Jules Kruspir managed my first Pittsburgh, PA band, The Vel Mars. We knew Jules for a lot of years, from 1963 to the late seventies (he managed the Marcels). Not quite sure how we met him though. He used to invite us over to his house to rehearse every month or so and seemed to have a genuine interest in our band, The Vel-Mars.
We were a guitar band, a la The Ventures, and were playing local school dances. Jules said he knew all the right industry people and we could go places. Actually nothing happened until he signed Bob Stupec to do a Christmas song, “Jake The Flake”. This was a huge production number, full orchestra (Jim Drake conducting & arranging), backing vocals by the Ray Charles Singers (“Love Me With All Your Heart” fame) and recorded at Bell Sound Studios in NYC. The tracks were absolutely beautiful!
But, Bobby (Bobby Star) couldn’t sing. It took 157 takes to complete the lead vocal track. I remember, Phil Ramone was the engineer. Well, we were to record the back side “Jingle Bells”. Studio time was running out, we cut our song in 1 1/2 takes. We broke a guitar string, but they spliced the tape & our record turned out great. The record was released a few weeks later, became the National Record Mart “Pick of the Week” and was played in NRM commercials for a few weeks. Picked up a review in Billboard (Jules had a full page ad), but the record never took off. Too bad. Bobby Star quit recording and went to Vegas and opened a casino.
In 1965, our Vel-Mars band broke up and I auditioned for a club band in Beaver Falls, PA. The leader was Gary Glenn. The group was Gary Glenn and the Jeweltones. The Jeweltones had departed and left Gary without a band, for which I was auditioning & was ultimately hired for. They had a local record out, “Goodnight My Love”, on the Cove label. Great record. I wrote a couple of songs for Gary that were recorded at Jerree Records in Beaver Falls, PA. “Always So True” b/w “What Do You Want”, released early 1966, but went nowhere. The original Jeweltones were later to become the Jaggerz of “The Rapper” fame.
I left Gary Glenn in mid 1966 & formed the Sharades. We were a cover band [but] with a lot of original songs. Jules expressed an interest in us again and asked if we would do a demo session at Glen Campbell Studios in Pittsburgh, PA. We did the session but nothing came out of it. A few of the songs were good though. Jules later asked us to back up Pat Wallace for a couple of songs at the same studio. We did and that’s where “Gonna Fill The Hole” & “Come On & Work” came from. And yes, “Come On & Work” was nothing more than a “B” vamp.
In 1966,Jules opened a record store in the Southland shopping center (Pat Wallace worked there) and I took a job with Kleins One Stop (Itzy Records) heading up their oldies department. Jules bumped into The Fantastic DeeJays (who had some local Music For Young Lovers songs for Terry Lee). He changed their name to the Swamp Rats and recorded “Louie Louie” & released it on his St. Clair label. (Jules lived in a community named Upper St. Clair).
Also in 1966, Jules picked up a group named the Dynatones. They had recorded a record “And I Always Will” b/w “The Fife Piper”. The local DJs flipped it over & the record went to Number 1. HBR Records, who just recently started a pop records division, picked up national distribution. The record went all the way up the national charts. Then … HBR called for a album followup to the single. Jules took the Dynatones down to Glen Campbells studio & cut 10 or 12 absolutely terrible tracks. Truth is, Jules couldn’t produce & Glens’ studio (3 track Ampex) was nothing more than a reverb box. HBR Records rejected the cuts for the “Fife Piper” LP. They produced all the tracks in LA with studio musicians.
I continued on working at Kleins and with my band, the Sharades. We were working steady at local clubs when we decided to go into the studio on our own. Late 1966 we recorded “Only A Tear” b/w “It’s A Groovy Day” at Gateway Studios in Pgh, PA (Some of the Lou Christie hits were recorded there). Our session was quick…maybe 1 1/2 hours. We only recorded the two songs. The record was released on Fasicination Records which was my label. Kleins One Stop (my day job) became our distributor. I started college in January 1967 and played weekends with the band. By springtime Terry Lee had picked up the record & began playing it every night at 11:00 as the opening song for his “Music For Young Lovers” show segment. “Only A Tear” was the only record released by the Sharades. We continued on as a band until the mid-seventies. I recorded “Surfin’ USA – Pittsburgh, PA” b/w “Pipeline” in the mid-eighties with a new group – The Allegheny Surfers.