45 Friday: WADE CURTISS & THE RHYTHM ROCKERS – Puddy Cat

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

This is a follow-up to Elmer Ploetz’ article on Wade Curtiss & The Rhythm Rockers from two weeks ago, when he filled in for me (and did a great job!).  I want to echo his comment that the Ted Russell/ Wade Curtiss story deserves to be made into a Hollywood movie. I can only add that I wish that John Belushi was available to play the part of the great man! Failing that, some kind of documentary needs to be made to tell this story that touches on so many cool things, from Rock’n’Roll to the early days of professional wrestling.

When Norton Records issued their fantastic CD (and the five vinyl singles that followed) they referred to the artist as Wade Curtiss & The Rhythm Rockers. But the original records all came out as by Ted Russell. And HIS Rhythm Rockers. Or Dixie Dee / Ted Russell and his Rhythm Rockers. And their first was simply as The Rhythm Rockers. Ted (whose real name was actually Duane Theodore DeSanto) didn’t start using the Wade Curtiss appellation until he began his pro wrestling career in the mid-1970s.

Ted broke the Rhythm Rockers in 1961 to head for Nashville. Most likely he was interested in country music, and also in song-writing and promotion. It’s known that he pitched songs to Eddy Arnold – and most likely Elvis Presley. He eventually recorded some of his oddball country tunes, and at least one crazed fuzz/garage track (1969’s “Electric’s Theme”, as The Electric Experience). He also hung out with people like Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, and created under-the-radar record companies to reissue his own works (sometimes retitled) and those of others, for reasons unclear.

The full extent of his activities in Nashville are unknown, though a picture exists of him holding a Fender bass in his stubbed arms, wearing a gold suit and a gold pompadour. He appears to be playing a lounge of some sort.

There was a consistency to his life and career, in that he stayed true to the R&R spirit, gravitating to the “for-real” people and the crazies. Among his pursuits was the reactivation of the original 1950s Rockabilly label Aaron Records with the goal of releasing a record by fellow-traveler Adkins. To the that end he got Hasil into a real studio for the first time in his life, but the project fell apart. Hasil believes something was going on with Ted – someone was after him – or at least Ted though so.

Ted was always looking for a big break, but willing to work an angle in the meantime. Nashville is a place where big breaks can happen in the music business – but it’s also the capital of the shady side of the biz (for example, the “song-poem” industry). So it’s unsurprising that 1968 found him working the somewhat shady side, leading a fake-Trashmen band, playing gigs under that name (the real Trasmen having broken up long before). He rerecorded their hit “Surfin’ Bird” for reasons unclear. My guess is that investment money was involved, and ultimately disappointed investors.

In keeping with his personality, the crazed “Surfin’ Bird” wasn’t bizarre enough, so he took it even further with a rewrite he called “Puddy Cat” and it’s our track of the day. Listen to it – be amazed! – and the YOU tell ME where he was going with this. Potential hit single? I don’t think so.

About five years later, he left the music world for the pro wrestling world. His story there deserves it’s own telling which I won’t do here, but suffice to say: he made a splash, he worked the fringes, and his work there was similarly crazed, and perfect.

When I hear “Puddy Cat”, I think of a wrestler’s personality, which seems to have always been in the back of his mind (R&R and Wrestling being his two obsessions). It sounds a lot like the zany growling Rock’n’wrestling records made by The Crusher and a few others in the late 1960s. In the 1980s this type of thing became common, with crossover musical efforts by the Captain Lou Albano, Fred Blassie, the WWF album and many others. But as always, Ted Russell was a man ahead of his time.

45 Friday: THE PAGE-BOYS – I Got The Blues Again

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Here’s another mystery group. All I know for sure if that they were definitely from Buffalo and the writer of both sides was group member J. Testa. He was joined by H.York on the uptempo flip side with the curious title Twist Enos Twist.

I once found a small bit of info on the net which has since disappeared along with my notes. That info was a few sentences from one of the members, of which all I remember is that they played McVan’s and rubbed shoulders there with a few stars.

This record came out on the Whirl label, whose Cleveland address has placed them as an Ohio group in some discographies.  That’s not unusual all the way around, as it’s an easy mistake to make. Many Buffalo artists made the trip down the lake to record there. There was little in the way of recording studios in the Western New York area. And there were NO pressing plants, so the two large plants in Ohio (Rite and Queen City) got most of Buffalo’s record pressing orders.  The Page-Boys record may have been recorded in Buffalo and merely pressed in Ohio for all I know, but Whirl was a real (though obscure) record label, with multiple releases, mostly of Country and Rockabilly.

The label lists ‘The Page-Boys with The Starfires’. Starfires or Star-Fires was a common name back then, but there was a popular Starfires from Cleveland (forerunner of The Outsiders, of Time Won’t Let Me fame), so maybe they were joined in an Ohio studio?

