Friday, December 30, 2011


 The famed Three Rivers Inn we first found showcased talent back in 1934 after Isadore H. Castle purchased the restaurant and changed the name from Barnum's to the Three Rivers Inn.  It's  was also advertised as Harvey's Three River Inn for a show while managed by Frank Herbst.  Between 1940-50 the proprietor was listed as Theresa Miller Krause. It then shifted to Doc Summers (real name Harry Galanter ) and his wife Ester, who then sold the nightspot to Dominick Bruno on May 28, 1955. Three Rivers Inn was located on Oswego Road at  Three Rivers junction in Three Rivers, N.Y  During the late 50s & 60's it was the areas largest and most popular night spots. Three Rivers Inn hosted the famed "Teen Canteen" ran by 'Dandy Dan" Leonard on Sunday afternoons starting in 1960. Note- Dan Leonard would also served as talent advisor in the 60's.

Fire destroyed the  nightclub on February 19, 1973. Club owner Dominick Bruno passed away in 1988 at age 70. His son Ron Bruno opened the "New" Three Rivers Inn (1981-90) down the road a few miles in Three Rivers Plaza, Phoenix, NY. But Ron died suddenly on January 2, 1998 at a youthful age of 54. Tim & Scott Rose bought the "New" Three Rivers Inn in May 2000, and reopened the nightclub on August 15, 2000. The club closed just a few years later

Here is a listing of just some of the popular acts that appeared at Three Rivers Inn  1934 - 2001

1934-55    THREE RIVER INN  (was formerly Barnum's in 1933)

1934-  Blue Knighthawks

1937-   Hollywood Revue- Pennsylvania Dance Band

1938-  Kings of Rhythm

1939-  Louis Danksha, Irene Loftus, Ernie Miller,  Freddie Millers Band

1940-  Ernie Miller Orchestra, Rhythm Girls

1941-  Murray Driscoll Band

1946-  Eddie Carol Orchestra, Arlene Dey, Marianne Dillion & Bob Planer, Jackie Kren Orchestra

1947-  Music Masters

1948-  Ames Brother., Jan August, Louis Armstrong, Stormy Bergh, Gertrude Bond, Johnny Bond Band, Cab Calloway, Count Basie,  Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge, Earl Hines, Phillips & Green, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson,  Eddie Slark Orchestra, Jack Teagarden, Three Suns, Jimmy Vince Orchestra

1949- Red Angle, Louis Prima Orchestra

1950- Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett,  Guy Bono Orchestra, Duke Ellington , Ernie Miller Band, Stella Ryan, Vicki Wells

1951-  Louis Armstrong, Cozy Cole, Guy Mitchell

1952-  Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett,, Nat "King" Cole,  Alan Dale, Georgia Gibb,  Lionel Hampton, Al Martino, Mills Brothers, Marion Morgan, Mel Torme

1953- Louis Armstrong,  Ray  Eberly,  Louis Prima, Mickey Rooney, "Sugar Ray" Robinson Revue, Three Suns, The Treniers, June Valli

1954-  Don Forbes,  Jack E. Leonard, Mills Brothers,  Guy Mitchell

Doc Summers (Harry & Ester Galender) sold Three Rivers Inn to Dominick Bruno on  May 28, 1955

1955-1973  Three Rivers Inn   (Dominick Bruno Years)

1955-  Lou Monti, Somethin Smith & Redheads, Jerry Vale

1956-  Eddie Arnold, Pat Boone,  Nat "King" Cole, Crew Cuts, The Gaylord's, Julius La Rosa, Marion Marlowe, Tony Martin w/ Tex Beneke Orchestra, McGuire Sisters, Vaughan Monroe w/ Don Rickles, Patti Page,  The Penguins, Vagabonds, Mae West.

1957-   Hill Toppers, Gordon Mac Rae, Johnny Mathis, McGuire Sisters, Carmel Quinn, Johnny Ray, Charlie Spivak Orchestra,

1958-  Tony Bennett, The Diamonds, Dion & The Belmonts, Dusty Draper, Billy Eckstine, Ink Spots, Tommy Leonetti, Kathy Linden, McGuire Sisters, Ray Peterson, Jimmie Rodgers, Rudy Vallee

1959-  Nat "King" Cole, Tommy Edwards, Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Johnny Mathis, Chad Mitchell Trio, Poni Tails, Johnny Ray, Tommy Sands, Jerry Vale.

1960- Bud Abbott, Eddy Arnold, Tony Bennett, Johnny Cash & The Browns, Dorothy Collins, Xavier Cugat & Abby Lane, Duke Ellington, Connie Francis, Bobby Geno, Liberace, Johnny Mathis, The Playmates, Johnny Puleo, Della Reece, Jimmy Rodgers, Mickey Rooney, Bobby Rydell w/ Jeff and the Notes, Vagabonds, Jerry Vale, Adam Wade, Andy Williams, Faron Young.

1961- Frankie Avalon,  Jimmy Beaumont (of the Skyliners), Jerry Butler,  Jimmy Cavallo,  Dion & The Belmonts, Morton Downey Jr, Jimmy Durante, Dynamics, Te Flares, Connie Francis, Woody Herman Orchestra, Johnny and the Hurricanes,  Ernie K-Doe, Eartha Kitt, Julius LaRosa, The Letterman, Liberace,  The Marcels, Lloyd Price, Johnny Ray,  Neil Sedaka, Ray Stevens., The Tones w/ Larry Santos.

1962- Don Barber & The Dukes, Freddie Cannon, Cathy Carroll, Jimmy Cavallo, Chubby Checker, Nat "King" Cole, Gene Cornish, The Daquires (Mike Esposito), Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr, Jimmy Dean,  Shelley Fabares, Connie Francis, Jamie Grant, The Jesters,  Little Eva, Frankie Lymon,  Ernie Maresca, Quotations, Salt City Six, Santo & Johnny, Linda Scott,  Hank Snow,  Tico & The Triumphs, (Paul Simon), Sophie Tucker, Timmy Yuro

1963- Steve Alaimo, Paul Anka, Louis Armstrong, The Continentals, Johnny Crawford, Bobby Darin & Sandra Dee, Shelley Fabares, Peter Lawford w/ Jimmy Durante, Steve Lawrence & Eddy Gorme, Brenda Lee, Lou Monte, Paul Peterson, Lloyd Price, Bobby Rydell, Sam & the Twisters, Frank Sinatra Jr w/ Tommy Dorsey Orchestra,  Johnny Tillotson, Vagabonds,  Jerry Vale,  Mark Valentino, Link Wray & The Raymen .

1964- Andrews Sisters, Tex Beneke, Milton Berle, Teresa Brewer, Gene Cornish & The Unbeatables,  Ronnie Dio & The Prophets, Fisher & Marks, Impressions, Harry James Orchestra, Jake LaMotta, McGuire Sisters, Serendipity Singers, Kay Starr, Johnny Tillotson,  Jerry Vale,

1965- Ray Anthony Don Barber & The Dukes, Tony Bennett, Jimmy Cavallo, Dion, Mike Douglas, Frank Fontaine, Earl Grant, Guess Who, Woody Herman Orchestra, Eddie Hodges, The Kingsmen, Frankie Laine, The Madisons, Al Martino, Barbara Mason, Phyllis McGuire, Vaughn Meader, Johnny Puleo, Rockin Ramrods, Bobby Sherman, Otis Smith & the Headliners w/ Bebo Singleton

1966-  Jimmy Cavallo, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Cooper,  Damita Jo, Vince Edwards, Four Aces, Four Lads, Peter Hurko, Kingston Trio, Jayne Mansfield, Glen Miller Orchestra, Patti Page, Ruby & The Romantics & Bebo Singleton, Johnny Tillotson. Leslie Uggams.

1967-  Tony Bennett, Ray Charles w/ Billy Preston, Mike Douglas Show, Frank Fontaine, Frankie Laine, Julius LaRosa, Little Egypt, Martha (Reeves) & the Vandellas, Al Martino, Phyllis McGuire, Lou Monte, Helen Reddy, Johnny Tillotson

1968-  Jimmy Cavallo, Bobby Darin, Frankie Laine, Al Martino, Phyllis McGuire, Domenico Modugno, Rick Nelson, Patti Page, Bobby Rydell, Vagabonds, Mamie Van Doran.

1969-   Count Basie, The Casuals, Four Aces, Ink Spots, Irish Rovers,  Frankie Laine,  Brenda Lee, Buddy Rich Orchestra, Frank Sinatra Jr, Jerry Vale, Bobby Vinton.

1970-   Brook Benton, Pat Cooper, Sergio Franchi, Earl Grant, Ferlin Husky, Stan Kenton Orchestra, Pee Wee King,  .Frankie Laine, Carmel Quinn, Herb Reed's Platters,  Joan Rivers, Sandler & Young, Stonemen, Vagabonds.

1971-  Jo Ann Castle, Danny Davis and Nashville Brass, The Diamonds, Eddie Fisher, Connie Francis, Sergio Franchi,  Buddy Greco, Edwin Hawkins Singers, Ink Sports,  Fran Jefferys, Frankie Laine, Bobbi Martin, Lou Monti, Martha Rae, Buddy Rich, Doc Severinson, The Vogues.

1972-  Pat Cooper,  Tex Beneke & Ray Eberly, Maynard Ferguson & Woody Herman Band, Frankie Laine,  Abby Lane, Trini Lopez, Al Martino, Phyllis McGuire, Johnny Puleo & Harmonicats, Sandler & Young, Serendipity Singers, Vagabonds,

1973-  Pat Cooper, Norm Crosby, Fabulous Fakes, Fisher & Marks, Sergio Franchi, Peter Hurko, Johnny King, Frankie Laine, Al Martino, Buddy Rich.

1981-1990  New Three Rivers Inn (Ron Bruno)

1981- Buddy Greco, Jo Ann Miller

1986- Al Martino, Lou Monti, Carmel Quinn

1987-  Roy Clark, Pat Cooper, Four Aces, Ink Spots, Brenda Lee, Al Martino, Patti Page, The Platters,Sandler & Young,  Mel Tillis,

1988-  Foster Brooks, Hal Casey, Cindy Cash, The Diamonds,  Dan Elliott & the Monterays, 4 Aces, 4 Lads, Little Jimmy Dickens,  Ferguson & Taylor, Nancy Kelly, Ronnie Leigh, Peggy Lynn, Mac Brothers, Bill Monroe, Michael  Martin Murphy, The Platters, Jerry Reed,  Dan Seals, Kathy Twitty, Jerry Vale, Kitty Wells, Tammy Wynette, Pai Zadora

1989-  Amber & The Runaways, Dan Elliott & The Monterays,  Mickey Gilley, Buddy Greco, Ivory, Al Martino, Michael Martin Murphy,  The Platters, Jerry Reed, Shuffle City, Southern Comfort Band, Steve Southworth & Rockabilly Rays, Mary Wilson (Supreme)

1990-  Jeff Altman, Back Alley Boys, Blackhawk, Mickey Gilley, Jeff Jones & Pal Green All-Stars, Louise Mandrell, Bob Morton, Ray Price, The Scinta's, Michael Twitty,

Ron Bruno dies on January  2, 1998 at the age of 54

May 2000, Tim & Scott Rose purchase the "New" Three Rivers Inn and plan to reopened on August 15, 2000.

