The origins of this music are rooted deep in the 50s doo wop of New York and its surrounding suburbs. Tommy West (Tommy Picardo) was a member of the Criterions and Terry Cashman (Dennis Minogue) was lead singer of the Chevrons.
Both had substantial success: the Criterions with ‘I Remain Truly Yours’ (CDCHD 309) and the Chevrons with ‘Lullabye’ (CDCHD 739). The former was recorded for Marty Foglia’s Cecelia label He was Alan Freed’s sound engineer for his stage shows. The latter was recorded for Bob Shad’s Brent label. He was a highly experienced producer who had held A&R positions in several major record companies before starting his own Time, Brent and Shad labels.
Although both were originally released in 1959, ‘I Remain Truly Yours’ had to wait for the early 60s doo wop revival to get picked up by Laurie Records in 1964. Although neither charted in Billboard’s Hot 100, ‘Lullabye’ reached #87 in Cash Box in 1960. Both were local hits in New York and its surroundings.
Once the British Invasion scuttled all prior genres of US popular music, former doo wop artists such as Dion and Paul Simon turned to pre-rock‘n’roll heritage music such as blues and folk music. Dion released a number of hardcore blues tracks towards the end of his tenure with Columbia, which his record company made no attempt to promote, as they were hoping he would emerge as the next Bobby Darin. Paul Simon got into the swing of it quite quickly, and by 1965 had his first smash hit with his old mate Art Garfunkel from their Tom & Jerry days when ‘The Sound of Silence’ topped the charts. This wistful form of folk pop set the stage for many ex-doo woppers who still liked to harmonise.
Dion had to ride out his Columbia contract before returning to Laurie in 1969, when he reached top 5 in the Hot 100 with ‘Abraham, Martin & John’. Cashman and West teamed up with Gene Pistilli, whom Cashman had met whilst they both worked for the same publisher, and signed with Capitol to release their first album “Bound To Happen” in 1967. A song on that album, ‘Sunday Will Never Be The Same’ was covered by Spanky & Our Gang that year and became a Top 10 hit. Cashman, Pistilli & West released one more album on ABC in 1969, when Gene was lured away by ex-Criterion Tim Hauser to form the first incarnation of Manhattan Transfer.
It was as Cashman & West that they found their feet as recording artists, writers, record producers and record label owners. It was as producers they made hits for themselves and a string of smash hits for Jim Croce and others. By the time Dion had finished his tenure with Warner Bros his manager Zachary Glickman was impressed enough to suggest Dion link up with Cashman & West to produce and release his next album in 1978 on their Lifesong label. When Ace came to release this album, we were astonished to find a whole unreleased album, which we coupled as a 2 on 1 (CDCHD 936).
By 1976, when “Hometown Frolics” and “Terry Cashman” were released in the States, England had been overrun by punk, and Chiswick Records was at the heart of it. It would have been unthinkable back then to release these on Chiswick Records alongside the Count Bishops, Motorhead and the Damned. Then as Chiswick recorded more mainstream pop with Sniff ‘n’ the Tears and Rocky Sharpe & the Replays, and in its maturity released Dean Friedman and Henry Gross, so it made sense now for Chiswick to release these two albums on CD for the first time.
Each CD is rounded off with what they did next. In Tommy’s case it was a return to doo wop, and for Terry it was writing, singing and reminiscing about his favourite sport, baseball.
By Trevor Churchill
Message From Tommy West:
Greetings from an old doo wopper in New Jersey. Doo wop is still my favourite stuff. My favourite group was the Teenagers, and I believe Frankie Lymon was one of the great voices of all time.
My favourite white group was the Skyliners. Alan Freed used to play our Criterions single ‘I Remain Truly Yours’ on his radio show in April of ’59 following the Skyliners’ ‘Since I Don’t Have You’. We used to ride around in Tim Hauser’s Ford with the windows down and the radio turned up. Great Days