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2:43AM

"Vintage 50's-60's Band Photographs" - Spotlights #5

The upstate area of New York consisted of major hotel venues that featured popular entertainment on a nightly basis. The Three Rivers Inn located in Syracuse, The Concord , Grossinger’s, Brown’s Hotel in the Catskills Borscht Belt and The Thruway hotel in Albany all hosted popular singers, Big Bands and comedians during the 1960’s.

During this time, Al Antonio & Audrey featuring the Lyrics were a popular entertaining Las Vegas Revue that featured music, variety and comedy.  We appeared at The Thruway on many repeated engagements throughout the 1960’s also performing and traveling in a circuit of hotel venues throughout Massachusetts, Michigan and Canada   
Al Antonio was a close friend of Sammy Davis Jr., and friend of jazz saxophonists Charlie Ventura, and Richie Kamuca. A talented performer, he was a comedian, who was able to play a number of instruments very well. His main show consisted of doing a theatrical rendition of A1 Jolson in black face make-up with all the props, which included special lighting techniques and set up.
Another memorable time is about an incident that occurred on opening night at The Thruway show place. In addition, it was quite a funny one at that. This incident happened on a dark night in late September 1965. What a night! (Adapted from Page #258 in “Jazz Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”)
This is how it was: Closing night was on a Saturday evening at The Office Lounge Club, located in Louisville Kentucky. The entire band members packed their instruments and belongings’ we checked out of the hotel and all had a brief breakfast and started our journey in early Sunday morning hours to The Thruway Hotel in Albany, NY for our next engagement with a Monday night opening scheduled at 8:00pm.  We drove approximately 14 hours through the night from Louisville, Kentucky and arriving in Albany, New York early Monday afternoon. Our schedule for showtime was to start playing at 8:00pm at the Thruway Hotel. As it was still early, the props and lighting had yet to be set up on the bandstand.
After our short rehearsal of our new musical arrangements, in which we paid tribute to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Coleman Hawkins, all the band members pitched in to help the hotel staff technicians set up. The high-rise bandstand was equipped with various types of theatrical lighting for many effects. The manual controlled lighting effects also were automated in conjunction by the sound vibrations of played music. 
A staff technician of the Hotel asked if I could assist in making the connections to the overhead monitors on stage. As I was making the connection to these huge monitors, the electrical power in the hotel suddenly failed and everything went dark. Everyone thought that I had caused the power outage there; as we later found out that, there was no electricity, anywhere in the city. Ironically, a main generator had failed at the same interval of time (approx. 5:15pm) that I had made the connection to the monitors.
On the next day, the morning newspaper headline read "BLACKOUT IN NEW YORK."
However, the show must go on! Despite the situation, we performed two shows to a full house. The candlelight atmosphere with small generators, might have even added more to the show’s performance.
A short time ago, I received an interesting email from Alexander Durant stating that in his collection of memorabilia he had an autographed photo of the original band members of Al Antonio & The Riotmen and would I be interested in seeing this photo.  This original group went to Las Vegas to perform the early strip hotels during the late 1950’s. During this time, he became friendly with Sammy Davis Jr. and members of the Rat Pack.
Since the Thruway was a major showplace that hosted jazz vocalist Carmen McRae, Erskine Hawkins, Jimmy Holmes, and various popular big bands. Alexander Durant has shown his generosity in sharing various band photos from his collection that have performed in the area. 
The band members in this collection all shared musical moments in Popular, Rhythm & Blues and Jazz during their tenures in music. ***Al I want to extend my gratitude and appreciation for making this collection available to our website visitors.*  Thanks, Danny

 

3:24AM

CHRIS COLUMBO - "CLUB HARLEM" - Atlantic City

 During the late 1950s thru early 1970s gave me the opportunity to spend time in Atlantic City working various clubs in the area. While there, I had the opportunity of meeting friends also musicians that traveled with other bands from other cities to perform at major venues in Atlantic City such as The Famous Steel Pier, The Hialeah Club, Le Bistro Restaurant, Club Harlem and the famed 500 Club. 

