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INTERVIEW by STEVE KELEMEN

What is there not to like about the music of Andy Starr & The Casinos? They had the goods, energy, excitement and sexuality. And they sure could deliver it!



I always loved music and wanted to learn to play different instruments but I didn't want to take lessons. My dad knew how to play the harmonica and the uke and he taught me how to play both. He also taught me how to harmonize. My mother played piano and she taught me the chords on the piano. Once I knew the chords, I was able to play and sing  pretty good. I learned to play just about everything myself (i.e. guitar, banjo, accordion, drums etc.)





THE CASINOS

Rock & Roll had started and was loved not only by me but most all teenagers. Once I heard Elvis and Fats Domino sing and many others I felt I could sing like that too. And I did.

Everywhere I went people wanted me to play the piano or guitar and sing the songs that were popular at the time.

I was playing piano and singing at the Beth. Boys Club when a guy by the name of Joe DeFulvio walked in and asked if he could play a song and I should sing. The song was " A Whole Lot Of Shaking Goin' On" and wow, he played it just like Jerry Lee Lewis and he thought I sounded just like him. I told Joe I also played guitar and we should jam a little next week. He was a better piano man than me so we decided to start a duo with him on piano and me on guitar. The following week we met at the Boys Club again and Joe brought his buddy Jim Tulio who was a great drummer. Jim brought his drums into the club and Joe was right. This guy was a great drummer. Jim also said he played bass. He also said he knew a sax player who he would bring in the next week.

His name was Sam Gentile and he also played accordion. He had appeared on the Lawrence Welk show at the age of 12 playing his accordion. Sam was super on both instruments. Another thing that worked out well is that everyone could sing and harmonize. This was the start of Andy Starr and the Casinos. We soon started playing out for weddings, banquets, proms, frat parties, night clubs, etc.



"I LOVE YOU BABY"

We were practicing one Sunday on a hot summer day above a night club that let us use their banquet room upstairs. All the windows were open because of the heat. We played a couple of songs when a guy came up to meet us and said he heard us from outside and thought we were terrific. He asked if we would like to cut a record. We all got excited. He asked if we had any original tunes. I said yes, I wrote a lot of songs. He asked to hear some so we played "I Love You Baby" and "Why Am I A Fool". The guy said they both sound like hits to me and he said he would make all the arrangements to cut our first record if we were interested. We were. The guys first name was Joe and to this day I never knew his last name. He was a barber, that's one thing I remember.

Joe took us to a place in Nazareth, PA. called the Holy Family Gym where we met Pete Helfrick who recorded the above two songs. Pete said he knew a record agent named Dave Rieff who had connections with Casino Records. Once Dave heard our songs he thought both sides had a good chance of becoming hits so he asked me to write 2 more songs for another record.

The songs were "I Know It's True" and "My Love For You". These became our second Casino record.

He also wanted the bands name The Casinos on the "Why Am I A Fool" side and just Andy Starr on the "I Love You Baby" side.

He also put the songs out on 2 different labels, Casino and Arcade. Both records were released the same date Oct. 12th, 1959.

By Oct.26th both songs made the top 40 in the Lehigh Valley area. We were number 25 with "Why Am I A Fool" and number 30 with "I Love You Baby". The biggest problem was they only played my records on the Allentown stations. No one else ever heard them.

If they were played nationally I think I would have had a chance. Yet, today, it is in collectors books listed up to $1000 in mint condition. They have been sold on Ebay for over $200 a copy. Places like Germany, France and Sweden are buying them. They have become a big collectors item and I really don't know how it happened but it did.





"JUST A WALKIN'"

I went on to record "Just A Walkin' " and "Cruel World". We went to Philadelphia to the Tony Star Studio along with a group called the Sinceres who was going to cut their first record with my band backing them. In the Sinceres group was a backup singer called Jay Procter who later became Jay and the Techniques who had 2 million selling hits with "Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" and "Keep The Ball Rollin'".

Going back to my record, as I said "Cruel World" was to be the B side. Lee Andrews was in the studio watching us record that day and as I was finishing up with "Cruel World", Lee liked the song so much that he came over to the mike and moved me aside and finished the last part of the song which sounded great. When it was over he said ' I know this was the B side which probably won't get played but I love that song and it's my kind of music. I just had to be part of that. I hope you don't mind '.

I told him I was thrilled to have a guy that sold millions of records jump in on the end of my song. Well, it ended up I took the record, which was released on the Valiant label, to the Allentown radio station WAEB and told them to start playing my new recording of "Just A Walkin' ". There happened to be about 6 girls in the office and they announced that Andy Starr was here with his new record. They wanted to hear both sides and they fell in love "Cruel World". Even though I told them not to play that side on the air they didn't listen. They only played "Cruel World" which made the top 40 again but no one ever heard "Just A Walkin'". Yet today, it gets the most recognition and the highest price tag $1000 and up. I'll never understand how.

I took all my records to all the Philly and New York radio stations and asked if they would play them. Back then "Payola" was big and I didn't have the money to pay all these stations so I never did get the records played in New York or Philly. After that I never made another record. The last job with the Casinos was 1961.

I went on to play music until I turned 50. 1990 was the last time I played in public. I played oldies for 45 years.I don't play out anymore. I just sing in the shower.

  I am now 63 years old and I just retired on April 30, 2003. I had been in the grocery industry since 1957 as a salesman.

I'm married since 1961 to my wife Patricia. We have 2 children, a girl Susan who is 38 and a boy Andrew who is 35.

DISCOGRAPHY








Posted June, 2003




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