Vinnie Bell, while the songs which try to approximate the overdone Santana sound are not as absorbing. Down the line, Los Átomos De Paramonga’s “El Trencito” is an example of the melodic ‘60s pop sensibility running through these songs that perform double-duty as floor-filling dance music. An unexpected and twangy cover of the Beatles’ “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (simply translated as "Aquí en la Fiesta") by Los Ecos shows up near the end in full on dusty Bakersfield/Buckaroos regalia. Overall, these appealing and adventurous Peruvian sounds reach new sonic plateaus suspended somewhere between the lush rainforests, the steep-edges of the Andes and the vast Pacific Ocean. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Morning Glory-Two Suns Worth

While on the surface, it appears like this is Fontana Records’ last ditch effort to stake their claim on West Coast hippie trip, Morning Glory's Two Suns Worth has aged surprisingly well and gradually reveals additional dimensions with each listen. Overall, it's the folk-rock-psychedelic sound found at the fault lines of 1967 and 1968.  For years. it was perpetuated that John Cale engineered this record somewhere between his time in the Velvet Underground and his later groundbreaking production work with the Stooges, the Modern Lovers and Patti Smith.  Most likely it was the OK Sooner JJ Cale working at Snuff Garrett’s Amigo Studio in North Hollywood who conducted the engineering.  Nonetheless, Morning Glory rose from San Rafael and featured the yin vocals of Gini Graybeal intertwining with the yang vocals of Bob Bohanna.  Danny NuDelman supplied the stinging guitar, while keys were handled by Larry Gerughty (ex-Butch Engle & The Styx).  The thunderous "Need Someone" opens the album and probably went down well at their live shows supporting Moby Grape and the Grateful Dead. While the ensuing songs on side 1 tend to get a little too bombastic, cluttered and rigid for their own self-righteous good, there are some countervailing soaring harmonies that take flight on songs like "Stone Good Day." These songs probably sounded best live at the  Aquarian Family Festival concert held on the San Jose State College football practice field in 1969. With some molten moments flowing into place, side 2 is the more resilient and mesmerizing Yin side. “Jelly Gas Flame” displays an uncanny resemblance to "Eight Miles High" with some eerie atmospherics seeping in, while the ecclesiastical sounding "I See a Light" offers stabilization with its abundant sunshine blazing through the murky and turbulent skies. In general, their best songs prominently features the lavish layering of the 12-string guitar chasing and capturing the fleeting moment. For instance, “Live for Today” is trellised folk rock in the genus of the Rose Garden, We Five, the Joint Effort, Jefferson Airplane and Yankee Dollar and seemingly could have contended on the charts-if the storms of 1968 didn't break on through. While once long lost and abandoned in the haste of the major label gold rush, the reemergence of  the "Two Suns Worth" album has allowed Morning Glory to finally come to light.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Nobody's Children/Savage Rose: '66-'68 Notre Dame & South Bend Sounds

Last summer, I came across an amazing 1967 color photo of Savage Rose on the U. of Notre Dame Class of 1969 blog. As a Notre Dame graduate (1995), I document, from time to time, the musical acts that formed at ND during the '60s. I was not previously aware of Savage Rose or their predecessors Nobody's Children and the photograph intrigued me as it was one of the most striking of the time and place.  I was later to learn this particular photo was just the tip of the iceberg!  The keyboard player Dr. Bill Mitsch sent along a run of photographs that were some of the most evocative and encapsulating of Notre Dame’s music scene of the mid to late ‘60s which emerged, broke through the preordained patterns and connected campus to South Bend.
Savage Rose-1967 Peter Herrly, Bill Mitsch, Roy Marshall, David James, Steve Foss
The undeterred musicians who comprised these two intertwined groups were able to provide additional multilayered insight into these elusive, uncertain, but certainly exciting times which simultaneously transpired at Notre Dame and across the country.  Interestingly, much of this history seemed to emanate out of Farley Hall on the north end of the Notre Dame campus. Farley Hall became sort of a ramshackle mid-sixties musical epicenter starting with the folk revival and then John Hall (later of Kangaroo and Orleans) making some electrified rock 'n' roll racket down in its basement.  This group of Arts & Letters and Engineering students also arose from Farley Hall and shifted from garage rock (Nobody’s Children) to an eclectic and even unique combination of burgeoning psychedelic and blues rock (Savage Rose) all in the compressed expanse of 1966-1968. With these two groups as the focal point, the time has come to revisit these flourishing flatlands and further document Notre Dame's groundbreaking music scene at the Indiana crossroads of the ‘60s.

Nobody's Children
Origins, Formation and Early Days

Who comprised Nobody's Children?

Bill Mitsch-keyboard (Wheeling, WV)
Roy Marshall-lead guitar (Columbus, IN)
Peter Herrly-bass guitar (South Bend, IN)
Jim Pino-vocals (Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico)
David James- vocals (Atlanta, GA)
Richard “Dick” Luebbe-guitar, Greek sailor’s hat (Oak Park, IL)
"Cowboy"-drums (?)

First Nobody's Children Gig-10-8-66 Dick Luebbe (guitar) & Bill Mitsch (keyboard)
In front of Keenan-Stanford Hall (Army vs. ND weekend)
Bill: Initially Nobody’s Children was started by me and Richard “Dick" Luebbe (ND class of 1970). He and I were in Farley Hall and he dropped by when I was practicing with the new Farfisa portable organ I had just purchased the previous summer on July 29, 1966 in Wheeling WV, my home town. I finally bought an amp at Jack’s Music Store, 325 S. Michigan, South Bend that fall of 1966.

The other members of Nobody’s Children were Roy Marshall (class of ’68) who joined us before our first gig, since he signed the contract for that one. Peter Herrly (class of ’68) was our bass guitarist. Lead singer was Jim Pino from Puerto Rico for part of the year.  I cannot recall the name of the drummer.  I recall we called him "cowboy." I do not think he lived in Farley Hall.

Roy: (reviewing the photos) I'm playing the Telecaster which I wish I still had. Dang. It seems to me there was a lot of music around, enough to make me want to get into it. New Yorkers in Farley Hall brought folk music and there was a folk jam in some pizza place basement where a banjo player blew me away singing “They Call the Wind Mariah.” My roommate taught me the ukulele, but for me the main excitement was the Beatles, Stones, Kinks etc. Exciting and depressing times; music was my savior.

I do remember John Hall’s band practicing in Farley Hall’s basement and thought he was pretty cool. Don’t remember other bands much. I was a lead singer my freshman year in a band that I don’t recall the name of, started by a campus disc jockey from Texas.

Peter: (reviewing the photos) I’m playing a Hohner bass (a la Paul McCartney which like him I picked up hitchhiking through Germany) and dang I wish I still had it.

