Category Archives: Brooklyn

The Cloudwalkers “Sunglasses”

Cloudwalkers Capco 45 SunglassesThe Cloudwalkers came from the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. They cut one single, the harp-driven “Sunglasses” b/w
“Never Told Me So” on Capco 106 in mid-1965.

“Sunglasses” isn’t the same song as the Cramps’ “Sunglasses After Dark” but I’d like to think there was some influence there. The single made it to #49 in Record World’s “Singles Coming Up” chart.

Members included Chris Welch and Peter Polizzano, who wrote both songs on their single, plus Pete Frias.

“Never Told Me So” is a fine Buddy Holly influenced rocker.

George Napolitano of the Ox-Bow Incident told me that Pete Frias was the guitar instructor and mentor of many musicians in the neighborhood, and also was guitarist for Jimmy & the Jesters, a group that often played the Peppermint Lounge. George also thought the Cloudwalkers single was recorded at Rossi Sound Studios at 2005 West 8th Street and Avenue T in Brooklyn.

The labels note “A Billyjo Production”. The engineer for the session was Joe Venneri, who was a guitarist for the Tokens during their early days, then became an engineer at Incredible Sound Studio, Mira Studios and Mercury Records.

Chris Welch and Peter Polizzano registered both songs with the Library of Congress on July 2, 1965. Publishing came through Calboy Music, BMI, owned by Joe Calcagno who also owned the Capco Records label.

An ad in Billboard in November 9, 1965 lists Capco Hitsound Records at Southard Ave in Rockville Center, NY. The label was promoting Capco 108, Irv Goodman’s “Hava Nagilah” / “Sugar Blues au Go Go” produced by Jimmie Haskell.

Singles by the Crossfires, the Don Rays and others on a green Capco label, circa 1963, come from a Los Angeles company probably not associated with Joe Calcagno.

I’d appreciate any further info on the Cloudwalkers.

Cloudwalkers Capco 45 Never Told Me So

The Pebble Episode

Vincent Oddo J-2 45 Tripsey
mistaken first label with studio owner Vincent Oddo’s name as artist

Bill DeFalco – lead guitar
Frank DeFalco – rhythm guitar
Jimmy DiGiacomo – bass
Joey Erico – drums

Brothers Bill and Frank DeFalco had a previous group called the Rock Monacles with a different drummer, Henry Bauman and vocalist George Malin. In the summer of 1967 the Pebble Episode went to O.D.O. Sound Studio on West 54th Street in Manhattan to record two songs, “Tripsey” (by William DeFalco, Frank DeFalco) and “The Plum Song” (by William DeFalco, Frank DeFalco and James DiGiacomo). Publishing by Mozella Music BMI, and produced by S. & J.

Juggy Murray of Sue Records signed the group to J-2 Records, his new label as Sue was sliding into bankruptcy to be sold to United Artists around 1968.

Pebble Episode J-2 45 Tripsy
Artist name corrected, song now spelled “Tripsy”

To compound the problems Murray had with Sue at the time, the first pressing of this 45 was mistakenly labelled with Vincent Oddo’s name, the engineer and owner of the ODO studio where the band recorded, but most definitely not the artist! New labels were printed up with the correct band name, though this time the A-side was spelled “Tripsy”.

“Tripsy” is an apt name for this wild instrumental loaded with echo and repeating riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on The Inner Mystique. By comparison, “The Plum Song” is much more conventional in sound, dominated by Bill DeFalco on organ and Joe Erico’s fine drum fills.

This was the first release on J-2 Records followed by Baby Washington doing “Like a Rolling Stone” (I’d like to hear that version!) b/w “The New Yorker” (J2-1301) and the Poets in-demand soul classic “Wrapped Around Your Finger” / “Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow” (J2-1302).

The Pebble Episode continued until 1972, with home recordings I haven’t heard but no further releases.

More info is in the comments to the Discogs page for the single.

