45 Friday: BROKEN ARROW & THE TOMAHAWKS – I Get Rainy River Blues

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

What would a local record story be without a mystery or two, and a lot of missing information? I don’t know, because I almost never have those!

Except for a minority of records – the most common ones – there isn’t much information on a lot of these. I’ve bemoaned that fact before here, and talked about the reasons for it. The main reason is that it was expected that no one would really ever care. Especially about “also-rans” and “misses”, not hits.

But WE care. And so today we venture into the politically-incorrect world of 1960 & 1961, with a record (and a couple of its fellows) that probably would not be made today, but that at least it showed a sympathy for the plight of the Native American.

The background to it is the Kinzua Dam project begun in 1960 and completed in 1965. This involved building a dam to control the Allegheny River. In the process a lot of land on the Pennsylvania/ New York border had to be flooded and buried under water forever. 10,000 acres of that land was part of the Allegheny Reservation given to the Senecas in the Treaty of Canandaigua by President Washington. This not only forced relocation of the Senecas, it took away ground now considered sacred, ground which held the remains of their ancestors.

Naturally this led to considerable opposition to the dam by the Natives. But the Federal government used its power of eminent domain. President Kennedy refused the Seneca’s appeals. Lands were evacuated. 600 Seneca families forced to relocate. The towns or hamlets of Elko, Kinzua, Onoville and Quaker Bridge were all lost. Some of the land was added to Allegany State Park but much ended up under the Allegheny Reservoir.

Stan Johnson was from the Southern Tier area.  I don’t know exactly where but Jamestown and Salamanca are equally good guesses. He later recorded across the border, in Ohio. I also don’t know if he was of Native American descent but I believe so. In 1961 he recorded this gem. It’s both a serious lamentation of the relocation (he would rather die than be relocated away from his deer and beaver and his ancestors) and comedy/novelty -the water swept away his mother-in-law!

This kind of novelty was common enough that’s there’s at least two full compilation CDs of rockabilly-genre Native American-themed rockers and novelties. And many of them have the exact same elements this one has: the Indian drum rhythms, the chanting, the alternation of ethnic-sounding sections with straight Rock’n’Roll sections.

I don’t know why it’s the “Rainy River Blues”, as the only Rainy River even close is on Ontario. I also don’t understand the whole “I Get Rainy River Blues” title. But it’s clearly about the Kinzua situation. The record is on the Salamanca Records label (though it has a Jamestown address). It’s credited to Broken Arrow And The Tomahawks, which may just be a coincidental use of a Native term – but a broken arrow is the sign of a broken promise, a broken treaty.

This was a one-off for Stan Johnson who never used the Broken Arrow name again. But it’s almost certainly Johnson singing, and he wrote both sides (the flip is “You’re A Million Miles Away”). This was pressed by Rite records in Ohio and released in 1961.

And that’s almost the whole story. But there’s a couple other seemingly-related records, though I’m not sure of their relevance.

Billboard Magazine’s listing for Oct 16, 1961 lists one more record on the Salamanca label and it’s the only other Salamanca I’ve heard of. Roger Smith released “I Get Rainy River Blues”, also in 1961. I don’t have a clue who Roger Smith is and don’t have this one, have never heard it. But its likely the same song, possibly even the same version re-credited. This time it’s backed with “Land Of Liberty” which may or may not be concerned with local events.

The other record is one credited to Red Arrow & The Braves. “The Last Days Of Kinzua” is about the same events, and it namechecks Cornplanter in the lyrics. This 45 came out on the Kinzua label and was issued twice, one as a two-sider (Part 1 and an instrumental Part 2) and again as “The Last Days Of Kinzua” b/w the “Red Skin Rumble”. There’s several mysterious angles to this record. It’s connected to both Olean and Rochester.

Clyde Dickerson, Southern Tier sax played and arranger, was behind the Red Arrow & The Braves records. Maybe we’ll talk about “The Last Days Of Kinzua” next week. What’s relevant today is that I have a suspicion that it’s his sax we hear on the “Rainy River Blues” track.

