Saturday, December 17, 2011


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.