From 1970 to 1975 Remedy was one of the top live rock bands in Illinois. Their recorded legacy, which was recorded at Golden Voice, has remained largely unheard until now. Recently an album was created from the restored four-track masters which were originally recorded with Jerry Milam engineering. This album has been released via a collaboration between Golden Voice and Chicago based record label Alona’s Dream. The album includes extensive liner notes and pictures detailing the history of the group. It is the quintessential example of the kind of album recorded in Golden Voice’s heyday. Available for purchase on vinyl, CD or digital (streaming / download) here: https://alonasdreamrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-golden-voice-sessions-1970-1974
Bobby Mack “the man with 1000 voices” (1932 – 2016) was a fixture on the country music scene in Illinois. He recorded several notable rockabilly 45s in the 1950’s and early ’60’s.He worked with Jerry Milam and did some of the earliest recording at Golden Voice. He cut the single I’m Leaving You / The Cost Of Love in 1967, co-producing it with Jerry. Unlike his earlier rockabilly songs cut ,for local labels Tempus and (his own) B-Mac, I’m Leaving You has more of a contemporary orchestral pop feel with an almost Byrds inspired guitar solo.
Some new releases of old music coming from a collaboration between Alona’s Dream Records and Golden Voice!
Out now is Pekin, IL group Abaddon. Their sole 45, released in 1969 is now available as a nicely packaged reissue.
Coming soon is Remedy. Their unique brand of funky hard rock is finally seeing release after 40 years!
Abaddon’s Blues Tomorrow / Gotta Have it reissue is now available for preorder from Alona’s Dream Records here: https://alonasdreamrecords.bandcamp.com/album/blues-tomorrow-7.
The first 80 preorder copies include a limited edition letterpress reproduction of the original Abaddon business card from 1969! (while supplies last!)
Preview both songs here:
Straight from the vaults of the legendary Golden Voice Recording Co. comes the official repress of this early hard rock gem from 1969 by Pekin, Illinois band Abaddon.
This limited edition reproduction 7″ is sourced from the original tapes and comes in a handsome picture sleeve. Includes a two sided color insert with the history of the band as well as never before seen pictures!
Irv Espedal recorded only one song called “I’ve Learned to Survive” at Golden Voice around 1973. It was recorded with Jerry Milam engineering the session. Irv had recently taken a job in Peoria, Illinois, moving there from his native South Dakota. Upon his arrival he met Jerry, who encouraged him to record a number of the original songs he had written. The song featured Irv on lead vocals accompanied by three studio musicians coordinated by Jerry to lay down the instrumental tracks. At the time Irv didn’t have the funds to continue his project so the music never made it to an actual vinyl record. Being from a small town in South Dakota, Irv was impressed with Golden Voice as it was the first experience he had with professional studio. He says “Jerry played the final cut over the studio speakers and the sound mixing was impeccable.” The song is also notable for the high quality playing of the regular session musicians who were around Golden Voice in it’s prime.
Irv got his start playing in a group called Dee and the Sabers from Mt. Vernon, South Dakota. Starting out in the 1960’s the group consisted of Don “Big D” Oakley, lead guitar; Vern Descombaz, lead rhythm & vocals; Bob Kretchmer, bass guitar; Charles “Skip” Hayes, drums and Irv Espedal, rhythm guitar & vocals.
According to Irv:
“The Sabers’ claim to fame was a new idea at the time: about a week prior to a performance they would roll into a sleepy South Dakota farm town. They would search out an old (or possibly vacant) venue and post their promotion flyers announcing a live music dance. Returning to play on Saturday night, the Sabers were greeted by enthusiastic crowds happy to pay the one dollar admission collected at the door. Occasionally the Sabers would book a gig at an established ballroom which may have featured the likes of Conway Twitty the previous week. The Sabers also played high school proms. One particular night, the band had booked a prom in Murdo, SD. Like most bands in the area, they used a 2-wheel trailer pulled behind an automobile to carry their music equipment. However they had just recently acquired from an estate sale an older Cadillac hearse. Intending to use it for camping, the previous owner had welded a 1955 Ford car body onto the top of the hearse which made it ideal for hauling lots of stuff. To get to the prom gig in Murdo, the Sabers loaded the band and all their equipment into the hearse. With Irv at the wheel, they headed west on HWY 16 in the early afternoon.
