Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Al DiNero and the Esquires

Going through a large stack of Duodisc, Silvertone, National Hollywood, and Wilcox-Gay Recordio records this week, which I had obtained, several years ago, from my Pueblo record buddy, Joel Scherzer.  There was always a mystery to these, as the labels only showed a few notations (in pencil), with the names "Al," "Art," "Frank," "Virgil," and "Jim." A few others only noted songs, including "Mona Lisa," and "Twilight Time." Thankfully, several showed 1946 and 1947 dates, so I had that to go on.

The records are in poor shape (as are most home recording discs of this age), but I could make out jazzy, accordion-heavy, 1940s-era instrumentals, from a pretty tight band.

Just when I was about to dive into my Internet search, I saw one other record in the box.

Sadly this 1946 record, a cover of the Ink Spots "To Each His Own," is not in great shape, so I can't offer up a sound clip. Even trying to digitally clean it up proved unsuccessful. While the male singer is uncredited, the label mentions that it was recorded by the group, The Esquires.

The dots were all about to be connected.

Al DiNero (the "Al" on all of those home recordings) and the Esquires, were a southern Colorado music staple, from the 1940s through the 1970s. Based in Pueblo, the group would perform up and down the front range, but mainly in the immediate Pueblo/Colorado Springs area.

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
December 21, 1968

Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph
February 12, 1970

When Al wasn't performing, he was running Al DiNero Accordion and Music stores at several locations along Northern Avenue, then in the Sunset Shopping Center, in Pueblo.

Al passed away in 2007, at the age of 87. According to his obituary, in the Denver Post  "He began playing at age 5. By 14, he went to local beer gardens to play in the evening and came home with $2, which he gave to his family."  The story goes on to quote Frank Caruso, who played with Al in the Esquires (and I assume the "Frank" listed on these home recordings), and would later form his own group, the Serenaders. “His love was the accordion."

Born in Pueblo on Dec. 21, 1919, Al graduated from Central High School. According to the obituary, he had his own orchestra while still a teenager. Later on, he toured with the USO, with Rex Allen and Roy Rogers. He worked at the CF&I steel mill, was a jeweler and trained racehorses.

Al's musical impact on the Steel City was mentioned in 2011, during the 125th anniversary of the Bessemer neighborhood. A story in the Pueblo Chieftain refers that, "Generations of Italian and Slovenian families took lessons from him, including former U.S. Representative, [the late] Ray Kogovsek." The story mentions, "Kogovsek remembered promising his dad, Frank, that playing the accordion would 'be my life’s work' if he bought a shiny new $300 accordion from DiNero. 'Three months later I gave it up,' he said."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Never Judge a Gospel Record - Ever.

 So I was visiting the local thrift chain today, digging through the LP bins, when I spotted this Greeley family faith-based recording, from the Parker Quartet, entitled Unshackled, featuring former Shook-Parker Gospel Singers members Don and Alvera Parker.

The Shook-Parker foursome disbanded in 1960, after releasing two fantastic old-fashioned country gospel albums.

While the Shook side of the group went on to record several albums, I hadn't seen anything from the Parker side, until today. There was no year indicated on the album. but I noticed it was a Rite pressing. According this fantastic Rite record pressing site, I was able to determine that it was recorded in 1971. The pink-colored label on Unshackled noted the price was half off the $1.99, so I decided to invest a buck in yet-another Colorado religious LP (not that the discount would have mattered, as I still would have purchased it, at $1.99 - 😀).

So I get home, and put my latest vinyl find on the turntable. Sure enough the album was your typical family, heavy-harmony, gospel recording. So I leave the room, to make lunch, with the record playing in the background. Then I hear this:

(2:34 - wait for the surf rock-vibe, starting at :43)


Oh it gets better. Yet another surprise, from the next cut - a moody, Byrds-vibe, instrumental:


The back of the album indicated that it was sold at "church activities and meetings." Don and Alvera later moved to Longmont.  Alvera passed away in 1997. Don passed away in 2011.

Don and Alvera Parker tombstone - Lyons Cemetery, Lyons, CO
 (note the name of the LP is added to the tombstone).

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Solve the Mystery: Presto 3628

Hey all! So I found this unmarked, 78rpm, Presto aluminum plate lacquer disc at the KGNU record show, last week. It was in a box next to a few others I grabbed (including the Rocky Mountain Radio Council disc). There appeared to be grooves on only one side, so I plopped it on the turntable, to give it a listen. Out came this very amateur country recording - just a guy and his guitar:


The recording runs almost 5:00 long, and it has its share of goofs, but the singer sings on. There is absolutely no information regarding who the singer is, what the name of the song is, or even if it was made in Colorado. The disc shows "3628," along with the Presto logo. The fantastic Phonozoic website shows that this most definitely a 1940s-era recording.

I'm taking a stab in the dark that someone on here might be able to solve the mystery.

Yes, I did an exhaustive search on some of the lyrics, and came up empty.

Presto sold lots of blank discs, as well as recorders, of which amateur singers used to make demos, or gifts for family and friends. I'm idly wondering if this might be the case here, and we will never know who this mystery singer is.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rocky Mountain Radio Council

So I found this record, at the annual KGNU record and CD sale, last week - a one-sided, lacquer-coated, 33 1⁄3 rpm, instantaneous recording disc, on this very cool Rocky Mountain Radio Council label.

Upon putting it on the turntable, I heard a photography-related instructional program, performed with a Dragnet radio show narrative.

No idea who the announcers / voice actors are, as there are no credits listed. There is very faint writing on the label, but I can't make it out. There is no etching on the runoff.

