About

Pozo Seco – Shades of Time

Liner Notes by Tom Pickles 

These days, when someone mentions The Pozo-Seco Singers, people think “the group that launched the career of country star Don Williams.”  That’s true, of course, but it overlooks the greater truth: The Pozo-Seco Singers (later known simply as Pozo Seco) had one of the most haunting vocal sounds of the Sixties – a unique mix of folk and rock with the honesty of country shadings.  Worse, it essentially flips off the other key voice in the group – Susan Taylor (known today as Taylor Pie), a major talent in her own right.  To be completely fair, it also dismisses the supportive accents of the third voices of the Pozo troika – first, Lofton Kline and, later, Ron Shaw.  It’s time for some justice – especially, when it comes to this (their third) album, “Shades of Time,” released in 1968.  Sadly, there were no breakout hit singles from the album, so over the years it has faded into an unjust obscurity.  That said, among astute fans of the mid-Sixties folk-rock genre, “Shades of Time” is considered a neglected classic.

The Pozo-Seco Singers got their start in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1964 when Don Williams (baritone) and Lofton Kline (tenor), then performing as a duo called The Strangers Two, met a quick-witted 17-year old Ray High School student by the name of Susan Taylor, a talented alto – “a voice-to-die-for” – who had been performing in weekly hootenannies at Del Mar College.  Taylor (Susan) had a natural instinct for harmony, having started singing (and playing guitar) with her family at an early age.  [In high school], she connected with a group of local musicians and formed the Corpus Christi Folk Music Society.  Through this association, she met another folkie by the name of Michael Merchant; they clicked musically and performed together at school and civic functions for a year or so. Then, in the fall of 1964, as Susan was starting her senior year in high school, Mike headed off to Penn State.  With Mike gone, she began performing solo at the Del Mar hootenannies, which is where she met Don and Lofton.

Lofton remembers the first meeting: “Don was married and had a little one to support, and was working at Pittsburgh Plate Glass.  I was going to Del Mar College in Corpus.  The college had a hootenanny scheduled and Don and I were asked to entertain.”   “Oh, yes!”, says Taylor, I came into the student center and heard these two guys harmonizing and  I couldn’t wait to introduce myself and ask if we could sing together sometime!”

Lofton adds, “We asked her to come over and practice with us the following week.  She did…and the rest is ‘history.’”

It was immediately apparent that there was something special about their sound as a trio.  Don had a warm, relaxed baritone; Lofton’s tenor had a different timbre that contrasted well with Don’s voice, providing a nice harmonic accent.  Susan’s soft alto blended in beautifully… creating a new sound unto itself — ideally suited for intimate ballads, yet capable of producing a distinctive bite on harder edged material.  Taylor remembers, “All three of us were raised in the Church of Christ which didn’t use instruments to accompany the congregation in singing hymns, and I think that early ear-training helped us not only tune our voices, but also tone our voices together.  Because we were mostly self taught musicians and singers, we often traded parts throughout the songs.”  Future member Ron Shaw adds this perspective: “I’m still in awe of the Pozo Seco sound.  It was pure and natural.  They didn’t just sing notes.  They were really ‘in touch’ with the lyric.”

Explaining how the group’s unusual name came to be, Lofton remembers:  “Susan’s boyfriend at the time was a geologist working for Coastal State Gas Corporation.  ’Pozo Seco’ was stamped on several folders on a table at the house where we first started practicing.  It’s an oil field term used to label an unsuccessful drill, i.e., a ‘dry hole.’   We were in a ‘dry hole’ ourselves, so to speak.  Don was a shift worker at PPG; Susan was still contending with high school; I had just started college.  We were looking for a name for our group and all liked the unusual term, ‘Pozo Seco.’  We added ‘Singers’ and hit the road!  We thought it was very catchy and knew we’d get a lot of questions about it as our careers progressed.” 

When Taylor’s former partner, Mike Merchant, came home for Christmas break, he played a new song for her that he had written called “Time.”  She remembers, “I knew it would be perfect for the Pozos.  I made him teach me all the chords and the lyrics in one afternoon because I knew it was so special.”  The song featured Taylor in a haunting step out solo.

