Friday, July 12, 2013

El Reys

El Reys from

In 1961, Bishop Canevin HS was the foundry for a band called the “El Reys” (Spanish for “The Kings”), a name that lead vocalist Stan Bogdan came up with to christen the group.

The sextet consisted of West End's Stanley "Stush" Bogdan, along with Chuck Black (co-founder), Randy Riddle, Westwood's Tim Eyermann (sax - jazz fusion artist, did couple dozen albums, two Grammy nominations, East Coast Offering), Green Tree's Rick Jablonski (drums), and Glendale's Bill Marszalek (guitar), who started out by performing at their own high school dances. They added a manager, local DJ Jack Schieffer.

The El Reys had a pretty good sound. They played with both both harmony and a beat, an on-time segue from the vocal era to the Liverpool scene, and pretty soon were doing shows all up and down the Chartiers Valley. They played at other schools, some college gigs, hops, talent shows and, as befitting a band from a Catholic school backed by Sister Maria Goretti and Father Armand, did more than their fair share of benefits.

Ed Salamon, who wrote "Pittsburgh's Golden Age of Radio," remembers the band as " of the wildest acts I had ever seen." Bill Marszalek agreed. He and the instrumentalists got a front row seat for the performances of vocalists Stush, Chuck and Randy, who would banter with the audience, dance, flip their jackets and generally get the joint hoppin'. Ed added that he thought they claimed to be on the verge of landing a contract with music giant Capitol, but Marszalek shot that down, believing it was just some wishful jiving by the front men. But they did get on a label, albeit a local one.

One night during this period, they were performing at a talent show/hop at the CIO Hall in Aliquippa, where they made a couple of notable industry acquaintances. One was Pittsburgh favorite Bo Diddley, lurking and listening in the back of the hall before his show as the headliner at the nearby Villa Lounge. He liked what he heard and invited the El Reys to catch his act that night. That was cool, but the next intro was better.

Augie Bernardo, owner of local label Ideal Records (the Stereos, John Harrison & the Hustlers, Vibra-Sonics), who was also was in the crowd. That unplanned audition won the El Reys' a record contract worth a couple of slabs that were big locally. DJ Porky Chedwick was spinning all four of their sides - "Diamonds and Pearls," "Angalie," "Beverly" and "Rocket of Love" - on WAMO in 1965.

They were big for a minute. They had records on the radio, a fan club, opened for some traveling rock shows during their local stops, made an appearance on Clark Race's Dance Party and played a few of the bigger clubs like the Coach Lounge, although the majority of their shows were at hops and smaller halls.

Their biggest moment was when they were part of the card during The Rolling Stones first American tour, which made a KQV sponsored stop at West View's Danceland on Wednesday, June 17th, 1964. The El Reys dressing room was next to the Stones (they shared space with The Shadows).

The El Reys weren't laying a foundation for a show biz future, though, just taking things pretty much as they came. And in 1965 came graduation for the group that had formed when most of the guys were freshmen. Stush was drafted, the other guys moved on to college, and the El Reys were no more.

But after five decades off, Stush Bogdan reformed the El Rays as an acappella group.

The new El Reys include Paul Durham of Monroeville, Bill Leverette of Wilkinsburg (The Cameos, Del Vikings, and The New Marcels), Tim Steele of Greensburg and J.D. Merkle of Baden. They're performing at high school reunions, birthdays and weddings. Once a month, you can find them singing at Atria's, and they've had bookings in clubs like the Johnny Angel Lounge, the Hophouse and the Obey House.

Stush is the only original member in the group. Bill Marszalek works for the City and spent 10 years serving as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Pittsburgh Musician's Union. Tim Eyermann earned national acclaim as the saxman of the East Coast Offering before he died in 2007. Chuck Black and Randy Riddle have also passed away. We couldn't track down Rick Jablonski, so if any of you know what became of him, please give us a yell.

(Local doo-wop historian Carl Janusek, who writes for the quarterly music magazine "Echoes of the Past" penned an article that is the definitive El Reys bio. The address is Echoes of the Past, PO Box 40, Agawam, MA 01001-0040 if you'd like more info on the band or the magazine.)


