Denny Carleton

 

 

Back-Phil Gillambardo  Ken Margolis Jim Bonfanti

front-Denny Carleton Randy Klawon

The Choir written by Denny Carleton with the late Jim Girard of the Cleveland Scene Magaziine

 

The Choir was always one of my favorite bands when I played in my first group the Lost Souls. When I had a chance to join I said yes because the Lost Souls had broken up. Before I tell of my time in the Choir I’d like to give a short history of the group.

                

                      In 1963 Dan Klawon formed The Mods.The original lineup was Dan Klaxon on drums, Dave Smalley on rhythm guitar, Dave Burke on bass, and Wally Bryson on lead guitar. Later, they were joined by Jim Bonfanti, who played tambourine and sang harmony vocals on the more harmony-oriented songs and replaced Dan Klawon behind the drums on British R&B standards.


                   The Mods appeared on several local TV shows, and became the resident band at the Painesville Armory, where they opened for visiting acts such as the Yardbirds and Tommy Roe. In the summer of 1966, The Mods went to Chicago to record two group originals, "It's Cold Outside" and "I'm Goin' Home" written by Dan Klawon. While in Chicago, they changed their name to The Choir. that was how they were billed when the single came in December 1966.

                     Soon after the single was recorded, Klawon and Burke left the group, some new members were added, and Jim Bonfanti settled into the drum set permanently. While Bonfanti was to become the backbone of the band, it was Dan Klawon's initial inspiration and attitudes that set the tradition of musical integrity retained by the group. The band became more harmony-oriented and less R&B-oriented, but continued to write and perform their own music. Unfortunately, the two follow-up Choir singles "No One Here To Play With"/"Don't You Feel A Little Sorry For Me" and "When You Were With Me"/"Changin' My Mind", never achieved the success of their debut. the band experienced several personnel changes, which, combined with the lack of a strong follow-up to "It's Cold Outside", led to a premature breakup in the spring of '68.

               After The Choir had disbanded, Bonfanti drummed for a while with guitarist Joe Walsh and keyboardist Phil Gialombardo in a trio called Pie (Pie broke up when Walsh left to join the James Gang). After toying with a name change to the more timely White Rain, in late 1968 Bonfanti had formed a new version of The Choir. The new lineup included Kenny Margolis (who had been in an earlier version of the band) on acoustic piano (equipped with pickups), Phil Gialombardo on Hammond organ, and myself  (Denny Carleton)on bass, and Randy Klawon (Dan's younger brother) on guitar with vocal chores divided amongst everyone except Klawon and Bonfanti. The new band soon became extremely popular on the local circuit.

It was 1968, I was nineteen and had met Dan Klawon and Jim Bonfanti of The Choir while working on my degree from Cuyahoga Community College. I had allowed the group to perform one of my original tunes "Whatcha Gonna Do?"     

             As I got to know Jim and Dan, my band was the Lost Souls was breaking up and I was asked by Jim to join a new version of the Choir.  

        This was the third lineup of the Choir, and occasionally, the Choir I was in gets confused with the Mods/Choir lineup that recorded "It's Cold Outside". ".The Choir that I was in was a very good band, but was very different than  the original Choir that recorded Cold Outside and toured".

 

              I became very aware of this problem one time when I appeared at Steve Petryszyns' record convention in the mid 1980’s. The disc jockey noticing that one of the Choir cuts appeared on my Retro album asked me to get on stage to promote it. When I got on stage the DJ said here’s Denny Carleton remember how he played guitar, sang and wrote Its Cold Outside and now he has a record; label that was promoting it. He had just rewritten history to my dismay. Of course I didn’t play on it, sing it or write it.As I said sometimes the history of the Choir gets a bit confused.

               The band rehearsed three times weekly for a month, learned 20 originals and many covers and became Cyrus Erie's (Eric Carmen) foremost competition. The band had a two-keyboard lineup with a sound that was a cross between British pop and classical. Among our favorite covers were some of Procul Harum,and the  Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations".

                               

                The new Choir's repertoire encompassed jazz, R&B, ballads and classical rock, and about 20 original songs. The group had an unusual keyboard-dominated sound, sometimes even using three keyboards on songs like "MacArthur Park" and Traffic's "Colored Rain". While other bands were simply performing standard tunes by The Beatles, Stones and Who, etc., The Choir was attempting projects of some magnitude, like taking "MacArthur Park", which was written for full orchestra, and rearranging it for three keyboards, bass, drums and guitar, or performing a 7-minute concerto with four time changes.

                 Phil Gillambardo played a real Hammond organ with two Leslie speakers, which were hauled in by our capable equipment managers. Also Kenny played a real piano with a mike on it also hauled in by the equipment guys. The Choir played the Hullabaloos, and did quite a few gigs at otto’s grotto and d Poos in the old flats. We  were managed by Mark Barger of Global M. Productions who also managed The James Gang, Lemon Pipers, and the Damnation of Adam's Blessing. With his help and that of WIXY's DJ Dick "Wild Child" Kemp we recorded an album that was accepted by Mercury Records, but the band broke up when two members joined Eric Carmen.

             Eric persuaded Randy Klawon and Ken Marigolis to quit the Choir and join the Cyrus Erie. The Choir reformed without me ,adding Dan Klawon on the bass and Rick Caon on guitar. I was asked to join Brian Sands to be in another local band called Moses and that ended my career in the Choir.

       My time in the Choir was an adjustment for me. I switched from the guitar to the bass and we played very progressive material, and I had to learn all of this complicated music within 1 month. It was also time of The Viet Nam war and the cloud of war and possible being of being drafted

was on everyone’s mind. We never achieved all we could have been because of breaking up .

               The Choir that I played in 9 months for was almost a totally distinct band that the original group, but one that seems to live in many local Clevelander's memories because of the attempt to go on the high road with originals and complex music. Thinking back on the group on a personal note it amazes me what nice people I played with  \ and how well we got along .I am proud of my time with the Choir; the music and the way we conducted ourselves.

            There are cuts available of the Choir on my Retro Cd, also a few cuts on Choir practice, a retrospective CD put out by Sundazed records

Also Anyway I Can written by Phil Gillamabardo was the version that I played in.