Billy Quad . . .
  (1940-2013)
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close windowWilliam Michael Quadt
Date of Birth: Sunday, October 6th, 1940
Date of Death: Wednesday, September 4th, 2013


Billy Quad changed his family birth name, Quadt, to Quad probably for stage purposes. Originally from Irvington, NY, Billy was a singer and a classical violin player. I believe the guitar was picked up along the way, a trend of the times and it was also fashionable to play an instrument as a visual accessory to vocals in those days. I don't believe he ever thought of himself as a serious lead guitar player but he handled the rhythm quite nicely. Plus, it looked good!

Billy Quad arrived on the very active early 60's Buffalo music scene from Jamestown, NY. He was never really considered a native son of the Buffalo musicians' crowd. He simply wisely used the very large pool of fine Buffalo musicians available at that time to draw sidemen from and then continued to take these groups on the road. He often used a Hazleton, PA agent by the name of Gabe Garland.

Billy sang very well, was pleasing to the eye, especially to the ladies, and was a very good natural all-around musician, good enough to play enough rhythm guitar and eventually bass and to pass as a very reasonable accompanist. He had studied classical violin as a child and this obviously was a solid basis for his talent. But his vocals were his forté.

 

I met him when the twist dance craze was at it's height in the early 60's. It was at Mrs. Jann's Casino on Main Street directly across the street from the old Shea's Buffalo Theater. His band, The Rock-itts followed The Jester's group, of which I had been a former member, into Jann's Casino. I had left The Jesters because of a contract dispute that I had had with Tony DiMaria, the bandleader, and Carl Cisco, the Jester's manager. I was looking for work and Billy hired me up as a bass player. He subsequently took the Rock-Itts on the road and I went with him.

Fellow musician, Dave Rosean, remembers times with Billy as follows:

"I first met Bill when he was going to Fredonia State Teachers College. I may be wrong here, I think he told me he was born in Harlem, but he was from Irvington NY. I spent a lot of time with him in and around NYC before we met you and Stan in Buffalo.

We were trying to get interest stirred up with his old record label, they were a sub (division) of Atlantic (Records)and interested only in black artists at that time. We dogged the Brill Building (Tin Pan Alley) for six months or so and got nowhere. Bill knew some agents and record producers, but it did nothing to help getting a new recording.

We did a lot of recording at a studio across the street from the Helen Hayes Theater on 45th or 46th I think is was. Those recordings where lost... His original record of "Oh Suzy Darlin" can be heard at this web site:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0pX5e-GNEE".

"At one time we worked for the Four Seasons and they wanted us to tour with them as their backup band, but we declined because we had just got some good bookings from Eddie Leipzig a good agent from Jersey. The Four Seasons had a recording studio in a city block that they owned in Bloomfield, New Jersey. That is where I did a a track of "Boom Boom" which I has stolen from you using the gruff voice. But we went on the road again and nothing came of it, 6 months later the Animals came out with it."

__________________________Dave Rosean, January 10, 2004

More info comes from childhood friend and fellow musician
Scott Parker:

"I can give you some more info about Billy's activities before he got to Buffalo. First of all, when I met him in 1958 or 59, he (like I) lived in Irvington NY. His mother owned and ran a store in Irvington."

"The first time I saw Billy play it was at a dance at Irvington High School. I remember him singing either "Folsom Prison Blues" or, its flip side "So Doggone Lonesome" -- anyway, a Johnny Cash song. I think I might have played a few songs at that dance too (I'm not sure); somehow we got to talking then and it all developed into my joining his band. He knew a lot of country music, as I recall."

"After he graduated from high school, Billy went to Fredonia (NY) State Teachers College (now SUNY Fredonia) which is how he wound up in northwest NY state."

"Billy got hooked up with a manager/producer that resulted in our doing a few recording sessions in NYC. Two songs, "Oh Susie Darling" (not to be confused with the actual hit record by Robin Luke of a different song with the same name) and "I'll Stop Crying" came out on Fling Records (number 712) in 1959. Fling Records was owned by Bobby Robinson of Harlem in NYC. Robinson was something of a big deal in the music biz, also owning Fury Records (Wilbert Harrison's record of "Kansas City", "Ya Ya" by Lee Dorsey) and Fire Records (big hit: "Fanny Mae" by Buster Brown). Fling was where Robinson tried to record white kids for the white market; didn't work out all that well. The manager/producer was Milton Kabak who, I learned recently, had been a trombonist in the Louis Prima band (among whatever other things he'd done); I have no idea how Billy connected with him."

