Saturday, January 16, 2010

Helping Out Our Readers: The New Colony Six

>>>With regards to "The New Colony Six", I recall them being on some of the shows we were on when touring the midwest. At the time I guess I paid them no real attention as we were intoxicated with what we were about and the business at hand. As of late I've been Youtubing, listening to their songs, and I have to say that they had some kickass songs. Whoever wrote them had real skills, and the harmonies are spot on. So you can chalk up some sales of their CD's to me. All of this writing is of course my humble opinion. (Alex Valdez / Yellow Balloon)
>>>For some reason, the impact of The New Colony Six seems to have been diminished in hindsight over the years ... but during the '60's, they scored more Top 40 Chicagoland Hits than ANY other local act ... an incredible 17 in all ... and they STILL sound great today. And these guys wrote ALL their own songs ... pretty impressive indeed! (kk)
Please send my kudos back to Alex – always did love the time change in their eponymous single, Yellow Balloon, and their harmonies as well. Please extend thanks from Gerry, Ronnie, Les, Chuck, Chic, Pat and me since, as you know, we all took our share of writers’ credits. Stay warm; take care of the crew and thanks, as always, for keeping me (and thousands of others – tens of 1,000s?) informed and entertained through FH.

Wishing a prosperous New Year for all of us,
Ray Graffia, Jr. /
The New Colony Six

Hi Kent -
I've got a question that's probably been covered here before at some point. A friend of mine me a song via email by The New Colony Six entitled ''Someone's Waiting For You''. I'm a huge NC6 fan but I'd never heard this lovely song before. Could you or some of our readers give me some particulars on this tune. What year was it recorded, lead singer, record label, group personnel at the time, etc.
This is my all time favorite group of the late 60's but I have no knowledge about this song.
Help please!! Thanks to all!
Happy New Year and Rock On!
I'm not familiar with a song by The New Colony Six with that title ... but I think the song you're referring to is most likely "Never Be Lonely", one of their last singles. Originally released as the B-Side of "Long Time To Be Alone" when the single was first released on Sunlight Records (1004), it got a fair amount of airplay on WBBM-FM back when it was a soft-rock station. T
he song was originally done by The Boyz, another local Chicagoland band. When The New Colony Six got picked up by a major label in the early '70's (MCA Records), that single, "Long Time To Be Alone" / "Never Be Lonely" was released again (this time as MCA 40215) but on this go 'round the sides were reversed and "Never Be Lonely" was promoted as the A-Side. Great track ... but it never officially charted. Here in Chicago, "Long Time To Be Alone" (one of their very best ballads ever) reached #13 on the old WCFL Chart ... and, if I'm not mistaken, it was a Top Ten Hit in Hawaii, too, allowing the band to travel there for some live appearances (and one heck of a vacation!!!)

First released as a single in 1971 on Sunlight, the band at the time consisted of Gerry Van Kollenburg on guitar, Chuck Jobes on Keyboards, Billy Herman on Drums, Pat McBride on percussion and, on this one, the beautiful lead vocal of Ronnie Rice. From here, the line-up gets a little muddy. Conversations with a number of the NC6 band members (and with band historian Jerry Schollenberger) only made things MORE difficult to understand!!! (You'll see our notes on tracking this information down for you at the end of this piece ... but I've gotta warn you ... even with a scorecard it's confusing as hell!!! lol)

Reportedly new onboard was Bob Wilson, formerly of The Boyz, who had written and first recorded "Never Be Lonely" (which is how The New Colony Six came to be in possession of this great song.) He also wrote their 1970 Hit "People And Me" ... but, his tenure in the band is suspect at best ... while researching this piece I was told that he ... "WAS" ... "was NOT" ... and "was for about a heartbeat" ... an official member of the band. It sounds to me like he may have been supplying them with material but was never "officially" a band member. (More of this is explained below!)

The only OTHER title I can think of that you might be thinking of is "Someone Sometime", their last charted hit. (#109 Billboard, #19, WCFL, 1972.) It's a much more up-tempo tune, written by new member Skip Griparis (whose unreleased NC6 track "Muddy Feet On The Mississippi" became all the rage here in Forgotten Hits a year or so ago when it was released on the "Signs" / rarities CD.)

Just to be sure that ONE of these is the song you're referring to ... and in an effort to avoid any further confusion ... as well as appease some of the many OTHER New Colony Six fans on the list ... I'm featuring ALL of these tracks here today!!!

