Category Archives: Updates

The Plum Beach Incident / Dave Yarnell

It was terrific to speak recently to Dave Yarnell, guitarist and singer with the Plum Beach Incident, whose sterling “Pretty Thing” I first featured back in 2010 in a post surveying ‘60s jangle pop.  A warm, friendly gentlemen whose continued passion for music was obvious, Dave filled me in on some of his ‘60s band history, and the story of the Plum Beach Incident.

Early life and Dantes

The son of an educator, Yarnell was born in Sacramento, CA, relocating with his family early in life to his family’s home state of Ohio, where he grew up.  Inspired by West Coast surf music and the rock ‘n’ roll of pre-British-Invasion groups like the Beach Boys, the Kingsmen, and Ventures, the self-taught Yarnell began playing guitar in the sixth or seventh grade.

The early version of the Dantes.  Playing at Ohio State University, circa 1964.
Early version of the Dantes. Playing at Ohio State University, circa 1964.

In high school Yarnell and his classmate Richard Wakefield formed an early edition of the Dantes.   (Yarnell referenced local group the Electras – the future Fifth Order – as an inspiration, noting their musical equipment and use of bar chords in particular.)

An early songlist for the Dantes
An early songlist for the Dantes, circa 1964

Halfway through high school in 1965, Yarnell moved with his family to Falls Church, Virginia, a town just outside the D.C. beltway. The Dantes would go on to eventually enjoy some success – a few of their 45s charted in Ohio – but, by that point, Yarnell was no longer with the group.

Ye Bay Rums

Yarnell was serious about music.   “I had a natural ear for harmony” – and he’d sometimes be seen carrying an inverted history book to strengthen the chording muscles in his hands.  He wasted no time in founding a new group, Ye Bay Rums, as a junior at George Mason High School.

Ye Bay Rums included Tim Woolsey (drums), George Cotner (Hammond organ and vocals), Tom Turrisi (bass) and Yarnell (guitar and vocals).  The group played local events, dances (“Great money for kids in high school”) and the occasional opening slot for touring artists like the Ohio Express and Wilson Pickett.  The group’s repertoire featuring period covers (Beatles, Sam & Dave, Young Rascals, Wilson Pickett) along with the occasional band original like Yarnell’s “Picture with the Eyes that Move” and Cotner’s “Love Came on” and “Let Me Make it Up.”  Yarnell also played cornet in his high school’s band and would, along with Cotner (a fellow horn player) be seen grabbing his horn onstage for covers of “Land of 1000 Dances” and “Midnight Hour” and other period soul and R&B.

Ye Bay Rums made some demo records for Lionel Hampton’s Glad Hamp Records, but, while there was commercial interest, nothing was actually released.  By 1967 Yarnell had graduated high school and began attending Corcoran School of Art in D.C..  Ye Bay Rums would disband in 1968.

Plum Beach Incident

The Plum Beach Incident was started around 1968 by Art Morales, a colorful local musician who modeled himself on guitarist Eric Clapton, then with Cream.

Plum Beach Incident
The Plum Beach Incident. (front, l-r): Arturo Morales, Sharon Theet, Johnny Smith, Karen Theet, Keith Edwards; (rear): Steve Croson.  Note: Yarnell is not pictured.

Yarnell’s involvement began upon answering an audition ad posted by Morales at a local music store in 1968.  The group – which would largely coalesce through Morales – would come to include Johnny Smith (keyboards), Steve Croson (bass), both previously of the Organic Cavemen – a popular Northern Virginia band, Keith Edwards (drums – the “hippie-est,” according to Yarnell), and the telegenic singers (and sisters) Sharon and Karen Theet.    Everybody in the group sang.  The group was listening to and performing a lot of West Coast psychedelic rock at the time. (Yarnell also cited the Bee Gees’ “Words,” the Doors’ “Love me Two Times” and covers of Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield, with the Theet sisters assuming lead vocal duties.

The Plum Beach Incident playing the Knights of Columbus hall in 1968
The Plum Beach Incident playing the Knights of Columbus hall in 1968. (l-r): Steve Croson, Sharon Theet, Karen Theet, Dave Yarnell, Johnny Smith, Arturo Morales, Keith Edwards.

