Sunday, May 24, 2009

Atlantic City Pop Fest 1969


When Buddy Miles played the Hard Rock Cafe he mentioned the fact that he had played the Atlantic City Pop Fest, which he said made a lasting impression on his life.

He played that night for hours, hours beyond the 2 am time he was supposed to stop, and by the time he had finished, the room was half-empty, but those who were sitting in the back moved up to the front and the back was lined by casino dealers and executives in their suits, listening to the seemingly endless jam that rocked into the early morning hours.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Buddy Miles at Hard Rock AC

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Budy Miles Tears Up the Taj
Nightbeat – The SandPaper Friday, May 23, 1997

Most casino shows are short and sweet, a little more than an hour, and then get the people out the door and onto the casino floor as soon as possible.

But the Atlantic City Hard Rock Café at the Jaj and Buddy Miles are exceptions.

When the classic rocker came to Atlantic City last week you couldn’t get him to stop playing, and nobody tried to give him the hook.

Buddy Miles, who at one time played drums behind Hendrix and then saddled up next to him on guitar, is probably the only person to win Playboy magazine’s music poll in two categories, drums and guitar, and he played both at the Hard Rock.

Opening with a laid back version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” he stretched the first set over an hour, took a break and then played, and played and played until the last call, at nearly three o’clock in the morning.

Currently won tour with a good tight band – Roderick Kohn on guitar, Charles Torres on bass, Mark Leach on keyboards, and Ken Mootenoit on drums, Buddy Miles seems to be getting bigger rather than older.

Lake a Budda with drum sticks, he set the beat for an evening of music, then would occasionally come out and sit in a chair in front of the stage and pick the guitar and sing, his voice reminiscent of the classic songs he did with groups like Electric Flag, Eric Clapton and other, mainly British Invasion bands that recognized his greatness.

At the Taj a lot of people recognized his greatness and came out for the show, but after three or four hours – it was a mid-week school night, the back of the room began to empty out, and people moved up closer to the stage.

Those who stayed got a special treat, and after midnight, when the graveyard shift got off and kicked back, off duty waitresses, dealers and pit bosses came in to watch the show.

Many danced, but most just sat back and watched in awe as Miles and his band jammed into the early hours of the morning.

I started to keep a song list, “Whole Lotta’ Love,” “Ramblin’,” all starting out slow and meandering before picking up in tempo and rocking. “Turn on Your Love Light,” “Down by the River,” “If I was a Carpenter,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Hey, Joe” and an extended version of “I’m Just Expressing Myself” and “Them Changes” kept things going into the night.

At one point in the proceedings Miles recalled playing the 1969 Atlantic City Pop Festival, which was held at the Atlantic City Race Track the weekend before Woodstock and included most of the Woodstock lineup.

He later said he couldn’t remember too many of the details of that engagement, giving credence to the saying that if you remember the 1960s you weren’t there.

But there were a lot of 60s flashbacks going on, and there’s more to come. The Atlantic City Hard Rock Café is the only one in the world that offers live music in addition to rock & roll and hamburgers.

See: Photos of Buddy Miles at the Hard Rock Café, Atlantic City.

Robert Hazard

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Lou London at the Shack

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Bubba Birch and Jerry Blavat


Herb "Bubba" Birch and Jerry "the Geater with the heater, the Boss with the hot sauce" Blavat at the Bubba Mack Shack in Somers Point, NJ
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Twisties - Strathmere, NJ

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Twisties is one of the last of the original rum runner bay bars on the East Coast.

Original, unrestored, it's pretty much the same as it was in the 30s and 40s when Strathmere was a major hub in the illegal importation and distribution of booze.

A little, ramshackle boat house, Twisties is named after one of the former owners, and Twistie's brother Oliver Twist still lives down the street if you want to learn more about him.

I'd tell you where it is but you'd still have to find Strathmere, which is the north end of the barrier island that Sea Isle City sits on, just south of, and across the drawbridge from Ocean City (NJ).

I remember when we lived in Sea Isle in the late 50s and early 60s dad would drive towards Strathmere to get to deliver trash - in brown paper bags, to the dump. (Taxes were low).

