Larry Sands & the Sound Affair

In the summer of 1966, Larry Sands, owner and proprietor of 20/20 Optical, walked away from his chain of eyeglass stores in pursuit of the rock n’ roll dream. “Everybody thought he was ancient,” said Michael Waggoner of the then 28-year-old Sands, “but he was a hell of a guitar player and had drive that was unmatched on the scene.” Waggoner and his Chontels bandmate Kenny Mairs would join teenage bassist Dan Noger and third guitarist Dave Lorenz to back Sands’ 19th Century Sound Affair project. Sands’ vision was unique for 1966, forgoing crowd-pleasing covers in favor of a set of difficult originals about which Sands later mused, “I must have been pretty pissed off at women during that period.” This incarnation of Sands’ Sound Affair wouldn’t last long. “Larry wanted to take the band in a different direction,” Waggoner said. “I have no idea where, but somewhere without us.”

Under the direction of Larry Good, Cavern had dabbled in the world of country since its inception. Johnny Western’s in-cave appearance in December, 1966, had been financed by St. Paul, Minnesota’s Hep label, then searching for a strong follow-up to Western’s halcyon Columbia Records years. Sands had been among a handful of local writers invited underground to showcase their work, but Western’s version of the Sands/Waggoner composition “If I Didn’t Want To See You Anymore” wasn’t the only time the song would get lost in the caves. A streamlined Larry Sands & the Sound Affair tried its hand at the song a few times during May of 1967, with Dan McGraw, Don D’Angelo, Gerald Beardsley, and John Zander jotted down in the session notes. An album’s worth of material was set down, but only “Anymore” and “You’ll Know The Words” managed to secure a mix. Sands was already headed in still another direction.

Decked out in shit-kickers, cowboy hats, and neckerchiefs, Bartok’s Mountain announced itself to the world at the end of 1967 as KC’s answer to the country-rock movement happening out west. Their press kit embraced the campiness of the Flying Burrito Brothers, but was buttressed by quotes from Tim Bogert of a misspelled “Vinilla” Fudge, Atco Records’ Bruce Lawson, and even Johnny Western, who proclaimed Bartok’s Mountain “the best thing that’s happened to rock and roll in ten years.” Atco was so enamored by their recent appearances with Led Zeppelin, Fudge, and Sly & the Family Stone that they foot the bill for a series of Cavern sessions to see if an album might materialize. Alongside bills for tape, engineers, and cocaine, a few songs emerged, but nothing to warrant an LP. Pearce 5835 was even set aside for a single, but no 45 ever materialized baring their name. Following a disheartening stint opening for banjo-wielding comic Steve Martin at Stan Plesser’s Vanguard Coffee House in 1971, Sands changed direction one final time, dropping out of the band and Kosmic City for a chance to reboot his eyeglass business in Aspen, Colorado. “Everyone thought John Denver’s glasses were hokey, preppy, simple,” Sands said of his famous client’s spectacles. “They were actually 18 karat gold with the words ‘John Denver Rocky Mountain High’ engraved continuously around the eyewire.”

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