Tim & Scott Rose's "New" Three Rivers Inn (2000-01)

2000-  Back Alley Boys (9/22), Donnie Dee, Connie Francis, Swivel Rockers, Total Package

2001-  Tink Bennett & Tailor Made, The Critics, Dr. Boogie, Fabulous Locknutz, The Groove, Kyote, Miss E, Shadow Club.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


By 1965, radio program consultant Art Wander had moved from WOLF AM-1490 to WNDR AM-1260 and in a great radio coup he brought Bud Ballou with him. Bud was now with the station he had fought for almost two years and with him was able to bring most of his loyal audience. Soon he had his own television dance party show ala Dick Clark on WNYS-TV-9 (now WSYR TV-9) and unlike a few predecessors in that medium prior it was a huge success. The "Bud Ballou Show" combined the hit songs of the day, local bands, and top national recording acts that toured the area. Freddie and the Dreamer (I'm Telling You How), The Shangri-las (Leader of the Pack) were just a few worth mentioning. His TV show, the Beatles, the British Invasion and his eminence popularity led to offers from larger radio markets and soon Ballou departed for Buffalo's WKBW Radio AM 1520 a 50,000 watt giant. There was also one other reason for his departure, his name was Dale Dorman.

When Bud  Ballou and Art Wander moved to WNDR, WOLF was stymied. They had just lost not only one half of its management-programming team that had brought the biggest success in its history, but also the most popular disc jockey they ever had. Ev Wren searched for a replacement for the night time spot. He first tried newsman Don Lancer, then Fred Winston (bassist with Carmen &  The Vikings) and neither could take on Ballou. Meanwhile, in the morning slot, a certain Dale Dorman was causing trouble. Brought in from Homer, NY (via Norwich, NY radio) in September 1964. Dorman was the prototype of today's popular morning man: clever, witty, entertaining, and quite a bit risque!

Too risque for 1965 Top 40 mornings. Complaints were becoming more and more frequent; Dorman was too "far out". Where Ballou had taken pot shots at WNDR, Dorman slashed at them viciously. He openly mocked the station, its music and its disc jockeys. It was all a bit too much for mornings, but maybe ? just maybe.. It would work at night. Wren took the gamble putting Dorman on the air opposite Bud Ballou, and let him loose.

"Syracusans know how to break that boredom, they tune in WOLF and Dale Dorman". So went the new Eve Wren's jungles, and tune in they did, every night. Dorman gave Ballou no peace, he demolished him with every trick he could think of. Bud Ballou's real first name was "Dudley", so on came a "Goodbye Dudley" campaign complete with jingles. Dorman even mocked WNDR's location in the often flooded Dewitt, NY  site calling it "Radio Swamp". He was even rumored to have called Ballou on the stations live request line and swore at him. He then beat him in the radio ratings, the first time WOLF had been able to do this in the evening hours.

The careers of Dorman and Ballou have paralleled each other in many strange ways. If "karma " exists, it surely played a part in both their lives. First Dale and Bud were fierce rivals in Syracuse a few years later they worked back-to-back at the same station in Denver, Colorado. Later they both would wind up the bulk of their careers on opposite stations in the Boston market.

With Ballou out of the way, Dorman assumed his place as the "King of Night Time Radio". Although his tactics seem a bit cheap in hindsight, Dorman was indeed talented in his own right. He was the funniest jock Syracuse had ever heard, and the most unique. Everything about his was different, including his voice--so unlike the stereotyped deep voiced DJ's who were just starting to come into vogue at the time. Dorman was totally literally never knew what might come out of his mouth. Nothing was sacred to "Fatty Doorknob" as he was nicknamed.He put down commercials he had to play, even WOLF itself or the F.C.C. it didn't matter. It was an incredible era in Syracuse radio. Spurred by Dorman's success, WOLF became one of the most innovative medium market radio stations in the country.  They broke many many hits before the major markets and began producing a stream of talented announcers who would go on to fame and fortune in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and other top markets. Dorman too was lured away by concultant  Bill Drake and sent to KYNO in Fresno, California (Aug 1965) and then in an unprecedented move returned to WOLF (Syracuse) and re-established himself as one the city's all-time most popular dee jay on January 28, 1966

 With him came new California sounds the Syndicate of Sound "Little Girl" & "Rumors", the Golliwogs (later to become CCR w/ John Fogerty) "Fragile Child", Love w/Arthur Lee "Hey Joe". Along with a unique  fantastic version of the song "Hey Joe" by Tim Rose. More super songs hit the WOLF charts (1964-66) that may not have received Top 10 success but were just great songs. The Remains "Once Before" (1964), Unit 4 +2 "You Never Been In Love Like This Before" (1965),  Rockin Berries "You're My Girl" (1965), Barbarians "Moulty" (1965), Barry & The Remains "Why Do I Cry" (1965), Rockin Ramrods "Don't Fool With Fu Manchu" (1965), The Creation "Makin Time" (1966), The Wailers "Out of Our Tree" (1966) and Link Wray & The Raymen "Ace of Spades."

Dale also connected with the local Syracuse bands as well. Bobby Comstock's Lawn Record release "I Want To Do It" hit the Top 5 and new Syracuse University band Otis and the All Night Work's hit with "Don't Put All Your Eggs" (Lloyd Baskin, Billy Elmiger, Herb Flower, Steve McCord and Syracuse native Otis Smith) and then followed it with their Cameo Records release "Honey & Wine". Meanwhile another SU band the Fallen Angels received heavy airplay with their song "Bad Woman".

The Fallen Angels (Dave Stevenson, Jay Kerr, Chris Bandler and Richard Zepple ) flourished during  1965-66  performing the music of   The Yardbirds, Animals, Rolling Stones, Zombies plus 25% original material. The Fallen Angels who's music was described as "Rave Up Music" were one of the earliest local band to ware their hair super long and the first to show the SU campus there was something other than rhythm and blues. Dale Dorman really jumped on this band using them as grand prize winner in his "Get The Point Contest" won by Scared Heart Academy... but they were not allowed to play by school officials. The band also performed in the late summer of 1966 at Club "Au Go-Go" at the New York State Fair with special guest Sandy Bigtree. The Fallen Angels toured the east coast including many clubs on Long Island & New York City (including Trudy Hellers in the West Village). Their fantastic song "Bad Woman" had been recorded on tape in the basement of  a SU Fraternity House and received heavy airplay on WOLF, but it wasn't released on disc till 1970 by Ron Wray.

WNDR hosted a contest to send fans to Shea Stadium to see the Beatles on August 15, 1965. Before some 55,000 screaming fans (including Dave Novak) The Beatles performed the following- Twist & Shout, Baby's In Black, She's A Woman, I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Ticket To Ride, Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby, Can't Buy Me Love, Act Naturally (Ringo, changed from the scheduled- I Wanna Be Your Man)), A Hard Day's Night, Help & I'm Down. This concert was said to be the largest gross ($304,000+) in the history of show business. WNDR repeated the contest for The Beatles August 23, 1966 concert at Shea.

But, as Bob Dylan was singing "Times Are A Changin," Flower Power  and the "psychedelic" movement were beginning to spread from the West Coast, where "underground radio" was in its formative years. In wild events- Dorman  would occasionally stay on all night and play music by "The Fugs" or the "Mothers in Invention." or play album tracks aimed at the Syracuse University crowd. Dale's scavenger hunts brought more great interest. One night he chose a bowling ball and pins and tried to bowl down the stations hallway only to have the ball implant itself into the wall. This impression of the bowling ball stayed their till the station was remodeled a few years later. Dale Dorman  then served as the mc for the Rolling Stones concert at the War Memorial, July 6, 1966.

Meanwhile WNDR was slow to respond, Art Wander had spent time in the Big Apple as part of the first progressive station there WOR-FM and back in Syracuse he did inaugurate a late night album show on WNDR. WOLF was in its heyday, yet its hard to believe it was losing money. Eventually in August 6, 1966 the station was sold and became semi-automated (taped shows by Jim Olsen, Don McMaster  and other), and Dale Dorman, Dale departed WOLF for the last time Sept 19, 1966. Fred Winston James K. Davis, Johnny Van and others all left for bigger and better things and only Jim Sims remained. Sims became program director September 19  and brought in record collector-historian Ron Wray (18,000+ oldies) to help with the Saturday Night Oldies Show. Sims live broadcast aired daily from 8 to midnight and 7 to midnight on Saturdays. The program remained the same till June 25, 1967.

 June 26 1967, WOLF switched to a modern country music format (Sonny Ledet, Dick Tacker, Jim Sims, Johnny Gardner & Bob Casey) leaving the TOP 40 market to WNDR, which experienced a renaissance in popularity. WNDR's deejay lineup included "Big George" Plavacos, Ron Thompson, "Dandy Dan" Leonard, "Happy Jack" McNamee, Dave Laird, Fran McGrath (Count De Creep and Mac & Maude) and Jim' O'Brien. This lineup would remain unchanged for years.

But all in all, radio seemed stagnant in the late 60's compared to the Ballou-Dorman Golden Age, It's never been the same since, Bud Ballou died from a stroke in Boston in 1977, a year later in the same city Dale Dorman was fired after almost ten years as morning man on WRKO. Dorman continued with a television show and continued residing in Tewksbury. Mass

Dale Dorman update- October 2014- - We are sad to report that on Tuesday October 21, 2014 Dale Dorman passes away in Tewksbury. Mass at age 71 after a long illness. He ended his broadcast career in Boston area for almost 40 years.  He was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2010.....Without question Dale influenced the like of many of us Syracuse radio folks including Jim Sims, Howie Castle, Don Bombard (Don Shannon), Nick Caplan, Lee Goodman, Fred Horton and myself. The "King of Syracuse Nightime Radio" will be deeply missed..

 Here are a listing Dale broadcasting travels (raided in nearly Homer, NY)- WCHN AM (Norwich, NY), WOLF AM-1490 (Syracuse, NY (Starting in Sept 1964 to Aug 1965 and again Jan 28, 1966- to September 19, 1966) KYNO- Fresno, Ca ) 1965-66), after returning to WOLF in 1966 he landed at KFRC- San Francisco (1966-68), WRKO-Boston (1968-78), WXKS-FM (1978-2003), WODS- Boston (2003-2008). Dale was also an on-air broadcaster for WLVI TV during the 1970's & 80

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Syracuse radio in the mid-sixties can best be described as "personality" oriented especially in the Top 40 field. Each individual station had its characteristic sound developed by the records it played, the flow and pace of its format, the jingles it used and most of all the disc jockeys it hired. Today the disc jockeys role is generally de-emphasized\, but in the 60's it was quite different story. Typical was the rise of 1490 WOLF Radio who in 1963 hired a long time WNDR great "Dandy Dan" Leonard to join their lineup of George Brewer, Jim Sims, Johnny Van, Windy "The Weird: Beard" Craig and Bud Ballou.

