Harveys Lake History

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The Rock and Roll Dances at Hanson's

The Starfires

In the 1960’s the dance nights at the Lake were owned by Eddie Day and the Starfires.  The group was originally formed by junior high school friends Richard Grumbravich (drummer) and Rodger Griffith (bassist).  The Back Mountain team was later joined by other young musicians including Bob Gardner (saxophone); Howard Dymond (piano); Freddie Kirkendall (guitar); and Charlie McCuen (vocalist).  In their college years Eddie Day Pashinski joined as vocalist and John Hall replaced Kirkendall (later Richard Rodieger replaced Hall).  Hall, Gardner and Pashinski were at Wilkes College together.

The Starfires played throughout the Wyoming Valley including the Spinning Wheel (which closed December 24, 2007); the Starfire Ballroom (once the old Giant Market, South Main St., Wilkes-Barre), and, of course at Hanson’s.  At Hanson’s the Starfires joined rising musical stars of the 1960s in special nights which never quite left the 60s generation and would emerge again in the 1980s.

The Starfires first appearance at Hanson’s was on Sunday, July 8, 1962, with dancing from 8 pm to 11 pm with a fifty cent admission charge.  Earlier in the season Joe Nardone and the All Stars played at the park but Nardone’s band was already best known as the “house band” at Sans Souci Park.  Nardone appears at Sans Souci with many national recording artists including Freddie Cannon on June 29, 1962, and Dion on July 28, 1962.  During the 1962 season at the Lake the Starfires usually played on Thursday and Sunday nights.

In 1963 Hanson’s Park also began to feature national recording stars beginning with Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon on August 26, 1963, with the Starfires band (another locally based band, also with Wilkes College roots, Melvin Wynn’s group, was also at the Lake park).  Cannon was an established rock and roll artist with major hits “Tallahassee Lassie,” “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans,” and “Palisades Park,” each selling over one million copies.  He had major exposure on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand TV broadcasts.  He continues to perform to this day.

On September 2, 1963, the Starfires appeared at the Park with the short-lived American group The Essex, a four member band composed of US Marines based at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, who were only active in 1963-1964 and known for one hit “Easier Said Than Done.”

It was the following two years best remembered when numerous national recording stars appeared with the Starfires at the Lake.

Bobby Goldsboro appeared at the Lake on Friday, June 12, 1964.  In 1963-64 Goldsboro played guitar for song legend Roy Orbison.  He had early solo success before his Lake appearance with “Whenever He Holds You,” “See the Funny Little Clown” and “Molly.”  But his greatest career hits would follow in later years.  He also had his own television show in 1973-75.  The Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love”) were to appear at Hanson’s on June 19 but failed to appear.  And for the dance fans there were also major alternative stars at Sans Souci starting with Peter and Gordon from England on July 1, 1964.  On July 4, 1964, Patty and the Emblems doing their hit record “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,” appeared with the Starfires at Hanson’s.  The Starfires were now at the Lake every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights.  Patty and the Emblems were a Camden, New Jersey, pop group who recorded in 1964-1967 but could not sustain their unit of success.  Their lead, Patti Russell, died in 1998.

Gary “U.S.” Bonds was with the Starfires at the Lake on July 8, 1964.  Bonds already had a number of Top 10 hits by 1964 including “New Orleans” and the Number 1 hit “Quarter to Three,” which earned a gold disc.  In 1963 he was on a European tour where he headlined along with an emerging group, The Beatles.  Bonds is also an accomplished songwriter and currently plays celebrity PGA golf tours.

Later in the month on July 18, 1964, Little Anthony and the Imperials played their hits “Tears on My Pillow,” “Oldies But Goodies,” and “Shimmy Shimmy Glo-Bop” at the Hanson’s dance hall during an 8-11:30 pm Saturday dance night.  The Starfires were now playing every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.  The Imperials were active since their beginning in 1957 as a “doo wop” group.  Their lead, Jerome Anthony “Little Anthony” Gourdine had a high-pitched falsetto voice.  They appeared on many famous TV variety programs in the 1960s when they had their biggest hits.  In 2008 Little Anthony and the Imperials were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The group continued to perform in Doo Wop reunion shows until June 2009 but may still perform in their preferred role as rock and roll artists.

