Author Archive

Too Good to be True

March 13, 2011

I was playing with the band “Touch” on the boardwalk near 7th street in Ocean City during the summer of 1973. The other members in “Touch” were “Bungalow”  Bill Davis on keyboards, Walt Bailey on guitar, and on drums and lead vocals, switching off as needed or desired, were “Raunchy” Rick Peters and Trudy Cooper.

My sister ( Ida) was down at the ocean during this particular week and, as we lay in the sand getting a tan one day, she says to me, “Donna likes somebody in your band.  Guess who”?  Before we go further, I had better introduce you to Donna.  Donna was a beautiful Greek girl wilh hair below her waist and a face and body like a Grecian goddess.  If she wasn’t the most beautiful girl in Ocean City that week, then she was tied for first place with whomever else qualified.

Getting back to my sister’s question, I replied without hesitation, “Well, Ida, you had better tell Donna to get in line behind all of the other women in Ocean City for a shot at Raunchy Rick because EVERY female in this town is head-over-heels in love with him”.  “It’s not Raunch,” Ida told me.  “Well”,  I said, “I’ll let Bungalow Bill know”.  I said this because whichever chicks Raunchy Rich rejected, ALWAYS went with Bungalow.  Walt and I usually ended up unwilling bachelors, or monks so to speak.  “It’s not Bungalow either”, said my sister. I gave her a hard stare.  “OK Ida, lets have it NOW!”  Ida smiled and said, “Yep – it’s you Sam”.

I was stunned!  Donna, the Greek goddess was attracted to me!  I could hardy beelieve my luck, but I wasn’t a fool.  I acted immediately, found Donna and took her to dinner before the gig.  After the gig we went back to my rented room at the Majestic on 7th street  and had an incredibilly romantic night.  Things couldn’t have been better.  The next morning we woke up and went down to breakfast.  Still not beieveing my incredible luck, I found myself staring at her, from the tips of her toes, to the top of her beautiful black hair and down again to her georgeous (uh-oh) YELLOW EYES!!!!!

I told her what I was seeing, she looked in a mirror to confirm what I had told her and we bolted to the Ocean City clinic.  As I suspected, her blood tests revealed Hepatitus B but luckily, mine were clean.  While she was rushed to GMBC in Towson (via ambulance) and quarantined, I had two very painful hemoblobin shots, (one in each butt cheek) as a vaccine and limped around that day.  I never saw her after that and never dated anyone that attractive again, EVER.  Looking back, I guess it was a freak accident of sorts, as if the universe made a mistake, noticed it’s mistake and corrected it immediately!.  One thing is for sure – the whole time, underneath it all, I was feeling that it was too good to be true anyhow!

“Raunchy” Rick aand Trudy Cooper at Woodstock

Raunch, rest in peace

A Kind Man

June 27, 2010

I was backing up The Platters at Hollywood Park on Thanksgiving night in 1965.  My father had died that morning.  I could have taken the night off, but since my mother was already gone, I didn’t want to be alone in that big house so I made the gig.  Herbie (Herb Reed), the Platter’s bass singer, noticed that I was acting strange and asked me about it.  I told him of my father’s death that day and he ended up taking me back into the kitchen part of the Park and talking with me until I had to go up and play again – almost an hour.  I have never forgotten him for that kindness to, what to him, could easily have been just  an obscure 19 year old boy.

The Platters

Herbie is on the far right

The Nomads – Original Personnel and how the group changed

March 7, 2010

Here are some remembrances of  how the Nomads first got started and evolved— starting with the original founding members and recollections as to how things started.  An interesting bit of information about the Nomads is when they formed – in 1958.  This is a few years earlier than the beginning of most of our Baltimore Jam groups with the notable exceptions of The Tilters, The LaFayettes and the Admirals.

Gary Rusinovich (drums), Roland Gannon (guitar), Bill Barladge (guitar) and Elwood “Woody” Schneider (bass) first started the group. (Elwood now goes exclusively by the nickname “Woody”).  It was originally Roland’s idea to have a band.  He knew some musicians who had a band and he wanted to start one too, and Gary, Bill and Woody went along with the idea.

