Graduates – Ballad of a Girl and a Boy


By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

Continuing our story of last week …

Following the release of The Playboys’ 45 membership changed and eventually settled into a lineup of Johnny Cappello, Bruce Hammond, Fred Mancuso and Jack Scorsone. They adopted a new name – The Graduates.

DJs Tommy Shannon and Phil Todaro decided to issue a record on them, on their new label Shan-Todd (named for Shannon -Todaro). They’d previously hit with their first Shan-Todd release “Rockin’ Crickets” by The Hot Toddys.  The Graduates 1959 “Ballad of A Girl And Boy” came out as Shan-Todd 0055. Shan-Todd soon underwent a name change to Corsican Records, kept the same numbering sequence, in time for the next Graduates release (“What Good Is Graduation”, also 1959). Rumor has it that “Ballad of A Girl And Boy” can also be found with Corsican labels, though I’ve never seen one.

They recorded this one at Buffalo Recording Service, scene of their first recording when The Playboys made a demo there. This time however it was a different group – John Cappello was now the lead vocalist.

“Ballad of A Girl And Boy” made it on to the national Billboard Hot 100, at #74. The followup “What Good Is Graduation” did not make it onto the top charts, though it it hit the Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart at #110. If there were local charts I’m sure these achieved Top Ten status, especially with the push the DJs behind the labels could give them. They were definitely played often on WKBW, a local station but one that reached far up and down the East Coast. I’ve read of people from New England hearing the song and trying to find it in their area stores unsuccessfully. It hit in isolated markets as well in far-flung places like Arizona and New Orleans. Back then a record could make the charts as a ‘radio hit’ but not be a great seller. We can speculate that being on an independent label with inefficient distribution held the record back from bigger success.

Whether they got properly paid for the records is anyone’s guess. Standard procedure back then was that artists would recieve little royalties but could expect the make money with live appearances. Some big shows in father cities had to be cancelled when the still-young members couldn’t get time off from school to travel! But the group apparently had their largest-paying show close to home, when they received the then-astronomical sum of $1500 for a show at Rochester’s War Memorial Auditorium. With no real management, member Bruce Hammond handled the money and they all got paid.

With some shows, some TV appearances, nothing was breaking for them, and the group drifted apart. In 1963 a new single appeared on Lawn Records coupling “Goodbye My Love” with “Ballad Of A Boy And A Girl”. Now credited to Johnny Holliday & The Graduates, apparently most of the group was not informed of its release until after the fact. “Goodbye My Love” is actually a retitled version of “What Good Is Graduation” making this single something of a reissue – merely compiling their two former A-sides.

Nothing much happened with this 1963 release, but it’s then-dated sound couldn’t really compete in the year 1963 with the coming invasion. That same year the Beatles 45 was released on Lawn’s parent company Swan Records.

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An interesting and curious side-note is that many years later the group became aware of a mysterious record using their recordings. In 1959 a record was released on the First Records label, aka Another First, which contained “Ballad Of A Boy And A Girl” but now credited to The Question Marks. This seems to be an out take from the original Graduates sessions.

The flip is also credited to The Question Marks but this is actually an out-take by The Tune Rockers! Point of interest is that John Capello belonged to both groups, and Dick Lawrence – owner of First – had been involved in managing both groups. More interesting is the fact that the record doesn’t seem to have been issued in an attempt to make a hit – the artists involved weren’t informed, so there could be no promotion, and it was never distributed at all in their hometown!

Playboys – Don’t Do Me Wrong


By Bob “The Record Guy” Paxon

THE PLAYBOYS – Buffalo teenagers who made a record for teenagers – and went from High School to the charts in a matter of weeks!

Lots of local people, not just record collectors, remember Buffalo’s Graduates. Not so many remember the precursor group The Playboys, but the Playboys actually managed to land a much better record deal – one that potentially could have broken them nationally.

In 1956, six guys decided to form a vocal group. They were frat members and high school students (mostly at Lafayette High School and Hutch Tech). Jack Scorsone, Ronald Page, Bruce,Hammond, Raymond Baunler, Harold Rogers and Anthony Mancuso called themselves The Rays. By 1957 they had figured out their next step – they went to a Buffalo demo studio and recorded their one original song, Jack’s “Why Do I Love You, Why Do I Care”.

Local DJ Frank Ward flipped when he heard it and immediately played it on the air. It got a great response so he called up somebody affiliated with Mercury Records, played it over the phone, and Mercury expressed an interest. A few days later the boys got an offer to come to New York City to record it.

Two things happened as they set about recording- they learned of the already-existing Rays (soon to hit with “Silhouettes”) and had to come up with a name change. A nearby copy of Playboy magazine gave them the inspiration. And they had to come up with a B-side. Jack Scorsone sat down and wrote “Don’t Do Me Wrong” off the top of his head. The group recorded it in two takes, with no chance to correct the couple bad notes that appeared!

Back to Buffalo… the group was coming to grips with their whirlwind of success. In just a few short weeks they’d gone from demo to national label. Waiting for news of it they were asked to perform at a school assembly and were introduced as Recording Artists, to great adulation. And a few days later they started hearing “Why Do I Love You, Why Do I Care” on the radio.

Now it was time for a few out of town appearances. The music business did what it usually does and the boys, being teenagers, did what teens often did in such circumstances. Record company sharpies tried to get their hooks in the group with offers to go to other labels, offers to make individuals solo stars, questions about royalties and writer credits; the boys started to bicker. All the members had been given writing credit for Scorsone’s “Don’t Do Me Wrong”, while only Scorsone was the only Playboy credited with “Why Do I Love You”. Co-credit was also given to a woman, about whom no one remembers anything except she was the friend of somebody in the music business!

Tensions worsened. Scorsone was advised to act as more of a front man and less as “one of the boys”. Having to traveling to some out of town shows tested the teens commitment and camaraderie.

One label wanted Scorsone only. Mercury wanted a second single but was dragging its feet. Local DJs Tom Shannon and Phil Todaro (Shan-Todd, MarLee, Corsican Records) had experienced success with The Rockin’ Rebels and wanted more, and expressed some interest in the Playboys.

With this uncertainty in the air, some members decided they’d had enough and quit. Johnny Capello had played sax for the Jesters but was mainly known for his sax part on another Buffalo group’s smash 1958 hit, The Tune Rocker’s “The Green Mosquito”. He was brought in – surprisingly! – as vocalist. Accounts differ on this. Some say Shan-Todd tried to create a local super-group. Others say that the Playboys were preparing to replace Scorsone if things didn’t work out.

In any case, Capello came in and took over the lead vocalist role and Scorsone settled more into the background. With a name change to The Graduates came a signing to Shan-Todd Records and the recording of “Ballad Of A Girl And A Boy”. After this recording Jack left the group and joined the Navy. Further release followed on Corsican and finally a national label, Swan subsidiary Lawn.

Each record sold well enough though none were big hits.  Eventually the group simply broke up, the member moving on to other careers.

While the Graduates records were somewhat polished, the Playboys record really SOUNDS like teens, almost like a garage band version of a doowop group, especially on the uptempo B-side I’ve chosen for today’s 45. That is a big part of its charm.  The A-side is a ballad. It’s okay, featuring some nice guitar (Scorsone was the band’s guitarist, though I have a feeling its not him on the record), but not really all that special. |

I will probably cover the Graduates own record before too long. This article includes information gleaned from Bob and Terri Skurzewski’s book No Stoppin’ This Boppin’ (look for it!) and from an article at the website White Doo Wop Collector.