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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rare as Hen's Teeth Blue Things Promo Poster!

Based upon my last post about the amazin' Blue Things, which can be seen HERE, a fan sent me these photos of a Blue Things promo poster. All I can say is: "Wow!" The condition is immaculate and I don't even want to venture a guess at the rarity.

Blue Things
Blue Things

The Blue Things formed in 1964 in Hays, Kansas, as the Blue Boys, where Mike Chapman, Richard Scott and Rick "Laz" Larzalere were members of the Barons, a local outfit led by Jim Fetters. Forming the group was Chapman's idea and he came up with the name. In the early days they wore blue suits onstage.

The three decided that, after the split from the Barons, they needed a rhythm guitar player who could also sing. They found what they were looking for when they auditioned Mike Chapman's roommate Val Stecklein. Mike and Val performed as a folk duo around Hays when other obligations allowed, and Stecklein had played with Scott in a rock band called the Dukes back in 1958 before turning his back on rock and roll for folk music.

Stecklein and the others had been writing material and decided it was time to record some of it. On July 7, 1964, at Damon Studios in Kansas City, the Blue Boys recorded four songs. In September, they went back to Damon and recorded four more. The Damon Recordings helped the Blue Boys get a deal with Ruff Records of Amarillo, Texas, in October, and they went to the Sullivan Studios in Oklahoma City that December to cut their first single, "Mary Lou" b/w "Your Turn To Cry". To avoid confusion with the late Jim Reeves' back-up band, who had continued recording for RCA after Reeves' death, the Blue Boys became the Blue Things.

Blue Things
Blue Things

The band had attracted attention on a trip to Nashville to play behind Mid-Continent singer Jim Dale. Session musicians (including Ray Stevens, Floyd Cramer & Jerry Corrigan) ended up playing on Dale's Monument Records single "Mountain Dew", but the Blue Things were signed to RCA. The first Blue Things single for the label was "I Must Be Doing Something Wrong", an original written by Val Stecklein, Mike Chapman and Richard Scott in their car on the way from a gig in Missoula, Montana, to Nashville.
Blue Things
Blue Things
The second single for RCA, "Doll House" b/w "The Man On The Street" was a victim of timing according to Richard Scott. "Time" magazine had published a cover story on questionable song lyrics just before the single's release. Scott claims that disc jockeys and program directors were afraid to play "Doll House" because it was about a young girl's life as a prostitute. Ads for "Doll House" featured a drawing by Val Stecklein's roommate S. Clay Wilson, who later found fame with his work in San Francisco's "Zap Comix."

Blue Things
Blue Things
Twelve songs recorded by the Blue Things on the band's first two trips to Nashville were collected together for a self-titled album in the fall of 1966. Record collectors now pay as much a $100 for a copy of the album "The Blue Things" which listed for $2.98 in mono and $3.98 in stereo originally. Since RCA didn't make a jukebox version of the album, John Brown took his copy of the master tapes to Lawrence's Audio House and had "soft-cut" acetates made of several of the album's song for local jukebox play. The Blue Things used to record at Audio House, but none of what they did there was released for nearly a decade.



The Blue Things' third Nashville session and last with Val Stecklein produced one of the finest examples of psychedelia ever--"Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind" b/w "One Hour Cleaners". Both sides were written by Val & Mike, with Richard helping write "One Hour Cleaners". Bobby Day's backward countdown on "One Hour Cleaners" is his only recorded vocal. In 1975, when Alan Betrock asked the readers of his publication "The Rock Marketplace" to name the records they most wanted to add to their collections, one of the top five mentioned was the Blue Things' "Orange Rooftop".

All of the Blue Things records for RCA were engineered by Jim Malloy and were produced by the late Felton Jarvis, who is best remembered for his long assocition with Elvis Presley. Kris Kristofferson, Nilsson and Ray Stevens played on various sessions. While the Blue Things' records are prized now, it is their live performances that fans remember most. A typical set went like this: the original "Doll House" followed by a Beatles medley of "Paperback Writer"/ "Nowhere Man'/"I Saw Her Standing There"/"Twist And Shout"/"Rain"/ "Day Tripper", then Love's "My Little Red Book", Summer In The City", "Shapes Of Things" and finally, "I'm A Man" and "My Generation".



In the spring of 1967, Val Stecklein's health forced his departure from the Blue Things, and he was replaced by Larry Burton of Topeka's Jerms. Burton not only took over on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, but he played keyboards, which added to the band's sound. Larry sang lead on the band's next single, a great version of "Twist And Shout", but the flipside "You Can Live In Our Tree" featured Val Stecklein's vocals. It had been recorded at the same time as "Orange Rooftop".
Blue Things
Blue Things

The fifth and final single for RCA was a cover of the Spencer Davis Group's "Somebody Help Me". The odd B-side sounded like a cross between the New Vaudeville Band and the Mothers of Invention. Richard Scott sang the lead vocals on "Yes My Friend" thru a megaphone to achieve the desired effect. After playing and singing with the Blue Things for a few more months and on an Audio House session, a collection of covers ("East West", "Talk Talk", "My Generation", "Hey Joe", etc.) which has survived on acetate, Larry Burton was drafted and has never been heard from again. He was replaced by Mike Kelley, who the Blue Things found playing in Hays with the Playmate Blues Band. Before long the band's music evolved again, and Kelley's friend from the Playmate Blues Band Rich Bisterfeldt was brought in as a second drummer.



The Blue Things broke with their Management in early 1968; who, unfortunately, owned the group's name. For a few months the band played the area as Cracker Barrel, but at their last appearance ever in Lawrence, at the Wesley Foundation April 18, 1968, they unveiled a new name: Fyre. Richard Scott had come up with the name to reflect a new Rhythm and Blues sound. The guys in Fyre, except for Bobby Day, planned a move to California. Mike Doyle of the Jerms took his place and played on the band's final recording session at Audio House, at which four songs were recorded. Two of them were Doyle originals..."I'm Gonna Leave You" and "Things That Could". Mike Chapman also wrote a song for the session, while the fourth was a group effort. Chapman went out to L.A. a couple of weeks earlier than the others to check things out and to set up some gigs.

Blue Things
Blue Things
Soon after arriving on the West Coast, Fyre was scheduled to play for Senator Robert Kennedy's post-primary election celebration. The guys were on their way to the Ambassador Hotel, when they heard the news on their limo's radio that Kennedy had been assassinated. A couple of weeks later Fyre obtained some gigs playing at the Whiskey a Go-Go. The Blue Things' original record producer Ray Ruff signed Fyre to Dot and planned to release the four Audio House sides that have remained unissued. The band then went on tour with a Van Morrison-less version of Them; another band Ruff had produced. The last dates on the tour were at the Electric Theatre in Chicago, opening for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Following the tour, Fyre broke up and the members scattered. Some returned to California, and others went back to Kansas.



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