NIGHT SHADOWS BAND CHRONOLOGY
Volume 1: The Rhythm & Blues Period 1959-1964
This CD is the first volume of a limited edition musical anthology featuring the legendary Night Shadows. The Night Shadows are well known to serious record collectors as one of the pioneer "garage bands" of the 1960s and the paragons of psychedelic music in the Deep South. In collector magazines and catalogs, the groups infamous 1968 acid-punk album "The Square Root of Two" on Spectrum Stereo Records, is currently valued at more than $1000 in mint condition. The 1979 reissue of that classic album on Hottrax Records has already increased in value by 700% over its original retail price.
It may be surprising to some collectors that the Night Shadows were organized almost a decade before the release of their 1968 masterwork by Aleck Janoulis, the groups bass player and vanguard. Volume One spans the band's early years between 1959 to 1964, which is considered the Night Shadows Rhythm & Blues period. This was long before the band teamed up with Little Phil to front the group and also became known as Little Phil and The Night Shadows. However, to present a proper historical perspective of the group, a chronology should begin several years prior to 1959 when band alliances were formed in area schools.
Ronnie Farmer (guitar), Mike Moore (piano & organ) and Aleck Janoulis (bass) are classmates in elementary school. Janoulis is introduced to Rhythm & Blues music by his uncle who was returned from the Korean War. This is just before Rock and Roll is officially "invented" by fusing "Hillbilly" music with Rhythm & Blues.
Farmer and Pitner form their first band, the Kavaliers. Janoulis purchases an electric bass by mail order and replaces George Richardson who played a "washtub bass" in the group.
Mike Moore joins the Kavaliers becoming their first keyboard player. Mike Moore constructs an electronic theramin, an instrument used in 1950's science fiction films, to create pre-psychedelic "space sounds." Janoulis' cousin introduces band to music-whiz Donald Adams (trumpet) and Ray Massey (drums). They join the group and become The Barons (Pre-Night Shadows line-up). Adams teaches the others how to "arrange" tunes for maximum impact on audiences.
Janoulis changes the band name from "The Barons" to "The Night Shadows" when Adams departs for college. Bobby Newell, a Massey schoolmate, replaces Mike Moore on piano. Bobby "Bones" Jones (vocals & Harmonica) is hired as the first "front man" for the group and Hilton Dickerson joins the group as their first "road manager." Their first public appearance as "The Night Shadows" is made on December 13, 1959 at the Maid of Athens' Annual Masquerade Ball.
1960 - 1961
The Night Shadows became one of two alternating house bands playing shows at an infamous skating rink called "Misty Waters". (The other group was The Zots, a.k.a. Mac Davis and The Zots). Although both groups' shows were primarily blues oriented, radio station DJ's and local concert promoters started to book the Night Shadows as the primary back-up band for solo rock & roll stars who were touring in the area. Their ability to quickly learn the songs of the traveling artists and arrange them in a show format (often just minutes before curtain call) gave the The Night Shadows a virtual monopoly over other local bands. It also increased their bookings by giving them a lot of exposure in front of large crowds. They would "warm-up" those audiences with their own show which featured a great blues singer and harmonica player named Bobby "Bones" Jones.
"I Love You Baby" (Track 1) and "Honest I Do" (Track 2) are live performances and are the earliest known recordings of the Night Shadows with Jones fronting the band. These primitive tracks were recorded on a tape machine with one microphone located near a telephone booth in Misty Waters in late 1959 or early 1960. If you listen closely, you can hear a conversation outside the phonebooth and the static caused by someone stepping or tripping on the microphone cable.
What these two tracks lack in sound quality is made up by the historical significance of the recording being a "bootleg" before such a term was recognized. "Blindside" (Track 3), which has the best sound quality of the three tracks with Bobby Jones on vocal, was an unreleased studio recording. Tracks 1, 2, and 3 feature the band line-up depicted as NIGHT SHADOWS # 1 on the personnel chart. On Track 3, however, Johnny Pitner provided both rhythm and lead guitars since Farmer was unavailable for the studio session.
After Jones left the group in the fall of 1961 the Night Shadows joined forces with Ervin Barocas and Helene Kopell, a male/female duo that fronted the band as Little Erv & Helene. It was during this period that the Night Shadows began to release records on independent labels. The group's first release was a risqué single titled "Garbage Man" (Track 11) backed with "The Hot Dog Man" (Track 4). The tunes were written and sung by Janoulis to break into the lucrative college fraternity market that was dominated by black artists performing party songs. Their earliest commercial release was a new dance called "The Elevator" (Track 7). The solo in this tune, although very simplistic, is the earliest known indie rock recording with two guitars playing in harmony. The flipside was a jazz-rock instrumental called "Station Break" (Track 5). It was used as "bumper" music (background music) in several radio station air checks. One musicologist familiar with both jazz and rock believes that "Station Break" may have been the first "fusion" release (1962) of these two music genres. The band's popularity started to soar during this period because of a combination of being on area concerts, radio airplay, the notoriety of their risqué' 45 and a great live show featuring Little Erv & Helene. The Night Shadows were also the first known "garage" band at this time to use portable stagelights, a cut-down organ that their keyboard player modified for easy mobility, and low impedance microphones for off-stage mixing into a board they dubbed "The Brain".
By chance, Spinks and Janoulis happened to see TV newscasts in early November, 1963 of the rock & roll "mania" sweeping Britain. The coming "English Invasion" of rock bands was postponed, however, by the tragic assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. This allowed the Night Shadows to get a three month jump start on other American groups that would follow this new direction in music after the "mop-top invasion" started in February, 1964. At the insistence of Spinks, Janoulis agreed to incorporate more English-type rock into their repertoire. This broader scope of music became a factor in the change of lead singers later that year when Little Erv quit and Judy Argo departed for opportunities in New York. In June, 1964 Janoulis decided to hire Little Phil to front the band under protest from other members of the group. Little Phil had just completed the ninth grade in high school while the rest of the band members were college-age adults. Everyone except Janoulis thought he was too young to front the band. It turned out to be the right decision however, since Little Phil could sing rock and R&B equally well. He remained lead singer for the next five years. ( To be covered in The Legendary Night Shadows Volumes 2 and 3).
This period to be covered in Vol. 2 - The Little Phil Era, 1964-1967 and Volume 3 - The Psychedelic Years 1967-1969
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