Musically Speaking

When I was 13 or 14 my sister got this idea to record her kids while they were young. With this in mind she bought a Wollensak 1/4″ tape recorder. This was a great idea – only she had no clue how to operate it. But you need to realize it was a different world then – you didn’t just pusWollensakRevere3h the button. Being technically capable back then I learned how to use it and started recording all kinds of things. Being in bands I found the perfect thing to do with it. I remember carrying that thing from where I lived on Brian St down to Ridge Rd – to the 414 Club because there was a new group in town – The Show Stoppers. A great group, an instant hit in the area. I don’t remember all the members but at the time I recorded them Bat McGrath and Don Potter where in the group. So one night I drag it down to the 414, set it up on one of the tables and ran a plug over to the wall. It was such a new thing to do nobody questioned it – it was a curiosity thing. I would drag that thing everywhere.

It wasn’t a great machine compared to today I can take my iPad and get a better quality recording – but for the times it was way cool. At one point it developed a squeal – there was a felt pad that held the recording tape against the recording head. That developed a squeal that if you pressed on it it would go away for a bit. But, it always came back. So some of the recordings have that in there. I’ve tried filtering it out but it’s in the totally wrong frequency range. After music discoed out and the family started I was at Kodak and as luck would have it ended up running the Magnetics Lab working with tape of all kinds and sizes.

Some of the later records get a bit better but the majority are with the old Wollensak. A couple years ago when doing another “cleaning” of the garage I ran across my box of tapes. Hadn’t thought about them in years. I thought I check them out and see if they were any good. Talk about oldies but moldies – some of the tapes were actually moldy. During my divorces they spent a few years in my brother Mikes barn, then in various garages.

The Galaxys was our first real band. I was 12 years old, my Brother Mike was 10. We started the band with 2 brothers from down at the west end of Brian St – Dick and Bob Miller.

When we started this group Mike played drums and I was playing bass – more so because we needed a bass. I had a Sears amplifier with 2 12″ speakers and a Silvertone guitar. So what do you do if you’re the bass player and you have a regular guitar – I would crank the bass way up and the treble way down to make it sort of sound like a bass guitar. Bob played lead and Dick played rhythm. I think Bob had a Stratocaster and Dick had a Telecaster or maybe the other way around. I do remember somewhere along the line we stripped and painted Dicks guitar candy apple red – it was the early 60’s and the hot rod stuff from California was finally hitting the east coast.

Our’s and my first real band job was playing at Bullwinkle’s Bar on Lake Avenue owned by Betty Meyers. Actually we got the job because my Aunt Sis worked there and new Betty Meyer. I think we got $5 each for it. After that we played around at the teen dances in our neighborhood.

Thinking we were going to be the next rock and roll stars we saved some money up and recorded a record at Vince Jan Studios on St. Paul St in Rochester. I’m thinking it was something like $60 for the recording time and a bunch of 45’s. It was SO Cool. We got the pizza place across from Aquinas High school to put it on the juke box. Because they weren’t real pressings they didn’t last many plays and had to be changed out regularly – we went through 3 or 4 copies – mainly because we played it all the time when we went there. The songs we did were Sleep Walk by Santos and Johnny and Walkin The Dog. I think Vince was pretty experienced with up and coming rock stars – he told us to run through a couple tunes to warm up.

We didn’t know till after the warm up that we were being recorded. And then when listening back to them in the STUDIO at his suggestion those became the sides for the 45. I still have a working copy that I’ll transcribe and put up here. I think back about what we did at 10 and 12 years old and am pretty impressed with us – practicing, learning how to put together pa systems and such and then going out and getting the jobs. Pretty neat.