Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Most Decisive Moment in Rock History - 50 Years Ago

The Most Decisive Moment in Rock History - 50 Years Down the Crossroads

If ever there was a moment in time when music was at a crossroads, it was 28 August 1965, 50 years ago, when Bob Dylan “went electric,” what Time Magazine called “the most decisive moment in rock history,” and things still haven’t been the same.

The myths and legends that have been spun around Dylan meeting Levon and the Hawks, the whole electric thing, the Basement Tapes, Woodstock, the Band, the Last Waltz and the trials and tribulations are now all part of our cultural history.

Sometimes the myths are written in stone, even though they only contain some semblance of the truth, such as the historical marker in Toronto, Canada that marks the location of where Friar’s Tavern once stood, and officially propagates the fact that this was the spot where on Thursday, September 16, 1965, Bob Dylan met and first played with Levon and the Hawks, who would become The Band.

Jana Shea, at Newsworks, writes: “It was 50 years ago (yes, ‘your road is rapidly agin’….’) that Dylan, who had rose to fame as a folk music singer-songwriter, plugged in and released ‘Bringing It All Back Home.” After playing the 1965 Newport Folk Festival with (gasp! Boo!) an electrified sound, he went in search of a back-up band for his next tour. Legend has it that Dylan discovered the group that would become The Band…in Somers Point during one of their regular summer gigs at Tony Marts nightclub. Whether the connection occurred at the Jersey Shore (as festival organizers boast) or earlier at Friar’s Tavern in Toronto, Canada (per nearly everyone else), the result was Bob Dylan and The Band hit the road together and forever changed rock music.” 

Toronto reporter and historian John Goddard makes the case for Dylan meeting the Hawks in Toronto, where they were from and did play often, and maybe did practice with Dylan in September 1965 before embarking on their “world tour,” but despite the historical marker and protests from Goddard and Shea, Dylan did not meet the Hawks for the first time in Toronto on September 16, 1965. 

How can that be true if two of the Hawks – drummer Levon Helm and guitarist Robbie Robertson performed with Dylan at Forest Hills, New York on August 28, 1965, as they most certainly did in the concert that is pointed to as “the most decisive moment in rock history.” 

Then one of Dylan’s numerous biographers, poo poos the idea that Dylan called Levon and the Hawks at Tony Marts in Somers Point, NJ and asked them to join him without having seen or played with them before, which is exactly what Levon Helm told me and recounts in his autobiography “This Wheels On Fire.” 

Who are we to believe – an unauthorized biographer writing without the cooperation of those who he is writing about? Or Levon Helm, one of the principle characters in the story? 

And it is a certified fact that Levon and the Hawks were playing on a nightly basis from late June until mid-August 1965 as the house band at Tony Marts in Somers Point and were booked and contracted to play three sets a night until Labor Day, but were let out of their contract in order to play with Dylan at Forest Hills.  

 Tony Mart's 1965

Tony mart's 1965, Levon and the Hawks, The Female Beatles

The myths that have grown up around Dylan and the Hawks are legendary, but the real truth is a matter of public record – and part of the story that I try to recount in the serialized blog The Summer of ’65 Revisited [that is being posted at http://summerof1965.blogspot.com], which details the Hawks at the Point and the most accurate account of how Dylan came to meet them. 

After writing and recording “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan wanted a rock band to play with and his manager Albert Grossman’s Secretary Mary Martin, from Toronto, recommended the Hawks, as did John Hammond, Jr., who had previously met the Hawks on the road and in Toronto. Grossman tracked down the Hawks at Tony Marts through their Canadian booking agent Colonel Harold Kutlets, and Dylan called them there and talked on the phone with Levon Helm, who didn’t know who Dylan was. Then Levon, Robertson and maybe Garth Hudson drove to New York City and met Dylan for the first time at Grossman’s office. 

After playing Tony Marts for the last time, Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson played with Dylan at the famous concert at Forest Hills, NY, and then the rest of the Hawks backed Dylan on his tour that included Austin, Texas and the UK. 

Read Reviews of the Forest Hills Show: 

Peter S. Brown -  http://blog.peterstonebrown.com/bob-dylan-at-forest-hills-40-years-later/

Robert Shelton - New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/books/97/05/04/reviews/dylan-unruly.html

Al Kooper -  http://www.villagevoice.com/music/50-years-after-dylan-played-forest-hills-al-kooper-recalls-1965s-electric-summer-7544760

My continuing serial blog “The Summer of 1965 Revisited” [ http://summerof1965.blogspot.com ]  also recalls the conversion of Conway Twitty, who also played Tony Marts that summer, and successfully converted from a rock and roll star to country music, another pertinent change in direction that altered the history of music in America. 

Conway Twitty’s official web site biography says: “After eight years of playing sock hops and dance clubs, Twitty heard the ticking of an internal clock that seemed to guide all the major decisions in his life. One night on a stage in Summer's Point, New Jersey, Twitty looked out at a room full of people he didn't know. With a wife and three kids at home, he realized his days of providing background music for sweaty teens were over. Twitty put down his guitar, walked off the stage and embarked on one of the greatest country careers in history. Signed by legendary producer Owen Bradley to MCA/Decca in 1965, Twitty released several singles before 1968's "Next In Line" became his first country No. 1. And thus began a run unmatched in music history. Twitty reeled off 50 consecutive No. 1 hits.”

