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!