Get In The Groove

Bo Grumpus

In light of the fact that Before The War, this long-ago LP, has been reissued on CD due to “fans from this era have been asking for it” begs me to do a commentary on it.  Since I was one of the singers, songwriters and musicians on this record I think I have some insight into the record that some may find interesting.  The fact that someone has been asking for a reissue seems to me to give it some credibility and make it somewhat special to that certain someone. The record was recorded in a number of sessions done in New York City from the summer of 1967 through early 1968 when it was finally issued on Atco. These sessions were done at Atlantic Studios and at Talentmasters Studio.  There was a third studio that we used but I can’t recall its name. Tom Dowd and Adrian Barber worked as engineers on the Atlantic sessions and Chris Houston did the Talentmasters sessions.  Finding material that satisfied both the artists and the producer seemed to be the main reason it took so long to produce.  There were tracks that were recorded that remain unissued and probably destroyed.  There exists one alternate mix on the song Think Twice. The songs on the record run as follows:


1. The Sparrow Tune was written by Joe Hutchinson and was recorded at Talentmasters.  Joe was and is an outdoorsman.  This song is about nature and the cruel ironies of it.  The second verse tells the story of a sparrow that, in the weaving of its nest, unknowingly creates a noose of horsehair and the bird accidentally hangs itself. The song then reflects on the time we have allotted to spend with those whom we love in this world.  The drummer on the song is N.D. Smart II, Ed Mottau and Joe Hutchinson play their Martin guitars, Felix Pappalardi, the producer of the entire record, plays organ.  I am the bass player and play the fuzz bass line every time the section between verses comes around. Joe sings the lead vocal and is joined by Ed, Felix and me on the vocal harmony.


2. Think Twice was written mostly by Ed Mottau with some contribution by Joe Hutchinson and recorded at Talentmasters. This was recorded on the same session as The Sparrow Tune.  As I stated before, there is an alternate earlier mix of this that I have in my possession.  It has a guitar solo on it by Ed Mottau.  The one on the record does not.  Felix plays the piano. Ed sings the lead and the vocal harmony is done by Joe, Felix and me.  Felix plays bass on this record.  I am playing one of the electric guitar tracks.  Ed plays his Martin and Joe plays my Fender 12-string guitar. N.D. Smart plays drums.  There isn’t any mystery to the lyrics.  It is simply about a person at a difficult time in life and unsure of a direction to take.


3. Yesterday’s Streets is a song that I wrote after coming to New York in 1967. It is a somewhat nostalgic song that depicts a strange new world that I have entered in Greenwich Village and, to some extent, the city experience in general. Felix decided he wanted to take the song and give it his own treatment.  He wrote the melody to the bridge section.  Then he played classical guitar along with Herb Lovelle on drums at Atlantic Studio.  He then overdubbed organ bass pedal notes on it and a harpsichord.  He also overdubbed orchestral bells on the track. Felix and I are singing the song.  He sings the high harmony and the “ahhs” and the “la-las” on the instrumental section.  The vocal tracks were sped up slightly so as to give them an ethereal quality.


4. The Breath of Love was written and sung by Joe Hutchinson. This track was recorded in the studio which name I don’t recall. Herb Lovelle played drums on this.  The wah-wah guitar track is done by Ed Mottau very likely using the same Wah-Wah pedal that Eric Clapton used on Tales of Brave Ulysses.  I am playing bass on the track but Felix adds an additional fuzz bass fill lick here and there and on the descending line between verses.  Joe plays guitar and sings. To know exactly what this song is about one would have to ask Joe Hutchinson but Joe used to describe what he was writing as “survival songs.”  Take what you will from that. This song has some very interesting lyrics and images.


5. A Knowing Young Touch ended the first side of the original LP.  This was not the original title of the song.  The original title was Downtown Incident. I know because I wrote the song.  It is a simple song of one who is smitten out of nowhere and cannot forget it.  It is not about an LSD trip. The strings on the track were arranged and conducted by Felix.  The track was done at Atlantic Studio.  Again Herb Lovelle plays drums.  I am playing a Telecaster guitar on this track and Felix is playing bass. He wanted to play bass because he wanted the line to be one he could match his score with.  Joe and Ed play guitars on it. Now, for the real surprise—Felix is singing lead on this track with Ed Mottau singing harmony.  Felix wasn’t credited as a vocalist due to contractual issues.  Now you know. End side one.


6. Ragtimely Love is another Joe Hutchinson song that started side two on the LP. It’s a pretty simple love song that he had written some time before we got to New York about being together but out of synch at the same time. He is singing the lead and playing guitar along with Ed Mottau.  Joe also plays the piano part on the string solo section. I am playing bass and Ronnie Blake plays drums on the only track he appears on.  Again, Felix wrote and conducted the string arrangement and is singing the la-las on the bridge section. This was done at Atlantic Studio.


