Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mystery 45 'Escanaba' surfaces

Just call it the great Escanaba record mystery.

The case involves a rarely seen 45 rpm single with a 1978 copyright.

The seven inch disc is topped with the attention grabbing song title, "Escanaba."

I first heard the tune in a Madison nightclub during a business trip to the Wisconsin capital when I was working as public relations director for the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) in the early 1980s.

The band billed themselves as the "Dopes." They performed "Escanaba" during their show, as my office-mates and I shouted our enthusiasm.

Band members sold the 2-minute 49-second disc during their performances and I bought a copy as a souvenir.

It's an upbeat rock song with a catchy chorus: "Escanaba, where are you; How did we wind up here? Escanaba let me go; I'll forget you in another year."

While "Escanaba" is the A side of the single, it’s backed by "There Are Ways."

There are no song-writing credits given on the nondescript black & white label, although it does have a line stating, "all rights reserved." In addition, the label credits "Duck Recordings" and notes the disc was recorded at Pepperhead Ranch.

Pepperhead was a recording studio and label located outside Madison. Little information is available about the facility, but various bands did record there, including an outfit known as Windjammer. The songwriter and rythym guitarist for Windjammer was Gary Sohmers. Now known as the "King of Pop Culture," Sohmers operates Wex Rex collector's shop, hosts his own national radio show and appears on the "Antiques Roadshow" television program on PBS. Another band which recorded for Pepperhead was a power trio called Radioactive.

Pepperhead 45s were privately pressed in extremely small quantities, received limited distribution and even less radio play. Sometimes the public can be extremely inattentive, even when a rock 'n' roll band puts its best efforts forward.

When I returned home from the Madison trip, I spun the "Escanaba" disc a few times and filed it away.

Then, surfing eBay, the giant Internet auction house a few weeks ago, I came across a 45 listing with a song called "Escanaba." The tune was credited to a band named "Zoom."

Not recognizing the band’s name, I decided to buy the disc from the seller who's account name was "fastedy." Fastedy is a record dealer who has been operating on eBay since 1998 with a positive feedback rating of 99.9 percent.

So, I sent off my $6.99 plus $3.50 postage and a week later the 45 record arrived. With a purple label, the disc didn’t look familiar.

Credited to "Zoom," the label also noted the record was a Wilcox Production. But, like a good detective, I noticed something else.

The record I bought in Madison years ago had a white label pasted over the original purple one. Lo and behold, I had two copies of the identical record, with different artist credits.

So, are "Dopes" and "Zoom" the same band? Why was the label changed?

Perhaps there were legal or contractual problems. Perhaps there was a rift in the band. Perhaps they just decided to change their name, after all it's a free country.

Or, perhaps the band was trying a marketing strategy to sell additional copies of the single to gullible people who had already purchased it.

The mysteries abound.


Anonymous said...

Dear "Devereau,"
By mistake, I deleted your email concerning Zoom and the song Escanaba. Please email me gain. Thanks, Steve Seymour

Anonymous said...

I was the engineer who recorded the song (and all of the Zoom LP) at Pepperhead Studios. If you can rip a copy for me that would be awesome! Thanks, Ron Lagerlof