Further on was the Dolphin motel (owned by former Nazi U-boat officer Rudy Plappert), and the historic Deauville Inn, the heart of Downtown Strathmere, which technically lies in Upper Township, and has a trailer park, Mildred's restaurant, a volunteer fire department and post office but no police force. The Inquirer's Clark DeLeon used to call Strathmere "Undisclosed Location."

Twisties lies on the bay between Mildred's and the Deauville.

For years there were no signs, so if you didn't know it was there you walked right past it. Now there's a sign out front and some neon beer ads in the windows.

When you walk in the screen door - it's only open in the summer - there's a stool at the end of the bar where Twistie, or the owner of record, would sit. I think Twistie sold it to Riordan, the only realitor in town, and he ran it as a hobby.

The one wall to the left should have a dozen or so trophy fish, one of each kind found in local waters, and some from Florida. That's where one of the former eccentric owners got the Indian head coconuts that line the shelf that runs along the ceiling. I think he brought one back each year he went down there.

The small bar runs down the left wall and around the back, where there's some windows that let you see the sun set over the bay, or what ever's happening along this little section of the inter-coastal waterway.

There's the rest rooms in the corner, and before the small dining room that leads back to the kitchen there's a juke box. Now the last time I was there the original juke box from the 60s-70s era was there, playing 45s for 25c, and there were some classics that had been on there for decades.

I guess the only clue of what century you were in was the TV with the sports on.

Bottled beer was the house drink. No draft. Too much trouble.

I did a story about Twisties and the history of the joint for the SandPaper that I will try to dig up if I can find it, and anybody's interested.


Bob and Gary Campanell Jammin'

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Pat Martino at the Shire Cape May


Pat Martino at the Shire Tavern, Cape May
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The Stones at Times Square and Atlantic City


The Stones at Times Square. One of Popsie's Pix. Popsie Randolph.
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July 3, 1965 The First Time The Stones Came To Atlantic City
[Appeared in the Atlantic City Monthly, December, 1989]

The first time the Rolling Stones came to Atlantic City, George Hamid, Jr. met them at the airport. "I drove out to pick them up in my convertible and had somebody follow me in another car," recalls Hamid, who owned Steel Pier when the Rolling Stone performed there on Tuesday, July 3rd, 1965.

"They flew into Pomona airport (now Atlantic City International), although it really wasn't much of an airport at the time, just some shacks," says Hamid today. "But there was no hoopla or anything." For Hamid, the Rolling Stones were just another British band that played the Steel Pier.

Belittling their reputation as "the bad boys of rock and roll, Hamid said, "Mick drove in my car. He was so pleasant, a youngster really. I found them to be very nice, polite boys."

Hamid took them to the Claridge Hotel, where they stayed, then took them up to the Boardwalk. "I got them some hot pizza and soda, and they were really grateful," he laughs, considering how they are coming back to Atlantic City on very different terms.

"Now they want champagne and caviar, and it's in the contract that the champagne has to be chilled to exactly 32 degrees," says the 71-year old Hamid, who now lives in Princeton but maintains an office and residence at the Jersey Shore.

The difference is that, in 1965, the Rolling Stones were just one of a dozen bands that, like the Beatles, Herman's Hermits, the Animals, Kinks, Freddie and the Dreamers, et al., were classified as part of the British Invasion. Today, they are one of the few surviving bands of that era, and the richest, if not the best - rock and roll band in the world.

"They were good, but they weren't as big as they are now, and there were bigger acts at the time," recalls Hamid. "The Supremes and the Temps were both bigger acts. When bands came to the east coast, the Steel Pier was where they went. We had them all, from Bill Haley and the Comets to Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons; we had them all. The Association, Chicago, Dr. Hook, the Beach Boys,...I don't think you can name a rock act between '58 and '75 that didn't play for us, except for Elvis. And we could have gotten him if we wanted. And the same thing goes with the big bands."

The Hamid family came to Atlantic City in 1927.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Woodstock 1969-2009

Woodstock veterans to headline anniversary show

Some performers from the 1969 Woodstock concert will get back to the garden for a 40th anniversary show this summer.

On the bill for the August 15 are The Levon Helm Band, Jefferson Starship, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Ten Years After, Canned Heat, Mountain, and Country Joe McDonald.

They'll perform at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York. It was built on the site of the dairy farm trampled on by some 400,000 people on the weekend of August 14-17, 1969.

