A Havre native got a special surprise last week when a man brought him something he had been wanting to hear for some time — the original recording of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll song “Hippy Hippy Shake. ”
Dave Martens said the man who had originally recorded Chan Romero’s demo of the song in Billings — five years before it was covered by The Beatles — was in Missoula, gave him a call and brought over a digital copy of the recording for a listen.
“So I was able to hear it for the first time, ” Martens said.
Researching and compiling
The surprise visit last week was a high point in a lengthy project Martens has been working on.
In his spare time while working on his master’s degree in speech pathology at The University of Montana, Martens has been finding recordings and memorabilia of Montana musicans, focusing now on garage-band style musicians from decades ago.
The project is to collect “recordings, photos, posters, and other documents for an all Montana Garage rock compilation circa 1958-197?, to begin with, ” says his Facebook page, “Long Time Comin’ — Lost sounds from the Treasure State.. ”
Martens, who got his first radio experience volunteering at KNMC at Montana State University-Northern in Havre, said he decided to start the project after he began working at the UM radio station, KBGA. The station had a compilation of recordings from Missoula and around the state, but the set only covered bands from the 1990s on.
“I had known about some recordings that were out there, and I just thought it would be fun to take it a little further and see what was out there, as far as recordings, ” Martens said.
He started working with another KBGA disc jockey who collects old 7-inch 45 revolutions-per-minute records — 45s — and decided to expand his work, Martens said.
“I just kind of decided (we could try) to do a compilation of whatever we found, and that kind of started the process, ” he said. “None of this stuff is documented, for the most part. Unless you were from that era there is no way you would know about it.
“I really like hipstering, all that kind of stuff, ” Martens added. “I like to know where things come from. ”
Phone calls, detective work
Martens said the process, so far, has mostly comprised phone call after phone call after phone call. He has been contacting people who performed in or watched Montana bands in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, “picking their brains. ”
“If it weren’t for the musicians still being around, I wouldn’t have anybody to talk to about it, ” he said. “This project was totally driven by the musicians who were in the bands. ”
As his project gains in publicity, he has started getting more and more information, with people calling him and sending him emails, rather than his having to make all the contacts.
Martens said, although working on the project as his graduate work moves forward is difficult, he welcomes any information people can give him.
“I’m not going to know it exists unless … people kind of come forward with those recordings …, ” he said. “It’s really a needle-in-a-haystack kind of thing. ”
His Facebook page shows some of what he has found so far, and lets people check up on the progress.
It shows entry after entry, with decades-old photographs of bands and musicians, old posters and advertisements, images of old 45s recorded in Montana, and a list of clippings including newspaper articles ranging from a story about a hit concert by the rap-metal band Beastie Boys in Missoula in August 1987 to a Havre Daily News article in 1957 about Elvis Presley stopping in town while riding the Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder to Spokane, Wash.
Finding a Hi-Line connection
Martens said an interesting part of the project for him is finding connections to his roots. Some of his recordings have come from the Hi-Line, including a 45 recorded by Jeri or Jerry Denny of Rocky Boy — he said he is not sure where her recording fits into his plan of splitting the project into genres, “but it’s a pretty cool 45” — and a record recorded by Bear Paw Mountains musician Jim Faber.
But another connection is Hi-Line natives recording in another part of the state. Martens said his research has included finding Havre and Hi-Line connections in bands including with musicians Julius Preite, Kirt Miller, Lyle Dille and Rick Richter.
“It’s fun to find a Havre connection …, ” he said. “It’s fun to see how many bands are out there (where) there was quite a Hi-Line contingent of musicians who were quite successful. ”
The recordings he is finding, both reel-to-reel recordings and 45s, is a mix of original songs and covers of songs by other bands.
Although he said hearing the “Hippy Hippy Shake” recording probably has been the highlight of his research, he said picking favorite songs or discoveries is difficult.
“It’s hard to pick, because I kind of like it all, ” Martens said.
He said one he especially likes, however, is a 45 recorded by a Great Falls band, Missing Links, Martens said was recorded in 1967 while the artists were in high school — it was featured on American Bandstand.
Continuing to compile a history of Montana music
Martens said the garage-band-rock compilation is just the first part of the project. He would like, eventually, to do the same with different genres — he said he is finding many, many country recordings while researching the rock side — and from different eras.
With the current phase, he said, he eventually wants to take the best quality recordings he finds and make a high-quality recording of the compilation.
He said he is in contact with the Billings man who recorded the “Hippy Hippy Shake” demo as well as Romero himself about including that on the compilation.
Romero, who became a top recording star with Del-Fi Records starting with the 1959 release of “Hippy, Hippy Shake, ” has been very helpful, Martens said, and he is hopeful that demo can be included.
“That will be a feather in the cap for all the musicians on the compilation, ” he said.