This author recently had the pleasure to visit two former members of Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds currently based in Massachusetts, Michael Kaye and band founder himself, Hap Snow. Kaye played piano, keyboards, and sang in the band from about 1961 to 1965, when he left for Vietnam. Lead guitar player and occasional vocalist Snow started the band at Williams College in 1958 and later relocated the operation to Boston after most of the original band members had completed their undergraduate studies at the rural upstate Massachusetts school. The Whirlwinds performed regularly at venues around New England through 1966, particularly at fraternity houses, campus centers, and small clubs.
After the band moved near Boston in the early 1960s, Michael Kaye and his cousin Steve James (also known as Steve Fradkin) joined the group and quickly became key contributors, including on the writing end as James penned the last four Whirlwinds’ compositions to be recorded, singing lead on each of them, along with Kaye and Snow.
A recent video uses unreleased alternate recordings from 1963 featuring Steve James on rhythm guitar, Michael Kaye on piano and vocals, Hap Snow on lead guitar and vocals, and fellow Boston resident Bill Elgart on drums:
“Let’s Have a Party,” an unreleased demo written by Hap Snow with Art Bearon on piano, Len Arnold (aka Leonard Hochman) on saxophone, and Snow on guitar and lead vocals, is on SoundCloud:
Music: A Defining Component Of Life More Than 50 Years On
More than fifty years after first playing rock ’n’ roll together in the Whirlwinds, music is still an integral part of the lives of both former band members: Michael Kaye continues to perform at special events and is currently preparing new material while Hap Snow and his beloved wife Linda have been attending bluegrass shows around New England for several decades. In fact, Kaye and Steve James, himself a keyboard player and vocalist in Political Asylum, an oldies band composed of Massachusetts-based politicos that perform exclusively at fundraisers, have joined them on more than one occasion.
Coming from a classical background, Michael Kaye first started playing rock ’n’ roll as a member of the Whirlwinds. This carried over to his own professional music career once he got back from service overseas and began playing in various groups including the Lou Jolli Trio.
Watch a clip of Michael Kaye performing a medley of rock classics solo including “Splish Splash,” “Walk, Don’t Run (Instrumental),” “Wipeout (Instrumental),” and a reprise of “Splish Splash” recorded live at the Driftwood in Revere, Massachusetts in 1984:
Kaye’s arrangements and performance of a medley of songs he did for a stage presentation of Fiddler On The Roof in 1978, again mixed by Barry Kaye, is here:
After Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds disbanded, Hap Snow began a long career in education, primarily as an English teacher at the middle school level. Even then music played a role as Snow founded a band composed of talented current and former students. Besides performing at school’s in the area, including at ex-Whirlwind bass player Ted Pina’s school in the early 1970s, the band appeared on local TV and recorded at least two songs at a studio in New Bedford, Massachusetts around 1975, “Jesse James” and “Think Back.”
Listen to “Think Back,” an original composition by Beverly Amaral that showcases lead singer Karen Reilly and includes Hap Snow on guitar:
Snow continues to pursue a lifelong love of bluegrass music, “known as hillbilly music back in those days” remembers Michael Kaye. In fact, Kaye and every other member contacted have vivid memories listening to bluegrass music from radio stations picked up out of West Virginia on the lengthy trips around New England prior to the construction of major highways in the region. The difference these days is classic artists like Bill Monroe, the Carter Family, and Flatts and Scruggs have been replaced by the likes of Newfound Road, Red Molly, and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers to name a few favorites.
A sizzling bluegrass version of “Ain’t No Sunshine“ by Newfound Road recorded live in 2010 is an ideal introduction to the genre–this author is fortunate enough to have witnessed the mandolin solo by Joe Booher, with Tim Shelton on guitar and lead vocals, Jamey Booher on bass, and Josh Miller on banjo, in person:
The Last Reel-To-Reel Tape?
After methodically collecting, organizing, and attempting to restore band audio recordings in various formats over the last year or two, what may be the last reel-to-reel tape was recently received by mail with great anticipation … Unfortunately, once digitized it soon became clear the tape was exclusively old-time gospel and country music, probably recorded off a radio station decades ago. Therefore, the working version of the known recording sessions of Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds has recently been added under discographies above.
A sampler collects seven unreleased tracks performed by Michael Kaye between approximately 2009 and 2010. Four live tracks were done in 2009 in Springfield and Brewster, Massachusetts while the remaining three are home recordings made by the former Whirlwind pianist, keyboard player, and vocalist in his home studios in Massachusetts and Florida.
“Back Again,” a track recorded by Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds in 1964 and produced by produced by Ron Frizzell, features Steve James on rhythm guitar and vocals, Michael Kaye on keyboards and vocals, Frankie Mento on drums, Ted Pina on bass guitar, and Hap Snow on lead guitar and vocals:
Bonus: Rare 8 mm Video Footage Of Mid-1960s Massachusetts Rodeo
In 1964, Michael Kaye was a guest of Hap Snow’s at the Maynard Rod and Gun Club in Maynard, Massachusetts when Snow and close friend Ken Roy engaged in American style bullfighting, otherwise known as rodeo clowning. Snow was one of the minority of New Englanders who not only rode both Brahma bulls and wild broncos but also fought bulls in arenas and fair grounds through the 1960s and 1970s.
A video taken by Roy that day using an 8 mm camera “made in Massachusetts but purchased in Korea” (during the war) captures the moment, accompanied by Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds covering Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” an unreleased home demo from 1959 featuring Art Bearon on piano, Harry Lewis on saxophone, Stefano Torossi on drums, and Snow on guitar and lead vocals:
In The Studio: The Complete Recordings 1959-1964 EP showcases five original compositions by Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds including “Banshee,” “Bottoms Up,” “Let’s Have a Party,” “Len’s Hassle,” and “Back Again.” “Banshee,” written by Art Bearon, Stefano Torossi, and Snow, was recorded along with “Bottoms Up,” a composition by Art Bearon and D’Angelo, in 1959 and released on New York label Fleetwood Records. ”
“Let’s Have a Party,” a Snow composition, and “Len’s Hassle,” a blazing instrumental by saxman Leonard Hochman, were cut the following year, also at Boston’s Ace Recording Studios. “Back Again” from 1964 was produced by Ron Frizzell.
Coming Soon: More Exclusive Feature Articles Exploring The Work Of Drummer Bill Elgart
A closer look at several musical projects involving ex-Whirlwind drummer Bill Elgart are in the works. Until then, here’s an online EP for the 2013 Give No Quarter CD and download by Ab Baars, Meinrad Kneer, and Elgart that includes a pair of album cuts as well as two live performances by the trio.
And “Fifth Chromosome,” a non-album cut from Geoff Goodman’s 2011 Jazz + Haiku CD and download that includes Goodman on guitar and English recitations, Kiyomi on Japanese recitations, Till Marin on saxophone, Andreas Kurz on bass (replacing Henning Sieverts from the album), and Bill Elgart on drums is on YouTube–album vocalist Fjoralba Turku was absent from this live performance:
As a working musician for several decades, Michael Kaye has acquired countless pieces of high-tech instruments and musical machinery that are split across music rooms at various residences. This Juno-80, one of at least two he owns, caught my eye.