Almost from its inception in 1958, until its demise in the 1990s, the name of Ernie Maresca looms large in the story of Laurie Records. He wrote or co-wrote every track on this collection. A man for all seasons, the Bronx-born Italian-American songwriter, singer, producer and sometime hitmaker started out hustling his demos to Dion and ended up running the company's publishing arm. Domiciled these days in the Sunshine State of Florida, Mr Maresca is an invaluable repository of the history of those halcyon days of the New York independent recording scene. As a youngster, Ernie liked the Mills Brothers, Joni James and the Hilltoppers. Then he discovered Alan Freed's Moondog Show. Soon he was writing his own rock'n'roll songs, one of which, No One Knows, found its way on to the jukebox in a local poolroom. Dion played pool at the same joint, heard the demo and wanted to know the singer was. A great partnership was soon born.
"I went downtown and met Gene and Bob Schwartz at Laurie," says Ernie quoted in the booklet. "Gene liked the song and they recorded it. I'd never even heard of Laurie Records until I went up there with Dion. After they put out No One Knows, I would go up there with demos. I used to cut a lot of demos, you know. I lived in the Bronx and Laurie were midtown. I'd go like two or three times a month with demos that I had made. You had to bring a demo in those days. Studios were like $15 an hour. I guess it was a lot of money but you could cut two or three things in an hour. I'd bring an acetate up there and they would play it. I used to do a lot of them at Associated Studios and a lot at Allegro Studios. That was in the basement of 1650 Broadway. Laurie ended up owning Allegro. I was really a hustler, trying to show my songs. I had good songs and I was there at Laurie regularly. Eventually I became friends with Gene and Bob. I was about 19 and they were like 35-years-old. They were good people. One day Gene asked me why I didn't go and work for them and handle the publishing, or whatever. So I started working up there and I got in close with Bob, Gene and Eliot Greenberg. I got right in there. It's kind of a miracle, to be honest with you. I ended up selling the record company for them to Capitol in about 1992."
In addition to a brace of early Dion & the Belmonts tracks and a pair of storming solo offerings from fellow Belmont Carlo, this CD contains a slew of doo-wop sides by outfits such as the Demilles, the Harps, the Four Coins, the Four Graduates, the like of which are the backbone of Laurie's sound and the crystallisation of the logo's lasting identity. Those with a taste for more soulful sounds need look no further than the Dean & Jean, Chiffons or Hoagy Lands offerings. "The Chiffons were great," says Ernie. "They had a thing where everything they did had to be done by the Tokens. Those guys were very the talented but they ran into a dead end, so Gene and Eliot had a crack at recording the girls. Please Don't Tell Me Now by Dean and Jean, what a great record that was. Jean was a wonderful woman. She and Dean, both of them were really good people, I'm telling you. I really, really liked them a lot. I got along with them from day one. I'm sorry to hear that Jean died. I wish she had called me because she probably had royalties coming to her. Happy Go Lucky is a thing that I cut with Hoagy Lands. We did it at Allegro in about 1967. I kinda wish they'd released it as a single because I thought it might have done something but it never even came out. I used it later on a compilation. I heard Hoagy died last year. He was another great guy. He was terrific, a real talent."
As you can see, Ernie Maresca not only wrote a lot of great songs, he also tells a very good story. You'll find plenty of both on this CD.
by Mick Patrick