St. Paul Top-40 band goes Psychedelic in a big way with a trippy album that becomes a classic
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(and Buster Brown/Beethoven’s Mafia)
1965 – 1971
1963: A band called Buster Brown forms with three members from Hill-Murray High School: Gary Jarvis on lead guitar and vocals; Bob Navarro on keyboards and Mike Stankey on drums. Mike asks Ken Erwin to join, Ken is a student at North St. Paul High School. Ken plays rhythm guitar, harmonica and also does lead vocals. Ken’s brother Jim joins the band on bass guitar and backup vocals. The band begins to play original songs written by Ken Erwin and a 45 is recorded of one of his songs: Bring All Your Love.
1964: Gary, Bob and Mike leave the band to attend college and three new members join: Tom Reid on keyboards; Paul Samuels on drums; and Larry Honhart on lead guitar. Ken comes up with a new name for the band, Beethoven’s Mafia. The band wins a battle of the bands competition that is held over a series of weeks at the Maplewood Bowl and Hill-Murray High School and receives a Bogen PA system. This version of the band plays an audition for Bobby McCay in the lower level of his teen club called Bobby’s, located in Mendota Heights. Bobby McKay takes an interest in the group, provides a new name for the band, CA Quintet and they begin to play Bobby’s on a regular basis, as well as local high schools. The bands first official job is at a high school in Siren, Wisconsin.
1965: Tom and Larry Honhart leave the band. Doug Reynolds (from Don E. and the Kostirs) joins the band on keyboards and vocals and Tom Pohling joins the group on lead guitar and vocals. The new lineup is: Ken Erwin on guitar, trumpet and vocals; Jim Erwin on bass guitar and backup vocals, Tom Pohling on lead guitar and vocals, Doug Reynolds on keyboards and vocals and Paul Samuels on drums.
Summer, 1967: The band records their first 45, a cover version of “Mickey’s Monkey” (Smokey Robinson and The Miracles), backed with “I Want You To Love Me Girl,” written by Doug Reynolds. The record is produced by Dale Menten, recorded at Dove Recording Studio and released on the Falcon label, a label run by Peter May, a DJ on KDWB, band promoter and manager. The song is a local and regional hit, getting airplay in Fargo, North Dakota and in Lincoln, Nebraska. Central Booking Agency begins to book the band.
Fall, 1967: The band records their second 45 at Dove, with two songs written by David Sandler: “Blow to My Soul” and “She’s Got to be True.” Sandler plays grand piano on both songs and also does the musical arrangements. Sandler also does the spoken line on Blow To My Soul (“okay, let me tell you what you did to me now”). David Sandler and Peter May produce the A Side and Peter May produces the B Side. The band had never heard either of the songs until they went in for the recording session. Doug sings lead vocals on “Blow to My Soul” and Doug and Ken sing lead on “She’s Got to be True.” Blow To My Soul also becomes a local and regional hit record.
Winter, 1967: CA Quintet shares the bill with The Stillroven at a concert that draws 5,000 fans in Lincoln, Nebraska.
1967: “Blow To My Soul” is included on the Money Music album, a compilation album of local bands, released on the Peter May record label, August.
1968: Paul Samuels leaves the band; Rick Johnson takes over on drums. Band leader Ken Erwin charts a new course for the band, as they begin a lengthy recording process, experimenting with psychedelic music, at Dove Studio in Bloomington with Steve Longman as the engineer. The bands third 45 is released, with two original songs by Ken Erwin: Smooth as Silk and Dr. of Philosophy. This record is released on the Candy Floss label. Ken is the lead singer on both songs. This 45 marks a complete transformation of the bands musical direction. Rick Patron replaces Rick Johnson on drums. By the end of 1968, the band has recorded enough material to release an album.
1969: The band releases Trip Thru Hell, an album, on the Candy Floss label. The record receives minimal airplay (mainly on KQRS), has no national distribution and with a very small pressing (500 to 1,000 are some estimates) fades into obscurity. The album has mysterious “apocalyptic” artwork on the front cover, designed by local drummer, Rod Eaton, who worked at Dove Recording.
1969: Doug Reynolds leaves the band for military service and Tony Wright joins on keyboards and vocals. Rick Johnson leaves the band and is replaced by Rick Patron on drums.
Late, 1970: Jim Erwin and Tony Wright leave the band. Rick Patron leaves the band and is replaced by Donny Chapin.
January, 1971: The band plays their last concert, at Lake Pepin High School, in Wisconsin and then breaks up. The final version of the band is Ken Erwin on bass guitar and vocals, Doug Reynolds returns on keyboards and vocals, Tom Pohling on guitar and Donny Chapin on drums. The concert is recorded.
In 1983, two unauthorized versions of “Trip Thru Hell” were released, one from the United Kingdom and one from France. Both albums were of poor audio fidelity. Record collectors took note of the these albums and began to seek out the album on the original Candy Floss label, driving up the price for the album to unheard of levels for any album recorded by a local twin cities band.
