From Rockwell to Rock N' Roll
By John J. Grecco
From the lush green fields of Hazelton, Pennsylvania with its small town quaintness and Norman Rockwell settings, stepped forth a multi-threat of talent named Ed Rambeau.
Ed was the typical child of the baby boom generation growing up in a family of 3, one brother, Bob, and a sister named Joan, living the life many saw depicted in shows like "Father Knows Best," "The Donna Reed Show" and "Leave It To Beaver."
From an early age, Ed showed an absolute love of music, singing along with the hit records his older sister would buy. At this very young age he willingly played the part of the family disc jockey, taking requests from his sister, never giving a second thought to the fact that he hadn't learned to read yet. Since he couldn't read the song titles, Ed devised a system of memorizing what songs were on what record labels, which enabled him to zoom in on a tune his sister requested, and stack the record on the old Victrola.
Although Ed lived the typical small-town life attending Sunday services and participating in school activities, his destiny was not so small-town. While still in high school, a chance meeting brought the forces of Ed together with Bud Rehak. Seeing the talent and potential Ed had, Bud signed him to a contract, becoming his first manager.
Around this time, shows like American Bandstand popped up on TV, and sock hops became the rage at many schools and auditoriums. Capitalizing on this sock hop and rock and roll phenomenon, Bud booked Ed into numerous sock hops where he would start to hone his talents performing before an audience. With Ed's singing abilities and Bud's accompaniments on piano at the sock hops, his local popularity with the teens took off. This brought Ed to the attention of a local disc jockey named Jim Ward.
A 'Fluri' of Interest
In 1961, DJ Jim Ward, having a keen eye for talent, set up an interview for Ed with the hot Philadelphia label, Swan Records. Swan signed him immediately. Ed's record deal came with a stipulation: his last name had to be changed. Although born Edward Fluri, it appears the powers that be at Swan Records were not confident in Fluri being a marketable name; henceforth Ed was rechristened Eddie Rambeau.
Although his first effort, "Skin Diving," was catchy and timely for 1961, it only had regional success, but enough to warrant more recordings for the Swan label. Swan, in the very early '60s, had been a staple on the national charts since late 1957, placing platters in the Top 40 by acts such as Billy and Lillie, Freddy Cannon, Danny & The Juniors and others.
"My Four Leaf Clover" was the next release for Ed, but once again, would gain only regional popularity. Ed's third release, "Summertime Guy," showed much promise and should have been his breakout hit with its seasonal lyrics and catchy background music. Fate intervened. In Chicago, Ed was literally minutes away from debuting the song on TV when he was summoned to the control booth. He was informed that the song was pulled from broadcast and a replacement tune was needed now.
When questioning this last-minute decision, he was told that because Chuck Barris wrote the tune, and since Barris also worked for ABC Television, it would appear inappropriate for them to push the song on an ABC show. Not only was "Summertime Guy" pulled from ABC's Chicago affiliate, but every ABC-TV broadcast nationwide, plus all radio stations that ABC had ties to.
With ABC's reasoning and action on "Summertime Guy," one is left to ponder why this didn't also apply to another Barris-penned tune, "Palisades Park," also released on the Swan label. Although ABC pulled the plug on "Summertime Guy," it was resurrected a couple of years later by none other than Chuck Barris himself. As Chuck was making his rise through the ranks of ABC, he needed a theme song for a new game show he developed and was also producing. Not wanting a good tune to go to waste, Chuck took the background music of "Summertime Guy," and used it as the theme song for "The Newlywed Game."
'Push And Kick' Up the Charts
Not one to give up after the "Summertime Guy" debacle, Ed struck gold with the next release, but this time as a writer. Ed, his writing partner, Bud Rehak, along with Frank Slay Jr., penned the infectious dance tune, "The Push And Kick." South Philly native, Mark Valentino, Swan Records' newest discovery, waxed the tune and it rode up the national charts to number 27 in December of 1962.
Ed and Bob Crewe
After a couple of more releases at Swan, including one where Ed was paired up with Marcy Jo, he would be parting ways shortly from the Philly label. While recording at Swan, Ed became more prolific with his writing with Bud Rehak and the legendary Bob Crewe. Crewe himself, a veritable rock and roll genius, had made his mark in the business early on with his work at Cameo/Parkway records with The Rays and on the Swan label.