In 1937, University of Wyoming President A.G. Crane, proposed a radio project, similar to that of the University Broadcast Council of Chicago. He called it the Rocky Mountain Radio Council. It was one of the first set up by the National Committee on Education by Radio (NCER), funded by John D. Rockefeller.

According to an Internet search. "Crane envisioned a wider radius of broadcasting, proposing that a multi-state consortium, centered in Colorado and Wyoming, create a regional broadcasting initiative in which widely separated populations would have access to the same free education"

Within its first year, RMRC provided more than 200 education programs to radio stations, from 30 college and university partners.

1941 Radio Annual

The RMRC was housed at the Brinton Terrace row houses, located just off of 17th and Lincoln (21 E. 18th Avenue), behind Trinity Methodist Church.

Brinton Terrace Row Homes
(Demolished 1956) 

In 1949, A.G. Crane was elected governor of Wyoming. A year after his election, the RMRC folded (given this date, and the fact the Dragnet radio show ran from 1949-1957, we can probably assume this recording was made, shortly before the group disbanded, in 1950. However the Graflex 22 camera, mentioned in the narrative, was made from 1952-1956), but not before it joined up with Denver Public Schools, the Denver Public Library, and the University of Denver, to discuss the concept of educational television for the city. Through those efforts, in 1956, KRMA-TV became the state's first public television station. In 1970, KRMA became a member of the national Public Broadcasting Service (rebranding as Rocky Mountain PBS, in 1997).

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Labor Man on Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!

Now that my own laborious task of moving is done, and I have all of my Colorado records unpacked and back on the shelves, I thought I would offer up some audio, related to particular days or events, in upcoming blog posts.

I dug out one of my favorite Colorado (by way of Minnesota) LPs, the self-titled Danny Holien. You will find lots of online posts elsewhere, on this stunning vinyl gem, so I won't copy and paste the details, but if you get a chance it's worth reading up on him, and finding his one and only 1972 album recording.

Have a safe holiday!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Beethoven's Boogie


Record digging near Fort Collins, several years ago, I spotted this Loveland-based LP, Beethoven's Boogie. Conceived by Bill Gleichmann and Pat Jones, the mostly-instrumental 1983 recording couples classical music with boogie - a genre I can't say I had ever heard, prior to this find.

I was about to be schooled on this ABBA-styled mashup.

 The album... is the culmination of research on the origin and development of boogie, or boogie-woogie, as it was first called. The title song adheres to an early boogie formula derived from an adopted classical melody, combined with a typical boogie rhythmic pattern. - Liner notes

Liner notes also indicate that Pat Jones, who provides vocals on the above clip, is a Colorado native who began studying piano at the age of six. There is little other information regarding her contribution to the recording.

Bill Gleichmann is noted as a University of California graduate, who worked in Hollywood for "radio/TV, and motion pictures." An Internet search finds that he lived in Loveland, and passed away in 1994.

The LP was produced by Bruce Brunson, who at one time was affiliated with the Charley Butler and Linda Rinaldo group, Colorado Sunshine Company.

The back of the LP shows a P.O. Box, located in Denver, which was pasted over with a sticker noting a Loveland address.

Monday, August 5, 2019

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live

Attended the Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, last week, where I scored a substantial cache of Colorado-published sheet music. Some fantastic additions to the esoteric state-related music collection, but one particular piece made me mutter a silent "%&@#," when I saw it (it was a public place, after all - grin).

I'm Trying to Find Where the Angels Live features a little girl, holding a doll, and I'm thinking, "Wait, why would she want to go to heaven. Who died? The little girl? Her doggie?"

Think again. The song is about her mother.

Fro, the yard 'cross the way, strayed a baby one day
To look for her mama, so dear.
Her doll in her arms, seemed to add to her charms
And check could be noticed a tear.
A police man passed by, saw this little one cry,
And asked her, with hand on her head.
Why from home she had strayed, then he kissed the wee maid
As wistfully to him she said...
I'm trying to find where the angels live
My mama is there you see
They called her away, on bright summer's day
And left daddy dear and me.

I'll give you a second to get a hankie...

Written by Harry J. Jones and Robert F. McGowan, the 1910 tearjerker was put out by the Denver Publishing Company, located at 218 Coronado Building, which was original located at the corner of 15th and Stout (it was demolished in 1953, and is now home to a parking garage).

I also located another copy of the sheet music, with an illustrated cover:

The story gets even better, when I tracked down the composers.

Robert F. McGowan was born in Denver, in 1882. He is listed, in the 1904 Denver City Directory as a musician, with a residence at 2428 Larimer. I found another reference that he served as a Denver firefighter.  In 1905, he and Jones penned "I'll Come Back Some Day," published by the prolific Tolbert R. Ingram company.

He left the city in 1910 (I found another story, which noted 1913), to move to Los Angeles. While there, he met up with a young producer named Hal Roach, who gave him a job as the director of a new series of silent films he conceived... Our Gang.

How. About. That. 

Robert McGowan, with the cast of Our Gang

Shortly after McGowan began directing the Our Gang series, he became ill, and turned the director's chair over to nephew, Robert A McGowan.  The senior McGowan recovered, and took the series back over, during what was considered the height of the silent film and the early talkie eras of the series, with the popular characters, Farina, Stymie, and a young Jackie Cooper (the character of Buckwheat didn't appear until 1934. The character of Alfalfa joined the cast in 1935). McGowan left the series in 1933 (when the character of Spanky was introduced), to direct several Paramount motion pictures.  He returned to Our Gang, one more time, to direct Divot Diggers (1936).

McGowan died in 1955. He is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA.

According to the 1904 Denver City Directory, Harry J. Jones was a clerk at the Colorado National Bank, who resided at 3826 Gilpin. I could find no other information on this lyricist.