Gary adds…

“We started when Jerry Berran brought drums to one of our parties. Roland and Ellwood were at the party and had their guitars with them. Jerry was more interested in the girls than playing, so I ended up playing his drums. That’s how I got started playing and hooked up with Elwood & Roland at the same time.”

The group rehearsed at Gary’s house, close to the corner of Loch Raven Blvd and Cold Spring Lane.  It was a semi-detached corner brick house.  The actual address was 1358 Crofton Road.  An alley ran to the side of the house making it convenient to enter the basement from the side, allowing us to get our equipment inside without trudging up and down stairs. The area was just North of Cold Spring Lane and was sometimes referred to as New Northwood.  It was about a mile north of the Northwood shopping center.

Gary remembers the rest of the addresses or neighborhoods and a couple of memories:

“Roland (RIP) lived on Kernwood Ave, in the 2nd or 3rd house from the corner of Old Cold Spring Lane one block past York Road –  that’s either Waverly or Govans.  Kernwood Ave. was one of those narrow Baltimore streets that allowed parking on both sides.  Ellwood lived on Falkirk Ave. off of Loch Raven Blvd. north of Belvedere Ave.  Bill Barledge, who started with us but soon left the group, lived near Woody.  Tom lived on Townsend Ave in Brooklyn.  Earl lived in Waverly, but I’m not sure of any of the addresses. Harvey Phillips lived in west Baltimore in the Pimlico area.  I’m not sure of his street name though.

“John Zaucha lived on Doris Ave. in Brooklyn Park as did Tom Fischer but once again I’m not sure of the street names. (I always teased John & Tom calling the area “God’s Little Acre.”  I always liked the area because pinball machines paying out in the front of the machine were legal. We played them often together).  Dan lived near the WJZ tower but I can’t remember the area or street.  Phil lived in Hamden, across from the Noxema plant, at the bottom of a hill near the Florence Crittenton home for girls. (We played at his place one summer day and Earl sang ‘Annie Had A Baby’ – Tasteless Youth!)  As I remember, Ed’s father would not let him play at Buddy’s Subway – our first nightclub stint.  That’s when Butch Wagner walked up one night & asked if he could blow his horn with us, which gave us our first taste of a good old B-flat progression.  That, in turn, tied us in with Tom Fischer & John Z later.  We took off as a good solid group after that experience.”

Woody recalls…

“Bill played guitar and I believe later on he was replaced with Tom Fischer on piano. When we first started out we were all playing  cheap Sears Silvertone guitars. I was playing bass on guitar.  A friend of Roland’s, we’ll call him Jim, went to Ted’s on Central Street (memories) and rented a Fender bass to let me use for as long as I wanted. What he did was rented the bass in a fake name and address so he didn’t even pay rent.  I never knew this the entire time I played that particular bass.”

The 5th member to join the Nomads was Earl French, a singer who was also a drummer.  Recently Earl and Woody had a phone conversation about the order of members joining and leaving the group and here is what they mutually agreed upon:

  1. First there was Bill Barladge, Gary Rusinovich, Roland Gannon and Woody Schneider (Elwood then).
  2. We were called the Trojans then but Gary’s brother called us the rubber band and we changed our name to the Nomads because Earl’s dad had a Chevy Nomad (station wagon).
  3. We then got Earl French from Bobby Day and the Playboys. Earl played drums and was a singer, and we needed a singer.
  4. Bill Barladge left and we got Tom Fischer playing the Wurlitzer piano and Tom can still do What’d I Say to a tee.
  5. We stole Harvey Phillips, sax, from Dick Phillips’s band.
  6. We then added Ed Hall, sax, for a total of 2 saxes.
  7. Harvey Phillips left and we added Phil Correlli on sax.
  8. Tom Fischer then left and Danny Fitez joined on keys. This was the Nomads for a long while.
  9. Phil left and we added John Zaucha.

