Monday, January 30, 2012


One of Syracuse all-time greatest bands "The Seven" has members dating back to Syracuse;s very first rock band Jeff & The Notes (Nick Russo) add an original Sam & The Twister (Chuck Mellone), a few "Capitols" (Al Ruscito, Chuck & Frank Sgroi) along with some of  Jimmy Cavallo's traveling Houserockers (Chuck Sgroi, Tony Licamele, John Latocha) and you end up with a band originally called "The Upsetters" in early 1966.

March 1967, with the departure of guitarist Latocha while adding Bob Canastraro, they changed their name to  the "Magnificent Seven". After about a year Canastraro was replaced by Chuck Wheeler (of Surprise Package) and the band shortened their name to "The Seven". They became one of most popular and listened to bands between 1969 & 1972. The magical, mystical, and musical "The Seven" hit the road teaming with Syracuse Radio Station WOLF now known as "The Big 15".

They traveled with WOLF Radio deejay playing school assemblies throughout Central New York in one of  Syracuse musics greatest promotions. This outstanding group was comprised of musical veterans Nick Russo (vocals, percussion), Chuck Mellone (keyboards, B3), Chuck Wheeler (guitar), Al Ruscito (trombone), Frank Sgroi (sax), Chuck Sgroi (bass) and drummer Tony Licamele.

The Seven played at some of New York Cities famed nightspots such as Ungano's located at 210 West 70th Street and two showcase performances at "The Bitter End", one with famed CNY songwriter Larry Santos (wrote Candy Girl for the 4 Seasons). After choosing to sign with  Thunderbird Records over London's Parrot label  (had both Them & Tom Jones) they entered New York's  A&I Studio to records their first album.

The album "The song is Song, the album is Album" hit stores in 1970 on the Thunderbird Record label owned by Leonard Silver and Steve Brodie of Buffalo's Transcontinental Records Sales. Three songs were released as singles "Song" in January 1970, and later in May the flipside "Heatwave" that charted for seven weeks on WOLF Radio. Their third single, the old Zombies song "Tell Her No" stayed on the WOLF chart for ten weeks starting in July 1970.

In 1971, Tommy Forest (former Monterays vocalist) replaced Nick Russo who went on to form the band "Yugan" with Jimmy Cox. Mickey Nicotra and Bob Papaleoni..

The Seven one of Syracuse's greatest bands could be seen in such popular CNY night spots as The Place, Campus Inn, Captain Mac's and The Shack playing their famed one hour long "Rascals Medley". They also appeared in concert with "The Turtles" and on the popular regional television show "Upbeat" hosted by Don Webster that aired Sunday mornings from studios in Cleveland, Ohio.

Their final recording, the song "Junkyard" while not professionally completed is included on the History of Syracuse album series.

Update- The Seven will be inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame (SAMMY) at the Dinosaur Bar B Que in downtown Syracuse on Thursday evening March 7, 2013. Members attending will be Chuck Sgroi, Al Ruscito, Frank Sgroi, Tommy Forest & Tony Licamele

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Former "America" co-founder Dan Peek was born November 1, 1950 in Panama City, Florida. He was one of three members of the national recording group "America". Dan resided in Oneida, NY and then in North Syracuse, NY at age eight. His father was in the U.S. Air Force stationed three years at  Syracuse's Hancock Field. Dan attended Roxboro Road Middle School in the North Syracuse School District.

His father was then reassigned to the United Kingdom, where Dan attended high England. He first band "Daze" (high school) started the formation of the group "America". After one year in College, Peek along with with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bonnell obtained a small financial advance from Warner Brothers Records and the rest is history.

 American opened for such national acts as Pink Floyd, Cat Stevens and Elton John before hitting the Billboard charts with their song "A Horse with No Name".  This smash hit led to the releases on others " Woman Tonight", "Tin Man", "Sister Golden Hair", "Don't Cross the River", "Today's The Day" and " Lonely People".

