Ever-Green Blues

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1968-69)

- Rick Barrio (aka Hank Barrio) -- guitar

- Tom Bray -- trumpet

- Manny Esparza -- vocals 

- Steve Lawrence (RIP 1992) -- keyboards 

- Sam Lombardo -- drums, percussion

- Steve McSweyn -- bass

- Ken Walther (RIP 1999) -- trombone





- The Bluenotes (Tommy Bray and Steve Lawrence)

- (Crazy Horse (Tom Bray)

- The East L.A. Horns (Steve Lawrence and Ken Walther)

- Elijah (Rick Barrio, Tom Bray, Manny Esparza, Steve Lawrence,

  Sam Lombardo, Steve McSweyn, and Ken Walther)





Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  7 Do 11

Company: Mercury

Catalog: SR-61157

Year: 1968

Country/State: L.A., California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink; opened

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4296

Price: $40.00

Cost: $66.00


I became aware of this outfit when someone in an online chat group handed me my head of a cyber-platter for making a mistake in saying that my favorite Grass Roots song was 'Midnight Confessions'.'  This person wasted no effort in making it clear that the Grass Roots were nothing more than a bunch of hacks and The Ever-Green Blues Band had actually recorded 'Midnight Confessions' nearly a year before John Sebastian and company.


Needless to say, this 'discussion' got my curiosity up and I happened to stumble across a copy of their debut album at a yard sale (still looking for the sophomore album "Comin' On"). 


So here's what little bibliographic information I've found on the band - most of it lifted from the brief liner notes on their debut LP.  The group was originally formed in 1963.  Apparently from Southern California,  they started out as a trio (though the liner notes don't tell you who the founding members were), and slowly expanded ultimately becoming as seven piece outfit consisting of  guitarist Rick Barrio, trumpet player Tom Bray, singer Manny Esparza, keyboard player Steve Lawrence, drummer Sam Lombardo, bassist Steve McSweyn and trombone player Ken Walther.  


They were discovered by manager/songwriter Lou T. Josie and after cutting their teeth playing Southern California clubs, signed by Mercury.   Their 1968 debut "7 Do 11" was recorded in Los Angeles with Bob King producing.  Musically the set was quite good.  Largely written by Josie, material such as 'I Don't Want To Lose You and 'Because I Love' displayed a mixture of blue-eyed soul and more pop-oriented moves.  It's all quite commercial and if a little short in original, quite attractive to my ears  quite.  As lead singer Esparza injected considerable energy into the proceedings and the band had the common sense to keep the horn arrangements largely in the background.  Personal favorites include the rocking lead off track 'Yesterday's Coming', the Young Rascals-styled 'I Don't Want To Lose You' and their enthusiastic cover of the Spencer Davis Group's 'Gimme Some Loving'.  Sadly, while their original version of 'Midnight Confessions;' was  more energetic and likeable than The Grass Roots cover, it did little on the charts.  'Laura (Keep Hanging On)' proved an equally unsuccessful follow-on 45.  The one group original 'Fun On the Train Part 1' sounded like something off of an Earl and Doug McKenzie comedy album.


"7 Do 11" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Yesterday's Coming   (Lou T. Josie) - 2:30   rating: **** stars

Opening up with an unexpected psych feel, 'Yesterday's Coming' quickly shifted gears, picking up speed, introducing Manny Esparza 's awesome voice, revealing itself as a tight, horn-backed slice of blue-eyed soul.  The song was subsequently tapped as the 'B' side to their 'Laura (Keep Hanging On)' single.  Shame, since it was actually better than the 'A' side.

2.) I Don't Want To Lose You   (Carl Davis - Karl Tarleton) - 2:18   rating: *** stars

Most folks will know this tune from The Bell Boys' original, or Jackie Wilson's cover. That raises the question where's this one fit in the hierarchy?  Well, it's certainly better than the stark, too fast Bell Boys' version, if a shade less impressive as the Jackie Wilson cover.  Still, a nice performance and would have made a nice single.

3.) T-O-N-I   (Lou T. Josie) - 2:36

4.) Song for a City  (Lou T. Josie) - 3:15

5.) Love Is a Hurtin' Thing   (B. Raleigh - D. Linden) - 2:18


(side 2)

1.) Midnight Confessions  (Lou T. Josie) - 2:44   rating: **** stars

As mentioned early, I was always under the impression this was a Grass Roots tune.  Turns out they did the cover about a year after Ever-Green Blues recorded it and released it as a single.  The funny thing is Grass Roots producer Steve Barri lifted the arrangement lock, stock and barrel.  Rob Grill's vocal is virtually identical to Manny Esparza's vocal.  And yet The Grass Roots had the mega-seller ...  What I find funny is the arguments this one is better; that one is superior.  I'm betting that if you played the two versions back to back, 90% of casual listeners wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  Regardless which version is better, you have to admit that Josie wrote a killer song.

