American Sound Ltd

Despite his fate-sealing surname, Billie Organ didn’t begin his music training until well into his teens. Stranded out beyond reasonable TV reception in the isolated coal-mining town of Granby, Missouri, Organ burned leisure hours repurposing common household items as percussive instruments, tapping out rudimentary rhythms. He’d finish high school before bartering an old beater car for a decent trap set and gigging behind J. B. Russell at the Rainbow Club, a fabled outpost in the Kansas City jazz scene. A few well-attended gigs gave way to Organ’s enrollment in the Bygones, a swing-blues combo that demanded the shuffle-y sound then being popularized by Bill Doggett. With dynamic frontman and vocalist Danny Gregory, the Bygones morphed into the Roulettes, cultivating a transitional soul sound that suited the early ‘60s. The Stragglers—an Omaha-by-way-of-Midland, Texas, band—would take him west, but he wouldn’t last long enough to see Stragglers roadie Buddy Miles take over the band and rechristen them Electric Flag. Instead, Organ caught wind of a B3-based trio and spent the next year in-residency at Oakland’s Showcase Lounge. The money was phenomenal, the schedule exhausting. Organ returned to Kansas City in 1964.

Mired in a rut, he dealt used cars under sunlight and avoided the nightlife by dark. Organ was only grinding his way towards death until the call came from Uncle Sam in 1966. He narrowly missed the Tet Offensive. Returning to Kansas City in 1968, Organ enlisted his brother Danny, plus a few other straggling Stragglers and gambling Roulettes, to form American Sound Ltd. Danny turned in buttery lead vocals, allowing Ernie Carone, Steve Bradley, James Bramer, and Larry Fike’s stage show to leap the boundaries of soul, country, rock, and pop, as had predecessors Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority, who’d inspired their name. At Cavern Recording Studios on August 21st, 1970, from 1:30 to 4:30pm, the band hurriedly fossilized four songs onto magnetic tape: “Aunt Marie,” “Don’t Leave Me Baby,” “Foxy Lady,” and “What You Gonna Do?” A Pearce-labeled 45 of “Aunt Marie” was pressed with a serviceable stab at Hendrix’s dominant 7#9 on the flip, but Cavern lacked the authority to get it on the radio. The Organ bros. would split time between American Sound and a painting business in the coming years before trading in drum sticks and bass amps for paintbrushes and drop cloths permanently in the mid-1970s.

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