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:
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.
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.
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.
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|
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:
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)
|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)
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)|
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"
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.