Gary James' Interview With Tom Bialoglow Of
The Duprees

The Duprees are best known for a string of hit records, including "You Belong To Me", "My Own True Love", "Have You Heard" and "Why Don't You Believe". We spoke to original Duprees member Tom Bialoglow about the history of the group.

Q - Tom, I like to research the people I'm going to talk to before I interview them. So, I consulted Norman N. Nite's book, Rock On.

A - I've never read that book, but I've heard of it.

Q - Page 209, Joe Vann Canzano, lead, born April 3rd, 1943, replaced by Mike Kelly, April 19th, 1943. Sixteen days old and you're replaced. That just goes to show what a cut throat business the music business really is.

A - Here's what happened with that: Many people are confused. They think that Michael Kelly was there first and "Chubby", that's what I called him, that was his nickname. He was a chubby baby when he was born. He had older sisters and they used to call him "Chubby" and the name just stuck. Everyone called him "Chubby", although he was not in reality chubby at all. He had like a medium build. Nice-looking kid. Beautiful hair. He even had a beauty mark like Elizabeth Taylor. I used to tell him about that. You have the same mark as Elizabeth Taylor. Chubby was the original lead singer of the group. When we first got together I was singing with Joey with a group called The Utopians. Then we got together with Joe Santallo and Mike Arnone and John Salvato. They came down one summer evening to Hamilton Park and they listened to Joey do his leads. They wanted him to sing lead. They had a group called The Elgians that broke up. Joey said, "I'll only sing lead with you on one condition, that my friend Tommy Bialoglow is part of the package. Otherwise it's not gonna go. I'm not going without him." There's a reason for that too. When we were young and amateurish, like thirteen, sixteen, the older boys told us we weren't good enough. We weren't experienced enough. So, we kind of supported each other by doing Robert and Johnny, all this two part harmony stuff. It was like two of us against the world. So that stuck with him. When he had an opportunity to go with another group he said, "I won't do it without Tommy." Of course, he admired my licks anyway. He liked the notes that I would do.

Q - I was trying to make the point that the Norman Nite bio on The Duprees was a typo, but it was funny.

A - Yeah, it was a typo. Norman's probably not around anymore anyway. He probably passed some years ago I'd guess. I'm guessing. I'm not sure. (Note: In fact, Norman N. Nite is very much alive.)

Q - Did the Utopias make public appearances? Were you just a recording group?

A - The only recordings we ever did were a few demos in Hertz Recording Studios in Newark, a couple of which I have, and there's also one I would like to have but I can't get. It's on a wall, a plaque in Morristown, New Jersey. One of the members, Brian Moran, has since passed away and his widow put it on a plaque on the wall. It's a good song. I wish I had a copy of it. It was called "The Fool In Love". It was the back side of a song by The Keynotes, "Wonders Of The World". "Seven Wonders Of The World" was the back side.

Q - There's no way you can get a hold of it?

A - No.

Q - It can't be taken off the wall?

A - No. It's enclosed in like a plastic or something on a wooden block. But I do have other stuff that we did. I wrote a song called "Voices Are Calling" with The Utopias and we recorded that on Hertz. Actually we also recorded it with our first manager, David Zaan, at Bell Sound. He had me do an over-dub on it. I have a bunch of stuff that was never released. I wrote eighteen songs in fact.

Q - Then you and Joey merged with a couple of other guys from a group to form The Parisians.

A - They came down one summer, auditioned Joey. Joey said, "I'm not going without Tommy," and then I came back from working at a resort in the mountains, and I went up and started singing with them. First Joe Santollo didn't want me. They only wanted four guys. They didn't want another singer. The group they came from, The Elgians, only had four. But I started doing over the top tenor's notes, first I would do a full set above him. So I was the top tenor then. Santollo didn't like that that much, but he had to suck it up. That's just the way it was. It gave the group a good sound though. My top tenor on there, it sounded great that way. It was a good sound. I used to do the Black leads, The Jesters, The Paragons, and I would do them really good. Very, very good at that age. Joey admired that very much. He wouldn't go in a group without me because he admired my voice so much. I never gave him credit for his lead. I should have, but I never did for some stupid reason. He was a good lead.

