Playboys – Don’t Do Me Wrong

45-Friday_4

By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

THE PLAYBOYS – Buffalo teenagers who made a record for teenagers – and went from High School to the charts in a matter of weeks!

Lots of local people, not just record collectors, remember Buffalo’s Graduates. Not so many remember the precursor group The Playboys, but the Playboys actually managed to land a much better record deal – one that potentially could have broken them nationally.

In 1956, six guys decided to form a vocal group. They were frat members and high school students (mostly at Lafayette High School and Hutch Tech). Jack Scorsone, Ronald Page, Bruce,Hammond, Raymond Baunler, Harold Rogers and Anthony Mancuso called themselves The Rays. By 1957 they had figured out their next step – they went to a Buffalo demo studio and recorded their one original song, Jack’s “Why Do I Love You, Why Do I Care”.

Local DJ Frank Ward flipped when he heard it and immediately played it on the air. It got a great response so he called up somebody affiliated with Mercury Records, played it over the phone, and Mercury expressed an interest. A few days later the boys got an offer to come to New York City to record it.

Two things happened as they set about recording- they learned of the already-existing Rays (soon to hit with “Silhouettes”) and had to come up with a name change. A nearby copy of Playboy magazine gave them the inspiration. And they had to come up with a B-side. Jack Scorsone sat down and wrote “Don’t Do Me Wrong” off the top of his head. The group recorded it in two takes, with no chance to correct the couple bad notes that appeared!

Back to Buffalo… the group was coming to grips with their whirlwind of success. In just a few short weeks they’d gone from demo to national label. Waiting for news of it they were asked to perform at a school assembly and were introduced as Recording Artists, to great adulation. And a few days later they started hearing “Why Do I Love You, Why Do I Care” on the radio.

Now it was time for a few out of town appearances. The music business did what it usually does and the boys, being teenagers, did what teens often did in such circumstances. Record company sharpies tried to get their hooks in the group with offers to go to other labels, offers to make individuals solo stars, questions about royalties and writer credits; the boys started to bicker. All the members had been given writing credit for Scorsone’s “Don’t Do Me Wrong”, while only Scorsone was the only Playboy credited with “Why Do I Love You”. Co-credit was also given to a woman, about whom no one remembers anything except she was the friend of somebody in the music business!

Tensions worsened. Scorsone was advised to act as more of a front man and less as “one of the boys”. Having to traveling to some out of town shows tested the teens commitment and camaraderie.

One label wanted Scorsone only. Mercury wanted a second single but was dragging its feet. Local DJs Tom Shannon and Phil Todaro (Shan-Todd, MarLee, Corsican Records) had experienced success with The Rockin’ Rebels and wanted more, and expressed some interest in the Playboys.

With this uncertainty in the air, some members decided they’d had enough and quit. Johnny Capello had played sax for the Jesters but was mainly known for his sax part on another Buffalo group’s smash 1958 hit, The Tune Rocker’s “The Green Mosquito”. He was brought in – surprisingly! – as vocalist. Accounts differ on this. Some say Shan-Todd tried to create a local super-group. Others say that the Playboys were preparing to replace Scorsone if things didn’t work out.

In any case, Capello came in and took over the lead vocalist role and Scorsone settled more into the background. With a name change to The Graduates came a signing to Shan-Todd Records and the recording of “Ballad Of A Girl And A Boy”. After this recording Jack left the group and joined the Navy. Further release followed on Corsican and finally a national label, Swan subsidiary Lawn.

Each record sold well enough though none were big hits.  Eventually the group simply broke up, the member moving on to other careers.

While the Graduates records were somewhat polished, the Playboys record really SOUNDS like teens, almost like a garage band version of a doowop group, especially on the uptempo B-side I’ve chosen for today’s 45. That is a big part of its charm.  The A-side is a ballad. It’s okay, featuring some nice guitar (Scorsone was the band’s guitarist, though I have a feeling its not him on the record), but not really all that special. |

I will probably cover the Graduates own record before too long. This article includes information gleaned from Bob and Terri Skurzewski’s book No Stoppin’ This Boppin’ (look for it!) and from an article at the website White Doo Wop Collector.

Enjoy!

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The Charles – Motorcyle

45-Friday_4

By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

The Charles were one of the house bands at Gilligan’s on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga. Gilligan’s – later the site of Uncle Sam’s – was opened by local club owners the Goldstein family (the extended family of Buffalo’s legendary entertainment impresario Harry Altman) one week after their Williamsville music mecca The Inferno burned down.

I don’t know too much about The Charles. If you know more about them, please contact me! I’ve been told they were mostly from Florida, and maybe they came here just to do some gigs, but somehow they hooked up with keyboardist John Valby and he joined the band. The writer credit for Motorcycle is Valby, with A. Lee and J. Wyatt and M. Tice. Since the record was produced by Michael Tice and Joel Sainer I assume they were the managers and Lee and Wyatt the other members.

The record came out on the one-shot Calliope label.  I don’t know what’s at that 441 Hopkins Rd address but I have a feeling Michael Tice was related to local promoter Eddie Tice.

Motorcycle/Down By The Riverside (a Valby/Tince original, not the standard) is often listed as being from 1966 but I think that’s wishful thinking on the part of Garage Rock collectors. If it were indeed from 1966 it would be way ahead of its time, but I think it’s actually from 1968 or even 1969, by which time there had been many records with a similar sound.

What is the sound? it sounds like the typical theme from one of the many Biker exploitation movies of the time, like Hells Angels On Wheels. These themes were often done by Davie Allan & The Arrows, though they’re not far from the harder rock sounds of Steppenwolf. The lyrics are tough, violent, talking about punching and killing people.. this would have worked as a Biker movie track but it’s hard to imagine it becoming an AM radio hit. You have to wonder what they were thinking. Maybe the band wanted something for their club patrons to buy at gigs. No promotional copies exist and I don’t recall ever seeing evidence that they were put into the hands of radio DJs or distributors.

Motorcycle has found popularity with the Garage Rock crowd and has been complied on several Garage compilations, most notably Scum Of The Earth.

The Charles had a second 45 on the Mercury label, probably about 1970. Almost simultaneously John Valby issued his own first solo record as a 45 also on Mercury. Both of these are so obscure that even hardcore collectors don’t seem to know about them, and they may exist only as promo. I’ve never seen stock copies of either! This is not a loss for collectors or local music fans as both are pretty forgettable, as is Down By The Riverside.

Valby’s subsequent career is well-known to local partiers, as a piano pounder and singer of songs for the whole family to join in, ala Mitch Miller. Um, no, actually as a singer of supremely dirty, X-rated songs, leading to his nickname of the name Doctor Dirty. Many records followed on a variety of his own labels, from the early 70s right into today’s CD market. And he continues his lucrative career of live performances, which nowadays can take him across the country.

Incidentally, the video linked here uses photos of British bikers. I guess the spirit is there but they are a decidedly different bunch from the hardcore American bikers this songs suggests.

The Vibratos – Linda Lu

45-Friday_4

By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

One of Buffalo’s longest-lasting bands from the “oldies” period was The Vibratos. They existed in some form from as far back as 1957 to 1971. A number of interesting people passed through their ranks, though the core members of the band never achieved recognition outside of it. They plied their trade in a handful of clubs where they were popular enough to be the long-term ‘house band’ … always a dependable rockin’ good time … but they were never able to move beyond that and hit the big time.

The core of the group was brothers Dick Terranova (guitar) and Jack Terranova (bass) from the Fillmore / East Ferry area.  The co-founder was drummer Joe Ferrara. They did the usual duty of work for local DJs, playing record hops and a live broadcast  for the “High Teen” radio show from the Dellwood Ballroom. Then it was onto the local club scene. Originally a R&R instrumental group, they became a vocal group with the addition of Kenny Dee.

They became regulars at downtown’s Town Casino in 1962 and in 1963 became a house band at the Glen Park Casino, replacing Stan and the Ravens. The band now included Mike Lustan (guitar). Somewhere around this time they made their first record, covers of two popular R&B songs of the day done in rock’n’roll style. Ray Charles’ “Greenback” sounds a bit lackluster to me but Ray Sharpe’s “Linda Lu” is mighty fine. Many people consider “Linda Lu” a Rockabilly song and maybe it is; Ray Sharpe was able to cross over from his otherwise R&B sound for this one.

