Friday 45: The FOUR EKKOS – Toodaloo Kangaroo

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Finishing up with the Four Ekkos we have their first release proper – the first issued under their own name. This comes in-between their 1957 (debut backing local Rockabilly singer Jerry Engler) and their last 45 on Buffalo’s Label Records.

“Toodaloo Kangaroo” b/w “My Love I Give” was released in 1958, credited to The Four Ekko’s [sic]. The writer of “Toodaloo Kangaroo” was Robert Genovese. I have speculated that Genovese and/ or his brother Sonny were members of the group. Regardless it’s almost certainly Genovese’s lead guitar on the break.

Robert Genovese was known professionally as Bobby Geno. He’d been the guitarist in Rochester’s Frank DeRosa & The De-Men. He played on their 1957 recording “Big Guitar” / “Irish Rock” on Rochester’s Ken Records label. This was picked up by Dot and “Big Guitar” became a moderate hit, though it was dwarfed by 1958’s cover version by Owen Bradley Quartet.

Geno turned up next on a 45 that was owned by Buffalo radio station DJ and program director Dick Lawrence. First Records 101, “The Shawnee” (a Geno composition) b/w “Little Rock Getaway” was credited to Bobby Geno but he was noted as “Mr. Big Guitar” on the labels! The label’s logo actually reads ‘Another First’, leading some collectors to question the actual name of the company; but to me it appears to be actually First Records. Not much is known by local collectors about this label but Lawrence at one time managed both The Graduates and The Tune Rockers, both Buffalo groups.

Bobby Geno’s brother Sonny Geno was also a member of Frank DeRosa’s band. He had one single under his own name – also on Rip Records. Sonny’s 45 “Blue Skies” / “Just Be Good” gave a writing credit to Bobby who is featured on guitar.

That brings us back to today’s record. The Four Ekkos’ “Toodaloo Kangaroo” and Sonny Geno’s “Blue Skies” are the only two releases of which I’m aware on Rip, apparently a local label. Since Bobby Geno has a writing credit on both, and had probably just left the DeRosa group, I have a feeling he was a member. Aside from that, and the K. Reinhardt who wrote the other side of the Rip Records 45, I have no clues as to possible membership of the Ekkos. After their next (and last) release in 1959, nothing was ever heard fom them. I’m also not aware of any further activities of Bobby Geno. Sonny Geno ended up later in Patsy Cline’s band – playing pedal steel guitar!

Anyway, “Toodaloo Kangaroo” is a decent R&R record with an interesting feature in the middle- a vocal buildup to the guitar solo.

I welcome any further info about the Four Ekkos or the Genos, especially any other involvement in the Buffalo music scene. And any info on Rip Records, Label Records or First Records.

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45 Friday: The FOUR EKKOS – Hand In Hand

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By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon

Last week we talked about Rochester Rock’n’Roll singer Jerry Jaye on Buffalo’s Label Records label. This week we’ll look at one of the other two releases on Label Records, that by the Four Ekkos.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Four Ekkos. I’m not even sure of  their names. As usual that’s not going to deter me from sharing with you what I DO know! Hopefully, as sometimes happens, someone will com eout of the woodwork with more info.

The Ekkos first hit a recording studio when they backed Rochester Rockabilly vocalist Jerry Engler on his 1957 Space Age-themed “Sputnik (Satellite Girl)”, receiving a label credit along the way – ‘Jerry Engler & The Four Ekkos’. This was cut at Rochester’s Fine Recordings but picked up and issued by Brunswick Records. [I covered this record in a long-ago article.]

Engler later was befriended by Brunswick labelmate Buddy Holly after they both performed at a legendary Rochester War Memorial show. At that same show, a young Ersel Hickey met the Everly Brothers backstage and got the excellent advice to write a song, as the ticket to success Rock’N’Roll game.

