45 Friday: LEE ADRIAN & THE ROCHESTER COLLEGIATES – “A” In Love

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

This scholarly bunch recorded two singles in 1959 or 1960. All four sides are decent vocal group Rock ‘n’ Roll, with good harmony vocals; somewhat on the ‘teener’ side. I’d like to say I have their whole story but I don’t. I picked up one of their 45s a long time, then dug up their other 45 along with a little bit of info. That info – scanty as it was – is mostly lost now. Here’s what I remember, padded out with some guesses and a bit of conjecture!

Harry Schwartzberg came from New York City to attend college in Rochester where he met up with some like-minded aspiring Rockers. Luckily for us they named themselves after the Flower City which easily put them in the sights for local record collectors! They cut four sides, all but one (a cover of Larry Williams’ “Bony Maroney”) written by Schwartzberg in his new nom-de-stage as Lee Adrian. My guess is they cut these all in one session as they all have the same sound and were issued next to each other in numerical sequence.

“I’m So Lonely” was paired with “Boney [sic] Maroney”; and “School Is Over” with “A In Love”. Both were issued with the same credit- Lee Adrian & The Rochester Collegiates.

One interesting mystery is how they ended up on SMC Pro-Arte label. SMC stands for Spanish Music Center (based in NYC) and as far as I know, every other SMC release is Latin music of some kind. Maybe that’s why one of the sides is labelled ‘ChaCha-Twist’, though I can’t hear any Cha-Cha influences. There were plenty of Latin-influenced Doo-Wop and R&B records – many with Mambo in the title – but this isn’t one of them.

The other sides are labelled ‘Twist’ and ‘Slop-Twist’. The Slop was a dance that was popular starting in 1958. My recollection is that the Twist was a 1961-1964 thing but indeed Chubby Checker’s 1960 “The Twist” was a cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ 1959 single record. These Rochester Collegiates 45s are listed in discographies as being from 1959. Either the discographies are wrong or these guys were way ahead of the curve!

They don’t necessarily sound like Twist records, at least not like the rote Twist records the labels were grinding out circa 1962 (with ‘Twist’ usually in the title). Maybe SMC, being a dance-oriented label and based in the hot dance-trend New York City area, perceived early-on the need for records to which kids could do this dance – and made a smart marketing move.

The labels promise Maxima Fidelidad which has nothing to do with Mr. Castro! And indeed, they do sound great. The label also touts the ‘Plastovinal’ composition, though they look like any old vinyl record to me. Maybe that is because SMC goes back to the 78 era, and this is differentiated from the fragile material they used for those.

No more was heard from the Collegiates after this. But Lee turned up on one more record. In 1960, Richcraft Records issued the new track “Barbara, Let’s Go Steady” backed with a reprise of “I’m So Lonely” from the SMC Records. It’s a known fact that the vocal group backing Lee on the new side is The Chaperones (though they’re not credited on the labels). These Long Island Italian-Americans were one of the first White doo-wop groups, with a decent recording history and a legendary reputation.

Looking up info on this release leads to a lot of confusion. The Chaperones own website describes Lee as “an up and coming singer with the Josie label stable”. They did record for Joise but to my knowledge Lee never did, nor did he do anything else besides the three 45s I mentioned. It’s claimed elsewhere that the Richcraft is a ‘second pressing’ of an SMC Record but clearly the A-side is a new recording. Discographies credit the Chaperones as providing backing for BOTH sides so either that’s not true or “I’m So Lonely” was a newly-recorded version. Both sides do have a writing credit with Lee now reverting to H. Schwartzberg.

Lee later became a dermatologist. When I found info on him many years ago he had retired to Florida, and was entertaining senior citizens with music and tales of his Rock’n’Roll past. I believe he may even have made a CD of new music at that time.

Boney Maroney is probably their most Rockin’ track. I’m So Lonely features nice breaks from both guitar and sax. But “A In Love” – a second cousin to Johnny Cash’s “Straight A’s In Love” – has a Teen charm of its own. Enjoy!

45 Friday: DON STEWART & THE FENDERMEN – More Than Words Can Tell

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

I first wrote about the Fendermen way back in December of 2012. Yes, that’s how long I’ve been doing 45 Friday, because that was my FIRST 45 Friday article! 100+ articles down the road and here we are again.

I wrote then about their great “Fas-Nacht-Kuechel” record. But I never got around to their second 45.

Last week we talked about the local DAB Records label and DAB 101 (Charles Hargro, backed by The Vibraharps). The music end of the DAB partnership was Bobby Fonville and Ralph Hernandez who wrote and produced the Hargro single. But they apparently had no involvement with the Fendemen, whose “Fas-Nacht-Kuechel” / “Rain Drop” was issued on DAB 102 in 1959.

