Hit Records, Blane Gauss and early Illinois rock ‘n roll.

Hit Records, Blane Gauss and early Illinois rock ‘n roll circa 1958 – 1963 (or the origin of Golden Voice Studio part 2.)

Blane Gauss, a dance instructor at Arthur Murray Studios in Peoria, Illinois in the late 1950’s, was the driving force behind the HIT record label. Blane was based in Peoria but the label used a Chicago address. HIT would releases a series of singles featuring early rock ‘n roll, teen pop and R&B starting in 1958 and running through 1963.

Jerry Milam’s initial exposure to studio recording would occur during his time playing guitar with local singers Bruce Chamberlain and Dick Bush who would both release records on HIT (more on those records below). It was during the time Jerry did his first recording on a small recording set-up Gauss maintained in the attic of the Arthur Murray building where he worked in Peoria. Upon seeing Blane’s attic studio, Jerry realized that anyone could have a recording studio of their own if they learned to build it.  This was a key moment in the development of Golden Voice as it was the impetus for Jerry’s first home studio and build-it-yourself approach. Coincidentally, around this time Blane Gauss would call on Jerry’s skills as a photographer (a talent he maintains to this day) to snap the earliest promotional pictures of the future comedy legend Richard Pryor in that same attic!

As for the releases on HIT, there are at least seven confirmed releases, all chronicled here.  The first two releases were by Wild Child Gipson with Freddie Tieken and The Rockers in 1958. Uncle John, Gipson’s take on the Little Richard sound, lived up to the label’s moniker and truly was a hit (According to Tieken, charting to number #24 on the Billboard R&B chart) It was re-released at the time nationally by both the Laurie and Astra labels.

The Youtube playlist below contains most of the sides mentioned in this article.

Following the initial Wild Child Gipson releases, HIT would release the first record from aspiring Peoria based singer Bruce Chamberlain (whose wife Nancy worked with Blane Gauss at Arthur Murray) backed by a combo of Jerry Milam (guitar), Jerry McDonald (bass) and Lee Cheneler (drums) (all three from Pekin, IL). Two records were cut by this group: Bruce Chamberlain  – Geronimo (Cochise) / Broken Romance – Hit #612 and Bruce Chamberlain & the Cams – No Love Have I / Don’t Push Your Luck – Hit #668. The first record, Geronimo, was a hit, notable for its driving country tinged guitar and tight rhythm.  According to Mary Ann: “I remember it (Geronimo) quite well as we drove the DJ’s nuts asking them to play it.”  In support of the release of Geronimo, the band hit the road in Blane Gauss’ car and travelled to North Dakota where they did a pantomime version of their song at a TV station for a variety show, which was most likely arranged via Bruce Chamberlain’s cousin, according to Jerry.  On the second record Jerry, Jerry and Lee took on the name The Cams and added a vocal backing group called The Rondells.  Both records were popular and charted on local radio surveys, however, the group would not last.  

Jerry’s next musical endeavor was playing guitar in Dick Bush and the Stan Dels.  The Stan Dels were a popular local combo composed of Dick Bush (voc), Jerry (guitar), Gene Smith (drums), Bob Mitchel (Saxophone) and Jay Van Dyke (bass).   They would record one record in 1963 for HITDick Bush with Jerry Milam and the Stan Dels – Nobody But You / If I Didn’t Love You So – Hit Records # HRC 672. This time the return to the recording would ultimately leave Jerry with a desire to set up his own recording studio at home.  Jerry would quit actively playing in groups by the end of 1963 and began the transition from guitarist to self taught recordist.  

Also released on HIT in 1963 was the infectious R&B classic Three Quarter Stomp Parts 1 & 2 by Decatur, IL guitar player (and later noted sculptor) Preston Jackson and his group The Rhythm Aces with singer Joe Merryweather. That record was also a hit and would be re-released nationally via Hermitage records in Nashville.

Preston Jackson Three-Quarter Stomp

Preston Jackson Three-Quarter Stomp

Another artist on HIT was Cash Holiday, a pseudonym for Robert Viehmeyer Jr. a.k.a. Bobby Lee, who had previously released two records nationally on Decca records in 1960 and 1961, both were minor hits. Though his Decca records were a success, he returned to his hometown of Peoria to settle down with his family, releasing one more record: Cash Holiday – Walkin Alone / Solid Twister. 

Cash Holiday promo picture

Cash Holiday promo picture

 

HIT Records discography:

Wild Child Gipson w/ Freddie Tieken and The Rockers – Uncle John / Sittin’ Here Cryin’

Wild Child Gipson w/ Freddie Tieken and The Rockers – Lost Control / Kool

Bruce Chamberlain – Geronimo (Cochise) / Broken Romance

Bruce Chamberlain and The Cams – No Love Have I / Don’t Push Your Luck

Cash Holiday – Walkin Alone / Solid Twister

Preston Jackson and The Rhythm Aces feat. Joe Merriweather – Three-Quarter Stomp Pt. 1 / Three-Quarter Stomp Pt. 2

Dick Bush with Jerry Milam and The Stan ‘ Dels – Nobody But You / If I Didn’t Love You So

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