Independence has always been full of holes: subterranean tunnels, secret passages, mines, hidden hollows, and reverberating caverns. A place tailor-made for making lots of noise in private, the Kansas City suburb of Independence, Missouri, is riddled with untold natural cavities and a slew of manmade mines that’ve been delivering zinc, copper, nickel, and cobalt for more than a hundred years. But when Gerald “Jerry” Riegle rented space in the old Pixley Quarry, an active limestone mine, his intent was to work a vein of recorded sound. One of the strangest recording studios ever built, the aptly-named and actually subterranean Cavern Sound soon collected a cast of characters-the country-loving general manager, the young rocker, the Sun Records rockabilly pilot-and a dedicated clientele of religious groups, schools, country singers, and rock ‘n’ roll dreamers hoping to stumble across the true sound of the underground.
From 1967 to 1973, Riegle and his partners/engineers John Pearson, Jim Wheeler, Jim Williams, and Chris Bauer tracked thousands of hours of garage bands, school choirs, gospel trios, folk duos, and anyone who could scratch up enough cash to cover their $300 day rate. James Brown spent the better part of April 1972 in the Cave, cutting a number of his own sides alongside Lyn Collins’ crowd-pleasing killer “Think.” Prior to going “One Toke Over The Line,” Brewer & Shipley went underground for a spell. And don’t get us started on the legions of country acts that entered the depths following their acquisition of Chips Moman’s AMPEX 16-track and Electrodyne console.
Their in-house labels Cave, Rock, Cavern, and Pearce issued recordings by the Reactions, Burlington Express, Classmen,Fraight, American Sound Limited, Baxter’s Chat, 21st Century Sound Movement, and AJ Rowe, but it’s the unissued moments of dark-dampened clarity where the studio really shines. Larry Sands & the Sound Affair pushed Sneaky Pete Kleinow to the front of the Burrito Brothers, Jaded managed a pre-“Aqualung” flute freak out, and Sheriff channeled their inner NRBQ. A cover of Love’s “7 and 7 Is” was torn through by Plattsburgh, Missouri’s only weirdos, the Montaris. Was it the limestone dust in the air? Arsenic in the run off water? Surely “Mustache In Your Face” was the product of some kind of chemical toxin.
Local Customs: Cavern Sound is the story of a studio, certainly. But also tells the tales of studio rats, high school hopefuls, and unflagging lifers on the fringe of the music business. Fly over country? They were so underground they couldn’t hear the planes, let alone see them.
Local Customs: Cavern Sound is out October, 28, 2014 on Numero Group
Local Customs: Cavern Sound Track Listing
1. Pretty – Mustache In Your Face
2. Fraight – One Girl
3. American Sound Ltd – Aunt Marie
4. The Classmen – Doin’ Me Right
5. Jaded – Lovin’ You’s Blues
6. Larry Sands & the Sound Affair – You’ll Know The Words
7. Sheriff – I Don’t Really Love You
8. Tide – I Wish It Hadn’t Ended That Way
9. Bulbous Creation – End Of The Page
10. Mulligan – Think Before You Leave
11. Stone Wall – Living Today
12. Morningstar – Little By Little
13. The Montaris – 7 And 7 Is
14. Baxters’ Chat – Love’s Other Side
15. Burlington Express – One Day Girl (Twenty-Four)
16. The Reactions – In My Grave
17. 21st Century Sound Movement – Feelin’ Down
18. The Dantes – Any Number Can Win
19. Larry Sands & the Sound Affair – If I Didn’t Want To See You Anymore
20. Fraight – William Jones
21. The Classmen – Any Old Time
22. Jaded – The King Was
23. The Dantes – She’s A Part Of Me
24. A.J. Rowe – Smoke My Pipe (The Sign Ain’t Right)