Most myths and legends are passed on by vocal tradition and you can tell that this version of Conway Twitty’s career that talks about “Summer’s Point,” spells Somers Point the way someone who hears it, and probably heard it from the horse’s mouth – Conway Twitty himself. 

As for how Bob Dylan met the Hawks, some of the participants are still alive - Dylan, John Hammond, Jr., Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson are all alive and Mary Martin should be, so maybe someone should ask them how it all went down.

In the meantime, to commemorate the union of Dylan and the Hawks - Jeff Schwachter and friends are putting on a Dylan Fest show this Friday, August 28 (7:30pm) at the Dante Theater - 14 N. Mississippi Avenue, in Atlantic City, the marvelous music hall now owned by Stockton University, presenting a concert of the songs that Dylan and the Hawks performed at that time as well as some of the songs that made Tony Marts nightclub one of the most famous clubs on the East Coast.

Dante Theater Dylan Fest:

DYLAN FEST is a musical tribute to Bob Dylan (and Levon & the Hawks) on the 50th anniversary of Dylan releasing the groundbreaking record “Like a Rolling Stone,” a pair of classic albums and, most importantly, “going electric,” which has fascinating and historic connections to the Atlantic City area. Mirroring the Dylan/Hawks shows of 50 years ago, this show features the acoustic stylings of Philadelphia native singer/songwriter Peter Stone Brown, rounded out by a plugged in, electrified salute by the region’s best Dylan tribute band, the 5 Believers! 

This event pays homage on the 50th anniversary of Dylan “going electric” and mystifying audiences with the first electric/acoustic folk-rock show of its kind. In 1965, Dylan chose members of Levon & the Hawks (featuring the late Levon Helm, and which would later become The Band) after discovering them during their  summer-long residency just 15 minutes outside of AC in a Somers Point, NJ nightclub called Tony Mart’s.  

Dylan would eventually recruit the entire Hawks group for his game-changing and historic world tour (in late 1965-1966), as documented in the PBS Martin Scorsese-directed documentary No Direction Home and the official Columbia Records Bootleg Series releases.

South Jersey resident Jeff Schwachter has been studying, performing, painting — and writing about — the music of Bob Dylan for more than a quarter century. In recent years, his band 5 Believers has begun paying tribute to Dylan with several special and well-received shows and events in the Atlantic City/Philadelphia area. Schwachter, former editor of Atlantic City Weekly, also wrote the nationally award-winning piece “Somers Point ’65,” which tells the inside story of how Dylan wound up finding his electric band at the Jersey Shore and ultimately changing the course of modern rock forever and helping the Hawks become The Band.

For more information visit DYLAN FEST AC  

Follow this event on Facebook - Dylan Fest AC

Levon & The Hawks

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bob Dylan and the Hawks

The Long Cool Summer of '65 Revisited - Act II Episode # - Bob Dylan and the Hawks


Few events in the half-century history of rock & roll are considered more significant than when Bob Dylan plugged in his guitar, went electric and began playing with the Hawks.

How Dylan came to meet the Hawks has been a matter of much scrutiny and uncertainty, and there has been a lot of myth making around the legends as they grew over the years.

The most popular accounts have Dylan discovering the Hawks while on vacation in Atlantic City, or some variation of that, but after much diligent research this is the most likely account of what really happened.

By the end of June '65, Dylan's song “Mr. Tambourine Man,” as recorded by the Byrds, was Number One on the pop charts and one of the songs that the hippies at Shriver's Pavilion  on the Ocean City Boardwalk would play on their guitars and sing, with someone playing a bongo drum and inevitably a tambourine would chime in.

The Byrds were a new California band who took the song, as it was written by Bob Dylan, and gave it a rocky twist, and make the song the first and the only song Dylan would write to make it Number One on the popular music charts.

Dylan wrote the song the previous winter of 1964 during a cross country road trip he made with some buddies. He was already the epitome of all things folk, pretege of  Woody Gunthrie, leader of political protests, playing with Joan Baez at the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech, and was the darling of the folk crowd and the “conscience of his generation.”

But Dylan had recently been booed by a liberal white audience when he accepted the Tom Paine Award and gave a drunken, rambling speech in which he showed sympathy for President Kennedy's assassin. With a new album in the can, a small college tour to back it, his relationship with girlfriend on the rocks, it was time to get out of Dodge.- “Get while the getten's good,” as someone in his crowd said, making Dylan stop to think if there's a song in that cleche.

On the cross country, coast to coast road trip from New York City to San Fran, they stopped at every record shop on the way – in Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington and Washington D.C,. to buy every copy of his new record they could get their hands on, one of which was given to Carl Sanberg, who they dropped in to visit unexpectedly, and found the old man at home on his farm and a bit perplexed by this young man knocking on his door and handing him a record. Sandberg just didn't get it, but was polite about not acknowledging it.

