San Antonio

Thousands of garage bands flourished weed-like in mid-‘60s America, their thousands of 45 rpm records basically reflecting the homogeneity of suburbs which spawned them. There were vague regional variations in sound amongst the American garage bands, but such variations seemed to owe more to regional individuation amongst radio stations, music stores, record stores, venues, producers, and recording studios. Cultural differences amongst these regions, if they existed at all, seem pretty insignificant – at least as far any influence might’ve had on the garage band phenomenon itself.

The burgeoning post-War suburbs of San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas/Ft. Worth teemed with their own independent teen rock ‘n’ roll scenes in the ‘60s. No surprises there. Defying the standardizing logic of the suburbs, however, there did actually seem to be something to Texan garage bands that was more than just the sum of their logistical parts. As with this week’s selections from San Antonio, there was something about many of the Texas groups which favored elemental madness and raw energy and raw-ness over subtlety. While it wasn’t universal by any means, there is something indisputably Texan about these – something which was overdriven and which was drinking beer long before you or your older brother.

1. The Rightly Sew, Lights Brightly Shining (Alamo Audio)
They’d read about it in Life magazine, they’d watched the news exposes, and they wanted some of it, too. A way out of the Vietnam War – or a way out of the suburban lifestyle of their parents. Drugs or spiritual enlightenment, sex or free love. Some of it was standard adolescent lust masquerading as counterculture. Some of it was desire for something genuinely new. You name it, though, and there were rebellious kids from the suburbs who were looking for it in 1967.

The Rightly Sew seemed dead set on something new that year, their weird, nervous energy and weird, nervous chord progressions obviating the need for anything so conventional as a solo or catchy chorus. Whether the Rightly Sew ever successfully clanged their way to something new is anyone’s guess – they were never heard from again after “Lights Brightly Shining.”

This 45 is one of the more obscure on Alamo Audio, a San Antonio record label with a reputation for releases by the area’s wilder garage bands.

(Ed. note: Thanks to Dominic Welhouse for providing this 45 to Office Naps.)

2. The Bourbons, Of Old Approximately – A Time for a Change (Royal Family)
If one of the eternal motifs of 1960s garage bands was declaring war on female perfidy, then fuzztone guitar and weedy Farfisa organ was its unofficial soundtrack. The Bourbons charted exactly such territory with the raw “Of Old Approximately – A Time For a Change,” bolstering their ill-advised vows with an almost comical amount of self-assurance and attitude.

It’s success, of course, that’s the ultimate revenge. While I can’t vouch for the singer or whether he ever got the desired vindication, “Of Old Approximately…” is off the charts in terms of emotional wipeout. In terms of record sales, of course, it was probably a disaster.

From 1967, this was the one and only record by the Bourbons.

3. The Outcasts, 1523 Blair (Gallant)
Like the Rightly Sew, the Outcasts dispensed with some of the formal musical conventions that were the bread and butter of mid-1960s rock ‘n’ roll. They left the pop lyrics behind – they left all decipherable lyrics behind, actually – a move which may have struck some as brazenly futuristic and others as just frustrating. They had no time for catchy choruses. Guitar solo? Not really – it’s all happening so fast!

The Outcasts must be praised for their unorthodoxy, however – they were busy doing everything but inventing punk rock in 1967. The music on this selection is jarringly experimental, the spirit is possessed fervor. “1523 Blair” is one minute and forty seven seconds long because it couldn’t have possibly been any longer.

This was the fifth and last release from the Outcasts, a fantastic band who dominated the San Antonio teen scene of the mid-‘60s, and whose business card read “Music from the OUTER LIMITS.” At the time of this record, the Outcasts included Buddy Carson (keyboards, harmonica), Rickey Wright (drums), Galen Niles (guitar), Jim Carsten (guitar), and Jim Ryan (bass).

1523 Blair, incidentally, was the address of Texas producer Lelan Rogers’ recording studio in Houston, thus making this the second time in less than nine months for the
same Kenny Rogers reference.

Thanks to Jim Ryan and Denny Turner for their memories of the band, and for the amazing music.

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12 Responses to San Antonio

  1. Happy In Bag says:

    The Bourbons win! But you’re right- “1523 Blair” is mighty prescient.

  2. Anonymous says:

    These are all amazing.

    But I say the Outcasts win for their use of the Echoplex in the intro. God Bless echo.

  3. dhaffner says:

    I learned about this blog through soulsides a few weeks back and I’ve enjoyed every post of yours since. Being from San Antonio myself makes this particular post a real treat. Thanks man.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What a coincidence… I just happened to be listening to this track (on a Teenage Shutdown comp. CD) when i read your latest post. I love this song, very intense.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Correction: with “this song” I meant “1523 Blair”. But The Bourbons are quite good too !

  6. I first heard “1523 Blair” on some weird French compilation in college; it FLOORED me. I just couldn’t get over its intensity and crazed energy.

    That Teenage Shutdown series really is still the best thing going in garage comps, I think. Even better than the Back from the Grave series which (sort of) preceded them.

  7. brett says:

    By God Danny, You’ve done it again.

  8. Thanks B.K., I dedicate the Outcasts’ echoplex intro to you, young man.

  9. Anonymous says:

    1523 Blair is the address of Doyle Jones’ Studio in Houston.
    was still there coupla years ago, not sure bout now.

    the song was named by San Antonio DJ named Conn L. Hamen,
    who was one of the backers of the session.

    the intro used a Fender Tape Echo
    (using a “Big Ugly Orange Gretsch Chet Atkins Model through a
    Fender Showman”).

    info courtesy of Galen Niles.

    these are 3 muy cool songs, and
    also pretty scarce.

  10. Thanks for the tech. and background info on “1523 Blair.” It’s pretty great to imagine some big fat Gretsch being wielded for this session; not your typical garage band guitar.

  11. b. brown says:

    Fantastic post. Office Naps has easily become one of my faves, and this could be my fave post yet.

  12. The Skirj says:

    outcasts song is way ahead of its time…and i think youll find if you look around some that many other states had their own regional sound…

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