The Plum Beach Incident played live around northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, attaining enough local celebrity to land opening slots for nationally-known artists like Vanilla Fudge as they came through the area. The group also shared stages with local groups of the day like the Fallen Angels, the English Setters, and later, the Cherry People.

Envelope direct from Orpheum Records.  Postmark August 1968.
Envelope direct from Orpheum Records to Arturo Morales. Postmark August 1968.

The Plum Beach Incident, Pretty Thing

The group’s management team helped facilitate the recording session that led to “Pretty Thing” along with its flipside “Summer Love.”  The session took place over the course of a few days in New York City in August 1968.  The lyrics were handed to the Plum Beach Incident, the arrangement and interpretation were entirely the group’s own.   In addition to the 45, a few other songs were also recorded in that time to acetate, including an original, “You Need a Friend.”

Plum Beach Incident, 1968
Plum Beach Incident, 1968. (l-r): Steve Croson, Sharon Theet, Arturo Morales.

Despite its potential – “Summer Love” was discussed for placement in a Clairol advertisement at one point – the 45 was not a commercial success.   It probably didn’t help that its release was delayed in deference to Gary Lewis and the Playboys’ version of “Pretty Thing,” or that Orpheum Records, along with its sister label Pop-Side, was winding down its operations by the late ‘60s.

The group lasted less than two years, the pressures of the draft, drug busts, lifestyle changes, pregnancies and family life eventually finally catching up with them.

After the Plum Beach Incident

Of the group, it was bassist Steve Croson – he passed away in 2010 – who enjoyed the most success in the music world – playing and singing on a number of Nashville country sessions, touring for years with various country music artists and, in recent years, founding the Roy Orbison tribute show “In Dreams.”

Yarnell enlisted for a stint in the Air Force as an AF Illustrator after being drafted in 1969, and would afterwards return to finish his studies in fine art.  He started a family along the way, worked as a graphic artist and, later, as a licensed boat captain between D.C. and the Florida Keys.  Dave still plays music, and currently can be heard playing around northern Virginia as Capt. Dave and the Neptunes.

Many thanks to Dave Yarnell for the archival photos, and for this interview.

Posted in Garage Bands, Psychedelic/Pop, Updates | 5 Comments

The Guild Light Gauge

It was my pleasure to recently speak with Fern Nash, the singer in both the Guild Light Gauge and Collection, whose 45s I featured back in May 2011.

This was something of a coup – there was so little that existed in the way of details about these 45s.   I was additionally surprised to learn that the two 45s were in fact directly connected through Fern and members of the Guild Light Gauge.  (I had originally written about the Collection and the Guild Light Gauge as entirely separate entities, connected only by a shared label and arrangement/production team.)

I’m thrilled to at last be able to provide some more details about the Guild Light Gauge, the Collection and Fern Nash.

Born Fern Kaufman in 1947, Fern grew up with two sisters in Queens, New York, her father a jeweler by trade, her mother a housewife.  While her father occasionally sang, Fern was, of her family, the one most inclined to music – she displayed an ear for playing music early on, picking out tunes overheard from her older sister’s piano lessons.  She also wrote lyrics, and loved harmony singing, teaching herself how to play guitar and flute along the way.

Fern entered Queens College in 1965, studying to be a teacher.  There she met fellow Queens College student Eddie Simon (Paul’s brother – they vocally sounded quite similar, apparently).  The two started harmonizing together during impromptu singing sessions at fraternity house events.   It was Eddie who introduced Fern to Ann Willcocks, then also a student, and from this trio of singers the Guild Light Gauge formed.

The Guild Light Gauge, from a series of publicity photos. Fern Kaufman (Fern Nash), Eddie Simon, Ann Willcocks. Bass player Stuie is in glasses. Note incorrect spelling of "Gauge."

Paul Simon and Artie (as he was known) Garfunkel were both around Queens College as well, and it was Paul who dubbed this new group the Guild Light Gauge, a name based on a particular weight of Guild guitar strings.

The Guild Light Gauge live at the Bitter End

The Guild Light Gauge live at the Bitter End, Greenwich Village. (l-r) Fern Kaufman (Fern Nash), Eddie Simon, Ann Willcocks.

A fourth member, Stuie, joined them a bit later, playing bass for the group.