It includes an amphitheater and a museum up the hill from the original stage.

The returning acts feature some Woodstock veterans, including Helm, who performed in '69 with The Band.

- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Original Comets Today

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Jack's Twin Bar - Gloucester City

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Jack's Twin Bar in Gloucester City, N.J. is where Bill Haley and the Comets performed before heading to Wildwood for the summer of 1955.

When I picked Marshall and Joey up at the airport to take them to Ocean City to play the Flander's Hotel 75th anniversary party, we were driving over the Walt Whitman bridge when Marshall pointed down to Gloucester and said "That's where we played at Jack's."

Gloucester City Block Party

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Bill Kelly
July 11, 2007

THERE AT THE CONCEPTION – Jack’s Twin Bar – Gloucester City, N.J. 1952
Rock & Roll was an orphan before it had a hit or even a name, but now, more than half-century later, potential heirs to the music revolution it spawned are laying claim to historic recognition of competing birthplaces.

There may be some confusion in the minds of some, especially those who trumpet Cleveland, Memphis and other places that boast being “the Birthplace of Rock & Roll,” but according to some of those who were there at the time, there is no question Bill Haley and the Comets were there at the conception.

At least that’s the consensus among those patrons at Jack’s Twin Bar in Gloucester City, New Jersey, where there is now a permanent historical marker on the side of the building that proclaims this neighborhood tavern is the “birthplace of rock & roll.”
Like Liverpool, Asbury Park, Memphis, Cleveland and Wildwood, N.J., Gloucester City is just the latest municipality to try and cash in on the new, and growing rock & roll tourism trade, showcasing the sites where rock & roll history were made. Historical markers and have sprung up at wayward outposts destinations for music loving pilgrims searching for the elusive soul of rock & roll.

While Liverpool leveled the original Cavern, before its historic and tourist value were realized, a new Cavern has emerged to cater to the thousands of tourists who only know Liverpool as the home of the Beatles.

Asbury Park’s Stone Pony is also threatened by development, even as busloads of oriental and European tourists visit the home turf of the Boss and the E-Street Band.
Memphis has the old Sun Records recording studio, and its blues and R & B legacy, and promotes itself as the “Birthplace of Rock & Roll,” since numerous black bands, and Elvis, were playing and recording there before the music even had a name. And Cleveland has the “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum,” where Alan Freed undisputedly coined the term “Rock & Roll,” while discussing the music of Bill Haley & the Comets in 1955.

But if you go by the money list, as professional golfers and tennis stars are rated, then there is no debate or question, as Rock & Roll came of age in July 1955 when “Rock Around the Clock” became the first rock & roll song to make Number One on the Billboard Pop chart.

At the time, the song was riding on the popular reaction to it’s inclusion in the teen rebel movie The Blackboard Jungle, the movie of the summer of ’55. At the time Bill Haley & the Comets were playing at the Hoffbrau nightclub in Wildwood, at the New Jersey Shore.

Today there is an historic marker on the sidewalk in front of where the Hoffbrau was located before it was leveled in the misdirected Urban Renewal of the late 1960s. Today Wildwood celebrates its rock & roll roots with annual rock & roll revival concerts at its new Convention Hall, and is unwilling to relinquish its claim to be the real cradle of rock & roll.

You can’t get around the fact that “Rock Around the Clock” was the first rock & roll song to make Number One on the pop charts, remained there for eight weeks, and Bill Haley and the Comets were playing Wildwood at the time, establishing a judicial provenance that other claimants don’t have, but Gloucester and Jack’s Twin bar does have some DNA linkage.

Before Bill Haley called his band the Comets, he had the Saddlemen, and ran a country & western music radio show out of Chester, Pennsylvania. Playing out of a number of local bars and roadhouses in the outskirts of Philadelphia, Haley’s band played Jack Twin Bar in Gloucester, N.J. every week for about two years, 1952-53.

Just across the Delaware River from the U.S. Navy Yard in South Philly, regular ferry service ran from Gloucester, near New York ShipYard, so shipbuilders and sailors went back and forth routinely, until the Walt Whitman bridge was built, which made the transit even easier. The ship builders and the navy boys were the primary patrons of Jack’s Twin Bar and the other bars that catered to that clientele, but Jack’s had a special draw - Bill Haley’s Saddlemen.