I mentioned the other day that we once did a month-long tribute to The New Colony Six here in Forgotten Hits. Here are some excerpts from that piece as they pertain to these specific tracks:

Their next release, "Long Time To Be Alone", just may be the prettiest ballad the band EVER recorded. In fact, now comparisons to artists like Bread would be the ultimate compliment. It was Ronnie Rice's crowning moment as lead vocalist, eclipsing all of his otherwise excellent performances on record. (If any Ronnie Rice vocal is capable of bringing a tear to your eye, this is the one that'll do it ... and it's also one of his personal favorites ... yet for some reason he refuses to perform it today!)

This one absolutely should have been a MONSTER ... yet it tanked at #93. Again, WLS passed on the single, but WCFL played it enough to rank #13 on their Top 40 Chart.

JERRY SCHOLLENBERGER: When I put together the "Colonized" CD for Rhino Records, the Greatest Hits CD, I got more mail about "Long Time To Be Alone" than any other track on the CD. People just LOVED that song and many were hearing it for the very first time. It was, by far, the favorite, most singled-out track on the whole album.

And the flip side was nearly as pretty. "Never Be Lonely" didn't really get much airplay when it was first released as the B-Side but, a few years later, the single got picked up by MCA Records and they flipped it over and made "Never Be Lonely" the A-Side. I remember hearing this one quite often on WBBM-FM, the soft-rock station at the time. Both songs are amongst the best examples of latter-day New Colony Six ballads and BOTH deserved a far-better fate than they received. (Incredibly the band was doing their best to SHAKE their ballad-image ... when clearly it was their greatest strength at the time.)

FORGOTTEN HITS: What's the New Colony Six song that SHOULD have been the hit ... should have been noticed?

RONNIE RICE: As far as record-wise you mean?

FH: Yeah, what's the one that SHOULD have been given the chance?

RR: "Long Time To Be Alone", I think, should have been a great New Colony hit. I don't know if it ever really had the potential. I love the song. I mean, it did get a minimum amount of airplay here at home. On WBBM-FM. And unfortunately it goes to show you that even with legitimate hits, it was still hard to get something played on the radio. But ultimately it's up to the people ... the audience ... they're the answer. If you hear something twice on a radio station, you know whether you like it or not ... or whether it continues to grow on you. But if you just get a minimum amount of exposure, that can make it or break it. "I Will Always Think About You" is a great example. When you get a record that's debuted at 3:00 in the afternoon and it's the #1 Request of that evening, what does that tell you? So that shows you that "Long Time To Be Alone" did not have that behind it 'cause if it DID have it, it would have been a hit, too.

FH: Now that's funny because in talking to Jerry Schollenberger, once the Greatest Hits CD came out, he got more mail about that one song ("Long Time To Be Alone") than ANY other song on the album ... as people were discovering it for the very first time.

RR: Now that's interesting. I've always loved "Long Time To Be Alone" and maybe it just didn't get enough airplay, who knows.

FH: But that kind of surprised me ... because when the people bought the Greatest Hits CD, that's the one they latched on to ... because they HADN'T heard it before ... it never got the airplay it should have gotten. People who were buying the Greatest Hits CD were buying it for the songs that they knew ... yet they were blown away by this one ... a track many of them probably hadn't heard before. I think "Long Time To Be Alone" could still be a hit today if given a chance.

RR: Well, you never know ... there are exceptions ... sort of like TV shows that need the time to grow on you .. I don't know ... maybe that WOULD have been a bigger hit if it were given a chance. "I Will Always Think About You" and "Things I'd Like To Say" were IMMEDIATE hits ... I mean, a week later, "I Will Always Think About You" was #1 in Louisville. So why didn't "Long Time To Be Alone" catch on with the amount of airplay it got ... maybe it just needed a little more airplay. It'd be nice if someone did it over again.

FH: Well, they actually did that right? I mean, it first came out on Sunlight and then a while later MCA picked it up and put it out again. Were they trying to give it another chance at being a hit?

RR: Yeah, it came out again, but as a B-Side.

FH: Yeah, they plugged "Never Be Lonely" instead the second time around, which is also a great song.

RR: Yeah, Bob Wilson wrote that, too ... and "People And Me".

