Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Carlo Mastrangelo of the Belmonts RIP + Leon Haywood +Merle Haggard

I will soon be celebrating the work of many of the remaining doowop artists of the fifties and sixties at the annual LAR Enterprises Doowop Weekend in Long Island. Sadly Carlo Mastangelo, original member of Dion and the Belmonts and lead singer of the Belmonts after Dion went solo, will not be among them, as he has died at the age of 77.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Carlo sang with the Belmonts from the beginning, taking the bass baritone role on hits such as I Wonder Why and A Teenager In Love for the Laurie label. After Dion's solo career took off he became lead singer of the Belmonts on such great tracks as Tell Me Why and Come On Little Angel. When their privately owned label Sabina hit financial problems Carlo left and recorded a number of tracks under the name 'Carlo' for Laurie including Baby Doll and Little Orphan Girl and also recorded with Dion again as Dion and the Wanderers. The Belmonts reunited with Dion in 1966 to make an LP which produced two excellent singles, My Girl The Month Of May and Movin' Man.
He recorded again for Laurie as lead singer of The Endless Pulse, without success and also recorded the Ernie Maresca produced bubblegum record Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pie Dowdy for Tower. He also sang with the jazz/rock group Pulse and with the Midnite Sun. Dion and Belmonts reformed for a live concert in 1972 released on Warner Brothers as Reunion: Live at Madison Square Gardens 1972, and Carlo continued to collaborate with Dion in later years.
A rather underrated doowop artist, Carlo was a key player both as part of Dion's superb group and in his own right. RIP.

Since I wrote this a couple of hours ago there have been reports of two more significant deaths. Country star Merle Haggard, who has died on his 79th birthday, never meant that much to me, but there's no doubting his status as a major artist. Originally from Oklahoma, his family settled near Bakersfield where he is very much revered, as I discovered when I visited there last year. Always a controversial figure, he was loved by the sort of people who think Donald Trump is a suitable candidate for President, but there's no denying his success in the country field and quality of many of his records.
Of more significance to me is the death of Leon Haywood at the age of 74.
After working with Guitar Slim and Big Jay McNeely, he joined Sam Cooke's band as keyboardist, but I first became aware of him when I received a review copy of Ain't No Use in 1966, a superb record which I still have. Follow ups included It's Got To be Mellow and Mellow Moonlight but he enjoyed his biggest successes in the seventies and early eighties with funky material such as I Want'a Do Something Freaky To You and Don't Push It Don't Force It.


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