The Rivals (Stan & The Ravens) – Hollin’ For My Darlin’


By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon

It was 1965 and most of the young Rock’n’Roll world was entranced by the sounds from Liverpool and the rest of England. The British Invasion made a huge impact in America. Established groups like The Bobby Fuller Four adopted aspects of that sound, at least. Many younger groups were inspired to begin playing by them. Often it was the Beatles and their melodic approach, but for may it was the harder-edged groups like The Rolling Stones, Them and The Pretty Things.

In Buffalo, this group of musicians – Stan & The Ravens – stuck to their guns, old-school style. They’d already been playing for a long time, and they’d either worked with first-generation Rockers like Ronnie Hawkins or learned directly from the guys who had. Stan had been playing in the 1950s. Even the younger guys had years in R&R / R&B bands under their belts (Gary Mallaber had played with the Vibratos in the early 1960s, Tommy Calandra had made a record with the Premiers circa 1961). The charts and their currently-hot artists made little impression on them, except when some real R&B slipped in among the rest.

By this time the personnel of Stan & the Ravens had settled into its last incarnation, with Mallaber replacing Sandy Konikoff, and Calandra and Ernie Corallo becoming the last bass and guitar players, respectively. The only problem was that Stan Szelest kept jumping ship to head North when Ronnie Hawkins offered him higher pay, then returning when he got tired of Hawkins’ heavy-handed ‘leader’ arrangement. Though gigs were steady in Buffalo – among them a regular spot at Glen Park Casino, and a ‘house band’ position at The Hideaway – there wasn’t a lot of room for advancement on the local scene. The band’s instability probably held them back too.

Mallaber and Calandra hedged their bets by starting a local studio and cutting tracks on local artists, most of them self-written, or written in combination with friends like Corallo, or Jim Calire of The Rising Sons. Some of these tracks – the Rising Sons, Paula Durante, Caesar & His Romans – were top-quality in sound and production. Along the way they became enamored of Tony Galla’s great voice as featured with The Rising Sons and thought that maybe if Stan & The Ravens added him as frontman would put them over the top in commercial appeal, which would keep Stan from wandering. But Stan didn’t dig this idea because it reminded him of the frontman vs. band situation with Ronnie Hawkins.

(Sidebar- around this same time Tony Galla recorded the vocal for the B-side of a release on the United Artists by ‘The Mellow Brick Rode’ – the group that became The Road. The A-side was actually the Road guys dubbing their voices over a pre-recorded track from an unsuccessful release by another group. Tony’s side was a remake of Fred Neil’s “Other Side Of This Life”, as covered by many folk/rock groups. I think this track was done at Calandra and Mallaber’s Poultney Avenue studio).

Around this time David Lucas,  a fledgling producer and fan of the band made a deal to produce a track on them for Wand Records. This was cut at Poultney Avenue as was their next and last one on Sahara Records -produced by Lucas.

Hollin’ For My Darlin’ is a cover of the 1959 Blues hit Howlin’ For My Darlin’. Besides the title, the writer credit to “Hollin’ Wolf” is mispelled and fails to include the actual co-writer Willie Dixon, a man who was known to be zealous in protecting his copyrights. I’m sure the band knew the correct info but the pop-oriented Wand Records folks didn’t. Adding insult to injury the band is mysteriously credited as The Rivals, a name they never used and had no knowledge of, until the pressed records found their way to Buffalo.

This decision was made by the record company and probably necessary, as there was a previous hitmaking Ravens as well as myriad regional Ravens across the USA. But it was confusing to the fans – the record couldn’t really build off of their established fan base.

Stan and the boys changed the sound somewhat from Wolf’s version. Tom Calandra’s bass is heavily featured – he was known for his volume and drive, playing through a 100-watt Fender Showman. The rhythm is more pronounced, with what sounds like handclaps added.

Tommy must have really liked playing this, because he brought this arrangement of it to the Rising Sons, and Raven ended up recording it TWICE – it’s on the white Columbia album as well as on the Live At The Inferno album. Both versions are close to this one, so it was obviously important to them and they probably wanted everyone to dig it as much as they did!

