R.I.P. Al Crawford

September 28, 2019 by

I’m writing this today to pay tribute to an unsung hero of the 1960s Baltimore music era. Al Crawford died peacefully on September 17, 2019, surrounded by family and friends in Plano, Texas, after a long fight with kidney and heart failure. He was just one week shy of his 77th birthday.

Al loved the music, and the musicians who were playing it in that dynamic era of Baltimore music we talk about here. He didn’t play a musical instrument, so instead he played finance, and marketing … and friendship.

I met Al when I joined the Dynamics in 1963. We rehearsed in the basement of his house off Dulaney Valley Road. He was our great cheer leader and manager. He booked our gigs and connected us to a University of Maryland fraternity where we played a number of very “memorable” parties. He was, as Dynamics trumpet player Don Barto put it, “A big man with a big smile, and a big heart.”

In later years, Al pitched in to help me put on the various Baltimore Jams. He handled the money so I could handle the rest, and in 2002 when the balance of payments came up miserably short, he personally underwrote the event.

I have flippantly said of “Big Al” that he was the only band manager I ever had who didn’t cheat me out of money, but he didn’t do it to be a business manager, honest or otherwise. He did it for the same reason we all played it … for the love of the music and love of the band. Along with everybody else who ever knew him I’m sure, I will miss Big Al.



R.I.P. Bill Holland

December 17, 2018 by


Bill’s name isn’t the most familiar among Baltimore musicians, but throughout his days at Parkville High School he was the tenor sax player in The Poker Chips, a band of teenagers that set a standard as young professionals.

We just learned of Bill’s death which occurred this past August following a bout with cancer. He leaves behind his son, Andres, whose place in Bill’s life was a story in itself. Bill and Andres attended the last Jam in 2012 … it was great to see them.

We didn’t like saying we were “old friends,” lest the “old” be applied to our age rather than the length of our friendship, so we referred to each other as our “friendship of long duration.” Goodbye old friend.


Jay Stermer Killed by Drunk Driver

December 27, 2017 by

Jay Stermer, founding member and keyboardist/arranger for the Admirals, was killed by a drunk driver while walking his dogs just after midnight on Saturday, December 23, 2017. He was killed when a rear-ended car was flung into him. Jay was 74 years old.


Jay Stermer, a Wellington High School parent who plays music and sound effects during Wolverine baseball games, is seen in 2008. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach Post news story.

To the best of my knowledge there was not another musician out of the Baltimore band scene of the 1960s who was more well known and more respected than Jay Stermer.

I never knew Jay personally, but I knew who he was from the time I was in Jr. High School. I can only speak to his reputation — I’ll leave it to those who knew him to comment — but that reputation was one of a driving musical force behind arguably the most successful and popular band to come out of that era of Baltimore music.

For me, personally … when I was about 12 years old I saw the Admirals at their regular Sunday gig at Beaver Springs. They were up in the loft of the pavilion playing music everyone wanted to hear, in the way everyone wanted to hear it, and having a lot of fun doing it. My desire to “play in a band” came straight from the Admirals that day.

It’s all the more sad to lose Jay in this tragic way.


R.I.P. Vernon Ruppert

September 18, 2016 by

Vernon Ruppert passed away September 9 at his h0me in California. Vern was a musician, band leader, and impresario of Baltimore music in the early 1960’s. Attached is his obituary.

[thanks to Vern’s son-in-law, Darryl Roberts]


R.I.P. George Peacock

September 13, 2016 by

We just received word from his bandmates that George Peacock, sax player for the Epics, passed away last Saturday morning as the result of cancer.


George Peacock, Epics Reunion, 8/18/2001

George was an original member of the Epics from the 1960’s. The band reconnected in 2001 and played a major role in the success of the second Baltimore R&B Jam at Overlea Hall in 2002.

There is a Visitation Wednesday and Thursday 4-9 pm at the CVACH/ROSEDALE FUNERAL HOME 1211 Chesaco Ave. in Rosedale. Friends may gather on Friday from 10-11am with funeral services beginning at 11 am.

Obituary published in Baltimore Sun on Sept. 13, 2016


George Peacock playing tenor sax with the J305 Ray Charles Tribute Band

R.I.P. Tommy Thompson

June 28, 2016 by

Tommy Thompson died this morning, June 28. I saw the announcement posted on Facebook by his kids .


Tommy Thompson with Pen Lucy, circa 1970

My memories of Tommy  are mostly from the mid-‘60s. He played with The Elegants and I knew a couple guys in that band. I used to see them at Hollywood Park, and alternate with them there with the Majestics. The Tommy I knew back then was a sharp and talented musician who was always a significant contributor to any band he was in. Like Tommy, I always saw myself as a multi-instrumentalist, and he shared some of his knowledge with me on both bass and drums. These weren’t lessons … just little things, discussed on the bandstand at Hollywood Park between sets, but they are things I still remember that helped move me forward with what I wanted to do.