The Starfires Lake Playlist:

August 23, 1963 Freddie Cannon
September 2, 1963 The Essex
June 12,1964 Bobby Goldsboro
July 4, 1964 Patty and The Emblems
July 8, 1964 Gary “U.S.” Bonds
July 18, 1964 Little Anthony and the Imperials
July 24, 1964 The Tymes
July 25, 1964 Tommy Genova
July 31 & August 1, 1964 The Prizes
August 7, 1964 The Pin-Ups
August 8, 1964 The Angels
August 14, 1964 The Pixies Three
August 16, 1964 Summer Show of Shows
-The Four Seasons
-Bobby Goldsboro
-The Chiffons
-Barbara Lewis
-Ruby and The Romantics
-Jimmy Soul
-Patty and The Emblems
August 22, 1964 Willie and The Hand Jives
September 4, 1964The Belmonts
September 18, 1964The 4 Evers
May 14, 1965 Patti and The Emblems
May 28-29, 1965 Eddie Rambeau
June 26, 1965 The Orlons
April 24, 1966 The Marketts
June 26, 1966 The Capitols
July 15, 1966 Chubby Checker
August 16, 1966 The McCoys

In late July 1964 the Tymes and Tommy Genova were on stage at Hanson’s with the Starfires.  The Tymes were a Philadelphia soul group with George Williams as lead vocalist.  They had a million seller 1963 hit “So Much In Love” but the group was actually more successful in the United Kingdom.  They recorded until 1976 and Williams died in 2004 in New Jersey.  Tommy Genova was a Scranton native who recorded with the back-up group the Precisions.  He was known for his recording “Farmer John” for his Hanson’s appearance.

The next several appearances at Hanson’s were by lesser-known groups.  On July 31 and August 1, 1964, the Prizes appeared with their best-known song “Summer’s Here at Last.”  On August 7, 1964, “Looking For Boys” was the lead song for The Pin-Ups and their show at the Lake.

A Brooklyn girls group the Angels was at Hanson’s on August 8, 1964, with their hit “My Boyfriend’s Back,” based on a true “boyfriend-girlfriend” conflict among students at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.  The group consisted of sisters Barbara Brown and Jiggs Sirico and vocalist Peggy Davison.  The Angels were still performing as late as 2008.

The most ambitious musical presentation in the 1960s at Hanson’s Park was the Sunday, August 16, 1964, “Summer Show of Shows.”  Seven national artists were at the Lake headlined by The Four Seasons along with Bobby Gouldsboro, The Chiffons, Barbara Lewis, Ruby and The Romantics, Jimmy Soul, and Patti and the Emblems, along with the Starfires.  The Four Seasons (with Frank Valli) are an internationally popular American pop and rock group which from 1962 to 1964 rivaled the Beach Boys in record sales.  By the time of their Lake appearance their hits “Sherry” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like A Man” were on their way to becoming multi-generational American cultural theme songs.  A Broadway show, usually always sold-out, Jersey Boys, is based on the group.

The Chiffons were an all-girls group from the Bronx known for the 1963 hit “He’s So Fine.”  Their Top 40 song 6 “I Have A Boyfriend” was playing in Dallas, TX, on station KLIT on November 22, 1963 and was interrupted by the first radio announcements of the JFK assassination.  Ruby Nash and the Romantics had the 1963 hit “One Day Will Come.”  Her four member group The Romantics were all male.  Oddly, several of their 1960s recordings were more lasting hits when recorded by other groups including “Our Day Will Come” in 1975 by Frankie Valli.

Other artists appeared in the last half of August 1964.  The Pixies Three, known for “Birthday Party,” appeared with the Starfires on August 14, 1964.  Willie and the Hand Jives appeared on August 21, 1964.

On Friday, September 4, 1964, The Belmont’s had reasonable success with “Come on Little Angel” and “I Confess.”  The group, with an original Belmont member, Fred Milano, still regularly performs concerts.

The 4 Evers had a joint appearance at the Park on Friday, September 18, 1964, and at the Grand Opening of the Starfires Ballroom on Saturday, September 19, 1964.  The ballroom was located at 148 S. Main Street, Wilkes-Barre (now the location of Bartikowsky’s parking lot).  A Brooklyn group the 4 Evers was formed by high school friends Steve Tredanger and John Cipriani.  They had two hits “Be My Girl” and “Doo Bee Dum” and had just returned from a tour in England for their Lake appearance.  The group disbanded in 1964 but co-founder Tredanger had later success with TV commercial jingles.

