Posts Tagged ‘New Colony Six’

The Joy of Yellow Pea Soup

May 27, 2022

Originally posted September 30, 2009

During my childhood and youth, one thing that was sure to bring a smile when I came home from a hard day at school was seeing the pressure cooker on the stove. While that might mean vegetable soup – which was a fine meal itself – more often than not the sight of the pressure cooker mean that we were having yellow pea soup for supper. (For folks like my parents and their forbears out on the farms, “supper” was the evening meal; “dinner” was what you had at noon and “lunch” was a snack at mid-afternoon.)

I loved pea soup, and in our house, it was always made with whole yellow peas, just as it had been by generations of my Swedish ancestors in Minnesota and in the Swedish province of Småland for years before that. It’s a simple dish – a large pot of yellow peas, an onion and some pork hocks – cooked for hours and then enjoyed for days, with the soup becoming thicker and thicker each day. The only other thing on our table on those evenings was saltine crackers, though I imagine my ancestors likely had brown bread of some sort.

For years after I left home, Mom and Dad made the occasional large kettle of pea soup, freezing much of it for later meals. During the time I lived away from St. Cloud, nearly every visit to Kilian Boulevard would end with Dad pulling containers of food out of the freezer for me to take home, and several of those containers would hold a good-sized serving of pea soup. I’d ration them carefully, trying to make them last until close to my next trip to St. Cloud. In their later years together, Dad did most of the cooking. He passed on six years ago, and since then, Mom’s moved into an assisted living center and doesn’t do much cooking at all. So there’s been no home-made pea soup for me or for Mom for at least six years.

On occasion, I’ve made soup with split peas, but it just wasn’t the same. I’ve intended for a while to try my hand at the real thing, so for some time, there’s been a pound of whole yellow peas in our pantry, waiting for me to get organized. I did so about ten days ago, first soaking the peas overnight and pouring off that water. Then I sliced a large onion and cut the slices into eighths. I took a pound of ham and cut it into cubes that were roughly a third of an inch square. (I prefer the flavor of pork hocks, but they’re quite fatty, so I deferred to a healthier choice.) I put the peas, the ham and the onion in a five-and-a-half quart crockpot, filled the pot with water and added two teaspoons of celery seed, and then set it to cook on “high” for about six hours.

It turned out pretty well. The Texas Gal and I had a meal from the pot, and there was still more than enough left to provide lunches for me for a few days. As good as those meals were, however, there were two things that I enjoyed above all: First, I’d forgotten how pleasing it is to walk into a kitchen filled with the aroma of cooking pea soup. And second, after years of getting my home-made pea soup from Mom, I set aside a container of soup for her and was finally able to return the favor.

And here are a few songs from one of the years when the aroma of pea soup in the kitchen would have brightened the end of a rough junior high day:

A Random Six-Pack from 1966
“Somebody To Love” by The Great! Society, recorded live in San Francisco.
“Ribbon of Darkness” by Pozo-Seco Singers from I Can Make It With You.
“Where Were You When I Needed You” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4029.
“Down In The Alley” by Elvis Presley from the soundtrack to Spinout.
“At The River’s Edge” by the New Colony Six, Centaur 1202.
“Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?” by the Rolling Stones, London 903

Bonus Track
“Who’s Driving My Plane” by the Rolling Stones, London 903

The Great! Society was the band Grace Slick was in before she joined the Jefferson Airplane, and it was during her time with the Great! Society that she penned her two most famous songs, “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit.” According to the notes from the Love Is The Song We Sing collection, the Great! Society released a 45 version of “Somebody To Love” on the Northbeach label in 1966, but it got little attention. The version offered here is a live performance during the summer of 1966 at the Matrix club in San Francisco’s Marina district. After Slick moved to the Airplane and she and her two best songs became famous in 1967, Columbia Records released the Great! Society album, Only In Its Absence, and included the live performance of “Somebody To Love.”

The Pozo-Seco Singers were a trio that came out of Texas and had a couple of Top 40 hits in the mid-1960s. (“I Can Make It With You” went to No. 32 in 1966, and “Look What You’ve Done” went to No. 32 as well in 1967.) Better known, perhaps, for being a starting place for country singer and songwriter Don Williams (“I Believe In You” was a No. 1 hit on the country charts in 1980) than for anything else, the Pozo-Seco Singers – Lofton Kline and Susan Taylor being the other two members – nevertheless are worth a listen for finding a middle ground in the folk/folk-pop spectrum that was evolving in the mid-1960s. As All-Music Guide notes, the Pozo-Seco Singers were “[n]ot as hip as Ian & Sylvia or Peter, Paul & Mary,” but “not as blatantly commercial as, say, the Seekers.” That’s not a bad place to find yourself as a musical group, and I’ve often wondered why the Pozo-Seco Singers didn’t have more success as they did.

