45 Friday: THE BUENA VISTAS – Hot Shot

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Kathy Lynn & The Playboys started in 1963 and were based in Buffalo, or more accurately the Tonawandas. Original members were Kathleen Keppen (Ameno) – vocals & guitar; Nick Ameno – guitar; and Jack ‘Buddy’ Ferraro on drums. When a new club called The Peppermint Stick opened in North Tonawanda this trio was asked to play at the opening. Carl Cisco was managing the club. Spotting the potential in the group, he brought in his friend Tom Shannon to form a management team.

The Peppermint Stick concept – a teen club with Rock’n’Roll, no alcohol and proper behavior – took off. The original club sprouted two more locations on Grand Island and South Buffalo. Kathy Lynn & The Playboys settled into a gig as house band at the original Ward Road location. but played at all of them, performing weekly and backing up the national stars that also played these clubs – people like Freddie Cannon, The Four Seasons, Johnny Cymbal, and The Angels. They filled out their sound by adding Denny Vallette on bass guitar. I wonder if has was related to guitarist Gary Vallette of Buffalo’s Quarter Notes?

The group had a varied sound but for their first 45 they chose two surf-sounding guitar/ instrumental tracks. As the labels boasted, “Rock City” was recorded ‘Live at The Peppermint Stick’. Shannon was not only a popular DJ at powerful WKBW radio (powerful in both signal strength and business clout) but also a local record mogul, coming off his success with The Rockin’ Rebels. He was able to get them signed to The Rebels’ label, Swan. “Rock City” became a local Top 10 cracked the national Top 100 chart. I have heard that Eddie Bentley joined the group to play guitar on this recording but I don’t know if that’s true.

Two more Swan singles followed. “He’s My Special Boy” and “He’s Gonna Be My Guy” did moderately well. Both showed more of a Girl Group/ Pop sound heading towards the smoother danceable Northern Soul/ Motown sound. Early on, they showed a good grasp of Black music styles – a sign of things to come.

They continued playing, appearing around the Northeast, landing a high-profile gig opening for The Dave Clark Five at the Buffalo Aud. But the Dave Clark Five’s biggest rival was changing the whole music scene around. Swan Records had the Beatles (for a short time) and the American group was put on the back burner. American groups in general were getting put on the back burner, except for the Motown Sound – the Detroit Soul sound.

Conveniently, Tom Shannon was offered a radio job in Detroit. Carl Cisco saw some opportunities with the Detroit indie recording scene. Kathy Lynn & The Playboys decided to move to Detroit with their managers. Apparently a lot of planning and dealing took place. Shannon sold his recording studio (equipment) to Detroit’s Golden World production company and record label, Cisco went to work as a producer/ engineer for them, and Kathy and the group began recording for newly-created Golden World subsidiary labels Marquee and LaSalle.

Incidentally, the old Shannon studio equipment is what had been used to record hits in Buffalo like “Wild Weekend”. And in Detroit it was heavily used and can be heard on hits like “Just Like Romeo & Juliet” by The Reflections.

Before the move Denny Vallette left the group and Ed Bentley took over on bass. Once in Detroit, a bewildering number of recording dates and personnel combinations took place. I don’t know the order of the changes but at various times records were recorded or released by The LaSalles, Lynn Terry, The Buena Vistas, The Antiques, Eddie Bentley, and Jimmy Satan (actually Bentley).

The two most important identities were The LaSalles and The Buena Vistas. The LaSalles put out a couple records and came to the attention of Berry Gordy, who gave them a one-off record deal with Motown subsidiary V.I.P. Records. “La, La, La, La, La” was a minor hit, and they were supposedly the first White artist signed to any Motown label. Gordy wanted to sign Kathy to a solo contract, but she decided to stay with the group and with Cisco & Shannon.

