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The Illinois Speed Press
James Guercio discovered the Rovin' Kind at the Chicago Whiskey-A-Go-Go, where they were the house band. He offered them management and production and brought them back to Los Angeles where they were signed to CBS/Columbia Records under their new name, Illinois Speed Press. The change happened in February 1968.
They opened for other major recording acts such as Led Zepplin, Chicago & Steppenwolf.
Initial members of ISP were the same as the Rovin’ Kind. Keith Anderson was replaced prior to the recording of the first ISP album mainly at Guerico’s urging. Keith comments:
"We left Chicago during the Democratic Convention riots, 1968, and moved to Hollywood. Later, James Guercio moved the Chicago Transit Authority to Hollywood for recording purposes. Both bands lived in bungalows next door to each other, while recording albums. We started recording the ISP first album. I wrote the song on this album, "Be a Woman". Mike Anthony re-wrote a lot of my lyrics, and is named co-writer with justification. It came to pass, James Guercio felt my bass playing was not good enough during the first ISP album's recording, and he convinced the band to let me go. This was a sad time (witness Paul Cotton's "Bad Weather"). James Guercio then had Freddy Peppalardo and Mike Anthony leave the ISP. Sad, Sad. I truly feel James took the heart out of the band, and then tried to make it go with the brains."
John Kelly, road manager for the band until Oct '69, reflects:
"One night after a gig Freddy, Kal, and I went to Calumet Park to cool off at the beach and see the
sunrise (a very big thing in Chicago, at least at that time). While we were there Freddy and Kal were talking about going on the road to California which loomed like a Garden of Eden to all of us. This was
not long after California Dreamin was a hit. If you've ever gone through a Chicago winter, you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, Kal said" why don't you come w/ us". Freddy chimed right in, saying
"yeah, c'mon". I couldn't wrap my brain around the idea that night but a week later off I went."
Some notes on the above sleeve:
“to best appreciate the illinois speed press play this recording at the highest possible volume.”
“All the sounds on this recording were made by;
one gibson les paul custom double pickup guitar, 1962 (red)
one gibson les paul custom triple pickup guitar, 1960 (white)
one fender precision bass, 1961, (white) through brown fender concert amplifier, (4-10” speakers)
one standard ludwig drum “dance” kit, 2 crash cymbols, one ride cynbol augmented with 3 timbals”
Keith Anderson & Fred Page are on the picture sleeve of “Get in the Wind” but Guerico wanted a more accomplished rhythm section & made the band use session men Joe Osborne, bass and Jim Gordon, drums for the recording of the single.
Illinois Speed Press, 1969
(met with some success, peaking at 144 on the album charts)
Get in the Wind
Hard Luck Story
Pay the Price
P.N.S. (When you come around)
Be a Woman
Sadly out of Place
The one who Knows
iii. Random Roads (and his Big Band)
iv. Dearly Theme Reprise
Interesting to note that three ISP songs penned by Paul were later re-recorded & completely revamped by in Paul’s Poco days:
Get in the wind (which can be found on “Forgotten Trail”)
PNS [when you come around] (on “Rose of Cimarron”) - PNS stands for Paul’s New Song
Bad Weather (on “From the Inside”)
Get in the Wind Front
Get in the Wind Back
First ISP album
A fan from the old days, Mike Wark remembers:
"I saw ISP in Phoenix, AZ on 12-31-68 when they opened for Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf. I still remember Paul Cotton introducing G.I.T.W. as "a monstrously groovy thing." And so it was (and still is!)."
Bad Weather was inspired by Paul’s feelings relating to the break up of the Illinois Speed Press after the first album & was the song that Paul played for Richie Furay & the guys when he ‘auditioned’ for Poco. Here’s some notes from music historian, John Einarson:
As Richie told me, "I think Bad Weather is probably one of the best songs I'd heard. I love that song. We liked that song well enough to use it to introduce Paul into the band. It was a way of showing we could compliment him as well as him complimenting us."
If any of you have ever heard Richie perform Bad Weather you'll know how much respect he has for that song.
Paul Cotton: "Bad Weather dates back to the Illinois Speed Press and was written about the demise of the first version of the group. It was kind of sad but was pretty easy to write. It was the first song I played for the Poco guys when we met informally at Richie's house. It really knocked them out. So it was obvious we'd record it. And when Richie learned that beautiful guitar solo it just blew me away."
Many Poco aficionados consider Bad Weather to be the full realization of a true country rock sound.
Keith Anderson remembers:
"I helped to orchestrate the songs on the first ISP album, by being a member of the group - pre-recordation. Producer James William
Guercio urged the group to agree to let me go before the recording was
completed. He did allow "Be a Woman" which I co-wrote to stay on the album,
and I think I received a royalty of $1.39.
I personally think James William Guercio took the heart out of the group,
when he let Fred, Mike and I go.