America with Dan Peek did perform in Syracuse twice. The first at the Great American Music Fair at the New York State Fairgrounds w/ Beach Boys, Jefferson Starship and others- September 2, 1975. The final time September 1, 1976 at the War Memorial. During this performance Dan Peek did mention on stage his North Syracuse years.

Dan left America (the band) in 1977 and a short time later released his first solo album "All Things Are Possible" (MCA Songbook- 1978). Other US & UK solo recording followed "Doer of the Word" (1984), "Electro Voice" (1986), "Crossover" (1987), "Bodden Town" (1999-2000) and "Guitar Man" (2002) to name few a few. Peak also had a cd single "On Wings of Eagles".

Dan Peek sadly passed away on July 24, 2011 in Farmington, Missouri at age 60...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Sweden Rock Magazine's January 2012, Edition #89 features a 54 page special section (of 106 total) dedicated to our friend Ronnie James Dio. This classic magazine is written totally in Swedish. It contain many  photos-Ronnie's Cortland  High School class,  Ronnie Dio with The Redcaps, Dio and The Prophets, Electric Elves, The  Elves, ELF, Dio and with his cousin David "Rock" Feinstein. It also contain concert photos and full page stories on each of his albums from ELF, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio to Heaven & Hell. There are special multi page interviews with David "Rock"Feinstein, Vinnie Appice, Paul Shorttine, Claude Schnell, Jens Johannson and Wendy Dio. This special issue also contains many family photos with wife Wendy and his parents Pat & Anna Padavona. A must for you Dio collectors. Check google under... Sweden Rock Magazine......Thanks "Rock"

Saturday, January 21, 2012


First formed in 1959 as Donnie and the Dukes (Don Barber & Walter Stiles). They reorganized in 1960 with a lineup of Bob Story (bass), Don Barber (vocals, drums), Dave Blatchley (rhythm guitar) and eventually Skip Seyerle (lead guitar). With WNDR Radio's "Dandy Dan" Leonard's help the group entered Syracuse's Riposo Studio and recorded a two sided regional hit single "I'll Be Blue" b/w "Henrietta" on the Personality Record label (1961).

"I'll Be Blue' was released nationally by Buck Ram. who was the manager of the group "The Platters". This song received a huge amount  of airplay reaching the Top 10 in Syracuse. "Dandy Dan" Leonard managed the band during this period and was responsible for their national & regional success. With Leonard's involvement with Three Rivers Inn he spring boarded Don Barber and the Dukes to host many Sunday "Teen Canteen" Shows. They also appeared regularly at the Brown Jug in downtown Syracuse and many other CNY hot spots.

They shared the stage with such national acts as- Curtis Lee, Bobby Rydell, Lloyd Price, Brenda Lee, The Bell Notes, Del Shannon, Jimmy Rodgers, Bob Crewe, Ernie K. Doe, The Tokens, The Viscounts, Bobby Sherman, Chubby Checker, Freddie Cannon and Johnny and the Hurricanes.

 By 1963 their lineup included Barber (vocals, bass) with new personal Chuck Mellone (keyboards), Joe Sawmiller (guitar), and Dave Mc Quillan (drums). In mid-1964, Jack Belle (The Continentals) handled lead guitar duties during a long summer engagement at Lake George.

Their follow-up single "The Waddle" (the old Bernie Milton song) b/w " What's Your Name" was released on Buffalo's Thunderbird Records in May 1965. The band's new lineup included Barber (vocals), Joe Sawmiller (guitar) and WOLF Radio deejay Fred Winston on drums. This threesome was put together in early 1965 for a backup session for The Madisons and stayed together recording their hit "The Waddle". Also heard on the Waddle are popular CNY musicians Kal Dee (keyboards) and backing vocals provided by The Madisons. With the popularity of their hit single the band toured across the Northeast performaing with national acts as, The Angels, Johnny Thunder & Lou Christie. On July 11, 1965 the band shared the stage with The Newbeats & Agawan Park, Mass, 

If Don Barber's name seems familiar his family owned the Barber Funeral Home in Homer, NY for many years.  As a historic note- CNY saxophone great John Kane can also be heard on Don's early recording of "Henrietta" and 'I'll Be Blue".

