By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
This scholarly bunch recorded two singles in 1959 or 1960. All four sides are decent vocal group Rock ‘n’ Roll, with good harmony vocals; somewhat on the ‘teener’ side. I’d like to say I have their whole story but I don’t. I picked up one of their 45s a long time, then dug up their other 45 along with a little bit of info. That info – scanty as it was – is mostly lost now. Here’s what I remember, padded out with some guesses and a bit of conjecture!
Harry Schwartzberg came from New York City to attend college in Rochester where he met up with some like-minded aspiring Rockers. Luckily for us they named themselves after the Flower City which easily put them in the sights for local record collectors! They cut four sides, all but one (a cover of Larry Williams’ “Bony Maroney”) written by Schwartzberg in his new nom-de-stage as Lee Adrian. My guess is they cut these all in one session as they all have the same sound and were issued next to each other in numerical sequence.
“I’m So Lonely” was paired with “Boney [sic] Maroney”; and “School Is Over” with “A In Love”. Both were issued with the same credit- Lee Adrian & The Rochester Collegiates.
One interesting mystery is how they ended up on SMC Pro-Arte label. SMC stands for Spanish Music Center (based in NYC) and as far as I know, every other SMC release is Latin music of some kind. Maybe that’s why one of the sides is labelled ‘ChaCha-Twist’, though I can’t hear any Cha-Cha influences. There were plenty of Latin-influenced Doo-Wop and R&B records – many with Mambo in the title – but this isn’t one of them.
The other sides are labelled ‘Twist’ and ‘Slop-Twist’. The Slop was a dance that was popular starting in 1958. My recollection is that the Twist was a 1961-1964 thing but indeed Chubby Checker’s 1960 “The Twist” was a cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ 1959 single record. These Rochester Collegiates 45s are listed in discographies as being from 1959. Either the discographies are wrong or these guys were way ahead of the curve!
They don’t necessarily sound like Twist records, at least not like the rote Twist records the labels were grinding out circa 1962 (with ‘Twist’ usually in the title). Maybe SMC, being a dance-oriented label and based in the hot dance-trend New York City area, perceived early-on the need for records to which kids could do this dance – and made a smart marketing move.
The labels promise Maxima Fidelidad which has nothing to do with Mr. Castro! And indeed, they do sound great. The label also touts the ‘Plastovinal’ composition, though they look like any old vinyl record to me. Maybe that is because SMC goes back to the 78 era, and this is differentiated from the fragile material they used for those.
No more was heard from the Collegiates after this. But Lee turned up on one more record. In 1960, Richcraft Records issued the new track “Barbara, Let’s Go Steady” backed with a reprise of “I’m So Lonely” from the SMC Records. It’s a known fact that the vocal group backing Lee on the new side is The Chaperones (though they’re not credited on the labels). These Long Island Italian-Americans were one of the first White doo-wop groups, with a decent recording history and a legendary reputation.
Looking up info on this release leads to a lot of confusion. The Chaperones own website describes Lee as “an up and coming singer with the Josie label stable”. They did record for Joise but to my knowledge Lee never did, nor did he do anything else besides the three 45s I mentioned. It’s claimed elsewhere that the Richcraft is a ‘second pressing’ of an SMC Record but clearly the A-side is a new recording. Discographies credit the Chaperones as providing backing for BOTH sides so either that’s not true or “I’m So Lonely” was a newly-recorded version. Both sides do have a writing credit with Lee now reverting to H. Schwartzberg.
Lee later became a dermatologist. When I found info on him many years ago he had retired to Florida, and was entertaining senior citizens with music and tales of his Rock’n’Roll past. I believe he may even have made a CD of new music at that time.
Boney Maroney is probably their most Rockin’ track. I’m So Lonely features nice breaks from both guitar and sax. But “A In Love” – a second cousin to Johnny Cash’s “Straight A’s In Love” – has a Teen charm of its own. Enjoy!