The Atmospheres were a short-lived instrumental group, who had only two singles released. However, both of these score very high on my list of instrumental R&R favourites. The group came from the affluent Dallas suburb of Highland Park. They had two guitarists, Bill Kramer and Clarke Brown, Jr., a bass player who also played vibraphone (Ben Hill), a drummer called Jack Allday, a keyboard player by the name of Ken Waldrop and a vocalist in the shape of Steve Voekel, who also occasionally played bongos. They were all young, just short of graduation from high school, when they were signed to the Lin label from Gainesville, Texas, by its owner, Joe Leonard, in the spring of 1959.
Four instrumentals were recorded on June 20, 1959, at CRC Studios (Commercial Recording Corporation) in Dallas : The Fickle Chicken (with label credit going to all six members), Kabalo, Telegraph and Caravan. The up-tempo "The Fickle Chicken" features some very fine chicken-scratching guitar runs, probably by Clarke Brown, and was chosen as the A-side of the first single (Lin 5023), coupled with the slower "Kabalo", which more fully justifies the band's name, the Atmospheres. Though it didn't sell well, the disc was also released in the UK, on London HLW 8977. Curiously, the second single, "Telegraph"/"Caravan", was not issued in the US (at least not until 1975, when it was released by a small reissue label), but Joe Leonard leased it to London Records for issue in the UK (HLW 9091, 1960) and Belgium (9.5.160). "Telegraph" was written by Jack Allday and features occasional telegraph sounds, which make the record quite irritating for some people who are near and dear to me, but which don't bother me at all personally. In fact, I like it even better than "Fickle Chicken". The final twenty seconds are simply wonderful, with piano, guitar and bass blending in a unique way. This really was a talented, tight band.
Unfortunately, the group broke up in the summer of 1959, as band members left for various colleges. Most members left professional music for good, but drummer Jack Allday went from the Atmospheres to the white Texas blues band The Nite Caps and continues to lead his own R&B-cum-jazz combo in Dallas.
In the liner notes for the Ace CD "Teen Beat, Vol. 3", it is alleged that the Atmospheres also recorded as The Jokers, who had a Lin single out in 1960, the instrumental "Dogfight", which was belatedly released in the UK on the mysterious Salvo label in April 1962. However, the Jokers, also from Dallas, were an entirely separate group, consisting of David Spencer, Bob Welz, Ray Cochran, Joe Cook and Don Hosek.
Both "The Fickle Chicken" and "Telegraph" are included on the Bear Family CD "That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 15 : Rockabilly from the Vaults of Lin & Kliff Records" (BCD 16288, released in 1999). The story above is mainly based on Kevin Coffey's fine liner notes for that CD.
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