Sunday, May 20, 2018

Syndicate - "Next 21st of May" b/w "My Baby Kicked the Bucket"

Right in time for May 21st, we have an absolute masterclass in late 60s pop rock. Clear, upfront vocals, strong hooks, and a terrific gimmick. This is wonderfully true for both sides, and both songs are in completely different styles, making for terrific variety. In addition, we have a big ol' history lesson, with photos AND more music to share. Let's dive in!

Tee Pee T45-45/46
 Produced by Wilbur
 Engineered by T.C. Gebheim

Released in February 1968

This, dear readers, is what makes Target Productions the legendary studio that it was. The label's top talent and finest collaborators were at the helm of this single, and everyone involved was firing on all cylinders.

From the production side, Bill "Wilbur" VandenBurgt, Tom "T.C." Gebheim, and Rick "Ricky Leigh" Smolinski, all names that will become quite familiar as this series continues, undoubtedly brought their "A" game into 315 S. Bluemound Ave. on this day.

The five young men in Syndicate, too, were duly prepared, well rehearsed on the tracks, and consummate professionals, with 2 years of rigorous performing and practices under their belt by this point in their careers.

This is a dense disc, so let's break things down piece by piece:

The Band:

Formed in Oshkosh in 1965 as "Syndicate of Sounds," singer Ron Spanbauer, saxophonist Bob Carey, lead guitarist Pat Nugent (no relation,) rhythm guitarist Mike Meidl, bass player Robert Weisheipl, and drummer Bob Misky, wasted no time drawing a heavy following around town. As can be read in the article below, the average age of a band member in Syndicate of Sounds was barely 18. Click the photo for a full sized rendition.
Half page article from Oshkosh edition of Sunday Post Crescent, Sept 12, 1965

However, things were not so sunny of the horizon, as a San Jose, California band with a similar name struck it big that year with a song called "Little Girl." The boys from Oshkosh trimmed their moniker down and kept plugging along.
That "other" Syndicate of Sound

In 1966, they traveled on recommendation from a friend all the way to Minneapolis, Minnesota to record at Kay Bank Studios. The resultant 2 songs were released by Kay Bank's in-house label, Studio City Records, with the band listed as "The Cobblers." Below is audio of side A, though it fades out roughly 8 seconds prematurely.

The band continued on playing the area, making many trips outside their hometown. It was during this period of their career that the band, sans sax but including 3rd guitarist Nick Christus and now known simply as "Syndicate," booked session time at Appleton's Target Recording Studios, and cut today's headline record. Sadly it would also be their last, despite a large catalog of original material.

The Single:

Side A:
Warm fuzzy guitar and a tight drum groove open the track, with call and response licks against the lead vocal. Everything about this song fits the mold of late 60s pop, as it crossed darker psychedelia in the arrangement with lighter bubblegum in the lyrics. One of Ricky Leigh's best, and handled with effortless ease by Spanbauer, Nugent, and the rest of the guys.

Side B:
The popular trope of syncopated, ragtime influence in the style of The Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream" carries the song at a relaxed, loping pace, underpinning the dark humor in the lyrics. An apparently welcome suicide of the singer's partner (by overdose, no less!) is the topic. Lyrically one of the odder tracks on the label, and that is including all of the obtuse psychedelia in tracks by Private Property and Glass Candle! However, given the content of "Smokin' At the Half Note," perhaps this was just their particular sense of humor. The song was co-written by band members Ron Spanbauer and Bob Weisheipl.

The real highlight of the track, however, is the harmonized kazoo break in the middle! Whether live or via overdub, this is certainly a treat, and very well accomplished. It's inclusion undoubtedly helps to take the edge off of the lyrical content, something that the spoken tag at the end doesn't help at all, in fact coming off as more than a little callous.

The aftermath:

Syndicate continued on approximately another year before dissolving amidst changing musical tastes.
Nugent, Meidl and Christus would join Tom Hansen (from Oshkosh's Sunstone Lollypop), Dick Stark, and keyboardist Doug Skoog to form blues rock band Blue Tale Fly in the early 70s.