The Guild Light Gauge, whose focus from the start was on harmonies, were absorbed into the New York City folk scene.  Their time together would include not only a residency at Greenwich Village’s Bitter End in 1968, but a variety of more unlikely appearances, from Long Island racetracks to a spot opening for Spanky & Our Gang in West Virginia.  In these years, Nash cited everything from the Everly Brothers to the Critters (“Mr. Dyingly Sad”) to Laura Nyro and the Beatles as favorites, but singled out the lyrics and music of Joni Mitchell as an influence.

The Guild Light Gauge, Cloudy
The Guild Light Gauge, CloudyBoth the Guild Light Gauge 45 (“Cloudy” b/w “14th Annual Fun & Pleasure Fair”) and Collection 45 (“Both Sides Now” b/w “Tomorrow is a Window”) were recorded while Fern was still in college.

The Collection, Both Sides Now (The Hot Biscuit Company P-1455)The Collection, Both Sides Now

The Collection 45 was recorded at a different session than the Guild Light Gauge, and again featured the vocals of members of the Guild Light Gauge – that’s Fern heard as soloist on “Both Sides Now” – though without Willcocks’s participation.  Both Jimmy Wisner and Artie Kornfeld were also on hand during these sessions.

While steeped in gorgeous, period-specific production and studio accoutrement, these vinyl releases did not necessarily reflect the largely acoustic format of the Guild Light Gauge, according to Fern.

Fern graduated from college in 1969 – in time to make it to Woodstock later that summer – and moved to Boston, there joining a group of folk singers named AHS. Recently married, and with her license to teach, Fern would relocate back to New York City in 1972, where in coming years she worked a variety of gigs, sessions and engagements on the periphery of the music world, including singing jazz (with the Bones of Contention – thirteen trombones!), writing jingles for Hudson’s, acting in commercials and joining a local musical theatre group.  In 1986, Fern began teaching music at Public School 139 (in Rego Park, Queens), and led her elementary school students in the Public School 139 Glee Club (who were featured singing at televised sporting events at Madison Square Garden and Shea Stadium).

Fern Nash, retired since 2010 from P.S. 139, and living in Bayside, Queens, has a full-grown daughter and son-in-law (both music major graduates), and a two-year-old grandson who enjoys the music he’s surrounded by.  Fern’s long-time love for singing and arranging continues to this day – she owns, and still plays, the piano she learned on as a child.

Note: Fern remained close friends with Ann Willcocks after the Guild Light Gauge dissolved.  Willcocks, who worked at Sony Music for many years (eventually rising to a Vice President position), is now retired and living in Atlanta, Georgia, and, according to Fern, still sings in her church’s choir.

Finally, there’s great YouTube footage of Paul playing “Anji,” with Eddie joining him on guitar (and Fern Nash making an appearance around 1:40).

Posted in Psychedelic/Pop, Updates | 3 Comments

Jeri Simpson

I first posted Jeri Simpson’s “In My Black Lace” back in 2006.  It has been one of the great mysteries around here, a marvelous, truly one-of-a-kind recording whose story I’d long given up hopes of ever learning.  But I’m happy at last to have some more conclusive details on Jeri Simpson.  Many, many thanks to her niece Susan and nephew James, who contacted me recently.

Jeri Simpson, circa early '60s

Jeri Simpson, circa early '60s. Jeri is seated second from the left. Her sister Doris is seated third from the right. Her brother Bill Simpson, one of the authors behind "Black Lace," is seated with his wife across from Jeri. Photo courtesy of Susan

Born Louise Geraldine Simpson in the 1920s, Jeri Simpson came up in a musical family in the Chicago area.  It was, more to the point, a large family – Jeri, as she was better known amongst her family, was the youngest of ten children.  Music was a strong presence in the Simpsons’ lives, with the five girls of the family forming a singing group growing up.  (Susan’s mother Laura sang and played piano for the family.)

Two of the brothers – Jack and Bill, the authors behind “In My Black Lace” – were also drawn to singing and writing songs early on.   Incidentally, another sister, Doris, later achieved some fame as screen siren Doris Merrick.