At that time Bill Haley was going through a personal transformation, forgoing the country-western music that had been his mainstay, and getting into the more upbeat boggie woogie – race music the black bands like the Treniers were playing.
Adding a little rhythm & blues to the country-western backbeat, the new style of music was infectious and catchy, and catching on with everybody who heard it. At Jack’s Haley & his Saddlemen began playing a particular song that everybody liked, “Rock This Joint,” which includes the lyrics, “We’re gonna’ rock this joint tonight.”
Then came “Rock Around the Clock,” probably the most influencial rock & roll song of all time, and didn’t make Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Song List. “Rock Around the Clock,” though it is probably one of the most important songs of all because being the first it kicked open the door so the others could follow.

There were other great songs that are considered early rock & roll songs, before “Rock Around the Clock” made No. 1 and before they called it “rock & roll,” like Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” which Haley also made a hit, Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” (1951) and Elvis’s “That’s Alright Mama,” (1954) .but there’s no mistaking “Rock Around the Clock” as the first rock & roll song to make number one on the pop charts.

And another rock & roll song, before they called it rock & roll, was “Rock This Joint,” which Haley played a lot of when they did their steady gig at Jack’s Twin Bar.

As those who were at Jack’s Twin Bar at the time (1951-52) recall, Haley would introduce the song saying, “All you hillbillies go home now, ‘cause we’re gonna play a little cowboy-jive, so cut loose and let the cool cats in, ‘cause we’re gonna rock this joint tonight!.”

At least that’s what they put on the back of the Jack’s Twin Bar “Birthplace of Rock & Roll” t-shirts.

The historic plaque they placed on the outside wall of Jack’s reads: “Twin Bar 1951-52 – At this corner tavern Bill Haley & the Saddlemen, later to become Bill Haley & the Comets, introduced their new ‘rockabilly sound,” then an unfamiliar and strange mixture of ‘rhythm & blues’ and ‘country & western’ – with a heavy backbeat, to become a new brand of music that would be called ‘ rock & roll.”

“It was here that a song called ‘Rock This Joint’ would be played by Haley and the band over many months. Bill Haley, with Johnny Grande, Billy Williams and Marshall Lytle along with studio musician Danny Cedone recorded this song in 1952. Danny’s guitar solo on “Rock This Joint” would again be recorded two years later on the album “Rock Around The Clock” which became one of the best selling records of all time.”
Of the original comets, only Marshall Lytle, Johnny Grande and Dick Boccelli are left to carry on the traditions, and they do in fine style – plade jackets, Marshall throwing the big bass around over his head, and each taking an improvised solo, sparking some in the crowd to get up and dance and then a standing ovation.

Marshall, who most certainly was there, at least according to the plaque, and is now the front man, recounted the days when they played Jack’s, and Bill Haley met the women who would be his second wife. She was there for the occasion, along with her son, Bill Haley, Jr.

Bill, Jr., some said, may have been conceived in Jack’s parking lot, and he looks a lot like his dad, same face, same smile and same voice.

While some may dispute the idea that rock & roll was born here, there’s no doubt of the local DNA provenance (‘the origin or source from which something comes’), especially when Bill Haley, Jr. joined the Comets on stage and sang the last three songs, “Rock This Joint,” “Rock Around the Clock” and “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

The return of the Original Comets to Jack’s Bar in Gloucester City was certainly an historic occasion, especially with Bill Haley, Jr. sitting in and singing with his dad’s old band fifty years after the conception of what we now know as “rock & roll.”

[Bill Kelly can be reached at]

Marshall, Dick & Joey

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When Dick Boccelli told his friends he was getting his band back together, they were naturally incredulous.

After a decades long hiatus and them being scattered all over the country, they hadn't practiced since the '60s and the fact their average age was about 70, well, it wasn't like the Blues Brothers getting the band together to save the orphanage.

Boccelli is the drummer for Bill Haley's Original Comets, the former Saddlemen from Chester, Pa., who were playing the Hofbrau nightclub in Wildwood, N.J. when their song, "Rock Around the Clock" (RATC), became the first Rock & Roll song to place Number 1 on the pop charts.