Sorry for the atrocious condition of the labels for this post, but if you have a better high-resolution scan of Tripsy, please send it in.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

Pebble Episode J-2 45 The Plum Song

The Ground Floor People

The Ground Floor People Parfait 45 Walkin' on EggsThe Ground Floor People cut two fine singles, first “Walking on Eggs” / “It’s All Right Now”, produced by Ronnie Eden and Joe Simmons on Parfait 101, from September, 1966, then “Treat Me Better” and “Workaday World”, produced by Morty Croft and Ronnie Eden, and released on Mercury 72719 in mid-late 1967.

Tom Ciulla wrote to me and answered my questions about the group:

The Ground Floor People was my group and I played drums and wrote songs. My brother Don Ciulla originally put the group together. He played rhythm guitar and lead vocals. Lead guitar, Tommy Morrow and Freddie Davidson on bass and background vocals. I played drums and sang lead, background vocals and did the screaming (“Treat Me Better”). I came up with the name “Ground Floor People”. We usually rehearsed in a ground floor apartment or basement. Everyone was from Brooklyn.

We were playing in a club called Freddie’s. The owners were trying to sell the place. The group became very popular and after a few months there was a line down the block. The owners decided not to sell and we played there for over nine months. I am pretty sure that was where we met Ronnie Eden (Edelstein).

The Ground Floor People Parfait 45 It's All Right NowJoe Simmons was a real sweetheart. I wrote “It’s All Right Now” with Joe and collaborated on another song that I wrote and he did the arrangement on. It was called “My Man’s a PHD”. Ronnie Eden produced the session and discovered a young “Aretha type” singer to record the song. I remember Ronnie saying that he got a drummer, Perdie Persaval [Bernard Purdie?], who he said played for James Brown, and Perdie got the other musicians to sit in on the session.

Q. I haven’t heard of a Perdie Persaval, but Bernard Purdie played on tons of NY sessions, including one with James Brown.

That was probably the guy. How many drummers named Purdie could there be?

Ronnie claimed he operated on a tight budget. We never had a chance to correct anything in the studio. Like Don Krantz [of Yesterday’s Children, also produced by Eden] said about the bad note on his recording. We all thought the songs “Wanna Be With You” and “Feelings” were really hit tunes. I never met anyone from Yesterdays Children.

I realized later on Ronnie was more interested in having the publishing and recordings of the artists than the quality and promotion of the production. He told me on several occasions he had publishing on several hit songs and recordings that he produced before they were successful. Unfortunately, I made several recordings but was unable to hold on to any of the demos.

The Ground Floor People Mercury 45 Treat Me BetterMy brother was drafted and the group broke up. I played with a few different bands for a while and eventually put together the second Ground Floor People. Sammy Sicalo, lead guitar, George Mandel on keyboard, and Tony Radicello on bass and lead vocals. I played drums and sang lead, background vocals as well. I wrote “Treat Me Better” and “Work A Day World” with Tony. When Ronnie got a recording contract form Mercury records, Tony and I wrote two more songs, “Wanted To Be With You” and “Make A Little Room”. All four songs were recorded at the Mercury session. I always felt “PHD” and the last two tunes at Mercury were my best efforts.

Tom Ciulla

“I Wanted to Be With You Girl” / “Make a Little Room” would show up on a 45 by the One Way Street on the Boutique label, both songs credited to Anthony Radicello, Jr., Tom Ciulla and Ronnie Eden for Impeccable Music, BMI, with production by Ronnie Eden.

Ronnie Eden’s name only comes up in Billboard in conjunction with Ted Black. Together they sold masters by John Gary to Cameo/Parkway and were sued for it by RCA (Billboard, November 13, 1965).

Tom also tipped me to this article about Ronnie becoming New Orleans record shop legend, Record Ron, who passed away in 1996. I used to go to Record Ron’s shop during the two times I lived in New Orleans in the ’80s and ’90s, but I had no idea of his previous career as a producer.

Thanks to Christian for the Parfait 45 scans.

The Go-Nuts

The Go Nuts photo
The Go Nuts, left to right: “Little Mike” Virzera, Vic Virzera lead singer and rhythm guitarist, holding a Fender Jaguar, Stan Kanopski holding the drumsticks, Bill Virzera (kneeling in the foreground), Mike Virzera, lead guitarist with a black Les Paul, Jimmy Gilmartin on bass guitar.

