Saturday, August 8, 2009

Buddy Sharpe and the Shakers

buddy sharpe
Buddy Sharpe from the Rockabilly Hall of Fame collection.

Hey, everyone remembers Pittsburgh for its jazz, evolving eventually into a huge doo-wop and soul scene. But the roots of rock 'n' roll go back to the south, when the white guys started putting their spin on the blues.

And the Steel City, while never really embracing rockabilly, still had its' champions. Joe Averbach, promoter extraordinaire and the man behind Fee Bee records, might have been best known for managing groups like the Del Vikings and El Capris, but he hedged his bets, too.

His label had a good mix of early rockabilly acts like Davey "Diddle" Day of "Motorcycle Mike" and "Blue Moon Baby" fame and Willie Ward, who cut “Ooo Wee Baby” and “I'm A Madman”. The biggest roots rock group, though, was Buddy Sharpe and the Shakers.

Born Bernard E. Gareis in Atlasburg PA in 1937 (thanks to reader Ray for the bio info), Buddy Sharpe began playing in Washington County's Burgettstown in 1957, starting off with outdoor shows at the Slovin Drive-In, and made a name for himself within a matter of months. As Sharpe recalls "A man from Youngstown heard us and took us to New York's Bell Studios. We recorded 'Linda Lee,' which I wrote."

Averbach listened to the rocker's demo, and pressed it for his Pittsburgh-based Fee Bee label. "Linda Lee" b/w novelty song "Bald Headed Baby" (Fee Bee 230) was released in late 1958, and became a doubled-sided regional smash that got some national airplay.

They appeared at local sock hops with Porky Chedwick, and performed on Clark Race's "Dance Party". The Shakers shared the stage with Jimmy Beaumont and The Skyliners, The Del-Vikings, The Platters, The Stereos, and The El Capris, back in the day before groups were pigeon-holed by their musical style. They were either good or not.

In fact, Sharpe and the Shakers backed Butch Martin's soul group the Diadems, another Averbach act, during a recording session in 1963. As we said, you could play or you couldn't; there were no stylistic walls back in the day.

Reader T. Rebentine of the blog Thats All Rite Mama noted that Buddy Sharpe recorded "Please Please Please Please" b/w "(You Got Me) Movin' & Groovin'" (Spear 2) in 1961 and "I'm Lonely" b/w "The Shake" (Ramble 13132) in 1964.

They also recorded "Fat Mama' b/w "White House Twist" (FeeBee 901) and a reissue of "Linda Lee" b/w "Git It, Git It" (FeeBee 907) for Averbach in 1964.

Nick wrote in to Old Mon, and added these tunes to Sharpe's discography; "Toothache" b/w "Good Luck To You" (Star 312) and another version of Fee Bee 907, "Git It, Git It" b/w "One More Chance." It wasn't unknown for labels to reissue wax with different sides, and that seems to be the case here.

But that was a watershed year for American bands. Sharpe remembers the day the music died: "I stopped performing after The Beatles came to America with their new music because there was no place left that wanted to hear the original rock and roll."

Besides that, he adds that "Buddy Sharpe didn't make a penny ... everybody made money but me," a common lament of local bands.

Sharpe tried to make a comeback in 1979, when he recorded "Jump Into The River" b/w "Dry Your Eyes" (Bishop 1000) for the Carnegie-based label Bishop ("Dry Your Eyes" is a ballad, but not the Brenda and Tabs tune.)

Nick owns another bit of vinyl Sharpe did for Ray Bishop: a demo "Sleep All Day, Shake All Night" b/w "The Shakers Rockin' At 47." In 1981 he cut "Midnight Love" b/w "Who Likes To Work" (KIP 500) for KIP of Burgettstown, a Bishop subsidiary, the last record of his that we could find.

While those songs didn't exactly make him a household name, it did ignite his desire to make music again. Eventually, he put together a band, and as Sharpe said to the end "I am still playing and singing - mostly outdoor concerts, private parties and Holiday Inns."

Don't feel too sorry for Sharpe; his place in the Rockabilly pantheon is secure. His music lives on in a number of compilation albums (in fact, two cuts Averbach never released, "Rock and Roll Roman" and "Rocking Chair," were included in 1993's "Rock & Roll Fee Bee" album). His 45s are hot items for Euro collectors.

His band got to open for the Beach Boys in 1999 at Burgettstown's Pepsi Road House. And the crowning touch was his certification into Nashville's Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2004, along with artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis.

Buddy Sharpe died Wednesday, October 12th, 2011, in the Washington Hospital at the age of 73. And with him went the area's rockabilly era.

Rockabilly may not have been Pittsburgh's genre of choice, but it sure helped to spawn an explosion of garage bands, and the region was home to one of its great performers - Buddy Sharpe.

"Bald Headed Baby" by Buddy Sharpe (Crypt Records "Sin Alley" promo)


T.Rebentine said...

I've always liked Buddy Sharpe re
cordings (and all others Fee Bee Records as well).

Buddy had also two other singles you didn't mention :

one on Spear in 1961 : Please Please Please Please / (You Got Me) Movin' & Groovin'

and the other on Ramble in 1964 : I'm Lonely / The Shake

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks, T. I added the wax to Buddy's discography in the post. And I enjoyed your blog, too.

Fran said...

I was doing some research on George Taliaferro and found your blog. Great blog!

My husband and I met George in Plano, TX. in 1990. We became friends. George played in a night club in Richardson, TX and that is were we meet him and Rodney. George was a wonderful singer and person. Then he had a night club in Plano, TX where he sing. We moved in 1992 and George came over and helped us pack and load the U-Haul truck. He was special in our eyes.

When we went back for a visit several years after moving we found out George had been in a very bad car accident and died. How sad that was. We have several autographed pictures he even autographed a napkin. We have his business card. We have lots of wonderful memories of George. George was a very talented singer.

