45 Friday: The FOUR EKKOS – Hand In Hand

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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!

Jerry Engler – Sputnik (Satellite Girl)

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By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

In 1957 an event happened which caused great changes in the United States. It ushered in a new emphasis on technology leading to many of the technological gadgets we use on a daily basis. It caused the advent of the Space Race and a further chill in the Cold War. It boosted the esteem of the USSR immeasurably.

“Oh we’re gonna get our kicks, on a little ole thing called-a, a Spootnik..”

The Soviet Union had just launched the first Sputnik into orbit.

This caused paranoia, awe and a wave of near-hysteria in the American public. And for Irondequoit’s Jerry Englerth, it seemed like a great idea for a song!

Jerry was born in Rochester but moved out West to Arizona when he was 10 and spent four years there, learning about country music (and probably absorbing that Southwest vibe). He returned to Rochester and bought himself a Martin D-28 guitar and began playing talent shows.

Reading about the launch of Sputnik, he wrote some nonsensical lyrics while on a lunch break from his Eastman-Kodak job. He recruited The Four Ekkos as backup and cut “Sputnik” at Fine Recording Studio in 1957. For once, Fine produced a great sounding record (this wasn’t always the case!).

The Four Ekkos also recorded a 45 for Rochester’s RIP Records and had a minor hit in 1959 with “Hand In Hand” on Buffalo’s Label Records (what a confusing name for a record label!).

His manager was Nick Nickson, a DJ at Rochester’s WBBF, who was able to get a deal with Brunswick records after playing the demo over the phone. Brunswick rush-released it to capitalize on the Sputnik publicity, promoting the record as “out of this world.” Englerth became Engler in the process.

Jerry took a leave of absence from Kodak and started promoting the record in bigger venues. He appeared at the infamous Rochester War Memorial show with Buddy Holly & The Crickets, the Everly Brothers, Fats Domino and others – the same show where a young Ersel Hickey would talk to the Everlys and get the excellent advice to write a song as the ticket to R&R success.

Engler built a friendship with the Texan Holly – maybe due to his years in the Southwest and shared love of Marty Robbins and Hank Williams – and was invited to travel to Clovis, N.M., for a session at Norman Petty’s studio, where Holly recorded. And on Buddy Holly’s 22nd birthday (Sept. 7, 1958) Buddy played guitar and produced on some tracks Jerry laid down. These were almost the last recordings Buddy ever did, but they weren’t issued until they were included on the 2005 CD compilation “A Whole Lotta Years, A Whole Lotta Music.” This also includes a re-recorded version of Sputnik and more recent recordings in both Rockabilly and Country styles recorded at Jerry’s Irondequoit home-studio. It is available at Amazon and CDBaby.

Five months later, Buddy died in a plane crash at the age of 22. Only 22 himself, Jerry backed off from the music business and returned to Kodak and later worked at Xerox. He didn’t release a record again until 1988’s “Win Some-Lose Some,” a strict country effort.

“Sputnik” has retained its fame among Rockabilly collectors and people who look for novelties from the Atomic Age/ Space Age/ Cold War. It’s been “comped” multiples times, most notably by Germany’s Bear Family.

While it made a moderate splash in the USA in its time, it also was issued overseas and became a minor hit in Australia and was covered in Mexico in 1960 by The Loud Jets – in Spanish!

“My baby and me, and that spoot-a-nik makes three, flyin’ all around the world, with that crazy satellite girl.”

45 Friday: THE BRASS BUTTONS – Hell Will Take Care of Her

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By Bob ‘The Record Guy’ Paxon

Gene Cornish became a Rochester boy early in his life, after moving from Ontario. He joined Joey Dee & The Starliters but he also found time to lead The Unbeatables, who recorded one LP and several 45s for an Upstate NY label Dawn Records. And of course he went on to fame with The (Young) Rascals. They’re not so well remembered today but at one time they were one of the biggest-selling bands in America, a hit-making machine.

 

But Gene never cut ties with his hometown, apparently, finding time in 1968 to produce Rochester’s own Brass Buttons: Bob Guglielmino, Jay Capozzi, Eric Thorngren, Joe Graziano, Danny Labatte and Mike Julian. Gene wrote the A-side for their Cotillion single, “My Song”. Jay Capozzi, who had previously played with The Show Stoppers (well-known in WNY but mostly remembered now as the starting point for Bat McGrath and Don Potter) wrote the side we celebrate here, and what a song it is!

There’s no theme more central to Garage Rock than the Bad Girl. This Girl is bad, like most (“her eyes are blue, her heart’s as black as night”) but she takes it further. Like the Bad Girl of The Sonics’ The Witch, this girl is pure Evil. “Curses things that other girls just wish they had / Praises all the things that are all so bad.” And like The Sonics’ He’s Waiting (in which Satan deals with the Bad Girl), this girl has something unpleasant in her future!

Like so many bands, the Brass Buttons played a lot of shows (including Buffalo clubs) but took only this one shot at the black plastic, and went away. One member did achieve some fame in the music industry – under the monicker “ET”, Eric Thorngren became a noted producer.