Colorradio.com - Tonettes/Vince Castro
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The Sanchez sisters, Diana and Sylvia, along with their close friend Josie Allen, started off as the Claremonts. They named themselves the Claremonts after the street they lived on in the Bronx NY, (544) Claremont Parkway. Josie Allen lived on Bathgate which was close by. They attended Grace Vocational HS, and according to the girls, the principal threatened to expel them from school because they sand too much. They were “discovered” by TV repairman Lou Ezzo, as they were singing in their home, as usual. He got them in touch with Apollo records. Their manager was Charles Merenstein, and the first and only record issued by the Claremonts was sent out to the radio stations in fall of 1957. Angel Of Romance made some noise up and down the east coast, and was a great start for the trio. They changed their name to the Tonettes and had a unique sounding record that featured Josie Allen on lead. Released originally on the Apollo Subsidiary Doe before landing on ABC, “Oh What A Baby” had some great airplay and featured some great musicians including Sam The Man Taylor. The flip, “Howie” was a nice ballad that rounded out the two sided gem. Though their follow-up did not fare as well, they hit the formula again when they back Vince Castro on “Bong Bong”. It also was first released on Doe, before finding a home on APT. They sold a bunch of records and it should have been a bigger hit than it was. Vince was actually a neighbor of the Sanchez sisters and was given a chance to sing by Apollo. Vince Castro had a couple of additional releases, and is still finding time to sing today. Check out my interviews with the Tonettes
and Vince Castro
I always thought this record must have been pressed on 78, it just took a while to find it. With the record making some local noise on the east coast, Apollo was a big record company and probably didn't think twice about issuing 78's for record buyers and jukebox operators. Not a big seller on this format, as many more 45's were sold than 78's.
The Tonettes started as the Claremonts. This is the first release on Apollo of "Why Keep Me Dreaming" backed with "Angel Of Romance." This two sider was very popular up and down the Eastern seaboard from New York to Florida. The record got lots of spins from the DJ's and a bunch of press from the trade papers. This recording was released in early September of 1957. Above is the promotional version.
Here is the stock copy of the Claremonts disc. Notice the writing credits are given to Diane Sanchez and Lou Ezzo. Ezzo was a TV repairman responsible for "Discovering" the Claremonts/Tonettes in their apartment in Brooklyn.
This is a later pressing (1961) of the Claremonts record. It was probably re-released to try and cash in on the Vince Castro and the Tonettes issue of "Bongo Twist" in late 1960. "Bongo Twist" was actually the same song as "Bong Bong", but pressed again with the different song title to try and ride the beginning of the national twist craze. See records below, to follow the complete story. The stock issue is most likely on the yellow Apollo label, if they decided to send them out.
Released on the Doe label in February of 1958, "Oh What A Baby" is a great up tempo song. The Claremonts are now the Tonettes, with the same personnel. Doe records was owned by Charles Merenstein, son-in-law to Bess Berman of Apollo records. The label was intended to showcase some of the up and coming pop releases. Apollo felt like they were "just" an R+B label. I don't think I would call this pop, but you can't argue with records that sell! The flip side "Howie", is a nice ballad, almost done tongue in cheek, but comes off sounding great. Above is the promotional copy.
This is the stock issue of "Oh What A Baby" on the orange Doe label. After sending out promos and then filling the local record stores with the stock copies, the record had brisk sales. It looks like this 45 was sold for 98 cents, a true bargain. The "A" side is my favorite, but a great record that plays well on both sides.
Sometimes I think I am out of touch when it comes to 78 releases. Acquired in April of 2014, it was the first time I had seen this on 78, but it makes sense that it should have been. A big record company with a promising record that is starting to sell really well - why not press 78's? You will see the label information is the same as on the 45's shown below, just located in slightly different places. This is also the alternate version of "Oh What A Baby" with "Howie" on the flip.
Once the Tonettes song picked up steam, the record was leased to ABC Paramount for national distribution. This promo copy was sent out to the radio stations to promote airplay. It was published by "Bess" music, who was Bess Berman of Apollo records, getting half the action on this good sized hit. I always thought Apollo was a big enough record company to handle hits, but they must have decided ABC to distribute more efficiently and to a greater number of regions.
Here is the stock copy. Though not a top 100 Billboard hit,it should have been. The label shown is in the standard ABC Paramount colors for 1958. Though no sales numbers have ever been published, I'm certain they were in the 6 figures. On an interesting note, there is actually a second, slightly different version of "Oh What A Baby." The dead wax numbers are slightly different, and that is the only indication present. You will see on the alternate version there is ABC 3232 followed by a crossed out etching of D AP -3640 #3 and then a sideways letter A The alternate version sounds very similar, but with a few variations. The tempo seems very close, but the first tip-off is the instrumentation that is a bit more pronounced, especially the bass. The instrumental break is slightly different, and the way "Baby" is said at the end is a bit different. If you know the song well, you can hear the differences.
This is the first and only record I have seen on the Sparton label, for the Tonettes. It is their hit on 78. This is actually the alternate version of "Oh What A Baby, which makes me wonder if there are also 78's with the more common version, too. It does not have all the alternate dead wax numbers like the 45 on ABC. My theory on the alternate version is that it was produced first, likely in a small pressing run. That was the version that ABC also gave to the Canadian based Sparton label when the record started out selling well. ABC then would have realized the "mistake" and started pressing the common version domestically. Did they get that take to Sparton, and then there might be both available on Sparton issues? A good question that is still yet to be answered.