The side I’m presenting here today is a group vocal ballad, on the ‘teener’ side. I’ve seen I Got The Blues Again labelled as doo-wop – but it ain’t. It is catchy though. Nice.. a good period piece.

I’d LIKE to present the rocking flip side for you, but no one has uploaded it to YouTube yet.  And I don’t have a copy of this one to record. I do need a copy -hint hint.

I have heard Twist Enos Twist before and it was definitely Rock’n’Roll, definitely a good one! It even appears on two compilations of Twist music (“Twistin’ Time Vol. 1”,  and “60s Party Dances”).

So who or what was Enos? I have to assume it was Enos the chimpanzee – the first chimpanzee launched into Earth orbit.

Enos completed more than 1,250 training hours before his adventure, with special emphasis on weightlessness and higher G-force resistance.  Enos flew into space aboard Mercury Atlas 5 on November 29, 1961, making him a perfectly timely celebrity for this 1962 record. 

According to Wikipedia, “Enos was scheduled to complete three orbits, but aborted after two due to improper attitude. Observers witnessed Enos jumping for joy, running around the recovery ships’s deck, and enthusiastically shaking his rescuer’s hands.”  Maybe the Page-Boys believed the chimp had the proper fun-seeking attitude to be the subject of a R&R song, or maybe the life of a Twist Party.

Trying for find a novelty angle for a record to jump on a trend wasn’t unique to the Page-Boys. Their track is preceded on the Twistin’  Time comp by one with the promising title He Won the Purple Heart (For Doin’ the Twist) by Herbie Jay

Besides outer space and satellites, the Twist was the biggest fad going at this time. If you were old enough to be aware then you know.. if you weren’t, there’s not cultural trend today to which I can compare it. It was a dance, the subject of  jokes, a social event, a scandal, it presented a very mildly risque movement to places where dancers of different races sometimes even danced together! (you didn’t have to touch each other to do it), and both Black and White artists played the music with equal success – though it WAS an R&B-based music. Church groups banned it, movies celebrated it, and everyone was talking about it.

So the Page-Boys were wise in combining two strands of pop culture here. Unfortunately, the Twist died out while Enos just DIED (of natural causes) on November 4, 1962 – not long after this record came out. Whether because the Beatles and British Invasion was right around the corner, or in sadness over the chimp who would never Twist again, the Page-Boys’ career seems to have ended there.

I’m not aware of any further release, or subsequent activities by any members. If anyone knows anything, I’d like to get some info. Enjoy!

45 Friday: DIXIE DEE WITH WADE CURTISS & THE RHYTHM ROCKERS – Voodoo Mama

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By Elmer Ploetz
(Sitting in for Bob Paxon)

There’s a movie waiting to be made about these guys.  Hollywood just doesn’t know it yet.

Dixie Dee, Wade Curtiss and crew are some of the more interesting characters of old-time Buffalo rock ‘n’ roll.

Let’s start with Wade. Or Ted Russell. Or Duane Theodore DeSanto, or whatever you want to call him. They’re all the same guy.

 

Wade was a force of guitar nature, despite being in a wheelchair with arms turned in so he couldn’t hold an instrument normally.  He had a guitar adapted to be played like a steel guitar and learned to fire off killer solos anyway.

While many of his songs were instrumentals, he was joined eventually – and on this one  by Dixie Dee, otherwise known as Rich Derwald – a local professional wrestler.

Together they made some of the coolest records to come out of Buffalo in the 1957-61 era. This song was recorded at Howell Recording on Delaware Avenue and was released in 1958.

The story on this one is that the Vibraharps – one of Buffalo’s first rock ‘n’ roll recording groups – provided backing vocals on the song, but I don’t hear them on this version – reissued as a 45 by New York City’s Norton Records a few years back. Norton released a great compilation of stuff from Wade, Dixie & friends in 1997. Much of the information in this post is from the CD booklet.

Wade Curtiss & the Rhythm Rockers essentially played from 1957 to ’61, according to Derwald. They were booked indefinitely into the future in ’61 when Curtiss abruptly decided to move to Nashville.

In Nashville, Curtiss continued his music career in both the business side and recording. According to Norton’s CD liner notes, he was responsible for getting the legendary cult figure Hasil Adkins into the studio for the first time in the 1970s.

On top of that, he went into professional wrestling, serving as a manager with multiple identities and eventually working with a bevy of grapplers, chasing rival scalawags in a motorized wheelchair and whacking them with his jewel-encrusted cane.

He died in 1993 of congestive heart failure at age 50.

Derwald, meanwhile,   quit rocking, but eventually returned to fitness — and wrestling. He and his son, Richie, were eastern professional wrestling tag-team champions in the 1980s as Mr. Fitness and Son of Fitness. Rich went on to a career in fitness and personal appearance and eventually became Erie County’s senior fitness coordinator.

