Alecstar Band CD CDs
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Alecstar - Too Late To Cry live video
Alecstar Band Biography
Alecstar began as the remnants of a band called Thrush which featured George Mahoney on drums and lead vocals, Jack Murray on bass and backing vocals and Dan Christy on guitar and vocals. Mahoney and Christy formed their friendship in high school, of which Mahoney was still attending, when they had decided to form a band. They placed an ad in the local paper and Murray answered the call. A three piece powerhouse, they did covers of the major rock acts of the day. Although short lived, Thrush contained the rhythm section that would form the foundation for Alecstar.
When Thrush broke up less than a year later, Mahoney went on to join the Flyers (later the New York Flyers) as their drummer. It was during his time with the Flyers that Mahoney wrote his first two songs, “Long Dirt Road” and “I Can’t Say Goodbye”. Both songs were first performed by the Flyers and later on were recorded and performed by Alecstar. Murray began playing with other local musicians in the hopes of putting together another band to go out on the road with. One of those musicians was local guitar slinger Dick Murphy formerly of Bib-n-Tucker and Howie (Bartolo) and the Hornets. After a few unsuccessful attempts to form another band, Murray had just about given up when his and Mahoney’s path would merge once again. Because of an accident that occurred while moving a Hammond B3 Mahoney had to temporarily leave the Flyers. Due to previously booked dates, the Flyers decided to play on with a replacement until Mahoney could return. While recuperating, the musical bonds that had formed between Mahoney and Murray began to pull at him. Once healed, he would return to the Flyers but within a few months he would follow his instincts and leave to form Alecstar with Murray.
Alecstar now had three of its future members onboard but the decision was made not to remain a three piece band as Thrush had been. The search was on for another guitar player who also had lead vocal capabilities to expand the bands sound. After a number of auditions the clear choice was Steve Moosebrugger, formerly of the band Darlin. The first order of business, while the band rehearsed, was the naming of the band. Distant Star was the working name of the band for awhile but on one particular night of practice the name Alecstar surfaced from a rather peculiar circumstance. The walls of the practice room were covered with large moving pads to absorb the sound and on one of the pads was a tag with the name Alec Smith. It’s not clear who put the two halves together but that night the name Alecstar was conceived.
As the band practiced, the first gigs were being booked. One of those was an opening act for what would become one of rock and rolls biggest bands, Boston. The band started playing more and more but it soon became apparent that the band chemistry was not working. Moosebrugger had demanded that he do nearly all of the lead vocals and that did not sit well with the rest of the band. Moosebrugger soon left and went on to form his own band, Holly and the New Yorkers, which would include one of Alecstar’s future drummers, Kenny Simpson. The search for a replacement began.
At one point, while Mahoney and Murray were performing together in Thrush, they were booked as an opening act for Kane, who was Central New York’s first theatrical rock band. Kane was the brain child of lead singer, sole songwriter and bassist Tony Masterpol. Rounding out Kane’s lineup was Harold Mantor on guitar and vocals, Lou Secreti on keyboards and backing vocals and Mike Secreti on drums. Kane had since disbanded and Mantor was recruited to replace the departed Moosebrugger. It was former Thrush guitarist Dan Christy (who was now a booking agent for a local agency) who actually suggested Mantor when he heard of Alecstar’s need for a guitar player. The rigors of rehearsal were about to begin again less than a year after they had started.
Rehearsals began and initially there were conflicts over what direction the band should go in. Up until this point they were doing a lot of what could be termed obscure material. Some members wanted to stay on that path and others wanted to do more mainstream rock to build their audience and in turn their pay. The situation was further complicated when Murphy, who had for some time been looking to make a move to sunny Florida, decided to go and informed the band that he would be moving south. While this dealt a blow to the remaining members, they were determined to press on. It became clear at this point that if they were going to start over they should go for the more commercial sound. All they needed now was another guitar player. The rebuilding process would soon start again.
Before the word got out that Alecstar would be rehearsing new guitar players, Mantor suggested they try a keyboardist to round out the lineup. It was at this point that Lou Secreti another former Kane member, was brought in to replace Murphy. During this period Alecstar began moving more into the mainstream with their selection of cover material. Drummer Mahoney was also writing more and more originals that fit in well with the broader sound they were reaching for. For several months the plan to switch directions worked until inner dissension once again struck home. Unable to get the band to play his originals and not willing to travel too far from home, would put Secreti at odds with the band. He left after less than a year had passed. Thrown into turmoil and not willing to wait for a replacement, the remaining members performed as a trio while they pondered their next move. They began to wonder if they would ever have a lineup that would last beyond a few seasons. Fate was about to deal the band a winning hand.
