Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon
At the turn of the decade – 1950s to 1960s – Buffalo was the home of the Rockin’ instrumental. If you wanted more proof, here it is!
People will tell you that in the post-“Day The Music Died” era there was nothing but pretty-boy Teen Idols and watered down Pop’N’Roll. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee, Little Richard all were gone, one way or another, and there was very little really exciting music going on. But in Buffalo they found an answer. They went back to the roots.
Jumping saxophone-led instrumentals had been a part of the the R&B world since the late 1940s and in Buffalo R&B music never really died, possibly because the most influential local DJ – the Hound (George Lorenz) loved ’em and used R&B instros as his regular background music, which gave the young white musicians of the area a familiarity with the sound.
Buffalo produced three instrumental 45s that made it onto the national charts. Along with the Tune Rockers and The Rockin’ Rebels, The Quarter Notes took basic musical skills, a simple shuffle beat and a raunchy sax and sold enough copies of Record Hop Blues to become local heroes – for a few minutes! The Wizz Records 45 record stalled in the lower reaches of the Top 100 in Spring 1959 but they were able to parlay that success into a further release on Wizz, backing local white R&B singer Neil Darrow. And their next effort, Canadian Sunset/Frantic Flip on Bison Records (a local label – of course!) was picked up for national release by Imperial Records, though it went nowhere.
I should mention that the flip, the wonderfully-named Suki-Yaki-Rocki, was an equally good slice of oriental-themed instro rock.
That would be the end of the story, except it would be too simple for local record detectives. So there’s an added mystery. A record was issued by Gary Vallet who was a sometimes member of the Quarter Notes, and later taught guitar locally. Guitar Bass Boogie / Rainfall by Gary Vallet & The Vallets is a good instrumental guitar feature. It appeared on Bison Records, probably the same Bison as Canadian Sunset (though it looks quite different). Rumor has it that it’s actually the Quarter Notes, and the writer of Guitar Bass Boogie is listed as Tony Sperry.
Some years later a record turned up on the legendary Glenn Records (of Indiana) titled The Shock. It was actually Guitar Bass Boogie with added maniacal laughter, remixed to be sound more contemporary, now credited to Tony Sperry & The Quarter Notes. The flip, Oriental Rock, is credited to just The Quarter Notes but seems to my ear to be different musicians completely; with a similar oriental theme to Suki-Yaki-Rock but mostly different music.
If that wasn’t enough, a new rumor has been circulating that a local group called The Raindrops issued a 45 on Wizz with a B-side consisting of an instrumental by The Quarter Notes. As always, more info is welcome!
The Quarter Notes featured Tony Sperry on keyboards, Johnny Shiedo on sax, and sometimes Gary Vallet. They formed around Sperry’s Quarter Note Lounge (which Tony’s father owned) and played there regularly.
Record Hop Blues/ Suki-Yaki-Rocki – WIZZ 715 1959
Charlene/ She’s A Fine Chick – WIZZ 717 1959 (Neil Darrow With The Quarter Notes)
Canadian Sunset/Frantic Flip – BISON 757 1959
Canadian Sunset/Frantic Flip – IMPERIAL 5647 1959
Guitar Bass Boogie/ Rainfall – BISON 2153/4 (Gary Vallet And The Vallets) 1960
The Shock/ Oriental Rock – GLENN 2550 circa 1963