The Go-Nuts Demo-Disc 45 FlowerA couple months ago I wrote about the Go Nuts, a short-lived group from Brooklyn, NY. Their 45 “Flower” is an idealistic tribute to the Summer of Love youth that has been compared to the Seeds for its organ sound and vocals.

Soon afterwards, Jared K. sent me a scan and mp3 of a quite different record by Patrolman Vic Virzera with the Premiers. It seems that when they weren’t waxing eloquently about the flower children, the Virzera brothers were trying to convince the kids to trust the cops!

Patrolman Vic Virzera with the Premiers Kef 45 He's On Your SideJared wrote: “Sounds like he may have been the coolest cop of all time. ‘He’s On Your Side’ is the a-side and is another organ driven rocker (with none of the psych flourishes of ‘Flower’) about getting along with the police, because they’re here to help. Flip is a doo-woppy group vocal.

“Both sides have songwriting credits to brothers Vic and Michael Virzera with the b-side additionally crediting P. Drift. Michael produced the b-side (‘Two Hearts’) and Elliot Chiprut produced ‘He’s On Your Side’.”

Recently I heard from Vic Virzera himself, who have me the history of his groups, and sent me two early song they cut, the 50’s rocker Nina that I’m featuring here, and a ballad called Mystic Mirror. In Vic’s own words:

In 1962, Nina and Mystic Mirror were local grass roots Flatbush hits….our demos were being played in quite a few juke boxes. At that time we were The Premiers with the sub theme “Music with a New Sound”.

Elvis’s early producers, Wally Gold and Araon Schroeder (they wrote Elvis’ 1960 #1 hit “It’s Now or Never”, and Wally Gold co-wrote “It’s My Party”) offered us a contract that had “power of attorney clauses” and we declined….in retrospect …I guess we should have signed it, but at the time we thought we were doing the smart thing. We knew of so many groups that were working their butts off, traveling around the country while the powers that be would make all the money (since they had the power to sign your name to spend the earnings), claiming the money went for promotions, expenses, etc. Another consideration was the fact that, my brother, Mike, would have to had given up his job in open heart research, where he was instrumental in designing a heart-lung machine apparatus.

Premiers Mike Virzera business card
The Go Nuts were formed as a rock show group in 1965 and lasted about two years. We did recordings and appearances, including a performance aired Christmas Day, 1966 on the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour. It was at the CBS Ed Sullivan Theater. Our rock rendition of “Shortenin’ Bread” really went over well… …girls were screaming, people standing and rocking with the beat, lots of applause etc. Unfortunately, similar to what happened to the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, probably the same tech engineers had my lead voice as low as the background voices and what was aired sounded like all background. Still, we came in second and had a great time.

Regarding Patrolman Vic Virzera and the Premiers, in 1971 we were scheduled to perform the song on the cross country David Frost Show, a special on police. Being a live show they ran out of time but paid us for being there and the rehearsal.

I retired several years ago from the NYCPD but I’m still playing gigs with my brother, Mike, and my band, the Vic Vincent Group, in the New York Metro area.

The Premiers – Nina

The Go-Nuts – Flower

Patrolman Vic Virzera with the Premiers – He’s On Your Side

Thank you Jared for contributing “He’s On Your Side”, and Steve Hogan for contributing the photo of the Go Nuts. Special thanks to Vic Virzera for sharing his acetate of “Nina”.

The Ox-Bow Incident

 Jerry Scotti, Freddie DeRubeis, Joe Liotta and George Napolitano in Freddie's backyard, 1964
Jerry Scotti, Freddie DeRubeis, Joe Liotta and George Napolitano in Freddie’s backyard, 1964

Inspired by the Beatles’ performances on Ed Sullivan in 1964, four friends in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn decided to form a band they would call the Creations. George Napolitano, Jerry Scotti, Dominic Coppola and Fred DeRubeis began lessons with Pete Frias, guitarist for the Peppermint Lounge act Jimmy & the Jesters. Two other friends, Joey Sirico and Joe Liotta soon joined. Pete not only taught them music, but assigned each of them the instrument they should play for the band.

