Classic Singles #70: The Graveyard Five – The Marble Orchard / Graveyard Five Theme (1968)

GY5_labelAs it is All Hallows’ Eve today I thought I’d post something suitably spooky, and what better choice than a band named The Graveyard Five with a song called ‘The Marble Orchard’, a slang term for a cemetery.

The Graveyard Five were from Lakeport, California and were a popular live attraction in the Lake County and East Bay areas. The band only consisted of four people but they appeared on stage with a coffin and that was deemed to be the outfit’s fifth member (sometimes an extra, with face suitably painted, would burst out mid-set or one of the band would jump in and finish singing a song with the lid closed!). As a result of winning a local Battle of the Bands contest the group were handed a contract with record producer Stan Sweeney and their debut single came out on his Stanco label in September 1968.

‘The Marble Orchard’ was inspired by a visit to Hartley Cemetery in Lakeport, where lead guitarist Louie Shriner and bassist Steve Kuppinger would go to write songs. A creepy vibe is established from the get-go with the eerie “heartbeat” intro (apparently made by tapping the strings of the bass) and heavily reverbed guitar as, in most entertaining fashion, the lyrics recount the events of one cold, wet October night when the pair were convinced that they saw something move from behind a tombstone, and suitably freaked they hightailed it out of there. No wonder when they’d just heard “a wolf-type howl”!

‘The Marble Orchard’

The flip was written on an evening when the band had been playing with a Ouija board and come up with the name Graveyard Five as their moniker. It is a nicely demented fuzz and reverb instrumental.

‘Graveyard Five Theme’

The single is a major rarity (a $2,500+ item) as, unfortunately, most copies of the 45 were burned in a fire at the home of rhythm guitarist Gary Prather. A follow-up single ‘Stay Away From My Grave’ was recorded but by this time Louie Shriner was suffering from mental health problems and, so the story goes, having moved to Florida he threw his equipment and the master tapes for the 45 in an alligator-infested canal.

Reissues: both sides are on the excellent Up From The Grave (which also provided lots of information about the band). You can also find both cuts on Pebbles Volume 16 (vinyl).

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