Friday, August 27, 2010

Dick Muse & The Laurels

The Laurels from White Doo Wop Collector

The Laurels are the story of Dick Muse, a McKeesport doo-wopper who started out in 1956 with the Condors, whom he met through a connection he knew at US Steel's National Tube Works where he worked in the summers.

The Condors plied the Steel Valley, appearing at the American Legion, the Swing Club, and the White Elephant. In fact, his first moment on stage was at the Elephant, where he sang the Heartbeat's "Your Way" with the band. Muse was with them just briefly before he went on to West Liberty State College.

It didn't take him long to get back into the business. He hooked up with West Virginians Bobby Gaynor, lead (and a great raspy R&B voice); Fred Hulme, first tenor; Noel Schwertfeger, baritone; and multi-instrumentalist Nick Ticich, bass. Muse was the second tenor. They all had one thing in common; they were all Porky addicts.

They dubbed themselves the Laurels, and by 1957 were doing campus gigs, and expanded to local clubs and hops. Their first trip to the Pittsburgh region was a performance at the White Elephant in 1958.

During the show, DJ Tom Nee introduced the group to Harry Latanzio, the owner of Harry's Danceland in Latrobe. The Laurels were signed to open there for national acts like The Coasters and Freddy Cannon.

That led to bookings at the Veterans Club of McKeesport, where they got the audience pumped for the likes of Pookie Hudson and The Spaniels. Latanzio then hooked the guys up with Elmer Willett.

Willett owned the Vogue Terrace club (which become the namesake for one of his acts, the Vogues) and ran a local label, Willett Records, out of Carnegie. The Laurels taped "Every Minute of the Day" and "Lips of Fire" for Willett, but he never released them.

But Lennie Martin and Lou Guarino at World Records liked their sound, and issued "Working Man" b/w "Don't Go" in 1960. They credited it to the Pennants for still unexplained reasons. Oh well, at least they got a 45 out. And just in time. Act one of the Laurels was nearing its end.

Muse, an English major, received his B.A. in 1960. The Laurels disbanded after graduation to deal with the real world, and he went on to a teaching career. Muse was one smart guy, and in 1978 earned a M.A. degree in English from California State College.

But the lyrics of Shakespeare, classic as they were, couldn't quiet the doo wop siren cooing in Muse's head.

Ray Bishop was looking for material to release on his local label, and contacted Muse in 1982 to see if he had anything left from the old days. Muse called Gaynor, Hulme, Schwertfeger and Ticich. The original Laurels, more than two decades after their day in the sun, reunited in the studio to see if they could finally get out a song with their name on it.

Bishop released "I Wonder" b/w "Every Minute of the Day," the song Willett shelved, that year. They followed it with "A Little Romance" b/w "Summer's Gonna Be a Ball" on Bishop's other label, Alexis.

When his original mates returned to their homes - they had no intention of barnstorming again - Muse kept the group going with singers like Richie Merritt, who would go on to sing with The Clovers, and former Condors Julius Davis and Lonnie Brown.

The Laurels' discography grew with the single "Honey I Love You," b/w "So Much In Love" (a cappella), the EP "Barbara/Lonely/Summer/Hydrogen Bomb/Crying in the Chapel," and a final single, "When I'm With You" b/w "Truthfully." Those tracks were released on RAM (Richard Andrew Merritt) Records in 1985.

In 1988, Muse pulled the plug and became a member of The Memories, a showband that featured a revolving cast of local all-star musicians. He started his own oldies group, the DeVilles, in 1990.

Two years later, Muse, with Lonnie Brown, Jeff King, Jim Baker and Larry Davis, once again became the Laurels; later in the decade, Tony Santaguido of the El Monics and afterward, the Marcels, joined the cast. They hit the oldies circuit, crooning old standards like the Versatiles' "Lundee Dundee," Little Richard's "True Fine Mama," Shep and The Limelight's "Daddy's Home," The Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night, and Chuck Jackson's "Woke Up This Morning."

And for a group that waited two decades to make it to vinyl, these Laurels churned out CD's like gushing BP oil, turning out four releases between 1993-98. But the nineties were to be the Laurel's curtain call (we think!)

Muse joined The Skyliners in 1999 after the untimely death of David Proch, taking over second tenor for Jimmy Beaumont-led group.

So far, that gig has stuck with Dick Muse. But if his muse ever gets the urge to conjure up the Laurels once again...


