45 Friday: DON STEWART & THE FENDERMEN – More Than Words Can Tell

45-Friday_4

By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

I first wrote about the Fendermen way back in December of 2012. Yes, that’s how long I’ve been doing 45 Friday, because that was my FIRST 45 Friday article! 100+ articles down the road and here we are again.

I wrote then about their great “Fas-Nacht-Kuechel” record. But I never got around to their second 45.

Last week we talked about the local DAB Records label and DAB 101 (Charles Hargro, backed by The Vibraharps). The music end of the DAB partnership was Bobby Fonville and Ralph Hernandez who wrote and produced the Hargro single. But they apparently had no involvement with the Fendemen, whose “Fas-Nacht-Kuechel” / “Rain Drop” was issued on DAB 102 in 1959.

Whenever we mention the Fendermen we have to clear up any residual confusion with the (Wisconsin) Fendermen whose national hit ‘”Muleskinner Blues” overshadowed the local Fendermen. Discographers – and even compilers of a Wisconsin Fendermen album – have lumped the Niagara Frontier guys in with the Midwest guys but let there be no confusion – they’re not related. And the Buffalo Fendermen came first!

And this should be obvious to Rock’n’Roll fans: the name in both cases came from the Fender guitars they used.

By 1960 the local band had become “The Fabulous Fendermen” probably in deference to the success of the other Fendermen. When they played the Erie County Fair that year the members were Jimmy Lennon and Mike Usola – guitars; Larry Blaze – sax; Freddy Germann – drums; with Don Stewart as vocalist. A newspaper article lists those members, although Mike Usola is misnamed Isola and Freddy Germann misnamed Greman.

The writing credits of their first 45 named Usola and Germann along with Brent Palmer. He was definitely a member in 1959, but isn’t mentioned in the 1960 news article. Whether he had moved on by then, or was simply overlooked in the article, I can’t say.

1960 also saw the release of the second and last Fendermen record, which was the third and last DAB record. DAB 103 coupled “More Than Words Can Say” with “You’re The Girl”. Don Stewart and a Terry Gibson get the first writing credit, Mike Usola the second.

This one is credited to Don Stewart With The Fendermen. Mr. Stewart’s role in the band is up for question. The news article lists him as vocalist and I’m sure he was, but he doesn’t seem to have a great voice. I’ve heard that he was actually the owner of the local tavern at which they played. Perhaps it was this aspect more than his vocal talent that earned him a role. A vocalist position was secondary for this band anyway since they were mainly an instrumental band (their first record consists of two instros). I have a feeling Mr. Stewart funded this recording, making it more of a self-release and less something motivated by the label owners. This is validated by Bob Skurzewski’s report than even decades DAB partner Bobby Fonville was not aware there had ever been a third single on the label!

“You’re The Girl” (misspelled “Your The Girl” on the label) is a teener ballad. Not bad, but not great. It HAS been complied, however, on a CD of similar teen idol-type tracks. But “More Than Words Can Tell is something of a Rocker. It was included on an unauthorized 1988 LP release titled Rock Moon Rock by White Label Records out of The Netherlands. For which the cover art features – The Wisconsin Fendermen. Of course!

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