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James R. Stout

Stout & Schonfeld - February 6, 1975

            In November of 1972 a mutual friend introduced me to a fellow student at Spring Branch High School in Houston, Texas. His name is Lonny Schonfeld. At the time, I was 17 and Lonny was a month away from his 17th birthday. We found that we had many things in common. We both loved the music of The Beatles as well as the music from 1955-1968 (we also liked a lot of music from after 1968, but unlike many of our contemporaries we were not into the hard rock that had taken over), we both played guitar and sang, and we both had a sense of humor inspired by the antics of The Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night”. There were also some things that we were polar opposites on. Lonny had been born in Brooklyn, New York and spent the first 13 years of his life in New York. I am a native-born Texan and spent a significant part of my early life in a small Texas town and visiting my grandparents on their farm in East Texas. I don’t think I have to explain how different all of that could be. I was raised as a Christian and attended church regularly. Lonny was raised in a Jewish household and raised in the traditions of such. I believe that we had more conflict stemming from where we were raised than our religious upbringing.

            We also had one other major thing in common. There was a group of guys that we both knew who were in different bands. Most of the band members acted as if they were better than either Lonny or me. We were outcasts in a way. We weren’t good enough to be in their bands or so they lead us to believe. But suddenly we had a like-minded friend and confidant, and, in a way, we were ready to take on the world as a duet. Or so we thought. We initially tried to put together a band but finding a drummer always seemed beyond us. We knew some good drummers, but they were either already in bands or they had problems that we didn’t want to deal with. These mainly being drugs and unreliability. So, we opted to be a duet. We were inspired by Simon and Garfunkel, Loggins and Messina, Seals and Crofts, and even The Everly Brothers. We started to practice non-stop. We were a little rough at first, but by the spring of 1973 we had garnered a name and following at our school by performing in programs and coffeehouses. We paid $300 to go into a studio of a friend of my Dad’s and record two songs that we would have pressed as a single. This was in June of 1973. Of course, it was just the two of us on an old 4-track recorder and the single was never released to the world. Probably a good thing! But we did have 300 copies to sell at places that we played. But we were progressing at light speed and that single was soon deemed inferior to our burgeoning abilities. I still have a few copies of that record.

            In October of 1973 we were hired to play at a small bar near where we lived. Lonny wasn’t even old enough to legally be in the bar, but that didn’t stop us. We figured “Sam’s Club”, the bar, was like The Beatles time in the Hamburg, Germany clubs. We couldn’t have been more wrong. For one thing, we were never going to do drugs. The gig lasted 3 weeks and that was that. But it was good experience. We learned some about performing for a paying crowd instead of a group of kids at school. Our abilities were sharpened. This would continue.

            In January of 1974 we auditioned for and were hired to be the entertainment on Sunday and Monday nights at a nice restaurant and club. At the same time, we were contracted via a booking agent to play Friday and Saturday nights at a club right on the beach in Surfside, Texas. Playing these dates helped to sharpen us even more. In March of 1974 we were playing a two-week engagement at a Holiday Inn in downtown Houston when that booking agent we had known a few months before happened into the club. After listening to us perform a set we spoke to him briefly and his comment was, “Somebody’s been practicing”. Later that month via an old friend of my then brother-in-law’s who was a successful working singer and musician, we were introduced to his agent. His agent was the largest and most successful agent in South Texas. We were taken on and booked to perform at some private parties for the rich folk in River Oaks and were hired to be the entertainment at a restaurant called “Cellar Door”. Then I got a visit from that old friend of my brother-in-law’s. It seemed as though the agency wanted me, but not Lonny. I was shocked. It was, as Marty McFly used to say, “heavy”. I thought we sounded better than ever, but there was an element at the agency that didn’t want Lonny. It was my first experience with blatant prejudice, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time. Well, it couldn’t help but a rift between me and Lonny. In the end, I told the agent that we were a package deal. But the damage was done. Lonny was hurt and also suffered a loss of confidence. Frankly, it would have been better if they had just come out and said, “We don’t want him around because he’s a Jew.” It wouldn’t have been as hard to deal with for either of us.

            We decided to break-up the duet and performed one last time at school near the end of our senior year. We had gotten so much better and the kids actually gave us a standing ovation. Of course, this made us rethink breaking up the duet. But by June things were different. We were no longer being booked by that agent. Lonny’s parents had split-up and his mother and siblings moved to the Dallas area. Lonny decided to move up there too.