Q - You sent a demo tape to George Paxton of Coed Records?

A - Let's go back to Joey. He was with us originally. He had an argument with one of the guys. I believe it was Johnny Salvato. I'm not sure. He left. He left the group. We didn't have a lead singer. So, he said, "If we're going to get a lead singer, let's get a Black lead singer. Let's go all the way to give us a soulful sound." So, we went to the Black neighborhoods of Monticello Avenue in Jersey City. I wasn't there at the time. I came the next day. There was a guy on the street corner, supposedly had a leather vest on and a build like Arnold Schwarzenagger. They said, "Hey man, any singers hang around here?", one of the guys said to him out the car window. He said, "Yeah, Snake and them sing over at Mop City." "What's Mop City?" "It's the Black barbershop down yonder there." The next day they picked me up and we all went to the Black barbershop. As we walked in, the barbershop looked at us up and down quizzically because we were White guys. What the hell were we doing in a Black barbershop? We said we heard you have some singers hanging around here. The barber said to us, "I chirp a bit. You guys singers? Let me hear what you're puttin' down." I don't even remember what song we sang. Joey wasn't with us. We didn't have a lead singer at the time. Whatever we did impressed him because he pulled down the shades in the barbershop, closed his store and took us in the back room and he gave us some wine in paper cups. We shared a bottle of wine with him. He said, "Y'all oughta do that song from the million dollar movie." That was Terence Stamp from Gone With The Wind. He sang the song for us. We didn't know the song had words to it. He was singing with a group and apparently that was one of their songs on their resume that they did. He was much older than us too. We were young. I was like twenty and the other guys were like, seventeen, eighteen, and he was probably in his thirties or something. He was too old for us anyway. When he showed us that song we went out the next day to a music store and got the sheet music on "My Own True Love". So, we did an arrangement on it and we didn't get a Black singer from him, but one of the guys knew of Michael Kelly, who was a renowned singer on the streets of Jersey City. He sang with a group called The Vocal Teens. They made a song called "Be A Slave", which I dearly loved the first time I heard it. So, he came down for a rehearsal one night, Michael Kelly because Chubby left us. We didn't have a lead. So, Michael came down and he had the most beautiful voice I ever heard and he had a feeling for a song. He was just a fantastic lead. He was like another Johnny Maestro. Wonderful lead singer. Our manager liked him too. He took us up to Bell Sound and we did some demos. One of the demos was "My Own True Love" and the other side was "It's Christmas Once Again", recorded by Frankie Lymon. Johnny went over to New York. He used to go over to different record companies, Johnny, perhaps he went with Joe Santollo and Mike Arnone. I don't know. I wasn't there. He would go around and bring the demo to play for the recording company. Supposedly, he said most of them threw him out. Then one time he went up to Coed and he left the recording with Michael Kelly's voice on it at Coed, but he didn't leave his phone number. So, when he went back a month or two later they said, "Where were you? We were trying to get in touch with you to come down and do an audition." He didn't tell him Michael Kelly left us. He went with Hal and Murial Weiss, a songwriter team that had Ronnie And The Hi-Lites. Michael went with them and recorded a song called "When A Man Cries". A beautiful song. It got a little airplay and it didn't do any charting. So, he left us. So, we had this audition now from Coed Record. Coed wanted us to come down and we had the date to come down, but we had no lead. So we called up Joey Vann and told him about the audition and Joey came down and did the audition with us. They liked what they heard and they liked what they saw and so we got a six month contract with two, one-year options with Coed Records, based on the demo that was recorded by Michael Kelly. They never caught on that that was not Chubby's voice on the record. It was Michael Kelly's voice. We sang right in front of the desk for George Paxton, 'live.' I'll never forget he had like a lightweight green sports jacket, tropical weight, grey hair that was a little silvery looking and he had a big cigar in his face. We sang right in front of his desk for him, with Joey Vann (Canzano) as the lead. We used to do old standards. We were influenced by The Flamingos when they came out with "I Only Have Eyes For You". We figured if you start with good material, you have an additional plus. You use songs that have proven themselves in the past. So, that's what we started doing. We'd do all the songs and do them to our own arrangements. That's what we did up there. We did things like "As Time Goes By", "You Belong To Me" and "Why Don't You Believe Me". Those were the songs we did for George Paxton and his A&R man. The arranger was really amazed at some of the stuff we did. One of the songs we did was "Body And Soul". They said of all the songs you could have picked to do an arrangement on, "Body And Soul" was the most difficult song you could have picked. And we had an arrangement on that. So, I guess they figured they could get a lot out of us because we were very good at doing our own arrangements. All of the hits we had, all of the songs were picked by us. We picked the songs. After we recorded "You Belong To Me" (#7 in 1962), we did "My Own True Love" (#13 in 1962), the company had a song they wanted us to sing, "I'd Rather Be Here In Your Arms", which we did but it wasn't a hit. It sold 60,000 copies. But after that, we went back with one of our own songs that we already had an arrangement on which was "Why Don't You Believe Me" (#37 in 1963) and that was a hit. So, our stuff we got hits out of, but the stuff they wanted us to do, no hits.

