The Alliance, Peoria, IL

The Alliance, Peoria, IL

The Alliance started in 1968 when Chicago transplant Barry Brenner enrolled in Bradley University in Peoria. Barry grew up on the south side of Chicago and had been playing acoustic guitar since a young age. By the time he was in high school he had a working rock ’n roll band called The Faintest Idea. When he matriculated at Bradley he was anxious to get back to playing in a band.  He met and became good friends with bass player Roger Elem from Valley Stream, New York, who was also enrolled at Bradley.  One day when Barry and Roger were at a jam session at the Bradley student union Gary Richrath heard them playing (note: according to Barry, Dan Fogelberg was also there that day). Gary asked to join their group on rhythm guitar and introduced Barry and Roger to skilled local musicians Denny Probst and Tom LaConte.  Barry christened the newly formed group The Alliance and they began their musical journey, playing up and down the state on weekends. They played in Peoria at the Glen Oak Park Bandshell and also at The Exposition Gardens Opera House on May 17th 1969 in support of touring UK sensations The Foundations.  

Poster courtesy of Barry Brenner.

Poster courtesy of Barry Brenner.

The Alliance, 1968 – 1969:

Barry Brenner (lead guitar & vocals), Roger Elem (Fender bass & vocals), Gary Richrath (rhythm guitar), Tom LaConte (Hammond B3), Denny Probst (drums)

 

The Alliance 2

The Alliance in front of the house they lived in. Bruce Brown photographer.

Gary’s affiliation with Hank Skinner and his business Peoria Musical Enterprises led to a sponsorship deal which included badly needed band gear and a few bookings. Hank also secured the band a few of hours of studio time at Golden Voice in 1969 to record a demo tape.

Barry B

Bruce Brown photographer.

 

 

Barry Brenner recalls recording at Golden Voice:

“I do clearly remember the very first time I put on cans to track my vocals. I was absolutely amazed at hearing myself so clearly through the Neumann U87 tube mic and Jerry’s echo chamber. It was a fab experience and quite a thrill to record at a locally famous ‘Professional Studio’! I was also impressed with the high ceilings at his studio and was told Milam built the place to ‘CBS’ spec.”

The Alliance

The Alliance playing outside at Bradley University. Bruce Brown photographer.

The group cut two songs, the Terry Reid version of Tinker Tailor and a Richrath original Let Me Love You While I Can.  After mix down Jerry provided the group with a two track mono take away dub (as he often did with groups not cutting a 45 using the Golden Voice label).  The tracks were shopped around to labels but the songs and group were never picked up for release. The group would disband and go their separate ways not long after.

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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 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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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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Carl Trantham aka Carl Trent, Golden Voice Legend.

Carl Trantham aka Carl Trent, Golden Voice Legend. 

Carl Trantham is a true musical legend.  His story predates Golden Voice and his legacy continues today amongst hard-core collectors of genuine county, bluegrass and rockabilly records.  

carl today

Carl got his start Highland, MO at the age of six playing guitar and singing with his family.  He would relocate to Peoria, IL in 1951 where he would support his musical endeavors with a job as a welder at Caterpillar Tractor Co.  By 1957 he had formed a rockabilly group which would record and release two records: Carl Trantham and The Rythm All Stars -Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way) / After I Go Away – Lincoln Records 643 (1957) and Carl Trantham With The Rhythm All Stars – Deedle Deedle Dum / Our True Love – Starday 361 (1958).    Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way) was recorded at the WMBD studios in Peoria.  It was self-produced via Starday records’ private pressing facilities.  When asked by the pressing plant for a name for his new record label, Carl chose Lincoln.


 

Carl’s songwriting and performing continued through the 1960’s.  Carl, along with his brother Lee, penned songs for several artists who would cut records at Golden Voice during that time. These included both sides of Eddie Green’s record on Thunder and the Country Music Group from Lake Of The Ozarks MO. Country Music Hall’s record, among others.  

Carl recorded a 45 at Golden Voice which was released on the Golden Voice label: Carl Trent – Jingle Bell Trucker / Don’t Say That You Can’t Love Me – GV 7 -08Carl Trent Jingle Bell Trucker

Carl’s biggest break would come using the name Carl Trent in 1970 with a upbeat country song cut in an eight hour session at Golden Voice: Caterpillar Man.  Carl Trent – Caterpillar Man / Seasons of Despair – Nugget 1054.

caterpillar manGuitar duties on Caterpillar Man were handled by another Golden Voice alum and musical legend Steve Gibson.  Other players on the recording are Joe Frakes on drums (Joe played on many Golden Voice sessions) and Kenny Elam on bass.

