45 Friday: THE PAGE-BOYS – I Got The Blues Again

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Here’s another mystery group. All I know for sure if that they were definitely from Buffalo and the writer of both sides was group member J. Testa. He was joined by H.York on the uptempo flip side with the curious title Twist Enos Twist.

I once found a small bit of info on the net which has since disappeared along with my notes. That info was a few sentences from one of the members, of which all I remember is that they played McVan’s and rubbed shoulders there with a few stars.

This record came out on the Whirl label, whose Cleveland address has placed them as an Ohio group in some discographies.  That’s not unusual all the way around, as it’s an easy mistake to make. Many Buffalo artists made the trip down the lake to record there. There was little in the way of recording studios in the Western New York area. And there were NO pressing plants, so the two large plants in Ohio (Rite and Queen City) got most of Buffalo’s record pressing orders.  The Page-Boys record may have been recorded in Buffalo and merely pressed in Ohio for all I know, but Whirl was a real (though obscure) record label, with multiple releases, mostly of Country and Rockabilly.

The label lists ‘The Page-Boys with The Starfires’. Starfires or Star-Fires was a common name back then, but there was a popular Starfires from Cleveland (forerunner of The Outsiders, of Time Won’t Let Me fame), so maybe they were joined in an Ohio studio?

The side I’m presenting here today is a group vocal ballad, on the ‘teener’ side. I’ve seen I Got The Blues Again labelled as doo-wop – but it ain’t. It is catchy though. Nice.. a good period piece.

I’d LIKE to present the rocking flip side for you, but no one has uploaded it to YouTube yet.  And I don’t have a copy of this one to record. I do need a copy -hint hint.

I have heard Twist Enos Twist before and it was definitely Rock’n’Roll, definitely a good one! It even appears on two compilations of Twist music (“Twistin’ Time Vol. 1”,  and “60s Party Dances”).

So who or what was Enos? I have to assume it was Enos the chimpanzee – the first chimpanzee launched into Earth orbit.

Enos completed more than 1,250 training hours before his adventure, with special emphasis on weightlessness and higher G-force resistance.  Enos flew into space aboard Mercury Atlas 5 on November 29, 1961, making him a perfectly timely celebrity for this 1962 record. 

According to Wikipedia, “Enos was scheduled to complete three orbits, but aborted after two due to improper attitude. Observers witnessed Enos jumping for joy, running around the recovery ships’s deck, and enthusiastically shaking his rescuer’s hands.”  Maybe the Page-Boys believed the chimp had the proper fun-seeking attitude to be the subject of a R&R song, or maybe the life of a Twist Party.

Trying for find a novelty angle for a record to jump on a trend wasn’t unique to the Page-Boys. Their track is preceded on the Twistin’  Time comp by one with the promising title He Won the Purple Heart (For Doin’ the Twist) by Herbie Jay

Besides outer space and satellites, the Twist was the biggest fad going at this time. If you were old enough to be aware then you know.. if you weren’t, there’s not cultural trend today to which I can compare it. It was a dance, the subject of  jokes, a social event, a scandal, it presented a very mildly risque movement to places where dancers of different races sometimes even danced together! (you didn’t have to touch each other to do it), and both Black and White artists played the music with equal success – though it WAS an R&B-based music. Church groups banned it, movies celebrated it, and everyone was talking about it.

So the Page-Boys were wise in combining two strands of pop culture here. Unfortunately, the Twist died out while Enos just DIED (of natural causes) on November 4, 1962 – not long after this record came out. Whether because the Beatles and British Invasion was right around the corner, or in sadness over the chimp who would never Twist again, the Page-Boys’ career seems to have ended there.

I’m not aware of any further release, or subsequent activities by any members. If anyone knows anything, I’d like to get some info. Enjoy!

45 Friday: BILLY LEHMAN & THE ROCK-ITTS – Black Derby

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

For their second single these Southtowns rockers moved from the Hamburg-based “Prime 1” label to a new label created by WKBW disc jockey Art Roberts, ARP (“Art Roberts Presents”). This was ARP #13 and has no address. The followup was ARP #14 which carried a Buffalo address and was credited to a somewhat different group – Billy Lehman & The Penn-Men. These two are the only records on ARP. Maybe it wasn’t so lucky starting the series off with #13!

Black Derby has a sound that’s a little dated for 1959, though I could see a Bill Haley group tackling it. This one was co-written by Clyde Dickerson so I’ll assume once again he’s on the record, providing the sax. The co-writer on this side is the sole writer of the flip, Barbara Voorhies. I don’t know who she is. Perhaps her name was used just to give the copyright to a party who wished to not use their own name. That wouldn’t be the only instance of this on a Buffalo record.

