CASE FILE # 6
BLUE ASH by Mark Hershberger
SEVENTIES CLASSIC GUITAR BAND BLUE ASH formed in 1969 when Frank Secich and Jim Kendzor were kicked out of high school because they refused to cut their hair. Already having had the idea to form the band, Frank and Jim used their ousting from school as an opportunity to practice daily. That is was months before their parents found out they had been booted out of school is our good fortune. By the time the school followed up on their suspension the band was well established. The original line up was Frank Secich(bass guitar, vocals), Jim Kendzor (lead vocals, guitar), Bill Yendrek (lead guitar) and David Evans (drummer). Their name came about after seeing a road sign outside of Cincinnati, Ohio pointing the way to a small town called Blue Ash. The name struck them as unusual so they made it their own. Lead guitarist, Bill Yendrek, quit the band within a year and was replaced by high school friend Bill Bartolin. by 1970, Blue Ash was busy playing clubs, dances, and "anyplace that would have them" between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
photo by Darla Bartolin
From their first moments they churned out enormous amounts of original material and thoughts soon turned to demos and a record contract. Before they made it into the studio Bob Mack (of Bob Mack Productions, he discovered Tommy James) approached the band with a song he wanted them to record and offered to take them to Philadelphia'a Sigma Sound Studio. They agreed and cut "We'll Live Tomorrow", a tribute to Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix (tribute songs were big at the time). Only one vinyl single was pressed, the first Blue Ash single ever, and Frank Secich is still the proud owner of it today. While recording the song, Wilson Pickett stopped by to listen and commented "Not bad for white boys!" After this experience the band wanted to record their own music. They entered Peppermint Studios in Youngstown, Ohio and proceeded to record "tons of demos" which they shopped to various labels. They were eventually signed to Mercury Records through a great stroke of luck. Paul Nelson, a Mercury exec had an appointment with a man from Warren, Ohio who was pushing his own band's demo tape. During the meeting the man glanced down at a box of demos in Nelson's office, and commented on the top tape labeled Blue Ash. "I've seen that band band and they're incredible! They kick ass!" The man's endorsement prompted Nelson to play the tape and resulted in his signing Blue Ash.
Pictured below in 1973 are left to right: Frank Secich, Jim Kendzor, Bill Bartolin, Paul Nelson and David Evans
photo by Geoff Jones
In putting together the first album No More, No Less Nelson recommended their version of the Beatles"Anytime At All" be included and he also introduced the band to a demo of " Dusty Old Fairgrounds" by Bob Dylan. (Nelson and Dylan were old college pals) The then unreleased song was arranged for the band by Bill Bartolin and debuted on the album with Dylan's blessing. (Note: "Dusty Old Fairgrounds" appears onthe Sony/Rhino compilation I Shall be Unreleased.........The Songs Of Bob Dylan, making it the only Blue Ash appearance in the CD format.No More, No Less ('73) spawned three singles."Abracadabra" b/w "Dusty Old Fairgrounds", "I RememberA Time" b/w "Plain To See" and "Anytime At All" b/w"She's So Nice." (Note: "She's So Nice" wasn't on the first album, it was a track recorded for the never-to-be-released second Mercury album). No More, No Less was not a major success, selling a total of19,500 copies of the 20,000 pressed. It sold well throughout the Blue Ash local area but did little regionally or nationally. Album sales were hurt by lack of advertising funds and distribution support from Mercury. It really was a simple case of being on a good label at a bad time. Mercury had four projects ready to go-new albums by Rod Stewart, Bachman,Turner, Overdrive, The New York Dolls and Blue Ash. Stewart was at the top of the funding list, followed closely by BTO. When it came down to choosing between The Dolls and Blue Ash for the remaining funds Mercury chose the New York market over the Youngstown, Ohio market, and logically speaking, who could blame them.Blue Ash received very little ad and distribution support and the album sales bore this out.