Little did station manager Eve Wren realize that with this outstanding lineup of talent and the coming in 1964 of the British Invasion, WOLF would springboard to the top and become Syracuse's most listened to radio station. Little 250 watt WOLF had finally beat the Syracuse giant WNDR (5,000 watts) this wouldn't happen again until the early 70's. One reason for the success was morning man George Brewer. George the most entertaining of the All-American jocks, featured a cast of lovable characters to help him pass the time- Gabby (Gabby Hayes), Sam, Trixy and Larry (Lawrence Welk) all used to capture the hearts of Syracuse morning listeners. Syracuse hadn't head the likes of George Brewer before except for maybe Ross  "Mad Man" Morton. This made it easier for WOLF as they already had a large share of audience by 9 AM.

Afternoons were boosted by the "Weird Beard" Windy Craig. Craig another of Syracuse University's many gifts to WOLF, was flying high following his nationwide publicity of his World Ferris Wheel Riding Records set at Suburban Park. Backing up Windy was the Dean of Syracuse Rock announcers "Dandy Dan" Leonard.

Dan, known as "Dandy Dan" to hundreds of thousands of Central New Yorkers made the big switch to WOLF after over 12 years at WNDR and brought many listeners as well as the Teen Canteen with him. , The Teen Canteen at Three Rivers Inn, continued to feature many national acts as well as Central New Yorks top bands. Dan also provided all of the areas big in-person shows, including Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars and other large package rock tours, now sponsored by WOLF Dan has staged more record hop than any other DJ in Central New York history, Finally if this lineup wasn't enough, WOLF ended its programing day with Bud Ballou.

Bud Ballou, billed as "The Blooming Idiot", his initial success was very much the brainchild of WOLF's general manager Ev Wren and programmer Art Wander. Bud was another Syracuse University alumnist and native  Upstate New Yorker. He was the fore-runner of the fast paced. almost screaming style used much later successfully by some of the nations top disc jockeys. Heavily supported by Wren's amazing audio production gimmicks, Ballou immediately captured the Syracuse nighttime audience. His stance was at one sarcastic and knowledgeable, easy on he was not beneath taking potshots at rival Jim O'Brien of WNDR. Bud had valid reason- his tremendous "ear" for the musical trends of the day. Ballou consistently played hits much sooner than his competition, and his musical expertise was evident in his selection. Remember that in the 60's, the disc jockeys had more freedom of choice in the music played on his show, unlike the formats of the 70's- 90's that carefully computerized, researched and laid out in a specific pattern for the announcers to follow.

As their singing radio jingle said "All Syracuse's know what to do, they just turn in WOLF and Bud Ballou" and turn in they did, every night. There was little doubt that Bud was the most popular jock in Syracuse. In  January 1964, a song was featured on Bud's show that not only increased Ballou's popularity, but changed his life and the world. The song, "I Want To Hold Your Hand", the group "The Beatles". Bud was quick to popularize the Beatles and soon devote major portions of his show to their music. He played their singles, album cuts, Imports, Ep's (Extended play 45's), and anything he could his hands on. In 1964, Bud Ballou and Beatlemania as it was to be called became synonymous to the Syracuse radio listener.

The question of why the Beatles  has been asked many thousands of times since 1964. The answer is many as related to Syracuse. When the Beatles made their debut in Syracuse in 1964, with the exception of the "girl group sound" of Phil Spector and others, surf music which really didn't relate to Syracuse, NY and a few rhythm and blues crossover the first so called wave of rock n' roll had subsided and this made the United States record industry very stagnate.

The Beatles didn't rejuvenate the industry by themselves as many think, a new form of record sales had now hit America, its name was "Rack Jobbing". Its purpose was simple, it brought records to a broader spectrum of retainers. Now Super Markets (Loblaws, Acme, A&P), Drug Store (Daw Drugs, Fay Drugs, Carl's Drugs) Department Stores (E.W. Edwards, W.T. Grants, F.W. Woolworth. McCoreys, Kresge's) as well as to the independent record stores (Syracuse- Walt's Records, Onondaga Music, Clark Music, University Hill Music Box, Northern Light Music Box, Shoppingtown Music (Gerber's), Onondaga Music plus Greco TV in Fulton, Carm's Records in Auburn, McNeil Music in Cortland and many more) sold records to many millions of more consumers. This put the Beatles everywhere, they were the biggest and promoted the most as Capitol Records popularized the Beatles with a $50,000 advertising campaign. The Beatles eventually accounted for over 50% of Capitol Records total sales.. Their total promotion was handled by their manager, the late Brian Epstein. Having first established their popularity in Europe, Epstein convinced Ed Sullivan to put the Beatles on his national weekly television variety show. Sullivan must have seen the light as he booked the group for three appearances knowing that many other British groups had failed in America before them.

The Beatles not only brought new songs, long hair, sexuality, wit and a new spark to the U.S. record industry. But soon every record label tried to sign British acts. As the Beatles looked to early rock and roll and the smooth black sound for their inspiration, their main British competition looked into raw blues for their roots. The Rolling Stones later proclaimed them selves the "World's Greatest Rock n' Roll Band" and tool the opposite approach as the Beatles. They were anti-social;, had insulting behavior, were uncooperative, had long hair and grubby attire. But they possessed a great sound and lighting excitement in lead singer's Mick Jagger's performance. His fluid body movements disgusted many, but delighted more. Large numbers of adults hated their influence on the teens in Great Britain and the United States.

In February 1964, the Stones released their third single, the one that would established them worldwide. "Not Fade Away" an old Buddy Holly song of the 50's was their first American hit as the British Invasion came ashore  here in 1964. Following on the wave of the Beatles and Rolling Stones came the Dave Clark Five, Searchers, Animals, Zombies, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman's Hermits, The Kinks, Billy K. Kramer & the Dakotas, Petula Clark, Peter and Gordon, The Kinks, Yardbirds, Chad & Jeremy, Cilla Black, Hullabaloos,  Freddie and The Dreamers, Moody Blues, Troggs and The Who.

Not to be forgotten there were some key British performers that top the record charts prior to the new British Invasion between 1960-64- they were Cliff Richards (Theme For A Dream- 1961, The Young Ones-1962), The Shadows (Apache-1960, Wonderful Land-1962), The Tornadoes (Telstar-1962), Dusty Springfield (I Only Want To Be With You -1963) and Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group (Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight- 1961).

The Beatles gave rock its second great surge forward, the U.S. record industry had never seen anything like it, the Beatles were to the 60's that Elvis Presley had been in the 50's. What reaction did the British Invasion have on Syracuse ? As for the musicians, many flocked to Bonne Music, DeSantis Music and Gerber Music to purchase top name instruments as Vox, Hofner, Gretch, Gibson and Rickenbacker with many waiting up to a year for their orders to arrive. Music was changing, it now focused on vocal;s, with songs sung in unison and harmony.

The Beatles could sing as they played, frequently together and often exchanged lead vocals between them. But their major contribution to musicians were their pursuit of music excellence. The Beatles also changed the appearance of the Central New York musicians on stage. Bands now wore clean-neat, well pressed artier to go with their imported sound.

Ronnie Dio & The Prophets and Bobby Comstock waisted little time in recording this new British sound. Dio hit with "Love Potion Number 9" (old Clovers hit covered by The Searchers), Comstock answered with his Lawn Records take-off on the Fab 4 with a song called "The Beatle Bounce". Many other bands road the coattails of the Beatles and other British acts. The British Invasion became the most powerful force to hit this area and the record industry since Elvis.

Don Barber and the Dukes re-emerged and new bands appeared- All Night Workers, Avengers, Aunt B's Canned Music, Chuck (Cavallaro) and the Chickenmen, Cindells (Rock Feinstein), Concepts, Kal Dee and the Showmen, Dick and the Demons, Electras, Eternalds. Eric (Thorngren) and the Chessmen, Exiles, Impressions (aka Syracuse Beatles), The Kidds (Auburn's-Lou Marullo), Madisons, Monterays, Nightcaps, Otis (Smith) & The Headliners,  Outcasts, The Tradewinds were just a few that filled clubs to capacity in 1964.

One super band in this period was Carmen and the Vikings. Their all-star lineup  included guitarists Dave Pasternack & Dave Novak, WOLF's Fred Winston on bass, Howie Castle on drums and lead singer Carmen Licitra. Castle & Winston would later be replaced by Mike Adanato and Chuck Di Cosmo as the Viking would travel to New York City and record a number of demos for RCA Records that would never be released.

Not to be out done by the great resurgence Sam and the Twisters backed Dan Leonard and WNDR Radio as they held one of the largest dances in the history of Syracuse at the War Memorial Auditorium called "The Beatle Dance." The band appeared waring Beatle wigs to the enjoyment of all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Probably the most curious and least understood era of Syracuse pop music was the period of 1961-1964. First, this was the last of so-called teen music dominance (mostly coming out of Philadelphia). Also it was the beginning of soul music, the successor to rhythm & blues, mostly coming out of Detroit and Memphis. It was also the period of the girl group supremacy as caught by producer Phil Spector and his unique recording technique called "The Wall of Sound". Finally and most importantly the California summer sound was born,

The California Sound focused mostly in the Los Angeles - Hollywood area of  Southern California  Its sound was refreshing and its lyrics were a new breath of life for the nations youth. It was summer music focusing on Surf, Sand, Sun, Girls and Hot Rod Cars. Unheralded new stars appeared doing this so- called Surf Sound. Jan & Dean (Surf City), Surfaris (Wipe Out), Dick Dale (Let's Go Trippin), Ripcords (Hey Little Cobra), Hondells (Little Honda), Ronny and the Daytonas (Little G.T.O.). and America's top party band the Beach Boys.

The Beach Boys (Brain Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love and David Marks /later replaced by Al Jardine). known as a high energy good time, rock n' roll band reached national stardom when they adopted Chuck Berry's version of Sweet Little Sixteen and called it "Surfin U.S.A": b/w Shut Down.  The hits just kept on coming- 409, Surfin Safari, Little Deuce Coupe, Be True to Your School, Surfer Girl. Fun, Fun, Fun, I Get Around, In My Room, Barbara Ann and on and on. They were the ultimate of this California Sound as they featured  surf & hot rod music in a fully produced vocal style.

Meanwhile what was happening in Syracuse? Other than Sam and the Twisters, not much. There was no surf groups, no Phil Spector style super producer and except for a few Syracuse University bands very little R&B filtered into the area. Syracuse teens were still doing the Twist and listening to instrumentals. The popular bands were the Eternals (Tom Rozzano, Rocco DiMento, Mickey Nicotra), Dynamics, Vikings, Madisons (Johnny Whipple, Terry Golden, Carl Irvine, Jimmy Foran), Continentals (Dave McQuillan, Mike Money & Jack Belle who had joined up with Don Barber) Concepts (Don Martin, PJ Scott & Billy Wolfe), Frankie and the Fortunes, Sabers (Ron Lauback), Bobby Comstock, "Little Bernie" Milton & the Cavalieres, and Ronnie Dio & the Prophets (Dio, Pantas, Rogers & Botoff) shared the Central New York audience with such other groups as the Vanguards, Thunderbirds, Diamonds, Twilighters, Monterays (founded by Jack Abert), Revelations, Starliters, Centurys Tip Munger, Ed Murphy, Terry Golden), Rogues, Headliners,  Exiles (Dave Porter) and the Syracuse Universities band The Daquires (Mike Esposito).

