Category Archives: Delaware

The Diplomats

Diplomats Continental 45 I'm SadThe Diplomats came from Wilmington, Delaware, where they recorded their only single at Ken-Del Studios. The A-side is the aptly-named “I’m Sad”, a maudlin original written by Chris Myers and Ed Welch with good guitar picking and harmonies. The flip is a good cover of “Route 66”.

Other than this I know nothing about the band.

Copyright registrations from September, 1966 have their names as Richard C. Myers and Edward P. Welch II.

Diplomats Continental 45 Route 66

The Spectrums

Spectrums Knight 45 I'll Never FearMy friend Borja posted this 45 recently on Facebook and I thought I’d put it up here because it seems to be obscure and also because of the Knight Records label. This is not the Texas label I’ve featured before but a label from Wilmington, Delaware, recorded at Ken-Del Studios.

Don’t know anything about the Spectrums. This seems to be their only 45. “I’ll Never Fear” is an original by D. Stewart (Dave Stewart I believe), backed with a good cover of “Wine, Wine, Wine”.

Chavis, Candi and Barvis discographies

When updating the page on the State of Mind, I started compiling a list of Chavis releases, looking for more garage type singles.

As it turns out, the State of Mind’s two 45s and the Tree’s “No Good Woman” may have been the only rock singles put out by James Chavis on his Candi, Chavis and Barvis labels out of Wilmington, Delaware. The others listed here are gospel, r&b, doo wop or soul.

Since I haven’t seen a complete discography anywhere else, I’m including what I’ve compiled here:

Candi:

1020: Grand Prees – Jungle Fever (featuring Douglass Pettijohn) / Sit and Cry (featuring Bernice Marsh)

1021: Christian Harmonizers – The Day Has Passed and Gone / The Lord Will Make a Way

1022: Mighty Wonders – God Called Moses / All My Troubles Will Be Over

1023: Silas Phifer & the Mellow Fellows* – Gotta Find My Baby / Edwin Johnson & the Mellow Fellows – You Gave Me Love

1024: Santio’s Premiers and Nat. Miller – She’s Still My Baby / Doggin’ the Twine

1025: Vibra-Tones and George Johnson – I’m Begging You Baby / Willie’s Dream

1026: Empires – Love You So Bad / Come Home Girl (Candi)

1027: Evangelist Mattie Lewis & Travelling Gospelettes – The Lord Is My Shepherd / The Rest of My Days

1028: Eddie Johnson – Mis-Ter Night / I Lost My Linda

1029: Ruth White & the Continentals – Give Us Your Blessings / Dog Time

1030: Humble Gospel Singers – Long Way to the City / The Rest of My Days

1031: Maurice Williams & the Inspirations – The Day Has Come / Never Leave You Again

1032: ?

1033: Empires – You’re On Top Girl

* Mellow Fellows – I’ve read some speculation that this is the same group known as the Mello Souls behind the soul classic “We Can Make It” on the Mello label. Anyone have a scan of that?

Chavis:

1034: Matadors – Say Yes Baby / Carmen I Wish You Were Here

1035: Spidels – Like a Bee / You Know I Need You (1965)

1036: ?

1037: Mighty Wonders – Good News / He Heard Me Cry

1038: State of Mind – Move / If He Comes Back (1966) (CH-2076/7)

1039: ?

1040: ?

1041: State of Mind – Make You Cry / Goin’ Away (1967) (CH-2083)

709: Southern Gate Singers – Somebody’s Always Talking About Me / Laugh Laugh Laugh

710: Miller Family – He Cares for You / I Believe in Jesus (arr. Lee Miller) (CH-1420/1)

730: Mighty Kings of Harmony – I Know a Man / Better World (CH 1460)

7011: Rising Stars – You Need This

7012: Sensational Mighty Wonders – Live On High / A Friend in Jesus (CH 3506/7)

7013: Specializers – Rock of Ages / Oh How I Love Jesus


Barvis:

7010: The Tree – No Good Woman / Man From Nowhere (1967)

125: The Superiors Band and Their Soul Singers – Darling I Love You / Amateur Love

319: The Superiors Band and Their Soul Singers – The Lady Part 1 / The Lady Part 2

Most of the gospel releases were produced by Lee Skinner. James Chavis’ publishing was usually listed with Vandever Music, BMI. Though located in Delaware, Chavis seems to have had some connections in North Carolina, the home of some of his gospel acts, like the Mighty Wonders.