The itinerary of this road trip included stopping to sing for some Freedom Riders, who were northern white liberal college kids trying to convince black people in the South to register and vote, some of whom were being killed by the local red necks.

Then it was on to New Orleans, where they visited some clubs in the French Quarter and found a young hippie singing Dylan's songs. Then they stopped at Dealey Plasa in Dallas where President Kennedy was killed before moving on to Vegas and San Francisco.

Well it was sometime during that road trip that Dylan wrote “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a song he said was about Bruce Langhorne, a folk music session percussionist who had a large Turkish drum that was lined with bells that sounded like a tambourine, an instrument Langhorne said he bought in a Village pawn shop.

Dylan recorded the song in a Hollywood studio while he was in California, and a demo copy of the first recording of the song was shared with the Byrd's manager, who convinced them to record it as one of the first of the songs they would do in what was to become known as new genera of music they called soft-rock, and they did it complete with drums, guitars and all kinds of new electronic gimics they were coming up with. The “Mr. Tambourine Man” recording session actually included only two members of the Byrds, formerly The Jet Setters, including David Crosby, and studio session men who would become known as The Wrecking Crew.

The Byrd's version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” was released first, and hit the pop charts like a bullet, and it quickly got Dylan's attention, in fact it blew him away, not only because of the sound, but the fact that a lot of people liked it – it helped bring folk music into the popular mainstream, and made everybody a lot of money.

Back in New York City, Dylan retreated to his Village apartment and was inspired to write not just another song, but another song that would change music as we know it, society as it was and the world in ways that are not yet done.

When Dylan finished writing the last lyrics and notes to “Like A Rolling Stone” he knew he had a hot hit on his hands, and made a quick mono tape recording of it, and then took the tape and his guitar Uptown to the office of his manager Albert Grossman. Grossman was busy with another client, John Hammond, Jr., but Dylan and Hammond were friends too. Hammond's father, John Hammond, Sr., had signed Dylan to Columbia Records, as he had previously signed Billie Holiday and would someday sign the kid from Asbury Park who had yet to come down the Pike and wasn't yet the boss.

Dylan excitedly told Grossman and Hammond that he wrote a new song, and he wanted them to hear it. Dylan was going to play the tape he had just made but instead he spread the half typed and some hand scrawled words out on paper on the coffee table in front of him, picked up the guitar and began to strum and sing, “Once upon a time, you dressed so fine,......”

Grossman and Hammond had the same reaction to the song as Dylan himself, they knew it was a hit, but they also knew the ugly inner workings and blood, sausage and guts of the entertainment industry and were aware that even the best songs can fall by the wayside if not done logistically correct, and there was no particular way to do it, they just had to get all the ducks in order to make that song a hit.

Then Dylan mentioned the Byrd's version of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and how neat it sounded with the drums, guitars, keys and all that reverb shit, and that's how “Like A Rolling Stone”:had to be produced, not as an acoustic folk song.

And Grossman agreed, and he seldom agreed with anybody, as he was known to be one of the toughest and most ostentatious entertainment managers on the planet, at least in New York City. He even disagreed with the contract Hammond, Sr. had given Dylan and made him re-write it.

While Hammond, Jr. was a rich white boy who loved and played really good black blues songs, he got the rock and roll thing too, and Grossman started going through his massive Rolodex they began throwing out names of rock and roll bands who could possibly play “Like A Rolling Stone,” and tour with Dylan to back the song and the next album that they knew could revolutionize music as it was known at the time.

“Dion broke with the Belmonts,” Grossman said dryly, “and we have this new group out of Chicago, “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is looking for work,.....” and Hammond threw out the names of some of the groups he knew might fill the bill, but then a squeaky, uncertain girls voice spoke up and interrupted them.

“Excuse me Mr. Grossman but,” Grossman's secretary hesitated, “but, but I know a really good band – the Hawks.”

Receptionist-secretary Mary Martin had been sitting there fielding phone calls while taking it in, and if they want a rock & roll band, well she really did know a good one – the Hawks.

Originally from Canada, Martin went to school in Ontario and caught the Hawks on numerous occasions.

“I saw the Hawks play back home and they're really the best band I have ever seen or heard, even here in New York,” Martin said.

“That's a pretty good endorsement,” Hammond spoke up, “and I'll vouch for them too; I met the Hawks on the road down south playing with Rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins, a real rout y road bunch, but solid musicians.

Grossman looked at Dylan, and Dylan looked at Mary Martin and John Hammond, Jr. and asked, “Where can we find the Hawks?”

“Put in a call to Colonel Kudlets in Ontario,” Grossman said to Martin, and without having to look in his Rolodex, barked out the address and phone number from memory – That's Harold Kudlets, Suite 824 Sheraton-Connauqht Hotel, Hamilton, Ontario – 522-0900.”

Grossman talked to Kudlets directly, one on one, mano to mano, they were two of a kind, and dealt on an equal basis even though Grossman was much higher on the entertainment totem pole since he was in Manhattan, the center of entertainment power, and Kudlets was in Ontario, a third world market in the entertainment universe.