Blue Tale Fly (photo courtesy Tom Hansen)

They released one single on their own Chief Oshkosh label, in 1971, ostensibly only for promotional purposes.
original record sleeves are ink stamped
It's most notable aspect is that production duties were handled by Bruce Iglauer, Appleton ex-pat who right around this time moved to Chicago and set up the now well known and still active Alligator Records, a haven for Chicago blues musicians including Hound Dog Taylor. By 1974, however, Blue Tale Fly was no more, with several members going on to new band Jack Nasty, and others joining members of Fond du Lac band White Duck to become Scratch.

A YouTube video with "Let The Band Rock," the original track from the single (side B being a Bob Dylan cover,) underscoring several photos of the band is available here:
1974 ad for Blue Tale Fly, supporting
Flo and Eddie (Oshkosh Advance Titan)

The Recording Staff:

Ricky Leigh

Where do we begin?! Ricky Leigh Smolinski (born January 10, 1941) was there at the very start of the rock and roll boom. Mention his name to any local rock musician over 50, and you will hear nothing but reverent praise for his talents. Reports have the Menasha native outplaying his guitar teachers by 10th grade, and in 1957, aged only 15, he stepped into Wausau's Northland Sound Studios with Johnny Edwards and the White Caps (a not too subtle nod to Gene Vincent's Blue Caps,) and recorded the first Wisconsin Rock and roll record.

Ricky Leigh (far right) with The White Caps, Wisconsin's
first rock and roll band to cut and release a record

It's important to note that both cuts were penned by Smolinski. Ricky's talents for writing, as well as playing, were evident to all those around him, and he is credited with most of the recorded tracks that he performed on, as well as being tapped to provide tunes for artists such as Syndicate and Speedy & the Alka-Seltzers! He may in fact, be one of the most prolific Fox Valley songwriters of his time, rivaled only by Private Property/Soup's Doug Yankus, at least in terms of recorded songs.

Selected band membership:
  • The Jitterbugs (high school band with classmates Dave Pozolinski and Bob Timmers)
  • Johnny Edwards and the White Caps (with Jerry Williams (Van Dynhoven) and Dave Pozolinski)
  • Jerry Williams and the Rockets
  • Kenny King & the Be Bops
  • The Flaming Coals (With T.C. Gebheim, Glenn Kastner, Jerry Cole, and Ricky Leigh)
  • The Temptations (with Oshkosh saxophonist Roger Loos)
  • The 13th Hour (with Bill "Wilbur" VandenBurgt and James "Jimmy Joe" VanHoof)
  • The In-Crowd/4th of Never (with Noie, Dave Hermsen, and Be Bops drummer Darryl Jaeger)
  • Ricky and Raylene (one-off studio project with Raylene Loos)
  • Glen Cass Show band (with Glenn Kastner, Jerry Lakes Laridaen and April Walker)
  • California Earthquake
  • Resurrection (Flaming Coals reunion)
1974 Resurrection promo, showing same members in same poses
10 years apart. Embroidered blazers and Beatle Boots made way
for white turtlenecks and bell bottoms! (click to enlarge)

T.C. Gebheim

One of the few people about whom Al Posniak wrote an entire entry in the original Rockin' Round The Valley, Thomas "T.C." Gebheim was clearly a well respected member of the music community. He played drums in Jerry Williams and the Rockets for a time, and was good friends with Green Bay's (and later Los Angeles') Jerry Cole, playing drums in The Flaming Coals.
From top to bottom: Gebheim, Ricky Leigh, and Glen Cass
in an early Flaming Coals lineup (photo courtesy Glenn Kastner)
The Risers, one of the bigger label projects of
Jerry Cole, Glenn Cass and Tom Gebheim

After a stint with Cole in Los Angeles, writing and performing on several independent projects, Gebheim returned to the Fox Valley, where he became a highly trusted member of the Target team, engineering sessions, producing bands' material for recording, and occasionally filling in when session musicians were needed. As producer, his name adorns some of the best sounding and catchiest records that Target, and by extension the entire Fox Valley scene of the 1960's, ever released. The man knew how to make a rock and roll record, that's for sure!

