Tag: Connecticut rock ‘n roll
The two tunes below were intended for the second Pulse album, Reach For The Sun, which never saw the light of day.
Both were written while the original six-piece band was together but weren’t arranged and recorded until 1969 during the transition period to a four-piece group that included second guitarist Harvey Thurott along with Beau Segal, Paul Rosano and Peter Neri.
Sometime Sunshine was the only tune on which Peter and I collaborated in Pulse. Peter wrote the main part of the song in late 1968, during a hiatus from the band for several months. When he came back in late ’68/early ’69 he had written a plethora of outstanding tunes that included Too Much Lovin’ (the Pulse album opener), Hypnotized, Garden Of Love and Days Of My Life (another unreleased gem), among others.
Sometime Sunshine was one of the band’s favorites of these tunes but Peter had no bridge for it. In early 1969 I had a song fragment that I believed would work in the middle of the tune. We tried it and somehow we made it happen in that little rehearsal shed at the back of the parking lot at Syncron Studios, our home base.
The song also became a showcase for the contrasting guitar tones and styles of Peter (Guild) and Harvey (Strat) as you can hear in the middle section call and answers between the two. And it was one of the highlights of the four-piece band’s live set.
Peter sang the middle section and I joined him in unison and harmony, one of my first recorded vocals.
The other tune, Heaven Help Me was one of my early compositions. At that time, I couldn’t pull off the opening acoustic and voice section of the tune so I taught the melody and changes to Peter, who developed the fingering style acoustic part and sang the melody exactly as I wanted it. I always thought that was amazing.
I sing the middle section, which still included Richie Bednarczyk on Steinway Grand, which attests to this being recorded during the transition, and Peter and I sing in unison mostly on the third section, which concludes the 7-minute tune.
An interesting side note on this song:
A license to use the song in a film by a Yale student was granted for an undisclosed (by my manager) sum of money. In fact, I didn’t even hear about this until weeks later when one of my fellow band mates mentioned it. When I went into the office of my manager/producer/publisher, he looked sheepishly at me, feigning disbelief that I didn’t know. He wouldn’t tell me for what the granting of the song’s rights were sold. Eventually, I was handed a check for $100, not an insignificant sum in the late ’60s, but for some reason I always felt it wasn’t commensurate with what it should have been.
One of the things that made me feel this was that when my manager’s accountant handed me the check he smirked and sarcastically remarked that I didn’t deserve to receive that much! Ah, the music business. Yet another familiar tale.
Anyways, I always liked both of these tunes and they were an indicator of where the band was headed. Unfortunately, this version of Pulse was no more after December of 1970. That then led to the New York-based Island.
Napi Browne was a Connecticut rock band based in New Haven in the mid-to-late 1970s and early ’80s. The band was formed in August 1976, started playing in September, and played its last gig in Westerley, R.I., during the summer of 1980.
The two lead guitarists, Nick Baganasco and Dan Gulino, and the bass player Paul Rosano were together for the life of the band. Four drummers were in the band at various times over the roughly four years: Rich Catalano, George Wilson, Dennis DeMorro and Vic Steffens.
Songs written by Nick, Dan and Paul were recorded in various settings while the band was together, from Bearsville Studios, near Woodstock, N.Y., to Paul Leka’s studio in Bridgeport, and even in Nick’s basement early on in 1977, during which we had a mic in Nick’s oven at one point to record a guitar track.
Let’s Get Right To It (video below) was recorded in Bridgeport with Vic Steffens on drums. The song was chosen as the opening track for WHCN’s Homespun compilation album of Connecticut bands, which was released in 1980.
This tune was pretty much a complete collaboration among the three writers. I can’t remember exactly who came up with the original concept for the song, but I do remember working on it in Nick’s living room at his cottage in East Haven with acoustic and electric guitars with small amps.
I believe it was probably Danny or Nick or perhaps both who had the original musical idea, and I contributed mainly with the melody and lyrics, although it really was one of the few songs on which we equally collaborated. Nick tells me at the start of working the tune up, he sang lead. I don’t remember that. But he says he just wasn’t feeling it, so I gave it a go and felt comfortable with it.
Danny takes the solo, a short but vibrant and compelling statement, and there is three-part guitar harmony, along with three-part vocal harmony, on the choruses. Paul Gabriel was at the studio that night, so the guys asked him if he would sit in so they could record the three-part guitar harmony in one overdub, and he graciously accepted.
We produced this session ourselves and did the first mix on the track, but later brought in Jeff Cannata to tweak the mix a little and he did a nice job of bringing out certain aspects of the track that give it drive, particularly on the build toward the ending.
Here’s the tune with an accompanying video.
Thanks For Thinking Of Me But It’s Alright is the closing track of Side 1 from the self-titled Pulse album from 1969. After it was written and we arranged it in late 1968, it was also almost always Pulse’s opening tune in concert.
