Spinning in a vortex of SuperNova notes ( if you follow me over at Lena Ski you’ll know all about it ) I found myself time travelling to days long gone by. To a time and space where musicality gets me (could be a past life thing). And that’s the gift in music invites us to experience in a state of transcendence, timelessness, tipsy-tales and memory making soliloquies time machines. After all, that’s music for you.
What was new became old, and what was old comes back to life without the desire to be dubbed, rehashed, or forced into being anything other than a moment between two people. Whether that person is you, the memory of you, the space between the two of you, your feet and the dancefloor or … well, I think you get the point.
Voices of velvet and steel. Clever little thing really. That crisp raspy warrior vibe manly man …. and that lingering, luscious, light lady like duality that integrates things on an auditory cellular level that’s been lost for decades. Well, it officially makes a comeback. There’s not point resisting, there’s no point fighting it, it’s already crept in.
Besides Vintage is oh so sexy and very much on trend in honour of real good music!
The Del-Satins began in the Yorkville section of New York City in 1958. They had several of their own hit records and are the voices heard singing background on all of Dion’s major solo hits (“Runaround Sue”, “The Wanderer”, “Ruby Baby” and many more).
And now that vortex has opened to usher in their latest CD, presented here for your review, a collection of cover songs that have significance to the group and their history.
How special is that? History in the making. In the living. In the breathing. In the passion of living a purpose … proving that life matters, that this moment matters, and that if you’re true to who you really are – you’ll find your own song, dance, expression.
♫ When I Fall in Love – The Del Satins. Listen @cdbaby http://bit.ly/1UKdU4S
Here’s a little lesson in history:
Formed in 1958 in the Yorkville section of Manhattan, the quintet consisted of Stan Zizka (lead), Les Cauchi (first tenor), Keith Koestner (second tenor), Fred Ferrara (baritone) and his brother Tom Ferrara (bass). Influenced by R&B groups like The Heartbeats, The Dubs and The Flamingos, The Del-Satins, aged 15 to17, would practice on Tom and Fred’s stoop when they weren’t searching for a Subway station, or bathroom to provide that perfect reverb sound.
Fred came up with the name Dell Satins after The Dells and The Five Satins, later on dropping one of the L’s. They then made their own first break by participating in a talent show at the Empire Hotel on New York’s West Side. The first prize, which they won, was a record deal with George Goldner’s End Records, and so it was that the Del-Satins’ first single,” I’ll Pray For You”, written by Stan Zizka, was released in 1961. The group was signed sight unseen. The label thought they were a black group, because of their harmony. They didn’t have that white Brooklyn sound. The record received a good local response, especially from WADO disc jockey Alan Fredericks, leading to some shows for Fredericks at the Levittown Arena. (It should be noted that Mel Kalachman sang baritone on this recording and left the group shortly after. After a few months, Bobby Faila replaced him. Bobby recorded a few songs with the group and later was replaced by Richie Greene, whose comedic genius was a big plus to the exciting Del-Satins’ stage show. Joe Amato, who sang with some of the members previously, re-surfaced as the group’s guitarist. The Ferrara’s brother Joe also played guitar for the group.)
Jim Gribble, manager for other New York-area harmony groups like The Mystic’s, and The Passions, brought The Del-Satins to Bob and Gene Schwartz at Laurie Records when he heard Dion was looking for a new backup group, after he left the Belmonts. The Del-Satins auditioned for Dion with a song from the Dubs called “Beside my Love”. After only a few bars of the song, Dion stopped the group and asked them to record his next record with him. On the spot, Dion said to the group “Sing this” “hape, hape, bum da-haity, haity, hape” thus “Runaround Sue ” was brought to life. ” Stan recalls, “I didn’t think much of the song because it really wasn’t the style we liked to sing. I laughed when it was released, thinking it will never be a hit. How wrong I was.”
On October 23, 1961, The Del-Satins, who recorded only one other record to date, saw their first number one hit with Dion. (In Britain it rose to number 11 and in Australia to number 4. It was even a hit in France and made number 2 in South Africa and number one in Israel). “Sue” made it to the top in only five weeks, staying there for two weeks.
The rhythm and blues community also liked the Dion and Del-Satins combination: “Runaround Sue” reached number four on the R&B charts.
Since the group was actually signed to Laurie, Jim Gribble made a deal with the tiny Win label for a Del-Satins single titled “Counting Teardrops”. It sounded like a cross between The Crests “Step By Step” and Dion’s “Runaround Sue” (it even went so far as to mention Runaround Sue in the lyric).
The next single with Dion was a two-sided classic. The teen rebel national anthem. “The Wanderer” worked its way up to number two after three months on the charts, and only “The Duke Of Earl” kept Dion and The Del-Satins from the very top. (“The Wanderer” also traveled to Europe, going to number 10 in the UK charts and number one in Australia). Written by Ernie Maresca, who later had his own hit record “Shout, Shout, Knock Yourself Out”, backed by none other than The Del Satins, reached number one on the charts.
“Lovers Who Wander” was another instant winner, establishing Dion as the king of the scat singing rock and rollers. The Del-Satins’ harmony and unison singing was so powerful and such a part of the Dion songs that the lead and the background worked together as a group even though the label said, Dion. “Lovers Who Wander” hit the Billboard charts on April 21, 1962, and reached a peak of number three. R&B-wise it went to #16. “I Was Born To Cry” was the flip side, with Dion’s pleading lead, the Del-Satins’ intense harmony, a snarling saxophone and a new sound that combined doo-wop and blues.
