By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
The Dawn Breakers were one of the first Buffalo groups to make a record aimed toward the Rock’ n’ Roll audience, even if that record was more like Pop and Jive Jazz in sound.
Jack Blanchard was very talented musically, proficient on guitar, bass and piano. After graduating (he attended Bennett, Lafayette and Kenmore High Schools) he played piano in various joints around town. Don Fronczak joined the Army out of high school, which is where he began performing music – singing first in an Army chorus, then a private group.
Out of the service and looking for an opportunity to sing, Don met Jack at a nightspot in Tonawanda and they decided to form a group. At first it was the boys with two girls and the material was the Pop music of the day. As time went on the ladies were replaced with a succession of male singers, the material started including R&R, and they started working the Western New York circuit (which really means Ontario to Erie), including McVan’s and the Glen Casino. Jack continued to be the ‘musician’ of the group while Jim Warren became the lead singer.
This group did some recording at Howell Studio on Delaware Avenue, as many as a dozen tracks of their music plus advertising jingles and a theme for a local DJ. Probably due to the latter, they hooked up with local DJ ‘Hernando’ (Phil Todaro), as many aspiring local musicians ended up doing. Through his record business contacts Todaro was able to get them a deal with Coral Records. Jack brought out a song he’d written called Boy With The Be-Bop Glasses (And The Suede Shoes). In the interest of group ‘harmony’ he have the credit to all groups members- Blanchard, Fronczak, Warren and Buddy Lee Baker (who had replaced Harry Madrid).
The Boy With The Be-Bop Glasses has elements of R&R (the sax solo, the kicking drums and of course the lyrical theme) but also the squarer sound of many of the harmony vocal groups of the 1950s (the Four Lads, the Crew Cuts) – the sound that dominated Pop radio before R&R came along.
I’m not SURE what “be-bop glasses” are, but I have a feeling they’re not talking about Buddy Holly so much as Dizzy Gillespie and the hipster be-boppers of the jazz scene. There’s also a jazz element in the vocals that shows the link between scat singing and doo-wop. In popular perception such jazz scat singing may have been ‘be-bop’ though it meant something much different to actual Bebop musicians.
In any case, the 1956 song was something of a local hit, though some radio stations may have opted to spin the more traditional These Are The Things I Love on the flip. They had trouble getting The Hound – George Lorenz – to play their record unless some considerations were thrown his way (a common practice) which they were unwilling or unable to do. And just as they were getting going there were the usual members resignations due to family and ‘other job’ demands.
With new members they auditioned for the Arthur Godfrey Show and even cut an advertisement for the local Polish newspaper “Everybody’s Daily”. They may have cut one more obscure 45. But finally they just drifted apart.
Jack moved to Florida where his parents already lived. He cut a R&R / Rockabilly 45 but his career dwindled down to writing songs by day and playing lounges and joints at night. He met a woman doing the same thing on the same circuit and was surprised to find that Maryanne Donahue was also an ex-Buffalonian. They began dating and eventually married.
The other thing Jack was involved with was trying to find backers for the series of independent record labels he dreamed up, and issuing records by himself and others in different combinations. Some of his records included Maryanne who eventually adopted the professional name of Misty Morgan. Working now as the duo of Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, recording the unusual songs that Jack was producing, they had a couple misses but finally one big hit with the ultra-earworm novelty country song Tennessee Birdwalk. Many will be surprised that this strange record was the product of two Buffalonians who met in another city!
[ Note: the lion’s share of info in this article came from Bob & Terri Skurzewski’s excellent book on local music & radio history, ‘No Stoppin’ This Boppin’. ]