45 Friday: BOBBY COMSTOCK & THE COUNTS – I Want To Do It

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 By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

There will be a one-week delay in my presentation of the Frankie Nestro story. But waiting will have a good result in this case- I have an interview scheduled with Mr. Nestro this week. I’m confident it’ll yield the full and true story!

In the meantime I want to introduce Bobby Comstock to those of you who don’t know him. His home and base in Ithaca might seem marginal for inclusion as a musician of Western New York.  Until he went on tour nationally he played mainly in the Ithaca / Syracuse / Rochester area.  But his first record came out on Buffalo’s  MarLee Records, owned by Buffalo DJs Tom Shannon and Phil Todaro, and later home of The Rebels (later The Rockin’ Rebels).  And he later settled in Buffalo – where he now lives, as far as I know.

Bobby’s first record came out in 1958 credited to Bobby & The Counts. Subsequent releases usually credit Bobby Comstock & The Counts or just Bobby Comstock but most of them feature his band, which was always top-notch musicians. In fact they ended being the backing band for some of Alan Freed’s package tours which allowed them to play with all the greats of  Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Following this first release on MarLee, they recorded for seven more companies over the next three years: Count, Triumph, Blaze, Atlantic,  Jubilee, Mohawk and Festival. They must have liked Jubilee- they stayed for a second release there!

They finally found a home with Swan affiliate Lawn Records where they stayed for six releases, all in 1963 and 1964. It was at Lawn that they hooked up with producers Feldman, Gottehrer and Goldstein. These New York City music business sharpies had their finger on the pulse of the teen R&R market and they wrote songs tailored to their artists’ strengths.

 

 

For Bobby’s first Lawn session F,G & G wrote both sides. I Want To Do It is frat rock with a rhythm that suggests Jamaican Ska. This was one of the first USA records to flirt with the new Ska sound, and I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Steve Alaimo – from near-by  Rochester – was another of the few American artists to incorporate Ska rhythms. Alaimo and Comstock almost certainly crossed paths in the earlier days.

Let’s Stomp was more of a rocker, reminiscent of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say. It was also probably the inspiration for the much later Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet, via the European cover of Comstock’s record by Lee Curtis & The All Stars which featured a certain Pete Best on drums. It’s rumored that Pete’s former band The Beatles were fans of Let’s Stomp and sometimes played a version of it.

It was hard picking a side to feature from the two great sides on this disc but I went with I Want To Do It. The mildly double-entendre lyrics are cute.  And the guitar solo is great – with a Buddy Holly influence like that of the similar-sounding Bobby Fuller Four.  The Beatles had yet to make waves in the USA when I Want To Do It was released. Conventional wisdom is that American musicians didn’t start producing Beatles-like sounds until they heard the Beatles, but it seems like the Bobby Fullers and Bobby Comstocks were getting to the same places on their own.

Feldman, Gottehrer and Goldstein must have liked I Want To Do It too. They later cut their own version – as by alter-ego band The Strangeloves, whose career (they presented themselves as Australian sheepherders – seriously!) deserves it’s own story.

45 Friday: FRANKIE NESTRO & THE BELVEDERES – Without Your Love

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Frankie Nestro was active in the local music and radio businesses in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He had two groups of musicians he worked with – the Fascinates and the Belvederes – and they both appear on the labels of his multiple local releases, as backing groups. Additionally, he released a great instrumental single by the Belvederes on one of his two labels, Fran-Co and Count Records.

I hope to have his complete story by next week. In the meantime, here’s a teaser. Credited to the Fabulous Frankie Nestro & The Belvederes – “Without Your Love” appeared on Fran-Co 1000. The flip side was a cover of “You Cheated, You Lied” which was originally done by the Slades and covered by the Shields – and much later, the Shangri-Las. It was a rare version of a doo-wop song by a White group that was covered by a Black group! In fact, the Shields were created (by Los Angeles producer George Mottola) for the express purpose of recording this cover version, and were a kind of R&B super-group – including Frankie Ervin (former lead vocalist for Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers), the great Jesse Belvin, and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson!

