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Front Porch

FolkWax Spotlight Is On
The Goldebriars


Before The Tyme Was Right...

 

Part Two - Album Two, Almost The Third, and Disintegration

 

By Arthur Wood

 

The Goldebriars (L to R): Tom Dorholt, Murray Planta, Dotti Holmberg,
Sheri Holmberg, Ron Edgar, and Curt Boettcher (kneeling)

 

Last week we traced the formation of the Goldebriars in Minneapolis during early 1963 through to the recording of their debut album for CBS/Epic Records later that year (if you missed Part One click HERE to read it now in our ARCHIVES). We begin this week with group's first television appearance...

 

At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on January 21, 1964, the Goldebriars filmed the ABC-TV network music program Hootenanny. Also appearing on the show was The Cumberland Trio (not to be confused with The Cumberland Three), Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys, Homer & Jethro, Doc Watson, comedy act The Geezinslaw Brothers, Joan Toliver, and Pete Fountain & Serendipity Singers. Around this time the Goldebriars were signed by the New York-based booking agency ITA and played a showcase at the Big Apple's Blue Angel Club opening for Australian-born painter/musician and fellow Epic recording artist Rolf Harris, who had recently enjoyed a hit with the humorous "Tie Me Kangaroo Down." [See Note #1]

 

Throughout 1964 the group performed in clubs nationwide, in Illinois (Joliet's Know Where), Washington, D.C. (The Cellar Door), Colorado (Denver's Exodus), and Florida (Miami). At The Shadows, a Washington, D.C., club just down the street from where the Goldebriars were appearing at The Cellar Door, they met fellow acoustic road warriors Gale Garnett and her bass player Keith Olsen, The Modern Folk Quartet, and, significantly, The Big Three (Tim Rose, James Hendricks, and Cass Elliot). On a later occasion they ran into Cass at The Shadows when she was a member of the short-lived Mugwumps, and the bands jammed after the show late into the night. The Mugwumps consisted of Elliot, Hendricks, Denny Doherty (prior to joining The New Journeymen), and the late Zal Yanovsky (The Lovin Spoonful). Bob Goldstein, a New Yorker, was hired to hone the quartet's stage act. He was also a songwriter and introduced the group to his friend and fellow writer Beverly Ross. As summer approached, the group cut its sophomore album. Where there had been a prevalence of traditional material on their debut, six of the former stood alongside the same number of originals on Straight Ahead!, the latter being composed by Curt Boettcher, Ross, Goldstein, and others. Produced once again by Bob Morgan, the instrumentation employed on the Straight Ahead! sessions included vibes, harpsichord, tuba, and drums.   

 

Once the album was completed, Sheri Holmberg announced that she was leaving the group. Boettcher and the elder Holmberg sister had been a couple, but then Curt ended the liaison. For just over three months Cathi Weaver from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, took her place. Cathi and Curt had previously worked together as the duo The Chalices. That summer the group was engaged to appear in a Folk music exploitation movie titled Once Upon A Coffee House (aka Hootenany A Go-Go). Finally released during 1965, in addition to the Goldebriars the contributing musicians included Oscar Brand, the Free Wheelers and Jim, Jake and Joan (the latter being Joan Rivers). Straight Ahead! [Index #s BN 26114 for stereo, LN 26114 for mono] was released by Epic Records during August 1964 and a few months later the collection yielded one single, "Castle On The Corner" (Goldstein) b/w "I've Got To Love Somebody" (traditional arranged). "Sea of Tears" (Boettcher/Goldstein) b/w "I've Got To Love Somebody" was released as a single in the U.K.

 

Like their debut album, Straight Ahead! is awash with additional tracks, ten of them, although I intend to only focus on the album's original twelve songs. Opening the album is "Sea Of Tears," a love song co-written by Boettcher and Goldstein and with Curt taking the lead vocal. This is followed by "MacDougal Street," a Beverley Ross "boy meets girl" composition set in Greenwich Village. While this opening pairing possesses a contemporary Pop feel not present on their debut album, the group returns to its traditional roots with the Blues-tinged "I've Got To Love Somebody." An unreleased alternate take of "Jump Down" appears on the Goldebriars, while the Straight Ahead! version is somewhat frenetic and features Neilson's banjo and a gruff-sounding tuba. The next song, "Pick A Bale of Cotton," was a #11 U.K. Pop hit for British skiffle musician Lonnie Donegan during the fall of 1962. Boettcher takes his lead on his wistful original "Haiku," while the calypso-styled anti-war song "No More Bomb" was penned by Goldstein, Jerry Powell, and Michael McWhinney. While the latter was an intentional protest song, it employed a somewhat commercial approach. Press the skip button before "Queen Of Sheba," which is definitely the Goldebriars' musical sore thumb. I'm sticking with the notion that this cover song was a label, not a group selection. Instead move straight on to the group's animated reading of the Gospel number "Joy, Joy, Joy," a tune the late Bob Gibson popularized during the late 1950s. Goldstein's sugar-sweet love ballad (and 7" U.S. single) "Castle On The Corner" find the Goldebriars once more at their multi-layered vocal best and their sophomore album closes with a couple of traditional songs, "Zum Gale Gale" and a rousing reading of the Gospel-flavored "Ride The Chariot."

