Kitsy began attending the College School in the fall of 1970, at the beginning of her fifth-grade year. "My parents, especially my mother, would seek out the most creative teaching styles and had learned about the College School," she recalls. "So she moved my siblings and me from the public-school system." Her father played a few instruments, her siblings took lessons, and both her parents were fans and patrons of the arts.

On her first day at her new school, Kitsy met Tres, who had been at the College School since the second grade. She lived right across the street with her mother. Her father, Jimmy Williams, was a well-known local jazz pianist and an integral part of the Gaslight Square scene. "He was right in the middle of it," Tres Williams remembers. Her parents divorced when she was a toddler, but she retains almost subliminal memories of Williams' presence in the home. "He watched me when I was a baby. He used to play classical music for me all the time. There's a passage of Mozart's Requiem that makes me just melt. Even though I don't have a memory of him in my household, I apparently have this cellular memory relating to music."

Tres and Kitsy went through the first school day together and signed up for extra courses — including Jim Curran's guitar class. "He was not a teacher per se at the College School. It was part of his coursework at Webster College to teach us," Sheahan recalls. "I don't remember that I had picked up a guitar more than a couple of times beforehand."

"I had taken guitar classes with [Curran] the previous year, and Kitsy and I, just by chance, were going into class together," adds Williams. "We played beautifully together, sang together and liked each other."

Through school and guitar class, the two became best friends. Tres would spend weekends at Kitsy's house; the two would ride horses together at the Christners' farm in Dutzow, about an hour west of St. Louis. "You seldom spoke of them separately," says MacEnulty. "They were always 'Kitsy and Tres.'"

It was at one of these weekend sleepovers that the idea arose to make an album.

"Kitsy's parents had a lot of music parties, and we'd always do 'shows,'" Williams remembers. Uncle Scott and Aunt Judy, two of Kitsy's relatives, were in town from Kansas City. After an impromptu "concert," Uncle Scott said, "You two are good! Why don't you make an album?"

That was all the encouragement the precocious pair needed. With support from the College School, pre-production began. They had taken pictures of themselves in a field of dandelions at Webster College, so Dandelions became the album title and photo. Williams still marvels at the ease and enthusiasm with which her College School teachers took to the project: "As soon as it was clear we were on this track, they completely supported us to the point where we would get out of school to do performances. We would take school time to write music, perform on TV and radio. The whole school as well as our parents were totally supportive. They allowed us to be in control of the entire process."

Under Curran's tutelage, they wrote enough songs for a ten-song LP. There were no outtakes or unreleased tracks. To get comfortable with the recording process, they gave a concert at the College School — their first performance outside of practice sessions and spontaneous shows for family and friends. For the recording, they rented a church on Big Bend Boulevard and hired two backing musicians, Wendy Katz on acoustic bass and Mike Kieffer on drums. They rented the church for an entire week, but Tres and Kitsy, being kids, finished the songs in two days and were too restless to spend time overdubbing or doing extra takes. "If we've recorded everything, can we be done?" they begged. There are two tracks of between-song chatter on Dandelions, and you can actually hear them arguing about song endings, and their audible relief after finishing the last track.

They mixed the tracks with Kent Kesterson at KBK/Earth City Sound Studios. Later a world-class studio and rehearsal space — Welders' drummer Jane Fujimoto recalls it as "like being aboard a giant spaceship" — it was then a tiny basement studio.

"He was recording high school choirs at the time," Sheahan says. "When we had to make decisions, we all met in his basement. And the adults let us decide." A total of 300 copies were pressed, and Tres and Kitsy sold them for five dollars apiece. "Jesus Christ Superstar was really big at the time," Williams says. "It was ten dollars for a double album, so we figured we could sell ours for five."

While waiting for the albums to arrive, the Children of Sunshine found themselves sought by local media. They appeared on two radio stations, KMOX (1120 AM) and a college station that neither now remembers. The Post-Dispatch wrote them up on the front page of the Sunday entertainment section underneath the headline "Songwriting Not For the Young at Heart." Most exciting, they appeared twice on Corky's Colorama, a long-running children's show hosted by Corky the Clown, also known as KSDK-TV (Channel 5) weatherman Clif St. James. "[Corky] had Tuffy's Pet Foods as a sponsor, so he had us sing it and then held up a can of dog food," says Tres. Their parents printed up business cards that said "Tres and Kitsy — Guitar Entertainment" on yellow card stock with raised orange lettering.

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9 comments
Ted Rubright
Ted Rubright

When I saw this in my RFT RSS feed my eyes flew open wide! Thanks for bringing this story back from the distant past. I was a College School student at the time and remember Therese and Kitsy well. I also remember Jim Curran. He helped me and a couple of other guys (Jesse Cox and Steve Martin) form a band, though I don't think we had a name. It was one of my earliest organized musical experiences and it had a profound effect on me. In fact, I've been at it ever since.

stlouisdan
stlouisdan

Just read the article today and just read the "reunion" comments. Just fabulous and I am getting tingles all over. Enjoy the new ride folks !

Jim Curran
Jim Curran

Hi Joe, great article, you are a good writer. You captured the enthusiasm and originality of the album and of the girls. I know because I was there. The dandelion field is the front lawn of Webster Hall at Webster University. I still have the out-take photos. I also have photos of Tres and Kitsy at their first school concert prepping to go "public". Those were fun times. I am not lost. I live in Chesterfield and I will contact Kitsy tomorrow. Jim Curran

Joe Williams
Joe Williams

You did a great job (and a great service), Mike. I've been wanting to write the same story myself, and I might have done it if I hadn't transitioned from a rock critic to a movie critic. I found a copy of Dandelions at a thrift store on Cherokee St in 1984, when I was the editor of the local fanzine Jet Lag. I've been telling people about it for more than a quarter century. After I moved to L.A. in the late '80s to work for the music magazine Cashbox, I played and copied the album for members of R.E.M. and the Posies, so I know the word started spreading through the American indie-rock community a decade before the estimable Chuck Warner accelerated it. Now I'm back in St. Louis and writing movie reviews for the Post-Dispatch, but I still treasure the album, and I hope to give a glowing review to the inevitable movie about the Dandelions.

https://picasaweb.google.com/l...

Mike Appelstein
Mike Appelstein

So great to see you here, Jim! Glad you liked the piece!

Therese Williams
Therese Williams

Jim! Hello hello hello!Greetings from Santa Fe!Looking forward to connecting soon.Therese

Mike Appelstein
Mike Appelstein

Thanks Joe! I'm a real lover of private pressings and count the Shaggs, Jandek, Langley Schools Music Project, and weird little pop and punk singles among my favorites. Yet I never even *heard* of the Dandelions album until a few months ago, when Everett True plugged them on Twitter (and he was linking to a website that posted it two years ago). It seems to have been making the rounds at its own slow pace. The moment I heard it, I knew I'd be writing something about it. When I saw that one of the songs was called "The College School," a bell went on in my head - could this be local?? Indeed it was. I'm happy to have continued the discovery process in some way.

Jill George
Jill George

Tres? Jim? It's Jill Fischer. Just found this article and wanted to say hello!

 
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