While some other cities - Memphis, Cleveland and now Glouchster, make claim as "The Birthplace of Rock & Roll," the time and the date RATC made #1 is written in stone - July, 1955, riding on the heels of the summer release of the teen rebel movie "The Blackboard Jungle," which used "Rock Around the Clock" as its opening theme song.

From the Hofbrau nightclub in Wildwood, where there is now an historical plaque on the sidewalk on the street where the club once stood - razed during the Urban Renewels of the 60s, Haley & the Comets went from the club scene to Wildwood and Ocean City Convention Halls, Ed Sullivan and Dick Clark shows and Cleveland, where a radio DJ Alan Freed coined the term "Rock & Roll" while describing the music Haley & the Comets played, a mix of country and rhythm and blues.

Haley's success however, didn't play well with the Comets, who were given a $50 a week raise while Haley and the band's managers bought themselves new Cadilacs. So three of the Comets left the band and formed the Jodimars, who became popular in Europe and earned fans in Liverpoole, where the Beatles covered one of their songs "Clarabella."

After a few years of playing casinos in Las Vegas, they broke up, one staying in Vegas, another moving to Florida and Boccelli returning to home to Ocean City, N.J. They remaine in contact with one another, and discussed a reunion, especially after Haley passed away in the 1980s.

Then they did get together and played a TV gig in honor of Dick Clark, and had such a good time they decided to stay together and play a few paying gigs and discovered that they still had a strong fan base, especially in Europe where the rock & roll fans know the original band from its sound.

"They're so used to cover bands playing our songs," says Boccelli, "and groups calling themselves Bill Haley's Comets but nobody in the band even knew Bill Haley. They know Franny's guitar style, and how we sound, and appreciate the fact we're the originals."

Altough they play major arenas to thousands of people in Europe, they couldn't find a gig in their own backyard - Wildwood and Atlanic City, so I arranged for them to play the 75th anniversary part at the Flanders Hotel on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

Picking up bass player and frontman Marshall Lytle at the Philadelphia Airport, as we drove off the the Walt Whitman bridge into New Jersey, Marshall looked down at the city of Gloucester and recalled playing the Twin Bar there in the early 1950s, wondering if it was still there.

It is, and now the Original Comets will return this Saturday, June 14, 2007, for a homecoming and the mounting of a new historic plaque in frot of the Twin Bar that commemorates the site where Bill Haley & the Comets performed for years before "Rock Around the Clock" became the first Rock & Roll song to top the pop charts.

While there's no argument as to the July 1955 Wildwood birth of Rock & Roll as a popular phenom, there is quite a discussion as to where the music was conceived, the Memphis acts didn't make the pop charts until Haley & the Comets kicked open the door, the Twin Bar at least is still standing.

And it's still serving cool drinks in the old, blue colar, working class neighorhood that is now trying to parlay their histoirc connection to beginnings of Rock & Roll into a revival of their bar, neighborhood and often neglected city.

The day long gig and block party, with the Twin Bar as ground zero, will also include Charlie Grace, another early rock & roller ("Butterfly") who is also more popular in Europe, especially England, than he is in his own hometown (South Philly).

A very special session is planned as Bill Haley, Jr. is expected to stop by and sit in with the Comets as he has done in the past at the Bubba Mac Shack in Somers Point, where the Comets played for five consecutive years every August until the Shack closed last year.

Bill Haley, Jr. looks remarkably like his old man, with the same moon face, smile and lock of hair that protrudes across his forehead.

That is pretty remarkable, that over a half -century after Bill Haley and the Comets played together at the Twin Bar and the Hofbrau in Wildwood, his son is now singing with the same band.

While we know where and when Rock & Roll was born, with "Rock Around the Clock" in July, 1955, at the Hofbrau in Wildwood, it was earlier convieved in the bars and nightclubs of Wildwood, the Jersey Shore, Gloucester, Memphis and whereever rhythm and blues and country music got together.

Marshall laying down on the job

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Bill, Jr. & the Comets

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Bill, Jr. & the Comets

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Bill, Jr. & the Comets

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Bill Haley, Jr. & the Comets


Bill Haley, Jr. & the Original Comets at the Twin Bar in Gloucester, NJ
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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Guitarist Coleman Mellett RIP,_Chuck/

I remember the airplane crash in Buffalo, and how the day before a news commentator was saying that it's been over a year since we've had a major airplane crash, not including the crash landing of the airliner in the Hudson, which didn't have any major casualties.

