Menagerie


Hermitage, PA, 1971-9

Menagerie was an appropriate band name for a collection of top musicians from the Hermitage/Sharon, PA region - also known as the Shenango Valley (right on the border of Ohio just east of Youngstown) -  originally having a head count of nine. The band was formed in the style of Blood, Sweat, and Tears with a full horn section.  The original band included Terry DeMaria (guitar/vocals), John Rongo (guitar/vocals), Mick Paoletta (bass), Bob Androsko (drums), Denny Gill (trumpet), Rich Joseph (trombone), Rich Ference (vocals), Lonnie McClearn (keyboards,vocals). The group at times featured five singers.

The band built a large following, playing a typical mix of horn rock, hard rock, and funky soul that was a popular style in the area. In 1973/4 the horn players left, as they were in college and made the choice to stick with school instead of becoming full time musicians. The band then stayed at six members (with a couple different drummers, including Bobby Paoletta, Mick's brother) for the rest of their time. Other later members included Ron Crews, Joe Szabo, and Gary Morocco.

Around 1975-6 they opened their own club, Club Menagerie, and a clothing store, the Menagerie Boutique, in Hermitage, which lasted for a couple years.

The band recorded three 45s, with one release on Mercury, produced by the Belkin/Maduri team from Cleveland (who later ran the Sweet City label and produced Wild Cherry, but this predates their big successes), with help from Joe Vitale. The Mercury 45 included a remake of the Wilmer and the Dukes' big hit "Give Me One More Chance" and Vitale's "Roller Coaster Weekend" that he had recorded for his same-titled solo LP a year or so earlier. 

Menagerie's first 45 was "Ladies On Liberty Street", a reference to a main street in Youngstown. The flip side was a remake of a early Doobie Brothers song. Their last 45. also released on their own, was their biggest hit, "Love I Have To Give", a well produced ballad that sounded a bit like a Philly soul production from the time.

Over the past 15 years, Menagerie has held occasional reunion shows in the Hermitage area.

Discography:
Ladies On Liberty Street / Ukiah - Big Men PP 1053, 1974
Give Me One More Change / Roller Coaster Weekend - Mercury 73703, 1975
Love I Have To Give / Feelin' Low - Big Men 705 (PS), 1977