Thursday, January 12, 2012

HISTORY OF SYRACUSE MUSIC - CHAPTER 21 - HOWIE WYETH, FROM SIDEWINDERS TO JAM FACTORY (UPDATED)

One of the finest of all Syracuse groups was "Jam Factory" whose innovative material and style achieved national wide recognition. The nucleus of Jam Factory came from the Syracuse University group known as the '"Sidewinders." S.U. student Howie Wyeth was primarily responsible for its inception. Wyeth for saw a "big" rock band with a prominent horn section, an idea that was unheard of in most rock circles of the day.

Wyeth born on April 22, 1944 in Jersey City, New Jersey. At age eight he had a very serious case of Polio. But he recovered and played in his high school band and later the New Jersey All-State Band.  He went on the attended Syracuse University where he studied and received a music degree. In earl;y 1966, Howie and Ian Taddeo were playing Lorenzo's in downtown Syracuse. At this point Howie auditioned and brought together 25 of the best musicians the University had to offer. The result was the " Sidewinders". Its first version was finally limited to eleven members-  Mark Hoffmann (guitar), Bill Storm (bass), Paul Petruccelli (vocals), horns- John Hall, Steve Marconi & Mike Mattia,  sax -Dave Scribner, Ron Johnson & Ian Taddeo (who later to formed the Stompin Suede Greasers), singer Charlie Brown (SU football player) and drummer Howie Wyeth.

In their three years of existence, the Sidewinders went through many changes. In the fall of 1967, Charlie Brown graduated and was replaced by singer Eddie Freeman.  Bill Storm was replaced by ex- Tradewind bassist Kent DeFelice, and Jon Huston was added to the horn section. By 1968, the group was cut to eight- Freeman,Wyeth, DeFelice, Hoffmann, Marcone, Mattia, Taddeo and  Alan Sislan. The summer of 1968 they could still be scene playing Deb's but it brought major changes- Mattia & Taddeo left and Earl Ford of Boston was brought in to take their place. Also departing were Sislan and Eddie Freeman, while Dayton Beach's vocalist Gene McCormick was added during the fall. Wyeth's departure was filled by Rochester drummer Joe English.

Meanwhile former members Petruccelli, Wyeth, Mattia and Huston went to New York City to join with ex-All Night Workers- Otis Smith, Billy Elmiger & Steve McCord along with Paul Dickler (Tradewinds) to former a new group "The Albert".  They would record two albums for Perception Records with little national success. Ian Taddeo played with The Company Store for awhile after leaving the Sidewinders and in the fall of 1968 joined The Avenues, who became the Stompin Sude Greasers in February 1970.

Early in 1969, the remaining Sidewinders (Hoffmann, Ford, English. Marcone, McCormick and DeFelice) changed their name and continued as "Jam Factory.". They recorded an album for Epic Records "Sitting In The Trap" and a single "Talk is Cheap" (1971).

After Howie Wyeth's two albums with "The Albert"  he appeared on albums with James Moody (1970), Zulmera (1974),  McKendree Spring (1975) and Leslie West (1975). But he is best known for being the drummer for Bob Dylan on his Rolling Thunder Revue (1974-75), then recording on Dylan's albums "Desire" (1975, and on the singles Hurricane & Mozambique), Rolling Thunder Revue (1975) and Hard Rain (1976). Howie would go on the recorded with many-many artist,.here are but a few- Roger McGuinn, Link Wray, Patti LaBelle, Don Covay & Loudon Wainwright. In recent years Howie concentrated on piano, leading his own group in ragtime, blues and early jazz in New York City clubs. His last recording, a cassette of ragtime and stride piano music called "Chadsford Getaway."

Howie appeared in many motion pictures his most successful being 1991's "Fried Green Tomatoes" (with Mary Stuart Masterson & Jessica Tandy). He was seen on Don Kirchner's Rock Concert & Midnight Special with Robert Gordon and NBC's "Hard Rain Special" with Bob Dylan.  Now for the sad news, Howie Wyeth passed away on March 27, 1996 in New York City at the youthful age of 51.

Jam Factory was signed by Columbia Records President Clive Davis releasing the album "Sitting In The Trap" (1971).  They played the War Memorial with Steppenwolf  and The Rascals and toured across the USA playing the Fillmore West in San Francisco (Dec 26-29, 1970), along with the Whiskey A Go-Go in Hollywood (Jan 24, 1971) plus stops in Denver, Aspen, Seattle and Albuquerque.  They shared the stage with The Byrds, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Walsh, Ike & Tina Turner, Beach Boys, Steve Miller, Billy Joel, Chuck Berry Issac Hayes, Rare Earth and many others. Back in Syracuse they packed every club they played.

When this great-great band separated some members of Jam Factory went on to much greater heights. Joe English went on the record and tour with Paul McCartney & Wings ("Venus & Mars", "Wings at the Speed of Sound" Wings Over America" and part of "London Town".) Joe was so kind as to invite us (David Rezak, Jack Belle, Howie Castle, Sid Marshall and myself) to Toronto to see  Paul McCartney & Wings perform live at Maple Leaf Garden on May 9 1976.  Joe then entered the Christian Rock community and released solo albums between 1980-87. In 1988 Joe teamed with another Syracusan Rick Cua as part of the Compassion All-Stars. Due to chronic ankle problems Joe English has been unable to play professionally since in the mid 1990's.

Upon Jam Factory's demise, trombonist Earl Ford  left Syracuse to record with Martin Mull. Wet Willie, Marshall Tucker, Hydra, Bonnie Bramlett, Grinderswitch, Felix Cavaliere and Sea Level. Steve Marcone became a professor at Syracuse University's School of Music. Later joined the music faculty at William Paterson University. Last but not least Mark Hoffamnn what can I say, he stayed in Syracuse and was inducted into the SAMMY's Hall of Fame on June 6, 2008. Mark, a great guy is still one of CNY greatest players to this day.

2 comments:

  1. I worked at Ashley Famous Agency and was priviledged to be present at the Jam Factory's recording session at Columbia Records in NYC. I also had the vinyl, signed, but it was stolen. I love the band still even tho my album was stolen in 1973...

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  2. Ron:
    Interesting piece of history. Thanks for all the work you put into this blog (and the baseball blog, of course.)

    Howie was a good friend of mine at SU. I can share a few of those stories off the record at the ballpark :)

    I remember the Sidewinders' sound very well -- included a lot of talented horn players from the SU music school -- they played a lot at Deb's (S. Crouse and Erie as I recall) and a lot of other gigs on and off campus.

    footnote: "The Albert" name came from the name of the hotel where he lived in the Village.

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