DIDJAKNOW: Despite its lack of success on both the Chicagoland and the national charts, "Long Time To Be Alone" was a Top Ten Record in Hawaii!!! In fact, our FH Buddy Clark Besch found a couple of Hawaiian Charts from KPOI to reflect the success of this record and their earlier hit, "Roll On", each of which performed better in HAWAII than they did here back home in Chicago!!!
I was just going thru deleting emails from the past two weeks and found the one from the weekend asking for Hawaiian charts with the NC6 song! OOPS! I forgot and it got buried by the time I got home Monday. Anyway, HERE they are! Note that "Roll On" set the stage with its' charting near (or in) the top 10 on KPOI. A few months later, "Long Time" was at least #4 (see last week position here) on KPOI. Hawaiian top 40 stations played some cool FH's judging by their charts, especially in the 60's. Obviously, the NC6 were known, by the chart I sent with "Can't You See Me Cry" also. One FH fave I spot on the 72 chart is "Daisy Mae" by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds -- a great tune.

(click charts to enlarge)

Signed back up to a major label, The New Colony Six would release one more single for MCA Records. (Prior to this release, Sunlight Records issued another single as well.) Unfortunately, neither one made any real impression on the national charts and, by late-1973 / early-1974, the band called it a day.

After a virtual revolving door of band members (Rice left to resume his solo career, Bruce Gordon joined on bass ... guitarist John Camelot came on board ... Rick Barr picked up the drums ... a young singer / songwriter named Skip Griparis, who would go on to much greater heights as a comedian and sometime-movie actor, wrote and sang their final two recording efforts) ... and even band historian Jerry Schollenberger can't provide the names of ALL of the band members who passed through The Colony those final two years ... in fact, he mentioned to me that at one point, they actually hired a girl lead singer, (ala early shades of Rufus and The American Breed!!!) By the time it was all over, only Gerry Von Kollenburg remained from the original band line-up conceived nearly ten years before. But what a track record they left behind here on the Chicagoland charts ... 17 Top 40 Chicagoland Singles.

FORGOTTEN HITS: You had 17 Top 40 singles here in Chicago but only two National Top 40 Hits. Does that bother you in hindsight? Do you feel you got a fair shake?
RAY GRAFFIA, JR.: We may have only had two national Top 40 Hits, but lots of them hung around the Bottom 60 for weeks and weeks and weeks! We spent (according to rock historian and major Colony fanatic, Jerry Schollenberger) 198 weeks on the national charts without ever hitting #1. Does it bother me? Not really - I was pretty happy with our success. I figure you can't really miss what you've never experienced, so without having done Ed Sullivan's show, I didn't miss it, but, in retrospect, it sure would have been nice to have had the national success.

Their last two singles were really pretty good records, but by then, nobody was listening. "Someone, Sometime" became a #19 hit here in Chicago on WCFL (again, WLS ignored it) and "bubbled under" on the national chart at #109. Their last release, "I Don't Really Want To Go", sounds a lot like the kind of stuff that bands like Poco and artists like Nick Lowe would soon be releasing ... maybe The New Colony Six were simply ahead of their time ... or, more likely, they had failed on a national level so many times that, by now, most radio station programmers never even gave the record a spin. Too bad ... it's a nice little pop tune ... and definitely worth a listen here today!


Sunlight 1001 - Roll On / If You Could See (1971)

Sunlight 1004 - Long Time To Be Alone / Never Be Lonely (1972)

Sunlight 1005 - Someone, Sometime / Come On Down (1972)

MCA 40215 - Never Be Lonely / Long Time To Be Alone (1974)

MCA 40288 - I Don't Really Want To Go / Run (1974)

In trying to sort out the "official" New Colony Six line-up circa 1971 - 1973, we consulted with band historian Jerry Schollenberger (who also called Ronnie Rice, Gerry Von Kollenburg and Skip Griparis). I also personally talked to Ronnie Rice and Drummer Rick Barr. Between ALL of us, here's what we were able to come up with (confusing as some of it may be!!! lol)

Here is ALL the info that Skip Griparis left on my answering machine last night regarding the NC6...

(1.) Skip says that he WAS NOT in The New Colony when the songs "Long Time To Be Alone" and "Never Be Lonely" were recorded. Skip states that he did not officially join the band until the end of 1972. (Something doesn't add up here, since the 45 of "Someone Sometime" was released in April 1972, which Skip co-wrote with Billy Herman, and also sang lead on.) However, Skip also said that he "unofficially" wrote songs for the New Colony (as well as recorded with them) prior to "officially" joining the group. It's possible that Skip DID write and record "Someone Sometime" before he actually became a member of The New Colony Six.

