THE QUIRKS
an inside view by Kit Nelson

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I played rhythm guitar and later, bass guitar, for The Quirks, a very successful
Rochester, NY, Beatles and British invasion band. We played the western New York
region from 1964 to 1967. This is the story of that band.

Growing up with the radio

I grew up in Brighton, a middle class white-collar suburb of Rochester. My father worked at Kodak office all
his life. If you are from Rochester, then that's pretty much all you need to know to picture the culturally
sheltered life we led. Music was my way out into the larger world. It exposed me to a new and wonderful
universe. It was my salvation.

It all started in 1956. I was a painfully shy and introverted 13 year old. That's when I first started hearing
Rock and Roll on the radio. It was a monster radio, an old floor model out in the garage that pulled in
stations from as far away as Del Rio, Texas. Faraway stations played strange and exotic Blues, R&B and
Rockabilly.

My very favorite DJ was The Hound on WKBW in Buffalo. His real name was George Lorenze–a proto
Wolfman Jack but without the slickness. He was real. He would play anything. "Hey Art, no chart!" was one
of his slogans. The Hound loved the blues. He would say stuff like, "We are walking slowly, down that dark,
lonely corridor. A naked bulb hangs from the ceiling. We come to a door. We turn left into...the blue room!"
Then he would play, "Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby," by Jimmy Reed with that tweety bird
harmonica that sent a shiver down my spine.

I spent my teenage nights out in the garage listening to everything and visualizing myself onstage. I had an
old floor lamp with no shade on it that I used for a microphone and I lip synced and gyrated to Jerry Lee
Lewis. My younger brother caught me once and I never heard the end of it. I bought my first record,
“Blueberry Hill,” by Fats Domino.

First Guitar

One day, a fateful thing happened. John Carpenter came by on his bicycle with an acoustic guitar in the
basket. He was a year or two older and I didn't know him well. I asked him if he could play the guitar. He
said, “sure,” and proceeded to snap off the opening lick to Chuck Berry's "Johnny Be Goode." It was like
seeing God. I could hardly believe it. Rock and roll wasn't just records and radios, it was real!

I had to get myself a guitar.

I went up and down the street, knocking on doors and asking neighbors if they had an old guitar somewhere
that I could borrow. One of them did. It was a Stella plywood acoustic with inch-high action. It barely had any
sound at all and was unplayable. I didn't care. John Carpenter showed me how to play the E chord. I played it
day and night. Blisters formed on the ends of the fingers of my left hand but I ignored the pain and played on.
Next came A and then D chords and I was on my way.

Early Rochester Bands

I went to sock hops at Indian Landing School. I remember a dance marathon contest one night. Every third
or fourth song, the kids would start yelling at the DJ to play a hugely popular instrumental hit called, “Leap
Frog.” It was by Rochester artist, Steve Alaimo. Everybody was crazy about that record.

The next year, I went to Penfield Junior High and started going to sock hops at the high school. One night,
John Carpenter showed up with his guitar and played all by himself up in front of everybody. It was Johnny
B. Goode again--only this time it had different words. It was about the Penfield principal, Wallace J. Howell.
It started out:

Way up in the woods up in New York State
There is a country school that we all do hate
(A third line, something about how all the kids cringe when they hear the school bell)
‘Cause Wallace J. Howell, treats 'em like hell
Go!...Go, Wally Go!

The crowd went wild. I was stunned. Carpenter got in a lot of trouble for singing that song but he was a hero.
That's when I realized that I needed more than a guitar. I needed an audience.
I tried to learn songs from records but it was largely a mystery. Then one day, I made a momentous
discovery. Songs were made up of chord progressions that repeated themselves during the song.

First Bands

The veil parted. I started going over to Carpenter's house and playing with him. He said I was the first guy
he had ever played with who could follow him on rhythm guitar. Soon, he and I and another guy played our
first actual gig at a playground on Blossom Road. We had to have a name so we came up with The
Thundertones. It was just three-guitar instrumentals but it was loud and people listened.

I started going out to hear live local bands. I remember Dick Donato and The Bluetones at an amusement
park in Webster. They were hot. They had a lot of girls swarming around them. That really got my attention.

There was a 3-piece band that played at the roller rink in downtown Rochester. I wish I could remember their
names but they were heroes to us. They played the Peter Gunn theme and Duane Eddy stuff. It was like
thunder. None of us had ever seen or heard a Gretsch guitar with Bixby whammy bar before. We talked of
nothing else for weeks afterwards.

