45 Friday: The FOUR EKKOS – Hand In Hand

45-Friday_4

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: Davy and the Crocketts – Turn Your Back

45-Friday_4

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

45-Friday_4

 

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.

Best of the Videos of the Day! A Top 10* List

This isn’t a scientific measurement, or really even an exact list. The Video of the Day project on WNY.FM’s facebook page has given me a chance to hear/see a lot of music that I might never otherwise have been exposed to. This, then, is a loosely assembled list of videos that I saw and loved this year.

Some were from before 2014, but all are relatively recent … and each was a Video of the Day in 2014. None of the archival videos for this post, and none of WNY.FM’s original videos.

So here’s the countdown:

10* — Juini Booth & Friends at the Colored Musicians Club: Why the asterisk? Because there’s a tie for No. 10. This one’s from 2013, with Juini Booth (bass)  playing with George Caldwell on piano, Carlos Day on trumpet, Dave Phillips on drums and Miles Tucker on sax. Some great jazz, Buffalo style.

10* — Those Idiots – I Want To Rock & Roll All Night (and Polka Everyday): Our other No. 10 makes clear that I can’t resist the silly and ridiculous. And they don’t get much more silly or ridiculous than Those Idiots. They can turn anything into a polka. The perfect pick for April Fool’s week.

9 — Alison Pipitone – Helpless: Alison Pipitone is one of those artists who you suddenly realize has become an institution on the local scene. It’s hard to believe Pipitone has recorded so many albums over so many years, and this video came off her new one this past year. It’s one of several shot in the grain elevators this year.

8 — Willie Nile – One Guitar: Buffalo Music Hall of Famer Willie is a WNY boy who has been restrengthening this local ties over the past few years. Well, he started last yar by playing with Bruce Springsteen and Mike Peters (of the Alarm) down in Asbury Park, N.J.

7 — Handsome Jack – Right On: Buffalo has always had a spot in its heart for 1970s-style hard rock. Handsome Jack nails it.

6 — The New Beginning Choral Assembly – Rock My Soul: The energy on this one is off the charts, but what really pushes this one over the top is the dancers. Hall of Famer Ella Robinson leads the group.

5 — The Steam Donkeys – Gimme Shelter: The Steam Donkeys are another great Buffalo institution, and on this one they do some Rolling Stones as an encore with a crowd of other performers at the Larkinville show. It’s a great example of the vibe of the Larkin shows.

4 — Chuckie Campbell – Synesthesia: Chuckie Campbell is a teacher and a coach – and also a rapper. He’s done some great work this year, doing well-produced videos, playing with live bands and staying positive.

3 — Cosmic Shakedown – Can You Help Me: This one says 1972 to me. Grand Funk. Heavy stompin’ music. Retro in a great way.

2 — Alan Evans’ Playonbrother – Back to Buffalo: A shoutout back home that’s also a great funky jam from one of Buffalo’s best connections to the national scene.

1 — The Sleepy Hahas – I Hate My Body (and it hates me too): The Sleepy Hahas have staked out their position as one of the city’s most interesting and energetic bands. This video is one example.

45 Friday: FRANKIE NESTRO & THE BELVEDERES – Without Your Love

45-Friday_4

By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Frankie Nestro was active in the local music and radio businesses in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He had two groups of musicians he worked with – the Fascinates and the Belvederes – and they both appear on the labels of his multiple local releases, as backing groups. Additionally, he released a great instrumental single by the Belvederes on one of his two labels, Fran-Co and Count Records.

I hope to have his complete story by next week. In the meantime, here’s a teaser. Credited to the Fabulous Frankie Nestro & The Belvederes – “Without Your Love” appeared on Fran-Co 1000. The flip side was a cover of “You Cheated, You Lied” which was originally done by the Slades and covered by the Shields – and much later, the Shangri-Las. It was a rare version of a doo-wop song by a White group that was covered by a Black group! In fact, the Shields were created (by Los Angeles producer George Mottola) for the express purpose of recording this cover version, and were a kind of R&B super-group – including Frankie Ervin (former lead vocalist for Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers), the great Jesse Belvin, and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson!

“Without Your Love” is an original, a rocker credited to Frank Aguglia, which I’m pretty sure is the real name of Frankie Nestro. It features an energetic backing vocal, a nice raw-sounding rhythm guitar, a somewhat rudimentary saxophone line, and a hook that’s very similar to Bobby Comstock’s “I Want To Do It” (actually written by Feldman, Gottehrer and Goldstein – aka The Strangeloves).

