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Rockin’ Rebels


(Phil Todaro, Tommy Shannon)

Swan 4125

No. 8   March 9, 1963




“I was a elementary school teacher; 30 years, now. I just retired [Fall 1997],” said Paul Balon, the Rebels’

(later billed the Buffalo Rebels, still later without their permission, the Rockin’ Rebels) rhythm guitarist,

in an exclusive interview.  “If we’d got our money and another hit, I don’t know if it woulda been the best

thing.  I’ve had a good life now, but I don’t know if me and the Kippers [Jimmy and Mickey] woulda done

so well, if things hadda happened different.


“Look, on that thing [“Wild Weekend”] I played three chords–think I knew five–and I didn’t know why or

how they were put together; didn’t know anything.   The drummer was the worst of us.  We stunk!   Listen

close, our instruments weren’t even in tune.    If we could just record it again without the mistakes, it might

be a nice stupid tune.”


Paul Balon and Jimmy (lead guitar) and Mickey Kipper (sax) and Tommy Gorman (drums)–no bass–were

the Rebels; hometown, Lackawanna, New York, just south of Buffalo.  “We were together for about two

years.  This is ’57, ’58.  I was going to a Timon Catholic High; raised in a restaurant.     Filet milan, lobster;

didn’t know what a hot dog was till I got married.   My teacher, at Ruda’s Music School introduced me to

Jimmy and his brother Mickey; raised by this Hungarian grandmother.   Tommy was an orphan.


“In those days, local groups were able to put out records, by small companies and get played locally.

They’d sell 5,000 copies–if lucky–and get work from it.   This disk jockey named Tommy Shannon owned

Mar-Lee with Phil Todaro.   The label name had something to do with their girl triends; like Mary and Lee

Ann, or so.   Tommy Shannon had a theme song and he was the weekend jock for WKBW, the top 40 station

in Buffalo.    His theme went, ‘Tommy Shannon Show/KB radio…things get better/we’ll give you news and

weather/Tommy Shannon Show.’  The melody was what became ‘Wild Weekend.”‘


Writing credits were given to Phil Todaro, a local record producer and Tommy Shannon   Buffalo jock with a

night-time spot called  “The Wild Weekend  Show.”   The shows theme was reportedly previously recorded

by a little known area act,  the Russ Hallet Trio.


“Now this is ’58 and Tommy [Shannon] was gonna have us do ‘Red River Valley,’ when he walked in on the

session we were playing his theme as an instrumental, and he says, ‘Record that.’ We did; and we recorded

‘Red River Valley,’ but somehow that got to this other group and they [Johnny & the Hurricanes] recorded it

and it became this big hit; exact arrangement as ours.  Never figured that one out…”


‘”Wild Weekend” was issued during the fall of 1959.  “We did the local bandstands and got to do the ‘Dick

Clark Show,’ too,” said Paul.  “Clark asked me–live on the  air–why call yourselves the Rebels?  Being young

and scared out of my gourd, I said, “Cause Duane Eddy’s our idol and we copied everything he does.’  Very

soon after someone told us the name had to be changed [Label credits then read, “The Buffalo Rebels”].


“They told us it sold about 100,000, the first time around; but they didn’t give us any money so we were

gone by the time it became a major hit in ’62.   Never got a penny, nope; not for the Mar-Lee record or the

reissue–got nothin’.   Tommy  Shannon, then a Buffalo State art major, got a new Corvette.  We’re sure he

got the money, but he denies it to today.  We were babes in the dark woods.   Tommy [Gorman] didn’t have

no one and the rest of our parents didn’t know about the business; fact, my dad wanted me to go to college

or work his restaurant.   No one directed us, or much cared that we made music.”


Only one follow-up–“Buffalo Blues”   b/w “Donkey Walk”-­ was issued by Paul and the original group,

before their attentions by necessity turned to the business of making a living.  “That thing sold s-l-o-w, like

at a walk.   We never got paid, so we never went back,” Paul said.    “Another group promoted ‘Wild

Weekend,’ as the ‘Rockin’ Rebels;’ but the record was our record.   Nothing was changed or re-recorded.

They made up something for the flip side and a whole album of stuff was put out.    The only thing on that

album that is us, the Rebels, the  Buffalo Rebels–is ‘Wild Weekend.’


“Wild Weekend” sold top 10 and the public was cravmg  for Rebel-rockin’  instrumentals.   To flesh out an

album for a long dead group, unknown musicians were rushed into  Swan’s studios to rework classics

like “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” “Tequila,”  and  “Telstar.”


The Rockin’ Rebels moniker was utilized for one further Hot 100 charting, a number called “Rockin’

Crickets” (#87,1963).  The record  was  identical to  an earlier release–also  titled “Rockin’  Crickets”

(#57, 1959)–by a band known as the Hot-Toddys.   These Toddy’s were a legitimate Canadian unit– Port

Colborne, Canada–that in the late ’50s consisted of Terry Gibsdon (lead vocals), Vaughn  Jonah (guitar),

Garry Kelba (drums), Johnny “T-Bone” Little (bass), and Bill Pennell (sax).    “I never heard of that

record,” said Balon.   “That was our follow-up,  huh?”    Apparently Shannon  and Todaro were involved

in the ownership of Shan-Todd label that originally issued the Tot-Toddys’ “Rockin’     Crickets.”  Three

more Rockin’ Rebels singles are known to have been  issued.   All without the participation of Paul and

the original band.  Paul went to University of Buffalo; flunked out.  Thereafter he went on the road with

the Speedy Garfin band, worked steel mills, returned to college, graduated, married and was a elementary

teacher for 30 years.   Paul retired in 1997.  Mickey sold cars; Jimmy was a Army recruiter, stationed in



The Kippers remained music makers, becoming regulars, as the Rebels, at Ciro’s in Buffalo; later as the

Kippers, a jazz  bar band outfit.    The brothers worked the area’s theatre pit and TV sessions.   Tom “got

into bad company” and his whereabouts for the last 30 years are unknown.