Ren-Vell Records Battle of the Bands

Ren-Vell Records Battle of the Bands vol. 1 LP Side AThis is a classic garage LP, even though it’s a real mixed-bag of styles and quality. All the bands culled from Westchester County and the northern Bronx. Judging from the songs the bands cover it probably dates to sometime in 1967. A note on the back cover says the label auditioned over 100 groups. Jimmy Carpenito of the Mystics tells me Renvell’s studio was next to Gun Town on Central Ave in White Plains.

I thought it was likely Ren-Vell advertised for bands then asked them to put up some dollars to get their cut on the album. However, since first posting about this record, a sibling of one of the members of “The” wrote to me: “there definitely was a Battle of the Bands in Westchester County to compete for participation in the album. The guys didn’t pay to have their song on the album.”The best song on the record is undoubtedly the Traits’ “High on a Cloud”, an antisocial ode to chemical escape written by their singer, Mike Carrol.

The Traits on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour
The Traits on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour

I got a nickel bag, my eyes are drooping, they’re starting to sag
Since you left me girl, well I think that life is a drag
I’ll show you girl that you can’t keep on running around
Because I’m high on a cloud and I ain’t never coming down

Well you left me girl, with two feet down on the ground
I’ll show you girl that you can’t keep on running around
I’ll get me a bag and I’ll show you just what I can do
I’ll get so high I’ll wave goodbye to you

Cause I’m high on a cloud, high on a cloud,
High on a cloud, and I ain’t comin’ down no more

With lyrics like those, it would be no wonder that Ren Vell buried it at the end of the second side, but the band said they chose to be last on the album. I wonder how many listeners made it all the way through the LP! About the time this album was cut, the Traits appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour (taped at CBS studios on Broadway – sponsored by Geritol!) doing Paul Revere & the Raiders’ “Just Like Me”. Mack introduces them as “high school students and a machinist from Pelham, NY!” In 1969, they recorded “Nobody Loves the Hulk”, an interesting attempt to capitalize on the Marvel Comics hero that I’ll feature soon.

The other great original is the Henchmen’s “Say,” written by their guitarist and vocalist John Wallin. The drummer bashes away behind a leaden fuzz riff, segueing to a relatively complex bridge. Andy Porter lays down a good, crude solo, with nice tremolo at the end.

The Henchmen also cut a number of demos at Bruno-Dean Recording Studios in New Rochelle and at United Recording including “Strangers”, “Jack of All Trades”, “Walk With Me Baby”, “Sad Clown” and “Stepping Stone”. Hear some of these on the new comp “I’ve Had Enough!” on Norton.

Of the cover songs, my favorite is “Respect” by “The”, followed by the Gyration’s take on “Stepping Stone” and the Night Rider’s version of “Jenny Take a Ride”.

Ren-Vell Battle of the Bands vol. 1 LP Side BRaunch’s version of “Hungry” is good, but my copy has a skip in it. Their bassist Frank Taxiera told me, “Joe Renda asked us to submit a song from about fifteen that we recorded at his studio between ’66 and ’67.” I’ve since posted more on Raunch here.

As for the rest, there are a couple light pop numbers, like “Lolly Pop Train” by the Mystics and “The Glass Toy” by the Reptiles, but they’re not bad. The most out of touch with the times is “Angel Baby” by the Vectors of the Bronx, where Carol Pecchio’s fine vocal performance is buried in echo behind the drums and bass. Some of the covers are unremarkable, but the Orphans out-of-tune vocals on the Byrds’ “Feel a Whole Lot Better” dooms that cut despite good instrumental playing.

I spent far too much time typing out the credits in the interests of ah, history. What follows is a complete list of songs and band members on the album, and links to a few of the better songs.

A1. Hungry – Raunch, from Ossining and Briarcliff Manor

Sandy Katz – rhythm guitar & vocal
Jay Manning – lead guitar
Frank Taxiera – bass
Tom Walker – drums

A2. Jenny Take a Ride – The Night Riders, Portchester

Henry Lopez – lead guitar
Cheno Lopez – guitar
Dominick Gabrieli – rhythm guitar
Tony Ojeda – bass
Mike Lopez – drums

A3. Angel Baby – The Vectors, Bronx

Louie Glattino – drums
Ronnie Salotto – organ
Doug LoPresti guitar
Charlie Pecchio – guitar
Carol Pecchio – vocal

A4. Out of Sight – The Night Crawlers, White Plains

Geof. Greenburg – drums
Bob Bloomfield – guitar & vocal
Gary Kemp – guitar
Rodge Altman – bass
Otis Moore – vocals

A5. The Glass Toy – The Reptiles, Ossining

Mark Worthy – guitar & vocal
Ron Macera – drums
Paul Slavin – bass
Steve Worthy – guitar & vocal

