Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1962-65) as Kal David and the Exceptions

- Peter Cetera -- vocals, bass

- Kal David (aka David Raskin) -- vocals, guitar

- Denny Ebert (aka Denny Dean) -- drums, vocals

- Marty Grebb (aka Marty Grebe) -- sax, keyboards, guitar, vocals


  line up 2 (1965-66) as The Exceptions

- Peter Cetera -- vocals, bass

- Denny Ebert (aka Denny Dean) -- drums, vocals

- Marty Grebb - sax, keyboards, guitar, vocals

NEW - James Vincent (aka James Vincent Dondelinger 

  aka Jim Donlinger)  -- vocals, lead guitar (replaced 

  Kal David)


  line up 3 (1965-66) 

- Peter Cetera -- vocals, bass

NEW - Billy Herman -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

   (replaced Denny Ebert )

NEW - Jim Nyeholt -- keyboards (replaced Marty Grebb)

 - James Vincent Dondelinger (aka Jim Donlinger, 

   aka James Vincent)  -- vocals, lead guitar


  line up 4 (1966-67) 
- Peter Cetera -- vocals, bass
- Jim Donlinger (aka James Vincent) -- vocals, lead guitar 
- Billy Herman -- drums, percussion, backing vocals 
- Jim Nyeholt -- keyboards 


  line up 5 (1967) as Aorta

- Jim Donlinger (aka James Vincent) -- vocals, lead guitar
- Billy Herman -- drums, percussion, backing vocals 

NEW - Dan Hoagland -- sax
NEW - Billy Jones -- bass, backing vocals (replaced Peter Cetera) 
- Jim Nyeholt -- keyboards


 line up 6 (1967) 

- Jim Donlinger (aka James Vincent) -- vocals, lead guitar
- Billy Herman -- drums, percussion, backing vocals 

- Billy Jones -- bass, backing vocals (replaced  Peter Cetera) 
- Jim Nyeholt -- keyboards


  line up 7 (1970)

NEW - Mike Been -- bass, guitar, backing vocals (replaced 

  Billy Jones)
- Jim Donlinger (aka James Vincent)-- vocals, lead guitar
NEW - Tom Donlinger -- drums, percussion (replaced Billy Herman) 


  backing musicians: (1970)

- Michale Ayre -- percussion

- George Edwards -- vocals

- Kenneth Elliot - cowbell

- Howard Levy - congas, percussion




- Azteca (Jim Donlinger)

- Mike Been (solo efforts)

- The Big Thing (Peter Cetera)

- The Buckinghams (Marty Grebb)

- The Buggs 

- The Call (Mike Been)

- Chicago (Peter Cetera)

- Coven (Jim Nyeholt)

- The Eddie Boy Band (Denny Ebert)

- George Edwards (solo efforts)

- George Edwards and Friends
- The Exceptions (Billy Herman)

- The Fabulous Rhinestones (Kal David)

- Fine Wine (Mike Been)

- Marty Grebb (solo efforts)

- H.P. Lovecraft (Jim Donlinger and George Edwards)

- The Hollywood Argyles (Bobby Jones)

- Illinois Speed Press (Kal David)

- Kal David and the Exceptions
- Lovecraft (Michael Been and Jim Dolinger)

- Max Frost and the Troopers
- New Colony Six (Billy Herman)

- Pendragon (Mike Been)
- Rotary Connection (Jim Donlinger, Tom Donlinger  and 

  Jim Nyehold) 

- The Rovin' Kind (Kal David)

- Sunday Servants

- The Troys (Mike Been)

- James Vincent (solo efforts)



Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Aorta

Company: Columbia

Catalog: CS-9785

Year: 1969

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring, edge and corner wear; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $80.00

Cost: $20.00


Formed in 1962 and originally known as Kal David and the Exceptions, by 1967 the band had morphed into Aorta featuring singer/guitarist Jim Donlinger, drummer Billy Herman, bassist Billy Jones and keyboard player Jim Nyeholt.   They had also morphed from top-40 cover band to a repertoire that included original material ranging from doo-wop to garage and hard rock.  By 1967 they were also  performing under the name Aorta.  They caught  the attention of Dunwich Records owner/producer Bill Traut who signed them to a recording contract.  One of their first recordings was a cover of  Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's 'The Shape of Things To Come'.  Traut leased the song to Atlantic Records which released it as a 45::






- 1968's 'Shape of Things To Come' b/w 'Strange' (Atlantic 45-2445) 








While the 45 failed to sell, it caught the attention of Columbia Records, which promptly signed the band to a contract. 