A mutual friend in the local community, Paul Butts, was acting as their manager at that time and took the trio to Gold Star Recording Studio in Houston to cut Mike’s tune for a local label, Edmark Records.   Mike went along and played the upright bass on the sessions.  “Time” became a regional hit quickly — within weeks of the session.  Joe Mansfield, the promotion man for Columbia Records in San Antonio, took note of how much airplay the song was getting across the state.  He promptly signed the group, bought the masters from Edmark and released the single nationally.  By the spring of 1966, “Time” had charted #1 in Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. 

Paul Butts soon stepped aside when the group was presented with the opportunity to be managed by Albert Grossman.  Lofton remembers: “In less than two months, we were recording in Nashville and had signed with Albert Grossman, one of the biggest and most influential managers in the business.  At the time, he had Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Odetta, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in his stable.  He booked us immediately with Nancy Wilson, the Smothers Brothers, Ian and Sylvia, and – for two weeks in Greenwich Village – with Gordon Lightfoot.  We were in ‘tall cotton’ very quickly.  It was a great time and changed all our lives forever.”

“Time” was followed up with “I’ll Be Gone,” a ballad with a similar sound; then, in collaboration with upcoming Columbia producer Bob Johnston (who also worked with Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and Leonard Cohen), the group branched into folk rock with Chip Taylor’s “I Can Make It with You” (which gave Don a strong showcase, with effective support from Lofton) followed by the wonderful “Look What You’ve Done” (co-penned by Johnston and Wes Farrell).  Both songs became chart hits before the end of 1966.   While Johnston added a rich dimension to the group’s recordings, some of his ideas about material did not always mesh with the tastes within the group.  Lofton remembers: “We had good success with ‘Time’ and ‘I Can Make It with You,’ but several of the cuts on the first albums were forced on us by our Columbia producer, Bob Johnston.  I challenged him on a couple of songs he wanted us to record, and I could tell he was quite unhappy with me!”  Taylor adds more texture: “After those sessions, Bob Johnston told me and Don that he didn’t want to continue producing us unless we got rid of Lofton. There was a definite personality clash between them.  Don and I talked with our manager, Albert Grossman, about it and he suggested we wait a bit. The group was starting to get more popular and he felt change might hurt us, so we complied. It was at that time that Don and I first considered going on as a duo… Then, we got the incredible opportunity to open for the Smothers Brothers for a few concert dates. The first was in Denver and tickets sold out quickly, so we put in an extra concert on the same night…back to back!

At the end of the Smothers Brothers tour, however, Lofton left the group.  On top of the friction with Johnston, he was feeling a growing frustration with the demands of the road, which led him to the realization that it just wasn’t fun anymore.  Looking back, he reveals a mature attitude about his departure.  He remembers: “(When I left the group,) I thought I would still have a ‘big time’ manager and Columbia Records behind me as a single artist, but I was mistaken.  Today, I can see why Columbia wasn’t interested.  I had a great ‘harmony voice,’ but I wasn’t in Don or Susan’s vocal-quality category at the time.  I’m glad to say that area has improved as the years have gone by.  After I got back to Texas, I moved to San Antone and got a job singing at the 1968 HemisFair.  I sang to 1,600,000 people in six months at that fair.  I was drafted right after that and was side tracked for some time.  About four years ago, Susan and I joined up for a reunion at Del Mar College, where we had started.  We talked about doing an album together again, but it never developed.”  Today, Lofton is a respected performer in Christian music.

In the summer of 1966, Lofton Kline was replaced by veteran folk singer Ron Shaw, a founding member of The Brandywine Singers (along with twin brother Rick), who had scored a regional hit with “Summer’s Come and Gone” in 1963 (a reworking of “All My Trials” with a Kingston Trio/Four Preps sound).  Ron’s time with The Brandywine Singers had given him media exposure on ABC’s Hootenanny and conditioning for the demands of promotional concert schedules.  Taylor remembers: “Ron soon became the group member who did most of the introductions on stage during our shows.  Being a seasoned folk performer, he greatly enhanced our concerts not only with his beautiful harmonies, but with his stage banter.  He was responsible for bringing the song, ‘I Believed it All’ to the group.  He is singing on that track and also on ‘Morning Dew.’”