Few words were exchanged, and when Grossman put down the phone he said, “The Hawks are playing a nightclub in Somers Point, New Jersey called Tony Marts, and their booked until Labor Day, and Kudlets said the contract is good but they can be bought out of it if the money was there.

It's at this point in the proceedings where things get a little foggy, as some accounts suggest that Dylan, with Hammond, Jr. immediately drove down the Garden State Parkway to Somers Point (Exit 30) to check out the Hawks at Tony Marts.

If they did they didn't call ahead or announce the fact, and at the door paid the $2 cover to Sonny McCullough, the guy behind the cash register at the door who took the tickets and cover charge, they got a beer from Dick Squires at the Triangle Bar, or Dooby at the Round Bar, and stood back against the wall and just took the whole scene in, giving the Hawks close scrutiny.

If Dylan did come to Somers Point he didn't say hello to the Hawks or Tony Marotta, or tell anybody who he was, and he wasn't recognized, but its entirely likely that he did check out a performance by the Hawks before he tended them an offer, which he did one afternoon over the phone.

Now back to more solid historical footing, as recounted by Levon, one day while they were rehearsing or sitting around their dressing room on the second floor of Tony Marts, they got a phone call, probably to the pay phone in the hall, and Levon took the call.

Dylan identified himself and asked Levon if he and the Hawks wanted to play with him at Carnegie Hall.

Levon was perplexed, he held the phone away from him and told the other guys sitting around that it was Bob Dylan.

“Whose Bob Dylan?” Levon asked, and Richard leaned over and whispered in his ear, “wrote Mr. Tambourine Man,” and Levon nodded and went back on the line and asked, “Who else is on the bill?” he asked.

“Just us,” Dylan replied, as Levon incredulously considered them selling out Carnegie Hall as something that just wasn't possible.

But Dylan was serious, and talked Levon into coming to New York City to see him, and the following Monday while the Hangover League played ball, Levon, Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson drove up to New York City, possibly with Conway Twitty, who had business in New York at the same time.

While Twitty was signing a new record contract with a Country Music Lable, the three Hawks visited Dylan at Grossman's office where they introduced themselves to Mary Martin, the receptionist, who in turn introduced them to Dylan, sitting on the couch in the adjacent lounge.

When Grossman came out of his office, they all sat down around a reel to reel tape recorder and when they were ready he turned it on and played the studio recording of “Like A Rolling Stone,” that Dylan had made a few days earlier, mainly with the Butterfield Blues Band and Al Kooper and some studio guys who just happened to be there at the time.

Levon, Robbie and Garth listened, and at the end of the song, they all sat back speechless for a few seconds, until Dylan spoke up enthusiastically, “Do you want to play that?” he asked.

That they did, but there was a problem, you see, they were under contract to play at Tony Marts until Labor Day, but Dylan said he needed them, and needed them Now, as he was booked to play Forest Hills, a tennis area being used for folk shows, on August 28, a little over a week away.

Impossible, they said, as Tony Marotta was a tough nut, and they liked him like a father and couldn't and wouldn't break the contract with him.

Grossman spoke up for the first time saying, “We'll double what they're paying you for the week and we'll contract you for the year, and pay you even if you don't play.”

Levon looked at Robbie who looked at Garth and they all were just dumbfounded.

“Well, we'll see what we can do about the Tony Marts gig and get back to you soon Mr. Dylan,” Levon said shaking his hand, as Robertson and Garth got up without saying anything and they all left wondering what was going to happened now.

The ride back down the Parkway was a quiet one, they kept the radio off and just though about what was going down, what could go down, and what would go down, and all of the various possibilities.

Going with Dylan, someone spoke up along the ride, was not like backing Ronnie Hawkins, as Hawkins was stuck in the rut off the old Chitlin' Circuit, while Dylan was on his way up, playing arenas, not nightclubs and roadhouses, and his song was Number One on the pop charts at that moment, and they just heard a new song that was going to go somewhere, and they just felt they had to be a part of that trip, where ever it went, and go along for the ride.

But how would they explain that to Rick and Richard and most of all Mr. Mart, Anthony Marotta, who had taken them off the road, given them a steady job and made them feel at home?

They couldn't and wouldn't screw him no matter what.

When they got back to Bay Avenue Somers Point they asked for Rick and Richard and Wordman, cleaning up the joint, told them that they were across the street at Coach's Corner, a little out door grill where they often ate and hung out during the day.

After talking with Rick and Richard, Levon went back to Tony Marts, and walked through the front door as he did the first day he arrived, went through the dark club, now just getting ready to open, and out the back door, past the canyon of beer cases and kegs and knocked on Tony's office door.

Sitting across from Tony in his office was a bit unnerving, especially given what Levon was about to tell Tony, and he got what he expected.

Tony got up from his chair saying, “You want to leave me before the BIGGEST weekend of the SUMMER!, You Bums,” and Levon shifted back in his chair, as Tony's voice shifted and went from deep, dark and husky to a softer tone, and the acknowledgment that, “but it's a good opportunity for you boys." The Hawks had been good to him, so Tony sat down again and picked up the phone and said, “If Colonel Kudlets has a band that can fill your shoes for Labor Day weekend you can walk, you can go dance with Bob Dylan or anybody, but Kudlets has to come through.”

