Friday, September 9, 2011

The Society

Formed at Richfield High School in 1965, The Society began as an R&B cover band called The Malibus.
Not long before changing their name, original drummer Mick Fick was replaced by Andy Lifland.
Contrary to a rumor printed in TX garage record reference guide Journey To Tyme, Hot Tuna drummer Sammy Piazza was never a member of the group. Sammy was from Waco originally, was a close friend of The Malibus, and would occasionally sit in with the group.

The band was managed by a young UT Austin college student named Hal Moore. Hal would often bring the latest records to the bands practice to draw up ideas for unique cover choices or original material.
Upon first watching the 13th Floor Elevators live at the New Orleans Club, Hal rushed a copy of the bands "You're Gonna Miss Me" 45 up to Waco to show the guys the NEW sound. It inspired the boys and they put together an original song called "High & Mighty." This song, with its bold changes, fuzz guitar, and psychedelic lyrics, was just barely written when they got in touch with local DJ Glenn Daniels in the summer of 1967.

Guitarist John Callon was moving out of state just before going in to record, and remembers having to borrow a guitar from a friend since his had already been packed away in the moving truck!

Paying Glenn up front for studio time and pressing of their soon to be 45, the band knocked out the new song in only a few takes. This wasn't without its hitches, all the while Glenn protested and repeatedly asked the band to turn down. Their amps were so loud that Daniels couldn't get an undistorted sound from the band!

As was typical with teen garage bands going into the studio, they hadn't prepared a song to put on the B-side of the record. Buzz Gilleland then stepped forward and showed the guys a sketch of an unusual but catchy instrumental song he had been crafting. Working out the arrangements on the spot, the talented group quickly knocked out the song in a few takes.

The band got approximately 500 copies of the "High & Mighty" single and sold most of the pressing through local record shops. Though the song was a strong one and could have elevated the bands status, they never played it live and it barely charted on local radio.
By this point, the lineup had changed drastically and the new single no longer represented who the group was.

"High & Mighty"

"Summer Sunset"

The band could often be seen playing live at the Red Carpet Inn on the Old Dallas Highway outside of town.
A local soul band would usually start out the night followed by The Society, who would typically play from midnight to as late as 4 AM.
Their live show included a psychedelic light show put on by their buddy Jimmy Lloyd, and home-made Super 8 videos of the band goofing around town projected on them while playing.
Austin, Dallas, Houston, and even Marlin were regular towns for the band to play in.
They went as far as playing live shows in Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Band Lineup during 45:
Andy King - bass
Andy Lifland - drums
Jerry P. Utley - vocals
John Callon - lead guitar
Lee Ellingson - guitar
Buzz Gilleland - organ

Other Members:
Mick Fick - 1st drummer
Skipper Olson - bass (after Andy left)
Kent Tillman - guitar (after Lee and John left)
Harold Hutchison - organ (after Buzz left)

Thanks to all the members of The Society and Hal Moore for taking their time to share memories of the group.

For details on earlier and later bands related to The Society, check my upcoming entries on The Shadows, Huntington Complex, Grass, Yer Own Back Yard, Edison Expansion, and The Warlocks.

 Post Script... Buzz Gilleland added this information about the band:

"After the release of the record, John Callon, Andy King, and Lee Ellingston left the band and were replaced by Tommy Christian – Lead Guitar, Chuck Stanley – Bass.  An interesting tidbit; Tommy Christian drove a 1955 or ’57 purple Pontiac hearse and wore a Catholic’s priest’s robe at our gigs.  On a couple of occasions Sammy Piazza filled in on drums for Andy Lifland."

"This band played a lot of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, Cream, etc. and was frequently accompanied by Fred Knapp showing 8mm color videos of the band during our performances.  This then developed into a cool light show produced by my wife to be, Gillian Barkworth and Fred Knapp.  Special effects were created by manipulating small glass slides filled with food coloring and glycerin in 2 Argus slide projectors, various artwork being projected, spinning color wheels, mirrored reflections, and a home made strobe light."