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There Stands The Door

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There Stands The Door – The Best Of We Five
We Five

Ace Records/Big Beat Records


“John Stewart was involved with We Five, so that's why I came in. I can't say enough about their harmonies and voicings, and Bev's voice especially. She put Grace Slick away. Mike Stewart was definitely the nerd, the brain, and he enjoyed the mad genius role. But there was a conflict, because the group was widely spread in their personalities. I feel A&M Records did not pull up their end. They just milked the act for what they could. Had they had an in-house driver, We Five would have come over the top."



(Sylvia Fricker) Warner/Chappell North America (1965)
A&M 770 / A&M LP 4111

(Herb Jackson) Rondor Music (London) Ltd (1966)
A&M 800

(Randy Cierley) Irving Music (1966)
A&M 793 / A&M LP SP 4138

4. HAVE YOU HEARD (1:54)
(John Stewart) Irving Music (2009)
Previously Unissued

5. WHAT'S GOIN' ON (2:16)
(Michael Stewart) Universal Music Pub Ltd (1966)
A&M 820 / A&M LP SP 4138

(John Stewart) Universal Music Pub Ltd (1965)
A&M LP SP 4111

(Frank May) Universal Music Pub Ltd (1967)
A&M LP SP 4138

(Billy Edd Wheeler) Windswept Quartet Music/Windswept Music (London) Ltd (1967)
A&M 894 / A&M LP SP 4138

9. POET (1:31)
(John Stewart, Michael Stewart) Irving Music (2009)
Previously Unissued Alternate Version

(Dino Valenti) EMI Tunes Ltd (1965)
A&M 784 / A&M LP SP 4138

11. AFTER ALL (1:41)
(Michael Stewart, Randy Cierley) Irving Music (2009)
Previously Unissued

(John Stewart, Michael Stewart) Irving Music (1965)
A&M LP SP 4111

13. WHAT DO I DO NOW (2:24)
(Michael Stewart, Randy Cierley, Bill Chadwick) Irving Music (1967)
A&M 894 / A&M LP SP 4138

14. PAST ASKING (1:28)
(Jerry Burgan, Bob Jones) Irving Music (2009)
Previously Unissued

15. WHAT'CHA GONNA DO (1:32)
(Bob Gibson, Shel Silverstein, Fred Neil) Melody Trails Inc (2009)
Previously Unissued

16. THE FIRST TIME (2:25)
(Ewan MacColl) Harmony Music Ltd (1966)
A&M 820 / A&M LP SP 4138

17. THE THING I LIKE (2:18)
(Bob Jones) Irving Music (2009)
Previously Unissued

(John Stewart) Irving Music (1965)
A&M LP SP 4111

(Jerry Burgan, Debbie Burgan) Irving Music (1969)
A&M 1072 / A&M LP SP 4168

20. WALK ON BY (2:58)
(Burt Bacharach, Hal David) P And P Songs Ltd/Universal/MCA Music Ltd (1969)
A&M 1072 / A&M LP SP 4168

(Beverly Bivens, Jerry Burgan,  John Chambers, Bob Jones, Pete Fullerton, Michael Stewart) Copyright Control (2009)
Previously Unissued

(Michael Stewart) Copyright Control (2009)
Previously Unissued

Beverly Bivens: lead vocal, percussion
Jerry Burgan: acoustic guitar
Peter Fullerton: electric and acoustic bass
Bob Jones: electric 6 and 12-string guitar
Michael Stewart: acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, 9-string

With John Chambers: drums;
Jerry Granelli: drums (track 1);
George Yanok: drums (tracks 4, 12, 15, 18);
Bill Stamps: bass (tracks 4, 12, 15)
Tracks 19 and 20 feature Debbie Burgan: lead vocal;
Jerry Burgan: guitar;
Pete Fullerton: bass;
Frank Denson: piano;
Rich Tilles: percussion; plus unknown: additional accompaniment


If this "Best Of" had been compiled immediately after We Five's truncated career in the mid-1960s, it would probably consist only of the show tunes and standards that had proved so popular in performance and on record. Though they made their name with one of the most accessible hits of the time in the still goosebump-worthy 'You Were On My Mind', the truth is We Five's repertoire was wildly, wilfully eclectic, and impossible to pigeonhole. It is that eclecticism that this anthology celebrates, the focus as much upon their most questing, musically audacious moments, as well as the group's often-overlooked coda. The evidence gathered here indicates a unique quintet caught, via talent and impulse, in an artistically fascinating conundrum. Given their youthful abilities, what follows is also an illuminating, if slightly sad, story. We Five's tale is emblematic of the delightful confusion at the heart of mid-60s popular music.