Q - When George Paxton suggested the group's name be changed to The Duprees, did you all agree that's a great name?

A - He didn't suggest it. We were using the name The Parisians at one point. He didn't like that. Then we graduated. We started using the name The Duprees. Even the demo I have that Michael Kelly made of "My Own True Love" says The Duprees on it, but it's spelled wrong. It's capital Du, then capital Prees. Two words. They spelled it like that. They didn't like the names we were calling ourselves so they asked us to submit a list of fifteen names that we'd like to use. So, I actually made up the list of names. On it was The Duprees and they didn't like any of the names on the list, so they said "Forget about it. Call yourselves whatever you want." So we selected Duprees. I forgot to mention one thing; the guy standing on the street corner in Jersey City? Telling us where to get a Black lead singer at the barbershop. As we pulled away Joe Santollo said, "Hey man, thanks a lot. What's your name?" He said, Dupree, baby, what's yours?" And that's where the name came from. Joe Santollo said, "That would be a good name for a group, The Duprees." (laughs)

Q - Did you ever see that guy again?

A - I never saw him at all. This is the story that was related to me the day before. When they met this guy on the corner I wasn't there. He told them about the Black barber shop and they picked me up the next day and we went to the Black barber shop. That's what John Saluato related to me. I was there at the barber shop though. We should've went back to the barber when we recorded "My Own True Love" and thanked him for the suggestion, but we never did. We just forgot about it.

Q - Did Coed Records do a lot for the group in terms of promotion and marketing?

A - Yes. Originally, I was with them from 1960 to 1963. I recorded seventeen songs with the group. Most all of the hits, except "Have You Heard" (#18 in 1964), I wasn't on. I was gone by that time. That came out in '64. But anyway, this is what they did for us, the used to get us jobs all around the country, throughout the mid-West, Kenosha Wisconsin, Green Bay Wisconsin, Cedar Rapids Iowa, all around the mid-West. Many of these jobs we weren't paid substantially. We would do these shows for radio disc jockeys. They would put on a show. They would get the money and they would play our record. It was a form of payola. That's where you'd get your record played in those days. You weren't paying the money under the table like Alan Freed got caught with that. Record companies would pay him under the table. We would do it another way. We would do shows and they would collect money for the show. The money we got for the shows; Some shows would pay as little as $125 for five guys.

Q - How many songs would you have to sing for that?

A - Our hit, "You Belong To Me".

Q - One song?

A - One or more. Definitely we would always do our hit and then we'd come out with maybe "My Own True Love" and some of the other stuff. Some of them were package deals where we'd get paid more, like Dick Clark's Caravan Of Stars. You'd get more pay out of that. The most money we ever got on the road was something like $1,000 week when we played the Apollo Theatre. That was like four to five shows a day for seven days. You're doing a midnight show.

