The Marshmellow Tugboat

I’m departing from my regular posting regimen of art to post about something that I think is pretty neat. Click on the photographs to enlarge.

On a recent Saturday my wife Julie and I were hitting garage and rummage sales and as usual I was digging for records. I came across a 45 by The Marshmellow Tugboat – Michelle, Be My Girl b/w Please Don’t Go, on the Blue Coral Productions label. This looked like it could be a real nice find.

After we got home I hit the omnipotent internet to find out about The Marshmellow Tugboat and the record. I couldn’t find anything, not one thing. This was pretty rare. I typically have no trouble finding scads of information about almost any record that I look into. Julie had the idea to try to find the songwriter, Eddie Sandas. After some googling she found a lead. So I sent an email to an Eddie Sandas and sure enough he was the songwriter from The Marshmellow Tugboat! He is still in the entertainment business representing artists and various venues.

Being a record/music freak and not a music writer it is difficult to put into words what I think, but I’ll give it a try.

Recorded in The Summer of Love, 1967 this record, to me, is a 100% classic. This record and band epitomizes what was happening in that incredible era, the golden era of Rock and Roll. Rock bands were popping up in garages and recording in studios all over the USA. There was so much great music happening that there was no way that every worthy band was ever going to get discovered and make it big. But that in no way takes away from the talent and ability that so many of these amazing regional and local bands had. The Marshmellow Tugboat is the perfect example of this historical phenomenon. Michelle, Be My Girl has all the great elements of a hit record. I like this record so much that I will be contacting Sundazed about this blog post and I hope that they give the record a listen. They’ve reissued some incredible “unknown” bands’ records, so who knows…

Michelle, Be My Girl is an upbeat, straight-ahead rocking pop love song. The horns set the stage and the vocals kick right in with a Wall of Sound thing happening, but the mix is detailed enough to hear the separate instruments. The piano detail adds a cool little flourish and the drumming is dead on, always keeping a solid beat and adding in runs where they fit. The bass holds everything together with a sturdy melodic beat.  The lead vocal fits into the mix and the surrounding harmonies are sophisticated yet simple and somewhat Beatlesque. I love the high “oooooooooohhhh” that finishes off the two breaks and the ad lib scatting right before the trumpet solo. The trumpet somehow reminds me of Penny Lane.  I’m not saying that Michelle (another Beatles reference?), Be My Girl is a Beatles derivative. That is definitely not the case. The lyrics, music and way cool production are their own thing and the song has it’s own unique character.

Please Don’t Go kicks off with a drum and horn intro and then gets right to the point. This is a classic slow-dance love song melody where the guy is pleading for his girl to stay with him. The drumming is rock solid; the transitions into and out of the piano and horn(s) solos are quite nice. The bass again holds down the beat in a bit of a counter point to the drumming. Again the production on this song is way cool.  All of the instruments meld together to make the perfect accompaniment to the lead vocal. I love the piano and horn(s) solos and how the horns lead back to the lead vocal. And the guitar arpeggios, again way cool. For a group of young men, The Marshmellow Tugboat really had it going on.

Via email Eddie Sandas sent along some great information about the band and the record, including a scan of a poster! (He is the young man on the right in the striped shirt.) I thought it would be best to post his words rather than do a rewrite so you could hear directly from the group’s songwriter. Here is the email:

1) The band was formed in 1966 and based out of Merrill Wis. 4 guys (originally lead, rhythm, bass and drums) with 3 lead singers. Guitar player doubled on trumpet and the bass player and myself doubled on Tenor and Alto sax. The first member change was in 1967 when one of the guitar players was drafting for Vietnam. At that time I switched from drums to keys and we got a new drummer. Over the next 4 years several other member changes were made until the group broke up around 1969-70.

2) The session that you have was recorded in 1967 at the Kennedy studios in Milwaukee. At the time the group was called the Poor Boys but by the time the record was released the band’s name was changed to Marshmellow Tugboat. We did one more session in 1969 at a studio in Valparaiso Fla. which was owed by Shelby Singleton of Harper Valley PTA fame.

3) I always thought this was pretty cool for a 16 year old, I wrote the horn parts in the van on the way to the session which were all performed by the guys in the band. The horns parts were never played or rehearsed until we got to the studio that day.

4) Blue Coral Production was just a name that I made up for the label. We only cut 500 records which were mainly sold in a 50 mile radius of Merrill. I find it very interesting that you found a copy in Indy. Someone from Merrill must have moved!

Wausau, Wis bringing together numerous old bands from the 60’s over a 2 day period. We performed with all but one of the original members and it was a hoot! We actually ended up sounding pretty darn good.

A couple of days after I had traded emails with Eddie I got this note from Bruce Kanitz (he is second from the left on the poster):

My name is Bruce Kanitz and I am(was) the drummer for the Marshmellow Tugboat and did the lead vocals on Please Don’t Go and harmony on Michelle Be My Girl. I had a discussion with Eddie yesterday about your emails and what you are doing.  I think this is awesome and very interesting. Eddie did send me a copy of your emails and I opened an account with Soundcloud, clicked on your link and enjoyed every minute of our recording. I do have a copy of our 45 on my jukebox and selectively play it for family, friends, etc. Those were definitely some of the best times of my life playing with that group. After that group I continued playing with various groups for approximately 15 more years and still have my drums just in case.

It is excellent that Eddie and Bruce took the time to write up share this information. Big and huge thanks to them.  This has been great, great fun.

P.S. I’d love to hear the music from the session in Florida!

Click here to listen to Michelle, Be My Girl b/w Please Don’t Go by The Marshmellow Tugboat.

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One comment

  1. Ron, this was really fun to read! Had to go listen to the two songs, too. I think I like the Please Don't Go song the best…both are pretty danged cool, though.

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