The Pennants:
1961 - "Don't Go" b/w "Workin' Man" - World 102
1961 - "Darling How Long" - unreleased

The Laurels:
"Every Minute of the Day" b/w "Lips of Fire" - unreleased 1958/59
"I Wonder" b/w "Every Minute of the Day" - Bishop Records 1982
"A Little Romance" b/w "Summer's Gonna Be a Ball" - Alexis Records 1982
"Honey I Love You," b/w "So Much In Love" - RAM 1985
"When I'm With You b/w Truthfully" - RAM 1985
"Don't Go" b/w "Darling How Long" - World 102 blue wax reissue by Crystal Ball Records 1989

Laurel albums/CDs:
"They All Sang in Pittsburgh" (compilation albums)
"Barbara/Lonely/Summer/Hydrogen Bomb/Crying in the Chapel" - RAM 1985
"The Test of Time" - 1993
"Our Town Has A Voice" - 1995
"R&B Odyssey" - 1997
"Keeping Tradition" - 1998 (a cappella)
"The Laurels" - 2005 (shortened reissue of "Keeping Tradition")

Old Mon would like to thank Dave Sallinger, Entertainment Editor of the McKeesport Daily News, for his article on the Laurels which was leaned on heavily in this post.

"I Wonder" - The Laurels, 1982

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pat Wallace

Pat Wallace & the Rock'n Ravens from the Magic Music Machine

Hey, this is another quick blast from the past. It came about after John Papi, leader and B-3 player for several local bands and Route 51 club owner (Panther Room, Garage, Haunted House, Vegas Showbar) and Old Mon had a little Facebook chat about back-in-the-day Pittsburgh rockabilly bands.

Anyway, Papi recalled Pat Wallace gigging at the Panther Room around 1968, and JP said that Pat introduced the club's soul/jazz players to Rockabilly...and good.

Pat Wallace released several records throughout the mid-70's and early 80's, and with the Rock'n Ravens issued two albums and several singles of 50's rock on their own Rumble label. They cut several slabs of wax for Jay Davis' Asterik label and Ray Bishop.

He went to Baldwin High School and his day job was working at Southland Record Shop, in the Southland Shopping Center on Route 51 in Pleasant Hills. It was operated then by St. Clair label owner Jules Kruspir (aka J. J. Jules), who had been the manager of The Marcels.

Wallace had formed a band called the Shadows when he was in high school and it stayed together several years after graduation. He got another 45 cut compliments of his boss, Kruspir, who released "Hole In Your Soul" in 1965 on St. Clair.

It gave them some local cred, and they played area clubs and the I-80 circuit, hitting towns like DuBois and Clearfield. They quickly evolved from a garage band to a mainly rockabilly outfit.

It took Wallace nearly a decade to cut another record, when KQV's Jay Davis (Jay the Jock, who passed away in 1992) signed him for his Asterik label in 1974. Wallace and his band Sunshine churned out another trio of rockabilly/garage tunes.

Again, the vinyl added to their local luster - they even got some overseas play; the Brits took over the American airwaves and American R&B and rockabilly guys took off in Europe - but after 1976, the studio time disappeared, as far as we could tell.

But Ray Bishop had a taste for rockabilly (Buddy Sharpe was on his label), and Wallace, with his Rock'n Ravens, were back on wax briefly in 1980-81 on the local Bishop label.

After that, the trail runs cold. Wallace now lives in Spencer, Massachusetts, about 60 miles west of Boston, and has been there since the late nineties. But he did leave behind in Pittsburgh a decent discography:

Pat Wallace:
"(I'm Gonna) Fill The Hole In Your Soul" b/w "C'mon And Work" (St. Clair 7 - 1965)
"Life" b/w "Starship From Above" (Patlyn 263 - 1974)
"One Night Man" b/w "Makin' Love" (Asterik 116 - 1976)

Pat Wallace and the Rock'n Ravens:
“Boppin’ The Blues” b/w “Rock This Joint” (Rumble 7901 - 1978)
“Hot Snatch” b/w “Return Of The Red Headed Flea” (Rumble 7902 - 1979)
“Dance To The Rock And Roll” b/w “Rock And Roll Skate” (Rumble 7903 - 1979)
"Angel Baby" b/w "Make You Mine" (Bishop 1004 - 1980)
"Switch Blade" b/w "Get Hip" (Bishop 1009 - 1981)
"New Rockin' Party Doll" b/w "Goin' Cattin'" (Bishop 1011 - 1981)
"Geez A Ma Neez" b/w "Tennessee Boogie" B-Side performed by Tennessee Slim (Bishop 1015 - 1981)

Pat Wallace and Sunshine:
"Tell Me" b/w "Tomorrow" (Asterik 107 - 1974)
"Drinking Wine Spo-Dee O-Dee" b/w "Special Kind of Lover" (Asterik 109 - 1975)

He was also credited with "Cold Hearted Blues" and "Find Me A New Love," but Old Mon can't find the labels or years for those tunes and ditto for the Rumble albums. His wax isn't even on eBay; they're out of issue and probably worth something to the collector crowd.

