Friday, February 4, 2011

In Dan’s Garage…#50

Rochester and Upstate New York Special!!!! Vol. 1



  Greetings friends and followers! Sorry for taking the month off, but getting this one together was a bit more of a task than I originally thought. Gathering all these records from random boxes took a while, and then figuring out how to go about sorting them was quite a task, as well as the research I had to do on a few. For years I had assumed that some of these were local or New York state acts, when in fact they were from Florida (as in the case of the Razors Edge who I thought were from Buffalo) Ohio, or elsewhere. In short, I'll be posting about 250+ song from a wide range of artists, mostly from my hometown of Rochester, but many from nearby Buffalo and Syracuse who each had tremendous Rock & Roll scenes in the 60’s as well as some of the smaller towns and cities around upstate New York. I'm not including groups from the New York/Long Island area simply because I consider them in a category by themselves. By no means is this a complete history of the Upstate NY music scene in the 50s and 60s. These posts will barely scratch the surface. While I do have a decent collection of artifacts here, a good friend of mine Chuck Ciriello has tons more including some rare acetates and bunches of 45s that are not in my collection (yet!) I hope to have him come and make some significant contributions to this blog, and that my friends would be a treat. Before I continue with the records, how about a little Rochester, NY history...
Rochester sits on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, about 60 miles easy of Buffalo and 75 miles west of Syracuse. It's approximately 350 miles from New York City.  It is the home of Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb, and other smaller corporations including Zweigles meats, makers of the finest hot dogs on earth. Unfortunately, what was considered "the big three" manufacturers here, the aforementioned Kodak, Xerox, & B&L are now mere shadows of their former selves. The University Of Rochester (my employer) and Wegmans Food Markets (possibly  the best in the world) are the #1 and 2 employers respectively. This has led to a huge population loss and all the bad stuff that goes with it. Unemployment and really high rates of crime. Lately the wise folks who run this city have also made some really unwise moves. One in particular was a "fast ferry" which would transport people and vehicles from here to Toronto and back, the idea being that it would generate tons of tourism here in the city. In theory this is a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, the folks who govern Toronto gave it a somewhat lukewarm reception, and let's get real people, why would anyone from Toronto, a world class city, want to come to Rochester??? What once was a bustling downtown a mere 15 years ago is now a ghost town. There's museums sure, but not worth a 3 1/2 hour boat trip. Entrepreneurs from the Seneca Indian Nation wanted to take the old downtown Midtown Plaza and covert it into a casino and hotel. This not only would have generated lots of jobs in a city that despeately needs them, but it would have brought in tourists and business from all over the state. The mayor at the time nixed that plan claiming it would take money out of the pockets of poor people in the city. The Seneca nation built their casino elsewhere and now the old Midtown Plaza is being reduced to rubble. The only thing I could think of coming here for, are Zweigles hots on a garbage plate. But seriously, there are a few good things here. I really love the Red Wings our minor league baseball team. They play at Frontier Field which is a mini Camden Yards of sorts. Great vibes, decent concessions and just an overall good time. The music scene still flourishes here too, although "Americana" seems to be the big thing these days. Does Chuck Berry qualify as “Americana”????  Our band does lots of that! Still, there are some great groups here worth seeing.
      Upstate NY, and Western NY in particular have a long, rich Rock & Roll history. While it certainly didn't produce as many “greats” as the bigger cities around the USA, Upstate can claim a few (I won't go into boring details here) and probably the biggest stars in recent memory were the Goo Goo Dolls who hailed from Buffalo. In the 60s though, local talent ruled. The Invictas were huge here. Wilmer & The Dukes were one of Western NY’s biggest acts. The Tweeds from Buffalo were big and was bassist Billy Sheehan’s starting place. Ronnie James Dio got his start in Syracuse, first as a solo artist, then with hard rockers Elf, and finally being front man for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and his own group. Last but not least, I remember a band here in Roch. called Black Sheep who had a great singer named Lou Grammatico. I saw them at an Aquinas dance back in ‘76 and thought they were pretty freakin’ cool. He shortened his name to Lou Gramm and went on to fame and fortune with Foreigner. Looks like I did give some details huh?
          These posts are not strictly “garage” mind you, but a cross section of very cool rock & roll sounds from that era. I've stopped short of including obvious pop sounds and hard rock things from the 70s (although some of them are fantastic) but I'll concentrate on the hipper garage, psyche, and even some cool R&B sounds that were released during this period. I will also do a special post on late 70s early 80s punk, power pop, and new wave bands which I think marked a very special time in Rochester's rich Rock & Roll history.

    I cant say I'm very familiar with studios outside of Rochester, the one here that ruled was the old Fine Recording Studios. In fact, I think they were the only game in town, and if you wanted to record elsewhere you had to go to Riposo in Syracuse where some of the best songs of the era were recorded. Some travelled down to NYC to have their work done, and others went down to Pennsylvania. If you want a more detailed account of the Fine Records’ history check out the excellent “Fine Recording Studio” website.

