STARK NAKED AND THE CAR THIEVES

A Retrospective on our band in the California Fifties, Sixties and Seventies

 

THE "INDY" SOUND

Back in Indianapolis again, adulthood was settling like a shroud around both Dave and I. My wife Pat had stayed on to finish out the year in Murray, Kentucky. Dave and I both left school early. I was unable to balance family life, an obsessive desire to play on the Murray State basketball team and schoolwork. When the head of the biology department threatened to fail me in all of my biology classes (Biology was one of my majors) if I was late again to just one of them, that was pretty much it, I was never very good with time and with Pat and I trying to juggle babysitters, it was only a couple of weeks before I had to drop out to avoid failing in three out of my five classes. Singing was out, pretty much over, there wasn't really a group anymore and there was the pressure of supporting a family. I took a job at an insurance company underwriting casualty insurance, then auto insurance, then drove a cab for awhile, tried construction and even taught school as a substitute for several months. Dave drifted from job to job similarly and we commiserated with one another and then little by little, we started singing again with Chuck and Bailey Carlisle, a refugee from Murray State who came to back to Indianapolis with Dave. It seemed to be our only refuge, the only thing we were good at. Our experiences in singing had broadened our ranges and matured our voices and we had improved quite a lot when a miracle of sorts struck.

I am unable to remember just exactly how we came to meet Jan Hutchins but he wanted to build a recording studio in Indianapolis. Jan was one of three producers of "Stay" by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs and before that, he had been a popular DJ in Florida. For some reason Jan had chosen Indianapolis as the next mecca of rock 'n roll. He dreamed big. He was going to put together a whole studio system, a spectrum of singers and musicians that would support each other and produce an "Indy" sound, like the Motown, Philly, Memphis or Nashville sound. There would be a male quartet (us, now known as the Reflections), a girl group, a male heartthrob and a female crooner, and of course, a "ventures" kind of band that would play the musical tracks for everyone. There was only one major drawback. Jan had little or no money.

Using us and some of the other hopeful musicians as slave labor, he rented a crummy little small storefront on the wrong side of Washington street in a bad part of downtown Indianapolis. Now, of course, it would be a stone's throw from Conseco Fieldhouse where the Pacers play. We nailed, stapled and glued thousands of pressed cardboard egg crates onto the walls and partitions of the rooms that would become our home away from home. Despite the poor pay it was a labor of love for us and we had fun building the studio from scratch knowing that someday we'd get to record there. Somehow, he begged or borrowed, or maybe even stole a two-track tape recorder, a couple of decent mikes and some really terrible ones, and a mastering machine. Some plywood formed a base for the simple mixing board and within a few weeks we were churning out songs. I remember that for the time, it didn't sound too bad. In fact, we recorded a copy of the Beach Boys, "In My Room" and sent it to Bouncin' Bill Baker, one of the popular DJ's of the time. He ran a little contest, giving a prize to whomever could guess who his mystery band was. It sounded so close to the original that everyone guessed the Beach Boys until the end of the show, when he revealed it was the ... Reflections! Us! It was our first time on radio!

About this time, we were coming into contact with Les Silvey and his band, the MG's. They were really a cool instrumental band, two guitars, bass and drums, doing a lot of Ventures and Chantays tunes. It made us feel great to be part of a "studio" with Rick Fortune, Mona Thomas and the MG Combo. We sang backup on Mona's and Rick's songs, the MG's did our tracks along with Rick and it was a brand new feeling awakening in us. Rick's records were released first and all we heard from Jan was raves about how great Rick was. We had all been signed to million year management, publishing, record label deals that were certainly illegally egregious beyond even what this industry is infamous for. Still, it was exciting! Jan kept bringing us songs because we weren't writing out own so we'd try them out. "Thou Shalt Not Steal" was one of them I think. But in our spare time we had been playing around with an upbeat version of "The Still of the Night", much different from the way it was originally recorded by the Five Satins. Chuck would start it off with a bass run of "De dun-de-dun, dun-de-dun-dun, and etc." and then Dave would sing the lead against the rhythm as Pat and I would join into the mix. Just for fun, we tried it on the mic and Jan decided to record it since nothing else seemed to be quite working. Soon we were rocking around with this song, having a great time singing it while Jan got it down on the two-track machine. There wasn't much sweetening beyond a bit of slap-back echo. Mixing the master down from two tracks while trying to add things was a major chore in those days so you had to pretty much get it in one take, not a lot of punch-ins. Except for one thing, Jan decided it would sound better if he sped it up a little, made Dave's voice even a little higher. So there are two versions on the site here, one sounds a little more like the 'Chipmunks' then the other. Yep, Jan decided it was a release so then we did a B side and I got to sing it. It was called "Tick-tock" but I was so nervous that Rick Fortune came in and sang it along with me and we had a record. This song was adenoidal teenage angst at its worst.

By now, Jan had formed Tigre Records, with a picture of a big Tiger on it and there we were, The Reflections, right there pressed on wax, well vinyl plastic anyway. The record started to break, oddly enough not in Indianapolis but back east and then in the south. Then it started to really take off on the big 50,000 watter, KLS in Chicago, so Jan sent us up to do a sock hop in support of the local DJ's there. By then it was number 5 on their charts with a bullet! We drove up to Chicago to a local high school where we were supposed to meet a band that was going to back us up but the band flaked out or something and we ended up lip-synching the record. While we were there, we visited All State Distributors, the company that was supposed to distribute our record to the record stores regionally. Jan told Dave and I to just go stop in, press the flesh and then leave. While we were waiting we heard fir the first time the band name Stark Naked and the Car Thieves. At All State is where we found out the sad state of affairs surrounding our 'hit' record. Despite the fact that we were heading up the charts in several major markets and were rising into the top 5 on the hit parade with a bullet in Chicago, we were a "turntable" hit, we weren't selling any records. The distributor rep said the reason was that no records had been pressed because somebody the master recording had been lost and Jan hadn't made a backup!

THE "INDY" SOUND CRUMBLES


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