Jeri Simpson, In My Black Lace (Sun-Kist S700)Jeri Simpson, In My Black Lace

Jeri had been in California for some time already – since the late ‘30s – when she recorded “In My Black Lace” in 1957.  The session occurred in Los Angeles when Jeri was in her mid-thirties, and somewhere around the time of her marriage to Jay Ranellucci.  Ranellucci worked deep in the music industry as a recording engineer and mixer for a decades-long stretch at Capitol Records between 1957 and 2007.  (Ranellucci’s resume included not only the jazz-pop of Peggy Lee and Nancy Wilson, but also crucial early rock ‘n’ roll by Gene Vincent, country by Hank Thompson and Merle Haggard, FM radio rock by Steve Miller and the Band, and psychedelic jazz excursions by David Axelrod and the Fourth Way – among many others.)

Jeri Simpson in California, circa 1948 or 1950

Jeri Simpson in California, circa 1948 or 1950. Photo courtesy of Susan.

It seems likely, given Jay Ranellucci’s connections to the music industry and, in particular, to Los Angeles-based jazz guitarist Barney Kessel, that he also played some role in engineering the “In My Black Lace” session.   Either way, it is a captivating recording to this day, an expertly produced exercise in moody jazz, Jeri borrowing a bit of Julie-London-style sensuality while imbuing it with her own wholly unique “exotic” flavor.

Jeri had, according to family members, a “sultry,” “sexy” aspect.  No surprise, given the evocative atmosphere of “In My Black Lace.”   But she was also a housewife and mother (one daughter) who raised dobermans and rottweilers as a hobby, and alas this 45 seems to have been her only commerical recording, at least to anyone’s knowledge.

Given the quality of both “In My Black Lace” – which seems clearly to have been written for Jeri – and its flipside “Sugar” and Simpson’s obvious vocal talents, it’s too bad.  But as her niece Susan noted, “[she] wanted to be a singer but never pursued her dream.”

Jeri Simpson passed away in 2012.

Posted in Exotica/Space-Age, Jazz Obscura, Updates | 5 Comments

A slightly new look

It’s needed to happen for forever but I just got around to changing Office Naps’ look; i.e., getting away from some of the more obvious WordPress formatting.

Lots of obvious tweaks in form/function still need to be made over the weekend.  All and any feedback is appreciated, but if anyone (especially any web programmers/designers) notices any esoteric issues then please let me know in the comments or via email.    Thanks.

Posted in Updates | 2 Comments

Radio show news

Attention Lost Frequencies friends and listeners.

Starting tonight my radio show will be heard every Wednesday night, 9-11pm (CST) and, in addition to its normal broadcast on Marfa Public Radio (KRTS 93.5fm), it will now be carried in the Midland/Odessa area on West Texas Public Radio, in the Permian Basin (KXWT 91.3FM).

Very exciting news for Marfa Public Radio, and a thrill now to be FM broadcasting in the Midland/Odessa area.   Please tune in!   (As ever, you can also continue to pick up a live stream of the show at Marfa Public Radio’s website.)

Posted in Updates | 4 Comments

UPDATE: “Duke” Dukett

The mystery of one of the more enigmatic 45s here – Duke’s “Runaway Girl” – was cleared up recently when Michelle Moffett, daughter of “Duke” Dukett, contacted me, and filled me in on her father’s life (and “Runaway Girl”).  Many, many thanks to Michelle for her memories, patience, and work in gathering the details, stories, clippings and photos of her father. Read on.

Guitarist, keyboardist, singer, songwriter and music teacher “Duke” was born Richard Earle Dukett in 1943 in Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Richard’s mother was an artist and painter, his father was in the Army, but, of both generations of parents, Richard would be the one with the strong musical inclinations.  A self-taught guitarist, Dukett also played keyboards.  Though he grew up in Baltimore, “Duke,” as he would long be known, would begin playing professionally in his teens with New Jersey groups, including Duke and the Handjivers, the Off Keys and the Peppermint Stix.  Later, in the ‘60s, he would tour, perform and record, as guitarist, with a wide variety of touring bands, even orchestras.  Among the better known would be the Bill Black Combo (they would play on the same bill as Bill Haley & the Comets, one of Duke’s heroes, in that time), Al Allen, Ronnie Dove & the Beltones, the Lettermen and the Al Wallace Orchestra.