As The LaSalles (sometimes spelled as La Salles, and often credited as Lynn Terry & The LaSalles) they played around Detroit and various parts of the USA. At one point, their lineup was listed as Lynn Terry (Kathy Lynn) – vocals; Nick Massi (who I assume is Nick Ameno) – guitar and brass; Jimmy Brandon – sax & flute; Ralph Tracey – drums.

But it was in their other studio identity, as the The Buena Vistas, that they were most prolific, with seven releases on four labels, and three of them gaining foreign release on other labels. Actually there’s more – but it’s complicated!

Most of these were on the Cisco / Shannon labels Marquee and LaSalle including the minor hit “Here Come Da Judge” on Marquee. Interestingly the label on the NEXT Marquee release – “Soul Clappin’ ” – bears the statement ‘from the album “Here Come Da Judge” ‘. No such album was ever released.

But two Buena Vistas 45s were on Kathy Lynn’s old label- Swan. These seem to be the first Detroit-era releases by the group.

There’s a bit of controversy about who plays on the Buena Vistas records. The Kathy Lynn website states that ‘Nick wrote and recorded the track “Here Come Da Judge” under the name The Buena Vistas’. Some foreign Soul ‘experts’, apparently having trouble believing it could be non-Detroiters, much less White musicians, have assumed they’re simply Detroit session men and not a ‘group’ at all. At least in part, in some cases. Tom Shannon has stated – at least once – that it was session men.

This is where we have to make some assumptions. We could say that Tom Shannon’s most famous group – The Rebels/ The Rockin’ Rebels – were session men. He owned the name and concept, and after the original band was split, he used other musicians to work under that name. The “Wild Weekend” album was mostly recorded by guys who weren’t the original Rebels. But they weren’t really session men, they were a real band – The Jesters.

If you look at the writer credits on every one of the seven Buena Vistas records, each has some combination of the names Keppen and Ameno as well as Cisco and Shannon. It’s hard to imagine canny music business veterans giving away potential royalties to people who weren’t involved.

Therefore, my belief is that the core Buffalo musicians were always involved, and earlier 45s (Swan) were entirely the work of the original Buffalo group, and as time went on (“Here Come Da Judge”) more outside musicians contributed.

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Today’s 45 is from 1966 (one source says 1965), the first on Swan under the name Buena Vistas and probably the first Buena Vistas release. “Hot Shot” is a great Soul instrumental, kind-of prefiguring Funk, somewhere in between Booker T. & The MGs and The Meters.

It of course gets more complicated. The original Rebels put out a side titled “Donkey Walk”. This was the ORIGINAL group, pre-Rockin’ Rebels, but on this one they were called the Buffalo Rebels. The Donkey was a dance and the music imitates a braying donkey. After “Wild Weekend” hit big – the second release – and the original Rebels were no longer, they were replaced MOSTLY by The Jesters.
But for one side of one single, they were replaced by – Kathy Lynn & The Playboys. Or The Buena Vistas, if you will. A track was issued called “Donkey Twine”. It was basically a rewrite of “Donkey Walk” but a little more funky, more soulful. And with another dance name tacked on (The Twine). The writing credit is to Shannon, Cisco, Ameno. The Buena Vistas’s “Hot Shot” is basically a further rewrite of “Donkey Twine”. The writing credit stayed the same.

The flip of “Hot Shot” is “T.N.T.” which turns out to be basically an instrumental version of the hit “Tossin’ N Turnin’ ” (T-N-T, get it?). Writing credit here goes to Cisco, Keppen, Ameno. “T.N.T.” is great in it’s own right, but a little old-fashioned compared to “Hot Shot”.

This single was issued in the UK on Stateside at the time of original release. It  got some notice then, and became a favorite among the Mod Soul fans at legendary clubs like the Twisted Wheel. If you’re splitting hairs, this is a classic Mod sound – as differentiated from the Northern Soul sound.