1965 - Rocket Of Love b/w Diamonds And Pearls (Ideal 94706)
1965 - Angalie /Beverly (Ideal 95388)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Free Summer Concerts 2013

Hey - don't be bored this summer. Here's the list of some the free acts served up in the City this summer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chapel Boys/Chapelaires/Softwinds

The Chapelaires (photo from White Doo-Wop Collector)

In 1955, a small posse of eighth graders from Troy Hill were members of Saint Anthony's Chapel choir. It wasn't a far leap for teens of the era to segue from hymns to street corner doo wop once mass was done and four of the guys - Tony Rausch, Paul Young, Ross Melodia and Fred Ferketic - became the Chapel Boys.

The quartet worked the local hops circuit, with one change: in 1957, Young was replaced by Bob Bubarth. The Chapel Boys cut some demos of tunes they had written: "A Tear," "Scarlet Scarf," "Swing Loose" and "Walla Walla Bong Bong" (none ever made vinyl, but are on the "Cross My Heart" compilation). They picked up a manager and a new name in 1958 when Bob Ross, a local promoter, took the group's reins and they became The Chapelaires.

DJ Mark Flanagan (Bob Pappas) of WEEP, then a top-40 station, took over the business end for the group from Ross and landed a contract for them with start-up HAC Records. Good timing; Flanagan left the station in late 1960, and presumably the group also, but left behind studio time.

Ferketic went off to college and was replaced by Bill Schmidt. The Chapelaires lineup that recorded for HAC in 1961 was Schmidt (first tenor), Tony Rausch (second tenor), Ross Melodia (baritone) and Bob Bubarth (bass). They produced two records, "Not Good Enough" b/w "I'm Still In Love With You" (HAC 101) and "Gloria" b/w "Under Hawaiian Skies (HAC 102), with "Gloria" in particular becoming a popular tune locally.

Schmidt had his stay cut short by Uncle Sam when he was drafted, and the Chapelaires added John Lajzo and Wayne Goldie from acappella group The Suburbans to bring the group up to five voices strong.

The Chapelaires became the Softwinds, and recorded one more slab for HAC, "Cross My Heart" b/w "Oh Baby" (HAC 105). It would be the last song recorded by the label; it went belly-up after releasing five 45s in 1961. Goldie left, and the Softwinds reclaimed The Chapelaires brand once again, performing on the local dance club circuit.

Music impresario Elmer Willett (he managed acts, had a label and ran a club) eventually got the group back in the studio with some backing gigs for Gateway Records. 1965 was the last recording date we could find, so we suppose they went their separate ways about then.

But doo-woppers never go gently into the night, and the Softwinds are back in action. They're now a bigger ensemble, with four vocalists and a four man band: Craig Bodenlos, James Satterwhite, Bob Gally, and John Lajzo (original Softwind member) provide the harmony with Tony Zottola (bass, keyboards, and vocals), John Voegtly (sax, flute, and vocals), John Clark (guitar) and John "Boom Boom" Kuhn (drums) backing them.

Their biggest gig to date was as the opening act at the Consol Energy Center for the 2012 Holiday Reunion Show in December, along with Johnny Angel and the Halos. The Softwinds perform around tri-state area, and worked with the Skyliners, Marvelettes, & DelVikings, at the Meadows & Mountaineer casinos, resorts, community days, and car cruises, nary missing a stop on the local oldies circuit.

While known for tight harmonies befitting their background, they don't limit the playlist except by era, easily slipping from "In the Still of the Night" into "Run Around Sue." They even released a CD in 2008, "Let Us Turn Back the Years," with three original songs along with nine covers from the day.

From a Troy Hill street corner in 1957 to Consol's stage in 2012, the Softwinds nee Chapelaires are still singin' and swingin' sweet.

Discography :

The Chapelaires
1961 - Not Good Enough b/w I'm Still In Love With You (HAC 101)
1961 - Gloria b/w Under Hawaiian Skies (HAC 102)

The Softwinds (Original)
1961 - Cross My Heart b/w Oh Baby (HAC 105)

John Ivey backed by the Chapelaires
1963-64? - Own A Real Live Clown b/w Far Far Far Away (Scotty 615)

Marie LaDonna & the Chapelaires
1964 - How Can I Let You Know b/w Georgie Porgie (Gateway 730; backed A Side only)

Chuck Johnston and the Jaycees
1964 - Forever Is A Long Long Time b/w Goodnight Irene (Gateway 738 - this is iffy, but it's likely the Jaycees were the Chapelaires)

Joni Kay & The Chapelaires
1964 - Lonely Star b/w Happy Memories (Gateway 744)
1965 - It's Impossible, Why Try b/w Vacation Time (Gateway 746)

1978 - Cross My Heart; The Best of 1956-66 (Crystal Ball CD 1087 - the disk includes 17 unreleased titles)

The Softwinds (Current)
2008 - Let Us Turn Back the Years (Victory CD)

The group also has tracks on "They Sang In Pittsburgh Volume 1" and various "Pittsburgh's Greatest Hits" issues.