Duke’s home regularly shifted over the course of a long career, with spells in the Mid-Atlantic, the Southwest, Florida, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.  In the early ‘70s he moved his family to the San Diego area.  There his work as a professional musician would continue apace, with a live repertoire based in rock, jazz, country, pop, oldies, Hawaiian and Latin fare.  A versatile entertainer – Duke would also perform impersonations as part of his show – he was a popular draw in the nightclubs and lounges of Southern California and beyond, including places like Don the Beachcomber in Hawaii, the Dunes and the Sands in Las Vegas, El Cortez in the Sky Room, the Catamaran and the Coronado Cays Yacht Club in San Diego and the Crown Room in El Cajon, CA.

Guitarist and singer Duke "Dukett" in the '70s with his guitar in a promo shot

Guitarist and singer Duke "Dukett" in the '70s with his guitar in a promo shot. Duke recorded "Runaway Girl" in 1975, a track that I featured back in March.

Incidentally, along with regular news mentions of him, several print ads featuring Duke appeared in this time.  One was shot for Fanfare Studios, with Duke listening to his own recording with the pitch San Diego artists are using Fanfare quality sound for their record projects.  ‘Duke’ Dukett recorded his original for Joy Records at Fanfare Studios. You too should record at Fanfare. You’ll like the sound.  Another ad would be photographed for Toppix hair products, with Duke holding a can of hair product with the following line: A good musician must always be conscious of his appearance and ‘Duke’ Dukett is one of the best.  The ad later appeared in Esquire magazine.

Duke, Runaway Girl (Joy MWX-391)Duke, Runaway Girl (Joy MWX-391)

“Runaway Girl” was recorded and self-released by Duke in 1975 on his label Joy Records (named for Joy, his wife).  Hand-delivered to various Los Angeles record companies, and rumored to have received radio play, “Runaway Girl” demonstrates a startlingly original side to Duke that wasn’t necessarily reflected in the popular favorites of his live repertoire.  An avid Martin Denny collector (among his repertoire was “Quiet Village”), it’s hard to point to anything in Duke’s resume that would anticipate the otherworldly sound of “Runaway Girl,” but, in its own way, the dreamy quality of exotica bleeds over a bit into “Runaway Girl” (and more so “Malagueña,” the 45’s flipside).

He would follow “Runaway Girl” with another 45 – “Playing the Part,” an original, with an instrumental version of the Western classic “Riders in the Sky” on its flipside (with vocals by a singer named Wendy, and added studio instrumentation).  It was recorded at El Cajon’s Fanfare Studios, and released in 1976, again on Duke’s Joy Records.  It stirred some interest, but in the end received no further distribution.   Two other 45s would be recorded in this time, again with Duke on guitar and vocals with rhythm machine accompaniment: “Where Are You Going” (another Duke original) b/w “Love Is the Reason,” released on the Santee-based label Loraine Records, and “Lord Remember Me” b/w “Merry Merry Christmas,” recorded for Ed Woolsey Productions.

Duke remained in Southern California, playing there professionally, and mostly as a solo performer, into the ‘90s, before moving to Tucson.  Duke was “an enigma wrapped up in a mystery of soulful skill and talent,” as Michelle Moffett, his daughter, writes, and was beloved by his audiences and those who knew him.  Richard Earl Dukett succumbed, at age 57, to alcoholism-related complications in 2000.

Posted in Psychedelic/Pop, Updates | 6 Comments

Update: Mouse Bonati

It was my pleasure recently to speak with Gina Bonati, daughter of the great post-War saxophonist Joseph “Mouse” Bonati,” one of the pioneers of bebop in New Orleans in the 1950s.  I first covered Mouse back in this post on bebop from out-of-the-way cities.  With details provided in the meantime by Gina, Ronda Bonati (Mouse’s first wife and Gina’s mother) along with other members of the Bonati family, I’m delighted to now present more in the way of reliable information.  For some context, I’ve also included a short introduction about post-War jazz in New Orleans.

Post-War jazz in New Orleans

The most popular jazz in post-War New Orleans was ostensibly a revivalist affair – Pete Fountain and the Dukes of Dixieland sold millions of records with their Dixieland and traditional jazz retreads.  While concurrently proving itself one of the nation’s great, vital R&B powerhouses, New Orleans’s glory years at the leading edge of jazz were decades gone by the time of bebop’s ascendance in the ‘40s.

