Remembering Old Jersey City -THE DUPREES

In 1960 this vocal group practiced

in Downtown Jersey City’s Hamilton Park

and went on  to become

THE DUPREES

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Joseph Canzano 1st row center (April 3, 1943 – February 28, 1984)
Joseph Santollo 2nd row top (July 23, 1943 – June 4, 1981)
John Salvato 2nd row middle (July 19, 1940)
Michael Arnone 1st row right (September 19, 1943-  2006)
Tom Bialoglow 1st row left (November 5, 1940)
Michael Kelly (April 19, 1943) not pictured

Unfortunately, not much has been written about The Duprees, but their musical contribution to Rock ‘N’ Roll history is reflected in their songs and their unique style. While many vocal groups performed standards from the ’40s and ’50s, only The Duprees could pull them off the way they did, and were one of the first to do so. In their early years, they were able to impressively blend the best from the sounds of the Swing Era, with the distinctive soul and infectious beat of the groups identified with rock and roll. In all they would register nine Top 100 entries nationally.  In their home state of New Jersey, and also in New York, the Duprees were phenomenally popular, with virtually all of their records making the Top 10.

But still, they were a fine, yet totally underrated group, whose recorded legacy indicates that they were far more versatile than their early more successful issues showed. When listened to as a whole, their library of recordings from 1962 to 1975 clearly demonstrates that they were easily the equals of many of their more commercially successful contemporaries. The later years showed their ability to adapt to new styles, as they searched for the right new sound and proved to be a very talented and diverse group. It was the genuine love of music and performing that kept the group together for so many years after their initial success.

 


In 1958, Joey Canzano and Tom Bialoglow founded The Utopians with Brian Moran and Jackie Smith. They had achieved local popularity in the Jersey City area. About the same time, a quintet by the name of The Elgins was also gaining local popularity in the same area. The group was made up of Joe Santollo, Mike Arnone, Gus Salerno, Joe Cataldo and Mike Amato, all friends from Dickinson High School in Jersey City. When the group disbanded around 1960, Joe Santollo and Mike Arnone got together with another friend, John Salvato of The Panics, and decided to form another group. They approached Joey Canzano and persuaded him to join them, bringing Tom Bialoglow, his long time friend, with him. This completed the lineup and they called themselves The Parisiens. They chose The Parisiens simply because they liked the French sounding name.

Over the next two years they practiced at each other’s houses in their hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey and played gigs at local hops. They made many demos and went through the hands of several managers. The demos included songs like “My Own True Love”, “September In The Rain”, “As Time Goes By”, “Because” and “Voices Are Calling”. The first three were later re-recorded and released on Coed. During this time, Joey Canzano was temporarily replaced by Mike Kelly of the Vocal Teens, a name the group would see again a few years later.

They were discovered by George Paxton and Marvin Cane, president and owner of Coed Records respectively, who heard their demo tapes in the spring of 1962. George Paxton didn’t like the name The Parisiens, so the group agreed to change it and chose another with a French connotation, The Duprees, (The group suggested the name. They had briefly met a local singer who went by the name of “Dupree”). Paxton and Fred Weismantel, A&R manager and arranger for Coed Records, collaborated to give the group a unique and unusually high polished sound. The group would still utilize their distinctive vocal harmonies, but would use Glenn Miller-style arrangements employing a big band, clarinets and saxophones (obviously influenced by Paxton’s early years of being a former big band leader).

Their first release in June of that year was the unforgettable and most widely known “YOU BELONG TO ME”. The Duprees entered it in a radio show contest hosted by Murray-The-K in New York. The boys gathered in Joe Santollo’s basement, where they often rehearsed, as they listened to their entry play on the radio with speakers outside the windows and neighbors listening. Hand-in-hand in a circle, they heard their name announced as the winners with screams of excitement throughout the house and neighborhood immediately following. With this contest win, they became a personal favorite of Murry-The-K and gave them the exposure they needed. The song became an instant success, rising to the Top 10 on the Billboard charts during September, reaching #7, and brought them instant recognition on the pop music scene.

