by Dik De Heer
The Routers were more of a trademark name than an actual group.
In the late fifties and early sixties, it was not uncommon to record an instrumental rock 'n' roll number with a group of veteran studio musicians, release the recording with a fictitious name and, if the record was a hit, send a completely different group with the same name on the road to promote the records. This happened especially in Los Angeles and in most cases, the illustrious trio of Rene Hall, Plas Johnson and Earl Palmer was involved in some way or another with these creations. This was also the case with the Routers, on whose early records they played, but the group was first and foremost the creation of producer Joe Saraceno and his songwriting partner Mike Gordon.
While doing Internet research on the Routers, I noticed that several websites try to tell us that the Marketts (originally Mar-Kets) and the Routers were the same group.
Both L.A. groups have a lot in common: both were the virtual creations of Saraceno and Gordon and were produced by Joe Saraceno, both started out as studio groups (with the involvement of Hall / Johnson / Palmer) which differed completely from their touring versions and, beyond their first LP, the nucleus of both groups consisted of Tommy Tedesco (guitar), Leon Russell (piano) and Hal Blaine (drums).
Still, the studio Marketts were not always the same group as the studio Routers. Who played on what was basically decided by whatever Saraceno had on his mind that day and who was available from the "Wrecking Crew", as Hal Blaine has latter dubbed this group of prolific and highly professional L.A. studio musicians.
The sound of the Routers is also clearly different from that of the Marketts, with the Routers stirring up far more excitement. I like the first Marketts LP (on Liberty), thanks to the ever-reliable Plas Johnson, but I'm not keen on the organ that "embellishes" (with thanks to Clyde Ankle) their Warner Bros recordings ("Out Of Limits", etc.) and their later music veers dangerously towards easy listening.
But that's enough about the Marketts.
The Routers had their first release in September 1962, Let's Go (Pony), with its infectious clap-clap clap-clap-clap clap-clap-clap-clap "Let's Go! " chant, which has since become a cheerleaders' staple. Helped by the popularity of the pony dance fad, the record shot to # 19 on the Billboard charts and was soon followed by the release of their first LP, "Let's Go With the Routers", their only album to sell in respectable quantities.
Their third single, Sting Ray, also managed to do well (# 50), but chart-wise, that was the end of the line, which of course says nothing about the quality of their music.
Their second album was called "The Routers Play 1963's Great Instrumental Hits". This calls to mind LP's like "The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull" and other such assembly-line products, but this Routers LP is a lot better than that, thanks to the extremely professional musicianship and the clever arrangements (by Ray Pohlman this time, the other three Warner Bros LP's were arranged by Rene Hall). Stand-out track in my opinion is Maria Elena, which was also issued as a single in the Netherlands.
Their next LP may have been inspired by the fact that "Let's Go" was heard at more and more US sporting events. "Charge!" was basically cheerleader music, a collection of pep rallies, with additional brass instrumentation and percussion. Original compositions by Gordon and Saraceno were mixed with marches like Anchors Aweigh and Illinois Loyalty. Well produced again, but the marching rhythm section parts could have done with a little more variety.
Their fourth and final album for Warner was "The Routers Play the Chuck Berry Songbook". The sound here is quite different, at times sounding like an old-fashioned dance band, if you disregard the modern rhythm. Including both School Days and No Particular Place To Go wasn't such a brilliant idea. Still, tracks like Sweet Little Sixteen, In the Wee Wee Hours (both with great piano work) and Maybellene make this an enjoyable album as well, not only for dancing.
In 1973, the Routers re-emerged on Mercury with the LP "Super Bird", which received zero publicity and which I haven't heard.
So, who played on the Routers sessions? The following is partly based on fact, partly on speculation and years of listening to / reading about West Coast session musicians.
Guitar: Tommy Tedesco ("the most recorded guitarist in history") on almost all tracks. Rene Hall did most of the arranging, but may also play on the first LP.
Bill Pitman possibly on the later LP's. ("Tedesco and Pitman" was even a song title, the B-side of Be My Baby by the Ronettes.) Piano : Ray Johnson (brother of Plas) on the first LP, Leon Russell after that.
Drums: Earl Palmer on the first LP (at least some of the tracks).
Hal Blaine on all the other tracks.
Bass: ?? Carol Kaye (the most recorded female session musician) plays on the Marketts' recordings, but did not play on the Routers sessions as far as I know. Perhaps Billy Strange or Red Callendar.
Sax: On his website, Plas Johnson (http://www.plasjohnson.com) claims to play on the first, third and fourth LP. I have my doubts. He is clearly recognizable only on Let's Go and Mashy.
Jackie Kelso plays on the second album, no doubt about that. The "Play Chuck Berry LP" features two sax players, Jim Horn was one of them.
Several others have claimed to have played with the Routers.
Scott Engel, the later Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers played some bass (confirmed by Michael Gordon).
Pat and Lolly Vegas were members of the Marketts' touring group, but claim to play on the single Snap Crackle and Pop / Amoeba, for which they wrote both sides.
Let's Go / Mashy
Warner Bros. 5283 - 1962
Make It Snappy / Half Time
Warner Bros. 5332 - 1962
Sting Ray / Snap Happy
Warner Bros. 5349 - 1963
A-ooga / Big Band
Warner Bros. 5379 - 1963
Snap Crackle And Pop / Amoeba
Warner Brothers 5403 - 1964
Crack Up / Let's Dance
Warner Bros. 5444 - 1964
Stamp and Shake / Ah-Ya
Warner Brothers 5467 - 1964
Superbird / Sack of Woe
Mercury 73418 - 1973
Warner Brothers 1490 - 1963
Let's Go / Pep Valley / Limbo Rock / Grandstand Stomp / Bucket Seats / Half Time / Sting Ray / Mating Call / Let's Dance / Snap Happy / Mashy / Make It Snappy
1963 Great Instrumental Hits
Warner Brothers 1524 - 1963
Washington Square / Guitar Man / Maria Elena / Hot Pastrami / Wild Weekend / Telstar / Martian Hop / Watermelon Man / Memphis / Wipeout / Pipeline / Sting Ray
Warner Brothers 1559 - 1964
Charge! / On Wisconsin / Ramblin' Wreck / Anchors Aweigh / Washington and Lee Swing / The Ivy Charge / Buckle Down Winsocki / Illinois Loyalty / Sou'wester / On Brave Old Army Team / Victory March / Pep Rally
Play The Chuck Berry Songbook
Warner Brothers 1595 - 1965
School Days / Sweet Little Sixteen / Too Much Monkey Business / Wee Wee Hours / Bye, Bye, Johnny / Memphis Tennessee / Johnny B. Goode / Maybelline / Rock & Roll Music / Roll Over Beethoven / You Never Can Tell / No Particular Place to Go
Mercury Records 0598 - 1973
Superbird / Last Night / Dalena / Sack of Woe / Let's Go / Get Ready / Sangria / I Want To Spend My Life With You / Beefeater / Watermelon Man
Mashy by The Routers
thanks to Michael Gordon for permission to upload
Routers update: Original member Michael Gordon is currently preparing an EP of rare recordings entitled 'Surf or Die' which should be available soon. More details to follow.