14 May 2015
Released in 1969, "Tim Dawe"'s Penrod was one of the few entries on "Frank Zappa"'s ironically monikered "Straight Records" label.
Penrod is the fictional "Penrod Schofield", a preteen whose misadventures were anthologized in a collection of humorous drawings by Pulitzer Prize-winning author "Booth Tarkington". He is portrayed on the outer LP jacket in two cover illustrations hand-drawn by "Gordon Grant".
The four other musicians in the album were not session guys using pseudonyms, as has sometimes been speculated by collectors, but "Tim Dawe"'s band, were keyboardist "Arnie Goodman", drummer "Claude Mathis", electric guitarist "Chris Kebeck", and bassist "Don Parrish". "Arnie Goodman", is brother of violinist "Jerry Goodman", famous for playing in the late-'60s Chicago Rock group "The Flock", and later as a member of the "Mahavishnu Orchestra" with guitarist "John McLaughlin".
Many releases on the "Straight Records" label had a direct connection to "Frank Zappa" and/or "Herb Cohen", whether the artists (such as "Tim Buckley") were also managed by "Herb Cohen", or whether the musicians had at times played with "Frank Zappa" (like "Captain Beefheart" and one-time "Mothers of Invention" bassist "Jeff Simmons"). It was a similar deal with Penrod (Straight Records STS1058, 1969), which was produced by "Jerry Yester" ("Zal Yanovsky"'s replacement in "The Lovin' Spoonful" ), who'd issued a late-60s Psychedelic cult classic on "Straight Records" with then-wife "Judy Henske", (also in Psychedelic Folk-Rock band "Farewell Aldebaran"). "Jerry Yester" and "Judy Henske" were also managed by "Herb Cohen", and "Jerry Yester" had also produced or co-produced two late-'60s albums for fellow "Herb Cohen" client "Tim Buckley", "Goodbye and Hello" and "Happy Sad". When "Herb Cohen" was considering having "Tim Dawe" cut an album, he sought out "Jerry Yester"'s input.
"Tim Dawe", believes "Jerry Yester", was probably first seen by "Herb Cohen" one night at the famed Los Angeles club "The Troubadour", as "that's where Herbie found a lot of his artists.
"Herb Cohen" called me and said, "Listen man, I saw this group at the hoot. I want you to go down to San Diego and listen to them, and see if we need to make a record of them". As soon as he said that, I decided that he needed to make a record of it, because I was out of work at the time", he laughs. "They would have had to have been pretty bad for me to say 'No go.' Judy and I went down [to San Diego to see Dawe], we were still together then. As it turns out, they were very good. So it was with some relief" that Jerry took the job of producing the album.
When he heard "Tim Dawe" and his band, remembers "Jerry Yester", "I said, 'This is going to be a piece of cake.' I don't know how long they'd been together, but they were pretty tight. They had their parts down. They'd rehearsed the stuff a lot, and it was like record-ready. I remember taping them on a really early cassette machine in a place where they rehearsed, and listening to it, it just seemed like it was taken off a record. So it seemed like not a lot of work to do".
In the studio, "Jerry Yester" continues, "it took a very short time to do. Maybe a couple of weeks, and we were finished with everything—mixing and mastering and everything. There might have been a couple of things where I suggested something here and there, but they were pretty together. Getting their sound was just no problem, because they were so well-rehearsed. We just set up the mikes and bingo, it was like one- or two-take kind of stuff. The guitar player was really good and really proficient—none of the problems usually associated with guitar players!" he laughs.
Dawe himself, "Jerry Yester" adds, was "a really nice fellow and easy to get along with. He seemed unlikely as a rock'n'roll singer. His approach was just way different than anybody else. He had a real kind of formal-sounding voice, is the only way I can put it." Though Dawes's vocal style has sometimes been compared (by the relatively few people who've heard and written about Penrod) to Tim Buckley, perhaps because of the Yester/Straight association, to Jerry "it never struck me that way at all. Tim [Buckley] was real moody and a lot more bohemian. Tim [Dawes] just seemed crisp and such an upstanding guy. I'm not saying that [Buckley] wasn't. But [Buckley] really had no regard at all for convention. And [Dawe] could have been a scoutmaster".
The Penrod album was in some respects so eclectic as to defy classification. Parts were reminiscent of earnest mid-to-late-1960s Folk-Rock singer-songwriters like "Eric Andersen", "Phil Ochs", and "Tim Hardin", yet with edgier, harder-rocking Psychedelic-influenced backing. "Sometimes Alone" and "Didn't We Love" climaxed with Psychedelic distorted dissonance, yet "Some Other Time" featured gorgeous classical-influenced keyboards by "Arnie Goodman". And "Jerry Yester" added some orchestration to the Folk-Rock-Psychedelic core. "That was still pretty early in my orchestration career, and I liked to do it every time I could," he notes. "I didn't force it on people, certainly, but if I thought it could use it, I suggested it".
Perhaps the standout cut on the record is the seven-and-a-half-minute "Junkie John" a brooding downbeat tale set against haunting "Farfisa Compact Organ", wailing backup vocals, and a languid yet mordant Jazzy groove. "The best line in that [is] in the spoken intro that he does—'when he walked into a room, you got the feeling that somebody just left'", feels "Jerry Yester". "I've used that over the years, 'cause I've known people like that. I knew what he meant. That was a pretty good line".
The Penrod album went virtually unnoticed, however, and "Tim Dawe" and the musicians would never issue another album together. "Jerry Yester" would never see any of them again. "I have a feeling they didn't really perform very much", "Jerry Yester" concludes. "I think if they did, they would have developed a following, because they had a really interesting collection of tunes. It seems they would have been appealing. It was just an odd kind of a thing. It came and went in my life in less than a month".