Whenever we mention the Fendermen we have to clear up any residual confusion with the (Wisconsin) Fendermen whose national hit ‘”Muleskinner Blues” overshadowed the local Fendermen. Discographers – and even compilers of a Wisconsin Fendermen album – have lumped the Niagara Frontier guys in with the Midwest guys but let there be no confusion – they’re not related. And the Buffalo Fendermen came first!

And this should be obvious to Rock’n’Roll fans: the name in both cases came from the Fender guitars they used.

By 1960 the local band had become “The Fabulous Fendermen” probably in deference to the success of the other Fendermen. When they played the Erie County Fair that year the members were Jimmy Lennon and Mike Usola – guitars; Larry Blaze – sax; Freddy Germann – drums; with Don Stewart as vocalist. A newspaper article lists those members, although Mike Usola is misnamed Isola and Freddy Germann misnamed Greman.

The writing credits of their first 45 named Usola and Germann along with Brent Palmer. He was definitely a member in 1959, but isn’t mentioned in the 1960 news article. Whether he had moved on by then, or was simply overlooked in the article, I can’t say.

1960 also saw the release of the second and last Fendermen record, which was the third and last DAB record. DAB 103 coupled “More Than Words Can Say” with “You’re The Girl”. Don Stewart and a Terry Gibson get the first writing credit, Mike Usola the second.

This one is credited to Don Stewart With The Fendermen. Mr. Stewart’s role in the band is up for question. The news article lists him as vocalist and I’m sure he was, but he doesn’t seem to have a great voice. I’ve heard that he was actually the owner of the local tavern at which they played. Perhaps it was this aspect more than his vocal talent that earned him a role. A vocalist position was secondary for this band anyway since they were mainly an instrumental band (their first record consists of two instros). I have a feeling Mr. Stewart funded this recording, making it more of a self-release and less something motivated by the label owners. This is validated by Bob Skurzewski’s report than even decades DAB partner Bobby Fonville was not aware there had ever been a third single on the label!

“You’re The Girl” (misspelled “Your The Girl” on the label) is a teener ballad. Not bad, but not great. It HAS been complied, however, on a CD of similar teen idol-type tracks. But “More Than Words Can Tell is something of a Rocker. It was included on an unauthorized 1988 LP release titled Rock Moon Rock by White Label Records out of The Netherlands. For which the cover art features – The Wisconsin Fendermen. Of course!

45 Friday: FRANKIE NESTRO – My Love

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Todays post could be called “Filling In The Gaps on Frankie Nestro”, or “I really don’t have much to say this week”!

I found the the notes from interview with Frankie and realized I’d missed a few interesting things.

On Frankie’s first record (as The Del-Tones), the backing band was The Premiers, who issued a spiffy rockin’ instrumental of their own on around the same time on local one-off label Squire. The Premiers included a young Tommy Calandra. Carl La Macchia, later to become a local studio owner and producer, wrote the songs on the Squire record and may have been a member. Frankie remembers the sax on his record was by Nick Salamone, so I assume he was a member of The Premiers as well.

A second, mysterious record came out a couple years later on the Lawn label, reissuing the Premiers’ “Shawnee” track, now credited to The Nite-Niks. The new B-side was “Horn Shakin”, which naturally featured a sax. I wonder of we can credit this to Mr. Salamone? Some believe this B-side to be Kathy Lynn & The Playboys in disguise,

Anyway, as a DJ, Frankie got his start when he took over for Lucky Pierre at The Dellwood, a famous downtown night spot for the young set. But his longest-lived local gig was at The Three Coins on Niagara Falls Blvd, where he worked along nine years. But that’s dwarfed by his amazing 30+ years with Royal Caribbean cruise lines!

Frankie’s TV career consists of two shows, the Frankie Nestro Music Hour on Channel 29, and a 13-week music trivia show on Channel 2 which was co-hosted by DJ Lenny Rico. Lenny is the brother of the famous local jazz DJ Joe Rico – who was so loved by jazz musicians he’s been immortalized in several music tributes, included Illinois Jaquet’s “Port Of Rico”.

Todays’ track is from Frankie’s fifth release, Fran-Co 1003. “My Love” has a confusing history. It basically the same song and arrangement as another record, “Need You” by Johnny Jack. “Need You” used the same soprano-type counterpoint backing vocal. Johnny Jack (John A. Greco AKA Johnny Greco) was a Pittsburg singer, and the backing on HIS record is often credited to Janet Vogel of the Skyliners – but just as often to Lou Christie!

In any case, the writer credit on “Need You” is to Buddy Wheeler while “My Love” is credited to Nestro-Wheeler. So which came first? They both seem to have come out in early 1962. Further complicating things, Donnie Owens also cut “Need You” and actually placed on the charts with it. Donnie doesn’t sound similar but Frankie’ and Johnny Jack’s are VERY similar. Usually the Donnie Owens record is called a cover of Johnny Jack’s but some people place it the other way around, and nobody seems to know where Frankie’s fits in!