A6. Say – The Henchmen, Pleasantville

Ray Greene – organ
Jimmy Porter – drums
Mark Zvonkovic – bass
Andy Porter – guitar
John Wallin – guitar, vocal

B1. (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone – The Gyrations, Yonkers

John Soares, 3rd. – guitar, vocal
Ronnie Christmann – bass
John Karlsson – guitar
Nick Vitulli – organ
Robert Karlsson – drums

B2. Lolly Pop Train – Tne Mystics, Valhalla or White Plains

Jimmy Carpenito – vocal & guitar
Charlie Sinerate – guitar
Dan Liberati – bass
Mike Mruz – drums
Bob Fresta – organ

B3. Didn’t Want to Have to Do It – The Hangmen, Eastchester

Joe Montclare – vocals
Art Sammartino – Cordavox
Jim Miranti – drums, John Bruno – bass
Joe Manganiello – guitar

B4. Respect – “The”, Yonkers

Richard Kudelka – bass
Sal Del Bene – drums
Bill Connors – guitar
Bob Kolachik – vocal & guitar
Frank Longo – organ

B5. Feel a Whole Lot Better – The Orphans, White Plains

Vinny Leonardis – guitar & vocals
Joe Gangemi – bass & vocal
Mike Saland – guitar and vocal
Ricky Pelpzman – drums

B6. High On A Cloud – The Traits, Pelham

Don Chicherchia – guitar
Bob Creaturo – guitar
Mike Carrol – vocal
Bobby Williams – drums
Jim Klieforth – organ

Recording engineer: Ernie Rivellino
A&R: Joe Renda
Supervision: Pete Iarussi
Renda-Rivell Studios 317 Central Ave, White Plains

There are also at least two singles on Ren-Vell, best of which may be the Mystics (covered here):

RV-318 The Sherwoods – Third Summer (That I Loved You) (by Joe Lanza) / Lonely for You, supervised by Ken Luttman.

RV-320 The Mystics – This Is What I Was Made For / Ride My Pony (Come) – not the Lee Dorsey song but an original by James Carpenito and B. Fresta

Updates:

Since writing this I’ve heard from Vinnie Leonardis of the Orphans:

I was the founder of the Orphans out of White Plains High School. We played school dances around 1965 tru 1967.

How did we get on the album? Joe Renda belonged to the same church. He had a band that played for one of the church dinner dances. They played for the older crowd. They let the Orphans get up a play a few songs for the teenagers. As I remember it about three seconds into the first song, the priest ran up to the stage waving his arms frantically to TURN THAT NOISE DOWN! Well, we got tru it. At the end of the night Joe told us about the album he was making and were we interested in being on it. Of course we gladly accepted. Thanks to father Julius for letting us finish the set.

Not sure how that song got picked for the album. We surely had better songs than that. And YES the vocals on our cut of the album were humorous.

There actually was a battle of the bands around the time that album was cut. I still have the third place plaque. I think Jimmie Carps Mystics took first place.

Unfortunately the other three members of the band have all passed on. I still have my 1964 Rickenbacker guitar that I use on gigs once in a while but nothing can replace the excitement of that era.

Doug LoPresti wrote to me with some info about the Vectors:

Although we were billed as being from the Bronx, I and three others were from Yonkers! And White Plains was part of the community of interest. I was guitar with Ron Salotto on keyboard for many years. We hooked up with Carol and Charlie and Louie later. We were a classic garage band … Louie’s basement! We called it the “Cellarino” Geez! I’m sorry we got such bad reviews for that recording! That version of “Angel Baby” was a huge hit wherever we played. It was Carol in person that made it so … without seeing her, it loses impact!

We continued through the 70’s as an active group, switched to the wedding scene as everyone did. By the 80s we all had kids and not enough time to continue. I reconnected with Carol about ten years ago, she’s in North Carolina now. I’m still friends with Ron (keyboard) but can’t find Louie. Actually there were many times when we couldn’t find him then either!

Thanks to Rockin’ Rex for info on the Ren-Vell 45s and Raunch single.

Ernie Rivellino tells me this is not Joe Renda or Ren-Vell Studio
Joe Renda of Ren-Vell correction: Ernie Rivellino tells me this is not Joe Renda or Ren-Vell Studio

19 thoughts on “Ren-Vell Records Battle of the Bands”

  1. I know the lead singer of the Traits…Mike Carroll…..he works with me in the US Postal Service….he’s a talented guy, and could have been a major player in rock ‘n’ roll, but the breaks never came his way….anyway, any chance this garage band collection will ever be released on CD??????? looking forward to that….Petey

    1. I don’t know about a CD, but I found this download of all of the tracks, and a jpeg of the album cover. It will download in a zip file.

