Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Obscure '70s Texas garage - "The Barons"

Geez, talk about a popular 1960s band name - there are literally dozen of outfits out there with The Barons nameplate and for some reason a bunch of them (including this outfit), hail from Texas.   

Can't say I know much about this quintet.  The liner notes show their line-up featured lead guitarist John Anderson, singer Vance Charles, drummer Ralph McCauley, keyboardist Frank Sebesta, and bassist Dusty Wakeman.  Charles had previously recorded a couple of solo 45s including one for Spinner (credited to Yakkity Quack and the Sonics, one for the Lori label, and one under his name for the Golden Eagle label.  Charles, McCauley, and Sebesta had also previously been members of Vance Charles and the Sonics, who recorded a mid-1960 single for the Texas-based Golden Eagle label:      

credited to The Sonics 
- 1963's 'Is It True' b/w 'Is Our Love True?' (Renner catalog number 237)      

credited to Yakkity Quack and the Sonics: 
- 1964's 'Mr. Train' b/w 'Suzy Q' (Spinner catalog number 9553)      

credited to Vance Charles: 
- 1965's 'Let's Fall in Love' b/w 'Closer To Me' (Lori catalog number 9553)      

credited to Vance Charles and the Sonics: 
- 1966's 'Put the Shoe On Willie' b/w 'All for the Love of a Girl' (Golden Eagle catalog number GE 201) 
- 1966's 'My Soul' b/w 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place' (Golden Eagle catalog number GE 204)   

By the early-1970s Charles and company had morphed into The Baron and become locally popular playing American Legion posts, Knights of Columbus fund raisers, and  San Antonio clubs.  They're audience was seemingly large enough to encourage the band to record a vanity album - 1970's cleverly titled "The Barons".   Judging by the track listing, they were strictly a cover band, but for the most part the performances were at least okay.  They also had a pretty eclectic repertoire ranging from conventional country (Conway Twitty's 'Never Been This Far Before'), hard rock (Deep Purple' 'Smoke On the Water'), and even a polka thrown in the mix ('Corn Cockle Polka'),.  There wasn't anything particularly original or impressive on these ten tracks, but (with the exception of the polka number), it was easy to see that these guys were probably an enjoyable live act.  You know what?   I'll take that back.  Their cover of Sly Stone's 'If You Want Me To Stay' was so unexpected and so strange that it was original.  Couple of cold beers probably made them sound even better.   

- I wasn't expecting a great deal from the opener 'Slow Down', but have to admit they're Southern rock styled cover of this rock chestnut was actually quite enjoyable.  Nice Molly Hatchet touch to it with John Anderson turning in some blazing double tracked guitar.  rating: *** stars 
- A pretty, if saccharine country-tinged ballad, 'That's the Way Love Goes' was pretty cloying to my ears.  The cheesy synthesizer touches were mildly entertaining, but couldn't save the song.   rating: ** stars
- In case you were wondering, 'Corn Cockle Polka' was really a polka.  No idea what language Charles was singing in ...  Polish?   Geez ...   rating: * star 
- Another country-tinged number (remember these guy were from San Antonio), their cover of Conway Twitty's 'Never Been This Far Before' was notable for Charles' somewhat unsteady vocal and the funny bum, bum, bum refrain.   rating: ** stars
- I'm guessing the inspiration for 'If You Want To Get To Heaven' was the Sugarloaf hit.  Their cover sticks pretty close to the original; maybe a tad quicker, but pretty good.  Won't make you forget the original, though Frank Sebesta's extended keyboard solo was fun.   rating: *** stars
- With Charles turning in his best Sly Stone impression (if Sly had just spent three weeks in a desert without any water), 'If You Want Me To Stay' displayed a surprisingly funky edge !!!   Seriously, not something you would have expected from these guys.  Add to that a simple, but effective walking bass line from Dusty Wakeman.   Great tune.   rating: **** stars
- I'm too lazy to pull out the original Chicago album, but I don't remember the piano intro to 'Color My World' going on so long.   So Charles and company didn't stray  too far from the original arrangement, though their cover came off as rather flat an uninspired.  Too his credit, Sebesta's organ added a nice edge to the performance.   rating: ** stars
- For some reason I'd always assumed Dobie Gray had written 'Loving Arms' ...  Wrong.  Tom Jans.  Another one that stuck pretty close to the hit arrangement, but paled compared to it.  rating: ** stars
- So their cover of Deep Purple' 'Smoke On the Water' stands as my choice for standout performance.  Anderson turned in a blazing cover of Blackmore's famous solo and Charles sang his lungs out on this one.  I'll also mention, hearing these guys sing it also made me pay attention to the lyrics.     rating: **** stars
- And why not round out the LP with a Dylan cover.  Well, at least Charles sounded better than Dylan.   rating: *** stars   

Nothing spectacular, but the I've heard far worse than this.  

"The Barons" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Slow Down   (Larry WIlliams) - 3:29 
2.) That's the Way Love Goes   (S.D. Shaffer - Lefty Frizzell) - 2:49 
3.) Corn Cockle Polka (instrumental)   (unknown) - 2:18 
4.) Never Been This Far Before   (Conway Twitty) - 2:52 
5.) If You Want To Get To Heaven   (S. Cash - J. Dillow) - 2:59   

(side 2)
1.) If You Want Me To Stay   (Sylvester Stewart) - 3:15

2.) Color My World   (James Pankow) - 2:47 
3.) Loving Arms   (Tom Jans) - 2:43 
4.) Smoke On the Water   (Richie Backmore - Ian Gillan - Roger Gover - Jon Lord - Ian Paice) - 5:39
5.) Knockin' On Heaven's Door   (Bob Dylan) - 3:29   

There are a couple of Barons 45s and at least three more Barons LPs:

- 'Mellow Moonlight' b/w 'Strung Out On You' - 'Wounds Of Love' b/w 'Put Me In Jail'      

"The Barons" (Solar catalog SOR 101)
- 1972's "By Request" (Solar catalog number SOR 102)
- 1976' "Small Town Revival" (Baron catalog BRN LP 002)


  1. From Needville and Rosenberg Texas, not San Antonio...

  2. That is right, looking up "the barons " there is a group in San Antonio, but all Spanish