Despite the city’s general apathy about this new, modern permutation of jazz (a generalization fairly leveled at any city not among Great Migration destination points), New Orleans did have its bop devotees, many of whom were convening in the late ‘40s and ‘50s to jam at French Quarter nightclubs and strip joints.  Places like Louis Prima’s 500 Club, the Gunga Den and the Sho’Bar employed these young enthusiasts as pit musicians, and served as primary loci for the after-hours sessions where the form took root in the city.  Some of these young musicians would shortly light out for points north (Bill Evans, Vern Fournier, Mundell Lowe) and west (Joe Pass, Brew Moore, Frank Strazerri, Ed Blackwell, Earl Palmer).  Others, like Ellis Marsalis, Al Belletto, Bill Huntington and Mike Serpas stuck around New Orleans for longer, or for good.

Amongst the latter, saxophonist Joseph “Mouse” Bonati would be one of the earliest and most visible champions of bop.  Little, unfortunately, in the way of New Orleans bebop was recorded in its time, but Mouse Bonati figures prominently in discussions about modern jazz in New Orleans.

Joseph “Mouse” Bonati

Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1930, Joseph “Mouse” Bonati was the youngest of five musically- and artistically-inclined brothers and sisters: Ralph, Roy, Anne and Al.  His father died when Joe was six months old; Joe’s eldest brother Ralph, fourteen years old at the time, would in particular help out with his upbringing.  (Incidentally, there are two different family stories about the “Mouse” sobriquet.   One has it that it was coined by an artist friend of the family who, while drawing a family portrait, made special note of the youngest Bonati’s appearance.   The second version was that it was born, as a vision, during one of Mouse’s own drug-induced reveries.)

The young Joe, evincing the family’s musical and artistic talents, played the violin, receiving the standard classical-oriented musical education of the era.  In the late ’40s, barely out of his teens, playing saxophone and enamored of both jazz and – like so many other young musicians – of Charlie Parker, Mouse Bonati moved to New Orleans.

In New Orleans, Mouse would meet Ronda Adler through mutual friend Larry Borenstein (founder of Preservation Hall).  Adler – a young jazz enthusiast who’d worked previously as a cigarette girl at the storied Birdland jazz club – was then en route to Mexico from New York City, but stayed on in New Orleans, eventually marrying Mouse, with daughter Gina born in 1957 and son Chris in 1959.   With Ronda working at the Court of Two Sisters, Mouse, continuing to hone his Bird-influenced style, would pursue the musical life in the colorful clubs of New Orleans.   A multi-instrumentalist – he also played piano, flute and clarinet – Bonati would become a well-known presence in the New Orleans jazz community.

Mouse Bonati, Back (Patio MJ-1)Mouse Bonati, Back (Patio MJ-1)

Mouse Bonati’s New Orleans sides – all released by the tiny Patio Records – represent some of the earliest bebop recorded in the city.  Recorded in a single sitting in 1957, the Patio sessions yielded four tracks under Mouse’s aegis.  Supported by compadres Benny Clement (trumpet), Jimmy Johnson (bass), Chick Power (tenor saxophone), Edward Frank (piano) and Earl Palmer (drums), these recordings would be released sequentially on two 45s – “Back” backed with “One Blind Mouse” (Patio MJ-1) followed by “Mouse’s House” backed with “What a Difference a Day Made” (Patio MJ-2).  They show the altoist in full Charlie Parker mode.

That same year would also see the release of the lone LP on Patio Records, an album of New Orleans bebop entitled New Sounds From New Orleans.  Put together by friend and fellow musician Jack Martin, the album was divided between the Jack Martin Octet’s “Jazz Suite de Camera” on one side (which features Bonati playing in a supporting role) and Mouse Bonati’s music – his four 45 recordings, along with a strange multi-tracked tape experiment entitled “Improvisations” – on the other.