And Kudlets did come through with a band that was acceptable to Tony – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, whose hit song, “Devil With The Blue Dress” was on the charts and making like a bullet.

Then Tony did what he seldom does, he threw a farewell party for the Hawks, something he had only done once previously, for Len Carey and the Crackerjacks. Len Carey was a protege of Spike Jones, and brought his New Orleans schtick to Tony Marts, complete with beads and crackerjacks, while Spike Jones is mentioned in “Up on Cripple Creek.”

Since Conway's birthday was coming up soon, on September 1st, but he too was leaving Tony Marts, his contract was up the week before Labor Day, so the farewell party was going to be a double whammy – goodbye, so long, farewell to both Conway Twitty and the Hawks, and planning a fine Somers Point send off was in the works.

{This is an episode of The Long Cool Summer of '65 Revisited – Act II – A Work In Progress)

Image result for the Hawks 1965

Colonel Harold Kudlets - The Man Behind the Hawks and Conway Twitty


By Bo Berglind

One of the unsung heros of rockabilly is Harold Kudlets as without him this vibrant form of music would have had a much tougher time getting established north of the American border. It is open to speculation but the career of quite a few of those who we regard to today as originators may well have taken a different course without the business courage and backing of Harold. One wonders if Conway Twitty would have written "It's Only Make Believe". But of course this is academic as it did happen and here's the story of how and why.

Glasgow-born Kudlets has lived in Hamilton, Ontario, since he was eight and schooldays bring back memories of the old Cannon and Hess Street School and Westdale Collegiate. Then came a number of jobs, mostly in his own, in the promotion business. In fact, the only time he has worked for anyone else was after Second World War when he went to Stelco for a spell, a job about which he commented:
-I think I was more a hindrance there then a help.

Steloc was otherwise known as The Steel Company of Canada and was one of the nartion's major employers. However like allsteel manufactuers the world over, it has now contracted in size.

Anyway, he got his start in 1946 as a manager of the Forum, the old Hamilton, Ontario ice palace on Barton Street between Sanford Avenue and Wentworth Street when it was a summer rolling rink. The Forum had an audience capacity of between 3,500 and 4,000 but was demolished in the mid seventies.

In July 1947 Harold booked the original Glenn Miller Orchestra with Tex Beneke. Kudlets also had his own act, a colored piano team known as "Mr. And Mrs. 88". That was the time when the issuing of liquor licenses to restaurants heralded the start of the bar industry:

-I think The Grange on King Street West was our first. You could only buy a drink if you ordered a meal. Beers cost 75 cents and an all-you-could-eat smorgasbord cost you 99 cents.

Kudlets went on to book acts like Tommy Dorsey, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Jack Teagarden, Bobby Hackett and The Jack Benny Show in places like the Flamingo Lounge, the Golden Bell, the Armouries and the Forum.

-I remember when Louis Armstrong opened the Dundas Arena for me in May 1951. I though I was going to be a good promoter, and limit the crowd to about 3,500. Of course, by 8 oíclock, the tickets were all sold out, and there were thousands of people outside. Well, hell, they got in anyway.

Dundas was atown near Hamilton and had a population in excess of 20,000 people.

Harold Kudlets was the man to find work for starving musicians, he had them working for 40 to 50 weeks a year. Over 125 musicians have cause to be grateful to Harold. When interviewed in 1965 he said:

-There ís only a handful of agents who are honourable in this business. The business is built on honesty. A crook may gain some profit in the short run, but an honest man will make more profit for himself and others in the long run.

In the late 1950s Kudlets got the chance to book Conway Twitty (aka Harold Jenkins) a southern boy who patterned his tyle after Elvis Presley. Twitty wrote his song "It's Only Make Believe" at the long-gone Flamingo Lounge in downtown Hamilton, although some other sources have the location as Fischer Hotel in the same town. Conway was so impressed that he painted a picture of Canada as the promised land to another Arkansas rockabilly wildman, Ronnie Hawkins:

-Conway was booked into a hotel in Washington and after the third day, the club threw him out. He was not right for the room. Don Seat asked if I could keep Conway working for a few weeks until they got the contract sorted out. He stayed with me for two years and never had a day off.
-He never counted the money he made. Heíd just point to the pile and said: "Take your share". To be honest, I donít know whether to could or not

-Conway's group was entirely different to that of Levon (Helms) and The Hawks. Conway's group were all typical country boys. They were gentlemen all the way, particularly with women. Whereas Levon and his boys just give them a party.

Kudlets first brought Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks to Canada via Hamilton. Hawkins made the pilgrimage to Canada with his backup band the Hawks to the Golden Rail Tavern in 1958 and found a new home. In return, Hawkins and his Hawks nicknamed Kudlets The Colonel.

But there is one accomplishment of which Kudlets is more proud and this is his help in establishing Levon And The Hawks.. This is course the legenday Canadian outfit although initailly fronted by Levon Helm from Arkanas, who went from backing Ronnie Hawkins to backing Bob Dylan and then onto ensconcing themselves as one of the premier rock groups known as The Band.

