Classic Singles #35: White Lightning – Of Paupers and Poets / William (1969)

“Pulsing, flashing sphere of sound, make you doubt your melody, You think you’re making music, but it’s twisted out of key”

WhiteL_labelThe power trio White Lightning (named after a brand of LSD) were formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1968 by guitarist Tom “Zippy” Caplan, who had been a member of garage psych legends The Litter and appeared on their Distortions and $100 Fine albums. His departure from The Litter had presumably been amicable as the two bands lived and rehearsed in the same house in the Minneapolis lake area and often appeared on the same bill together (as well as sharing the same manager).

WhiteL_band‘Of Paupers and Poets’ was written by Warren Kendrick – a producer, song-writer and label owner who had worked extensively with The Litter as well as other local bands such as The Electras (he also composed all-time garage classic ‘Action Woman’). ‘Of Paupers and Poets’ was originally intended as a bubblegum pop song, but White Lightning, inspired by Hendrix and Cream, transformed it into heavier fare and included an all too short twin guitar break. It had a nice set of hip lyrics from Kendrick as well.

‘Of Paupers and Poets’

‘William’ was a tribute to the group’s equipment manager, Bill “William J. Animal” Pluta. With its slashing power chords, frantic drumming, and mind-mangling atonal guitar solo, this has long been acknowledged as one of the pinnacles of heavy psychedelia.


The single was originally released on Kendrick’s Hexagon label, then picked up by Atco. The later issue omitted a couple of seconds of backwards guitar at the end of the song present on the initial release. ‘Of Paupers and Poets’ reached number 5 on the Top 40 charts for the Twin Cities in January 1969 but was unable to repeat this success nationally.

Expanding to a 5-piece the band shortened their name to Lightning and released a hard rock single and album on the Pickwick label in 1970.

White Lightning recorded a fair amount of unreleased material  before morphing into Lightning and if heavy psych is your thing you will want to track this down on Arf Arf’s Strikes Twice 1968-1969 CD.

Reissues: You can find both sides of the single (with the Hexagon version of ‘William’) on The Scotty Story. You can also track down ‘William’ (Atco version) on Garagelands Volume 2 and Acid Dreams Testament.


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