Smokehouse demos.

Smokehouse - The Ultimate Flash c. 1975

Smokehouse – The Ultimate Flash c. 1975

Smokehouse was a mid-seventies hard rock re-incarnation of the psychedelic heavy-blues band Ilmo Smokehouse.  By 1975 this line up featured former Ilmo Smokehouse players: Craig Moore (of the mythical GONN)  on bass & vocals, Dennis Tieken on drums and newcomer Micki Free on guitar. The group was managed by rock n’ roll legend Freddie Tieken (More info on Freddie and Ilmo Smokehouse here: http://freddietieken.com) The group recorded a series of demos at Golden Voice.

We Just Want To Live was written by Craig Moore in 1971 while with a band called Joshua. This version of the song was recorded at Golden Voice in 1975 with Terry Jamison engineering.

According to Craig Moore:

 “This was the first real studio we had been in since doing the ILMO Smokehouse album at Dan Penn’s Beautiful Sounds Studio in Memphis in 1969. I had no idea whatsoever of the Golden Voice story or history at the time. Band manager Fred Tieken had his own studio in the 1960’s so he no doubt knew about it, which is how we ended up there.

I was playing a Gibson EB-3 through a 100 watt Marshall MK II Super Bass and it’s probably DI’d (direct) also. Micki had a 100 watt  Marshall Super Lead with Univox 4×12 cabinets. Not sure which kit Dennis had at the time but big & bad whatever it was! We played pretty much at stage volume. I think scratch vocals were then overdubbed. We did 4 songs. Basically demos, none were ever finished, produced or released.”

 

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Flight – Can’t You See That I Love You

Flight, recorded at Golden Voice in the late 1970’s.

According to Ralph Lawson Flight was essentially a family affair with the song Can’t You See That I Love You featuring: Ralph Lawson (vocals), Chuck Tribbett (guitar), Jack Tribbett (drums), Greg Tribbett Sr. (bass) with Barbara Lawson and Colletta Heath Tribbett on background vocals.

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Andraé Crouch, Golden Voice Legend.

Andraé Crouch (1942 – 2015), called by many “The Father of Modern Gospel”, visited Golden Voice Studio during the 1970’s.

andrae at gv

Andraé Crouch jokes around in the Golden Voice control room.

andrae jerry

Andraé Crouch and Jerry Milam outside Golden Voice.

andrae terry tom mary ann

Andraé Crouch, Mary Ann Milam, Terry Jamison & Tom Byler.

 

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The Guild, St. Louis, MO.

GuildThe Guild recorded at Golden Voice after forming in 1968. The songs they cut were released as a 45: The Guild – The Sun Shines For You / You’ve Got The Cutest Smile – Twinight 120 in 1969.


Based out of St. Louis, The Guild at the time of the recording were: Bill Ulkus, Tomi Milano,  Terry Duggen and Denny Henson along with founding members: Jim and Rich Lang,   They were one of the top touring bands in the mid-west during their 9 year existence. Eventually signing to Elektra and releasing a second 45 in 1973. 

In addition to Rich Lang, who would go on to have a successful career in Nashville, the Guild would go on to serve as an early home to both Michael McDonald and Tom Kelly prior to their high profile work in the music industry. 

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The Sect, Walnut, IL.

The Sect

The Sect were a teen band from Walnut, IL.  They formed around 1964 or 1965 in the wake of the British Invasion and lasted for a few years playing shows at sock hops, 4H centers, high school gyms, teen centers, and anywhere else they could get a show.  The band recorded at Golden Voice in late 1967 but unfortunately the recordings are lost to time.  

The Sect: Ron Eckberg, Albert Hurst, Randall Johnson & Harry Heath.

The Sect: Ron Eckberg, Albert Hurst, Randall Johnson & Harry Heath.

Ron Eckberg singer / guitarist for The Sect relates the story in his own words.

“My earliest childhood dream was to become a singer. Growing up in a small, Midwestern farm town offered few opportunities to make that dream happen. Then the Beatles came along. We all bought guitars and formed bands.

My band was called The Sect, which sported a lineup of me, a local drummer and friend, Albert Hurst, his cousin, Randall Johnson, and Harry Heath from Annawan, Illinois. When we first started playing I probably knew three or four chords on the guitar. (Fortunately, you didn’t need much more than that). Albert was already competent if not accomplished on drums. Randall, however, had never played bass or guitar but we talked him in to being our bass player. He bought a bass and we taught him the basics and turned him loose. He became a very, very good bass player. Harry Heath, even though just 15 when he joined us, was already a veteran of a couple of local bands. He was an accomplished organist / keyboardist.”

