Blue Ash


Youngstown, 1969-79

The Youngstown late 60s/early 70s band scene is well known for their hard rock and R&B bands. Blue Ash were a little different, a band of 'anglophiles', channeling the Beatles, the Who, and other Union Jack waving legends to become part of the original group of "power pop" bands. 

The roots of the band start in Sharon, PA with teenager Frank Secich and a band called the City Jail. After that band broke up and Secich played in a few short lived bands (including a short stay with the True Blue Saloon who were just over the state line in Hubbard, OH) he joined with singer Jim Kendzor, followed by drummer David Evans and guitarist Bill Yendrek. The band staked their base of operation in Youngstown and played their first gig at the Freakout in October 1959. Word spread fast about them and they were picked up for management by Geoff Flowers, who had also managed Glass Harp early on. One of the famous events in early Blue Ash history was playing the entire "Tommy" LP (by the Who) for a show in 1970. Later in 1970, Bill "Cupid" Bartolin replaced Bill Yendrek. 

The band knew from the beginning they were going to concentrate on writing and playing short original songs in the style of their influences (Beatles, Kinks, Who) and so they began to record songs at Peppermint Productions with the help and encouragement of studio owner Gary Rhamy and engineer John Grazier. During the years 1970-3 the band recorded numerous songs along with hitting the road playing western NY, PA, and West Virginia along with NE Ohio, peforming 200+ shows a year. 

In 1972, with Peppermint's help, they started shopping some of the recordings. Paul Nelson, from Mercury Records, was really taken with the band and got them a deal. They went back to Peppermint and recorded a full LP, with some reworkings of the demos and new songs. One of the songs they recorded was "Dusty Old Fairgrounds", a song that Bob Dylan had written and performed early in his career but never recorded in studio. Nelson was friends with Dylan and gave the song to Blue Ash to arrange and record. The LP "No More No Less" was released in May of 1973 and while top 40 radio had seen a few hit songs with the back to basics sound that Blue Ash refined (including the Raspberries, who had played many of the same NE Ohio clubs as Blue Ash), the 45 "Have You Seen Her" and the LP were not really successful, even locally, where they were a strong club draw and well regarded. The LP has aged really well and still sounds fresh and engaging today. 

A second LP for Mercury was planned but shelved when the sales for NMML did not meet Mercury's sales standard, although one 45 was released that was of high quality. The band continued an aggressive live schedule, and continued to record at Peppermint. In 1974, Jeff Rozniata, who had played with Frank Secich back in the Sharon days as a teen, and had been a band roadie, replaced David Evans. 

The band continued to play all over the region, and record original songs at Peppermint. In 1977 they got another shot at making a record for a major record company. Playboy records - yes, a record company run by THE Playboy operation (one of the artists recording for Playboy was Barbi Benton, the girlfriend of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner), distributed by CBS. The band offered a bunch of the Peppermint recordings, and Playboy selected  "Look At You Now" - but before releasing it, added some orchestration overdubs and turned a nice Beatles/Badfinger midtempo song into a slick pop record. Even with that, it was a hit in several cities across the US (including NE Ohio) and Playboy released the LP "Front Page News" with songs recorded out in Los Angeles, although many of them were re-recordings of songs from the Peppermint sessions. The LP was not really successful, its fate not helped by Playboy records, who like one of Hefner's old girlfriends, was ignored and shortly cut loose by the company.

The band continued to play in LA, but after another year or so, decided to end it. Frank Secich united with old friend Stiv Bators and joined a vastly remade Dead Boys. 

The band's legacy has been well served by several reissues, including "Around Again", a 2 CD set that includes the best of the many Peppermint demos. The band has played a few reunions, however the death of Bill Bartolin in 2009 curtailed some of that.  There are a lot more details about the band elsewhere, including an autobiography by Frank Secich.

Discography:

Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her) / Dusty Old Fairgrounds - Mercury 73396
Plain To See / I Remember A Time - Mercury 73413
Anytime At All / She's So Nice - Mercury 73455
LP- No More, No Less - Mercury SRM-1-666
Look At You Now / Singing And Dancing Away - Playboy 5804, 1977
You Are All I Need / - PLayboy 5821, 1977
LP - Front Page News - Playboy 34918