Thursday, 26 July 2007

Captain Billys Whizbang - Paradise Of Your Mind / Kaleidoscope

Captain Billys Whizbang - Paradise Of Your Mind / Kaleidoscope (Edmar 1105. 1969)
Captain Billy's Wizbang are something of an obscurity, even in the world of obscure 60s psychedelia. My 45 was kindly comped by Ed on the U-Spaces CD "Lost Sixties Delights" and since then this fabulous piece of psychedelia has become slightly better known. However, despite many years I've been unable to find out anymore about the band that put out one of my favourite records. Until now that is. Keyboard player and songwriter Pat Portfolio has been in touch and very kindly filled me in on the bands story.
The roots of Captain Billy's Whizbang lie in The Merry Men, based out of New Jersey.
Prior to the Merry Men Pat had tasted a modicum of fame when he was drafted to perform with the band Fish 'n' Chips, who released Four Times Faster. The song was recorded by studio musicians and became a Top 40 hit in the New York area in 1965. The band needed a keyboard player to help fulfil live commitments and Pat came onboard, playing some large rock and rolls shows alongside big name acts and radio personalities (including Bruce Morrow).
Fish 'n' Chips - Four Times Faster
Fish 'n' Chips - This Whole Thing is Getting Out Of Hand
The Merry Men came mostly of the band being from Bergenfield, except for Pat who was living in Paramus and attending Fairleigh Dickinson University. Decked out in Robin Hood outfits the band consisted of Pat Portfolio (organ), Bobby Schaffner (Lead vocals), Paul Vanderbeck (guitar) and Bruce Stewart (drums) and came together around 1966.
They built up quite a sizable local following and played everything from soul to Procol Harum. They were also one of the few bands to include original material in their live set and this went down as well as the cover material. Despite undertaking a recording session no records were ever released by the band. They played mostly around the New Jersey and New York area but also travelled as far as Canada, despite all the members still being at school.
Pat would changed the name to Captain Billy's Whizbang after the comic of the same name from the 1920s, which was a more fitting name for a late 60s band. As the organ player, Pat played left-handed bass on the lower keys, which worked ok for live gigs but the band were looking to record and a bass player would expand the sound. The band's manager brought in Gary Van Scyoc to play bass. He would also sing and play some trumpet.
Pat Portfolio (organ player/songwriter), Bobby Schaffner (Lead vocals), Paul Vanderbeck (guitar), Bruce Stewart (drums), Gary Van Scyoc (bass and vocals).
Like Pat, Gary has also had tasted fame before joining the band. A few years early he was one of the co-writers of The Dynatones "Fife Piper", which had gone Top 10 in Philadelphia.
Dynatones - The Fife Piper

Like The Merry Men, Captain Billy's Whizbang would play a mixture of originals and covers (mostly heavier album cuts), adapted into their own style.
The band's manager also ran his own record label, Edmar, which included jazz organist Groove Holmes. The band entered RCA studios in New York City with the intention of recording of two tracks for release on the label. The band selected an original by Pat, "Paradise of your Mind", a superb slab of late 60s heavy psych, with heavy organ and piercing guitar and featuring Bobby on vocals, as well as a cover of Procol Harum's "Kaleidoscope". "Kaleidoscope" was brought to the band by Gary, who wanted to sing the song. Gary sang the song to Pat and told him the chords and he then come up with the songs heavy organ intro, arranging the basic parts for the rest of the band, as well as adding the wailing organ solo (Pat didn’t hear the original version of the song until last year!).
The band had additional time in the studio and recorded some of Pat's original compositions. As the band knew that the focus would be on the two tracks set for release most of the time was dedicated to those songs. Many of the additional tracks remained unfinished, but still exist on reel to reel.
Paradise Of Your Mind
5000 copies of "Paradise of your Mind" were pressed up on Edmar and released in late 1969.Sadly, not long after the release of the record the bands manager and Edmar label owner died in a tragic accident and the label and associated companies died with him. With no label or management to push the record it received no airplay and sank without a trace. The band lost its momentum, and with personal priorities changing within the band they called it a day around 1970 having only lasted around a year.
After the split most of the members would continue to work in the music business. Initially Pat formed a short-lived band with Gary called Blue Factory. They played long jams around obscure songs and were popular with local musicians, but didn't pull in the right crowds for club owners to give them enough gigs.
Pat continues to write and record and has recently completed a soundtrack for a sci-fi eBook to be released later this year.
Gary would go on to play with Elephant's Memory, Bo Diddley and later John Lennon, playing with Lennon at Madison Square Garden.
Thanks to Pat here is a remastered version of "Paradise of your Mind". The track has a deeper tone balance and improved bass. It also includes a slightly different ending.
Paradise Of Your Mind (remastered)

To purchase the first legal download of both sides of this 45 (recently remastered), please click here


Rebecca said...

Thanks, I have always been curious about this group as I used to have a battered copy of the namesake magazine. It was a sort of Harvard Lampoon/Judge style of humor magazine, although more lowbrow, and it had cartoons by a man named C.C. Beck! He went on to create the original Captain Marvel that appeared in Whiz Comics, one of the more entertaining batch of the original super heroes. I mention this because the Captain's alter ego was a kid named Billy!

diogenes99 said...

I think they are together again. There is a band by that name playing at puckets boat house in franklin tn tonight.

spetes said...

Saw the Merrymen a lot at the Sterling in Greenwood Lake NY 1966. Took some guitar lessons from Paul (guitar player) at Flo's music in Bergenfield
Great band. Set up like the young rascals.