The group Pulse was based in New Haven, Connecticut, more specifically Wallingford at Syncron Studios soon to become Trod Nossel, which is still operating, and managed and produced by Doc Cavalier. The first version of the band was a six-piece. We started rehearsing in January, 1968 and were together until almost mid-1970. There was a four-piece group for the remainder of 1970.
The personnel: Carl Donnell (Augusto), vocals, guitar; Peter Neri, lead guitar, vocals; Beau Segal, drums; Paul Rosano, bass, background vocals; Jeff Potter, harp, percussion; Rich Bednarzcyk, keyboards.
The album was recorded in 1968 and early 1969, this track as stated probably late ’68. It was written by our drummer Beau Segal. We were huge fans of the Butterfield Blues Band, one of our main influences at the time, and we had seen them a number of times at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York and the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston as well as the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.
Beau has said he took the lead line from a Butterfield tune he heard live. I know the one. Actually he embellished it a bit. If you listen to a live version of the tune by Butter it doesn’t have the chromatic ascent or the closing phrase that bounces off a minor third. And in fact, it’s not a Butterfield composition.
Butter was covering a Little Walter tune. Everything’s Gonna To Be Alright (1959). Butter’s version changed several times over the years. The only studio track I’ve heard is from an early session on the Original Lost Elecktra Sessions, which pre-dates the first Butterfield Band album.
It didn’t start with Little Walter either. The line was used by Elmore James in his Dust My Blues from 1955 as his closing solo. There are probably other examples from that time frame.
If you dig deeper you’ll hear the line as a part of the vocal melody on the bridge of Robert Johnson’s Kind Hearted Woman Blues, and the line is the basis for the main melody in Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago. Wonder where he heard it if he didn’t originate it himself.
This stuff is fascinating, the Blues tradition. It’s reminiscent of the folk tradition in which entire chord structures and melodies of existing tunes were continually updated with new lyrics, particularly in the ’50s and early ’60s.
Going forward, it pops up in a number of other unusual places. In 1970, Atco Records released Live Cream, which included a studio outtake Lawdy Mama. The original Cream version of this song was a shuffle and included the same lead line. The outtake on Live Cream sees the track changed to a straight rock feel with the line still used but stretched out a bit.
However, many of us have heard this line hundreds of times on a slightly different track. The group ditched the Lawdy Mama version of the song when Felix Pappalardi was brought in to produce and his wife, Gail Evans, wrote new lyrics creating the tune Strange Brew. I never recognized the similarity until I heard the shuffle version of Lawdy Mama by Cream on a grey market item.
Eric Clapton would use the line again to good effect in his outstanding version of Sweet Home Chicago on the Sessions For Robert J album (2004). And so it goes.
The Butterfield Band was and remains one of my favorite groups of all-time and is sorely underappreciated. Thanks For Thinking Of Me was our tip of the hat to them, one of our major influences.
I touched on a sliver of Connecticut Rock ‘n Roll in the ’60s in a previous post. Here is a little more of the story, particularly to clear up some misconceptions and inaccuracies that have been on the web for a long time.
Pulse was a group formed from the ashes of two bands managed by Doc Cavalier, who owned Syncron Studios in Wallingford, later Trod Nossel. One was the Bram Rigg Set (left), who had formed in 1966 and had a single on Kayden, I Can Only Give You Everything, the other the Shags, who had enjoyed great popularity in New Haven and the state for several years with singles such as Wait And See and Hey Little Girl. Both broke up in the summer of 1967.
The break-ups were motivated by Doc to form one stronger group from the two. I had been with the Bram Rigg Set for only about six months and toward the end of that time the band was fracturing. In 1967, our lead singer Bob Schlosser was already living in Rhode Island and by the summer we were not rehearsing as a full band and usually only playing on weekends. The Shags had several regional hit singles to their credit but their popularity was waning a bit.
The first version of the band, which was called The Pulse, note the subtle difference, was made up of three members of the Shags and three from the Bram Rigg Set. From the Shags – Carl Donnell, vocals and guitar, Tommy Roberts; vocals and guitar and Lance Gardiner, bass; from Bram Rigg – Beau Segal, drums, Peter Neri, guitar and Rich Bednarcyk, keyboards.
There are a couple of interviews out there that say this group had two bass players and I was one of them. That’s ridiculous, there were never two bass players. I never rehearsed with this version of the band. Since I was going to school in Boston, first to Boston University and then Berklee School (later College) of Music, I was just not available. And I’m sure Roberts wanted Lance in the band. That was fine with me at the time, despite my missing playing with Beau, Peter and Rich, with whom I’d formed a strong musical bond.