(2.) Skip (vaguely) recalls the band member line-up on the recording (besides himself) of "Someone Sometime" to be: Chuck Jobes (organ), Billy Herman (drums), Bruce Gordon (bass), Gerry VanKollenberg (lead guitar), and Pat McBride (who sang harmony along with Skip's lead vocals).

I called Ronnie Rice this morning to ask him if he was involved in the recording of "Someone Sometime". Ron told me that although he was still a member of the band at that time, he was not on that recording.

Ronnie also told me that he couldn't remember who the other band members were when they recorded "Long Time To Be Alone" and "Never Be Lonely".

One last thing to mention ... contrary to previous reports, Bob Wilson (writer of "Never Be Lonely") apparently never was at any point, a member of the New Colony Six. Reports now say that Bob only wrote songs for the group.

So there you have the scoop, Right from the horses' mouths.
This era of the New Colony Six is still as clear as mud to me. A lot of unclear and conflicting facts STILL remain.

Jerry Schollenberger

Ronnie told me that, to the best of his knowledge, Bob Wilson was never officially a member of The New Colony Six ... he was a friend of the band and, as such, gave them access to a couple of songs that he had written. (Sounds like today Bob is the principal at a school down south ... good for him!) Skip Griparis had a similar arrangement ... as a friend of the band (and a member of a group called Trinity, who Pat McBride was working with as a side venture through his production company), Skip "donated" a couple of songs for The Colony's catalog. He didn't join the band until later and then did so at Ronnie Rice's reccommendation ... it sounds like Ronnie "hand-picked" Skip as his own replacement once he had decided to resume his solo career!

Skip wrote some GREAT tracks for The New Colony Six (and had a great voice and unique guitar style, too.) One can only wonder what other hidden gems might be sitting in the vaults somewhere ... when "Muddy Feet On The Mississippi" was unearthed a couple of years ago, it became all the rage here in Forgotten Hits ... a GREAT "woulda, coulda, shoulda been a hit" type track!

I also talked with Rick Barr, the band's current drummer, who did a few sessions with the band back in the early '70's. He, too, was part of Trinity ... and it sounds like Trinity handled most of the backing tracks on The New Colony Six hit single "Roll On"!!! (Who knew?!?!?)

FORGOTTEN HITS: Hi Rick! I'm hoping that you can help me with this New Colony Six Timeline ... Everybody's memory seems to be a little foggy ... and everybody I've talked to remembers things slightly differently.

Were you with the band yet during any of the Sunlight Recording Sessions? When did you come onboard? We're trying to pin down the line-up at the time of these sessions ... but it sounds like the band members were still changing during this era. Obviously, Ronnie Rice was there for "Long Time To Be Alone", as he handled the lead vocal on this track. I've heard that Bob Wilson ... was ... was NEVER ... and was "for about a heartbeat" ... a member of The New Colony Six ... but since he wrote both "Never Be Lonely" and "People And Me", I'm assuming he had to have SOME connection with the band. (Didn't he also sing "Never Be Lonely"??? And, if not, whose vocal IS that??? And how did he come to be associated with The NC6, being in a "competing" band?)
[Editor's Note: Ronnie Rice told me that HE sang "Never Be Lonely", a BEAUTIFUL song that should have done much better than it did. In fact, he said that nothing would please him more than to see someone re-record both "Long Time To Be Alone" and "Never Be Lonely" as he feels BOTH songs still have enormous hit potential. And I've got to agree with him!]

By the time of the last Sunlight recording, "Someone, Sometime", Skip Griparis seems to have been a member (and lead singer) since, I believe, he WROTE this song. Other names that seem to fit this time period are Gerry Van Kollenburg (he was there from start to finish), Ronnie, Skip, possibly Bob, YOU, Bruce Gordon, Billy Herman, Chuck Jobes and Pat McBride. (This adds up to a whole lot more than "Six"!!! Lol)
[Editor's Note: Ronnie Rice told me that by the end it had gotten ridiculous regarding the number of musicians involved with the band ... he said that on some nights there were more people up on stage than there were in the audience!!! New Colony Thirteen anyone?!?!? lol]

Skip says he was writing songs for The NC6 before he was actually a member ... and denies BEING a member for "Someone Sometime" (but clearly that's HIS song and him singing, right???) Ronnie says he was still a member of the band at this point but does not appear on this recording. (In an earlier conversation he had told me he had already left to go solo by this point.) Even "Roll On" is confusing ... Billy Herman WROTE the song ... but reportedly Pat McBride sings it (with Ronnie Rice handling only the middle eight) ... yet I think at one time you told me that YOU played the drums on this record (which is REALLY bizarre since Billy Herman was a drummer!!!) Was Billy already gone by the time the band decided to record this song?

