Short Cross


Band members                          Related acts

  line up 1 (1967-70) as The Hustlers

- Gray McCalley -- drums, percussion, vocals 
- Butch Owens -- keyboards
 
- Velpo Robertson -- vocals, lead guitar, keyboards
- Dudley Bird Sharp -- bass, backing vocals
 

 

  line up 2 (1970-71) as Short Cross

- Steve Hicks -- bass (replaced Dudley Sharp)

- Gray McCalley -- drums, percussion, vocals 
- Butch Owens -- keyboards 
- Velpo Robertson -- vocals, lead guitar, keyboards

 

  line up 2 (1971-73) 

- Gray McCalley -- drums, percussion, vocals 
- Butch Owens -- keyboards 
- Velpo Robertson -- vocals, lead guitar, keyboards
- Dudley Bird Sharp -- bass, backing vocals  (replaced Steve Hicks)

 

  line up 2 (1973-74) 

- Gray McCalley -- drums, percussion, vocals 
- Velpo Robertson -- vocals, lead guitar, keyboards
- Dudley Bird Sharp -- bass, backing vocals  (replaced Steve Hicks)

 

 

 

 

- The Continentals (Gray McCalley)

- The Hustlers (Gray McCalley,  Butch Owens, Velpo Robertson, and

  Dudley Bird Sharp)

- The Outlaws (Butch Owens)

- Julius Pittman & the Revival (Velpo Robertson)

- The Reactors (Steve Hicks)


 

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Arising

Company: Grizly

Catalog: S-160-13

Year: 1972

Grade (cover/record): G+ / VG

Country/State: Sandston, Virginia

Comments: scratch impacts side two, track 1 ("On My Own"); white cover shows some dirt; minor ring wear; split bottom seam; name written in ink on bottom right and on inner label

Available: 1

Catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $100.00

 

First a word about the grading on this one.  Normally I shy away from anything with a grade below VG / VG.  I make occasional exceptions for stuff that's extremely rare, or costly.  Here's one of those exceptions.

 

band promo photo

 

Living in Northern Virginia it's probably only natural that I'd have a penchant for obscure 1960s/'70s mid-Atlantic bands (The Barracudas, Mason, Sweet Toothe, etc.). Well, here's another impressive and little known addition to the catalog.  I haven't been able to dig up much about Short Cross, though I know they were based in Sandston, Virginia (a suburb of Richmond). Originally known as The Hustlers, by the late-1960s drummer Gray McCalley, keyboard player Butch Owens, singer/guitarist Velpo Robertson and bassist Bird Sharp had metamorphosed into Short Cross. 

 

   

 

The band made their debut with a little known single on Nick Colleran's small Colpar label - "On My Own" b/w "Marching Off To War" (Colpar catalog 54-1005). 

 

The following year they got an opportunity to record an album.  Recorded over a four day period in Richmond's Alpha Audio and released by the small local Grizly label, 1971's  "Arising" teamed the group with producers Dave Herren and Rhett Riddle.   Judging by the limited liner notes, Richardson was the band's mainstay.  In addition to serving as lead singer and lead guitarist, he was responsible for penning all eight tracks (drummer McCalley co-wrote one track).  So what about the music?  Well, over the years I've seen this one listed on several high priced psych/progressive sales lists.  If you're looking for those genres, don't bother reading the rest of this.  The majority of "Uprising" offered up a surprisingly accomplished set of mainstream guitar-rock.  Overlooking the occasionally irritating horn arrangements ("Nothing But a Woman"), material such as the organ-propelled "Till We Reach the Sun" (sporting a nice Santana-styled Latin vibe), the bluesy "Suicide Blues" and "On My Own" was tuneful and rocked, fitting in well with conventional early-1970s rock.  Sporting a modest Allman Brothers feel and a great rhythm pattern, "Wastin Time" was one of my personal favorites.  While you won't find anything particularly original or earth shattering here, Richardson had an enticing voice (I kept wondering how a teenager could sound so old) and he was a first-rate guitarist (check out his solo on "Just Don't Care"). Some of you may not take this as a compliment (it's meant to be), but I play this LP far more often than anything from Grand Funk Railroad ... 