Towards the end of this  stagnant period a few new groups released recordings to improve their popularity. The Avengers (Chuck Wheeler) recorded "Reflections" for Utica's Kama Records, the Bel-Larks back by The Eternals cut "A Million and One Dreams" for producer Dave Ransom, While Fulton's Dick and the Demons (Rod Novak, Tom Green, Dick Nastasi, Chuck Dziedzic) appear on disc as "The Good Guys" released  "Whoa Whoa, Whoa" (Lawn Records), The Madisons "Only A Fool" along with Cortland's top groups the Cindells ("Rock" Feinstein & Gary Hall) "Don't Bring Me Down" and Kal Dee and the Showmen "Mind Your Mama". This record was released by Lawn Records (division of Swan) and was on its way to becoming a hit except for the fact that it came out the same time as President John F. Kennedy's death in Dallas, Texas. The nation was shocked as was the music industry. So Kal Dee's recording went the way of so many others before him "into oblivion".

Young bands are always forming, one worth mentioning in the early 60's was the Caz Cats. Based in Cazenovia, a few miles south of Syracuse The band admired and carefully studied Sam and the Twisters. They shared the stage with them at Suburban Park in Manlius on 99 Cent day as early as 1963. Their leader was singer/guitarist Dave Novak, who would go on to play with many of Central New Yorks finest band (Nightcaps, Sermon, Cross Creek, FabCats etc.). He was inducted into the Sammys Hall of Fame in  2008. Also in the Caz Cats was the very talented John Danks who continued his bass playing with Novak's groups into the 2000's. The drummer was Howie Castle who later became an deejay at both WNDR & WOLF and later program director at WSYR FM 94-Rock. Howie was also instrumental in helping  promote the History of Syracuse Music album series starting in 1971. The band also believed in promotion and appeared live on WNDR's Teen Scene, a live broadcast with Jim O'Brien. Many groups appeared on this program as radio was still the best way of exposing local talent.

Through the local bands were in a dormant state, new musical blood was filtering into the Syracuse University community from the New York City area. Unlike local music of today, the city bands for the  most part were totally segregated from the Syracuse University community. The university bands played exclusively for university functions, fraternity and sorority parties and near campus bar and clubs.

While the Twist was still filtering through local city bars, the university's big band on campus. "Felix and the Escorts" featured rhythm and blues as its main course.  Led by Sigma Phi Epsilon's freshman pre-med student Felix Cavaliere, the Escorts (Ted Goldberg, Steve McCord & Billy Neuman) enjoyed much success as the sound of R&B spread quickly among students and particularly the SU football players. Almost always you could get a glimpse of Dave Meggysey, John Mackey or Jim Nance as they were some of Felix's most devoted followers and were great fans of "Soul Music" as it was soon to be called. The Escorts played the SU campus for about two years, in which time another New Yorker, Mike Esposito had replaced Ted Goldberg on guitar. Esposito formally of The Daquires would further his musical education with the nationally famed band the 'Blues Magoos" who had a monster national hit with "We Ain't Got Nothn Yet" for Mercury Record in 1966.  Mike relocated to the Woodstock area in 1967 , learned to play bass and if you're lucky you can still see him peform with the Marc Black band. Famed band promoter Mike Martineau would book the Daquires (Esposito) along with Felix & The Escorts off campus many times to play at the Fayetteville Inn.

In 1963, Felix and the Escorts decided to leave school for a semester and try and find their fortune on the road. While in New York City they recorded the song "Do The Syracuse" and released it on J.A.G. Records, a small independent label. It eventually led to bookings in the Catskill Mountain resort area. During this engagement, Felix was contacted by Joey Dee (of Peppermint Twist fame)  and was asked to join The Starlighters who were on tour in England. He accepted the offer and left for Europe while remaining trio returned to Syracuse University to continue their education. It was with Joey Dee that Cavaliere met singer Eddie Brigate and guitarist Gene Cornish. He stayed with the band only a short while and then joined a group called Sauda Scott and Her Scotties working out of Las Vegas. It was there he met drummer Dino Danelli. Not being satisfied, Felix formed his own band with Cornish, Brigate and Danelli calling themselves "The Young Rascals". After beating around the Big Apple for over six months they finally landed a recording contract with Atlantic Records.

Another NYC native also touched base at Syracuse University, his name Lou Allen Reed. Lou Reed enrolled on the SU hill in 1960 but didn't join a band until 1962. After being rejected by the top campus bands, Lou formed his own called "L.A. and the Eldorados". Why ?  Felix Cavaliere was quoted at the Sammy Awards in 1994 "For one reason, most musicians on campus didn't think he was good enough" So Lou found little or no work." So Lou and his music went un-noticed. He left school and returned to New York and became a staff writer for Pickwick Records and wrote and performed with such bands as The Primitives, Beachnuts, Roughnecks, Warlocks and the Falling Spikes.

But in 1965, things were different, a short time later Lou Reed joined forces with artist "Andy Warhol", who spotted his potential and placed Lou and his band, now known as the "Velvet Underground" (that included another former Syracuse alumnus, Sterling Morrison) in his total environment show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The show was the first to incorporate music, dancers, film, light projection environment and people. The show gave Lou the opportunity to show his song writing ability. He wrote as he lived, in the world of incense and peppermints and student protests as many Greenwich Village groups did. Musically the band was far advanced using sound and voices in a way that most groups didn't use until the late 60's He was the author of such classic songs as "Walk of the Wild Side". 'Vicious", Rock n' Roll", Sweet Jane" and "Heroin".  Lou started his solo career in 1971 then toured the world performing his hits albums "Transformer", "Berlin" and "Rock and Roll Animal'. and so many others.  Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

To bring things more up to date Lou performed with the band Metallica at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary Live Show at Madison Square  Garden on October 30, 2009. And more recently Lou covered the  Buddy Holly song "Peggy Sue" on a various artist tribute CD titled  "Rave On Buddy Holly."

If Cavaliere, Esposito and Reed aren't enough let's add NYC 's Garland Jeffreys name to this impressive list of Syracuse University alumni to reach national prominence. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Jeffreys came from a lower-middle class family whose multi-racial background kept them isolated. Though not accepted in the white, black or Puerto Rican world, Garland learned to move back and through different ethnic groups that surrounded him. Jeffreys love of art, language and literature led him to Syracuse University. While at S.U. Garland went to Italy for a year on a scholarship to study renaissance painting. It was there where he became a perceptive urban poet. Though Jeffreys didn't focus totally on music while at Syracuse, it was there he became a close friend of Lou Reed. Upon graduation he returned to New York for graduate school, the two  met again. Garland and Lou began playing at a NYC club called the Balloon Farm with John Cale and Eric Burdon (of The Animals).

Although this group never recorded, Jefferys kept writing good material. His debut album the self-titled "Grinder Switch" was recorded and released by Vanguard Records in 1969, a year later switched to a solo career. After signing with Atlantic Records, Garland released the classic song "Wild in the Street." This received heavy national airplay and drove deep into Billboard Magazine's Top 100 Chart. While being a survivor of the turbulent Greenwich Village mid-sixties rock scene his ultimate came in 1981, with the song "96 Tears" a remake of the  ? and the Mysterians hit.

Other S.U. students also released recording during this period, Jeff Lowe sang "He Gives" (Tribute Records), Scott Gregory recorded "Angel Eyes of Liberty" and Audrey Freeman's "Looking For Me" (Musicor Records). Freeman was also featured at S.U.s's first Folksong Festival in 1963 along with The Three Crows, Loraine Heyman, Mort Jacobs, Elaine Meltzer and the Gallow Sisters.. This concert was recorded and release by the university on an album called 'Folk Festival At Syracuse." Folk was another type of music that was extremely popular in the early 60's. S.U. was fortunate in having a campus radio station WAER FM, that block programmed many different styles of music- folk, rock, R&B, jazz, classical and international. It was at WAER that Syracusans first heard the like of Dick Clark, Marv Albert, Windy Craig, George Plavacos, Dick Snyder and Don Bombard (now Bob Shannon) before they ventured into commercial radio.

PS-  One more SU group to quickly mention is the Fallen Angels (Dave Stevenson-lead vocalist) who recorded the fantastic song "Bad Woman".. Their rise to fame wouldn't happen for a few years. We will cover them in an upcoming chapter.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Sam and the Twisters- the most popular, most in demand, most expensive, most publicized, most hyped, most envied, most loved (never lacked for lady companians), most hated and the best band in Syracuse in the early 1960's. The name Twisters as their business card shows had nothing to do with the dance craze but was twisting tornado.

Their story begins in 1959,  with a trio composed of Sam Amato (lead guitar), Jan Fetterly (drums & vocals) and Chuck Mellone (accordion). This unlikely combination called themselves, Sam and the Twisters. They worked together two years until Mellone left to join Don Barber and the Dukes. In 1961, Al Wolf became bassist of the group. Jerry Vassalo played rhythm for a while and then was replaced by Mickey Palumbo from Paul and The Velvets in 1962. This foursome of Amato, Fetterly, Wolf and Palumbo would become known as Syracuse's  greatest band. They were inducted into the Sammy's Hall of Fame in 1993.

The key to their success is found in one word "promotion". They constantly appeared live on WNDR Radio with Dick Snyder, Jim O'Brien and "Dandy Dan" Leonard. They also played record hops with "Jolly Rolly" Fowler for gas money, entertained at dances with Pete Cavanaugh ,and became regulars at the Teen Canteen at Three River Inn  with "Dandy Dan'. When ever you looked. up came the name Sam and the Twisters. The Twisters even promoted as the performed though contests with numerous give-a-ways.

With this enormous amount of promotion behind them the Twisters didn't let their fans down. On stage they all dresses alike and played the loudest hard driving music Syracusan's had head to this point. Their sound was big as they had the best and latest in Fender equipment, with an echocord. They were the first band in Syracuse to use a separate PA system (SUN) with large twin horns, along with Jeff and the Notes (now The Dynamics), the Continentals, Ronnie Dio & Redcaps (Dio, Pantas, Botoff, Rogers),  the Twisters also featured a lead vocalist in Jan Fetterly with backup harmonies by Mickey Palumbo. They prided themselves by playing the Top 40 hits, popular oldies and the instrumental sounds of The Ventures (Walk Don't Run & Lullaby of the Leaves), Link Wray (Ace of Spades) and Jorgen Ingmann (Apache).