45 Friday: BABE WAYNE with CARL LaRUE & HIS CREW – Dance The Whiz Wosh

45-Friday_4

By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

This week’s 45 Friday is a follow-up to Elmer’s post on Carl LaRue & His Crew from a couple weeks back. That tune was “Please Don’t Drive Me Away”, the second release on Buffalo’s own KKC label. LaRue and his associate Babe Wayne recorded two others for KKC and their friend Jimmie Raye recorded two more, including one that’s considered a classic by soul connoisseurs worldwide. Here’s a bit of background on the label and this group of artists.

In 1962 local fledgling R&B singer Jimmie Raye was freshly out of the Air Force when he attended a concert in Buffalo by Babe Wayne. Wardell Peterson was a fourteen year old who danced, sang and played the drums. As a ‘kid entertainer’ he had been called “Baby Wayne Peterson” which became “Babe Wayne” by the time he recorded.

At this show Jimmie met Kim Kimbrough, a manager and aspiring record label owner. Kim was working with Babe – he was in the process of putting out a record by him, on his new KKC (Kim Kimbrough Co) label. This was KKC 101, There’ll Never Be Kissin’ Time/That’s Where It’s At, credited to BABE WAYNE.

Kim also worked with Carl LaRue & His Crew and he was forming a plan to take them to audiences that had never seen authentic American R&B artists in person – up North. He planned a Canadian tour and soon had an offer for a residency for an R&B revue. The revue became Babe Wayne, Jimmie Raye, and Carl LaRue, all backed by LaRue’s Crew.  The residency was at “The Twisting House” in Port Collins on Lake Erie which became home base for their Canadian Invasion.

The Crew had originally consisted of LaRue (keyboards), Arlester “Dyke” Christian (bass), Alvester “Pig” Jacobs (guitar), and Willie Earl on drums. When Jimmie hooked up with them he brought in two guys from a band he’d had in his Air Force days – the Blue Mooners – “Jazzmo” (tenor sax) and Thurman Hockaday (drum)- according to Jimmie. Other sources mention a Tyrone Huckaby (sax).

Along the way two more 45s were released. KKC 102 was Monkey Hips And Oyster Stew / Please Don’t Drive Me Away, credited to CARL LaRUE & HIS CREW. KKC 103 was Swingin’ In Canada / Dance The Whiz Wosh, credited to BABE WAYNE with CARL LaRUE & HIS CREW.

Following their time in Canada there was some disagreement over where to make their next move. Kim and Jimmie wanted to take the show to New York City while Carl and the others had their eyes on the West. They split up and went to investigate the opportunities. Jimmie and Kim went to New York City, via Pittsburg. Carl took Dyke, Piggy, Hockaday and Jazzmo to Los Angeles.

Not finding much to do in L.A., Carl and Dyke took up an offer from former Buffalonian Eddie O’Jay to come to Phoenix, where he worked as a disc jockey and had brought the vocal group he managed The O’Jays (yes, they were named after their manager!). Eventually the O’Jays, yet to hit the big time, went their own way and the Buffalo guys were stranded in Arizona. Carl returned to Buffalo and some of the others also, but Dyke replenished their ranks with members of a local group, The Blazers, and they became Dyke & The Blazers.

For the West Coast branch of the KKC family, the rest is ‘Funky Broadway’ R&B history.

We should note that the Arizona guys were slowly replaced with Buffalo musicians Dyke knew and sent for, including Maurice ‘Little Mo’ Jones (trumpet) and Ray Byrd (keyboards), Otis Tolliver (bass, formerly of the El Tempos) who joined LaRue Crew veterans Willie Earl (drums), Babe Wayne (drums) and ‘Pig’ Jacobs (guitar).

Meanwhile on the East Coast, Kim was in New York City trying to land a deal for Jimmie Raye. Jimmie came back to Buffalo and put out a single on his own (on his Niagara label) before returning to NYC to cut a one-off single for Tuff Records. The Tuff single was released and Jimmie was moving in the right circles, with some of the leading lights of the East Coast R&B scene, but nothing was really happening. While waiting for the next label deal Kim decided to reactivate KKC to issue two more Jimmie Raye records.

KKC 001 (Philadelpia Dawg / Walked On, Stepped On, Stomped On) was released in 1965 and KKC 002 (Philly Dog Aound The World / Just Can’t Take It No More) in 1966. Neither was a ‘hit’ but in time Philly Dog Aound The World became an anthem in the Northern Soul world.

Jimmie went on to a long career with a fair degree of success. Kim Kimbrough seems to have dropped out of the scene completely after the last two KKC releases. And Babe Wayne eventually became a well-known local drummer on the jazz scene before his death in 1989.

Today’s side is Dance The Whiz Wosh. Babe sings it, LaRue’s crew play it, and Jimmie R. Feagen gets the writing credit. Mr. Feagen is actually Jimmie Raye Feagen, the real-life name of Jimmie Raye.  A great title.. an interesting-sounding dance.. and even greater record!