"Anyway, the two sides that came out had Billy on guitar and vocal, me on piano, Dave Watson (then an Irvington HS sophomore) on drums, Bob Grapp (spelling may be wrong; a friend of Billy's from high school) playing bass, Grapp and Jerry Gullo (who Billy had met at college) being two of the three back-up vocals; I don't recollect who the third one was) and a real good alto sax player (who I think Billy met at college, but I don't recall; it was not the same guy as played with us at Sylvan Beach in 1963)."

"Billy wrote Oh Susie Darling (promoted as the A-side) alone; he and I collaborated on I'll Stop Crying. Hardly matters; Robinson bought a sizeable ad in Cash Box and got a little air play (Oh Susie Darling was a Pick Hit of the Week on WKBW, I'm told) but....here we all are years later."

"Those came from our second recording session, as I recall. I think the first session produced two sides -- "Just Like Old Times" (very country-sounding ripoff of Folsom Prison Blues that I wrote) and "Underhanded" (which Kabak wrote and we gave a Bo Diddley-ish rhythm), and only Billy, Dave Watson, Bob Grapp and I were there -- no sax or back-up vocals)."

"The demo of "Just Like Old Times" got played once on the Alan Fredericks show, "Night Train" on WADO in NYC. I was real excited; we got some advance info that it was going to happen and Fredericks said something complimentary about it, but nothing came of it."

"The next session produced the two songs that Robinson bought. There was a third session on which the larger group (with Gullo) did a few more songs (one called "Blue Bells" that Kabak wrote or, at least, published). Nothing more happened with any of them so far as I know."

"To my ear, it's Cash and Elvis (and maybe Gene Vincent or Eddie Cochran) that were the models for what Billy sounded like in the late 50s. But that's not based on recalling something he told me."

_________________________Scott Parker, January 10, 2004

Fellow musician, Ken Lang writes:

"I believe Billy was going to Jamestown Community College at the same time I was, around 60-61. His band with Dave Rosean on lead guitar, Roy Zaskota on bass, Dusty Smith on drums was very popular at all the night spots. The band was much better than the rest of the local talent and kind of the 'in' thing."

"I began playing bass with him in 62, though it only lasted until I decided to go back to college in 1963."

___________________________Ken Lang, January 10, 2004

Additional reflections by Scott Parker:

"The letter from Ken Lang (whoever he is) reminded me about the bass player, Zaskoda (though I think I remember his first name as Dave rather than Roy). If memory serves, he played fretless Fender bass -- the first such thing I'd ever seen or heard of. If Zaskoda sang too then he's probably the third back-up vocal."

"I also remembered three other songs we recorded, probably at the same studio session where we did Susie Darling and I'll Stop Crying". They were "Never Took A Lesson In His Whole Darn Life", "Robin Lee", and "Really Not a Thing""

""Never Took a Lesson" was a Milton Kabak contribution, a clever concept song. The lyric was "Never took a lesson in his whole darn life [that takes up 2 4-beat measures in the tonic; followed by 2 measures of instrumental fill in the tonic], Never took a lesson in his whole darn life (that's two measures in IV w/ flatted 7, follwed by 2 measures of fill in the tonic] Well he (V - 1 measure) bought a guitar, (IV - 1 measure) practiced for an hour and (I- stop 1 measure + 1 beat of next measure) you should hear him play [last 3 beats of this measure a series of unison quarter-notes on V)". There follows a 12-bar guitar solo, the last note being a huge clunker (first note of 11th measure) after which Billy says "Aw, nuts"; then 3 beats of quarter notes on V end the 12th measure of this 12-bar blues and get us back to the next verse. Successive verses have as the third line "Well he bought an 88, man it was great, and you should hear him play" and "Well he bought him a sax, then he relaxed, and you should hear him play". Best moment was the sax solo because a.) the saxophonist was really good, and b.) both the piano and guitar played back-up thereby filling out the sound a lot."

