The latest publication of a Dave Kaspersin CD gattering some recording of his period with The Tempests/ Ghosts (see critic) made me want to know more about on the soul of the band that was to record « Rockin’ Rochester USA », one of last jolt of the US Rock ‘N’ Roll before the breaker of the British bands. The story starts like this.
When Dave’s grand-father emigrated from Norway to America, he englicized his name, Kaspersin to Casperson to blend into the American soil easier. Dave was then born Casperson on the fourth of June 1942 in Rochester, state of New York, not to far from Ontario Lake, half way between Syracuse and Niagara Falls. Since he thought the spelling of his grand-father’s last name was more appealing, he decided to legally change his last name back to Kaspersin in 1987. His name is now Dave Kaspersin.
Dave doesn’t find any motivation whatsoever in school and he
thinks he’s not too good looking and it’s a guitar that he decides to start
playing in the early 50’s that makes him high.
Gene Cornish, future member of the Young Rascals will play an indirect role in their adventure. He wants to make it and his family is wealthy and Dave hates him. One day when the Echo-Trons are playing at a music stand in a Rochester park, and they have played their sets twice, they notice in the crowd a band, Gene Cornish and the Satellites, that are laughing straight at them. So, as mad as he can get, Dave asks the rest of the band to follow his musical lead on the guitar and he walked to the mic and improvised a song. That’s when the Echo-Trons became a vocal band, engaging Mike Buzz Cawardine and Nancy Crosier to vocals. They pick up a red outfit for they scene look. If often happens to sing with the Doo-Wop on their shows. They prepare in 1958, without any recordings.
Dave then formed the Rainbows, he still plays two guitars, Ramona DeRycke ( who will soon began his first wife) plays the rhythm guitar, Bob Miller at the sax and Bill Derycke (to check on his sister?) playing the piano. The band doesn’t last, it too, only lasts two years, without any recording.
In 1960, Dave puts a new group together called the Tempests, because they play like a tropical storm, all of them wearing red outfits on stage and red spot lights directed on the stage: Dave Kaspersin (rhythm and solo guitar, vocals), Ken Stewart (rhythm and solo guitar and vocals, will pass away on July 8th 2003), aka Paul Kenny, Jim Herney (bass). They have a hard time finding a drummer and tries a couple out before they picked Jim Collins, born on August 16th 1939 in Rochester. They rehearse in the Casperson’ basement until the day where Dave’s dad can’t stand it anymore.
They will move into a banquet bal room of a bowling club where they also get thrown out. Since Stewart works in a very roomy garage, that’s where they end up crashing. Which is fine with them because of all the echo. Their musical influences? Only the best: Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley. Dave also uses an hawaïan guitar because Berry plays it on one of his songs “Deep Feelings”! He loves the Del-Vikings and the Gladiolas.
They then go through what every local band goes through to get some exposure: school dances, proms, radio stations, bars (when they are legal), service stations, pizzeria openings, weddings, frat parties. At one of the parties at Cornell Univerity, they get to meet one of their idols, Bo Diddley, Dave owns all his albums.
Little after they started playing
together, they read in the local paper an article that says it’s just too bad
that no songs were even written about Rochester. Mad after this comment, Dave,
Ken and Kim then started to work on it and came up with “Rockin’ Rochester
USA”, a piece that doesn’t demean it’s title, far from it, real Rock’N’Roll and
punctuated with a couple screams, anachronisms in the middle of a nice Twist
period. Ken Stewart handles the vocals. They decide to record it and compose
for the B-side another savage instrumental rockin’ surf, “Lemon Lime”.
At the time, there is only two recording studios in Rochester. They picked Lifetime, Les Osband’s studio that also owns the musical publishing business Cora Lee, because it’s in the basement of the of an old building in Downtown Rochester, on corner of streets North and Andrews, when the other one is in a simple house. Only when the recording was finished that they discovered that Les also owns a record label of the same name than the studio, on which he proposed to him to release a single with the two songs on it. Even if Les thinks “Lemon Lime” will be a hit, only 250 duplicates will be pressed and a lot of them to be given out promotionally. Dave saw one on Ebay a couple years ago sold for 1.200$. They will not record anything else. What a shame.
At this time he’s seriously thinking about a musical career, hoping that this particular journalist will write an article about them. (Unfortunately for them, there wasn’t any Rock’N’Roll Revue in Rochester!), that their single will be recorded in radio and that they will become superstars… Nothing happens. They took a disc to Nick Nickson and Joe Dean, both of them radio station anchors in Rochester on WBBF. They both tell them that they’re nuts and that nobody will ever want to play those on the air. They don’t lose faith and they make their way to WKBW, Buffalo where Jack Kelly, the host listens to the single and loves it. He plays the single quite often and interviews them live. He gave them a contract, they are now playing all over Buffalo and Canada. They are on TV on the Jack Friel show. Nothing came out of this, again.
The years go by and the Tempests settle for their local reputation. It allows them to get hired , in 1965, as the head band of a local night club called Mapleleaf New York on Ridge road, the biggest in town. They play there 4 nights a week and then their ego blows up a little because of the long line ups in front of the club but the sacred flame is quite shaky after two years. It seams to them it’s too much like a dull job : same place, same songs, same crowd one night after the other.
We are in 1968. Jim Collins’ eyes can’t stand all the smoke in the air at the Maple Leaf and he has do put drops in to protect them. One night he put too much in and the liquid is running down his cheeks. When the Tempests end up on the stage, the UV light make his face look green where the drops leaked. The next night, the band rename themselves to Casper & Ghosts, from the sweet ghost in the comic book invented in 19339, and later the TV show in 1945. The members of the band, then formed with Dave Casperson (guitar and vocals), Lee Tatlock (guitare and vocals), Jim Collins (drums), Berry Clemens (base and vocals) each put the drops in every night before the shows on their faces, their arms, their hands and thanks to the UV lights they look green. Just another proof that hard rock bands didn’t invent anything on that matter. They keep playing the Maple Leaf, their songs, the ones from the Top 40, “The Hump” by the Invictas or “What’d I Say” by Johnny B Goode.
They split up when Gloria, Tatlock’s wife, asks him to quit. Of course the club has Go-Go dancers for the mood and they share their locker with them, which doesn’t particularly please their wives, especially Gloria who literally gets in a fight with one of the dancers. She will then transform her husbands guitar into a flower bed put isn’t going to get away with it; they will divorce.
Later, Dave puts together Main Object with Jim Collins who will end up doing Country music and will reconvert to lottery machines, but without conviction and still plays the Maple Leaf for about a year. Later on, he buys back Lifetime and build his own studio, Dynamic around 1974. He now own a label , Dynamic, driven by his wife Jackie and has produced over 300 albums for different artists in the last 10 years. He recorded a single and lately release the single mentioned in the beginning of the article on his own label.
Ken Stuart follows into the music business under the name of California Troubadour. Lee Tatlock puts back a band together with his son. Jim Herney leaves for California and abandons the world of music, working for a bicycle distribution company. His son Steve puts the Rockits together that, of course, play the “Rockin’ Rochester USA” and have released a single, Award SH 1001 “Cruisin’ All Nite” – “Two Timin’ Baby” – “Stood Up” in 1988.
Bernard USB Boyat
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Rockin' Rochester USA and Lemon Lime on "Karrousel Of Love" are live TKs.
If you are looking for the original
"Lifetime Records" Recording of Rockin' Rochester USA and Lemon Lime
they can be purchased here: