Akira Otsuka’s 1978 photos of Southbound in the studio

Southbound at The Birchmere circa 1979 – photo © Akira Otsuka

Akira Otsuka, noted bluegrass mandolinist and photographer, has shared another of his archival photo galleries with us. This time we have his images taken in 1978 of Southbound recording at Track Recorders in Silver Spring, MD.

These two sessions (03/04/78 and 5/20/78) were to have led to the band’s second album, but they broke up before it could be released.

Southbound was a popular young bluegrass group on the rise in ’78, with two members, guitarist Jimmy Haley and banjo player Lou Reid, who became part of the original version of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in 1979. In fact, these sessions facilitated Lawson’s introduction to the group, and their abilities, when he co-produced this ill-fated project.

In addition to Reid and Haley, Southbound included Dennis Severt on mandolin and Doug Campbell on bass. The group had been active since 1973.

Akira shared a number of memories from this time.

When my Bluegrass 45 band from Japan toured the States in 1971, we met Lou Reid and Jimmy Haley. I believe they were 17 years old and they had an excellent band called Bluegrass Buddies in North Carolina. Lou really liked us (of course we liked him also), and he was hanging out in our bus all the time. He was like a big sponge absorbing everything and learning banjo, guitar, and mandolin, even though he was an upright bass player in Bluegrass Buddies.

When Southbound was recording their first album, every time somebody screwed up, the producer, Dick Freeland, would say, “If you don’t do it right, I’ll call Mike Auldridge and I know he would do it right!” – just to scare these young boys. Well, he actually called Mike without telling them, so you can imagine how surprised they were when they saw Mike walking in. Dick was teasing but after all, the band appreciated that Dick hired Mike to be on their album. Lou really liked the sound of reso-guitar, and he bought one and started practicing. A year later (I think) when they came back to record their second album, he had mastered enough to put down a reso-guitar track. An amazing musician.

A few years prior to that, recording engineer, Ronnie Freeland, and I went to see Jackson Browne at the Meriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. The opening act was the Section, four members of Jackson’s band. Their drummer, Russ Kunkel, made a very strange sound and Ronnie and I immediately stood up (we were way in the back) to find out what it was. Later we found out it was called Pollard Syndrum. The most popular song that features that Syndrum is Linda Ronstadt’s Poor Poor Pitiful Me – it is very distinctive. By the time Southbound came to record their second album, Ronnie had found out you could rent a Syndrum so we decided to put it on the Southbound album. 

One night I was in the studio when Doyle Lawson and Dick and Ronnie Freeland were wrapping up a Country Gentlemen mixing session. Dick asked, “Hey Ronnie, put that Southbound tape,” to seek Doyle’s opinion. Ronnie put the tape on and this listening session lead Doyle to producing the half of the album – Eddie Adcock produced the other half. Doyle said, “Obviously our approach to producing was a bit different. I thought it turned out to be a good record.”

One of the songs Doyle produced was an old Gospel song, Jordan. By this time the bass player, Doug Campbell, had been replaced by Jimmy Smith, and Rick Allred (mandolin), replaced Dennis Severt. I was not in the studio for this song but this is what Ronnie told me later on. Doyle showed Rick how the mandolin break should be. Doyle was a tenor singer with the Country Gentlemen, but on this version of Jordan, he sang baritone to Jimmy Haley’s lead vocal, Lou’s tenor, and Jimmy Smith’s wonderful bass vocal.

Doyle said, “When I decided to step away from the ‘Gents’ I remembered Jimmy Haley and his strong rhythm guitar, gave him a call, and the rest is history.” Rick Allred joined the Gentlemen to take Doyle’s place, and with Jimmy Haley and Lou Reid gone to Quicksilver, Southbound broke up and this second album was never released.

Maybe someday this cut of Jordan will see the light of the day since that is where Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver started.