Monday, January 2, 2012

HISTORY OF SYRACUSE MUSIC - CHAPTER 18 - BOBBY COMSTOCK & THE COUNTS, - w/ ALAN FREED, AMERICAN BANDSTAND, RECORD RELEASES, MOVIES & ROCK REVIVAL SHOWS (Updated)

Bobby Comstock was born December 29, 1941 in Ithaca, NY. Originally a country singer, the birth of rock n' roll brought major changes to CNY Music Hall of Famer Bobby Comstock. He performed rock versions of old country and rhythm & blues tunes in the auditorium of Ithaca's Boynton Junior High School. The biggest turning point in Ithaca's rock history came in early 1958, when Bobby Comstock put together a band called "Bobby & The Counts." This became Ithaca's first successful rock recording group.

Between 1958-1963, band members included Comstock (guitar, vocals), Fred Ciaschi (lead vocals & piano), Gus Eframson (rhythm guitar), Dale Sherwood (drums), Chuck Ciaschi (bass) and Bill Lucas (bongos & vocals). Their first recording "Too Young " b/w Tra-La-La" (1958) was issued on the Marlee Record label. These songs were recorded in a small white church on Main Street in Trumansburg, NY and engineered by Marlee Records producer Ivan Weaver. A few months later Bobby and the Counts recorded the classic "Three Signs of Love (1958) at the old WTKO Radio studio, and released locally on the Count label. The national release of "Jealous Fool" on Triumph Records (Feb 1950) came about a year later for the group. now minus Bill Lucas. Bobby hit the big time with a remake of an old Patti Page song "Tennessee Waltz" for the newly formed Blaze label (September 1959). Both Triumph & Blaze labels were started by Herb Abramson  after splitting up with former Atlantic Records partner Ahmet Ertegum. Abramson's Blaze label not only had Comstock , but a young singer-songwriter Billy Bryan, but we know him better as Gene Pitney.

Also during this period Bobby & The Counts backed up Ithaca's four-member black female group the "Loves Notes."  The Love Notes featured vocalist Sybille Love who released a 45 rpm single "I Love You Darling" on John Perialas's Valex Record label in the late 50's.

Nationally distributed "Hit Parader " Magazine's January 1960 issue featured an article on Bobby called " Something Old, Something New", while "Hit Song Magazine" said "Handsome Bobby will probably be rated as the most important teenage find of the year".Meanwhile his Blaze release Tennessee Waltz was named "Sleeper of the Week". Meanwhile his Blaze Record release Tennessee Waltz was named "Sleeper of the Week" on Alan Freed's Dance party show. Bobby closed out a dynamic year with appearances on Freed's five day television program followed by a performance on Alan Freed's gigantic 10-day "Fifth Anniversary Labor day Stage Show at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater. The show included Lloyd Price, Jackie Wilson, Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks, The Crests (featuring Johnny Maestro), Johnny Restivo (recorded the song "Two Crazy Kids", written by Syracuse Mickey Gentile for RCA Records) and others. Then it was on to Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beachnut Show December 12, 1959 performing his hit song Tennessee Waltz. This set Bobby Comstock on numerous cross-country package tours that continued through the 1980's.

Bobby Comstock and the Counts made their second visit to America Bandstand with host Dick Clark February 23, 1960. They performed there new Atlantic Records hit "Jambalaya". Next came "The Wayward Wind" (March 1960), the Jubilee Records releases of "Bony Moronie" (July 1960) and "Your Big Brown Eyes" (Nov 1960) with Ronnie James Dio playing trumpet and singing backing vocals A year later, Comstock was back on the charts with one of his all-time greats, "The Garden of Eden" (Sept 1961) on Herb Abramson's Festival Record label. (Note- Herb also owned Blaze & Triumph Records). Then it was on the road for national tours with Freddie Cannon & Bobby Vinton.

The year 1963 brought a new label "Lawn Records" (a division of Swan Records owned by Bernie Binnick & others) and five new singles. The first "Let's Stomp" b/w the Comstock classic "I Want To Do It" hit records stores in January 1962 It made such as impact that Bobby then made his fourth visit to American Bandstand singing "Let's Stomp" on January 31, 1963. Musicians on the "Let's Stomp" session were Herb Lovelle (drums) Buddy Lucas (sax), Chuck Ciaschi (bass) and Bobby singing and playing his Gibson guitar.

Note- During the period 1961-63 the Beatles performed two Bobby Comstock songs "Jambalaya" and "Let's Stomp" while playing in Hamburg, Germany. When Pete Best left The Beatles he recorded "Let's Stomp" in 1963 with his new band "Lee Curtis and The All-Stars". (Note- The Searchers also sang Lets's Stomp on an early demo recording).

The next Lawn Record releases included "Suzie Baby" (June 1963), "Sunny" (Aug 1963), "You're Boy Friends Back " ( Sept 1963), and "I Can't Help Myself" (Dec 1963). Next came the Canadian single "This Little Love of Mine" on REO Records. With the popularity of British  Invasion music sweeping the USA came "The Beatle Bounce" (Feb 1963).

Lawn Records released "Ain't It Just Like Me" (March 1, 1964). The Rolling Stones first arrived on American soil June 1, 1964. Their first American tour was packaged with such popular national recording artists as The Chiffons, Bobby Goldsboro, Dixies Three and Bobby Comstock and the Counts. Bobby made two appearances with the Stones, the first in Pittsburgh's View Park Danceland (July 17, 1`964), the other in Harrisburg, Pa (July 19, 1964).