The Geatormen


Clockwise from bottom left: Martel Day, Reese Gwynn, Art Travis, Jeff Cooper, Dan Toomey, Jay Jacobson and Collis Alford
Click for larger image (3 MB)
A couple weeks ago I posted a photo from a group and asked who was the band and what movie they were in. No one hazarded a guess, so I’ll give it away now, they were the Geatormen, and the movie was “Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows”, a silly and innocent comedy about a group of Catholic schoolgirls accompanied by nuns crossing the country to a youth rally. The screen shots (below) are from a scene where the band is lip-synching to the title song by Boyce and Hart.The Geatormen included:

Collis Alford (trumpet
Ray Jacobson (trumpet)
Art Travis (trombone)
Jeff Cooper (saxophone and rhythm)
Rees Gwynn (guitar)
Dan Toomey (bass guitar)
Martel Day (drums)

They were students at Brandywine High School in the suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware, where they played with the Brandywine Blazers. Somehow they met up with Jerry Blavat, “the Geator” and became the Geatormen, performing on Blavat’s TV show Discophonic Scene and appearing with him in live shows.

An article in the Delaware County Daily Times from April, 1968 also mentions them appearing on WFIL-TV’s The World Around Us, a daily morning show in Philadelphia hosted by Anita Klever.

They weren’t credited for their appearance in “Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows”, so it doesn’t seemed to have helped their career much. I believe only five of them are featured in the movie. After the filming, Martel Day was replaced by Bob Howe and Max Rarigh. A later lineup of the band included Nino Puglisi from the Stairways. I don’t know of any records released by the band.

Jeff Cooper posted a few additional photos of the band at the bottom of this page.

The Star Blazers, the Stairways and the Wilmington scene

Vic Livingston wrote to me about two bands he played with in Wilmington, the Star Blazers and the Stairways. What follows is a snapshot of the Wilmington teen scene from 1965 to 1967 in Vic’s own words:

I learned guitar from Frank Baldo of Wilmington, whose son of the same name is a guitarist and band leader now. Baldo played like Django Reinhardt, lots of chord melody and rippin’ solos, and sang pop songs like a young Tony Bennett. He taught many of the town’s up and coming rock ‘n’ rollers, including Chuck Aarons, whom I replaced when I joined the Stairways in 1966. But first, let’s go back a year or so earlier:

The Star Blazers

“You Better Change” was a song I authored at the tender age of 15 while a student at Mt. Pleasant Junior High. It was recorded it at the old Ken-Del Studios in Wilmington. (Anyone know what happened to their masters?). I convinced our eighth grade class to make the record a class project, and we sold copies in school to raise money for the class. The lyrics went like this:

“I thought you loved me / But you put me down / Because you thought I was the kind to be led around / But I told you / that wouldn’t do / You better change / your mind / about me.”

Instead of singing the vocal myself, I recruited Dickie Roseman, who was the BMOC in those days, to sing the lead, which he did in a “bosso profundo” voice that sounded, well, pseudo-operatic and out-of-this-worldly at the same time. I figured Roseman had the “star power” to move more records. I wonder what would have happened if I had sung it myself. Maybe if it was just blandly mediocre and not really, really strange, maybe no one would have taken a second listen…

The Star Blazers featured a guy named Tim Isaacs on sax; Charlie Topkis on drums; myself on guitar; a keyboardist named Rusty (forget his last name, but he had red hair, of course – I think he went on to play with Johnny Neal and the Shapes of Soul) and an upright bass player whose father was a bone doctor in town (show me a list of osteopaths of that era and I’ll tell you).

The flip side, “Starchant,” was a weird instrumental that was half voodoo-rock and half Klezmer rock (we didn’t realize at the time we were inventing a “genre”!).

A few hundred copies were sold, but not in stores. It was strictly “private label” – a bake sale with grooves. The label’s name, “Galaxie,” was my invention… there was no such record label, no such company. It was just a name printed on the records to sound “cool.” I did copyright the song in my name, however.

The record was NEVER played on the radio. In fact, DJ Roger Holmes of WAMS-AM personally rejected it, to my face! I couldn’t blame him, because vocally, it sounded like bad opera set to a rock ‘n’ roll beat.

We were so disappointed at the poor sales and the rejection by the radio station that we went upstairs in a two-story house and hurled some of the 45s out the window like Frisbees.