Earl and Woody didn’t have dates for these changes but are fairly sure of the order.  Ed Hall however, begs to differ on one point.  In an email to Woody he states:

“Woody, Bill Barladge was gone before I got there and I was there before Tom Fischer.  I never new Bill.”

Woody remembers –

“The Nomads first paying gig was at Lieth Walk school outside on the playground bazzar. Roland got a Gibson 400 amp from Fred Walkers. It was a big amp at the time. I think we got $10 each.  That first gig was scary for us.  We were only about 15 years old at the time”.

Ed Hall, tenor sax with the Nomads recalls the order that the horns were added and left:

“I joined the Nomads after they were together approximately 6 months.  Harvey Phillips was the 1st horn…I was the second and stayed with the group until the breakup.  To my knowledge, the way I remember, the Nomads were together a total of 6 1/2 years.  When I joined the group there was no keyboard…The Nomads consisted of Gary, Earl, Roland, Elwood and Harvey.  Then I joined and next was Tom on keys.”

Woody adds in a note to Ed:

“I forgot about Butch. The Nomads let Phil go to hire John. This I do remember because it was very hard and disturbing to do. As far as why Bill left the band, it must have been because he didn’t hang out with us.  He was a bit older and relatively new on guitar.”

So, it looks like the sax players in order were:

  1. Harvey Phillips
  2. Ed Hall
  3. Butch Wagner
  4. Phil Correlli
  5. John Zaucha

I think we were together for about 6 or 7 years.

Tom Fischer puts his two-cents worth in:

“I was brought into the group circa late 1960/early 1961. In the group at that time were Gary (Drums), Roland (Guitar), Ed (Sax), Earl (Singer), Elwood (Bass) and John ‘Butch’ Wagner (Sax).  Butch and I had been in another group for a short time. Butch left that group to join you guys and then quickly introduced me into the group as I believe you had not had a piano before then. Butch played with us for a short time and then decided to move on again.   When Butch left, I introduced John Zaucha (Sax) to the guys.  John and I grew up together in Brooklyn and had also played earlier in two other groups prior to the NOMADS.  We all then were together until I joined the Military in March 1962 and was replaced by Danny Fitez. I think Phil subsequently replaced John as the second Sax sometime after I left.”

And now, the end of the Nomads as recalled by Woody Schneider and Earl French

“The two main reasons we broke up were our popularity and the fact that we were only fifteen years old when we formed the group.  The phone at Gary’s house was always ringing and Gary was the one who booked us and did contracts. Gary’s mom would relay messages. Gary was spending way too much time doing all this (teenage years) and got tired of doing it all himself and we decided to call it quits.  As we remember, it was a disappointment but nothing earth shattering. I guess we didn’t realize all the work involved then. Seven years is a long time when you’re that young. We were in our early to mid 20’s and I guess it was time for something new.”

The Nomads at a Memorial Day, 2009 Reunion
Left to right standing – Tom, Ed, Phil, Gary, Dan and Earl
Left to right kneeling – Roland and Woody

To end this post we again offer this beautiful poem, written by Gary’s wife Sharon about the Nomads so long ago.


How I remember the Boys in the Band:

Gary-drums, my heart beat faster just walking past his house. Married him 46 years ago.

Ellwood-looked like a young Elvis, we shared the same last name

Roland-lead guitar, cute and funny, thoughtful and mysterious

Earl-loved watching him perform

Harvey-sax, nice smile, married Margie, had a baby girl, left the band

Ed-great sax, just as important, the first to have his driver’s license

John Z-sax, in and out of the Nomads twice, a dear friend for many years post-Nomads

Tom-keyboard, dreamy eyes, all the girls compared him to Ricky Nelson only better.

Danny-keyboard, introduced the Nomads to the Organo, so nice I figured if I named our younger son Daniel he would be nice too

Phil-sax, in and out of the Nomads twice, Muscle Man

Last but far from least, Gary’s mother Mary. The band practiced in her basement every week.  The vibration was known to knock things off the living room walls.  She was chauffer and chaperone, supporter and fan. Tom and Danny were often asked to, “Play Misty for  Me”.  Those were wonderful years for her, the band, and me too.


