Bob Belive: Drummer along the Mohawk

Cudmore: Focus on History

Music has played a major role in the life of Amsterdam native Bob Belive. An accomplished drummer, he began playing in a band when he was in the sixth grade.

The band was led by his drum teacher, downtown Amsterdam music store owner and trumpeter Tony Brooks. They played at several spots including the Red Carpet Lounge, then on Market Street.  Belive earned $2.50 a night plus all he could eat.  “It was great experience,” he said.

Belive grew up on Grove Street, across from what was then St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church.

In high school he came up with the drum cadence that became the acoustic signature for the Amsterdam High School band, the Marching Rams. 
He formed a rock band when he was 15.  Called the Dynamics, the group played Beatles covers and other hits once a month at the popular Friday night dances at the Columbian Social Club on East Main Street.  The Dynamics won the Amsterdam Jaycees Battle of the Bands in 1967.

His band mates were Randy and Danny Ryczek, Bruce Morrow and Mark Kryszewski.  Later keyboard player Tom Spakoski joined the band.  Spakoski also had his own musical group, the Collector’s Item.

Belive graduated high school in 1970 and the Dynamics played regularly through 1972.  Belive then worked with a brass group called Sunny Day People covering songs by Chicago and similar bands. 

Next Belive teamed with Spakoski, female vocalist Sandy Bouvier, and other musicians in Standing Room Only.  For three or four years they played every weekend at Hidden Valley Dude Ranch in Lake Luzerne.

Belive did have day jobs but ultimately quit them as he was making more money as a musician.  In the early 1970s he continued to play with Tony Brooks.  Brooks was elected president of the Amsterdam Local 133 of the American Federation of Musicians in late 1973 and Belive was named to the executive board.

Belive, Spakoski and another Amsterdam native friend, Bruce Gardner, started a band called Four’s A Crowd in the mid-1970s.  Their fourth “band member” was a tape recorder. 

They used a technique that was a predecessor of karaoke.  They would record a music track in their studio and play a cassette of that music when they performed, augmenting the recorded sound by vocalizing and playing their instruments over the top of the recorded track.

They started at an after-hours club.  Soon the band was playing at the Velvet Glove in Gloversville, the Silver Spur in Latham plus other nightspots in the Capital District.  Four’s A Crowd performed six nights a week into the early 1980s.

Belive’s family home at 65 1/2 Grove Street in Amsterdam was gutted during a spectacular fire that badly damaged four homes on June 27. 1979.  No one was injured.  Belive went to the scene and firefighter Walter Martin was able to save the file cabinets containing his music.  The metal cabinets were so hot firefighters had to douse them with water.

The only clothing be had was what he was wearing: a Four’s A Crowd t-shirt and a pair of jeans.

In 1981 Belive started one of the first video rental stores in the area, Creative Video, on Route 5 at Balltown Road in Niskayuna.  By 1982, growth of the video business led him to leave the band business.  There were eventually four Creative Video stores.

The stores had a 24-year run but now Belive is retired and living in Glenville.  When Bob and his wife, Ellie, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, Four’s A Crowd reunited for the occasion.  The band members remain close friends.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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