From a young age, Sandy Harless harbored the tender soul that he’d later put on display with his 1973 LP Songs. At five, he raised an abandoned baby skunk, and later bred exotic fish and sold them to local pet shops. Growing up in Ravenswood, West Virgina, a teenaged Harless turned the sale of one spindly African butterfly fish into a Dan Armstrong Ampeg bass guitar in clear acrylic. As a student at Ohio University in Athens, Harless booked twelve sessions over three weeks of 1973 at Chillicothe’s Appalachia Sound Recording Studio. Set to tape were an assemblage of performances by a group of longtime friends and classmates—identified on the LP jacket as simply Mark, Elise, Phil, and Chauncey—each of whom scheduled overdub sessions around final exams. Pedal steel guitarist, Jon David Call—founding member of Columbus, Ohio country-rock outfit, Pure Prairie League—happened to be in the studio the day Harless dropped by to book his session. On hiatus from the League following their 1972 RCA debut, Call agreed to sit in on the session for Songs.
After scrounging up the requisite $5,000—sourced from both family and his 27-tank fish breeding operation—Harless issued Songs on his own one-off Revelation Records. After a few months of selling the record door-to-door and mailing copies to radio stations, Nashville’s Brite Star Promotions reached out to Harless, assuring him that they’d have thousands of radio stations playing Songs, generating an impressive stream of royalties. They’d just need an additional $2,000 and 1,000 copies of the LP to “get the ball rolling,” as Harless said. Without hesitation, Harless inked his signature, cut a check, and headed back to West Virginia full of hope. Weeks of calls from Brite Star heartened him with respect to radio’s brimming interest. But then months passed, the calls dwindled, and then dried up entirely. Harless placed desperate calls to disconnected phone; he even attempted to drop in on Brite Star in Nashville, only to find its offices abandoned. Harless would never record again.
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