In the mid-1980’s music critics gave the album another listen and the album began to get rave reviews. The bizarre “other worldly” artwork on the album cover seemed to add to the overall mystique of the record.
In 1984 the band released an album called “C.A. Quintet Live 1971” which included three songs of the bands final live show, a dance held at Lake Pepin High School in Wisconsin. There is no label name listed on the album.
In 1994, “Trip Thru Hell” was released on a CD.
In 1995, “Trip Thru Hell” was released as a double vinyl album containing the original album and unreleased material from the recording sessions.
In the later part of the 1990’s the band played a number of reunion concerts, including The Mill City Music Festival in downtown Minneapolis.
In 2000, the band played a reunion concert at The Medina Ballroom, with Ken, Kim, Doug, Tom and Rick Johnson.
In 2005, on an Ebay auction, a sealed copy of “Trip Thru Hell” on the Candy Floss label sold to a record collector in Austria (to display in a museum) for $3,950.00, putting the band and the album in the history books. No other local rock album is known to have sold at this price level.
In 2006, another album of the band playing live at Lake Pepin High School in 1971 was released on Swordfish Records, a UK record company. The album “Last Trip at Lake Pepin” contains eight songs from the bands final live performance. This recording did not duplicate the three songs on the 1984 album, both albums contain portions of the concert, the entire concert has never been released.
In 2008, the band was inducted into the Rock Country Hall of Fame at The Medina Ballroom.
In 2011, Ken Erwin recalled a band he played in during 1962. The band members were: Ken Erwin on rhythm guitar and lead vocals; John Stottlemeyer on lead guitar; Coco Brennier on bass guitar; and Rich Hasting on drums. The name of this band is unknown.
On August 26, 2012 an original “Trip Thru Hell” album on the Candyfloss label sold on an Ebay auction (listed 10 days) for $3,764.00. The album was in the original shrink wrap, opened, but never played. There were 32 bids on the album including bids from nine countries outside of the United States. The seller was Ken Erwin from the band and the buyer lives in Russia. The record was listed on the auction for 10 days and received 1,713 page views.
On September 9, 2012 another original “Trip Thru Hell” album owned by Ken Erwin sold on Ebay for $3,514.90. The album was in the same condition as the prior album sold on Ebay. The album was listed for 10 days and had 26 bids.
On August 17, 2014 an original “Trip Thru Hell” album on the Candyfloss label sold on an Ebay auction for $5,655.55. The album was in the original shrink wrap, sealed, never opened. There were 31 bids on the album including bids from numerous countries outside of the United States. The seller was band member Ken Erwin and the buyer was in Russia.
Written by Tom Campbell on August 15, 2010.
Copyright by Thomas R. Campbell, 2010.
Mickey’s Monkey – 45 Record – Side A
I Want You To Love Me – 45 Record – Side B
Blow To My Soul – 45 Record – Side A
She’s Got To Be True– 45 Record – Side B
Smooth As Silk – 45 Record – Side A
Dr. of Philosophy– 45 Record – Side B
Badge – From the Last Trip at Lake Pepin Live LP
I’m A Man – From the Last Trip at Lake Pepin Live LP
CA Quintet BAND TREE
CA Quintet 1966 to 1971
Ken Erwin Guitar / Trumpet / Vocals 1966 to 1971
Bobby and Anna
Jim Erwin Bass Guitar / Vocals 1966 to 1970
Tom Pohling Guitar 1966 to 1971
Little Vicky and the Sandbaggers
Don E. and The Kostirs
Doug Reynolds Keyboards / Vocals 1966 to 1971
Don E. and the Kostirs
Paul Samuels Drums 1966 to 1968
Rick Johnson Drums 1968 to 1969
10th Story Window
Jimmy Cooper Trio
Dave Rodriguez Band
David Carroll Show
Dave Haberman Band
High Desert Band
Night Train Express
Sherwin Linton Show
Rick Patron Drums 1967 to 1969 – 1970
Tony Wright Keyboards / Vocals 1969 to 1970
Donny Chapin Drums 1970 to 1971
Where are they now?
Ken Erwin: Working on a CA Quintet DVD. Living in Wisconsin.
Jim Erwin: No longer active in music. Living in Minnesota.
Tom Pohling: Passed away on July 16, 2003.
Doug Reynolds: Passed away on October 18, 2012.
Paul Samuels: No longer active in music. Living in Maine.
Rick Johnson: Jobbing. Living in Minnesota.
Rick Patron: No longer active in music. Living in Wisconsin.
Tony Wright: Playing harp, involved in a radio show. Living in San Francisco.
Donny Chapin: Passed away in 1984.
Interview PART ONE
Interview PART TWO
Interview PART THREE
Interview PART FOUR