Beginning of Time–
The year was 1958. It was a simpler time, full of Happy Days (see Nick-at-Nite). Dick & Don were ace science students at North Junior High School in Niagara Falls, NY. Both played in the band and orchestra—Dick on trumpet and Don on French horn (what nerds!). But that wasn’t enough for this dynamic duo! They wanted young girls fawning over them like they did over the good-looking guys… er, make that the other good-looking guys. So they started playing guitars and singing just like the Everly Brothers, except that they weren’t brothers and they didn’t have any original songs and…
Meanwhile, Larry was somewhere in Cheektowaga, NY, taking accordion lessons, Paul was in Tonawanda, NY, learning how to tie his shoes (especially the left one), and Nancy was in Williamsville, NY, freshly potty trained. You might (correctly) discern that they are all a bit younger than Dick & Don. But I digress…
So… Dick & Don sang and played “All I Have to Do is Dream” in a variety show at school, and the ball was rolling. Over the next couple of years they did more shows and dances, as a duo and with a small group they put together and for some long-forgotten reason called “The Whisperers”. They had found another guitarist (also named Larry, but not the Wadny one—he was still playing accordion), and to make room for him, Don switched to the electric bass (D&D first built one themselves, from plywood, a cheap used pickup, and a neck and strings from an old broken mando-cello. It had to be tuned a little higher than a real bass, but it actually worked for a while). By 1960 they were backing up a local singing group (the Vel-Tones) and even made a record with Buffalo disc jockey Tom Shannon. There was nowhere to go but somewhere else… and that’s just what they did. They went off to different colleges. Dick attended the University of Rochester, where he played with “Lee Adrian and the Campus Playboys” and later with “The Rivermen”, and Don went to Syracuse where he played guitar with “Gary and the Invaders” (later just “The Invaders” after Gary left). During the summer of 1963 Don joined Dick with Lee Adrian et al in Rochester, and then for a fun-filled week at the Laurels Resort in the Catskills.
After graduation from college, Don spent four years in the Air Force, while Dick sang folk music with “The Other Singers” in Rochester and Buffalo (while attending grad school). When The Other Singers went their various ways in 1967, Dick and Other Singers partner Mark Pettit (who had sung with Dick & Don as “The Keynoters” in high school) formed “Three for the Show” (with singer Sue Caruso and backed by drummer Al Rizzuto), playing commercial music in Buffalo area night clubs. Eventually Mark left for bigger things, and when Don got out of the Air Force he found a version of “Three for the Show” (now a four-person group?) still playing sappy music in Holiday Inns and such. D&D decided to form a new duo, playing folk, light rock, and whatever. Then 1969 came along, the year of Woodstock! That weekend was the first time the now semi-famous duo played at an outdoor festival, and the crowds were fantastic. Unfortunately, it was at the Lewiston (NY) Art Festival, not Woodstock, but they did periodically get reports of what was going on at the other end of the state. It sounded decidedly different form Lewiston!!!
Shortly thereafter, they added Ted Szpara on drums, and a new Three for the Show was born (with just three members). But in the summer of 1972, when D&D were temporarily doing the “duo thing” at the Frontier House in Lewiston, Larry would come in and listen. At this time Larry had given up the accordion and was building and driving sports cars in SCCA sponsored events, and he recruited D&D to be the pit crew. We all spent the summer bruising our knuckles and getting all greasy, oily, and sore, trying to get Larry’s Austin Healy up and running by day, while the D&D duo sang at night. We completely rebuilt the car, changed the engine three or four times, and still the thing wouldn’t make two laps without breaking. But when we were all sitting around listening to music, Larry would keep time with all his hands and feet (actually the usual human number of them) doing different rhythms. He was obviously a natural born drummer, even if he had never sat down at a set of drums. So, one day when Larry wasn’t paying attention, Don and Dick huddled in the corner and said “if we can get Larry to play drums maybe we won’t have to get all greasy and bruise our knuckles like this any more”. Larry was talked into buying drums (with promises of fame and fortune in the music biz) and Ted was never seen or heard from again (kind of like Peter Best of the Beatles).