I started my lifelong liking of rock and roll with Elvis, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Everly Brothers, and then surf music, especially Dick Dale & His Del-Tones. I went to high school on the ND campus, Holy Cross Seminary, across the lake, (with Chuck Perrin, by the way, though I was never much into folk music I liked Chuck a lot) and one football weekend there was a student band, the Nightlighters, playing on the steps of Sorin Hall.

The Nightlighters-1965- Tony Andrea (as Dion) & Stroke (Bob Straker) on the right R.I.P.
photo courtesy of Cappy Gagnon (class of '66)
They did “The Wanderer” by Dion and the Belmonts. That was really it for me, from then on, I wanted to play... But the Stones were the big influence, for wanting to play more blues. Bass seemed a natural. I knew I was not a huge natural talent for lead, nor a rhythm obsessive for drums, I am by nature a federator, so... bass. I got involved with Nobody's Children as I had a bass and an amp, and the guys in Farley Hall were looking for a bass player.

Stepan Center - "One of the first geodesic dome facilities in the nation" was
completed in 1962.  The Turtles, MC5, the Beach Boys, the Four Tops, the Temptations,
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Lovin' Spoonful, Little Anthony and the Imperials,
the Supremes, the Kingsmen were among the many major acts appearing here in the '60s,
Note the original gold dome roof that was later painted golf ball white.

Nobody's Children-Stepan Center-Jan. 1967-Jim Pino, David James, Roy Marshall, Bill Mitsch
Nobody’s Children had for a time the unique distinction of featuring two lead singers.

Roy: Jim Pino was a great singer and could really sing “La Bamba.” He could play the guitar a little and was always telling me how to play; he was no doubt right. He later left Notre Dame.

Peter: We called him Juan, or Jimmy. His vocals on “La Bamba” were exceptional. Wish he could've seen the movie on Ritchie Valens.

Jim Pino most likely transferred to Loras College in Iowa in 1967. It appears from that Juan J. Pino left this earth on August 13, 1976.  Time recently took away another lead singer of Nobody’s Children.

Bill: David James (class of '70) was the lead singer at the end of the Nobody’s Children year and he continued on with Savage Rose. He died in Jan. 2018 at the age of 71. Here is a South Bend Tribune tribute written about him. He truly stayed in the music business his whole life.

David James (1946-2018)-South Bend Tribune photo
Did the band play any of the South Bend spots like the Top Deck, Village Inn Pizza Parlor, or later on at The Delphic Oracle?

Peter: No, we played mostly at Morey’s Party House, Carriage House, and Laurel Club.

Bill: I did usually sign for the band in a one-page contract we had, so I have pretty good list of when we played and who was the customer:

October 8, 1966  11:45 am for at least 1 hour in front of Keenan-Stanford Hall --
(football Saturday, ND v. Army, note the photo of Luebbe and Mitsch above)
October 28, 1966 8 pm to 11:30 pm Morey’s Party House- -ND Young Democrats

October 31 1966  8:30 pm - 12:30 am Morey’s Party House --ND Detroit Club
November 4, 1966 8 pm - ? Morey’s Party House--ND New Jersey Club
November 12, 1966  8 pm- 12 am  Carriage House --ND Glee Club
January 1967--Stepan Center
Feb 17. 1967 Carriage House--ND Glee Club
March 3, 1967 8:30 pm - 12:30 am Laurel Club--ND Rugby Club
March 17, 1967  8 pm- 12 am Carriage House--ND Glee Club (green beer provided)
March 18, 1967  8 to midnight Carriage House--Farley Hall Dance and Date Party
April 8, 1967 8 -11 pm Immaculate Heart of Mary High School, Westchester, IL--IHM Student Council
April 22, 1967  8 pm - 12:30 am Laurel Club--ND Crew Club
April 29, 1967  8 pm -12:30 am  Laurel Club--ND Crew Club

Tell us more about playing in the classroom in South Bend?  Do you recall how this came about?
Peter: It wasn't a classroom except part time, I think it was a room where like the Knights of Columbus would meet. Our manager David Uhlig might remember. A gig is a gig... that one did not pay a ton. Like in The Blues Brothers, that scene where they play at the C & W road house...

Peter Herrly, "Cowboy" drummer, Roy Marshall, Jim Pino vocals, Dick Luebbe, Bill Mitsch,
 David Uhlig (manager) behind band

When did Dick Luebbe leave the band?
Bill: Dick lasted only the Nobody's Children 1966-67 season with NC’s “death" determined to be April 29, 1967 according to some documents I have.  He went on to play rough & tumble club hockey for Notre Dame.

Roy: I remember Dick wanted to play stuff like “Kind of a Drag” by the Buckinghams and “Never My Love”  by the Association. It was a little too sophisticated for my fledgling ability, but I think we all found some consensus.

Bill: We didn’t have the voices for the Association songs!

Did Nobody’s Children have any original songs?  If so, who did the songwriting?

Peter: Not really. We wanted to cover our favorites and entertain, and r&b was what we could agree on -- the Animals were big, Stones -- Roy loved the Beatles, but they are tough to replicate.  We would always discuss songs to cover, often heatedly and with passion -especially as music evolved in '67 and '68.  Our covers stayed more on the blues and rock side, but not always. We did the Animals very well!

What was the relationship like between your groups and the other campus bands like the Shamrocks, the Plague, the Shaggs or later Captain Electric and First Friday?

Peter:  Nothing for me, David James was way more into these groups and became quite the mover in those circles later (’69 and ’70, he told me).

Nobody's Children at a South Bend party spring 1967 "Cowboy," Roy Marshall, David James, Bill Mitsch
Were you aware of any of the local South Bend garage bands like the Illusions?

Peter: No. The big thing we were doing was checking out all the blues legends that were playing on the South Side in Chicago, and once in a while appearing in South Bend. Muddy Waters came to a club on the west side, unforgettable! In Chicago, we saw Howling Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, BB King... just amazing acts, before anybody but the Stones had heard about them, except the folks who went to the clubs of course.

Spring & Summer of 1967
Several members of the band were able to directly encounter the changing scene that was dawning on the West Coast.  The shift of youth culture from the Sunset Strip to the parks could be seen as a harbinger of things to come.

Peter: Roy, David James, manager David Uhlig I made a crazy road trip from South Bend to Los Angeles during spring break 1967. We were at that Easter Sunday "Love-In" at Griffith Park in March of 1967, which was fun and we also saw Lightnin’ Hopkins at the Ash Grove on that same trip.