7. Travelin’ In The Dark was written by Felix and Gail Collins. This is the second version of it.  The original version was recorded by Hamilton Camp in 1967 and on the Just For You LP.  This is pretty much Felix’s track all the way.  Ed Mottau sings lead.  Herb Lovelle plays drums and Felix sings harmony and plays guitar and bass.  He scored the string quartet and conducted it.  The song is pretty much self-evident metaphor. Recorded at Atlantic.


8. Brooklyn is a song I wrote while I was still in Ohio.  I wrote in 1966 just after my band had returned from several months in New York trying to find a foothold. We lived in Brooklyn for a month.  There is an early recorded version of it that my band made in Ohio at Film Associates. It is in the vein of the Lovin’ Spoonful or a jugband concept as was the original band that became Bo Grumpus.  It was recorded at Atlantic. N.D. Smart II plays drums on this track. Both Ed Mottau and Joe Hutchinson play the guitars on the track.  Felix played the heavy guitar rhythm licks right after N.D.’s drum fills that go into the chorus.  He also sings the “la-la-la-la-la” in the chorus. I sing the lead and play bass.  The vocal group is Ed, Joe and N.D., the only time that trio got to sing together on the record.  The song is a sarcastic look at the time we spent in Brooklyn.  This song received airplay on WNEW in New York.


9. The Moon Will Rise, another Joe Hutchinson song, is about a mythical town that contains numerous characters: the butcher, the locksmith, the preacher working part-time, etc.  It is really a social comment on the times. It references the cycle of the sun and moon—nature again—and how we relate as creatures subject to it—more of the survival aspects of his songs.  Joe is the singer.  The vocal group here is Ed, Joe and Ronnie Blake.  Herb Lovelle played the drums.  Joe and Ed play the guitars, I play the bass and Felix plays the ocarina solo. It was recorded at Atlantic.


10. If I Came To You, the final track, was written by Felix and Gail Collins.  Here is another Felix record.  He wanted to be sure to have a track that would be enough to fill out the LP so he did it all again.  Ed Mottau sings the lead and Felix sings harmony.  Herb Lovelle plays drums and Felix is playing everything else: bass, guitar, piccolo trumpet, glockenspiel and arranged and conducted the string quartet. Also recorded at Atlantic.


In addition to the LP, Atlantic also issued an EP in 1968, Atco EP-C-4562, that contained the following four tracks: The Sparrow Tune, Think Twice, Yesterday’s Streets, and Ragtimely Love. It was created as a special promotional mail-out to DJs to introduce the group and have an immediate vehicle for airplay. Nothing but promo copies were issued that I know of.


As I have stated elsewhere, it is a strange twist of fate that in this day and age some characterize the original Bo Grumpus as “the psychedelic band from Boston” or “anti-war band” or describe the lyrics as “hippy trippy” when in fact they were a ragtime group in their formative years performing tunes such as Sister Kate, Gimme A Pigfoot, The Preacher and The Bear, Big Fat Woman, Charlie Green (Trombone Charlie) and many others in that style. They were steered in another direction as is evidenced on Before The War. The lyrics of Joe Hutchinson are pure poetry and in no way were intended as “psychedelic.” Additionally, the name Jolliver Arkansaw is often spelled "Arkansas" on many Web sites. This seems to indicate that the writer was not familiar with the spelling of the name or else figured the group hadn’t enough sense to spell it correctly. Of course, the name Jolliver Arkansaw did not refer to the state and, in fact, had no meaning.


By August, 1969, Jolliver Arkansaw had come to its end and the group’s members went their separate ways. I  joined Ian & Sylvia’s band Great Speckled Bird and reunited with N.D. Smart. Eddie Mottau became Noel Stookey’s producer, recorded and performed with John Lennon then started his own solo career. Ed currently lives and performs in New Hamshire. Joe Hutchinson headed back to Pennsylvania to start a new life. In the 1970s he would reunite with me in a band called Jook. He currently lives and performs in Florida. In 1974 I left New York and went to Texas where I had a band with Stephen Bruton that reunited me with Tom Dowd when we recorded in Los Angeles in 1976.  That band was called Little Whisper and the Rumors.  The record remains unissued.  I then formed The Juke Jumpers with Stephen’s brother, Sumter.  We were together for 17 years, recorded, and broke up in the 1990s.  I formed a band called Lost Country and made 6 CDs with them.  Juke Jumper CDs and all Lost Country CDs are available on


Jim Colegrove, September 2011

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