Long Lost Recordings of The Contents Are: Found

From left: Paul Staack (eventually joins Silver Laughter), Mick Orton, Craig Hute and Dave Neumann (the one that got away).

From left: Paul Staack (eventually joins Silver Laughter), Mick Orton, Craig Hute and Dave Neumann (the one that got away).

If you click here you can get a sample of my recent find. On a couple of old reel to reel tapes of my first band, The Contents Are:, we were able to save 14 live original songs from the early 70’s, as well as 4 demos we did at Columbia Records in Chicago. As I have said here before, I started my professional music career in that “famous” Davenport band. Before I joined them, their record “Direction of Mind” got in the top 10 at the local radio station. So when I got a call out of the blue in 1969 from singer/songwriter, Craig Hute asking me to audition, I was floored. Recently I put down my memories in an article for PopGeekHeaven.com (you will need to create a FREE username and password to view), and I am sharing it here.

While you’re reading, listen to this recording of “Recurring Changes” which was done as a demo at Columbia Records in Chicago with me on bass. Craig has graciously allowed me to post this beautiful song which also appeared in a slightly different version on the “Through You” Album with Larry Smith playing bass.

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Imagine my shock and surprise when in late 1969 my phone rang, and it was Craig Hute on the telephone talking to me about joining their band, The Contents Are: . I was shocked and surprised that someone so famous would even know who I was. But we had a good conversation, and he invited me for an audition. I was very excited when I hung up the phone.

Marianne Hute took this photo of the band while we were living in Colorado. From left: Mick Orton, Craig Hute, Dave Neumann and Paul Staack.

Marianne Hute took this photo of the band while we were living in Colorado. From left: Mick Orton, Craig Hute, Dave Neumann and Paul Staack.

Let me give you some background. The place was Davenport, Iowa around the year 1968 [correction: 1967] when I first heard that one of our local bands had recorded a couple of singles which got to the top of the charts on the local radio station. I was already playing bass in my first band when my pal and neighbor, Ted, proudly showed me the new record by The Contents Are: he had picked up from his West High classmates who were in the band. Of course, back then, almost everyone was in a band in Davenport. But not everyone was recording original material!

Ted was a senior and I was a junior. In his graduating class of 1967 were The Contents Are: band members, guitarist Dave Neumann and drummer Paul Staack. Apparently they were hawking their records around the school. Also on the 45 were songwriter and lead singer, Craig Hute and bassist and vocalist, Larry Smith.

I put the record on my dad’s turntable and heard the song “Direction of Mind” for the first time. It was so different from what anyone else was doing in the Quad Cities at that time in the late ‘60’s, and it was original. Everyone else was doing cover songs of the Stones, Kinks and Beatles, so this was really unique. I thought the B side, “I Don’t Know”, was even better than the A side.

Not much later I heard the second single, “New Mexico” but wasn’t sure about it. However, after several listens it grew on me. The B side was a very nice tune called “Future Days”.

Then came an album of 13 songs called “Through You”. Remember, at that time we were in the middle of the Viet Nam war and people were beginning to tune in, turn on and drop out. So the music had a bit of an anti-war/psychedelic protest message. All songs were original and written by a guy named Craig Hute. Dave Neumann was given credit for producing. The label was ROK records and the songs were recorded at FredLo Studios (for Fred and Lois who owned the place) in the Quad Cities. Impressive for that period.

The Contents Are: was one of the two biggest groups in the area at the time playing to packed houses. They were treated like celebrities, especially because they had been in the recording studio.

At this time I was playing in a small band called Todd Beat Group doing all simple, but original music. I was one of the main songwriters and lead singers. We didn’t play much because we did no cover songs, and most of the opportunities to play were dances where they wanted cover tunes.

But we must have played around enough to get The Contents Are: or someone they knew to notice my bass playing because they had gigs coming up. And with Larry Smith leaving the band they were in dire need of a bass player to replace him quickly.

My first and only audition was in one of the guy’s basement lugging my Sears Silvertone amplifier and imitation Hofner bass down the stairs. Craig’s wife, Marianne, was sitting in a chair watching and very pregnant. It was slightly intimidating.

But as I performed for them, they seemed to like the fact I could sing and play at the same time. It sounds silly, but back then, bassists didn’t sing much until Paul McCartney came along and set the bar so high. I was also a songwriter which drove up my stock. And because I picked up their material so quickly it meant they could get back to work and making money which, I think, virtually gave me the job.

Looking back, the “Through You” CD re-master is a very nice piece of musical history with a great insert written by Craig. Although reading through them you might get the impression that the band broke up after Larry Smith left, but this is not so.

It should be noted that the band re-recorded two songs from the album at Columbia Studios in Chicago after I joined; “Recurring Changes” and “No Chance To Choose” along with a new Craig Hute song, “Head Collect”, a great rocker. Also included was one of my songs called “Grey, Cloudy Skies” which later appeared on the Silver Laughter “Handle With Care” album from 1976 which was reviewed elsewhere on this site. These demos were recently discovered on an old tape. After recording at Columbia, the band moved from Davenport to Denver, Colorado and changed its name to Tabernash but never released any more albums before breaking up around 1975.

Today the band members are scattered all over the country. Dave Neumann lives in Oregon with his wife, Teresa, and Paul Staack lives in the Twin Cities area with his wife, Donna. I live in Northern California with my wife, Janis. Craig Hute still lives in Colorado and continues to write and record his original music. Nobody knows what happened to Larry Smith.

Craig has given us permission to use two sample cuts from the “Through You” re-mastered CD which includes the original 13 songs from the album plus the A & B sides from both singles. All songs were written by him and arranged by the band before I joined. It is a great piece of late 60’s rock music, and we hope you will enjoy it.

Mick Orton

(Photos courtesy of Craig and Marianne Hute)



Categories: Articles & Reviews, History, Music, Photos

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