Obviously, I'm VERY confused ... but want to get the facts straight ... you know me, we're ALWAYS trying to present "the most accurate truth possible" ... and that's been somewhat difficult this time around, as it seems that everybody remembers things differently. I talked with Jerry Schollenberger (who knows the band's history better than THEY do) about this and even he agreed that this period in the band's history is about as "clear as mud" ... even HE didn't know for sure ... and he confirmed that he's heard different stories from different members at different times over the years. (Meanwhile, Bruce Mattey says that HE did a number of "uncredited" recordings with the band, too!!! But he's never been specific as to which tracks he's on ... and it sounds like this would have been more during the "Attacking The Straw Man" era.) So I don't know WHAT to believe!!! Anyway, I'm hoping you can shed some light on this ... I would really appreciate it!!!

RICK BARR: The mystery is really simple. Skip Griparis, Bob Wilson, Kevin McCann and Tom Richards were Trilogy. Trilogy was managed by Sanctuary Productions, which was owned by Pat McBride and a partner.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronnie Rice told me that he had also invested some money in Pat's production company and that while not real successful, McBride WAS able to place a few artists with various record labels at the time.]

So, both Skip and Bob wrote songs that Pat shopped to The New Colony. "Someone Sometime"’s lead vocal I believe to be Pat McBride, 'though Skip’s wonderful 4-octave voice is definitely on the chorus harmonies. Bob Wilson wrote "Never Be Lonely" back in about 1965 and recorded and released it with his band at the time, The Boys. The Colony recorded it in about 1969 or 1970 and released it as a single a few years later. "People And Me" was also written by Bob, and figured strongly in Trilogy’s set list.

"Roll On" WAS written by Billy Herman. Pat McBride was again on the lead vocals, with Ronnie on the bridge. I did play drums on the session, which was essentially the Trilogy line-up. There was some discord in the Colony organization at the time, and they relied on us for the band track on both "Roll On" and its original flip side "Come on Down", which is also the flip on some copies of "Someone Sometime" — or, at least it is on a copy I have. The Colony and Trilogy shared a lot at the time, with Pat McBride producing, Brian Christian engineering and various other common players and writers. I do think I recall that on the "Roll On" session, everybody and his brother is in on the final choruses, including Brian Christian, all sort of circling around one mic in the center of the studio, laughing, vamping and generally having a really good time. "Roll On", by the way was The Colony’s 4th biggest hit, reaching #54 in Billboard, and though I don’t remember a lot of airplay in Chicago, it did very well in many markets, and really helped the band’s industry position for a few additional years. "Roll On" was recorded in January of 1971, and released that summer, which was the plan all along, since it’s a summer song — sand and sun and even a puppy, for heaven’s sake.

I joined the band in ’73, playing on the final release “I Don’t Really Want To Go” and its flip side “Run”. We disbanded in 1974, only to regroup in 1988.
Gerry Van Kollenburg was in the original lineup. Bruce Gordon joined early on, replacing Wally Kemp, and Chuck Job — fantastically talented and creative guy — joined early on replacing Craig Kemp — whom you saw at the Bolingbrook show sitting in with us as the original keyboardist on “Last Night”. Wally was there at the Colony party you attended, playing and singing great. He’s the one who still knew all the arrangements. I had heard Bruce Mattey was asked to join the band and did so, but soon thereafter received an offer to join the Robbs, whose hit “Race With The Wind” was getting national airplay, so he went on the road with them.
So, there you have it — as much as I can contribute. I have very few photos of the period. I was too dumb to think to document that great period, working with all those talented and wonderful people. I do have a few from the final date in 1974, and I’ll see if I can dig them up.

Hope that helps. If anything more comes to mind, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, best to you and yours in 2010.