The Creations performed at local churches and halls including the Teenage Cabaret and the “No Name” club on 60th St and 14th Ave in Brooklyn. They attracted notice with their spot-on renditions of songs by the Animals and the Dave Clark 5. Joe Liotta’s increasing ability on the Vox Continental organ gave them a professional sound that other bands lacked.

 First Creations promo photo: Dom, George, Freddie, Joe L. and Jerry
First Creations promo photo: Dom, George, Freddie, Joe L. and Jerry

Their two big breaks, though, came one Saturday in March 1965, when their new manager Bob Herin booked the band on Murray the K matinee show at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre with the Chambers Brothers. The Creations played a longer set than usual to fill in for the Rascals, who couldn’t get their equipment off of the Barge in Long Island. The audience response was tremendous, reaching Beatlemania type proportions. Charged by this reaction, they then went and auditioned for Jack Spector, AM radio WMCA’s star DJ who was looking for a house band for the stations “Good Guys” shows.

Landing the job, they began playing Good Guy shows regularly on Fridays, playing their own sets and backing touring acts. Bob Herin turned management of the Creations over to Billy and Steve Jerome, who managed the Left Banke among others. The band would soon change their name to the Ox-Bow Incident and record two fine 45s for Smash and a third, with a somewhat different lineup, for Avco.

 George and Joe Sirico at the Worlds Fair, 1964
George and Joe Sirico at the Worlds Fair, 1964

Before the name change and these releases, they recorded a handful of demos that were never released, including “Get on My Train” and “I’ve Paid My Dues”. I asked guitarist George Napolitano about the band’s early days as the Creations:

Q: What were the circumstances behind the demo recordings?

George Napolitano: The demo “I’ve Paid My Dues” was recorded at the request of Billy and Steve Jerome. They asked us to put something down so that they could give a listen. We had recorded “I’ve Paid My Dues” about 6 months earlier and this version was our second recording of that song. We also did “Get on My Train” at the same session.

The Creations – I’ve Paid My Dues (1965 Demo)
The Creations – Get on My Train (1965 Demo)

Q: Who wrote “Get On My Train” and “I’ve Paid My Dues”?

George Napolitano: I don’t remember who wrote “I’ve Paid My Dues”. It was given to us on sheet music and we were “told” to work on it. “Get on My Train” was written by a friend named Denver Ruggins. He gave us the song and we changed it a bit. The demo was recorded on a 4 track Ampeg Machine at Rossi Sound Studio in Brooklyn and transferred to acetate. I have the original acetate and from the acetate we made the CD copy.

Q: Where was Rossi Sound Studios?

George Napolitano: 2005 West 8th Street Brooklyn, 23 NY is the address on the record label. If I remember correctly that was between Avenues T and U on West 8th Street.

 George Napolitano
George Napolitano

Q: Was the band still called the Creations at that point?

George Napolitano: We were still the Creations when we recorded the demos but changed the name shortly afterwards to the Ox-Bow Incident. The lineup for the original session was myself on guitar, Joe Sirico bass, Fred DeRubeis drums, Joe Liotta Vox organ and vocals, Dominic Coppola guitar. When we re-recorded the song Jerry replaced Dominic Coppola on guitar. After we recorded “I’ve Paid My Dues” and “Get On My Train” we were signed to a production contract with Billy and Steve Jerome. At the time they also managed the Fifth Estate and were part of the team behind the Left Banke who had a hit with “Walk Away Rene”. They gave us the song “Beg, Borrow or Steal” to record and we had it mastered and ready to be released. However the Ohio Express version was released before ours and it never came out. In fact that was 2 years before Reach Out was released.

 Jerry, Joe, George, Freddie, Joe onstage at a WMCA "Good Guy" show
Jerry, Joe, George, Freddie, Joe onstage at a WMCA “Good Guy” show

Q: Were these songs part of your live set?

