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!