Timeline & Trivia
September 1969 - Mark Hamby enters the University of Illinois and joins his high school friend and fellow musician, Steve Reinwand (now Billy Panda), in a campus folk trio named Forest Green. Panda and Hamby continue as a songwriting and performing duo in the summer of 1970.
December, 1970 – Steve (now Albert) Melshenker and Steve Cowan start writing the first songs of an allegorical folk music concept piece, having met at that November's Red Herring Folk Festival. Hamby, Panda and Todd Bradshaw also had performed at the festival, as did a young songwriter named Dan Fogelberg.
March, 1971 – Reinwand and Hamby play their last concert as a duo at Channing-Murray Foundation in Urbana. At a post-concert gathering, Melshenker and Cowan approach Reinwand, Hamby and Bradshaw about helping them arrange and perform their nearly completed concept piece.
April, 1971 – Melshenker and Cowan finish the last two of the 11 songs that comprise THE SHIP. The five-person crew jump into an intensive schedule of daily arranging and rehearsal sessions to define and refine the instrumental and vocal setting of that work as the U of I spring semester winds down.
May, 1971 – THE SHIP debuts in five sold-out performances at Channing-Murray after just a month's preparation. Future group member, Jim Barton, is in the audience for one of those performances.
Summer, 1971 – The group scatters for the summer, but gathers for a long weekend in Crystal Lake, Illinois, for a comprehensive re-work of THE SHIP's vocal and instrumental arrangement.
September, 1971 – The revised version of THE SHIP is performed at Channing-Murray to seven more sold-out concerts.
Fall, 1971 – The group performs only sparingly, as Panda, a music education major, completes his student teaching in the Chicago area. Roger Francisco and Peter Berkow become managers of the still nameless group which makes its first recording together—a demo of THE SHIP.
Early 1972 – The group signs with William Morris Agency and Elektra Records. Gary Usher, a legendary producer who had done several of the Byrds and Beach Boys albums, is engaged by Elektra to produce the concept work as an LP.
April, 1972 – The group performs THE SHIP in the Great Hall of the Krannert Center For The Performing Arts in Urbana, Illinois, to a sold-out crowd.
June, 1972 – The group spends the month in Los Angeles recording THE SHIP as an LP at Elektra Studios. Tim Scott, cellist for Harry Chapin, plays on two of the songs. Billy Panda and Roger Francisco do the final mix of the album in August, 1972.
Summer, 1972 – Although THE SHIP LP is not yet released, the group turns primarily to new original songs in most of its performances. All five members contribute new songs during this time, many of which are included on the ONE MORE NIGHT LIKE THIS CD, and a few on LEFT IN THE WAKE. At the urging of the record label, the group takes "The Ship" as its performing name.
October 2, 1972 – THE SHIP, a Contemporary Folks Music Journey, is released on Elektra Records.
December, 1972 – The Ship plays a holiday run at one of Chicago's most prestigious folk music venues, The Quiet Knight, including a New Year’s Eve concert. Other Chicago-area appearances that winter-spring (1972-73) include multiple weekends performing at the venerable Earl of Old Town.
March, 1973 – Steve Cowan leaves the group.
Early-summer, 1973 – Albert Melshenker leaves the group.
August, 1973 – Jim Barton joins The Ship with limited time to prepare for an August 31st appearance at Krannert's Great Hall. For some months, Jim splits his time between The Ship and The James Barton Ensemble, which also includes Billy Panda, Todd Bradshaw and Jeff James.
From late 1973 – Mark Hamby assumes general management and booking efforts for the group, and they begin to tap opportunities to write and produce radio and television commercials, including spots for Arby’s, Marketplace IGA, A/C Spark Plugs, Kellogg’s, and Heinz Ketchup.
Early 1974 – The group begins to work up songs with electric guitars, partially due to Jim’s and Billy’s interest in The Band and other rock/country-rock artists. By summer The Ship is looking for its first drummer.
Summer, 1974 – Drummer Bobby Carlin joins The Ship, furthering The Ship's transition from folk to folk-rock-pop-country, or something along those lines.
Fall, 1974 – The Ship performs at the University of Illinois Foellinger Auditorium. An enthusiastic crowd contributes to the best live recording of the group - a "bootleg" taping on a small cassette recorder by a fan sitting in the first row of the Auditorium's balcony!
