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 my country.
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. I know that Tony Wilkinson has the album, perhaps you can tell us more about it, Tony. 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 claims to play on the first, third and fourth LP (http://www.plasjohnson.com/PJ/Biography/Discography/plasRandRoll.htm). 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. Steve Douglas might be one of them.
Several others have claimed to have played with the Routers. One of them is Scott Engel, the later Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers. It's not clear to me if he played (guitar) in the studio or was a member of the touring group. 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.
Warner Bros 5283 Let's Go (Pony) / Mashy (1962)
Warner Bros 1490 Let's Go With The Routers (1963)
Collector's Choice has reissued the first four LP's in early 2003. (On four separate CD's unfortunately, 2 LP's on 1 CD would have been easily possible, given the playing time.)
Better value for money gives the CD "The Routers : Let's Go, Charge! + Bonus Tracks" (Buena Vista BV 3002), if you can find it. The address of this record company is given as P.O. Box 60043 in Asuncion, which, as we all know, is the capital of Paraguay.
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