The leader of the Twisters was Sam Amato, known for being a tight businessman, owner of motorcycles, over 100 cars, dating two thousand women and for his check writing practices. On stage Sam was not the world's greatest guitarist, but he had a unique sound (echo) and played his parts strong, loud and clear- totally engrossing. His guitar playing was not their total sound, the Twisters owned a dynamic rhythm section that was tight and powerful. Together they blended a overwhelming powerful driving force. Their shows varied in variety of material, from hard loud rock to slow love ballads made possible though the unique voice of Jan Fetterly, consequently, Sam and the Twisters had no problem finding work. The only thing they insisted on was not overplaying themselves in one certain area. Steady weekly bookings brought the Twisters to the Monticito and the Parquet in 1961 and 1962. In 1963, the Twisters moved to what was to become Syracuse rock's first super nightspot, Hewitts.

Located just off West Genesee Street across from what is now Fairmount Fair Shopping Center, Hewitts was one of the first clubs to draw people from all parts of Onondaga County. Hewitts, owned by Ed Hewiitt and managed by Joe Davoli, became the first to charge admission $1.00 to pay for the entertainment. He also was the first to use the hand stamp, most common to clubs even today. Sam and the Twisters would play to overflowing crowds at Hewitts many times including Fridays when you always could see a good fight. Hewitts became a steady booking except for a short period after a pay dispute. But they were given a raise quickly when attendance dropped during their absence.

While the Twisters were taking Syracuse by storm they were yet to reach the peak of popularity. Dan Leonard's daughter Darcy discovered a song in her second grade reader that would change a local band into national recording artists. The song "Fooba Wooba John" listed in the reader as a native American folk song, was put to music at Philadelphia's Cameo Parkway Studios. It was released nationally on Lawn Records (a division of Swan Records) by owner Bernie Binnick and Tony Mamarella, who met Dan Leonard while touring with their national acts Freddie Cannon. Link Wray, Mark Valentino and the Rockin Rebels (Dan Leonard wrote the albums liner notes). Binnick was already familiar with Central New York music as he had released songs by Bobby Comstock and Ronnie Dio earlier. He also know of WNDR's great power as Dan Leonard single-handed helped the "Wild Weekend" by the Rockin Rebels and "Jack the Ripper" by Link Wray become national hits for Swan Records early in 1963.

Following the recording session, Sam, Al, Mickey, Jan and Dan Leonard squeezed in Sam's Cadillac for there return to Syracuse to await the arrival of tapes of what they had just recorded. When they did arrive, the band was totally disappointed in the vocal tracks (Lawn 212). So they re-recorded the vocals and added echo and a mystery voice (Dan Leonard) at Syracuse's Riposo Studio to the already mastered instrumental tracks. The record was released by Lawn nationally (#214) in July 1963 with the flip side being an old Ritchie Valens hit "Come On Let's Go" under the name "The Original Soundtracks." Their thinking for the change was that the name Sam and the Twisters sounded small time.

Upon the records release many new markets opened- Auburn, Utica, Fulton, Ithaca, Oswego, which brought many exciting new fans. Other Central New York doors opened- Cayuga Lane, Holiday Bowl, Bobs Inn and Suburban Park in Manlius.

Suburban Park was a family amusement area as it presented all styles of entertainment from jugglers to high wire daredevils. The sound of Sam and the Twisters still echo from the spot where the park once stood. People claim to still hear Sam's perfect interpretations of Apache, Ace of Spade and Walk Don't Run as they drive by. As their popularity spead television appearances also followed in Buffalo, Utica and in Syracuse.

Even Syracuse's answer to Bobby "Boris" Pickett, popular WNYS-TV (now WSYR) personality Baron Daemon (Mike Price) crossed careers with Sam and the Twisters. The Baron's popularity was gigantic as he hosted the late night monster movie aired weekly on Channel 9. To further his increasing popularity he decided to record a song in the monster style. Along with Mike Riposo and advertising man Hovy Larrison, they wrote new words and the Twisters re-recoded the instrumental track of "Fooba Wooba John" with backup singers the Bigtree Sisters (Norma, Jean & Sandy), it soon became "The Transylvania Twist" by Baron Daemon and the Vampires. This record soon became Syracuse's all-time best selling single totaling over 10,000 copies.

Following their recording Sam and the Twisters appeared on stage with the following ton names in rock n' roll. The Angels, Gary "US" Bonds, The Belmonts, Anita Bryant, Freddie Cannon, The Chiffons, Johnny Cymbol, Jimmy Dean, Del Vikings, Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana, Brian Hyland, Joe Jones, Johnny Maestro, Tommy Roe, The Ronnettes, Shanghai-las, Shirelles, Santo & Johnny, Johnny Tillotson, Mark Valentino, Bobby Vee and Link Wray .

Their final recording was done for WNDR's Jim O'Brien as he used the instrumental version of Wild Weekend as his theme song with lyrics added. Later in their career Sam and the Twisters played on the roof of the North Drive In Theater for the preview of 'A Hard Day's' Night" by The Beatles in 1964. They also played at WNDR's giant Beatle Dance at the War Memorial. also for Chappelle's Department Store fashion shows between 1966-68.. You could see  play steady engagements at Deb's (who's bouncer was Syracuse University All-American Larry Csonka) and the Red Dog Saloon. Sam Amato left the band in 1968, Al Wolf, Jan Fetterly and Mickey Palumbo continued to work together under the new name "The Livin' Ennd".

Sunday, December 18, 2011


"Big Mike" Fiss is holding his SUNNY 102 FM annual Christmas Radio Show this Wednesday (Dec 21) from 6-10 AM at Drivers Village in Cicero, NY. Just some of the folks performing will be Joe Whiting, Todd Hobin and Loren Barriger. Hope to see you there..

Saturday, December 17, 2011


National stars and local bands also frequented Liverpool's 320 Club (later known as Vinals 320 Club) highlighted by an appearance by Frankie Avalon. The 320 Club became the birthplace of the Cortland- Ithaca sound. From Cortland- Ronnie Dio and the Redcaps (later the Prophets) and Don Barber and The Dukes. From Ithaca- Bobby Comstock and the Counts & "Little Bernie" and the Cavaliers. They all had local records which would have a significant impact on the Syracuse music scene. These vocal oriented bands brought a new professional sound to local music. Dio's "An Angel is Missing", Barber's "I'll Be Blue", "Little Bernie's" "The Waddle" and Comstock's national hits "Tennessee Waltz" & "Let's Stomp" all shared a spot on both WNDR and WOLF's Top 40 Surveys for many weeks.

Bobby Comstock's name was not new to the Central New York recording scene. With the national success of his hit song "Tennessee Waltz" on Blaze Records, Comstock landed a week on Alan Freed's daily television show and then joined Freed's 5th Anniversary Stage Show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater in September 1959. The shows lineup included such stars as Jackie Wilson, Lloyd Price, Jimmy Clanton, Dion & The Belmonts, Bo Diddley, The Crests, The Skyliners, Bobby Lewis, Jo Ann Campbell, The Mystics, Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, Johnny Restivo, Johnny October, The Tempos, Valerie Carr and a young Bobby Comstock.

Bobby Comstock continued hitting the record charts with Bony Moronie (Jubilee), Jambalaya b/w Let's Talk It Over (Atlantic Records), The Wayward Wind, Your Big Brown Eyes (with Dio), The Garden of Eden (Festival), I Can't Help Myself,  and finally the doublesided Lawn Records hit- Let's Stomp b/w I Want To Do It.

Ronnie Dio and The Red Caps / Prophets (managed by Jim Pantas) countered with Lover, Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Atlantic Records), An Angel is Missing (Seneca), Gonna Make It Alone (Lawn), Mr. Misery (Swan), Love Potion #9 (Valex) and the Jove album "Dio At Dominos". Ronnie also found time to put a bass line on The Angels national hit "My Boyfriends Back" and place backing vocals on Bobby Comstock's recordings  'Let's Talk It Over",  "Run My Heart" and "I Can't Help Myself'".

Other national releases came from Jennie Lee Lambert "First Summer of Our Love" (Musicor), Jimmy Cavallo "Fanny Brown" (Darcy) and Billy Kidd and the Madisons "First Time" (Madison). In my personal opinion  all were great songs that shared good regional but not the national success they deserved

Nationally, pop music was in trouble and needed something to pull it out again. And as it happened, there wasn't anything genuine available, so hyped it had to be, and hyped it was. The answer was "The Twist". So Chubby Checker the second time around had a million seller. The New York society described the dance was cute and started hanging out at the Manhattan's Peppermint Lounge (just off Times Square) and listened to Joey Dee and the Starlighters as they played the twist all night, every night.

To the dancers, the Twist seemed fun. To industry, it was a new fad, the biggest since the Hula-Hoop. Very quickly there were Chubby Checker T-Shirts, skirts, jeans, dolls, raincoats and follow up with twist records. "Let's Twist Again" (like we did last summer), "Slow Twistin" and lots more. The Twists appeal had nothing to do with the music, but its cuteness allowed kids to stand up in public and shake in way they had never been allowed before. The Twist quickly led to other dances. the Hully Gully, The Fly, the Popeye, the Monkey, the Jerk, the Waddle, the Mashed Potato, the Slop, the Frug and many more. This was the period of the dance crazes. Dancing was the focus and along with radio (that was making a surprise comeback) made up the hard center of the early sixties for the American teen.

Television also played a tremendous part in the dance craze. Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and Saturday nights "Beechnut Show" continued to feed the teens with one new dance step after another. Clark's show aired out of Philadelphia. previewed many new dances associated with songs recorded on Philadelphia Cameo Record label as well as local artist and groups within the city's nucleus. Bobby Rydell "The Fish", the Dovells- "Bristol Stomp", Dee Dee Sharpe- "Mashed Potato Time", the Orlons- "The Watusi", Major Lance "Monkey Time" along with Chubby Checker's "Limbo Rock", "Pony Time", "The Hucklebuck". As a bonus you could catch  television and movie teen idols- Fabian. Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis and Bobby Darin all appeared on American Bandstand regularly.

Dick Clark now ventured into others avenues of entertainment field. In 1959, he put together his first live concert package headlined by Paul Anka & Annette. The "Caravan of Stars" consisted of many top national recording artist all performing two or three of their hits and all backed by the same band or orchestra. Dick Clark traveled with these shows as much as he could  serving as mc.. He sold these packages to local promoters for about $2,500 a night plus a percentage of the gate. Clark's first Syracuse show was held at the New York State Fair Coliseum and ticket were priced at $2.00. The "Caravan of Stars" became extremely popular as teens could see as many as ten different stars performing their hits for one low price. On one such tour, Dick Clark opened his show with Lawn Recording artist "The Original Soundtracks" better known in Syracuse as the legendary "Sam and The Twisters".


By 1960. many local clubs had switched to the rock format. The Parquet, Brown Jug, Fayetteville Inn, Bahouths Bowl, Sorrentos, St. Mark's Hotel,  Monticito and the P.L.A.V. all shared the tremendous success as local bands flourished during this period. When rock came along, it changed everything and seemed to be the complete answer for its teenage following. 1960, shared a new teen generation with needs than the ones that had first listened to Alan Freed in Cleveland. The ten year old was now of  high school age who had experienced their first love, first record hop and first hangover. Penny loafers, mouse trap shoes, white bucks shoes, cuffed pants, pegged pants, bobby socks, high school sweaters with brush cut and duck tail hairstyles now were dominating school hallways.

