The songs you are about to listen to was a project from the drama department that Robert Stern, the head of the drama department at the time, (I believe, it's been a long time since I've even thought about this) at Lake Superior State College in 1971. Yes, Lake State was a college at the time, and not a University. The idea was to write a play about the upper peninsula of Michigan and incorporate songs into the play. Hence the name, What's U.P. (Upper Peninsula) Now, you have to remember, (some of you weren't even born yet) but back then, rock opera's were the rage. The Who had "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia". There was "Jesus Christ Superstar", "The Wall" and David Bowie's"The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spider From Mars". Robert Stern reached out to Rich Demolen (our bands keyboard player at the time) to write some songs about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Rick Mason, Paul Wade, (I will tell you a story about him in a minute), myself, (Tim Hatfield) Michael Jackson, and Pat Kight helped write some songs also. Rich wrote most of the music for the play. I helped write a couple of the songs and Pat Kight helped out on a song or two also. Our band that recorded the songs was a band called Stonepipe and it consisted mostly of the guys I mentioned earlier. Rich DeMolen on the Hammond L-100 and two Leslie speakers, Rick Mason on a Guild bass guitar. A nice bass with a Cherry finish. I played a number of guitars back then because I didn't own a guitar. I always had to borrow one. I hated borrowing a guitar but I didn't have the money to buy one. Eventually I ended up buying a Gibson ES-335 that I still own to this day. Paul Wade played drums. His drums were called ^^#@#$^&T. In other words, they were a conglomerate of different drum sets stuck together. But he had a knack of making a cardboard box sound good. And last but not least, was Michael Jackson. Not "THE" Michael Jackson but a very talented person non the less. He could act, sing, dance and do all of that standing on his head. Yes he was that good. So the band got together and practiced and practiced for the play. But when we started out on this venture, a guy buy the name of Joe, (I won't mention his last name), played the drums for us. As I said, we practiced and practiced until we finally had the songs down and ready to play for the play What's U.P.. Before we were to perform, someone ordered up a recording contract with RCA records. I couldn't believe what I saw when I walked in the auditorium at the college. There was a guy sitting there behind a desk with a TEAC 3340-S tape deck. Which is a 4-track, sound-on-sound, reel-to-reel tape deck. Back then, it was a top of the line portable tape deck. These tape decks are indestructible. They are work horses. I've owned one for over twenty years and it still works great but they weigh a ton. So when this guy set up his gear I was taken aback by all of this cool equipment. Until I saw him pull out one microphone and plugged it into the deck. Now I didn't know too much about recording back then but I did know that if you are going to record in stereo you need two sides of the recording. Left channel and right channel. Left ear, right ear. Not too hard to figure out. But this guy was too much. Like I said, he pulled out one microphone and stuck it right in the center of the stage then turned on the tape deck and just let it run. Therefore, what you get is a mono, flat sounding recording. He didn't have any equalization or any effects to speak of. Just a very dull recording.
Now, back to Paul Wade and Joe the drummer:
On the night of the recording, Joe was suddenly very upset about something. He just got up off of his drum seat, packed up his drums and left. I couldn't believe what was happening. Our drummer just quit on the night of recording the music for the play. What was the problem? It couldn't be fixed? What was going on? Nevertheless, he just got up and walked out on us. So what were we going to do? Then a bell rang in our heads. Let's do the obvious thing and call Paul Wade. He is the drummer in our band Stonepipe. The only reason Joe was playing was because he was the one that was contracted out to do the play. So we called up Paul and he came down to the college right away. Within in minutes of his arrival he had his drums set up and was ready to play. Paul was a miracle in disguise. He learned all eleven songs in about fifteen minutes. That's how good he was. You might hear a few mistakes in the songs but we all made a few mistakes. I was, as was everyone, nervous and anxious to get this thing over with. After going through this and all of the preparation to get it done and get it done right, we were all proud of making an album. Nobody had ever been on an album before so this was special to not only us but the whole cast and crew that made this play fun to make. I remember that this was one of the happiest times in my life.
Now, here is how I put these songs on the internet:
A couple of years ago I was at Station Mall in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. They were having a flea market in the middle of the concourse. I started filing through some old records and low and behold, I came across the album "What's U.P.". My jaw flew open because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Of course I had to buy it for the cool cool price of 25 cents. Yup, 25 cents. What a buy. I couldn't pass it up. I promptly ran home and put it on the old turntable and it played like it was brand new. Hardly a scratch on it. All in all it was in pretty good condition. Until recently, the technology wasn't there to transfer albums to CD's. Now there is the technology to do so and I have the right equipment to do it. I have made this from album to CD for those of you that want to take a little trip down memory lane. I hope you sit back and enjoy the music from the play "What's U.P.
Paul Wade has contributed to this part about the music and the play from his prospective. Here you go.
From my memory, I remember getting a call at about 9:00 pm saying that you guys needed me to come and record the songs because the first take turned out badly and Joe had already packed up. I didn't know he had walked out on you. I had seen the play performed at the Soo Theatre, so I at least had heard the songs....once. I remember walking into Crawford Hall and seeing everyone anxiously waiting. I recall there actually being two microphones, much better than the one you describe. I also recall being told that the recording was being done by an outfit out of Nashville, so it seemed a little strange not to have a better set up. (that's what I thought).
The whole adventure seemed a little surreal, but it was a chance to actually be on a record album...wow. I believe we went through each song one at a time. After each run thru, we then recorded it. I also remember that a couple of months afterward, we were playing somewhere as Stonepipe, and for some reason we broke into the Overture. We should have recorded that, because I remember thinking it sounded much better than what we had recorded. When the album came out (that sounds so cool!) I got two copies, and still have them. Never thought to digitize it. Glad you did. Couldn't believe you didn't have a copy, and then that you found one in a flea market. Where did it come from, I wonder. As to my drums, yes, they were my brother Bob's drums combined with a smaller set that Mary's mother had bought for her brother Mike. I think it was the first double bass drum set in the Soo. I still have them; in fact I have recently set them up and am playing again after 12 or so years. The only change is that I bought a double base kick and disposed of the other base drum. I also peeled off the original speckled coverings down to the wood and stained them all a nice mahogany. After 12 years, I have lost a lot of speed and timing, but it's coming back. Like I tell Mary, I suck at it, but I enjoy it.
Thank you Paul for your input. Every little bit helps.
Below is a list of the songs that we wrote and recorded.