Don Barber and the Dukes have appeared yearly at Cortland's Summer Festival. Joining Don on stage have been Mickey Lee Soule (Elf, Rainbow), Brian Miles (Brian's Idols), Neal Massa (Cafferty Band), Mike Shaw (Mad Jack) drummer Larry Baker (Triple Threat, Essentials) and Joe Leo (Cafferty Band).  July 10, 2011, Don performed at the Ronnie James Dio "Stand Up and Shout" benefit concert in Cortland.  In late 2011 the band's original members (Barber, Story,  Blatchley & Seyerle) reunited to record a  special 50th Anniversary video of their classic song "I'll Be Blue" that included photos, and early band history. You can watch this classic video recording on utube.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Sandy Bigtree became popular at the age of one (WHEN TV- 1st Anniversary) appearing with her talented sisters Norma and Jean, collectively known as the "Bigtree Sisters". They appeared many-many time with WNDR's Wayne Schram and with Jim Deline on his WSYR Radio and Television program known for their singing and dancing routines. The Bigtree Sisters performed at many fun raisers, variety shows, talent shows, fashion shows, concerts in both large and small clubs to Suburban Park and on stage at the War Memorial. In the Post Standard (February 14, 1958) Joe Beamish recalls "One of Syracuse's most talented singing-dancing trio's is the Bigtree Sisters. Jean now 12 is a freshman at SU, Norma age 15 attends Valley High School and little Sandy is 8 enrolled at McKinley School. In 1963 they backed up Channel 9's  Baron Daemon (Mike Price) on his smash hit "The Translvania Twist" instrumental backing was by Sam and the Twisters (Amato, Fetterly, Palumbo & Wolf). To this date this is still the largest selling 45 rpm single in Central New York History,

As the sisters went their separate ways Sandy appeared on Denny Sullivans' popular WSYR TV-3 noontime television show on January 27, 1965. During the summer of 1965 Sandy spent eight months doing summer stock with her sister Norman at Melody Tent in Toms River, New Jersey.

She then expanded her career working in New York City in off Broadway musicals, such as "Dames At Sea", before returning to Syracuse trying her hand at rock n' roll. She became a member of the Fallen Angels (1967), The Utmost (1968) and the Livin Ennd (1969-70). With the Livin Ennd, Sandy recorded the single "Round Round" I'm Your Clown and is featured in the bands album "The Ennd of An Era" recorded live at the Poorhouse North on February 27, 1975.

Then after a short pause it was on to Skip Murphy's "Out of the Blue" before forming her own band the "Sandy Bigtree Band (1975), followed by "Sandy Bigtree and the Great Northern Expedition" (1978). Band members included Bob Perry, Terry Mulhauser, Gary LaVancher, Bill Lutters, Dan :Cato" Eaton and vocalist Sandy Bigtree.

Now into Dayson Recording Studio in 1975 as Sandy sang lead vocals on Max single "While You Sleep" (a Syracuse super studio group consisting of David "Rock" Feinstein, Dan Elliott, Mike Ferrante, Howie Castle, Jack Belle, George Day & Ron Wray). Sandy and her band then recorded the Buddy Holly song "Rave On" for the "We Remember Buddy Holly - A Syracuse Tribute EP produced by Ron Wray and distributed world wide into 22 different countries through the Buddy Holly Memorial Fan Club. Lastly a great Christmas song was recorded, but to this date has never been released.

Sandy Bigtree was Central New York's premier woman vocalist in the 60"s-80"s in Syracuse Rock History. She sang and danced with her sisters at the Syracuse Area Music Awards Show at the Landmark Theater. She also appears on the tribute to Dave Pasternack Cd released in early 2000.