And as an aside:

Pat and the Satellites (these guys are often confused with a Pat Wallace band, but were actually New York based):
"Jupiter-C" b/w "Oh Oh Darling" (Atco 6130 - 1958)

This band was from Oleans, NY, and the lead singer & guitarist was Pat Piccirillo, not Wallace. Wayne Lips, originally from Pittsburgh, was the drummer for the Satellites (Otts Antonelli was the third member, on guitar). After nearly two decades in New York, Lips returned home, and one of his local gigs was with the Rock'n Ravens. As his wife Nancy (thanks!) told us, Wayne worked with two bands fronted by a Pat and that's  probably how the groups became associated. Other sidebars to "Jupiter C" - the song charted at #81 in February, 1959; the sax was blown by King Curtis and the writing credits went to Antonelli, who conceived the song; Oleans-based saxman Clyde Dickerson, who got it on paper, & Dick Biondi, who was a DJ at WKBW ( Buffalo, NY).

If any of you know more about Pat Wallace, give us a yell; his career deserves more than the few words we posted here.

Hole In Your Soul
and C'mon And Work - Pat Wallace 1965


Friday, August 13, 2010

Orlandos/Sonny & the Premiers

Orlandos photo from Doo Wop

The Orlandos formed in 1954 on the hard streets of the Whitaker Projects, across the Mon from Rankin and Braddock. At the time, they consisted of lead tenor Gary Jenkins, tenor Joe Murphy, tenor Roger Randolph, baritone Charles Raeford, and bass John Crowder.

The guys were all 14 years old and attending Homeville Junior High School. A few months later Jenkins, Murphy, and Raeford all exited the Orlandos; they were in high school and had better things to do, we suppose.

Lead tenor Ronnie Williams (who joined the El Venos in the late 1990s), tenor Nate Thomas (who later joined Detroit's Four Palms), and bass Wallace Berry replaced the exiting voices, with Crowder shifting to baritone.

By 1955, the Orlandos were regulars at the local hops, and caught the ear of WCAE DJ Jay Michael. Through Michael, they were eventually introduced to Roulette Records owner George Goldner, who in 1957 signed the group to his fledgling Cindy label. Cindy was owned by Goldner and Michael, and named after Jay's daughter. The label was where groups with local appeal were shuffled to cut wax.

First sent to Detroit to cut a demo, they ended up without any studio time. A few weeks later, they made it to the Big Apple, where they cut what would be their only recording, "Cloudburst," written by Williams, b/w "Old McDonald." It was issued in September 1957 on Cindy 3006.

Well, Michael pushed the song, and it got some local love. But Roulette didn't, assuring that the song would never break out of Pittsburgh. The band did its part, touring the Midwest, but they remained a Western Pennsylvania phenomena.

Thomas left the group, and tenor Lee Smalls took his place, but there were no more record offers and they were relegated to club gigs. After a couple of years of that existence, the Orlandos called it a day.

But they would live on, in the emergence of their backing band. It consisted of Sonny Gilmer (guitar), Bobby Gilmer (sax), Thomas Gilmer (drums), George Cooper (bass), Alex Murray (piano), Irving Williams (sax), and Donald Early (bongos). Dr. Nelson Harrison even played for the group between 1963–67.

The instrumentalists added singer Leroy Gilliard, and they became a popular Pittsburgh area club band throughout the late fifties and sixties, performing as Sonny and the Premiers. Their tune, "Run Along Baby" b/w "Hey Miss Fancy" (RCA 20-6958) was released by RCA Victor in 1957.

The Orlandos - "Cloudburst" 1957

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Glenn Pavone Gone

Glenn Pavone

Glenn Pavone, the long-time frontman for the Cyclones and the axeman of the Billy Price Band for nearly a decade, died last night after a three-year battle with cancer at the age of 52.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Burket-Truby Funeral Home, 421 Allegheny Avenue in Oakmont. The funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday in Riverside Community Church, 401 Allegheny Avenue, Oakmont.