            But that’s not the “rest of the story”. Lonny had joined the Air Force in December of 1974 but was injured in boot camp and was Honorably Discharged. I was wanting to get back to playing after working “regular” jobs. In early January of 1975 Lonny came to live with me and my parents while we got the duet going again. We had learned a few things along the way, and we felt like we could get somewhere. We got down to a lot of practicing. Backing up a little, I had started writing songs when I was 14. By the time I met Lonny I had a strong desire to write songs. We wrote a few songs together, but for the most part one or the other of us would write a song and then we would call it a “Stout & Schonfeld” composition. This was inspired by the Lennon and McCartney way of doing things. Back in early 1974 I wrote a song called “Loneliness” when we were playing at that club down in Surfside. It became a “Stout & Schonfeld” song. Over the next couple of months, we would stay up late in my parent’s den and write songs together. Some of these included, “Baby With You”, “Your Heart Will Bleed”, “We’re All Through”, “Could It Be”, and “Life”.

            In the fall of 1974, I wrote a couple of songs that we would put into our repertoire when we got back together in January of 1975. These were, “It’s Been So Long” and “The Ax-Wax Museum”. Around February 1st, 1975 Lonny came to me and showed me a song that he had been writing. He had the music down, the first verse, and a great chorus with a hook, but had gotten stumped for the other verses. He asked me to write the lyrics for some other verses which I immediately did.

            On February 6, 1975 we decided to make some recordings on a borrowed tape recorder of our own songs. Nothing fancy, it was supposed to just be a means by which to put on tape the songs and mail a copy to ourselves for a poor man’s copyright. It was just a stereo deck and no overdubs, or such were done. We did the recording in my parent’s den using two cheap microphones, one placed for our vocals and the other for our guitars. It was just us live playing those songs. We didn’t even care if the performances were perfect. We just wanted the songs recorded for the copyright. That day we recorded the following songs one after the other, “She’s My Lady”, “Baby With You”, “Loneliness”, “Your Heart Will Bleed”, “It’s Been So Long”, “The Ax-Wax Museum”, “Could It Be”, “Life”, and “Alice”. It was just us and our acoustic guitars. There was a point at which we realized that we had failed to state the date of the recording. That’s when I said on tape that the songs were for a copyright and that the date was February 6th. I failed to mention 1975 and Lonny chimed in with that part.

            As much as I hate to admit it, I recorded over portions of that tape. Too cheap to buy new tape I suppose. But some of the songs survived and portions of a couple survived. I just went through all my old reel to reel tapes going back 47 years and I found that tape. I transferred the recordings to my computer and have only altered them by adjusting the eq and balance. Otherwise, the recordings are exactly what we did that day. I have included a collage of 4 of the songs recorded that day in a slideshow below. The pictures are all from around 1974-1975. “She’s My Lady” survived intact as did “Loneliness”. Portions of “Could It Be” and “Life” survived as well. Unfortunately, “It’s Been So Long”, “The Ax Wax Museum”, “Your Heart Will Bleed”, and “Alice” did not survive. A portion of “Baby With You” survived, but it is so cut up that I did not have anything to work with.

            Why have I done all this? Well, February 6th will be 45 years to the day since those two 19-year-old kids recorded some songs. Within two weeks events occurred that ended our duet for good. Lonny moved back to the Dallas area. But we remained close friends. We didn’t always get along and at times were like two real brothers arguing with each other and getting mad. But also, like brothers, we were family. We rejoiced in each other’s successes, got together and commiserated over our failures, and watched as we each had kids of our own born, raised, and now all adults in their mid to late 30’s. Lonny lost his wife in 2010 and I was there for support. I got divorced in 2003 and Lonny was there for support. Now we’re both 64 and by year’s end will be on Medicare. We’ve gone from two teenagers to two old men! Lonny is now a successful radio personality with a base of operation in the Dallas area. I’m retired but write and enjoy photography and music still. Life has indeed been a long and winding road, but that can be said for anyone. I’m glad for the experiences that Lonny and I shared. Not only those from when we were young, but those along the way. If you’re interested in hearing what two 19-year-old kids sounded like live 45 years ago, then take a little time and watch the slideshow. If not, then at least remember to cherish yesterday, live today, and dream of tomorrow.

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