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 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!

43 thoughts on “The Star Blazers, the Stairways and the Wilmington scene”

  1. Vic, I do not know if you remember me. I was married to Nino for 25 years. Besides our children, music was his passion. Melissa and Michael told me about the web site you’ve developed and I decided to check it out. Thank you for bringing back the memories. I had not heard the song “Don’t You Care”. It brought chills up my spine, listening to it. I had to laugh when you mentioned him not putting the money up. When he made a decision, he certainly stood by it. Nino always told me that music was his gift from God. He never turned down a gig. I had the opportunity to share your site with his brother Rick. I hope he responds. We miss Nino and the beautiful music he played. I still have many people approach me to tell me that Nino’s band played at their wedding. You never really appreciate something until it is taken away. His death was senseless. He now has a granddaughter. Thank you for helping us keep his memory alive.

  2. Hi – I played in the Geatormen with your Dad and your uncle (i’m one of the trumpet players you see in some of the pictures of our group) – they were both terrific musicians and wonderful guys to travel with and perform with. Your dad was a very
    accomplished saxophonist and vocalist. He could sing all the popular songs of the day and he sounded as good or better than the artists who recorded them – he was the star of any band he was in. He was also a very nice guy – he didnt let his fame “go to his head”. I’m so sorry for what happened to him and your family. Please give my very belated condolences to your mother, brother and uncle.

  3. Wow! My dad’s name pops up everywhere. I am David Baldo, and I am yet again amazed at the prolific respect the Wilmington area musicians give to my Pop. I teach and play music around town too. Keep the fire of our “little” town music burning!

  4. I am Nino Puglisi’s daughter, Melissa. I can’t put into words how special it is to read something like this on the internet. Like my twin brother, I am always searching for information about Dad’s “famous” past. He spoke so energetically about his days on the Wilmington and Philadelphia musical circuit. Of course, when we were kids, the stories started to sound the same and we would say, “Oh, c’mon, Dad! You’ve told us this story a million times!” Now that he is gone and I am an adult, I know I would hang on every word! This site helps to bring a piece of that back into my life. Thank you. If you have any other stories or tapes of my Dad, please share them!
    Melissa (Puglisi) Okrasinski

  5. i dont think the castaways stole that song, i think alot of music from that era sounded alike, i new one of the members of that group and they just made it up and did a crewd recording, nothing as sifisticated as you may think.

  6. Wow, it’s great to read about this on the internet. I am Nino Puglisi’s son, and I do random searches from time to time to see if any of his old music is out there. Thank you so much for posting, it means so much to me to see this picture of him and hear his music!
    Mike Puglisi

  7. Hi Vic,
    As you may remember, in high school I used to be really good friends with Rick Puglisi. That meant going to a lot of the Stairways performances at all the fire halls around Wilmington. I also spent a lot of time at their home on River Road and I remember riding around in Nino’s yellow Pontiac convertible. They were some great times! I have Don’t You Care on an old reel to reel tape recorder, but unfortunately it doesn’t work anymore. It was great to see that you have it on this site. I’ve been looking for it, but never thought I’d find it anymore. Thanks for the memories.
    Ed Niedziela

  8. Vic:

    This site has brought back so many cool memories of a special time in music.

    My Dad always counted you as one of his “success stories” along with Chuck Aarons, John Dougherty, Joe Allegro and Carl Bachman.

    I am now a lawyer in Media, Pa, but I am still gigging with 2 bands in Wilmington, Heavenly Hash and Dry Martini. I run into Bob Bowersox occasionally.

    It would be great to get together and play sometime.

  9. Very cool. My sister forwarded me this site, as I was unaware that it existed. It’s great that someone is trying to archive all this stuff. As with all things 40 years ago, though, there are a number of facts not quite on the mark that perhaps I can offer some clarity to.

