From the Land of Band Box Records

Tom Shannon and His Many Rebels

You need a road map to navigate this little tale….

Shannon in Buffalo

Tom Shannon – a young and upcoming DJ in Buffalo, New York would get his start in the north New York city on radio A.M. station WXRA in 1955. (Some where along the way Tom did a brief stint in Denver, Colorado as a DJ. – In 1972, Shannon came to Denver, Colorado where he would host a television program titled  “Afternoon at the Movies with Tom Shannon” at KWGN-TV.  He would also work at KLZ and KHOW radio – and would finally return in 1975 to Detroit at CKLW.

In about 1957 he would switch over to Buffalo station WKBW teaming up with jocks with names like “The Hound Dog”, the “Clock Watcher”, “KB Cook” and the “Spotlight Serenade” – Tom came at just the right time with the station changing it’s format over to strictly rock and roll.

It wouldn’t be long before Shannon, with his relaxed and cool demeanor, would become a leading DJ favorite with the teens all along the East Coast states.   The ‘rock jocks’ at WKBW would include some iconic figures such as Jack Kelly and Dick Biondi.

Every boss jock worth his salt must have a theme song and Tom Shannon had (in my opinion) one of the best!

You would think that the ‘story’ behind a single tune would be an easy one to tell – but not always.

The instrumental that would become known as “Wild Weekend” was co-written by Tom Shannon during his time at WKBW along with a radio industry associate, Phil Todaro.  Together they approached a Buffalo-area group called the “Russ Hallet Trio”.  The trio came out of Binghampton – members being Russ Hallett, Aldo Brozzetti and Jack Sinchaski.

Nomads Business Card

The trio had started off as “Russ and the Rockets” and then “The Nomads” before becoming the “Trio”,

Shannon and the trio would come into contact with one another when Hallet and company were in a local studio with the intention of cutting some tracks.  Tom was impressed and so approached them about creating a little jingle for his radio show.  The ditty was included lyrics and would become to be known around Buffalo as “The Tom Shannon Radio Show Theme”.  The song was apparently composed by Russ and company but would be credited from then on by Shannon and Todaro.

The Hallet Trio would often accompany Shannon to his area teen hop to provide rock and roll dance music.  Then during the evening, would always play the Shannon theme song which the teenagers loved.

During Tom’s radio show – the jingle would be played about very half-hour.

Then one day, Shannon would meet up with a young group of Buffalo musicians who were calling themselves “The Rebels”. Shannon believed they had some hit potential and so came into the studio with Tom with the intention of recording their own version of the Royal Teen’s “Short Shorts”.

During that studio session, the Rebels started playing Tom’s radio theme song – having worked it out previously and had been performing it at local dances.  Tom liked what he heard and so “Wild Weekend” was born.  The song would be released on the small Buffalo “Marlee” label.

Wild Weekend on the Charts

“Wild Weekend” in 1959 would enjoy some local success and earned the Rebels an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.  The forever young Clark suggested that the group change their name to the “Buffalo Rebels” due to the national presence of Duane Eddy’s “Rebels” who in reality were a bunch of session musicians.

The Original Rebels from Lackawanna’s Baker-Victory High School

In 1960, “Wild Weekend” on Marlee would chart on more than a dozen radio stations from Buffalo to Rochester, Newark, Boston, Minneapolis and many Canadian stations.  “Wild Weekend” on it’s first pass reached number 3 in Toronto and number 7 in Buffalo.

“Wild Weekend” Number 3 in Toronto June 13th, 1960

“Wild Weekend” Number 14 Wilmington May 1st, 1960

Swan Records Comes A Callin’ – Second Life for “Wild Weekend”

It was not long after their TV debut that Shannon and this group of Rebels embarked on separate paths, not before releasing a few additional singles and yes – they took Clark up on his suggestion – how could you not?

After a while the Rebels decided to call it quits – not realizing any income from their recordings and Shannon would enter the U.S. Army.  While private Shannon was marching and doing KP, “Wild Weekend” continued to live on via fellow DJ Jerry O’Brien who was using the song once again for his theme in Syracuse in 1962.

The “Rebels” aka “The Jestures”

A Swan Records’ executive heard the song and approached O’Brien.  This led Swan to locate Tom Shannon at Fort Dix, New Jersey where he secured permission to lease the track for release on Swan.

The “Rebels” or “Buffalo Rebels” would this time be named “The Rockin’ Rebels”.  “Wild Weekend” would take off nationally in late 1962 – peaking in 1963 at number 8.

Swan needed a follow up hit of course – but there was a problem – the original “Rebels” were no longer – They had, in fact, turned their direction toward jazz.

Hot Toddy’s/Jesters/Kathy Lynn & the Playboys

Enter the “Hot Toddy’s”.

This group started off in the late 1950’s as “Big John Little and His Hot Toddy’s.

Big John Little And The Hot Toddies

Big John and the Toddy’s

In 1959 the group released a song called “Rockin’ Crickets”. By the Hot Toddys the song would go to number 57 on Billboard.  That song came out on Shannon and Todaro’s “Shan-Todd” label.  Tom and Phil remembered how the song was very similar to the “Rockin’ Rebel’s” sound and so released the same song again on Swan as a Rebel release.

