Band members Related acts
- Frank Gummersal (RIP) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Jon Hicks (RIP) -- vocals, bass
- Carl Holland -- vocals, drums, percussion, clarinet
- Doug Osburn -- pedal steel guitar, guitar
- Larry Ross -- vocals, guitar, keyboards
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Hellbound Highway
Country/State: Santa Cruz, California
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+
Comments: no insert; minor water stain top right corner
Catalog ID: 6072
So here's a sought after rarity that shows up in virtually every 'heavy hitter' reference work including Patrick Lumborg's Acid Archives, Vernon Joynson's Fuzz, Acid and Flowers, and Hans Pokora's Record Collector Dreams series, That said, try finding a good description of it ... the adjective that comes up time after time is 'Dead-like'. In fact, the best description I found on the web was a Japanese site (mostly in kanji) but with a three English word description "Eagles meets Dead" ...
This Santa Cruz-based outfit formed in the mid-1970s, featuring Frank Gummersal, bassist Jon Hicks, drummer Carl Holland, multi-instrumentalist Doug Osburn, and guitarist/keyboard player Larry Ross. Looking like your standard early-1970s stoner band hey enjoyed some success on San Francisco's club circuit, even opening for nationally known outfits such as Kingfish and The Sons of Champlin. They also managed to score a contract with the small California-based Renegade label resulting in the release of 1975's "Hellbound Highway".
Having listened to the set dozens of times, I'll tell you the Dead comparison wasn't all that far off. Material like the title track, 'Tantra Queen' and 'Pass the Bottle' shared a similar slightly stoned Americana/country-rock vibe. The set featured nine original tracks credited as being jointly written with lyrics by non-member Frank Andrick All five members shared vocal duties, but like the Dead, these guys lacked a truly outstanding singer. The basic song structures were all quite good, as were the performances (bassist Hicks playing a homemade instrument was particularly impressive), though ultimately only a couple of the songs ('Hellbound Highway' and ''Nobody On the Streets) really jumped out at you. 'Course the same comment can be made for many Dead albums.
left to right: Gummersal - Hicks - Holland - Osburn - Ross
Depending which reference you read, between 100 and 2,000 copies were recorded (I'd opt for the large number). Regardless, this one's pretty rare, commanding some fairly stiff prices from collectors.
Highway" track listing:
1.) Hellbound Highway (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Doug Osburn - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 4:20 rating: **** stars
Opening with some 'on the road' sound effects,
'Hellbound Highway' had a
distinctive Dead feel. What distinguished this one from most of the
album was a truly energetic performance with some first rate lead
was apparently a love
song dedicated to a paddle wheel river boat ...
You could easily have been forgiven for mistaking it for another Dead
outtake - same laidback country-rock vibe with some nice group
harmonies. Elsewhere Osburn tuned in some surprisingly rocking
pedal steel guitar.
Not sure I've ever said that in a review !!!
rating: *** stars
I'm not sure who handled lead vocals on 'Pass
the Bottle', but whoever it was had the best voice in the band. This
country-tinged ballad was also the album's prettiest composition sounding
like very early Eagles.
The rollicking 'Just
One Quart' dropped the Dead sound in favor of something that could come out
of the Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen repertoire. Nice jazzy
guitar solo segment ... rating: *** stars
Opening with some great Hicks bass, 'Nobody on The Streets; was side one's standout performance. The album's most commercial and radio-ready song, this one had everything need to have been a hit - great melody, fantastic harmony vocals, and the album's tastiest fuzz and pedal steel guitar performances.
Cold Turkey' found the band returning to Dead-styled rock. On this one
the spotlight focused on Gummersal
and Ross twin lead guitars.
While this copy doesn't have the insert, I'm guessing 'Fallen Angel;' was dedicated to the late Gram Parsons. Pretty, heartfelt ballad.
3.) Tom Haley (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Doug Osburn - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 2:43 rating: *** stars
Even though it had a distinctive country twang, with a catchy melody and
some nice vocals, I have to admit to liking 'Tom
Haley' quite a bit.
rating: *** stars
Not the case for 'If I Had the Strength'
... a slow, drawn out ballad, the best thing on this one was the
bluesy lead guitar.
Ever imagined what the Dead would have sounded like had they hung out with The Allman Brothers? Well, 'Hell in the Hills' may be as close as you'll ever come to such a mashup ... Great lead guitar that would have made Duane Allman smile.
The band members apparently had a major falling out shortly after the album was released Gummersal and Hicks have both passed on.
In 2007 John Plummer's Radioactive label released the album in CD format (catalog number RRCD-130). Given it was a bootleg sounding like it had been recorded from a poor quality original LP and the band members never got a penny out of the reissue, I'd suggest you avoid buying a copy and look for an original instead.
Audio engineer Gary Faller worked on the album and was apparently close to the members. He has a small tribute site with band photos and links to several previously unheard live Timbercreek songs:
The fact of the matter is that in many cases there simply isn't a great deal of factual data to be found on some of the bands I write about. I do the best I can to gather what I think are credible information various sources such as people who were in the band, worked with the band, etc. Timbercreek's a great example. Their sole 1975 LP doesn't provide a great deal of information on the group and the few write-ups don't add much to the mix. That makes audio engineer Gary Faller's small website the most insightful reference out there.
