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."






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