Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Birthday, Barbara!!!

Happy Birthday Aunt "Barbie Pins" Barbara! 
Thank you, for all your love, Tommy

“Barbara, Kronks!” I said turning to mom's youngest sister working the stroller and me down the long York Avenue stoop. It was June 1958, Barbara was 19, I was four. Barbara loved me better than a sandwich loaded with mayo, but she had a second reason for taking us gallivanting: Teen boys loved teen girls pushing carriages. I was bait. To get Barbara’s attention the guys had to go through me, and these were rough nice guys on the corner of 87thStreet and York Avenue. In Kronk’s Soda Fountain shop, I’d get pretzels and egg creams on the cuff while the boys tried to impress Barbara. “Please don’t tell your mother, Tommy,” Barbara begged on the way home. Later, Mom asked, “Why aren’t you eating your hamburger? It’s your favorite!” “I don’t know,” I lied, not wanting to drop a dime on Barbara. Mom looked at my bloated belly and called her parents. “Mom, put Barbara on the phone... a moment later… What the hell did I tell you about loading him up with crap right before dinner?”

But it didn’t matter; Mom let Barbara walk me over to Kronk’s anytime she liked. Mom needed the break. My younger brother, Rory and I were unified on only one thing, torturing adults. No relative would babysit the two of us together in their own house. Anytime, Mom needed to go out and she couldn’t find a willing babysitter to come to us, she had to work the phone to get two separate relatives to take us in.

The other reason I loved Kronk’s was the music. Not only the jukebox, the teen boys sang fantastic acappella and gave me dimes for the jukebox. I was already a connoisseur of fine music thanks to my first 45 single, “I Told the Witch Doctor.” Its harmony knocked me out, and so did the Yorkville Melodies. One of the groups founding members, Denny Ferado, told me, “In 1954, Jimmy Whalen, Billy Auger and I were sitting on a stoop on 87th Street between 1st & York Avenue. Paddy Dougherty came down the street singing the Harptones, “Sunday Kind of Love,” and we all started singing along. Later, Whalen and I started a new group with Mike Smith, Ronnie & Jay O’Neil. Bobby Failla taught us a lot. Stan Zizka sang amazing, between Stan and Bobby that’s how the Yorkville Melodies learned to sing. We practiced in every hallway in the neighborhood until we got chased. We used the tunnel under the 87th Street bridge inside CarlSchurz Park as our personal recording studio.”

That was the Upper East Side as the 1950s’ turned into the 1960s’. Every few blocks you’d hear doo-woping, and it started on 87th Street. I’d have an easier time explaining the full begetting in the Book of Genesis than accurately describing doo-wop band mergers. Briefly, in 1960, Stan Zizka left the Yorkville Melodies to join a group that became the Del-Satins, and musical history set in quickly. In 1961, the Del-Satins backing Dion, added “hape, hape, bum da-haity, haity, hape" to “Runaround Sue,” and drove it to number one. Unfortunately the Del-Satins received little credit for their enormous contributions to this hit and “Donna Prima Donna,” Lovers Who Wander,” Ruby Baby,” and “The Wanderer,” a teenage anthem.

Few years back, I received an email from one of my childhood heroes, Clay Cole. Clay read my Yorkville stories on-line and deeply identified with the characters since he lived across from John Jay Pool when he hosted the highlight of my week “The Clay Cole Show,” on Channel 11 Saturday nights in the early 60s. The show was a cavalcade of rock stars and the Del-Satins were regulars. All Yorkville guys.


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