Monday, March 24, 2008

No, Not Much...


vogues
The Vogues from Wikipedia

Formed in Turtle Creek in 1960 at the height of the doo-wop era, The Vogues were one of Pittsburgh's hottest vocal groups. The original lineup was Bill Burkette (lead baritone), Don Miller (baritone), Hugh Geyer (first tenor), Chuck Blasko (second tenor), and Neil Foster.

They originally called themselves The Val-Aires. Their only record they put out under that name was "Launie, My Love"/"Which One Will It Be?" It was released by local label Willett Records, owned by the group's manager, Elmer Willett, in 1959. It was distributed nationally on Coral Records in 1960.

They also cut "I Go Lookin' For Jeanie," a previously unreleased Val-Aire track featured on the Itzy CD Pittsburgh's Greatest Hits Volume III.

The Turtle Creek High School classmates dug the sounds of such groups as The Four Lads, The Four Freshman and the Dells. “We tried to develop the same kinds of harmonies, but we added our own twist that gave us our sound,” Blasko told the Johnstown Tribune Democrat. They featured a modern, more upbeat arrangement for their songs.

After disbanding in the early 1960s thanks to the army, college and real jobs, the group got back together in 1965 (minus Foster) and adopted The Vogues as their new name.

Actually, the name adopted them. It was taken from Vogue Terrace, a dance hall that also housed Willett Records in North Versailles. It was owned by Willett and was a regular stop on the hop circuit for the group during their Val-Aire days. They had no input in choosing the name, though - it appeared on the label, and presto, they became The Vogues.

For their first release as the Vogues, they chose a folksy pop tune written by Petula Clark and Tony Hatch, "You're The One", releasing it on the Nick Cenci Blue Star label in 1965. The record caught on locally, and they were moved to Cenci and Herb Cohen's main Co & Ce Records label after a spat with another Blue Star impress.

When the record hit it big in the states, Pet Clark's people released it England, where it charted. But she never competed with the Vogues in the US, generously allowing them the limelight.

One tale involving that tune was that Cenci first had Sonny DiNunzio's Fenways record "You're The One," but handed it off to The Vogues because he preferred Burkette's voice. It's said the original version had The Vogues singing over The Fenway's backing tracks, with some strings added to the second pressing.

Cut at Gateway Recording above the National Record Mart store in downtown Pittsburgh, the song and its' blue collar follow-up, "Five O'Clock World," shot up to No. 4 on the Billboard charts while hitting No. 1 in Pittsburgh.

"Five O'Clock World" was featured on the soundtrack of the movie “Good Morning, Vietnam,” the third "Final Destination" flick and then popped up again in the 1990s as one of “The Drew Carey Show” themes.

The song was written by Allen Reynolds, who went on become Garth Brooks' record producer. The instrumental tracks were laid down in Nashville, and several songs released by The Vogues had then-session player Duane Allman backing them, although it's not known exactly which songs he played on. Local lore claims Allman laid down the opening 12-string riff, but even the group doesn't know who the studio players were for "Five O'Clock World."

Tony Moon, though, cleared up the session musician mystery for us in a post. He wrote "As the producer of the music track for 5 O'Clock World, I DO know who played the opening riff on the accoustic 12 string. It was Chip Young a/k/a Jerry Stembridge, who became a well known session player in Nashville. The other guitarist on that session was Mac Gayden, who was responsible for that deep 'drone' sound he got through a Magnatone amp."

"I hired Duane Allman (his first 'name artist' session) to play on some other sides, which strangely have never been released. The great Bill Pursell ('Our Winter Love') played piano and had those memorable octave licks at the end of the record." So now that's put to rest. Thanks, Tony.

Their sound took The Vogues around the world, performing from coast to coast and from continent to continent. “When we were on top, we were doing as many as 280 one nighters that took us from England to Singapore,” Blasko said. “There were many times I didn’t know what city I was in because our schedule was so hectic.”

Besides touring the world, The Vogues appeared on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show," "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Mike Douglas Show" and on Clark Race's "Bandstand" aired by KDKA-TV.

Two more hits, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil's "Magic Town" and "The Land of Milk and Honey," made Billboard's Top 40 in 1966. But the group's popularity waned after that, a victim of the British Invasion and the limitations of a local label.

