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.