Remembering The Rock-itts

The Rock-itts in 1961 The Rock-Itts were formerly Billy Quad and The Ravens, a name Billy Quad borrowed from Stan Szelest and The Ravens. The group originally featured Dave Rosean on lead guitar; Dusty Smith, drums; Billy Quad, rhythm guitar and Ken Lang, bass guitar.

The group in the photo with Billy Quad, Dave Rosean, Johnny Holiday (Capello), Stan Robbins (Pembleton) and myself was formed in Buffalo, New York in the spring of 1963 at Jann's Casino on Main Street across from the Old Shea's Buffalo Theater.

The Rock-Itts came along after I had played a few months with The Jesters.

The Jesters (1962). featured myself, Eddie Hoagland (aka Eddy Jay), Tony DiMaria, Junior Schenck, and Lee Markish (aka Lee Carroll) at Jann's Casino. (see photos below of The Jesters playing at Erie Community College)

(l. to r.) Peter Haskell, bass; Eddie Hoagland, sax; Tony DiMaria, drums, Junior Schenck, guitar and Lee Markish, guitar. Here's another picture (below) at the same gig at Erie Community College.

(l. to r.) Eddie Hoagland, sax; Peter Haskell, bass; Junior Schenck, guitar and Lee Markish, guitar.

I had left the Jesters because of a contract dispute and hooked up with Billy Quad at a time when the "twist" dance craze was still big. The Jesters went on to become "The Rockin' Rebels" . . . not to be confused with the Kipler Brothers Original Buffalo Rebels who previously recorded "Wild Weekend".

The Rock-Itts toured after a short stay at Jann's Casino in Buffalo. Billy Quad took us on the road after the gig at Jann's Casino under the direction of a booking agent from Hazleton, Pa. named, "Gabe Garland". Gabe's real name was Gabriel Lombardo and I was to do a lot of business with him in the years to come.

We played Jerome's on Washington Street in Boston, Trudy Heller's and the Wagon Wheel in New York City. We followed Joey Dee and the Starlighters into the famous Peppermint Lounge which was a few doors away from the Wagon Wheel. Most of these gigs were contracted for two weeks each, back to back, with four to six sets six nights a week.

At one point in the summer of 1963, the band played a club in an old summer hotel/resort at Sylvan Beach on Oneida Lake in upstate New York. Quad expanded the group adding, among others, a piano player from Irvington, NY named Scott Parker. Scott remembers it like this:

"...Billy Q brought me up to play organ (piano player though I was) for two weeks. Learn on the job, I say. Also brought in for the events were one or two other guys. Jerry Gullo, renaming himself Jerry Scott, maybe in my honor, who sang and played trumpet. Billy knew him from his student days at Fredonia. Jerry sang lead on such classics as "You Can't Sit Down" (modeled on the Dovells' hit record). And I think maybe Ralph Di Nuzzo, also known as Sky Dean, came from up from NY to play saxophone, but I don't know where Billy knew him from. I'd played with Billy in high school when we were rockabilly wannabes; Jerry G. sang back-up on our sole 45 rpm release."

"...it (the Sylvan Beach Hotel) was on Park Street. I know that because when Jerry Gullo sang "You Can't Sit Down", although the Dovells' record's lyric was "When you're on South Street/ And you hear the [two syllables] jumpin' " Jerry sang, "When you're on Park Street/ And you hear the Rock-Itts jumpin' ".

"I also remember there was some huge guy, a regular customer, who always wanted us to play "Watermelon Man". Other items in the Sylvan Beach repertoire up there included "Our Day Will Come", "Misty", "Satin Doll", and "Work Song". As I recall, a fight broke out one night during "Stella By Starlight" (so much for the power of soothing music). What's odd is that, although I can recall Jerry singing several numbers, I don't recall what songs Billy Q sang."

