In the rear view

50 years ago, The Shades cut a record at Chess

— Submitted photo The Shades were comprised of, from left, Doug Meyer, Bruce Seaboch, John Hemingway, Bruce Hovland and Jerry Foster.

Fifty years ago today, a handful of young guys from Webster City stepped into the legendary Chess Records on the south side of Chicago to cut a record.

The Shades’ road to Chess began on an October weekend at the Star Ballroom in Dakota City. They’d been invited to participate in a battle of the bands, a popular type of contest in those days.

They were the last group to show up and the first group to win, Jerry Foster remembers.

Foster, the youngest of the group at 17, was The Shades’ lead singer.

The rest of the group was Bruce Seaboch, on keyboards; John Hemingway, bass; Bruce Hovland, drums; and Doug Meyer, guitar.

— Submitted photo Recording Engineer Ron Malo signed the original acetate of “When You Said Goodbye.”

Hemingway recalled they decided to go to the Star at the last minute, packed their equipment into a Ford Econoline van, and raced up to Dakota City.

The Shades were popular in the Midwest, playing at local ballrooms and high school dances starting in 1966.

The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake — at the Surf they stood in for Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Poneys. The Playmor in Fort Dodge. The Macomba Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It seemed that, in 1967, every large town had a dance club.

So did some of the smaller towns, and that’s where Dakota City’s Star Ballroom fit in.

The prize that October was a recording contract. But after a local attorney, who happened to be the bass player’s father, combed through the contract The Shades opted not to accept it.

Instead, they decided to fund a recording themselves.

Enter Bruce Rerick, who was in The Princetons from Iowa State, and Tom Crosley, of Webster City, his roommate and a close friend of some of the Shades. Rerick and Crosley were fraternity brothers.

The Princetons had previously recorded in Chicago and that was enough of a connection to lead The Shades to Chess.

It was $300 to rent the recording studio, Foster remembers.

Ron Malo was the recording engineer. Malo had recorded, among others, the Rolling Stones. Later, he engineered Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

Foster still has the original acetate of the recording signed by Malo.

On the A side, The Shades recorded their original song, “When You Said Good-bye.”

On the B side, they had planned to record “It’s Alright” by J.J. Jackson until they learned they would have to pay mechanical royalties.

Instead, Meyer and Tim Whiting, a friend who had gone along on the trip, went back to the Holiday Inn where they were staying and composed an instrumental called “Ballot Bachs.”

While that was being recorded, Foster recalled going upstairs to a small studio at Chess and watching The Dells record “Cadillac Jack.”

They drove all night and got home Thanksgiving day.

The Shades recorded two songs in 1969, this time at Don Sears’ studios in Omaha, but they were never released.

“When You Said Goodbye” with its B side was pressed under the Cadet Records label. It was distributed in 1968.

The Shades continued to play until mid-1970.