About two miles outside of Murdo, and cruising along at about 80 mph on an S curve, there was a major malfunction. No one in the band had given it any thought, but since the hearse had sat idle for a couple of years prior to the estate sale, the tires were in terrible shape. As bad luck would have it, both of the rear tires blew out and the vehicle immediately lost control, rolled three times down a steep embankment, and landed upright in a field. The Sabers were only slightly injured, but all were somewhat shaken. During the hearse’s downward descent, the doors had popped open. So as the South Dakota highway patrol investigated the crash, the band gathered up the instruments that were scattered along the embankment. A farmer driving a stock truck stopped at the scene and offered to help load everything in the back of his truck and haul it to Murdo High School. Long story short…the Sabers collected themselves, managed to put their instruments and gear into playable condition, and made it to the Murdo school prom nearly on schedule. The hearse had been towed to an auto shop, and while the band played, and even with the severely bent frame, it was made drivable with two new used tires. The band made it back to Mt. Vernon at sunrise. A couple of the Sabers took sledge hammers to the hearse to put it out of its misery. This ended up being the final performance of Dee and the Sabers together.
Big D is now retired after a successful engineering career and lives in Wyoming and Florida. Vern passed away in November, 2014 while residing in Battle Creek, Nebraska. At the time he was a band member of The Broken Spoke Band out of Norfolk, which still exists. Skip resides in Hot Springs, South Dakota and plays drums occasionally with a group in Sturgis. Bob’s last known address is Lenexa, Kansas, and Irv is retired from American Airlines and resides near Madison, Wisconsin.”
The Beggars Opera Company recorded a 45 at Golden Voice around early June in 1968. The band consisted of Dave Diefendorf of Farmington on guitar & vocals, Marc Cook of Canton on bass, Arlan “Tucker” Van Petten of Trivoli on drums, Tom Hefley of Farmington on organ, and Danny Bollinger on vocals. The night before the group recorded at Golden Voice, they played at their own high school graduation. After the gig they slept in Dave Diefendorf’s car then went over to South Pekin the next morning to record.
According to Tom Hefley: “The “B” side actually was pretty good but we wanted to push the “A” side pertaining to better living through modern chemistry. After all, it was 1968.” The band promoted the record themselves. The release received a few plays on local AM radio stations and even made it all the way to the jukebox at the Farmington Tastee Freeze.
Hefley continues: “Our band was very fun to play in and it was a great time to be in a band. Our biggest claim to fame is when our band played in Canton at a battle of the bands (which we lost) preceding The Doors” The concert was a battle of the bands before The Doors fabled appearance in Canton, IL.
First up is an early garage rock record from The Back Pages. This record is belived to have been made around the same time as the legendary Shags 45s, circa late 1966 or early 1967.
Next up is a tough garage rock record from 3’s A Crowd. It was recorded late ’67 and released in 1968.
Rounding things out, we have a gospel song called Faith from a group called Crissettes. This record was made later than the first two, sometime in the 1970’s.
Although they never recorded at Golden Voice, Preston Jackson and The Rhythm Aces were a major group on the central Illinois music scene from the 1950’s through the 1970’s.
Preston Jackson, a world-renowned sculptor and accomplished jazz guitarist, is probably one of the few musicians who can say he performed with Richard Pryor, a groundbreaking comedian with roots in Peoria, Illinois, close to Golden Voice Studios.
His band, Preston Jackson and the Rhythm Aces, was a Decatur, Illinois, based doo-wop / R&B group who played the Mississippi river chitlin’ circuit from 1957 through the 1970s.
Just teenagers when they started playing professionally, the Rhythm Aces played in the cleaner-cut genera of Doo-wop. Jackson says the blues was not considered a safe occupation for teenage boys, owing to the sporadicly violent nature of the blues scene at the time.
Jackson says his guitar style was inspired by T-Bone Walker, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel and Johnny Smith. Their contemporaries in the local area included Peoria-based blues pianists Jimmie Bell and Jimmy Binkley as well as local rocker Byron “Wild Child” Gipson. They also played alongside the young Pryor, who performed for tips literally thrown on the floor at Bris Collins’ Collins Corner in Peoria. But Jackson remembers it was a tough crowd for Prior at the time since no one wanted comedy. “The crowd just wanted to hear music they could bump and grind to,” he says.
The group’s singer was Joe Merryweather. He would also record for the Decatur based Riot-Chous label. There were also back up singers, Mary and Stevie Hicks.
Preston Jackson’s first recordings would come via the Vee Jay label in 1961 (VEE JAY 417 Preston Jackson and the Rhythm Aces Be Mine / Joni).