To be honest "Aorta" didn't immediately grab my attention.  I remember thinking it sounded brittle and a bit short in the melody department.  I also struggled trying to puzzle out the plotline, though to this day I'm not sure if it was a concept album.  Anyhow, after a couple of spins the album started to reveal its charms and strengths. Produced by Bill Traut and Jon Donlinger, 1969's "Aorta" showcased one of the better slices of psychedelic music released by a major label.  Aorta was blessed with a deep cr
eative bench with three of the four members contributing to songwriting chores.  As said, it may have been a concept piece with the individual songs strung together by a series of four 'Main Vein' segments.  If it was a concept piece, I'll admit the plotline was lost to my ears.  Featuring largely original material, the collection offered up a nice mélange of pop and harder rock numbers slathered in acid-tinged production.  On the pop end were The Buckinghams-styled 'Magic Bed', 'A Thousand Thoughts' and 'Ode to Missy Mxyzosptik' (ignore the title).  Harder edged, more experimental efforts were exemplified by the psych-flavored 'What's in My Mind's Eye' and a toughed up cover of Colours' 'Catalyptic.'  Even better were tunes like 'Heart Attack' and 'Thoughts and Feelings' where the band mashed up commercial and psych influences.  The track listing also included a rerecorded version of the earlier "B" side 'Strange'.  Sure, it wasn't a major creative statement or something that would drastically change your life, but full of Jim Donlinger's impressive fuzz guitar, interesting melodies and weird studio effects it made for a solid player.  I found every track worth hearing.   


The band toured in support of the album, opening for a wide range of headliners including Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin.  Commercially the album proved a minor chart success peaking at # 167.  Columbia was impressed and offered the band a showcase performance at New York's Fillmore East.  Intended to introduce the band to music industry leaders, the performance was reportedly a disaster.  It turned out the band had taken LSD prior to the concert. 

"Aorta" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Main Vein I (Jim Donlinger) - 2:17  rating: *** stars

Opening up an album with the sound of a heartbeat was certainly novel and a little unnerving.  Funny to think what it must have sounded like to someone under the influence of an illegal substance.  Quickly morphing into a pretty melody, the main theme found the band singing the title over and over and over with an increasing sense of urgency.  Interesting way to start the album.
2.) Heart Attack (Jim Donlinger - Jim Nyeholt) - 2:30 
rating: **** stars

'Heart Attack' remains one of the best mash-ups of blue-eyed soul and hard psych I've come across.  The combination of a giddy melody, Jim Donlinger's soothing, acid-tinged vocals, his mesmerizing fuzz guitar figure and Jim Nyeholt's jazzy Hammond B-3 organ was simply infectious.  I almost hate hearing the song because I can't shake it for a couple of days.
3.) What's in My Mind's Eye (G. Dolinger) - 2:47 
rating: **** stars

'What's In My Mind's Eye' blended top-40 pop moves with a touch of raga and plenty of psych moves.  On paper that may not have sounded like much, but I found the results to be captivating.
4.) Magic Bed (Jim Donlinger - Dan Hoagland) - 2:37  
rating: *** stars

C'mon how can you not smile at a song entitled 'Magic Bed'?  Admittedly this one found Aorta being a little too cute for their own good.  The carnival-like sound effects were just hokey, but it was a nice platform for Donlinger's warm voice and the group's overlooked harmony vocals were lovely.
5.) Main Vein II (Jim Donlinger - Jim Nyeholt) - 1:25  
rating: *** stars

More of a song fragment than a true composition, 'Main Vein II' started out as kind of a bluesy effort before the orchestration kicked in and the song went totally discordant.
6.) Sleep Tight (Russ Titleman - Lowell George) - 4:36  
rating: *** stars

An early cover of a Lowell George  tune.  Their cover of  'Sleep Tight' was nothing like George's original version.  Musically it was one of the album's more conventional and pop-oriented tunes, but I've always loved the combination of Jim Nyeholt church organ washes and Jim Donlinger fuzz guitar moves.
7.) Catalyptic (Jack Dalton - Gary Montgomery) - 3:32  
rating: **** stars

This one first appeared on Colour's self-titled 1968 album.  The original version featured some nice vocals, but was pretty trippy.  That said, opening up with Jim Nyeholt's swirling organ, their cover reminded me of something out of the H.P. Lovecraft catalog.  Not as tuneful as the Colours version, but  tougher, darker and tripper.