If that wasn’t enough, it seems “Rainy River Blues” was released by Salamanca twice! Once with a different catalog number on one side, but otherwise identical. Most likely, only to confuse record collectors in the future.

45 Friday: GREEN JELLY – Jump

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

This week’s 45 Friday is a departure from our usual format, in that it’s a relatively recent release (well- 22 years ago), and was was never released on a vinyl 45 record. It WAS released as a promotional single, though most likely only on CD.

The reason is to pay tribute to long-time Green Jelly member C.J. Buscaglia, who passed away this week.

Green Jelly began their career as Green Jellö in 1981. Composed of youngsters from Kenmore, leader Bill Manspeaker’s stated goal for this group was to be “the world’s worst band”. Playing mostly parodies or humorous songs, the music took a backseat to onstage hi-jinks. But the non-musicians needed some musicians to make it happen as a band, and Kenmore had some excellent ones.

Christopher “CJ” Buscaglia showed promise as a musician from a young age. First on drums, later on guitar, he was willing to learn and practice and equally eager to learn about the Classic Rock and Progressive Rock that were the foundations for Punk, Alternative and New Wave (as they were played in Western New York – especially by the Kenmore part of the scene).

CJ had played for years, on and off, with local Rock’N’Roll revivalists Big Wheelie & The Hupbcaps. But more to the point was 1980s band Future History with fellow Kenmorian Bill Tutton (bass). Along with Jim Laspesa (drums) all would go on to play with Green Jelly (all were part of their major-label recordings) and Tutton and Laspesa went on to work with some well-known bands.

Still known as Green Jellö, as their musical prowess increased their local visibility increased. So too did their stage show and stage antics. Moving on from McVan’s (okay, they were banned!) they set up shop at the Continental and landed a high-profile gig opening for the Ramones at Buff State.

Joey Ramone singled them out as the worst band to ever open for the Ramones, which was not unwelcome feedback for some of the band. But there was always a tension between those who viewed the band as comedy-punk, a vehicle for the show and the jokes; and those who wanted a more.. er.. MUSICAL experience.

With no big breaks forthcoming, the conceptual part of the team (Manspeaker and Joe Cannizzaro) moved to Hollywood around 1985 while others picked back up playing music locally, including Future History. Green Jellö slowly got back up and running out West, gaining a reputation for outrage on the hard-to-outrage Hollywood club scene. Lacking the musicians that could fulfill their vision, calls were made back to Buffalo and the local guys were soon on their way West, CJ included.

As Green Jellö refined their stage age (learning how to make better stage props from their new friends in GWAR) they were ready for the next step. They pitched a new concept to Zoo Records, a video-only album. Although it was mainly a bluff – they didn’t have the expertise or technoloy to make it happen yet – they were given an advance and came back with “Cereal Killer”, an ‘album’ that featured music videos for each song featuring costumes and clay-mation. MTV loved it and forced a released on audio recordings. First as the “Green Jellö Suxx EP, then as the “Cereal Killer Soundtrack” album, they sold millons of copies.

With success came problems. Following a lawsuit by Kraft Foods over trademark infringement they became Green Jelly. Musical differences, personal differences and the Hollywood R&R lifestyle caused CJ and some of the others to be estranged from the band. But his skills were missed – he was an integral part of the team as songwriter, arranger, and producer – and of course guitarist (though he could play all instruments proficiently).

So he was brought back for the “Cereal Killer” followup “333”. The album overall was darker, more cynical and negative than it’s predecessor. Although the tracks can be interpreted as parodies of the heavy metal and alternative rock that were themselves dark and cynical, it seems circumstances surrounding the band and recording were reflected in the music and lyrics. In any case there was a focus on musicianship which had been missing on previous recordings.