The group’s strong talent and sharp dressing made them popular, which was augmented by another recording with Blaine Gauss’ Peoria-based Hit Records. Jackson recalls seeing Blane’s large downtown Peoria building with a room with recording equipment. It was the same recording equipment that inspired Jerry Milam to build Golden Voice Studios in South Pekin, Illinois. It was also the same place where Milam would take the first promotional photos of Pryor for Blane, who was his manager at the time. The result of the recordings for Gauss in 1963 was the infectious R&B classic “Three Quarter Stomp Parts 1 & 2.” That record was also a hit and was re-released nationally via Hermitage records in Nashville.
There was another earlier modern harmony group called The Rhythm Aces who had a release in the 1950s on Vee Jay, but the two groups are unrelated. A California based-group also released a record around 1960 as The Rhythm Aces called “Crazy Jealousy / Boppin’ Sloppin’ Baby” for George Goldner’s Mark-X records. According to Jackson, the other group started using the name, and when they found out, the band offered Preston $400 for it. The Illinois-based Rhythm Aces chose to stick with the name they had since 1957 and force the other group to change despite the offer. In fact, when it came to money, the group never had much luck. They never really were paid for any of their releases, Jackson says.
He continues to play guitar to this day and is a professor emeritus of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.
Johnny McCollum, a noted songwriter and musician from Iowa, recorded at Golden Voice in the late 1960s. The respected bandleader and performer has published well over 100 songs, including ones performed by many notable country artists.
He came from a musical background, writing songs as a child. Johnny was originally signed to Sun Records in the 1950s and over the years worked with almost every major music publisher in Nashville. His first solo record, Long Lonesome Road / I Just Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind, came out in the late 1950s on the Char-Mac label.
In 1964 Johnny started working as a railroad engineer based in the northern Illinois town of Princeton. Continuing his songwriting endeavors, he cut See How A Poor Boy Has To Pay / Life Ain’t Worth A Penny Without You for Freddie Tieken’s IT Records in 1966. His records always featured his original songwriting.
His route for the railroad regularly brought him to Golden Voice’s home of South Pekin, Illinois, so it was only natural he’d cut his next songs there. Accompanied by his son, Eddy, and supported by local session musicians, Johnny cut two songs in 1968, You Broke The Link / Cheap Wine, which were produced as a record.
His next notable solo release came under the pseudonym “Johnny Credit” in 1971 for Plantation Records. From there, Johnny would go on to major success as a songwriter. He would write songs for Farron Young, Tiny Tim, James Brown, Toby Keith, Clint Black, John Michael Montgomery and many others. Even when he was writing songs, Johnny maintained his job as a railroad engineer. He drew stories for songs from his job. Performing as The Singing Engineer, Johnny wrote a railroad song called “Santa Fe All The Way” in 1983. The song was a regional hit and used extensively by the Santa Fe Railroad for promotion.
Souled Out, Peoria, IL
Touring in a remodeled hearse, Peoria, Illinois-based Souled Out was another one of Golden Voice’s clients, a rocky band with a bluesy name that played all over central Illinois.
It was headed by Jerry Allen, whose first band was Canton, Illinois-based Blue Gray, which played a mixed bag of blues and top 40. Blue Gray’s members were Greg Sims (drums), Jeff Swan (guitar), J.D. Pratt (organ), Chuck Gibs (vocals) and Allen on bass.
During Allen’s Blue Gray days, he met guitarist and future member of Souled Out, Stan Edwards. It wasn’t long after that Jerry departed Blue Gray, with a desire to keep playing bass and sing as well. Allen contacted Edwards with the idea to form a new group, and Stan brought in his cousin on drums and someone else to sing whose name has been lost to history. But the new singer and drummer didn’t work out. Jerry remembered a drummer named Jim Babon from Peoria who they liked, but he wasn’t 21 years old and couldn’t get into the bars where they worked. Despite Babon’s age, the group decided to have him join anyway. This lineup of Edwards, Allen and Babon would form the nucleus of the group. Eventually, they added Tom Hefley from Farmington, Illinois, on organ.
The band initially hauled around their gear in a 1952 Chevy sedan delivery that cost $50. It cost them another $25 to add turn signals, which the car lacked. To make it official, Jerry’s cousin painted Souled Out on both sides of the vehicle. Dubbed the “Running Wonder,” it was a solid ride, but had its share of holes on the inside. One night coming back from a gig in Macomb, Illinois, Jim picked up a stray kitten. Later they stopped for some breakfast and left the kitten inside the car. When they came back, to their surprise, the kitten was gone and had escaped via a hole in the back.