(side 2)

1.) Main Vein III - 0:42   rating: *** stars

Another connective song fragment, 'Main Vein III' was an acoustic tune with an unexpected medieval flavor.
2.) Sprinkle Road to Cork Street (Jim Nyeholt - Dan Hoagland) - 3:05  
rating: *** stars

Given it was co-written by former member Dan Hoagland, I'm guessing 'Sprinkle Road to Cork Street' was an earlier tune resurrected for the album. Starting as a fragile, slightly lysergic-tinged  ballad, the was quite pretty with extensive orchestration and served as a nice change from the band's normal rock orientation.  
3.) Ode to Missy Mxyzosptik (Jim Donlinger) - 3:08  
rating: **** stars

In spite of the title, 'Ode to Missy Mxyzosptik' was one of the album's most conventional tunes.  With a strong melody and some awesome Donlinger lead guiatr, it could have easily been a hit single.  Well, let be caveat that by saying the first two thirds of the song could have been a hit.  The song ended with Billy Herman going off on the drums and some synthesizer "farts".

4.) Strange (Danny Lee) - 4:18   rating: **** stars

Penned by sax player Dan Hoagland before he left the band, 'Strange' had previously seen daylight as the flip side to their 1968 Atlantic 45.  It's bothered me for years - the song has always reminded me of another tune, but I've never been able to put my fingers on the connection.  Anyhow the tune managed to mix AM commerciality (love the vocal harmonies), with an awesome Jim Donlinger fuzz guitar solo.  Shame since it would have made a good "A" side.  The album version was different mix than the 45.




- 1969's 'Strange' which b/w 'Ode to Missy Mxyzosptik' (Columbia catalog number 4-44870)






5.) A Thousand Thoughts (Jim Donlinger- Billy Herman) - 3:48   rating: *** stars

Opening up with some MOR orchestration, the ballad 'A Thousand Thoughts' reminds me of a bit of something Brian Wilson might have written.  The strained falsetto might have something to do with it.   The album's most blatantly commercial effort, I'm surprised Columbia didn't release it as a single.   
6.) Thoughts and Feelings/Main Vein IV (Jim Donlinger) - 4:07
   rating: **** stars

The opening phone and crying baby sound effects were jarring, but added a nice touch to the closer 'Thoughts and Feelings'.  Kicked along by Donlinger's squealing lead guitar, this was another track that aptly showcased the band's ability to meld rock, psych and commercial moves into a unified and enjoyable package. Smoothly shifting into 'Main Vein IV', section IV was the best of the series underscoring the song's main riff and the Donlinger-Nyehold guitar and keyboards combination.




Genre: country-rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Aorta 2

Company: Happy Tiger

Catalog: HT-1010

Year: 1970

Country/State: Chicago, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring and edge wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4242

Price: $50.00

Cost: $37.75




In the wake of marginal sales and a disastorous showcase performance at New York's Fillmore East, Aorta was dropped by Columbia Records.  Drummer Billy Harman and bassist Bobby Jones quickly left.  Jim Donlinger and Jim Nyeholt  hired Jim's brother Tom Donlinger as the replacement drummer.  At that point the three joined Chicago's Rotary Connection.  


The three participated in recording sessions for Rotary Connection's 1968 album "Peace", but were gone before the album was released.  Recruiting former The Troys bass player Michael Been, Aorta was reactivated.  Picked up by the small Southern California-based Happy Tiger label, 1970 saw the revamped band release "Aorta 2".   With Bill Traut and Jim Donlingher again handling production, the second album also saw the band undergoing a major change in musical direction.  All but abandoning their earlier psych leanings, track such as 'Willie Jean', 'Little Bonnie' and 'Sandcastles' offered up a mix of lighter pop and country-rock sounds.  Curiously, several of the compositions including 'Beg For His Forgiveness', 'His Faith In Man' and 'Devil, Maggot & Son' featured Christian-oriented lyrics.  "Aorta 2" wasn't a non-secular album, but it was certainly more thought provoking than the debut.  Taken on their own the performances weren't half bad, full of of nice harmony vocals and engaging melodies, but when compared to the debut the results just didn't come close.  This time around it was the atypical numbers that provided the highlights.  A nice rocker 'Beg for His Forgiveness' probably came the closest to recapturing the debut's meltdown sound, while 'Pickin' Blues' was an okay boogie/blues number.  Most band stick with their patented sound for years on end, eventually beating it into the ground.  Like The Colour and Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers, Aorta was clearly one of the exceptions to the rule.  I still prefer the debut, but have to admit that the follow-up has continued to grow on me over time.