Sandy appeared at the Haudenosaunce Friendship Festival in 2002 and then returned with members of her former band in August 2004. The "new" Sandy Bigtree Band" included former members Gary Lavancher, Terry Mulhauser, Jeff Chard along with Out of the Blue sax man James Moore and drummer Mike Donohue of the Roosevelt Dean band. Sandy also performed at the David Pasternack live tribute concert at Damon's Club in Cicero.

Sandy Bigtree was inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame (SAMMY's) on June 5, 2008 by longtime friend Syracuse Music Historian- Ron Wray. She then performed at the second annual Haudenosaunee Festival in Hanover Square in downtown Syracuse, August 3, 2008. Sandy Bigtree also played a show at the Inner Harbor July 8, 2009. Her musical legacy continues to this day. PS- And a nicer person you will never meet....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Surprisingly the career of 50-year jazz great Mark Murphy started with one Sammy Davis Jr. In the 1930's Sammy lived in Syracuse with his uncle shinning shoes on Harrison Street while listening to music in the Penguin and Embassy Clubs. In 1953 Sammy Davis Jr was appearing at Andre's Tic Toc Club on So. Salina Street. It was during this time Davis first caught Mark Murphy performing at a jazz session  at the Ebony Club.

Murphy was born March 14, 1932 in Syracuse, but spent much of his youth in Fulton, NY He sang in the church choir and began piano lessons at age seven. Mark started singing in a local dance band and studied acting and music while attending Syracuse University. He began singing professionally at the age of 15.

After being discovered by Sammy Davis Jr he relocated to New York City appearing with the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company. He also performed in a local amateur contest at the historic Apollo Theater.

His recording career began at age 24 with Davis's help signed with Decca Records (just before the label signed Buddy Holly). Mark soon appeared on national television performing on the "Tonight Show". His first single 'Exectly Like You" came from the Decca Records album "Meet Mark Murphy". Murphy has become a international famed jazz vocalist, recording for labels as- Capitol, Muse, Riverside, Fontana, RCA Victor, Milestone, Sonorama,  Nova, Atlantic  Phoenix,  Immedicate,  Sequel,  Audiophile,  G-Jazz, Savoy, High Tone, Verve and Jazz Prison Records in Japan, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States.

Murphy moved to England in the late 1960's where he worked as an actor while continuing to build a large European jazz audience. He returned to the United States in 1972 where he continued to release an album a year since that time. Mark continues touring the World appearing in concerts and festivals. He returned to Syracuse for Jazz Fest on June 7, 1998 and again in 2002 for the Syracuse Area Music Awards (SAMMYS) show at the Landmark Theater. Mark Murphy has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. He was voted "Best Male Jazz Vocalist of the Year" in Downbeat Magazines Readers Pole in 1996, 1997, 2000 & 2001.

Through the years Mark's discography reads-  Vinyl albums (55), 45 rpm singles (11) Cd's (30+ and counting) and a  DVD "Murphy's Mood" (comprised two separate episodes of the tv show "Ad Lib" that Mark performed in 1981) in 2009. Yes 100 recording for your listening pleasure. A true musical legend our own Mark Murphy. After living in Los Angeles and Pennsylvania for a number of years Mark relocated to Englewood, New Jersey in 2009.

Sad to report the great Mark Murphy passed away on October 22, 2015 In Edgewood, NJ.

Update- Mark Murphy will be honored by Syracuse Area Music Award's with their "Lifetime Achievement Award" on Thursday evening March 3, 2016 at the Dinosaur Bab B Que. This is the highest honor given to one in the Syracuse music community. This award will be excepted by members of Mark's family.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Hope you all read Sunday, Jan 15th  Post Standard it contains columnist Sean Kirst great three page article on the musical history of the War Memorial. A treat for music fans of all ages.  It's complete with historic photo, dates and quotes from fans and industry members. PS- And it starts on Page 1.

