Souled Out, Peoria, IL

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. 

Jerry Allen in the Blue Gray era.

Jerry Allen in the Blue Gray era.

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.

souled out group2

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.  

souled out 4 pics

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.

Souled Out In The Morning

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. 

kule aid kids

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.

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