While at Penfield High School, in 1958 and 1959, I met Dale Celke. He also played guitar. He was a year
younger than I. We got together a time or two to see what each other could play on guitar, which wasn't a
whole lot at the time. We didn't know it but five years later, he and I would team up as The Quirks.

Playing with John Carpenter soon evolved into my first real band. It was Freddie and The Furies, with me on
rhythm guitar, John Carpenter on lead guitar, Nick Yobbagi on sax and Freddie Messbauer on drums. We
wore matching sparkly tuxedos with cummerbunds. I got a balboa haircut, crew cut on top with long ducktail
on the sides. Lots of Dixie Peach pommade to keep it in place. Our first gig was at a dance at the Norton
Street playground. I was hooked. All that visualization was now reality.

We did not have a bass player. Bass guitar was not mandatory in those days. In fact, I had never even seen
one played live until about 1959 or so. There was a group that The Furies alternated with in a club in
Canandaigua called the Niagara Grill. The band was called The Barry Doreen Trio and featured a lead
guitarist, a stand up drummer and Barry, who played bass lines on a guitar with the bass turned way up. It
was bizarre by today's standards but they were a tight little band.
I was legally under age to be playing at the Niagara but they either didn't know or they didn't care. It was a
tough joint and I was a sheltered kid from the suburbs who was naïve, to say the least. There were a lot of
tough joints in Rochester back then. The one I will never forget was The Rock Tavern. It was underground.
There was no building, just a cellar with a little outhouse like entrance in a vacant lot and some steps leading
down. I was starting to learn about life outside the suburbs.

I remember a 45 that was recorded at the Fine Studio with Carpenter on guitar playing an instrumental
called, “Ft. Lauderdale, U.S.A." The billing on the record was Bill Friel and his Fabulous Furies. Carpenter
later had a band called The Shades.

In about 1959, my family moved to Brighton and I transferred to Brighton High. I eventually left the Furies
and was replaced by John Williamson on guitar and then Barry Clemmons on real electric bass. They were
both from Brighton. I teamed up with a piano player I met at Brighton, Lowell Hurlburt, and we recorded a
couple of tracks at the Fine Studios sometime in 1961. He was a Jerry Lee Lewis kind of guy and he had a
very extensive record collection. We used to go to his house every day after school and listen to all kinds of
obscure stuff.

I graduated from Brighton in 1961 and went off to art school in New York City. I came home from school for
the summer of 1962 and played weekends at the Fairport Inn with a Ventures-like, mostly instrumental band
called The Lancers. All the members were seniors at Brighton. Tom Southworth on lead guitar and Terry
Mathews on drums were regulars. Bob (Louie) Conta played guitar on Friday nights so I played bass, my
first time doing that. On Saturday nights, Mike Townsend played bass and I played rhythm guitar.

Surf music was coming in then and we wanted to look the part. We all played barefoot and wore matching
short sleeve shirts and white pants. It quickly became obvious that we could no longer get away with doing all
instrumentals. Nobody else wanted to sing so I said I would try it. I found myself doing Ray Charles',
"What'd I Say," and the like. That was the start of my singing career.

The Quirks Beginnings In Ohio

In early 1964, Dale Celke was in school at Baldwin Wallace in Ohio and had a band there. Coincidentally, all
the members were from the western New York area. They needed another guitar player to play with them
when they returned to Rochester in the spring. Amazingly enough, I had just transferred to Kent State, only
about 40 miles from Baldwin Wallace.
We immediately teamed up and started rehearsing and doing gigs at Baldy Waldy. This was the beginning of
the Quirks, although at the time, we were called, "The Group."

The Beatles had just played on Ed Sullivan and the British Invasion had begun. We were doing our best to
learn the songs. It was a 5-piece band with Bruce Brummit of Syracuse, NY on bass, Dan Weale of Albion,
NY on drums and Stosh McGahey of Long Island on the Wurlitzer electric piano.

While still in Ohio, we came home to Rochester at some point in 1964 and recorded several tracks at the
Fine Studios as, "The Group." We also discovered that there was another band in Rochester then called,
"The Groop Ltd."

We heard them play and decided that they were good enough that they would probably be around for awhile.
We racked our brains and came up with "The Quirks," which seemed a vast improvement. Forty years later,
the confusion in names surfaced again in the Fine Studios Quirk tapes, which were at first mistakenly
attributed to The Groop Ltd. because the boxes they were in were labeled, "The Group."

The Quirks: Hit Big on the Rochester Bowling Alley Circuit

The Quirks was an amazing ride.

