Spoon & The House Rockers
Spoon & the House Rockers, blues/soul band - Legacy Award
BMHOF Class of 2014
This profile is excerpted from the book “Don’t Bother Knockin’ … This Town’s a Rockin’: A History of traditional rhythm and blues & Early Rock ‘n’ Roll in Buffalo, New York” by Patti Meyer Lee and Gary Lee. The excerpt is printed with the authors’ permission; the book, published in 2000, is available from Amazon as of this writing.
In the 1970’s the name Houserockers was applied to a hot band fronted by “Spoon” a.k.a. Elmore Weatherspoon, with some of the finest players in town backing him. They surfaced in a club on Elmwood Avenue around 1972.
Ernie Corallo, lead guitarist of the group, recalled:
There was this man named George who was a bartender at this place on Elmwood. I used to hang out there. It was called Sundays. Brad Gray (drummer) came in and we put a blues band together. We got Spoon and Joe Giarrano. We asked the owner if we could do something and he said, ‘sure, Sunday afternoons.’ We went over to Spoon’s house and he remembered me cause I used to go see him play (when I was younger). So fIound him, and his wife wrote it all down (where to come and play) because Spoon couldn’t read or write. Then I started finding these little plastic spoons rubber banded to my door which was Spoon’s way of saying he was there looking for me. I started getting worried that he wouldn’t show, but he did. Sunday came and he showed up. There was the amplifier where he always kept it, in the trunk under the spare tire. He came in and we just looked at each other and started to play. There were from five to ten people at the bar and then it just got bigger and bigger. It was like 50 cents or 75 cents at the door. … There was this kid with a sax who kept walking by the place. I asked him if he could play. His name was Jay Beckenstein. Jay joined the band. After a short time in the band Jay said if you like the way I play you should hear my teacher, Phil Durey, who also joined the band. As the audience got bigger so did the band.
The Houserockers became a very popular band. They possessed a raw energy that was partially drawn from Spoon and his soulful vocal style. Spoon preferred to lead the band with his vocals rather than play the guitar. He didn’t think much of his guitar playing although others recall it fondly.
Ernie describes a little of Spoon’s sound and the entrance of Barbara St. Clair and the ever changing line-up:
Spoon was a forklift driver at Chevy on the night shift. We were learning all his songs. One time a tube fell out of his amp. I noticed that one had fallen down too so I put the two of them back in. He said take that (second one) out. He played with one tube in his amp (for a grittier sound) … Because of his job we started splitting the night with Barbara St. Clair and Spoon. … It was a band that didn’t stop growing – the Houserockers. There were two drummers at one point. Jimmy Ehinger was on piano. Joe Ford on clarinet. It got bigger and bigger. When we played in Colden (The Belle Starr Saloon) we took three to four trips out (with our equipment) in one small car. None of us had a car at the time. Someone’s girlfriend did. Anytime we played, the house would be packed. When we had Jim Calire play we had all sides of the spectrum covered – Barbara, Spoon and me then Jay had the horn section play instrumentals. We were becoming very musical. We started doing things like Steve Wonder’s “Living in the City.” … When we were ready to go on the road nobody wanted to go. I (myself) just didn’t want to go any further. We made a lot of money. That (version of the Houserockers) went on for about three years.
Ernie went on to explain what became of some of the members:
Calire ended up with (the group) America, Jay Beckenstein took the nucleus of that band (the Houserockers) and made SpyroGyra. Those (the years with the Houserockers) were Jay’s growing years. He recorded a lot of the ideas we came up with from that band. Phil Duray went with Keely Smith. Barbara went out to Colorado with somebody and I went out to the LA Valley of Musical Knowledge.
The Houserockers played many clubs in the city. Aside from Sundays (the bar) they were among the featured bands at the One Eyed Cat on Bryant, Casey’s Nickelodeon on Elmwood, and Hertel Avenue’s hot spot, The Bona Vista, in north Buffalo. Unfortunately Spoon died an early death in 1975 and left a large void in the rhythm & Blue community. Both his fellow musicians and listening fans remember him for his humor, sense of style and his great stage presence.
Later in the book, Michael Campagna talked about Elmore Weatherspoon.
Spoon played a ’61 Stratocaster with half the tubes missing in his amp. He was never in tune, stretched his strings out all the time. When I asked him, ‘Are we going to rehearse?’ he said in his gruffy low voice, ‘If you got to rehearse the blues you can’t play ‘em.’ Michael then asked, ‘What do we do?’ Spoon said, ‘You do what I do behind me.’
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