May 13, 1966 edition of Al Posniak's Rockin' Round the Valley
(scan courtesy Glenn Kastner)

After the dissolution of Target, Tom went back to playing in local bands, though whether he recorded professionally again is not clear. His name does not appear on any of Dan Liebhauser's DBL International releases, and production and engineering duties had been largely handed to Jim Lopas.
Gebheim (top) with Norm and Glenn Cass ca. 1969
(photo courtesy Glenn Kastner)

In his later years, Tom moved to Arizona, and worked very successfully as a BMW dealer, drumming part time until 2013. He is currently still there, enjoying retirement. He still keeps in touch with his cohorts Glenn Cass and April Walker. He is very proud of his accomplishments, and the Fox Valley is proud to call him one of their own.
T.C. Gebheim, a man with the rhythm of rock and roll
in his heart (photo courtesy Glenn Kastner)

Appleton Post-Crescent, Nov. 11, 1966
VandenBurgt, ca. 1966
as a member of The Faro's


William VandenBurgt, Bill to his friends, and "Wilbur" to those who only know him via his portmanteau pseudonym, was by all accounts a true rock and roller. A multi-instrumentalist, best known for his skills behind the keyboard, VandenBurgt was member of, or sat in with, many bands in the Fox Valley through the early 1960's. His stint as keyboardist in The Faro's put him in contact with many
in the Appleton music community, and he eventually found himself producing, engineering or sitting in on many Target sessions. His keyboard work can be found on a wide array of Target's output.

In the late 60s, VandenBurgt joined with Terry Lee Cooper (of Terry Lee and the Sonics), Ricky Leigh, Gary Laabs (of Snow and the later lineup of the Flaming Coals), Mike Larscheid (from Green Bay's The People), and several others to form Cheese. This Fox Valley "supergroup" did record at several sessions at Target (though none were issued), and will come up as the focus of a later article.
Cheese promotional photo. Wilbur (right) on bass guitar
(photo courtesy Gary Fitz, Kimmer Hanagan, and
Photo Memories of Appleton WI: 1950-1990 FB group)
In the late 70s, VandenBurgt pursued a passion for entrepreneurship, opening Champagne Charlie's on N. Appleton Street, near downtown. When it closed, he moved up near Eagle River for a few years before getting the itch to reopen. Charlie's second home was at 211 W. College Ave., in the well known Art Deco-styled "Gibson" building. After a second closing, he returned to Vilas County where he passed away in 2006. He is still dearly missed by his friends and former band mates.

How do all these personalities fit together?

It's possible that Ricky Leigh and Tom Gebheim were familiar with each other from school, both having attended Menasha High School at roughly the same time, or that they met while each passed through the ever revolving line-up of Jerry Williams' Rockets, or later as members of The Flaming Coals. VandenBurgt and Gebheim's first meeting is currently lost to time (they did appear together in the 1966 Flaming Coals lineup), but they were both involved heavily in sessions at Target from the very beginning. The Faro's (yes, that is the official spelling) cut one of the label's early releases, with Wilbur on keys, and Tom co-arranging (with Gary Laabs). That however is a story for another day.

Regardless of the circumstances, by 1968, all three were deeply embedded within the Appleton rock scene. Tom and Wilbur had been engineering and producing for Target for nearly 2 years, and Ricky had been involved in several releases for the label, including his (Ricky) and Wilbur's band The 13th Hour's "Badger Beat" b/w "Alright and About Time" (possibly the label's earliest official release in October 1966), and 1967's collaboration with Roger Loos' then wife Raylene on the duet "It Must Be Love." Leigh wrote and produced the track, as well as the flip side "Light of Day" (with Al Posniak producing). It is unknown, however highly likely, that either VandenBurgt or Gebheim (or both) were involved in the elaborate production that is "Light of Day." These men were a well oiled rock production machine.

 An interesting side note; this isn't the only example in Target's catalog of a kazoo solo! Future spotlight recording "Clara Bloomtree" by Milwaukee's Shaprel's has a kazoo/whistling duet lead, as well as (not to spoil too many surprises) slide whistle and duck call! No "instrument" was seemingly off limits, and Target's team was absolutely willing to experiment in search of hit-making gimmicks.

After all, that is the ultimate goal for the majority of these discs: get attention, get a national contract, make it big. While this particular slab of plastic didn't do that, Posniak and his team were only months from their first taste of the big time. By August, they will have licensed the master for Love Society's first single to New York's Scepter Records, and that band would be on their way to cutting a second single with Scepter for the national (and in fact, international) market. More on that to come ;)

315 S. Bluemound Ave. today (photo via Google StreetView)
1968 was an intensely busy year for Target Productions (and the world at large.) We will see the number of releases in 1968 nearly tie 1967's count (nearly 20 singles were released in each of those calendar years, forming more than half of the studio's released output spanning autumn 1966 to mid-1972.)