Another more famous group to record at Ken-Del was “Alex, Ola Belle and the New River Boys and Girls,” an old-timey group that used to hold court in Campbell’s Corner, Kennett Square, PA and at Sunset Park near Kennett Square. I loved that old-timey music, too – even played in a bluegrass band.

But soul-tinged rock ‘n’ roll was my first musical love. My first band, the Nouvelles, played songs like “Chains” by the Cookies and the requisite “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry. This was in, like, 1962-63, pre-Beatles. Then the Beatles’ first albums come out and what’s on them, but “Chains” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” It didn’t take long before the Nouvelles and later, the Star Blazers, were doing American versions of the British Beatles doing American versions of the originals. But let the record show that even before the Beatles, we were turning American rhythm ‘n’ soul into American pop; not really our fault that they were just a little bit better than we were!

After I originally put up this post, Vic remixed the two Star Blazers songs, speeding them up and adding echo to Starchant. Vic said, “I wondered how ‘You Better Change’ would have sounded without the opera-like vocal. I used Sound Studio to speed up the pitch by about 3-4 percent. I think it sounds much better speeded up … a ‘what might have been’ audio alternative.” Hear them below:


The Stairways, fall 1967, l-r: Nino Puglisi; Rick Nardo on bass (replaced George Curtin); Paul Stratton drums (replaced Martel Day); Vic Livingston on vocals & lead guitar (replaced Chuck Aarons); and Rick Puglisi on vocals, sax.

The Stairways

The Stairways were begun by Eddie Stair in 1965 with George Curtin on bass, Martel Day on drums, Bob Bowersox & Chuck Aarons on lead guitar. They were joined by Anthony “Nino” Puglisi on lead vocals and saxophone, and his younger brother, Rick on vocals and sax. The original lineup changed as members went off to college, or fell victim to band politics. Their 45 “Don’t You Care” is a garage classic, while the instrumental flipside is making waves on the UK northern soul scene. They also recorded another song, “All Souled Out,” that may or may not have survived on acetate.

I was lead guitarist of “Nino (Puglisi) and the Stairways” from around 1966-68. I was Chuck Aaron’s replacement in the band. I bought his cherry-red Gibson Les Paul SG and then sold it to a guy named Norm Lewis and I’ve been trying to find him for years and buy it back! I then bought a Fender Jaguar, the hot “axe” back then, which is featured in the 1968 Mt. Pleasant H.S. yearbook in a picture of the Stairways. (Never did care for how it played — very buzzy and the strings would pop out of those bridge “grubs.” Now in my middle age I learn that all I had to do was replace it with a Mustang bridge. Who knew.)

The Stairways cut “Don’t You Care” early in ’66, before I was with the band. The song was written by Eddie Stair. The Stairways record was sold in stores and did get radio play on Willmington’s WAMS-AM.


The flip side of “Don’t You Care” was an instrumental version, tenor and alto saxes. A pretty screamin’ side, too. It was Chuck who taught me the lead lick he used on the record. George Curtin was our bass player, and I haven’t seen him for years. Martel Day was on drums, and Bob Bowersox, now a star presenter on the QVC shopping network, was second rhythm guitar after Eddie. A bit of over-staffing on the guitars, but that would soon end and the original six-man lineup would become five. More on that in a moment.Eddie Stair’s original band also had an instrumental called “Castaway.” Eddie, a trusting soul, sent it to a record company, unsolicited and uncopyrighted. The tape was returned some time later. Then after that, a group called “The Castaways” came out with the song, “Liar, Liar,” a garage band classic. Eddie always claims it was his song, with words added. Martel and George vouched for him, and I believe the story is true. So there you are, another alleged ’60s rock band ripoff story.

Then one day I got a call from Nino, telling me that Eddie was out of the group. I remember saying something like, “But the band’s named after him.” And Nino says, “Not anymore. It’s Nino and the Stairways now.” Very heavy.

After Eddie was fired, Vince Rago of Richie Records took us back into the studio to cut two more sides. It was at Frank Virtue’s studio on North Broad St. in Philly. Virtue had a big hit in the late ’50s with “Guitar Boogie Shuffle.” We went into his studios and cut a new song called “All Souled Out,” which was a pretty good record. But it never came out. Vince Rago wanted upfront money, I forget how much, for “promotion” of the record. I remember Nino saying that such expenses should be borne by the record company, and he refused to pay.