    For one, the original “Stairways” were known as THE SONICS. This would have been in 1964-65. Jay Beeson was the original sax player for a band of that name that broke up in late ’63. I had seen them at the DuPont Country Club one night in the summer of ’63, and the rest of that year and all spring of ’64, I kept hounding Jay to get the band back together and let me be the rhythm guitar player. He finally got motivated and we put the group together that was to have a terrific run through ’64 and ’65: Beeson on sax and lead vocals, me on rhythm, a VERY young Eddie Stair on lead (he was great, but his folks would never let him stay out late — got into a lot of trouble on gig nights), Max Hoferer on bass, and John Morrow on drums. Our first gig in ’64 was at a frat house at the University of Delaware that turned into a raucus party — they loved the band, and we had steady work from then on.

    We went into the studio in the spring of ’65 and cut an instrumental we called “The Castaway”, and tried to push it as THE SONICS. We cut it in a studio in Wilmington — I still have the original acetate of the record. Vince Rago had nothing to do with it, by the way. He was busy messing with the Enfields (remember them? Ted Munda?) “The Castaway” was basically written by the entire band, and I will still swear, to this day, that “Liar Liar” was built on the instrumental we recorded and sent to the same record company that the group The Castaways put the song out on. Could never prove it, though.

    THE SONICS were tremendously popular — we played every dance at Brandywine that year, and some at Mount Pleasant, plus a bunch of frat gigs, sock hops, pool parties…you name it, we played it. We opened for the Beach Boys at the Wilmington Armory, and again for the Ventures at the same venue. We wore cool electric blue Nehru jackets with black velvet trim (I’ve got a great publicity photo of the band around ’65).

    THE SONICS broke up in late summer of ’65, when John Morrow and I went away to school, and God knows what happened to Max and Jay. But Eddie went on to put the Stairways together, and I wouldn’t know too much about that era. But I came back in Spring of ’66, and got plugged back into the band as it was morphing into NINO AND THE STAIRWAYS. By then, Vic Livingston was playing lead, and I think Bobby Howell was on drums and George Curtin on bass, with Nino Puglisi and his brother Ricky on saxes and lead. It was a damn good band.

    I hung with that group for about a year, then moved on, but I would see Nino every once in a while, and we’d reminisce about the “good old days”. I was very saddened to hear of his death, and George Curtin and I went to his funeral. It was good to see Ricky again, and to meet Debra, a lady whose strength continues to inspire me.

    If whoever is putting this site together would like pictures and recordings, I have them all, particularly of the Sonics. And by the way…I think it was the Sonics that beat Thorogood and the Turfs in the Battle of the Bands, and what made it amazing was that we beat them on their home grounds at the Claymont Fire Hall. We didn’t think we were going to get out of there alive that night.

    Anyway…Great site. Nice to see the early music remembered.

  10. To Mike and Melissa,

    I hadn’t checked this site since last year, and tonight I read your comments. I’m so glad you enjoyed my reminiscences of your dad and your uncle Rick. Those were really magical days, although we worked really hard at each gig and didn’t realize at the time just how lucky we were. Mike, I met you at the memorial at the fire hall down on Route 13, you probably don’t remember. I’m sure by this time you have seen Kevin Donahue’s Brandywine Class of 67 site, where he’s got postings by some of the other guys in the band, like Martel Day and yes, the famous Eddie Stair, who is now a honcho for Nike on the West Coast. He was our “Pete Best,” if you know that story. I think George Curtin, our original bass player, told the story of the great “battle of the bands” at Brandywine Fire Hall, when the Stairways beat out the Turfs (with George Thorogood). That was our claim to fame. Your dad really cared about the music, and he had a lot to do with my growing up, since he was the one who auditioned me for the group. As you read above, “Don’t You Care” was bootlegged some years ago by some European bootleggers. If you do an internet search, you should find it. I talked to Vinnie Rago’s son a couple of years ago, and all the masters went missing. We made a second 45 called “All Souled Out” and it vanished and as the account above states, I’m still looking for it.

    Well, you guys brought a tear to my eye when I read your posts. I’m up in Bucks County and I get down to Wilmington pretty often; I’d certainly know Mike when I saw him, because he’s the spittin’ image of Nino! Best to both of you and let’s find that second record… it’s got to be out there. Even my first band’s record, one of the worst garage band songs ever, is on a European bootleg, and according to the guy who runs this site, “All Souled Out” may be out there, too.