This is the follow up on Doe 103. Uh-Oh backed with He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me. Good two sided effort that unfortunately just didn't catch fire for the girls. This is the last Tonettes record that I know of, that has now been added to my collection. I am not certain if stock copies exist, as all the copies I know of, are promos like the one shown above.
This is Vince Castro with the un credited Tonettes on a very big east coast regional hit,"Bong Bong." This was released in May of 1958,and the first issue shown here was the next sequential release, on Doe 102. The flip side, "You're My Girl" also includes the Tonettes,but not as prominently. An enjoyable flip, it was paired with the Bongo Twist on Apt 25047, in 1960. Vince Castro actually is singing in the background on this record, with the girls. Vince said to me that " I was asked at the end of the session to overdub, for a fuller sound, and I did. I go off with a different rift on the bong bongs, and at the end I come in with a low alto, to Josie's high alto, with the oooo's.
In nearly the same situation as the Tonettes record previously shown, Apollo leased the wildly popular Bong Bong to another record company. This time it was APT records, who already had great success with Vito Picone and the Elegants. This was another record that did very well for the Apollo subsidiary, Doe records. It seems they had a formula for making hits. Vince Castro got the top billing. The promo copy is shown above.
As far as I can tell, APT issued black and multi-colored labels for several of their early records. The Elegants original seems to be all black. Some label guides show "Bong Bong" as the first issue for the new multi-colored design, but apparently that is not the case. Most copies of "Bong Bong" are multi-colored so I am showing this first.
Here is the stock issue on the original multi color APT label. The Tonettes are heard in the background and really help make the record work. A great classic record!
APT seems to have had this version as their most standard promo, with the APT logo showing the "city" underneath the letters. APT was good about pressing up promos for most of their singles. Note that Vince Castro wrote both sides of this record.
This is probably the second promotional copy of "Too Proud To Cry" by Vince Castro. A real nice "Teener", you can hear Josie Allen of the Claremonts and Tonettes, singing answer parts very prominently. The flip, "Cause I Love You" is a middle of the road song with just Vince Castro. It was not a huge seller, but made some noise on the east coast. Shown is the Apt block print version which turns up less than the version shown above.
This is the harder to find stock copy of Too Proud To Cry. It seems more promotional copies surface than stock, but in either case, it is one of the tougher of Vince's records to find.
"Bongo Twist" is the same exact recording of "Bong Bong." The title was changed to "Bongo Twist", to try and pick up sales from the twist craze. "You're My Girl" is also the same recording from APT 25007. Besides the twist dance connection, I'm not sure what other marketing schemes they used to promote the record. Since this is a promo, it is a certainty that radio stations got copies.
This is the stock issue of Vince Castro and the Tonettes "Bongo Twist" and "You're My Girl." Likely released in late 1960.
This is an interesting EP, that was issued in France! Entitled "Twist", it included two sides by Vince Castro and the Tonettes, and two recordings by the Twisters. "Bongo Twist" and "You're My Girl" are the same cuts that were issued on APT 25047 in the USA. And, as mentioned above, "Bongo Twist" is the same as "Bong Bong." This EP was produced to capture the twist craze, the same as the USA. They were twisting all over the world! The songs by the Twisters are group rock and roll songs that were used to keep people twisting. They were first released on Apt 25045. Unusual graphics are shown on the front cover. The back cover is devoted to promoting the latest Ray Charles EP releases. ABC Paramount was the label France used for the US issue APT issue. Click on the EP covers to see an enlarged view. I believe this was released in 1961. "
Here are the two labels for the EP. I see on the middle right, "Full Color Fidelity" for this record! The Twisters on side B had the songs "Come Go With Me" and "Pretty Little Girl Next Door" from APT 25045, released in 1960.
Here is a good up tempo song by just Vince Castro, with no female group in the background on side "A." Released on the tiny Orchid records out of the Bronx, "I Feel So Grand", 1960. The flip side is "You Never Believe Me, which is a decent ballad that includes a female vocal group in the background. It is not the Tonettes. Not completely, anyway. Josie Allen from the Tonettes is on the recording along with Anna Castro Stone. Anna is Vince Castro's sister and was under contract to Tom Pungitore of Orchid records. Pungitore owned a local establishment in the Bronx called the Star Light Club. The silver background and blue lettering is an interesting combination. The gold mark on the "I Feel So Grand " side is just a label stain. On the same side you can see the label peeling away from the center hole. Orchid records had a real problem sticking labels on their records, as you can see above and below. This is a promotional copy
Here is the stock copy of the Orchid label release. At some point, this label had a distribution deal with Gone records, and they seemed to have a 5000 series. Jimmy Pemberton had a release of Ko Ko Mo Girl on 5002. The label was owned by Thomas J. Pungitore, as mentioned above, who just happens to share writing credits and publishing on the above record. Also notice that the address has changed.
: Diana Sanchez is the lone Tonette that is still with us today. Sylvia passed away in 2013, and Josie passed many years ago. Diana is living in southern California, and Vince Castro is alive and well on the east coast. I was fortunate enough to do an interview in August of 2003 with both Sanchez sisters
, and I also had the chance to interview Vince Castro
in 2007 – listen to it here.. Vince has many youtube videos out on the web where you can see and hear him sing standards in great style.
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