 

 

 

 

The one track which seems substantially different is “Jump”. It stands out as a kind of serious and emotional statement among the (purposely) cliched metal and hardcore themes of the other songs. The main reason is that this track is CJ’s vision. Written, sung and played by him, it sounds quite different from the rest. It has a Classic Rock/Arena Rock ‘Big Guitar’ throwback sound. There’s also an element of the shoegaze genre in the psychedelic guitar overdubs.

“Jump” has been compared also to Jane’s Addiction (some say it’s a parody of them); Green Jelly did have some connections to them. Some have pointed out the strong similarity to the Smashing Pumpkins hit “Cherub Rock”. It’s unclear whether one was the inspiration for the other, or a kind of parody of the other. The Pumpkins record was released first but “Jump” may have existed in demo and live versions for awhile.

The lyrics to “Jump” have a human and emotional element not found in the other works of Jelly. The reasons kids jump (jump for joy) contrasted with adults jumping to their death.

There was a co-existing band project Child which reunited CJ with his old Kenmore friend Bob Mancuso. Though demos were made and L.A. club audiences were highly impressed this project never really got off the ground. The musical skills of the local guys were noticed though, resulting in offers to join or act as touring musicians with Guns N Roses, Tool and a fledgling Foo Fighters!

Conflicting professional commitments, family commitments and personal problems prevented him from capitalizing on these opportunities. CJ subsequently left Green Jelly for good, and the Child project petered out. Bob returned to Buffalo And CJ also eventually moved his young family back.

In his career CJ did some studio work – production and engineering – for bands including Love & Rockets and Goo Goo Dolls. He worked as a guitar tech for some famous rockers. He spent some time in Florida and recorded a new album there, called “Green Jello On My Face Again”. Moving back to Buffalo he worked on recording a new album while teaching guitar at Pro Music Center.

CJ had to balance utilization of his many talents in the music field with fatherhood, and it’s hard making it in the business when you reach a certain age. But there’s a good chance he might have made some noise on a future project, had he not passed way unexpectedly on January 16, 2015.

 

45 Friday: THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND – On The Way Home

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Last week we talked about the Tweeds, and how they won a contest in 1967. That was a Battle Of The Bands, part of WKBW’s annual Fun-A-Fair. Sponsors for the show included Wink (the soft drink) and the Battle was ‘presented’ by Fender Musical Instruments, with drums provided by Kubera’s, the much-loved local music store. The prize the Tweeds won was a recording session and release on Coral Records. I don’t know if the bill was footed by Coral, KB or some of the other sponsors but that was a big prize to win!

1968’s Battle Of The Bands included thirty bands. The Fun-A-Fair itself lasted eight days and there was constant Rock’n’Roll and Teen music with five to eight performances a day. Some of the Battle contestant bands also performed often (multiple times) as part of the entertainment. These included The Rogues, The Mellow Brick Rode (pre-The Road), Caesar & His Romans, The Twiggs, The Tweeds, The Union Gap (local, not the famous one), The Vibratos ‘with Miss Toni Castellani’, and Wilmer & The Dukes.

There were also some national acts performing, who were not currently chart toppers – like Roy Orbison, Josh White Jr, and Ray Stevens (‘backed by The Vibratos’). Delevan, New York’s The Free Design was given ten performance slots. I’m guessing they weren’t in competition, as they already had a contract. In fact by this time they were well into their career. Their hit ‘Kites Are Fun’ 45 and album had come out in 1967 and their second ‘You Could Be Born Again’ album was due out at this time. I don’t now if they were at this time (or ever) considered a local act by Buffalo-area people, but I’m curious to find out – did they ever play around town otherwise?

Info on the outcome of the 1968 Battle is sketchy. I’ve been told it could have been semi-unknown local band The New Breed. They did release a scarce 45 around that time but the label it’s on seems to be their own label. So if they did indeed win the prize must have been a recording SESSION only, and they used the tape from it to make their own record.