  11. Hi Debra. Last night I first saw Mike and Melissa’s posts here, and I didn’t read all the way down to yours until after I posted a reply to them. I remember meeting you at the memorial, and I’m so happy that you got a kick out of reading my ramblings. Seems that Bowersox and I have conflicting memories of the great battle of the bands — maybe it was at Claymont Fire Hall, probably was — but I know it was Nino and the Stairways, not Box’s earlier band, the Sonics, that took it away from the Turfs and George Thorogood!

    I didn’t ask Mike and Melissa, but I’d be interested to know if they took up music, too.

    I’d like to echo Bob’s comments about your strength and how your story has inspired us all, especially when coping with situations that seem insurmountable. I confess I have not read your book, for the same reasons that I couldn’t handle going to Nino’s funeral. But now, with the passage of time and the realization that your story is one of hope, not despair, I will try to do so.

    Haven’t seen Rick P. since the band days; please send him my best wishes if you talk to him.

    Can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since I posted here; but something drew me back here last night and whatever it was, the posts from you and your kids made it special. Thanks and perhaps our paths will cross again.

  12. Dave and Frankie (that’s what your dad called you when you’d come running in with your buzz cut during guitar lessons)…

    I haven’t revisited this site for months, and I discovered your posts last night. Frank, I tried to post a message to your web site at the time I wrote the above, having done my own internet search prompted by the memories of your dad that came back to me when I wrote this stuff. I guess you never saw it (my telecommunications have “gremlins” but that’s another story that I won’t burden you with…)

    Here’s some news for both of you guys: I’ve got original recordings of your dad made during my lessons with him… lots of stuff, him playing AND singing, and it’s damn good, too. I haven’t played the tapes for years; they were made on an obsolete RCA cartridge recorder, circa 1961 maybe, and they’ve been stashed away in the basement (not a good place to keep tapes, I know…) I am going to fire up the machine and see if I can get it running, and then maybe I can transfer or digitize them for you guys. I know you’d enjoy having these recordings.

    (I also have a stack of your dad’s mimeographed guitar lesson music and stuff, but I’m betting you have that already.)

    Frank, I will copy this post and try to put it up on your web site (I recall that you had a web form page, which is a good idea for us journalists who find that our email sometimes disappears into the ether). I would very much like to jam with you, but my axe skills have diminished greatly over the years. Still would be fun. My email address is posted on my web site,

    Best to you both. Your dad was a great man, not just a great guitarist and teacher but a real father figure to me and lots of his other students, too.

    Well, I hope you guys don’t take six months to find this post, so I’ll go Google “Frank Baldo” right now so that I can send it to you elsewhere.

  13. Hi Ed… I think I saw you at the Mt. Pleasant reunion in 2004, I think it was. Great to read this from you, just rediscovered this site and was so happy to read posts from Nino’s wife and family. I take it you are still around Wilmington, so if you see Rick tell him we need to have a band reunion of the surviving members — any excuse for pitchers of beer at the fire hall. You are hereby appointed band reunion chairman! My email address is at my web site, five me a shout-back (if I don’t respond, it’s because my email often disappears. Occupational hazard, I suppose…

    While I am writing this… will you please ask Rick why the audio seems to glitch on “Don’t You Care” as if somebody in the recording booth accidentally leaned on the reel during the take. I remember it was that way on the original record, and I don’t recall anyone ever explaining it. I wasn’t on the original session…

  14. Hey Bob, see you all the time on the tube…

    I know it was the Stairways who won a battle of the bands against the Turfs. Now maybe the Sonics won one too, years before… but you and I were there for this one! I think you are right, it must have been Claymont, not Brandywine or Elsmere… we sure hit them all. Do you still have your old Strat? I sold the Les Paul SG I bought from Chuck, to Norm Lewis. One of the stupidest moves of my aborted musical career. Wasn’t Norm a buddy of Eddie Stair? And didn’t you live near Eddie, who lived in Sharpley? Straining my brain here…

    Why don’t they have YOU on with Esteban? I confess that I watch his QVC and HSN live infomercials… amazing they can get a decent sound from cheap made-in-China guitars (just assuming that’s where they’re made since they are so inexpensive).