George Napolitano: Whenever we performed on a WMCA ”Good Guy” show we would play the songs as part of the “show” and then we would back up all of the other acts that needed musical accompaniment. Remember this was way before the days of singers singing over pre-recorded tracks. We provided the music for groups such as the Chiffons, Peaches and Herb, Chubby Checker, the Shangra-Las, Jimmy Jones, the Jive 5, Neil Sedaka and countless others. In fact just this past week I saw Neil Sedaka and I mentioned to him that my band use to back him up on the “Good Guy” shows. He smiled and said, “I remember those days fondly”. We never rehearsed with him. Whenever he arrived Jack Spector would immediately put him on stage and Sedaka would turn to us, snap his fingers and say “C- Am- F-G” and proceed to sing “Calendar Girl”, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”, “Oh Carol” and all the rest of his songs.

Q: How was the NY music ‘scene’ at the time? Did you get much chance to see other bands or only when you shared bills with other bands?

George Napolitano: We played a lot, practically every weekend so we really didn’t get much of a chance to see the other groups that were around at the time. When we weren’t playing our respective girlfriends expected us to spend time with them and not go listening to the other groups. We did go to see some of our friends groups such as Lurch & the Brats, The Intruders and others from time to time but when we were “off” we tried to stay away from the clubs and catch up on those things which we couldn’t do whenever we were playing. That being said whenever we could we did try to get to the Electric Circus or go to the Fillmore East to see The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and whoever else was playing, but with our schedule that didn’t happen often.

The Ox-Bow Incident at Coney Island (l-r): Joe Liotta, Jerry Scotti, Fred DeRubeis, George Napolitano, Joe Sirico
The Ox-Bow Incident at Coney Island (l-r): Joe Liotta, Jerry Scotti, Fred DeRubeis, George Napolitano, Joe Sirico

Ox-Bow Incident Smash 45 Harmonica ManSigned to the Smash label, the Ox-Bow Incident didn’t release a record until 1968. By this time were heading in a more soulful direction, using a leslie speaker on the organ and adding lead singer Billy Sheehan from another local band, the Intruders. Unfortunately, Sheehan was drafted immediately after the band recorded a fine, somewhat psychedelicized version of the Four Top’s “Reach Out”. They recruited Al Tessitore to sing on the b-side, the garage song “Harmonica Man”. “Reach Out” made local radio charts as far away as Kentucky (WKLO) and Wisconsin (the first Instant Pick on WSPT), but missed the national charts despite good commercial potential.

They followed up with the catchy “You Can’t Make Love By Yourself”, sung by Al and “Lurch” Luis Pagan and featuring session player Vinny Bell on electric sitar. The flipside is “She’s Gone”, a heavy soul number written by Fred DeRubeis and George. Neither side caught on with radio or the public and the band disbanded in 1969. George and Joe Sirico found other musicians to record a final 45 for Avco, then reunited with most of the original members for live shows into 1973.

The Ox-Bow Incident is still performing and recording music to this day. Those who want to hear more of their music should check out their myspace page, which has a history of the band and many more photos than I could reproduce here. There’s also a long interview with George Napolitano and Joe Sirico from Mike Dugo’s 60sgaragebands.com site, archived here. Both of these were sources for this story, along with my own interview with George Napolitano. Special thanks to George and the other members of the Ox-Bow Incident for sharing these rarely heard songs.

 Jerry, Joe S, Freddie, Joe L in studio during "Reach Out" session.
Jerry, Joe S, Freddie, Joe L in studio during “Reach Out” session.

The Yo Yo’s

The Yo Yo’s were all from Brooklyn, NY, becoming one of the biggest groups in the city by 1967. They cut one great 45 on the Coral label, an original song “Crack in My Wall” and a fine adaption of Poe’s “The Raven” on the b-side. I love the thunderous opening chords and drum roll on “The Raven”, ominous and fantastic!

They began when bassist Alan Aaron formed a group called the Starfires. The original singer, Frankie Vee (Nick) brought in Larry Elliott on lead guitar and Tommy Zumba on rhythm in 1965. Tommy Zumba’s friend Jeff Miller became the drummer, and then Pepe Cardona took over from Frankie on vocals.

