Friday, July 25, 2008

The Holidays Miss You

The New Holidays

In 1958, five teens from Clairton started harmonizing, and before long the Holidays were born.

The classic lineup consisted of Charlie "Corky" Hatfield (tenor), Frank Gori (bass/baritone), Barbara Jo Lippzer (alto), Francis "Franny" Grisnik (baritone/bass) and Ramon "Ray" Lancianese (tenor), the lead singer. They were soon gigging at hops and shows all over the Pittsburgh region.

Singing in a style reminiscent of Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, The Holidays scored some popular local tunes in the early 1960's.

They recorded and performed titles like 1960's "Then I’ll Be Tired of You" b/w "Lonely Summer" (Robbee 107), "One Little Kiss" b/w My Girl," (Nix 537), "A Love I Never Had" b/w "It's the Same Old Dream" (Robbee, unreleased) and their biggest hit, the first record they cut, 1960's "Miss You" b/w "Pretend," on Robbee 103.

Lennie Martin of Robbee gave their productions the same distinctive wall-of-sound string arrangements that he used to create his Calico label's Skyliner recordings.

(If you want to hear the original sounds, the group's Robbee discography can be found on "Best of Robbee Records," issued by Dead Dog Records.)

But their career was short-lived, as were many of the era. In 1962, the group disbanded after enjoying their run of local success and its members went their own ways, some off to raise families and some off to boot camp. The Holidays would lay dormant for much of the next four decades.

In 1995, Hatfield and Gori resurrected the Holidays, with new members Ralph Falk, George Price, Lisa Mineri-Kilmer and Sam Ferrella. They started by cutting a CD of the songs they had done 40 years ago, this time for Heid Productions, "The Holidays by Special Request."

It included the unreleased Robbee sides "It's The Same Old Dream," written by Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn, "A Love I Never Had," written by Joe Rock and Jimmy Beaumont, and the unrecorded "One Little Kiss," along with their other recorded tracks and songs from back in the day.

Ferrella, who sings tenor and lead, was the keystone of the retro act. Not only did he perform, but he also managed and promoted the group throughout the Pittsburgh area from 1999 to this day.

The Holidays performed at various venues and were part of the PBS/WQED TV “The Sound of Pittsburgh" showcase. In 2001, Lou Ann Shields joined The Holidays when Mineri-Kilmer left, and her first performance was at the old Allegheny County Fair opening up for Chubby Checker. Not a bad way to start, hey?

In 2002, the group recorded it’s first original CD, "For Your Love," at West Hills Productions, produced by Radioactive Gold DJ Dave Justice. In February, 2005, The New Holidays released their second CD called “Keepin’ the Sound Alive”. Their latest CD is entitled “Here and Now,” and was released in March 2007.

By 2004, Hatfield and Gori had hung it up, and the current group now goes by Pittsburgh's Own New Holidays. They've performed with acts such as Chubby Checker, Gary Puckett, Lou Cristie, The Marcels, The Skyliners, Bobby Rydell, The Vogues, and others while riding the local oldies circuit.

The group now consists of Ferrella, Shields, Mickey Carr, and Bryan McLain. (Holiday original Franny Grisnik passed away on July 21, 2008. He suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.)

Everything old is new again (and we wouldn't have it any other way!)

You can get a taste of history and catch up on the current Holidays at The New Holidays

original holidays
The original Holidays, from left to right: Frank Gori, Barbara Jo Lippzer, Charlie Hatfield, Franny Grisnik, with Ray Lancianese at the piano from Doo Wop Jukebox

Holidays - "Miss You" (1960)


Anonymous said...

The Nix record listed in this article is incorrect. The Holidays recorded "One little kiss" on Nix. This was done by the original group. The author's listing in this article is wrong.

Ron Ieraci said...

Anon - you're absolutely right; I mixed up a demo and a release. And of all songs to miss! Thanks; I fixed up the entry.