    OK, I think I've been somewhat long winded here and as usual strayed a little and gone a bit off topic, but as these next few posts evolve you will see a definite pattern and hear very familiar sounds as I take us all on a trip through Rochester and Upstate New York. On this first volume, I've assembled a wide variety of sounds from all over the state so sit back and take a little trip around the "Empire State" with me. Enjoy.
Lonnie Mae w/ Gene & The Satellites – Record Hop Dream / I Cried A Teenage Tear (1960)
lonnie mae
I’m not  sure who “Lonnie Mae” was, but we all know who Gene Cornish is. He not only was a successful local artist but was a founding member of The Young Rascals whose “Good Lovin’” is an oldies rock station staple. According to Gene he was “nervous as hell” when he recorded this and can be heard doing the “Elvis” vocal on the A side!!!! Recorded at Fine studios and co-written by Fine kingpin Vince Jan.
Redcoats w/ Steve Alaimo – The Girl Can’t Help It (1957)redcoats
I can’t say for certain, but I’d bet a paycheck this one was recorded at Fine also. Steve Alaimo was originally born in Nebraska but moved to Rochester at the age of 5. Although he made his fame and fortune in Miami, FL, this early 45 on Lifetime was the start of his long career which included a stint on "Where The Action Is” and a role in the biker flick “Wild Rebels”.
Bobby Comstock – I Wanna Do It / Let’s Stomp (1963)
bobby comstock and the counts
bobby comstock1
A huge regional hit in 1963, Bobby Comstock was from Ithaca in central NY (about 60 min SE from Roch.) and had another regional smash with “Tennessee Waltz”. He was most prolific and continued his musical career well into the 70s. The flip “Let’s Stomp” was a big favorite with bobby comstock2
Liverpool groups such as Faron’s Flamingo’s and has been covered countless times by other groups including the fantastic Kaisers.
Baron Daemon & The Vampires – Transylvania Twist / Ghost Guitars (1964)barondaemon
Baron Daemon was a horror movie host from Syracuse who dressed like a vampire and did the whole Bela Lugosi routine as seen here…
Ordinarily one would just consider this a typical novelty record if it weren't for the smokin' backup provided by the "Vampires" who were actually Sam & The Twisters one of Syracuse's top instrumental combos at the time.
Hudson Valley Boys - Stop! I Like It! / Dustin' (1959)
 Although Yonkers is almost clear down to New York City, it is by residents of the "Big Apple" and Long Island considered "Upstate". This is a great late 50's rocker and instrumental. Too bad I can't find any info on them.... 
 The Vaqueros - Echo / Desert Wind (1964)
 A wild surf instro from a local Rochester group that I know very little about....
Bobby 'D' & The Trinidads - Don't You Just Know It / Sweet Georgia Brown (1963)
 A great frat style group from Geneva. I don't know much about these guys either except they had another on this label called "Grape Jelly".
Jesters - The Big 'T' / What'd I Say (1963)
 The twist was the biggest dance craze of '62/'63 and Buffalo, NY was not immune. In fact as you can see here, they called it "The Big T" and even had their own version of the Peppermint Lounge, "The Candy Cane Club". This is a great rocker with some nice raunchy sax thrown in to boot!
  Invictas - The Hump / Long Tall Shortie (1965)
Considered one of, if  not the most popular act in the area in the mid 60's. The Invictas were a real attraction around Rochester and even had their own dance called "The Hump". Real outrageous stuff back then.
 They were led by Herb Gross who was their front man and Rhythm guitarist. The Invictas are still together to this day with at least three of the original members, but are now a "party" band and have lost a bit of their garage rawness.
Andy & The Classics - Wilma / Walk Walk Walk (1966)
 Let's move a couple of hours east to Utica, NY where these guys did their thing in and around Central NY including Syracuse. The A side was featured on the"Twist-A-Rama" LP as "Yabbadabbado", but this version here is a lot cleaner sounding.
Panthers - Bridgestone 90 / Somebody Touched Me (1965)
 A really good surf/hot rod style number from a group out of Plattsburgh which is way up north almost on the border of Canada. Bridgestone 90's were the latest craze in motorcycles in the mid 60's.
Wilmer Alexander & The Dukes Jr. - Give Me One More Chance (1968)
Definitely not garage or even remotely psychedelic, but a top notch soul shouter. Wilmer & The Dukes were originally from Geneva, NY about 45 minutes east of Rochester. They were one of the biggest acts in Western NY from '67 to '70 and made the charts with "Give Me One More Chance". This tune stands up to some of the best songs that the Stax/Volt crew put out at the same time.
Rogues - Secondary Man / Say You Love Me (1967)
A Buffalo group who also released the killer "Train Kept A Rollin' / You Better Look Now"45 on Audition records (I'll get to that in a later post). The A side is kind of poppy,'s real poppy actually and sounds a lot like the Association. The B side, as shown here, sounds like latter day Beatles ala Revolver, with weird backwards sounds and a crazy messed up ending! 
Show Stoppers - Turn On Your Lovelight / Nothing To Say Today (1966)
 Another very popular band in from Rochester. They were actually "discovered" by legendary A&R man John Hammond, the same guy who found Benny Goodman, Bob Dylan and that creep Bruce Springsteen. They also played a lot of gigs at the 414 Club which is mere blocks from where my humble home is. It became a rather popular strip club until the IRS closed it down a year or so ago. 
Thunder Head - Don't Run / And I Need You (196?) 
I'm gonna end this safari with a moody, psyched out 45 from the Syracuse area. I know absolutely NOTHING about this group except that Charm Records released The Swanks killer instro "Ghost Train" in 1964. This undoubtedly was recorded much later. As for Pennelville, NY, it barely shows up on a map of New York State. 
Get it HERE