This one charted at number 87 – a fair achievement – not spectacular.  So with Shannon thinking about a complete Rockin’ Rebels long play, more material was needed.

For this project a group called “The Jesters” would be used to round out the LP. The Jesters (or Fabulous Jesters) were actually the band behind the flip side of Swan’s Rockin’ Crickets – “Hully Gully Rock”.  As “Rebels” they would be the group behind two additional Rebel releases: Swan 4140 “Happy Popcorn” b/w “Another Wild Weekend” and Swan 4161 “Monday Morning” b/w “Flibbity Jibbit”.

The Jesters were Tony DeMarra, Lee Carrol, Kenny Mills, Eddie Jay, Roy Gage, Junior Shank and Lee Markish.  The picture sleeve below from the Netherlands is actually The Jesters – with Carroll, Markish, Jay and Mills being shown.

The Buffalo, New York group’s origins was from a band called “Bill Lehman & The Rock-Itts” and then “Billy Lehman and the Penn-Men” before three members morphed into the Jesters.

Neither would dent the charts.  That was about it for the Rockin’ Rebels.  There would be one more halfhearted attempt at a hit when Swan would reissue “Wild Weekend” in 1966.  But the golden ago of rock and roll instrumentals had moved on.  Interestingly, the flip side of this one “Donkey Twine” was credited to the Rockin’ Rebels but in fact was yet another group Kathy Lynn & the Playboys who took a former Rebel song “Donkey Walk” (released on Marlee M0095 in August of 1960) and converted it to “Donkey Twine”

Image result for kathy lynn and the playboys

Kathy and Playboys

Kathy Lynn and the Playboys, from Buffalo as well,  had three single releases with Swan from March of 1964 into 1965.  Lead singer Lynn Terry went on to record one single for Rust Records in the summer of 1966 and then one final record on Detroit’s La Salle label in the fall of 1967.

Lynn (real name Kathleen Mary Keppen) and or the Playboys would also record as “The Antiques”, “The Buena Vistas”, and “The LaSalles.

So the original Rebels had turned to jazz and would become “The Sophistikats”, the Toddy’s lived on to perform but little in the way of recordings – Kathy Lynn and the Playboys continued with some performing success appearing with the Ronettes, The Dave Clark Five, Santo and Johnny, Freddy Cannon, and Tony Orlando.  Their career would culminate with a recording on Motown’s V.I.P. label in 1966 – the first white group to be featured on that label.

Russ Hallet and his friends faded into memory as did the Jesters  and the Hot Toddy’s.

Tom Shannon retired from broadcasting in 2005.

Selected Wild Weekend Related Discography

LP – Swan 509 – “Wild Weekend” – Released 1962 – Charted Number 53 in 1963 – Reissue Cover also shown with the Jesters depicted

45 – Prime 1 HB 315 – Rock Around The Horn/Take It Easy Greasy – Released 1958

(This group would have members forming “The Jesters” who would record on Swan as “The Rockin’ Rebels”)

45 – Arp 13 – Lollie/Black Derby – Released 1959

(This group would have members forming “The Jesters” who would record on Swan as “The Rockin’ Rebels”)

45 – Shan-Todd 0056 – Rockin’ Crickets b/w Shakin’ and Stompin’ – Charted Number 57 – March, 1959

45 – Corsican 56 – Rockin’ Crickets b/w Shakin’ and Stompin’ – Released May, 1959

45 – ARP 14 – First Sign of Love/Audrey – Released May, 1959

(This group would have members forming “The Jesters” who would record on Swan as “The Rockin’ Rebels”)

45 – Marlee 94 – Wild Weekend/Wild Weekend Cha Cha  – Released late 1959

45 – Strand 25011 – Nan-Je-Di/Hoe Down – Released February, 1960

45 – Marlee 0095 – Donkey Walk/Buffalo Blues – Released August, 1960

45 – Madison M127 – Be-Bop-A-Lula/Locket Out – Released February, 1960

45 – Marlee 0096 – Theme From The Rebel/Anyway You Want Me – Released March, 1961

45 – Swan 4125 – Wild Weekend/Wild Weekend Cha Cha – Charted Number 8 – Released November, 1962

45 – Swan 4140 – Rockin’ Crickets/Hully Gully Rock – Charted Number 87 – Released March, 1963

(This is the Hot Toddy’s on the “A” Side and The Jesters on Hully Gully Rock)

45 – Swank 4150 – Happy Popcorn/Another Wild Weekend – Released 1963

(This is a group called “The Jesters”)

45 – Swan 4161 – Monday Morning/Flibbity Jibbit – Released October, 1963

(This a group called “The Jesters”)

45 – Casino 1306 – Wild Weekend/Wild Weekend Cha Cha – Released 1963

(This label seems to have drawn heavily on Swan’s roster – with Dicky Doo and the Don’ts, and Billy and Lillie all being featured)

45 – Swan 4175 – Rock City/Rockin’ Red River – Released March, 1964

(The Playboys recorded “Donkey Twine” as the “Rockin’ Rebels”

45 – Stork STK-3 – Bongo Blue Beat/Burn Baby Burn – Released August, 1964

(This is the group called “The Jesters”)

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