Despite their identification as a San Francisco act, the constituents of We Five actually came mostly from the suburbs to the east of Los Angeles. They began with folk enthusiasts Michael Stewart and Jerry Burgan who met at elementary school in Pomona, California in 1959. Burgan was a Kansas-born, Pomona-raised Kingston Trio nut, whilst Stewart was the younger brother of John Stewart, the singer-songwriter of future fame, and soon to become a Trio member himself.

Jerry Burgan: "Mike didn't know how to play the banjo and I couldn't play the guitar, but we got together and sang for a couple of hours, had a great time, and never stopped. We called ourselves the Ridgerunners. At a talent contest at Claremont High, we met Sue Ellen Davies. She started singing along, and Michael locked onto the sound that you could get from a girl."

During the early 1960s, thanks to the widespread popularity of the Kingston Trio as much as anything else, the folk boom exploded across the country, and southern California was no exception. Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties all boasted a thriving hootenanny circuit, based around talent shows, Elks Clubs and coffee houses, all venues where the Ridgerunners performed. When John joined the Trio, he tapped his sibling for possible material, and they would go on to record several of the younger Stewart's tunes including 'Farewell Captain' and 'If You See Me Go'. This brought Mike to the attention of Frank Werber, the hip, herb-smoking manager-svengali who had expertly guided the Trio to worldwide fame and fortune, After graduation from high school in 1963, both Stewart and Burgan journeyed north to attend the University of San Francisco, and made an important connection there with a young Hawaiian freshman, with a background in rock 'n' roll, and a predilection towards jazz guitar.

Bob Jones: "Michael had a folk show on [college station] KUSF, and I had a jazz show. We started talking, he started bringing his guitar along and we'd work on arrangements. He'd ask, 'how do we make this danceable?', and I'd say, 'I'd play it like this', and add the rhythm from my background."

During the Christmas break of 1963, Stewart returned south and met up with Terry Kirkman (of the Men, and later of the Association), who tended bar at the Meeting Place, Kirkman informed him that his girlfriend's sister was a good singer, and that he should check her out.

Beverly Bivens: "My sister Barbara was going with this gentleman that knew Michael. The girl that was in the Ridgerunners had left the group, and so Barbara told Michael that her sister sang. He asked me to come over, and we immediately clicked."

Santa Ana-born and a fan of jazz, musicals and rock 'n' roll. Ms Bivens was a petite powerhouse with demurely attractive looks, a penchant for European style and, most importantly, possessor of an incredible voice, a natural singer whose mother had encouraged her musical training, For Stewart, the proverbial light bulb flicked on.

Jerry: "Sue Ellen was a coloratura, a soprano who could sing in an alto voice, And Beverly, who was this operatic singer, could sing in a lower, "ballsy" voice too, and she sounded so cool. That was where the vocal power came from. When you take a soprano and get them to sing down in their speaking voice, you get that sound."

Ditching school, Stewart, Jones and Burgan returned to the Los Angeles area in the late spring of 1964, where the revitalized Ridgerunners roped in a previously intermittent member, the fresh-faced, clear-voiced string bass player Pete Fullerton, from Claremont High bluegrass outfit the Reorganized Dry City Players, led by future LA legend Chris Darrow (later of the Kaleidoscope, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, etc).

Pete Fullerton: "I saw Michael and Jerry with Sue Ellen at a high school convocation and thought, that's the music I wanna do. So I would play with them, and then on the other set I would play with Reorganized, I'd play all night! I loved bluegrass, but I had to take a chance."

It was an era of flux, when the sounds from across the ocean were starting to have an effect upon younger musicians, and the southern California folk scene was no different. The Ridgerunners started to dip a toe into that pond, although their commitment to the hootenanny format was something hard to shake.

Bob: “At first we were a cross between Peter, Paul & Mary and the Kingston Trio. That was what Jerry and Michael were into. But from the very beginning, I played a Guild acoustic with a slap-on pick up, and an amplified 12-string, and there was a Magnatone amp on stage. The Beatles had an immediate influence on me, because George played a 12-string, and Michael had already put the 12 in my hand."

