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.

No comments:

Post a Comment