In 1968 they signed with Reprise Records and crossed over to the MOR market and a more vocal style. The hits kept coming. They had seven Top 30 tunes during their career, including two more Top 10 songs in 1968, "Turn Around, Look at Me" (the group's only million-selling platter), a Glen Campbell song, and a cover of Bobby Helms' "My Special Angel." The song "Till" clocked in at #27.

They also cut "Moments To Remember," "Earth Angel," and "No, Not Much." Their last song to hit the charts was the old Jimmy Beaumont standard "Since I Don't Have You." Overall, The Vogues had a total of 14 Billboard Hot 100 songs and 17 Top 50 Adult Contemporary charters.

They faded as recording artists in the 1970s when the vocal scene lost steam, but various combinations of singers hit the clubs as The Vogues and continued to perform live before enthusiastic packed houses.

The Vogues gave up their name and the right to use it, and that led to quite a bit of confusion.

In 1974, after obtaining majority ownership of the freshly trademarked Vogues name for the first time in their career, they turned around and sold their share to the minority owner a few months later. The terms were that Burkette and Blasko (Miller and Geyer had retired) could continue to perform as The Vogues within 50 miles of Pittsburgh, and the trademark owners, Boyle and Barron, could hire other singers to perform outside of that area.

A suit ensued in 1979 after The Vogues roamed outside their assigned area, and the judge limited the original Vogues' to the 14 counties of southwest Pennsylvania. Blasko continues to perform as "Chuck Blasko & The Vogues" in the region while Burkette and Geyer, who unretired, tour the country as the 'trademark' Vogues.

Blasko testified for the Trademark Amendments Act of 1999, and the explanation of the deal was that the group thought they were inking a new performing contract, not giving away their name, a compelling lesson in reading what you sign before rather than after the fact.

"Our goal was to have some fun and maybe get a hit record," Blasko told the Post Gazette. "None of us, including me, planned to make performing a career." Well, The Vogues are still crooning out their soaring doo wop harmonies, and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. Sounds like they're still having big fun to us.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually, Bill, Don, and Chuck (Hugh had already retired) gave up the name and the right to use it. In 1974, after obtaining ¾ ownership of the newly trademarked name in April of that year for the first time in their career, they sold that ownership and the right to use the name to the owner of the last ¼ ownership a few months later. Terms of that transaction between the three originals and John Boyle of Barron Investment Corp. were that Bill and Chuck (Don retired at this point) could continue to perform as The Vogues only within 50 miles of Pittsburgh, and Boyle and Barron would hire other singers to perform only outside of that area. A suit ensued in 1979 after Bill and Chuck violated the terms of the agreement and in ruling for Boyle and Barron, the judge changed the area to 14 counties of southwest PA. This information is from the public court record in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania currently housed in the Federal Court archives in Philadelphia. It can be retrieved to any Federal Court for a fee. It is docket number CA 79-369 and the caption is Baron Investment Group –v- Charles Blasko. The Accession number is 02190010, Location F0408933, Box 108.

Tony Moon said...

As the producer of the music track for 5'O Clock World, I DO know who played the opening riff on the accoustic 12 string. It was Chip Young a/k/a Jerry Stembridge, who became a well known session player in Nashville. The other guitarist on that session was Mac Gayden who was responsible for that deep "drone" sound he got through a Magnatone amp.
I hired Duane Allman (his first "name artist" session) to play on some other sides, which strangely have never been released. The
great Bill Pursell ( Our Winter Love) played piano and had those memorable octave licks at the end of the record. Heard The Vogues in concert several months ago after 40 years!! and they sounded fantastic.Both Bill and Don still have their chops.

Ron Ieraci said...

Tony and Anon, thanks much for the info. It's appreciated and now in the post.

Anonymous said...

Tony,

You meant Bill and Hugh, didn't you? They have been back singing together with the Vogues for 2 or 3 years now. I don't think Don has sung as a Vogue since he sold his quarter share of the trademark back in the early 70's. Bill and Hugh were the only originals on the PBS special.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, it's Bill Burkette and Hugh Geyer with the trademark Vogues. Don retired in the early seventies. Tony just mixed up the names in his comment.