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A Brief History of The Illusionsby Larry Ellis
The genesis of The Illusions began in 1961 when Larry Ellis and Bobby Mason on guitars and Tom Brown on drums united together and formed The Illusions. In 1962, before their first recording session at Wenzel’s Music in Downey, they added a bass player, Chet Solace. An audition record was needed for a local TV show in Santa Monica. They recorded three original songs in one hour. Surfers’ Lullaby, Lido Stomp, and Que Paso. Only one demo record was made and through the years, it became very worn and inaudible. The master tape was located over thirty years later in Larry’s garage. It was hidden away in a metal box for all those years and protected from the elements. Those three songs are the opening tracks on their new Surfin’ & Stompin’ CD. They sound as if they were recorded only yesterday.
By 1963, the band added a sax (Roy Alvila) and a keyboard player (Colin Clark) to become a six-piece group. A local DJ heard them rehearsing one night. They were working out their arrangement of the old Frankie Lane classic Jezabel. When the DJ heard the song, he told the group that if they would let him be their agent, he would guarantee a recording contract and that he would make Jezabel a hit. The Illusions signed an agreement with the DJ, and then a one-year contract with Round Records. Jezabelb/w Nitemare was recorded in a small studio in Long Beach. Only one microphone was used. Also when Jezabelwas recorded, the group didn’t have a bass player. They were all playing Fender Jazzmasters. The third guitarist would play the bass patterns. Even under those limited conditions, Jezabel turned out strong and alive, and today is one of the all time classics in the genre of Surf Music. The Illusions played the circuit like most of the other bands of that era. Performing with stars like: The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Jan & Dean, Dick & Dee-Dee, The Righteous Brothers, The Four Seasons, Ike & Tina Turner, The Rumblers, Johnny Fortune and many more.
They were a very versatile band. The band members had the ability to double on other instruments. They were a top 40 band, and played any type of music. The Legendary Doo-Wop singer Little Julian Herrera (photo, left) wanted them to back him up on his remake from his fifties hit, Lonely Lonely Nightsb/w I want to be with you.
They recorded the record at a studio in Hollywood. Both takes of Lonely Lonely Nightswere released as singles, with the same catalog number. Both cuts are on this CD, so you can listen for the variations. One distinct difference is, for some reason; Herrera sang different lyrics on the second verse on one of the takes.
During their career, they were the house band for: The Peppermint Bandstand, The Score, The Cinnamon Cinder and The Lido Ballroom. While at The Lido, Mark Hendrix asked them to help promote his son, Marlow Stewart. A live recording of Marlow’s Earthquakewas recorded at The Lido Ballroom, the flip side is The Illusions version of Ooh-Pooh-Pah-Doo. The record is extremely rare because it was a souvenir copy passed out to the public when The Illusions and Marlow Stewart would perform live at The United Artist Theater which was owned by Mark Hendrix. This rare recording is also on the CD. Jon and The Nightriders recorded a great cover version of Earthquake,on their Fiberglass RocketCD.
In 1964, The Illusions decided to go back into the studio. This time they produced an acetate containing six songs. Four were vocals and two instrumentals. Two of the vocals were originals. People Sayand I’ll Go On Loving You. Their talents and versatility can be heard on these recordings. In 1966 Bobby Mason took the master tape from that session to Imperial Records after he had left the group to go solo. People Say,was written by Bobby. Imperial and Bobby agreed to add female vocals and more brass over the original recording and release it as a single. On the flip side, Bobby did an old jazz standard called Laura,Studio musicians were used for back up. In the early ’80s, Tom Brown was instrumental in forming a Surf band called The Wedge. They recorded a five track 12 inch, and a 10 song LP for Rhino Records. Two of those tracks are also included on this CD. Gremmie Suicide,and Endless Sun.
By 1968, The Illusions had disbanded and they went their separate ways. All contact between them was lost. In 1995, Rodney Ellis found John Blair‘s book The Illustrated Discography of Surf Music,and saw the picture of The Illusions in it. He gave it to his father. Larry searched for more information and discovered Robert Dalley‘s book, Surfin’ Guitars.Robert did an interview with Tom Brown in 1981. When Larry read the story, he called Dalley and got Tom’s address. Tom and Larry got together again after over thirty years. Two months later, they located Bobby Mason. Larry saw an ad in Dalley’s magazine for old surf music from the sixties.
He answered the ad and when Gee-Dee Music in Germany found out about all of the old unreleased records and tapes that Larry had, Gerd Dietrich proposed that if they could be sent to him, he would produce a CD with all of The Illusions music. In March 1998, the CD was released. There are twenty tracks on the CD in chronological order to show the evolution of the band.
Contact Larry Ellis by email: LBillusion@aol.com
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