Much like the male teen idols of the late '50s and early '60s dominated the charts for a time, the girl-group sound was now catching on fire. Bob Crewe, now at Chicago's Vee Jay label, was having some minor success with Tracy Dey and was virtually unstoppable with The Four Seasons. But it was another Crewe discovery that would provide Ed with a Top 10 smash. In early 1964, the curvaceous blonde beauty, Diane Renay, took "Navy Blue," penned by Ed, Bud Rehak and Bob Crewe, to the number six position nationally and number 1 position in various regional charts.
At the height of the British Invasion frenzy, "Navy Blue" stayed on the national Top 40 charts for eight weeks. Wisely, Ed and Bud Rehak had Diane follow "Navy Blue," with their tune "Kiss Me, Sailor." Although it didn't fare as well as its predecessor, "Kiss Me, Sailor" made it to the number 29 position nationally and higher regionally. Another tune co-written by Ed called "Soft-Spoken Guy" gave the record-buying public a definite reason to play the flip side.
Ed and Peter Alan
During his tenure at 20th Century Fox Records, Ed managed to cut a solid side called "Come Closer." Around this time, 20th Century Fox lured Mary Wells away from Motown and brought in another writing staff. With Mary on Fox's priority list, other artists and writers seemed to fall by the wayside.
Ed's next move was over to the Amy, Mala, Bell conglomerate in New York. Not only was Amy, Mala, Bell gaining momentum with acts like Del Shannon, Adam Faith, and others, but Bob Crewe would soon have his own label, Dyno Voice, which they would distribute. Keeping in the girl-group vein, Ed co-wrote a very catchy tune for Tracy Dey called; "Hanging On To My Baby," released on the Amy division. Although a solid number, and much in demand by collectors today, "Hanging On To My Baby" would only have regional impact.
A trend during this time period was for British Acts to cover tunes by American groups and watch them climb the U.S. charts. Some prime examples of this practice were: "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" by The Exciters, covered by Manfred Mann; "Sha La La" by The Shirelles, again covered by Manfred Mann; "Don't Throw Your Love Away" by The Orlons, covered by The Searchers; "Go Now" by Bessie Banks, covered by The Moody Blues; "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" by Barry Mann, covered by The Animals; and "Twist And Shout" by The Isley Brothers, covered by The Beatles.
With the practice of covering American tunes becoming even more predominant as 1965 rolled around, Ed was about to beat the British at their own game. In early '65 a tune, building momentum in the U.K. was brought to Ed's attention. With catchy lyrics and a smooth arrangement on the melody, Ed was about to rise up the charts with his version of "Concrete And Clay." Released in early summer 1965, Ed's version competed with the British-based band named Unit 4+2, who also wrote "Concrete And Clay." Both versions of the tune went neck and neck with each hitting the Top 40.
With "Concrete And Clay" a solidified hit for Ed, he made numerous TV appearances on various shows, including two on the very popular ABC show Shindig. His first appearance included "Concrete And Clay" and its follow-up release, "My Name Is Mud." For Ed's second appearance, "Concrete And Clay," still very much in demand, was performed once again. It was followed by his new release, "The Train." Hearing it today, one has to wonder, for it's time, why "The Train" didn't fare well, but unfortunately no logical answers can be ascertained for that.
Ed with Hedy Lamaar and Jimmy O'Neill on "Shindig," October 21, 1965.
The producers of Shindig were so impressed with Ed's vocal abilities during his second appearance that negotiations were underway to have Ed join the cast of regulars like Bobby Sherman, Donna Loren and the Blossoms. An agreement was reached between Ed's management and the Shindig producers, but the contracts were never finalized. ABC halted the deal, since they were about the announce Shindig's cancellation from the 1966 primetime line-up. Aside from Shindig, Ed also was booked on Dick Clark's "Where The Action Is" along with the "Upbeat" show.
