Teen musicians in the 1960s listened to Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Elvis Presley.
They knew all about Herman’s Hermits, the Supremes and Paul Revere and the Raiders.
Young guitarists and drummers in the Capital Region also listened to Marty Wade. If their bands landed gigs at school, fire halls or town parks, Marty was the guy on stage — in a loud rock star jacket — belting out introductions:
• “Please welcome, Rotterdam’s hot, cool rock band — The Time Machine!”
• “Get ready to rock with the hip sounds of — the Hi-Tones!”
• “Watch out world, look out Altamont! Here come Scotia’s big deal — the Invators!”
And the crowds went wild.
Wade spent most of the 1960s and part of the ’70s organizing and promoting rock shows at schools, and helped advise music lovers who were still in high school or junior high.
“I’m one of the originators of the ‘Battle of the Bands,’ which they still use today,” said Wade, 75, who lives in Colonie. “I wish I would have trademarked that phrase back in 1961. I would bring in bands, not just one band to work with me, sometimes I would bring in five or six bands and rent spaces in fire halls and facilities and the bands would play. We’d give trophies to the winner and we would charge admission.”
Wade loved the rock ’n’ roll and doo-wop scenes. He had graduated from Colonie Central High School in 1959, where teachers and fellow students knew him as Melvin Wigler. Marty Wade was born in 1961, after a meeting with Boom Boom Brannigan, the legendry disc jockey at Albany’s WPTR at 1540 AM.
Brannigan gave young Melvin a job as an engineer at the station. There was no salary, but there was a chance to hang out in one of the area’s hot spots for new music. “Fifty thousands watts of power in the great Northeast,” Wade said.
During those days, kids nuts about the rock sound — and that was pretty much all kids — could buy the 45 rpm records at music or department stores. But they were also tuned into WPTR, WTRY and WABY, the area’s three rock stations, when they needed a little “Satisfaction,” wanted to be “Glad All Over,” or just wanted to spend a “Hard Day’s Night.”
“I was the guy who answered the phone during the all-request line and did requests and dedications, that kind of thing,” Wade said. “Marty Wade was the name Boom Boom gave me.”
Putting on own shows
Sometimes, Wade would be part of the Brannigan road team for live disc jockey gigs. Garage bands would often call the station and offer to play for free. They just wanted exposure, and Wade remembered all that willing talent when he left Boom Boom’s place in 1963. He began hitting band practices in garages and basements, and began putting together his own shows.
“My biggest show was right near the beginning when I started in ’63,” Wade said. “It was St. Joseph’s in Rensselaer; they’re not there anymore, but Father wanted me to run an event for him.
“I like to think outside the box; I like to do things that are spectacular,” Wade added. “They had two facilities, a gymnasium and a cafeteria, or two gyms, in two different buildings with the same parking lot. I said, ‘I’m going to bring in eight bands, I’m going to put three or four here, three or four there and the kids can go back and forth from one to the other. I’ll be in the middle spinning records in between the bands’ breaks.’ There had to be 1,000 kids who showed up for that thing.”
Wade worked cheap, and that helped business.
“I was busy, I got a lot of gigs on weekends,” Wade said. “Sometimes, I had two in one night.”
The 1960s were prime times for creative band names. National acts like the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Turtles and even Blue Cheer may have inspired local bands like the Ravens, Echoes, Intruders, Belvederes, Barrons, Coachmen, Chicks and Remains.
“And we had the Sensations, from Linton High School and Niskayuna; they changed their names to the Heathens and we made a record and printed a couple thousand records,” Wade said.
The Heathens’ 45 rpm record, featuring “The Other Way Around” and “Problems,” is now considered a rare record and has sold for hundreds of dollars on Internet auction sites.
Wade, who also scheduled bands for the Altamont Fair for several years, kept reel-to-reel tapes of some of his bands. He also filled a scrapbook full of color photos, the square pictures familiar to anyone who had a Kodak Instamatic camera in 1966. In many of the pictures, kids have taken fashion tips from bands of the day — they’re all dressed exactly the same, in red vests, string ties, white shirts and even Nehru jackets.
Some of that might have come from the Beatles’ early gigs, where the guys wore black suits and skinny ties, but Wade’s opinion was also considered.
“I liked uniformity, I wanted them all to wear the same outfits,” Wade said. “Now today, everything is different. The whole world is different.”
The world began changing for Wade during the mid-1970s. Rock ’n’ roll was changing, with hard rock, progressive rock, country rock and glam rock all part of the new mix. Disco was just starting; punk was on deck.
Wade got booed off the stage in one of his final gigs.
“They wanted light shows, I wasn’t equipped, so I didn’t have any light shows to offer them,” he said. “I didn’t have big, booming, loud equipment. I had a little, 40-watt turntable and box speakers. That was the time. I wanted to leave while I was ahead.”
In jewelry business
The whole music thing was just a hobby for Wade. He worked in sales for a full-time job, and ran a jewelry business that he continues part-time today.
There are still rock dreams. Like one in which he can run a little reunion party for the teen musicians he met more than 40 and 50 years ago. They’re now in their 50s and 60s; Wade would love to get in touch with them.
“I always dream about rock ’n’ roll, those glory days when I was with the bands, when I was on the stage at the fair gigs,” Wade said. “It’s still in my blood. That seems weird, doesn’t it, after all these years.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.