    Are you still playing? My email address is on my website at but it’s been unreliable for a long time… something to do with “these troubled times” we live in, but that’s another song…

    Good to read this, should have checked in here long ago. Guess you can’t help with the mystery about the second Stairways single because I think you had left the group by then as I recall.

    See you in the kitchen on TV…

  15. I love this song and was wondering if anyone had the B-Side instrumental version of it available? If so, I’d really appreciate if someone could email it to me at
    Thanks a lot.

  16. Vic —

    Don’t doubt for a minute that it was The Stairways who beat the Turfs…my memory is so shot. Funny thing is, I ended up playing and recording with Barry Jedlichka, Wayne Watson, Jimmy Crawford, and Wayne’s younger brother, Gary… The Turfs was Wayne’s band, and he still remembers us kicking their ass in Claymont (and he’s still a bit peeved about it — says we cheated by having all our people massed around the applause meter mic or something–I DEFINITELY don’t remember that but hey, sounds like something we’d do, doesn’t it?). Anyway, we spent A LOT of time playing together. Gary and I toured extensively together with our band, Brown Jenkin — did some recording for Columbia and United Artists, but nothing every came of it. Then Wayne and Gary found a lot of success with the band they originally called The Bluerocks, then The Watson Brothers Band. We’re all still in touch, believe it or not…just went to a gig where we all hooked up again in Kennett Square.

    I’ve left QVC…couldn’t take it anymore, and they wanted to make some changes. So I’m back in the creative life, acting now. Am currently in Key West, doing a six week run at a professional theater, once again getting paid to perform. Nothin’ wrong with that.

    Hope all’s well with those of us left.

  17. Skippy- ( does anyone call you that anymore?_ would love to get yours and Dianne’s Email address.. Heard you are in
    Australia and saw your facebook page…
    You are the epitomy of Knowledge
    of the bands and music of those days. I was
    thrilled to see your comment… Hope all is
    well with you and your family. P.S. I use
    to work with Bob Bowersox…. it really is
    a small world……..drop me an Emai would
    love to hear from both of you.

  18. Bob,

    I didn’t realize you were gone from the area until I checked back in here tonight. Sorry I didn’t get to talk to you before you left. You know I worked at Ch. 29 from ’90-94, then did my own sports business TV show over the next ten years then… well, if you really want to know, check out my web site.

    I also lived in FL in the early ’70s, worked at St. Pete Times down there. Haven’t been back since those days…

    I emailed Eddie Stair but never heard back from him.

    Here’s a question that’s been bugging me: Did we ever play on the same bill as Springsteen and the Castiles? I have a vague recollection that we did, maybe at that battle of the bands, maybe in Elsmere… or am I conflating memories here? Hey, anybody who knows Bob’s email shoot him a line and tell him to check this board because I need to know…

    Hey whatever happened to Norm Lewis, Bob? I sold him Chuck Aaron’s guitar (Les Paul SG) and want to know if it’s still in working order… best to you, who knows? Maybe I’ll take the dog down there and look you up someday… Oh I still have the Jag with Nino’s handwritten set list from the last gig I played with him… I should give it to his kids, come to think of it…

  19. I am George Curtin, Sr’s son, George Curtin. I am not sure if we are talking about the same George Curtin or not. He was Married to a woman named Pamela. He died in 1973 in a house fire. He was a heavy equipment operator. If this is the same George Curtin please contact me @

