Band members                             Related acts

   line up 1 (1968-69)

- John Hall -- vocals, bass, guitar, pedal steel guitar, keyboards
- Barbara Keith -- vocals
- Norman D. Smart II -- drums, percussion, vocals, backing vocals
- Teddy Spelies (aka Ted Speleos) -- lead guitar, vocals, 

  backing vocals 


- Bo Grumpus (N.D Smart)

- The British Walkers (John Hall)
- Barbara Keith (solo efforts)
- Great Speckled Bird (N.D Smart II)
- John Hall Band (solo efforts)

- Hello People (N.D Smart II)

- Holy Moses (Teddy Spelies)

- Hungry Chuck (N.D Smart II)

- Mountain (N.D Smart II)
- Orleans (John Hall)

- Gram Parsons and Fallen Angel (N.D Smart II)
- The Remains (N.D. Smart II)

- The Stone Coyotes (Barbara Keith)





Genre: folk-rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Kangaroo

Company: MGM

Catalog: SE 4586

Year: 1968

Country/State: Boston, Massachusetts

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $40.00


I guess you can categorizer Kangeroo as part of Alan Lorber's ill-fated attempt to market The Bosstown sound.  Like many Bosstown acts some of the members had roots in the Boston area. They also shared having been signed by MGM Records.  Like most of their Bosstown compatriots, Kangeroo's recording career was short-lived and didn't do much in terms of sales. Their recording catalog reflects one 1968 album and a series of three instantly obscure singles.  One difference -  Kangaroo was too talented to be completely ignored.  While the album didn't initially rock my world, over the years it's steadily grown on me. 


Kangeroo's roots trace back to 1966 when Dayton-born drummer Norman D. Smart II headed for New York City where he found a job playing with The Remains who scored a spot opening for The Beatles on their 1966 US tour.   Following the tour Smart quit the band, heading back to Ohio.  Early 1967 found him living in Boston where he was a member of The Bait Shop.  Relocating to New York City, the band found a mentor in Smart's friend Felix Pappalardi.  Changing their name to Bo Gumpus, the band started playing city clubs, while recording some demos for Pappalardi.  A performance at the famed Cafe Wha? introduced Smart to the Washington DC-based band Kangeroo - then featuring singer/bassist John Hall and former The British Walkers lead guitarist Teddy Speloes.  The debut album liner notes erroneous listed his name as Spelies.

Released by MGM, 1968's "Kangaroo" teamed the quartet with producers Bobby Wyld and Art Polhemus. Musically the set largely focused on the multi-talented Hall. In
addition to writing most of the material, Hall handled the majority of lead vocals, provided bass and an arsenal of other instruments.  Smart contributed  two tracks to the album, including the bizarre 'Frog Giggin'' and the country-tinged 'Tweed's Chicken Inn'.  Keith and Speloes were each represented by one song on the set.  Keith's psych-tinged 'Daydream Stallion' and Speloes' garage rocker 'Happy Man' provided two of the album's highlights.  While Hall had an okay voice, Keith was the far better singer; her dreamy 'Daydream Stallion' and 'The Only Thing I Had' providing two of the set's highpoints. Curiously a number of reference works and reviews classify the album as a country-rock effort.  Outside of Smart's two songs and the closer 'Maybe Tomorrow'  I don't really hear it.  Instead I hear a heavy folk-rock influence.  Powered by Speloes take-no-prisoners guitar (producers Wyld and Polhemus should have occasionally turned it down in the mix), 'Such a Long, Long Time', 'Make Some Room In Your Life' and 'I Never Tell Me Twice' offered up a sound reflecting a mixture of The Mamas and the Papas pop and lite-psych.  Elsewhere the debut was heavy on diversity.  Speloes 'Happy Man' introduced a garage-rock edge to the album.  With Keith on lead vocals, the ballad 'The Only Thing I Had' reflected a West Coast psych feel - think It's a Beautiful Day.'  It wasn't a masterpiece, but there was clearly a lot of talent here with Keith being the overlooked star.  It makes you wonder what they could have done on a second LP.  Elsewhere, pulling a page out of the Moby Grape marketing catalog, MGM simultaneously released three singles from the album:  While the singles were as good as anything else then on the airwaves, none charted. MGM seemingly gave up on the band and the LP vanished without a trace; the band subsequently calling it quits. 


"Kangaroo" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Such a Long, Long Time (John Hall) - 2:13 rating: **** stars

Showcasing John Hall and Barbara Keith's sweet harmonies, the bouncy 'Such a Long, Long Time' didn't sound all that different from a prime slice of Mama and the Papas folk-tinged pop.  That said, the big difference came in the form of Teddy Spelies' squealing lead guitar which added a tasty folk-rock ingredient to the mix.  Would love to know what he did to get the cool guitar effect.
2.) You're Trying To Be a Woman (John Hall) - 2:15
rating: *** stars

The combination of  Spelies' blistering lead guitar and John Hall's melodic bass served to kick 'You're Trying To Be a Woman' beyond conventional folk-rock into harder rock territory.  Nice example of Hall and Keith's strong harmonies.
3.) Daydream Stallion (Barbara Keith) - 3:53
rating: **** stars
Keith's only composition, 'Daydream Stallion' was also the album's standout performance.  Once you got through Spelies' tasty 12 string opening the song found the band diving headlong into West Coast psych.  Keith's evocative voice finally got a chance to show of it's power while the band's harmonies were drop-dead gorgeous.  She's always reminded me a touch of the late Sandy Denny.  Also early Grace Slick and company weren't a bad basis for comparison.  Always wondered why the album didn;t include more of her material.   Credited to Barbara Keith with Kangaroo it was one of the three singles MGM released simultaneously.