      I am Bill Donovan

  2. It’s great to hear the original version of this song! I have the Pandoras cover version on CD. The Pandoras were an all girl Garage revival band from the 80s, for those who may not have heard of them. They did excellent covers and some cool originals as well. I had never heard this original song, thanks for putting it online!

  3. Great singer and a great friend. Very talented. I had a rock band also in those early rock days, wish I knew Mike back then. I would love to have a copy of Battle of the bands or instructions on how to download this cool music. Great site, keep it up and keep me posted.

  4. one of the best lead singer’s ever..a true rock and roller from the early 60’s…this guy was a powerful, front man who would knock you out with his talent..his voice was the whole show..people were amazed when he sang…I know, I was there with him for years…he is my main man..Rizzo

  5. holy shit. i saw the traits in 1968 at a battle of the bands when i was in 7th grade in new rochelle, next to pelham. it was the first real rock show i went to, and they kicked ass.

  6. My uncle was playing guitar, Bob Creaturo! How amazing it is to hear stories of how talented he was and then to go online over 30 years later and hear this awesome song with my own ears! I am so proud of my uncle Bob right now – this just is so sureal. Now I know where my talent on the piano and saxophone came from. I luv bobby!

  7. I’ve got to tell you, it’s really cool to see the band name on your web site. Over the years I’ve lost touch with Sandy and Tommy, but Frank and I talk all the time. He’s the one who originally told me about your site. Another friend recently emailed me a rip of our single “A Little While Back”, it’s hard for me to believe that it was 44 years ago when we made that record. I have some photos of the band performing at “The Cellar” in Ossining, some time in 1965 or 1966. I’d be happy to share, if you want copies for your site. Let me know if you’d like them and/or a copy of “A Little While Back”.

    Thanks for keeping our, and the others ’60s bands music alive.

    Jay Manning
    Fort Myers Florida

  8. Used to go see these guys all the time.Went to alot of their rehearsals since they we at Bobby K.s house right across the street from me.Knew him well.he was a great singer and played decent guitar.Knew Richie,Sal&Bill real well too as we all were from the same area.Frank lived about a mile away.Bob got married and moved to New Jersey but I have learned that he has Passed on.What a shame.I still live in Yonkers and drive by the old neighborhood and yes the Ghost sounds of bands fill the air on summer nights if you listen hard enough.

  9. Hello, I was in a band with Jim Klieforth,(on keyboards in The Traits) before The Traits was formed in 1968. I am trying to find Jim. I was his drummer in his basement in a band we never named and never got out of the basement. We broke up when I was drafted into the Army in mid-1968. Are you still in touch with Mike Carroll? If so, is he still in touch with Jim Klieforth? A littel more about our band. As I mentioned, I (John Fortuna) was on drums, Jim Klieforth was on Hammond organ, Gregg (Dudley Jones) on lead Guitar, and Lenny Dariano on vocals. We didn’t have a bass player yet. Sadly, Gregg Jones died in an auto accident in Florida in the late ’70s. Please attempt to point Jim Klieforth to this post. I can be found on Facebook/jon4tuna. Regards. John Fortuna

  10. Rizzo, absolutely Mike was a super talent, so was creach, creach and I used to jam every night in the summer, we’d take our guitars out on to the golf course, he could really play. Mike was a good guy, too, those were great times.
    Zelmo

  11. Hi Jay!
    Thanks for the memories!
    Have you any Battle of the Bands from Croton? My cousin Mike Palmietto and several friends (Timmy Smith, J. Picciano, Andy Digiacomo,Joe Cooney, ….)
    Have a great 2012!!!
    Tee

  12. I jammed with Jimmy (as we knew him then) back in the mid 60s when we were in junior high. He started on guitar (Silvertone) and then went to organ (Farfisa). We had a lot of fun in those days. Last I heard from him he was a luthier in Hawaii.

  13. My brother Joe was in The Orphans of White Plains, NY Battle of the Bands. I wondered if anyone can tell me how I can get a copy of the record, on CD? I remember them rehearsing on a piece of Plywood in the backyard. They all were so into the music at that time…Wonderful memories!!!!!

  14. Thought I’d chime in!
    Great site!
    Art Sammartino and I were next door
    neighbors!
    His talent for keyboards is always missed by me.
    Joe Montclare

  15. The 50’s & 60’s in New Rochelle had some of the most talented rock & roll musicians of all time. Prayers and thoughts to the deceased :Greg Jones,Marty Priaulx , Linc Chamberlain, Tommy Davis and too may others to mention . The water was potion of talent. Thanks for the memories , Lenny Dariano , still alive and singing in Florida

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