Now bands were forming with the ideas all they had to do was imitate their favorite rock stars and they'll become automatically popular. And right they were. The Syracuse music scene became a copy of a copy. The Influence of Elvis, Les Paul, Link Wray, Duane Eddy, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Bill Black's Combo and The Ventures showed up in the repertoire of all Central New York bands. Local bands enjoyed the great rock explosion, The Continentals (Jack Belle), Jeff and the Notes, The Checkermen,  Keystones, Electras, Hi Fi' , Capitols (Chuck Sgroi), Orangemen, Impressions (Pete Shedd), Vikings , Cheltons and Sam and the Twisters all flourished during this period. These bands were similar in one respect, their material featured heavy instrumentals, very few vocals and almost no original material. The electric guitar was now a symbol of commercial rock n' roll in Syracuse. Fender, Gibson, Silvertone, Den-Electro and Vega became the most common brands purchased by the Central New York guitarist.

Though Jeff Chappelle was one of Syracuse's first electric guitarist, many others fell under the influence of the Hal Robinson (Keystone / Swingin Keystones) and Bill Austin (Checkermen). Austin's style was carefully studied by up and coming Viking band members Joe Sawmiller & Dave Pasternack. Pasternack was innovative himself as he was one of the earliest musicians to use reverb and echo. Both were used to very the sound of his guitar playing.

Hal Robinson was known for being the first to use the classic Fender Jazz Master.He was best known for his perfect duplication of the national hits. Along with his group the Keystones (later to become the Swingin' Keystones), they won the very first "Battle of the Bands" sponsored by WOLF Radio and held at Sports-O-Rama in Mattydale, N.Y.

Such perfection was admired by Mike Money, Jack Belle and Dave McQuillan known collectively as "The Continentals." This band became very selective in choosing  material as they aimed their music totally at young adults. Their next appearance and the fact they possessed a lead vocalist, rocked the band to victory in the second and third ":Battle of the Bands" held at the P.L.A.V and the State Fair Coliseum. A short time later the Continentals would back-up national recording stars "The Angels" and "Jimmy Beaumont" of the Skyliners. Other "Battles" were held at the 320 Club in Liverpool (won by "Little" Willie Gatewood) and at Three Rivers Inn (won by Frankie & The Fortunes).

WNDR's Pete Cavanaugh and Dan Leonard opened other avenues for local bands, Cavanaugh along with Bud Stiker opened the Hotel Onondaga ballroom in downtown Syracuse to local bands and national acts as Tommy Roe (Sheila) , The Duprees and Steve  Alaimo.

Dan Leonard started the Teen Canteen Sunday afternoons at  Three Rivers Inn starting in 1960 and continued with great success until 1967. Not only were all the popular local bands featured at  Central New York's "Showcase of the Stars" but national television and recording celebrities appeared weekly for "Dandy Dan". Stars as Johnny Tillotson, Neil Sedaka, Dion & The Belmonts,  Brenda Lee, Bobby Rydell, Mark Valentino, Paul Peterson, Shelly Fabres. Paul Anka, Freddie Cannon, Link Wray were just a few to grace the large showroon stage. "Dandy Dan" Leonard was also responsible for 90 cent days in the  McKinley Supermarket parking lot in Mattydale headlined by Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash and Tommy Sands. Followed by Bobby Vee's first local appearance at Sports-O- Rama.

Because of its large capacity Sports-O-Rama was also used by WOLF's Bob Dell for his shows with The Ventures, Del Shannon, Gene Pitney, Brian Hyland and Jean Thomas. These shows also showcased local talent as The Keystone, Eternals, Little Linda, Bel-Larks and Paul & The Velvets. Bob Dell later became lead vocalist on a recording with Paul and the Velvets called 'Little Girl", which received a substantial amount of  local radio airplay.

Friday, December 16, 2011


By the turn of the century Syracuse's teen population had nearly tripled and the black population had doubled that of 1950. To meet the needs of these young people Syracuse now boosted four rock n' roll radio stations, as WJMK North Syracuse (owned by Jim McKechnie & others)  joined the roster. WJMK was a short lived spin-off owned and staffed by former employees of "1260  WNDR Radio" and was virtually indistinguishable from its parent on the air. The market became over saturated at this point and WFBL converted to middle-of-the-road programing, while daytimer WJMK changed to become the ever more conservative WSOQ.

This left WNDR and WOLF to battle it out and battle they did! The constant friction and competitiveness between the two station was fertile grounds for much entertaining listening as well as for the development of many talented announcers.

The key to the tension was the power difference: WNDR had 5,000 watts of power versus WOLF'S 250 watt's. This forced "1490 Radio" to be constantly on its toes to provide superior programming. Despite its handicap in coverage size, WOLF succeeded in luring away much of WNDR's Syracuse audience and some of its commercial business.

Through a combination of coping its competitors better features and blatantly mocking and improving upon its worst, WOLF became a force to be reckoned with. It also became a springboard for many radio careers. The usual disc jockey pattern was to start at WOLF and attract a following, then be hired away for more money by WNDR, and then "break" into a larger radio market...and many announcers climbed the ladder of success in this very way.

Passing through WOLF in the early 1960's were many of radios most talented people. Tom (T.W.) Saunders hosted the "WOLFPACK PARTY" and them moved first to Buffalo and then on to KYA in San Francisco. There Saunders would join ex-WOLF morning man Gene Nelson ("The Emperor") and  WNDR's Russ "The Moose" Syracuse.. Hank Greenwald and Marv Albert became successful as national sports announcers after working in Syracuse. Windy Craig ("The Weird Beard") graduated to New York City production status and was heard across the country on numerous television and radio commercials produced by his own company. Other names like Dick Snyder, Bob Dell, Andy Andrews, Dale Kelly, Charlie Featherstone (TV-9), Jim Sims and Ron Roberts became household names to the Syracuse radio listener.

Rock n' Roll music was likewise moving in new directions thought the early 60's. and Syracuse radio was right on top of the trends. So much so that the market became influential in making hit records. The largest markets would keep a keen eye on Syracuse record charts and if a new song was doing well, they might be influenced to test it in their cities. The day of the "tight play list" has not yet come and radio program directors were not afraid to go out on a limb and play a new record by a national or local artist if they felt it would be popular. At the same time, both WOLF and WNDR would feed feed the trends in Top 40 radio in the larger cities and would pattern their sound to fit the latest innovations. Syracuse radio thus maintained an air of professionalism seldom heard in secondary markets.

The end of the 1950's proved to be a step backwards for Rock n' Roll after showing its greatness in the mid 50's. First a lot of Fabian, Frankie Avalon style music was patched together in the recording studio and new younger stars were being packaged and mechanized for public consumption. Television bandstand shows featured those of mechanized talent. Elvis Presley left to served in the U.S. Army in Germany. Gimmick records as Chantilly Lace, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Poison Ivy and Short Shorts topped the charts.

Scandal Hits! The payola investigation tarnished almost the total disc jockey population of New York City, and Alan Freed was no exception. Freed then on WABC was charged with accepting $30,00 in bribes. His tearful good-bye came over the air as he broke into "Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop" by Little Anthony and the Imperials. What Alan Freed had dome for Rock n' Roll music and its artists were soon forgotten by many who were eager to crucify the top rock leader. After taking the blunt of the scandals, Alan Freed the "Father of Rock n' Roll" spent his remaining days in Southern California trying to make a comeback that never happened.

Finally to add to this dismal year following a  February 2, 1959 concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, rock superstar Buddy Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were tragically killed in a plane crash near Mason City.. It wasn't until many years later that the genius of Buddy Holly really impressed the music world. His music lives as recorded by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Peter & Gordon, Paul McCartney, Bobby Vee, The Hollies, Linda Ronstadt, to name a just a few. Shortly after, another rock star Eddie Cochran was killed in a taxicab accident while touring the United Kingdom in 1960..

Even Syracuse felt this weak period of Rock n' Roll. Following his Coral Recordings Jimmy Cavallo returned home after his big shot at national stardom. Cavallo formed a new group with some of the areas finest as musicians- Billy Rubinstein, Gap Mangione and Joe Romano filled those spots with Cavallo also serving as the MC at Three Rivers Inn, the Central New York showplace of the stars.

As the dark age of rock cleared around the world the seeds of revitalization and renascence were taking root. In the U.S and the British Isles there were kids studying the rock greats (Berry, Holly, Cochran, Vincent & Presley) of the early and mid-fifties who were to become the masters of the next decade. One group formed in 1955 calling themselves "The Quarrymen", later known as "The Moondogs" then the "Silver Beatles" and finally settling on "The Beatles". In 1959, they performed outside of Liverpool for the first time, in distant Hamburg Germany. They returned to Liverpool and played in the Cavern Club before their discovery by record shop owner Brian Epstein.


 The second radio station in Syracuse to feature rock was WNDR Radio AM-1260 in 1957. Strangely, the one that had set the stage for the others, WOLF did not become a full time rocker until 1959. Of the three, WNDR became the most popular with the teens in the late 50's, and was in many was the prototype Top 40 in the market. The sound of WNDR was typical of the emerging rock radio genre, faced paced, energetic disc jockeys with "picks to click" & "wax to watch" selections, frequent singing jingles idetifing the station and its slogan, a weekly list of Top 50 hits. Also typical were the large number of commercials geared to the lucrative teem market, as well as "newscast" featuring electronic sound effects. Many of the disc jockeys used nicknames, "Dandy Dan" Leonard, "Jolly Rolly" Fowler, "Mad Man" Morton,  Russ "The Moose" Syracuse and "The Movin Man" Gary Vann.

It was at WNDR that "Dandy Dan" Leonard became a household name, thanks to his unique announcing style. Leonard was also instrumental in booking many national touring rock acts that came to Central New York. In addition, his involvement with local bands made him an entrepreneur of the 1950's rock  & roll scene.

Who were those early Syracuse groups to feature this new sound of Rock n' Roll? Well! by this time the 5 Points had been through one name change and two lead singers, the second Delbert Jenkins (a Frankie Lymon sound-a-like) departed shortly after an appearance on WSYR's Jim Deline television program. The group now known as "The Eldaros" comprised of Bobby Green, Jimmy Singleton, Levy Hall, Kenny Tucker, James Crawford and guitarist Duke Kearse. By 1957, this group had made a demo recording ("Baby Child") at Dufford Studio located in downtown Syracuse on South Warren Street, While at Dufford's recording an album that was never released they met song writer Jacquelin Nesbit, who wrote a song called "Rock A Bock", that became the Eldaros first record for the Vesta Record Label in February 1958. Little did they realize but over twenty years later the flip side "Please Surrender" written by Green would become  one of the most sought after group records by many of the countries top rhythm and blues collectors.

