45 Friday: Rabbit and Geno – Deep In The Night


By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon

The conclusion of the RABBIT & GENO story…

About 10 years ago some local collectors asked me to track down a record. They had been talking to Rabbit, who insisted that he had made a second record way back in the early 1960s. But he said he didn’t remember the song titles or the record label’s name; in fact had never even received a copy! These collectors wanted to try to find a copy for him. I did some searching, other people were searching, but nothing turned up. How could it be that, among people who’d been collecting local records for decades, no copy had been found? I formed an opinion that it didn’t exist, or at best had never gone beyond acetate stage.

In that way it was like the legend of the local Supremes 45 – rumored to exist, but nobody had ever seen one. In both cases, we expected these local artists’ records to be found locally. That was the mistake.

With the advent of Google and more advanced searching methods better searching was available but I still couldn’t find anything. Complicating things was the fact that Rabbit claimed to have been taken to King Records to record, by Buffalo’s Donnie Elbert. And the fact that there were many possibilities of label credits – Robert “Count Rabbit” Robinson? Eugene “Geno” (but sometimes Gino”) Washington? Together, separately, or even under some other name?

At that time I wasn’t aware that they had worked out of town for so long.

It wasn’t until I learned that Rabbit had left Buffalo circa 1961 to work in his the city of his early youth that a new possibility came to mind and I contacted some people in Pittsburgh. It was actually through them that I learned that Rabbit and Geno played backup on a Pittsburgh record by vocal group The La-Rells (Public Transportation / I Just Can’t Understand) in 1961. A record I still don’t have! Trying to hunt down a copy, a collector there told me “you know they made a record here too, right?”. And the search was almost over!

It turned out they’d cut a record but it had barely ever made it out of the factory – receiving no distribution. One collector told me only 50 copies were made. This is highly suspect though, as records are never made in batches of 50, and I’ve since tracked down 3 copies (though with great effort!) and seen two more – counting the one in the linked video. Meanwhile another PA collector implied that it was a local hit in Pittsburgh! Which is also suspect, given its rarity.

The truth is probably that only a small amount were pressed and they were sold at club dates. Our dynamic duo appear to have been very popular in the clubs there, which is why they stayed for 6 years.

Deep In The Night came out on TeemA Records in 1962. I don’t know what “TeemA” means but this seems to be only release bearing such a name. The credit on this side reads “Geno & Rabbit”, which confounded exact internet searching asI’d assumed Rabbit always came first! And the flip, Never Before, is credited to Rabbit only. I’m pretty sure Geno is in the background though; and on both sides the La-Rells returned the previous favor by doing vocal backing.

I traded off the first copy I found to my collector friend. I assume he took it to Rabbit. I hope so! It was only a couple years later that Rabbit passed away.

Deep In The Night is another gem, again it’s R&B but has now stepped over the line into Soul. Enjoy!

Rabbit and Geno – Uncertain Love


By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon

RABBIT & GENO released “Uncertain Love”/”Why Did You Go” on Bow Records in 1958. Robert Lee Robinson (Count Rabbit) was a guitarist and Eugene (Geno) Washington was a keyboard player, though this record features them as tough R&B duet vocalists.

How they ended up on this New York City/ New Jersey label – sister label of Arrow Records – is unknown to me. They released another 45 which is much MORE mysterious. In fact it was a complete mystery to most people, including Rabbit himself! We weren’t able to track down a copy of that record for him and prove its existence until shortly before his untimely passing in 2011. More on that next week. For now …

Rabbit’s story is well-known due to his active later years in music. After returning to Buffalo in 1969, he continued playing in local clubs to the point that he became Buffalo’s Elder Statesman of the Blues, and R&B. He was inducted in the Buffalo Music hall Of Fame in 1996. His story was documented in a 1994 Buffalo Magazine article by Elmer Ploetz (‘Fade To Blues’ – still available online). Also available online is an article in American Blues News about February 18, 2011, being declared “Count Rabbit Day” in Buffalo, during Black History Month. Rabbit tragically passed away the next day, leaving behind twenty-five children and innumerable grandchildren. He had continued playing almost right up to the end. He was 78 years old,

The story of his earlier years has been told elsewhere, but here’s the short story: he was moved to Buffalo from Pittsburgh while still a child. His mother was an entertainer. At 14 he started playing guitar with on the street for tips, and it was on the sidewalk outside the Club Moonglow where he was discovered by its manager and put onstage. Playing other East Side spots like the Lucky Star and Little Harlem, he eventually met up with Geno. They formed a partnership that lasted until Geno’s death in the early 1980s, traveling, and spending six years as a popular attraction in the clubs of Rabbit’s native Pittsburgh.