Beverly: "The Ridgerunners would go in the Troubadour on hootenanny night and tear the house down, but the guy would never hire us. I remember making tapes in a home recording studio around this time. I'm assuming Michael wanted to send them to his brother, and maybe approach Frank [Werber], as it was sounding really good - we started getting kind of excited."

John Stewart proposed a formal session, held at Western in Los Angeles in October 1964, as the Mike Stewart Quintet. The tapes were presented to Trident, the San Francisco based production company that Werber had recently formed, and the Trio's publishing czar Rene Cardenas officially responded in January 1965, suggesting the act ditch any hardcore folk material and "stress the 'I Can Never Go Home Again'-type song".

Frank Werber himself was present for the combo's next date at Capitol in February, three songs from which are included here: a Stewart brothers collaboration, 'If I Were Alone', and two tracks that remained in the can. ‘What'cha Gonna Do' is an obscure Bob Gibson-Fred Neil number that the group attempted to amplify, with mixed results, but 'Have You Heard' is arguably superior to much of the first album. Beverly is clear and powerful, she group's support is focused and, whilst driving, the track avoids the forced exuberance of so much commercial folk-based music in that era.

Beverly: "I had a hard time with things like 'Whatcha Gonna Do', because you needed a lot of attitude to pull it off. We did "plug in" early, and that was Bob's influence, but I think it was a really natural evolvement, it was just probably in the air."

Things started to move quickly, as Werber decided to take on the act, moved their base back up to San Francisco - and gave them a new name. The quintet made their debut as We Five at the hungry i in February, and rehearsed at Frank's palatial digs in Marin, with plans to record at Trident's newly-constructed Columbus Recording studio in North Beach. Mike had been stockpiling songs and arrangements, and there was one item in particular, originally by Ian & Sylvia, that he had re-tooled from a pleasant Rooftop Singers singalong into a tour de force of rhythm and death-defying vocals. Recorded on 20 April, with take 13 providing the master, 'You Were On My Mind' sported a dynamic energy that few hit singles of the era - certainly those classed as "folk rock" - ever matched.

Jerry: “Jerry Granelli, who was playing drums with Vince Guaraldi at the time, came in for the session and obviously the drum part is an integral part of that record. We didn't change anything that we did, but we reacted to the way he played the anticipated downbeat, and everybody got really wired."

Bob: "I specifically remember at the end of the take that we used, we all knew Michael said he wanted the start real quiet, then for the song to get really big, then go back down to nothing, and then come back all the way to where we had been. He had this vision of the emotional map of the song."

Energised by 'You Were On My Mind', further sessions in April tackled a different aspect of We Five's sound, one that would bring them great acclaim during their lifetime, though for some, it has since dated them in comparison to their contemporaries. Stewart's appreciation for "quality" music of all genres led to the group recording supper club standards like 'My Favourite Things' and 'Softly As I Leave You' - tacitly encouraged by Werber, who recognised the emerging post-hootenanny "young adult" market.

Jerry: "Michael and I would go hear the Modern Folk Quartet and agree, these guys are really good, but songs like 'Sassafras' were stupid. So the reason we wound up doing show tunes was because they are good songs, well-written and you can do stuff with them."

It was obvious, however, what We Five's debut release was to be. Werber was persuaded by his energetic PR man Don Graham to go with A&M, then a fledgling indie whose lone success had been with 'The Lonely Bull'. Released in July, 'You Were On My Mind' got airplay immediately, breaking on both coasts at the same time. It crested at #3 on Billboard in August, and was the highest charting record from a San Francisco-based act until the rise of Creedence over three years later. As the single made its ascent, Frank had the group urgently finish off a long-player. The agenda returned to an electric approach with two more John Stewart compositions. The sprightly 'Poet' didn't make the cut: it would appear on We Five's posthumous second album, albeit as an inferior remake. More impressive was 'Love Me Not Tomorrow', which combined the sophistication of We Five's Broadway balladry with a dramatic 12-string edge. A notable element of these late July sessions was the drumming.

Jerry: "The first job that we had [after making the single] was the Safari Room in San Jose. We realised, how are we gonna do 'You Were On My Mind' without a drummer? Granelli told Frank, I can't play with kids, but I give lessons to a guy, he'd be perfect. That's how we got John Chambers. We immediately started recording with him, and never played without him after that."

As a young black jazz percussionist, the choice of Chambers was unusual, but his ability and hip demeanour made the drummer a firm member of the family, so much so that the rest of the group would eventually agree to contribute a percentage of their individual artist incomes to John.

