In the fall of 1967 the Tiffany Shade consisting of Bob Leonard, Tom Schuster, Mike Barnes and new bassist Robb Murphy returned to Cleveland, rehearsed the new line up and entered the studios of Cleveland Recording Company to record the infamous Tiffany Shade LP with studio engineer Ken Hamann.

 

Ken Hamann’s production credits includes work with Terry Knight & the Pack, Grand Funk Railroad, The Outsiders, the Human Beinz, The James Gang, Tiny Alice, Brownsville Station, The Lemon Pipers, Wild Cherry, Pere Ubu and countless others.

In 1977 the two owners of Cleveland Recording divided the companies assets and co-founder Hamann moved to Painesville where he set up Suma Recording. Ken Hamman passed away in January 2003. Today his son Paul Hamann continues to carry on the family tradition of stellar engineering and recording as the owner and chief engineer of Suma.

The Tiffany Shade LP Cover

Bob recalls that Dick Wildchild Kemp brought Bob Shad into Cleveland Recording to produce the Tiffany Shade record.

Bob Shad was an outstanding jazz producer who began his career in the ’40’s producing sessions for Charlie Parker and other notables on the Savoy label. In 1948 Shad founded the Sittin’ In With label and produced LP’s by Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

In 1951 he became the director of A&R for Mercury Records and his producing credits from this period include work on dates by Sarah Vaughn, Maynard Ferguson, Dinah Washington, Clifford Brown and Max Roach. In the ’60’s Shad left Mercury and founded the Mainstream Records label.

Mainstream Records has the distinction of being the first label to record the legendary Janis Joplin. Joplin’s debut album with Big Brother & the Holding Co. was cut in three days in Chicago in December of 1966 and released in 1967 as Mainstream # 6099.

The label signed and locked Janis Joplin and Big Brother into a terrible contract at a time when the group was stranded on the road and needed money. In a 1992 Relix Magazine interview, Peter Albin of Big Brother recalled, “...When we were in Chicago, Bob Shad happened to be there and he approached us again. He offered us another deal, so we went with his company. We thought that it might lock Janis [Joplin] into the group a little bit better, but it was definitely a mistake. It cost us a lot of money. We never got paid any of the revenues from that record.”

According to Big Brother & the Holding Co. guitarist Sam Andrew, “Mainstream was out to exploit the band. The first album [on Mainstream] was a disaster. We were very naive kids. The club was burning us and here was this cat saying come on down to the recording studio tomorrow, sign up and let’s go to the lawyer and make sure it’s cool. But it wasn’t cool”.

In what appears to be typical Mainstream fashion, Big Brother’s sessions were rushed and the release of the album was “delayed for almost a year” says Andrew. Furthermore, the label and the lawyer were out to exploit the band rather than build a lasting relationship. “We asked the lawyer for $1,000, and he said no”, Sam Andrew recalled in a 1970 Rolling Stone interview. “We said $500? He said no. Well, can we have plane fare home? He said not one penny...we got back and it was a good time in San Francisco...” Big Brother went back to Frisco and then onto the Monterey Pop Festival and the rest, as they say is history.

Big Brother LP Cover

During the time that Bob Shad was producing the Big Brother sessions he and his label were on the lookout for other new talent that they might be able to take advantage of and exploit. The Tiffany Shade fit that bill. Late in 1967 Bob Shad signed the Tiffany Shade to a bullshit contract and produced their record. Not surprisingly, much like the Big Brother sessions alluded to earlier, the Tiffany Shade sessions were also hurried and the contract that they signed and entered into was a total farce.

Bassist Robb Murphy says, “We never saw any money for the record. Basically right before we were about to begin recording in the studio, Shad laid out a contract in front of us and told us to sign. We didn’t want to lose our opportunity to record so we signed away all of our rights. Shad was really disinterested in us. He was just trying to cash in on whatever was happening at the time. He didn’t want to put any effort into promoting the thing. If it took off on it’s own that was fine, but they never really pushed it”

Mike Barnes has similar sentiments about Bob Shad, “He was gone so fast. There just wasn’t any promotion afterwards. Nothing ever happened. He never showed any interest in promoting it at all. I thought, God you put all this money into making a record and you don’t want to promote it? Well hell we’re just going to play. We just wrote it off fairly quickly as a failed effort. We didn’t put a lot of effort into it. We had to eat. None of us was really happy with it. I don’t even know how it got onto I-Tunes. His idea was to just grab a hold of everything he could and hope that something took off in spite of him”.

“It was cut in two days over the course of 2 eight hour sessions. It was rushed”, says keyboardist Bob Leonard

Bob Shad took the masters with him to New York City and as Robb Murphy said “the band never saw a dime”. The label released the Tiffany Shade LP with very little fanfare on December 11, 1967 as Mainstream #56015. Several singles were also released and the band received favorable reviews from Billboard magazine. But like most Mainstream releases the album suffered from the labels inability or unwillingness to promote it properly. As a result, the Tiffany Shade album, like so many other Mainstream releases from this era disappeared into relative obscurity. One exception to this rule was an album by the Amboy Dukes (featuring Detroit guitarist and big game hunter Ted Nugent) called Journey to the Center of the Mind (Mainstream S/6112). The title song made it up to #16 on the charts in 1968.

