In search of Mason Proffit

While I was digging through the vinyl the other night, looking for all those old J. Geils Band albums, I also was looking for other things that might make an interesting post.

One was from a band called Mason Proffit.

Mason Proffit was a country-folk-rock band out of Chicago in the late ’60s and early ’70s. It was fronted by a couple of brothers, Terry and John Michael Talbot.

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They recorded a handful of albums, but may best be known for one cut off their first album, “Wanted,” put out on Happy Tiger Records in 1969.

“Two Hangmen” is a protest song, a cautionary ballad, about dissenting voices and the threats they face. It was a familiar sound on FM radio in central Wisconsin in the early ’70s, but didn’t get much airplay beyond the Midwest. It came out during the Vietnam War, yet it rings true today.

If I still have my copy of “Wanted,” I couldn’t find it.

So I went to Mason Proffit’s web site and found something remarkable. There, available as a free download, is the original “Two Hangmen.” It’s an interesting marketing strategy. Give away your most popular song in the hopes visitors will explore something new in return.

In that spirit, I won’t offer the original. But go to Mason Proffit’s web site to get it. I’m delighted to have it and to hear it again.

masonproffitstillhangincd.jpeg

Instead, here’s a new version of “Two Hangmen,” done by Terry Talbot and a revamped Mason Proffit lineup on a 2005 album called “Still Hangin’.”

This version of “Two Hangmen” is true to the original, save for a couple of changes. In the original, the hangman who speaks his mind is named “I’m a freak” and the sheriff is named “Uncle Sam.” In the new version, the hangman is “a simple man” and the sheriff is “the high sheriff.”

“Two Hangmen,” Mason Proffit, from “Still Hangin’,” 2005 (available on eMusic).

Here’s another cut from that album, a new song, as far as I can tell. I chose it solely for the title.

“Old Guys Rule,” Mason Proffit, from “Still Hangin’,” 2005 (available on eMusic).

So whatever happened to Mason Proffit?

Despite having been a major influence on the Eagles and having been big enough to count Steely Dan, the Doobie Br0thers, John Denver and Dan Fogelberg among its opening acts, Mason Proffit broke up in the mid-70s.

Each of the Talbot brothers has since pursued a more spiritual path.

Terry Talbot has recorded more than 30 albums, many of them popular Christian music, and has written an inspirational book. In recent years, he’s worked with Barry McGuire, who is best known for “Eve of Destruction.”

John Michael Talbot became a monk and founded a Catholic retreat in northern Arkansas. He has recorded more than 50 inspirational albums and tours regularly, billing himself as “troubadour for the Lord.” Last year, he rediscovered electric guitars, recorded an album called “Monk Rock” and toured with his brother.

7 Comments

Filed under May 2007, Sounds

7 responses to “In search of Mason Proffit

  1. jb

    “Two Hangmen” is one of the Holy Grail records of classic rock. I used to do a request show about 10 years ago, and people called for this thing every week. We didn’t have it, of course. When I finally got it, the audience went crazy every time I played it. It’s one of those songs that even if you’ve heard it a thousand times, you always stop and listen to it the next time it comes on. Can’t imagine why the band would want to give it away.

  2. Great song. I managed to get the vinyl about ten years ago, and it brought back memories of listening to AM radio late at night during the years when FM was still mostly beautiful music. Every once in a while, through the static, I’d hear “Two Hangmen” haunting the universe.

  3. John

    Pledging a frat at SNC in DePere, this was our song – “Two Hangmen” – sung over and over and over (it was a unity thing, two men hanging together – plus LOTS of beer.) You’re 2 for 2 today – WZ and Two Hangmen. Wow.

  4. Lee

    First heard Mason Proffit live at a concert at Tri-State College in 1970. They played in the new basketball arena. They were the first event in the building. Part of the basketball floor had to be repaired because we stomped so much. Sitting here listening to Two Hangmen, Rectangle Picture, Flying Arrow and Melinda. Just downloaded Old Guys Rule and I think I’ll make it my theme.

  5. Actually, Terry and John were from Indianapolis but played the full range of regional jobs including Chicago where they were based at some point. I’m of the same era, just a few years younger, and a couple of my (very modest) bands opened for them on a few occasions, both when they were Sounds Unlimited as well as Mason Proffit. They were kickin’ then and you are right, Two Hangmen still stands the test of time. Too bad more folks aren’t aware of their early days.

  6. Rick Anderson

    I was turned on to Mason Profit by a radio show called Beeker Street.
    We use to drive around ladysmith Wi. all night just to listen to this station in Little Rock Ark. Clyde Clifford was his name, he would play
    Two Hangmen all the time. Got to see them in Mpls at the time. It was the best time to be young.

  7. Stormin Norman

    I’m an old dude born in 1953, after graduating from Ladysmith High school I was working on the Soo line railroad on the steel gang around Mundelien – Wheeling Illinois area. Mason Proffit was playing @ a school gymnasium in the area a couple other buddies of mine from Ladysmith and myself went and seen them. It was our first live concert ! I’ve since had a lifetime of attending live concerts, but you never forget your first…Thanks M.P. Where the hell did the time go!?

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