Love-In at Griffith Park, Los Angeles on Easter Sunday, 1967- photo from Tropico Station
With the end of the 1967 spring semester, Bill headed home for a new musical experience.
Bill: I joined up with the Fantastic Emanons as their keyboard player upon returning home to Wheeling, WV for the summer break. The Fantastic Emanons ("no name" spelled backwards) were pretty good had already cut several regional hit records including “Hitch-Hike” that we played almost every night at a summer bar gig (The El Toro Lounge) we had.  We played all over the Ohio River Valley that summer.  I recall playing in Bellaire Ohio and Wheeling Park in Wheeling WV. We also practiced once on our Mitsch family front porch in suburban Wheeling that summer (2 summers before Woodstock) and a big crowd of neighborhood kids came by. It was a great event until we got busted by the Wheeling Police because some neighbors obviously complained. The good thing that came out of that is that my brother taped us with our Dad’s tape recorder.  Years later, after Dad died, we found the tape in the Mitsch home basement.  I took it to The Ohio State University audio folks and they were able to clear up a few of our songs. I have them on CD, but also on my iTunes. Every so often, the Emanons come up on my playlist as I am driving my Mustang in Ohio or Florida or sometimes on a visit back to Notre Dame.

The Fantastic Emanons-sans keyboard player Bill Mitsch

Fall 1967: The Emergence of Savage Rose
1967 saw the band at the crossroads as there were changes everywhere when they reconvened for the fall semester.  Besides what David James described in an archival email as a "heavy dependence on the Stones and Jimmy Reed material," psychedelic, soulful and heavier sounds from the likes of Blues Magoos, Young Rascals and Procol Harum seeped into their repertoire.

What was the impetus behind the band name change to Savage Rose?  

Peter: As I recall, we were kicking it around and there was a flower being tossed around. I did not want to be too flower-power, and Savage came in there – David James might have had the formulation, and David Uhlig was engaged (as a good manager should be!)

Who comprised Savage Rose?

Bill Mitsch-keyboard (Wheeling, WV)
Roy Marshall-lead guitar (Columbus, IN)
Peter Herrly-bass guitar (South Bend, IN)
David James-lead singer (Atlanta, GA)
Steve Foss-drums (Albuquerque, NM)

One of the key pieces in the evolution to Savage Rose was the inclusion of Steve Foss (class of '69), a very talented drummer fresh from a year in Innsbruck, Austria with the ND study abroad program. Prior to Notre Dame, Steve attended secondary schools in Albuquerque after a childhood of moving around the globe. The Farley Hall resident was brought into the band by David James.

Admist the alterations, their Leslie Speaker did make the transition from Nobody’s Children.

Bill: It makes an electric organ sound like a church organ as it has spinning speakers that give the wah-wah sound out of single notes and chords. It was the best thing I ever purchased, but it was a pain to haul around to gigs. It really got a workout with the Fantastic Emanons in summer 1967 as we played every night for much of the summer. 

Farley Hall, Oct. 1967, Roy Marshall, Steve Foss, David James, Leslie Speaker

The clothing choices for Savage Rose are very interesting for fall 1967 as the band appears to be wearing "working man" or "proletariat" clothes.  Am I reading too much into this or was this appearance chosen to stand out from collegiate look on campus and or the excessive psychedelic look that was in full bloom in places like Chicago?

Bill: Maybe reading too much into our clothing. We were a blue jeans group, but there was never any discussion about what we wore. We just showed up.

Was anyone the driving force or guiding force in the band as far as direction?

Bill: haha, everybody was! When David Uhlig took over, my role as record keeper and contract manager stopped.  That is why I do not have very much detail or documentation of what we did as Savage Rose.

Peter: David James took on a leading role as the lead singer, but also very good on blues harmonica.  He was also a solid rhythm guitar player who could keyboard, and was indispensable on equipment, etc.  Later David was indeed a huge force in the South Bend scene - music, Irish music also, and progressive politics. A wonderful man and a dear friend that my kids adored.

According to the aforementioned archival email from David James, Savage Rose took the stage at bygone South Bend spots and schools like Nicola's Pizza, St. Stephen's Church hall, the Mishawaka Bomb Shelter, the St. Mary's College Coffee House and the St. Mary's Academy which was on South Miami Street. The group also played at the still open Frankie's BBQ (est. 1968) and Rocco's (est. 1951). 

Spring 1968-The quintet looks over the edge of the unknown

What was the highlight musical moment for you in that era?

Roy: The Anti-Military Ball.

(The Anti-Military Ball was headlined by Phil Ochs.  It was held at the now demolished Notre Dame Fieldhouse and featured the groups Captain Electric and the Flying Lapels and Savage Rose playing under their other appellation of Indiana Joy!)

Peter: Playing at the Anti-Military Ball*... the same night that I as the commander of the Army ROTC elite spec ops unit had a date at the Military Ball. We played extremely well that night, but I had to do some magical stuff (including dumping off my date and disguising myself) to make my part happen. I did get to sing my one and only song “I'm your Hoochie Coochie Man.” At least that is how I recall it.

Savage Rose playing under their alias of Indiana Joy!
Image courtesy of Tom Wishing

* Note: "The university ROTC departments had a long-standing tradition of holding a Military Ball every spring. During the anti-Vietnam War protest movement of the late 1960s, when feelings against the Vietnam War had morphed among some into a more generalized anti-military feeling, it seemed to the protest movement at Notre Dame a fitting idea to have an Anti-Military Ball. Such was the climate in 1968." - Peter

Did the band both back Phil Ochs and play their own set at the Anti-Military Ball?

Peter: I was there for our own short set, then left as I recall to change and dance at the Military Ball, so I do believe we backed up Phil Ochs. David James would have remembered.

it seemed like Savage Rose drifted away from me or me from it in 1968. I was at the Anti-Military Ball in 1968 (don’t remember seeing Savage Rose aka Indiana Joy! there) and ironically was still in ROTC the year before and went to the Military Ball.  One of our competitor bands borrowed my Farfisa keyboard that night and turned it up to screeching levels.  Sorry I was so generous.

The best moment I remember was in front of Farley Hall in Oct. 1967 with Roy Marshall singing a searing version of the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud” and superb percussion by Steve Foss that bounced off all of the dormitory buildings on the north quad. Wish we had taped that session.

Farley Hall, Oct. 1967, Bill Mitsch, Peter Herrly, Roy Marshall, Steve Foss, David James
Steve: Seeing the Shaggs play in the basement of the LaFortune Student Center remains as one of my fondest memories of those times. It was a good place to meet girls from St. Mary's College in an informal setting.  Plus, there was dancing to a jukebox. Also should mention the Ed Sheftel Combo (from Northwestern University) at the 1966 Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival (judged by Quincy Jones and Billy Taylor).  However, nothing beat the Shaggs at the student center!