Their follow-up release was “MY OWN TRUE LOVE”, featuring one of Joey Vann’s finest vocal performances. Originally known as “TARA’S THEME”, the song was featured in the 1939 motion picture classic Gone With The Wind. It went gold, reaching #13 nationally, and was a Top 10 smash in their home state of New Jersey, and nearby New York and Connecticut. Following their initial success, The Duprees recorded their first album for Coed, You Belong To Me during September and October. The LP was spiced with well-known songs like “THESE FOOLISH THINGS”, “AS TIME GOES BY”, and “SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN”. They ended their first successful year with “I’D RATHER BE HERE IN YOUR ARMS”, a song held back from the album sessions.

The Duprees chose “GONE WITH THE WIND”, the title song from the source for “MY OWN TRUE LOVE”, as their first release of 1963. The up-tempo side-B “I WISH I COULD BELIEVE YOU” is loved by many white doo-wop fans because of its similarity to the popular Earls’ sound of “Remember Then”. At this time, lead singer Joseph Canzano gave himself the stage name Joey Vann and became co-billed with the group for the first time. “TAKE ME AS I AM”, originally the flip of their first single, was issued as the A-side of the group’s next 45 and represents one of their finest performances. The popular “WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME” was their next release in July, and was soon followed by “HAVE YOU HEARD”, which was their third biggest hit nationally, reaching #18.

With their career on the rise again, they released their second album later that year with this last single as the title. Have You Heard featured that hit as well as “I’D RATHER BE HERE IN YOUR ARMS”, “GONE WITH THE WIND” and “THE SAND AND THE SEA” which went to #1 for eight weeks in Hawaii, resulting in the group touring there. Also included were the mid-tempo tune “I’M YOURS” and their much-praised rendition of “EXODUS”. Before the time the album was completed and released, Tom Bialoglow had left the group. The Duprees didn’t replace him and continued as a quartet.

Several other releases followed, including “(IT’S NO) SIN”, “WHERE ARE YOU”, “UNBELIEVABLE”, “IT ISN’T FAIR” and “WISHING RING”. While all great songs, they didn’t do as well as their potential. Unfortunately, the group’s success was cut short by the emergence of The Beatles and the British Invasion swamping the USA charts in 1964. The sound of so many other White Doo-Wop style groups was silenced almost literally overnight with very few exceptions. While a few songs like “SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN” were clear Doo-Wop style, The Duprees never referred to themselves as Doo-Wop. Instead, they classified themselves as a ballad group with distinct harmonies. They fell into the category, nonetheless. Many groups, including the Duprees, somehow managed to stay together after Doo-Wop’s passing, and gradually learned (forced) to adapt to the new era.

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At this time, in 1964, Joey Vann left The Duprees to pursue a solo career and recorded a single for Coed. It was a Joni James hit entitled “MY LOVE, MY LOVE” (which coincidentally would later be released by The Duprees). In 1965, The Duprees signed a two-year contract with Columbia Records. The group ‘reintroduced’ a new lead singer, their old friend Mike Kelly, and took on a new upbeat sound. They teamed up with Artie Ripp and his Karma Sutra Productions. Bobby Hart got together with Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein and wrote “AROUND THE CORNER” in June, an exciting song inspired by West Side Story that sang of love, danger, and gang violence. While the song only entered the Top 100 for a few weeks at #91, they made their mark by inspiring other groups like The Vogues to use the new Duprees’ sound.

The group was convinced to experiment a little more by copying The Beatles’ sound with “THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE”. While not being received very well, they turned to Tony Bruno who took over the production of the next three singles, writing both sides of the first release “NORMA JEAN” and “SHE WAITS FOR HIM”. Other songs to follow included “DIDN’T WANT TO HAVE TO DO IT”, “IT’S NOT TIME NOW”, “LET THEM TALK”, “I UNDERSTAND”, a remake of “EXODUS” and the more soul-oriented-Doo-Wop sounding “BE MY LOVE”. Sadly, most of these tracks from 1964 to 1967 remain out of print today. During this time period, The Duprees also recorded a few other tracks that never made it to print, “CHILDREN AND FLOWERS”, “THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN” and “FOREVER”, the latter of which makes it’s debut here on this web site (on the sound clips page).