Spring, 1975 – Bobby Carlin leaves the group to play with the local blues-funk band, Coal Kitchen, and drummer Jeff James joins The Ship.
Early 1975 – Having failed to secure a follow-up album with Elektra, which had merged with Asylum Records, The Ship pursued recording companies in New York with a self-produced demo. By late 1975 the group decides to press forward in producing their own follow-up album.
March, 1975 to December, 1975 – Steve Cowan plays with country-rock band, Appaloosa, adding rhythm guitar, mandolin, and vocal harmonies.
Mid-year, 1975, through early 1977 – The Ship appears more frequently in Chicago-area clubs such as Wise Fools Pub, Biddy Mulligans, Orphan's, Amazing Grace, the Single File, and The Bulls.
August, 1975 – Todd Bradshaw leaves the group, and Rick Frank comes aboard to play bass. Rick had performed with a rock trio and taught guitar and bass for years in Urbana. He was a long-time friend of all the members of The Ship, so the music was familiar to him.
October, 1975 – The Ship performs again at the University of Illinois Auditorium on a bill that also includes Appaloosa.
Mid-1976 – The Ship releases its self-produced album, TORNADO. All selections on the album were written by either Barton or Hamby. Recording the album's tracks had stretched over more than a year and involved multiple studios.
September, 1976 – Barton and Panda relocate to Chicago, but The Ship continues to rehearse in Champaign-Urbana while performing primarily in Chicago.
April 2, 1977 – Panda accepts an offer from a commercial production company requiring relocation to Oklahoma. On very short notice, The Ship arranges its final engagement - two nights at Caputo’s (formerly Ruby Gulch) in Champaign.
Then... after a little break of 31 years...
January, 2008 - Cowan and Bradshaw accidentally run into each other on an internet blog discussing The Ship. They soon involve Hamby and Barton, followed by the rest of "the crew." Word surfaces of a Red Herring Coffeehouse 40th Reunion event, and the members resolve to come together "from the corners of the country" to play a set at that reunion.
February & March, 2008 - In a scenario rather reminiscent to the movie "The Blues Brothers" (only without the car chases and guns) The Ship re-forms after a fashion, with boxes of old studio recordings dug out to serve as individual practice aids.
April 12, 2008 - After just two days of in-person rehearsals, The Ship plays a 90-minute, 20-song set at the Red Herring Reunion for a rousing crowd of old friends family, and the purely curious. Hamby provides "One Night Only" caps to commemorate the event, but there's a sense of additional possibilities.
The balance of 2008 into 2009 - In a flurry of inspired enterprise, and capitalizing on Barton's recording expertise. the group coordinates the remastering and re-release of THE SHIP and TORNADO LPs for CD and digital distribution. Two additional releases, ONE MORE NIGHT LIKE THIS and LEFT IN THE WAKE, present a total of 31 songs, mostly studio demos recorded over the course of The Ship's active years but never before released.
November, 2008 - Barton's circulation of his new, original holiday song, All Come Home, sparks interest in the possibility of recording "together" again through the wonders of online recording software, digital communications, etc.
2008-09 - Along the way, The Ship taps the prodigious graphic design talents of Todd Bradshaw to launch its website, predecessor to these pages.
June 2009 - Old U of I friend Rich Warren presents The Ship for a live radio concert on his popular bi-weekly "Folkstage" program on Chicago's WFMT-FM.
Early 2010 - After nearly a year of mastering the process of six people producing and uploading tracks, with Barton mixing and engineering, The Ship releases its first truly new recording in 35 years, ALL COME HOME, featuring a dozen originals from five of the group's songwriters.
2014 - Having continued to explore and refine the process of remote collaboration, Barton, Panda, and Hamby release DOWN AT DELMONICO'S, featuring 13 original songs not previously recorded or performed.
2021 - With a time lag reflecting the more deliberate pace of the average senior citizen, Barton, Panda, and Hamby release BOXES, BARRELS & RUST, a 12-song collection of fresh originals exploring the mysteries of life as well as the alternative.
NOW... Why don't you go to the CONTACT page and let us know what you've been up to?