"Billy's real last name was Quadt. He dropped the final Germanic t when our 45 came out in 1959. It went nowhere. I searched the web for Quadt also but didn't find him. Then again, I gave up not too far down the list of 1800+ hits, almost all of which were German. Anyway, I don't think I've seen or heard of him since 1963. I have wondered from time to time what became of him. I think at Fredonia he was studying to be a H.S. music teacher. (He'd been trained in classical violin as a child, before his seduction by Johnny Cash etc.)"

"I don't remember Dave Rosean in Sylvan Beach, or the name at all."

(Editors note: "Lee Carroll" (Leroy David Markash) took Dave's place on the road. I remember Lee well as he was best man at my wedding and my daughter's middle name was given after him.)   Scott continues . . .

"As I recollect it, I didn't have a real job in summer of '63 (just finished my junior year in college) and so when Billy called looking for a keyboardist (somewhat desperately, I think) it sounded like just the thing. I had no idea how different organ was from piano, and absolutely never got the hang of the bass pedals. Our first night of rehearsing our agent (did we have one?) or somebody important was there. He told Billy, about me, "He sounds like a piano player." Billy confessed that I was, but said I'd work into organ quick. Billy said the guy was skeptical. There was also the problem that I wasn't union; Billy gave the union guy (or hotel owner; I forget) some song and dance about how I'd surrendered my union card while college was in session and hadn't reclaimed it yet. Hey, it was Sylvan Beach. When Jerry G. got there (from where I don't know) he called up and, as Billy described the phone conversation later, Jerry was insistent that someone come and get him at the bus station quick. Approximately, he said "Oh, wow, man! I'm in Ethel's restaurant in Canastota." Interestingly, I have no recollection of how I got there, though I suppose it was also via bus to Canastota."

(Editors note: Actually, I ended up driving Scott into Canastota in my wife's car that day to pick up Jerry and, as I recall, it almost made us late for the gig that night.)   Scott continues . . .

"My girlfriend, Cathy, drove up from NYC to hear us a few times, but she was Californian and so thought that was like going around the block. I know I rode back down to NY with her when the gig ended."

"The waiters at the hotel were mostly part-time military guys from an Air Force base nearby. I remember the serving trays were steel and could be used as weapons (which we saw happen at least once). I also remember that the State troopers would sometimes be called in to stop trouble; they'd take who they thought were the bad guys out in the woods somewhere and beat them up. I think it was July 4 that the audience was entirely black; otherwise there wasn't a black face to be seen. Somehow that was the one day that "they" got Sylvan Beach? I guess they came in from Utica & Syracuse. That was before Martin Luther King's March on Washington (which occurred while we were working at Lulu Belle's. I remember thinking I wanted to go to that much more than I wanted to play "Our Day Will Come" again, but gig we did.) A different world."

"Sylvan Beach was a dump, as I recall. The beach itself was completely taken over by eel-flies while we were there. There was this dinky amusement park with a Ferris wheel, I think. Not much in the way of food -- French fry joints providing salt & vinegar is all I remember. I can't get a good image of the rooms we stayed in, but I think they weren't luxurious."

Scott Parker,   January 30, 2001

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With me on the Sylvan Beach Hotel gig was my first wife and my 10 month old daughter. Life on the road was difficult at best. The three of us were suffering from boredom, the heat and claustrophobia of a room three sizes too small.

A couple of weeks into the gig Quad called a meeting and informed us there was a 'payment problem'. To make matters worse he wanted us to go onto another untasteful gig ...unpaid, or not fully paid, I don't remember. I was on such a short fuse at that point. I was outraged!

We were on the sunroof of a one story porch that was surrounded by bushes. I don't remember if he jumped or if I actually got to him ..but, to make a long story short, Billy Quad wound up in the bushes and I wound up back in Buffalo.

A short time later Scott, and eventually Stan, joined me at Lulu Belles.

The next time I saw Billy Quad, some years later, he remarked on how mellow I had become.

Billy Quad and The Ravens
Billy Quad's Soulful Bowlful
Click here for more on Billy Quad!

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