We were all dedicated to our careers and to the ISP. Albeit the forgoing
feelings about the separations, I think we were lucky to have the album(s)
produced by Mr. Guercio. He was quite talented and on the cutting edge of
recording technology at the time."
Here's some comments from drummer Verne Johnson who joined the Speed Press after the release of the first album:
"I remember our travel across America in the summer of '69 promoting the first album. There were some amusing moments on that tour - giant flying bugs in Houston, Texas, as big as helicopters -& they probably had serial numbers stenciled on them somewhere - our picnic on the open range outside of Dallas with the people from the club at which we were playing and my riding bareback through the picnic on a great horse named Major (I have a black and white photo of that event that Kal took just after it happened - it still makes me laugh when I look at it today) - opening for Led Zepplin at the Electric Theatre in Chicago."
Here is an advertising line by columbia regarding the first album (which included a photo of the band) & appeared April 17, 1969 in The Village Voice Newspaper in New York City:
“There are 3 things you can do while listening to the pure energy flashes of the hard rock Illinois Speed Press….one of them is - DANCE”
There’s not always good press. Here’s a transcript of an article by Pete Johnson in the LA Times, Dec 19, 1968…
“also on the bill at the Whiskey is the Illinois Speed Press, an organ-two guitar-bass-drums combo with some good voices but rather uninteresting material.”
Well, obviously the owners of the Whiskey didn’t have the same opinion…ISP played there consistently for 12 months (refer to ISP gig schedule further on).
Of course there is some good press too. In the Open City Underground Newspaper, January 24th 1969, page 6, Clubs Section, a slightly prophetic article:
"Sharing the bill with (Tim) Hardin was a group that is rapidly showing signs of becoming a Whiskey (A-Go-Go) "house band."...Illinois Speed Press. But perhaps that's good. The time the Doors spent as a Whiskey regular gave them the experience to mould an image for themselves. The ISP is doing the same thing. When they first appeared in L.A. at the Kaleidoscope, they seemed to be just another transplanted Midwest rock group. But the ISP have gotten funky. Their lead vocalist, who sounds quite a bit like Steve Stills, is leading them into material that might best be described as a rocking Buffalo Springfield. The group is very tight instrumentally, behind a driving beat of guitars and organ. The Illinois Speed press would seem to be an unheralded entrant into the newly emerging country rock field of POGO (later known as POCO), the Burrito Brothers, and the Frozen Noses (later known as Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young).”
In the Variety Magazine, July 1st, 1970, page 43, Music-records Section, repoting on the recent gig at Fillmore East, NY:
"Illinois speed Press proved the musical surprise of the evening. Although the band has two Columbia albums to its credit, it came into the Fillmore as virtually an unknown New York entity, a fact that is bound to change. It is a refreshing, unpretentious band that parlays the talents of guitarists-vocalists Paul Cotton, Kal David and a firm rhythm section into a versatile style that is equally at home with a hard electric blues, "Morning Blues" or a lilting harmonic country tune, "Bad Weather". The group's forte lies in its bright vocal harmonies."
By the end of 1969 original ISP had disbanded. Vern Johnson (drums) had replaced Fred Page, but he Nad Rob Lewine had also left. Paul & Kal David tehn started to record the “Duet” album with assistance from:
Guercio was in New York working with Blood, Sweat, and Tears during the recording of “Duet” so he chose Michael Lloyd to work with Paul & Kal on the record in his absence. Guercio decided to use studio musicians for the rhythm section behind Paul and Kal.. Hal Blaine and Joe Osborne played on hundreds of hit records & they played on most of the Duet album. There were also studio musicians Jack Conrad (bass) and John Guerin (drums) and a few other studio cats.
Joe Osborne (bass)
Hal Blaine (drums)
Michael Lloyd (keyboards)
After “Duet” there was no more recording by Paul & Kal together although they still continued to perform for a time with other band members being:
Advertising by columbia for ‘Duet’:
Rick Allen (drums, vocals)
Jimmy Rogers (bass)
Billboard February 28, 1970:
“Increase your circulation. The Illinois Speed Press. Eclectic, uncannily melodic, and solid. Produced by James William Guerico, who’s done some pretty good things for the circulation of Blood, Sweat & tears and Chicago.”
Rolling Stone magazine June 11, 1970:
“ All vocals/Paul Cotton & Kal David
All guitars/Paul Cotton & Kal David
All together/-The Illinois Speed Press.Duet.”