  20. Hi,

    I am Chuck Aarons’s younger brother Jeff, who also played lots of lead (blues) guitar in the early 70s and with all due respect, your historical facts are somewhat far off the mark to say the least. First of all, during the mid 60s, my brother was in a band called the Astraunods (or Astronodes) with Ted Barron (spelling) on drums, a Ronny Sphinx on guitar (and bass) and the Daughrety brothers (spelling) Joe and his brother (who’s name I have forgotten). They were twins and one of them played sax. Chuck was in this band around 1965 through early 66 and then while attending the University of Delaware, he met up with Dennis and Dale Melton and was asked to join their band as the lead guitarist, called the Prodigals. By 68, the band replaced the original drummer with Jimmy Ficka and got a new lead singer named Bobby Vance, and off they went as a very successful local band reinvented as “August”. Now unless Rod Serling is standing behind me with a sardonic grin, Chuck NEVER played in a band called the Stairways. Yes he knew Bowersox and Pleglisi but he was NEVER in that band. Now its possible he might have subbed one night because he was on call for many high school bands as desirable guitarist for subbing when a regular was out but that was it. As far as being a regular guitarist devoted a particular band at any given time, his bands were as follows from 1963 through 1969:
    Ambassadors – with Paul Johnson, Tom Connell etc… 1963-64
    Astraunodes – with Daughrety twins, Ted Barron, Ronny Sphinx etc.. 1965-66
    Prodigals and August – Melton twins, Jimmy Ficka and Bobby Vance 1966-1968
    Assorted other musicians between 1969 and 1970
    Aarons & Ackley – (two records with Capitol Records) Jim Ackely and studio musicians, Toronto Canada, 1971-1975
    Studio musician – Los Angeles 1975-1979
    Studio musician, recording artist and composer – Vancouver CA, 1979-present

    Chuck NEVER owned a cherry red Gibson SG, his first “new” guitar was actually a used 61 SG-Les Paul special (an SG with the Les Paul signature on the head stock) that was white. He purchased it from the old Drum Shop in Wilmington. By the time he joined the Meltons, he retired his SG to the closet at our house in Northwood (before we moved to Sharpely) and purchased a very nice Gibson ES-345 that was cherry red. That fantastic guitar was stolen in Canada while he was touring with his partner Jim Ackely of “Aarons & Ackely” fame (or so the story goes). I in fact, owned a new cherry red Gibson SG special that my mom bought me in 1966 -it was my first “new” guitar. To my deep regret, I stupidly traded that guitar in for a 12 string acoustic around 1973. I had possession of Chuck’s white SG and with his permission, back around 1970 or 71, I sold it to a local guy who’s name I will not offer. Chuck’s guitar was a great specimen.
    During the mid 60s era you refer to in your article, Chuck used his white Gibson Les Paul-SG, and used a succession of Fender amps i.e., a Bandmaster, Fender Reverb, then later his favorite Dual Showman which he later gave to me. Yes, he did take lessons with Frank Baldwin in the very early 60s into about 1964 (or early 65) then left. I also took lessons with Baldo but I was far too much into hard blues and became a Clapton, Bloomfield, Hendrix fanatic and later became more of a jazz fusion guy around 73.
    I well remember what Chuck did, we shared the same room in our house for almost 10 years until he left for college. He would introduce me to every new band and guitarist and thankfully, gave me a head start which put me ahead of my age group for quite a while and I even gained a reputation especially around 1972 while in a funky blues band called “Joose” pronounced juice. In the early 60s, Chuck introduced me to the Ventures, Duane Eddy, the Everly Bothers, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Eddy Cochran, Gene Pitney, Sandy Nelson, the Beachboys, Carl Perkins, and after the Beatles explosion which was like a Tsunami for those of us who remember, he went on to expose me to ALL the latest big guitarists, ranging from Michael Bloomfield and Jerry Miller to the brightest stars of the late 60s, Clapton and Hendrix. Chuck and I went to the Electric Factory to see Clapton with Cream on a Friday night on April 19th 68, a night that will forever burn in my memory as the most profoundly influential, mesmerizing guitar performance I ever saw, considering, NONE of us had ever heard somebody stand there and rip incredibly exhilarating blues riffs on a Gibson SG (his “Fool Guitar”) through a massive dual Marshall stack. EC clearly set the gold standard which most aspiring solo guitarists used as the new bench mark. His guitar tore through our heads and forever redefined our attitudes (and most others) toward solo blues-rock guitar. Chuck also introduced me to Clapton’s, now revered Bluesbreakers with John Mayall that eventually became the standard “bible” for blues guitar wood shedding.
    Chuck had also seen Hendrix a few months earlier, but clearly was profoundly more impressed with Clapton’s Cream performance that night at the EF. We both eventually saw Hendrix at the Spectrum in the winter of 69 during his last tour with the Experience. So all in all, my brother educated me and introduced me to guitarists and bands that are now legendary icons of musical history, and we saw them when they were new and young. I also got to see the Fabs themselves, the Beatles at JFK stadium in August 1966 with my oldest brother Bob. An experience that will always be treasured. I still have the laminated tickets and souvenir book.

    So, I appreciate your spin down memory lane but be careful to get your facts right before you mention somebody’s name that liberally. It could be that you have forgotten and just confused Chuck with somebody else or maybe being so long ago, those old bands just fuse together huh? In any case, I know for sure what he did and those are the facts or as the Dragnet detective, Joe Friday, used to say “just the fact mam, just give me the facts”.

    Take care,

    Jeff and his smelly hound dog

  21. I knew Chuck and he sold me a cherry red Gibson SG in 1966. Period. Now maybe he had gotten this guitar unbeknownst to you, or maybe somebody’s tampering with the internet here, or maybe he sold he the guitar you think you traded in 1973, but dat’s da fact, Jack. I sold the Gibson SG to a guy named Norm Lewis. As for Chuck playing with the Stairways, I believe he was on the session for “Don’t You Care” and I will confirm this with Martel Day or Eddie Stair if I can reach him. Anyhow, nice to hear from you and hope you are still playing.

  22. Whoops,

    Apologies – I talked to my brother Charles tonight and to my surprise, he told me that he in fact WAS in a band with Nino but he couldn’t remember if it was called the Stairways. The reason I could not remember it was due to the fact, I was too young, probably only around 8 years old. He says it was before the Ambassadors which was the earliest band I could remember although I forgot that his very first band was called Morris and the Minors during his Junior High days at Mount Pleasant. I remember that band but not the Stairways. So he did acknowledge it was a short lived stint and is probably why I don’t remember it.

    So the band with Nino must have been in between Morris & the Minors and the Ambassadors. Strange but that at least explains why I could not remember it. My only memories of Nino was a guy that my brother knew, hung out with, played with a bit and one time Nino invited Chuck and I over to his house to hear an audio tape of the Bealtes first Ed Sullivan appearance. We wanted to hear how they sounded playing “live” since it had been many months since the Ed Sullivan show aired on TV. So, as previously stated, I do remember Nino, Bob Bowersox, Wayne Watson, Lindsey Lee, Charley Delinger (Chucks very close friend), the Meltons, Joe and Frank Daugherty and Bob Farrari who played sax in the Astronodes instead of Daugherty which I had forgotten. My first band for anyone who cares and probably doesn’t, was with Nick Govatos on rhythm guitar and Barbera Levin on drums, (first girl drummer in all boy band?). We covered the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Yardbirds, Young Rascals, Lovin Spoonful, Hollies and Everly Brothers, Animals, Hermans Hermits and Paul Revere and the Raiders back in late 66. Now that was TRULY covering an era!

    Thanks to all and fond memories of Wilmington are like a warm puddle of water for me. I now reside up in the Granite State of New Hampshire.
    For anyone who also doesn’t care, two other bands that I played lead guitar in that had a modicum of local success and lots of gigs was Carnival (1969-70) with Jim Booth, Mr. Osborn and Bruce Gooding on drums, later Bob Deputy. In the 71-73 period I ended up with Joose (pronounced Juice) which was a raunchy blues-rock band that featured me on lead guitar, Jay Julian on bass, Dennis showard on drums, Ted Baker on vocals and eventually a guy on organ by the name of Bob Zeptkowski. That band really started to tear things up, paying coffee houses, dances, and even gigs up in Chester and Phiadelphia. We covered Derek & the Dominoes, Hendrix, Johny and Edgar Winter, Mike Bloomfield, Electric Flag, Cream, Moby Grape, Jeff Beck, Blood Sweat and Tears, the Who, Joe Cocker and many old blues covers with me TRYING hard to sound like Clapton, Beck, Bloomfield, and Hendrix all at once – well, obviously I wasn’t those guys but I did certainly make an impression:-) I got an A for effort. But seriously, I could mimic a lot of those riffs but eventually I was seduced by the dissonant sounds of jazz and eventually got into a band with a drummer named Gordy (last name too hard to spell) and we covered Mahavishnu stuff. That was a trio and really started to smoke until we ran into some bad luck when somebody broke into the garage we were rehearsing in and ripped off my amp! What a bummer, but in any case, it led to the dissolution of that band. Could have been Wilmington’s first fusion band. After that, I gave up guitar for years and didn’t start up again until the early 80s. And so it goes.