After three singles (and five chart sides) with Dion, the Schwartz’s were finally with them and they released a Stan Vincent rocker called “Teardrops Follow Me”. This Del-Satins doo wopper jumped on the East coast radio and coincidentally found itself pitted against their new release with Dion, “Little Diane”, on Murray the K’s nightly new release contest “Diane” won that night, but “Teardrops” went top 10 in several Eastern cities and gave the group a following under its own name.
“Little Diane” returned the group to the formula they had developed on “The Wanderer”, that is, a double harmony where part of the group would sing a sustained “ooh” while the rest did some driving stop-and-go sound that gave the record “wall-to-wall” vocals. Besides being an outstanding song and having a great lead by Dion, this record is immortalized as having the first kazoo-led instrumental section in rock history. “Diane” made it to number 8 nationally on August 18th and the group just kept on working. Because of the hit’s with Dion, The Del Satins were a working group. There dance routines we copied by other groups. The Bug routine was a fun one, where they would pull people out of the audience and put a make believe bug on them, they would then dance around and scratch themselves. It was a riot. The dance routine was compiled of all the dances of the day The Twist, Hully Gully, Mashed Potatoes, Popeye, The Freddy, etc. Their success was in the night club scene.
Their second Laurie release, “Does My Love Stand A Chance”, came out in the all of 1962 and never came off the ground. But their next single with Dion, “Love Came To Me”, became the group’s fifth top 10 entry, reaching number 10 on December 22nd.
By the end of 1962 The Del-Satins were backing Dion on his move to Columbia and wondering when their own opportunity would come again. Their first Columbia shot was a 1956 Drifters song, “Ruby Baby”, Dion’s patented blues-rock style led the way while the Satins’ tough yet smooth harmony solidified the groove that took the song to number two Pop and number five R & B.
Laurie, meanwhile, decided to use the good Dion/Del-Satins tracks it had in the can to compete with Columbia. Thus in the early spring of 1963 Laurie’s Sandy” and Columbia’s “This Little Girl” raced to a dead heat at number 21,
Around this time, a series of introductions (one being an encounter on the street with Heartbeats bass singer Wally Roker, led the group to a meeting with Phil Spector. The group auditioned for Phil at his New York apartment, singing several songs a cappella, including “Teardrops Follow Me”. Spector wanted to sign them and relocate them in California, but the group decided against it.
They chose to stay in New York with Dion. Soon after, Dion co-wrote and produced a single for them on Columbia. That song, “Feeling No Pain”, came on like a musical gang war. If West Side Story had been done with 60’s rock and roll, this would have been the Jets’ war theme. Jerry Blavat, the Philadelphia emperor of rock and roll radio, used “Feeling No Pain” as his sign-off song for over 20 years.
The Del-Satins became a regular on Clay Cole’s weekly TV show for 2 years and appeared with Clay at the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway. Working with Clay and appearing on his TV show was a very important highlight in their career. They came up with two more hits with Dion in the last half of 1963, then Dion penned “Donna The Prima Donna” and a classic R&B remake of the Drifters’ 1957 hit “Drip Drop”. The Del-Satins, were very much in demand, due to their success with Dion, that they were in the studio 3-4 times a week. They did back up work for Len Barry (Dovells), Bill Baker (Five Satins), Nicky Como, Bobby Calendar, and a number of other artists.
In 1964 their new manager Jay Fontana took the group to Mala Records after Dion curtailed his own recordings. Following one up-tempo harmony effort (“Two Broken Hearts”), the Del-Satins signed with BT Puppy Records by auditioning acappella for The Tokens (who owned BT). Jay Siegel, lead singer of the Tokens, loved the sound that The Del-Satins had. The best of their nine singles was another Drifters tune, “Sweets For My Sweet”. Soon after, Stan left (and changed his name from Zizka a to Sommers), eventually emerging as lead singer of The Magnificent Men.
In 1966, Les Cauchi and Tom Ferrara served in Vietnam. Mike Gregorio took Les’ place and, together with Richard Green, Johnny Maestro, and original member Fred Ferrara.
The Del-Satins cut two sides for Diamond Records and recorded “Ebb Tide” and “Going Out Of My Head” with Johnny Maestro on lead in 1967. The Del Satins soon after merged with a newly-formed Long Island brass-heavy rock group called the Rhythm Method. The resulting aggregation became known as The Brooklyn Bridge.
Les is still enjoying a successful career with the Brooklyn Bridge in addition to singing with The Del-Satins. Tom Ferrara became a member of The Capris and recorded the signature bass line on “Morse Code of Love”. He retired from singing a few years ago, but recently rejoined The Del-Satins. Fred Ferrara, Mel Kalachman, Bobby Faila and Richie Green have all passed on.
Today, The Del-Satins continue with original vocalists Stan Zizka, Les Cauchi and Tommy Ferrara joined by long-time members Charlie Aiello and Edie Van Buren.
The group has released 2 CDs recently, “Still Wanderin’” in 2011 and “Voices of Velvet & Steel” in 2015.
What a story, what a journey, what an unwavering commitment …
Timelessness. That’s music for you.
Why you should give them a listen.
- you’re making history.
- you’re part of the story.
- these guys know what they are talking about.
- you’ll indulge in some classics.
- and they still have it!
Take that journey here: Available for download at