If another band won either they didn’t put out a record, or I just never realized a record I’m already aware of is the result of this process! Information, as always, is need and help is appreciated.

1969’s Fun-A-Fair took place at the Pepsi Center in Amherst – I THINK. Previous ones were at either the Aud or the Armory. The Battle Of The Bands that year was sponsored by Amherst Cable Vision, a fledgling and visionary attempt to get people to pay for something they were used to getting for free- Television! They needed all the help they could get and they worked this event for some name recognition here.

The Subconscious Mind were a six-man band from Cheektowaga. I regret to say that any info I found on them – names and instruments – currently is avoiding capture! What I do know is that they don’t seem to have been particularly active. Their name doesn’t appear in any local club ads I’ve ever seen, and other musicians never mention them as a band with a presence on the scene. Maybe most of their gigs were High School dances.

In any case they weren’t expected to win. I’ve heard two stories about that. One was that other bands were played better that night, but Subconscious Mind packed the place with their fans. The other is that the second place band was considered by local fans to be a better band, but on that night everything just clicked for Subconscious Mind. Voting was close, but they won.

The prize was a recording date and it took place at Audio Recording in Cleveland. Local music maven Richard Sargent produced it, Cleve technician Arnie Rosenberg engineered, and it came out on the Vintage Records label. As far as I know this was a one-shot ‘label’, with no other releases and no connection to any other labels. It was probably pressed at Rite or Queen City in Ohio as a custom job.

The band chose to record two cover versions for the single. “On The Way Home” is the Neil Young song which he recorded with Buffalo Springfield, while “No Fair At All” is by The Association. Both of these are very good folk/rock with a heavy vocal presence. I’m guessing two of the members were vocalists only, in the style of The Association – who were BIG in 1969. The Buffalo Springfield were of course always popular locally, with The Road doing two Springfield covers on their first album.

So here it is – Buffalo teens doing their take on Neil Young. Enjoy!

45 Friday: THE TWEEDS – A Thing Of The Past

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

In the 1960s it was pretty easy to start a band. Minimal equipment was needed. A guitarist could use a one-piece Fender amp. If that was too expensive Sears had the flimsy but loud Silvertone series. A band just starting out could even plug several instruments or microphones into it!

Teen bands could put together a repertoire of pretty easy songs – Louie Louie, Mustang Sally, Wipeout, some early Kinks and Rolling Stones. Beatles too, though that required MORE chords, and voices that could harmonize.

But it wasn’t that hard to do. And if you saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and heard all those girls screaming, it was something you might want to do!

Every town had quite a few groups of teens trying to get their act together, alongside slightly older, more experienced youngsters who may have cut their teeth on pre-Beatles Rock’n’Roll. The Tonawanda had one such group who were clearly in the first category. Judging from their pictures none of The Tweeds were older than 16 when they started playing High School and CYO dances.

Ted Connor, Paul Varga, Alan Shaw & Dave Constantino were the four clean cut young men in question. With Varga on drums, Shaw, Connor and Constantino all played regular electric guitars. Mr. Constantino started off on the the right foot with a decent but low-level Gretsch guitar – while the others made due with cheapo models. This was good enough for places like The Teen Corner in Tonawanda. Short hair and suit-and-tie were the order of the day.

As 1966 turned into 1967 they must have realized that a bass player was the next step to professionalism. Alan Shaw was out, and James Dunnigan was in. Soon the Silvertone amps were placed with topnotch (for the time) Fender Twin Reverbs and Constantino traded up to the top of the Gretsch guitar line, the Country Gentleman. That may not mean anything to you, but it’s impressive gear for a 16-year-old to own and even better, that’s the stuff the top bands would use. George Harrison played a Country Gentleman.

Now they were playing places like the Boulevard Cave on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Still all very young, they entered the Battle Of The Bands at WKBW’s annual Fun-A-Fair. As many as 30 bands participated: The Rogues, Caesar & His Romans, The Rockin Paramount, The Vibratos. Playing against all the great local bands of the day – many of them comprised of ‘seasoned veterans’ (with 3 or 4 years of R&R performance under their belts)  – the Tweeds beat them all.