Were there ever plans to record?
Peter: Maybe towards the end, glimmer of mention, with David James, our peerless vocalist, keyboard, rhythm guitar, and amp and sound man... but we never had time to get there. Roy, David, I and our manager David Uhlig all moved off campus, to the South Bend suburb Riverside no less.  Bill was very busy with his studies and David could fill in on organ -- but we were really doing more blues, and David was really pretty good at the blues harmonica.

Aftermath: War & Weddings

Bill:   I wanted to add that Leslie Organ Speaker was one of the reasons we were so good doing “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harem. That was Ruthmarie’s (Rosary College-Dominican University girl whom I charmed at Rosary’s grand piano in their lobby with Beatles and Otis Redding ballads) and my wedding march in May 1970. The band at the wedding that was permitted by a liberal Catholic Church was Dick Luebbe’s new band in Chicagoland, named Misery Loves Company.   We did not catch the irony of the band’s name for a wedding until later…Again, I better remember the date, May 28, 1970, and the place, Church of St. Leo’s, St. Paul MN. My wife’s name is Ruthmarie Hamburge Mitsch. Hitting the big 50 anniversary next year and I am sure bands will be discussed. We will try to get some old ND friends back in the fold.

Misery Love Company-May 1970-Ruthmarie Hamburge-Bill Mitsch Wedding
Dick Luebbe (originally from Nobody's Children) in white suit with red Gretsch
Steve:  After Savage Rose, I drummed with the South Bend-based Tommy and the Tornadoes led by Tom Wishing (class of '68). I also gigged with the progressive band Rotten Apple in Albuquerque.  Later, I acquired a pilot license which allowed me to fly from the Southwest to San Francisco to drum for the Tornotics comprised of Noam Cohen, Tom Wishing, his son Devin, and Johnny Augeri (class of '69).

Peter:  Afterwards the Vietnam War saw us all on very different ways, but those are other stories!

Roy: After college I got drafted into the army, spent about a year learning Vietnamese and then went AWOL to Canada for a while, came back and was put in the stockade for a while, then finally got discharged. I worked for Macy’s Parade in NY for a few years and then have been working as a carpenter/ handyman ever since and still am. I married a gal from Seattle, been here since 1980. My wife and I continue to play music together and now with our son. The Marshall Family Band; you can listen on Bandcamp. Still trying to figure out music, an endless pursuit started in Farley Hall.

Peter:  In 2017, we were invited to do a 50th reunion concert in front of Farley Hall by the young women there, but it was not to be with the musicians now located across the globe. All in all, our lives are connected to the past, and the future that we don't know.
Savage Rose-Fall 1967 Peter Herrly bass, Bill Mitsch keys, Roy Marshall guitar
While previously unexplored and largely unacknowledged, Nobody's Children & Savage Rose, can now be considered instrumental, along with foundational groups like the Shaggs, the Winds and Webster's New Word, in helping to establish Notre Dame's first musical golden age. This unpretentious group accomplished all of this by showing up to play direct, propulsive and essential rock ‘n’ roll that still stands out today.


Steve Foss

The Tornotics

Colonel (retired) Peter Herrly
Blue Line Films

Roy Marshall
Marshall Family Band

William J. Mitsch, Ph.D.
Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park
Eminent Scholar, College of Art & Sciences
Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration
Florida Gulf Coast University
2004 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Special mention and thanks: Tom Wishing, Bernadette Netherby, RN

Monday, July 08, 2019

Joe & Mike Nolte-Joe 'N' Mike

The recording made it across the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts the other 110 degree day and I have to declare this is one of the finest in the Nolte canon. I don't know of the songs' initial inceptions, but it's almost like they were preordained to be recorded and heard acoustically. It's remarkable to hear the topical, yet universal and timeless "Difference" in new shadings. The pointed line about "Some People Left L.A, Some People Joined the Rockabilly Trade" really stands out in almost a gravelly "Eve of Destruction" way. The entire epic hinges upon some outstanding guitar playing. Next up, is my favorite song on the disc "Someday I''ll Have You." Promising lyrics ride atop jaunty and sparkling guitars before curving along some coasts of gorgeous harmonies in-route to a Beatlesque finale. "Everywhere" reminds me of an early Fairport Convention song transfigured over some of that jingle-jangle galore of the Searchers' "When you Walk in a Room" along with a nod to the Rooftop Singers' "Walk Right In." Also be ready for the nice rural route solo ambling through the aforementioned number. The harmonies are nailed on "The Other Side" and like "Difference"-it's illuminating to hear in an acoustic setting. "Day Girl" starts off with a standout intro and had me turning my head because the verses reminded of "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane. Mike Nolte''s "A Part of Your Soul" (Pallbearer) musically recalls Preflyte Byrds and "Onie" by the Electric Prunes resulting in one of the album's finest moments. "Nearly Dead" unfurls in pure emotional honesty and sounds like it was written during their "Gin and Innuendos" mid-'90s era-not the 1977 copyright. I won''t spoil the ending. Another seemingly anachronistic song follows in the form of "You Walk into a Room" which was supposedly inscribed in '89 or '90, but sounds like it could have had its lyrical origins switched-on from Joe's progressive band era of the Power. Does anyone else hear a brief bit of "Light My Fire" in "It All Comes Down"? August is the cruelest month here in the Southwest, but this stripped-down acoustic album (recorded in April of 2003) delivers some previously buried treasures from their South Bay shores while confronting the mirages along the way.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gilberto with Turrentine

For years I have enjoyed The Astrud Gilberto Album ever since finding it for a buck in dusty Quartzsite, AZ. Last fall, I gave Stanley Turrentine’s laudable Salt Sea a new home after coming across it at a neighborhood garage sale in a moving box of ‘70s common stock.  I recently learned that their musical paths converged and they collaborated together on this 1971 album that was later reissued on compact disc in 1988 and 2003.  This 2003 remastered version from Sony Legacy is augmented with three bonus tracks. The lush, sweeping and textured production makes Creed Taylor’s presence immediately felt and heard, while Eumir Deodato’s adept, curvilinear and elastic arrangements gives the recording an ahead of its time feel.  Not only does the album come across as a precursor to the schematics of Stereolab and the High Llamas, but vibrant songs like “Traveling Light” and “Just Like You” sound like they could have even sprung forward onto a Stereolab album from 1996 or a Laetitia Sadier album from 2012.

