The Morning Dew had its roots at Holliday Junior High School in Topeka, Kansas. In 1961, Malcolm Robinson and Don Sligar were schoolmates. Their interest in music brought them together in Malcolm's basement to explore the sounds of The Ventures. In the early 1960s they formed a band called The Impacts with other friends from school. The Impacts played a few gigs at local events.
Robinson and Sligar (along with The Impacts' Jerry Ludeke) teamed up with Steve Dahl to form a rhythm and blues group named The Durations. The Durations were a popular act and did one set entirely of James Brown songs and show. Steve Dahl later left to join the Lawrence, Kansas Red Dogs. At that point Ludeke, Robinson and Sligar formed a band called The Runaways for a sort time.
The Runaways then broke a part to form the three piece band named The Toads. The Toads were led by Robinson and included Sligar and Don Shufford.
In June 1966, The Toads evolved into The Morning Dew. The name was based on the Tim Rose song, Morning Dew. Don Anderson, a fraternity brother of Sligar at Washburn University in Topeka, was added to the group to play rhythm guitar. The Morning Dew began playing at high school dances, fraternity parties and rehearsing in Sligar’s garage and living room to hone their skills. Musical influences of The Morning Dew were groups such as The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Critters and the Cyrkle. In August 1966, The Morning Dew traveled thirty miles from Topeka to Lawrence to record a four song demo at Audio House, the same studio where local legends The Blue Things did many of their recordings.
The Morning Dew recorded four songs: two originals and two covers during this session. This Sportin’ Life (by Ian Whitcomb) became a staple of The Morning Dew’s live shows and they would re-record it again two years later. The other cover song, I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone was based on Paul Revere and the Raiders version rather than the Monkees version. Winter Dreams and Touch of Magic were written by Robinson and displayed a growing sophistication in the band’s sound compared to just a few months earlier, when they had a softer edge to their songs. While none of the Audio House songs would ever be released during the band’s career, they helped get attention from booking agents and record promoters.
In 1966, The Morning Dew attracted the attention of an agent for Fairyland Productions. In April 1967, they entered Fairyland Studios to record their first singe. That single would become Fairyland Records’ first release. Robinson, who didn’t read music, worked out the melody and lyrics for both songs. It took ten hours to record the tracks at Fairyland, spread out over two days, and ten takes before No More and Look At Me Now were perfected. The cost to the band was $200 for renting Fairyland’s studio and sound equipment. The band then sent the tape to Memphis where a record production company mixed it. The Morning Dew paid $400 for two thousand copies to be pressed. Five hundred of these were distributed to Topeka merchants.
In a Topeka newspaper article dated July 14, 1967, Robinson stated that “ the record has sold well in Topeka, but we don’t know exactly how many have sold”. Sligar stated, “It’s gone from 40 to 9 to 15 to 20 on the KEWI (the number one AM rock radio station in Topeka). The secret is in the distribution. We have distributed it in three states and it’s being played on nine radio stations. What we need is one breakthrough”. Shuford said, “Most records linger locally for three months before they come to national attention- if they ever do. We’ll just have to let it ride and see if it sells or if it doesn’t”. The No More single was responsible for the Morning Dew’s growing regional success. The band received bookings in Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. In St. Joseph, Missouri, over 1,400 persons showed up for a Morning Dew performance. By now, their show was a frantic four to five hour opus than included original numbers and cover songs. Three psychedelic songs were performed in which strobe lights cast mulit-colored lights on the band as they played. Robinson would stand his red Gibson- E335 on the stage and run around it while it was emitting feedback and also she threw it in the air and caught it before it hit the floor. Unfortunately, on a few nights he missed it and the body became cracked and beat-up need tape to keep it together. Sligar’s drums perched on a raised stage often flew through the air as the band’s act accelerated. The band developed a harder edge to its sound and dressed in the Mod psychedelic clothes of the era.
Robinson would sum up the band’s attitude succinctly by saying, “we want to go all the way and always wanted to. When we first started, we would watch other bands and we’d thing that maybe someday we’d be on stage performing with all the crowds and the screaming”.
Fan mail started to pour in for the band. One enamored fan wrote, “I am the girl that was in front of you when you were at Mound City Saturday night. I haven’t washed my hand because you all gave me your names on it”. Another fan wrote, “I think you are all really groovy. I especially like the one with kind of blondish hair”. The Morning Dew was drawing between $200 and $350 for one-night stands and Fairyland Productions to 20 percent as agent’s fees.