The vocals on both sides are credited to bass player “Mousie” Gage, who was to become “Mousey” on their next release. We can also assume the guitarists are Lehman and Junior Schank are on the record, since Schank gets a label credit on their next/last record.

I’m not sure why they’re saying  ‘a Black Derby is the thing to wear on a date’. I never saw any 1950s Rock’n’Rollers, BeBoppers, hipsters or hoods wearing one. It seems like they were purposely doing nostalgic, or archaic – a strange choice. Maybe it has some significance that it’s audience of the time would have caught, that’s now lost to the sands of time.

 

Black Derby is no great shakes as a song but it’s decent enough. The flip, Lollie, is actually the old children’s/ singalong song hey Lolly Lolly. It had been recorded most recently by Oscar McLollie & The Honey Jumpers; before that Woody Guthrie, and probably by others before that. Later on Chubby Checker had a hit with it as Hey Loddy. Western New Yorkers may know it from John Valby’s X-rated versions and it appears in risque versions on 1950s party records. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that when Lehman’s group played it live the lyrics changed a little!

The 1950s were winding down and these guys had two releases under their belts, with one more to come before the turn of the decade.   (Note: the pics on this video are of the Jesters, the related group with some of the same members.)  

45 Friday: BILL LEHMAN – Take It Easy, Greasy

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 By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Billy Lehman’s name appears prominently on three records out of the Western New York area in the 1958-59 period. All of them are good Rock’n’Roll, and they involve a number of local musicians who collectively are responsible for a large chunk of the Rockin’ music that came out of WNY in the post-Elvis, pre-Beatles world. I hope to untangle their whole story out over the next few weeks, as it’s confusing. I’m still pretty confused about it! But it’s a story that needs to be told and will be told.

When recording and playing out, whether as Bill Lehman & The Rock-Itts, Billy Lehman & The Penn-Men, Billy Quad & The Rock-Itts, Billy Quad & The Ravens, The Jesters, or even The Rockin’ Rebels, this bunch of musicians consistently delivered a no-nonsense straight ahead rocking sound that kept the kids dancing until the British Invasion swept the old style away.

Here’s the first record from this crew. Credited to Bill Lehman And The Rock-itts, it appeared on the Prime 1 label and carried an address of The Hotel Hamburg, Hamburg New York.

Take It Easy, Greasy is in a Bill Haley style, and the title sounds like an answer to See You Later Alligator. In reality Bobby Charles wrote both songs, as well as some others that also used that kind of rhyming jive talk. Other R&R artists jumped on the trend with their answer songs but Bobby Charles’ 1956 See You Later Alligator was the original. He recorded it himself after Fats Domino turned it down, only to have Bill Haley’s cover version eclipse his own.

But Take It Easy, Greasy was all Bobby’s. Or was it? Lil Johnson, singer of bawdy Blues tunes, had written and recorded a hit with that title and very similar words back in 1936. Bobby Charles’ version credits his real name (C. Guidry – Robert Charles Guidry) and Bill Lehman’s cover does also.

Musicians in The Rock-Itts at this time were probably Lehman on guitar, Junior Schank on guitar and vocals, Clyde Dickerson on sax (see my recent writeup on PAT AND THE SATELLITES for more on him!), Roy A. “Mouse” or “Mousie” Gage on standup bass. The drummer is unknown to me – it could be Stan Pembleton (aka Stan Robbins) though eventually Tony DiMaria drummed for several of this family of bands.

Lehman and crew worked mainly the area from Hamburg down south to Jamestown and Bemus Point at first, gradually becoming more of a “Buffalo” band. For today, we will leave off with the release of Take It Easy, Greasy / Rock Around The Horn in 1958.

45 Friday: CHIC AND THE DIPLOMATS – You Don’t Know

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Chic Cicero was everywhere in the days of Buffalo’s early Rock’n’Roll scene, when instrumentals were the favored type of music, saxophones had equal prominence (at least!) with guitars, and an R&B influence was essential.

In the early days of the 1960s Chic blew tenor sax with The Fendermen. In 1963 he joined an established combo, The Vibratos. They had achieved a lot of success locally, working regularly at the Town Casino and becoming house band at the Glen Park Casino. But singer Emil Lewandowski and guitarist Mike Lustan left, having been pushed to greener pastures on the West Coast to seek fame and fortune. They found some, while playing and recording as The Enemys. But it was nothing compared to what happened when Emil, now called Cory Wells, joined with two more singers to form Three Dog Night.

