Dan Gates Recalls The Tucson Scene of the '60s
I had lived in Southern California for a time prior to returning to Tucson. There, I worked with and enabled recording of three acts. One was a Bakersfield trio sisters group, The Rev-Lons, who recorded ‘Boy Trouble’, produced by Gary Paxton and released nationally on the London label. This song got on the national charts, but not big. Along with the father of Kenny Johnson (Lloyd), we recorded Kenny & The Ho Dads, two songs, one 45, released on a forgotten Southern California label with minor regional sales.
Also with Lloyd Johnson, I managed to get a 13-year old Bakersfield girl, Doris Webb, into a studio to record ‘I Was The Lonely One’, produced by a couple of guys who had been doing music for a TV show. This made quite a bit of noise in Southern California, little elsewhere, but enough to encourage me to take over the producer job to record Doris again in a studio owned/operated by Bob Summers in El Monte, California. Bob had recorded Clint Eastwood and a couple of others I'd heard of. One side of this Doris Webb single, ‘Lost Dream Boy’, was reviewed by Billboard as a projected top 25 song. It did well in some Southern California towns, plus surprised us with big sales in the New York City area. Fred Astaire’s Ava Records, who commissioned me to produce two more songs, picked up this record. I enlisted the help of Gary Paxton on these and we came up with what was felt to be probable hit material. We later added some background singers, the well-known Blossoms, who had done background for many hit records, including some Elvis. The A-Side was a bluesy ‘He's The Most’, which Ava Records was set to release nationally almost right away. Unfortunately, the Internal Revenue Service went in and confiscated everything Ava Records had because of unpaid taxes, thus ‘He's The Most’ was never out of the IRS lock box.
I related this information to establish that I had been working in the record industry with the people noted, plus a couple of others. After moving to Tucson for a deejay job at then monster rated KTKT, I eventually began to take an interest in local music acts. Three of these were The Lewallen Brothers, The Grodes, and The Quinstrells. I'd kept a poor home brew recording of an obviously R&B song written by a Southern California trio. Although that trio wasn't too good in my opinion, I'd felt that the song they wrote, ‘Peep Peep Pop Pop’ was novel and would one day be something I could use. After meeting with The Quinstrells and their more-or-less manager Dan Peters, we had a meeting at one of the group's home (Shep’s, I think) where I presented that song to them as something I wanted to record with them. They hated the song, and maybe still do, but I managed to convince them that, while it may not be a big hit, it would be an excellent showcase to show the group's abilities. With that settled, we all agreed that we needed a better name for the group. I don't remember how many names were suggested, but none seemed to fit. We started looking through magazines and books. After a while, I was looking at a row of hardback books in a bookcase when I spotted a book entitled, Dearly Beloved. The group wasn't crazy about this name either, but they eventually gave in.
The next step was to get the group into a studio to record. One definite song was ‘Peep Peep Pop Pop’, while the second was a slower song written by a Bakersfield deejay I had kept demo copies of. I then managed to convince Bobby Boyd to pay for a recording session of just three hours. We had to record both songs, ready for mastering, in that time. I concentrated on ‘Peep Peep’ and finally got it where I wanted it, but only had 30 minutes left for the second song. We put only minor effort into it, obviously, but got both finished, then had a mastering session after which we handed over the masters to Boyd. He released them on his label and, for no known reason, changed the group name to "The Beloved Ones". We lived with that for a time and the record began selling like crazy in Tucson with the help of KTKT, which had made it a special feature with their "KTKT Instant Replay" feature, which had the deejays playing the song twice, back to back, during each deejay shift. Bobby Boyd presented the record to Columbia who agreed to release it nationally, which they did insofar as distributing the disk jockey promotional records all around the country, but when the song began getting the interest of the public, Columbia, outside of Arizona, failed to manufacture any product over their initial 3,000 copies for sale, and these were very quickly gobbled up in Tucson and Phoenix.