Q - That must've been tough on your voice, wasn't it?

A - In those days it didn't bother my voice at all. I don't think that anybody complained about the singing. That was our learning at the time. They said, "How would you like to play the Black theatre circuit, the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, the Howard Theatre in Washington and there was another one, either in Baltimore or Chicago. I don't remember where. It would be learning experience. You would be playing for a Black audience primarily and a Black audience will come out in all kinds of weather. Our road manager said, "As long as you don't come off like faggots," because there was this theatre in Baltimore, Chicago, if they didn't like you they would have these little one ounce bottles of liquor or liqueur and they would throw them at the performers. They would stone you with these little bottles. The Flamingos got stoned. Frankie Lymon got stoned. This one place. We heard about that so we got out of the concert. We never went to that theatre. We didn't want to be put at risk. We just did the Howard and the Apollo. Joe Santollo pretended to be sick. That's how we got out of the contract.

Q - When you went on the Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars tour, who else was on that bus with you? And that is the way The Duprees traveled, isn't it, by bus?

A - No. Our own car. The (Four) Seasons were there. Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee, The Orchids, Chirs Montez, Clyde McPhatter too. That was a kick for me meeting Clyde 'cause I always loved his lead with The Drifters. He had the most beautiful voice and we got to work with Clyde McPhatter. We worked with him again in a little town in Hatfield, Minnesota. I remember he sang "Treasure Of Love" at the time. Such a beautiful voice. That was a kick. Like some people would say, "My biggest kick was meeting Elvis Presley." Mine was meeting Clyde. I gravitated toward the Black performers anyway. That's my history. That's all the records I used to buy. Most of them were by Black singers which I didn't even know. The first Rock 'n' Roll show I went to where Fabian did in Hoboken, New Jersey, the curtain went up and The Paragons, The Jesters, The Solitaires, The Valentines, they were all Black. I was surprised. I didn't know those performers were Black. I never thought about it. That impressed me. I was such a young kid and obviously not very worldly.

Q - They also didn't call it Rock 'n' Roll then. It was Rhythm 'n' Blues."

A - Rhythm 'n' Blues. Some people called it Race music even.

Q - Did anyone in The Duprees ever write?

A - Yes. Mike Arnone wrote a song with Roger Genger and Joey Ganzano had a part in it too. They wrote a song called "Love Eyes".

Q - How well did that do?

A - They recorded it on the flip side of one of our hits. I wasn't on "Love Eyes". A beautiful song too. I'll tell you another song we were credited with writing. When Michael Kelly was with us, he taught us a few leads that we didn't know, one of which was "I'm Sorry" and I never, to this day, knew who recorded the song. Another one we recorded with him was "My Own True Love". He taught us a song called "Take Me As I Am". He said, "This song was never recorded." It came from some group on the street corners of Jersey City that he sang with. Being that it was never recorded by anybody and Michael thought it was a good song, we adopted it as our own song. We told (George) Paxton that this was a song we're credited with. He said only two names can go on the record for writing it. So, we drew straws to see whose name would go on there and it was Joey Canzono and Santollo's name I think. That's the name that went out for writing. Then we were on tour and we did a show one time in Erie, Pennsylvania and there was a group there that night called The Aladdins. One of The Aladdins came over to us and said, "Man, I heard that record you recorded, 'Take Me As I Am', the flip side to 'You Belong To Me'" He said, and pardon my French, "That was a boss on the fucker, but you never wrote the motherfucker. My brother wrote it." Ba Boom! That's the first time we heard that somebody else made the song and we didn't know about it. Then, we found out later on that a group called The Dreams recorded it and Eddie James was the writer of the song. Now, I know Kid Lewis, who originally sang with The Crests and then he sang with The Cadillacs, and he learned that Eddie James, when he found out that we recorded his song, he want to get a hold of the music publishing company to prove that he wrote the song and they were gone. He couldn't locate 'em. He could've used other means to prove he wrote the song, but he never did pursue it. So, that's why there's two versions out. One of 'em is by The Demons and one is by The Duprees. We never knew about it. We didn't know anybody else recorded it. We wouldn't be so stupid as to record somebody else's song and say that we wrote it. That would be an outright lie and you open yourself up for libel.