-Says Kudlets at his Robinson Avenue bungalow: I was the one who started them, and I was the one who was there when it ended for a while.
Harold ws the guy who Levon Helm and Rick Danko approached when they became disenchanted with Hawkins:

-I had my office those days at the Royal Connaught Hotel. One day, Levon and the boys were sitting in the lobby waiting for me at 9 o'clock in the morning. And I thought, what gives? These guys did not usually go to bed until 9 a.m. in the morning.

During the course of their meeting, Kudlets agreed to take on Levon And The Hawks as a client. About a year later, he booked them for a New Jersey gig and someone from Bob Dylan's office heard them. Dylan gave Helm a call and hired the group as his backing band as he moved from acoustic to electric music.

In his heyday as a booking agent he had his office on the eighth floor of the Royal Connaught Hotel in downtown Hamilton. Behind the door bearing the lettering "Harold Kudlets Agency" was a room stacked with piles of promotion material, newspaper clippings and a desk full of contracts. This was the heart and nerve centre of Kudlets business empire. In the office were photos of the stars of the day along with busts of Chopin and Beethoveen. He was constantly on the look out for new acts with the end result that he had several that were the equal to any others on the Canadian entertainment scene. Among them were Ray Smith & His Rockin' Little Angels (ex-Sun/Judd artist) and Matt Lucas, both from the mid south of the USA.

In the mid sixties, Kudlet had a ready market for Canadian groups in the USA but getting them there was another thing. This was a source of constant irritation to him. Despite this,the majority of his acts in the sixties were Canadian, a fact about which he was and ishe was very proud:

-We can get an American group over here at almost ten minutesí notice. Canadian immigration bends over backwards to help. But it takes from three to ten weeks to get a Canadian group into the US. There are mountains of red tape.

Any group than can make it in Canada can make it anywhere. Stateside, most of the clubs have dancing and audiences only want to hear the beat. But here, here, there is very little dancing. Entertainment is the thing. As a result, the groups have to work very hard. They have to entertain.

Kudlets later had his business tentacles stretching throughout the United States and he became the booker for the Freemont Hotel in Las Vegas, the Golden Club in Reno, the Trophy Room in Sacramento, the A-Go-Go Room in Seattle and the chain of Peppermint Lounges in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Miami and Honolulu. He said the key to being a successful agent was putting the right group in the right room.
These New York agents, they could not care less. If the room called for classical music, they would send a rock band. Finally, the owners got so burned that when an agent came along whom they could trust, they would stick with him.

At one time, I was the one of the largest independent agents world wide. I am very proud of that. And about 95 per cent of the acts I booked were Canadian. It was a feather in my cap of being a little Canadian agent, and being with the big boys.

When disco became the rage in the mid-sevties, Kudlets found his livelihood diminishing as clubs looked for dick jockeys instead of musicians ans o went into a period of semi hibernation. However he came back into business in 1983 to help book the reformed Band, but retired again when his wife Pauline fell ill. Sadly, she passed away in April 1994.

Today, Harold wistfully says:

I am old enough to collect my pension - but if I had the opportunity to go back to the entertainment scene, I would jump at it. To leave the business cold, you just cannot do it.

If that is not possible, perhaps Harold will set about writing his memoirs, it will be a fascinating tale that is for sure. For now, thanks are due to Harold for his share in the founding of the music we all know and love, rock 'n' roll.

dik.de.heer@hetnet.nl(Supplied to TIMS by Tony Wilkinson)

These pages were saved from "This Is My Story" for reference usage only. Please note that these pages were not originally published or written by BlackCat Rockabilly Europe. 

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The man who brought rock ‘n’ roll to Canada
Whitby columnist tells the Harold Kudlets story

Whitby This Week

In music management folklore of the ‘50s and ‘60s, Colonel Tom Parker managed Elvis Presley. Brian Epstein managed The Beatles. Pioneer agent and promoter Harold Kudlets had the wide open musical territory of Southern Ontario, resulting in the American invasion of rock ‘n’ roll into Canada.
Kudlets was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1916. When he was eight, his family moved to Hamilton, Ontario.

In 1946, he started out in the promotion business, when he became manager of the Forum Palace in Hamilton.

In 1947, Kudlets booked the Glenn Miller Orchestra with Ted Beneke as leader. From there on, he signed major big band and jazz acts like Tommy Dorsey, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Bobby Hackett, to name a few.

By the late 1950s, rock ‘n’ roll was in full bloom. Kudlets, through his Harold Kudlets Agency, booked singer Conway Twitty at the Flamingo Lounge in downtown Hamilton. This resulted in great success for both. The song, It’s Only Make Believe (1958), was composed by Twitty with his drummer Jack Vance during a short performance break. It was an enormous hit record that instantly established Twitty as a major recording star.

Twitty was very appreciative of Canada, so much so that he spread the word about Harold Kudlets to fellow rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins from Arkansas. With his backup band The Hawks, Hawkins traveled north to the land of opportunity, guided by the free hand of Kudlets, who wasted no time in arranging a stint for them at the Golden Rail at Diamond Jim’s. Shortly after, Kudlets took Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks to New York and had them sign a contract with Roulette Records.

