Rick Falkwoski has been in the local music industry for a long time.
The North Tonawanda resident is founder of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and coordinator of the Gateway Park Summer Concert Series in the Tonawandas, which is the second oldest weekly concert series in Western New York and the largest “local only” music series in the region.
But, Falkowski’s music career started long before that. His father was a professional drummer and an aerospace inspector. Falkowski started playing in bands professionally as a keyboardist and bass player when he was 14. He grew up in Cheektowaga, but moved to North Tonawanda when he started the summer concert series on the Erie Canal.
Falkowski will be speaking about his recently published book “History of Buffalo Music & Entertainment” at the new North Tonawanda History Museum, 712 Oliver St., at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The book, a comprehensive look at music, radio, movie theaters, concert halls and entertainment throughout Western New York from the 1930s to the early 1980s, includes performers from the Niagara region, including Tommy Tedesco, Nino Tempo and April Stevens, and more. An excerpt is below:
NINO TEMPO & APRIL STEVENS
Nino Tempo was born in Niagara Falls and at the age of four won a talent contest. When he was seven years old, Benny Goodman was performing at Sheas Buffalo and Nino approached the stage. He tugged at Goodman’s jacket and told him his grandfather offered him ten dollars if he sang a song with the band. Goodman let him sing “Rosetta.” The audience loved it and Goodman had Nino come back during the remaining six nights of his Buffalo performance.
Nino’s family moved to California, ending his early appearances in Buffalo. In California, Nino played tenor sax with The Maynard Ferguson Band for six years and became a session musician and saxophonist with the Wrecking Crew, who did studio work for numerous ‘50s and ‘60s recording acts. His sister Carol LoTempio, adopted the name of April Stevens and began a successful singing and recording career in the 1950s. Later in the 1950s Nino and April started working as a duo and in 1959 released a song Nino wrote called “Teach Me Tiger” which reached #86 on the Top 100. In 1963, they recorded a remake of the 1930s hit song “Deep Purple”. It reached #1 on the charts and earned them a Grammy Award for the Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Recording of the year.
Tommy Tedesco is considered the most recorded guitarist in music history. Originally from Niagara Falls, he played dates in the Buffalo clubs before moving to LA. Once he arrived in California, Tedesco became a member of the Wrecking Crew; the group of musicians that was the recording studio band on many early ‘60s popular music and rock music sessions. He was part of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, played on recording sessions for many California rock bands, as well as being the guitarist on Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra recording. It was Tedesco who played the guitar solos on many of the early Beach Boys surf songs. He also played the guitar on television theme songs like Bonanza, The Twilight Zone and Batman, and appeared as an on-camera band member in many comedy and game shows. In addition to television, Tedesco performed on many film soundtracks and was the guitarist in (the) Roxy version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” His son, Denny Tedesco, produced a documentary of “The Wrecking Crew” in 2008, which was released in 2015 after clearances were finally obtained for the music.
The book, History of Buffalo Music & Entertainment,” is available at the Book Corner in Niagara Falls and on Amazon.com.