I first accompanied the Brooklyn doo-wopp group Vito & The Salutations in the early 60s in the Bronx, New York, after they had hit with their record of “Gloria”. They later became even more successful with an uptempo remake of “Unchained Melody". Soon after, I started playing on their records, and then writing and arranging for them as well. I recall writing their song “Liverpool Bound” with Shelly Coburn and the group’s manager Dave Rick in a parking lot across from 1650 Broadway in Manhattan. They offered me a place in the group and we appeared on stage together in 1964-66. The Salutations had some personnel changes but Vito Balsamo (lead) and Frank Fox (bass) were always there.
Other Salutations with whom I worked: Ray Russell, Shelly Buchansky, Barry Lynn, Lenny Citrin, Randy Silverman, and Alan Messinger.
DOO-WOPP - SALUTATIONS AND TOKENS
Left to Right: Ray, Vito, Shelly, Frank
Left to Right: Barry, Alan, Vito,Frank,Ray.
Favorite moment: our appearance on the Clay Cole TV show.
In 1960, I replaced fellow Brooklynite Phil Margo in a band in the Catskill Mountains. The following year I learned that Phil was now part of a group called The Tokens, who had a record out which was a favorite of mine – “Tonight I Fell In Love”. Their follow-up would be the now legendary “Lion Sleeps Tonight”. We remained in contact, and first worked together in the late 60s, when the Tokens’ production company hired me as an arranger. The first of our collaborations is still one of my favorites, though it is virtually unknown: “Teach Me How”, a rare Neil Sedaka-Carol Bayer tune, sung by the Chiffons. Since it was my first time writing for a string section, I asked my friend and classmate Arnold Gross to ‘teach me how’ to do that. He did. Thanks Arnie. The song became the B-side of a record that did not do well, but it showed up years later on this compilation CD:
The Tokens and I did much recording together, some with them as artists, and some with their other acts, the most successful of which were the early records of Tony Orlando & Dawn.
In the 1980s, Mitch Margo, Richie Reicheg and I formed a new ‘west coast’ Tokens group which later evolved into a group with Phil Margo, Dennis Marcellino, Mitch and myself. We recorded two albums and did many performances on stage and television. It was the most fun I have ever had on stage. Thanks guys.
Left to Right: Phil, Dennis, Norman, Mitch.
Left to right: Norman, Dennis, Mitch, Phil
Foreground: the MGM Lion
Favorite moment: our appearance on the Tracey Ullman TV Show.
Often after our road shows, audience members would ask if we had ‘seen them do your song on the Tracey Ullman Show’.