1960s garage bands were largely a white, male, middle and upper class phenomenon. And Chicago, its mushrooming rings of post-War suburbs home to, well, lots of white teenaged males, would distinguish itself in the ‘60s as a hotbed of band activity.
Their five year history netting them a grand sum of five 45s, the Del-Vetts’ was a typical ‘60s garage band trajectory of line-up changes, commercial aspirations and glimpses, ultimately transitory, of success. The Del-Vetts themselves, though – wild, competent and original – were anything but your typical three-chord garage band. They didn’t attain the same national visibility of mid-‘60s Windy City brethren like the Cryan’ Shames (“Sugar & Spice”) or the Shadows of the Knight (“Gloria”). The Del-Vetts, however, were one of Chicago’s top-tier bands in their day, especially locally, where, matching suits and all, they were briefly able to surround themselves with cars, girls and rock ‘n’ roll, the Holy Trinity of teenage fantasy.
Formed in Chicago in 1963, the quartet consisted early on of Jim Lauer (lead vocals and lead guitar), Bob Good (bass), Lester Goldboss (guitar) and Paul Wade (drums), an incarnation which lasted long enough to record one straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll 45 for the Seeburg label, “Little Latin Lupe Lu” and its instrumental flipside “Ram Charger.”
With a year or two of playing at popular local teen hangouts like the Rolling Stone and the Cellar, and just as many band member shuffles, the band’s line-up – Jim Lauer, Bob Good (now on rhythm guitar), Jack Burchall (bass) and Roger Deatherage (drums) – solidified. This would be the incarnation that issued three singles on producer Bill Traut’s Dunwich Records, where many other outstanding Chicago combos, including stars the Shadows of Knight (of “Gloria” fame), would find a hip industry ally.
1966’s “Last Time Around,” the Del-Vetts’ second 45 and the first of three releases for Dunwich, would be their biggest hit, charting in Chicago and other parts of the Midwest. The single that followed later that year, “I Call My Baby STP,” also on Dunwich, also excellent, underperformed. Rechristening themselves the Pride and Joy in 1967, the group soldiered on for two more 45s, the first, “Girl” (and its flipside “If You’re Ready”) was perhaps their finest moment. The second, “We Got a Long Way to Go” on Acta Records, reflected their end game pop proclivities.
By the 1968 the Del-Vetts were through, the victims of creative differences, a musical landscape leaning towards hippie aesthetics and the obligatory, disillusioning bout with the entertainment industry, Los Angeles-style. A well-worn theme to be explored again and again in Office Naps. This week, the Del-Vetts’ saga.
(Many thanks go to bassist Jack Burchall’s old website for much of this week’s information. Some great pictures there, too.)
1. The Del-Vetts, Last Time Around (Dunwich)
The Yardbirds were British heroes to stateside garage bands, their mid-period guitarist Jeff Beck’s swooping, proto-psychedelic lines in particular fascinating many American guitarists.
The Del-Vetts, intellectual property be damned, plunder Beck’s solo wholesale from the Yardbirds’ “You’re a Better Man Than I” (hear solo here), managing, like so many other American garage bands, to sculpt the English’s innovations into something crazier and more unstable. A bold new direction after their first 45 – a surf record – here the fuzztone ran amok and the lyrics didn’t so much have a message as set the mood, a bleak, chemically wracked mood.
Mid-‘60s garage band 45s all start sounding very much the same at some point, but never “Last Time Around.” Penned, as with all of this week’s selections, by the band’s friend Dennis Dahlquist, it was noncommercial, certainly, and antisocial, absolutely, but the Del-Vetts managed to land “Last Time Around” in the top request spot of Chicago’s AM giant WLS in the summer of 1966. They reportedly drove matching white Corvettes with their earnings. “Last Time Around,” in retrospect, would be their biggest success.
2. The Del-Vetts, I Call My Baby STP (Dunwich)
A somewhat odd throwback after the deadly “Last Time Around.” 1966’s “I Call My Baby STP,” was probably a year or two too late to be hip; it did not fare well on the music charts or among fans expecting the gripping drama of their previous hit. Still, this is really about as good as a hot-rod number gets. The Southern California-style harmonies are there, though there’s a certain surge in the guitars that belies the Del-Vetts’ garage band pedigree, too.
This single was apparently a promotional tie-in with STP, the fuel additive and hot rod culture icon, and included a decal useful for making a cool cultural statement or, alternatively, for holding those unwanted Jan & Dean records together.
3. The Pride and Joy, If You’re Ready (Dunwich)
The Pride and Joy are the Del-Vetts operating under a new name, apparently at the behest of their fan club. Which says something about the group’s commercial aspirations, and something about the wisdom of listening to one’s fan club.
“If You’re Ready,” though not their last record, would be the group’s crowning moment. A return to chart-tested territory, “If You
’re Ready” seems like an attempt to revive the earlier success of “Last Time Around.” It has the same bite, the same Yardbirds-inspired soaring guitar solos. It’s just denser and heavier, doing everything but invent what thunderstruck Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath fans would several years later know as riffage.
Though not as successful as “Last Time Around,” this selection (or rather its A-side, “Girl,” a polished pop number reminiscent of the Hollies) did perform well on the regional charts. Its 1967 release also coincided with the group’s extended visit to Los Angeles, where they’d record their final 45, the Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann composition “We Got a Long Way to Go.” There they’d film for the movie Somebody Help Me as well, a low-budget Dick Clark Production that featured them playing live.
It would mostly be for naught. “We Got a Long Way to Go” was released on the Los Angeles-based Acta label, sounding fairly unremarkable and doing the same on the pop charts. The movie itself was never released. This would be the end of the Del-Vetts/Pride and Joy story.
As far as I can tell, only the group’s bassist Jack Burchall would continue in the music business, enjoying some later, albeit dubious, success with his Jump N’ the Saddle Band’s 1983 novelty hit “The Curley Shuffle.” Sadly, Burchall recently passed on in 1999. Drummer Roger Deatherage currently designs furniture in Houston, Texas.