Finding Their Way onto Vinyl – & On to the Movies
The Astronauts Land a Recording Session
Collectors have pondered how Boulder Colorado’s Astronauts came to first record on the New York Palladium label – So I contacted the local expert, Colorado Blogger (and Dentist) Doc Krieger
“This is the story Jim Gallagher told me years ago for an article I wrote for Discoveries.
Bob Demmon, Jim Sellars, John “Stormy” Patterson, Jim Gallagher where the Boulder band the Stormtroupers (have seen it as one or two words and spelled Troopers and even Tropers in one old ad but Stormy insists it was with the “u” as in a team of players). Bob was in the Sigma Nu Fraternity at CU and so was journalism student Doug Looney (future Sports Illustrated writer) who loved the band and wrote and article about them for the Sigma Nu magazine. It is said that Stan Zabka of Palladium records in Chicago read the article and was interested in recording them but only if they changed their name which they did to the Astronauts since one of the original 7 NASA ‘nauts was Scott Carpenter who was from Boulder as well.
The guys needed a song to record so Stormy wrote the rocker “Come Along Baby” and for the flip he decided to sing “Trying To Get To You” which Elvis and Roy Orbison recorded but Ricky Nelson popularized. The guys took the Zephyr from Denver’s Union Station to Chicago where they waxed the songs then came back home. It came out on Palladium B 610. The date I have always heard and read is 1962 for all this however I have seen one reference to 1961 so you decide.”
Off to the Movies
The Astronauts found their way into Hollywood via five youth oriented surf type films. The Astronauts were in more films than any other surf-era band.
“Surf Party” – 1964 – 20th Century
This movie was the Astronauts first venture into Hollywood. The movie starred Bobby Vinton, Jackie DeShannon and a long list of young non notables. The Astronauts were joined by The Routers providing music and portraying themselves. “Firewater” had all the marks of a true Astronaut track – shown below.
“Wild on the Beach” – 1965 – 20th Century Fox
This film was the debut vehicle for Sonny & Cher. Actors included Sherry Jackson, Frankie Randall, Gayle Caldwell and Jackie Miller. The Astronauts perform four songs in the movie including “Little Speedy Gonzalez”, “Pyramid Stomp”, “Snap It” and “Rock This World”. Here they are performing “Rock This World” and “Speedy Gonzales”
“Out of Sight” – 1966 – RCA Victor
This one was loaded with talent and I am sure the Astronauts were proud to be included with the likes of Gary Lewis & The Playboys, The Turtles, Freddie & The Dreamers, The Knickerbockers, and Dobie Gray. A very goofy movie with mostly a musical cast. The trailer below from the movie briefly shows all the groups and acts.
“Wild, Wild Winter” – 1966 – Decca
This time the surfers take to the ski slopes (pre-snow board) with lead actors Gary Clarke and Chris Noel. Clarke was best known for his role on Television’s “The Virginian” where he portrayed Steve Hill. Clarke started off way back in an early episode of TV’s “Sky King”. Noel starred in several lesser known movies and for a brief time in the early 1970’s fronted a hastily put-together folk group – “Quilt”.
The Astronauts joined Jay & The Americans, The Beau Brummels, Dick & Dee Dee and Jackie & Gayle in the musical cast for this adventure. Jackie Caldwell & Gayle Miller had been members of the Folk group The New Christy Minstrels. Jackie also acted in “Wild on the Beach”. She had earlier been married to New Christy Minstrel founder Randy Sparks.
Post Note: Lee Hazelwood & The Astronauts
The Astronauts owe their biggest single success to composer, producer, performer Lee Hazelwood who penned their charting single “Baja” which premiered on their 1963 long play “Surfin’ with the Astronauts”. Hazelwood apparently intended the track for guitarist Al Casey a session player who early on played on Hazelwood’s composition “The Fool” recorded by Sanford Clark. Casey would go on to become a member of the famed session musicians “The Wrecking Crew” who often backed Phil Spector acts on Philles Records.