"Aorta" 2" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Willie Jean (traditional) - 3:03  rating: **** stars

For anyone expecting to hear a continuation of the first Aorta album's mix of hard rock and psych influences, 'Willie Jean' was going to come as a massive shock.  An Allman Brothers-styled blues-rocker, over the years the song had been recorded by a slew of bands including The Blues Magoos, The Byrds, Gram Parsons, The Shadows of the Knight and The Sunshine Company.  None were as good as Aorta's version - particularly when Jim Dolinger and Mike Been harmonized on the chorus.  Breathtaking.

2.) Little Bonnie  (Jim Donlinger - Mike Been) - 4:18   rating: *** stars

Did I put on a Black Oak Arkansas album by mistake?  Kicked along by Jim Nyeholt's keyboards, Tom Donlinger's relentless drums and Jim Donlinger's sweet guitar solo, 'Little Bonnie' had more in common with The Marshall Tucker Band than anything in their past history.  Donlinger's guitar solo sure reminded me of Tucker lead guitarist Toy Caldwell whjile his voice recalled Tucker lead vocalist Doug Gray.  For goodness sakes, the lyrics include "it's another quarter of whiskey to kill".

3.) Blythe Spirit - 2:49  rating: **** stars

Powered by some light Latin percussion and a lovely Mike Been bass line, the fragile ballad 'Blythe Spirit' was one of the prettiest songs in their catalog.  

4.) Beg For His Forgiveness - 4:55  rating: **** stars

The lyrics were somewhat non-secular, but 'Beg For His Forgiveness' was wrapped in a great rockin' melody arrangement which gave Jim  Donlinger some room to show off his chops.  That made it easy to overlook anything that struck you as preachy.  Personally I didn't find the lyrics to be problematic.  

5.) Egypt (instrumental) - 4:05  rating: * star

The first real disappointment, the instrumental 'Egypt' didn't have much of a melody and quickly degenerated into what sounded like an in studio jam session focusing on Tom Donlinger's drumming and percussion work before shifting into bland jazz-rock territory.  Geez, not another standard early 1970s drum spotlight.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


(side 2)

1.) His Faith In Man - 5:09   rating: *** stars

'His Faith In Man' was quite heavy on religious imagery.  I'm not sure who handled the vocals, but they both had nice Americana-styled voices and the first half of the song was framed in a decent melody.  The second half allowed Jim Donlinger to spend some time showing off his jazzy guitar chops.

2.) Devil, Maggot & Son - 2:48  rating: **** stars

'Devil, Maggot & Son' (what a great song title), sounded like it had been pulled off a Robbie Robertson and the Band album.  This thing just dripped Americana and I loved the combination of Jim Nyeholt's piano and the group vocals on the glistening chorus.

3.) Sandcastles - 2:55   rating: ** stars

The album's contractually required "big ballad", 'Sandcastles' started out as a pretty acoustic ballad, before picking up a little speed and energy.  It wasn't bad, but you've heard dozens of similar tunes that were equally good.  Why Happy Tiger tapped it as a single is a mystery to me.





- 1970's 'Sandcastles' b/w 'Willie Jean' was released as an instantly obscure single (Happy Tiger catalog number 567). 





4.) Pickin' Blues - 3:12   rating: *** stars

Kicked along by Jim Donlinger's snarling voice, Been's driving bass and Nyeholt's keyboards, 'Pickin' Blues' was a decent boogie-blues number, but again you've heard plenty of similar tunes.

5.) Fallin' Behind - 3:25   rating: *** stars

With an unexpected Flamenco feel, it took a couple of spins for me to warm up to 'Fallin' Behind.'  Nice showcase for the Jim DOnlinger's acoustic and electric guitar work, as well as the band's vocal prowess.  



  • Following the band's collapse Been reappeared in Fine Wine followed by membership in The Call.


  • Jim Donlinger and Jim Nyeholt reappeared as members of Lovecraft. 


  • Tom Donlinger became an in-demand sessions player, eventually recorded a series of solo albums under the name James Vincent..