As our local popularity grew we became “legends in our own minds” and dreamed of “making it big”. To do that we knew we had to record. Our booking agent at the time had heard about a studio in the Peoria area that another well-known local band had recorded at. We decided that was the next step in our band’s evolution. We booked time at Golden Voice Studio in South Pekin.

The sessions were set for the last week of December, 1967 and we were certainly pumped about the prospect of recording in a real studio. We worked on four songs I had written; “Happy”, “What Happy Can Be” (a little limited in my writing but, Hey, I was 17!), “Good Day”, and “Every Time”. 

We book hotel rooms in Pekin and set out from Walnut, Illinois to record those four songs that we were sure would make us stars.  Arriving at Golden Voice we were less than impressed with the outside of the building. It was out on the edge of South Pekin, near the airport. It was a nondescript cement block building that gave no indication of what was inside. We walked in to meet this tall, lanky guy named Jerry Milam. We were in awe of him, thought looking back over the years I now realize he was probably on 8 or 10 years older than we were. But he owned a studio and was a record producer!

The studio consisted of the control room filled with the equipment of the day. I know we had only 4 tracks to work with and very limited editing capability because we were working with tape. I believe the recorder was a Studer, but I could be mistaken. Nonetheless, we were impressed.   Just beyond the “board” a large window looked out into the recording room, a cavernous room with high ceilings, a number of movable baffles, and mics and mic stands positioned around the room.   We began work that first day on a ballad called “Every time”. Given our lack of experience and the limited editing capabilities of Golden Voice, it was an agonizing process. We had to get our instrumental take perfect from top to bottom and that was no small task. We did take upon take upon take. About halfway through Jerry suggested we change the intro which we did. We then got back to doing take upon take upon take again until we got one we liked. I did some vocal overdubs and place a recorder solo in the middle of the song.  I don’t remember too much about recording the other three songs. Sadly, I do not have any of the original recordings that we did in those days of December 1967. I certainly wish I did.

After those sessions, I would record at Golden Voice on occasion as a solo, putting together song-writing demos. Jerry always believed in my voice and worked very hard to get me connected with someone in the music industry. Even though nothing ever came of those contacts, I have always appreciated the fact that Jerry tried.”

Golden Voice Recording Company introduction.

Golden Voice studio outside wall

Golden Voice Studio wall c. 1966.

  Golden Voice Recording Co. was a South Pekin, Illinois based recording studio started as a basement endeavor in the early 1960’s. The studio grew until it was destroyed in a fire in July 1978.  At the time of the fire Golden Voice was the largest studio in Illinois outside of Chicago (Peoria Journal Star: July 1978). The studio was scratch built by Jerry and Mary Ann Milam in 1966 to capitalize on the relatively open recording market between Chicago and Nashville.

     The studio, located in an unassuming rural railroad town, would be an important resource for the then vibrant local music scene.  Recording everyone from local nobodies looking to cut their first demo to chart topping artists like: Styx and REO Speedwagon and everybody in between. Golden Voice was an incubator for many musical legends from songwriters and musicians to producers, agents and engineers.  The talents which emerged from the studio have had and continue to have a lasting impact on American music.   

     All types of music were recorded at the studio from Gospel, Pop, Rock ’n Roll and Jazz to Country music and much more, including advertising and radio work.  Golden Voice also served as a boutique record label offering musicians who recorded there an opportunity to release a vinyl version of their session. Pressing records on Golden Voice’s various house labels (Golden Voice and Thunder) allowed many artists a higher profile than the average self-produced records of the late 1960’s.

     The studio techniques and hand built gear pioneered at Golden Voice were at the leading edge of a revolution in studio electronics and acoustics which began in the mid 1960’s.  The studio’s pioneering techniques eventually led Jerry Milam to move from the recording business into high end studio gear installation via his company Milam Audio. Here he also made lasting contributions to studio technology which helped usher in the modern age of recording. His name still resonates among the upper echelons of studio and sound installation professionals.  Jerry has been called on numerous times to craft bespoke studios for some truly great names in American music like Leon Russell and Curtis Mayfield.

Although the studio is gone, this work is an attempt to tell the story of this important recording studio and the impact it had on the music world both locally and nationally during its relatively brief existence.

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