There’s nothing too mysterious about the Grass Roots: Fourteen Top 40 hits between 1966 and 1972, starting with today’s choice, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which went to No. 28 during the summer of 1966. Nevertheless, the group was – and remains – kind of faceless; and the group’s history frustrates anyone trying to sort out the discography, as there were – according to AMG – “at least three different groups involved in the making of the songs” credited to the Grass Roots. AMG continues:

The Grass Roots was originated by the writer/producer team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri as a pseudonym under which they would release a body of Byrds/Beau Brummels-style folk-rock. Sloan and Barri were contracted songwriters for Trousdale Music, the publishing arm of Dunhill Records, which wanted to cash in on the folk-rock boom of 1965. Dunhill asked Sloan and Barri to come up with this material, and a group alias under which they would release it. The resulting “Grass Roots” debut song, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” sung by Sloan, was sent to a Los Angeles radio station, which began playing it.

After that, Sloan and Barri went out to find a group that could be the Grass Roots and go on tour, and – with several groups playing the part of the band – the hits kept happening for about six years.

I always kind of liked the Grass Roots’ singles, and it didn’t matter to me, really, who was in the studio on the other end. The songs were good radio pop-rock, and some days, that’s more than good enough.

I may have posted Elvis Presley’s version of “Down In The Alley” before, but it’s good enough to get an encore. The song was originally an R&B tune written by Jesse Stone and the Clovers and released in 1956, and Presley – during a time when his recordings missed the mark as frequently as they hit it – found the groove in the song. I don’t have enough Elvis information in my library to find out, but I’d sure like to know who’s backing Elvis here.

One evening in Denmark, a bunch of us were trading music trivia back and forth. A fellow known as Banger asked me to name the two hits by the New Colony Six. I’d never heard of the group, so I just shrugged my shoulders. Turns out the group was from the Chicago area – and reached the Top 40 twice: “I Will Always Think About You” went to No. 22 in the spring of 1968, and “Things I’d Like To Say” reached No. 16 in the late winter and early spring of 1969. I’m not sure how much airplay either of the two records got in the Twin Cities; when I finally heard the records years later, they weren’t at all familiar. In any case, what I’m offering today is the third recording in my collection by the New Colony Six, “At The River’s Edge,” released on Centaur before the group was signed by Mercury. I like it better than I like the other two: It’s got much more of a garage band feel to it, while the two hits – though nice – are a little too buffed and polished.

“Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow?” might be the loudest record the Rolling Stones ever made. When I ripped the 45 this morning – an earlier rip I offered here was one of the first rips from vinyl I ever made and had, to my ears, some flaws – it red-lined for nearly the entire song. I backed that off a bit, but still, the single has a loud and thick sound. This was the first Rolling Stones record I ever owned, but it’s not like I was savvy enough in 1966 to go out and get it: I got the record from Leo Rau, the guy across the alley who owned a series of jukeboxes in St. Cloud. As an extra, because I don’t see it around very often, I’m offering the flip side, “Who’s Driving My Plane,” as a bonus track.

Spring ’68: School Bus Serenade

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 6, 2009

On a cool, rainy day in the spring of 1968, the fifty or so students in the two ninth-grade biology classes from St. Cloud’s South Junior High scrambled onto a bus. Joined by a few teachers – I’ve never for one moment envied teachers who have to supervise field trips – we headed out of St. Cloud.

I’m no longer entirely clear on our destinations that day. I think we drove through the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, parts of which are about thirty miles from St. Cloud. I recall getting out of the bus every now and then to look at trees and underbrush and look for evidence of small animals. We had a picnic lunch, if my memory is right, served by class moms in the yard of a classmate’s farm home. And we visited a tree farm near the end of the day.

It was at the tree farm that someone took pictures of the group, which was large enough that it took three shots to get us all. The photographer overlapped the three shots, so if one wanted to, one could overlap the three prints and have a wide-screen image, as it were, showing all of us at once. (These days, that could be done with digital tools and only a little bit of effort. Forty-one years ago, it would have required a bit of darkroom legerdemain.) The best thing I remember about the picture, though, was that one of our teachers, Mr. Lemke, hoisted one of the girls, Patty, onto his shoulders for the picture. They stood at the back of the group on the left, and when the photographer had finished with that side of the group, Mr. Lemke walked behind the group and stood with Patty on his shoulders on the right side of the group. That bit of mischief allowed Mr. Lemke and Patty to seemingly be in two places at once.

