Saturday, January 21, 2012


First formed in 1959 as Donnie and the Dukes (Don Barber & Walter Stiles). They reorganized in 1960 with a lineup of Bob Story (bass), Don Barber (vocals, drums), Dave Blatchley (rhythm guitar) and eventually Skip Seyerle (lead guitar). With WNDR Radio's "Dandy Dan" Leonard's help the group entered Syracuse's Riposo Studio and recorded a two sided regional hit single "I'll Be Blue" b/w "Henrietta" on the Personality Record label (1961).

"I'll Be Blue' was released nationally by Buck Ram. who was the manager of the group "The Platters". This song received a huge amount  of airplay reaching the Top 10 in Syracuse. "Dandy Dan" Leonard managed the band during this period and was responsible for their national & regional success. With Leonard's involvement with Three Rivers Inn he spring boarded Don Barber and the Dukes to host many Sunday "Teen Canteen" Shows. They also appeared regularly at the Brown Jug in downtown Syracuse and many other CNY hot spots.

They shared the stage with such national acts as- Curtis Lee, Bobby Rydell, Lloyd Price, Brenda Lee, The Bell Notes, Del Shannon, Jimmy Rodgers, Bob Crewe, Ernie K. Doe, The Tokens, The Viscounts, Bobby Sherman, Chubby Checker, Freddie Cannon and Johnny and the Hurricanes.

 By 1963 their lineup included Barber (vocals, bass) with new personal Chuck Mellone (keyboards), Joe Sawmiller (guitar), and Dave Mc Quillan (drums). In mid-1964, Jack Belle (The Continentals) handled lead guitar duties during a long summer engagement at Lake George.

Their follow-up single "The Waddle" (the old Bernie Milton song) b/w " What's Your Name" was released on Buffalo's Thunderbird Records in May 1965. The band's new lineup included Barber (vocals), Joe Sawmiller (guitar) and WOLF Radio deejay Fred Winston on drums. This threesome was put together in early 1965 for a backup session for The Madisons and stayed together recording their hit "The Waddle". Also heard on the Waddle are popular CNY musicians Kal Dee (keyboards) and backing vocals provided by The Madisons. With the popularity of their hit single the band toured across the Northeast performaing with national acts as, The Angels, Johnny Thunder & Lou Christie. On July 11, 1965 the band shared the stage with The Newbeats & Agawan Park, Mass, 

If Don Barber's name seems familiar his family owned the Barber Funeral Home in Homer, NY for many years.  As a historic note- CNY saxophone great John Kane can also be heard on Don's early recording of "Henrietta" and 'I'll Be Blue".

Don Barber and the Dukes have appeared yearly at Cortland's Summer Festival. Joining Don on stage have been Mickey Lee Soule (Elf, Rainbow), Brian Miles (Brian's Idols), Neal Massa (Cafferty Band), Mike Shaw (Mad Jack) drummer Larry Baker (Triple Threat, Essentials) and Joe Leo (Cafferty Band).  July 10, 2011, Don performed at the Ronnie James Dio "Stand Up and Shout" benefit concert in Cortland.  In late 2011 the band's original members (Barber, Story,  Blatchley & Seyerle) reunited to record a  special 50th Anniversary video of their classic song "I'll Be Blue" that included photos, and early band history. You can watch this classic video recording on utube.

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