Rehearsals began in the fall of 1972. Don and Dick had been doing all the singing with Three for the Show, but Larry apparently had musical good taste (he even refuses to play the accordion any more) and he suggested we look for a vocalist. At the time Dick was teaching at Erie Community College and one day he was standing in the hall when he heard some clown walking along singing “Born Free”. (Note: that’s not just “Born Free”, but actually “Born Free”!). It was Paul, and Dick immediately decided that by channeling this prodigious vocal energy into the group he might preserve the sanity of his colleagues in academia. And thus a new quartet was born.
The unique name “Catharsis” was chosen, and we were ready. So was another group with the unique name “Catharsis”, which hit the Buffalo papers before we did. So we picked a new name that was ours alone, we had our business cards made, and “Crossroads” hit the Buffalo scene. We played our first job (a middle school dance) in January of 1973, less than five (5) months after Larry first touched a set of drums.
We made it through the whole of 1973 as “Crossroads”, but then the inevitable happened—the first Buffalo performance by an out-of-town group called—say it with us—“Crossroads”. The other “Crossroads” had guns, or at least more fans, so we changed our name again.
–: The WADNY Years
This time, we decided to name the band after a little-known hero from the Shenandoah Valley—the semi-great Anselmo Wadny (for the real story, go to The Real Story). And nobody stole it! It was our name! We had business cards to prove it!
We played all kinds of jobs, from junior high school and college dances to wedding receptions to private parties and things like that. We generally avoided playing in bars and clubs because we didn’t want to make the time commitment. Advertising was strictly word-of-mouth, but we kept as busy as we wanted most of the time.
Things rolled along pretty smoothly for several years, until Paul decided he should play an instrument. He tried congas, bongos, cow bell, tambourine, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and harmonica. All of these managed to add something to the fullness of the Wadny sound, but eventually we decided we needed more. Luckily, at some point in there, Larry had married a keyboard player, Nancy. In spite of all the possible dangers of adding a spouse to the group, Nancy joined Wadny in late 1981, and we were now a five-member quintet (as opposed to some other sized quintet). We even let Paul continue to play the guitar once in a while, and we ended up with quite a full sound—four voices and four-and-a-half instruments (you’d understand this if you ever heard Paul play).
In 1987, Dick got a great chance to leave the cold white north behind. He headed for Hickory, North Carolina, where he joined the faculty of Lenoir-Rhyne College. The rest of the band refused to follow and ended up floundering around for a while.
1988 found a new lead guitarist with Wadny—Bob Ruszanowski. He was quite a talented guy, with a very different style from Dick, and the band kept busy for a couple of years before Bob decided one job every couple of months just wasn’t cutting it. He took off for more active pastures. “Wadny” was no more (insert sound of sad violins).
Don, Larry, Paul, and Nancy found Curt Smith to play guitar, but after rehearsing for a while, Paul decided he couldn’t continue with the band, now renamed. A brief attempt with another singer eventually came to an end.
Meanwhile, Dick was in (or near) the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and traded in his electric guitars for acoustic ones. He and his wife Carol sang for a while with a couple of other faculty members, using the name “Forty Something”. In the fall of 1991, while Dick was teaching in England, he and Carol started putting together some folk duets, and upon returning to the U.S. started performing as “Something Else”.
Dick also began playing bass with the François Vola Group (jazz) and appears on their first CD (“Old World, New World”) on RDC Records (Paris, France). He also played bass with guitarist François and mandolinist Emory Lester at festivals such as MerleFest and in the Hickory area. In addition to Something Else, he continues to play guitar and/or bass in local jazz groups, including the Lenoir-Rhyne Jazz Ensemble.
Larry played in another group for a while, but Nancy and Paul have essentially retired from the business. Currently Larry and Don have put a new rock group together in the Buffalo, NY, area. Watch for “Jump the Shark” if you’re in the area.