Rago held firm: No promo money and the record sits in the vault. Nino called his bluff on behalf of the band; no dinero. Guess what? The record never did hit the stores, or the radio. Rago meant business. As I remember it, the original tape did sit in Frank Virtue’s vault. Some years later, I called Virtue studios to inquire about the tape’s fate. I remember being told, perhaps by Frank Virtue himself, “Oh, we just got rid of a lot of old stuff that was sitting around.” So here’s the upshot: If Nino had agreed to pay the “promo” money, maybe our second record would be a cult classic, too… and if I had called Virtue sooner, perhaps I could have salvaged the tape and brought the record out as a “from the crypt” special! Ah, what could have been!

Rago’s son, Vinnie Jr., just recently told me that the masters from his father’s company were either lost or tossed by family members who didn’t recognize their potential value. As for the fate of “All Souled Out (backed with an instrumental version, as was our custom), I never saw any vinyl on it, or even an acetate. But Chris of garagehangover.com told me that some collector in the UK thought he saw an acetate of “Souled” for sale over there. I’m trying to run that down; if it’s found, it’s another garage band fairy tale come true!

I’m pretty sure the Stairways played on the same bill as the Enfields and, of course, George Thorogood and Wayne Watson; they were “The Turfs” back then. The Stairways beat them at a Battle of the Bands, I think it was at the Elsmere Fire Hall. What a night that was! I remember that we all went back to the Charcoal Pit, a popular local eatery, and announced that there would be an “after-party” at my house in Green Acres (since my parents were away visiting my sister at college). About a hundred kids jammed our house, broke a window or two, and then the folks came home early and the party was over.

I think there’s a chance we once played on the same bill as the Castiles, Bruce Springsteen’s band, maybe at that same Battle of the Bands. But it could be that popular mythology is merging with my teenage band memories! If anyone reading this is close to the Boss, ask him if he remembers the Stairways when he was playing the Wilmington circuit (which history shows that he most definitely did).

Nino, our lead singer and alto sax player, was tragically murdered in 1998, almost exactly ten years ago this spring. When Nino died, I was so upset that I couldn’t bring myself to go to the funeral. The Wilmington News-Journal ran huge news stories about his murder, and accompanying one piece was a photo of the Stairways with Nino, Ricky, and me in the middle (listed by the paper as “unidentified”).

In a real sense, Rago was/is an unsung hero of Wilmington’s cultural history. He was a tough, no-nonsense guy who sometimes demanded that his groups cede control to him (he owned the publishing company as well as the record label). And we didn’t like that side of him. But he also professed a real love for the music; many of his biggest acts, such as Teddy and the Continentals back in the late ’50s, were blacks, and Rago was a tireless promoter of black music as well as garage band rock ranging from soul and avant garde / psychedelic to proto-punk. His legacy deserves to be memorialized.

Vic Livingston

Special thanks to MopTop Mike for the scan of the Stairways 45. If anyone has a copy, scan or transfer of the Richie version of All Souled Out, please get in touch!

The State of Mind on Chavis

Updated October 2011

The State of Mind were from Wilmington, Delaware. “Move”, the first of their two 45s on the Chavis label, is their best, though “Make You Cry” isn’t far behind. Both have good guitar breaks, but while the solo on “Move” uses lots of echo, “Make You Cry” has a tougher attack. They sound almost like different bands, and I guessed the two 45s were recorded at least a year apart. “Goin’ Away” is a mellower song with good vocal harmonies.

“Move” was written by B. Sayers and James Booth, its flip “If He Comes Back” was written by Paul Murtagh, who played guitar, keyboards and did vocals for the group. “Goin’ Away” and “Make You Cry” were both written by James Booth. Both 45s were produced by James Chavis who owned the Chavis, Candi and Barvis labels.

If anyone has photos, please contact me at chas_kit@hotmail.com

I didn’t know much of anything about the band until Paul Murtagh contacted me:

The original band was formed in 1965 by Paul Murtagh (rhythm guitar, keyboards and vocals), Jim Booth (lead guitar and vocals), Bill Smallbrook (drums) and Al Borgnis (bass guitar). All of them were sophomores at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware. During that first year of their existence, they played only a few venues including the 1965 Talent show at Wm. Penn and a couple of dances.

In 1966, they replaced Al Borgnis with Bill Sayers on bass and Bill became the new lead singer as well. Al continued to support the group as a sort of manager, equipment support, etc for several years and remained always a good friend to the group. With the addition of Sayers, the band’s sound began to mature and we began to write their own songs. They also started playing other venues, school functions, local dances, Battle of the Bands, etc.

