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Friday, December 27, 2013

Lavender Hill Express - Texas Sunshine Psych

Lavender Hill Express
Lavender Hill Express

Austin, TX, Psych Group, the Lavender Hill, Express formed in 1966. The founding members grouped former Baby Cakes guitarists Layton DePenning and Leonard Arnold with erstwhile Wig bassist Jess Yaryan and drummer Rusty Wier, along with keyboardist John Schwertner, formerly of the Reasons Why. Approximately a year following its inception, the Lavender Hill Express signed with the local Sonobeat label to cut its debut 45 rpm, "Visions." An elaborate production by local label standards, the song's rich vocal harmonies were complemented by a string quartet comprised of members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra. The memorable harpsichord is played by arranger Richard Green. The single was recorded in November 1967 and released in stereo just before Christmas.

Visions was a local hit and in March 1968 the group issued its follow-up effort - Watch Out! Schwertner left the Lavender Hill Express soon after to form Plymouth Rock, and with new keyboardist Gary P. Nunn the band cut "Outside My Window," which strongly hinted at the country direction its members would subsequently pursue. Indeed, the Lavender Hill Express dissolved in 1969, with DePenning and Wier later partnering with guitarist John Inmon in the progressive country trio Rusty, Layton & John, while Arnold resurfaced in Blue Steel. Most notably, Wier and Inmon were later founding members of Jerry Jeff Walker's Lost Gonzo Band, and DePenning later backed B.W. Stevenson.

Farnham remembers Lavender Hill Express:
I first heard Rusty Wier (playing drums), Layton DePenning, and Leonard Arnold, in the Lavender Hill Express, opening for Steppenwolf in '67 or '68 at the Memorial Auditorium. Although a 60's band, LHE had all the right folks in it (Wier, DePenning and Arnold) to lay down the basic track for the Austin Sound in the '70s. Later when I grew some brains, I started hanging with these music guys (Rusty Wier, Bobby Bridger, John Inman, Charles John Quarto, Steve Fromholz), even shooting photos, and carrying a guitar case or two. But they always got the girls, and I got to be a 'friend of the band'. (Oh, per usual, the local band outshown John Kay, who was loaded).

Just another Bozo on the bus...

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1 comment:

Bill Josey said...

Lavender Hill Express's entire Sonobeat repertoire, digitally restored and remastered, was digitally reissued by Sonobeat Historical Archives via the iTunes and AmazonMP3 stores on July 22, 2014.