November 15, 2015

THE BENDS (Bristol, CT)

Department store rock … The Bends at Bradlees! From left: Jerry Boss (manager, organ, vocals), Mitch Fava (bass, vocals), George Fava (drums, vocals) and Paul Gurski, sporting his recently purchased 1964 Gibson SG (guitar and vocals). Photos courtesy of Paul Gurski.

How the rockin’ teen racket of The Bends got married up with the Vegas lounge crooning of one Smokey Cavalier remained a mind-boggling mystery until The Basement Walls cracked the case in 2014. As it turns out, campy newlywed hotspot The Poconos played matchmaker to a true odd couple of a 45.

Amongst the 7-foot-tall jacuzzis shaped like champagne glasses roamed Smokey Cavalier, the activities director at the Honeymoon Haven resort in Pennsylvania. Budding record producer and label entrepreneur Jerry Boss met Smokey, the resort’s resident entertainer, while there on his honeymoon. Jerry showed him the song “The Four Seasons Of Love,” which was written by his friend Sue Sitarz when he backed her all-girl band The Teenmates in high school in West Hartford, Conn. (A vocal group, The Teenmates featured Sue Sitarz, Janet Craig, Laurie Smith and Terri Carrierra. Too bad they didn't sing the tune instead!) Smokey agreed to pay for the recording and come to Hartford for the session.

About the Photos
(Above) This photo was taken after our very first gig in 1965. George and Mitch Fava's mother worked at Bradlees department store and they were having some Spring sales event and she arranged for us to be the entertainment. I think she really just wanted us out of her basement. She even got the store to cough up the shirts we are wearing. Anybody could see that George was her favorite because he got to wear the only bright red shirt while the rest of us got to wear the “blend into the background” gold. I choke up when I think of my first band uniform.

(Below) This photo was taken during our first tour. Back in the day there was a TV show called Hullabaloo which was a knock off of the Dick Clark Show except much more “groovy,” as the saying goes. At the same time, Hullabaloo clubs were springing up around the country (kind of a dancing night club scene for young adults, but no alcohol) and rumor had it that the TV execs were on site scoping out new talent. Our tour started in Bristol and ended in Waterbury/Watertown. I think it was here that we got to try out our new Kustom PA system. We also added a new lead guitar player who used to play the guitar with his teeth and then set the guitar on fire at the end of the show, ha. The band members left to right are Mitch Fava, Bob (Jimi) Quilty, Paul Gurski, Jerry Boss and George Fava.

— Paul Gurski, April 2015
At the time, Jerry was managing and playing keyboards with local high school crew The Bends, who were recruited as the back-up band. In exchange, they were granted their own spot on the flipside of the record. The Bends lineup consisted of Paul Gurski on guitar and lead vocals, Mitch Fava on bass, George Fava on drums, and Jerry Boss on keyboards. Upon learning the news of the available 45 side, Paul promptly went over to his cousin Mark Evenski’s house (misspelled Evanski on the record label) and the two collaborated on “If It's All The Same To You.”

Jerry recalls: “The Bends were originally called The Rocky Bends, which I changed for the record … too clumsy a name. I found the group through an ad on a bulletin board in a Bradlees department store, in Bristol. I played keyboard for the group while developing them, and we played the Hullaballoo Club in Waterbury a couple of times, with Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels and The Vagrants with Leslie West. The stage had what looked like a huge TV screen on which you looked as though you were playing. We played mostly Mowtown/Stax R&B, although we were all white.”

Jerry already had two 45s of his own under his belt, self-released on his Hound label: Jerry Boss And The Boss Guitars “What’d I Say” b/w “Shimmy An’ Swim” (Hound Records HF-101) and Jerry And The Del-Fi’s “Just Seventeen” b/w “Little Suzanne” (Hound Records HF-102). “In high school, I had played all the local DJs’ record hops, for WDRC AM (Ron Landry, Jim Raynor, Long John Wade, Dick Robinson) and WPOP (Ken Griffin, Joey Reynolds).” As for the Smokey/Bends release, “It was a practice run as far as I was concerned.” Though opting for the Rebel moniker this time around, the release still retained the next Hound catalog number (HF-103).

After the Bends, Paul played in a band called G.G. & The Outcasts (no recordings), and then gave all his equipment to his cousin Mark when he went away to college. Mark went on to play guitar in various Connecticut bands throughout the following decades.

In 1968, Jerry started up the Boss City label to try and break into the record business. He released 45s by The Revolution “Baby I Love You / Wake Me Shake Me” (Boss City 150), The Rogues “No Lies / Night Time” (Boss City 160) and “Tobacco Road / Heavy!” (Boss City 166), Davy And The Dolphins “Never Hurt / Bye Bye Baby” (Boss City 162), Wendell Austin “Talk Of The Town” (Boss City 164), and others.

THE BENDS / SMOKEY (split 45)
If It's All The Same To You / The Four Seasons Of Love
 (HF-103 • 18061/62)
October 1966

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