Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You" Capitol Records Session

There are quite a few sidebars to this Pittsburgh favorite. The story is that the lyrics came to manager Joe Rock in his car at a stoplight shortly after his girl had dumped him, and Jimmy Beaumont wrote the music the next night.

The group did a rough a cappello cut on a reel-to-reel as a demo, and Janet Vogel, thinking the tape was off, ad libbed her soaring high C crescendo at the end. The group wisely kept it in. But singing a song is only half the battle; getting it on wax is an entirely different animal.

Rock shopped the song around, and thirteen national labels passed on it. One said it was too negative and should be “Since I Have You” while another mocked the 13 “you” finale. So it was off to local label Calico, owned by Lenny Martin and Lou Guarino.

They were this close to blowing that audition. On the way to the studio, they had a head on collision while jammed into a ‘52 Dodge. Fortunately, cars were a lot tougher back then, and they got to Calico shaken but in one piece. They were signed on the spot.

Martin took the group to New York’s Capitol Studios for a recording session. He backed them with 18 musicians, the first time a full orchestra had been used with a “rock” group. Other performers like the Drifters and Duprees quickly picked up on the strings for their arrangements.

Also listening in on the recording session was a member of the Teddy Bears named Phil Spector, who later cited “Since I Don’t Have You” as an influence on his “wall of sound” productions during the sixties.

The record was so soulful that the Skyliners were thought by many to be black artists. They became the first white group to top the Cashbox R&B charts, played the Apollo eight times and performed on the “chitlin’ circuit.”

They also found a name after the recording session when the master came back without an artist credit. The singers were a mixture of the South Hills Crescents and El Rios groups, and Rock, with their input, christened them “The Skyliners” after the 1945 Charlie Barnet hit song (although Jackie Taylor told Ed Salamon it was for the Ford Skyliner popular during that car-crazy era. Rolls the dice and take yer chances.)

Lotta action for one studio session. It was worth it, though. Art Pallan of KDKA broke "Since I Don't Have You," followed quickly by a Dick Clark "American Bandstand" appearance. The song hovered just outside the top ten nationally while the Skyliners went on to become one of Pittsburgh's iconic vocal groups.


Anonymous said...

You should know that there is a difference of opinion even within the group about the origin of the name. While manager Joe Rock said he named them for the Barnet song, as memorialized in my liner notes for the group's 40th anniversary CD group member Jackie Taylor told me that they WERE named for the car. Jackie says that Joe had hoped for a tie in in which they would get free cars.
Ed Salamon

Ron Ieraci said...
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