Their prize was a chance to cut a record in a real recording studio. So they traveled to New York City. Being still young (mostly 17) Dave’s father went wih them. Anyway, he was their manager too!

They cut two tracks, both written by all four members- A Thing Of The Past and What’s Your Name. I’m not sure which was the intended A-side but Thing Of The Past was the side that got radio play locally and became a Western New York hit in the Summer of 1967.

I don’t know if their Battle Of The Bands prize included the release on Coral Records, or if it was pitched to Coral who thought it had potential and put it out. Either way, it was issued along with promotional copies and distributed around the country. It must have sold fairly well because it’s not rare, and The Tweeds got asked to cut a second recod for Coral in the Spring of 1968.

As most of you know The Tweeds picked up a bass played named Billy Sheehan, also from Kenmore/ Tonawanda, and gradually became Talas. That’s a story for another day.

For today, here’s A Thing Of The Past. While What’s Your Name is medium tempo, upbeat mood folk/rock, Thing is a different thing – a heartbroken teen ballad which sounds surprisingly jaded and world-weary coming from such young men. But I guess there’s no age limit on getting a broken heart.

 

Another perspective on Lance Diamond

Much will be said and written about Lance Diamond in coming days, following news of his death on Sunday (Jan. 4, 2015). But here’s a perspective that may not get much attention.

As great as Diamond was as a performer, his bigger contribution to Buffalo may have been bringing the city’s residents together across racial lines. What bigger tribute can you pay to a performer than to say they helped peace and brotherhood grow in their community?

It can be a frustrating at times, but sometime it seems like that invisible line that runs down the middle of Main Street still keeps people apart. Music fans can be almost totally oblivious to great performers who live and perform just a few miles away. Soul great Jessie Butler is one who comes to mind in that regard. Recognition for Count Rabbit came late, and Donnie Elbert never received it in his hometown.

But Diamond didn’t just blur those lines he obliterated them. In his band. And especially in his audience. That’s thanks in part to his collaborations with the Goo Goo Dolls, but at least as much to his own personality. I can’t think of another performer – white or black – as widely loved in the Buffalo area. When it was a Lance Diamond show, it wasn’t a matter of black, white, gay, straight, or any divisive labeling. It was people coming together to enjoy the music, the moment and each other.

Dale Anderson wrote a great profile of Diamond for The Buffalo News back in 1989, when the singer had recently started working with the Goos and was seeing his prominence rise. Here’s a bit of what he told Anderson:

“There are so many great musicians I’ve had the honor to work with,” Diamond declared. “Drummers like Mike Caputy and Eli Konikoff. Keyboard players like Doug Gaston, Bobby Jones and Kevin De La Pinta. Great horn sections with Nelson Sky and Dick Griffo. Guitar players, I’ve got some awesome ones like Steve Camilleri and Tyrone Williams, Andy and Freddy Ripello. I’ve had the cream of the crop. Name any musician in this city and they’ve probably played with me.

“I came from that Pine Grill school of thought that said you had to dress the best and sound the best. I’ve spent over $50,000 on equipment that was stolen and on clothes. At one time, I could go two weeks in a row and never wear something twice, and that was when I was working six nights a week in the hotels.

“Everything I’ve done has been to look the part of the entertainer I’m trying to be,” he added.

And that was the kind of entertainer he was.

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Who will take Lance’s place? Nobody, really, but it’s good to see walls breaking down in Buffalo. Critt’s Juke Joint and DBGB’s are entities that both fill that gap, as do performers like Rod Nickson, Van Taylor and others I’m either forgetting to mention or haven’t had a chance to encounter yet.

