Heard To Find: The Jon-Lee Group – “Pork Chops”

Artist: The Jon-Lee Group
Track:“Pork Chops”
Release: Bring It Down Front / Pork Chops (7″)
Year: 1967
Duration: 2:10

I found this buried in a box of beat up and thrown out 7″ records from a former coworker of mine. Most of the records he gave me were part of a lot sold on eBay from an old diner in California coupled with some books. The coworker wanted the books, the records came with them. So, naturally, he gave the wax to his record-loving pal; yours truly. 

Now for a little backstory on the band.

John Finley would seem like just another revolving member of The Checkmates by the time he met with the band in 1964. The Checkmates formed as Lee Jackson & The Checkmates in 1962, before experiencing a few lineup changes throughout the next few years. As Jon and Lee & The Checkmates, the band would snag some mild local scene success and even score a few huge opportunities to perform for national audiences (opening for the Rolling Stones and some ABC TV slots), but both chances fell apart. By 1967, now evolved into The Jon-Lee Group, the band would record 4 songs, two of which made it to wax. The instrumental B-side from the debut single, “Pork Chops” is the featured track today. 

The track has a down-up-down strum pattern similar to a sped up version of Otis Redding & Carla Thomas’ “Tramp“, “Good Stuff” from The B-52s’ 1992 LP of the same name,  and among many others, another Paul Rothchild connection – The Doors’ “The Changeling”. Rothchild was one of the first to offer the Jon-Lee Group a contract with his “indie” label, Elektra Records. The band declined and would shortly thereafter break up. John Finley and Paul Rothchild would continue their relationship, though, with Paul recruiting John and fellow Checkmate Michael Fonfora to form his new super-group Rhinoceros.  

As far as I know, this cut and it’s A-side companion, “Bring It Down Front”, never saw a re-release, even after The Checkmates reformed in 1999. Even though it’s a bit obscure, maybe someday a repress will happen. With it being distributed by a large label like ABC Records, there could be hope. It’s not like this was just some small private pressing, someone knows where those tapes are! In the meantime, all we have are some hard-to-find 7″ records (which I luckily landed a copy of) and the glorious YouTube rips from vinyl heads across the world. Enjoy the “Pork Chops”, bon appetit!

Check out a full bio and history of the band as well as some insight into Rhinoceros at http://www.rhinoceros-group.com/checkmates.html!

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