Tommy Thompson on bass with The Elegants, circa 1965

Fast forward 40 years and Tommy jumped into the Ray Charles Tribute band on tenor sax for Jam 3 at Bobby B’s Palace. I didn’t get to talk to him much that day, but I saw him help organize the sax section on the spot, with courtesy and camaraderie, for that spontaneous performance.


Tommy Thompson on tenor sax with the J308 Ray Charles Tribute Band, June 19, 2005.

Three years later Tommy signed on to play bass with the big band for Jam 4, also at Bobby B’s, and I got to talk with him a little bit more. That was a great band, and Tommy’s bass playing with Dave Tucker on drums was solid as a rock.


Tommy Thompson playing bass with the J408 Big Band, October 4, 2008

In 2012 the last Jam at Padonia Station also featured a big band, with multiple vocalists doing all custom arrangements, and once again Tommy nailed the bass. These were performances for all fun and no pay .. just for the love of the music and the fellow musicians who played it. They were also spontaneous … zero rehearsal … not an easy gig. At that last Jam I got to talk to Tommy a little more, and I also got to meet his wife. As his friend on Facebook I felt his deep pain when she died.

As a musician, Tommy was a true professional … something to be held in very high regard. My knowledge of Tommy as a person is limited, but I can say in every small instance that I knew him he was gracious and smart. I didn’t get to see Tommy very often over the years, but I will sure miss knowing he’s out there.

R.I.P. Phil McCusker

February 28, 2016 by

[from Tim McCusker]

My brother, Phil McCusker, passed away last week in Silver Spring, MD. Phil worked in The Admirals, 1968-69, then went into the Army for 3 years. On his return to the Baltimore area he played with Rody Barthemes, Mike Jones, Hiram Bullock, and many others. He went to the University of Miami where he studied bass with Jaco Pastorius and earned a degree in guitar and composition.

In Washington, DC, Phil played and wrote for Tim Eyermann & East Coast Offering and later was a leader for Gene Donati Orchestras.

Phil fought a battle against ALS which finally took his life on February 17, 2016.

[NOTE: Phil participated in BaltimoreJam J512 with the “Freelancers” led by Rody Barthelmes.]


The Mitch Ryder Show : Courtesy of George Shuba

March 14, 2015 by

In late 1966, Mitch Ryder broke with the Detroit Wheels and formed a 10-piece back-up band in the style of Wilson Pickett and others. This band, which included 5 musicians from working Baltimore bands, toured behind Mitch’s hit record, “Sock It To Me Baby” under the name emblazoned on the tour bus: “The Mitch Ryder Show.”

Ultimately, this was not a happy period for Ryder who suffered under the heavy production hand of star NY producer, Bob Crewe. Crewe gave the Michigan band their name (they were formerly Billy Lee & the Rivieras) and their access to Billboard’s Top 10 — “Jenny Take A Ride” made #10, “Little Latin Lupe Lu” hit #17, “Devil With A Blue Dress” his best at #4, and his final Top 10 entry with “Sock It To Me Baby” at #6 — but after roughly 2 years the ride was over for Ryder. This is how that period is described on the official Mitch Ryder website (http://www.mitchryder.net/biography.php):

Divorced from the power drive of The Wheels, swamped by saccharine strings and pompous pretense (poetry by Rod McKuen and music by Jaques Brel on a Mitch Ryder album, for Chrissakes) … It was the final straw- Ryder bailed out of his contract with Crewe …

After the split, the liner notes on Ryder’s next album, “The Detroit-Memphis Experiment,” included phrases like …

“After being raped by the music machine that represents that heaven-on-earth , New York b/w Los Angeles” and “Mitch Ryder is the sole creation of William Levise, Jr.” [Ryder’s given name]

… leaving little doubt about his feelings over the Crewe experience.

Because of the short duration of this band and Mitch’s bitterness over where Bob Crewe took his career, there is very little untainted information about the band and very few photographic remnants floating around. That’s where George Shuba comes in.

George Shuba’s own website [http://www.georgeshubaphotography.com] calls him “Cleveland, Ohio’s 1st Rock-N-Roll Photographer!”, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that he is one of the first anywhere—48 of George’s prints hang in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

George began his rock photojournalism with his first assignment—the Beatles 1964 U.S. tour appearance in Cleveland. Over the next 20 years, through thousands of photographs, he documented virtually every act to appear at the Cleveland Arena, from Aerosmith to the Zombies. This just happened to include the April, 1967 appearance by The Mitch Ryder Show. The  photos here, courtesy of George, are the only ones I’ve ever seen of the entire band with all 5 Baltimore musicians. These photos are also posted on the BaltimoreJam website.