- 1968's 'Midnight Confessions' b/w '(Yes) That's My Baby' (Mercury catalog number 72756) was tapped 

as a single

2.) (Yes) That's My Baby  (Lou T. Josie) - 2:29   rating: **** stars

On the heals of the album's most commercial tune, '(Yes) That's My Baby' returned with an awesome soul-drenched ballad.  One of Esparza's best performances, to my ears, this one should have been tapped as a single.

3.) Gimme Some Loving   (Stevie Winwood - Muff Winwood - Spencer Davis) - 3:57   rating: *** stars

I can understand why the band would record this Spencer David Group classic - the groove fits in with the repertoire and if they were a little short of material. why not?   The problem is they were never going to improve on the original.  And they didn't.  Bet it sounded great in their live shows.

4.) Fun On the Train Part 1  (Ever-Green Blues Band) - 2:07

5.) Because I Love  (Lou T. Josie) - 2:47

6.) Laura (Keep Hangin' On)   (G. Buckley - Lou T. Josie) - 2:43

An atypical, lysergic-tinged ballad, 'Laura (Keep Hangin' On)' sounded out of place on the album.  The song wasn't half bad, with Esparza initially sounding a bit like the late Marty Balin.  Admittedly the refrain was contagious, but it made for an odd choice as the album's lead-off single.




-1968's 'Laura (Keep Hanging On)' b/w 'Yesteday's Coming' (Mercury catalog number 72780) 








As mentioned earlier, I've never seen, or heard it, but there's also a sophomore album  - 1969's "Comin' On" (ABC catalog number ABCS-669)  and a couple of related singles.









I get a lot of email related to my brief write-ups and some of them provide way more insight than I'm capable of mustering.  Here's a great example:




Very nice piece of trivia on this group. I knew this band and Lou Josie, I always wanted to see them get some recognition for the work they did. They were an amazing live act.
Here's what I know. I was a regular at dance club in Glendale, California known as the "Odd House", and odd it was. It was located in between a chrome plating plant and some other equally industrial building on San Fernando Road in the heart of what (I'm sure during the day) was a real blue collar scene. At night this little spot turned into one of the best kept secrets of it's day. The Odd House, like many clubs around the San Fernando Valley, had their weekly dance contest, and a great line-up of kick-ass bands and plenty of semi-serious dancers. The place was filled to capacity most nights with a combination of pool players, musicians, dancers, and a lot of just plain nice folks drawn together by a line-up of tops acts, including; Ike and Tina Turner,  Marvin & Johnny (Cherry Pie), and a lot of other top groups and local bands. Oh, by the way we're talking circa 1968-69.
Anyway the Evergreen Blues Band show up one night and rocked the house. My girlfriend (Doris Pascal, a leggy dancer you couldn't keep your eyes off) and I were dancing, we were pretty good too, I had one of the only moonwalks back in the 60's, a few of us (not many) learned to do it down in Hollywood at the Haunted House from a guy named Dick Jensen and his band, The Imports (from Honolulu). Lou Josie and his wife came over and introduced themselves and we got to be friends. They were looking for dancers to go on the road to sort of enhance the Evergreen experience....very informal but we did go to Portland with them...the occasion of my very first plane flight....and a few other little gigs.
The band was pretty young, maybe a couple years my junior, and Lou was older by a few years. He was a song writer and managed the band, booked gigs, gave them songs, etc. He no doubt got them in the studio with his connections. Lou invited me to his Tujunga Canyon house a few times when the band was there and once to record drums on some of his stuff. He had a studio in his house and I was a fledgling drummer. He gave me $25 for the day....my first paying gig!!
Evergreen used to play Midnight Confessions in their live show, it was a favorite of the groups' followers, and it rocked!! That period came and went pretty fast, I saw them a few more times at some local clubs down on Ventura Blvd., they were using the name "Love Muscle" then, I visited their practice house a couple of times in Pasadena or somewhere around that area, and then we went our separate ways.
When I heard Midnight Confessions on the radio I thought to myself cool, Evergreen Blues Band is on their way. I was shocked when they announced it was a new single by Grass Roots. Anyway it's one of those things that kinda sticks with you over the years, I think about them once in awhile and wonder what ever happened to Lou Josie. I guess probably the same thing that happened to my band, a great band with original music, one-shot killer studio sessions, amazing top-40 live players, the whole nine yards. Probably went the way of a lot of really good players....present company included....just faded away into everyday life. Not because they're not great....they just weren't in the right place at the right time....I know the feeling. You probably have roughly the same chance (statistically) to be bitten by a shark and win the lottery on the same day as making it big in the record business. And when you're fate is beating your brains out six days a week playing top-40 or traveling with six guys in a van doing Black Angus gigs, you burn out pretty fast.
Me, I worked on Wall Street for 32 years after the band. I never stopped playing the drums and I still get the occasional band together when the opportunity presents itself.
Anyway....cheers....just thought I'd chime in on Evergreen Blues Band and Lou Josie....maybe you will print this somewhere....maybe they will see this and know someone they likely will not even remember, remembers them.

Ron Burkhardt August 2011