The holes weren’t the Running Wonder’s only problem. The band took it up to Chicago to buy some cool and inexpensive band clothes since they’d been wearing matching shirts and needed threads with flair. After warming up the Chevy for the trip, they discovered it leaked oil badly, and they periodically added more during the trip. However, it was worth the drive in the cold and the extra oil. When they got back, they had very cool double-breasted Nehru jackets with blue on blue paisley prints!
Jerry eventually thought it would be cool to upgrade the band vehicle to a hearse. He wanted a 1959 Cadillac hearse with the cool taillights and fins, but most of the ones he found were rusted out. But six weeks later he found one in Roanoke, Illinois, a 1961 Cadillac combination hearse/ambulance with flip-over rollers for a casket and a jump seat for an attendant. It also crucially had a heater for keeping patients warm on the way to the hospital. He paid $500 for it, and went to work waxing the paint and polishing its chrome. His wife dyed the drab curtains dark burgundy. He pasted pink paisley letters on the side and back windows of the car, the same way a funeral home would have added their name to it. Unfortunately, the seller had removed the lights and siren prior to selling it, but to make up for it, Jerry added a Stereo 8 player under the seat and two floor speakers in the area between the seats and the door. The shape of the roof created superior acoustics for the hidden stereo. They would stick with the hearse for a few more fun filled years but eventually traded it for a 1968 Chevrolet station wagon in the 1970s.
In 1969, Richard Dravis, a wounded Vietnam veteran, good friend and co-worker of Allen, took a liking to the band and offered to pay for recording time and pressing two of Jerry’s original songs at Golden Voice. Allen says they were all very nervous, as none of them had ever been in a recording studio before. Jerry Milam showed them around the studio, and Allen remembers being particularly impressed with the echo chamber which Milam had built. After the tour, they loaded in their gear and got ready to record. Milam removed the front head from Jim’s bass drum and set up the microphones to capture the band’s best sound.
The first song they recorded was “In The Morning.” They did a few instrumental run-throughs so Milam could set the recording levels. Allen isn’t sure how many takes they did because they were all still pretty nervous. With the rest of the group watching him sweat from the control room, Allen laid down the vocal track. After a number of takes, he was invited back into the control room. When Allen heard the playback, he actually didn’t recognize the sound of his own voice and couldn’t figure out who was singing. The singer, he thought, was really great. Milam gave him some further pointers, advising him to not “rattle the lyric sheet” or slap his pants while singing. After a few more takes, it was done and they moved on to recording the second song, “I Don’t Love You.” After minor revisions and retakes, the band sent the songs to be pressed.
When the records arrived, they gave some to Dravis and split up the rest. After listening to the finished record, Stan called Allen in a panic about a “mistake” he thought he had made. Although he didn’t notice that day in the studio, Stan had kicked back on his guitar pedal during the last verse of the “In The Morning” instrumental. He clicked it back just as fast, which weirdly created an amazing effect. Stan heard it as glaring a mistake, but the other band members thought was a happy accident.
They tried unsuccessfully to get airplay for their new record but didn’t know anything about radio promotion. Even though the record didn’t go anywhere commercially, the band was thrilled to have a record of their own at last.
Tom Hefley stayed with the group for a few years but then left to pursue electronics school. Marty Hagerdorn from Bartonville, Illinois, who also sang lead vocals and vocal harmonies, replaced him. Over time, the band saw a shriveling audience. It came to a head at a gig in Kankakee, Illinois, and the band figured out the problem: Souled Out was a rock ’n roll band with a blues band name. With the name Souled Out, people expected to hear the blues, and the people who wanted to rock didn’t come. A name change was needed, and the “Kule-Aid Kids” fit the bill.
The name change was a smash, and they didn’t even have to change their set. They continued playing all over Illinois every weekend. But after five years with the group, drummer Babon left. Allen’s old friend, Greg Sims, from tiny St. David, Illinois, replaced him. After the name and drummer change, the band soldiered on for another few years ultimately disbanding. Sadly, Hagerdorn passed a few years ago but the rest of Souled Out / The Kule-Aid Kids remain friends to this day. Currently, Jerry Allen and Jim Babon have reunited with Stan Edwards’ son Jeff on guitar and Jeff’s wife Tracy on lead vocals. They are called Rough Crossing and play a mix of rock, new country and rocking blues around central Illinois.