For anyone interested in the development of rock & roll and the emerging rock concert experience through this intensely creative period, the professional photos of George Shuba are priceless. They capture the spontaneity of these performers better than any album cover, publicity shot or concert snap shot you’ve ever seen. Many of his photos are available directly from George through his website and eBay store. Here are links to George and his work:


Photo #1:
The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH – April 1967

The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH - April 1967

L to R: Jimmy Wilson (trumpet), Andy Dio (trumpet), Chuck Alder (bass), Don Lehnhoff (trombone), Mike Maniscalco (guitar), Bob Shipley (tenor sax), Mitch Ryder (vocals), Jimmy Loomis (tenor sax)

Photo #2:
The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH – April 1967

The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH - April 1967

L to R: Jimmy Wilson (trumpet), Andy Dio (trumpet), Don Lehnhoff (trombone), Chuck Alder (bass), John Siomis (drums), Frank Invernizzi (organ), Mitch Ryder (vocals), Bob Shipley (tenor sax), 1/2 Jimmy Loomis (tenor sax)

Photo #3:
The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH – April 1967

The Mitch Ryder Show, Cleveland Arena, OH - April 1967

L to R: Don Lehnhoff (trombone), Andy Dio (trumpet), Mitch Ryder (vocals), Chuck Alder (bass), Frank Invernizzi (organ), John Siomis (drums), Mike Maniscalco (guitar), Jimmy Loomis (tenor sax)



A Nod to the Rod

December 11, 2014 by

This Christmas Eve will mark the 18 anniversary of the death of Maurice “Hot Rod” Hulbert who died December 24, 1996 in a Baltimore hospice at the age of 80. Hot Rod was the self-proclaimed seed from which germinated a radio garden.

“Hot Rod was still programing two Baltimore stations until the mid-’90s, leaving after medical problems took away his voice [suspected throat cancer – unconfirmed]. He was in and out of hospitals and then the hospice for the last year, but he stayed in touch with many of the people he’d met in his travels.”

[from friend and admirer, Jonny Meadow, in a New York Daily News article]

Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert

In 1951 Hulbert left radio station WDIA in Memphis to work at WITH 1230 AM in Baltimore, Maryland. The most remarkable thing about that move is it made Hulbert the first full-time black air personality to work at an all-white Baltimore radio station – a minor revolution for 1950s Baltimore.

There is surprisingly little information online about Hot Rod, considering his originality and influence. If you google him, most of what you’ll turn up is the meager collection we have at BaltimoreJam.org. Much more well known is a Hot Rod protege and “appropriator” named Douglas “Jocko” Henderson. Henderson knew Hulbert and was on the air in Baltimore briefly in 1952 on WSID. A year later Henderson “borrowed” Hulbert’s trademark rap, rocket ship show format, great googa mooga and the rest, took it to Philadelphia and presented it as his own. From there he became much more widely known than Hulbert, and most people today think of Jocko as the originator of that radio persona.

The best single article I’ve seen about Hot Rod appeared in a Boulder, CO magazine, Blues Access, in 1997. That article is still available online, written by a DJ named Cary Wolfson who counted Hulbert as an influence. These are the words of the Rod as published in that article:

“Hello mommios and daddios, keen teens, ladies and gentlemen. Commander Hot Rod moving and grooving, wheeling and dealing, hop, skipping and jumping here, there, each and everywhere bringing you the best in music, oyay, the best in songs, the best in jive, the best in helpful information, dedicated to you, the greatest people in the world, my listeners, as we move and groove, wheel and deal, hop, skip, jump here there and everywhere, I gotta say this is without a doubt the High Priest of Space, not the flower, not the root, but the seed, sometimes called the herb, sometimes called the burner.


WITH Hot Rod ad - March 1964

Buddy Deane Remembered in the UK

November 9, 2014 by

Back in July we were contacted by Ian Whent. a writer for the popular British music magazine, Mojo. He was doing research for a story on Buddy Dean and in the process had come across BaltimoreJam.org and our page on Deane. In addition to the information on our site, I referred him to John Sankonis who I was sure would have more detailed info, unpublished recollections and possibly some unseen photos. The resulting article came out in the October issue of Mojo and it’s a great capsule story of the show, it’s origin and impact, and eventual demise.

I’m posting the article here with the assumption that Mr. Whent won’t mind. It’s one small story in a magazine packed with great stuff including the final interview with the late Johnny Winter, Smokey Robinson’s take on how to write a soul classic, and a great tour of New Orleans, past and present, conducted by the Night Tripper himself, Dr. John, a.k.a. Mac Rebennack. There are also stories on Queen, the Kinks, Kate Bush and much more … a pretty cool magazine.

Mojo, Buddy Deane Article, page 1


Mojo, Buddy Deane Article, page 2