Early in 1967, while planning the group’s next single release, Ron experienced some of the same frustrations with Bob Johnston that Lofton described: “I remember being pressured to record a song none of us cared for, called “Excuse Me, Dear Martha,” which was written by our producer, Bob Johnston, and Wes Farrell.  We considered it ‘un-Pozo-like.’  We preferred ‘I Believed It All,’ which had been getting a very strong response in concerts.  We were overruled.  The single was released (with ‘I Believed It All’ as the B side.) Disc jockeys around the country ‘flipped’ the record and went with the B side.  However, Columbia failed to do any promotion and it died.”  Taylor confirms the group’s frustration: “Bob was co-writer on ‘Excuse Me, Dear Martha.’  It was all about his getting a larger payback and we hated it because we felt it wasn’t our kind of song! Bob was ego driven and manipulative.  I think he believed what he was saying was always appropriate and justified if it created the results he desired.”   

In spring 1967, the group was back in the studio with Bob to record their next single – “Louisiana Man” (the last to chart, stalling at #97) – and a few other songs that became the start of the “Shades of Time” album.  By the end of the sessions, it was evident that the relationship with Johnston had reached the point of no return.  Sadly, this is an oft-told tale in the music business…a classic face-off between label management and artist.  To be fair, squabbles over material aside, Johnston did get a great sound out of the group during his time at the helm; but interpersonal chemistry usually wins out and it did this time, too. 

The group didn’t go back into the studio until May 1968, when Columbia assigned a new producer to the group – Elliot Mazer (who would go on to produce multi-platinum albums for such artists as Neil Young, Janis Joplin, and Linda Ronstadt).  It was a welcome change.  Taylor remembers, “I loved working with Elliot Mazer!  He was such a breath of fresh air after Bob Johnston.  Elliot was dedicated to helping find the right songs which fit us as a group and devoted to making them sound great on the final release.  (‘Shades of Time’) is actually my favorite Pozo product because of the clean sound and choice of material.”

During the year-long recording hiatus between producers, Taylor and Don – the signature voices in the Pozo Seco sound – had decided to become a duo, and shortened the name of the group to simply Pozo Seco.  Taylor remembers, “We decided to become a duo during the recording of that album. When it was finally released, I felt awkward because I had come to love Ron so much as a person, but his picture did not appear on the cover.  I’d love to mend that with this reissue, and I’m grateful that we remained friends over the years.”  (Done!)  Shortly after his exit from the group, Ron reunited with brother, Rick, who had just returned home from the service.  Together, they formed The Hillside Singers who scored a huge success by covering the Coca-Cola jingle, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”  In the years since, they have been performing as “The Shaw Brothers.” Among the pair’s many recordings is the classic album, “Follow Me,” recorded for RCA in 1974 with producer Milt Okun.

For May 1968 sessions, Mazer brought in a group from Canada called The Paupers to back Don and Taylor.  The group at the time was Chuck Beal (lead guitar), Skip Prokop (drums), Adam Mitchell (guitar/vocals) and Brad Campbell (bass); they were also managed by Albert Grossman recorded for Verve.  They were known more for garage/psychedelic rock in their own releases, but they were capable musicians and created a backdrop that was a natural enhancement of the Pozo Seco sound.

