By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
This is a busy week so I’m taking the easy way out, and posting about a record we touched on before! Back to Rochester for this one.
Ken Records was a small Rochester-based label but they hit twice, both times with instros. As with many instrumental records of the times, they crossed over from Rock’ n ‘Roll into Rhythm & Blues, Rockabilly into pre-Surf music. Both “Big Guitar” and Chuck Alaimo’s “Leap Frog” feature a rockin’ rhythm and a greasy wailing sax, though “Big Guitar” lives up to it’s name with a extra helping of raunchy six-string.
I’m pretty sure both records were actually recorded at Rochester’s legendary Fine Recordings studio, Ken Records having no studio.
Something else the two have in common is both of them were picked up by national labels after local success. MGM picked up “Leap Frog” and went on to issue three more 45s by Chuck Alaimo. Dot Records picked up “Big Guitar” but alas, it was a one-off release for them, even though it WAS a moderate hit. It became an even bigger hit when covered by Owen Bradley’s Quartet (on Decca, in 1958).
We should note that the group on Ken is THE DE-MEN while on Dot it was changed to THE D MEN. It’s supposed to have been a play on DeRosa’s name, which gets lost in the Dot credit. Maybe that thought DeMen was too much like Demon?
DeRosa, like Chuck Alaimo, was a tenor sax player. Besides DeRosa, the group included Robert Genovese and his brother Sonny Genovese, aka Bobby Geno and Sonny Geno. Bobby is the prominent guitarist on this 1957 track.
Bobby and Sonny may also have been members of The Four Ekkos. They were involved on Ekkos recordings in any case.
Sonny Geno had a later 45 ( which features Bobby on guitar) on the local Rip Records, which also had a Four Ekkos release. Bobby Geno later had a 45 on the First Records label, owned by Buffalo radio station DJ and program director Dick Lawrence. On this record, the label credit is “Bobby Geno – Mr. Big Guitar”!
The B-side of “Big Guitar” was “Irish Rock”, a typical piece of Irish-sounding music which was probably based on an existing tune which I can almost place but not quite… generic ‘irish’ music I guess. Both sides are credited to DeRosa and Genovese.
The single got a release in England on London Records, and also on a London EP alongside Pat Boone and the Fontaine Sisters. In 1960 The Tielman Brothers (a Dutch/ Indonesian group of brothers) reworked “Big Guitar” into “A.A.A.” and had a European hit with it.
Sonny Genovese passed away around 1990. Until recently Bob Genovese had a regular music gig in Las Vegas. I don’t know what ever happened to Frank DeRosa but I hope he went out or goes out wailing, like his wild sax.