Details about the Tiffany Shade recording sessions are sketchy, but Bob Leonard remembers, “the one non-original or cover tune that we did on the album was a song by Arthur Lee & Love called Softly To Me. Whoever did the artwork and set the text for the record mistakenly had the song listed on the LP jacket as Come Softly To Me.” Come Softly To Me was a hit for the Fleetwoods, [#1 for 4 weeks in 1959]. “We were really mad about that”.

Bob also recalls, “Bassist Robb Murphy could not hear himself at all when he was recording the track titled Sam but he played great anyway.” He also remembers the song A Very Grand Love “was written in the wake and aftermath of a mind bending experience”. He follows these comments up by stating that the band “hated the record and that it was crap, it had been made in too much of a hurry.”

Robb Murphy says “we really worked hard in the studio even though we didn’t have enough time to do all the things we wanted to do with music.”

Mike Barnes recollections about the recording sessions were “we were pretty excited. We just had no experience with that sort of thing. We had heard things but never had any experience. We were really babes in the woods. It was a terrific experience looking back on it. It was really a hell of lot fun, we loved the idea of being able to overdub even though we didn’t get to do too much of that, it was still fun. That was pretty high tech in those days, being able to lay down a couple of tracks with your voice. If we’d of had a couple more months to do it could have been one hell of an album.”

Robb Murphy felt as though he and the band were “duped into thinking that they would have creative control of the album.” They did not. “On the first day of recording Mike laid down rough or scratch vocals. We figured we would re-do the vocals at a later time. When we showed up on the second day to re-do the vocals they wouldn’t let us. They went with the first takes of the rough vocals. That really soured us on the whole experience. We really could have done a great album if only we were given some time to create and work on it. That is why we ended up setting our copies of the record on fire and throwing them into the air like burning UFO’s. We melted the records and used them for ashtrays.”

Tom Schuster feels the same way, “we went into the studio and we had all these ideas about overdubbing and the vocals and I had some drum parts that I wanted to put on it. And the second day we went in to do the session and the guy, Bobby Shad I think was his name tells me “that’s it. That’s all I need.” I said well wait a minute we have a lot more stuff to do and he said “that’s too bad”. I said well I haven’t even heard some of the songs played back yet and he said “well that’s too bad it’s on its’ way to New York” I said it’s not even, we’re not done, so it was a one take type of a situation”.

Schuster continues, “now he (Shad) was working with some jazz people at that time and they would come in, like I think Chico Hamilton [a jazz drummer who worked with Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and others] and they would go into the studio and just blow jazz all afternoon and then they would be recorded. Well we weren’t thinking like that. We were thinking more like a working on it in the studio with all the electronics. So that was one of the reasons why were so disappointed with that situation. Like I said, it wasn’t what we wanted to do. Bobby and Mike had all these vocal things worked out and they didn’t even get a chance to put ’em on the record. I wasn’t even paying much attention when we laid down some of those tracks. I didn’t like the way I sounded and the production was pretty lousy, it was all kind of flat. It didn’t come out too good, but it was a good experience. I don’t think we were much different from any other rock ’n roll band that didn’t’ make it back then. We had our shot and we had our fun and that was it.”

Additionally, Robb Murphy states, “Mainly when we got into the studio with Bobby Shad and those people to record they weren’t going to let us play the stuff heavy. When we were in the studio we had to bring everything down, calm everything down, I had to play with a pick and I was a big finger player. By the time we got into recording, during this whole album thing, we did a lot of overdubs vocally and that was really hard to get across live. The album that we created was really hard to do live. And we weren’t getting the support from the people who backed us by getting us echoplexes and other stuff that would have allowed us to come up with some sort of techno way of re-creating the album in a live setting. So we got heavier, heavier and sort of louder as a four piece. We were influenced a lot by Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods, Cream and Hendrix.”

It is safe to say that the band did not feel any sense of success or accomplishment as a result of recording and releasing a record on the Mainstream label. Bob Leonard feels “we did a terrible record. It was terrible, we looked at what was around us, looked at the sound and we didn’t think that our material was really good. We knew we needed a lot of maturity. We knew we weren’t bad. We were just doing our own thing. Back in those days we could laugh about things like “our band is better than your band” it was kind of a big joke because there was enough room for everybody. It wasn’t like American Idol where everybody’s trying to win the big prize. It was the ’60s and that’s what it was all about and there was enough for everybody.”

After the albums release, the Tiffany Shade booked themselves in and around Cleveland, Ohio, did some shows at the Finger Lakes in New York State and appeared at a three day long battle of the bands in Richmond, VA.