Nova Local, The

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1965-66)

- Phil Lambeth -- guitar

- Bill LeVasseur -- lead vocals, drums 

- Joe Mendky -- lead guitar 

- Jim Opton -- lead vocals, bass 

- Cam Schinhan -- keyboards 

- Randy Winburn (aka Rand WInburn) -- lead vocals, rhythm guitar


  line up 2 (1966)

- Bill LeVasseur -- lead vocals, drums

- Joe Mendky -- lead guitar 

- Jim Opton -- lead vocals, bass 

- Cam Schinhan -- keyboards 

- Randy Winburn (aka Ran Winburn) -- lead vocals, rhythm guitar



- The Warlocks (Joe Mendky)

- Rand Winburn (solo efforts)





Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Nova 1

Company: Decca

Catalog: DL-74977

Year: 1967

Country/State: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4604

Price: $100.00

Cost: $66.00


Rhythm guitarists Phil Lambeth and Randy Winburn, drummer Bill LeVasseur, lead guitarist Joe Mendky, bassist Jim Opton, and keyboardist Cam Schinhan started their musical collaboration in 1965 while students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Originally know as The Shadows (quickly changed to The Nova Local), the group generated considerable buzz playing local dances and frat parties.  Ironically their big break came when Jim Opton's Phi Mu Alpha fraternity hired Chad and Jeremy as the entertainment for a scholarship fund raising event.  Needing an opening band, Opton hired The Nova Local.  The band's subsequence performance caught the attention of A&R man Rob Heller, who helped sign the band with Decca Records.


Decca quickly dispatched the band (sans Lambeth who opted for law school), to New York.  Produced by Elliot Mazur, 1967's "Nova 1" was clearly recorded in a hurry, but in spite of some flaws, stands as a criminally overlooked debut.  Musically tracks such as the lead off fuzz rocker '$5 a Ticket' , 'If You Only Had the Time', 'Hitch Hike' and 'Morning Dew' were full of fuzz guitars, thick harmonies, weird production effects (45 seconds of backward tape on 'Hey Jimi') and thoroughly catchy melodies.  These guys had more than enough talent, including three lead singers (LeVasseur, Opton, and Winburn), to give any of those better known West Coast summer of love band a run for their money.  I'll also be the first to admit that the first time I played the album I was left a bit confused.  The album cover showed five guys which left me wondering who the female lead singer was.  It took a little while to figure out that I wasn't hearing a female, rather Winburn had a rather high and fragile voice (sound like a stupid mistake ... well just check out his performance on 'Tobacco Road').  


"Nova 1" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) $5 a Ticket - 2:55

Full of fuzz guitar, goofy sound effects, and a full out lysergic aura, to my ears '$5 a Ticket" has always sounded way ahead of it's time.  It was easily as out there as anything The Jefferson Airplane, or other West Coast bands were doing at that time and had the added benefit of an interesting lyric.   rating: **** stars

2.) If You Only Had the Time  (Randy Winburn) - 2:20

'If You Only Had the Time' found the band showing they were capable of dishing out Monkees-styled top-40.  Yeah, Winburn's lead vocals were a bit unsteady, but the song itself was quite commercial.  Easy to see why Decca tapped it as the leadoff single.   rating: **** stars

3.) Yascha Knew Deli Intimately (instrumental) - 0:35

'Yascha Knew Deli Intimately' offered up a short instrumental meltdown.  Forgettable.   rating: ** stars

4.) A Visit From It, the King - 1:15

'A Visit From It, the King' made it clear these guys had been listening to folk-rock bands like The Lovin' Spoonful.  Pleasant, but there wasn't a single original note on the song.   rating: ** stars

5.) Tobacco Road - 6:35

Got to tell you Randy sure sounded like a woman on the band's funeral pyre cover of 'Tobacco Road'.   Geez, hard to imagine them slowing the track down any more than this organ-propelled-version.  Thankfully about a minute in they shifted gears  giving the song kind of a neat 'shag' rhythm on the refrain.   rating: *** stars


(side 2)
1.) Hitch Hike - 2:50

Given the title ' Hitch Hike' I was expecting to hear a Motown cover ...  never assume.  Instead side two opened up with a nifty slice of guitar and keyboard powered garage rock.   The song also featured a great backward guitar solo.  One of my favorite performances on the set.   rating: **** stars

2.) Morning Dew - 5:33

Another album standout, 'Morning Dew' demonstrated these guys had the talent to turn in a psych track that could rock out !!!   Fantastic lead guitars on this one ...   rating: ***** stars

3.) Forgotten Man - 2:19

Witness the opening string arrangement (and the sitar), Decca clearly put some money into these recording sessions.  'Forgotten Man' was pretty, psych-tinged ballad that had quite a bit of commercial potential.  Donovan would have killed to get his hands on this one.   rating: *** stars

4.) Dear Jimi - 0:45

Basically 45 seconds of backwards guitar, 'Dear Jimi' was another throwaway instrumental snippet.    rating: *** stars

5.) And I Remember - 2:13

Not quite blues-rock, but about as close as these guys were going to get. 'And I Remember' sported some dirty garage rock guitar which made it one of the album's hardest rockin' compositions.   Great tune with Winburn turning in one of his rawer vocals.   Nice, nice, nice ...   rating: **** stars

6.) John Knight's Body  (Randy Winburn) - 2:12

Penned by Winburn, 'John Knight's Body' was easily the album's strangest song,  Musically he song was a straightforward pop ditty, but the lyric having to do with some poor guy sitting on death row after being wrongly accused of murder was just plain strange ...  Given Winburn's Christian beliefs it would be interesting to know what the inspiration was for this one.  rating: ***** stars


Elsewhere Decca pulled two singles from the LP:



- 1967 'If You Only Had the Time' b/w 'Games' (Decca catalog number 7-32138)

- 1967's John Knight's Body (I Wanna Get Out')' b/w 'Other Girls' (Decca catalog number 7-32194)


I normally don't do this, but the on-LP 'Games' may have been the best thing they ever recorded.  I'm not sure you long it'll be out there, but YouTube has a clip of the song at:


On a purely technical note, this was apparently one of the first albums to be recorded using Dolby noise reduction technology.  Anyone know why Decca didn't include writing credits?   


One LP and two singles and  that was it for the band ...   Shame they weren't given the opportunity to record some additional materials (though there are supposedly some unreleased demos out there).   As it is, this one's well worth looking for and while you won't find a cheap copy (unless you elect to buy the Radioactive reissue (catalog number RRLP063) which is of questionable legality), it's an investment most of you will enjoy., 



Winburn's apparently remained active in music though I've never heard any of his solo material: