The State Of Mind

From:  Wilmington, Delaware

The original band was formed in 1965 by Paul Murtagh (rhythm guitar, keyboards and vocals), Jim Booth (lead guitar and vocals), Bill Smallbrook (drums) and Al Borgnis (bass guitar). All of them were sophomores at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware. During that first year of their existence, they played only a few venues including the 1965 Talent show at Wm. Penn and a couple of dances.

In 1966, they replaced Al Borgnis with Bill Sayers on bass and Bill became the new lead singer as well. Al continued to support the group as a sort of manager, equipment support, etc for several years and remained always a good friend to the group. With the addition of Sayers, the band’s sound began to mature and we began to write their own songs. They also started playing other venues, school functions, local dances, Battle of the Bands, etc.

In the summer of 1966, the groups then business manager, Jim Booth’s mother, placed a call to a local Wilmington record company, Chavis Records and its president, James Chavis, agreed to audition the band based on a poor quality tape submitted to him. He called a few days later and asked if he could hear the band live so he was invited to one of their practices, held in the drummer’s basement. Chavis was impressed and several weeks later the State of Mind signed a contract to record 6 record sides over a 2 year period.

The band recorded its first single at Virtue Studios on Broad Street in Philadelphia. The A side, “Move”, was credited as written by Jim Booth but it was truly a group effort with everyone contributing something to the song. The flip side, “If He Comes Back”, was written by Paul Murtagh – his homage to the Byrds. The band’s key musical influences at the time were the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and other “British Invasion” groups. The Kinks and Beatles influence is very obvious on “Move”.

The first week following the record’s release in Wilmington, the main local rock station, WAMS, picked “Move” as the “WAMS Wax to Watch”. Over the next 10 weeks, the record slowly climbed the WAMS Top 40 charts topping out at number 10. In addition to WAMS, the record also got play on WIBG and WFIL in Philadelphia.

The success of the first record opened up numerous opportunities for the group. In addition to the WAMS promotional concerts held weekly at local Wilmington area fire halls (Elsmere, Prices Corner, Minquidale, etc.), the band also played larger venue concerts, one in particular where a number of national acts also played, Bunny Sigler, Tim Rose and others. This was also the era of large dance venues such as the weekly affair at the Wilmington Manor Lion’s Club where literally hundreds of kids attended – these venues also helped to get the band’s name around. In June of 1967, the band was the featured opening act at the new Brown Derby Night Club in Chadd’s Ford, PA, along with the Five Penny’s, a well-known local R&B group.

In the fall of 1967, the State of Mind returned to Virtue Studios to cut their second record. Both the A and B sides of this record were written by Jim Booth. For this record, the band added some more complex harmonies and a piano part, played by Murtagh. The band was very excited about the A side of this record, “Make You Cry”, feeling that, musically, it was superior to “Move” and should prove to be an even bigger seller. Even the B side, “Goin’ Away”, was a strong piece. Unfortunately, the band was destined not to see the success they hoped for on the release of this second record. WAMS continued to provide very strong support to the band and invited them to premiere the new song at the next concert at the Elsmere Fire Hall.

One of the band’s on-going struggles internally was how each member perceived their individual futures and the future of the group. Three of the four members planned to attend college upon graduation but Sayers was committed to remaining a professional musician and was concerned about his future once the band members graduated from Wm. Penn. About a week before the Elsmere concert, Sayers announce to the group that he was leaving to join the Phabulous Pharaohs, another local band on the rise. Without the band’s lead singer and bass player, a shuffling of personnel took place and another local musician Bob McCall was invited to join the band for the Elsmere gig. Unfortunately, the band was unable to reproduce the sound of their second record live for the concert so had to lip-synch the record. Following this concert, the band essentially broke up and, unable to play additional promotional events, record sales were not strong and so the second record did not get the attention that the band thought it should have gotten.

In 1968, Murtagh, Booth, Smallbrook and Borgnis all enrolled at the University of Delaware and, although they remained friends, the group never got together again. Other than Sayers, who, as of a number of years later, was still performing, the remaining members of the band went on to careers outside the music industry. Sadly, Jim Booth passed away several years ago – a huge talent, gone way too soon.

Paul R. Murtagh, October 2011

~ Garagehangover.com

An Interview With Paul Murtagh
March 2012

60sgarsgebands.com (60s): What inspired The State Of Mind to form in 1965?
Paul Murtagh (PM): 1965 was the height of the British Invasion with The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, etc.—all with major hit records. It was hard NOT to get excited about the new rock and roll. When I started learning guitar, I thought it was to impress girls but I found out soon that I just loved making music. I kept hearing about other garage bands in the area and after learning to play a few songs with Jim Booth, we were ready to look for a drummer and bass and see what fortune would bring.

I met Jim Booth who was, at the time, the only person I knew who played guitar. We were both in the William Penn High (New Castle, DE) school band, both clarinetists (believe it or not). Jim taught me to play guitar and he and I use to sit in my front yard and practice. I remember the first song he taught me – ‘Doo Wah Diddy’. We were both huge Beatles fans and learned every song we could. One day Bill Smallbrook (he was also in the school band), who lived down the block from me, told me he had a drum set in his basement rec room and asked if Jim and I wanted to “jam”. One taste of putting it all together and we were all hooked. Al Borgnis, who also lived in the neighborhood, went out and bought a cheap bass and became our fourth. While we were getting our sound together, we would alternate between Bill’s basement an Al’s garage.

60s: Al Borgnis was later replaced. Where did you locate Bill Sayers?
PM: Al was my best friend; we were in school together since 4th grade. He was 6’8″ and I was 5’9″ – they used to call us Mutt and Jeff. Al’s heart was in the right place but he was not real musically inclined and while he practiced hard, he was just unable to get all the parts in all the right places. At the same time we realized that we needed to replace Al, we also realized that, although Jim and I had decent voices, we really needed a lead singer. To be honest, I’m not totally sure how we ended up getting together with Bill Sayers. He was also a student at William Penn but ran in a different crowd. Bill was a talented guitar player and had a great voice but we needed a bass player as well. So, Bill bought a Hofner fiddle bass a la McCartney, quickly learned to play it, and we became The State of Mind. Al remained as a sort manager and equipment manager for the band and remained my best friend through high school and into college. He was my best man at my wedding and was always a friend to the band.

60s: Do you recall the songs that were recorded for the audition tape presented to James Chavis? Were they originals, covers, or a combination?
PM: As I recall, we taped only ‘Move’ and ‘If He Comes Back’ on a very cheap reel-to-reel and sent it to Mr. Chavis. We may have thrown another song, a cover, on as well but I don’t really remember. We were most anxious for our original stuff to be heard and were thrilled when Mr. Chavis called and asked if he could come out and hear us in person.

60s: James Booth wrote much of the group’s material, but you wrote ‘If He Comes Back’. Were The Byrds a major influence for you?
PM: I would say that Jim was the more prolific song writer in group. Although he and Bill Sayers got credit for our biggest song, ‘Move’, it was truly a group effort. Jim came up with the intro, lyrics and the main guitar part but Sayers wrote the bass line, Smallbrook the drums and I wrote the interlude and contributed the “Beatlesque” lead into the guitar solo. Like most of our songs, everyone contributed. ‘If He Comes Back’ (the B-side of ‘Move’) was an exception; it was all me. I loved the song but was not happy with the way it came out on the record. The recording quality was not great. We tried to simulate Jim McGuinn’s Ricky 12-string with a Gibson Melodymaker on full treble but it didn’t work well. I think if The Byrds had recorded the song, it would have done well. The Byrds were indeed a tremendous influence on the band and me personally but the Beatles were our main muse.

60s: How prolific of a songwriter were you during that time?
PM: I was not really very active on the songwriting front in those early days. My contributions were more in helping to arrange and complete the songs that Jim came up with. Our second record, ‘Goin’ Away’ and ‘Make You Cry’ were both penned by Jim and then arranged by the group. After the second record was released, we did not have any numbers completed and ready to go for the third record and, had the band stayed together, we would have had to bust our butts to get material ready. Surprisingly, I really began to write songs again once I graduated from college and continue to do so right up to today—all for my own and my families enjoyment, of course.

60s: Booth’s mother acted as your business manager. Was she responsible for the WAMS promotional concerts? If not, how did you become affiliated with WAMS?
PM: Actually no, Jim’s mom was responsible for helping us get to Chavis Records and also in getting the rest of our parents to go along with signing the contract but it was Mr. Chavis who actually got us into the mainstream of Wilmington/Philadelphia music scene. Mrs.Booth was more of a “business” manager; she took care of the contractual and money issues.

Since The State of Mind was the first rock group that Chavis ever signed, he made a great effort to get us gigs where we would be seen. Once our record ‘Move’ hit the Top 40 on the WAMS charts, the radio station invited us to play at pretty much every venue that they sponsored. When ‘Move’ reached #10 on the WAMS Top 40, we were already a very well-known group in the area. Much of our success has to be attributed to the WAMS deejays who played our record frequently, always announcing that it was a local group from New Castle. At each WAMS sponsored concert, the WAMS deejays made a big deal announcing the group, promoting our records and making sure the crowd got autographs and picks from us.

60s: The State Of Mind was contracted to record six songs over a four-year period, yet only two singles were released. Were the other two songs ever recorded? If so, have they survived? (The recent Delaware Garage album included two versions of ‘Goin’ Away’. Was the alternate version one of the extra songs recorded?)
PM: Unfortunately, three of the four band members were planning to attend college at the University of Delaware. Only Bill Sayers was dedicated to staying a working musician when we graduated and when he saw an opportunity to join another band that was in it for the long haul, he decided to move on. The worst of that was that he quit just as our second record came out. We did try adding a new member to the band to replace Bill but let’s just say the magic was gone and we broke up shortly after our one and only concert to promote the new record. So the other records were never recorded.

As far as our music surviving, I was amazed to find out that at least two of our songs have been re-mixed and added to a couple of ’60s garage band compilations, the best known of these being the five volume CD set A Journey to Tyme mixed in the UK and still available online. Two of our songs are on Volume 5. I am actually unaware of the recent Delaware Garage album you mentioned and am surprised to hear that there are two versions of ‘Goin’ Away’ on it. As far as I know, we only recorded one version. Perhaps another band covered it?

I did hear a group about a year ago do a cover of ‘Move’ and that was cool. My latest thrill was to discover recently that ‘Make You Cry’ is currently available for download on Amazon.com for the remarkably low price of $.99! Not sure how these songs are still around but I am happy they are. I wish someone had downloaded ‘If He Comes Back’ as well. All I have of that one is an old scratched DJ copy which would not reproduce well.

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The State Of Mind?
PM: It was the highlight of my youth and I will never forget the feeling I got when during a break in one of our concerts, we were inundated with young ladies asking for our autographs. Although our career lasted a mere two years, I believe it provided all of us with a lifetime’s worth of good memories. That is a feeling you do not soon forget.

In the longer term, though, my time with the group built a strong musical foundation which has stayed with me all my life. While my career has been in business, my hobby continues to be writing and playing music, not professionally but for my own enjoyment and that of my family. I have a collection of cool instruments, a decent studio and a wonderful wife willing to lose me for hours at a time while I play.

While I know that very few musical groups ever make it really big and that life as a professional musician is a hard one in most cases, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if we had stayed together, recorded those last two records and continued as pros. I guess I will never know. Thanks to websites like yours and garagehangover.com (and others), it keeps those days fresh in my mind and it keeps that great music alive for other generations to hear. If anyone else remembers The State of Mind or if anyone still has a copy of ‘Move’/’If He Comes Back’ and could download that B-side, that would be great.

~ 60sGaragebands.com

 

Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From 45 rpm singles:

  • Goin’ Away
  • Make You Cry