    Sorry to if this bored everyone. Time to call another old Delaware pal, Neal Van Duren – anyone remember Neal?

    take care,


    1. Hi Jeff,

      You don’t know me, but I was a member of the Ambassadors (guitar, keys) from the summer of 1966 until April of 1967 when I went off to the Navy. One of my oldest and dearest friends is Gary Marden, the drummer for and a founding member of the Ambassadors. After coming across this site and others like it recently, we are trying to reconstruct the history of our band. I understand from Gary that your brother, Charles, was also a founding member. Would you be willing to share his e-mail address with us so we can contact him about it? I graduated from Brandywine High School in 1964 and was a trumpeter in the Blazers. I recognize other names in these blogs like John Morrow, Jay Beeson (a member of the Ambassadors when I joined in the summer of ’66) and Bob Howell, another former Blazer colleague. It was really great seeing all the information about the Wilmington band scene in the ’60’s. I wouldn’t have thought anyone would be interested in resurrecting that era, but I’m certainly glad they did. I hope to hear back from you on Charles’ e-mail address. I’m sure as a founding member he can fill in some holes in the Ambassador’s history. Thanks so much. All the best, Bill Bradley

  23. Vic, I don,t know if you remember me-I dated Nino for awhile in high school and went to his senior prom with him (I was in the class of 67) I still have tons of pictures of the prom. I also have a copy of Dont you care that Nino autographed for me (for when he got famous) Lots of good memories–St

  24. I am the non musical Baldo in the family. It was so nice to see my father remembered so lovingly. Music and teaching were everything to him. My son is following in Pop’s musical footsteps and would love anything you have of him playing. thanks cheryl

  25. Hi Shelley. Nice to hear from you. I didn’t realize that you had replied to my post – sorry. Hope you see this and if you do, get in touch with me on Facebook. I don’t have your email address. It will be good to catch up.

  26. His name is Anthony Cloud (Rusty for the red hair, I guess).

    His big claim to ’60s lore is that he wrote and sang lead on a song called “No Good Woman”, recorded and released by his Wilmington, DE group, the Tree in early 1967.

  27. If The Star Blazers was a Wilmington band of that era with a keyboard player named Rusty, it might have been Rusty Cloud. A Brandywine High guy, Rusty later played and recorded with some bigger names, like Southside Johnny, and the Blues Brothers.

  28. Hi Dave! It’s Devon Bailey. Happened to come across this site and thought I’d reach out and see if we could reconnect! I’ll see if you reply!

  29. Bob was my Dad. I didn’t really know him, but that is irrelevant. He ended up being a skydiver by profession, which caused his untimely end in 1984. I have a “tape” of the band Brown Jenkin w/him, Bowersox and who knows. Thanks for this sight.

  30. NO!!! First of all, I am NOT the Eddie Stair that was in the Stairways. However, he IS my cousin. Too long a story to tell here but we discovered each other quite by accident. We’ve corresponded back and forth for some time but not in the last year and verified kinship through a genealogy paper that one of my relatives compiled. Eddie is in the Portland, Oregon area and I have his e-mail if I can locate it. My computer had a catastrophic failure last year and I lost SO much data and addresses. I WILL try and find it though. I just wanted to tell Vic how much I enjoy the web site and the YouTube posts. Garage rock was the greatest! All the best to all of you from Tennessee.

  31. Rusty Cloud (Anthony Cloud) lived in Wilmington; in 1966-1967 he played keyboards and sang with his group, the Tree. They cut a 45 in Janaury, 1967 on the Barvis label, which is now a legendary 45 and considered a classic: “No Good Woman”. Rusty is singing lead on that track.
    Last I knew he was still gigging, in a wedding type band along with his wife.

  32. Living history, a great read. I remember listening to US garage as a schoolboy in the 60’s when it was played occasionally on the radio over here. And if anyone has a copy of Don’t You Care, name your price!

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