 

Sheri Holmberg rejoined the group during September while Ron Neilson departed and returned to Minneapolis. In the process three new group members were recruited, namely Ron Edgar (drums), Murray Planta (lead guitar), and Tom Dorholt (bass). The Goldebriars, obviously influenced by The Beatles' commercial success and musical ethos, now aimed for an electric-Pop sound while retaining those layered, male/female harmonies. Through the latter part of the year the group spent a considerable number of weeks (including appearances over the Christmas and New Year period [See Note 2]) performing at Charleston, South Carolina's 300 King St. Club, where they soon established an avid following. Sean Bonniwell and his band The Wayfarers were based out of the club. In addition, in late 1964 they recruited Luther Galliard as their road manager, for a time at least. In her CD-ROM book Dotti Holmberg describes Luther as "a typical southern gentleman from Charleston, South Carolina." It's worth noting at this juncture that Sheri and Keith Olsen were now a couple and would later be married for a period of seven years. During the course of five recording sessions, held in New York during late November with Bob Morgan once more at the helm, the six-piece Goldebriars recorded eight songs including "June Bride Baby" and "Nothing Wrong With You That My Love Can't Cure."     

 

This is probably an appropriate point at which to look at the aforementioned ten unreleased tracks on Straight Ahead!. Closing the CD is the only track to be previously issued by the six-piece version of the group. Their spring 1965 Epic single featured the saccharine Pop tune "June Bride Baby" (Goldstein/Ross) b/w "I'm Gonna Marry You" (Goldstein). In relation to the eight songs mentioned at the close of the last paragraph, the Straight Ahead! reissue features two versions (each) of Jimmy Reed's Blues song "Hush, Hush" and "Tell It To The Wind." Goldstein co-wrote the latter song with Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich's long-time New York City/Brill Building-based hit songwriting partner. Powell and McWhinney are responsible for "The Last Two People On Earth," a sequel to "No More Bomb" in as much as the bomb was exploded and it's also a sixties, social consciousness number that pretty much envisages the Summer of Love. The guitar sounds that introduce the Goldstein/Ross-penned "Nothing Wrong With You That My Love Can't Cure" possesses definite shades of Liverpool's The Searchers and further confirms the Goldebriars' new Pop bent. Dylan's "Walkin' Down The Line" is another sixties number that, like "He Was A Friend Of Mine," didn't surface in his catalogue of recordings till The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 - 3 [1991]. The Goldebriars' up-tempo version of "Walkin' Down The Line" is supported by keyboards and a solid bass and drum backbeat. Although the group was now enthusiastically employing bass, drums, and electric guitars, the two readings of Goldstein/Barry's "Tell It To The Wind" is the closest they come as a six-piece to the layered, harmony vocal sound with which the Goldbriars launched their career.        

 

In early February 1965, the Goldebriars headed to London, Ontario, where they filmed a couple of Sing Out! television programs. The show's emcee was none other than Oscar Brand, whom they had met on a Florida movie set midway through the previous year. The sextet was now playing electric instruments while Brand had previously observed them as an acoustic quartet. Since Sing Out! Was, strictly speaking, an acoustic Folk music show, according to Dotti, the Goldebriars had to perform their most "commercial Folk songs." Heading south via Charleston, they picked up Sean Bonniwell, who, following the demise of The Wayfarers, had decided to try his luck on the West Coast. Turning west, in Denver they performed at the Exodus, then the group made its California debut with a three-week residency at the Ice House in Pasadena beginning in early March. In the process the Goldebriars became the first band to perform at the venue using electric instruments. The group then moved on to The Mecca in Buena Park during April. David Mirisch became the group's latest manager around that time and soon scored them a showcase at The Coconut Grove. In addition, the Goldebriars auditioned to appear on the television shows Hullabaloo and Shindig. Ron Edgar left in May to join Sean Bonniwell's Music Machine, the lineup of which also included Keith Olsen and Doug Rhodes. Bill Taylor was drummer during the final month that the Goldebriars were together. On June 1, 1965, the Goldebriars broke up and most of the group members decided to remain in California. Partly recorded during 1966 sessions that Boettcher helmed for Our Production, Sundazed Records finally issued Dotti's debut solo album, Sometimes Happy Times, during 2002. These days Dotti lives in Florida. Her older sister Sheri passed away during 1997, a victim of lung cancer. 

 

The Goldebriars' Straight Ahead!