Then the Buffalo crash, in the freezing rain, and I think I recall that some musicians were on board, but I didn't get any names, and it wasn't until I read this article that I realized that Coleman Mellett was one of the victims.

Chuck Mangione Performs for Plane Crash Victims
May 3rd, 2009 3:42 EST.

Jazz musician Chuck Mangione took to the stage in New York on Friday night to raise money for the families of his two former bandmates who were killed in a plane crash in February. Gerry Niewood and Coleman Mellett were among the passengers on the jet which came down near New York's Buffalo Niagra Internatational Airport killing all 49 people on board.

The band's concert in Buffalo the following night was canceled as a result of the loss. And Mangione has kept his promise to play in the town with a special tribute raising money for people affected by the disaster. More than 200 tickets were donated to victims & family and residents living near the crash site, with the proceeds going to the Town of Clarence Flight 3407 Memorial Fund. Mangione also teamed up with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to pay for concert-goers to attend a special aftershow party.

His name jumped right out at me, and I knew, as soon as I read that story, that I knew Coleman Mellett.

I remember Coleman Mellett from Cape May, where I'm sure he played the Shire Tavern and the Cape May Jazz Fest, and may have been one of the recipients of one of the Cape May Jazz Fest music scholarships.

Coleman Mellett. He was just a kid, one of the youngsters who were hanging around Pat Martino at the Shire, and later at the Jazz Fest with Monette Sudler and Geno White.

"Coley" always had a ready smile and carried his guitar around like it was his cross.

Carole Stone and Woody had nice things to say about him, and they may have picked up on him playing somewhere else and invited him to Cape May, like they do all the time.

And he married Jeanie Bryson, one of the Cape May Jazz Fest regulars. They probably met at Cape May.

Here's some more stories off the wire:

A memorial Mass for jazz guitarist Coleman Timothy Mellett of East Brunswick, N. J., who died Feb. 12 in the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, will be offered at 11 a. m. Saturday in St. Peter Catholic Church, Washington, D. C. He was 34.

Born in South Natick, Mass., he graduated from elementary and high school in Maryland and attended William Paterson University in Wayne, N. J., and Manhattan School of Music.

A member of the Chuck Mangione band since 1999, he was hired after the trumpeter spotted him on a Manhattan cable television show. He also performed frequently with his wife, jazz singer Jeanie Bryson, the daughter of Dizzy Gillespie.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a stepson, Radji Bryson-Barrett; his parents, Kenneth M. and Mary Ellen; a brother, Zebulon S.; and a sister, Brady Jane.

Coleman Mellett was killed when Continental flight #3407 crashed near Buffalo on February 12, 2009.

An accomplished jazz guitarist, Mellett was a touring member of trumpeter Chuck Mangione's band for the last several years. The group was scheduled to perform Friday night at the Kleinhans Music Hall with the Buffalo Philharmonic.

In a statement Mangione, said: "I'm in shock over the horrible, heartbreaking tragedy."

Mellett grew up near Washington, D.C., and moved to New Jersey to study at William Paterson University, according to his MySpace profile. After graduating he moved to New York and earned a master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music in 1998.

Mellett, 33, lived in East Brunswick, N.J., with his wife, singer Jeanie Bryson, according to the Star-Ledger of Newark.

Coleman Mellett is a gifted jazz guitarist, educated at Duquesne and William Paterson University's and the Manhattan School Music. He has studied with Jazz greats Rufus Reid, Kenny Burrell, Norman Simmons, Steve Turre, and Harold Mabern. He has had the good fortune to work with musicians like Joe Williams, James Spaulding, Frank Wess, Doug Lawrence, Etta Jones, Christian McBride, and others.

While performing on Manhattan Cable Television with organist Adam Scone and drum legend Ben Dixon, who is known internationally for the Blue Note recordings he made with “Big" John Patton and Grant Green, he caught the eye of Chuck Mangione. Mellett was invited to audition for Mangione and was hired on the spot to be the substitute for Mangione's regular guitarist, Grant Giessman. Chuck invited Mellett to be a permanent member of the group, and since then Coleman has been touring the world with the Chuck Mangione Band. 01, 2009

While listening to WBAI, the station played an In Memoriam for members of Chuck Mangione's Band who were on board on that flight to NY. I thougth how terrible! Then this past Firday, while at a meeting, I was reading an article in the Home News Tribune (New Brunswick, NJ) about an educational program I was involved with, and suddenly my eyes shifted toward a heading which mentioned "local jazz musician in fatal airplane crash." My heart sank when the paragraph started off with Coleman's name. And of course, what other Coleman could it be.