Aside from keeping up with his own recording career, Ed also kept up with his penning of tunes for other artists, including Frank Sinatra Jr. and The Four Seasons. One prime example of Ed's writing was a tune for Dee Dee Sharp called "Deep Dark Secret." Today, "Deep Dark Secret" is a highly sought-after disc, especially for Northern Soul aficionados. Anyone, even those with limited dancing skills, would be hard-pressed from moving their feet to the grinding beat of this classic.
After only a few short years of successful releases with Ed, The Toys and Mitch Ryder, Bob Crewe closed up shop at Dyno Voice when Amy, Mala and Bell evolved into simply Bell Records, now known as Arista Records. Bob moved on, opening Crewe Records with artists such as Oliver and Lesley Gore, whereas Ed stayed on, ushering out the '60s and into the '70s with the "new" Bell Records.
While it was to be a short tenure at Bell, it was in many ways Ed's decision, as he was about to change direction in his career. Although two records were released under the moniker of Eddie Rambeau, a third was released under the name "Eddie Hazelton," a nod toward Ed's hometown and high school. This release was a version of "Good Morning Starshine" from the Broadway play "Hair." It was around this time that Ed took a hiatus from his singing career and threw himself into writing and producing for others full time.
The music industry, like any other, had major changes as the 1970s progressed. The sound of the '60s was now just a memory. Where the British Invasion, Motown Sound, Girl Groups and Surfer Boys once rode the charts, message and protest songs now dominated the charts. Later in the 1970s, in another major shift, the music industry promoted new sounds at opposite ends of the spectrum--disco and hard rock.
With disco's upbeat and danceable rhythms, Ed welcomed the sound of with open arms. Although Ed had many excellent '70s productions under his belt, perhaps the most memorable one was from a local group he discovered in the New York area. After hearing the group's performance, noting their talent and potential, Ed put the wheels in motion, signing them to his management company and polishing up their act.
His first move was to come up with a new name for the group, whereby he christened them, "The Front Runners." Ed secured a deal for the group with the fairly new Tom Cat Records. It appeared at the time that Tom Cat was a wise choice for the group's debut disc. They had recently signed Ronnie Spector, had Jimmy Wisner producing some tracks at the label, and were distributed by RCA.
With a deal in hand and keeping their vocal style in mind, he re-worked the Toni Fisher classic, "The Big Hurt" into a swirling disco beat anthem. For the flip of the group's first disc, Ed penned a mover titled "Lullaby Brazil." Now with a finished product, the group's debut disc was released, receiving very good reviews and repeated plays at discos from coast to coast. With all signs indicating a sure fire hit for "The Front Runners," they, along with the other artists at Tom Cat, were about to have the rug pulled out from under them.
As quickly as Tom Cat Records opened shop, their doors were shuttered just as fast, leaving their artists and producers in the lurch. After things went awry at Tom Cat Records, Ed continued on writing and producing other artists at various labels for a time, but he would soon be setting his sights on yet another facet of the entertainment field, acting.
Ed backstage during a break from the play "Hair."
Having a bit of an adventurous side with a very outgoing personality, Ed lined up with other thespians in hopes of landing an acting role. For Ed, it seemed that he was a natural for adapting himself for the character roles he auditioned for. He was picked up almost immediately for his first role on stage. Over time, Ed found himself appearing in numerous plays, both on and off Broadway. Just a few short years before he recorded, "Good Morning Starshine," then after breaking into acting, Ed ironically landed a role in the cast of the long running play, "Hair"!
For some time Ed was a staple in the theatres, but never one for complacency, another aspect of this man's talents was about to emerge. Ed started dabbling in painting and found that others were quick to snap up his works of art. With his newfound success in the art field, he also got into photography with a vengeance. Whereas before he was able to capture a moment in a song, he was now able to capture moments on canvas and film. Today, Ed resides in New York and travels the world over performing. Needless to say, Ed's camera is never too far, capturing the essence of the places he visits. Aside from performing around the world, he is still very active in the studio, with many releases under his belt over the past few years.
Whether referring to Ed's singing, writing, acting, painting or photography, his many talents know no boundaries.
Ed on the beach in Europe in 2003.
Be sure to check out Ed's website at Ed Rambeau.
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All pictures courtesy and property of Ed Rambeau, not to be reproduced or distributed without express written permission of Ed Rambeau.