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Elysian Field



The Story Of Soul, Inc.
By Rick Mattingly

Drummer Marvin Maxwell was working on the assembly line at the Conn Organ factory in Madison, Indiana in March, 1965 when he was summoned to the foreman's office to take a phone call. It was guitarist Wayne Young, telling Maxwell that their band, Soul, Inc., had just been hired to join Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars tour. They were expected to start work that very night. "I hung up the phone, turned to the foreman and said, 'I quit'," Maxwell remembers. "I went home, threw some clothes in a sack and told my honey, 'See ya later. I'm goin' on the road with Dick Clark!'"

Maxwell drove to Louisville, Kentucky, where the band was based, to meet Young, bassist/vocalist Jimmie Orten, trumpeter Tom Jolly and saxophonist Eddie Humphries. After stopping by the Musicians Union to make sure everyone's dues were paid, they headed for Madisonville, Kentucky to join the Caravan of Stars. That night Soul, Inc. opened the show with a couple of R&B numbers and then served as the backup band for Lou Christi, Round Robin, the Tradewinds, Reparata & the Delrons and Louise Harrison (sister of Beatle George Harrison) in front of thousands of screaming rock 'n' roll fans. It was Soul, Inc.'s first gig.

The individual members, however, had a wealth of experience from playing in other Louisville bands. Young's credentials spanned the early history of Louisville rock 'n' roll, including work with such bands as the Carnations (where he worked with Humphries) and Cosmo & The Counts (of which Jolly was a member). Maxwell and Orten had played together in a group called the Emeralds, and Orten had also been in the Sultans, replacing Tommy "Cosmo" Cosdon when he left that group to start Cosmo & The Counts.

Most of the prominent Louisville rock 'n' roll bands were associated with an organization called Sambo. Formed by a popular Louisville disc jockey named Jack Sanders along with Carnations founders Ray Allen and Hardy Martin, the name Sambo stood for Sanders Allen Martin Booking Office.

Sambo eventually bought a white frame house in the Louisville suburb of Jeffersontown from which to operate its booking office. "The house had a large living room," Hardy Martin recalls. "So we bought a couple of tape recorders and some microphones, put up some insulation to deaden it, and started using it for practice recording. We liked doing that so much that we added on to the building and made it an actual recording studio." Ultimately, the booking office was renamed Triangle Talent and the recording studio became Allen-Martin Productions. Condominiums now occupy the site of the original white frame house, but Triangle Talent and Allen-Martin Productions continue to thrive.

Once Sambo had its own studio, a house band gradually formed, featuring a pool of the best musicians from several Louisville groups, including Wayne Young, Tom Jolly and Eddie Humphries. When Hardy Martin heard about an open audition for an upcoming Dick Clark tour, he called Young, who in turn called Maxwell, Orten, Jolly and Humphries. They worked up some songs, did the audition, and within a week they were invited to join the tour. Orten came up with the name Soul, Inc., and a new chapter of Louisville's musical history began.

The first Dick Clark tour that Soul, Inc. played on lasted a month, with shows practically every night. Afterward, the group started gigging around Louisville and frequently traveling to Florida to play in a club at Coco Beach. "All the astronauts used to come in there and get drunk," Maxwell remembers. Soul, Inc. was also hired to back such artists as Billy Joe Royal and Ian Whitcomb when they played in Louisville.

An important factor that contributed to Soul, Inc. becoming one of Louisville's most influential bands of the 1960s was the group's professional polish, acquired from countless hours in Sambo's studio working on recordings of their own and serving as studio musicians for a wide variety of artists. The group also played a lot of live gigs and knew how to work a crowd, and so Soul, Inc.'s shows benefitted from their studio discipline while their recordings were fueled by the energy of their live shows.

Released as Soul, Inc.'s first single in 1965, "Don't You Go" perfectly captured the group's soulful R&B sound. The B-side was a novelty number called "The Alligator," inspired by a popular dance of the day in which a couple would lie on the floor and imitate the movement of an alligator opening and closing its jaws (at least, that's what the kids told the adults they were doing). Recorded late one night after Orten had gone home, Jolly was recruited to do the vocal, which was run through a Leslie speaker to give it an "underwater" sound. The track also features the only drum solo Maxwell has ever played.