With that release, the Eldaros received much publicity though both the Syracuse Newspapers as well as air play by WNDR's Mr, Rhythm and Bill Worth (later known as Billy Williams) who was now the singing groups manager. Worth though his many national connections tried to obtained a recording contract for them with Aladdin Records a blues label out of Los Angeles. Aladdin was the home of many stars as Shirley & Lee, Thurston Harris and the Five Keys. After the Aladdin contract arrived Worth needed capital ($) to finalize the deal. Bobby Green said "That Worth was paid by the group and disappeared." The contract was never signed and is still to this day in the property of Green. The Eldaros disbanded in 1958, but Bobby Green and Jimmy Singleton stayed together to record "Each Passing Day", another classic, this time written by the songwriting team of Wilma Lung and Viola Flansburg (who later wrote the hit song- "Teeter Totter Love" for The Marcels in 1963) the sonng was released on both Utica's Mark Records and Albany's Stentor Records in 1960.

Another early band during this period was the Scarlet Tones. Otis Smith, Mart Irons, Howard Scott and Jack Oden were all students at Madison Junior High in 1956. Shortly thereafter George "Bebo" Singleton and Leroy Mackle were added top form the nucleus of what was to become the Rhyhm Cadets. This a- capella group started singing together while at the Syracuse Boys Club and managed by Tom Coulter. The Rhythm Cadets emulated the earlier Quintones and their style would help from the vocal direction lead singer :Bebo" Singleton would follow when they recoded "Dearest Doryce" released by Vesta Records in 1957. This was the first rock n' roll record ever released by a Syracuse group and is the rarest, most sought after recording ever to come out of Central New York. The Rhythm Cadet performed their hit as well as the flip side "Rockin Jimmy" in capturing first prize at the Upstate New York Arthur Godfrey Talent Show hosted by television star Polly Bergan. Other local acts that performed were the Bigtree Sisters, The Eldaros and the Emeralds.

The Emeralds were another a capella group in this early period of Syracuse rock. James Fagan, Tom Royal, James Royal and Greg Tearney followed their recording od "School Boys Love" with a concert at Lincoln Auditorium with the great Louis Armstong in 1957. September 16, 1957 was the date of another giant rock n' roll package rolling into the War Memorial. Promoter Irving Feld billed it a the "Biggest Show of 1957"  as he gathered the foremost stars in popular music and rhythm & blues for one massive show. Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Paul Anka, The Drifters, Everly Brothers, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, Jimmy Bowen, Clyde McPhatter, Buddy Knox, LaVern Baker and The Crickets with Buddy Holly.

1957, was important for another reason, this was the year Syracuse gave birth to its first rock n" roll band, "The Impalas" from Valley High School. The Impalas featured the area's first electric guitarist Jeff Chappelle, along with drummer "Buzzy" Baker and Brian Saunders (bass). A short time later they added Nick Russo and changed their named to "Jeff and the Notes." This band played no original material, but played the popular hits of the day, such as "Sincerely", "A Rose and a Baby Ruth", "Fever" and others aired by WNDR & WFBL. Being Syracuse's first rock band brought many advantages, in 1959 they backed up vocalist "Bebo" Singleton on his solo recording of "The Shrine of the Echoes" as well as his follow up "Dolores" b/w "Dreams Oh Dreams" released nationally of the Vim Record label #508.  In between the Singleton recordings Chappelle and the Notes auditioned for Ted Macks Amateur Hour as well as making a number of appearances on the Jim Deline television show. Although this band only had demo recording of their own material  and never a single release of their own, they did record the locally familiar singing commercial "City Opticians have it for the Eyes" aired by every Syracuse radio and television station for over twenty years.

During the time of their studio backup recordings, Jeff  and the Note added a South Onondaga High School student who would leave his mark on the national music scene, Duane Hitchings. Hitching, an accomplished pianist at a very early age, had to leave school early to record with the band and often wasn't allowed to play in local bars because his was under age. He matured musically and otherwise with Jeff & the Notes as they continued their studio work backing up  Jan" and the Radiants and later The Madisons. Duane had his first taste of national stardom playing the piano solo on Jan and the Radiants version of "Is It True" b/w "Now Is The Hour released nationally by Clock Records.

In 1961, they changed their outdated name to "The Dynamics" added John Kane & Roy Smith and appeared with such rock acts as Freddie Cannon, Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash, Bobby Rydell, Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon. Before their eventual breakup in 1963, the Dymanics were featured on the Dick Clark Caravan of Star Show at the War Memorial. They performed to an overflow crowd the Little Willie John song "Fever.

Duane Hitching's left a short time later to study classical music at the Philadelphia Conservatory. It was their that Duane was introduced to the new sound of rock. Although not into heavy rock music of the late 60's, he was none the less impressed by Cream (w/Eric Clapton) and the Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield who he saw perform at a local Philadelphia club. This exposure influenced Duane in taking a part time job as the clubs MC. It was their he met Buddy Miles and in 1968 joined the Buddy Miles Express. Three albums and two semi hits later he left to join with ex-Express member Jimmy McCarthy in Cactus. Cactus was formed by ex-Vanilla Fudge members Tim Bogart & Carmine Appice when they failed to assemble a band with Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. He left Cactus in 1972, then formed the new Cactus Band played Syracuse and then rejoined friend Mike Pinera to form "The Image". Hitchings biggest break came in 1979, as he reunited with Carmine Appice as they appeared on Rod Stewart's hit album "Blonde's Have More Fun". It album contain the number one hit single in the U.S- "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" with Duane receiving co-songwriters credit. Many more sessions with Rod Stewart followed like million sellers "Young Turks" & "Infatuation", and performing on hundreds of others big name artits. Duane Hitchings returned to Syracuse on  October 7, 2010 to receive the "SAMMY's  Lifetime Achievement Award."

WNDR's Dick Lawrence, after finding success with Jeff and the Notes now expanded his managerial duties by signing another great act "Jan and the Radiant". Originally known as Little Jan and the Orients, the group consisted of Jan Perolla, Carl Irvine. Bill Shelly, Tom Nelli and Dom Secredi ( who had replaced Tip Munger) Through Dick Lawrence, the vocal group signed a national recording contract with Clock-VIM Records in 1960 and released two singles "If You Love Me" b/w Heart and Soul" also "Now Is The Hour" b/w "Is It True". Both recordings were backed by Jeff and the Notes and received national airplay with "Now Is The Hour" rumored to have reached the Top 10 in both Detroit and San Francisco.

Radiants singer Tom Nelli departed in 1962 to study voice at the Brooklyn Conservatory. Then to the nightclub circuit, The Latin Quarter, Copacabana, Dangerfield's and finally to the Broadway stage. Tom appeared in "The Fantastics" and "Camelot" that lead to the motion pictures Grand Slam, Shaft and An Italian In America.

Dick Lawrence now managed Syracuse's top two attractions. But, Dan Leonard was not to be outdone. In the summer of 1957, Dan staged Syracuse's first giant record hop and dance at the Air National Guard Hanger at Hancock Airport.. The event drew well over 3,000 teens to view such national and regional acts as Kathy Linden, The 4 Coins and Chuck Alaimo and to dance to their favorite hit records Leonard even formed his own record company in 1958, 'Dandy dan Records". That summer he released two discs "Cherry Pie" by the Dialtones and "Miss Sweet" by the Teentones. Both records received local airplay, with the Teentones becoming the best seller.

Other Central New Yorkers were now receiving national attention. Utica's Annette Funicello became one of the famous Walt Disney Mouseketeers and also appeared in many Disney motion pictures. Oneonta's Larry Santos and the Tones released "3 Little Loves" and the great Bobby Comstock of Ithaca and his group the Counts clicked with his Blaze Recording "Tennessee Waltz". Comstock's vocal style was defined as "Soul with the strong Beat'. Alan Freed head the demo of Tennessee Waltz and selected it his "Sleeper of the Week" on his daily television program. Freed then signed Booby to appear with him at the giant "Fifth Anniversary" stage show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater.

Following their purchase by Ivy Broadcasting in 1959, WOLF Radio AM 1490 also entered the rock field. Their disc jockey lineup consisted of Bob Kennedy, Bill Towre, Ed Morgan, Ted Hackett and Eastwood High alumnus Emerson "Dusty" Rhodes (one of the famed greatWOLF "Sandmen") They readied for their battle with WNDR.   PS- "Dusty" Rhodes would be the first in a long impressive line of great WOLF broadcasters that I would listen to as a youth on my parents old tube style Zenith radio (made in early 40's) and still plays to this day.

Rock was spreading in Syracuse and local movie theaters also played a large part. Top rock feature films. Rock Around The Clock, Don't Knock The Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock, Jailhouse Rock, Mr. Rock and Roll and Go Johnny Go graced the marquees of RKO Keiths, Loew's State and Loew's Strand Theaters downtown plus drive-in movies all around the Central New York area.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


In the early 1950's an increasing number of southern families ventured into many of the north's large industrial cities, and Syracuse was no exception. Many of these families were brought up with deep religious background and among these who were committed to religion were singers. Of these the majority were amateurs who turned out each week for religious services. These small predominately black churches were the birth places of rhythm and blues in Syracuse.

In 1952, five such singers formed their own a capella group known a "The Quintones". Lafayette Breland, Ted Jones, Rudy Flowers, Eugene Huntley and Larry Briggs were the first vocal groups to perform so called "Rhythm and Blues" to the Syracuse public. The Quintones would later perform at New York City's Apollo Theater as well as appearing on Ted Mack's Original Hour. These were great accomplishments for the early 50's. But their greatest contribution to Syracuse music would be their influence on the young up and coming black vocalist, such as Bobby Green, Jimmy Singleton, Ray Green, Herman Vaughan and Owen Singleton known collectively as "The 5 Points." This young group of teenagers also with a gospel influence copied the style of "The Quintones: as well as national greats "Big Joe" Turner, Sonny Till and the Orioles, 4 Buddies, The Midnighters and the Dominoes.

The list of these black  R & B greats is quite long and some of their recordings never graced the airwaves of Syracuse radio stations to that point. Where were teens hearing these great new sounds ? Many were late night listeners who hear the songs on other radio stations. Others from records imported from New York or brought from the South by relatives or heard in newly opened small black record stores like Syracuse's  Dave Wilkens. Even as late as 1954, Rhythm and Blues was largely unheard by the white population of Syracuse.

In mid 1954, Syracuse's top pop selling albums were Frank Sinatra's "Song For Young Lovers" and Jackie Gleason's "Tawny." The top song on the Hit Parade was "Three Coins in the Fountain." The biggest country artist was Webb Pierce and R&B had yet to make its mark.

But on July 5, 1954 rhythm and blues would join white country music and totally overwhelm the entire American music scene. At 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, Sam Phillips the owner of the Sun Record Company was producing the first professional recording session with local truck driver Elvis Presley. Sam Phillips entered the record business in 1950, the main concern was to record local talent and try to sell the masters to national labels. Elvis's first visit to the Sun Studios was in 1953 when he paid $4.00 to record the song "My Happiness" an old Ink Spots hit.  January 4, 1954 Presley returned and cut another demo "I'll Never Stand In Your Way."  Following the demo recordings Elvis found himself in the Sun Studio  with Scotty Moore and Bill Black in July 1954 as they cut the legendary "That's All Right (Mama) " and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" Sun Records  #209.