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The band continued to play various places in the USA until they came back to the Buffalo in 1974 and became Angel Baby & The Daddyo’s. Kath and Nick later joined Solid Grease. Ed Bentley eventually joined Solid Grease. Kathy Lynn & The Playboys were inducted into the Buffalo Museum Hall of Fame in 2010 and since that time the original three – Kathy, Nick and Buddy – have been performing together again.

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45 Friday: Davy and the Crocketts – Turn Your Back

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David Myles Meinzer has been making music in Buffalo for 40 years now. Here’s  his earliest recording.  BTW, I’m filling in for Bob Paxon this week, and I’ll attempt to fill you in on some of the background.

Since Dave is a friend, I’m going to eschew the Associated Press style and just call him by his first name. He traces his musical roots, like so many others,  back to hearing the Beatles as a young kid in the 1960s. But by the time he got to college in the 1970s, he was already exploring roots music. He was involved with the legendary Buffalo State College music magazine Shaking Street Gazette (which took its name from a MC5 song and took its money to publish from the student government there; it was edited by Gary Sperrazza). He would have been the one writing about Gram Parsons, and he recalls being at the legendary Kinky Friedman show in Buffalo where a small number of feminists were protesting Kinky’s song “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven (and Your Buns Into Bed).” In Kinky’s memory the incident has since grown into a feminist riot!

But by the time the late ’70s came around, most of the interesting music was coming out of the punk/new wave scene. And Dave says he remembers being inspired by the do-it-yourself attitude, that you could take a guitar and go play at a local club.  Plus his friends had always jokingly called him “Davy Crockett” as a kid because of his first name. So the name felt like a natural.

While Dave was never a punk, he could — and did — get into the rockabily and power pop edges of that scene. And since the since was really a melange of styles, that meant playing at McVan’s, the Schuper House and any of a number of other places where he and the band might be sharing the stage with Mark Freeland and Electroman, the Enemies, the Jumpers or a host of other punk/new wave/edgy bands.

When it was time to record, the group — Dave (guitar plus lead vocals), plus Dave Zwink (drums), Geoff Copp (guitar) and the mysteriously named E. Minor (actually Russell Steinberg on bass) — went to Tommy Calandra’s BCMK studios. Both sides of the single (“Long Time, No See” was the flip) were Meinzer compositions, and the production was credited to the Crocketts and Calandra.

Recorded in January of 1979, the song has been included on the “This Is It”  CD compilation of punk/new wave put out by Bob James (of the Third Floor Strangers, Restless and numerous other bands) in 2002. It’s a great piece of power pop that still holds up to this day.

The band actually had coonskin caps, by the way, although Geoff will tell you he was the only one to wear his.

The graphics for the single’s sleeve are actualy credited to Marlene Weisman and Attack Graphics. That’s a surprise, given that Dave went on to do graphics for many of the BCMK releases and has done art for dozens of albums, posters and CD covers for local performers and local shows by national artists over the years. He has also gone on to release an impressive number of recordings, with groups (Nimrod Wildfire, Dry Bones and, currently, with the Outlyers) and individually. The Crocketts, meanwhile, have scattered. Russ Steinberg is still in Western New York, but Dave Zwink is in Alaska and Geoff Copp on Long Island.

Meanwhile,  in one of this writer’s favorites, “Rock Castle,” by the Outlyers, Dave recalls the early years at McVan’s, which was indeed built to look like a castle. The castle was rockin’ indeed.

You can check out Dave’s own way more detailed history of the band here.

 

 

45 Friday: THE TWEEDS – We Got Time

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

A few weeks ago we talked about the Tweeds and their first 45. I planned to finish their story and cover their second 45, and then I remembered that someone had already done some research on them, long ago. So I contacted Jim Duffey, longtime local record collector and historian. He generously sent me a copy of his article as it appeared decades ago in Discoveries Magazine, a now-defunct collector’s publication. It shed some light on what we already covered and I’ll be drawing on it for the rest of the story.