The group also cut such tracks as "Who Do You Love," "I Found a Love," and "Hard Luck Harry," all of which demonstrated the band's expertise in the rhythm & blues style. Soul, Inc. recorded "Subterranean Homesick Blues" before it had become commonplace for rock bands to cover Bob Dylan tunes. Shortly after "Who Do You Love" was released on Sambo's Boss Records label, getting significant airplay in Louisville, Orten left Soul, Inc. "My number was about to come up," he says. "I could either wait to be drafted and get sent to Viet Nam, or I could enlist and get non-combat duty. So I enlisted." After getting out of the service, Orten returned home and hooked up with two other Louisville musicians, guitarist Steve Ferguson and keyboardist Terry Adams. The three of them moved to Florida and started NRBQ. Orten didn't stay with that group very long, either. But he has continued a career in music and still lives in Florida.

To replace Orten, Wayne Young hired Jim Settle, a former vocalist with the Tren-Dells. "When I played my first gig with Soul, Inc. at the Vanguard Lounge in Coco Beach, I had been playing bass for two weeks," Settle recalls. "So we used another singer as a safety valve while I got used to handling bass and lead vocals at the same time."

The first singer to help out was Tommy "Cosmo" Cosdon, whose band Cosmo & the Counts had once included Young and Jolly. Cosmo did a two-week club gig in Florida with the band, and when they returned to Louisville, they went into the studio and recorded "Hanging Out My Tears." After Cosmo returned to his own band, singer Wayne McDonald performed live with the group for a few months.

Soul, Inc. did a second Dick Clark tour in November of 1965, rushing back from Florida to meet the tour in Louisville. "But we got there late and missed the show," Young recalls. "So we never got to play with the Dick Clark tour in our own hometown."

The second Caravan of Stars tour included the Byrds, We Five, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and Bo Diddley. "When we started that second Dick Clark tour, we were still slicked-back dudes," Maxwell says. Wayne Young picks up the story: "On the first tour, when we saw the Tradewinds with their long hair, that seemed pretty radical to us. But by the end of the second tour with the Byrds and Paul Revere, we all had hair."

Whereas Soul, Inc. had backed up all of the artists on the first Dick Clark tour, the second tour was composed primarily of self-contained bands. Soul, Inc. again opened the shows, and then served as backup group for The Results -- two female singers who worked in Dick Clark's Cincinnati office. In an interview published in 16 magazine a few months after the tour, Paul Revere & The Raiders vocalist Mark Lindsey declared that his two favorite bands were the Beatles and Soul, Inc.

"Bands like the Byrds and Paul Revere & The Raiders were great at doing their own stuff, but we could play everybody's style," Tom Jolly says. "We were a very versatile band. And when all the guitar players on the tour got together and jammed on the blues, everybody listened when Wayne played. After that, he could sit wherever he wanted to on that bus."

Soul, Inc. became so popular in Louisville that Southern Star meat company used the band for a promotion of one of its products. Packages of Southern Star hotdogs contained a coupon inside that could be redeemed for a Soul, Inc. single: "Poppin' Good." Further reflecting the band's popularity in an era where every neighborhood had at least one "garage band," Wayne Young wrote several columns that appeared in The Courier-Journal newspaper on how to organize a band.

Shortly after the second Dick Clark tour, Soul, Inc. lost its horn section. Humphries landed a gig with country star Brenda Lee and quickly got Jolly on the band as well. With musical trends changing, Young elected to replace the horn section with another guitarist and invited Frank Bugbee to join Soul, Inc. With Settle now comfortable handling both bass and lead vocals, the group settled into its best-remembered lineup: Wayne Young, Jim Settle, Frank Bugbee and Marvin Maxwell.

