45 Friday: THE ROOSTERS – I Wanna Do It

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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!

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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.

45 Friday: THE ROAD – She’s Not There

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

The Road was always one of the most-loved local bands in Western New York. Not because they were ‘super-hip’. They never went full psychedelic, musically, preferring pre-hippie Rock (like The Zombies, Hollies and Buffalo Springfield) and Soul music covers for their live shows material. They never looked like hippies either, dressing more like Mods.

They were popular because they were everywhere – if you are of age, you probably saw them at a high school dance; later on, you saw them in the bars and clubs. They were accessible and relatable. And they were GOOD. Superb musicians, all. And always.

And if you were of age you grew up with their music in the background. Especially on the radio, especially “She’s Not There”. It did sell well (supposedly 200,000 singles, and the album sold well too) but it got played endlessly on local stations like WKBW. Later on it got immortalized on one of WKBW ‘KB Classics’ oldies albums which made their way into seemingly 50% of local households!

The Zombies released “She’s Not There” in the Fall of 1964 and it was a smash hit in the USA by December. The Madmen (including future Road-sters Ralph Parker and Jerry Hudson) evolved into 6 Pact (joined by Phil Hudson) who performed a cover version “She’s Not There”. It’s there where they first developed their familiar re-arrangement of the tune, with a more powerful vocal element compared To Colin Blunstone’s more atmospheric take.

When the local supergroup Mellow Brick Rode all came together – adding Nick DiStefano, Joe Hesse and Jim Hesse (from Just Us Five and Caesar & the Romans) – they continued to perform the song.

Their management brought WKBW DJ Joey Reynolds into the picture. He produced their first single, on United Artists Records. Althouh it fizzled on the charts they were able to get signed next to Kama Sutra Records.

Looking for a surefire hit they recorded their arrangement of “She’s Not There” under Reynold’s supervision, in New York City. The single came out as by ‘The Road’. Apparently Mellow Brick Rode fans had taken to calling them just ‘The Rode’ and by this time (mid-1968) their old name was passe – sounding too much like 1967!

Needing a B-side the band recorded a track credited to a J. Pinto. “A Bummer’ is a pure throwaway instrumental. It may sound like a hip title, or a drug reference, but it consists only of the band playing a moderate Rock/Soul groove while a voice mumbles ‘bummer’ a few times. Maybe it was a bummer to have to record the track?? Because I have a feeling it was not so much ‘wow, let’s cut this great song!” as a case of a shrewd business deal. J. Pinto turns out to be the real name of Joey Reynolds. Whether Mr. Reynolds has composing talent I don’t know, but it’s not evident on tbis track! But when a single sells, royalties are paid equally to the composers of each side. And for the band’s interests, it certainly didn’t have hurt to give WKBW’s DJs an extra reason to play it.

For this recording, Road organist Jim Hesse was absent. He apparently had medical problems which required the band to sometimes have others fill in for him. Here, Jake Jakubowski (of Barbara St. Clair & The Pin-Kooshins) filled in for him and played that classic Hammond B3/ Leslie speaker demonstration of a part.

By the time of their next album Cognition – following the bands’ reorganization (no pun intended) – Jakubowski became the full-time organist.

Curiously, on the same night “She’s Not There” was recorded (9/27/68) the fire that destroyed the Glen Casino / Inferno occurred. And Barbara St. Clair & The Pin-Kooshins’ equipment was lost in the fire, including a brand new organ that had just been delivered that day. I suspect that that was Jakubowski’s instrument, though I’ve also heard that Ron Davis was the Pin-Kooshins’ new organist at that time.

A newspaper blurb of the time mentions a benefit that was held immediately after at The Mug on Hertel Ave, and one of the bands listed is The Mellow Brick Rode, so we can establish that the name change to Road happened at the time the single was released.

We should not that it was around this time or shortly after that Larry Rizzuto became a member as drummer. Regular drummer Nick Distefano was so important as co-lead singer (one of three) that it was felt necessary to free him up to just sing at times. Rizzuto eventually became a producer and produced some of their later singles.

This seven-man band was unusual. I can’t think of another seven-piece band that didn’t have horn players!

The single was a hit, selling in impressive numbers single and topping the charts in some markets. It reached #6 in Los Angeles in February 1969. Further singles were released, and an album (only the original six are on the cover though). The band played relentlessly but mostly locally. They could always draw a crowd here, always get good pay for gigs. Unfortunately the decision to not put them on tour hurt their career outside of the immediate area. Ultimately that led to the break up of this first phase of the band.

Listen to “She’s Not There” and be taken right back to 1968…..

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Note: the version I’ve linked is not the exact single version. It’s in Stereo, and includes the intro as was found on their album.

45 Friday: JERRY HUDSON – Gillian Frank

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Last week’s post of “Feeling The Sunshine” by Waves shows what happened to one part of The Road following their 1971 breakup. Today’s post will show what the other part was doing.

