Sidewalk Skipper Band (1968)

While talent is a necessary condition for musical success, it is arguably not a sufficient condition. Luck very much comes into play.

Listening to the “Various Artists – Book A Trip: Psych Pop Sounds of Capitol Records (2010)” compilation, I discovered, and was greatly impressed by, the Sidewalk Skipper Band, a very short-lived pop-psych band circa 1968. They recorded only 4 songs before disbanding, a musical tragedy. I can add them to the list of promising musical talents whose careers were cut short through any number of reasons, the primary being lack of sales.

From one psych blog:

The Sidewalk Skipper Band released three 45s over their brief existence. The band recorded in Chicago, and was comprised of Brian Ballestrieri (hammond organ), Joe Ballestrieri (bass) Dave McDowell (guitar, vocals), Rick Novac (12-string guitar), and Tom Jukem (drums). The Sidewalk Skipper Band recorded mostly flower pop with psychedelic overtones. The band first attracted attention at Marquette University where they had many gigs. The Sidewalk Skipper Band landed a contract with Capitol Records.

From another:

Although The Sidewalk Skipper Band only released three singles during their short lifetime in the late 60s they are rightfully regarded with high esteem among collectors of psychedelic records, especially the all time great psych pop mover ‘Strawberry Tuesday.’

They hailed from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and first attracted attention at Marquette University where they had regular gigs. They managed to secure a recording contract with Capitol Records, who as a major label, had the necessary clout to get the group to a higher level but despite some promotion including a full colour sleeve showing The Sidewalk Skipper Band in their finest psychedelic gear, the record appears to have sank.

Despite this, a second 45 appeared on Capitol ‘Seventeenth Summer’/'(Would You Believe) It’s Raining Flowers In My House’ during May 1968. According to information from an entry in Billboard, all four songs were recorded in February 1968 at Universal Recording Studios, Chicago.

All four songs were written by members Dave McDowell (lead guitar/vocals) and Rick Novak (12 string guitar). Other members included Brian Ballestrieri (hammond B3 organ) Joe Ballestrieri (bass) and Tom Jukem (drums).

Recently and acetate of unreleased recordings has surfaced on the collectors market so they may be released at some point in time. Also, a recording of Sidewalk Skipper Band playing live on ‘Night Talk’, a radio show hosted by Doug Dahlgen is currently on YouTube. The group sound much ‘heavier’ with a more prominent hammond organ sound. It probably dates from 1969.

The Ballestrieri brothers also discuss the new business enterprise at their club called The Stone Toad.

This later line-up is without songwriters McDowell and Novak as well as drummer Tom Jukem as Bob West (guitar) and Marc Balzac (drums) are listed in their place.

According to reference guide ‘Do You Hear That Beat’ a third Sidewalk Skipper Band 45 was released in 1969 on Teen Town ‘Sidewalk Skipper’/’Jeannie At The Circus’.

Of their four songs, the two that knock me out are:

“(Would You Believe) It’s Raining Flowers In My House” (1968) – a bouncy pop-psych with obligatory flower-power lyrics. I can’t stop singing the whistling part at the end.

“Seventeenth Summer” (1968) – an ethereal ballad, reminiscent of the Beach Boys at their “Surfer Girl” best:

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