Next for the Ekkos was a release on Rip Records (a cool-looking label, with a ripsaw blade for a logo!). The address for Rip is given on the label as Los Angeles but the only two records that I know of on it are Rochester artists so I think this is merely marketing. A trade ad of the time gives addresses of Rip Records as both Rochester and Hollywood. I have a feeling the only thing they had on the West Coast was someone redirecting mail to Rochester!

“Toodaloo Kangaroo” b/w “My Love I Give” was released in 1958, as by The Four Ekko’s [sic]. “Toodaloo Kangaroo” was credited to Robert Genovese. Genovese (aka Bobby Geno) may have been an actual member of the Ekkos. If not he was likely the arranger and guitarist on the track.

Bobby was the guitarist with Frank DeRosa’s band. He played on their hit “Big Guitar” which was first released on the local Ken Records label, later picked and charted by Dot Records; still later covered by Owen Bradley. On one of his other records he’s referred to as ‘Mr. Big Guitar’.

Bobby and his brother Sonny Geno (Sonny Genovese) were musicians around town. They did some work as on-call sessions musicians for Fine Recordings, where I believe the Ken Records recording sessions were held. I learned from Steve Foehner after last week’s article was completed that Bobby and Sonny were the musicians on the Jerry Jaye 45, recorded at Fine.

The early R&R scene in Rochester was small one, where everybody knew everybody. Per Steve Foehner again (thanks Steve!): Steve Alaimo, Ersel Hickey, and Jerry Jaye all played together. And they hung out together at a Duke Spinner’s Rochester music store which is where Vince Jan (Fine Recordings) discovered them.

The only other name I can suggest as a possible Four Ekkos member is the K. Reinhardt who wrote the other side of the Rip Records 45.

That brings us to today’s record. Their third and last, it was released in 1959 on Buffalo’s Label Records and was a moderate hit locally. There’s no writers listed for either “Hand In Hand” or “Think Twice” and no other further info to help us solve this case. That leaves us with just the music. “Hand In Hand” is a good R&R vocal group effort. Enjoy!

45 Friday: JERRY JAYE – Going To The River

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Here’s a nice Rock’n’Roll record on a Buffalo record label, by an apparent Rochester guy, but little seems be known about him locally. And nationally, information is sketchy because he’s gotten confused with another Jerry Jaye – or two.

Jerry Jaye (born Gerald Jaye Hatley) hit the charts in March 1967 with a cover of Fats Dominos’ “My Girl Josephine”. It was a nicely rockin’ track, not ‘wild’ but closer to the original R*R stuff than what either Nashville was doing with country, or what psychedelic popsters were doing with Rock.

Some saw it as a return to Rockabilly – and it did have that sound –  but aside from a few old timers who never quit, and just a HANDFULL of rebels among the flowers and beads crowd (like CCR), Rockabilly didn’t return for another decade. But Jerry Jaye (Hatley) continued on with more singles for Memphis’ HI records label, and eventually an album. Most (more than half) of his recordings were reworkings of Fats Domino tracks. His love for Fats continued unabated, despite the public never really reconnecting after that first single.

Compilers of info on R&R and Rockabilly will tell you that despite his 1967 success Jerry Jaye (Hatley) was a first generation Rock’n’Roller who actually started in 1958. And this Rochester/ Buffalo recording (today’s Friday 45) was his first release. But they’re wrong. The 1967 Jerry Jaye was a Southern boy (Tennessee), a different Jerry Jaye from the 1958 local artist we’re celebrating today.

Not much is known about our local boy. I don’t even know his real name. It probably wasn’t really ‘Jaye’. He later had a trio and they were a fixture at Rochester’s 414 Club, J&I Lounge, The Avenue, and Garden Grill. The Jerry Jaye Trio included Neil Marvel and Gene Newman.

Along the way he cut a record for Fine Recordings in Rochester using Sonny and Bobby Geno as backup. After a small pressing on Fine (supposedly only 250 copies) it was issued on a label out of Buffalo with a 20 West Tupper St address, intriguingly named Label Records. This was related to the Masters Releasing group (essentially a Lenny Silver company).