Next came a label change to Ascot Records who released the single "Always" in November 1964.  Bobby was once again backing up vocally by" The Angels" with Herb LaValle on drums. Lawn then re-released the classic "I Want To Do It" in December 1965, it make it all the way to #1 on the WOLF Radio charts and was played on just about every college campus across America.. Also during this time frame was a two day rock spectacular in Cleveland, Ohio, that saw Bobby Comstock band back up such national acts as Johnny Tillotson, Bobby Vee, Shirley Ellis, Sonny and Cher and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Note- CNY Music Hall of Famers David "Rock" Feinstein (trumpet) and John Kane (sax) also were added to the support band for this event.

Ascot Records countered Lawn's re-release with three singles between1965-66."I'm A Man" (April 1965), "Can't Judge A Book" (May 1965) and "This Magic Moment" plus Bobby Comstock's only album "Out of Sight" (1966). Then he disappeared from recording for two years until he joined Zebra who signed with Phillips Records and recorded the single "Miss Anne" in 1968. That was short lived as he formed his own band "Comstock Ltd. He signed with Bell Records and recorded "Annabelle Jane " (1969), "i Was Made to Love Her" (1970) and "Beginning To Feel The Rain" (1972). Bobby  took some time off to conduct studio albums for the GWP Record Label Label for such Ithaca area bands as Sarofeen & Smoke (1971) and Trilogy (1971). He also can be heard singing backup on Austin Gravelding 's (Rick Jackson) GWP Album. 

After the split up of the CNY Super group "Jukin Bone" Comstock was joined on tour by the very talented Syracuse Hall of Famer "Joe Whiting." Whiting joined Bobby Comstock on some of the biggest stages in the worlds including Madison Square Garden, the Felt Forum, the Spectrum in Philadelphia and the Boston Garden to list a few.

By the mid to late 1970's Comstock band members consisted of Steve Stewart (bass), Al Hartland (drums), Chip Smith (piano) and Paul Johnson (guitar),

Bobby would appear with well over 500 nationals acts, record an amazing twenty-four singles, one album and appear on many independent production's.  He teamed up with Freddie Cannon on Swan Records national releases of "Patty Baby", "If You Were A Rock & Roll Record" and "Happy Shades of Blue". He then played backing guitar on on the national album released by :"The Angels" for Smash Records in December 1963 containing their national hits "My Boyfriends Back " (#1 in July 1963), "Wow Wow Wee" & "Jamaica Joe". These tracks were recorded at Associated Recordings in New York City under the supervision of writers-producers Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein & Richard Gotteher. Others backup studio musicians on The Angel album included Herb Lovelle, Bill Butler & Artie Kaplan.

In 1965 this threesome hit the national charts under the name The Strangeloves with their hit songs "I Want Candy" & "Night Time." Comstock is also heard playing guitar on these smash hits. He then appeared on National Television along with Chubby Checker on Shindig- August 16, 1965.

Bobby also provided the backup instrumenation for some of the top names in rock as music conductor for Richard Nader's "1950's Rock Revival" stage shows (over 20 years). Also for Dick Clark's "Caravan of Stars" national and world tours. Comstock backed such stars as  Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Gene Pitney, Johnny Tillotson, The Crystals, The Orlons, Dixies Three,  Dick and Dee Dee, Paul and Paula, The Angels, Lou Christie, The Dovells, Barbara Lewis, The Tymes, Bobby Lewis, The Shirelles, The Coasters, Mellokings, Bobby Vinton, Five Satins, Gary U.S. Bonds, Ruby and the Romantics, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and "Big Dee" Irwin just to name a few. More family members entered the Comstock fold as his son Bobby Comstock Jr. joined his dad on stage during national tours in the 990's. Note- In 1971 veteran musician Kerry Parker joined the Comstock band.

One of these revival shows, filmed in New York, turned into the motion picture "Let  The Good Times Roll" in 1973. One of the films lobby cards shows Comstock on stage with then bands members Kerry Parker & Larry Crowder. During the 90's Bobby performed for a very brief time with the Strangeloves listed above. In 1998, Swan Records released a Cd called "Lost Masters" that included an alternate take of Comstock's popular song "Let's Stomp".  Pumpkin Records followed with a 24-track cd "The Beat of Bobby Comstock Volume 1- "Tennessee Waltz". That included most of Bobby hits, but not his great Central New York classics like "Garden of Eden", "3 Signs of Love ", and "Tra-La-La".

In 2000, legendary guitarist Link Wray (and former Swan Records label mate) saw Bobby in the audience and called hm on stage during a performance in Buffalo, NY. Bobby Comstock returned to CNY on June 6, 2008 and treated his fans to a performance at The Haunt in Ithaca. His band that evening consisted of Joel Warren, Al Hartland, Duke Shanahan along with singers Helen Jordan & Mabel Evans. Bobby still gets into the studio most currently in 2009 with Stan Wycott and is included on Stan's cd release "Daytime Srinker."

During his long career Bobby was represented by such top national agencies as William Morris, General Artist Corporation and Premiere Talent (Frank Barsolona). Bobby Comstock the living legend, one of Central New York's all-time great rock & rollers currently resides in Southern California.

Bobby Comstock received a great honor by being inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame (SAMMYS) on Thursday evening March 5, 2015 by Syracuse Music Historian Ron Wray. The rest is Rock N Roll.....

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