45 Friday: DON BARBER & THE DUKES – The Waddle

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By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Last week we talked about local record label Thunderbird Records – the creation of Buffalo’s Lenny Silver and his associates – and Thunderbird #106, “Kissy Face” by The Dupries. Today we’ll look at Thunderbird #105 and a group closer to home, though maybe beyond the boundary of ‘Western New York’.

Formed in Syracuse in 1959 as Donnie and The Dukes, various members came and went but Don Barber was a fixture on both vocals and drums. By 1961 it was ‘Don Barber And The Dukes’ that they cut their first record at Syracuse’s Riposo Studio. Released on the local Personality Record label, the top side was “I’ll Be Blue” and it was a regional hit, reaching the Top 10 in Syracuse. But the flip got airplay also, and it’s the side most record fanatics care about today. “Henrietta” was a Little Richard-styled uptempo R&B Rocker which had been a hit for Jimmy Dee and The Offbeats. Barber and lead guitarist Skip Seyerle received the writing credit on the Personality release though “Henrietta” was actually an old song, predating Dee’s version.

Radio success was helped by the fact that it was produced by WNDR Radio’s Dan Leonard and the group did work for him, appearing at radio station sock hops and Leonard’s own Sunday “Teen Canteen” Show promotions at Three Rivers Inn.

 

Dan Leonard produced their second and last record which he placed on Buffalo’s Thunderbird Records in May 1965. “The Waddle” was a cover of a 1962 local record by Ithaca’s Soul/R&B legend Bernie Milton (Little Bernie and the Cavaliers, Bernie Milton and the Soul Patrol). This session involved Barber on vocals, replaced on drums by another Radio DJ, WOLF’s Fred Winston! Backing vocal were by The Madisons, whom Barber’s Dukes had been backing instrumentally.

Like most Thunderbird Record releases – and those on Sahara Record as well as many one- or two-off labels -it bore the Master Releasing credit (with a Buffalo address).

“The Waddle” became a local hit and that’s all, but it kept Thunderbird in business, and shortly it would become the home for Buffalo garage bands The Rogues and The Druids and even produce a killer psychedelic garage record from the West Coast by The William Penn Fyve.

45 Friday: THE DUPRIES – Kissy Face

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Thunderbird Records was formed in the early 1960s by Len and Ben Weisman. Like its allied label Sahara Records it was named after a Las Vegas gambling casino frequented by an affiliate who later became a partner. Len Weisman is better known locally as Buffalo’s biggest player in the record business, Lenny Silver.

Thunderbird and Sahara recorded a number of local (Buffalo to Rochester) artists but at some point the Weismans apparently moved operations for a short time to California and a number of records were released on West Coast artists. When Lenny moved back and made Buffalo his base of operations most of his releases were Western New York artists, but at all time he was not averse to buying the rights to recordings he liked and releasing them on his labels – always looking for a hit.

Along the way he built up a record-business empire including Masters Releasing, Amherst Records, the huge chain of Record Theatre retail locations and the even bigger record distributing business (at one time, the 4th largest in the nation).

The earliest releases on Thunderbird (as on Sahara) had silk-screened labels, replaced by paper labels in the mid-1960s. Thunderbird #106 was the last release on the silkscreened label. As a label Sahara petered out early while Thunderbird persisted until it was dropped in favor of Amherst Records around 1970.

The Dupries 45 on Thunderbird #106 has always puzzled local collectors. No one remembers such a group and the label provided no clues. Of course there was the famous Duprees (whose biggest hit was “You Belong To Me”) but they were obviously not related.

The two sides (Baby Doll and Kissy Face) fall into the ‘teen’ genre. Lately referred to by record collectors as ‘teeners’, these can be pretty corny but they can also be moderately rocking – as exemplified by Bobby Vee. These both lean toward the moderately rocking side, with male lead vocals and female backups, with songwriting a little reminiscent of Buddy Holly. Since it came out in 1965 a bit of Beatles influence wouldn’t be out of the question – of course, Holly was one of the biggest influences on both the Beatles and Bobby Vee.


Baby Doll is a decent rocker with good guitar. Kissy Face adds some girl group vocals for a great start, though the lyrics take a turn to pure teen with the tale of an unfaithful sweetie who was “playing kissy face all over school” !

As it turns the Dupries were not of local origin. Annie, Joanie & Carol Duprey were from St. Paul, Minnesota as was their band: Dick Schulz (bass and vocal), Dave Pilz (drums) and Dave Parpovich (lead guitar). Dupries was an altered form of the sisters’ last name. These sides were recorded in May, 1965 for St. Paul label Test Records. Just month after that small-label release they were picked up and re-released on Thunderbird.

It’s a good record but, alas, not a hit. Maybe they’d have been better off keeping it a in their own region, since a local DJ ahd written and produced it ansd was likely to push it for them Here, there was no connection – and no band to perform it locally.

After this the girls and band went back to Test Records and got a release as Candy & The Corals and again failing to hit, they disappeared from our world of records and radio. I did find this comment on the internet: “This is my mom Joan Duprey, Aunt Annie, Uncle Donny on drums and Uncle Dick singing lead vocals… My mom would love this. She died in November 1965”. I guess that helps explain why their career ended.

And that’s a poignant reminder that when we hear these records, they all represent the hopes and dreams of the people who made them; and while for us listeners they may be great or not, entertainment or distraction, to some people they have a personal meaning way beyond that.

So- a local record that’s not really a local record, but a least a good story – and a mystery solved.