Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sounds of the Niagara Frontier: the Rockin' Rebels, John Fogerty, and Screamin' Dick Biondi.

"Wild Weekend" by the Rockin' Rebels was recorded in 1959 by two Buffalo DJs, Tom Shannon and Phil Todaro, for their Mar-Lee (named for their girlfiends) label. Shannon and Todaro had written "Wild Weekend" as a theme song for their radio show on WKBW. It became a regional hit in the Northeast, securing the band a spot on the Dick Clark show. In 1962, it was re-released on the nationally marketed Swan label, and in 1963 it became a major hit, reaching number eight on the pop charts. This makes it, to the best of my knowledge, the only top ten hit to have originated in Buffalo, a city with which I have some familiarity. You can get the tangled history of both the music and the band and a discography here.

John Fogerty isn't from Buffalo, but listen to "Rock and Roll Girls." Instrumentally, it's practically "Wild Weekend" redux from the get-go, opening with the same hooky run and with sax accompaniment that sounds very similar to the Rebels'. Fogerty nails it in the vocal toward the end of the song with these words:

If I had my way, I'd shuffle off to Buffalo, Sit by the lake, and watch the world go by....
WKBW, home of Shannon and Todaro, also had for a time one of America's best known DJs, Dick Biondi. There's a sample of Biondi's frenetic style in the clip above. Biondi's edgy humor--he adumbrated the "zoo" style that became widespread on pop radio in the '70s--was often directed at station management, which sometimes led to his being fired. He became best known when he moved from WKBW to another 50,000 Watt platform, Chicago's WLS. Later he had a gig with KRLA in Los Angeles.