“the voices & guitars are both delicate & full. The lyrics & melodies have a straight-forward freshness about them. And underneath the romanticism, the package is extremely will put together, both technically & organically…among the very best of 1970 so far, & there’s a lot of awesome competition. (Rock Magazine)”
& yet another advertisement:
“Have you caught up with Illinois Speed Press? They blew out of Chicago to the coast. Doing hard, unadultereated rock to 40000 freaks in a California bacchanal. In their new Columbia album, Kal David & Paul Cotton are into a sound amalgam of their Chicago blues roots & California climate. Loose & easy country. Dirty blues. A guitar suite in four movements, & at the same time, the beautiful sound & feeling of acoustic guitars. ‘Duet’ is a composition for two performers. Just right for the Illinois Speed Press. On columbia records”
Here’s a review published in the Dallas Notes, underground newspaper, dated August 19 - September 1, 1970:
Last Friday night Heaven and Earth and Illinois Speed Press did two sets each; Heaven and Earth opened; Illinois closed with a long jam in defiance against the lights being turned on. They're from Chicago, heavy, noisy, and loud, using much feedback and sound manipulation on their three guitars and drum set. They have a good singer-guitarist who cut loose during the last number. I didn't get into their sound until that last number, but the group was well received by the audience from their beginning set. One of the songs they did was one they'd heard on the TWA headphones on the way down: "Sadly Out Of Place, "from their album.
Another review of a show in Kaleidoscope underground newspaper from Milwaukee May 1-14, 1970, in part it reads:
"What we've always known, of course is that The Scene has everything it takes, to bring Milwaukee into the age of rock. Like with Rastus and Illinois Speed Press in town there the 10th and 11th........Speed Press did a competent CSNY influenced set, they could've gotten down a little more, but then the audience could've gotten down a little more, but then the audience could've been larger and more on top of it too...”
Here’s an interesting piece taken from the website of the band, Chicago:
“In September, Chicago XI was released, its most notable song being "Take Me Back To Chicago," written by drummer Danny Seraphine and David "Hawk" Wolinski. . It has a darker theme than may be immediately apparent. "'Take Me Back To Chicago' is about Freddy Page, the drummer in the Illinois Speed Press who died tragically," Says Guercio. "Illinois Speed Press had
the best shot,, had the biggest budget, had the first record, and totally could not get along," he recalls.
Kal & Paul were headed in different musical directions with Kal wanting to go into a more blues direction. During 1970, Kal left for New York and formed The Fabulous Rhinestones. Paul wanted to go in a more country-rock mode - Kal was into "Hendrix" and Paul was into "Buffalo Springfield" , so they parted ways with Kal the first to go.
John Uribe was a guitarist and a friend of Paul & Kal & after Kal left, he toured with Paul on the last ISP tour. Uribe ‘slotted in’ for Kal’s spot as the second part of the duet.
Illinois Speed Press was an opening act for POGO at a club called The White Room in Buena Park, California on April 12 & 13, 1969. This is where Poco first saw Paul perform. Richie Furay called Paul in September of 1970 and he went on tour with Poco, not playing but rooming with Jimmy Messina. This was just before the third Poco album, Deliverin' was released. " Deliverin' had been recorded in Boston and New York on September 22 and 23. Poco was booked to play a three night Fillmore West stand, October 30, 31 and November 1. On October 31 at the Fillmore Richie wanted to go ahead and bring Paul on to perform that evening.
Interesting to note that ISP performed at Long Beach auditorium exhibition hall on Friday, January 8, 1971, along with other groups, Timber & Sweet Marie. This was a concert presented by KNAC stereo FM. This date is after Paul joined Poco (Paul had definitely joined Poco by November 1970 because he played with Poco at Fillmore. It appears that the band has bookings ahead after Paul left & it is likely John Uribe, with others continued on for a period of time to complete commitments.
How influential were the Illinois Speed Press?
There is little doubt that the Speed Press played a part in the birth of the Southern Rock sound, especially the dual guitar sound of Paul & Kal.
Track down the book - "Southern Rockers... The Roots and Legacy
of Southern Rock" By Marley Brant 1999 BPI Communications ISBN
Here is a quote from the book on page 64 (this concerns Ronnie Van Zant and his early group The One Percent band in the early days):
"One Percent played every recreation center and small club in North
Florida, that would have them for years. Their taste in cover songs
primarly included those of The Yardbirds, Beatles, Stones, Creedence
Clearwater Revival,Illinois Speed Press, and Cream."
pg. 186 quote from Jeff Carlisi (Carlisi had been in the band Sweet Rooster with Ronnie Van Zant when both were teenagers):
"Half of our show was playing "Power of Love" and "Down in
Texas" and all the stuff from the Hour Glass record, recalled Carlisi. At
the same time we were doing stuff by a band called The Illinois Speed
Press, a band that had Paul Cotton, who ended up in POCO. The Illinois
Speed Press was extremely popular in North Florida. It had also been one
of Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington's favorite bands. I remember
(Lynyrd)Skynyrd did the whole (Speed Press) album one night, laughs
Further links to Paul's musical history -
History main page---
Carol Vega & Trio---
Rovin' Kind Gig Dates---
Illinois Speed Press---
Illinois Speed Press Gig Dates---
Poco & Beyond---
Gerald (Jerry) Urban---
Guy Franchot (Frenchy) Germany---
Walter (Buddy) Riley---
Frank Bartell (Bortoli)---
Mike Anthony (Harry Baikauskas)---
Fred Page (Pappalardo)---