Thanks to Ed Engel of Crystal Ball Records for providing much of the early information on the act.

The Softwinds - "Cross My Heart" 1961

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Joey Covington

Image from Vintage Vinyl News

Joseph Edward Michno, later to be known as Joey Covington, was born in East Conemaugh, near Johnstown, on June 27th, 1945, the third of six children of teamster Lou and aspiring country singer Betty. He began teaching himself to play the drums when he was 10 by listening to Joe Morello, Cozy Cole, Sandy Nelson, Candido and Preston Epps. Learned pretty quick, too.

13 year old Joey played with polka bands at local halls like the VFW with mom and dad chaperoning. When he was 14, he played the drums at a strip joint in Johnstown, The Airway Club. Mom and dad didn't drive him there; that gig was his little secret.

Then it was off to East Conemaugh High (he was class of '63) and the marching band, later followed by his first real rock group. He joined what he called a "hot rod band," The Vibra Sonics. They were pretty popular locally - they won a few battles of the bands, played dance clubs around Western and Central PA, and opened for a Simon and Garfunkel show. The Vibra Sonics even released a 45, Drag Race b/w Thunderstorm, in 1964 on full time florist and part time music producer Augie Bernardo's Ideal label.

The band had a run of wretched luck. At the Cowsill in Conneaut Lake, a fire destroyed their instruments. Later, a wreck while touring laid up Covington up for six months with a broken pelvis and some other snapped bones.

He recovered and got the itch to go to every East Coast musician's Mecca, New York City. He introduced himself out of the blue to Joey Dee, who sent him to a manager for possible work. The guy was ready to buy Joey a ticket back home when fate intervened. On short notice, a drummer was needed for the Danny Apollinar Trio, and the very available Covington landed some show tune dates in Florida.

Afterward, Covington went back home and scored some gigs from the union hall. He played for shows like the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars and backed the Shangri Las, Billy Stewart, the Supremes, Donald Jenkins & the Delighters and the Shirelles as a hired gun.

Then in 1966, he got a call from Sonny DiNunzio of the Fenways, who told him he knew of him from the Vibra Sonics and wondered if he was interested in coming to Pittsburgh to play with his band. He was; the Fenways had been turning out hot local singles since 1964 and were the big fish in the Steel City pond.

He cut a couple of 45s with the Fenways, played seven nights a week at clubs like Mancini's Lounge, and opened shows for the Rolling Stones, Dave Clark 5, Shangri Las, Lee Dorsey, Lou Christie, Chad & Jeremy, and Jimmy Beaumont & the Skyliners.

Covington hung around until 1967 as the Fenways, rolling with the rock tide, transitioned themselves from a pop group into the psychedelic Racket Squad. He doesn't mention playing for the Squad in his Pittsburgh years, but is credited on the album notes as being part of the band for awhile, so he likely stayed long enough to record a track or three.

It was the summer of love, and at age 22 he headed west with a bud for San Francisco in 1967. He would never look back. Right around this time is when he became Joey Covington; it's said that he thought Michno sounded negative, and that era, if you recall it, was all about the vibes.

He got some work from the hall (union cards are a good thing for a traveling minstrel) and played in several early Bay Area bands, including Pacific Gas and Electric. Joey ran across an electric violinist born in Beaver Falls, Papa John Creach, who he would later introduce to the San Francisco scene and played with Covington in several of his bands.

Covington hit it big when he helped form Hot Tuna in 1969, with Jefferson Airplane players Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen. While the tracks he cut were never released, the association with the Airplane members would prove big time.

Later that year, he joined Casady and Kaukonen in the studio with the Airplane, replacing drummer Spencer Dryden midway through the recording of Volunteers, and became a full time member in 1970 when the Airplane voted the erratic Dryden off the island.

