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DETROIT – LOTS OF MUSIC TO BE PLAYED, LOTS OF MONEY TO BE MADE PART ONE

dennis

April 4th, 2015

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DETROIT – LOTS OF MUSIC TO BE PLAYED, LOTS OF MONEY TO BE MADE PART ONE
What was Detroit like in the 60’s? Detroit was and still is one of the best music places in the world. When I told Berry Gordy he was the first person to recognize the value of the musical talent here in Detroit, he said to me, “I couldn’t have started Motown in any other city but Detroit because of the musical talent that was here”. Detroit still has plenty of great talent and some of the best audiences in the world.
The first time I made money as a musician in the Detroit area was in a band called “The Pyramids”. Val Gursky played accordion and electric piano, Bob Gursky played drums, Mike Murtza played tenor saxophone, and I played guitar. I was 16 and auditioned for that band. We played in teen clubs every Friday night and weddings every Saturday night. We didn’t have a bass player because even though the Fender Precision bass had been out since 1951, no one in the Detroit area had one and teenage upright bass players were hard to find. Bob Babbitt was the first upright bass player to get one in this area in the late fifties. I quit my job as a cashier at Wrigley’s Supermarket in Detroit making $15 dollars a week and began making $15 dollars a night playing music. Life was good!

Orin and Dennis in the Pyramids

Orin Rosenblatt and Dennis Coffey

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received an honorable discharge from the army in 1961 after two years of service including a stint as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. My last assignment was at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I had been playing in service clubs and doing recording sessions at night while still in the army. One of the groups I recorded with was Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs who just had a big hit with the song “Stay”. I recorded with other artists in South Carolina and had an artist deal under the name Clark Summit. Colpix Records released a single on me under that name called “Holding Hands”. They said no one could get a hit record with the name Dennis Coffey.

Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs

Maurice Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I got back to Detroit, I began looking for a job playing in a band. I got a call from a friend of mine Marcus Terry, a drummer who told me his band was looking for a guitar player to work six nights a week. I auditioned and got the job at the Wayne Show Bar in Wayne, Michigan. I had only been out of the army two weeks. I was with that band for a year when I got another call. This time it was from George Katsakis, the leader of The Royaltones. They needed a guitar player to join the group and work with them at The Scenic Inn down river. George played saxophone, Greg Popoff played drums, Mike Popoff played Keyboards, and I played guitar. Here is a video of me playing with the Royaltones followed by me playing with the Volumes.

Ace Records release of the Royaltones

The Royaltones

 

One day the Popoff twins left the band and George decided to hire Bob Babbitt on bass, Marcus Terry on drums, and Dave Sandy on sax and vocals. We all sang and I did the arrangements. Dave Sandy was a great lead singer and George sang with a high voice that sounded like Frankie Valle of the Four Seasons. We now had two saxophones and sang songs by The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys in five part harmony. Bob Babbitt even played trumpet and bass at the same time giving us three horns on some songs. We worked hard. We played at The Scenic In, Harold’s Club, The Dixie Bell, The Club Cliché, Ted’s Ten High, and The West Fort Tavern in Metro Detroit. We also recorded for Harry Balk and his Twirl label. Harry used Bob Babbitt and me on demo sessions and recordings by The Volumes and The Young Sisters. He also used the Royaltones on records by Del Shannon. We stayed busy for three years but we started to wear out our welcome in the clubs in the Metro Detroit area so we auditioned for a club on the Jersey Shore called Somer’s Point on our way to New York City for a recording session. We were hired and played there the entire summer. The Royaltones disbanded at the end of the summer and we all went back to Detroit.

The Volumes in the sixties

The Volumes

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Dennis Coffey