DEAR JERRY: Just for fun, I did an online search for “The You Know Who Group,” of which I was a member. That's how I found one of your columns about them.
It seems that no one, including our producer Bob Gallo, who you interviewed, knows who was in our group. Well, I definitely can tell you who made up the You Know Who.
If you have our album, or the image of the masked foursome from the front cover, grab it. Here's the lineup moving from left to right:
Yours truly (John Piemonte) is on the far left, and I played bass guitar. Second is Vinny Pollimini (not sure about the spelling), our lead guitarist. Third is Robert “Bobby” Esposito, drummer and our only singer. Last is rhythm guitarist Frank d'Avino.
We may have sounded British, but were really just four Italians from Brooklyn. Two of us grew up right down the block from Bob Gallo.
As for the costumes we're wearing on the cover, Frank d'Avino's mother, an experienced seamstress, made those capes and masks for us.
Much of the music was written and arranged by Bob Gallo, an accomplished musician and A/R man.
I even wrote one song but, silly as this sounds, I don't recall its title.
I think Frank is still in Brooklyn but have no idea where Bob and Vinny are. I am now 70 and living in Florida.
Hope this information helps!
John Piemonte, Clearwater, Fla.
DEAR JOHN: It more than helps. For those immersed in the music world as much as I, this is front page news. I can see the headline now: YOU KNOW WHO GROUP FINALLY UNMASKED!
Your information perfectly matches what Bob Gallo told us last summer, even if he remembered only your vocalist.
Here is an excerpt of that interview:
“From their home base in Brooklyn, they came to my Manhattan studio, Talent Masters, wanting to record two original songs: “Roses Are Red My Love” and “Playboy.” Both were written by Robert Esposito, their leader and also their lead singer.
“Other than Esposito, I don't recall the names of any of the other “Boys with That Great New English Sound.”
As part of my reply to Gallo, knowing I had exhausted all known sources, I reluctantly admitted: “Unless we hear from Robert Esposito, or another member of the You Know Who Group, it is very unlikely we'll ever learn the names behind the other three masks.”
Now my wish is granted, as you suddenly appear and clear up a 48-year-old musical mystery.
Thank you, John!
DEAR JERRY: A friend who knows I like Jo Stafford sent me a photocopy of a song folio, titled “Home & Hill Country Ballads (20 New Songs, Complete with Words & Music: Guitar, Ukulele, and Banjo Chords).”
When I saw it, I almost fell over backwards. Pictured on the front cover are the Stafford Sisters, with the caption: “Featured Trio on the Saturday Night Shindig.” Neither Jo nor the other two are individually identified.
I have never heard of this trio. Were they really sisters? Did they ever record as the Stafford Sisters? When did Jo's solo career begin?
Patrick Farrell, Milwaukee
DEAR PATRICK: First your friend, then you, set in motion one of the most important musical discoveries since … well … since we learned the names of the You Know Who Group.
Yes, at just 18, Jo teamed with her sisters Pauline and Christine. Right out of high school, the Stafford Sisters found work singing on KNX radio in Los Angeles.
The following year, 1937, they teamed with the No. 1 western music group, the Sons of the Pioneers, and announcer, Harry Hall, for a pilot performance on KHJ, and the American Broadcast System.
Specifically for this 15-minute program, titled “The Open Spaces,” the Stafford Sisters were billed as the Daughters of the Pioneers.
The girls fit beautifully into the show, providing harmony and backing vocals for the Sons of the Pioneers on four of their tunes, “Tumbling Tumblweeds”; “Cool Water” (featuring Roy Rogers); “Chant of the Plains (I Need You)”; and “Blue Prairie.”
They even get a song by themselves, “Ridin' Down the Canyon,” prominently featuring Jo on lead.
At no time are they mentioned by name, only as the Daughters of the Pioneers.
Jo Stafford's first solo single, “Old Acquaintance” backed with “How Sweet You Are” (Capitol 142), came out over six years later, in December 1943.
Finally, thank you for sending the lovely greeting and postcards of your art.
IZ ZAT SO? Fortunately, someone in the booth at KHJ in 1937 preserved on a transcription disc the debut “Open Spaces” broadcast, especially vital because it was not picked up by the network, and there were no future episodes.
As there are also no known records by the Stafford Sisters, this historic recording must be the earliest example of Jo Stafford's singing.
And now that we have posted it on YouTube, you can hear “The Open Spaces” in its entirety right here!