Pavone was a native of Alexandria, Va., and started playing the guitar at seven, inspired by "Purple Haze." He started performing on stage when he was nine.

He first played with the Bill Blue Band. Their album "Sing Like Thunder," on Adelphi Records was a regional hit in the Washington D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina areas. Looking for a new guitarist, Billy Price had him sit in with his band, gigging at Desperado's in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., and he blew Price away.

Pavone came to Pittsburgh and spent nine years with Price's Keystone Rhythm Band during the '80s. While with the KRB, Pavone recorded the albums "Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band Live" and "Free at Last" on Antenna Records. The latter featured "I'm Gonna Win The War," where his writing was nominated for a W. C. Handy Award.

He went on his own to record and perform with The Cyclones afterward for the next two decades. Their debut CD "Twist This" had a hit track "Oh Babe" that was a local big seller, and was aired heavily on WDVE in 1994. They recorded two more CDs, "Twist That" and "Cyclones R.U.L.E."

Pavone was noted for two things. First was the way he could make a guitar wail. He played bluesy rock from the Jimi/Stevie Ray school, and was equally adept at lead or rhythm guitar. And he could finger the strings on his Strat like an old timey picker. He knew his tool; Pavone built his own axes, even the necks; nothing off the shelf for him.

He was voted Pittsburgh's best guitarist several times, and even received national recognition for his work. He turned down an opportunity to go national and join the Nighthawks, who knew well of his work (Jimmy Thackery was the one who set up his audition with Billy Price), because he didn't want to leave Pittsburgh.

Pavone was also known as one of the friendliest, funniest, and most humble guys in the local music world, always dressed in shades, a polo or tee shirt and slacks. In a City whose musicians sit in with one another and run in the same circles as a rule, Glenn Pavone was everyone's BFF.

Heck, Norm Nardini called Pavone "the Big Cheese, Glenn Provolone." And Pavone himself, as related by Rege Behe in the Tribune Review, when told he had won the Pittsburgh's best guitarist award, asked if the voters didn't mean the best golfer.

The Cyclones played everywhere. Not only did they hit the clubs and festivals, but they'd perform for the low-pay music series sponsored by municipal rec departments from Allegheny County, Pittsburgh and Monroeville so everyone could get a taste of the blues.

He got to be part of the documentary "Pittsburgh: Getting to the Bottom of our Blues (2009)" by Rodney Underwood, sharing the spotlight with the region's other talented but often overlooked blues players.

Like a lot of Pittsburgh music men, Pavone had a day job. His was with Field Environmental Instruments in Point Breeze, and he'd bike to work from his Edgewood home. He had two passions in his life besides music: his wife Nancy, who he met while with the KRB, and golf.

Now Pittsburgh's finest guitarist is gone, and way too soon. Charon is the only one that could take the title from him.

Glenn Pavone - "Voodoo Child" jam at Rosebud

Friday, August 6, 2010


Cameos photo from Doo Wop

OK, Old Mon has to admit he can't find squat about these guys, except that they had one dynamite song that McKeesport's WMCK jock Terry Lee played the heck out of, "I Remember When," on his "Music For Young Lovers" segments, and it made Travis Klein's "Pittsburgh Greatest Hits" series, too.

What we do know is that the Cameos were from Coraopolis, and were put together by songwriter/arranger Bob Vogelsberger. He assembled the Cameos after auditioning groups to sing his material and penned both "I Remember When" and the follow-up, "Never Before," which was also a pretty sweet tune.

The band was made up of Donald Carter (Lead), Dorland Nelson (First Tenor), Fred Wynn (Second Tenor), Bernard Spencer (Baritone), and Alex Spencer (Bass).

The discography is kinda sparse, too:
1960 - "I Remember When" b/w "We'll Still Be Together" (Matador 1808)
1960 - "Never Before" b/w "Canadian Sunset" (Matador 1813)

"Wondering," "We Were Young," and "Broken Hearted Limbo Guy" were also completed demo's for their label, New York's Matador, but never released.

Oh, one other thing - watch what Cameos you're listening to. These guys were black, and in 1963, a local white Cameos popped up and released "Can You Remember?" b/w "He" on the Gigi label; the two groups are often lumped together.

And that's it. In 1960, the Cameos had their fifteen minutes of fame, but are still remembered today, if somewhat mistily, because of it.

"I Remember When" - Cameos 1960