Great job Sean.....

We've  already received bloggers from  Canada, Germany. Russia, Ukranine,  United Kingdom and through out the USA.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


With the world wide release of Alan Freed's classic movie "Rock, Rock, Rock" this brought Jimmy Cavallo new fans from such counties as France. Spain, Germany, Australia, Italy. Sweden and the United Kingdom. Cavallo and the House Rockers followed with six singles on Coral Records between 1956-59.

In the early 1960's Jimmy returned to Syracuse and became the MC at Three Rivers Inn a showcase for national talent.  During this time he recorded one of his all-time classic songs "Fanny Brown" on the Darcy Record label (owned by Dan Leonard). Three years later came the single "Hold Be In Your Arms" on Romar Records hit record stores. .He formed the Jimmy Cavallo Quartet in 1963, that included Syracuse "Hall of Famer" musicians Chuck Sgroi, Tony Licamele and John Latocha (all formerly with the Capitols). This quartet performed at Three Rivers Inn behind such national stars as Nat "King" Cole, Sammy Davis Jr, Bobby Darin and Jayne Mansfield. During her 1967 appearance Miss Mansfield's management signed a long-term contract with Cavallo to become her traveling backup bank, This included her up coming Las Vegas engagement. Sadly she was killed in an auto accident prior to that event. Cavallo, Sgroi, Licamele and Latocha traveled the country for many years including stops in Miami, Atlantic City and Las Vegas sharing the stage with such musical icons as Tony Bennett, The Fifth Dimension, Jimi Hendrix, Joey Dee and the Starliters and the Turtles. Their repertoire included a wide-range of material from "Soda Shoppe Rock" to tunes from West Side Story" and "South Pacific".

In 1968, Jimmy relocated to Pompano Beach, Florida, but still returns to Syracuse yearly. Cavallo called "Syracuse's Father of Rock n' Roll: was inducted into the SAMMYS Hall of Fame in 1993. Jimmy made his first trip to the United Kingdom in the year 2000 and then released his first live album. "Jimmy Cavallo Live at the Persian Terrace, Hotel Syracuse." It was produced by Guy Capone for Petcap Music and backed musically by longtime friend Stan Colella and his Orchestra.

Jimmy returned home again in July 2002, to headline the NYS Rhythm & Blues Festival. Syracuse Mayor- Matt Driscoll, Onondaga County Executive- Nick Pirro and New York State Senators Nancy Larraine Hoffmann and John DeFrancisco proclaimed a "Jimmy Cavallo Day" on the final day of the festival.

For one night at Freddy's in September 2003. Cavallo brought back longtime band mates John Latocha, Chuck Sgroi and new drummer Tom Rozzano.  Rozzano has worked on many musical projects over the years including stints with such bands as The Eternals, Campus Walker, CRAC, Letizia & Z Band. & State Street Band. This special moment was captured as "Jimmy Cavallo Live at Freddy's Bar & Grill" on Petcap Music in late December 2004.

April 2005, Jimmy appeared at the Big Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin for Rockin 50's Festival II. During May & June it was on to tours of Europe and Canada. While in Canada he recorded the album "The 3 Tenor of Sax" with Pat Carey an Johnny Pennino. Then it was back to Syracuse to record  the 14-track Petcap album "Jimmy Cavallo, Then & Now" a 50 year celebration as he re-recorded his biggest tune "Rock, Rock, Rock".

This was followed by his recording with Ron Spencer & Jumpstart and appearances at the NYS Blues Festival. Jimmy then recorded Cd the 13-track "Jimmy Cavallo Sings Broadway" (2009) once again includes the talents of Chuck Sgroi, Tony Licameli & John Tatocha who has work with Jimmy  on and off for the last 46 years.  He returned to the NYS Blues Festival and received the first "Blues Archives Hall of Fame" award in 2012

James Joseph Cavallo born in Syracuse on March 14, 1927 is still rocking, playing to overflow crowds to this day, he is a true Rock n'' Roll Legend.