Pinball Bumper Basslines
Overall, the album is not a strict showcase of Gilberto and Turrentine, but a diversified collection held together by a top-flight combination of American and Brazilian musicians. They present a panoramic sound by overlapping jazz and samba and successfully stretching their possibilities. Furthermore, their first-rate musicianship provides a solid foundation to counterbalance Astrud’s airy vocals. Her delicate voice slides over the pinball bumper basslines of Ron Carter and glides over Eumir Deodato’s Fender Rhodes piano. (BTW-Eumir Deodato is currently Justin Bieber’s grandfather-in-law.) On the opening and closing songs, both composed by Bacharach-David, Astrud’s soothing voice breezes over the warm guitar tones of Gene Bertoncini (Notre Dame class of ‘59). On adventurous songs like “Ponteio,” Turrentine’s tenor saxophone arrives on the forefront and then recedes to accompany Astrud’s vocals delivered in her rhythmic Portuguese.  Turrentine is later given the limelight on the instrumental “Vera Cruz" and the original "Mr. T" releases a sound imbued with poise and dexterity.

Poly High
The bonus track “Polytechnical High” sounds like one of those mechanical songs that the warped Brian Wilson wrote in the ‘70s in exchange for a brown bag of unhealthy substances.  Upon further exploration, the quirky song was first released by Harpers Bizarre in 1970 with writing credits going to Nilsson. Gilberto with Turrentine has the crossover appeal and variety to where far-flung listeners of easy listening, bossa nova/samba, Latin jazz, sunshine/soft pop, Shibuya-kei, soundtracks or jet set pop all could easily find something to suit their individual musical needs, while also being a captivating listen in its entirety.

Monday, May 06, 2019

The Resonars-No Exit

Things keep coming and going, but the Resonars remain a constant pop force within Tucson's somewhat submerged and unvarnished music scene. The last five years have seen some of my favorite bands (Freezing Hands, Sea Wren, Harsh Mistress) of this decade emerge from Midtown Island with the Resonars at the epicenter and Matt Rendon as the prime mover.  While these bands have overlapping members, they are not side projects, joke bands or offshoots, but full-fledged groups that all share a love of the melodic guitar-driven pop of the '60s and select moments of the '70s & '80s (that mostly reflect the '60s).  However they don't stop there, as they push forward their original sounds while further differentiating it by using the mid-fi recording equipment and production techniques inspired by the '60s masters (e.g., Martin, Wilson (both Brian & Tom), Talmy, Hassinger, Usher). When I first encountered the mundane front cover standing in stark contrast to the color explosions of the previous albums, I entered No Exit with some trepidation that this might be a wrong turn towards dispiriting dishwater indie-rock. My preconceptions were instantly replaced with the instant reaction that the album hits all expected markers and much more. In other words, the front cover is not truly indicative of the catchy and vibrant sounds found within its doors. For instance, the enthralling "Gone is the Road" scampers along paths first cut in those Nerves demos (namely "Too/Many Roads to Follow") that were later fully resurrected on some of the more recent Paul Collins solo albums.

While it might be hard to fathom, "Who's Going Believe You Now" successfully nicks the guitar riff off Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold." The rustic "Days Fade Away" manages to reflect the mutual admiration society of the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face and "Have You Seen Her Face" by the Byrds for a true baroque hoedown. "Before You're Gone" closes out side A and evinces a strong affinity for '70s power pop stalwarts (Flamin' Groovies, the Poppees, the Rubinoos and the Raspberries) with the sweet harmonies and guitars sharpened to the peak of perfection.  This solid pop is made possible by a well-honed sense of songcraft modeled on and inspired by the brilliance of the mid-sixties (when commercial success briefly coincided with artistic aspirations). This also serves as an example how the sounds of the Resonars have withstood the test of time by not being made in a pure pop snapcase, but created amidst the competing priorities, entanglements and the friction of workaday life.

Side B takes off like a rip-cord funny car with "Tucson Drag/All These Hats." This doubleheader features a Turtles-like "Buzzsaw" slicing through it before barreling down Speedway in search of an elusive Frozen Sun 45 or a stockpile of Midnight Cowboy soundtracks. The album goes from strength to strength with "Dull Today" and "Fell Into a World" as they are both finely crafted and flawlessly executed in classic Resonars mode. There is a subtle, but effective ringing buzz underlying "Dull Today," that provides welcomed contrast in the signal to noise ratio, while one almost expects to hear Peter Noone's bouncy vocals to appear after the guitar intro of "Fell Into a World." For a challenge, try discerning the source material for the pre-chorus of "Gotta Get Out" amidst the obvious nods to Big Star and the climbing and crescendoing Beach Boys vocal harmonies. This elusive pre-chorus seems to be an intriguing graft of the Clash's "Train in Vain" and "Cruel to Be Kind" by Nick Lowe, but still avoids being traced down. At the end of the day, it casts a radiant glow with its sundown harmonies.  If "Gotta Get Out" has a little different feel beyond the atypical arrangement, there is an additional reason as the lead vocals are handled here by Travis Spillers of the aforementioned Freezing Hands.

"Attention Here" skips along to deliver a barbed précis on the pitfalls of the more temporal trends in both the underground and mainstream of the last three decades, while also serving as an allegory to life itself.  No Exit not only contains their expected elevating harmonies and uncanny hooks, but also present the group at their most melodic, proficient and varied. Moreover, the compelling album captures the Resonars at a musical summit, reached by tapping into an extra sense of urgency and placing excitement into the Arizona air.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Los Holiday's-The Sounds of the Holiday's

Here is the sound of the British Invasion cascading down to Caracas, Venezuela circa 1966. While there is the expected, inescapable and delightful influence of the lads from Liverpool, there is a much stronger affinity for those beat merchants from Manchester-the Hollies. Upon initial listens, I could also detect what I thought was an undercurrent of Nederbeat. This Dutch tilt turned out not to be merely coincidental as I learned that the group's lead singer, Franklin VanSplunteren, was originally from the Netherlands and immigrated with his family to Venezuela in 1964.  Los Holiday's affection for the Hollies is clearly evident as they include five of their songs: “When I Not There," “What Kind of Love,” “Baby Don’t Cry,” “Little Lover” and “Come on Back."  Even their take on Doris Troy's "What'cha Gonna Do About It" was initially covered by the Hollies.  On lado/side 2, they branch out with the Searchers' "Till I Met You" where their early incarnation as an instrumental band can be heard in the guitar twang. While their spare original songs like "I've Had My Dose" and "You'll Learn this Way" are not as upfront or staggering as those from leading South American big beat combos like Uruguay's Los Shakers or Los Datsun's from Peru, their earnest harmonies and delicate melodies are endearingly expressed. The Dutch-accented English vocals and their immersion into the Hollies spill over into the Venezuela air-resulting in some well-crafted, plaintive and truly distinctive minor-key beat. Overall, it's a traversing South American sound on the threshold of something still striking and seeking.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rejoice! -s/t