In the summer of 1966, the groups then business manager, Jim Booth’s mother, placed a call to a local Wilmington record company, Chavis Records and its president, James Chavis, agreed to audition the band based on a poor quality tape submitted to him. He called a few days later and asked if he could hear the band live so he was invited to one of their practices, held in the drummer’s basement. Chavis was impressed and several weeks later the State of Mind signed a contract to record 6 record sides over a 2 year period.

The band recorded its first single at Virtue Studios on Broad Street in Philadelphia. The A side, “Move”, was credited as written by Jim Booth but it was truly a group effort with everyone contributing something to the song. The flip side, “If He Comes Back”, was written by Paul Murtagh – his homage to the Byrds. The band’s key musical influences at the time were the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and other “British Invasion” groups. The Kinks and Beatles influence is very obvious on “Move”.

The first week following the record’s release in Wilmington, the main local rock station, WAMS, picked “Move” as the “WAMS Wax to Watch”. Over the next 10 weeks, the record slowly climbed the WAMS Top 40 charts topping out at number 10. In addition to WAMS, the record also got play on WIBG and WFIL in Philadelphia.

The success of the first record opened up numerous opportunities for the group. In addition to the WAMS promotional concerts held weekly at local Wilmington area fire halls (Elsmere, Prices Corner, Minquidale, etc.), the band also played larger venue concerts, one in particular where a number of national acts also played, Bunny Sigler, Tim Rose and others. This was also the era of large dance venues such as the weekly affair at the Wilmington Manor Lion’s Club where literally hundreds of kids attended – these venues also helped to get the band’s name around. In June of 1967, the band was the featured opening act at the new Brown Derby Night Club in Chadd’s Ford, PA, along with the Five Penny’s, a well-known local R&B group.

In the fall of 1967, the State of Mind returned to Virtue Studios to cut their second record. Both the A and B sides of this record were written by Jim Booth. For this record, the band added some more complex harmonies and a piano part, played by Murtagh. The band was very excited about the A side of this record, “Make You Cry”, feeling that, musically, it was superior to “Move” and should prove to be an even bigger seller. Even the B side, “Goin’ Away”, was a strong piece. Unfortunately, the band was destined not to see the success they hoped for on the release of this second record. WAMS continued to provide very strong support to the band and invited them to premiere the new song at the next concert at the Elsmere Fire Hall.

One of the band’s on-going struggles internally was how each member perceived their individual futures and the future of the group. Three of the four members planned to attend college upon graduation but Sayers was committed to remaining a professional musician and was concerned about his future once the band members graduated from Wm. Penn. About a week before the Elsmere concert, Sayers announce to the group that he was leaving to join the Phabulous Pharaohs, another local band on the rise. Without the band’s lead singer and bass player, a shuffling of personnel took place and another local musician Bob McCall was invited to join the band for the Elsmere gig. Unfortunately, the band was unable to reproduce the sound of their second record live for the concert so had to lip-synch the record. Following this concert, the band essentially broke up and, unable to play additional promotional events, record sales were not strong and so the second record did not get the attention that the band thought it should have gotten.

In 1968, Murtagh, Booth, Smallbrook and Borgnis all enrolled at the University of Delaware and, although they remained friends, the group never got together again. Other than Sayers, who, as of a number of years later, was still performing, the remaining members of the band went on to careers outside the music industry. Sadly, Jim Booth passed away several years ago – a huge talent, gone way too soon.

Paul R. Murtagh, October 2011

Paul added in an email to me:

As I relate all of this from memory, it seemed like our musical career lasted for many years but, in reality, it was less than 2 years, start to finish. I still compose and play in my basement studio, often with my brother in law and nephews, all talented musicians, but rarely does anyone but family hear me play anymore. I do enjoy your website and reading about other local Delaware bands from that era. I haven’t heard any mention yet of another band from New Castle called the A-rabs. This band was around at the same time as the State of Mind and were very good (great at covering Beatles songs) although don’t believe they ever recorded anything. Band members were (as I recall), Jerry Mills, Bob Schrundalo (sp?), Jim Lynch and Warren Pratt. We also knew and were friendly competitors of Johnny Neal and the Shapes of Soul and The Enfields. Keep up the good work – I hope to see more from Delawareans who lived through that era and remember more about the music scene.