Another notable milestone in the career of Kudlets was when he helped organize and manage Levon (Helm) and The Hawks (The Stones That I Throw - 1965). The group morphed into The Band and the famous Music From Big Pink (1968) album, after having served as backup band for Bob Dylan.
Singer Matt Lucas also benefited from Kudlets. Lucas’s biggest hit was a radical, rocking cover of Hank Snow’s I’m Moving On (1963).

When I recently spoke to Matt Lucas he said, “I talked to my old friend Harold Kudlets yesterday. He was the man who brought rock ‘n’ roll to Canada. Yes, he brought all of us to Canada when there was no rock ‘n’ roll in Canada. He is still sharp as a tack and turned 97 on November 9th, 2013.”
Lucas quipped, “I’ve got a pretty good memory also as I remember his office phone number from 55 years ago, JA 20-900!”

Kudlets, who still lives in Hamilton, retired in the mid-80s. During a brief phone conversation with him I sensed a yearning for the past. He now has the accolades and warm memories of a fantastic career.

-- Andrew Merey is a Whitby resident who’s interested in music and movie history. He has contributed articles to This Week since 2003. You can reach him at amerey@rogers.com .


MAHONEY: Book ’em Harold — oh, he did

Hamilton Spectator
By Jeff Mahoney 

Many of the big names he represented are gone, too often before their time. Sadly, that's sometimes the flip side of tall candles; short wicks and high flames that burn fast.

But Harold Kudlets, impresario extraordinaire, is alive and well (as they used to say of Jacques Brel) and living in Shalom Village, where his cheesecake is legendary.

At 98, you're going to outlast a lot of people. Still, Harold wishes people like Conway Twitty (he died at 60) and some of the "boys" he helped bring along — you know them as The Band — hadn't left quite so soon.

Often with creativity, says Harold, come oversized energies and money blindness. "The alcohol and the drugs," says Harold. "They (some of his clients) would go through money. It's an attitude that the picnic will never end. Levon Helm (drummer for The Band) would tip five people before he ever got to his hotel room."

He sometimes had to send airline tickets to fairly well-known acts because they'd blown through fortunes.

"Do you like cheesecake?" Harold asks me, in his handsome apartment with the memorabilia and the numerous pictures and articles mounted on the wall, chronicling a career that began in 1947.

That's when he found himself booking the Glenn Miller band into the old Barton Street roller rink, which he managed for an owner who "won it in a card game, I think." (Before that, he'd run a short-lived hamburger joint on the beach that got eclipsed by another you might have heard of, Hutch's.)
"A couple of gentlemen came in to the rink one day with these big window cards for the band and told me the promoter had quit; would I like to take over the contract?" says Harold. He had no idea then where his answer, yes, would take him. All over the world.

On the wall there's a picture of Harold in New York City in the early 1980s with Bob Dylan and Levon Helm. He either represented or booked everyone from Jack Benny ("great man, not cheap at all like he made out"), Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Harry James, to Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, Bill Haley and the Comets, Billie Holiday, Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead (but no, not Jacques Brel).

He booked Frank Sinatra into the Barton roller rink, but then got served a cease-and-desist order from the Mutual Street Arena in Toronto, whose contract with Old Blue Eyes stipulated no one could book him within 10 days, either side, or 50 miles, any direction, of his performance there. Otherwise he could've added the "Chairman of the Board" to his roster.

"I love cheesecake," I tell Harold.

"I'll keep a piece for you. I'm making some for Passover," says Harold, who remembers his mother finding an apartment in the east end in the 1920s, after they'd arrived from Glasgow (where he was born); neighbours took up a petition to keep the Jewish family out.

Times have changed, but Harold remembers it all.

If he remembers, Harold is in turn remembered, probably best for representing Conway Twitty and The Band. He was celebrated in 2006 with lifetime achievement honours at the Hamilton Music Awards.

"I got a call. A club owner in Washington cancelled Conway's contract and could I help by booking him in Hamilton?" Harold remembers.

"I booked him for $375 and it changed both our lives. He was held over and he ended up living in Hamilton for a time. It's where he wrote "It's Only Make Believe," which went on to make millions."
Harold built on that rockabilly strength with his next act, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks.

"They were such a show group," says Harold. "Ronnie did back flips and somersaults and his camel walk (precursor to Michael Jackson's Moonwalk)."

Harold pulls more yarn from the endless spool of his memory. I listen, along with Harold's friend, Jim Kennelly.

"Oh, I had some novelty acts too — a one-legged tap dancer; Tiny Grimes, who played the piano with his feet, from a bench high over the keyboard." And, of course, Chesty Morgan.

Jim shakes his head, smiling. He's heard so many of the stories, before but there's always something new.

"You've really gotta try his cheesecake," says Jim.