For more on The White Caps and the beginning of Wisconsin's recorded rock history, please check out Musicmaster Oldies. They've written the comprehensive tale of the birth of rock and roll in Wisconsin.
Watch for our profiles of The Faro's, The 13th Hour, Ricky and Raylene, Speedy & the Alka-Seltzers, Love Society, Glenn Cass and many others, coming soon! As always, Keep Rockin'!

Appleton Post Crescent Sept. 12, 1965 (Oshkosh edition)
Myers, Gary E. "Do You Hear That Beat"
Musicmaster Oldies
Prellberg, Mark "Lost and Found, vol. 2"
Posniak, Alan Rockin' Round the Valley

Thanks to Glenn Kastner for information on T.C. Gebheim's early career., many cool stories and lots of incredible photos.

Thank you to Joe Accardi for providing the Post Crescent scan detailing so much of SoS's early days.

Thanks to Kim Hanagan and crew for establishing the "Photo Memories Of Appleton WI: 1950-1990" Facebook group as a repository for wonderful memories of the city and its history. Please visit his site, and share your memories.

Special thanks to Joe Bongers and the Menasha Public Library staff for access to their archival copies of the Appleton Post Crescent.

All posted audio is copyrighted to its owners. RRtV does not claim any ownership of the recordings.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Father Time - "I'm Gonna Get Out" b/w "Tomorrow Will Never Come Again" feat. Sefeldt & Greene

Welcome back, readers, to our first full article. is very pleased to bring you today's piece. This record marks an important milestone for our project. With this acquisition, RRtV is only 10 discs from a complete library of known Target Productions releases. This spans roughly 70 singles and nearly a dozen LPs! Several of these records have been entirely unknown until our discoveries, and we are looking forward to showcasing them all to you, dear readers!

As with all of our posts, please comment if you like the story, or if you have information to share about the music, and especially if you can help us flesh out the details behind any of our featured artists (photos and recordings are HIGHLY encouraged, but we love to hear stories from you as well!)

Anyway, on with the show...

Target Records T-2001

Produced by Dan Liebhauser Engineered by Jim Lopas

Today's release comes from 1971, during a big shift in direction for Target. Records are coming out far less frequently, and focus is shifting from younger pop acts to more mature, adult led groups. Producer/A&R lead Dan Liebhauser (a name now synonymous with the Oshkosh based Country USA festival,) is playing an ever increasing role in the business end of Target Productions, and by the end of 1972 will have taken over operations at 1919 North Lake St in Neenah, eventually re-branding as DBL International. More on that in a future post.

Both sides of the disc are covers of songs by Canadian band The Bells.

From their sophomore LP Fly, Little White Dove, Fly, "I'm Gonna Get Out" and "Yesterday Will Never Come Again" are fairly simple early 70s pop. "Yesterday..." has a light country pop flair that wouldn't put it too far out of place for some of Mike Nesmith's early country-tinged Monkees tracks (though decidedly lacking the musical ambition of such.) It's also interesting to note that the break-out single from the album, "Stay Awhile," was so successful that Bells' label Polydor repackaged the LP later that same year re-titling it to match the single and updating its cover art. This is a not uncommon practice, even today.

late 1971 reissue cover art

 "Stay Awhile" the single, for reference, stayed on the Billboard chart for 10 weeks in 1971, peaking in May at #8, and at #1 on the RPM 100 in their home country.

from the Bells LP:

These two tracks are an interesting choice of cover material, as unlike most of the album neither song was issued as a single. It is possible that they had local radio play. Early FM disc jockeys had a bit more freedom in what they played, and full album sides, such as the one on which these songs are buried, were the format of the day.

