The Baby Cakes of Austin, TX
The Baby Cakes were a legendary Austin band that lasted from 1965 until 1967. They never recorded to my knowledge, but they may have been the first Austin group with long hair, they won the first Aqua Festival Battle of the Bands, and were a big influence on later groups. Two of their members would go on to form the Lavender Hill Express.
John Schwertner of the Reasons Why told Not Fade Away about the Baby Cakes:
We had always looked up to them ’cause they were the first band I remember to play English style rock and roll. A real scruffy looking band, sort of the Texas Rolling Stones I guess. They helped us get some bookings and they’d come to our shows and tell us how to improve our band, really helped us alot.
The early lineup included:
Chuck Bakondi – vocals
Leonard Arnold – lead guitar
Tommy Hill – rhythm guitar
Don Lupo – bass
Pat Russell – drums
At some point Layton DePenning joined on guitar and vocals. After drawing crowds of University of Texas students to their rehearsal space, a woman named Paula started booking the group for parties. Michael Lucas would become their promotions and business manager.
The Austin Daily Texan ran a feature on the group on July 27, 1965:
Austin Goes Liverpool
Or, Little Church by the Drag: What Gives?
There’s a new beat in Austin … you can hear it resounding from the basement windows of the Congregational Church almost any week night. Call it the West 23rd Street sound — that’s where the “Baby Cakes” hang out.
Practicing in a church basement is probably a unique idea for a rock-and-roll group. But Pat Russell, the Baby Cakes’ drummer, lives there. An English major at the University, Pat hopes to be a Congregational minister …
The group has been together about a month and a half under the name of the “Baby Cakes.” The first members were Pat Russell, Don Lupo on bass, and Leonard Arnold, lead guitar player.
Then they met Dave Biondi a former KNOW disc jockey. Dave is from Phoenix, Ariz. and had managed a group there. Deciding that the “Baby Cakes” needed a singer, Dave wrote Chuck Bakondi in Phoenix. Along with Tommy Hill, rhythm guitar player, the group was complete …
Sometimes it’s difficult to get together since Don is in the Air Force and stationed at Bergstrom, Leonard is presently going to school in Kingsville and has to commute …
Chuck is the Englishman (sans accent) of the group, complete to his hairstyle nad boots. Pat, with his fantastic red hair and beard, looks like a musician, but hardly a potential minister. don, Tommy, and Leonard just look like they enjoy music. Seeing them blast out lines from “Satisfaction” and “For Your Love” you can tell.
The average age of the group is 20. But as Pat put it – “we’re all teenagers at heart.”
Performing on the job, the Baby Cakes wear Beatle boots, black shirts, gold jackets and white lace shirts. They play for about $120 a night.
“We’re expecting a baby organ,” said Pat. The group wants a baby organist and a guitar player to substitute for Leonard on week nights.
Dave got the idea for the group’s name from an old DJ friend of his in Phoenix – broadcasting over the radio he would often say – “what’s happening, Baby Cake?”
In August, 1966, the Baby Cakes participated in a benefit for the Tower Fund, to aid families of the victims of the University of Texas tower sniper. KNOW DJs hosted the event, and other bands included the Wig, the Mustangs, the Zakary Thaks and the Reasons Why.
The last notice I can find for the Baby Cakes comes from July of 1967, first at the Dunes in Corpus Christi then the Pusi-Kat in San Antonio.
At some point in 1967, Leonard Arnold and Layton DePenning formed the Lavender Hill Express with John Schwertner of the Reasons Why and two members from the Wig, Jess Yaryan and Rusty Weir. Baby Cakes manager Michael Lucas would continue with the Lavender Hill Express.
The first Lavender Hill Express notice I’ve found is from the Jade Room on November 7, 1967.
Don Lupo would go on to play with the Georgetown Medical Band and other groups before moving to Tucson in 1971 and continuing in music.
Chuck Bakondi joined South Canadian Overflow, who you can read about on the Sonobeat site.
Tommy Hill moved to Nashville but returned to Austin to form Tommy Hill and the Country Music Revue (also covered on Sonobeat).
Sources include: Arizona Blues Hall of Fame
Partial list of live shows:
July 9: KNOW show with the Outcasts of San Antonio, and the Greenmen at the Municipal Auditorium.
September 19: Union Week Ice Cream social
March 3: The Orange Bull (followed by Oedipus and the Mothers the next night).
July 18: Club Westerner, Victoria
August 19: The Circleville Hoedown Nite Club in Rockdale, followed by Ronnie and the Farrells the next night
February 10: Rockdale Teen Club (American Legion Hall)
April 12: Baby Cakes and the Wig at the premier of Sonny & Cher’s “Good Times” at the Paramount.
April 13: at the New Orleans Club
April 14: Baby Cakes with the Playboys of Edinburg, 13th Floor Elevators, Zakary Thaks, Chevelle V and Chandells for the All-night Round Up Party at the City Coliseum
May 11 and 12: The Carousel, Corpus Christi
June 6-11: The Pusi-Kat, San Antonio, with Joe Thomas
July 18-23: The Pusi-Kat, San Antonio