PLATO AND THE PHILOSOPHERS
13:oo flight to psychedelphia tape Doomsday Nowhere City tape
Ken Tebow came from a musical family. His mother played in big bands during World War II. His grandfather met his grandmother while he was in a band. From the time he was in grade school, Ken was playing one instrument or another, beginning with a coronet. In the early 60's, Ken was playing the saxophone with his friend. They would play along with the music of bands like The Marquees. In 1962, Ken dropped the sax for the bass guitar and formed a group called The Checkmates. This was when Ken was a mere fourteen years old. Mike Imbler also fourteen was in the group. The band went on till 1965 playing mainly in Church basements and Jr. High School Proms. Their music consisted of instrumental covers.
The Checkmate's manager suggested a name change in 1965 as there was another popular group with the same moniker. He suggested coming up with a name that sounded like Paul Revere and The Raiders or Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs. Thus was born Plato and The Philosophers. They were from Moberly, Missouri The band at this time was Mike Imbler- lead guitar, Ken Tebow-bass and vocals, Barry Orscheln-keyboards, Mark Valentine- drums(note: a year later a fifth member Ben White would play bass. When they first started playing with the new name Ken suggested they go on stage dressed in Togas and sandals. He even put together the materials for the outfit from gym shorts and sheets. The band performed two times with the outfits. Just before they were to perform a third time in the outfits, Ken went out to the parking lot and saw a fire. The other band members had burned the outfits!
Plato's first single release was "C.M. I Love You" b/w "I Don't Mind" on the It Records label. The band was booked into a small basement studio in Quincy. Barry got the band booked there. He called them up and the band paid for the sessions. The record was cut from a master that was done live in the studio. There was no over dubbing the vocals later on. The band played live and Ken sang the vocals simultaneously. Five hundred records were pressed. Most were sold or handed out at the groups shows. Some were sent to radio stations. Ken was intent on getting the band signed to a major label. He found a Billboard catalog that listed record companies and their addresses. He sent out the records to many companies. He received ten reject letters. The other companies did not even answer him, except one, a company in Chicago called GAR Records. GAR got in touch with Ken and was interested in issuing the record on their label. Ken was seventeen at this time. The owner of GAR came to Moberly to meet with the band. He signed them to a record deal which stated they would receive monthly sales statements. For the first three months the band received statements. The record had sold 10,000 copies. It was "pick hit of the week" in Michigan and Northern Illinois. The band never heard anything further. In the summer of 1967 Plato and The Philosophers were opening for The McCoys at the Missouri State Fair. A group of kids came up to Plato and wanted autographs. The kids were from Michigan and told Plato that they had the "I Don't Mind" record and heard it numerous times on the radio. No one knows to this day which stations played it and how many records it really sold.
After the success of their first single, Plato and The Philosophers got in touch with a well respected studio in Columbia, Missouri(which was only about thirty five miles away from Moberly) called "Fairyland Studios". The band worked out a deal with the studio to issue the record on the Fairyland Records label by paying for all the studio and record pressing costs. This time the band would lay down the initial backing tracks and then come back in another session and overdub the vocals on May 7, 1967. In the summer of 1967, the record was released. Only about four hundred copies were pressed. Most were sold at dances and sent out to radio stations. There was some radio air play, but not enough to go back and repress the record. Ken's ballad "Wishes" was the a-side, while "Thirteen O'clock" was the b-side. Ben White thought up the title and Ken wrote the words and music. When asked what the lyrics were about, Ken is at a loss to remember. He does recall trying to make the bass sound in the song distinguished. A lot of reverb was added to the song. If one listens carefully to the end of the song you can hear the drummer knocking over this cymbal stand. While the band wanted to re-do it, they later decided it sounded kind of cool and left it in anyway.
After the "Thirteen O'Clock Flight To Psychedelphia" single, the band went back into Fairyland Studios on September 24, 1967 to record two more sides for a single "Doomsday Nowhere City" b/w "I Knew". Ken recalls that "Doomsday Nowhere City" was about "not liking his hometown and wanting to get away from it, putting it down". The song stands out as real period gem, reflecting the pop psychedelic sound that was issuing from bands such as The Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Rainy Daze. The flip side "I Knew" is lost. It was to be a song with lots of brass. When the sessions were finished the band failed to issue the sides as a single for lack of funds.
In 1968 Plato and The Philosophers began to change to a heavier sound, influenced in part by their admiration for The Iron Butterfly. When the album In A Gadda Da Vidda was released all the groups in the Central Missouri area would perform the single edit of In A Gadda Da Vidda.
Barry, Plato's keyboard player, studied the long version of the song for a month. He dedicated his time to learning every single note of the eighteen minute song. Thereafter In A Gadda Da Vidda became the theme song for Plato and The Philosophers. For the next year the band played the long version at every gig. In 1969 Plato had been booked into a Florida club six nights a week performing from nine till two in the morning.
The next recording sessions were done in 1968 in Pekin. The songs recorded were "Ima Jean Money"and "Take It Easy". Later in 1968 Plato records some more songs in Springfield- Through Your Heart", "The Pill", "How I Won The War", "In Good Time", and a second version of "Take It Easy". These demos got Plato a tentative agreement with Cedarwood Music for an album and single release. When the group went to Nashville to record an album for major distribution. By now there were only two original members, Ken and Barry. The band's sound also changed with the addition of a brass and horn sound on many of the songs. For example a new version of "Ima Jean Money" was recorded with horns. Other songs recorded at this time were "I Really Don't Care", "Back Room Bar", "Today I Died", "Don't Take It To Heart", and "Winter Green". Two of the songs "Don't Take It To Heart" and "Winter Green" are pop sounding songs written by Larry Williams. The rest of the songs are by Ken Tebow. When it comes time for a album and single release nothing is done, so all the material is never released.
After the Nashville sessions failed to bring success the band began to fall apart. By the end of 1970 Plato and The Philosophers was no more. Ken got married that year, then in June he was drafted into the Army. Five weeks later he was discharged for what the Army termed "physically unfit". The other members left to pursue their own careers. Recently Plato and The Philosophers re-formed and released a cd of new music. Here then, is their first album of old material combined with some other bands from the same era of sound.