Bob: "I was thrilled to have another non-folkie in the band. We ended up being roommates on the road, so I got this tremendous education. John's role was ostensibly to be the hired hand, but with what was happening socially and musically inside the band, within seconds, we became We Six." The ''You Were On My Mind" long-player was issued at the end of August. Despite its velour-swathed, clean-cut image, the stylish way the group presented their vocals in particular placed them on a cutting edge of sorts, pre-dating groups like the Association, Mamas & Papas and others.

Beverly: "We definitely seemed further ahead on the way the parts were sung. It was a texture that would develop with everyone's voice. I probably had the strongest, Michael's was deeper, but all together it made a magic sound."

Pete: "I remember Michael talking about the "round sound": the voices tilted and leaned on each other. The first thing I learned was, don't be in competition with anyone, so I melted into it. Michael would direct us: he would say 'OK, add a third or add a fifth, Bev's gonna do a sixth'. We did songs in sections just like that."

Come September, We Five was looking for a strong followup, and to all intents and purposes they found it in a copyright that belonged to Trident: Dino Valenti's soon-to-be-classic anthem 'Let's Get Together'. Once again the arrangement was innovative, and Beverly's exciting lead exhorted the clarion call sentiment of the lyric.

Jerry: "We recorded 'Get Together' at Coast [in San Francisco], at Capitol and at Columbus. I'm pretty sure that the one we used was from Capitol, as there were timpani in the room, and they are on the record. But we couldn't get another Top 10 hit. It's the sophomore syndrome. We put on a lot of layers, but there was no climactic release. By the end, the vocals sound almost desperate."

We Five's first major out of town engagement after the hit was a residency at It's Boss in Hollywood in September, during which the band was thrown into the expected whirlwind of one-niters, TV show spots and teen magazine interviews. November brought a gruelling, eye-opening three weeks on the road with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, featuring the Byrds, Bo Diddley and Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Pittsburgh date of which was headlined by the Rolling Stones.

Bob: "That tour really galvanized us. We had tremendous emotional excitement, but you can't compete with volume. The Byrds were loud and they weren't an act, but their attitude was like jazz musicians, so John felt completely comfortable with them, as did I. The deal is the music, the rest of it is just bullshit."

Beverly: "We opened for the Stones in Pittsburgh, and everyone screamed through the whole set trying to get us off. I said hello to Mick Jagger and he ignored me. Don Graham tried to get me to carry roses on stage, because he thought I needed a "prop". I refused, but that rose issue wouldn't die!"

Jerry: "We played one or two nights where we closed the show, but realized it wasn't gonna work, because the Raiders were a circus act. Most of these concerts were at high school level, or at armories, and it was all through Appalachia. We did 32 shows in 23 days and it was everything that a tour ought to be: you laughed, you cried, but it was an experience I'm really glad I had."

We Five ended 1965 with a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Vocal Group, but with 'Let's Get Together' barely scraping the Top 40 (although it would be the highest charting version of the song until the Youngbloods' in 1969). For most of 1966 they would be on the road. Trident set the act up with Jerry Perenchio, the Kingston Trio's booking agent, which saw them work the same college circuit that Werber had established with the Trio: perfect for the urbane tenor of the showtunes, but increasingly at odds with the direction We Five was headed.

Beverly: "We were kept busy on the college circuit, though I preferred a week's stint at a club. There were definitely different schools of thought in the group. When it was working, it was fine, but then people began feeling other directions. I kinda regret not getting into something a little more soulful, singing a little blues."

Bob: "By this time John was fully integrated, and we were a San Francisco band; a precursor of what was to come, but we were already there. John started to alter the dynamic of the band: there was now this strong four-piece bloc in the band, and we began to diverge."

Mike Stewart's eclecticism was expanding, having the group routine such esoterica as Villa-Lobos' 'Bachianas Brasileiras', often bringing down the house with their vocal dexterity. We Five did make concession to the British Invasion by interpreting the Zombies' 'You Make Me Feel Good', which got as far as a backing track at the session for the band's next single, in January 1966. The nominated topside was 'You Let A Love Burn Out', and, with its counterpoint lead, burbling banjo and distinctly raga-ish 12-string lines, was a striking movement forward. The tune was written by Randy Steirling (real name Cierley), veteran Los Angeles session musician, and now an in-house producer for Trident.

