BISBEE — Ever hear of the Waller Creek Boys band? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t.
It was the first band rocker Janis Joplin performed with in 1962 before she took off as a star of blues, soul and rock. The Waller Creek Boys was the first album of the band from Austin, Texas, which included guitarist Lanny Wiggins and Powell St. John on harmonica. It was taped at the city’s famous Threadgill’s, a beer joint and music venue, said Steve Purdy, hunter of lost recording sessions, producer of lost vinyl and owner of Lysergic Sound Distributors in Tucson.
On Saturday, Dec. 4, at 5 p.m., music lovers will have the opportunity to hear and even purchase the album for the first time at a release party to be held at Classic Rock Couture on Main Street in Old Bisbee.
“It seems like one out of every three people you meet here is a musician and one out of three is an artist,” Purdy said. “So, it seemed right to have the Joplin album release here. Bisbee deserves it. They’ll care more about it than other places.”
The 14 songs on the album are a collection of songs selected by Purdy along with “all the noises that come from recording in a bar. You will hear beer bottles hit the floor, doors slam and chatter by the band.” However, the music is not overwhelmed by the background noise, and the raw talent heard in Janis’ clear, piercing vocals is unmistakable and undeniable, leaving little doubt of the greatness to come.
“Lanny’s consistent and timely guitar playing and Powell’s soulful harmonica work, coupled with Janis’ vocals offer a time capsule of sound that would soon circle the globe,” Purdy said.
The Waller Creek Boys album includes five never officially released songs and nine more that have not been commercially released in almost 50 years, he added.
Who had the tape from the recorded session? Purdy discovered St. John, his old friend from college, had the tape and kept it safe for almost 60 years.
“He had the master tapes,” he said. “He kept them in a closet for all these years. I listened to the tapes and chose the 14 tracks I liked the best.”
Purdy approached the Joplin estate for permission to release the album and photos a year ago, but the pandemic impacted getting all the necessary approvals.
Back in the day, albums came with all the band information any fan could want. Purdy always provides booklets with his albums and The Waller Creek Boys album contains a 14-page insert with a wealth of information.
Purdy has been tracking down unreleased songs and albums, which have become collector’s items for the audiophile, for 20 years. He specializes in original first pressings of ‘60s and early ‘70s music with an emphasis on psychedelic, hard rock, garage, progressive, private presses and the unusual and occasional “one of a kind” item.
LSD is a retail mail-order record store and reissue label located in Tucson where Purdy has been collecting, buying, selling and trading rare record albums for the past 20 years. He plans to keep it going as more and more people look for the era’s music, especially now that vinyl is making a comeback.
“In late 2009, we finally launched our own vinyl-only reissue label,” he said. “Our reissues are limited editions, high-quality pressings featuring beautiful heavy covers and informative notes. Over the years, we’ve sold to thousands of satisfied customers, including some of the biggest and most well-known collectors, dealers, distributors and musicians in the world.”
About 25 years ago he began to research re-releasing old albums to find the artists and who had rights to the albums.
Once he discovers a recording, it is not an easy task in some cases to get permission to release such old material. Many rockers have foundations or estates who have to give permission for the release of their songs, like Joplin. It does take time to get all the permissions necessary to release an album.
Purdy also stepped across the border in search of the “primitive, all but unknown, mega-rare micro-press of Mexican Jesus garage rock from 1978” recorded by a young American guy, living in Mexico at the time, and his Mexican backup band. They feature excellent guitar playing in a variety of styles, including several cuts with thick, fat crude fuzz guitar.
“We go all over the country to buy and sell records and frequently wind up in some unusual and out-of-the-way places,” Purdy said. “Although we specialize in 1960s psychedelic/garage vinyl, we do not want to limit our reissues exclusively to that era. We’ve decided to reissue the obscure, unknown and unreleased recordings that we feel deserve to be heard, regardless of their genre or recorded time frame. We’ve tapped into a new market. We’ve hit a vein.”
He was a musician long ago and had an unforgettable connection with early rock music and wants to continue to bring lost tapes to life for the pleasure of music lovers.
Purdy lives in Tucson, where the business is located, and Old Bisbee, where he has his “playhouse” filled with unusual weird art and artifacts. Six years ago, he and his wife, Arlene, bought their home in Old Bisbee just two weeks after viewing various houses for sale.
“My wife Arlene won’t let me hang this stuff at home, so I hung it here,” he said with a laugh.