Click Cover For More Info

 

By way of completing Curt's circle, in addition to the groups and solo artists that I name-checked at the outset, Boettcher went on to produce hit recordings for The Association (And Then...Along Comes The Association [1966] and the singles "Along Comes Mary" and "Cherish") and Tommy Roe (It's Now Winter's Day [1967] and the single "Sweet Pea"). Curt met producer/songwriter Gary Usher during early 1966 and again, later that year, while working on the Ballroom album. The latter recording finally saw the light of day during 1998. The Millennium album, released during July 1968, was co-produced by Boettcher and Keith Olsen while this studio only band consisted of Boettcher, Ron Edgar, Doug Rhodes, Sandy Salisbury, Lee Mallory, Michael Fennelly, and Joey Stec. Boettcher sang on the Usher-produced [d. 1990] The Notorious Byrd Brothers [1968] then worked with Gary at Together Records although the label folded within a year of being founded. The first Usher/Boettcher co-production was the Sagittarius album Present Tense, which CBS issued during 1968, while The Blue Marble appeared on Together the following year. In 1971, at Jac Holzman's insistence, Curt signed as a solo act with Elektra Records who eventually issued There's An Innocent Face [1973]. Boettcher met Brian Wilson during his first encounter with Usher and during the 1970s Curt enjoyed recording associations with Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and Bruce Johnson. Later, Curt worked on the Beach Boys recordings L.A. (Light Album) [1979] and Keepin' The Summer Alive [1980]. We began this two-part feature with mention of John Phillips, who, the year after Curt passed, penned the Beach Boys' Grammy nominated #1 U.S. Pop hit "Kokomo," which first appeared on the soundtrack of the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. Having referenced the latter Phillips/Boettcher connection, I think we've traveled full circle, musically.

       

In the past decade and a half via such U.S.-based imprints as Sundazed, CBS (Special Products), and Collectors' Choice; Dreamsville in Japan; Poptones and Rev-ola in the U.K.; a significant number of Boettcher solo and group recordings have been released, along with albums on which he was producer, songwriter, or session musician. Curt Boettcher, the vocal-arranging genius, is finally enjoying the exposure he always deserved. Sony Music Direct in Japan issued the Goldebriars and Straight Ahead! with, respectively, two and four bonus tracks during the spring of this year and followed in late September with Climbing Stars, a twenty-one song collection that included unreleased songs and alternate takes by the four- and six-piece version of the group. All three Japanese releases featured liner notes by Dotti Holmberg. Stateside, Collectors' Choice Music are to be congratulated for adding the entire Goldebriars catalogue to Boettcher's treasure trove of recordings because, at least for this impatient fan, a significant part of a wonderful musical jigsaw just fell into place.       

 

Notes:

#1: The song reached  #7 on the U.K. Pop chart in the summer of 1960 and reached #3 on the U.S. Pop chart in the summer of 1963.

 

#2: After Neilson departed he left Jezebel with the Goldebriars. She disappeared during one of the group's 300 King St. residencies. As I said, the fans were avid! 

 

Arthur Wood is a founding editor of FolkWax. You may contact Arthur at folkwax@visnat.com.

 

 

 

Real Sounds From the Work Place

 

The following are the Top Five most often listened-to recordings in the FolkWax office this week, November 9, 2006 (in no particular order):

 

1.  Nickel Creek - Reasons Why (The Very Best) (Sugar Hill) Release: November 14

2.  Kristin Lomholt - Spell (Whaling City Sound)

3.  Norman Blake, Nancy Blake, Tut Taylor - Shacktown Road (Dualtone)

4.  Donal Clancy - Close To Home (Compass)

5.  Mike Marshall & Hamilton De Holanda - New Words Novas Palavras (Adventure Music)

 

 

 

This Week in FolkWax:

 

Bruce Cockburn

 

- In the E-zine: FolkWax is Sittin' In With Bruce Cockburn. Bob Gersztyn recently sat down with Bruce Cockburn to discuss his five decades in the music business, writing songs, and his latest CD, Life Short Call Now.

- On our News Page: British Roots Magazine Relaunched; FolkWax Artist and Album of the Year News; Roy Orbison Tribute Concert Held; Tom Waits Television Appearances; New Festival in Yorkshire; and many more Facts For Folks!

- On our Front Porch feature page: The FolkWax Spotlight is on the Goldebriars. Arthur Wood takes a closer look at this Folk group on the heels of Collectors' Choice reissues of their classic albums the Goldebriars and Straight Ahead!.

- On the Pickin' 'n' Grinnin' page: Kerry Dexter reviews Newfound Road's Life In Song and Shelley Morningsong's Out Of The Ashes; Arthur Wood reviews Cosy Sheridan's Live At CedarHouse; plus reviews of Chris Thile's How To Grow A Woman From The Ground, Anna Massie's The Missing Gift, and David Olney's Lenora.

- One Year Ago Today In FolkWax: FolkWax was "Sittin' In With Billy Joe Shaver." Adam Harris sat down with one of the great American songwriters and discussed Shaver's autobiography, personal losses, music, and his CD The Real Deal.

- Don't forget to play the Folklore Trivia Game: Remember, everyone who plays is in the drawing for the prize! This week's prize: a Folk Ten-Pack! The vault has been tapped once again and we are giving away a ton of cool CDs. Play today for your chance at ten CDs!


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