So against that backdrop former band member Doug Osburn took me to task for inaccuracies in my write-up. Again, in my defense I wasn't trying to spread inaccuracies, rather my goal was to bring attention to a little known band that I thought was pretty good. In the interest of fairness, here are Doug's comments and thanks to him for providing some interesting input on the band. Note that I've also updated the write-up to address his comments.
I played pedal steel and guitar in this group and we couldn't give the albums away. FYI Bill Woody was never, not ever, a member of Timbercreek and it is a joke to me that he would 'impersonate' me when there is absolutely nothing to be gained. No collector has ever paid a dollar for this poorly recorded and badly mixed set of Grateful Dead wannabe music. Look at the original album artwork and read the credits: the pedal steel player is me, Doug Osburn, and I am in the photos on the cover. That is the last incarnation of the group and we broke up under very bad circumstances. There was no reincarnation of the group and Timbercreek did not 'continue to perform until 1976." Anyone who was there know the truth; unfortunately some have passed on and can't bear witness to my version , the true version, of Timbercreek and Hellbound Highway.
I would appreciate it if you and others reviewing Timbercreek's Hellbound Highway album would take a closer look at the album cover for the actual credits as to who performed on this recording. Bill Woody has been credited with the performances and this is not factual. He was never a member of this group. I still have a box of theses 33's in my family's storage, since the album did not sell at all and the group disbanded on bad terms a few months after the album's 'release', which consisted of friends and family of the group taking copies to as may retail locations as possible and placing them up for sale on consignment. It was a good learning experience and I value the memories I have of the musicians and the era, early 70's in central California. It was very special to me and it's more than annoying to have someone defile those memories with falsehoods. It is like having someone go through your family photo album and replacing family member's photos with those of total strangers. If you have the capability of editing the information on the Amazon review please make the corrections I requested. Those who were there know the Truth , and unfortunately some have passed on and can't confirm anything for you. thanks for listening.
Here's some additional material for your information, based on comments in your review;
Our live performances were much more creative than our studio effort. We played almost every weekend at a small saloon frequented by tourists, locals , and the occasional biker gang, on Stevens Creek Canyon road, very near its intersection with the county road that went uphill toward Big Basin and Boulder Creek/Ben Lomond. As I mentioned before Jon and I lived in the canyon.
The best vocalists in the group were Larry Ross, who sang "Pass the Bottle of Tequila", and Frank Gummersal, who sang "Just One Quart" among others. Larry handled the ballads and Frank handled the rockers.
Jon Hicks was the less expressive of the vocalists, as demonstrated by his lead vocal on "Tantra Queen".
I sang back up harmony on a lot of the tracks, I had a higher vocal range, and Carl did not sing, but stuck with pounding out 4/4 and 2/4 time from a drum kit that we had to keep nailed down to a wooden platform he carried with him.
Frank played a Standard Ivory Fender Strat and his is the fuzz tone, rock style on the tracks. I played an Epiphone Les Paul style black beauty and mine is the twangy , string bending style. My pedal steel was the first I owned, A Sho Bud Maverick with 3 floor pedals and no knee levers of any kind, very primitive as pedal steels go, but it was my first and it stayed in tune. It still sounds good today on "Pass the Bottle".
After I left Timbercreek I owned two more Sho Buds, a single neck 10 string "Crossover" model with 6 floor pedals and 2 knee levers , then a double neck Sho Bud Pro III , 20 strings, 8 floor pedals and 5 knee levers (one being vertical). It was stolen in 1992. I currently play a Telecestar with a B -bender hipshot installed.
Jon Hicks did in fact build his bass guitar and it was as near a copy as he could manage of the Alembic bass that Phil Lesh of the Dead played, including active electronics and a through-body neck. It was a beautiful piece of work and sounded amazing.
Ironically whenever the group was interviewed and the Grateful Dead comparisons were made, Jon was the first to claim he didn't know what the interviewer was talking about and we did not intentionally copy the Dead sound.
However it is his bass style that is the most derivative of music by the Dead and if you pay attention you can hear the Phil Lesh influence in the bass guitar tone and the busy scale structure Jon elected to use.
Hope you find the information to be of interest.
Best Regards, Doug Osburn March 2012
And then I got this email:
A jolt of nostalgia hit me and I went cruising on the web and typed in Timbercreek to see if it was there. Yup I found it! Your site is pretty interesting and I plan to take some time looking it over and will tell my friends who are into LPs about it.
The picture of the Timbercreek band was taken at the back of my house. Can you believe I rented that house for $40 a month in '72? It is in Steven's Canyon Cupertino. Jon Hicks lived there with me (and a stream of other people) for a number of years. I've got an old CD transfer with some of Timbercreek's other songs that didn't get on the album. They were a great dance band!
Anyway thanks for the stroll down memory lane.
Rachel December 2020
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