On the way back to St. Cloud, one of our classmates astounded all of us by sliding his arm around the girl he’d evidently been dating for a while. Back then, at the ages of fourteen and fifteen, that was an amazingly bold public display of affection. The girls sitting around the couple spent the last five or so minutes of the ride back to school serenading the two of them and the rest of us with a lively version of “Somebody To Love,” the Jefferson Airplane hit from the year before.

The girls might have been singing just because there was no radio playing, but I don’t think so. Had there been a radio on the bus, though, here’s some of what we might have heard.

A Six-Pack From the Charts (Billboard Hot 100, May 4, 1968)
“Sweet Inspiration” by the Sweet Inspirations, Atlantic 2476 (No. 18)
“Soul Serenade” by Willie Mitchell, Hi 2140 (No. 30)
“I Will Always Think About You” by the New Colony Six, Mercury 72775 (No. 44)
“I’m Sorry” by the Delfonics, Philly Groove 151 (No. 77)
“I Love You” by People, Capitol 2708 (No. 85)
“Brooklyn Roads” by Neil Diamond, Uni 55065 (No. 124)

Even though they recorded a series of solid soul/R&B albums on their own – seven between 1967 and 1979 for the CCM, Atlantic, Stax and RSO labels – the Sweet Inspirations were likely better known as one of the top groups of background vocalists in the mid- to late 1960s. According to All-Music Guide: “The group evolved from the ’50s gospel group the Drinkard Singers. At various points soul singers Doris Troy, Judy Clay, Dionne Warwick, and sister Dee Dee Warwick were members. By the time they began to record on their own in 1967, their leader was Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney), and the women were renamed the Sweet Inspirations.” Singing along with Houston on “Sweet Inspiration” – taken from the group’s first album – are Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell and Myrna Smith. This week marked the record’s peak position, No. 18, nine weeks after the record first entered the Hot 100. Over the next three weeks, the record would slide to No. 32 and then drop out of the Hot 100 entirely. “Sweet Inspiration” would be the group’s only Top 40 hit.

“Soul Serenade,” which peaked at No. 23 the week after this chart came out, was Willie Mitchell’s second Top 40 hit; “20-75” had gone to No. 31 in 1964. Mitchell’s finest time was still to come, as he spent the last years of the 1960s building a stable of performers, the greatest of whom was Al Green, and refining a sound as recognizable as any in pop music. That Hi Sound, behind O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay and especially Al Green, became an inescapable part of the soundtrack of the Seventies.

The New Colony Six was a soft-rock sextet from Chicago that had two Top 40 hits in 1968 and 1969. “I Will Always Think About You” peaked at No. 22 in the first week of June 1968, and “Things I’d Like To Say” went to No. 16 not quite a year later. The group, as a couple of college friends always told me, was much more popular in its home territory: “I Will Always Think About You” was No. 1 at Chicago’s WLS for one week in March of 1968 and ranked No. 31 in the station’s ranking of the year’s top singles.

“I’m Sorry” was the immediate follow-up to the Delfonics’ “La-La- (Means I Love You),” which had gone to No. 4 and was ranked at No. 26 when “I’m Sorry” entered the Hot 100. It strikes me that issuing a follow-up single – even a single as good as “I’m Sorry” – while the group’s first single is still ranked that highly is being a little hasty. Maybe not; I’ve never been an A&R guy. At any rate, “I’m Sorry” didn’t have the impact “La-La” did: It got as high as No. 42, where it stayed for three weeks before tumbling out of the Hot 100. The Delfonics would reach the Top 40 three more times in 1968 and 1969 before getting back to the Top 10 in 1970 with the luminous “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time).”

“I Love You” was the second Capitol single by People, a sextet from San Jose, California. According to the notes to the four-CD set Love Is The Song We Sing, after the group’s first single went nowhere, “the band took an obscure Zombies flipside and smothered it in Vanilla Fudge.” The single – one of my favorites from that era – went to No. 14 in June 1968 and was the group’s only Top 40 single.

Here’s what Neil Diamond says about “Brooklyn Roads” in the notes to his In My Lifetime box set: “I had just signed with MCA Records and wanted to stretch my creative wings. This is the most literal and personal story I had written up to that point. ‘Brooklyn Roads’ told of my youth and my aspirations. I loved the freedom of being able to write something without the charts in mind.” A week after “bubbling under” at No. 124, “Brooklyn Roads” slid into the Hot 100, eventually making it to No. 58.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966, Vol. 3

July 20, 2011

Originally posted July 21, 2008

One of the joys of music blogging is the occasional discussion that rises up, either here or at other blogs I visit. One of the questions that almost always sparks discussion is an attempt to identify the perfect single. I’ve joined in that conversation at several blogs over the past eighteen months, and my candidate for the perfect pop-rock single is always the same: “Cherish” by the Association.

