The Manor House Montauk Highway Mastic, NY October 2005
For sometime now I have been kicking around the idea of another satellite web site on Spoonercentral.com devoted to Long Island Bar Bands of the '50's - 70's . Man there was a bunch of them Kingsmen, Crestmen, Rhythm Kings, Hassells, Vagrants, Rascals, Down 5 etc and I played in my fair share. The Islanders, The Continentals, The Strangers, Mrs. Murphy's Basement, Track 16, plus many trios, duos, and the occasional solo gig. I guess this might be the official kick off page, that was prompted by as disconnected a reason as a dream I had last week and a visit to my local Costco here in Nashville yesterday (Fri Sept 5, 2008) . I was just doing a routine shopping run and was there when they opened the doors.
Right in the middle of the joint, there was a rather large display of Yamaha pianos. I glanced at them as I pushed my cart past on my way to the grocery section. I really didn't plan on stopping on the way back to the check out either, but stop I did. I just stood in front of a few different models both upright and grand tinkling the keys a little comparing tone (all were incredible btw) and playing a few small licks here and there. There was a fella who was obliviously a Yamaha rep, setting them up who glanced my way a few times. I came upon an upright that kind of stopped me in my tracks for two reasons. One it was very similar to one that Robbie Mince had. Robbie and I went to Suffolk Community College in 1966 and I recruited him to join Mrs. Murphy's Basement and play a Wurlitzer Electric Piano to augment my Hammond Organ. I think we were the only group on Long Island then to use two keyboard players. But with Robbie in the band it was like a secret weapon, because he wasn't just a piano player. The tricks he showed me on the Hammond made it sound like the two of us were a symphony orchestra at times and we were able to pull off songs like the Beatles "I AM THE WALROUS" and play all the parts that were on the record. Add in Steve Murphy on guitar, Joe Ciampa on bass and the late Lou Stevens on drums and we could make a serious racket ....because ROBBIE WAS AN AWESOME MUSICIAN when the word AWESOME really meant something ...but it was in his genes you see, for his father Johnny Mince was a world class jazz and swing clarinet player. One of the finest to ever come down the pike. Among those in the know, he is mentioned with the likes of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. Johnny just never got the notoriety for he never led his own band. He was a veteran of the Ray Noble, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey bands and so many more like the CBS TV orchestra in the early 50's. A guy who had to practice sometimes 8 hours a day just to maintain his chops..... Just Google "Johnny Mince" sometime, but not now as there is a lot more to tell you. The dream came earlier in the week and it was vivid, in color and involved Robbie Mince and his Ebony Yamaha Upright, that he gave me a few lessons on about 1970, a few years after he left the band. I have tried to find Robbie several times on the internet , but so far no luck. Last time I saw his Dad , was at a Jazz Festival in Sarasota, Florida in the early 1980's and he told me Robbie was in Florida? SO HEY MAN __ IF YOUR OUT THERE SOMEWHERE ... I'D LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU.... IF ONLY TO SAY THANKS FOR TEACHING ME SO MUCH IN THE SHORT TIME WE GOT TO WORK TOGETHER. Here's My E MAIL Link
Anyway, it was just one of those keyboard licks Robbie taught me back in 1968, that prompted and I guess connected me to the Yamaha Rep and gave me something to say today. I sat down for a spell and was playing a Yamaha Digital Clavinova, when the rep walked over and said "Al Kooper ...I Can't Quit Her" .... I said YEAH ! ...AND IT WAS INSTANT KINDRID SPIRITS... For over an hour Mitch Godwin of the Great State Of Deleware and yours truly, discovered we had mutual bar band experiences and shared somewhat parallel musical lives of the early 60's. It was like Deja Vu on the Tom Hank's movie The Thing That You Do for me all over again. He said "I heard you do the intro to MacArthur Park, play that again will you", and with that he pressed a button on the Clavinova and an entire string section was following along with me. TOO MUCH FUN !!! He also played me a recording on his laptop he made by accident while fooling around 45 years ago with his Dad's new Reel To Reel and taping a DJ named Dick Biondi. It turns out that in between songs like Mr. Bassman, and something by Gene Pitney ( not Last Exit To Brooklyn or Town Without Pity ) that unbeknownst to Mitch at the time, he recorded the very first time a Beatles record was ever played in America. It was Please Please Me and when Biondi spun it in March of 1963, it was a good 7 months or so before the PR Buzz started with a 5 minute clip about a band that was taking Europe by storm on the Huntley - Brinkly report. I like reliving history, makes me feel young.
I was about 15 when I first played in the club pictured on top of this page. Glad to see it's still standing strong. I think it was called the Mastic Inn then, It's an old Mastic Roadhouse that goes back to the 1920's. In the '30's it was called the Tallman's Motor Inn and rooms were $1.00 a night. I know I played there a time a two with my very first combo The Islanders around 1962. Most of us were still in High School then, Pete Morano , Bill Clausing, Adolph Almasy, Doug Percoco, Frank O'Shea (who replaced Eddie Ianetto when Eddie joined the Navy) and yours truly. But the time I remember the most about working in the place was when I played lead guitar with the Benny Biondo trio. I was there for several months every Fri and Sat nite in the spring of 1962. Benny was what you would call an Italian Lounge singer and played rhythm guitar and Nick Orlando played drums. Had a great time and it was also the very first time I ever sang or I should say tried to in front of an audience . The song was an old Mills Brothers number from WW2 that had been revived by a doo wop group called the Classics in 1962.
I noodled that same song today on my new classical guitar, turned on a recorder and got it in the first take...don't worry I didn't try to sing it...