It was during the Early 1960s while I was working with “Frank Virtue & the Virtues” at the Hialeah Club on Atlantic Avenue – and sitting-in Jam Sessions with Johnny Saint and “The Joyriders” at Fort Pitt located on New York Avenue a few blocks away from CLUB HARLEM. Our sets would end at 3:00am – since Club Harlem was open until the early morning hours past 6:00am . . . it was an after-hour gathering place to visit for many celebrities and fellow musicians to enjoy.  
I had the opportunity to meet Chris Columbo and shared many conversations about music and mutual friends.  
Chris played his first professional job with Fletcher Henderson in 1921. He led his own band from the 1930s into the late 1940s, holding a residency at the Savoy Ballroom in New York and played with Louis Jordan & his Tympani 5, Wild Bill Davis, recorded with Duke Ellington and many other Jazz artists. 
In addition, he also served as the vice president of Atlantic City’s Musician union Local 661-708.  His trio\quartet was a featured attraction in the lounge at Bally’s Park Place Casino. Thereafter, Colombo’s band went on to perform at practically every Atlantic City casino hotel. He performed at the Showboat Casino with the Showboat Dixieland Band until he suffered a stroke in 1993 and died in 2002 at the age of 100 Years old.
It has been written in many press interviews; Chris Columbo, the renowned musician at the Club Harlem: "In my early days in Atlantic City it was just a whole lot of fun, because we had a city that you didn’t have to have a key to the front door. No one ever locked their doors."

 

2:04AM

RAY HYMAN - SAXOPHONIST & INVENTOR

 

Stan RossRecently, my friend saxophonist Stan Ross contacted me to let me know that he located information of our mutual friend Ray Hyman. Stan took this photo one day in the mid 1990s while they both visited saxophone repairperson George Sarkis’ shop that was located next to the Musicians Union Hall Local 77 that was located in the vicinity of 18th & Arch Sts...on north 18th Street in Philadelphia.

While Stan was acquainted with Ray Hyman for many years . . . and I would meet Ray on various occasions upon returning from working out of town engagements while getting my saxophone repaired.

 

This obituary news article was Published: August 22, 1997

Recently Saxophonist and Inventor

 Ray Hyman, a musician and inventor, died on Aug. 15 at his home in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. He was 86. Mr. Hyman was an accomplished saxophonist who performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly 60 years. He was one of the few musicians to have worked under the orchestra's three longtime conductors, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy and Riccardo Muti.  

He also performed with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and with the Lester and Howard Lanin Society Bands.

In the late 1950's, Mr. Hyman designed and patented a saxophone strap that quickly won favor among musicians and is widely used today.Hyman - SAX STRAP

He also designed a popular saxophone case, the "Sax-Pak,"  SAX-PAKand designed several homes in Philadelphia, in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, and  Long Beach Island in New Jersey.

He is survived by two daughters, Judith Corson and Dena Robbins; two sons, Asher and Michael; nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.   *author unknown

 Special note from Stan Ross

As I began to edge my way through Philadelphia's musical arena I met Ray Hyman. It was at the nationally known George Sarkis musical repair shop next to the Philadelphia Musician's Union. I enjoyed his friendship and guidance during my Twenty-year existence in the world of music.

Despite his stature and accomplishments, Ray was always the gentleman, always the interested listener to my-self conceived draw backs.  *Stan Ross 

4:24AM

SONNY SCHWARTZ -"ATLANTIC CITY AWARD-WINNING COLUMNIST, AUTHOR, TALK SHOW HOST"