The Jim Lopas engineered, Dan Liebhauser produced recordings carry the trademark sound of Target in its waning years. Clear, upfront vocals and defined upper mid-range with diminished bass response. Clearly these recordings were still targeted (no pun intended) for AM radio and lower end home record players, still being pressed in mono despite stereo singles had generally become the standard for most labels past 1970. Whether these were mixed as mono, or the master recordings were requested to be folded down during the mastering and pressing phases is unknown.

from Father Time single:

So who are Father Time? We don't quite know. According to Gary Myers, the band included Al Jebavy, formerly of the Manitowoc-area garage band the Chevelles on guitar/keybord/horns, Bob Hinze of the Vikings on bass, Steven Feudner on guitar, and Darrel Mand, late of the Chain Gang on drums. Sadly, Jebavy passed away in 2001. Mand ran a music store through the 1970's, and currently still lives and works in Plymouth, WI. We are planning on getting in touch to hopefully fill the gaps in our knowledge base. Hinze and Feudner's whereabouts are currently unknown. We also have no info on who "Sefedlt & Greene" were. If any of our readers have more info, please comment below, email us directly or join the discussion at our Facebook Group.

Darrell Mand, from 1962 Sheboygan South High School yearbook

And now the technical stuff. Target T-2001 is currently the earliest confirmed release in the silver label series of singles. These were released between 1971 and 1972, during the final years that Target was owned by Al Posniak. It was clearly a time of transition and reinvention, as is exhibited by the script logo on silver backing, the only known disc of its kind in Target's discography. Subsequent releases all have the logo as "target." in lowercase with a final period. It hindsight, the subdued banner with miniscule font and full stop along with the gray background seem rather dour, considering the labels eventual fate.

Examples of other silver label Target singles

Another note; "Yesterday..." features a guest artist byline to "Sefeldt & Greene," two people we have absolutely no information on. Any sleuths out there should take note: "Sefeldt" is possibly a typo, as the common spelling in Wisconsin is "Seefeldt." Misspelled last names will be a repeated theme across Target and Tee Pee's label, though as an independant record company in the 60s/early 70s, they were far from the only offender.

Myers, Gary E. "On That Wisconsin Beat"

All posted audio is copyrighted to its owners. RRtV does not claim any ownership of the recordings.

From Andy; A word on restoration.

Good morning and a very Happy Mother's Day, from RRtV! Our first big post is headed your way today, but before it drops, I just wanted to share a bit about audio restoration, and explain what we are doing here at Rockin' Central. I will be popping in from time to time with post like this, just trying to share the whats-and-whys and some behind the scenes on a project of this scope.

Getting the best out of an analog medium, be it audio tape, an old reel of film, or in our case (generally) a 45 record, comes with many caveats. Condition, playback equipment, and digital capture all factor into how a recording will eventually sound. That ignores completely the content itself. At no time will we ever attempt to "improve" upon the established work. Every tape error, flubbed note, and missed harmony will remain exactly as committed to the recording.

We here at RRtV feel an obligation to treat these records with absolute respect and a very light touch in regards to restoration. Each discs will undergo an exacting cleaning process, will be play tested for physical damage as well as pressing defects, reproduced on a turntable set up specifically for the medium of 7-inch 45 RPM discs, run through period correct preamps, and captured digitally at 96/24 (well within resolution spec for archival purposes.) From there, we will meticulously and non-destructively remove as much of the sonic debris as possible, leaving us with a clean representation of that recording as it was intended to be heard.

Needless to say, as currently a one person operation, this will take some time. Bearing that in mind, audio shared in blog posts, on Facebook, and via our Soundcloud page will be what call "raw captures." This is audio sourced straight from the original discs, direct to CD, but without any restoration work. This allows us to be able to get this music to you faster, and deliver content that we feel expresses the nostalgia of our intent. This also protects our restoration efforts in the event that we are able to professional reissue any of it in the future.

As this series continues, I will be detailing our equipment, the rationale behind its selection, and the specific steps we are taking to revive many lost gems, and preserve them in the best possible way for future generations to enjoy.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

We have a Facebook group, and more ways to connect with us!

Watch for news from this page, connect with other fans, and see artifacts from our journey to preserve Target Productions!

Join us at Rockin' Round the Valley Facebook Group!

Anytime we plan to update the blog, we will give a heads up at the group. Additionally, items too small for a blog post will arrive there first, and only hit the blog once we have several like items to make a decent sized post.

Want to reach us directly? No problem!

Call us!

Email RRtV at TeePeeAppleton (at) Gmail dot com
(Please make sure to title your message relative to what you are writing about)

Keep Rockin'!