By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
Today we venture into a zone we’ve not entered so far – the strange and mind-bending world of heavy acid rock! (heh)
Richard Fustino and Carl ‘Butch’ Spatazza grew up in Angola, where Rich taught Butch to play guitar. They formed several bands while attending Lake Shore High School, including The Ambassadors (who played at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City), The Apostles and The Klings before Butch got drafted.
Butch stayed in touch by sending tapes back and forth to Rich from his Air Force gig in Germany. After three and a half years he returned, and they put together a trio with North Tonawandan drummer Bill Kopcho who was teaching at Matt’s Music in Tonawanda with Rich.
Soon after they brought in South Buffalonian Randy Carlone (sax and flute) who had previously played in The Random Four with singer Kathy King, who was later a Country music singer locally.
The band was initially called Bethlehem Steel but had to change their name due to a complaint by the more famous user of the name!
Hold On To Your Mind / Magic Land Man was recorded at Act One Studios on in Buffalo, funded b manager Mary Stock. Hold On To Your Mind was written in early 1971 and certainly has that earlier sound – fuzz guitar and all. Although the band was moving toward the Progressive Rock thing, on this track the distorted guitar sound puts it closed to the heavier Psychedelic Rock groups like Blue Cheer of a year or two before.
This single was released in May of 1972 on Pork Knuckles Records, the band own label. In name and label design, it was unique, and unusual for the time. The label was designed by Rich’s brother. The band planned to issue their own comic book as well! Which was understandable as they dressed in crazy costumes on stage – Rich Fustino in particular, whose cape and shorts (!) suggested a superhero.
Hold On was written by Rich with his wife wife Bernadette. It’s just the four of them on this record. Rich overdubbed lead and rhythm guitars. Shortly after this Randy Ruminski joined on keyboards (organ).
They played at many local clubs and high school dances (particularly back at their alma mater Lake Shore). In February 1973 they played their most memorable gig, opening up for Blue Oyster Cult at the Old Rivoli Theatre on Broadway, in the Broadway/ Fillmore area. The UK progressive Renaissance, with two ex-Yardbirds, also played that day. A cool photo exists of Bethlem Steele, in costumes, taken in the basement of the Rivoli.
Marty Bakowski (guitar and bass) joined a little bit after this and Randy Ruminski dropped out.
Bethlem Steele continued on, playing the local clubs. By 1977 they were just known as Steele. The band now was Fustino with Dave Dyck (keyboards), Will Schulmeister (drums), Jim Van Gelder (bass), and Dave Wild (guitar). Van Gelder and Wild had previously played together in Angus Wild.
Evetually Dave Dyck and Dave Wild Will left, and Randy Carlone rejoined. The band had always been known for their Jethro Tull covers and developed a whole show of Tull.
At some point the band just ended.
Rich Fustino continued teaching guitar and later started a business with his brothers called Fustino Brothers, Inc (or FBI) which develops apps including a guitar teaching app and an official Jethro Tull app, approved and created with assistance by Ian Anderson, which includes the whole recorded Tull catalog.
Will Schulmeister later became well-known locally as a country drummer. Randy Ruminski continued in music and is known locally as a great keyboard player. Dave Dyck passed away some years ago.