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.