45 Friday: THE DUPRIES – Kissy Face

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Thunderbird Records was formed in the early 1960s by Len and Ben Weisman. Like its allied label Sahara Records it was named after a Las Vegas gambling casino frequented by an affiliate who later became a partner. Len Weisman is better known locally as Buffalo’s biggest player in the record business, Lenny Silver.

Thunderbird and Sahara recorded a number of local (Buffalo to Rochester) artists but at some point the Weismans apparently moved operations for a short time to California and a number of records were released on West Coast artists. When Lenny moved back and made Buffalo his base of operations most of his releases were Western New York artists, but at all time he was not averse to buying the rights to recordings he liked and releasing them on his labels – always looking for a hit.

Along the way he built up a record-business empire including Masters Releasing, Amherst Records, the huge chain of Record Theatre retail locations and the even bigger record distributing business (at one time, the 4th largest in the nation).

The earliest releases on Thunderbird (as on Sahara) had silk-screened labels, replaced by paper labels in the mid-1960s. Thunderbird #106 was the last release on the silkscreened label. As a label Sahara petered out early while Thunderbird persisted until it was dropped in favor of Amherst Records around 1970.

The Dupries 45 on Thunderbird #106 has always puzzled local collectors. No one remembers such a group and the label provided no clues. Of course there was the famous Duprees (whose biggest hit was “You Belong To Me”) but they were obviously not related.

The two sides (Baby Doll and Kissy Face) fall into the ‘teen’ genre. Lately referred to by record collectors as ‘teeners’, these can be pretty corny but they can also be moderately rocking – as exemplified by Bobby Vee. These both lean toward the moderately rocking side, with male lead vocals and female backups, with songwriting a little reminiscent of Buddy Holly. Since it came out in 1965 a bit of Beatles influence wouldn’t be out of the question – of course, Holly was one of the biggest influences on both the Beatles and Bobby Vee.


Baby Doll is a decent rocker with good guitar. Kissy Face adds some girl group vocals for a great start, though the lyrics take a turn to pure teen with the tale of an unfaithful sweetie who was “playing kissy face all over school” !

As it turns the Dupries were not of local origin. Annie, Joanie & Carol Duprey were from St. Paul, Minnesota as was their band: Dick Schulz (bass and vocal), Dave Pilz (drums) and Dave Parpovich (lead guitar). Dupries was an altered form of the sisters’ last name. These sides were recorded in May, 1965 for St. Paul label Test Records. Just month after that small-label release they were picked up and re-released on Thunderbird.

It’s a good record but, alas, not a hit. Maybe they’d have been better off keeping it a in their own region, since a local DJ ahd written and produced it ansd was likely to push it for them Here, there was no connection – and no band to perform it locally.

After this the girls and band went back to Test Records and got a release as Candy & The Corals and again failing to hit, they disappeared from our world of records and radio. I did find this comment on the internet: “This is my mom Joan Duprey, Aunt Annie, Uncle Donny on drums and Uncle Dick singing lead vocals… My mom would love this. She died in November 1965”. I guess that helps explain why their career ended.

And that’s a poignant reminder that when we hear these records, they all represent the hopes and dreams of the people who made them; and while for us listeners they may be great or not, entertainment or distraction, to some people they have a personal meaning way beyond that.

So- a local record that’s not really a local record, but a least a good story – and a mystery solved.

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45 Friday: BILLY LEHMAN & THE ROCK-ITTS – Black Derby

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

For their second single these Southtowns rockers moved from the Hamburg-based “Prime 1” label to a new label created by WKBW disc jockey Art Roberts, ARP (“Art Roberts Presents”). This was ARP #13 and has no address. The followup was ARP #14 which carried a Buffalo address and was credited to a somewhat different group – Billy Lehman & The Penn-Men. These two are the only records on ARP. Maybe it wasn’t so lucky starting the series off with #13!

Black Derby has a sound that’s a little dated for 1959, though I could see a Bill Haley group tackling it. This one was co-written by Clyde Dickerson so I’ll assume once again he’s on the record, providing the sax. The co-writer on this side is the sole writer of the flip, Barbara Voorhies. I don’t know who she is. Perhaps her name was used just to give the copyright to a party who wished to not use their own name. That wouldn’t be the only instance of this on a Buffalo record.

The vocals on both sides are credited to bass player “Mousie” Gage, who was to become “Mousey” on their next release. We can also assume the guitarists are Lehman and Junior Schank are on the record, since Schank gets a label credit on their next/last record.

I’m not sure why they’re saying  ‘a Black Derby is the thing to wear on a date’. I never saw any 1950s Rock’n’Rollers, BeBoppers, hipsters or hoods wearing one. It seems like they were purposely doing nostalgic, or archaic – a strange choice. Maybe it has some significance that it’s audience of the time would have caught, that’s now lost to the sands of time.

 

Black Derby is no great shakes as a song but it’s decent enough. The flip, Lollie, is actually the old children’s/ singalong song hey Lolly Lolly. It had been recorded most recently by Oscar McLollie & The Honey Jumpers; before that Woody Guthrie, and probably by others before that. Later on Chubby Checker had a hit with it as Hey Loddy. Western New Yorkers may know it from John Valby’s X-rated versions and it appears in risque versions on 1950s party records. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that when Lehman’s group played it live the lyrics changed a little!

The 1950s were winding down and these guys had two releases under their belts, with one more to come before the turn of the decade.   (Note: the pics on this video are of the Jesters, the related group with some of the same members.)  

45 Friday: BILL LEHMAN – Take It Easy, Greasy

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 By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Billy Lehman’s name appears prominently on three records out of the Western New York area in the 1958-59 period. All of them are good Rock’n’Roll, and they involve a number of local musicians who collectively are responsible for a large chunk of the Rockin’ music that came out of WNY in the post-Elvis, pre-Beatles world. I hope to untangle their whole story out over the next few weeks, as it’s confusing. I’m still pretty confused about it! But it’s a story that needs to be told and will be told.

When recording and playing out, whether as Bill Lehman & The Rock-Itts, Billy Lehman & The Penn-Men, Billy Quad & The Rock-Itts, Billy Quad & The Ravens, The Jesters, or even The Rockin’ Rebels, this bunch of musicians consistently delivered a no-nonsense straight ahead rocking sound that kept the kids dancing until the British Invasion swept the old style away.

Here’s the first record from this crew. Credited to Bill Lehman And The Rock-itts, it appeared on the Prime 1 label and carried an address of The Hotel Hamburg, Hamburg New York.

Take It Easy, Greasy is in a Bill Haley style, and the title sounds like an answer to See You Later Alligator. In reality Bobby Charles wrote both songs, as well as some others that also used that kind of rhyming jive talk. Other R&R artists jumped on the trend with their answer songs but Bobby Charles’ 1956 See You Later Alligator was the original. He recorded it himself after Fats Domino turned it down, only to have Bill Haley’s cover version eclipse his own.

But Take It Easy, Greasy was all Bobby’s. Or was it? Lil Johnson, singer of bawdy Blues tunes, had written and recorded a hit with that title and very similar words back in 1936. Bobby Charles’ version credits his real name (C. Guidry – Robert Charles Guidry) and Bill Lehman’s cover does also.

Musicians in The Rock-Itts at this time were probably Lehman on guitar, Junior Schank on guitar and vocals, Clyde Dickerson on sax (see my recent writeup on PAT AND THE SATELLITES for more on him!), Roy A. “Mouse” or “Mousie” Gage on standup bass. The drummer is unknown to me – it could be Stan Pembleton (aka Stan Robbins) though eventually Tony DiMaria drummed for several of this family of bands.

Lehman and crew worked mainly the area from Hamburg down south to Jamestown and Bemus Point at first, gradually becoming more of a “Buffalo” band. For today, we will leave off with the release of Take It Easy, Greasy / Rock Around The Horn in 1958.

45 Friday: RAVEN – Here Come A Truck

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Happy Independence Day! I had a special track lined up for today- Jimmie Raye’s Stand Up America, with its American Flag picture sleeve. Turns out it’s on the internet but not on YouTube so I couldn’t use it here. I guess it’s time for me to start uploading to YouTube some of the great songs that can’t be found there yet.

I decided to go with a fun track that might have slipped by a lot of local music fans. I’ve recounted the history of Raven before and it’s already known to most locals. To recap:

The Rising Sons started in the mid-1960s and included Jimmy Calire, Tony Galla and a very young John Weitz. They got a deal to release was a 45 for Swan Records (the highly-regarded “In Love”) and became one of the the house bands at the legendary Glen Park’s “Inferno”. They became good friends of local rivals Stan & The Ravens and after first trying to lure away Tony to join Stan’s band, Tom Calandra and Gary Mallaber decided to leave Stan and join up with the Rising Sons.

This group recorded a 45 for Upstate Records. Subsequently they changed their name to Raven and got a major label deal with Columbia Records, with whom they put out an album. The album sold fairly well and they started playing some big shows, opening up for bands like led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter And, Procol Harum and Jethro Tull. They moved to New York City where they played the Fillmore East and Steve Paul’s The Scene, the hangout for musicians Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, with whom they became acquainted.

At some point Columbia released a single from the album. It doesn’t seem to have sold well, but their sound really wasn’t right for the AM radio market anyway. They toured the UK where they were well received and did some more recording for Columbia. My guess is that they were working on a another album, because a second single containing two new tracks was released.

The A-side was a Tom Calandra composition, Children At Our Feet, which has a mild Gospel feel and something of a conservation theme. Unfortunately it’s kind of bland and not ‘AM Radio’ material. The B-side isn’t hit material either, but it’s something else again!

Here Come A Truck is a real odd track.  Written by guitarist John Weitz, it’s instrumentally a straight-ahead rocker with a bit of a West Coast feel. But the vocal and lyrics are bizarre. I don’t know what they were going for here, unless it was just a joke; but it would be odd to waste a shot at chart success on a joke. Maybe they were just rebelling after being told to do something more commercial. It sure doesn’t sound anything like all the other stuff they did.

Somewhere around this time, they broke up, and/or the record company gave up on them. I’m not sure which came first and I don’t know if this 45 came out before or after they split. That’s almost the end of the story except years later a live album came out, Raven- Live At The Inferno. The material is similar to the released Columbia LP (with some of the same songs) but more raw and energetic in performance. And containing absolutely nothing like Here Come A Truck.

As most of you know the members of Raven all had subsequent careers in music, ranging from star-level to low-level to behind-the-scenes. But the original band remains the true sound of Buffalo 1960s music to those who followed them back in those heady days.

Anyway, if you ever wanted to hear a late-60s Fillmore-era band doing their own take on Surfin’ Bird, this is for you!