The short story: Kenmore teens Paul Varga (drums), Ted Connor, Alan Shaw & Dave Constantino (guitars) formed a band when they were all no more than 14 years old! Shaw left and James Dunnigan came in, completing the group with a bass guitar. This is the best-known Tweeds lineup. After playing in local dances and teen clubs, they won a Battle Of The Bands at WKBW’s annual Fun-A-Fair. They were rewarded with the to record in a New York City studio, toward a possible major label contract. A Thing Of The Past / What’s Your Name was released in the Summer of 1967.

This brings us up to 1968 and today’s record. But first a few additional facts to fill in the gaps with what I already wrote and inform the rest of the story.

— Varga was a student at Kenmore West but the Connor, Constantino and Dunnigan all attended Kenmore East.

— 1967 was the first year for WKBW’s Fun-A-Fair event. It was co-organized by Maury Bloom, area promoter for Decca Records. The contest prize is unclear – apparently a “chance” at a contract with Decca. There was some kind of further acceptance process which included an audition. I’m not sure if they had to pass an audition first before being allowed to record, or if the recording session served as the audition. In any case it was recorded at Decca’s NYC studios and released on Decca’s affiliate label Coral.

— I believe The Rogues, Caesar & His Romans, The Rockin Paramounts and The Vibratos all performed at the Fun-A-Fair. Not sure if they were only performers or actually competed. Two bands that did compete were The Druids and The Cavemen. Though they didn’t win they may have gotten noticed there- both bands got to release a 45 around this time.

— Dave Constantino wrote Thing Of The Past specially for the session. Credit for this (and the other three Tweeds sides) was shared with all members for the sake of unity but Dave was the main writer.

— They used the same Decca studio where things like Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock (a Decca release) was recorded. Mike Jacobs produced and Paul ‘Green Tambourine’ Leka helped.

— Thing Of The Past never cracked the Billboard Top 100 though it sold 30,000 copies over time, peaking at #2 on the local charts.

 

In February of 1968 The Tweeds returned to the Decca studio to record their second 45. Mike Jacobs – son of Coral artist Dick Jacobs – again produced. I Want Her To Know / We Got Time came out also on Coral. Since they had done well with the ballad A Thing Of The Past, I Want Her To Know was similarly intended as the ‘plug side’. But some radio station DJ’s were pushing the rocker side We Got Time. This hurt the momentum of the single.

Following a shakeup at Coral they were given a new producer, John Simon, who promised to cut an album if the single did well. With this motivation, Tweeds’ members personally tried to intervene to get DJs to stick to the I Want Her To Know side. Their manager George Constantino (Dave’s father) tried to contact Coral/Decca for help too. But nothing came of it. DJs continued splitting the play and the single stalled.

Ultimately I Want Her To Know / We Got Time only sold about half as many copies of the first record. So no album would be recorded.

I chose the ‘Rock’ side We Got Time for today’s feature. Unlike the Beatles/Beau Brummels sound of their other tracks, this one has a harder sound, like the British Invasion sound of The Who as filtered through an American teen garage band sensibility. Note that it has TWO guitar breaks- unusual. It’s interesting also to note that the members were 14-16 years old at the time of the first recording, and half a year older at the time of the second! Bear that in mind when listening.

Jim Dunnigan left the group not long after this, as he was preparing for college. Tim Murphy came in on bass but soon Ted Conner also left – drafted – and the Tweeds became a trio consisting of Constantino, Varga and Murphy. When Murphy left Billy Sheehan came in and they continued for awhile as The Tweeds, but eventually became Talas.

45 Friday: RED ARROW & THE BRAVES – The Last Days Of Kinzua

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

Last week we talked about the local record by Broken Arrow And The Tomahawks. This week we’ll look at the 45 by ‘Red Arrow & The Braves’ which may be related. Or not! While “I Get Rainy River Blues” was both a serious song and a humorous /novelty track, “The Last Days Of Kinzua” was intended to be serious. But the cliched ‘Indian’ sounds, like those on the Broken Arrow 45 – the Indian drum rhythms, the vocalizations – make it sound a little corny to our 2015 ears. And non-PC.