Bob: "Randy was involved in that period of time, and we were doing some innovative stuff. I was influenced by what was going on with the Beatles, and starting to listen to Indian music, so I'm trying to play an Indian-style riff at that point."

That same month, Jones and Chambers also performed upon the equally prescient 'Stranger In A Strange Land' by Trident stablemates Blackburn & Snow. Meanwhile, We Five sessions continued in February and March, with an eye to a second album, and featured originals like Stewart's Beatle country-rock hybrid ‘After All' and a rare Burgan-Jones collaboration, 'Past Asking'. One outstanding performance was Beverly's solo on 'High Flying Bird', sung in a mode Bob accurately pegs as "tortured soulful".

Beverly: '''High Flying Bird' was like my heart song, but it wasn't done in the way I used to sing it. There was a funny thing about the tempo on that song, it doesn't fit certain time signatures very well, so you have to do it like [Judy Henske] did, real slow."

Bob: "Bev had this husky kind of voice, and somehow there's this old soul in there. She hadn't lived that life, it was just one of those things she channelled, but it's a gift. We were already aware of the process that was occurring on different levels in the city of San Francisco, and socially, it was influencing us, but I don't think its musical aspect was."

Jerry: "Michael was really into getting Peter's voice way out here, and his voice way down here, and moving Beverly around in the middle, and doing these odd inversions and jumps. It was starting to get too much like physics and not enough like music. I didn't care for Frank's [commercial] position any more than anyone else, but Michael's was a little too broad [a philosophy] for mainstream radio."

As the rock scene mutated rapidly, Werber realised the new breed of acts was not going to conform to his specifications. This attitude was most apparent elsewhere in the Trident stable, with Blackburn & Snow or the Sons Of Champlin, but We Five also began to rebel against the image Frank held of them.

Jerry: "Up until the Beatles and Dylan, there were well established rules of how you became famous and popular, in which Frank was heavily steeped, because of the Trio. But he was blindsided by this counterculture thing that was going on. Sure, he'd always been hip, but right before his eyes, the dam broke. The band used to harp on him: 'we wanna play the Avalon, we wanna do this, that'. His answer was 'no, that's not your image, and we need to protect that'."

Werber felt the continuing lack of record success was the responsibility of A&M. In August of 1966 he attempted to terminate his contract with them, the label retorting that tremendous damage had been done by Trident's failure to produce a timely follow-up album. A&M was having its own doubts, however.

Jerry: "Herb Alpert came to see us in Boston in April. We were playing at a funky club [The Unicorn] and were dressed all Carnaby Street - no more velour. And I heard that Alpert came back and reported 'nah, that band is over, there's no "there" there'."

Bob: "You Were On My Mind' was A&M's second hit, after 'The Lonely Bull'. I felt like we funded Alpert and Moss. I think a lot of what happened to the band was due to material being held back. We were trying to please a lot of masters at this point."

There was an additional aspect to the band's career that would sow the seeds of implosion. In late 1965 We Five had contracted with the McCann-Erickson agency to produce a series of Coke ads. From December onwards, each protracted spell in the studio saw the group spend hundreds of hours attempting to provide what the agency requested, with each spot being rejected as either being "too far from contemporary middle of the road" or, conversely, not "teenage" enough. Such creative energy would have been much better spent on their own material. Eventually, Stewart threw McCann-Erickson a curveball with 'Sittin' Here' and 'Things Of Summer', the jazz-like dissonance of which was even further away from the happy-go-lucky Coca-Cola brief.

Pete: “All they wanted was 'when I woke up this morning, Coke was on my mind', and we just wouldn't do that. That's probably the biggest reason We Five split apart, because of the amount of work we put into it."

The growing diversity within the group was never clearer than upon their May 1966 single release, which coupled the maudlin 'Somewhere' with 'There Stands The Door', a stunning quasi-raga romp with modal harmonies, and We Five's most compelling waxing since their debut. The song came from Trident writer Herb Jackson, whose slight demo bears little relation to the final product. 'There Stands The Door' was sure to shatter any preconceived notion the record buying public might have had of We Five, but, once again, that public wasn't paying any attention.

Pete: "I felt that 'There Stands The Door' was a song that we whined when we sang it. Same thing goes for 'You Let A Love Burn Out'. They are good songs that made a statement that's not only palatable but interesting, but there was always that edge of whining."

