In the spring of 1992, while Jeff Pence was sampling, sequencing and recording song demos for Matt Senatore (Emosia) in Jeff’s demo studio, an idea came to the two of them that would change the lives of all that would become involved over the next couple of years. What was the idea? We’ll get to that in a minute.
Matt was an artists, writer and producer from New York that was managed by Chris Barbosa and Mark Ligget which had an office in New York and a studio in Cincinnati. Matt met Jeff while working on other projects at the Cincinnati studio.
Jeff was an artist, writer and recording engineer that was, along with his partner Eliot Sloan, artist and writer, also managed by Chris Barbosa and Mark Liggett. Chris and Mark produced a demo for Jeff and Eliot two years earlier for their band Slamm, which got some label attention, but was not signed.
So while Matt and Jeff were recording Matt’s demos they began discussing the idea that maybe Eliot could join them and write a few songs in the flavor of this new sound that was emerging from that little demo studio. There it is. That was the idea. I think the first song was “Heaven” that ended up on the first cd titled “Home” for the Blessid Union Of Souls.
After recording much of the summer, they had written other songs titled “I Believe”, “Let Me Be The One”, “Oh Virginia” and a few more. By this time they had captured the attention of their Manager Mark Liggett. Up until now he was working on another project and had no time for the three of them but now he heard this new sound and these new songs that could not be held back any longer.
Mark immediately set aside studio time so they could start taking their 8-track cassette demos and record them in studio A on 24 track 2 inch. He also called in his midi programmer CP Roth to embellish the new songs with keyboard parts and the great string arrangement on “I Believe”.
At this time Jeff, Matt and Eliot decide that Jeff and Eliot will be the artists in the band and Matt will be the producer. And Matt decides to make CP Roth an associate producer. So there it is. Jeff and Eliot are the Blessid Union Of Souls.
As fall of 1992 approaches, the demo is mixed and ready for delivery to all the major record labels. After sending the demo out Jeff notices this small label with some pretty big artists on it named “SBK Records”. (Vanilla Ice and Wilson Phillips) He asks Mark if they sent a demo to them, he said no so they got one out right away to go along with all the others. They think it was Bruce Carbone of Polydor that first called back and scheduled a visit to Cincinnati to see the band showcase. But wait, Blessid Union is two guys, Jeff Pence and Eliot Sloan. At this point they feel they should put what could become the touring band together for the showcase. So CP Roth always said he was going to play keyboards in the band if that day ever came, and he called first dibs on the front right top bunk in the bus. Jeff and Eliot had played with Cincinnati native drummer Eddie Hedges in two separate bands and thought he would be perfect but he lived in LA now. After many phone calls and flight arrangements Eddie was in for the showcase.
So the showcase was an acoustic set with just an acoustic guitar, a keyboard controller with a piano sound, and some shakers and tambourines. No mics or PA. Just sing into the room. The first showcase went on without a hitch and Bruce was very happy. He had to go back to New York and discuss things with the company and would get back with them. There were a few other labels as well that came in for those few days and listened, and most were impressed but all went back to discuss things with their companies.
Less than 24 hours after Eddie gets back to California he gets a call from the band saying “Eddie you gotta come back. 3 more labels want to come right now to see us”. They were Fred Davis with EMI Records, Debbie Southwood-Smith with Chrysalis and Pete Ganbarg with…..wait for it… SBK Records. EMI owned both Chrysalis and SBK Records. Fred Davis worked for EMI and was the boss of both Debbie and Pete which were A&R executives of their respective labels. Fred was interested in the group and both Debbie and Pete had been in Fred’s office within a few days of each other saying they liked the band.
The showcase of acoustic songs went well again for the 3 record execs and after going back to the studio down the hall to listen to some more song demos they had not heard yet, they all said, “Give us a few minutes to talk in private”. They came out of the room 15 minutes later and announced “You have a deal”. That never happens! So in January 1993, Jeff and Eliot signed a record deal with SBK/Chrysalis/EMI Records and would spend the next 9 months with producer Matt Senatore, associate producer CP Roth, Engineers Jerry Lane, Ashley Shepard, Jeff Pence, and manager Mark Liggett recording their first cd “Home”.
After many re-mixes and delays the cd debuted in spring 1995 with the first single #1 hit “I Believe”. At that point the original Blessid Union Of Souls version 1 started touring. Jeff Pence – Guitars, Eliot Sloan – Vocals, CP Roth – Keyboards, Eddie Hedges – Drums and Tony Clark – Bass. In 2002 Blessid Union Of Souls version 2 began. Jeff Pence – Guitars, Eliot Sloan – Vocals and keyboards, Tony Clark – Bass, Bryan Billhimer – Guitars and Shaun Shaefer – Drums.
Currently Eliot Sloan is touring using the name of the band. Although not the original, he should always put on a pretty good show.