We achieved success overnight and about two years later, we died overnight. In the summer of 1964, we
returned to Rochester and eventually got a steady weekend gig at a bowling alley in Canandaigua. Week
after week we languished in the hinterlands, playing to almost nobody. It was good, though, because we got
tight and developed a pretty authentic British Invasion sound. The band trimmed down to 4 pieces, too. Stosh
and Bruce Brummit both left and we got another Penfield guy, Gary Bippes, to play bass.

We also got some regular gigs at a place on East River Road in Henrietta called, Basil's. It was a fun place
and was always packed. Then one day it mysteriously burned to the ground. The rumor was that the cops
followed Basil's footprints through the snow.

The owner of the Canandaigua bowling alley apparently heard something he liked in us because he
eventually gave us a shot at his other bowling alley, Clover Lanes in Brighton. He had built a temporary
dance floor out over the alleys and the place was huge.

The legendary Rochester R&B band, Wilmer Alexander and the Dukes, were doing Sunday afternoon teen
dances there and packing them in by the hundreds. Wilmer was a star at the time and just to be on the same
stage with them in front of all those kids was the big time for us. We got up there and did our Beatles act. It
seemed to go over okay; we weren't sure. The owner told us that he wanted us to do the following Friday
night. We were thrilled.

I remember a week later, driving to the bowling alley for that gig. I was surprised that even though I was an
hour early, I couldn't find a place to park in the parking lot. I also noticed that there was a line of kids
halfway across the front of the building.

As evidence of the condition of my self-esteem at that stage (age 20), I wondered what all these people were
doing at Clover Lanes that night. When I got inside, I realized that they were there to see us. Word had
spread throughout the suburban high schools from the previous week's appearance with Wilmer. We went
from playing to nobody for six months to packing them in, standing room only, all in one week. From then on,
we drew large crowds wherever we played. Other bowling alleys wanted us. Two of the big ones were
Fairport Lanes and Panorama Bowl in Penfield.

The Quirks: Bigger Gigs plus Groupies

All of us were getting much better as musicians and singers. We pulled off increasingly challenging
arrangements. Gary Bippes went off to college and we recruited legendary Rochester bass player, Bob
Soehner. He was the best. I marveled at what he could do on bass. He was a lot like the now famous Motown
bassist, James Jamerson, uniquely rhythmic but always right in the pocket.

Lead guitarist, Dale Celke amazed me. He sang really well and could learn any part note for note on guitar
or solo on his own with equal ease. He was John, Paul and George all rolled into one so he was frequently
called on to sing while playing complex guitar lines. The Beatle song, “And Your Bird Can Sing,” was a
prime example.

Dan Weale, whose early drumming was in drum and bugle corps, developed quickly into a solid rock
drummer. He had taste and the chops to express it. He was a great guy, too. All drummers secretly want to
be front men so we let him come up front to sing one song per night while I sat in on drums.  

Now we were at our peak musically. We were The Beatles!

We started making a lot of money. We were a big enough draw that we could demand all the door money and
get it. Dale was also our business manager and his entrepreneurial and negotiating skills were essential.
Some nights, we raked in $800. to $900., mostly in one dollar bills. I was still living at home and my mother
would throw up her hands and say, "There's money all over his room, in the closet, under the bed,
everywhere!"

We started getting calls to play at high school dances. We played almost every high school in a 50 mile
radius of Rochester. We landed a weekly Sunday afternoon gig at The Turner's Club that lasted about a
year and a half.

We acquired a gang of groupie high school girls that, for some obscure reason, we called The Hogan Sisters.
No matter where we played, they were there. They became our good friends and I often wonder where they
are now.

Ferdinand J. Smith, a very talented radio DJ, who happened to live across the street from me, took an
interest in us and got us some big gigs in Buffalo and other outlying areas. We did some shows with the likes
of Paul Revere and The Raiders and others.

Dale and I started writing songs. We all went to New York City and recorded two of them at Gotham Studios
in about 1966. They sounded like the Beatles. We shopped them around while we were down there but they
were never released.

One might wonder what kind of effect this success had on us. For me, I felt a strange detachment. It was as if
it was happening to everybody else, but not to me.
I was painfully shy and the only time I could be outgoing was onstage. As soon as I came down the steps onto
the floor, I was shy again. Girls tried to talk to me but about all I did was inadvertently blow cigarette smoke
in their faces. Most of them were 15 or 16 years old anyway, too young for me at 21 and 22. Just out of
reach, so to speak.