The band continued to tour regionally ( opening for such acts as Bob Seger, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and Raspberries) and to write. Soon they reentered Peppermint Studios to record a second album for Mercury. Mercury execs, however, were split on whether or not to proceed with another album. Although the vote was only four to three, the combination of slow record sales and the band's reluctance to play the NY club scene when Mercury pushed them to do so, spelled the end of their association with the label.Around this time, original drummer David Evans quit the group and was replaced by one of Blue Ash's roadies, Jeff Rozniata. Jeff drummed for various bands in his early days including Mother Goose (which included Stiv Bators). The band also hooked up with Steve Friedman who began negotiating with PlayboyRecords for a new Blue Ash album (Front Page News would become one of the first rock and roll albums on Playboy). Because Rozniata was so new to the band, Playboy refused to pay for his transportation to the recording studio, opting to send only the three original members. Resultingly, Front Page News was recorded using session drummers. The first half of the album was recorded in Miami's Criteria Studios and the second half at Los Angeles's Village Recorders Studio. Frank, Jim, and Bill agree that Front Page News as originally written and recorded, was a very good rock record. The problems with the album occured after the band finished recording and turned the masters over to Playboy. photo by Geoff Jones
Unbeknownst to Blue Ash, Playboy attempted to make the band sound more like the Bee Gees" and brought in Mike Lewis (string and horn arrangements for K.C. and the Sunshine Band) to add horns, keyboards, and strings to the master. Just days prior to the scheduled release of the record band members received advance copies and were outraged at what Playboy had turned the record into. Bill Bartolin was so upset that he quit the band temporarily. Jim Kendzor had told then president of Playboy Records, Tommy Takioshi, that " if they released that version, he was not touring...it would make the band look stupid." Finally, Frank Secich blew a fuse and read the riot act to Takioshi. In the end, Playboy re-mixed the masters, toning down the embellishments added by Lewis, Though the record ended up sounding very different than Blue Ash intended, it was significantly better than the first re-mixed version from Playboy. Some songs including "The Boy Won't Listen" and "Rock and Roll Millionaire" turned out fairly well.Front Page News was released in 1977 and the single"Look At You Now" did very well reaching #1 in some markets. In fact, the single did so well in Texas that Playboy Records was going to give the band $25,000 to tour the state. The album, overall, did much better than No More, No Less selling a total of 55,000 copies. Just before plans were solidified for the tour of Texas, Playboy international pulled the plug on Playboy Records leaving Blue Ash, once again, without a recording company or a deal.
The band continued to tour regionally, added keyboard player Brian Wingrove and, in 1978, returned to Peppermint Studios to begin recording again. The tracks from these sessions, like those for the second Mercury album, remain unreleased to this day.With disco still hanging on and the new wave/punk uprising gaining momentum, Blue Ash called it a career in 1979. It wasn't an actual band decision to pack it in, they just sort of slowly fizzled as the members started concentrating more on day jobs and less on music. After Blue Ash, Bill Bartolin left the business and works for General Motors. Jim Kendzor also left the music business and is a union carpenter. David Evans, the original drummer, works in real estate in Florida. Frank Secich continued playing and producing for a while ( he spent three years with the StivBators/Dead Boys band, a short stint with Club Wow-which included Jimmy Zero of the Dead Boys, and worked as a producer/songwriter/studio musician for power pop band The Infidels). Today, Frank makes his living in the insurance business.
Special thanks to Bill Bartolin, Jim Kendzor and Frank Secich of Blue Ash for their time and a huge thanks to subscriber Mike Orwell, honorary Pop Detective, for his assistance in locating the band!Reprinted with permissionCopyright 1996, 1997 Audities and the author, all rights reserved
MORE ABOUT BLUE ASH
Pop Culture Press Interview and Reviewby Kent BenjaminHttp://popculturepress.com/blueash.htm
Ohio On Line-Frank Secich Interview by Peanutshttp://www.ohioonline.com/2004/nov04/music.phtml
Blue Ash At Isound
Has a free mp3 of an acoustic demo called "The Goodie Wagon"
Blue Ash Review From UNCUT Magazine UK
Blue Ash At "Lost In The Grooves"
Blue Ash Pop 45 From 1974
Blue Ash Article In German Magazine "Oldies-Markt"
Blue Ash Review In Pstereo From Norway
Cool Cleveland Review Of "Around Again"
YOUNGSTOWN'S ROCK & ROLL PHOTOS
YOUNGSTOWN'S ROCK & ROLL PHOTO'S
This site has great old photos of album and 45 covers and newspaper ads from classic Northeast Ohio bands such as the Human Beinz, Glass Harp, Blue Ash, Left End, LAW, Holes In The Road.....and many, many others
photo by Geoff Jones
Verden's Beste Powerpop?
Norwegian To English Translation
by Ole from Mike Orwell
World's Best Powerpop?
Blue Ash got together in 1970 and spent three years on an intensive concert tour before their debut record came out in 1973. A debut, as in my ears, stands like the strongest in history, at the same time one of the best, if not the best, powerpop record ever. No, not the best, but top ten, of course! In my opinion, this record came out too early to be defined as powerpop because, if you think about it, the category was not invented at this time. But then you have this thing about categories where a spade is a spade no matter how you look at it and this is powerpop in a classic performance despite the category not even being invented.
OK, I know I have offended a lot of the readers now and maybe I have done it on purpose because don't I forget Raspberries, a big star, and Badfinger and a whole lot of other bands? No, I don't. For me these guys have always been straight pop. When I think about powerpop, I compare this sound to the punk rock influence on the pop harmony inheritance from the 60's. And this definition you can link to the period of 1977 to 1982. Blue Ash is not necessarily far from bands like Big Star and Co., but the band is falling more naturally into the category with it's energetic follower.