The band changed their name to the Yo Yo’s when Lou Sudano and Barry Flickstein became their managers, forming Louba Productions. They met the band through Lou’s son Bruce, who was a friend of Jeff Miller. Lou and Barry encouraged the band to replace Pepe with a better singer named Ray Sabatis, who took on the stage name “Christopher Shane”. Pepe remained friends with the band and went on to form Alive N’ Kickin’.

The band won a number of local battle-of-the-bands, played at clubs like Steve Paul’s the Scene, Joel Heller’s Eighth Wonder and the Cheetah, appeared on the John Zacherley TV show Disc-O-Teen, and even toured with the Lester Lanin Orchestra as the ‘rock’ portion of the act.

Larry Elliott and Alan composed the music for both “The Raven” and “Crack In My Wall” and Ray Sabatis (Shane) wrote the words to “Crack In My Wall”. Barry Flickstein’s name appears on the credits to “Crack in My Wall”, but Alan maintains Barry had nothing to do with the songwriting.

“Crack In My Wall” and “The Raven” both received “B+” ratings in Billboard, but Coral didn’t put any promotional effort behind the band.

The band broke up in 1969 due to a combination of having their equipment stolen and a general feeling that they wouldn’t find success. Sadly, Ray Sabatis (Christopher Shane) committed suicide shortly after the group broke up. Photos of the band were taken, but none have surfaced that I know of. Does anyone have a photo of the group?

These Yo Yo’s have nothing to do with the Memphis Yo Yo’s who recorded two 45s for Goldwax.

The main source for this story is a detailed interview of Alan Aaron by Mike Dugo.

Groundspeed

A fine psych 45 with early touches of prog. I wondered if more of their work is hidden away on tape somewhere as they were obviously a talented band.

I knew almost nothing about Groundspeed until hearing from organ player and songwriter Bob Telson recently. I’ll let him tell their story in his own words:

I grew up in Brooklyn (born 1949) and had my 1st band, The Bristols, in ’65-6. We played about 6 gigs a month, school, church, temple dances, etc. (that being long before DJs), playing lots of Beatles, Stones, etc., and some of my tunes too. Our drummer, Mike Jacobs, was already playing sessions at 14- his father, Dick Jacobs, produced Jackie Wilson, Buddy Holly and many others. He got the Bristols in the Decca studios a few times, but wasn’t able to get us a contract.

I went away to Harvard, and put a band together at the end of freshman year, and Mike (who was still in high school in Brooklyn) and his dad arranged for us to cut a demo of 2 new tunes of mine, which with their psychedelic/Jefferson Airplane influence, were a far cry from the tuneful Beatles/Stones kinda tunes I wrote for the Bristols.

Mike played drums, Jesse Miller, who had the longest hair at Harvard, played guitar, Rick Scheuer, bass, and Ken Kyle sang. I played organ. We cut the sides the summer of ’67, got the record deal to record a 45 of those tunes, but never got it better than the original demos we had done, so that’s what they released. Unfortunately, we never got to play live as a band, as Jesse, my best friend, left school for a year to join VISTA in Appalachia.

The record finally came out in summer ’68, got some nice airplay locally, and that was the end of that. They edited out some more weird spacy sections for the record (I guess that was before Light My Fire made longer singles feasible). My next band at Harvard was the Revolutionary Music Collective, in which my sometimes Cliffie girlfriend Bonnie Raitt sang lead vocals. We played SDS parties, and did guerilla rave-ups.

Anyway, in brief, I moved to Manhattan, played with Phillip Glass from ’72-4, then played and wrote salsa (Tito Puente, Machito), gospel (5 Blind Boys), and R&B until I began working with theater director Lee Breuer, with whom I wrote The Gospel at Colonus for BAM in 1983, my 1st opportunity to get my music out into the world. Which led to other possibilities in theater and film (Bagdad Cafe being the most known). I’ve been living in Buenos Aires with my Argentine wife the last 4 years, and we just finished our 1st CD together (Isabel de Sebastian & Bob Telson; “TRIP”).