The Wombats, Metamora, IL.

The Wombats, Metamora, IL.

Wombats promo shot

In 1966, a 4-piece band called The Wombats became the first group to record at the then not quite finished Golden Voice Studio in South Pekin, Illinois.  The group would serve as the test subjects for Jerry Milam in his quest to fine tune his soon to be recording studio.

The Wombats formed while in High School in the central Illinois town of Metamora in 1964. The band consisted of cousins John Briggs (lead guitar) and Greg Volz (rhythm guitar) with bassist Tom Byler as well as Jim Winn on drums.  John and Greg had grown up playing music together and had even received some coaching early on from Greg’s older brother Ron Volz (of the legendary central Illinois rock n’ roll combo The Rockin R’s). Ron recalls “I can remember rehearsing “Wombats” in a garage in Metatmora on one occasion when I was passing thru….and farther back than that, when Greg and cousin John Briggs would sing for me in the kitchen at the old homestead in Metamora and I would add my two cents worth”.

John Briggs would sing most of the lead vocals supported by by Volz and Byler.  They played a mix of originals, penned mostly by Briggs (with Volz and Byler writing a few), as well as covers of the Byrds, Beatles and other beat groups. This early version of the group would last for about a year until John and Tom went away to different colleges in the fall of 1965. This left the band on hiatus for nine months.  However, by the next year, John and Tom had both transferred to Illinois State University and the Wombats were back in business.  This time around the group would recruit a new drummer: Doug Thompson while Jim Winn would go on to a notable career as a fine artist.

wombatsweb

Greg, John, Doug & Tom

  By 1966 The Wombats decided it was time to go into a studio and record some of their original music.  Ron Volz suggested that they contact Jerry Milam. Ron knew Jerry from the music scene during his Rockin R’s days.  So the Wombats would connect with Jerry who was still in the process of building his state of the art studio.  The Wombats were ready to record but Golden Voice was not. Still Jerry wanted to get started in his new studio and invited The Wombats to record while construction and interior finishing was still incomplete. Walls and rooms were unfinished and there was no furniture. Even the big glass studio window had not yet been installed. (More on building Golden Voice here.) 

John Briggs recalls it was fun for all and during the sessions and Jerry remarked to the guys that they had “Harmony up the waz.” In spite of the challenges of their first studio session, The Wombats were able to utilize their vocal harmonies and take advantage of Jerry’s new multi-track console and echo chamber.  Ron mentored them at the sessions and recollects that “the recording session at Golden Voice was a lot of fun…trying to get the best out of a group of really great guys who listened to every thing you had to say”.

The Wombats become the first group to record at Golden Voice. Over the next several years the band retuned to Jerry’s studio many times to record rock songs as well as doing some vocals for commercial work. In spite of all the recording, The Wombats never released any of their music.

 

Forty eight years later the original tapes have been found. restored and remastered.  Here is the first song recorded at Golden Voice in 1966, You Lied by The Wombats.

–You Lied along with three other cuts  from both the 1966 and 1967 sessions are being issued on a 7″ vinyl ep by Chicago record label Alona’s Dream in conjunction with the original Golden Voice studio / label.  More info here: http://alonasdreamrecords.com/

The Wombats recall the summer of 1967 as their peak period. In 1967 they took first place in the Henry County, IL Fair Battle of the Bands.  As a result, they also played outdoors during the day and indoors at night at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. Later they played at the Opera House for the Heart of Illinois Fair in Peoria.  The Wombats also played smaller jobs around Central Illinois.  A mix of teen dances and college dances including some clubs.

1967 The Wombats on stage at the Illinois State Fair

1967 Wombats Mobbed

1967 Wombats State Fair autographs copy

 

The group called it quits in 1968 and the members went their separate ways.  John would go on to pursue a solo career under the name John St Jainne (A stage name inspired by Nick St. Nicholas of Steppenwolf) self-producing a gentle psychedelic folk 45 on Golden Voice.  Greg would go on to be part of the group Gidian’s Bible, who would also go on to record at Golden Voice.  After Gidian’s Bible Greg and Tom would play in a group simply known as “E” (E band).  Subsequent to his stint in “E” Greg would then sing for the immensely successful group Petra. Tom Byler would become an intricate part of Golden Voice’s future, functioning as an house engineer on many of the more well known recordings done at the studio post 1970.

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