The recording was released by Fred Carter Jr’s Nugget Records and became a regional hit.  The A side was played heavily on country radio stations, especially in the Peoria area, but saw action as far away as the influential Nashville country station WENO.  The single’s success earned him a five year contract with Nugget.


His next release was another single for Nugget records: Carl Trent – Service Station Man / Woman I Need Your Love – Nugget 1059.   Around this time, he had a working band consisting of his family members called The Highlanders (named after their hometown in Missouri).  The group featured his brother Lee, nephew Ricky, brother-in-law Jim Smith and another brother-in-law Larry McIntyre.  He also made regular appearances on the Peoria NBC affiliate WEEK-TV’s Country Express show, sometimes performing alongside his wife Virginia. A true songwriter, Carl wrote has written many songs that were recorded by all kinds of musicians, sometimes receiving national attention and airplay.   He continues to perform, write and record to this day. 

*Note: some of the biographical facts about Carl in this article come from a 1970 article written by Jean Budd for the Peoria Journal Star.

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Inner Sanctum, Virden, IL.

Inner Sanctum

Inner Sanctum

Inner Sanctum was a teen rock band from Virden, a small southern Illinois coal mining town with a fraught history.  For the members of the group learning to play music was an escape from their modest backgrounds and small town boredom of the time.  Two brothers were the core of the group, a rhythm section of Joe Hogan on drums and Dave Hogan (known to all since birth simply as Hogan) on bass. Hogan would also double as the band’s rodie / manager.  Larry Clark played guitar and organ, Gene Skeen played guitar and sang lead vocals and Mike Bates was the lead guitar player.  The group would switch off organ / guitar responsibilities depending on the song.  The Hogan brothers’ father, D. Hogan, was their agent and mentor. They practiced in their garage sometimes even recording themselves with a cheap recorder.

The group came together in 1966 while the members were in high school all around the ages of 14 to 16, at first mostly as a way to meet girls. Things however became much more serious and the band quickly found they were practicing two nights a week and spending three more nights playing shows.  Such a busy work schedule saw the guys making more money playing local shows than their teachers were earning per week!  They would encounter some real resentment on the part of the teachers who saw these wild kids with long hair and new found earnings. Hogan was a really big kid and would have been an asset to any football team.  He said “they let me play my senior year of football with long hair but then for the second semester they told me I would have to cut my hair to conform to the dress code.”  He went to his father who said to comply and cut it so he did.  Apparently the trim wasn’t enough for the coaches, who demanded a shaved “burr” cut.  He went back to his father who told him not to put up with the schools abusive demands.  This combined with the band’s increasing success lead to the bass player becoming a real rock n roll drop out.    What use was there to be in school if they already had their dream jobs? 

Inner Sanctum would record at Golden Voice three times.  They initially learned about the studio via Randy Baldwin a dj at the local radio station, WCVS.  They needed to make a recording to use as an audition tape for the amateur band contest on ABC’s Happening ’68 TV show.  Arrangements were made for the guys to record at Golden Voice.  They would record on a weekend because the studio’s rates were cheaper on weekends.  They would set off at six in the morning to arrive by eight and record three songs for their demo tape. This was still the early days of the studio and they grouop recorded on the four track set up using their amps and playing live in the studio.  Hogan recalled how Jerry let them know it was their time and they could use it how they would like and that he would do what he could to bring out the best in their music.  The results were three cover songs including their amped up version of Gimmie Some Lovin’.    The recordings were a success and Inner Sanctum was selected to play the show.  In 1968 they would travel to Los Angeles for a week to perform Gimmie Some Lovin as part of the battle of the bands contest, where they would achieve a respectable 2nd place.  As a result of this trip they were able to see a lot of the really great west coast bands and experience the music scene in LA in the late 1960’s.  They also were able to make connections for a second return trip to play on the west coast later on in 1969.  They also played two stops on the way out and three on the way back to finance the trip. 

The group would return to Golden Voice two more times.  On their next trip they would record their lone single: Inner Sanctum – Can’t Make It without You / The Times Are Getting Better.   The record was produced using the Golden Voice house label: Thunder.  The 1967 copyright date on the label reflects the label design and a number of the records on Thunder were released in 1968.  Thunder was used in the first few years, along side the eponymous Golden Voice label, as a option for people who were looking to create the feel of a proper releases on an established label for their self-released projects.