""Robin Lee" was another Ricky Nelson-style (or even, maybe Frankie Avalon style) cutesy teen ballad. I I IV V structure for the first two lines of each 3-line verse, third line being IV V I followed by IV-V for the vocal gimmick, which was "ooh-oo-oo-oo-wee" at the end of each verse (the oo's on IV and wee on V). Lyric of the release was (approximately) "Lotta guys wanna try and take her, make her go away from me. But they can start stoppin 'cause noone's robbin' my Robin Lee, nosiree". Last verse is "Robin Lee with a great big smile, Gonna walk you [her?] down the aisle, Gonna make you happy Robin Lee, ooh-oo-oo-oowee". I think Billy wrote it."

"I wrote "Really Not a Thing". It was a ballad with a mostly I IIIm IV V chord structure for the verses, last line being IV V I. Release had a nice IIm resolving to V at its end. Billy played the up-front guitar figure, freely adapted from the single-line figure featured in Marty Robbins' record of "A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)".

"Best thing about the record was backup. It took advantage of Jerry Gullo's 4-octave or so range and his high note created a huge fat IIm "aah" chord that resolved to a very subdued "oo" on V at the end of the release. Billy's vocal was pop/country sounding (I think Bobby Helms is a fairly close model) rather than teen Ricky Nelson-ish. Of course, I haven't heard any of these three tracks in 40+ years so I might be a little inaccurate about some of the details, right?"

"The recordings were done late at night (studio time cheaper?) in 1650 Broadway NYC. I think we recorded at Atlantic Studios, but it might have been Beltone (and maybe there were different sessions at both places). I do remember that the way we got echo on Susie Darling and I'll Stop Crying was to play the final recorded tape through a loudspeaker down the hallway of the building and rerecord that reflected signal. Primitive but effective."

"I have no recollection of who the recording engineers were. I'm confident that Kabak produced the sessions; nobody from Bobby Robinson's organization was present. I don't know whether Kabak had a prior arrangement with Robinson or had to go out and find a buyer once he had tape."

__________________________Scott Parker, January 11, 2004

Dave Rosean adds the following comments:

Roy Zaskoda's real first is indeed David, I will not even get into the reason for the nickname. I looked up his name on the web and found he is a sought after bassist for accomplished jazz work, I remember him very clearly because he was large talent. Zaskoda is also an excellent trumpet player, he laid down some really nice tracks on the "lost tapes'.

We stopped in Buffaonte's jazz club on Main St. back it the days when we first played at Janns to see Red Menza, Menza knew Zaskoda from Fredonia and he came over to compliment him on his superb bass playing, it made a big impression on me at the time. Instead of us praising Menza he was praising Roy!

I worked with Ken Lang during the Quad days and for many years after. Ken, Judi and I were the trio that went to the west coast and started up in Los Angeles. Ken is a talented guy who picks things up very quickly. I wish I had had the pleasure of meeting Scott Parker. Bill spoke of him often, but our paths just never crossed. I grew up knowing Gerry Gullo we went to the same high school in Jamestown New York.

I was on a record with Quad that was released. "Someone To Love" backed by "Listen To Me". It was only a hit in Jamestown as far as I know. I found it on an oldies but goodies type collection, so it does have "legs". the tunes are Quad ordinals. They where recorded in Buffalo at the old Pierce Arrow building. Walter Jones produced this recording on the Sahara label. See: Someone To Love

_____________________________Dave Rosean, January 11, 2004

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I have a treasured CD containing twenty-six of Billy Quads's vocals, most recorded in 1965, that reflect an era when most pop music was simpler with three or four chords and a rockabilly beat. Billy not only wrote and recorded quite a few original songs but he had a large repertoire of top-forty tunes also. He could fashion his vocal phrasing and timbre quite well to emulate most of the current top-forty hits of his time. His last album was entitled "Didn't The Time Fly" and is on the Bowman Arrow label #B7992

Here's a picture of Billy sent to me by Len Crossman (leaning over in the background). It was taken on July 4, 2006 in Pensacola, Florida.


Bill died of cancer on September 4, 2013 in Pensacola, FL.  R.I.P., Billy.


Peter Haskell
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