Label had only three releases, all R&R. The others were the Four Ekkos – a Rochester R&R vocal group – and the Cornell Sisters – a pop/ R&R duo). All were pressed by Columbia.

Think about the confusion involved with that: Label Records. Real “Who’s On First?” stuff.
“What record company is it on?”
“Label.”
“Okay: label?”.
“Yes.”
“Yes what?”
“The Record company!”

But I digress. Our local JJ’s recordings for Fine, picked up by Label Records, sold some copies regionally but ultimately stiffed. A guy who COULD be the same Jerry Jaye (pretty likely) cut a track in 1958 for Stepheny Records (out of Illinois), both sides of which have been compiled on a Buffalo Bop CD of Rockabilly tracks. Unfortunately for music detectives they’ve also been included on an unauthorized compilation of the Memphis Jerry Jaye’s music. I’m not sure if the Stephney Records JJ is the Label Records JJ but I know neither of them are the 1967 Memphis JJ!

To complicate things further there there was a 1959 release by a Jerry Jaye on Pallette Records out of Allentown PA. It even has picture sleeve, which shows this JJ playing an electric bass. I don’t THINK this is our man – though it’s possible – but I’m pretty sure it’s not the Memphis cat either.

In doing some research I found that the Memphis JJ apparently never recorded before the mid-1960s and apparently never left the South. So I’m pretty sure none of the other JJ’s are related to him. Yet the foremost resource for Rockabilly info lists two of their records (those of our guy and the Stephney Records guy) as his first records.

It’s easy to see why the R&R historians got this wrong, because the Memphis Jerry Jaye’s fixation on Fats Domino coincides the plug side of the Label Records release by ‘our’ guy, a Rockabilly cover of another Fats Domino tune. “Going To The River”.

So this should be perfectly clear- two different white guys named Jerry Jaye covering Fats Domino tunes Rockabilly Style almost a decade apart, with no other apparent connection. Got it?

Anyway, “Going To The River” is a good rockin’ track. The flip is a slow ballad version of the standard “A Cottage For Sale”. After this our Jerry Jaye disappeared into the mists of time, leaving only confusion in his wake.

Oh, one more thing: in 1958 a group called the The Jaye Sisters (??) released a record on Atlantic. A cover of a song by – you guessed it – Fats Domino. Another version of “Going to The River”!!

45 Friday: CAESAR & THE ROMANS – Baby Love

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Many local people are familiar with Big Wheelie & The Hubcaps, the long-standing local 50s revival band. For all I know, there is still a version of this band in action.

Some will remember their precursor band. lounge lizards The Friendship Train.

Chuck Vicario’s career goes back farther than that. But the few who remember Caesar & The Romans (or Caesar & HIS Romans, per earlier releases) are either locals who were on the scene in the Sixties, or far-flung collectors of Garage Rock and Sixties Rock 45s.

I’m saving the story of this group until a later time – when I have more time, and maybe can get more info. For now, it should suffice to say they made their first two records in a Garage / Psychedelic style and finished with one in a kind of generic rock style.

In-between they made the one we’re focusing on today, the third of their four releases.

“Baby Love” is of course a cover of The Supremes song. Here it is done heavy psychedelic rock style. Somewhat like Iron Butterfly or the Rascals, but most exactly like Vanilla Fudge who had recently done a similarly charged-up version of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”.

Many of the same elements are here – the heavy organ, the fuzz guitar and histrionic vocal style.

Locals Jerry Meyers and Rich Sargent produced it. The record got local play and sold some copies but failed to hit. Apparently it did well enough though, because Scepter brought them back for one more 45.

Stay tuned- more to come!

45 Friday: THE JESTERS – Alexander Graham Bull

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

We’ve been talking about the Jesters. A long-lived band, but little remembered; probably because much of their work was released under other names. There were only three singles under the actual Jesters name. This is the second of them.