Monday, January 9, 2012


October-1971. Everson Museum curator James Harithas offers Yoko Ono the entire Everson Museum to conduct her own art exhibition called "This Is Not Here". The show of Unfinished Paintings and Sculptures by Yoko Ono, John Lennon and Guest Artists.

October 5, 1971- WOLF's Howie Castle and I arrived at Syracuse's Hancock International awaiting the arrival of John Lennon & Yoko Ono's flight from New York City. We had official press passes and were allowed to stand directly below the stairs leading from the plane to take photos. Upon their arrival they were escorted into the terminal wing for a short press conference. We taped the event in its entirety. More photo's were taken that later appeared on the History of Syracuse Music Album series.

Yoko's Art Exhibition opened at the Everson Museum of Art (October 9-27, 1971), David Ross was the coordinator of the event. Eight thousand people camped in a cold late October rain outside the museum the evening before hoping to catch a glimpse of Yoko and John.

A day prior to the show opening (October 8)  a so-called "Press Conference" and show tour was held for the media. The first two that entered were Howie Castle and myself (Ron Wray) representing Syracuse Radio Station WOLF 1490 AM. We were seated in the front row of the museum auditorium, with only a few television cameras between us and the stage. Many jammed the museum that day and sadly items were stolen or damage. Howie & I recorded the entire media event and it is included on the album "The History of Syracuse Music- Volume 12-13 (out of print).

When Yoko's Art Exhibition opened to the public, it was a free-for-all with very long lines. The Museum was fully packed with people all trying to see Yoko's conceptual works. I was a big stretch for many, but surprising large number understood and enjoyed the poetic simplicity of the work.

WOLF Radio sent a telegram to John & Yoko offering them  one free hour of airtime to speak about the art exhibition or any other matter they wished. It was signed by Howie Castle who had spent a great deal of time in the United Kingdom. He worked for Radio Carolina transmitting from a ship in the English Channel who programed Rock & Roll to European Countries... But they never responded.

The first day the exhibit opened to the public 4,000 people turned up at the Everson including Sue Clark (MacKay) & myself. We traveled through the museum viewing art, paintings, displays, listening to music and watching films. There was a room for Yoko's work called 'Water Event Artists" water related items sent by friends to Yoko . Andy Warhol sent his first video work, a tape of the waterworks in the factory. Dick Cavett sent a hat, Bob Dylan a record, Ringo Starr a ring, Phil Spector a Beatles plastic cup with an X marked over Paul McCartney's face.

Films presented by Yoko Ono- John Lennon are as follows- Admission $1.00 each performance. They were shown at the times listed below at the Everson Museum of Art- 401 Harrsion Street.

Friday -Oct 15
7:30 pm- Two Virgins, Erection, Fly, Give Peace A Chance (short) 90 minutes
9:30 pm- Apotheosis, Rape, Freedom Film # 1, John, Freedom Film # 2 Yoko

Saturday October 16
7:30 pm -Give Peace  A Chance (feature), Instant Karma, Ballad of John and Yoko
9:30 pm- Fly, Erection, Up Your Legs Forever (117 minutes)

Sunday - October 17
7:30 pm- Two Virgins, Erection, Fly, Give Peace A Chance (short) - 90 minutes
9:30 pm- Fly, Erection, Smile, Cold Turkey (96 minutes)

Tuesday -October 19
12:00 pm - Apotheosis, Rape, Freedom Film #1 John, Freedom Film #2 Yoko
 2:00 pm - Give Peace A Chance (feature), Instant Karma, Ballad of John and Yoko

Wednesday - October 20
12:00 pm - Fly, Erection, Up Your Legs Forever (117 minutes)
 2:00 pm -  Two Virgins, Erection, Fly, Give Peace A Chance (short) 90 minutes