It was on the occasion of recording their single that the band would forgo the live method of playing for a more highly produced sound.  It was the first time the band would plug directly into the console instead of using amps.  They also used headphone monitors for the first time at this session.  Some of the members had trouble adapting and had to play with one side of the headphones off of their ear to hear the room sound.  According to Hogan, Jerry took time and showed them how the studio worked as he took them through the mixing process of the record.  Jerry was able to use the studio’s echo chamber and high ceiling with very early acoustic sound treatments to craft the psychedelic sound of their record.  

Inner Sanctum Times Are Getting Better

On their third trip to Golden Voice they would get to experience the conversion to an eight track studio.  The band’s goal this trip would be to record three songs. The trouble with that idea was that they had only two songs written when it came time to go to Pekin.  They were undaunted and when they set out at six AM that day the group was able to come up with one on the trip north.  Unfortunately for posterity, all of the tapes of their Golden Voice sessions were destroyed in a flood years ago.  The group would continue to play locally for years and in 1976 the members went their separate ways. 

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Timothy P. and the Rural Route 3, Gridley, IL.

Timothy P. and the Rural Route 3 originally formed in Gridley, Illinois. Timothy P Irvin, the group’s singer, had lead an early central Illinois rock ‘n roll group from 1963 to 1967 called The Shattertones. (Note: it has been determined via tax records that The Shattertones recorded at Golden Voice sometime in 1967).  Timothy joined the service in 1967 and upon his return he formed  The Mackinaw Valley Boys with Jerry “Pork” Armstrong (more on Pork Armstrong and the Mackinaw Valley Boys later). Around 1972 after the Mackinaw Valley Boys had run their course Timothy along with Bruce Horn and Bo Bobell (also original Mackinaw Valley Boys) would start a new group, Timothy P. and the Rural Route 3.   

Mackinaw Valley Boys

Mackinaw Valley Boys

 The group would then relocate to Colorado.  According to Bruce Horn: “While in Vail, Timothy was offered a regular gig that would give us half-interest in a club called The Gnu Gnu”.   The club was being set up in anticipation of coming 1976 Winter Olympics. When, in late 1972, Colorado voters refused funding for the Olympics things changed and the group decided to play a hotel called The Vail Village Inn (as mentioned on the back of their first LP) for the following winter season in 1973.  Their original guitar player wasn’t interested in the gig so Bruce Horn contacted a friend in New York: Jerry “Muttonhead” Erickson who came out, auditioned and won the job.  It was at that point that the line up was solidified with Timothy P Irvin (vocals), Bo Bobell (drums), Bruce Horn (bass) and Jerry “Muttonhead” Erickson (guitar). Their sound showed a real love of old-time country music but also an awareness of all that had happened since the Summer of Love. The band would incorporate a broad scope of everything else that influenced them from rock and pop to gospel.

The group played almost every day so by the time they headed back to central Illinois and Golden Voice to record they had become a tight unit of musicians.  Their first recordings were done in the fall of 1974.  They group laid down the tracks that would become the single Timothy P. and the Rural Route 3 – Jesus Scared The Hippy Out Of Me / Cloudy In Kansas – Golden Voice GV7 -26. 

Jesus Scared the Hippy

 

Timothy P.

 Returning to Golden Voice in the summer of 1975, they would record and mix their entire first album (except Jesus Scared the Hippie Out Of Me and Cloudy In Kansas). The group handled all distribution and sales of the record and it did very well in the college towns where they played throughout the Midwest.

The group would go on to become a cult country act and attain a fair level of popularity, releasing several more albums and lasting until the 1980’s.  Timothy Irvin would go on to sing for the legendary rock and roll tribute act Flash Cadillac (who also would later record at Golden Voice, although prior to Timothy’s involvement) while the core of the group continues playing occasional local shows as The New Rural Route 3.

 

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Steve Gibson, Golden Voice and the Peoria Music scene in the late 1960’s.

Here is Nashville legend Steve Gibson (who cut his first record at Golden Voice) talking about his past in the Peoria, Il music scene of the late 1960’s.  In this talk he did with the Country Music Hall of Fame he has some great remarks and insights regarding his first recordings at Golden Voice Recording Co.   Click here for the full video.

HIGHLIGHTS:
00:20:10 Jerry Milam
00:23:30 Peoria Factory Town
00:25:40 Steve Gibson recording
00:26:30 Caterpillar Man

Nashville Cats: Steve Gibson, click through for video.

Here is Steve’s first recorded session at Golden Voice.  An instrumental b-side, it was an unassuming beginning to a massive recording career which would see him as one of the most in-demand session players in Nashville.

Young Steve Gibson c. 1965.

Young Steve Gibson c. 1965.

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