“Without Your Love” is an original, a rocker credited to Frank Aguglia, which I’m pretty sure is the real name of Frankie Nestro. It features an energetic backing vocal, a nice raw-sounding rhythm guitar, a somewhat rudimentary saxophone line, and a hook that’s very similar to Bobby Comstock’s “I Want To Do It” (actually written by Feldman, Gottehrer and Goldstein – aka The Strangeloves).

45 Friday: TED RUSSELL And His RHYTHM ROCKERS – Brang

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

We’ve been telling the Wade Curtiss/ Ted Russell story in bits and pieces. It’s a big story. Here’s another piece.

Before a young Dick Derwald (aka Dixie Dee, aspiring wrestler and aspiring rocker) joined up with Ted Russell & His Rhythm Rockers, the main attraction of the group was Ted’s unique guitar style. Having been born with severe deformities in his limbs, he couldn’t play instruments the usual way. His arms were extremely short and bent inward. Showing the drive and can-do spirit which he exhibited his whole life, Ted adapted a steel guitar by fitting it with regular guitar and bass strings, and sitting before it, playing it with short steel rods in each hand. He was able to produce both guitar and electric bass sounds this way.

The group’s 1959 first record featured solo turns by Ted’s guitar and a piano but even more, the tenor sax of Nick Salamone. This Golden Crest release made some noise in more way than one and they came to the attention of Glee label (owned by Rockabilly star Aubrey Cagle). Glee was located in Indiana – the state where Ted had been born.

By this time they’d lost the sax player but picked up a bass player. Ted had met Dick and they had the twin interests of Rock’n’Roll and wrestling in common. Dick had already dipped his toe into the music world and it was a natural fit when he was asked to join Ted’s band. In fact, they crossed paths because Dick was working in a band also called the Rhythm Rockers and Ted had been trying to track down these ‘copycats’!

Dick was already playing bass and his hiring relieved Ted of also playing bass parts – now he could concentrate on guitar sounds.

The Glee 45 consisted of two moody instrumentals, Brang and Real Cool. Most likely the bass is by Dick and the drums by Jack Clark. There’s some different info out there about the guitar sounds. I’ve seen it stated that they feature Ted on his steel guitar – maybe we should call it a “steel/guitar” – and local guitar whiz Eddie Bentley on lead guitar. I believe this is correct, though the booklet to Norton Records’ “Bright Lights” album (an excellent compilation of all the bands’ work) credits Ted with all the guitar work.

Many readers will be familiar with Eddie’s name and work. In a future article I’ll tell his story, but for now let’s just say he was an advanced guitarist, member of the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame, issued records under his own name and pseudonyms, played lead on some other local records, and eventually owned a music store.

Brang gives complete writing credit to Eddie which reinforces the idea he plays on it. To my ears, the two guitar solos are probably Eddie first, then Ted.

Real Cool sounds more like Ted. Both sides are moody and intense and some of the best of the instrumental Rock’n’Roll that was a regular feature of the Hits charts of them time. This 1960 release is right on the cusp of the coming Surf music instrumental wave, and features a similar echoe-y sound; though in this case, it’s more echo than Surf music’s Reverb (spring reverb was incorporated into Fender amplifiers from 1961, the use of which defines ‘pure’ Surf music – in the eyes of purists).

By the time of their next (1961) release Dick would be featured on vocals and get a special label credit. And the story would continue…

45 Friday: BABE WAYNE with CARL LaRUE & HIS CREW – Dance The Whiz Wosh

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

This week’s 45 Friday is a follow-up to Elmer’s post on Carl LaRue & His Crew from a couple weeks back. That tune was “Please Don’t Drive Me Away”, the second release on Buffalo’s own KKC label. LaRue and his associate Babe Wayne recorded two others for KKC and their friend Jimmie Raye recorded two more, including one that’s considered a classic by soul connoisseurs worldwide. Here’s a bit of background on the label and this group of artists.

In 1962 local fledgling R&B singer Jimmie Raye was freshly out of the Air Force when he attended a concert in Buffalo by Babe Wayne. Wardell Peterson was a fourteen year old who danced, sang and played the drums. As a ‘kid entertainer’ he had been called “Baby Wayne Peterson” which became “Babe Wayne” by the time he recorded.