DEO: Legendary promoter Harold Kudlets

The Spec's Jeff Mahoney sits down with Harold Kudlets, former show promoter for the Royal Connaught


John Rennison,The Hamilton Spectator

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bill Kelly's first novel - The Long Cool Summer of '65 Revisited

The Long Cool Summer of '65 Revisited  - Bill Kelly's first novel is light summer fiction, set in America's Greatest Family Resort in its most sinful hey days, where Easy Rider meets American Graffiti and collides with A Confederacy of Dunces.

"Awesome read" - Greg Gregory

"Great stuff!" - Publisher Rob Huberman

"Wow, sure brings back memories. Keep them coming. Your painting pictures and tickling memories and making us all feel younger. Thanks, Your summer friend from the summer of '69"
- Marks Connally

"Great, with an outstanding reminisce of the old school of life, from Somers Point all the way down. The entertainment in that era was astounding, the Jersey Shore produced so much talent that it later was recognized as the capitol of music in America. Good job, Bill, once again you have demonstrated what a great journalist/writer you are without a doubt..." - Joe Amato - Baltimore, Md. 

Legal Disclaimer

This is a novel work of historical fiction. The events described actually occurred and most of the characters are real, though a few are composites based on people known to the author. Any similarity to any persons living or dead is intentional.

Any name spellings, typos and errata will be corrected by contacting the author at  billkelly3@gmail.com

Libel threats and civil suits can be directed to Murphy's Law TomMurphy@murphyslaw.com 

Waiting on the Angels - The Long Cool Summer of '65 Revisited -

Act I - Episode 1 - Summer of '65: Summer of '65 Revisited - Part 1

Episode 2 - Prologue - Summer of '65: Prologue - Episode 2 The Murder of Harry Anglemeyer

Episode 3 - Summer of '65: Episode 3 - The Beach and Boardwalk

Episode 4 - Summer of '65: Episode 4 - Hitting the Point

Episode 5 - Summer of '65: Episode 5 - The Bikers' Threaten to Return

Episode 6 - Summer of '65: Episode 6 - The Hangover League Plays Ball

Episode 7 - Summer of '65: Episode 7 - The Contingency Plan Unfolds

Episode 8 - Summer of '65: Episode 8 - Infiltrating Bay Shore

Episode 9 - Summer of '65: Episode 9 - The Hawks Check In

Episode 10 - Summer of '65: Episode 10 - The Hawks Kick In at Tony Marts

Episode 11 - Summer of '65: Episode 11 - The Chatterbox - Ninth Street Scene and Seaview Party

Episode 12 - Summer of '65: Episode 12 Conway Returns to Tony Marts and the Second Coming of Tito Mambo

Episode 13 - Summer of '65: Episode 13 - The Sin Cities of the East - The Media Gets Wind of the Story

Episode 14 - Summer of '65: Episode 14 - Flashback - Opening Bay Shores for the Season

Act II - Waiting on the Angels - The Long Cool Summer of '65 Plays Out

Episode One - The KYW TV Crew Comes to Town
Summer of '65

Episode 2 – Flashback – Bayshore's Manager Jack Murray and Elwood Kirkman discuss the status of the Anglemeyer murder case.

Episode 3 – The Movies, Songs and Soundtrack of the Long Cool Summer of '65

Episode 4 – The Old Salt, Jiggs, Freddie Prinz, Danny Davis, the Hippies and other assorted Boardwalk Characters profiled

Episode 5 – The Ocean City Council Meeting in which the beaches are closed at night and music is banned on the beach and boardwalk.

Episode 6 – The Dark Side of the Sin Cities – Judge Helfant's Midnight Kangaroo Court, Dirty Deals Gone Bad and the Anglemeyer Trials and Tribulations.

Episode 7 – Mary Martin, the Secretary who Changed the World, Dylan Checks out the Hawks and Phones In.

Episode 8 – The Real Stories Behind the Lyrics, Trips to Camden and Nazareth with Wordman.

Episode 9 – The Princess Returns to her Roots.

Episode 10 – Conway Twitty, Levon and Robbie Go to the City – The Hangover League Resumes Play

Episode 11 – The Barbarians Unite – California 99 Percenters Take Labor Day Cross Country Run from West Coast to Ocean City. - Billy Bader Sent In Undercover

Episode 12 – The Hawks Check Out Early – Tony Throws them a Party


ACT III – The Grand Finale – Riot and All Hell Breaks Loosse

Episode 1 – Operation Barbarians Meet – Thursday before Labor Day Weekend – LBJ Phones In.

Episode 2 – Friday of Labor Day Weekend – Mitch Rider and the Devil with the Blue Dress Hit the Point -

Episode 3 – Saturday – Tido Mambo Walks on Water at 9th Street Beach – Causes Commotion.

Episode 4 – Sunday – The 99 Percenters – “We are the New Barbarians” Arrive – Tido Mambo, the Hippies and Pete Carroll and Carroll Brothers commit civil disobedience by playing music on the beach and get arrested.

Episode 5 – Monday – Labor Day – When OCPD Attempts to Enforce No-Muisc Law a Riot Erupts and All Hell Breaks Loose.

AFTERMATH – The Day After – Jack Murray Closes and Locks Bay Shores for the Season.

What Became of? - List of Characters, in the order of their appear.