It’s got a gorgeous melody, wonderfully glistening production (by Curt Boettcher, if I’m not mistaken), and its lyric tells a tale of unrequited love accepted sadly and with grace, probably far more grace than almost any of us could muster when faced with the reality that our beloved will never stand next to us.

I came to know the song in the autumn of 1966, when it was No. 1 for three weeks. It was a record that could not be avoided, even by those who were not particularly enamored of pop and rock. I liked it even though I had no real understanding of its lyric. That came three years later during my junior year. The young lady was kind but made it very clear that her interests were not congruent with mine. The next time I heard “Cherish,” I understood it much better.

It’s one of those songs perfectly crafted to provide teen-age solace: While so many songs about love embraced can be tabbed by happy young couples as “their” song, “Cherish” is one of very few records that a loving yet solitary young person could hold as his own, with the substance and eloquence of the lyric providing both consolation and the awareness – maybe for the first time – that love unreturned is not love in vain.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966, Vol. 3
“Cherish” by the Association, Valiant single 747

“Loving You Takes All Of My Time” by the Debonaires, Solid Hit single 102

“Can’t You See” by the Countdowns, N-Joy single 1015

“Hey Joe” by the Leaves, Mira single 222

“Sweet Wine” by Cream from Fresh Cream

“Must I Holler” by Jamo Thomas, Chess single 1971

“Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” by Lou Rawls, Capitol single 5709

“At the River’s Edge” by the New Colony Six, Centaur single 1202

“Searching For My Love” by Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces, Checker single 1129

“Stanyan Street, Revisited” by Glenn Yarbrough from The Lonely Things

“Cherry, Cherry” by Neil Diamond, Bang single 528

“Happenings Times Ten Years Ago” by the Yardbirds, Epic single 10094

“Pushin’ Too Hard” by the Seeds, GNP Crescendo single 372

A few notes:

The Debonaires – mistakenly listed as the “Debonairs” when “Loving You Takes All Of My Time” was originally released – were Joyce Vincent Wilson and Telma Hopkins, two Detroit-area cousins, and a few other people who, according to All-Music Guide, have never been identified. The group released a number of records on a number of Detroit-area labels in the early to mid-1960s, but never had a single reach the Top 40. Wilson and Hopkins ended up performing with Tony Orlando as Dawn, beginning with Dawn’s second hit, “Knock Three Times” in 1970.

The Leaves’ version of “Hey Joe” may not be the first recording of the song – the song’s lineage is one of those difficult to trace – but it was the first version to chart, reaching No. 31 during the summer of 1966.

The New Colony Six was from Chicago, a decent group that ended up putting two records into the Top 40: “I Will Always Think About You” in 1968 and “Things I’d Like To Say” in 1969. A college friend of mine was from the Windy City and took every opportunity he could during beer-fueled evenings in Denmark to let us know how good the New Colony Six was.

I’ve written here a few times about my affection for two of Glenn Yarbrough’s mid-1960s albums: For Emily Whenever I May Find Her and The Lonely Things. I acquired the first of those on CD some time ago and found the latter online recently. “Stanyan Street, Revisited” is sentimental – with Rod McKuen providing the lyric, how could it not be? – and its production values are clearly more in line with traditional pop than with rock. But set aside irony and give it a listen.

This set ended up with some good garage-y sounds: the Countdowns, the Leaves, the post-Clapton Yardbirds and the Seeds. The Countdowns’ single didn’t chart, and – as noted above – “Hey Joe” went to No. 31. The Yardbirds’ single went to No. 30, and “Pushin’ Too Hard” reached No. 36.

Corrections and clarifications:
I got a note this morning from Patti Dahlstrom, who gently corrected a few errors in my piece on her fourth album, Livin’ It Thru, which I posted here a week ago. She wrote: “Though I did play piano on stage for a song or two, I never played on my records.” The keyboard parts on Livin’ It Thru, she said, came from Larry Knechtel, Michael Omartian, Craig Doerge and Jerry Peters. The credits listed at West Coast Music, which I used as a jumping-off point, are incorrect in listing Daryl Dragon as playing keyboards on the record; Patti said he arranged the background vocals.

She also answered two questions I had: First, the astounding harp solo on the track “Lookin’ For Love” was by Knechtel. And second, Jay Cooper, who was listed in the credits on the record jacket, is Patti’s attorney and has been since 1967, “a powerful man with great heart and integrity . . . quite an unusual combination.”

Edited slightly from original posting.