A few years younger than Young, Maxwell and Settle, Bugbee had made a name for himself with a band called the Chateaus. When he first joined Soul, Inc., Bugbee primarily played rhythm guitar behind Wayne Young's lead. But soon the two were sharing lead guitar duties equally, engaging in some (mostly) friendly competition that resulted in a powerhouse stage sound driven by a twin-guitar assault. In an age when such players as Mike Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix were taking electric guitar playing to unprecedented heights, Louisville had its own guitar heroes in Young and Bugbee, and it didn't seem fair that they were both in the same band. "For me, seeing Soul, Inc. perform during this era, plus hearing their records on local radio, was as influential as discovering Lonnie Mack, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Yardbirds, and B.B. King," says Greg Martin, a Louisville native who went on to do some influential guitar playing of his own with the Kentucky HeadHunters.

The first single to feature the new lineup was "Midnight Hour." Although the song was done in the straight-ahead R&B style that characterized the band, the spirit of adventure that was permeating contemporary music could also be heard on the instrumental solo. Bugbee played the break on a banjo, using Maxwell's Zippo lighter as a slide to give the instrument a dobro-like quality. The B-side was "Leaves of Grass," which was named after a Walt Whitman poem and was the group's first recorded effort to move away from the strict R&B style and show the influence of the English groups.

Indeed, another important ingredient in Soul, Inc.'s success was that although the group members had started playing professionally long before the "British invasion" spearheaded by the Beatles in 1964, Soul, Inc. continually adapted to new styles in music. As a result, the group remained popular with young audiences and received a great deal of radio play throughout the second half of the decade, while many of the bands Soul, Inc. members had started out with found themselves relegated to the "oldies" circuit of class reunions and college fraternity parties.

Several new Louisville bands had started up in the wake of the Beatles, but most were composed of high school students whose performances reflected more hours spent practicing in the garage than performing on stage. By contrast, Soul, Inc. had been on two national tours with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars and refined their performance through countless club gigs. Soul, Inc. could deliver the new music with the authority earned from having played the early rock 'n' roll and rhythm & blues from which the '60s music had evolved. But Soul, Inc.'s English influence had a lot more to do with the Rolling Stones than the Beatles. "The Beatles sounded too white to us," Young says. "We had always tried to sound black, which is where the Stones were coming from, too."

Maxwell adds that Soul, Inc. identified strongly with the Rolling Stones' "bad boy" image. "They were outcasts in the music business at that time," Maxwell says. "We considered ourselves outcasts too, and we were pretty cocky about it." Indeed, Soul, Inc.'s version of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together," which was performed live as "Let's Go to Bed Together," got the group banned from several Louisville teen clubs.

Soul, Inc. was one of the first Louisville bands to dispense with wearing uniforms, taking on a look that was equal parts biker and hippie. And Soul, Inc. members were sporting mustaches and sideburns before a lot of other Louisville bands were even shaving. They looked like men, not boys, and that's how they played.

Soul, Inc. was also the first Louisville band to hire roadies. "We found out about roadies on the Dick Clark tours," Maxwell recalls. "So when we got home, we hired some guys to set up our gear. I remember other bands asking if we thought we were too damn good to set up our own stuff." "And we probably said, 'Yeah'," Bugbee admits, laughing. "Right," Maxwell agrees. "We were a bunch of smartasses." "Still are," Young says.

Soul, Inc.'s aggressive attitude was evident on their next single, "Stronger Than Dirt," a song inspired by a TV commercial for Ajax featuring a white knight galloping through residential neighborhoods and magically cleaning everything as he rode by. The song did quite well on the Louisville charts, reaching number one in the summer of 1967. Despite the humor of the lyrics, "Stronger Than Dirt" displayed the increasingly aggressive approach that Soul, Inc. projected on stage. It also demonstrated the band's continued fascination with pushing the limits of the studio and coming up with new sounds. The introductory riff was achieved by running a guitar track backwards through a tape machine.