In the late 1990s, I put him in touch with the Irving Klaws – a Buffalo rockabilly-garage-punk-trash band – who did “Voodoo Mama” with him at the Americanarama Festival at Buffalo’s Mohawk Place.   It was a great to get to hear the song come alive again.

45 Friday: DON BARBER & THE DUKES – The Waddle

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Last week we talked about local record label Thunderbird Records – the creation of Buffalo’s Lenny Silver and his associates – and Thunderbird #106, “Kissy Face” by The Dupries. Today we’ll look at Thunderbird #105 and a group closer to home, though maybe beyond the boundary of ‘Western New York’.

Formed in Syracuse in 1959 as Donnie and The Dukes, various members came and went but Don Barber was a fixture on both vocals and drums. By 1961 it was ‘Don Barber And The Dukes’ that they cut their first record at Syracuse’s Riposo Studio. Released on the local Personality Record label, the top side was “I’ll Be Blue” and it was a regional hit, reaching the Top 10 in Syracuse. But the flip got airplay also, and it’s the side most record fanatics care about today. “Henrietta” was a Little Richard-styled uptempo R&B Rocker which had been a hit for Jimmy Dee and The Offbeats. Barber and lead guitarist Skip Seyerle received the writing credit on the Personality release though “Henrietta” was actually an old song, predating Dee’s version.

Radio success was helped by the fact that it was produced by WNDR Radio’s Dan Leonard and the group did work for him, appearing at radio station sock hops and Leonard’s own Sunday “Teen Canteen” Show promotions at Three Rivers Inn.

 

Dan Leonard produced their second and last record which he placed on Buffalo’s Thunderbird Records in May 1965. “The Waddle” was a cover of a 1962 local record by Ithaca’s Soul/R&B legend Bernie Milton (Little Bernie and the Cavaliers, Bernie Milton and the Soul Patrol). This session involved Barber on vocals, replaced on drums by another Radio DJ, WOLF’s Fred Winston! Backing vocal were by The Madisons, whom Barber’s Dukes had been backing instrumentally.

Like most Thunderbird Record releases – and those on Sahara Record as well as many one- or two-off labels -it bore the Master Releasing credit (with a Buffalo address).

“The Waddle” became a local hit and that’s all, but it kept Thunderbird in business, and shortly it would become the home for Buffalo garage bands The Rogues and The Druids and even produce a killer psychedelic garage record from the West Coast by The William Penn Fyve.

45 Friday: CARL LARUE & THE CREW – Please Don’t Drive Me Away

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By Elmer Ploetz

I’m filling in for superstar record historian Bob Paxon this week, so I decided I’d go with one of the records from one of the older performers I know best: Carl LaRue.

Carl LaRue & the Crew are best known perhaps for providing the core members of Dyke & the Blazers, including Arlester  “Dyke” Christian himself. Carl was a steelworker and occasional small-time numbers runner from Florida. He had taught himself piano as a kid in Florida before moving to Buffalo and working for Bethlehem Steel.

In the early ’60s, already over 30 years old, he put together a combo with a bunch of kids. They included Dyke on bass, Alvester “Pig” Jacobs on guitar, Willie Earl on drums. Those three, along with Carl, are in a postcard sized promo shot LaRue had made. The band also included saxophonist Tyrone Huckaby and occasional other players. The time was circa 1963.

They were a bit like Otis Day & the Knights, from Animal House, a band that could play the R&B hits of the day for white or black audiences, venturing into Canada, playing at Buffalo State College and any number of other venues. Sometimes they worked with “Baby Wayne” Peterson, a kid singer who grew up to become a well-known local drummer on the jazz scene before his death in 1989.

The group recorded two records with Kim Kimbrough, a friend and business partner of Carl’s (hence the KKC label name). The KKC record was a Baby Wayne 45, with James Manual credited on it.

The second record was a our feature 45 this week, a Carl LaRue original. It’s on the edge of ’50s R&B and ’60s soul. When Carl and some of the Crew/Blazers got together for some reunion gigs in the ’90s, it took on more of a gospel/James Brown edge.

The band later cut a second record on KKC, but that’s another week’s post.

The Dyke & the Blazers story is that the group hooked on with DJ Eddie O’Jay (who was one of the early  DJ’s on Buffalo’s WUFO-FM), then went with him to Phoenix. O’Jay is also the guy who gave the soul vocal group its name.  O’Jay moved on from Phoenix, the band petered out, and the kids wanted to try some more modern sounds. Carl came home, eventually worked 20-some years at Houdaille Industries and retired.

Dyke & the rest of the Crew, however, met up with some Phoenix musicians and came up with a little song called “Funky Broadway.” Maybe you’ve heard it.

 


 

 

For the full Dyke & the Blazers story, go to http://www.wnywebshop.com/ploetz/dyke.html

PS-When I referred to Bob Paxon as superstar record historian at the start of the post, it may have sounded like I was teasing. I wasn’t! Keep coming back to this blog every Friday or look at the past 45 Friday posts, and you’ll see why I mean it.