"The days of nightclubs, cocktail lounges and musical bars are a thing of the past in Atlantic City . . .and probably will never return."
Between 1950 and the early 1970's, Atlantic City was filled with nightclubs, cocktail lounges, musical bars and small intimate jazz clubs. These nightspots catered to singles looking for a date . . .lovers spending an enjoyable evening listening to live entertainment and too music enthusiasts who just wanted to listen to good music and jazz. The many celebrities and jazz musicians that were working these venues or just visiting Atlantic City in those days all had one thing in common, they were all met and interviewed by Sonny Schwartz. Just by a mention in his column a performer could be 100% sure that he/she would play to a full house.
Sonny Schwartz was an award-winning columnist, author, and syndicated radio talk-show host. His entertainment variety sports nostalgia show is heard throughout the world and can also be reached via the internet. Born and educated in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Sonny began his journalistic career in the fourth-grade when he earned his first byline for the Atlantic City Press. He later became a sports correspondent for the same newspaper.During his many years working for the Atlantic City Press, he won numerous citations and awards for his writing and communication skills and volunteer efforts.  His columns for the newspaper ran from heartwarming humanistic stories about the surviving families of police, firefighters and rescue squad personnel killed in the line of duty to interviews with many top celebrities and aspiring young performers.
I was even mentioned in his column once, back in the early 1970's. After traveling with various bands across the United States,  and Canada. I decided to take some time off and work in the Philadelphia, and New Jersey area. I formed a jazz organ trio that featured Pete Marsico on drums, and young George Mesterhazy on organ and myself on tenor sax. While playing the Riverboat Lounge in Somers Point, NJ, I had called Sonny Schwartz. I had met him only once before back in the 1960's when I was working at the Hialeah Club on Atlantic Avenue with the "Virtues" who recorded the million seller hit song "Guitar Boogie Shuffle." I explained to him an idea I had. I wanted to resurrect the infamous "Battle of the Saxes." featuring four or five tenor saxes in the front line . . . swinging and houserockin' to many favorite jazz tunes reminiscent of "The Jazz at the Philharmonic"  concerts that were produced in the past by Norman Granz. My trio was currently booked at Tom Battles Marina Restaurant & Cafe which was located in the marina section of Atlantic City. This was a popular spot that sat 500 people comfortably.
The owner Tom Battles, was an old friend who always had an exceptional reputation as a restaurateur and was a force in city politics who also liked the idea and wanted to launch our first presentation. While the menu preparations were being planned and the bandstand was being built, other details were handled by Tony Genaro, General Manager of the restaurant. Since I had worked for Genaro at his nightclub in Philadelphia and he was related to our drummer, Pete Marsico, he made sure that we had full cooperation from all of the service staff.
Sonny frequently mentioned upcoming events in his column. One of the events he wrote about was my "Battle of the Saxes." Sonny's confidence in my idea and his help and support were a major part of generating our sell-out crowd. It was gratifying and exciting for myself and all the band members to have such a phenomenal reception from the standing room only audience. That night's success led to many future performances of "The Battle Of The Saxes" in other nightclubs on the East Coast.
After spending some time in Las Vegas at business meetings and working on various entertainment projects, I returned to Atlantic City in 1979 to open a booking agency. Immediately, after I arrived I called Sonny Schwartz to bring me up to date and to get some input about the city. Always there to lend a helping hand, he would immediately ask "how can I be of any help?"
From that point on we developed many projects together. We also collaborated on vital fund raising events for the Hebrew Academy in Margate, New Jersey. We raised a substantial amount of money for the children of the school and for several other humanitarian causes.
In the seven years since Sonny started his syndicated show,
Dateline: Atlantic City with Sonny Schwartz, he has had thousands of guests amoung those thousands, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nancy Sinatra, Leroy Neiman, Steve Allen and his wife Jayne Meadows, Connie Francis, Chris Connor, Gloria Lynne, Vic Damone, Don Rickles, Joey Bishop and Buddy Hackett have made appearances. Sports figures, authors and city representatives have been guests on the show as well as young performers that are seeking a break in show business.
In a recent conversation, someone had asked Sonny how he felt about the changes that have taken place in Atlantic City. I was struck by what he said about the entertainment scene and jazz clubs of years gone by: "The days of nightclubs, cocktail lounges and musical bars as we once knew them are a thing of the past in Atlantic City and probably will never return. Although Atlantic City is growing with casinos and abounding with new residents every day, they will see a different city." 
Unfortunately, they'll never experience what this town used to be." Sonny mentioned in particular the headline stars that played the Hialeah Club, Le Bistro, and the late night jam-sessions at the four corners on Arkansas Avenue. He also reminisced about Count Basie and his Orchestra swinging at the showroom in the Club Harlem while Chris Columbo's band played in the cocktail lounge. Most importantly, he talked about Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. making their entrance on stage for the 6:00 a.m. fifth show at the world famous 500 Club on Missouri Avenue, which was operated by the legendary Paul Skinny D'Amato the man responsible for giving Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and many other mega stars their break in show business.
Even though we didn't see each other as much, we always joked . . . that we are only a
phone call and a favor away! . . . Unfortunately, Sonny is no longer with us -
                                       We still remained good friends until his passing in 1998.