In 1968 they moved to Heritage Records, the label owned by producer Jerry Ross. By now they’d thoroughly overhauled and updated their style, and evolved into a more polished, versatile, classy vocal group, equally adept at ballads, R&R, close-harmony, and even blue-eyed Soul, as shown in their next release, “MY SPECIAL ANGEL”. Soon to follow was the Fifth Dimension-inspired “RING OF LOVE”, and “GOODNIGHT MY LOVE”. With the group showing a little more chart action, they were able to release an album on Heritage called Total Recall in late 1968. The release of “MY LOVE, MY LOVE”, the Joni James song that Joey Vann had covered earlier, closed out 1968 for them.

The Duprees began 1969 with “TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS”, and followed later in the year with the LP Duprees Gold, on Colossus, which was a revised edition of their 1968 Heritage album, Total Recall. This time, the LP featured updated re-cuts, of several of their old hits “YOU BELONG TO ME”, “MY OWN TRUE LOVE”, “WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME” and “HAVE YOU HEARD”, along with their newer, more soul-oriented material. Billing themselves as The Italian Asphalt & Pavement Co., they released a single from the LP, “CHECK YOURSELF”. The song, a masterful soul tune, has been frequently called “their finest recorded track ever”. The group returned to Jerry Ross in 1975 with one final experiment, the catchy disco tune “DELICIOUS” for RCA Victor. That was the last recording they would release.

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The group continued playing clubs throughout the mid to late seventies, although they would be trying times. For various reasons, Salvato couldn’t perform in all of the shows, so the group hired Larry Cassanova to fill in for him. When Salvato would be able to make it, Cassanova would still sing with them. In July of 1978, Mike Kelly decided to pursue other interests and formally left the group. He was replaced by Tom Petillo, who was a friend of the group and former lead member of the group Parkway. Tom would perform the big classics, Larry would perform the more soul-oriented material, and Joe would add some cover tunes. They sang together until February of 1979, when the group decided to take a well deserved break.

Between 1980 and 1981, the group was planning a comeback, but the attempt stalled when Joe Santollo died in June of 1981. The rest of the group felt that Santollo was a key original member in the group’s history and sound, and didn’t have the heart to continue without him. Santollo was often referred to as the glue that kept the group together for so many years. With him now gone, the remaining original members, Salvato and Arnone, went their separate ways.

During the early to mid 1980’s, they each tried to revive the name on their own, forming two separate groups under the same name, The Duprees. Salvato’s version would include himself, Tom Petillo, Bobby Valli and Vinnie Crecca. Arnone’s version would include himself, Mike Schiavo, Bobby Leschak and Al Ladda. In the late 1980’s, Arnone finally obtained the legal rights to the name ‘The Duprees’. With this, Salvato could no longer use the name and his group was forced to break up. In the meantime, Arnone had changed his lineup, which then consisted of Richie Rosato, Phil Granito, Jimmy Spinelli, Tony Testa and himself. The interesting part of the story is that the last original member, Mike Arnone, retired from the group at around 1993m he died in 2006. The group also saw a major change in lineup recently with Rosato leaving the group. He was replaced first by Anthony Caggiano for a short time, whose vocals were much more reminiscent of that of Joey Vann’s. Soon after Caggiano’s short stay, Tom Petillo re-joined the group for the second time in his place. As of this writing, this last version of the group is still playing the local New York, New Jersey and Connecticut tri-state area and continue to call themselves ‘The Duprees’.

Reprinted from the Original Duprees website

http://www.theduprees.com/frameset.htm

NJ MONTHLY ARTICLE

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