By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
In tracking down information on The Road, especially their ‘Cognition’ album, several mysteries were solved while some remained unanswered. One interesting thing is that five members are pictured on the cover and listed as the actual band personnel but a good portion of the songs were written by other people. In fact the songs that seems to be the most significant – a suite of related songs whose lyrics are printed on the back cover, which give the album the feeling of a ‘concept album’ – are written by people who weren’t members but associates.
One writer is Ken Kaufman. He’s not listed as a band member but is credited for playing piano, while member Don “Jake” Jakubowski is credited with organ.
Although the group did exist as a two-keyboard band for awhile, it seems that Jakubowski was on his way out and Kaufman on his way in. He would remain in the band and in their circle for a time, taking a leading role.
Another writer is Ron Lombardo who had been a member of Baggs. Following one of several Road breakups Lombardo would join with former Road members to form Waves in 1973.
The last ‘outside’ writer on Cognition was John Lotz. All three of these men would end up involved in the Waves project, writing the two songs on their 45, but only Kaufman and Lombardo were actual members of Waves.
The question remained- who was John Lotz, and what did he do, besides help write songs for these local groups?
The answer was surprising and completely unexpected.
John Lotz and his brother Trey Lotz were from Amherst and attended Amherst High School. Trey went on to study Philosophy & Religion at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY (in the Upstate area). While at Hamilton guitarist Trey met bass player Peter Brohl. John Lotz was convinced to move to the area and registered with a College in nearby Utica. With the vocalist question settled (John also played a bit of guitar and keyboards) only a drummer was lacking. Western NY friend and drummer Ralph Guastaferro was soon a student at Mohawk Valley Community College and the band was complete.
The band played the local gig circuit in the Utica / Oneida area, ranging to Syracuse; but specialized in frat parties at all the wide-ranging Upstate NY institutions of higher learning. During their core period (1965-67)
Many of the Upstate NY bands recorded for a series of labels based in Utica with unexpected Eastern-sounding, vaguely-religious names: Krishna, Kama and Buddha. Note that this isn’t the famous NYC-based Kama Sutra Records or it’s affiliate Buddah. In fact, I wonder if the different (‘incorrect’) spelling of the famous Buddah label was due to the correct spelling having already been copyrighted by the Upstate people?
In any case these labels also seem to be associated with Hamilton College, with the Roosters record on Buddha carrying a Hamilton College address.
The Roosters first (probably!) 45 was a version of “I Wanna Do It”. This Feldman/ Goldstein/ Gottehrer (aka The Strangeloves) song was first recorded by The Avons in 1964 and eventually by the The Strangeloves themselves in 1968. In between that time it was recorded by others – Upstate and Western New Yorkers probably know it best by local guy Bobby Comstock – but it was especially popular played by garage bands for wild frat parties. It had mildly risque lyrics which may have been altered for live performance. And a rollicking rhythm which probably broke them up at the keggers!
This 45 appears on Buddha. The flip was a cover of the Zombies’ “You Don’t Need Any Reason”. Next for them was the The Rooster Song on Krishna Records. The label reads “In album ‘The Roosters Live At The Appollo’ (sic)” but no such album ever existed. In a nod to the changing sounds of the day there’s a Yardbirds-sounding guitar riff from Trey Lotz. John Lotz apparently played piano on this track (promo photos also show him playing rhythm guitar in the band).
Last came “Midnight Green” b/w “Hurry Sundown”, again on Krishna. Following that the band broke up.
John Lotz made his way back to WNY. There’s a lot of info missing but he must have stayed in the music scene and was known to the guys in The Road to the point that he wrote songs for them. I have a feeling he may have PLAYED music here too, in some capacity, but no one seems to know. Eventually John and Trey Lotz seetled in the L.A. area and I have no further info on them.
Ex-Rooster Ralph Guastaferro returned to Buffalo and played with a commercial band, and I have no further info on him.
So, three Buffalo musicians made good records in Upstate NY in the mid-Sixties with no apparent impact on the WNY music consciousness. And one of them has song writing credits on an album by a legendary local band (issued – coincidentally? – on Kama Sutra/ Buudah records). Yet there seems to be almost no info on him or them!
Thanks to Rich Sargent for leading me down the Roosters trail, and to Chris Bishop’s excellent blog at http://www.garagehangover.com/roosters/ for providing much of the info.