During the mid- and late 1960s, I was a bass player for several local rock bands (aka garage bands) in the Cincinnati area. (That’s me on the right in the photo below, working a Fender Precision bass.)
Like the majority of my peers, I drifted away from music after a few years, and for a variety of reasons. I sometimes regret that, but it’s just as well; the demand for bands is a tiny fraction of what it was then, and the pay is mostly poor—even less than a writer’s pay. But it was all a grand experience. Along with thousands of other teenage musicians around the country, I was living in a world that our parents, teachers, and other adults couldn’t see—let alone enter. And we made it up as we went along.
I managed to give the drugs a miss, and I remember it all well, belying the breezy aphorism that “if you can remember it you weren’t there.” I have ambitions of writing a book on the experience (the thieving disc jockeys, the big names, the rivalries, and camaraderie, the groupies, the hangers-on, the lies, minor adventures, and all the rest of the tragic and comedic experiences), but that’s on the back burner for now.
In the meantime, someone else has put together a book that offers a wonderful overview of popular and country music in Cincinnati in the 1960s, as well as the two decades preceding it. The Cincinnati Sound, by Randy McNutt (Arcadia Press, 2007) brings the rock, soul, rockabilly, R&B, country, and bluegrass music, musicians, and singers who were part of the Cincinnati scene from 1940 through 1970.
With photos, text, and ephemerae, McNutt brings to life such famous performers as Doris Day, Andy Williams, and Rosemary Clooney, all of whom got their starts in Cincinnati in the 1940s. He also introduces us to a number of upwardly-mobile acts for whom Cincinnati (and, usually, WLW) was an important way-station or stopover. Among these were Chet Atkins, Grandpa Jones, Merle Travis, et numerous al. Also on the just passing through list was Hank Williams, who recorded “Lovesick Blues” in Cincinnati, along with James Brown, who recorded many of his hits at Cincinnati’s King Records, as did Moon Mullican, Bobby Bare, Hankshaw Hawkins, and others.
In more recent memory, a goodly number of R&B, blues, soul, country, and rock musicians came from or got their starts in Cincinnati. These include the Isley Brothers, Lonnie Mack, the Lemon pipers (remember “Green Tambourine?”), the Casinos, and Billy Joe Royal. Sacred Mushroom veteran Larry Goshorn was part of the Pure Prairie League, and more than a few Cincinnati musicians left to staff other nationally prominent groups.
This book is a real trip back time for anyone who was ever a musician or singer in Cincinnati—or anywhere else, for that matter. The 200-odd photos are real treasures, and many of them have never been published. In addition to appealing to music fans and musicians, The Cincinnati Sound deserves a place on every reader’s regional history shelf.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks