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.