Q - Eddie James is probably long gone I would guess.

A - Yes. He died within the last ten years. He was with The Demons and he was actually the musical director for The Cadillacs for a long time. He played keyboards. I never met him. Eddie Jones said there was some other kid hanging around rehearsals and his name was Michael. I don't know where they were from, someplace in New York I'm guessing. Michael (Kelly) used to hang around them and that's where he got the song from. The way we heard it from Michael, the song was never recorded. Perhaps when he used to listen to those guys sing they had already recorded them. I don't know. But that's what happened with that. We didn't make much money on that. Writer's royalties you got like $200 apiece or something.

Q - You left The Duprees in what year?

A - '63.

Q - I don't know then if you can answer this question, but, did The British Invasion hurt the touring schedule of The Duprees?

A - Oh, yes. I would say so. Definitely. A lot of us were impacted by that. The (Four) Seasons were not. It didn't have an impact on their careers at all, but it did with The Duprees. Of course, I was out of the group then. When I left the group we had a contract for six months with two, one-year options. I don't know how they got out of their contract with Coed, but after that they went to the Heritage label when Michael Kelly was the lead singer. Chubby was the lead singer. He left in '64, a year after me. After I left, he left. He even put out a song with all the hits of The Duprees on it. It came out very good, but then he didn't like it and had it re-mixed and when he had it re-mixed they ruined it. I sounds like it was recorded in one of those booths. Years ago, you could record a record in a record booth. That's what it sounded like. I sounded terrible. When he had it re-mixed it sounded bad. He'd sell 'em when they'd do a show I guess.

Q - Now there's a group around today called The Duprees, with none of the original members. You're upset about that.

A - Yes.

Q - If these guys were calling themselves A Tribute To The Duprees would you feel better about it?

A - Yeah. I'd have nothing to say then because then they're being honest. They're telling the public this is a tribute to The Duprees. But since they are licenced to use the name by Mike Arnone's daughter, Isabelle, that's what they do. When they used to do their show they would infer very subtlety like if they did a show in Harrison, New Jersey or someplace near Jersey City where we came from, they would say, "Not far from this spot, Jersey City, The Duprees had their start." I don't know if they said "their start" or "our start", but they would infer. They wouldn't say that wasn't us though. So they would infer things.

Q - There's another way to look at it, they're keeping the music alive of the original Duprees.

A - They're also picking the pockets of the original members. (laughs)

Q - I suppose that's another way of looking at it.

A - Oh, they are. I have a little background on Tony Testa. After a hiatus of twenty-seven years I was singing with this group Joey Canzano used to sing with in Hoboken called Vintage. Someone who was there that night, and it got back to The Duprees that were around back then that was made up of Mike Arnone, Ritchie Rizato, Phil Granito, they told them about me and they asked me to come down and audition. So I did. I was with them for two years. Towards the end of that two years Tony Testa came onboard. I never worked for Tony. Tony claims that he goes way back, way far with The Duprees. As far as I know he does not. I heard from John Salvato they used to play a club in Staten Island and Tony played with a band called The Little Giants. They were all little, short guys. Tony was part of a back-up band. But he didn't have a connection to the original Duprees. You always got to remember the original Duprees included me. I never heard of Tony. I never met him. He wasn't there. He had no part of those original recordings. The guys of today, they didn't have any part of it either. They never recorded with The Duprees. Whatever recordings are on Coed, that is the original Duprees. Michael Kelly was not on any of the Coed recordings. And that's where we had the hits. He was on Heritage. He did some beautiful songs on Heritage, but they weren't hits. They had a hit out in the '70s called "Delicious". It was a Disco song. Actually, Michael wasn't even on the lead. It was a guy named Jesus Alvarez that did the lead. It got a little airplay on a Black station. I thought it was Michael Kelly. That's what the lead sounded like, but then later on I found out from Mike Arnone, no, that was a guy named Jesus Alvarez. He was the drummer in the band and he sounded very much like Kelly. Michael was sick at the time. He had some trouble with his voice. He tried to do the song in rehearsals or in a session and he had some problems. So, they had Jesus Alvarez do the lead on it.

