At Popsike.com, we learn that this LP sold for $114 in January of last year. Cost me 99 cents at Goodwill (open, but still in shrink wrap), and I almost didn't buy it! But it looked interesting enough, so I got it. And, boy, is it.
Heath High School is about a 20-minute drive from my house (I grew up in NW Ohio but feel pretty much at home here now). Probably a shorter drive back in 1968, when there were fewer cars on the road, at least around these parts. 1968 was the year when James Delbert Fullen, now 89, supervised this recording of Heath High student musicians, 35 of whom participated, all members of the Folk Singers club, save for the Heath High Chorus and Brass Band, who do a decent high-schoolish rendition of Up, up and Away. My Spell Checker tells me "high-schoolish" isn't a word, but I say it is. Anyway, this LP was recorded in monaural sound at King Studios in Cincinnati, and the sound is decent, though the pressing is typical King--as in, could have been a lot better.
We'll start with Fullen, a one-time country star who, starting in the late 1950s, recorded professionally as "Jimmie John." (It's not his fault that Jimmy John's would show up in 1983 to confuse the issue.) Here's s listing of Fullen/John singles. eBay ads tout his singles as rockabilly--even, in one instance, as "insane 1958 rockabilly bop"--but they all sound like regular country to me. In classic vanity style, Fullen wrote two numbers for this effort, and he sings the charming 1948 novelty Slap Her Down Again, Paw (aka Slap 'Er Down, Agin, Paw), apparently an acceptable choice for a central Ohio high school LP in 1968. His own songs--School of Love and You Great Big Wonderful Liar (sung by Lindy Ricketts, who, I hate to report, passed away last year)--are way better, the second tittle sounding like country of the era and the former more or less like a regular '60s novelty, its sexist air only helping in that regard. Why Fullen didn't devote the entire LP to student originals and covers, I don't know. Anyway, here's an early pic of Delbert Fullen/Jimmie John which I found (where else?) on line:
The Newark Advocate (of Ohio, of course) printed an April 4, 1968 piece on this LP, and I had to get a month's e-subscription to the paper to access the archives for a readable clip. Arrgh. Anyway, Amateurs Turn Out Pro LP, reads the headline. "A group of 35 supposed amateur musicians and vocalists has turned out a very professional recording--'Heath High on Mike 1968.'" The students "have created a product worthy of being judged on professional standards." The writer, George Finley, felt that it was a "not too risky prediction" that "with proper promotion, Heath High's Folk Singers will have a hit or two on their hands." I don't think that happened, in part because the LP sales were limited to the school and to a performance at the Heath Cake Festival. (There's a Heath Cake Festival?)
The Advocate piece gets the record sides reversed, for some reason, naming Wes G. Williams' Pathways as the opening track and describing it as a soul number, though it's clearly folk-rock (and very nicely done). Myron Smith's instrumental original Hold It, the actual first number, is deemed "an amazingly well done instrumental," and that's my reaction exactly. Closer to 1966 than 1968 in style, it's nevertheless superior garage band stuff, with highly assured musicianship. Sound-wise, it's unusually well-balanced for such an effort, so even if King's pressings sucked, their engineering was fine. What can I offer as a general assessment of the Folk Singers' tracks? (And why "Folk Singers," by the way?) Just that they're all well done and great fun (too fun, as the saying goes), despite Mike Osborne's iffy vocal on Blackjack Country Chain (an actual country song, despite its made-up-on-the-spot sound, probably a result of half-memorized lyrics). "Arrangements and instrumentation relying heavily on guitars and percussion are far superior than would ordinarily be expected," claims Finley, and I can't argue with that.
I almost failed to find Fullen's country career on line, as the Advocate piece mistakenly gave his country pseudonym as "Jimmy John," but I tried "Jimmie" and struck pay dirt. I are smart.
The back jacket is blank, so I saw no point in scanning it. According to last year's eBay ad, "This is a rare record, there is no history of it online." Wrong!
"According to Fullen, the record is a training experience nearly all of the students had not experienced."--Advocate. Umm, right. To the extremely interesting LP. Oh, and did I mention Tim Fannin and the Sites of Sound's Through the Suns of My Mind? It's not only a 9 out of 10 on the garage scale, it beautifully makes no sense at all. Pure psychedelia, in other words. Rendering the inclusion of Slap 'Er Down all the more trippy by contrast. Cornball Arthur Godfrey country, psychedelia, folk-pop, Jimmy Webb--how can you lose?
Okay, now to the extremely interesting LP....
DOWNLOAD: Heath High "On Mike" 1968
Hold It (Myron Smith)--Myron Smith, Roger Rockey, Mike Thmpson, Terry Lanning
Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying (Marsden)--Phil Circeili (1964 Gerry and the Pacemakers hit)
School of Love (Fullen)--Bart Black, Amy Knight
Little Bridge (Lorie Broughton)--Cheri Black
Through the Suns of My Mind (Steve Risbon-Allan Reid)--Tim Fannin and the Sites of Sound
Up, up and Away (Webb)--Heath High Chorus and Brass Band
Pathways (Wes G. Williams)--Wes G. Williams
You Great Big Wonderful Liar (Fullen)--Lindy Ricketts
Blackjack County Chain (Rivers)--Mike Osborn
The Rain Came Down (Lorie Broughton)--Gwen Grube, Rhonda Chapman, Carol Brandon
Slap Her Down Again, Paw (Arnold-Cornett-Asherman)--Mr. Fullen
Little Bit (Lorie Broughton)--Lorie Broughton
Heath High "On Mike" (King Recording Studios 1366-LP-68; 1968)