Friday, January 15, 2010


The Memories

The beginnings of the Memories date back to 1971 when vocalists Wayne Zollinger, Bill "Sweet Willam" Shaffer, Rich "Bingo" Renaldi and Wayne "Big Al" Rossi got together to form an acapella doo-wop group. They played the local bar circuit for a couple of years before deciding that they needed a band if they wanted to break out.

Zollinger and Renaldi left on friendly terms, and were followed by Marcel Ron "Bingo" Mundy (and how often does one "Bingo" replace another, outside of a church hall?) and Rick LaCoca in 1973, now with a four-piece band to back them.

LaCoca and Mundy lasted a year, and the Memories were joined by Jules Hopson and "Little Richard" Galioto. The group decided to add a fifth member to the vocal cast, adding Charles "Charlie" Brown to the lineup. But they were still running in the hamster wheel of the bar circuit, and decided to take the act a notch higher.

In 1974, they developed a floor show, based on the Temptations performance, and scored a two-year gig as the house band at Market Square's Quo Vadis, playing every Saturday night. The Memories got to polish their act, and picked up a steady following of fans.

While there, they added saxman "Southside Jerry" Mellix to the band. Charlie Brown passed away, and Rossi took a day job, limiting his appearances. When he was out, Fred Johnson of the Marcels would fill in.

The group left QV, and became the house band at Bogie's Lounge on the Route 51 strip, a musical hot spot for the town during the seventies. By the early eighties, they had left the bar scene behind and joined the club circuit, playing venues like The Royal Too, The Harmar House, The Holiday House, Cahoots Lounge in the Greentree Marriott, and the VIP Lounges.

They opened for a number of soul and Motown acts playing the area like the Temptations (who were duly impressed by the Memories' high steppin' - they thought the show was "tight"), The Coasters, The Jive Five, Lee Dorsey, The Drifters, Manhattans, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and the O'Jays.

But hey, you just knew there would be more roster changes, right? Right. Rossi and Shaffer departed, while Richie Merritt and Joe "Sonny" Maggio signed on. They moved the band away from its doo-wop roots and towards more Vegas-type material. Then Galioto got sick and was replaced by Chuck Timbers.

The band kept that configuration for a few years before losing Chambers to the stage (he played in the "The Jacksons: An American Story," and still appears in local productions). Dick Muse took his place for a few months, but formed his own band, the DeVilles, and later returned to the Laurels. Ed Cassidy stepped in, and in his turn, left the band in 1995, as Keith Dix took his spot.

Still, with all the changes, the band landed its dream gig at the Resorts International Casino in Atlantic City. Could the Vegas Strip be far behind? Just when it appeared that the Memories were ready to play the national show circuit, a series of personnel raids cut short those ever-so-close plans.

That year, Richie Merritt joined Johnny Mason's Clovers. The group had former members fill in to complete their 1997 schedule, but in 1998 Walt Maddox's Marcels signed the band's leader, Jules Hopson. Chuck Blasco's Vogues swooped in and added Keith Dix and guitarist/music director Dave Wingo.

The Memories tried to regroup in 1999, but even for a band used to turnover, it was too much. The Memories became a memory, except for a pair of reunion shows.

How could a group with so much talent and that played all the hot spots in the region for three decades get lost in the Pittsburgh mist by local fans? Simple - they were in the main a revue-style cover band and never had a breakout record. But it wasn't from lack of trying.

The Memories did an album worth of recordings in the mid 70’s for WIXZ's Terry Lee, but the DJ never released the cuts, which included the Dominoes "Sixty Minute Man" and Gladys Knight & the Pips "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."

The Memories did record again, this time forming their own MEMCO Label. They released their first wax, the Manhattan's "Can I" b/w the Clover's “Lovey Dovey” in 1976, followed in 1978 by the Chord's "Sh-Boom" b/w the Chime's "Once In Awhile," and the Video's "Trickle Trickle." They later recorded and released a 4-song mini LP on cassette, a hot medium in 1981, featuring the Spaniel's "Peace of Mind."

The songs were all hits for other people, and all well-performed by the Memories. But the stars never lined up quite right for any of the disks to take off.

Here's a roster of the known (to Old Mon) band members:

-- Charles "Charlie" Brown (vocalist, Fidels, deceased)
-- Ed Cassidy (vocalist, The Retro Band)
-- Keith Dix (vocalist, Vogues)
-- Rich "Little Richard" Galioto (vocalist, The Magic Moments)
-- Jules Hopson (vocalist, Fidels, Laurels, Marcels)
-- Fred Johnson (vocalist, Marcels)
-- Rick Lacoca (vocalist, retired)
-- Joe "Sonny" Maggio (vocalist, retired)
-- "South Side Jerry" Mellix (sax, Laurels, Elmonics, New Holidays, Four Townsmen)
-- Richie Merritt (vocalist, Electrons, Vibrators, Clovers, Marcels)
-- Ron "Bingo" Mundy (vocalist, Marcels, retired)
-- Dick Muse (vocalist, Condors, Laurels, DeVilles, Skyliners)
-- Rich "Bingo" Renaldi (vocalist, retired)
-- Wayne "Big Al" Rossi (vocalist, retired)
-- Bill "Sweet William" Shaffer (vocalist, retired)
-- Chuck Timbers (vocalist, now an actor)
-- Dave Wingo (guitar, Vogues)
-- Wayne Zollinger (vocalist, Leon Daniels & the El Venos)

"Can I?" by The Memories (1976)

The Memories Show

(Many thanks to Southside Jerry Mellix, who proved to be quite a band historian and contributed a ton of time in helping Old Mon get the story right. Oh, and put together the Memories vid above. Grazie!)


Anonymous said...

I need to find a copy of Can I. Can anybody help?

Ron Ieraci said...

Anon - contact Southside Jerry Mellix at Jerry should know if there are any copies floating around or mp3 file available.

Dennis said...

The "Can I" single also came with a nice picture sleeve.