But first let’s backtrack a bit, just to fill in latecomers, and add a little more detail. The Mellow Brick Rode formed in late 1967. Members were Phil and Jerry Hudson (vocals), Joe and Jim Hesse (bass and keyboards, respectively), Nick Distefano (drums) and Ralph Parker (guitar). All of them had started playing music in the post-Beatles era but were already veterans of multiple teen combos.

Joe Hesse had played bass with The Rockin’ Paramounts circa late 1964. By 1965 Joe was with local garage institution Caesar & the Romans, who ultimately recorded four 45s. At some point brother Jim Hesse came in on organ. When Joe moved on he was relaced by Vinnie Parker. Vinnie’s brother Ralph Parker had played in The Buffalo Highlites, who released an obscure and scarce 45 themselves.

Vinnie Parker then formed a garage band called The Madmen with brother Ralph Parker and Jerry Hudson. A Summer 1966 article in the WKBW Teen News promised a forthcoming single on Capitol called “Mr Guy” which almost certainly was never released (if I’m wrong, I need a copy!). It’s desribed as sounding “more like the Yardbirds than the Yardbirds”, and I have a feeling it was reminiscent of their “Mr. You’re A Better Man Than I”.

The Madmen evolved into 6 Pact (both Hudson brothers and Ralph Parker) where they first developed their arrangement of “She’s Not There”. Joe Hesse was playing with Nick Distefano in Just Us Five, grabbing Jim Hesse away from Caesar & the Romans, they formed the local supergoup called The Mellow Brick Rode.

Wow, that’s a lot of member trading. And a lot of brothers!

WKBW DJ Joey Reynolds took them under his wing. For their first effort he merely added their voices (mainly Jerry’s) to a previously recorded track for their first single on United Artists (the B-side was actually sung by non-member Tony Galla). This single didn’t do much.

By 1968 The Mellow Brick Rode had become simply The Road. Signed to Kama Sutra Records now, they finally cut their version of “She’s Not There”  which became a moderate hit – selling 200,000 copies – but in markets too scattered to make the impact it could have. Reynolds took them into Synchron Studios in Wallingford CT to cut the rest of an album built around “She’s Not There”. The LP charted but only for just two weeks. Additional singles were taken from album tracks, most achieving local success. But their managment didn’t seem to be able to get them on ‘The Road’ properly, beyond some close-by shows on the East Coast.

The band all but split up split-up, with Jim Hesse and Ralph Parker leaving. They reformed with a new keyboards orientation, with organist Don “Jake” Jakubowski joined by pianist Ken Kaufman – and no lead guitarist.

Larry Rizzuto joined to supplement them on drums, as drummer Distefano was also a lead vocalist. This is the basis of the version of The Road that recorded “Cognition” in 1971.

By 1972 The Road had split up again. Nick DiStefano went off to Nashville. Ken Kaufman & Phil Hudson added vocalist Ron Lombardo (who had been writing music for The Road, including much of “Cognition”) to form Waves with Jim Catino.

Jerry Hudson, meanwhile, formed his own bands while also trying his hand at radio via a short stint as a WKBW DJ. First came Jerry & The Hornets, a hard rock group in a Humble Pie direction. This included former members of Flash. Next came the more laid-back Alacazam featuring ex-membrs of Parkside. This only lasted six months but Jerry came away with bass player Mike Romano.

Jerry and Mike hooked up with drummer Eric Malinowski and two members of Junction West ready to jump ship, Mike Kucharski on guitar and Peter Viapiano on organ. As they were forming a band and naming it (After Dark) they were asked by mamagement to audition a young lady as second vocalist. They didn’t expect much from the unknown Donna McDaniel but her voice blew them away and she was in the group. Many of you will know Donna from her pwerhouse performance on “We’re Gonna Win That Cup!”.

By November they were well-rehearsed and ready for their first public appearances as After Dark. That same month a record was issued under the name Jerry Hudson which was to become a local hit and a favorite of many Buffalonians.

“Gillian Frank” was recorded before After Dark was formed, at ActOne Studio on Delaware Avenue. It seems to have been recorded while Jerry was still under contract (his Kama Sutra contract for The Road), a contract that ran out the month it was finally released.

I don’t know who plays on “Gillian Frank” though it’s certainly local musicians. This was originally issued on Bandstand Records – the first record on Bandstand in 1972. A different B-side was recorded but not used – a cover of The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” with lead vocal by local female singer Polla Milligan. Road member/associate produced both of these tracks. For whatever reason, this Polla track wasn’t used and Bandstand copies came with the same track on both sides.

The record got local airplay and regional sales and soon Big Tree Records picked up the track for national release, Since it was credited to “Jerry Hudson”, Big Tree wanted a Hudson B-side. Polla’s vocals were wiped off the tracks and Jerry relaced them.