Soon after Kenny Dee was replaced with a new vocalist. East-Sider Emil Lewandowski played some instruments but his vocal prowess was obvious to all and he became the lead singer as they became the house band at Lulu Belles. Believing bigger things were in store for him, Emil took Mike Lustan and headed to the West Coast to seek fame and fortune. Before he left he changed his name to Cory Wells – supposedly taking his name from a Cory coffeepot at one of the all-night diners they frequented. Cory and Mike hit moderate success in California as The Enemys but greater things were to come when Cory joined with two other vocalists to form Three Dog Night!

Meanwhile back in Buffalo the Vibratos membership now settled into the Terranova brothers plus Al Fiorella (organ) and soon-to-be-famous drummer Gary Mallaber – who was still in high school. Buffalo sax legend Chic Cicero came in and toughened up their R&B image with his hard wailing sax and classic antics of ‘walking the bar’ and playing from inside the ladies’ room. This group held forth mostly at the Town Casino and The Colonie.

It was this Vibratos that went to New York City to record their second and final single, both records being issued on their own Sotar-Biv label (Vibratos spelled backwards). A cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Stubborn Kinda Fella” featuring Jack on vocals while the flip added a friend, female singer Sandy Barret, for a cover of the Ronettes’ “Walking in the Rain”.  Obviously they had a love for R&B and not much interest in writing their own material. This worked in 1963 .. but the scene was changing.

Gary Mallaber went with Stan & The Ravens, then Raven, and eventually onto the world stage with Steve Miller and Van Morrison and more. Chic Cicero formed his own group, Chic And The Diplomats, putting out a 45 and becoming house band at the Ivanhoe. Eventually he moved on to a totally unrelated fame (or infamy) as an author in “the esoteric community” and one of the highest practitioners of ceremonial magick in the world, as a President of The Order of the Golden Dawn.

More changes came. The venues changed as clubs closed and opened – they moved to smaller R&R clubs like The Brighton Acres and McVans and lounges like The Three Coins. The days of huge teen clubs were over. The days of opening for national bands were over. The music followed the trends in mid and late 1960s Rock, eventually leading to covers of hits by the alphabet groups (BS&T, CSN&Y).

Eventually The Vibratos, as such, ceased to exist. The Terranovas carried on together or separately in smaller units to play lounges and weddings. Along the way it seems almost every musician in Buffalo has worked with them at some time, including Brad Grey, Jimmy Calieri, Jim Wosniak, The Kipler Brothers (The Rockin’ Rebels), Toni Castellani and Tony Galla. So – two careers, two records, no hits, but a lifetime of music and a hand in launching some other significant careers. And probably some great nights of dancing and fun, if you were lucky enough to be around in the early 1960s.

Carlena Weaver – Heart Break

45-Friday_4

By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

Carlena Weaver was one of the lead singers of The Avengers, the band led by Hank ‘Soul Man’ Mullen. She only cut one and a half records, both in Buffalo, but what great records they are!

Mullen got the first shot at making a record, for which the band traveled to Capricorn Records Studio in Macon at the behest of their Georgia-based manager James Reese. This resulted in Audel 362: Listen / He Upset Your Dreams – credited to “Hank ‘Soul Man’ Mullen”.

For this record things were different. They enlisted the help of local R&B go-to guy Benny Clark. Benny’s career was previously discussed in my article about the Debonairs 45 on Harmon. In short, he had a 50 year career touching on all areas of R&B, Jazz and Soul music and though his most fruitful was done with nationals like Brunswick Records, he kept his hand in locally.

In this case he wrote both tracks and likely produced the disc even though the label gives it to ‘Reese And Broward Productions’ (the same production team credited on Mullen’s disc). Again, the label also credit the Avengers as arrangers. This was almost certainly recorded in Buffalo and my guess would be at William Nunn’s Mo-Do studio.

Jealousy b/w Heart Break (Audel 363) is a typical two-sider and the uptempo “Jealousy” side is probably the intended A-side. It’s very good. But “Heart Break” – the B-side – is amazing, an intense Deep Soul tearjerker. It has a lot more personality than the A-side, so I’ve decided to feature it today.