Stan and the Ravens – Farmer’s Daughter


By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon 

Join us as we go backward in time to unravel the confusion..
In the past we covered the 1968 single by THE RISING SONS on Upstate Records which was essentially the band RAVEN – before they’d adopted that name. Last week it was the 1967 single by TONY GALLA (& THE RISING SONS) on Swan. At that time the band contained three future members of RAVEN. While they were recording that, the other two future members of RAVEN were winding down their time in STAN & THE RAVENS.
Stan Szelest used the band name ‘Stan & The Ravens’ whenever he put together a group in Buffalo before, after and during his times of working with Toronto-based expatriate Ronnie Hawkins and his Hawks. He liked the money in Toronto and the status of being in one of the top bands there, and Hawkins and his Hawk-mates held him in the highest esteem, but he got homesick several times and returned to the smaller-potatoes Buffalo club scene until Hawkins lured him back.
He was still part of Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks as the eventual members of The Band gathered in its ranks. As Hawkins’ bandleader he acted as a mentor to Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm and the rest, and stayed close with them after he left in for good in 1962, even after they too had left Rockin’ Ronnie in 1964 to try their luck as Levon & The Hawks.
As Levon & The Hawks were in the the process of becoming The Band they apparently asked Stan to join them but he didn’t want to travel that far from home. Rumor has it that in their early days they came down to Buffalo to see Stan’s new Ravens band and watched them ‘like hawks’ (sorry!), Robbie especially trying to figure out how Stan’s guitarist Chuck McCormick got his sound. From what I’ve heard of Chuck’s unique style and tricks – like ‘pinched’ false harmonics – this stuff showed up in Robbie’s playing later.
Stan eventually did become an actual member of The Band himself – replacing Richard Manuel when he passed away. Ironic, as Manuel had originally replaced Stan in Hawkins’ band.
On Stan’s passing another ex-Hawk (Richard Bell) was brought in to complete their ‘Jericho’ album; Stan and Bell’s keyboards both appear on it but Stan gets several writing credits.
Rebel Payne and Sandy Konikoff were two other Buffalonian members of Stan & The Ravens who were brought North by Stan for stints with Ronnie Hawkins. Sandy virtually became a member of The Band when he took over for Levon Helm on perhaps the most legendary tour in Rock history, when Bob Dylan ‘went electric’. Levon got tired of the booing and quit, and the Band guys turned to the Buffalo pool of talent they knew very well.
As I said, Stan Szelest left Ronnie ‘for good’ in the early 60s – though he would go back in later decades – and concentrated on putting together a stable band. I’m guessing his idea of naming them Stan & The Ravens came from Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks. Though apparently Stan sometimes jokingly referred to them as The Volume Kings as high volume was their stock-in-trade. The membership settled into Stan, Chuck McCormick, Sandy Konikoff and Pete Haskell until the latter three were replaced by Ernie Corallo, Tom Calandra and Gary Mallaber.
These four recorded their first 45 for Wand in 1965, miscredited (the record company made up a new group name). They got their second and last shot in 1967 with today’s selection. The misaccreditation continued. Though they were always known as Stan & The Ravens the label credit is to Ravens … although it’s actually Raven’s (sic). Even worse, their names are botched in the writing credits as Stanly Szelest and Tomas Calandra.
I guess that for a band with a good local reputation, having both of your releases miscredited may be a big part of their chart failure.
Anyway, we’re left with this late (1967) rocker on the local Sahara label. Right after this was released the band broke up and Calandra and Mallaber joined up with The Rising Sons which morphed into Raven after a couple years. Everyone stayed on good terms though, and stayed in contact.
After Raven moved to New York City and word of Buffalo’s music talent spread around, Stan and some Ravens (Ernie Corallo and Sandy Konikoff) were invited down. They did a couple albums as a backup group (Roger Tillison’s, and John Cale’s first solo LP post-Velvet Underground) before forming a quartet with Garland Jeffreys and recording the self-titled Grinder’s Switch LP in 1970. From the sound as well as the personnel, you could consider this as – finally – a Stan & The Ravens album. Although not so credited. Of course.

Tony Galla – In Love

By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

Raven, Stan & The Ravens, The Rising Sons, The Rivals, Tony Galla – the history of this group of Buffalo musicians can be confusing. I previously wrote part of the story when I covered the “There’s Nothing Going For Us” 45 by The Rising Sons.

Over the next couple weeks I’ll cover more of the story but for now, here’s the biggest ‘hit’ record out of that whole scene – at least, as far as Buffalo’s reputation overseas!

The Rising Sons started in the mid-1960s and included Jimmy Calire, Tony Galla and a very young John Weitz. They were well-acqainted with the premier band in their genre, Stan & The Ravens. Stan Szelest had even tried to lure Tony away from the Rising Sons to become their vocalist.

Along the way Tony hooked up with Joey Reynolds and cut this record for Swan in 1967, In Love b/w Guys Go For Girls. Some pressings credit Tony Galla only, some Tony Galla & The Rising Sons., but it’s likely studio players provided some of the backup.

A hit in some regional markets (the biggest perhaps being Philadelphia, and of course Buffalo), In Love failed to click nationally but along with lots of local radio play did raise their profile significantly. The Rising Sons became the house band at the legendary Glen Park Casino’s club, called the “Inferno”.

Tom Calandra and Gary Mallaber left Stan & The Ravens and joined the Rising Sons in time to cut their next record, I’m Feeling Down b/w There’s Nothing Going For Us for the local Upstate label. They eventually became ‘Raven’, got a major label deal, cut an album, and moved to New York City

I’ll talk about that subsequent history later. Today, let’s check out In Love. This track falls into the bag known as Northern Soul, although it’s a lot bluesier than most in that genre, which generally tends more to Motown-style sounds. If these are studio musicians, they sound just like the Buffalo guys – thumping bass and drums, piano and especially that Hammond B3 organ sound.

In Love was discovered by the Northern Soul dance crowd in the UK in the 70s and only became more popular as time went on, spreading to the rest of Europe, where it’s now considered a classic. In fact, it’s probably in the Top 30 of all-time favorite Northern Soul songs to connoisseurs. Locally it’s fondly remembered by their many fans and Tony still performs it!