Maybe you can look at this record as a connection between these periods.
How can I then call Blue Ash powerpop? Inspiration from punk rock is impossible despite the fact that you include bands which many people said started punk rock. The musical influence these bands could have had would just turn into an experimental sound so far from the harmony you could have. But, I think that the gold old rock and roll from the 70's has done a lot for Blue Ash. From a strange situation Blue Ash was able to put together the same sound picture as the powerpop generation. Listen with your rock and roll ears and you will find . . .
I don't know how I can explain myself better but I stand for what I am saying.
What can this record offer? Yes, I can tell you. Here you find something as seldom as a good collection of powerpop pearls. It's no secret that you usually find only one or two hits on most powerpop records. One after another they tumble over you with the sound of guitar playing, both electric and acoustic. This is love in uncomplicated form. Maybe the text tries to tell you something else but who is able to absorb that or understand that when you get so happy. The band was able to make only two albums. The name of the second record was "Front Page News" and it came out in 1977, but it's this one you want if you are looking for powerpop. The music critics were nice to Blue Ash. The public was not. You cannot buy much bread and milk with good reviews. There have been a few reunion concerts through the years but I doubt that you need more than one hand to count them. I think you also can play with your father's circular saw without losing the count. But, with a little curiosity I can mention that bass player Frank Secich is playing on Stiv Bators' legendary "Disconnected" from 1980.
As you probably understand by now, this record has a lot of qualities which should secure the golden wings in rock and roll sky, but that's not where it belongs. It deserves to live. It keeps itself fresh and good even today. This is not only one of the best records that has been sailing under the powerpop flag, but because of the clear old rock and roll vibes it gives a special particular sound which is also refreshing and calming. This is one of my absolute favorites and they deserve a special place in each and everyone's respectable collection.
A Greg Shaw Tribute, Blue Ash Rarities........and an International Tribute To Stiv Bators
photo by Theresa Kereakes Frank Secich, Stiv Bators and Greg Shaw at the "It's Cold Outside" recording session in Hollywood April of 1979
THE GREG SHAW TRIBUTE.......Two members of Blue Ash (Bill Bartolin and Frank Secich) will be appearing on a cut for the upcoming tribute to Greg Shaw on Bomp Records. The song they recorded is a cover of "Him Or Me....What's It Gonna Be?" by Paul Revere and the Raiders. Also, featured on the track are Ohio musicians: Jimmy Zero (Dead Boys), George Cabaniss (Color Me Gone, Hammer Damage Band), Billy Sullivan (Raspberries reunion band), John Koury and Pete Drivere (Infidels), Dave Swanson (Rainy Day Saints) and veteran Canadian, David "Quinton" Steinberg of (Stiv Bators Band and Mods). The tribute album to Greg is novel in it's approach in that it will be comprised of Greg's favorite songs done by some of his favorite artists. It's tentatively scheduled for release late this year or early 2007.
Planet Of The Popboomerang Vol. 2
Blue Ash have 2 never-before-released cuts "She Cried For 15 Years" and "Say Goodbye" on an Australian compilation called "Planet Of The Popboomerang 2". It's a 2cd set that features American power pop artists on one disc and on the other, artists from all over the world. You can check out samples at: www.popboomerang.com
Frank Secich will be appearing as a solo artist on an upcoming tribute to Stiv Bators out of Italy. The tribute is called "I'm Not Just Anyone.....A Portrait Of Stiv" Frank's song is called "The Stiv Bators Ghost Tour". Artists from around the world have contributed covers of Dead Boys, Wanderers, Lords Of The New Church and Stiv Bators Band songs.
LXT_VS_DECADENZA ON..."I'm Not Just Anyone......A Portrait Of Stiv"LXT Will Be Proud To Annouce The Track List Of The Compilation
photo by Theresa Kereakes
American Heartbreak - Calling On You
Stevie Klasson's Fat Chance - Don't Worry Children
Nikki Sudden - Not That Way Anymore
The Dead Dogs - A Gun Called Justice
Snatches of Pink - Dance With me
Neil Leyton - Lord's Prayer
Hundred Million Martians - I'll Be Alright
Land$lide Ladie$ - Method To My Madness
Lucky Sperms Club - Evil Boy
Adam Bomb - I Wanna Forget You (Just The Way You Are)
Sparkling Bombs - I Won't Look Back
Latexxx Teens feat. Killo&LN1 - Ain't It Fun
Steve Scarlet - Never Believed
Mr.Nasty - Black Girl / White Girl
The Throbs - Sonic Reducer ( live )
Frank Secich - The Stiv Bators Ghost Tour (unreleased track)