Perhaps the most distinguishing aspect of this 1968 album beyond its bold period charm quasi-religious front cover is that this co-ed folk duo is backed and bolstered by three heavy hitters of the Wrecking Crew including legendary drummer Hal Blaine who passed away at age 90 in March 2019.  While none of the subsequent tracks are as immediately transporting as the banjo-flecked lead-off track “Sausalito Sunrise,” the album is an intriguing late entry in the ampersand co-ed folk duo movement that spanned across the entire decade of the ‘60s.  The proficient musical bed tilled by the Wrecking Crew musicians on lilting, albeit fleeting songs "Spring Flew in Today" and "Even Through" makes it sounds like that Tom & Nancy Brown are layering their flowering vocals over a sweeping '60s motion picture soundtrack.  In other spots, you can hear the underlying tension of a ramshackle Bay Area couple bereft of their familiar Marin Couny-based accompanying band and not quite coalescing with the professional approach of the top flight L.A. studio musicians (Joe Osborn on bass and Larry Knechtel on piano & organ, besides the aforementioned Blaine). "Establishment Blues" might have brought down the communal house in '68 with its barbed jabs and then trenchant commentary, but the resistance sounds futile today.  In contrast, it’s the more gleaming commercial AM transistor radio material which remains in focus to this day. "Golden Gate Park” is a bubbly psychedelic lite pop chronicle of being momentarily footloose and fancy-free on a turn down day.  It was appropriately chosen as the first single as it's an audio equivalent of Peter Max’s "UnCola" advertising art for 7Up. While Rejoice! lacked the crystalline harmonic interplay of Blackburn & Snow or the turn up the AM radio factor of Friend & Lover, their opportunity to combine forces and record with members of the Wrecking Crew is beyond compare.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Hats off to Larry Finnegan

"One-hit wonder from the early sixties" is the usual reductionist treatment that Larry Finnegan receives in his home country when it comes to his 1962 #11 hit record.  However, “Dear One” continues to evoke responses of "I love this song," and "You don't hear this song that often,” whenever it is played on oldies radio or heard streaming over a computer.  When it comes to attribution, "Dear One" is frequently mistaken to be an early Del Shannon song. While Finnegan did not have the same level of consistent commercial success in America as Del Shannon, Larry certainly made his own distinctive mark in terms of international hits, songwriting and producing records for a host of others.   Thanks to the internet, it is now easier to hear a reservoir of his recordings beneath the lightning strike moment of "Dear One." Equally important are the opportunity for others, outside of Sweden, to discover more about the underrated musician, composer, and producer behind a substantial stack of sweeping sixties sounds. 

The Inside Track
Larry was actually a student in the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame when he had his worldwide hit in early 1962. When he arrived at Notre Dame in 1959 from Jamaica Estates, Queens, NY., he was already a versatile musician who was said to be competent on guitar, piano and drums. "Larry never took any music lessons," reveals his wife Sharon Finneran.  "He had an ear for music and was self-taught."  Larry came from a family of 9 children with 7 boys and 2 girls.  Both of his parents were born in Ireland and his father worked as a security guard for the New York Daily News.  Prior to Notre Dame, Larry attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn and ran for their track team.

Woodshedding, WLS & Courting Sudden Fame at Notre Dame
The legend at Notre Dame begins atop a creaky wooden floor of a dorm room in a collegiate Gothic-styled residence hall. "Larry Finneran was an extremely nice, unassuming guy. Our rooms were a few doors apart on the fourth floor of Morrissey Hall," recalls author Rich Wolfe. "He was also very quiet and often could be heard in his room playing his guitar. The big radio station in those days for ND students was WLS-Chicago. “Dear One” by Larry Finnegan started getting a lot of air time on WLS, particularly by Dick Biondi, their star DJ. Also, Arnie “Woo Woo" Ginsberg was playing it a ton in Boston." The dichotomous experience of being a recording star and student was just beginning for Larry.   Rich Wolfe elaborates: "One day I jokingly said to Larry, 'This guy Larry Finnegan is trying to live off your name.' He replied, 'That’s me.'  I laughed...a few days later found out it was true. It was so incongruous. He was the total opposite of what you would expect.  When the song later would come on WLS many rooms on the fourth floor would turn the volume on high."  Probably to the surprise of his Notre Dame classmates and many others, "Dear One" was not Larry's first record.  In 1959, Decca released "I'll Be Back Jack" a solid first effort, but it came nowhere close to the charts.  The song was later re-released on their Coral imprint in 1962 after the smashing success of “Dear One," but it sputtered again. Its commendable flipside "Ain't Nothing in this World" ambles easily along with its integration of a fluid banjo.

Old Town in New York
Another seemingly improbable aspect was that Larry's pop hit was released on Hy Weiss' Old Town Records which was a New York City label deeply devoted to R&B and doo wop. Hy Weiss was one of those colorful record industry characters who recorded and released the street corner sound as an owner of a step-ahead independent. (Interestingly, Weiss even has a co-writing credit for the Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion" to his name.)  Larry co-wrote "Dear One" with older brother Vincent Finneran who at the time was in his senior year at Boston College.  In typical show-biz fashion, Hy Weiss changed Larry's surname of Finneran to the stage name of Finnegan. Being mistaken for a Del Shannon song factored in early on "Dear One."  This misidentification certainly helped to propel the song up the charts and eventual classic status. Still, Vincent was looking out for his brother. "A story I recall is that Larry said his brother shopped “Dear One” around NYC," conveys writer Cappy Gagnon. "One record label loved the song and felt it would be a good one for Del Shannon, Larry’s brother insisted that the song must be sung by Larry."  In addition, ace studio musicians like Gary Chester on drums and Dick Pitassy (Notre Dame class of 1965) on piano helped the recording breakthrough and stand out from the competition of the time.  "There was supposed to be a guitar solo on "Dear One," reveals musician Dick Pitassy. "Little did I know in the recording session that my piano playing would become the song's solo in the finished take." Hy Weiss was refreshingly true to his word when it came to supporting Larry and his family.  "Hy kept in touch with me even after Larry died, sending me money off and on," states Sharon Finneran. A well executed cover of Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" is one of the highlights of his follow-up attempts on Old Town Records.  1963 saw the release of “Pick up the Pieces” and features a suitable arrangement by space-age guitar whiz Billy Mure.  Despite the lack of another hit in America, there is no denying that  "Dear One" made waves around the world and launched his professional career which would first take Larry to the recording meccas of Nashville and New York City.