He recorded with the band on the 1971 album Bark. Covington sang and wrote their last big track “Pretty as You Feel.” After the Long John Silver album in 1972, he left for a solo career as the band spun apart, with only one disappointment. He wasn't inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the other Jefferson Airplane members in 1996, because the Hall would only recognize the original members; Dryden got that honor.

During the Airplane era, he also appeared on Paul Kantner's 1970 concept album Blows Against The Empire and Grace Slick's 1971 Sunfighter LP.

Covington released his own LP Fat Fandango in 1973. He wrote all the songs, and though it was received well by the critics, it never sold. He also performed on 1976's Spitfire by Jefferson Starship and co-wrote the hit single "With Your Love." In 1978, he founded the San Francisco All Stars with Steve Love of New Riders of the Purple Sage and Quicksilver Messenger Service's John Cipollina, and they toured nationally during the eighties and nineties; one of his band mates was old bud Papa John Creach.

After that gig, he went into semi-retirement in Palm Springs, not a bad way to chill after decades in the hectic Bay Area music scene. Covington would gig as the spirit moved him, performing for free during community events, and he continued writing songs for local artists. His last show was gratis at a Marilyn Monroe memorial on June 1st, ending with him telling war stories and signing autographs.

On June 4th, 2013, the car he was driving slammed into a retaining wall at a curve in the road and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Joey Covington was 67.

Drag Race by the Vibra Sonics - 1964

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kaz: Rockin' Brownie Mary to Jericho Theory

Jericho Theory from the band's Facebook page

Steve "Kaz" Kaczynski Sr. became a guitar man back in his Fox Chapel HS days (he still lives in Cheswick). The only problem was that he couldn't land a gig for any of the school ensembles because he was a second banana behind a couple of other Fox axeman. So he went with the flow, took up drums and joined the school band. He must of been pretty good at pounding the skins. Around graduation time, he landed his first regular date when he toured with Al Latta (formerly of the Duprees).

Kaz first made his mark in the City in the nineties. He was Brownie Mary's original drummer, and that 'Burgh group was hot - they recorded, were club headliners and opened for local performances by the Smithereens & Hootie and the Blowfish, and were the big thing in the region for fifteen minutes before spinning their separate ways.

He was part of their debut 1994 "That's Me" album, writing a handful of the songs. The cover photo of the CD was a picture of Kaz's tyke Aaron. But Mary drifted from rock toward pop, and Steve, along with bassist Mike Marks, left the band to form the hard driving group PUSH. They won the 1997 Grafitti Rock Challenge and released a couple of CDs. After a three year run, he joined forces with 11th Hour. Originally, they had the Clarks open for them, but it wasn't long before those roles were reversed.

After that, it was a series of gigs with area acts like Carny Stomp, Vern's Winnebago, Cloud, Heartbeat, Tempis Fugit, The Strangers, In Time, LoFiDELUX, Shari Richards Group, Ron Obvious, The Abominable Honkies, and 13/thirteen.

Kaz never took to the touring, full-time band life; he had a day job and family. But he teamed with son Aaron a couple of years ago to form the metal/punk band Jericho Theory, with the self description of a "prog rock bassist, a metal guitarist, and a punk rock singer, stirred up by whomever we can get to play drums for us on a given night." Don't expect Brownie Mary stuff; try thinking along the lines of the Code Orange Kids.

The members are: Lead Vocals/Guitar/Writer- Aaron Kaczynski (who also plays with Meth Quarry); Guitars/Vocals - Steve Kaczynski Sr.; Bass Guitar - Ken Walzer; Drums - Randy Thomson/Steve Kaczynski Jr./Joshua Kane Hobaugh were/are the usual suspects. Asa and Ira Kaczynski also contribute with vids and editing. The band mostly plays original stuff, with a cover or two of their favs.

They still aren't touring or regular gig guys; sometimes JT has trouble finding bodies to fill a weekend date. But they've done a lap of the club circuit, performing at Diesel, Hambone's, the 31st Street Pub, Smiling Moose, Inn-Termission Lounge, Kopecs, Bloomfield Bridge Cafe and The Hideout. They've done street shows for Little Italy Days in Bloomfield, Art All Night in Lawrenceville, and Live on Liberty, with a live jam on WPTS.

If you're looking for some nineties metal with a punkish snarl, Jericho Theory is your band.

Jericho Theory performs one of its quieter songs, a live cover of the Plimsoll's "A Million Miles Away."