The Big Tree record had good sales (Billboard listed it as ‘Bubbling Under’ the Hot 100 at #117, on Feb 17, 1973). It was also issued on Polydor in Canada. To capitalize on the name After Dark changed their name to The Jerry Hudson Group.

After about a year without further success, Jerry broke up the group. He apparently pursued an acting gig in Los Angeles, until he was asked to returned to Buffalo to join with Nick DiStefano, Joe Hesse and most of Waves in a reconstituted almost-original Road. This led to another single, a brilliant version of Joni Mitchel’s “Night In The City”.

Althuogh membership continued to change, the legacy of The Road carried on through years of live shows and several more singles. When they again reunited at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls in 2012, they included “Gillian Frank” in their set.

 

45 Friday: WAVES – Feeling The Sunshine

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

 

I chose this one because today, after this bear of a winter, I truly was finally feelin’ the sunshine!

Coincidentally, this band and record came up in a forum earlier today. I never knew the story behind it except it was obviously connected to beloved locals The Road. I still don’t know the whole sorry but I have most of it.

The Road started out their career in 1967 as ‘The Mellow Brick Rode’ and issued one 45 under that name. “Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket” was sung by Jerry Hudson over a backing track by Syracuse band The All Night Workers, a frat band who had released their version without success.

Trivia fans will be interested to know that the All Night Workers record had involvement by Syracuse U student Lou Reed! And also that the B-side “Other Side Of This Life” (a Fred Neil song, covered by many folk-rock groups including early Jefferson Airplane) was actually sung by Tony Galla.

Mellow Brick Rode members were Phil Hudson (vocals), Jerry Hudson (vocals), Nick DiStefano (drums & vocals), Joe Hesse (bass), Jim Hesse (keyboards) and Ralph Parker (guitar).

In 1968 they had become ‘The Road’. They signed to Kama Sutra Records and their first single – She’s Not There, a cover of the Zombies tune – sold over 200,000 copies.

Kama Sutra issued several more singles and an album titled simply “The Road”. At some point there were personnel changes and Larry Rizzuto – later to act as producer on some of their records – joined the band as drummer.

By 1971 and their second album the ‘official’ lineup (per the Cognition album credits) was the Hudsons, Joe Hesse, Nick DiStefano with keyboards now by Don ‘Jake’ Jakubowski.

Ken Kaufman was credited with piano on quite a few tracks including tracks he wrote or co-wrote with Ron Lombardo and John Lotz. Lombardo had been a member of ‘Baggs’. Although only the five core members of The Road appear on Cognition cover pics it seems that the personnel was in flux, and that the double-album was completed by a larger circle of musical acquaintances. Ken Kaufman seems to have been ‘virtually’ a member, a position that was solidified eventually.

The Road split up in 1972 . Jerry Hudson went solo. Nick DiStefano went off to Nashville with some other Buffalo musicians to try to make it there.

The remaining Road guys from the Cognition band (Ken Kaufman & Phil Hudson) and associate Ron Lombardo on vocals brought in Lombardo’s former bandmate in Baggs, drummer Glen Bowen, and rehearsals took place on Kenmore Ave. Billy Sheehan was temporarily out of Talas and joined the project on bass. Jim Catino – with a long history in local music, starting with Batavia garage band The Squires – came in on guitar. And the project became the band ‘Waves’.

Billy Sheehan went back to Talas and Joe Burgio came in on bass. Waves issued their one and only record in 1973, Feeling The Sunshine (a Kaufman/ Lotz composition) backed with I’m In Love With A School Girl (Ron Lombardo). This came out on Bandstand, produced by Kaufman and Lotz and recorded at Trackmaster.

Within a year’s time a reunion of the original Road was brewing. Nick DiStefano came back from Nashville, Joe Hesse came back into the fold, and with both Hudson brothers on hand they again became The Road. Ken Kaufman and James Catino continued on as well.

One single was the only released output from this version of the band but it was a great one. Night In The City – a cover of Joni Mitchell – was coupled with a reprise of the Waves track Feeling The Sunshine for this 45 on the local Goodtime Records.

An album’s worth of material was recorded at the time, including a supposedly killer version of Hazy Shade Of Winter, but the album was never finished and the band fell apart.

Further Road reformations and variations saw Hudson and Ken Kaufman bring in guitarists Bobby Lebel and Dave Elder and drummer Sal Joseph. Two 45s on the simply titled ‘The Road’ label were the last proper Road releases – Music Man b/w You Give It All and Hard To Tell You Goodbye b/w Rosalie.

The last Road reunion was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls in 2012. The band consisted of Hudson, Hudson, DiStefano, Kaufman, Joe Hesse and Bobby Lebel. And they did a great version of “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” which you can find on YouTube.