Q - In 1970 The Duprees became The Italian Asphalt And Paving Company?

A - Yeah. I wasn't part of that.

Q - That seems like a strange name for a band, or maybe not.

A - They were with a guy named Artie Ripp then I believe. He was a record producer. I never met the man. I don't know him. They had some beautiful songs with Michael Kelly. "The Sky's The Limit" is one of my favorites. Beautiful. There are other songs I never liked that they did and they changed their style too.

Q - You had your own group, Twilight Time, but now you've put together a group called Jersey Tribute and I assume in Jersey Tribute you sing the songs of The Duprees.

A - Yes. That was with Joe Zisa And Friends. And we had a segment called Jersey Tribute where we do the songs of The Seasons, The Duprees and The Happenings. Two of the members of the group were from The Happenings. One of them was Bernie La Porta. He sang with The Happenings. He was with them on the albums, but he wasn't with them when they came out with their first hit record. And they had another fellow who played the drums with them, Lenny Comforte. I don't know if he recorded with them or just played with them. So, we had two of The Happenings. We had an original Dupree. The lead singer, Joey, sang with a group called Joey And The Lexingtons. They had a song out called "Bobby". Very good song too. It wasn't a hit. So, we did a Jersey Tribute Show. We had a very good sound and it was a very versatile group. It was a real show group. We'd do a show where one of the fellas would do an Elvis segment. They'd put the lights out in the ballroom. Then the guys would come in with flashlights lit backgrounds and lead a fella that was dressed like Elvis in a jumpsuit and they would start doing Elvis songs. That was a cute little schtick. Then another time a guy would come in with a white dinner jacket and a carnation and would sing "Cry", Johnny Ray, on his knees. So, it was more of a show in that respect, not just four or five guys singing up there. Then we had good instrumentation.

Q - Why did you leave The Duprees?

A - We weren't making enough money. I had just gotten married and my wife worked up to her ninth month. She was expecting a baby and there was no money coming in. Every six months you were told you'd get your royalties. When we were about to get married we had over #3,000 saved. I figured my first record royalties would come to about $50,000. I said, "We'll just go out and buy a new car." We went out and bought a new 1962 Super Sport Impala. I used to use this car to take the group around to the tri-state area even as far up as Maine. Everybody would see that beautiful, white aqua interior with bucket seats and spinners. One person said to me, "I heard all the background guys got Super Sport Impalas and Chubby got a Thunderbird." (laughs) That was the scuttlebutt on the streets. Nothing could be further from the truth. Then I started charging each guy $15 'cause my father said, "Every time you use your car it's depreciating. You're not getting anything for it. Just charge 'em $15 apiece." So I started doing it. In short order we went out and bought a 1960 Dart station wagon that George Paxton paid for out of our royalties. We would get what's left. We paid for the recording sessions, the musicians, any writing, the managements, publicity. Any incurred expense we paid for. I don't think we paid for the pressing of the record. It's the only thing I'm not sure about. So we got what was left. When we were getting our first royalty check after six months, I expected, like I said, fifty grand. George Paxton says to us, "Boys, don't expect too much 'cause I don't want to see you disappointed." So, I figured maybe it's not fifty, maybe it's only twenty or twenty-five. He gave us checks. The checks to each one of us amounted to something like $700. You know what we did? We were sitting on a couch and our expectations were so great and the air in the room was so charged, we started to laugh. We all laughed. We laughed like it was an incredible show to be played on us after those months and those hits and being famous and traveling around the country. We got $378 and something for recording and $200 and something and a piece for writing "Take Me As I Am". That was the money we got. After I left the group and another six months passed, I went back to get my royalties from "Why Don't You Believe Me" and George Paxton had the record company say to me, "Tom, I don't owe you money. You owe me money." And I never went back. All the jobs we did, traveling around the country, that covered our expenses. We ate good. We drank well. In the beginning you did a show for these record distributors and disc jockeys, they complained to Paxton that we were running up bills, like ordering filet mignon sandwiches. So they hired a road manager for us to stop us from doing that. He was also the manager for The Crests. He used to travel around with us to keep us from running up big bills. He was our nurse maid I guess you would call him. He used to say The Crests sang terrible. I did not agree with him. I thought they sang beautifully. That was after Johnny left them. They had a lead singer named Jimmy Ancrum. He made a song with them called "Guilty", an old standard. It wasn't a hit. Here's another story: We had a secretary up at Coed named Frances. When I first met (Johnny) Maestro I met him up in the office up there. He was sitting on a side of a desk. I was introduced to Johnny. That was the first time I ever met him. Later on, from the secretary, she told us that he was singing with a group, another group. Mind you, this is 1963 and he called the other group The Brooklyn Bridge. I thought that was the most stupid name you could ever have a for a group, The Brooklyn Bridge. That was in '63. He didn't come out with a recording until like '68. But that name, that's when I heard about it from Frances. They were using that name. He teamed up with The Del-Satins. He must've had that name in his mind very early 'cause that's when I first heard about The Brooklyn Bridge, before they were even making records.