Coleman, was one of our music teachers at the Jazz Institute of New Jersey, a not- for-profit organization that taught jazz and life skills to underprivileged children.

My deepest sympathies go to his family and partner and wife Jeannie Bryson. Indeed, I can only believe that because of who he was, he was here for a purpose. I pray that he receives much blessings even on the other side.

Maria Alvarez
New Brunswick

I met Coleman in 2000 along with Jeff McSpadden when they had the smooth jazz group The Salt Brothers. I became a fan and signed him up to SESAC. He was a very sweet and humble guy and a great musician. He had a classic sound to his playing that was so advanced for his age.

He was also a great composer. If you can find the Salt Brothers CD "The Right Move", get it! It's a great piece of work! And the Coleman Mellett original song, "Creepy" featuring Jeanie Bryson on Vocals is a hit! I once saw the band play to a packed room at the Top of the World Trade Center, one of our last visits to the WTC before 9/11. Coleman was a great talent, and a great man and he will be remembered.

Linda Lorence-Critelli, SEASC, NY

Coley Mellett played guitar in one of the first jazz groups I was in, The Blues Alley Youth Combo. Even though it was about 18 years ago that we played together, I remember how great he played when we were both cutting our teeth on some of our first gigs. Thanks, Coley, for inspiring me and many others with your great music.
Michael Jones,

On February 13, 2009, musician Chuck Mangione's publicist confirmed that Mangione's guitarist, Coleman Mellett had been killed in a plane crash near Buffalo, New York the previous day. Mellet and fellow band member Gerry Niewood were aboard Continental Flight 3407, which crashed into a Buffalo house on the evening of February 12, 2009.1

Fast Facts

Jazz guitarist and guitar teacher2
Originally from the Washington, D.C. area3

Spouse: Jeanie Bryson2

Played backup for musician Chuck Magione

Attended Duquesne University on a music scholarship,
then transferred to William Paterson University3
Received a master's degree in Jazz performance
from the Manhattan School of Music3

Joined Chuck Mangione's band in 1999

Released debut solo album Natural High in 2007

Died on February 12, 2009


"I'm in shock over the horrible, heartbreaking tragedy." — Chuck Mangione

MySpace Music: Coleman Mellett Profile

CD Baby: Coleman Mellett: Natural High

Buffalo News: Publicist: 2 Mangione musicians die in plane crash (February 13, 2009) Guitarist Mellett loves its versatility (May 15, 2008)

AllABoutJazz: A Listeners Venue for Jeanie Bryson and Coleman Mellett Performance (July 13, 2007)

Transcript From Buffalo Crash Reveals Extensive Pilot Banter


The pilots of the Continental Connection turboprop that crashed in February near Buffalo, N.Y., rushed through mandatory checklists in a matter of seconds, but spent almost the entire 59-minute flight from Newark, N.J., bantering about personal issues, job goals and the theoretical hazards of ice accumulation during winter flying, according to the cockpit recorder transcript released Tuesday by federal investigators.

The transcript shows that the Colgan Air Inc. crew, Capt. Marvin Renslow and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw, violated mandatory safety rules by discussing extraneous topics during the descent to Buffalo, just before their twin-engine Bombardier Q400 aircraft slowed dangerously and went into an aerodynamic stall, killing 50 people.

Data released by the National Transportation Safety Board indicate that the stall wasn't triggered by ice accumulation, but rather by Capt. Renslow's pulling back on the controls and overpowering an automatic stall-protection system that was pushing the nose of the plane down in order to regain a safe flying speed.

The transcript of conversations reflects a breakdown in cockpit discipline as the pilots laughed and joked extensively about previous flying experiences, the rigors of commuting to work by air and their own shortcomings as aviators.

There was hardly any discussion, until the last few minutes, about the conditions of the flight they were operating. Immediately after completing required checklists, the pilots resumed extraneous discussions.