The Pulse went into the studio and started recording. From what I gleaned from Beau they were trying to come up with a single. They did and Doc sold it to ATCO, a subsidiary of Atlantic. Unfortunately the tune was Can-Can Girl, a bubble gum confection written by Roberts with the famous Can-Can melody on horns grafted into the middle of it. It quickly disappeared. The B side, a little more esoteric, was called Burritt Bradley. The single can still be found on eBay as well as record fairs for about $40.
This went on for about six months. I’m not sure what exactly precipitated the breakup but by the beginning of 1968 I received a phone call from Beau and he asked me if I wanted to be in Pulse, a new version of the group that would be a blues-rock based outfit. I said yes and ruined my college life, well to some extent. Because for the next four months or so I commuted on weekends to Wallingford for rehersals. But it was well worth it.
In fact, it was quite a heady time for me musically. During the week, I was studying doublebasse with an extraordinary player, Nate Hygelund. I had bought a beautiful Czechoslovakian bass in Boston and a french bow and was learning classical pieces even though Berklee was a jazz school. Looking back, what’s funny, considering Berklee has become more of a contemporary music school with strong jazz roots, is that electric bass was a non-entity at the school. It didn’t exist.
I’ll never forget near the end of the semester, Nate brought an electric bass he picked up into a rehersal room I was practicing in to ask me what I thought about it because he had no idea. He had gotten lucky. He had a weathered but beautiful Fender Precision he bought for a song. He planned to use it on some pickup gigs around town.
It was a truly amazing atmosphere to be in. I was studying arranging with Herb Pomeroy, the inspirational trumpet player and teacher, and alto sax player John LaPorta! I mean John LaPorta had played with Charlie Mingus for freak’s sakes. Pomeroy on occasion played with a faculty sextet around Boston that included Charlie Mariano, another legend who recorded on Impulse, played with many greats from that label and had been married to Toshiko Akioshi, who would later lead one of the greatest big bands in the world.
Another wonderful thing about being at Berklee was it had an extensive reel-to-reel tape section in its library on the top floor of the old building on Bolyston Street, where all the classrooms were housed. I spent hours and hours listening to everything from Coltrane to Miles to Monk to Mingus. They actually had a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s, so the school was getting hip to pop and rock, but for the most part I just absorbed all of this great jazz from the late ’40s to mid-’60s, discovering all kinds of musicians I had not been exposed to such as Eric Dolphy, who played with Trane, and John Handy, who was on some Mingus sessions as well as leading his own quintet, and so many more.
One last thing about Boston. I went to Club 47 in Cambridge that semester to see the Gary Burton Quartet, one of the first true fusion bands. Burton was an alum of Berklee who played vibes like few others. He had recruited a young guitar player, Larry Coryell, who is still one of the only players I’ve ever heard who can cross over from jazz to rock and back and not sound like he’s a jazz player playing rock. Bobby Moses was the drummer and the inventive Steve Swallow the bassist. It was definitely one of the most memorable concerts I’ve seen and believe me I’ve seen hundreds over the years. My date had to drag me out of the club after their second set because she had to get back to her dorm.
All that was during the week. On the weekend, I was in a very hip blues-rock group with my best friends. You couldn’t ask for much more.
Peter Neri and I grew up in North Haven and played Little League together for Olsen Plumbers and Candid Cleaners. Later, we played in two bands that helped establish Connecticut’s rock ‘n roll scene in the late ’60s: the Bram Rigg Set, which has several tracks on the 2008 Sundazed Records compilation Don’t Press Your Luck; and Pulse, which released a self-titled album on a Buddah Records subsidiary, Poison Ring. It’s re-released every couple of years on a new label.
Beau Segal, who later ran the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, was the drummer in both groups. Bob Schlosser, now Bob Lacey, a successful radio talk show host in North Carolina, was the singer in the Bram Rigg Set, and Rich Bednarczk played keyboards in both lineups. Jeff Potter, later in Clean Living and now with his own highly successful touring band out of Northhampton, Mass., played harp and percussion with Pulse. And Carl Augusto, then Carl Donnell the lead singer with Pulse, is now president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind.
OK, enough name-dropping. What I meant to say is:
Peter Neri has two outstanding acoustic guitar CDs he’s recorded in the past few years that you can check out at his web site: Night Visions, an eclectic mix of blues, folk, Americana, fingerstyle playing and other influences and Dreaming Of Home, an expressionistic take on parenting through his guitar playing, a dazzling mix of fireworks and feeling. On the second title he conveys so many emotions about raising kids just through his music, no words, an amazing achievement. They are available on CD or download with proceeds from Dreaming Of Home going to relief organizations and charities.
I”ll admit it, I’m biased, but it’s still beautiful music.
While I’m at it, Christine, who has sung with the Saturday Night Live band for years, has just released a retrospective, Re-Hive, with her band Rebel Montez, which is still very active on the Connecticut circuit.