As with “I Get Rainy River Blues” the thematic background is the building of the Kinzua Dam project and the forced relocation of the Senecas. “The Last Days Of Kinzua” concerns itself not just with the early 1960s Dam-building events but also the historical background. “Cornplanter, Chief of the tribe” was the historical Seneca leader who led the Iroquois Confederacy in war against the Americans. It was his 1796 Treaty with the United States government which reserved the Cornplanter Tract for the Senecas. This is the land which was flooded in by the Kinzua Dam.

“The Last Days Of Kinzua” was issued twice. Both are on Kinzua Records, both are listed as Kinzua 101. One record backs “Kinzua” with “Red Skin Rumble”, a Rock’n’Roll instrumental with growling sax and cool Rockabilly guitar. This was recorded in Rochester at Fine Studios, and Kinzua Records is described on the label as a subsidiary of Fine Records.

The other version labels the A-side as Part 1. The B-side’s Part 2 is actually an instrumental version. “The Last Days Of Kinzua -Part 2” is somewhere in-between the sound of Part 1 and “Red Skin Rumble”, but the sax sound (and the whole track) is a lot smoother and less R&R on Part 2.

 

It’s more than likely that the sax is by Clyde Dickerson, who is also co-credited as the writer.

Dickerson was a Black sax player and arranger with a jazz background, and a formal music education (Berklee). But on all of the 1950s and 60s records of which I’m aware he played R&B and Rock’N’Roll, as often as not with White R&R combos. Clyde was born in Tennesse, settled in Olean, but often worked in the Jamestown area. He seems to have been the go-to guy for sax and arrangments in the Southern Tier.

He made one record after this on which he receives a prominent credit – as Clyde Dickerson & The Tear Drops on Kinzua 102, the only other record on this label. After that he turned up as a member of Billy Lehman & The Rock-Itts, playing the sax on their 1958 “Take It Easy, Greasy” on Hamburg’s Prime 1 label. He continued on into their next incarnation as Billy Lehman & The Penn-Men and was even a sometimes-member of the later Buffalo-based evolvement as The Jesters.

Clyde was involved with Southern Tier rockers Pat And The Satellites and may have played with them, though on their lone record he only wrote, arranged and transcribed it. Atco brought in King Curtis to overdub the sax! (See my previous articles on them, as well as Billy Lehman & The Rock-Itts, The Penn-Men and The Jesters.)

I have a feeling it’s Clyde’s sax we heard on last week’s “Rainy River Blues” track too.

He later moved to the Washington D.C. where he performed in jazz clubs while working a day job as a doorman at the Watergate Hotel for 20 years – including during that infamous historical event! He was known in D.C. as Watergate Clyde.

Clyde passed away in 2003, performing in a club shortly before his death. I wasn’t there, but I have a feeling he did NOT perform “Red Skin Rumble”!

 

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Trivia-

There’s at least two full compilation CDs of Native American-themed rockers and novelties on the Rockabilly label Buffalo Bop. One of them is ‘Wa-Chic-Ka-Nocka’.

“The Last Days Of Kinzua” and “Red Skin Rumble” both appear on Buffalo Bop compilations, but not on THOSE. “Kinzua” is on ‘Wild Wood Rockabilly’ and “Rumble” is on ‘Strictly Instrumental, Vol. 8’.

And while I don’t know the reason for the two releases of “Kinzua”, I do know that one came in a picture sleeve. The artwork references the broken treaty, and mentions The Kinzua PUBLISHING Company (not RECORDING Company) in Olean. I have a feeling that this contained the Part 1 / Part 2 version and was made to be was marketed in gift shops in the Allegany park area/ Kinzua Dam area. Just a hunch though!