Other Area Bands

We worked a lot and didn't have much opportunity to go and see other bands. We were also self contained in
that we did all our own management, booking and promotion. This meant that we had somewhat limited
contact with the rest of the Rochester music community.
However, we were well aware that we were not the only popular band in town. We did manage to catch our
main rivals' acts from time to time. At first, our big competition was The Groop, Ltd. They were good,
especially when they got Kerim Kapli on drums and vocals.

The Heard were also very good and had a huge following. They had some very talented members including
Brad Wheat on guitar and Gary Quinn on bass. Later, they were joined by Kerim Kapli on guitar and were
top notch. Bob Hoffman, a fellow Brighton grad and early Heard member, opened a teen club called Guys
and Dolls and The Heard were installed as regulars there.

I also remember a pretty good little Young Rascals type of band called The Trackers, although they may
have come later. Johnny Mate's band, The Root Of All Evil were hot.
Another great group was The Howse. I'll never forget marveling at drummer Ben Grammatico's ability to
play trumpet and drums at the same time. His younger brother, Louie, went on to worldwide success as Lou
Gramm, the lead singer for Foreigner.
I know I'm leaving out a lot of other great groups. The whole scene was very rich with talent.

The Quirks: Decline

I mentioned that the Quirks also died overnight.

In late 1966 we started hearing about a band from Glens Falls, NY, that was playing several nights a week at
a bar on Ridge Road called Hylie Morris Alley. They were called The Showstoppers. They were terrific. Bat
McGrath and Jay Capozzi were the two frontmen. They were riveting performers. Don Potter played great
guitar and could sing just like Ray Charles. They played really well and had a dynamite show, head and
shoulders over anything any of us were doing. It wasn't long before they started playing for teens, too.

Their first teen gig was at Island Cottage on a Sunday afternoon. We were at some other teen club that same
afternoon and we found ourselves playing to about a quarter of our usual throng. Everybody was nuts about
The Showstoppers. Even the Hogans went to Island cottage that day. Overnight, we went from a big draw,
back to playing for next to nobody.

Business wise, it wasn’t that bad. We still had plenty of high school dance bookings coming in but it was clear
that we had been dethroned. It was hard on young egos. Soehner was the first to leave and we got Jake
Gerber on guitar. I took Bob's place on bass. That's when I found out how hard it is to sing and play bass at
the same time. I got better after a while and I have been a bass player ever since, eventually getting to the
point that I felt I could actually sing better while playing bass than I could without it.

Gerber and Celke clashed and Jake was replaced by Dick Leschhorn on guitar. He was a great guy and very
talented. He later had success in a band called Old Salt, that gigged everywhere around Rochester and
traveled extensively for several years.

The Quirks slowly ground to a halt. One reason was that soul music had become very popular and The
Quirks couldn't adapt very well. We did Four Tops tunes and the like but it wasn't as convincing as the
Beatles stuff.

I was depressed. I started to look for other opportunities. In hindsight, we should have hung on. The type of
band we were would have eventually settled into a niche.

After the Quirks: These Odds and Ends

I fell in with some very beautiful guys who were also crazed freaks; guitarist Helmut Getto, keyboard player
John Castronova, bass player Jimmy Kohler (ex Invictas), lead singer Joe Pellingra and drummer Roger
Rotoli.

Roger was one of the best. He was a no holds barred player who also had a very tasty touch. I'll never forget
how his knuckles were a battered ruin of calluses from the way he played. We were all sad that we had to
replace Roger because he was under age and we had begun to play regularly at Tiny Bengal's on Lake
Ontario.

We got a drummer we all called, "Coach," because he always wore a trenchcoat. The band was called, These
Odds and Ends, who later morphed into The Invisible Sideshow. This was the late 60's and psychedelia had
set in.

We frightened even ourselves with some of the craziness we pulled. We liked to smash equipment and
bought old broken acoustic guitars at music stores and dramatically smashed them onstage.

These Odds and Ends lead singer, Joe Pellingra, gave mock fire and brimstone sermons while tearing pages
from a bible during "Devil With The Blue Dress." John Castronova discovered that he could pull the keys
out of his Vox Continental organ and throw them across the stage. Once we gathered them up after the song,
he just snapped them back in place and was ready for more insanity.

At particulaly frenzied moments during the show, Joe would dive under the organ, hoist it on his back and go
dancing off into the audience with John stumbling along behind trying to play his keyboard parts.

I had a few too many free drinks one New Year's eve gig at Tiny Bengal's. I launched into my thrilling
rendition of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long," and fell off the stage into a bank of lights.
The band played on as I writhed drunk on the burning hot bulbs.