- 1968's 'Daydream Stallion' b/w 'The Only Thing I Had' (MGM catalog number K-13961) 







4.) Make Some Room In Your Life (John Hall) - 2:42 rating: **** stars

If the previous song opened the door to West Coast psych influences, 'Make Some Room In Your Life' found the band crashing through the door.  Spelies' fuzz powered guitar moves were awesome and Hall'sthundering  bass proved equally impressive.  This is the song MGM should have pushed as a single.
5.) Frog Giggin' (Norman Smart) - 3:15
rating: ** stars

Geez, talk about bizarre - Smart's spoken word introduction was enough to make you wonder what was going on ...  "Frog Giggin' is where you kill frogs and have sex at the same time ..."  Not sure any parent would have wanted their daughter to hang out with Smart.  The old timey, country flavor reminded me a bit of Lovin' Spoonful-styled jug band moves, but didn't do much for me and the song's cutesy factor was quickly lost on me.  




Gawd only know why, but credited to N.D, Smart II with Kangaroo, the song was tapped as one of the band's three promotional singles:


- 1968's 'Frog Giggin'' b/w 'Maybe Tomorrow' (MGM catalog number K-13962) 





6.) You Can't Do This To Me (John Hall) - 3:45 rating: *** stars

Speleos' fuzz guitar was the star of the rocker 'You Can't Do This To Me'.  Unfortunately the song suffered from a forgettable melody and a crappy mix.

(side 2)

1.) If You Got Some Love In Mind (John Hall) - 2:40 rating: *** stars

With faux-British accents, 'If You Got Some Love In Mind' has always struck me as one of the album's odder numbers.  Imagine John Lennon backed by The Mamas and the Papas.  And even though I'm a big Speleos fan, telling him to go hog wild on lead guitar probably wasn't necessary on this tune.
2.) I Never Tell Me Twice (John Hall) - 2:28
rating: **** stars

I've always loved Speloes acoustic guitar opening with it's Jan Akkerman / Mason Williams vibe.  The addition of Keith's scatting vocals and xylophone gave the tune an unexpected jazzy vibe.  And just as I was thinking this is different and kind of cool, a minute and a half in the song dived into a more conventional rock direction.  Interesting lyrics and one of the album's stronger melodies.






- 1968's 'Such a Long Time' b/w 'I Never Tell Me Twice' (MGM catalog number K-13960)







3.) Tweed's Chicken Inn (Norman Smart) - 2:45 rating: ** stars

Smart's second composition (he also handled the lead vocals), 'Tweed's Chicken Inn' offered up a country-blues number.  Yeah, it again reached for a cutesy factor that I find so cloying.
4.) Happy Man (Teddy Spelies) - 3:10
rating: **** stars

Another album highlight, with a Beatles vibe, the Speleos rocker 'Happy Man' sounded like it was influenced by his Northern Virginia roots with the bands Us and The British Walkers (he replaced the late Roy Buchanan in the latter).  Judging by this one it was unfortunate Speleos wasn't given more space on the album.
5.) The Only Thing I Had (John Hall) - 3:30
rating: **** stars

The dreamy ballad 'The Only Thing I Had' was the second Keith spotlight.  While she didn't write it, losing some of the vibrato in her normal delivery, her performance was even better than 'Daydream Stallion'.  The combination of Speleos guitar, xylophone and violin reminded me of something It's a Beautiful Day might have recorded.  Beautiful.  
6.) Maybe Tomorrow (John Hall) - 2:10
rating: * stars

Country hoedown ...  a disappointing way to end the album.




Vocalist Keith recording a pair of little heard early-'70s solo albums:


- 1970's "Barbara Keith" (Verve Forecast catalog number FTS-3084)

- 1973's "Barbara Keith" (Reprise catalog number MS-2087)


Starting in the late 1980s she went on to record ax estensive string of Americana albums with husband Doug Tibbles and son John Tibbles under the name The Stone Coyotes.  



Smart worked with a host of bands including The Remains, Great Speckled Bird and an early Mountain line-up.


Bassist Hall enjoyed brief mid-1970s success with Orleans, followed by an anonymous solo career and a stint in the Congress.  


Speleos formed the band Holy Moses !! which recorded a 1971 album for RCA Victor ("Holy Moses !!" RCA catalog number LSP 4523.


And then his life becomes somewhat mysterious.  He apparently returned to Northern Virginia, but the pressures of rock and roll apparently took their toll and Speleos retreated from the spotlight spending some time living in a monastery.  He also started a family and has at least one son.  Interestingly, though he doesn't appear to be a participant, there's a Facebook page dedicated to him at: (2) Facebook