RIC (Recording Industries Corp.) Records
After graduating from Notre Dame in spring of 1963 and completing his stint on Old Town Records, Finnegan next stop was RIC Records, a label, helmed by Joe Csida, with operations in both Nashville and New York City. The label's two bases seemed to perfectly coincide with Larry's affinity for pop country. The label’s initial offerings were the one-two punch of Rosie Grier, then a professional football star for the Los Angeles Rams, and Larry Finnegan.  Bobby Darin actually produced Grier's Soul City album in 1964. (Darin bought the Trinity Publishing company in 1963 from Joe Csida, who was formerly Bobby’s manager.)  For Finnegan, RIC went the sequel route with "Dear One, Part Two," but it failed to connect. The flip featured "Baton Rouge" which continues to stand the test of time. This lively and rollicking number was written by his brother Vincent and casts a celebratory mood.  Larry's next effort was a derivative novelty number "A Tribute to Ringo Starr -The Other Ringo" which spins off the 1964 Lorne Green's hit "Ringo," but ultimately tries too hard in its attempt to cash in on some of the Beatlemania.  While there was no chart success during his tenure, Larry gained invaluable experience in several facets of the music industry.

At RIC, he worked on the composition and production sides for a wide array of then peak-period pop styles (surf, soul and girl groups). These rare releases are aural testaments to his professional adaptability and skillfulness. 1964's "Surfin' in Bermuda" by the Cannon Brothers is a low-fidelity surf vocal number coated with the landlocked grit of  the Riverias and the Trashmen while West Coast harmonies and melodies can be detected under the haze.  Larry also composed and produced the soulful girl group rarity "Coolie" for Venita and The Cheries.  One of his most intriguing productions is "I'll Take You Back Back Again" from the Pittsburgh singer Florraine Darlin.  In its initial incarnation the song started as keyboard instrumental with an organ lead by the aforementioned Dick Pitassy.  Later the vocals of Florraine Darlin were added along with several additional layers of instrumentation-resulting in a catchy mid-tempo summer 1964 pop song that anticipates folk-rock while simultaneously echoing the Everly Brothers. Operating without a hit, momentum slipped away for the singles-oriented RIC Records by the mid-sixties. With the British Invasion in full effect, Larry saw the writing on the wall for heartland American acts.

One of his most intriguing endeavors during his time in New York was a 1964 girl group gem “Don’t Let it Happen Again” by the Kittens.  It actually featured two of Larry’s sisters (Mary & Christina) and is credited as a Finneran/Csida production and arranged by Dick Pitassy. It is also an example of the vast musical talent running in the Finneran family.  In addition, brother Vincent wrote the flipside “Nothin'." These days, this 45 exchanges hands in the amount of three figures.

The Tivoli Circuit-Summers ‘63 & ’64 in Sweden 
While his subsequent releases failed to return him to American charts, he was able to proceed forward with a successful career-extending move to Sweden.  Old Town releases like "Pretty Suzy Sunshine" raced up the charts in Sweden.  Sonet Records, lead by Gunnar Bergström, invited Larry to tour Sweden in summer 1963 and later signed him as a singer and songwriter. Dick Pitassy was part of Larry's backing band which included the Hi-Grades from England.  "We mainly played at what are known in Sweden as tivoli or fairgrounds," recalls Dick Pitassy. "Our musical performances were held in conjunction with other fair attractions and stage acts-even a beauty pageant one time." While Sonet Records gave Finnegan the initial incentive to break away from the rapidly changing American scene, his courageous and fortuitous move to Stockholm in 1965 quickly propelled him to stardom in Scandinavia and later in Germany. For Larry, Sweden was not totally foreign territory.  Finnegan's first exposure to Swedish sensibilities actually occurred at Notre Dame as a Communications Arts student. Finnegan, according to Claes-Hakean Olofsson, "Developed an interest in the Swedish welfare system (healthcare, disability pension, child allowance etc.) and as early as 1960 was describing Sweden as a leading country in these areas."   While he would have been on the periphery in the U.S., Larry could be on vanguard with his celebrity status in Sweden. "When I had my first child, Larry, Jr., Larry had me come to Sweden as we were living in more affordable Switzerland and presented me with a mink coat that had belonged to Princess Christina Magnuson," fondly remembers Sharon Finneran.  "A big picture of us was published on the back of one of their Expressen newspapers"  Larry's adventurous, ambitious and daring spirit propelled him beyond preordained domestic expectations and into seemingly uncharted worldwide realms.

Compounding his star status with his initiative, resolve and recording skills allowed Larry to become a major player in the Swedish music industry.  In Stockholm, he partnered with Swedish musician Rune Wallebom (a singer for the Violents) and established the record label Svensk American.  He also resurrected his publishing company Seven Brothers Music which was aptly named after his brothers of the same number.  In addition to producing and releasing several hits from Swedish acts like Sven-Ingvars, the label became home to several of Larry's own successful singles along with fittingly titled "My Type of Country." album.

Everyday, Everybody and Everytime
Besides refining his production skills during these years, Larry reached the peak of his own musical powers by straddling pop and country in Sweden. Along the way, he continued to develop his own distinctive guitar style which formed the back bone of "Everytime."  Obviously inspired by Buddy Holly's chiming and charming "Everyday" and Tommy Roe's inclusive "Everybody," Larry reeled off the lovely little "Everytime." This understated number is accented by a springing guitar tone where Finnegan is mostly likely utilizing the whammy bar in the best way. "Notice how it's in perfect sync rhythmically. It sounds pretty organic too, not to mention that it would be a pain to do that with a pedal or an amplifier effect," explains musician and writer Mike Fornatale. "As far a gear, I'll guess it's a Gretsch with a Bigsby vibrato." Overall, Larry's durable sounds satisfies listeners affinity for straightforwardness, sincerity and the plain-spoken, while convincingly expressing Larry's commitment to what he stood for and believed in.

Photo courtesy of  American Music Magazine (Sweden) archives 

The Crossroads of the Sixties in Sweden
Things truly did come into focus for Larry in Sweden. Stylistically, his records are at crossroads of pop, country and rock 'n'roll. Unquestionably, it’s the sound of middle and southern America played out in on Scandinavian stages during the mid-sixties.  It took a transatlantic crossing to have success with a sound that had the strongest distilled American elements.  It could be said that many of these Swedish releases were his most innately American thematically and stylistically.  These records continued to reflect the deeply rooted influences of Marty Robbins, Don Gibson, Johnny Horton and even Elvis. Larry could most authentically be himself playing this down home vernacular sound in foreign lands. While, 1966’s "Bound for Houston" will easily draws comparisons to Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," it stands on its own with a chugging rhythm, requisite twangy and coiled guitars and a dollop of doo wop.

Photo courtesy of  American Music Magazine (Sweden) archives 
Somewhat hidden as a flipside, there is one intriguing musical departure with "Song for an Unknown Soldier." This could be said to be Larry’s Pet Sounds moment as it was released in 1966 and it addresses not only the sad plight of the solider, but also the senseless destruction of mother nature and human life itself through a series of striking vignettes. Musically it is reminiscent of the Beach Boys' "I'm Waiting for the Day" with its sectioned orchestration between the elucidating vocals. His unrivaled star status in both Sweden and later Germany allowed Larry to simultaneously retain his roots, while branching out in striking new directions.

