Friday, July 12, 2013

El Reys

El Reys from

In 1961, Bishop Canevin HS was the foundry for a band called the “El Reys” (Spanish for “The Kings”), a name that lead vocalist Stan Bogdan came up with to christen the group.

The sextet consisted of West End's Stanley "Stush" Bogdan, along with Chuck Black (co-founder), Randy Riddle, Westwood's Tim Eyermann (sax - jazz fusion artist, did couple dozen albums, two Grammy nominations, East Coast Offering), Green Tree's Rick Jablonski (drums), and Glendale's Bill Marszalek (guitar), who started out by performing at their own high school dances. They added a manager, local DJ Jack Schieffer.

The El Reys had a pretty good sound. They played with both both harmony and a beat, an on-time segue from the vocal era to the Liverpool scene, and pretty soon were doing shows all up and down the Chartiers Valley. They played at other schools, some college gigs, hops, talent shows and, as befitting a band from a Catholic school backed by Sister Maria Goretti and Father Armand, did more than their fair share of benefits.

Ed Salamon, who wrote "Pittsburgh's Golden Age of Radio," remembers the band as " of the wildest acts I had ever seen." Bill Marszalek agreed. He and the instrumentalists got a front row seat for the performances of vocalists Stush, Chuck and Randy, who would banter with the audience, dance, flip their jackets and generally get the joint hoppin'. Ed added that he thought they claimed to be on the verge of landing a contract with music giant Capitol, but Marszalek shot that down, believing it was just some wishful jiving by the front men. But they did get on a label, albeit a local one.

One night during this period, they were performing at a talent show/hop at the CIO Hall in Aliquippa, where they made a couple of notable industry acquaintances. One was Pittsburgh favorite Bo Diddley, lurking and listening in the back of the hall before his show as the headliner at the nearby Villa Lounge. He liked what he heard and invited the El Reys to catch his act that night. That was cool, but the next intro was better.

Augie Bernardo, owner of local label Ideal Records (the Stereos, John Harrison & the Hustlers, Vibra-Sonics), who was also was in the crowd. That unplanned audition won the El Reys' a record contract worth a couple of slabs that were big locally. DJ Porky Chedwick was spinning all four of their sides - "Diamonds and Pearls," "Angalie," "Beverly" and "Rocket of Love" - on WAMO in 1965.

They were big for a minute. They had records on the radio, a fan club, opened for some traveling rock shows during their local stops, made an appearance on Clark Race's Dance Party and played a few of the bigger clubs like the Coach Lounge, although the majority of their shows were at hops and smaller halls.

Their biggest moment was when they were part of the card during The Rolling Stones first American tour, which made a KQV sponsored stop at West View's Danceland on Wednesday, June 17th, 1964. The El Reys dressing room was next to the Stones (they shared space with The Shadows).

The El Reys weren't laying a foundation for a show biz future, though, just taking things pretty much as they came. And in 1965 came graduation for the group that had formed when most of the guys were freshmen. Stush was drafted, the other guys moved on to college, and the El Reys were no more.

But after five decades off, Stush Bogdan reformed the El Rays as an acappella group.

The new El Reys include Paul Durham of Monroeville, Bill Leverette of Wilkinsburg (The Cameos, Del Vikings, and The New Marcels), Tim Steele of Greensburg and J.D. Merkle of Baden. They're performing at high school reunions, birthdays and weddings. Once a month, you can find them singing at Atria's, and they've had bookings in clubs like the Johnny Angel Lounge, the Hophouse and the Obey House.

Stush is the only original member in the group. Bill Marszalek works for the City and spent 10 years serving as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Pittsburgh Musician's Union. Tim Eyermann earned national acclaim as the saxman of the East Coast Offering before he died in 2007. Chuck Black and Randy Riddle have also passed away. We couldn't track down Rick Jablonski, so if any of you know what became of him, please give us a yell.

(Local doo-wop historian Carl Janusek, who writes for the quarterly music magazine "Echoes of the Past" penned an article that is the definitive El Reys bio. The address is Echoes of the Past, PO Box 40, Agawam, MA 01001-0040 if you'd like more info on the band or the magazine.)


1965 - Rocket Of Love b/w Diamonds And Pearls (Ideal 94706)
1965 - Angalie /Beverly (Ideal 95388)

1 comment:

Ed Salamon said...

I first saw The El Reys at a CYO dance at Resurrection church in Brookline. They had one of the wildest acts I had ever seen. At that dance they announced that they would have a record on Capitol "the same label as the Beach Boys",(which obviously dates the show in the pre-Beatle era). Though that never worked out, I bought both of their singles, which I had heard on the radio and got a color postcard of the photo you ran with the story (still have them all).