The backstory: Billy Lehman’s late-1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll band The Rock-Itts was based around Jamestown but worked North into the Buffalo suburbs.

When they split up Lehman built a new Rock-Itts using singer/guitarist Billy Quad and members of his band, Lehman stepping back into a management role.

Former Rock-Itts Junior Shank (real name: Shenck), Roy ‘Mouse’ Gage and Tony DiMaria formed a new band, The Jesters. Their guitar & vocals, bass and drums (respectively) were augmented by Lee Markish on guitar and ex-Tunerocker, ex-Graduate Johnny Capello on sax. Mousie was soon replaced by Peter Haskell, amping them up to ELECTRIC bass.

Capello left the Jesters for Lehman’s Rock-Itts where he was allowed to be a featured performer. When he had been lead singer of vocal group The Graduates he had worked under the name Johnny Holiday, a name he also used with the Rock-Itts.

Peter Haskell also defected from the Jesters to The Rock-Itts. At some point Billy Quad stepped forward to be the leader, the group now being billed as Billy Quad & The Rock-Itts; and Capello left.

The Jesters had replaced Capello with Eddie Jay. Now they replaced Haskell with Kenny Mills. And and the longest-lived version of The Jesters was complete: Shank, DiMaria, Mills, Jay and Markish.

1960 had seen a single on the national label Madison Records. I’m not sure if this included all the above members. It’s early enough that it could be an earlier lineup. But for the 1962 single “Alexander Graham Bull”/”The Buffalo” (Amy Records, June 1962) the above was definitely the lineup.

“The Buffalo” was one of several Buffalo records to feature themes or slogans from WKBW Radio which also included a writing credit to a KB employee! The others were Neil Darrow’s “Action Central” and The (KB) Buddies’ “Pulsebeat”, both of which used themes and sounds from WKBW’s News segments. “The Buffalo” has a writing credit including KB’s Program Director. Unfortunately “The Buffalo” doesn’t have much going for it, musically.

“Alexander Graham Bull” is similar in origin but more interesting musically. It’s a slow, moody, jazzy thing that’s unusual for a 45 side.

The story is this: WKBW Radio got a baby ‘buffalo’ (a bison, of course) as a mascot and ran a contest to name it. I recall something about it being a new animal at the zoo. In any case the winning name was Alexander Graham Bull. And this is the Jesters’ tribute to it. The writing credit goes to drummer/ band leader DiMaria.

A Billboard article from June 1962 mentions both the naming contest and the new single and thus we can date it verifiably. The article is a report on area music and radio activities by Carl Cisco, “Mercury promotion man”. The same article mentions that KB DJ Tom Shannon is going on active duty with the National Guard on August 1, something that would affect the Jesters’ career greatly in the near future. I believe Cisco was also their manager, a job he’d go on to do with other local bands including Kathy Lynn & The Playboys. Eventually Kathy Lynn’s band, Cisco and Shannon would all move to to Detroit and have various achievements in the music and radio scenes there.

With this release failing, the Jesters only managed one more under their own name (“The Big T” / “What’d I Say”, sung by DiMaria and Shank respectively) for a local release before Shank left and the next phase of their career would begin. While Shannon was away on duty, his release of The Rebels’ “Wild Weekend” had a second start on the charts and became a certified hit this time. With the original Rebels group out of the picture a substitute Rebels was needed. The Jesters now became The Rebels, which was amended to The Rockin’ Rebels; and all subsequent Rockin’ Rebels releases were by DiMaria, Markish, Jay and Mills. Well, almost all. One side was actually by Kathy Lynn and The Playboys, and there was one or two more sides which may have involved studio musicians.

But for all intents and purposes, the records credited to The Rockin’ Rebels (including almost all of the LP on Swan Records) were actually played by The Jesters.

And the few Rockin’ Rebels releases that came with a group picture featured the Jesters on the cover!