Friday, September 9, 2011

The MOB—From Chicago, IL to Sioux Falls, SD in 30 years or less: Andantino di canzona

Fourth in a series of “How The MOB (one of Chicago’s first horn bands) landed in the South Dakota Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” in April 2011.

Andantino in moda di canzona

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” or so goes the spoken demand in “The Wizard of Oz”. Remember that? To be sure, Chicagoland is no ‘land of Oz,’ but the music scene is a seemingly close community. Many will stand at various gates, but they’re ready to welcome you inside, not keep you out. But where exactly is Command Central located?

One person who knows the answer is music researcher/historian Joseph Pytel. Pytel, or “Joe” to his friends, is today known in Chicagoland music circles.

He casts an even wider net, thanks to social media, for his ability to uncover and discover facts, figures, trivia and tidbits on Chicagoland musicians. His work is so substantial and his ‘finds’ so great, many are in awe of his research skills. People never know where, how, or when he has time to find these things. How does he do it?

Credit can be shared with the one and only, Carl Bonafede. Yes, The Screaming Wildman of 60s radio and ballroom dance fame. THE Carl Bonafede, one and the same.

Bonafede is ever the impresario, enterprenuer and a man who hasn’t seemed to age a day in 45 years. He is now revealed as one who definitely deserves some of the credit for bringing honor, long-overdue and most well-deserved, to The MOB.

After spotting on Facebook that Ana Lord and Alan Schrank had been in communication with Joe Accardi, Joe Pytel consulted with his friend and musical history mentor, Bonafede. Pytel had joined in the search for MOB members and knew that Bonafede had known Jim Holvay, since having approached him for songs for some groups he was managing in 1965.

Pytel was serving in the Navy in the 1960s and 1970s, when The MOB was “back on the road again” touring the United States and Canada, so he never saw them perform live. He was familiar with their music because Pytel and Bonafede had discussed every nuance of Bonafede’s career several years ago as Bonafede was preparing his autobiography.

Because Bonafede was in on the Chicago rock music scene from the very start, he’d known Jim Holvay was touring in one of the two Dick Clark Caravan of Stars bands that Jimmy Ford was responsible for putting together. Holvay had about 10 songs already recorded by other artists, so in the early days of The MOB, Holvay and his associates were already on the road. Bonafede traveled to meet up with Holvay and asked him if he had any songs he had for his new band. Holvay said he did.

Bonafede met up with Holvay one day while The MOB was on the road. Bonafede had brought a reel-to-reel tape recorder with him. And, with a guitar that Holvay had bought for $10 in Tijuana, he sang and played a song for Bonafede to consider. Songwriting partner and fellow MOB member Gary Beisbier supplied the voicings on the ‘answer’ part to that song. It did well for Bonafede’s group.

Bonafede joined forces with Holiday Ballroom owner and bandleader Dan Belloc, who’d already written a major hit, “Pretend,” made famous by Nat King Cole. The duo co-produced the record with engineer Ron Malo adding his own signature touches. The single wound up being played at a faster tempo than Holvay had written, but as it turned out, the public liked it. It became Bonafede’s (and Belloc’s) first and only number one hit: “Kind of a Drag.” More on Holvay/Beisbier compositions can be found on Carl Giammarese’s web site.

Bonafede’s “finds” and promotional/management skills also included young, up and coming DJs who played the dances where Bonafede would book them, places like the Holiday Ballroom.

Then as an agent with Willard Alexander and the CASK Agency, Bonafede booked performers including Mickey, Larry and the Exciters (featuring Mickey Esposito and Larry Alltop), and Ral Donner. He also produced music, over 255 records, for artists and groups including: the Rail City 5, Lincoln Park Zoo, Thee Prophets, The Delights, and more.

When Joe Pytel approached Carl Bonafede to ask him what he knew about The MOB and tell him how there were some people looking for members, but to no avail, Bonafede had an idea. He filled Joe in on how the band came to be formed, and turns out Bonafede had pictures (from the old days as a booking agent), and instructed Joe to “put the whole kitchen sink up on the wall, and see what comes back."

Bonafede may not have known how to use the Internet or personal computers, he had Joe (and later other talented social media friends) to help with that. What Bonafede had was an undertanding of how to get the word out and the power of promotion of a good cause, at which he was most accomplished as a behind-the-scenes kingmaker. At Bonafede’s suggestion, Pytel started creating YouTube videos of The MOB, to get more people talking on the Net.

Pytel purchased The MOB’s music from eBay, and in beloved vintage record stores, including Chicago favorite, Beverly Records. Joe initially used photos that Bonafede had given him of The MOB in the early days. Later, Joe connected with Alan Schrank, and even more video creations ensued.

Fortuitiously, it was not long afterwards that people started talking more about The MOB. That ultimately led to Ana Lord getting an e-mail from someone who suggested where she could find Al Herrera. No, there’s not an exact dotted line between the two events, but the buzz, the furor, the air of excitement about The MOB, and “finding those guys again” was ably assisted by the resources and wisdom of Carl Bonafede and his mentoree, Joe Pytel.

“How do you find all this stuff?” is a question that has been posed to Joe about 20 times in the last few weeks. Pytel’s researching skills are versatile. A devoted Chicago Blackhawks fan, Pytel can just as easily talk hockey stats as the classic rock music that he embraces. If he likes it, he learns everything he can about it.

Pytel honed some of his graphic skills working at his job for a printing specialty firm, plus his sons taught him a few tricks they knew. He’s a natural at figuring things out. His wife, Thaiz, is always an enthusiastic supporter of whatever it is Joe is researching at the time, so it’s a family affair, this passion for Chicago music.

His e-mail sign-offs can vary from “Chicago Joe” to Joseph, to JayJay331, his YouTube user handle found on more than 100 uploaded ‘finds’ of music where he’s created video montages set to favorite songs from the 60s forward.

For examples of Joe’s work in behalf of making the music of The Mob (and a substantial number of compositions penned by James Holvay and Gary Beisbier) rise to the forefront, visit this link, which is his personal YouTube channel.There you are going to find a lot of gems.

Everything that goes around comes around, and there are times when everything old is new again. To seven men, founding members of The MOB plus two more recent MOBsters, the renewed enthusiasm and excitement for their music can be traced back to several researchers, including Ana M. Lord, Joe Accardi, Mike Baker, Alan Schrank, and a few more who remain for someone to discover. But, add to that group the names Bonafede and Pytel. They’re two more of the heroes of Chicagoland Rock and Roll, on the road to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Joseph also has a great sense of humor:

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