The Nomads – On the Gig

February 10, 2010

In this section of my “Nomads” tale I had inteneded to  take you through how the band got together.  Information on their beginning is still coming in from the band members, so in the mean time let’s post a couple of stories about Nomads gigs.

This first story is a remembrance from the Nomads bass player, Elwood “Woody” Schneider.

We were in Chambersburg, PA, and were playing our set before backing the Crystals,  famous recording artists at the time. We were set up on about a four-foot high platform. It was made only of wood (not very solid) and the backdrop was a parachute in back of the platform. We were into a song when suddenly there were no drums!   We looked back and there was no drummer. Gary and his drum seat “throne” had fallen off the back of the platform which had suddenly collapsed. Thank God for the parachute behind the stage which saved Gary from seroius injury! Gary played the rest of the night. I can’t imagine the horror in Gary’s mind when he was on the way down.

Gary Rusinovich, the Nomads drummer, adds a New Years Eve memory.

One  New Years eve, we did a gig at the Jewish Synagogue on Garrison Blvd. I remember nibbling a lot of pepperoni that night. We started our set that would take us out of the old year and into the new. About 11:45  I got major stomach cramps.  By 11:50 I was in big trouble!  I handed off my sticks to our lead singer Earl (also a drummer) like a quarterback to his fullback & went full speed to the men’s room. The rest of the group played an instrumental with Earl on drums. I made it ! I got back at 11:57, just in time to play Auld Lang Syne. It was a memorable night, but if I hadn’t made it to the men’s room, it would have been even more memorable!

Woody & Gary

The Nomads – beginning to end (Prologue)

January 23, 2010

I grew up in Idlewyld, a small community just south of Towson and just north of the Baltimore City line.  My house was only two blocks from a small community center for Idlewyld, and in that community center was a hall used for wedding receptions and other community events which included saturday night dances for the teens.  Idlewyld Hall, as it was commonly known, was and is still located within a block of the City line on what is actually the Alameda, but who’s name changes to Sherwood Road as it crosses from the City to the County.

At age 14 I decided to go hear The Nomads, a live band, something I had never done.  I took my childhood friend Mike Hodgeman with me.  Mike had never heard a live band either.  At the time I was playing guitar tunes with a junior high school friend – songs by Link Wray, Duane Eddy and the Ventures, but just for fun.  Being in a band had never entered my mind, but that was about to change!

We entered the Idlewyld Community Hall that night through the front door, which was at the opposite end of the hall from where the band was set up.  The hall floor was poured concrete from beginning to end so the band was set up on the floor, at the level of the crowd. Since there was no stage the band’s sound, especially the high tones, was mostly absorbed by the first few rows of people. It took us awhile to make our way to the front, so that we could both see and hear the band better and I ended up standing in the front row, a little to the left of center, right in front of the bass player.  The Nomads kicked off their next song and I never moved for the rest of the night.  I was transfixed.  The bass player played a Fender Bass with the strap slung so low that the neck of the instrument was nearly vertical to the ground!  He looked so cool!!!!!!  His amp was an Ampeg piggy back, the kind that the electronics mounted on the top flipped over to be stored inside the speaker cabinet itself.  It had a rod on the back of the cabinet to allow the cabinet to tilt backward and project the sound upward.  The Ampeg faceplate on the vacuum tube cover glowed a pale green.  Sometime during the evening I asked someone in the crowd the name of the bass player.  They said, “Oh, that’s Elwood”.

I left the Community Hall that night with the Nomads playing through my head and the image of Elwood and his bass before my eyes.  It was at that moment  that I knew I had to play in a band too.  Not too long afterwards I began my first band, the RaVons, but that’s another story.

In the 2nd entry that follows, I’ll lay out how the Nomads first began and the order of the players as they joined and left the band, well, like I say in the title of this blog, from beginning to end.  The 3rd and last entry will contain some humorous recollections from the band members themselves.  Here’s a picture of the original group.

I’ll Always Remember……..