Q - Tom, you are a wealth of information!

A - I remember everything. I could tell you stories on the road what happened, different incidents that happened. That's why I'm writing a book on it.

Q - I was just about to suggest that! You definitely have a book inside you.

A - I already have written over a hundred pages.

Q - That's a start.

A - I described the environment the original Duprees came from, the neighborhood that we came from, how the group came together, bits and pieces of incidents that took place that molded our lives so to speak, so they could see the background where these guys came from, especially Chubby and I 'cause we came from the same area of downtown Jersey City. Our first recording contract, our first contract with our first manager was name of Dave Zaan. It was done in September of 1960. We had a contract with him where he would get 30% of whatever we made. He used to say, "If you don't make money, I don't make money." We had him for two years. He was our manager until we got on Coed Records.

Q - He took 30%?! Brian Epstein only took 25%.

A - Yeah, but he got 30% of nothing 'cause we never earned anything with him. But what he did do is he took us to a studio and we cut some demos. Later on, when Chubby left, Michael Kelly came on and we had some demos. He paid for the studio time. Before Michael was with us we went to the studio and had demos with Chubby's voice, Joey Vann's voice on 'em. So he paid for those. But he never could get us a recording contract and he took us up to some very big people. There's so many damn stories I could tell you, man. An awful lot. Remember the original Duprees: Joey Canzano, Mike Arnone, John Salvato, Joe Santollo, Tom Bialoglow. That's The Duprees. That's the guys that had the hits on Coed Records. If you didn't have a hit on Coed Records, how in God's name could you call yourselves The Duprees? You're not what you're claiming to be. It's a facade. In actuality the guys that are out there today are riding on the coat tails of the original Duprees. They're riding on those hits we made. 2012 was the 50th Anniversary of "You Belong To Me". Tony Testa called me up, "Tom, how would you like to go on a cruise with us to Bermuda? We did it last year. We're going to have the 50th Anniversary. I'll cover expenses for you and your partner, Marie. Come along with us." I said, "Well Tony, I have a tuxedo. Am I going to get paid for it?" He said, "Yeah. I'll pay you $125. And then he said, "I'll pay you $225." But then he said, "You don't need a tuxedo. We don't need you to sing. We just want you there to sign autographs and tell stories of the original Duprees. You're very good at doing interviews. You have a lot to say."

Q - He's right about that!

A - Yeah. Can you imagine yourself just sitting in an audience, watching them do your songs and listen to the people's accolades for them? It would be heartbreaking. That would break my heart. I said "I'll only do this in one instance, if I'm made a permanent fixture in The Duprees, not just anniversary shows," and I never heard from him again.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.