For the first time Elvis and his musicians combined the sounds of white country music with that of black blues to form what would be called "rockabilly." With the success of these early recordings, Elvis, Scotty and Bill worked several small country shows throughout the South, with Elvis often appearing as the "Hillbilly Cat" or "The King of Western Bop." In July 1955, another important mark in rock music was made. Elvis's fourth Sun Records release "Baby Let's Play House" this was his  first record to appear on one of the national country charts. Elvis's fifth and final recording for Sun "Mystery Train" was recorded and shipped to national record stores. Colonel Tom Parker (now Elvis's manager) and Sam Phillips were negotiating with RCA Records for the  sales of Elvis's contract. It was announced that Elvis's contract was purchased by RCA for a reported $35,000 plus $5,000 as a bonus. What RCA did with Elvis is now history.

The success of Alan Freed in New York City and the rise to stardom of Bill Haley, Chuck Berry and Elvis had firmly established "Rock n' Roll" as a saleable commodity, at least to teenagers. WOLF's Dick Clark was not as many may think the first to play Rock n' Roll in Syracuse. That honor falls to Chet Whiteside know as "Mr. Rhythm" who played Elvis, The Moonglows, Fats Domino, Wynomie Harris and many others on his weekly rhythm & blues show on WNDR Radio.

The first radio station adopting an all rock format was WFBL AM 1390 in 1956. Denny Sullivan, Ron Curtis (later became one on Syracuse greatest TV news broadcasters on TV-5), Ed Karsh and Syracuse's first Top 40 disc jockey Bill Thrope pushed the platters. WFBL, then owned by the Founders Corporation, added give-aways and contests to liven up the total air sound. Bill Thrope held Syracuser's first record hop later that same year.

The first television show in Syracuse to air rock music was "Dance Party" with Al Meltzer on WHEN TV-8. Meltzer was not a new comer to Syracuse, he'd been with WAGE (WHEN) Radio since 1950. Al played all the hits in an American Bandstand format. Later many others followed the television dance route- Windy Craig (WOLF), Rowland Smith, and Bud Ballou (WOLF & WNDR). Only Ballou's show on WNYS TV-9 (now WSYR) was moderately successful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


On the other side of jazz we find the sound of Dixieland. Originally formed in 1952, the Salt City 5 found immediate success via their Sunday afternoon jazz concerts at Syracuse's local hot spot, "Memory Lane." The reason was simple, they differed from the other Dixieland groups in one major aspect, they were more musical. They played standards that were popular in the past era but with their swingin interpretation. The Salt City 5 (Will Alger, Jack Maheu, Bob Cousino, Dick Oakley & Dave Remington) using Memory Lane as home base of operations, soon found themselves overwhelmed with college and club dates.

November 1952, saw the Five at Child's Paramount on Times Square in New York City. The Big Cities reaction was enough to extend a four week engagement to seventeen weeks. In 1953, bassist Frank Frawley was added to the band but they still retained the original name of the group.

The nationally known Salt City 5 have recorded many albums and were a familiar attraction at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, Blue Notes in Chicago, Roundtable in New York, Princess Hotel in Bermuda, as well as many State Fairs, college fraternity parties and other fun gatherings. The group has had many personal changes over its 20+ year existence. Will Alger, its original leader would still come back to play engagements with the band even though the late 70's. Jack Maheu, the swing clarinetist would later join the world famous "Dukes of Dixieland" and then Spike McGinley's Orchestra. He was replaced by Nick Palumbo who would eventually lead the band then know as the Salt City 6.  Palumbo would hire a young 21 year-old Syracuse University student who with his brother Chuck would make a giant name for themselves in the field of jazz, Gap Mangione. Nick Palumbo remained with the Salt City 6 until he formed a new band in the mid 1970's.

Following his work with the Salt City 6, pianist Gap Mangione formed the Mangione Brothers Sextet (also know as the Jazz Brothers) along with brother Chuck Mangione, Sal Nistico, Bill Saunders, Roy McCurdy and Larry Combs. This band played many clubs in the Syracuse - Rochester area as well as recording three albums for Riverside Records between 1960-62. Gap continued his education at Syracuse University (1957-65) as well as playing in the S.U. marching band, while Chuck studied at Rochester's Eastman School of Music. Chuck  signed a national recording contract with Mercury Records and in 1978 finally reached the top in the field of jazz with his  A&M Records #1 selling single "Feel so Good".

Although the Mangione Brothers have the more familiar name the catalyst of the Sextet was Syracusan Sal Nistico.Though still in his twenties, Sal had much more playing experience than did the others. He started at a very young age and was on the road playing with rhythm & blues outfits before the Mangione Brothers got together. Sal played "Hot and Hard" with a soaring attack you could hear the fire and sparks he gave the band. Sal's playing was energetic, warm and totally unique. As Chuck stated in his Milestone album "When Sal would play the first note for a new audience, heads would turn." During his work with the Mangione's, Sal would record an album of his own called 'Heavyweights," that featured jazz great Cannonball Adderley. Sal's best known recordings were done while performing with Woody Herman's band the Thundering Herd and Count Basie.

The Salt City 5 although the best known was not Syracue's only Dixieland band. The city also produced the Orange Peels and the Soda Ash Six. The Orange Peels used Syracuse University as home base in the late 50's and made their most successful jaunt a European tour highlighted by six concerts at the Brussels World's Fair. Later followed by television appearances with Sarah Vaughan, a recording session with RCA Victor, and in 1958 they received top billing at the International Festival of Jazz at St. Amand, France. Their goal was to prove the old tunes can be swung in a bright, modern vein and still keep the happy feeling of New Orleans.

Where as the Orange Peels found success in the 50's, the Soda Ash Six flourished in the 60's and 70's. Formed in the summer of 1960 and based out of Skaneateles, NY,  the Soda Ash Six repertoire consisted of the Top 40 hits as well as old standards adapted to Dixieland Tuba-Banjo style. The original Six consisted of  leader Dick Sheridan on piano, Ed Musengo on trumpet, John DeSantis on clarinet, Bucky Harris on tuba, Howie Welsh on drums, Chuck Gettman and Dick Levitre on trombone. Through the years such names as Brett Dunlap, Bruce Fairbanks, Woody Peters, Dick Jones and Jimmy Zechman have filled sports vacated by departing original members.

The band was best known for its consecutive years of playing at Song Mountain Ski Resort as well as opening their own club  called "Jazz Band: in downtown Skaneatles in 1966. Steady booking are nothing new to this band as they frequented such Central New York nightspots as The Run of Stone, Clinton Station and the Sherwood Inn. They were also the featured band at Empire Court at the New York State Fair. Not bad for a band named after the Syracuse suburb of Solvay, 'The Soda Ash City."

HISTORY OF SYRACUSE MUSIC - CHAPTER SIX - THE JAZZ INFLUENCE- Mark Murphy, Chris Powell, Anna Marie & others (Updated Oct 26, 2015)

The sound of jazz was nothing new to Syracuse. It goes back to the early 1900's when Washington Street (then the red light district) echoed the sound played by the big band masters. Syracuse soon became a hot bed of jazz, because of location it was convenient stop over point for folks traveling between New York City and Buffalo, Cleveland and Toronto.

Young teenagers became interested in the early jazz sound as they later would with Rock n.' Roll. By the age of thirteen, Chris Powell had jammed with many of the top names in the jazz field. Powell a drummer by trade, later traveled to Philadelphia and formed a thirteen piece band that featured Clifford Brown soon to be known as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time.

As his reputation grew the band was now working 52 weeks a year, which culminated with a long engagement in Las Vegas. Chris recoded many songs on such major labels as Columbia, Okeh, Grand and Groove. He biggest hit on the "Sunny Side of the Street: was released by Columbia in 1947. As they early 50's arrived, Chris Powell and the Blue Fames recorded the classic song "Blue Boy" featuring lead vocalist Joe Van Loan. Van Loan later became the lead vocalist for group "The Ravens" of rhythm and blues fame. This recording is valued  over $200 and is highly sought after by collectors even today.

Chris Powell wasn't the only Syracusan making a name for herself nationally in the field of jazz. Vocalist Anna Marie Genovese was singing with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, Tex Beneke and Charlie Schaffer. Many vocalist could put "life" in  a song, but it is a rare treat to hear a vocalist combine this talent with a melodic voice, such a singer was Anna Marie. Known primarily as a ballad singer, Anna Marie specialized in obscure songs that had deep feeling. Her perfect control and delicate thrill result in a rendition pleasing to everyone and a definite thrill to critical admires of vocal art.

AS a teenager, self taught, Anna Marie was the winner on the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour. Later in her career, she became known nationally by her appearances on the Tonight Show, then hosted by Steve Allen, Anna Marie released tow recordings during her career. The first a ten inch album "The Interludes With Anna Marie' (recorded at the WHEN Studio then located in the Loew Building) which received a four star rating in Down Beat Magazine. Her second a  45 rpm single "Interlude" accompanied by the Bill Rubenstein Trio.

Bill Rubenstein became known as one of Syracuse's top jazz pianists. At seventeen he was performing with Buddy Rich that led to appearances with Stan Kenton, Ray Anthony, Pee Wee Hunt, Kai Winding and Carman McCrea. Where ever Rubenstein was playing Syracusans could be assured that the top names in entertainment would come and jam with him. Bill was said by many to be Syracuse's spiritual leader.

Local male vocalist were likewise innovative. One of the top white jazz singers in the United States was raised in nearby Oswego, Mark Murphy. Mark's career started in 1947 while still in high school. His singing debut was on WOPT Radio (now WOSC). The show was hosted by Phil Lambrinos (the TV Doctor). He continued his education as Syracuse University studding voice as well as drama. After graduation Mark formed a trio and toured Canada. He later returned to Central New York and sang many engagements with Anna Marie. It was in Syracuse that Mark was seen singing by Sammy Davis Junior who made calls to New York on his behalf. In 1954, he had traveled to New York City to appear in the television opera "Casey At The Bat." which led to summer stock and a recording contract with Decca Records.  His first recording "Exactly Like You" was released the same month Buddy Holly set down the Decca version of his most famous song "That'll Be The Day." Mark then appeared on the Steve Allen Show, Allen referring to Mark is "The Best Jazz Singer in the U.S. today." Thought the years  Mark has made well over 50+ recording (albums, 45's, cassettes, cds and  DVD's) for such labels as Decca, Capitol, Riverside, Fontana, Verve, HighNote,  Jive and Muse. Though the 1960's Mark resided in the United Kingdom and became very popular playing the role as Jesus in a pilot film for the BBC. He returned to the United States in the early 70's and still performs to this day. Mark Murphy one of America's great jazz vocalists returned to Syracuse to perform at Syracuse Area Music Award Show #6 on February 1, 2002. Sadly jazz great Mark Murphy passed away on October 22, 2015 in Englewood, New Jersey at age 83.

Many other names hold a special place in the hearts of Syracuse jazz fans. Bobby Henderson (Judy Bolden) was Billy Holiday's first accompanist, and wrote "Home On The Clouds" for Benny Goodman.