  1. thanks again dan, nice mix

  2. ~~ FABULOUS ~~

    1000 THX !

  3. I have Thunder Head release from 1969.

  4. You sure got an ear for good music. Thanks!

  5. I really like regional compilations like this. Give some perspective on what other places were doing musically. Thanks for this one.

  6. I may be wrong on this, but I think Lifetime Records was Vince Jan's label. Vince Jan was a local pianist/Keyboard player who had a studio ( I want to say in Pittsford?) and also did on air background playing on the old Jack Slattery radio show on WHAM-AM. He kind of doodled around while Jack talked on the air, maybe did sone 'bumpers' and link segues. I ended up with a Farfisa Double Four organ of his years later (when I was playing with Old Salt) that I bought at the House of Guitars.
    Thunderbird Records was best known I think for an LP of a group called 'THe Seven' that was a Blood, Sweat & Tewars type outfit.
    The story on the Wilmer LP was that it sold a million copies from NYC to Detroit heavily in the urban market to the Black Soul audience BUT that label head Lenny Silver, also head of local (Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse-Cleveland) record one-stop, Transcontinental Music One Stop ripped them off BADLY. The most anyone got out of all the sales was about $30,000 (this from a member who told me who I won't name). The song was covered by a band in the 80s on Sire Records (used to have it can't recall the group). I had one friend who was in Vietnam who said it was the #1 song on the Armed Services Radio while he was deployed there.

    Whewn I was 11 years old my Dad got a job as the Director of Student Activities at R.I.T. (Rochester institute of Technology) and among his jobs was to sign contracts for concerts held at tyhe school and dances etc. I remember seeing Wilmer & The Dukes back in 1962 there (I also recal they were getting $1500 per night THEN) after a basketball game. At that age I was fascinated by the band, which was the first live rock band I'd ever seen. I was yet to start guitar but was playing piano and was mesmorized by organist Ralph Giolotti's playing. They played for an hour and as my Dad was a chaperone (we often went to things like the games as a family and would stay for dances) we had to stay until everyone was out of the gym. I watcheed as Wilmer talked to a VERY pretty black woman behind the stage. Then the back door to the gym opened and another very pretty black woman walked in who it turned out was Wilmer's WIFE! BOTH of the women proceeded to tear Wilmer a new one, ripping his clothes and pounding him as ALL of us watched open mothed. For me at 11 it was my fiorst glimpse of the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle. I was hooked!

  7. Just wanna say Dan Thank you sooo much for all your hard work.. cannot imagine the time you spend with this labor of love.. but it is fantastic.. keep giving your heart this is what will keep us together in the end....

  8. here's the picture-cover of the Panthers' 45:


  9. Thank you Michael for your excellent contribution!!!! I was looking for that one but somehow couldn't locate it. Thanks!

  10. I'm really looking forward to hearing 50 & 51.
    And I'm always interested in hearing about Rochester (now or then) because I used to visit during the summers in the 1960s. ...a lot has changed.

    The Bobby Comstock single was on Lawn, which was a subsidiary of Swan -- both of which were still owned by Dick Clark & the producer of American Bandstand, so it most-likely was played (on national TV) periodically for 11 weeks (the Rate-A-Record segment, Spotlight Dance, etc.).
    Also, the Buffalo DJ/TV show host (Todd Shannon?) who produced "Wild Weekend" by The Rockin Rebels (which eventually wound up on Swan) would push the Swan/Lawn singles Upstate.

    "Let's Stomp" wound up charting nationally at 57 [Billboard].

  11. Interesting to come across this site as I hail from Buffalo and played n a R&R band with my brothers, we did some demos but never recorded I still have around 600 45's from the late 50's early 60's some were promotional copies to a radio station in Buffalo where my buddy's father worked, I live in Florida now but seeing this and listening to some cuts brings back memories..............