As the ‘50s wore on, recorded music began to displace the musicians working in the Bourbon Street clubs.   Local gigs became harder to find, and, like many musicians and artists, Mouse’s own life and personal relationships were getting more complicated. Around 1960, not long after these recordings were made, Mouse relocated to Las Vegas, and the ensuing years would form something of the next chapter in his life as a working musician.  Though no further commercial recordings would be released in this time, the relative security of resort gigs – the lifeblood of many jazz musicians in those years – kept Mouse active as a professional musician.

Mouse’s residencies as a jazz soloist and section musician would take him from Lake Tahoe in mid-‘60s (at Harrod’s Resort) to the Bahamas in the late ‘60s (at Paradise Island), then back to Lake Tahoe around 1970.  His longest-term residency would follow upon settling in Las Vegas, where he lived from 1972 onwards, with a steady residency at the Lido show at Caesar’s, along with jazz gigs at venues like the Tropicana Ballroom and Dusty’s Playland.

Mouse Bonati was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx in the early ‘80s, sadly making playing impossible in his final years.  His a life spent in the jazz world, devoted to music. Joseph “Mouse” Bonati passed away in 1983.

Posted in Jazz Obscura, Updates | 16 Comments

Walt Bolen’s Lion Hunt

A great pleasure to hear recently from keyboardist Walt Bolen, who filled me in on the backstory behind his organ-led R&B exotica instrumental “Lion Hunt” (Pick-A-Hit 101, which I first wrote about at this ancient post), as well as some of his own biography.

Walt Bolen, born in 1948, was raised in the San Fernando Valley, California.  His was a musical family, especially on the side of his mother, Alma Bowser Bolen (who was also related to pioneering bop pianist Bud Powell by marriage).

In addition to a Hammond A-105 organ at home, Bolen would grow up playing organ in the church, as well as participating in the San Fernando school system’s music program.   Bolen attended one of the few high schools in the area with a Hammond console, taking classes there under the supervision of Mrs. Thelma Becky, the school’s choir teacher.

“[I was] looking to gain popularity among my school mates and friends. Music was my way of doing that,” Bolen notes.  It was 1966, Bolen’s senior year at San Fernando High School, when he first wrote “Lion Hunt,” which was partly inspired by Les Baxter’s exotica standard “Quiet Village.”

Walt Bolen, 1966

Walt Bolen, age eighteen, 1966. From a newspaper article, image courtesy of Walt Bolen.

In 1966, Bolen and Adolphus Alsbrook – a veteran jazz bassist and arranger introduced to Bolen through his horn player friend Carl Smith – went into Los Angeles’s legendary Gold Star Studios to record.  There, joined by a drummer, and with charts written by Alsbruck, they used the Hammond organ to lay down the basic tracks for “Lion Hunt.”   Saxophone and guitar parts would be added by session players in turn.

Walter Bolen, Lion Hunt (Part Two) (Pick-A-Hit 101-B)In 1967, Los Angeles record producer and impresario Bobby Sanders released the recording on Pick-A-Hit Records, one of several labels he operated at the time.  Somewhat to Bolen’s surprise, the B-side of the single – “Lion Hunt (Part Two),” that is – was the same recording, only with dubbed-in lion sound effects, an idea that was entirely Alsbrook’s.

Walter Bolen, Lion Hunt (Part Two)(Pick-A-Hit 101B)

Bolen remained in the San Fernando area in the ensuing years, teaching music, playing lounge and club gigs, and making some (unreleased) home recordings. In the early ‘70s, Bolen and his friends Willard and Ernestine Stroud formed the Ar-Que recording company, for whom he released a strong 45 – “Breaking Out” b/w “Peace Chant” – in 1972.

Walt Bolen otherwise remained away from commercially released music until more recent years.  Bolen, who now resides in Antelope Valley, California, remains active in music to this day, returning to his roots and playing organ for his church.  He’s also released a CD of his own inspirational material – The Casting of Pearls – which is available at or through his facebook page.  Please do check out more of Walt Bolen.

Many thanks to Walt Bolen for contacting me, and for the great conversation and great music.

Posted in Exotica/Space-Age, Jazz Obscura, Latin, R&B/Vocal Groups, The Exotica Project, Updates | 2 Comments

New at the Lonely Beat:

A bit "Lotus Land," a bit "Key Largo," Dizzy Gillespie's "Rumbola" is rarely-heard side, recorded in 1954, and a lovely example of dark jazz noir in an exotic Latin setting.