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45 Friday: LEE ADRIAN & THE ROCHESTER COLLEGIATES – “A” In Love

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

This scholarly bunch recorded two singles in 1959 or 1960. All four sides are decent vocal group Rock ‘n’ Roll, with good harmony vocals; somewhat on the ‘teener’ side. I’d like to say I have their whole story but I don’t. I picked up one of their 45s a long time, then dug up their other 45 along with a little bit of info. That info – scanty as it was – is mostly lost now. Here’s what I remember, padded out with some guesses and a bit of conjecture!

Harry Schwartzberg came from New York City to attend college in Rochester where he met up with some like-minded aspiring Rockers. Luckily for us they named themselves after the Flower City which easily put them in the sights for local record collectors! They cut four sides, all but one (a cover of Larry Williams’ “Bony Maroney”) written by Schwartzberg in his new nom-de-stage as Lee Adrian. My guess is they cut these all in one session as they all have the same sound and were issued next to each other in numerical sequence.

“I’m So Lonely” was paired with “Boney [sic] Maroney”; and “School Is Over” with “A In Love”. Both were issued with the same credit- Lee Adrian & The Rochester Collegiates.

One interesting mystery is how they ended up on SMC Pro-Arte label. SMC stands for Spanish Music Center (based in NYC) and as far as I know, every other SMC release is Latin music of some kind. Maybe that’s why one of the sides is labelled ‘ChaCha-Twist’, though I can’t hear any Cha-Cha influences. There were plenty of Latin-influenced Doo-Wop and R&B records – many with Mambo in the title – but this isn’t one of them.

The other sides are labelled ‘Twist’ and ‘Slop-Twist’. The Slop was a dance that was popular starting in 1958. My recollection is that the Twist was a 1961-1964 thing but indeed Chubby Checker’s 1960 “The Twist” was a cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ 1959 single record. These Rochester Collegiates 45s are listed in discographies as being from 1959. Either the discographies are wrong or these guys were way ahead of the curve!

They don’t necessarily sound like Twist records, at least not like the rote Twist records the labels were grinding out circa 1962 (with ‘Twist’ usually in the title). Maybe SMC, being a dance-oriented label and based in the hot dance-trend New York City area, perceived early-on the need for records to which kids could do this dance – and made a smart marketing move.

The labels promise Maxima Fidelidad which has nothing to do with Mr. Castro! And indeed, they do sound great. The label also touts the ‘Plastovinal’ composition, though they look like any old vinyl record to me. Maybe that is because SMC goes back to the 78 era, and this is differentiated from the fragile material they used for those.

No more was heard from the Collegiates after this. But Lee turned up on one more record. In 1960, Richcraft Records issued the new track “Barbara, Let’s Go Steady” backed with a reprise of “I’m So Lonely” from the SMC Records. It’s a known fact that the vocal group backing Lee on the new side is The Chaperones (though they’re not credited on the labels). These Long Island Italian-Americans were one of the first White doo-wop groups, with a decent recording history and a legendary reputation.

Looking up info on this release leads to a lot of confusion. The Chaperones own website describes Lee as “an up and coming singer with the Josie label stable”. They did record for Joise but to my knowledge Lee never did, nor did he do anything else besides the three 45s I mentioned. It’s claimed elsewhere that the Richcraft is a ‘second pressing’ of an SMC Record but clearly the A-side is a new recording. Discographies credit the Chaperones as providing backing for BOTH sides so either that’s not true or “I’m So Lonely” was a newly-recorded version. Both sides do have a writing credit with Lee now reverting to H. Schwartzberg.

Lee later became a dermatologist. When I found info on him many years ago he had retired to Florida, and was entertaining senior citizens with music and tales of his Rock’n’Roll past. I believe he may even have made a CD of new music at that time.

Boney Maroney is probably their most Rockin’ track. I’m So Lonely features nice breaks from both guitar and sax. But “A In Love” – a second cousin to Johnny Cash’s “Straight A’s In Love” – has a Teen charm of its own. Enjoy!