Geno’s story is more obscure. Tracking down his info is complicated by the fact that he was really Eugene but sometimes Geno and sometimes Gino. And there was a more-famous Geno Washinton and a more-famous Gino Washington, both Black R&B/Soul singers: Gino from Detroit, and Geno from the UK. The latter, a former USA airman who’d been stationed in London, actually achieved great chart success as leader of the interracial Geno Washinton & The Ram Jam Band. All of which makes Google almost unusable for research for this!

Anyway they left us with just two recorded documents – four sides – and today’s is one of them, a nice rockin’ R&B tune that mixes jumping Blues with Gospel. Enjoy!

45 Friday: JIMMIE RAYE – You Don’t Want My Love


By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon

We previously talked about Jimmie Raye and his 1966-67 releases – “Philly Dog Around The World” on KKC Records and “You Must Be Losing Your Mind” on JRE Records. If you want to know more about those releases or that period, search back on this site. Today we’ll talk about his earlier years and his 1963 release.

Jimmie grew up in Niagara Falls. By the time he returned to WNY after a stint in the Air Force, he had heard a lot of music and performed a bit. In 1962 Jimmie met Kim Kimbrough, owner of KKC Records, and the bunch of R&B performers in his circle- Babe Wayne, Arlester (Dyke) Christian, Carl LaRue & His Crew. They decided to join forces and worked the clubs following north of the border of the Niagara Frontier, developing a strong reputation in Ontario. Realizing that the only way to take the next step up in the music business was to go to its business centers on either the West or East coasts, the band was torn about which way to go. In the end most of them went West, where they eventually became Dyke & The Blazers, and Jimmie and Kim Kimbrough went East.

While Kim knocked on record company doors, Jimmie worked the Washington, D.C., area, meeting the D.C.-based performers Don Covay, “Sir” Mack Rice, Billy Stewart and Eddie Floyd, who led him to the local Satan Records and his obscure first 45, “Hey Let’s Dance.”  Jimmie’s site mentions Sylvester Steward as the man behind this label and record. If that is indeed Sly, later Sly of The Family Stone, it’s unexpected (I would have expected him to be on the West Coast at that time) but maybe not… he was working all kinds of angles back then, trying to make a hit and break into the business.

When nothing came of this 45, Jimmie went back to WNY to record “You Don’t Want My Love” / “I Kept On Walking” on his own Niagara label. I don’t know much about this record except that it was recorded in Buffalo and is in that transitional style between R&B and Soul.

Soon he was in NYC, taking advantage of the connections they’d made there to record his classic Soul sides.

There was of course much more to come in his career- paths crossed many stars and superstars; records that almost hit; records that failed THEN and are considered classics by Soul mavens NOW. He continued recording, sporadically but somewhat consistently; every few years a new project would get him excited. In the 1970s he recorded everything from an obscure local-only 45 to albums for national release. His 1980s rediscovery by UK and European Soul fans led to live appearances and a whole new career. He released a CD of new material in 2004 (recorded 1987)

In 1980, the Mayor of Niagara Falls gave Jimmie the key to the city. It seems that wherever his career took him, the Niagara region stayed close to his heart.

45 Friday: THE ROGUES – Train Kept a Rollin’


By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon

We finish up our look at WNY’s Audition records label with the Audition release that’s the closest to ‘home’ – the suburbs of Buffalo. And right on time. One of its creators made a special appearance in town last night!

The minds of teenagers in garage bands across the country worked in remarkably similar ways. It seems that every large city had a ‘Rogues.’  As a result, trying to get info on one Rogues could sometimes be confused by the many, many Rogues who released 45s across the USA in the mid-Sixties. The internet has made it a lot easier to get accurate info. But the Rogues story was nailed down long ago. It’s pretty straightforward – three releases only, on two local labels. Nothing more, nothing less.

I won’t tell the Rogues’ whole story here. At least not today. Lots of info is already available on the net. But more important: it’s a great story and deserves a more in-depth telling than I can give here. Someone should write a book.. or at least a very lengthy article. Maybe someone will!