On July 16, 1967, the band opened a month long stand at a nightclub near Bagnell Dam in the Missouri Ozarks, playing four nights a week until August 11. To tie in with their performances KEWI broadcast live on the air daily interviews by phone with The Morning Dew. The accelerated pace of the band’s popularity rendered them ready to enter Fairyland studios for their second singe, Be A Friend b/w Go Away. Tommy Smith form Goldilocks and the 3 Bears played lead guitar on Go Away. Ken Tebow, leader of Plato & The Philosophers, helped with background vocals on Be A Friend.
Another connection between The Morning Dew and Plato & The Philosophers was by accident. Plato and the Philosophers released a singe for Fairyland Products, titled Thirteen O’Clock Flight to Psychedelphia and an error in the pressing on the single resulted with The Morning Dew’s song No More being on some o ft he copies that were initially pressed and released. Be A Friend charted in the top 30, but sales were nowhere near their first singe. Many people affiliated with The Morning Dew thought they should have released Go Away as the A-side, as it was more consistent with the No More style, but the band wanted to show their versatility with the folk-rock sound in Be A Friend.
The Mornings Dew’s popularity as a live band did not suffer from Be A Friend failing to hit the top ten on the radio. They opened for The Drifters in Wichita, Kansas at the Red Dog Inn and for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap at the Topeka Municipal Auditorium. They shared a billing with the Strawberry Alarm Clock at the Experimental Light Farm in Manhattan, Kansas. When The Turtles were in Emporia, Kansas The Morning Dew opened the show. The Turtles got upset with The Morning Dew for using strobe lights and a smoke machine. While a live set list does not exist from 1967, a mid-1968 set list does and the songs that The Morning Dew were playing live are listed in their original order as follows:
Wake Me Shake Me
Dancin’ In the Street
Gimme Some Lovin’
Come On Up
The Other Side of this Life
Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying
Keep On Running
Sweets for My Sweet
This Sportin’ Life
Sunshine of Your Love
Words (the Bee Gee song)
Murder In My Heart for The Judge
Ride My See Saw
I’m a Man
Get Out of My Life Woman
The Train Kept a Rollin’
Born To Be Wild
The next recording sessions by The Morning Dew were done during the dates of July 24-25, August 6 to 11 and August 25-26, 1968. Ten songs were recorded, nine of them penned by Robinson. He reflected on their original songs by saying, “we’re The Morning Dew twenty four hours a day, so we’ve got plenty of time to do this”. Regarding the suggestive drug and sex references in song lyrics by many bands Robinson said that “anyone can write a dirty song, besides, if you’re not high on drugs, it’s hard to write about it”. The changes from their previous singles could be explained in one word…”psychedelic”. The influence of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album is evident on the songs like Sycamore Dreamer with its eerie John Lennon phased vocals and lyrics. Then Came the Light features Robinson on wah-wah guitar while guest Lou Rennau plays the weird sounding oscillator. Dubbed over the break is a message from Robinson, similar to the Jimi Hendrix monologue in his psychedelic masterpiece If 6 Was 9. Then Came the Light, Cherry Street and Something You Say would all show up later on The Morning Dew’s highly collectible Roulette album, issued in 1970 (albeit in different versions). “Lady Soul” was the Morning Dew’s sarcastic reply to the fans at their shows that asked the band to play some soul music. Robinson’s cleaver use of a double tracked fuzz guitar blended with help from the Missouri University Marching Band on horns turns the song into an odd blend of psychedelic and soul.
The ten song demo tape was circulated around to record labels and A&R men. Sligar stated, “what helps so many other groups is the fact that they are in big cities, nobody from a record company is going to come to Topeka to hear a band that somebody tell them is pretty good, you’ve got to take it to them”. A stroke of good luck occurred, when a local agent was able to secure a contract with Roulette Records. A promoter/investor from Columbia, Missouri took the ten song demo tape with recordings from other Mid-West acts to New York and peddled these tapes to record companies. Consequently, he was successful in obtaining record deals with Roulette Records for all the acts. Due to the time that had expired from the 1968 Fairyland recordings, Roulette wanted to hear some current recordings of the group. So, The Morning Dew recorded Get Together and Young Man in May, 1969, but both tracks were never released. Unfortunately, Shuford was drafted and was replaced by former Burlington Express member, Blair Honeyman on the two recordings.
The story of The Morning Dew will be continued on their next release, which will contain their rare 1970 roulette album known as At Last plus many unreleased recordings and alternate versions.