Thursday- - October 21
12:00 pm - Fly, Erection, Smile, Cold Turkey (96 minutes)
  2:00 pm - Give Peace A Chance (feature), Instant Karma, Ballad of John and Yoko

Friday - October 22
12:00 pm - Apotheosis, Rape Freedom Films No 1 John, Freedom Films #2 Yoko
 2:00 pm  - Fly, Erection, Up Your Legs Forever (117 minutes)
During this Art Exhibition John Lennon & Yoko One stayed at the Hotel Syracuse where John celebrated his 31st birthday (October 9, 1971). It was back to the airport in the late morning as Howie & I snapped photos of Ringo & Maureen Starr, Phil Spector & Klaus Voorman exiting the plane thought the rain drops to their awaiting limo for the shot trip to the Hotel Syracuse. Many friends and musical guest arrived to honor John. They included Allen Ginsberg, Klaus Voorman, Phil Spector, Pete Bennett (Apple Records), Ringo & Maureen Starr, Mal Evans, Neil Aspinal, Jim Keltner, Nicky Hopkins and Yoko. It was rumored that Eric Clapton was going to be there but we never saw him.

A birthday jam session was held in John's hotel room that included all or parts of the following songs- What I Say, Yellow Submarine, Goodnight Irene, He's Got The Whole World in his Hands, Like A Rolling Stone, Twist & Shout-Louis Louis - LaBamba, Bring It On Home To Me, Yesterday, Tandoori Chicken, Power To The People, Maybe Baby, Peggy Sue, Since My Baby Left Me, Blue Suede Shoes, Give Peace A Chance, Cripple Inside. Uncle Albert, Happy Birthday to John, My Sweet Lord, Imagine, Oh Yoko

As the event ended and special guests departed. Howie, Sue and I rushed back to Hancock Airport. It was after 11 PM and the airport lobby was almost completely empty. A limo pulled up and in walked Pete Bennett of Apple Records and legendary producer Phil Spector. Phil was very pleased to speak to us in length till his flight departed, but wouldn't allow any photo's to be taken. This was the same evening that Spector wanted to stop their plane before takeoff thinking it was going to crash. In all these years I think I've only read about this event happening once. Howie, Sue and I were the only ones there to witness this historic Syracuse event.

Some 45-years later people are still talking about John & Yoko's time in Syracuse.- Ron Wray

Friday, January 6, 2012


For your enjoyemt listed below are the Top 15 Songs from the Year 1961

1  Runaway                       Del Shannon
2. Theme from Exodus      Ferrante & Teicher
3  Calendar Girl                 Neil Sedaka
4  Michael                         The Highwaymen
5  Calcutta                         Lawrence Welk

6  Apache                           The Shadows / Jorgen Ingmann
7  Crying / Candy Man      Roy Orbison
8  100 Pounds of Clay       Gene McDaniels
9  The Touchables             Dickie Goodman
10  Bobby                          Neil Scott

11  Barbara Ann                The Regents
12  Theme For A Dream    Cliff Richard
13  Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow     The Shirelles
14  Tossing & Turning         Bobby Lewis
15  Travelin' Man                Ricky Nelson

Thursday, January 5, 2012


We were saddened to received the news of the passing of blues great Kelly James aka "Dr Blue" on Tuesday January 3, 2012 at age 76. James a singer-songwriter was one of the area's top blues acts performing in such bands as "Triple Shot"," Too Bad James", '"Mississippi  Mules","Dr. Blues" but  most fans remember him best as a former member of the legendary blue act "The Kingsnakes. And more recently "Cream of the Crop."

James was nominated six times as national campus entertainer of the year. In the past twenty years he has performed close to 100 show per year. Kelly James appeared with Tom Townsley on stage at Woostock 99 in Rome, NY... This great talent will be sadly missed by all...... Ron  Wray

Monday, January 2, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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