Bob's bouncy 'The Thing I Like’, cut in August, was emblematic of his R&B enthusiasms; both it and 'There Stands The Door' were in the initial tracklisting for the second album, which was mastered in late September. It also included a plaintive Stewart-Steirling folk-rocker, 'What Do I Do Now', which dated back to the first John Chambers session in July 1965, and showcased Beverly in all her full-throated glory. And an exception to the schmaltz was a delicate, feather-light version of Ewan MacColl's perennial 'The First Time', which was chosen as the next single in November, the last to be released by We Five whilst the band was extant, paired with a superb Stewart original, 'What's Goin' On'. The complex harmonies of this latter cut, and its twisting melody, pointed down a fascinating path, but Frank had decided to halt the new album's release, for reasons unclear. The very last recording sessions the original We Five undertook were in the first week of October 1966, and featured the tough 'Five Will Get You Ten'. This excellent item was contributed by Frank May, a serviceman acquaintance of Michael's sister Liz. Still on the road, an amusing example of the disconnect between the band and their audience is the following letter to We Five's agent from the Director of the Baylor University Union in Waco, Texas in February 1967.

"We had WE FIVE on our campus for a show last Saturday. To say the least, I was never so disappointed! They were met at the airport by a group of our students. Since their appearance was so slouchy and unkept, they passed our students by without being recognized. They looked nothing like the publicity pictures you sent! WE FIVE had agreed to attend a tea and judge our Baylor Beauties. They came to the tea exactly like they had stepped off the plane - which would have been all right had they been neat. My greatest disappointment came, however, when they presented their entertainment. There were six of them instead of WE FIVE. They had added a drummer along the way! The music was loud and by the first intermission, almost half of our audience had left."

Beverly: "That was an old southern belle school. John was sitting there during this beauty contest, and getting a bit of enjoyment out of it being excruciatingly uncomfortable. We did a tour that we knew was going to be the last, and it started getting hard for everybody."

Pete: "The avant-garde part of what we were doing got to be speculation, and not really what I wanted to do. I served notice at a group meeting, but stayed for six months to fill commitments, and that was a very contemptuous time. The quality of the gigs went down, there was a lot of anger coming off the stage, and it's hard to do music in that situation."

Beverly: "In retrospect, there were a lot of problems with the group, so the fact that we didn't have a hit wasn't too surprising. I was kinda dancing myself - Fred was having an influence on me." (Beverly had recently married Fred Marshall, bass player for Trident act the Jazz Ensemble, of whom Jerry Granelli was also a member.)

Jerry: "Beverly basically said, 'I don't want to do this'. To which Frank replied, 'no Bev, no band'."

Bob: "Our first musical experience out of the gate was a huge success, so we thought well, the next thing we do will be another success. If we had been getting along with Frank, he could have seen where we were going, and supported it. I don't think it was the fragmentation that destroyed that band, it was the disagreement with the management that did."

We Five played their last show in Winona, Minnesota in May 1967, ending the act's long and painful demise. Six months later, the second album, "Make Someone Happy", finally came out. Tired of babysitting, Werber dissolved his Trident Productions stable and looked to exit the biz. Jerry Moss of A&M angled to buy the We Five trademark, as there was "great interest within this company to treat the group as our own". Frank reluctantly relinquished the delivered masters as part of a larger deal that sold A&M his extensive publishing interests in January 1969.

Beverly: “After we broke' up, I did some blues things with Bob and John, but it didn't quite workout. A&M called, they wanted me, but I think my husband insisted he produce the records. We Five was such an orchestrated-type concept, I just couldn't make my way back into it, though I'm sure they would have set me up with some great musicians. I'd been working hard for a long time, and just thought I'd take a break - turned out to be a couple of decades!"

Actually, she could be heard shortly afterwards, as part of an experimental extension of the Jazz Ensemble, dubbed Light Sound Dimension, where free-form jazz improv was matched to equally amorphous visuals from lightshow guru Bill Ham. Beverly contributed wordless vocals that wove between the instruments. Meanwhile, Bob and John had formed the short lived T & A Blues Band, with Ron Stallings and John Kahn. When that splintered late in 1967, with Chambers' encouragement, Jones moved to drums in Southern Comfort, who specialised in the funky Stax-styled R&B that he loved. Bob has since toured and recorded with heavies such as Michael Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites, Sam Lay, Otis Rush, Brewer & Shipley and others. Mike Stewart in the meantime fell in with another Trident combo, the Justice League, later to be known as West, who made two albums for Epic. Subsequent to that, Stewart carved out a career as a producer, handling Billy Joel (the perennial "Piano Man") and Tom Jones, amongst others, as well as designing the prototype of the industry standard recording software ProTools. He died in late 2002.