November 16, 2009

Last Request of the Evening

November 9, 2009

last request

For all you horn players

November 5, 2009


Desktop Drummers

October 25, 2009

In high school I was a “desktop drummer.”  I was constantly  beating out various rhythms on my desk, sometimes loudly before class started and sometime much softer, while class was in session.  I could actually listen to what the teacher was saying and at the same time, almost subconsciously, tap out a rhythm.

What I would like to know from all of you blog readers is this:

Were you also a desktop drummer?

If so, just let me know by leaving a comment at the end of this blog. Your answer can be very simple, like, “Yes, I was a desktop drummer in high school,” or you can elaborate if you have a story to go with it, such as being caught drumming by one of your teachers.

At the very end of this blog will be blue hypertext with the last choice saying, “Leave a Comment”.  Just click on that and let me know who you are and if you were a desktop drummer.  I’m really curious to see how many of us beat out rhythms on our desks.


The Progressions

October 11, 2009

I first heard the Progressions at Judge’s Musical Bar which was located on Greenmount Avenue just north of 33rd Street.  Right away I recognized them as far above average – one of the best local groups I had ever heard.  I followed them over the years as they moved from Judge’s to The Mardi Gras, on Harford Road just north of Northern Parkway and as their name changed over the yeaars to Taste, Touch, Flow and Light.  I often wondered how they originally formed and recently asked Carl Brooks, an original founding member along with Walt Bailey, about their very beginnings, including how he and Walt first met..  He most kindly responded.

Many thanks to Carl Brooks for his memories of how the Progressions first became a band.

How I met Walt Bailey? As I recall I was actually on my way to beat him up. A friend at the time said that Walt was giving him a hard time in school. Of course that wasn’t the case. As I approached Walt he was sitting on his front porch playing two songs at once—a Chet Atkins piece. My whole attitude changed the minute I saw him. I was floored by his playing and could see right away that he was a nice guy. We hit it off right away. I had learned a few chords from another friend (Skip Herbert) prior to this so I began playing rhythm guitar with Walt. We played our first gig (just the two of us) standing under a tree at the Veteran’s Hospital on Loch Raven Blvd. It wasn’t long before we decided it would be cool to form a band. Walt remembered this guy in school named Ricky Peters who used to play his desktop like a drum set. We tracked Rick down and found that he had a real drum set in his basement! They were wrapped in aluminum foil and he had colored lights shining on them. They were beautiful! We began learning Beatle songs. After a while I introduced Rick & Walt to Skip Herbert who had already played “professionally” with the Progressions, a group he founded and named. Skip reformed the Progressions with me, Rick and Walt and added Lou Meyers as front man. Our first “professional” gig was “House Band” at The Nite Owl on Woodland Ave. and Reisterstown Rd.

The Progressions

The Progressions at their very first professional gig.
Left to right – Carl Brooks, Ricky Peters, Walt Bailey, Skip Herbert and Lou Myers

“While working at the Nite Owl, Ed Schroeder, the owner of Judges Musical Bar on Greenmount Ave. offered us the job as House Band at his club. Trudy was playing drums and singing with the Crossfires there when her guitar player, Ricky Cook, was drafted into the army. We were blown away by Trudy, and because she was so popular and such a good draw at his club, Ed Schroeder suggested we take her on and we thought that would be a great idea, allowing either her or Rick to front the band while the other played drums. We did a short stint on the road with Danny Brewer on drums before the transition took place and when we returned, Trudy’s band had ended and she took over as drummer.

The Progressions (then named Light)
Left to right: Walt Bailey, Ricky Peters and Trudy Cooper and Bob Grimm not pictured

This is Sam Towers again, adding a story Walt told me of how he and Ricky met.

On the first day of school in a new homeroom, Walt walked in and found there was a guy already seated at a desk banging out a rhythm upon it.  Walt had himself always been a “desktop drummer”  and before long he and Rick discovered each other and without actually knowing one another began to jam with each other rhythmically, finding a grove together, doing counter rhythms, etc.  So, you could say that they were already playing together before they began actually playing together!  Anyhow, that’s how Walt and Ricky met.