Why you should care? In the glory days of British Invasion-influenced garage rock, the Rogues were at the top of the heap locally. They had a great name; a great look (vaguely British-looking band uniforms); fantastic equipment – Vox Beatle amplifiers and Gretsch guitars – matching that of their idols; and sharp instrumental skills and great vocal harmonies. Eventually they had their own teen nightclub, The Rogues Gallery (on Niagara Falls Blvd). They got to make records. And they had a large fan club – of mostly teenage girls.

In short, they were living the dream.

In terms of the classic years of teenage R&R combos, 1965-66 is the pinnacle. American teens had heard the sounds of early American R&R bounced back to them via the British groups. They varied from the more melodic groups like The Beatles and Seachers to the more raw Kinks and Pretty Things, the bluesy Rolling Stones and Them, the powerful Who, and most important – the guitar heroics of The Yardbirds.

The Rogues combined all of these. On record they tended to the more melodic side, mixing in sounds from the USA via The Byrds and The Monkees. Five of their six sides are just that. Only one side is different, only one side reflects the power the group could summon when playing to their peers: their version of “Train Kept A-Rolling.”

“Train” had a long history, interpreted differently but always with great results. Tiny Bradshaw did it first, in jump/ R&B style.  Johnny Burnette & The Rock’N’Roll Trio turned it into a Rockabilly classic. The Yardbirds added cutting-edge flashy guitar courtesy of Jeff Beck. It’s the Yardbirds version which the Rogues used as a starting point for their 1966 recording. Maybe they had
seen the Yardbirds play it when they’d played at The Peppermint Stick (also on Niagara Falls Blvd.) half a year earlier. That’s more than likely for these Anglophile guitar enthusiasts!

The Yardbirds recorded a second version during the short time in which Jimmy Page was in the band at the same time as Beck. They were asked to record it for the film Blow-Up (after The Who turned down the gig) but rewrote the lyrics to avoid copyright problems and titled it “Stroll On.”  It was incorporated with a classic scene in which Beck smashes his guitar.

In any case, the Rogues took the Yardbirds’ version into another dimension. Remember that this was 1966… our modern ears, used to the acid rock and psychedelic music that happened later, may not realize how shocking this record must have sounded. More psychotic than psychedelic, this kind of grungey noise and aggression typifies what is now called “garage punk.” The feedback and fuzz and pounding rhythm are typical – but the vocalists’ squeals and strange enunciation are NOT. Maybe he doesn’t know the actual words.. maybe they were trying to incorporate the lyrics from “Stroll On”, dimly-remembered after seeing the film.

The Rogues’ “Train” is considered a classic of garage punk. And the B-side original “You Better Look Now” is perfect folk rock – covered early-on by Rochester’s The Chesterfield Kings – making this record legendary as a perfect two-sider. It’s  now much sought-after. But on release in 1966, Audition 6110 went nowhere beyond some local sales, like all Audition releases. Ditto for their two 45s on Buffalo’s Thunderbird label.

The Rogues went on other things but one Rogue reached great success in the music business. Michael Spriggs was originally from England, giving this Buffalo band fantastic authenticity in this British Invasion era. He had come to Buffalo to attend college. After the Rogues break-up he played in various formats around town, concentrating more on acoustic guitar. He moved to Nashville in 1971 and worked as lead guitarist in Eddie Rabbitt’s band for six years, subsequently becoming a session played. As a sessionist he’s attained absolute top of the heap status, having been considered an A-list played for 25 years or more. He’s played on many #1 records, played on over 5.000 live, radio and television shows (!), recorded his own solo albums, been featured on the covers of guitarist’s magazines, and is sought-after by equipment manufacturers for his endorsements.

I had the chance to talk to him once. He told me that new equipment is delivered to his house for him to try out -gratis – on a daily basis; yet it would never beat the thrill he got out of getting that first Gretsch Country Gentleman and Vox Super Beatle amp in 1965 in Buffalo.

Mike Spriggs came back to Buffalo this week to perform with fellow Buffalonian guitar sessionist Ed Supple at Ed’s induction into the Buffalo Music Hall Of Fame (Mike is a previous inductee). A lot of music might come to people’s minds on seeing Mike play here again, but I doubt anyone would expect to hear ANYTHING like this bast from the 1966 past.