Even before We Five came off the road in the spring of 1967, Jerry Burgan was planning his next move: an extension of the group's capable vocal style. The natural choice to replace Beverly was his wife, Debbie, a gifted, distinctive singer with a range - and looks - not dissimilar to Mary Travers. Previously with folk trio the Legendaires, Debbie had assisted Burgan and Stewart in honing We Five's vocal arrangements when Beverly was unavailable. Given the division within the original band, the third participant in this new venture was obvious.

Pete: "I was more in tune with Jerry and Debbie. I felt I could be necessary in their music. It had been such a sour flavour leaving We Five, I wanted to give music one more chance."

The new trio started recording for Trident in April 1967. They called themselves the Tricycle and played a few acoustic shows around the Bay Area, but despite strong sides in the can, soon learned that after ten years at the top, Werber was rapidly disengaging himself from the business. The Burgans purchased the We Five name from the former members and re-signed directly to A&M, but things did not go as planned. Pianist/arranger Frank Denson and drummer Rich Tilles both baled once the recording project was completed, and the release of the "The Return Of We Five" album was delayed until the summer of 1969. Most importantly, as Werber might have once suspected, A&M did not handle their revitalised product appropriately ignoring the single material the group proffered, and saddling them with an indifferent producer.

Jerry: "They gave us Jerry Riopelle, who was more concerned with his own thing, the Parade. He'd just sit in the control booth. So 'Walk On By' is unfinished; it was supposed to have horns on it, [A&M's] Gil Friesen said our song 'All The Time' was a hit record, but they didn't even put it out."

The superb 'It Really Doesn't Matter" was actually a major highlight of the album - certainly so in my opinion, We Five's "Return" would prove to be a damp squib, sales-wise, and the group soon left A&M for the Vault imprint and 1970's "Catch The Wind" album (co-incidentally this was one of Mike Stewart's first production jobs, and likely more satisfying for that), When Pete departed after its release, We Five's fifth album, "Take Each Day As It Comes" was recorded for AVI, but tied to another distributor-based label, the record suffered a similar fate to its predecessors - We Five was now effectively We Two. Jerry and Debbie have kept the spirit of the band's music alive, recording and performing with a tribute to the era, the We Five Folk-Rock Revival.

The original We Five were pioneers - as first generation folk-rockers, as mavericks who took "good music" out of adult showrooms and into colleges, as charter member's of the socio-musical shift associated with 1960s San Francisco, They helped establish the soft rock format that A&M, the Association and others profited from so heavily from the late 60s on, yet We Five also never truly smoothed out the spikier content of their musical bag of tricks, With his benign autocracy, Frank Werber enabled their creativity, but it was We Five alone who opened the "door" of their art: a gifted nutty-professor of an arranger, four eminently capable vocal-instrumentalists, and one of the great female voices of 1960s pop, Theirs is a sound that still thrills to this day.

El Cerrito, California


With thanks to Beverly, Bob, Jerry and Pete, and also Debbie Burgan, Peter Fields, Joe Gannon, Frank May, Jon Sagen, Randy Steirling, Trey Vittetoe, Cindy Vorte, and Chala Werber.

Dedicated to the late, great Frank Werber.

More We Five, along with recordings by The Tricycle, and Mike Stewart with The Justice League, can be found on "Sing Me A Rainbow - A Trident Anthology 1965-67" (CDWIK2 283)


Photos and memorabilia courtesy of Beverly Bivens, Jerry and Debbie Burgan, Alec Palao and Ace Records Ltd.
Compilation, archive research and notes by Alec Palao.

Original sessions produced by Frank Werber for Trident Productions (tracks 19-20 produced by Jerry Riopelle)

Mastered by Nick Robbins at Sound Mastering Ltd.

Package designed by Jools DeVere at Mac.concept

Front cover photograph courtesy of Alec Palao


The copyrights in the sound recordings as noted below are owned by UMG Recordings, Inc and are licensed to Ace Records, Ltd. The balance are owned by Ace Records, Inc.

All titles (P) Polydor Int. Licensed from Universal Licensing Division, a division of Universal Music Operations Ltd., except tracks 2, 4, 9, 11, 14, 16, 17, 21, & 22 which are (P) Ace Records, Ltd © 2009 Ace Records, Ltd

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