There are many stand-out tracks on “Shades of Time,” but a few merit calling out.  Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” is given the definitive interpretation; both “Green, Green Grass of Home” and “You Better Sit Down, Kids” gain stature through Don’s simple, honest delivery of the lyrics, revealing an integrity that had been lost in earlier, over-produced recordings; Raun McKinnon’s “Hey, Babe, Open Up Your Mind,” is a neglected gem and a great showcase for Taylor with Don and Ron’s harmonies making the most of the Pozo Seco blend.  The album’s closing track is “Keep On Keeping On,” a composition by singer-songwriter Len Chandler and an impressive showcase for Taylor.  She offers this memory of the sessions: “When we got to Len Chander’s ‘Keep on Keeping On,’ I was having a bit of trouble with the guitar part, so Elliot called Len to come over and play it on the record.  That was a very special moment for me because I’d been a fan of his for a long time, and it remains one of my favorite songs on the album…along with ‘The Renegade,’ by Ian Tyson.”  Columbia agreed with Taylor’s assessment of the Tyson song and released “The Renegade” as a single.  Unfortunately, perhaps a reflection of the recent issues with Columbia priorities, the record failed to chart – a sad injustice for a great recording.  Without the pull of a hit single, “Shades of Time” did not sell as well as the group’s first two albums. 

For the group’s subsequent recordings, Columbia opted to assign another producer to the duo – Billy Sherrill, now known for his work on the classic recordings of Tammy Wynette.  Taylor remembers the association as being disappointing, indicative of the growing problems with Columbia: “Because we didn’t have a ‘single’ that charted from our work with Elliot, Columbia put us with the new head of A&R in Nashville, Billy Sherrill.  He basically sat in the control room at our sessions and read magazines…gave no input other than to say he was a ‘country’ producer and didn’t know a thing about folk music so we were on our own. It was the beginning of the ‘cold shoulder’ at Columbia.”

With Sherrill, Don and Taylor recorded enough material for a fourth album, branching into original material, e.g., Taylor’s “Creole Woman” and Don’s “Leavin’.”  Only two singles were released, neither or which created much stir in the market.  However, “Creole Woman” did attract the attention of someone who knew something about Creole music.  Taylor remembers, “After ‘Creole Woman’ came out, I had dinner with Doug Kershaw one evening and he told me what a great song I’d written and how true to life it was!  That was an important moment for me as a songwriter.”

In the fall of 1969, Pozo Seco parted company with Columbia.  In Taylor’s words, “We left because Clive Davis (head of the label) showed such little interest in us, and we got tired of people at our concerts asking us where they could get our records.  Columbia did not back us up with proper distribution.”   Soon after, they signed with a smaller label and released their final album, “Spend Some Time with Me” in 1970.  While the album did get better distribution, it never attracted much attention.  Soon afterwards, Don and Taylor decided it was time to call it quits.  She remembers, “Don and I were standing on a ‘bar stage’ — literally, the staging was us up on a bar in Reno!  We looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s let folks remember us from the great days of college concerts, not lounges!’  College concerts for folk artists had stopped after Kent State, which pretty much killed the popularity of folk.  We were booked to play at Kent State two weeks after the shootings, but our concert was cancelled along with every other college engagement.  The college concert world changed forever with that event.”

When the group disbanded in 1970, Taylor focused on songwriting.  In the years that followed, she found success with recordings by Tanya Tucker, The Forester Sisters, Mickey Gilley and Bette Midler.  In 1986, tiring of the politics of songwriting, “Susan Taylor” reinvented herself, took on the name “Taylor Pie” and revived her career as a performer.  She drew on all of the frustration, disappointment, depression and anger in the music business, shaped it into poetry and poured into it a mold. The result was a self-produced CD, “Long Ride Home,” which has attracted a useful buzz within the music community.  In 2005, while Taylor was in Corpus Christi for her induction into the South Texas Music Walk of Fame, she reconnected with an old friend and guitar player, Eben Wood, to perform a few dates in Texas.  The response was strong, and it felt good to each of them.  Soon afterwards, they started up a new record label, PuffBunny Records.  Notes Taylor, “The company is named after a pipe that we owned in the 1960’s that was used for dubious purposes.”  The first product of their collaboration, “So Little Has Changed,” was released in 2007 and has been deemed a folk masterpiece.