Icing was on the crew's mind approaching Buffalo in snow and mist. Starting four minutes before the crash, and just before rushing through the descent checklist, the crew talked about dramatic buildup of ice around the windshield. "Oh yeah, it's full of ice," the co-pilot said. The captain replied, "that's the most I've seen . . . in a long time." But instead of discussing their situation and agreeing on a plan of action in case of an emergency, the crew immediately switched to discussing personal anecdotes regarding icing.

Co-pilot Shaw, is quoted on the transcript reminiscing about how little experience she had with ice during her early training flying in the Southwest U.S. "I had more actual time (experiencing icing) on my first day" with Colgan "than I did in the 1,600 (flight) hours I had when I came here," she said, according to the transcript.

The co-pilot, who had been hired by Colgan less than a year before, went on to say: "I really wouldn't mind going through a winter in the Northeast before I have to upgrade to captain."

The training and behavior of the pilot and first officer in the crash, the worst in U.S. air crash in more than seven years, were prominent on the agenda of an unusual three-day safety hearing that started Tuesday.

For the journalists, industry officials and relatives of victims packed into the NTSB's auditorium, the transcripts of what the crew said -- and how distracted they appeared to be -- provided the most chilling part of the hearing.

As the plane neared Buffalo and descended to below 2,300 feet, things deteriorated quickly for the crew. According to documents released at the hearing, the crew leveled off the aircraft and set the engines to idle in what seemed like a normal approach. Within three seconds after the landing gear went down, however, the engines were revved to maximum power.

It took only a total of about 20 seconds until the crew received a stall warning, the autopilot disconnected and the plane lost lift, rolled and slammed into the ground.

While the broad outlines of the last few minutes of the flight had been reported earlier, the first day of the hearing provided more information about the crew's actions in the cockpit. The data confirmed earlier reports that Capt. Renslow continued to pull back on the controls to raise the plane's nose during the entire seven seconds that the so-called stick-shaker was warning the crew about an impending stall. The normal reaction to such a warning is to lower the nose in order to gain speed.

Just after the cockpit microphone picked up the sounds of the engines increasing to full power, Capt Renslow exclaimed: "Jesus Christ."

Ms. Shaw, for her part, began doing what she could to save the plane. "I put the flaps up," she said. Eight seconds later, she asked the captain, "should the gear up?"

Capt. Renslow replied: "Gear up. Oh (expletive)."

From there, the cockpit microphone picked up an increase in noise from outside the plane.

Less than a second before impact, Capt. Renslow said: "We're down," followed by the sound of a thump.

The last words on the recording were those of Ms. Shaw. "We're (sound of scream).

The National Transportation Safety Board was holding hearings on safety issues that have arisen during its investigation a mere three months after the crash, rather than waiting the year or more that such investigations typically take to complete. A second hearing will be conducted when the investigation is complete.

Colgan Air, which operated the Continental Connection flight, said Monday that the plane's captain was fully qualified and had "all the training and experience" required to safely fly the twin-engine turboprop.

A spokesman for Colgan, a unit of Pinnacle Airlines Corp., also released information to counter assertions that an overly demanding work schedule may have impaired the captain's judgment.

Marvin Renslow, who was flying the plane that crashed had a "light enough schedule" the three previous days to provide "ample time for rest," according to the statement. Colgan said Capt. Renslow had "nearly 22 consecutive hours of time off before he reported for duty" the day of the accident, nearly three times the mandatory minimum rest period.

People close to the probe said Capt. Renslow had flunked numerous check rides as part of his training. A Wall Street Journal article on Monday reported that investigators believe that during the flight, which departed from Newark, N.J., he may have reacted in an improper way because he hadn't been adequately trained to use emergency equipment intended to prevent the Bombardier Q400 from going into a deadly stall.

In the wake of the crash, Colgan faces heightened regulatory scrutiny, including investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration, of potential crew-scheduling violations. Since the accident, FAA officials overseeing Colgan have issued at least 16 letters of investigation questioning the carrier's compliance with flight-time and duty-time regulations, according to people familiar with the details. The inquiries cover the period from November 2008 to March 2009.

Colgan spokesman Joe Williams has said the FAA is examining unusual instances when "pilots legally flew beyond daily, weekly or monthly" mandatory limits, but said, "We don't expect any enforcement actions."