September 28, 2012

THE IDOLS (West Warwick, RI)

The Idols, sporting West Warwick's coolest uniforms. Top left-right: Joey Tedeschi, Ken Kerr. Center: Norm "Ogg" Lavallee. Bottom left-right: Bob Antonaccio, Denis Valerien. Courtesy of Bob Antonaccio.

I first heard the haunting ballad "True Luv Gone Astray" on the New England Teen Scene Volume 3 LP back in 1992, shortly after the compilation's release. It was a standout track, and to say that I was surprised is an understatement when 20 years later I learned that this was in fact a Rhode Island band. Naturally, I needed to find out more about the Idols, so in February 2012 I got in touch with songwriter Bob Antonaccio, who gladly provided photos and the history of the band.

And for as somber and orchestrated with harmonies as the a-side is, the single's flipside, "Haunted House," speeds 100mph in the opposite direction. As the title suggests, it's an instrumental track punctuated with screams, hollars, growls and general frightening calamity…the kind of naive exuberance only found in pre-war teen garage 45s.

An interesting side-note, Al Cloutier of the Mystic Five joined the Idols for their last performance in July 1967, before he and Bob left for Navy boot camp.

In his own words, here is Bob's story of the Idols:
"The Idols' rock and roll destiny was launched in the town of West Warwick, R.I., in February of 1964. The band was comprised of Charles Erinakes (guitar), Ken Kerr (guitar), Denis Valerien (keyboards), Norm "Ogg" Lavallee (drums) and Bob Antonaccio (lead vocals and percussion). Joey Tedeschi replaced Charles in 1965. Joey, Ken, Denis and myself went to West Warwick High School, and Oggie went to Coventry High School. The Idols' manager was Richard Lavallee, the brother of our drummer Norm. He was a great PR manager who kept us well stocked with gigs.

The group played at various battle of the bands and high school and college mixers, and gained notoriety with constant exposure for songs played, influenced by the British Invasion rock groups. While playing the nightclub circuit, the band was discovered by disc jockey Joe Thomas from WPRO AM and was featured on the radio station billing as "The Rolling Stones of West Warwick." The Idols played at the Rocky Point Palladium in Warwick, R.I., and the Lakeville Ballroom in Lakeville, Mass., as the warm-up band for various Top 40 performers while touring for WPRO.

The Idols' music showcase was a combination of Top 40 hits and original songs written by Denis Valerian and Bob Antonaccio. Between 1965-1966, recording sessions were scheduled with over 10 original Idols songs on tape. (Editor's note: We'll be sure to share these when they are uncovered!) The highlight came in 1966 when the band released "True Luv Gone Astray" and "Haunted House" on LUV Records, recorded at Ace Recording Studios in Boston.

The band continued to perform weekly gigs until 1967, when the Vietnam War was raging and the federal government apparently needed the band members more than the public that we loved to entertain. Bob Antonaccio, Ken Kerr, Denis Valerien and Norm Lavallee all joined the military. Our last performance was July 1967 at the West Warwick Youth Center, where we had experienced many great receptions as one of the featured rock groups for four years.

Upon returning from Vietnam service in 1971, Bob Antonaccio continued to perform with The Second Helping, a rock band featuring many of the songs that The Idols had performed in the '60s.

Norm “Ogg” Lavallee and Joe Tedeschi have since passed on.

Rock on garage bands of the '60s!"

—Bob Antonaccio, April 2012
The Idols' last performance, July 1967, at the West Warwick Youth Center. From left: Ken Kerr, Norm Lavalee, Bob Antonaccio (holding cake), Denis Valerien, Al Cloutier (of the Mystic Five). Courtesy of Bob Antonaccio.

True Luv Gone Astray / Haunted House
(201,306 / 201,307)

Note that the record labels list Joey Tedeschi and Ken Kerr as the artists, with "Played and Sung By The Idols" in very small print underneath. This was an error by the pressing plant, but the cost to redo the labels was too expensive, so the band kept them as-is.

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