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|Remembering The Coincidentals|
The Coincidentals were basically a cover band. We had a core repertoire of basic standards that we augmented with the Top 10 of the day along with some specialty comedy numbers. The core group, that consisted of Sally Huffer on piano, Ed Blodgett on guitar and myself on bass, was formed in the fall of 1960 when we were all students at the University of Buffalo.
Sally Huffer was the vocalist and piano player. She could sing the brawdy Sophie Tucker style or handle herself in the sweetest of ballads. She was an accomplished pianist player and knew a lot of the old standards. Audiences were amazed to see her hands fly on the keyboard and their comments always reflected that. She later went on to work the Borsch Belt Circuit in the Catskills playing mostly at the Granite Hotel. Stories would filter back to me about her now and then. Rumor has it she remarried and moved away down south somewhere.
Ed Blodgett and I still get together now and then along with one of the later members of the Coincidentals, drummer Joe Ferrara, for a reunion. Ed had a big yellow Gibson ES-295, circa 1955, that he loved and evidently had most of his life. One night at Lulu Belles he brought it in out of the bitter Buffalo cold and didn't give it time to warm up in its case. When he opened it the finish had cracked into a thousand hairline cracks all over the top. It was very sad. But, he continued to make beautiful music on that guitar, playing his chord melody style in such beautiful standards as "Misty" and "Moonlight in Vermont".
Phil Kordos was an audience member at the first Club that Sally, Ed and I played as a trio, a place called "Tom & Jerry's" down on Washington Street in Buffalo. He sat in with us then. We hired him as our drummer in early 1961 for our gig at Lulu Belles Restaurant on Best Street across from Humboldt Park. He did not travel with this particular edition of the group leaving when we went on the road.
While at Lulu Belles we picked up a manager named Jerry Buckley. He was a groupie of Sally's and a big mistake. The group lasted exactly a week on the road a victim of Buckley's virulence.
Lulu Belles Restaurant had obviously been someone's house at one time and not a very large one at that. It was a small neighborhood saloon that seemed frightfully out of place being in the neighborhood it was in. It was a run by a senior couple from Tyler, Texas, Bud and Pauline Tower.
Bud Tower was an Alfred Hitchcock lookalike. He always had a cigarette danging from his lips when he talked. I always thought he was an ex-carney. He would stand at the narrow front door in a large white cowboy hat and greet everyone by either ringing gong or shooting off his blank pistol. He had tons of junk hanging all over the walls and ceiling of his saloon, stuff from the Marti Gras, sleds, posters, and anything else one could imagine.
Bud had rigged an intricate array of wires and pulleys across the ceiling that were easily camouflaged by the junk hanging there and he would lower rubber spiders from behind the bar onto unsuspecting college co-eds. They would jump up shrieking! He thought this was hilarious.
He used to keep a large rubber snake in the refrigerator and would brush George, the bartender aside and produce this thing when there was someone at the bar with whom he wanted to torment. George would stand there in his beanie with a propeller on the top looking every bit like Stan Laural and watch Bud wiggle this thing and dare someone to touch it. Of course the snake, being ice cold, usually always produced the desired reaction. Bud was in his glory.
Bud had a microphone behind the bar and sometimes between our songs he would interrupt the group and repeat the same tired nightly riddles and we would all feign laughter and just hope he would find something else to do.
My reaction to Lulu Belles and Bud and Pauline was actually one of gratitude for just allowing me to do what I wanted to, musically, for giving me a gig that was more than two nights a week and paying me for it. I could put up with all the happy horseplay as long as I could play music relatively uninterrupted. I credit Lulu Belles with a lot.
Most of all I credit Lulu Belles as the place where I cut my teeth in the music business. The Coincidentals at Lulu Belles were a fun group and we drew record crowds. It was a unique combination of band and bar and I am not sure if one would have worked without the other. I have never worked a place quite like Lulu Belles since. I have some fond memories of it as I am sure a lot of other Buffalo musicians who worked there over the years do.