In the mid-1960s there were numerous musical and dance venues in the Wyoming Valley.  There were night clubs and hotels which featured musical talent.  In the summer Sans Souci matched Hanson’s with formidable national recording artists and Joe Nardone’s All Stars.  In addition, there were movie theatres in Wilkes-Barre, Plains, Nanticoke, Pittston, Swoyersville, Forty Fort, Wyoming and Luzerne.  Remarkably, there were also ten drive-in theatres:  The Comerford in Dupont; Pittston’s Riverview; the Midway on Route 315; Hazleton’s Sunset; the Dallas Drive-In; the Moonlite in West Wyoming; the Wilkes-Barre Drive-In along Ashley By-Pass; the Oak Hill (Moosic), and the Valley’s only remaining Drive-In, the Garden at Hunlock Gardens.  There was also the Lake’s Sandy Beach Drive-In which closed after the 1968 season.  All of these attractions, and many others like Angela Park near Drums, competed for entertainment crowds.

In the mid-1960s the Starfires typically opened at Hanson’s on Easter Sunday.  In 1965 the Lake highway was widened along the “Cut” at Luzerne to improve access to the Back Mountain.  On May 14, 1965, Patty and the Emblems again appeared with the Starfires at the Lake and the following night at the Starfire Ballroom in the City.   The Starfires were appearing Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at the Lake.  Eddie Rambeau, who was born in Hazleton in 1943, appeared with the Starfires at the Lake on May 28-29, 1965.  A singer, songwriter, and actor Rambeau recorded “My Four Leaf Clover Love” and “Summertime Love” in 1962 but may be best-known for “Good Morning, Sunshine,” a 1968 song recorded under the name Eddie Hazleton.  He still performs usually in an “easy listening” format and on cruise line tours.

The Philadelphia quartet The Orlons were originally a high-school girls’ group which had the 1962 No. 2 U.S. Pop hit “The Wah-Watusi.”  They appeared at Hanson’s on June 26, 1965, in concert with the Starfires.  The Orlons were dance tune stars in 1961-64 but the British Invasion was coming and swept away many musical talents.  Original Orlon singer, Shirley Brickley, was killed by a home intruder in Philadelphia in 1977.  The Orlons, however, with extended family members still perform.

In early 1966 Eddie Day and the Starfires recorded “You Done Me Wrong,” in a 45 R.P.M. format for Laurie Records, a New York based record label whose artist list included Dion and the Belmonts; Gary and the Pace Makers from England and Bobby Goldsboro.  In April 1966 the Starfires recording was No. 9 in Hits of the Week for WARM Radio 590.

The Starfires opened at Hanson’s on Easter, April 9, in 1966.  Two weeks later, the Starfires appeared on Sunday, April 24, 1966, with the Marketts (with an admission price of 75 cents).  The Marketts were basically Los Angeles studio musicians who were known for “surf rock” hits in the early 1960s.  They had an unusual hit with “Out of Limits,” an album based on the TV series “Outer Limits” but they were best known for “The Batman Theme,” a 1966 album based on the Batman TV series.  It also marked the high point of their career as a group.

In 1966 the Starfires played at Hanson’s on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.  But on Sunday, June 26, 1966, they were joined by The Capitols, a Detroit trio best known for their hit “Cool Jerk,” one of the dance oddities of the 1960s.  The group broke up in 1969 but its one major hit was featured in later commercials and movie soundtracks into the early 1990s.

Don Hanson, the park owner, arranged for the first national recording act, Freddie Cannon, in 1963.  Future acts were usually booked through local band leader Lee Vincent.  The acts arrived at 2 or 3 pm on performance day to rehearse with the Starfires.  At times a featured singer had a guitar or keyboard player along.  Singers brought their sheet music.  It could be a busy late afternoon, early evening to rehearse for a new lead act for a 45 minute set.  If the act was late much of the set was “talked through” although the Starfires often had the act’s record to guide their back-up role.

The Hanson dance hall had its largest attendance when Chubby Checker appeared with the Starfires on July 15, 1966.  His No. 1 1960 hit “The Twist” has become an American iconic musical image.  He was paid $1,000., rather steep at the time for his Hanson’s appearance.  Checker arrived at Hanson’s with only his manager.  The Starfires served as his full band for the evening performance.  Born Ernest Evans in South Philadelphia, Checker’s Twist created “dancing apart from the beat” with “The Jerk,” “The Hully Gully,” “The Fly,” “The Pony” and others.  Despite the novelty Checker continues to perform more than 45 years after his initial hit record.

 

Page: 1: Introduction | 2: The Starfires| 3: Starfires & Joe Nardone and the All Stars | Next: The Starfires & Joe Nardone and the All Stars

Copyright 2006-2017 F. Charles Petrillo