But the song is highly-regarded anyway. George Goodman & The Headliners rerecorded in 1966 (on Val) using the same instrumental track from Johnny Jack’s version. And recently Kenny Vance – a legend in doo wop circles – has been performing it in is shows, as can be found on YouTube.

 

45 Friday: FRANKIE NESTRO & THE FASCINATES – I Don’t Wanna Wait

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Frankie Nestro’s name may be familiar to music fans or anyone who attended record hops in the early 1960s. In fact, you may have heard him on the radio too, or seen him on TV. His name may be familiar to local record collectors too, but equally puzzling. Records bearing his name turn up but few people have seen all of them or even know how many there are! And a couple others seem to be related to him but are mysterious.

Mr. Nestro graciously agreed to meet with me, sat down and allowed me to ask him some questions. I think I can call him Frankie now, so – Frankie it is. He also brought along a scrapbook which was helpful in allowing me to mentally picture the teen music scene of the times.

Frankie was raised on Buffalo’s West Side. Born Frank Aguglia, he attended Grover Cleveland High School (and eventually the University at Buffalo, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves). He became interested in pop music of the day and formed a group called the Del-Tones. By the time they had attracted the interest of a man who wanted to get them into a studio, they were reduced to just two members. I believe the other Del-Tone was one ‘M.Gideli’, who shares the writing credit with Frankie on their first record. You’re The One / You’re My Love was recorded and issued in 1960.

The label was called Count Records. Frankie believes it was a New York City label. But he explained to me that at this young age (still a teenager) it was a big deal just making a record, and his interest wasn’t in who was running the business end; it was getting your name on a record, walking down the hall and having classmates look at you in a whole different light!

My belief is that Count Records was not a ‘label’ per se, and was actually locally-based. Count Records #100, credited to just The Del-Tones, was custom-pressed by RCA which suggests it was a one-off release, not part of a continuous series by an established label. The only previous release on a Count Records which seems similar was one by Ithaca’s Bobby Comstock. That 1958 release was also an RCA custom pressing. Comstock’s previous (debut) release was on MarLee Records which is associated with Buffalo radio DJs Tom Shannon and Phil Todaro; and the Del-Tones record has a publishing credit of Shan-Todd, another Shannon-Todaro side business. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shannon and Todaro were involved with Count.

The radio connection is important. Early on Frankie hooked up with DJ Lucky Pierre, appearing at his sock hops as a singer. Frankie knew enough about the music to understand the live deejay job, and eventually was asked to fill in for Pierre spinning records. Thus a dual career was born.

The next Nestro release was also on Count Records, showing a different numbering system (Count 1009). Credited to Frankie Nestro & The Fascinates, I Don’t Wanna Wait is a teen Rock’n’Roll track, while the standard Day By Day shows Frankie as more of a traditional ‘singer’. The Fascinates were both an instrumental and vocal backing group.

The record release story gets complicated here. Besides The Fascinates, Frankie also worked with a group called the Belvederes. The next and last Count Records release is just the Belvederes with a great two-sided instrumental single- From Out Of Nowhere / Tormented. And yet another numbering system (no actual number, only what looks like mastering numbers- 88611 and 88612). One side was co-written by Nick Ameno and the other side written by his father Charles Ameno. Nick Ameno got his start here. Later he would be one of the mainstays of long-lived locals Kathy Lynn & The Playboys – also know as The Buena Vistas and other names.

The Belvederes reappeared on the next one. Without Your Love / You Cheated, You Lied bore a credit of The Fabulous Frankie Nestro & The Belvederes. I covered this one in an article a couple weeks ago, so I’ll recap and just note it’s a Rocker backed with a cover version of The Shields’ doo-wop ballad.

The most interesting angle now is that it was the first appearance of a new label name, Fran-Co Records. Frankie doesn’t remember much about this label. The label looks exactly the same as the previous release on Count Records. I’ll speculate that it was really a continuation of Count, now renamed for FRANkie and COunt. Maybe this was done because there already was another Count Records out of NYC starting to have some success.

Fran-Co 1000 was followed by two records credited just to Frankie Nestro, My Love / Shimmey Twist (Fran-Co 1003) and Carolyn My Darling / My Love For You (Fran-Co 1004). Interestingly both sides of each of these are numbered 1003 and 1004, but the later bears ‘1004’ in large text on each side so we can assume that’s the intended number. This is the kind of confusing detail that small/ independent labels do – that makes record collectors tear out their hair!