Meanwhile, the "psychedelic" influence was becoming prominent in music, fueled by an unlikely combination of mind-altering drugs and Indian spiritualism. The sitar, which was the primary instrument of Indian classical music, turned up on increasing numbers of pop-music records, starting in England with the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" and Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" and eventually extending to Memphis, where studio ace Reggie Young spiced recordings by the Box Tops and B. J. Thomas with an electric sitar. Soul, Inc. didn't have a sitar, but Frank Bugbee had a banjo, and with a touch of reverb and the combination of a somewhat Indian-sounding scale with a repeated "drone" note, he gave "60 Miles High" a decidedly Eastern color. The band's in-your-face quality was evident on "Love Me When I'm Down," released as their next single along with "I Belong to Nobody." More than anything else the group recorded, "Love Me When I'm Down" captures Soul, Inc.'s live sound, with Young and Bugbee's driving guitars (the solo is by Bugbee), Settle's aggressive vocal, and Maxwell's pounding drums. "We always said that we wanted the drums to sound like a bag of rocks," Maxwell recalls. Although Settle and Young had been writing most of the original songs the band recorded, Frank Bugbee was also trying his hand at composition. His tune "I Belong to Nobody" wasn't the hard-driving type of material that people associated with Soul, Inc., and so it was issued on Counterpart Records, a Cincinnati label, as Side 2 of "Love Me When I'm Down."

Soul, Inc. had developed good relationships with several Louisville DJs who often emceed their local shows. They had especially become friends with WKLO's Carl Truman Wigglesworth, and would always seek his advice regarding their records. After listening to both sides of their new record, he felt very strongly that "I Belong to Nobody" had strong potential and started playing it on his show. The record quickly went to number one on both WKLO and WAKY in early 1968, and was soon picked up by the Laurie label and re-released nationally, where it charted in several major cities.

But Soul, Inc.'s biggest hit was also the beginning of the end of the band's "middle period." Within months, a trio called Maxwell, Settle and Bugbee made its debut in Louisville, looking to pursue a more pop-oriented direction than the hard rock approach of Soul, Inc. With the release of their first recording on Imperial Records, the band changed its name to Elysian Field. But Bugbee soon left the group, and with the addition of new personnel, Maxwell and Settle were soon turning out the same style of aggressive, guitar-driven power rock with Elysian Field that had characterized their tenure in Soul, Inc.

Meanwhile, Wayne Young kept Soul, Inc. going with a variety of members. Chi Howerton was the group's drummer for the rest of its existence, and bassist Wes Scott was a mainstay during most of that period. Another member was guitarist Tim Krekel, who later played in Jimmy Buffett's band and also become a successful songwriter whose songs have been recorded by such artists as Crystal Gayle, Kathy Mattea and Delbert McLinton. Another guitarist was Denny Lile, who ended up in Elysian Field after Young disbanded Soul, Inc. in 1969. The final lineup of Soul, Inc. included saxophonist Steve "Mabel" Ulrich and trumpet player Frank Brentzel, bringing the group full circle back to a horn band.

The first single featuring the "new" Soul, Inc. included "Get Right With Your Man" backed with "Been Down So Long," both featuring vocalist Sonny Flaherty. The final single released by Soul, Inc. included "Satisfied," on which Young and Lile share vocal chores, backed by "Ready, Willing and Able," sung by Lile.

The Soul, Inc. story hasn't ended. In the early '90s, Marvin Maxwell, Wayne Young, "Cosmo" Cosdon and other veteran Louisville musicians teamed up as the Shufflin' Grand Dads, and in 1997 they released a CD that has a lot of the old Soul, Inc. attitude.

And in the summer of 1999, Wayne Young, Marvin Maxwell, Frank Bugbee and Jimmie Orten reunited to perform "Subterranean Homesick Blues" at a benefit for a Louisville public radio station. Afterward, the group went into the studio and began working on a new Soul, Inc. album.

"As one of the disc jockeys who played the music of Soul, Inc. the first time around in the '60s, I feel redeemed that this great group is getting well-deserved appreciation thirty years later," says Tim Tyler, a former disc jockey at Louisville radio station WAKY. "The '90s are proving the depth of their music and the depth of their white 'soul'.