How It All Began...
The original personnel were Jan "Kole" Sidum on Cordovox and trumpet, Chuck "Dennis" Feger on alto, tenor and baritone saxes and flute, Jimmy "Lawrence" Campbell on drums and cornet along with Denny Bartel on guitar as well as vocal and instrumental arranging.
We began performing in the mid 1960's under the name of "Rick Gambino & The Other Four", working in local establishments around greater Detroit, such as the "Surfside" on East Jefferson at Van Dyke in Detroit. After Rick left the group in 1966, we began doing "showcases" or several songs with a theme, such as Broadway Musicals (Sound Of Music, Fiddler On The Roof, Mary Poppins and The Man of LaMancha), Country Music, Folk Music, Jazz, Four Freshmen as well as "Cities Showcase" with various songs having cities in the title, as well as our "Vocal Groups" showcase with many singing groups from the past. From these sets came our name, THE SHOWCASEMEN.
Chuck left the group in 1970, while we were appearing in the Casbar Lounge at The Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. He was replaced by Bobby Millitello whom we had met while we were performing in Buffalo, New York. Bobby fit in immediately although he was young, he was an accomplished saxophonist and flutist and a great showman.
In the early 1970's we were picked to be promotional artists for A.I.M.S. (American International Music Sales) makers of fine musical instruments and amplifiers in Anaheim California. We were presented with guitars, basses, amplifiers and P.A. sound systems to use on the job. In return, they used pictures of the group with their equipment in magazine ads.
Jimmy left the group in 1971 while we were at the "Back Door" and was replaced by Paul Garrison, who we all came to know and love, and after a great deal of work on his part was a perfect match with the rest of us.
In 1974 Bobby decided to pursue greater things, so with our blessing he went to work with the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione, and has been working with the great Dave Brubeck for most of the past two decades. When Bobby left, Chuck returned to us until we disbanded in late 1976.
We began traveling around the continental United States (Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and many others) as well as Canada and Puerto Rico for a six week period, but always returning to our home turf near Detroit to venues such as Mickey's Back Door in Dearborn.
We performed on many local television and radio shows. Among the list are Kelly and Company on WXYZ TV and J.P.McCarthy's Focus on WJR-AM. We also appeared with or on the same stage as Dick Clark, Godfrey Cambridge, singer/comedian Joey Van for several months and backed up The Coasters, Little Anthony, Leslie Gore, Jim "Mudcat" Grant, and many others. We also did a number of local commercials for the likes of Bob Saks Oldsmobile.
A few original songs were recorded by The Showcasemen. "Mister Moon", "Tender Eyes, Tender Lips, Tenderly", written by Paul Garrison and "A World Without Love" was penned by Bobby Militello. Unfortunately although we were very proud of the songs, not much happened with them.
In October 1976 we parted ways permanently for some, and not so permanently for others. Denny tried to keep The Showcasemen alive and has been successful in varying degrees since then.
After the original group called it quits, Denny began a search for band members who had similar likes and abilities, musically, so he found Wayne Ferrari (Organ), Dennis Stein (Bass), and Gene Huston (drums), and started rehearsing as the "New Showcasemen". We were introduced to the great singer/comedian Joey Van, who had a long engagement at a ski resort in Northern Michigan, and needed a band to back him up.
So we practiced Joey's routines (as well as our material), and after a short time we made the trip north. The engagement went very well and after a few months we bid Joey a fond farewell and headed back to Detroit, playing at such places as the Jester's Court and Henry's Place in Dearborn, as well as many other spots in the area. Gene and Wayne were replaced by Jim Reid and Larry Marrone. We dropped the "New" from "New Showcasemen" and the parade begins to roll. Paul and Jan returned and Joe and Lisa Ligreci (my brother-in-law and his wife) took their first of many turns in the rotation. At that point we were a six-piece group and working at clubs like Joey's in Westland, the Lion & The Sword in Garden City, and then back to Henry's Place in Dearborn.
The economy was sour at that time so it was not a good time to have a six-piece band, so Jan, Larry, Joe and Lisa went to work for Jamie Coe at Jamie's on Seven, and Denny and Paul scaled back to a trio for a while working at places like The Oak Barrel, The Dearborn Townhouse Club Elegante, and The Crystal Lounge, working for "Uncle Ray" off and on for a number of years.
Then in the late 1980's we were scheduled to begin performing at Mitch Housey's. Unfortunately, the place burned to the ground four days before we were supposed to start. So after a couple of months of scuffling we took a hiatus. Tom Fosselman and Denny went to work at Jamie's on Seven for a while. When Mitch had rebuilt, he showed up one day and wanted Denny to put the group together again. So he and Tom got in touch with Paul Garrison. We found a girl singer and went to work at Mitch Housey's. We were there for ten years with a string of musicians and singers including Dennis Dietrich, Danny Terrell, Lisa Ligreci, Staci Garrison (Paul's daughter), Shelly Quayle (Soon to become Paul's wife), as well as our good buddy Chuck Singleton.
In early 2001, we decided to hang it up for the time being and pursue our own endeavors. That was it until 2010.
In early 2010, Denny, Paul and Dennis Dietrich (who had worked several times, once with Paul and Denny in a later version of The Showcasemen, as well as in another group for five years in the early 2000's) decided to put The Showcasemen together again. So, we started writing charts and rehearsing while looking for a fourth member. In time we approached Larry Franks, whom we have known for decades, and Larry agreed to become the newest member of The Showcasemen. We feel he was the perfect choice, and welcome him to the group and we know you will, too.
Special thanks to former associates, and many good friends:
Rick Gambino, Chuck Feger, Jan Sidum, Jimmy Campbell (deceased), Tony Martin, Ken Ryba(deceased), Rich Seloski, Jay Wesch, Bobby Militello, Wayne Ferrari, Dennis Stein, Gene Hustin, Jim Reid, Larry Marrone, Joe and Lisa Ligreci, Tom Fosselman, Staci Garrison, Shelly Quayle, Danny Terrell and Chuck Singleton.