As for Don Williams…well…who doesn’t know?  Between 1974 and 1991, Don recorded a long list of hits that have since become country standards – among them, “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” “Till the Rivers All Run Dry,” “It Must Be Love,” “I’m Just a Country Boy,” “Amanda” and “I Believe in You.” In 1978, he was the Country Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year, and in 1979, his recording of “Tulsa Time” was the Academy of Country Music’s Record of the Year.  In 2010, Don received country music’s highest honor when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

But the legend of Pozo Seco lives on – enhanced now with the long overdue reissue of their creative high water mark – “Shades of Time.”  So, dim the lights, pour yourself a nice glass of wine – or light up your own “puff bunny” – and listen once more to the classic recordings of this wonderful group.

For more info on Taylor Pie:

For more info on Don Williams:

  • http://www.don-williams.com/

For more info on Lofton Kline:

  • http://www.loftonkline.com/

For more info on Ron Shaw and The Shaw Brothers:

The Tracks:

  1. Good Morning Today 3:23

(Paul MacNeil) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May 15, 1968 — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere 2:48 

(Bob Dylan) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May 30, 1968 — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away 2:48

(John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May 16, 1968 — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Green, Green Grass of Home 2:48

(Claude Putman) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  June 5, 1967 — Nashville

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Hey Babe, Open Up Your Mind 2:44

(Raun McKinnon)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  April 26, 1967 — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. You Better Sit Down Kids 3:18 

(Sonny Bono) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  June 19, 1968 — Nashville

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Spanish Harlem Incident 3:04 

(Bob Dylan)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May  15, 1968 — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Bye Bye Love 3:10

(Felice Bryant / Boudleaux Bryant)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May 30, 1968  — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. The Renegade 3:50

(Ian Tyson) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May 16, 1968 — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Gotta Come Up With Something 3:06 

(R. Smith / R. Michaels) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May 16, 1968 — New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Keep On Keeping On 4:44 

(Len Chandler)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie backed by The Paupers; Elliot Mazer, producer

Recorded:  May 16, 1968 – New York City

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Excuse Me, Dear Martha (Single Version – Mono) 2:05 

(Wes Farrell / Bob Johnston) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  January 26, 1967 — New York City

Originally released 1967. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. I Believed It All (Single Version – Mono) 2:43

(Alan Bergman / Marilyn Bergman / Albert Hamm)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  January 25, 1967 — New York City

Originally released 1967. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment   

  1. Morning Dew (Single Version – Mono) 2:58 

(Tim Rose / Bonnie Dobson) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  January 25, 1967 — New York City

Originally released 1967. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. It’s All Right (Single Version – Mono) 2:59 

(Mac Gayden / Jerry Tuttle)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  January 25, 1967 — New York City

Originally released 1967. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Louisiana Man (Single Version – Mono) 2:19 

(Doug Kershaw)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  April 25, 1967 — New York City

Originally released 1967. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment   

  1. Tomorrow Proper (Single Version – Mono) 3:20 

(Don Williams)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams, Taylor Pie and Ron Shaw

Recorded:  April 25 and June 20, 1967 — New York City

Originally released 1967. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Remember Susie (Loved Me So) (Single Version – Mono) 2:22 

(Susan Taylor)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie; Billy Sherrill, producer

Recorded:  October 15, 1968 — Nashville

Originally released 1968. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Creole Woman (Single Version – Mono) 2:54 

(Susan Taylor)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie; Billy Sherrill, producer

Recorded:  March 12, 1969 — Nashville

Originally released 1969. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Leavin’ (Single Version – Mono) 3:44 

(Don Williams)

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie; Billy Sherrill, producer

Recorded:  March 12, 1969 — Nashville

Originally released 1969. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. High On Life (Single Version – Stereo) 2:48 

(Ronnie Self) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie; Billy Sherrill, producer

Recorded:  September 30, 1969 — Nashville

Originally released 1969. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment        

  1. Till You Hear Your Mama Call (Single Version – Stereo) 2:00

(Susan Taylor) 

Pozo Seco: Don Williams and Taylor Pie; Billy Sherrill, producer

Recorded:  September 29, 1969 — Nashville

Originally released 1969. All rights reserved by Sony Music Entertainment