The Blue Kats

The Blue Kats

Profile:
Late, 1956: The Blue Kats come together consisting of students from Robbinsdale High School. The original lineup is: Bob Ruth on piano; Bob Elster on alto and tenor saxophone; Doug (“Buzz”) Fredin on baritone and tenor saxophone; Gary Hand on string bass; and George Seibert on drums. The band plays all instrumental songs.

Fall, 1957: Judd Sheridan, from North High School, joins the band. The new lineup is: Judd Sheridan on guitar and lead vocals; Bob Ruth on piano; Bob Elster on alto and tenor saxophone; Doug Fredin on baritone and tenor saxophone; Gary Hand on string bass; and George Seibert on drums. Judd Sheridan is a senior in high school, the other band members are all juniors.

The band plays for private parties, high school dances (including a senior party at Robbinsdale High) and at the Pizza Parlour in St. Louis Park near Highway 100 and Excelsior Boulevard.

The band plays at the Crystal Coliseum, one of the very first venues in the twin cities to feature live rock’n’roll bands.

Early, 1958: The band records two songs with David Hersk in his home recording studio in North Minneapolis: “Oh Yeah” (written by Bob Elster) and “Be Bop A Lu La” (Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps).

A 45 of the two songs is released on David Hersk’s Gaity Records, the first “official” release on the small independent label. Prior to the Blue Kats, David would make acetate copies of recordings, one at a time. The songs are mastered at Kay Bay Studio in Minneapolis and pressed at the Kay Bank plant on blue vinyl. The record labels are gray with black lettering. Side A is listed as KB 674 and the flipside is labeled KB 674 B.

On the A-Side (“Oh Yeah”) are: Bob Elster on lead vocals and alto saxophone; Doug Fredin on baritone saxophone; Judd Sheridan on guitar and backing vocals; Bob Ruth on piano and backing vocals; Gary Hand on string bass; and George Seibert on drums.

On the B-Side (“Be Bop A Lu La”) are: Judd Sheridan on lead vocals and guitar; Bob Ruth on piano; Bob Elster on alto saxophone; Doug Fredin on baritone saxophone; Gary Hand on string bass; and George Seibert on drums.

A few months after the Gaity 45 is released, the band has a change in band members and switch band names from The Blue Kats to The Sonics. The lineup is: Judd Sheridan on guitar and lead vocals; Bob Ruth on piano; Bob Elster on alto saxophone; Doug Fredin on baritone saxophone; and Forrest (“Punky”) Cole on drums.

Spring, 1958: The Sonics return to the basement studio run by David Hersk to record another 45 for Gaity Records. Both songs are originals, written by Bob Ruth and Judd Sheridan. On the A-Side (“Marlene”) are: Judd Sheridan on guitar and vocals; Bob Ruth on piano; Bob Elster on alto saxophone; Doug Fredin on baritone saxophone; and Forrest Cole on drums. On the B-Side (“Minus One Blast Off”) are: Judd Sheridan on guitar and vocals; Ruth on piano; Bob Elster on alto saxophone; Doug Fredin on baritone saxophone; and Forrest Cole on drums.

David Hersk has the record mastered and pressed on polystyrene at Shelly Products in Huntington Station, New York. Gaity 113/114 has a maroon record label with silver printing. This is the third 45 released on Gaity (The Glenrays were number two).

The band plays for a commencement party (North High School Senior Class) at the Drake Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

August / Early September, 1958: David Hersk makes a connection with Aladdin Records located in California. Aladdin takes an interest in The Sonic’s 45 and sends a producer to Minneapolis to oversee a re-recording of “Marlene” (and possibly “Minus One Blast Off” or another song), this time at Kay Bank Recording. Jim Bender, a rhythm guitar player from St. Louis Park High (class of 1959) joins the band for the recording session. The producer (name unknown) takes the finished tape back to California, however Aladdin Records never releases the recording. Aladdin Records is eventually bought out by another record company.

David Hersk gets a copy of the 45 to Dan Daniel, a DJ at WDGY radio and he plays “Marlene” from the downtown Minneapolis studio location of WDGY.

Fall, 1958: Judd Sheridan enters his first year of college at Hamline University in St. Paul. The Sonics play for a Freshmen Variety Show on the campus and a photograph of the band playing at the event is included in the Hamline University yearbook. The photo shows only part of the band, from left to right: Bob Elster on Alto Sax; Forrest Cole on drums; Judd Sheridan on guitar and Jim Bender on rhythm guitar. Bob Ruth (on piano) and Doug Fredin (baritone sax) are both playing with the band but are outside of the picture frame.

The band plays at fraternity parties on the University of Minnesota campus.

Summer, 1959: The band has a name change to Cole and the Embers. Jerry Cole, younger brother of Forrest (“Punky”) Cole, fills in on jobs when Forrest is not available. On a number of occasions, the band performs with both Jerry and Forrest drumming on two separate drum kits.

Fall, 1959: Judd Sheridan leaves the group and the other band members carry on.

Early, 1960: Cole and the Embers come to an end.



Update:

Starting in the 1990’s the songs from the two 45’s (Blue Kats and Sonics) have been included on numerous bootleg albums from the United States and from Europe and both of the 45’s have been reproduced and sell on the internet. It is very easy to spot the reproductions on the internet due to the large difference in prices compared to the original 45 records.

In April, 2013, Bob Elster reported that he wrote the words to “Oh Yeah” by The Blue Kats and Bob Ruth wrote the music but was not credited on the record.

In April, 2013, the band members reported that there is no tape or acetate from the recording session for Aladdin Records that took place at Kay Bank Recording in 1958.

In April, 2013, Judd Sheridan reported he had discovered the following recordings of “Marlene” and “Minus One Blast Off” by other artists on the internet:

Kim Lenz and the Jaguars: “Minus One - Blast Off” was included on an album recorded in 1997 called “Shake A Leg.” The group is from Austin, Texas.

The 4 Slicks: ”Minus One – Blast Off” was an included on a self titled album in 2012. The group is from France.

The Ryans: The band is from Sweden and are shown on an internet video performing “Marlene” live at a club in 2011.

Jaanika Pelvar (Rockin’ Lady and her River Town Boys) are shown on an internet video performing “Minus One – Blast Off.” The group is from Estonia.
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Artist

The Blue Kats Discography

Singles & EPs

KB 674 The Blue Kats Oh Yeah / Be Bop A Lu La(7", Blu) Gaity KB 674 US 1958 Sell This Version

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