At this show Jimmie met Kim Kimbrough, a manager and aspiring record label owner. Kim was working with Babe – he was in the process of putting out a record by him, on his new KKC (Kim Kimbrough Co) label. This was KKC 101, There’ll Never Be Kissin’ Time/That’s Where It’s At, credited to BABE WAYNE.

Kim also worked with Carl LaRue & His Crew and he was forming a plan to take them to audiences that had never seen authentic American R&B artists in person – up North. He planned a Canadian tour and soon had an offer for a residency for an R&B revue. The revue became Babe Wayne, Jimmie Raye, and Carl LaRue, all backed by LaRue’s Crew.  The residency was at “The Twisting House” in Port Collins on Lake Erie which became home base for their Canadian Invasion.

The Crew had originally consisted of LaRue (keyboards), Arlester “Dyke” Christian (bass), Alvester “Pig” Jacobs (guitar), and Willie Earl on drums. When Jimmie hooked up with them he brought in two guys from a band he’d had in his Air Force days – the Blue Mooners – “Jazzmo” (tenor sax) and Thurman Hockaday (drum)- according to Jimmie. Other sources mention a Tyrone Huckaby (sax).

Along the way two more 45s were released. KKC 102 was Monkey Hips And Oyster Stew / Please Don’t Drive Me Away, credited to CARL LaRUE & HIS CREW. KKC 103 was Swingin’ In Canada / Dance The Whiz Wosh, credited to BABE WAYNE with CARL LaRUE & HIS CREW.

Following their time in Canada there was some disagreement over where to make their next move. Kim and Jimmie wanted to take the show to New York City while Carl and the others had their eyes on the West. They split up and went to investigate the opportunities. Jimmie and Kim went to New York City, via Pittsburg. Carl took Dyke, Piggy, Hockaday and Jazzmo to Los Angeles.

Not finding much to do in L.A., Carl and Dyke took up an offer from former Buffalonian Eddie O’Jay to come to Phoenix, where he worked as a disc jockey and had brought the vocal group he managed The O’Jays (yes, they were named after their manager!). Eventually the O’Jays, yet to hit the big time, went their own way and the Buffalo guys were stranded in Arizona. Carl returned to Buffalo and some of the others also, but Dyke replenished their ranks with members of a local group, The Blazers, and they became Dyke & The Blazers.

For the West Coast branch of the KKC family, the rest is ‘Funky Broadway’ R&B history.

We should note that the Arizona guys were slowly replaced with Buffalo musicians Dyke knew and sent for, including Maurice ‘Little Mo’ Jones (trumpet) and Ray Byrd (keyboards), Otis Tolliver (bass, formerly of the El Tempos) who joined LaRue Crew veterans Willie Earl (drums), Babe Wayne (drums) and ‘Pig’ Jacobs (guitar).

Meanwhile on the East Coast, Kim was in New York City trying to land a deal for Jimmie Raye. Jimmie came back to Buffalo and put out a single on his own (on his Niagara label) before returning to NYC to cut a one-off single for Tuff Records. The Tuff single was released and Jimmie was moving in the right circles, with some of the leading lights of the East Coast R&B scene, but nothing was really happening. While waiting for the next label deal Kim decided to reactivate KKC to issue two more Jimmie Raye records.

KKC 001 (Philadelpia Dawg / Walked On, Stepped On, Stomped On) was released in 1965 and KKC 002 (Philly Dog Aound The World / Just Can’t Take It No More) in 1966. Neither was a ‘hit’ but in time Philly Dog Aound The World became an anthem in the Northern Soul world.

Jimmie went on to a long career with a fair degree of success. Kim Kimbrough seems to have dropped out of the scene completely after the last two KKC releases. And Babe Wayne eventually became a well-known local drummer on the jazz scene before his death in 1989.

Today’s side is Dance The Whiz Wosh. Babe sings it, LaRue’s crew play it, and Jimmie R. Feagen gets the writing credit. Mr. Feagen is actually Jimmie Raye Feagen, the real-life name of Jimmie Raye.  A great title.. an interesting-sounding dance.. and even greater record!