So Chic was brought in. Older by a decade than the rest of the band (Dick & Jack Terranova and Al Fiorella), he brought his old-school R&B sax-honker antics with him, clowning and ‘walking the bar’ at places like The Colonie on Hertel Avenue.

Around this time Gary Mallaber also  joined the Vibratos, replacing Joe Ferrara on drums. Later a legend but just starting out professionally at this time (and still a teenager), he would go on to work his way up the ladder of success: Stan & The Ravens, then Raven, and eventually Van Morrison, The Steve Miller Band and studio dates with everybody from Springsteen to McCartney.

This version of the Vibratos broke up after recording a single (the second and final recording for the band) around 1964. Chic formed Chic And The Diplomats with some of the cream of Buffalo’s R&B players- Joe Madison on organ, Denny Fox on drums. In their early days they played top clubs like the Candy Cane Lounge alongside The Jesters.

As the Sixties went on they began a long stand as house band at the Ivanhoe Lounge on Forest Avenue. It was during this time they cut their lone waxing, Tears/You Don’t Know. Tears is an old style sax-led ballad instrumental which was already dated at the time, with a lounge-y organ sound more Wild Bill Davis than Jimmy McGriff.

But You Don’t Know is an up-to-date Soul track, a stomping version of the current Sam & Dave hit (also known as You Don’t Know Like I Know), written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

As a side-note: Sam & Dave’s success can largely be traced to WNYer Steve Alaimo who performed on the same show with them at a nightclub in Miami and produced and released them on his own Marlin Records before taking them over to Atlantic, who then turned them over to Stax Records, where they found great success.

This record was released on Ivanhoe Records and all copies came with a postcard-sized photo in lieu of a picture sleeve. The ‘Ivanhoe’ part is easy to understand, while the Pittsburgh address on the back is not.

In any case the record wasn’t a hit but they continued to ply their trade at 561 Forest Ave. A 1967 ad promises “every Tuesday through Sunday- the Soul Sounds of Chic And The Diplomats”.  A 1968 ad puts them at the Safari Inn in East Amherst, probably a step down, and a sign that their career was just about stalled as a new wave of music was coming in – psychedelic/heavy or singer/songwriter – these guys were none of the above.

I don’t know what happened to the rest of the band, but Chic Cicero left the music world for fame (or notoriety) of a different sort, not germane to our discussion here. We’re left with this – not great, not bad, but a perfect evocation of a time when you could walk into a Buffalo club and hear a bar band pound out R&B for the dancers.

45 Friday: FOUR ANDANTES – Hipper Than Me

45-Friday_4 By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Mo Do Records label and recording studio was located in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood. Label owner William ‘Billy’ Nunn, Sr. made his first try at the singles market with Bob & Gene’s “You Gave Me Love” / ” Your Name” (Mo Do 101, 1967).  Bob was his son Bobby Nunn and Gene was Bob’s friend Eugene Coplin. In 1968 the next Mo Do single was issued – “Hipper Than Me” / “The End Of Love” (Mo Do 102, 1968), credited to The Four Andantes. The only thing I know about them is that the lead singer was Levi Ruffin, Jr. Other collectors, either local or part of the international Soul scene, don’t seem to have discovered anything either. Collector interest in the Mo Do label really only started in the late 1980s/ early 1990s with the growth of the Northern Soul scene. The original scene was mostly focused on the hits and major labels. As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s, more obscure tracks and second-string labels came into vogue. DJs all wanted to have records on their playlists that no one else had, or even knew. By the 1990s second-tier labels, third-tier and beyond had been exhausted and attention turned to ultra-obscure labels. Mo Do Records was one, having never had a hit in its time, with very few copies of Mo Do singles having ever left the Western NY area. As is often the case, a collector ahead of the curve was the first to contact Billy Nunn who sold him most of the leftover records for a pittance. Along with Mo Do’s many Gospel releases were the four Bob & Gene releases, the Four Andantes single and a couple other Soul/R&B titles. These made their way to the biggest market for USA Soul records. In England, The Four Andantes developed a reputation not only as the best but as the scarcest record on the label. Endeavoring to find out more, UK collectors contacted Mr. Nunn directly. He was less than forthcoming with them, feeling he’d been burned by the previous collector. No, he couldn’t remember much about the Four Andantes, but he could connect them with one member. Levi Ruffin, Jr. was just coming off a long period of success as keyboard player with Rick James’ Stone City Band, who backed Rick as well as putting out records under their own name. For whatever reason, Ruffin couldn’t or wouldn’t provide additional information on the group beyond verifying he was the lead singer (he is also credited on the labels as the writer). Eventually a blurry picture of the Four Andantes turned up. They look as you’d expect – the photo reveals very little – and no additional names were forthcoming. Typical young Soul singers circa 1968. And the tracks themselves are typical 1968 Soul with a ballad side and an uptempo side. Maybe a little on the under-produced side, and not the greatest recording quality (typical Mo Do characteristics). Yet coming through that is the feeling of hopes and dreams, a first shot at success. For Levi Ruffin Jr, it was the start of a career in music. Label mates Bobby Nunn and Billy Nunn, Jr. attained equally successful careers in music in bands or as solo artists. For Billy Nunn, Sr. there was no chart success for his label, though he did get to see his sons make their mark in the business later.  Eventually, vindication: in the 2000s a local collector was able to obtain his trust, this time gaining access to unreleased material he had. This led to a Bob & Gene album being issued which sold well to the niche market of hipster Soul collectors and attained critical praise. The financial rewards continued in the form of royalties when two of the Bob & Gene tracks were used in motion picture soundtracks. Luckily Mr. Nunn was able to experience this before he passed away. By the way, Andante is a musical term. They may have become the FOUR Andantes after discovering that Motown Records already had a ‘The Andantes’.  This was a girl group who sang mostly backgrounds, rarely issuing their own records, but were on an unbelievable number of Motown tracks including many mega-hits. Interesting, in that Ruffin and both Nunn boys ended up on Motown labels as well.