 

- The first time I heard 'Nothin' But a Woman' I wondered if I'd put on a Lighthouse album by mistake - the punchy horns were quite a surprise.   Up-tempo and surprisingly commercial, this one was actually quite good, with Butch Owens showing some Uriah Heep-styled keyboard moves while Sharp added some nice slap bass.  Would have been better without the horns (the band apparently disliked the horn arrangement as well).   rating: *** stars

- The lone collaboration between McCalley and Roberson, 'Wastin Time' was one of the album highlights.  Kicked along by some classic Robertson wah wah guitar and a killer fuzz lead guitar solo, the song showcased some first-rate blues rock moves.  Hard to get that wah wah figure out of your head once you've heard it.  Moreover, how can a kid still in his teens sound like such an old geezer ???    rating: **** stars

- Normally a standard blues number does absolutely nothing for me - one of the rare exceptions was Robertson's 'Suicide Blues'.  Mind you, the song wasn't particularly original, but the performance was dazzling with another vocal that left you wondering how did he do that.  Anyone know what the weird synthesizer was ?  Early Moog perhaps ?   Very dated and very cool.   rating: **** stars

- Side one's least impressive offering, 'Just Don't Care' was a decent enough rocker, but lacked the spark of the other three songs.  rating: ** stars

- Previously released as a single, 'On My Own' was an energetic blues-rocker.  Again, nothing particularly original and there were some horns, but anyone who enjoyed Paul Rogers and Free was probably gonna' find this one enjoyable.   rating: *** stars  

- My favorite performance, I've always wondered how a bunch of teenagers from Sandston, Virginia managed to record a cutting edge Latin-flavored jam like 'Till We Reach the Sun'.  As mentioned above, Carlos Santana would have been proud to have written something as good and Robertson's guitar solo was simply blazing.   rating: **** stars

- The one misstep, 'Ellen' was a forgettable sappy ballad.  Obviously heartfelt and corny enough to have sounded okay on AM radio, the band apparently didn't want to record it, preferring to record something harder hitting, but they lost the argument with producer Herren.    rating: ** stars  

- Yeah the title was a little disconcerting, but 'Hobo Love Song' offered up another impressive blues-rocker with the combination of Owens keyboards and Robertson's slashing lead guitar generating considerable energy.  rating: **** stars

 

Again, not the most original set you've ever heard, but energetic and enthusiastic performances that are worth hearing.  The fact it was released on a small label with limited distribution capabilities spelled instant obscurity for the album (and apparently the band itself).  Supposedly 1,000 copies were pressed with about half of them destroyed.  The band opened for national touring acts visiting Richmond (they opened for Black Sabbath at Virginia Commonwealth University) and began recording material for a planned sophomore LP, but without financial backing the sessions were never completed.  With Owens dropping out of the band, the remaining three members continued on until 1974 at which point they called it quits.

"Arising" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Nothin' But a Woman   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:45
2.) Wastin Time   (Gray McCalley - Velpo Robertson) - 3:42
3.) Suicide Blues   (Velpo Robertson) - 6:59
4.) Just Don't Care   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:25

 

(side 2)
5.) On My Own   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:45
6.) Till We Reach the Sun   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:49
7.) Ellen   (Velpo Robertson) - 6:50
8.) Hobo Love Song   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:45

 


I shouldn't be telling you this, but if you're a little short of cash, there are a couple of reissue packages:

 

 

- I'm not sure if it's a legitimate reissue, but in 1988 the Breeder label also reissued the collection in vinyl format with slightly different cover art (Breeder catalog number Breeder RPR 009-3C-569).

 

- The Gear Fab label reissued the collection in CD format (catalog number GF-119). The reissue included a pair of bonus tunes (both sides of their 1970 single) and included a nice biography.  

 

- The Italian Arkarma label also reissued the album as a two LP set with several bonus tracks (Arkarma catalog number 079/2).

 

"Arising" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Nuthin 'But A Woman   (Velpo Robertson) - 5:28

2.) Wastin 'Time   (Gray McCalley - Velpo Robertson) - 3:49

3.) Suicide Blues   (Velpo Robertson) - 7:05

 

(side 2)

1.) Just Do not Care   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:31

2.) On My Own   (Velpo Robertson) - 5:01

3.) Till We Reach The Sun   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:56

 

(side 3)

1.) Ellen   (Velpo Robertson) - 5:53

2.).Hobo Love Song   (Velpo Robertson) - 4:50

3.) On My Own   (Velpo Robertson - 2:52

 

(side 4)

1.) Marching Off To War - 3:01

2.) That 's Her Train - 2:57

3.) Bomb - 4:07

4.) Before It Rains - 3:29

 

 

In August, 2004 the original band lineup of McCalley, Owens, Robertson, and Sharp got back together for the first time in three decades for their Highland Springs high school reunion.  They also reunited the next year and now play on a regular basis.

 

Here are a couple of YouTube clips from the reunion shows and I have to admit they sound pretty impressive.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHhrCYwfI6k

'On My Own'

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hh2EoApGF0&feature=related

'Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White'

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOv7-JNbzKo&feature=related

'Manic Depression'

 

They also have a small web presence at:

http://www.shortcross.com/

 

 

 

Postscript August, 2011

 

The Short Cross review was literally one of the first things I ever published on the web.  I literally didn't know much about the band, but as luck would have it, Klemen Breznikar did a great interview with     You can find it on his blog:

 

http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2011/08/short-cross-interview-with-velpo.html

 

 

All four members remained active in music with Robertson playing and touring with Virginia's own Robbin Thompson Band.

 

 

 

 

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