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.