While all this recording activity was going on Frankie was continuing to make personal appearances as a performer, but also working more and more as a live DJ. At some point the opportunity arose to become a radio DJ and Frankie took it. I’ve seen references to him being on WNIA, WUSJ and WLVL. Eventually he landed a couple TV shows, one of which was a trivia game show on Channel 29 which lasted 13 weeks. I believe the other was a kind of Bandstand-type show. Frankie remembers ALMOST making it on to the real American Bandstand. Most likely that, and some other breaks that didn’t come, were the result of not having the right management – and not making sure the music business wheels were greased, as was often necessary in those days.

Frankie started also dabbling in record promotional work. In 1961 he became the promo man for Motown Records for the western half of the state – an important market, for an exploding label. He held this job for quite some time. One of his most-intersting accomplishments was convincing Motown to flip Stevie Wonder’s I Don’t Know Why I Love You and push the other side. He believed My Cherie Amour was the hit side. Motown told him if he could get DJs to play that side they’d do it. he did, they did, and it was a smash.

Ultimately, nothing dramatic happened to end Frankie’s performing career. His other pursuits in the music business just took more and more of his time until he was no longer a performer. His music-making career ended around 1963 if not 1962. One more Nestro record did come out, in 1973, on Dayton Records – I haven’t seen it!.

Well, he didn’t give up ‘performing’ completely. About 30 years ago he connected with Royal Caribbean cruise lines and became a DJ for them. He still does this work to this day. He’s one of those rare people who found a (great!) niche in the music business and made it work for him.

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

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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: WADE CURTISS & THE RHYTHM ROCKERS – Puddy Cat

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

This is a follow-up to Elmer Ploetz’ article on Wade Curtiss & The Rhythm Rockers from two weeks ago, when he filled in for me (and did a great job!).  I want to echo his comment that the Ted Russell/ Wade Curtiss story deserves to be made into a Hollywood movie. I can only add that I wish that John Belushi was available to play the part of the great man! Failing that, some kind of documentary needs to be made to tell this story that touches on so many cool things, from Rock’n’Roll to the early days of professional wrestling.

When Norton Records issued their fantastic CD (and the five vinyl singles that followed) they referred to the artist as Wade Curtiss & The Rhythm Rockers. But the original records all came out as by Ted Russell. And HIS Rhythm Rockers. Or Dixie Dee / Ted Russell and his Rhythm Rockers. And their first was simply as The Rhythm Rockers. Ted (whose real name was actually Duane Theodore DeSanto) didn’t start using the Wade Curtiss appellation until he began his pro wrestling career in the mid-1970s.

Ted broke the Rhythm Rockers in 1961 to head for Nashville. Most likely he was interested in country music, and also in song-writing and promotion. It’s known that he pitched songs to Eddy Arnold – and most likely Elvis Presley. He eventually recorded some of his oddball country tunes, and at least one crazed fuzz/garage track (1969’s “Electric’s Theme”, as The Electric Experience). He also hung out with people like Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, and created under-the-radar record companies to reissue his own works (sometimes retitled) and those of others, for reasons unclear.

The full extent of his activities in Nashville are unknown, though a picture exists of him holding a Fender bass in his stubbed arms, wearing a gold suit and a gold pompadour. He appears to be playing a lounge of some sort.

There was a consistency to his life and career, in that he stayed true to the R&R spirit, gravitating to the “for-real” people and the crazies. Among his pursuits was the reactivation of the original 1950s Rockabilly label Aaron Records with the goal of releasing a record by fellow-traveler Adkins. To the that end he got Hasil into a real studio for the first time in his life, but the project fell apart. Hasil believes something was going on with Ted – someone was after him – or at least Ted though so.

Ted was always looking for a big break, but willing to work an angle in the meantime. Nashville is a place where big breaks can happen in the music business – but it’s also the capital of the shady side of the biz (for example, the “song-poem” industry). So it’s unsurprising that 1968 found him working the somewhat shady side, leading a fake-Trashmen band, playing gigs under that name (the real Trasmen having broken up long before). He rerecorded their hit “Surfin’ Bird” for reasons unclear. My guess is that investment money was involved, and ultimately disappointed investors.

In keeping with his personality, the crazed “Surfin’ Bird” wasn’t bizarre enough, so he took it even further with a rewrite he called “Puddy Cat” and it’s our track of the day. Listen to it – be amazed! – and the YOU tell ME where he was going with this. Potential hit single? I don’t think so.

About five years later, he left the music world for the pro wrestling world. His story there deserves it’s own telling which I won’t do here, but suffice to say: he made a splash, he worked the fringes, and his work there was similarly crazed, and perfect.

When I hear “Puddy Cat”, I think of a wrestler’s personality, which seems to have always been in the back of his mind (R&R and Wrestling being his two obsessions). It sounds a lot like the zany growling Rock’n’wrestling records made by The Crusher and a few others in the late 1960s. In the 1980s this type of thing became common, with crossover musical efforts by the Captain Lou Albano, Fred Blassie, the WWF album and many others. But as always, Ted Russell was a man ahead of his time.