Carlena turned up shortly after this Audel record with a release on the Mo-Do Records label proper, early in its run (Mo-Do 105).  This only featured her on one side, the flip being an instrument credited to Majestic Sounds Ltd (probably members of the Nunn family circle). After this she apparently never recorded again, and her career seems to have ended – though it’s been claimed she later worked for Ike Turner as an Ikette.

Anyway, in two records we have the entire output of Carlena Weaver. And in two records the entire output of Audel Records, and of The Avengers. Interestingly there could have been another release which could have completed the series. It’s been suggested that the Moe Jones named as the band’s third lead vocalist may actually have been  Maurice “Little Mo” Jones, who later sang and played trumpet with Dyke & the Blazers. This is likely, as Hank Mullen was a good friend of Carl LaRue, whose ‘Carl LaRue And His Crew’ band grew into Dyke & the Blazers eventually.

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I’m always looking for more info, corrections, additions. Always looking for more local recordings to feature. If you made a record locally and would like to see it featured here contact me!

Hank “Soul Man” Mullen – Listen

 

45-Friday_4

By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

Hank Mullen was a dynamic performer who was a staple of the Buffalo Soul/R&B club scene of the 1960s. Unfortunately it took  awhile for him to get into the recording studio and his first effort, on a local label with no significant promotion or distribution, didn’t bring him any attention from the national recording industry. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Shortly after the single’s release Hank had a heart attack and passed away. He was only in his mid-20s.

The Avengers was a Soul/R&B band formed in Buffalo, NY in the mid 1960s. The band was known for its tight sound and hot players. At one time guitar wizard Alyn Syms played with the band. Many of you will recall Syms’ later efforts – following a stint with Rick James early on he founded his own Hard Rock band which made an album and played constantly on the local scene. On the YouTube video for this Mullen tune he commented “I played with Hank in the late 60’s. I was a junior in high school playing out four nights a week with Hank Mullens & the Avengers, the best soul band I ever played in. I was wearing tailor made suits while everyone else was wearing tie dyed shirts and coming to school on acid”.  Obviously, this was a serious band who wanted the best players, age or race notwithstanding.

Besides playing locally the band toured the Midwest and South as the backing band for Eddie Floyd, Arthur Conley, Betty Wright and Betty Swann. For their own material the Avengers used three lead vocalists (Mullen, Moe Jones and Carlena Weaver) though Mullen was the main man. And so when they recorded, Mullen was featured.

Listen / He Upset Your Dreams was issued on Audel Records    in 1970 (some sources say 1967 but 1970 seems correct). The artist credit is to Mullen but the record states ‘arranged by The Avengers’. I’m pretty sure The Avengers do play on this and if so they do an admirable job covering the Southern Soul sound; the brass has the tight and punchy sound of the Fame/ Stax/ Muscle Shoals hits of that era.

Another reason for that sound- the production people behind it were all steeped in the Southern Soul tradition. Their manager was Macon, Georgia native James Reese. He recorded them at Capricorn Records Studio in Macon. Both tunes were penned by Earl Simms & Alan Osborne, staff writers for Redwal Music (a music publishing company formed in 1965 by Otis Redding with later Capricorn owners Phil & Alan Walden). Earl Simms had worked as road manager for Otis Redding and Arthur Conley and wrote for Conley).

While there they cut another single, this time featuring and crediting Carlena Weaver. This was also issued on Audel. Carlena later spent time singing with the Ikettes and issued another single locally on MO-DO Records.

Audel was a label run by East Side record stores Audrey & Del’s. I believe they were originally two separate stores – Audrey’s and Del’s – who combined their businesses. They also ran a One-stop operation for Soul and R&B music. But these were the only records they ever issued under their own imprint.

Listen / He Upset Your Dreams is a high quality record, and like many a high quality Soul records, has found a new audience in the Soul fans of Europe. Such that it was recently reissued by Daptone Records subsidiary Ever-Soul. Both sides are great and while I usually go with uptempo sides for this 45 Friday feature the Listen side is so great – a soulful slow-burner – I had to feature it.

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I’m always looking for more info, corrections, additions. Always looking for more local recordings to feature. If you made a record locally and would like to see it featured here contact me!