Frank Slay & the Colorado Connection
I came across this December, 1970 article in Cash Box Magazine which reinforces several of my entries relating to Colorado being fertile ground for record producer Frank Slay, Jr., obtaining local talent. This article comes well after Slay had brought several Colorado area ‘garage groups’ onto his Chicory record label which he founded in late 1963.
Slay had earlier connected with singer/song writer Bob Crewe – initially to have a singer to cut demo’s of Slay’s compositions. In short order the duo would begin writing and producing together – landing jobs at Swan Records which was formed out of Philadelphia in late 1957. Swan was founded by Tony Mamarella and Bernie Beinnick and part owner American Band Stand host Dick Clark who stay connected to the label until the payola investigations forced him to relinquish his position there.
Rocker Freddy Cannon would anchor the label keeping it afloat for several years until the Beatles came along and provided a much needed influx of income with the release of “She Loves You”, which bombed on the first attempt before the group was a known commodity but a tremendous success upon second issue in January of 1964.
When Swan Records began experiencing it’s decline, Slay elected to make a move to Los Angeles where he would start up Chicory Records in November of 1963. A few years would pass and then probably in early 1966 Slay would begin to visit Denver, Colorado for various teen music events including KIMN’s “Battle of the Bands”. His first release by a Colorado connected group – “The Fender Benders” was released “Scooter” b/w “Head ‘N’ Shoulders – 1,2,3.
Slay’s Chicory label came hot on the heels of his first label “Claridge” which began cutting discs in the fall of 1965 and continued on into 1978. After signing the Fender Benders, Slay would cut records with The Rainy Daze, The Boenzee Cryque, The Monocles and the Higher Elevation all out of Colorado. Later members of the Cryque would be Rusty Young and George Grantham who went on to form Poco. Two members of the Higher Elevation were former Monocles – a Greeley, Colorado group.
Uni Records would take the master for “That Acapulco Gold” by the Rainy Daze and it would become the label’s first charting record reaching a modest number 70 probably due in part to being banned on several radio stations. Slay would then bring over his recording of “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock and that one would go all the way to the top of the charts (it was first released on the obscure “All-American” label.) The Strawberry’s would place four more singles on the Hot 100 – none composed by Gilbert and Carter.
The Strawberry Alarm Clock was originally named “Thee Sixpence” but changed their name due to a conflict in names with another band.
The song was penned by University of Colorado students Tim Gilbert and John Carter. Gilbert along with his brother Kip were both members of the Rainy Daze and had both been members of Colorado’s Rising Sons” out of Denver in 1965. Tim Gilbert would also release one Uni single in 1967 as a solo artist working again with John Carter on writing and Slay producing.
The duo of Gilbert and Carter would write songs for a group called The Yankee Dollar recording for Dot Records in the summer of 1968
John Carter enjoyed a productive life in music beyond the 1960’s working at Atlantic Records and then in an A&R capacity for Capitol Records and signing Bob Welch, The Motels and Sammy Hagar to the label, He would sign Tina Turner to Capitol and revived her career – working with her on her highly successful “Private Dancer” LP.
Carter and Gilbert would compose “Union Man” for Mick Emeson who recorded the song on Colorado’s Crested Butte label. Mick was a former member of Boulder, Colorado’s “Pleasant Street Blues Band” and before that Denver’s Galaxies and a group called Climax.
Carter passed away in May of 2010 a victim of cancer.
As mentioned – Slay started up Claridge Records before Chicory – The label met with very little success until Slay brought the Denver-based group on-board. Sugarloaf first hit the pop charts with “Green-Eyed Lady” in the summer of 1970, on the Liberty record label where they first worked with Frank Slay as producer. Slay and group would release three singles on Liberty before moving to United Artists and Brut records – all the while working with Slay.
Their 4th single “Don’t Call Us – We’ll Call You” returned the group to the Top 10 – The song was actually recorded in Golden, Colorado and in reality was group leader Jerry Corbetta working with session players – none of which were members of Sugarloaf – as well as a vocal group called The Flying Saucers. The song was intended as a slap back at CBS Records which had rejected Sugarloaf who had turned them down before their Liberty signing.
Frank Slay through his working association with Roger Christian and Richard Russell – would come to produce Denver’s Moonrakers post Tower days on the Shamley Record Label. Three members would go on to join Colorado’s Sugarloaf: Bob Mavitte – Bob Webber and Veeder Van Dorn.
Colorado On Chicory Records – The Slay Connection
Colorado On Uni Records – The Slay Connection
Colorado on Claridge Records – The Slay Connection
More Sugarloaf 45 Releases – The Slay Connection and/or Carter & Gilbert