45 Friday: WOODY ROBINSON – I’ll Never Let You Go

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Here’s another one about which I know almost nothing. Please please please tell me something, somebody!

Monticello Records was a short-lived Buffalo record label with maybe a half-dozen releases. It’s a difficult one to track because each of the singles has a different label design and a different address, if it has an address. I’d guess this Woody Robinson record is an early release, and the 42 Monticello Avenue address gave the label its name. All other Monticello records seem to be Gospel but this one has a great R&B Rocker on the flipside of a late-period vocal group ballad.

Monticello #7232 has been dated to 1962 by the pressing plant markings, which means both sides were already pretty old-fashioned in the fast-changing early 1960s. The A-side “Please Be Mine All Mine” is very reminiscent (if not based on) Jerry Butler’s “For Your Precious Love”, recorded with the Impressions. That was a huge hit but in 1958; in 1962 the big news was Motown, the Beach Boys and the Twist; the Beatles were already recording with George Martin; and this stuff was passe as far as chart success. But due to the classic timeless Black Vocal Group sound it fits exactly into what the R&B Ballad collectors of today look for.

By the way, the few references I found for this record credit it to Woody Robinson & Group.

The flip is a spiffy Rocking number though equally dated. Especially the guitar sound – it really sounds like it’s from a decade earlier. But there’s a good reason: the label credits the Skeeter Best Orchestra and Skeeter is undoubtedly the guitarist.

 


Clifton ‘Skeeter’ Best was a jazz guitarist who made his name with Earl “Fatha” Hines’s orchestra before enlisting in the service for WWII. After the war he played with Bill Johnson and Oscar Pettiford before forming his own trio in the 1950s. He’s probably best known for the his prominent work on the 1957 Soul Brothers jazz session with Ray Charles and Milt Jackson. He continued to record with jazz artists, some singers who crossed over from jazz slightly into R&B, and into pop music with Harry Belafonte; but no R&R or modern R&B as far as I can tell. Later in his life he taught in New York City before passing away in 1985.

Skeeter’s only other connection with Buffalo which I can find is that he again worked with Earl Hines, recording with him immediately after Hines recorded his 1976 Improv album at Buffalo’s Statler Hilton. I wasn’t able to find any evidence Skeeter hung around Buffalo so details on the Skeeter Best Orchestra which will have to remain a mystery for now. I’m guessing it may just be an expanded version of Skeeter’s trio. For what it’s worth, he co-wrote the A-side with Woody.

In any case, the guitar work on “I’ll Never Let You Go” is great, but it’s the work of a hot player schooled in Charlie Christian, more jazzy than the Pop R&B music of the time. Perfect for the earlier 1950s, but by 1962 nobody wanted to hear T-Bone Walker licks.

So… who is Woody Robinson? I know nothing. But his Buffalo credentials are secure, right from the first line of “I’ll Never Let You”: ‘I got a little girl, she lives in Buffalo….’