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.