In KTKT chart action, it eventually was found to be the number one song of that year in Tucson. No, I had nothing to do with the KTKT Top 40 charts then. Nonetheless, the record had stirred up enough interest for Boyd to get Columbia to agree to recording an album, but with very limited studio time. We had to record ten additional songs in two five-hour sessions at the Hollywood studios of Columbia. I don't now how we managed to do this, but we did. Some of the cuts were pretty good, but others were obviously flawed. Still, there would be a new single with songs selected by Columbia. The ones they picked were pretty much at the bottom of my list of what I thought should be their next national release. ‘Wait Till The Morning’ was done fairly well, and the group seemed happy with the choice, probably because Tom Walker had written it. We had recorded some songs penned by members of the group, but I included some sides written by Manny Freiser of The Grodes. I felt that one of his songs probably should have been the A-Side of the new release, but Columbia didn't see it that way. ‘Wait Till The Morning’ did well in southern Arizona, but not much anywhere else. There was some interest here and there, but product being available was again a problem. I guess Columbia just didn't have the confidence needed.
'Music Revolution' was to be their next Columbia release but I did produce another 'Music Revolution' with the group Butterscotch. It's only use (never released) was as a demo (among a couple of other cuts) for the sound track of Hells Angels '69. The group was selected to do two songs for the sound track and LP, but they were pretty horrible. I didn't really produce them. The movie's producer did that. He didn't know much about such recording so the result was poor....but even more poor was the name they used for the group, "Stream of Consciousness." Ridiculous! We were probably lucky though since that name didn't associate the group with those recordings. The producer was (?) Stern (I don't recall the first name) who was married to a gal who'd then recently won an academy award as an actress. After the shattering death of lead singer Larry Cox, Columbia opted to not release any other (songs), so after a time we went back to our local Tucson efforts.
I was in some way associated with many Tucson area bands most notably, of course, Dearly Beloved, The Grodes (AKA Spring Fever), The Lewallen Bros. and then some of the less prominent groups. I also worked on a little out of town, out of state group stuff. In the case of The Lewallen Bros., I worked with them, and then produced a recording that was submitted to Dick Clark's Battle of the Bands. They won first place, which resulted in them being awarded some sound equipment, I think. Something like that. I also did the same thing with local group Butterscotch. I think they won something in their battle competition (these were separate competitions). No were rules against original material then, but the rules were later changed to allow only previously-known song material. These recordings had to be edited to meet a one-minute length limit.
I produced records that were released on the Splitsound label which Dan Peters and I owned. Actually, the Splitsound label name was one dreamed up with The Lewallen Bros. and me on the way back home from Phoenix after recording at Audio Recorders there. I was told that the Lewallens were a little miffed that Dan Peters and I pretty much took ownership of the label name, but it fit with much of what we were attempting to achieve. We opened an office from which we booked area bands into gigs all over the mostly Southern Arizona area, plus some of the Tucson nightclubs that featured live rock music. Dearly Beloved, The Grodes/Spring Fever, and The Lewallen Bros. worked a lot because they were the best known due to regional record successes. Dan Peters and I operated this business, plus incorporated it as Splitsound Inc. and had one or two employees.
As I recall, we worked with about 16 Tucson area bands. Dan and I had agreed that we wouldn't use the commissions earned for booking the jobs (10 percent) to add income to us then. We used that money to help create interest in the bands, advertise, and in some cases to finance recording sessions. We would only financially benefit personally if we were able to see any of the groups or performers make it to national sucess. There were shows produced by Splitsound at venues around town--battle of the bands, regular rock events for dances, etc.--and in one event held at Hi Corbett Field, we had the audience determine the winner(s), who would be provided a recording session. We found that a solo drummer, Pete Peterson, and a young vocalist, Rena Cook, were huge vote getters, so we decided to satisfy the recording session by hiring Pete as drummer for The Grodes, and the award for Rena was a session in Phoenix which utilized the Grodes band, plus background vocal work by a Dayton, Ohio group, The Whose Who. We had agreed to produce a pair of songs with The Whose Who at Audio Recorders in return for doing the background vocals for Rena's song.
There were some other recording sessions here and there, one of which was a solo vocal effort by The Dearly Beloved's Shep Cooke. We recorded three songs, if memory is correct, on which Shep played every instument except drums. Shep borrowed The Poppies’ highly regarded drummer. Then Shep did all the voices. Some of the studio supervision was done by my then wife, Brenda, because I had become ill and had gall bladder surgery. Later, I took the master tapes to Phoenix Audio Recorders to mix them down for creating the master disks, which are used for manufacture of the 45RPM records.
Aside from the Tucson area bands, or in one or two cases including them, there was a little movie sound track work. I did some narrations of documentary movies for which I was the voice, and some other individual record production work not connected with Splitsound.