At Irondequoit High School one fateful night, the principal leaped up on the stage in the middle of a song just
in time to wrench a lit roman candle, sparks flying, from Helmut Getto's grasp while feedback screamed and
Coach flung his drums out into the audience.
We later received a letter from the school saying that under no circumstances would we ever darken their
gymnasium doors again.

Coach was replaced by ex-Heard drummer, Pete Genovese. Pete was a great guy and we all loved his
playing but his brief stint with us is something I suspect he'd rather forget and probably has. We were chaos
on stage. The music was an afterthought and sounded like it. We tried to control ourselves but we couldn't.
We simply ran out of places that would hire us.

The Quirks: One More Time

In the summer of 1967, Dale Celke, John Castronova, Dick Leschhorn, myself and a drummer whose name
none of us can remember, hooked up with the owner of Panorama bowl in Penfield. He wanted to continue the
teen dances that had been so successful in the past. He put on an ad campaign using the slogan, “The Quirks
are back and Panorama’s got ‘em!” We played there all summer. We played stuff from Sgt. Pepper and
other hits of the day. Some of the Odds and Ends craziness crept in when we got John’s brother, Pat, to make
a guest appearance as a James Brown style character we cooked up whose name was Antonio Hotnuts. We
gave him a big build up and he came out in a cape and did, “Turn On Your Lovelights,” We were laughing so
hard we could barely play. We played some other gigs at Brighton Bowl and at a big battle of the bands at
the War Memorial. For reasons I can’t remember, the band broke up at summer’s end and The Quirks were
no more.

The Invisible Sideshow

The Invisible Sideshow was the next incarnation and featured myself on bass, Odds and Ends regulars,
Helmut Getto on guitar, and John Castronova on keys. We were joined by front man, Brad, "Oh Wow,"
Morse and a drummer named Pancho (I am sorry that I can't remember his last name) who played and sang
well.

We recorded two songs in New York City at Gotham Studios. I think I wrote one of them and the other was
an arrangement of some obscure Kinks song that I can’t remember. No trace of those recordings exists that
I know of. The band was better musically but still had a twisted streak on stage.

The climax of the Invisible Sideshow's theatrics was when lead singer, Brad Morse, would pull a girl out of
the crowd, grab her under her armpits, pick her up and swing the frightened female round and round with her
legs flying almost straight out parallel to the floor. All this while strobe lights flashed and amps fed back on
ten.

The Rustix

After that, I got an offer to take Bob Soehner's place on bass in The Rustix. They were a very successful top
notch R&B, blue eyed soul band. David Colon, the drummer, Bob and I had been hanging out together a lot.
They were beautiful guys. They turned me on to pot for the first time. I woke up the next day thinking,
"Where can I get some more of that?"

The Rustix' Hammond B-3 player was Joe Graziano and the guitarist was Bob D'Andrea. The two frontmen
and lead singers, Al and Charlie, were great Righteous Brothers style vocalists. Charlie was a talented
songwriter who wrote songs on a four string guitar.

The band had some financial backing and was managed by WBBF DJ, Ferdy Smith, my old neighbor. They
were recording an album in Hartford, Connecticut and I went with them once. We went out at night to a club
to hear the local sensation band called, "The Wild Weeds." Their guitar player was this hugely obese
character who played really hot. He was Al Anderson, who's later band, NRBQ, went on to make a couple of
decades worth of albums.

I tried to emulate Bob's style on bass with The Rustix and came close on occasion. But it wasn't the same.
Later, he came back in the band and I was out.

Today

I stopped playing for a couple of years after that and eventually left Rochester for good. Bob Soehner
passed away a few years ago. I saw him toward the end. He was a great one.
I am still playing every weekend here in fort Collins, Colorado, both guitar and bass. I even recorded a CD
of my original songs that turned out well.

I used to play for all kinds of reasons, money, wanting to be famous, wanting other musicians to think I was
good, the women, etc. All that has fallen by the wayside. I only play for one reason now. I love it.

The Quirks and the Rochester music scene of the 60's were a big event in my life. I learned a lot and made
great friends, especially John Castronova, who today owns Sound Source, a music store in Rochester. I get
back to town a couple of times a year to visit my mother and daughter who still live there. I always go to see
John and his wife Chris, and to once again hang in the music store, like we used to at Duke Spinner's.

It has been wonderful at this late date, to come across the Fine Recording Studio web site and remember all
the people from those days. Rochester was a very big and energetic music scene then. So many good players
all in one place. I'm glad it is being remembered. We owe many thanks to Mark Taylor. He is writing our
history. He is preserving our roots.

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