I enjoy reading your blog.
Thank you,

Ron Ieraci said...

Fran - Thanks. I'm assuming that you're referring to George Taliaferro of the Capitols. I appreciate the update - Ron

Nick said...

Buddy Sharpe also recorded a single for the Fee Bee subsiduary 'Star' records.I HAVE NEVER EVER SEEN IT ONY ANY REISSUES,its called 'Toothache'b/w 'Good Luck To You'.Ray Bishop also issued a Demo of Buddy's on his 'Bishop' label called 'Sleep All Day,Shake All Night' b/w :The Shakers 'Rockin' At 47'.Another record i have by Buddy Sharpe & The Shakers is 'Git It,Git It'with a different flipside ,its called 'One More Chance(Fee Bee 907).

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks, Nick, for adding to Buddy's discography; it's hard to track some of those labels down. I added the songs to the post - Ron

Nick said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the follow up comment.
I would do anything to compile a cd of Buddy Sharpes complete recordings !The single on 'Star'is extremley hard to get hold of i have never,ever seen one,i only know of its existence through record collecting books,apart from all that the only other record by him that i'm missing is the one on 'Kip' although i have seen it.

Ron Ieraci said...

That'd be sweet, Nick. I haven't found an LP with Buddy's stuff anywhere, and even the compilations are limited to a couple of tracks.

Could be that there are some legal issues in putting together a "Greatest Hits," or just not enough ka-ching in compiling regional acts. Maybe a roots Brit label might take a flyer.

Nick said...

Hi Ron,

Unfofortunatley i only have a regular 9 to 5 job so i can only dream about compiling a cd of Buddy Sharpes stuf !also it is very difficult trying to get the legal rights to a lot of those rare records & tracking down the original tapes can involve spending SERIOUS MONEY, which i just dont have,as i said its just a dream !.Flyright records in the uk issued a compilation many years ago called `Rock & Roll Fee Bee` which 2 unissued tracks by Buddy `Rock & Roll Roman `& `Rocking Chair` plus alternative versions of `Linda Lee` & `Dry Your Eyes` & also `the issued version of `Bald Headed Baby`.You should be able to order that from my friends shop in camden `Sounds That address is guy who runs the shop `Barney` is issuing a compilation lp Desperate Rock & Roll Vol.21 this month,it features 1 track by Buddy,(you`ve got me)Movin` & Groovin`.

Nick said...

Hi Ron,

Another thing i need to add is that the version of 'Linda Lee'on Fee Bee 907 is not the same as the original version ,i think its either are-cut or an alternative version,its also different from the version used on Flyrights cd 'Rock & Roll Fee Bee' .

Nick said...

Just another very small piece of information for the blog,the original release number for `Toothache` which came out on `Star` records is 312.Maybe this will shed some light as to when it was recorded/released as there were not many releases on the label,Wiile Ward also had a releadse on `Star`

Ron Ieraci said...

Nick - Thanks. I have a discography of Fee Bee and Star, but the last Star recording listed is Willie Ward's Iggy Joe, #229, 1959, so I guess it's not complete.

Nick said...

Hi Ron.Just though i might mention the 2 record collecting books that i have which list Buddy Sharpes `Toothache` along with his other 45s.Amazingly enough neither of the them list the b side `Good Luck To You(i got that piece of info from a record auction website that the disc wads listed for sale on).The first book is called `Rock & Roll Obscuritie ` singles with the price values by Don Kirsch,but that was printed in the late 70s or early 80`s i think.The other book is still available from my friends website,its called ROCKABILLY RECORD GUIDE & IS BY Horst Zimmerman,Bernd Wolf & Heinz Otto-Zimmerman.

Nick said...

my friend Barney told me recentley that he knows of unissued recording by Buddy Sharpw which have not been reissued.He knows may collectors & reissue guys & he said the only problem might be tracking the recordings down.However he is certain they exist !

Edward said...

I would love to have a few beers with Buddy when I get back to Pgh. My brother and I played with him many years along with Jim Mendys on Sax. Lots of good 50's music. My son even played for a while at age 13 and now plays with the band in Pgh.
Wish I had a phone # for him.

Ron Ieraci said...

Can't help you there, Edward. If you click on his name under the Music Links blogroll on the bottom right of the page, you can leave him a message. Good luck hookin' up.

Anonymous said...

Buddy did an admirable job performing at Club 77 in Bridgeville for some time. Remember him and the band well. The sax player at that time attended the same H S as many of us at the club on Fridays. Good memories especially Buddy opening the show with '............welcome to the Friday night fights.......', good guy, wish him well. Bob retired in Vegas.

Ray said...

With deep regrets, for those that do not know, Buddy Sharpe(Bernard E Gareis)went to be with the Lord on October 12, 2011. Link to obituary :

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks, Ray. It's a pity he didn't get more coverage in the City. I appreciate the info you sent and incorporated some of it in the post.

Anonymous said...

I know a man named Harry Hampson that played drums for Buddy Sharpe and the Shakers. He is looking for some photos of him playing with them or videos.
You can contact me at
THANKS SO MUCH! I didn't get a chance to see him but would love to.

Cindy Dy said...

Thank you for this post. Keep it up. Hope to read more post from you guys.


Ron said...

Responding to Fran's post about singer George Taliaferro. George was one of the greatest entertainers I have ever seen. Him and Rodney William were incredible. I play bass for George back in the 80's and it would take a life time to describe all of his shinning moments on stage. He taught me so much about music, people and life in general. He was like my father, my brother, and friend rolled up into one. I don't even think he knew the influence he had on people. He was an incredible man. Rest in peace my brother and condolences and love to his beautiful family.