Suzie  (and the Sunny Girls)
While Larry achieved Gold Record status in the States and celebrity status in Sweden as a recording act and singer, his arrangement, composition and production accomplishments tend to get overlooked both here and abroad. In Sweden and later in Germany, Finnegan continued to make strides in both the creative and technical sides of the recording process. For instance, he wrote and produced for the Dutch/Swedish singer Suzie (born Maria Pereboom in Holland) including her biggest Euro-hit "Johnny Loves Me" (not the "Johnny Angel" follow-up  by Shelley Fabares.)  Astoundingly, in October 1963, the Beatles opened for Suzie in Stockholm, Sweden!  In 1965, she married Mike Watson the bass player for the aforementioned backing group the Hi-Grades, the Lee Kings and later on intermittently for ABBA. Larry Finnegan was said to be fastidious in the studio and would require take after take.  Larry’s professional relationship with Suzie could be compared to Quincy Jones’ mentoring role and exacting production work with Lesley Gore.  Larry’s studio skills helped Suzie become one of the biggest stars in Sweden and in several other European countries.  Suzie’s “Johnny Loves Me” was even released in United States on the APT label in 1965. “Don’t Let it Happen Again” was the flipside.  Yes, that’s the aforementioned song previously recorded by the Kittens that featured two of Larry’s sisters almost a year earlier. Suzie also recorded "Don't Let it Happen Again" in German and Swedish. For a brief time 1967, Suzie led the Sunny Girls who have become international cult favorites over the years with the P.F. Sloan song "From a Distance." Larry & Suzie's musical relationship ended on a strong note in 1969 with an enthralling German-English cover of  "Da Doo Ron Ron," This record perfectly encapsulates Larry's production ability to capture that flash feeling of heart-lifting excitement.

Germany and the Race to the Moon
Thanks to Bear Family Records, his German language recordings originally released on Vogue Schallplatten became readily more accessible due to their inclusion on their "Komm Doch Zu Mir" CD release from 2000. Larry's quick and strong grasp of the German language and the Schlager style is presented in stunning sonic clarity. The Youtube era revealed one of his last and most adventurous undertakings before it was removed for some reason. His production on "Race to the Moon" by Gordon Young and the California Brass has almost an otherworldly Joe Meek feel to it.  Besides both producers being deeply enamored by the sound of Buddy Holly, there are other overlapping connections and small degrees of separation.  During it time on charts, Joe Meek took notice of “Dear One” and had Tony Victor cover it with the Tornados of “Telstar” fame supplying the rhythm backing on their rendition. Joe Meek also worked with the legendary Swedish rock & roller Jerry Williams.  Jerry Williams (Sven Erik Fernström)  recorded  his 1964's "More Dynamite" album with the aforementioned Dick Pitassy who composed "Race to the Moon."

1969 Larry Finnegan production of a Dick Pitassy composition

Back Home Again in Indiana
In 1970, Larry returned to South Bend, Indiana and a drastically changed America after five years of being overseas. Larry appeared to make the disorientating transition back in his usual genial, dignified and resilient manner. "I don’t recall when I first learned that Larry was a Notre Dame guy, but I became a fan.  Five years after I graduated in 1966, I was back at ND as Assistant Director of Admissions.  I became a Big Brother.  A year later, I was the Director of Big Brothers," relates Cap Gagnon. "A year later, Larry volunteered.  I can’t recall what his job was then, but I seem to recall that he said something about having formerly been a singer………and I said something like, 'You’re THAT guy!!'"  Gagnon continues: "He was a wonderful and modest man.  I asked him what happened to him after Notre Dame.  He said that he went to Sweden.  When I asked why, he said 'After the Beatles, the music tastes changed and guys like me couldn’t get arrested'  He mentioned a long list of folks who were in Europe with him.  The only one I remember was Big Dee Clark (“Raindrops”), although I believe he also mentioned Jackie Wilson."  It could be conjectured that it was a difficult shift in situation as Larry went from doing things on pretty much his own terms as a stratospheric star in Europe to quotidian workaday life between the prevailing blue-gray skies on the flatlands of South Bend.  However, Larry once again demonstrated his adaptability and ingenuity.  "When we returned to South Bend, my home town, he went to work as an advertising manager for Wheel Horse Products," explains Sharon Finneran.  "He invented a safety lawn mower which I have the patent for."  Wheel Horse Products was a South Bend-based manufacturer of lawn and garden equipment.  The company was later acquired in 1986 by the Toro Company.  In July 1973 everything came to a halt as Larry tragically died of a brain tumor, only a week after being diagnosed, at the way too young age of 34.  He was buried in the Cedar Grove Cemetery on the Notre Dame campus.   

Going Global into Crossover Country 
His radical (at the time) relocation to Sweden allowed Larry to freely express a middle American rock-pop-country aesthetic deep in the '60s.  Meanwhile, his early '60s pop contemporaries (e.g, Terry Stafford, Curtis Lee, Johnny Tillotson, Tommy Roe, Brian Hyland) had to navigate the tricky path, with varying results, to stay viable in the post-British Invasion era of American pop music of the mid to late '60s.  All in all, he didn't need to recast himself into something he was not in order to get with the capricious cosmic times. In a sense, Larry followed the brave tradition of American roots musicians who made the bold break to Europe where they were better appreciated in many cases-while blazing his own international and independent path. Larry was also before his time as country and pop did not coalesce together in the United States in the mainstream until the breakthrough of Glen Campbell.  Photographs from his time abroad reveal a look of quiet self-determination on his face as he pushed himself into new territories both musically and culturally. In the face of numerous challenges, he found opportunities to continue as a musician while also evolving as arranger, composer and producer.  The break away from the familiar allowed him to realize his hopes, dreams and aspirations as a crossover act on international and stylistics levels.

Out of this World
Finally, Larry is remembered  as a class act, a steadfast worker and most importantly as a good person by those who were fortunately able to interact with him during his too short time on earth.  Wherever his captivating record "Dear One" is played, Larry's musical spirit is readily recognized even if he himself is not. On one level, this seems appropriate as he seemed to be one to let the music speak for itself.  However, his wide-spanning, yet unsung life story is so remarkable that it simply compels long overdue acknowledgment and "Hats off to Larry." 

Acknowledgments & Sources: Sharon Finneran, Mike Fornatale, Jörgen Johansson, Dick Pitassy, Rich Wolfe, Erik Petersson, American Music Magazine, The Spectropop Discussion Forum Archives, Bomp List Refugees, Bear Family Records,,

Special mention and thanks to Cappy Gagnon and Kathleen Herzog as their enthusiasm, responsiveness and willingness to help provided the momentum to make this project possible.