Murphy, little known to the band, had decided he wasn’t ready to retire to sunny Florida and had returned to Syracuse. Local promoter Jack Belle, who was a long time friend of Murphy’s, approached the band and asked that they consider taking Murphy back into the band. It should also be noted that Belle was Alecstar’s manager during the first short lived version of the band. Along with his request came the promise of opening slots in some of his shows. In fact when Murphy was in Bib-n-Tucker, they were given the opening slot at a sold out show for heavy metal rockers SLADE who later on had a number of their songs covered by Quiet Riot. After some discussion Mahoney, Murray and Mantor all agreed to let Murphy back into the band. It was one of the best decisions they would ever make. From that point on until the last day the band played together, and indeed even the subsequent reunions, the four of them would never part ways again. It was this lineup that most observers would agree, was the one that created the magic formula that reached out and built the fan base that remained with them until the end. And Belle kept his word, offering up numerous opening slots for some of the big acts of the day like Johnny Winter, Ronnie Montrose, Boston, Loverboy, Foghat, UFO, and Eddie Money.
With Murphy back in the fold and committed to the band, the journey was about to begin. The driving, seamless rhythm section of Murray and Mahoney laid the foundation for the bands sound. The twin guitar sounds of Murphy and Mantor became the heart of that sound. Everything was finally working and working well. It was time to take the new band out for a test drive.
In the early part of spring in 1978 (when life begins), Alecstar hit the road and played every club they could. They watched as the crowds grew and the bookings increased. It was now time to try their hand at recording. They set up recording equipment in Murphy’s living room and recorded their first single “No Cash” b/w “Taking it Over”. The single was met with success and the band wanted to record more of their own material which was being written at an ever increasing rate.
With their first single receiving airplay the band was ready to record again. Not ready to invest in studio time just yet but wanting to record more of their own material, the band once again set up recording equipment in Murphy’s house and with the help of their soundman John Gilmour they recorded eight more songs. After mixing the session down to a stereo master tape, three of the songs (Hold On To Rock & Roll – Take Me – Long Dirt Road) were released to radio stations for airplay. One of those three songs, “Hold On To Rock & Roll”, made it onto one of WOUR’s Rock of Central NY albums and "Take Me" was released on a local booking agency's promo LP. It was also around this time that the band would form a long and lasting friendship with WOUR deejay Jerry Kraus who would be instrumental in helping to make Alecstar a household name in the Utica-Rome market and with the subsequent reunions. Two of the Syracuse area radio stations were also influential in helping Alecstar. Howie Castle and Tommy Nast from 94Rock and Dave Fresina from 95X were a big help in getting Alecstar’s originals played. And to the east in the state capital of Albany, Andy Turco, Bob Welsh, and Rick VanZant from PYX106, were all huge promoters of Alecstar. All of these stations were immensely helpful with the air play they gave the band.
The sounds of synthesizers were becoming more and more prominent in the rock and roll world. In addition Mahoney was beginning to feel somewhat confined behind the drums especially since he was capable of adding acoustic guitar and keyboards to the bands sound. The decision was made to bring in another drummer and move Mahoney out front. Mike Secreti, another former Kane member, was the obvious choice. In the beginning all was well. The band was able to expand musically with a fifth member. After a relatively short period of time, personality conflicts began and before long another new member of Alecstar left after less than a year had passed. It was a decision Secreti would later regret because within just days after he left, the band announced they would be going into UCA studios in Utica to record their first album. Mahoney was back on drums before the dust even had a chance to settle.
The band wanted someone to record their album that knew the recording industry and the logical choice was their former soundman, Matt Forger, who had since moved out to Los Angeles and procured a job at Westwood Studios. Forger was later given credit as a technician on Michael Jackson’s now famous Thriller album. Forger was flown home and the recording process was begun. Due to time constraints it was important that the session be completed in a relatively short period of time. The session went quickly but the final mixing and mastering process would take more than a year to complete. In addition the song selection was left up to Forger who chose not to have the band record some of its most popular music to date. When the album did finally arrive, nearly 18 months had passed and more than half of the songs on it had been rotated out of the bands set list. Even though the recording was polished sounding, some thought it was too polished. It was very important to the band that how they sounded live was translated onto vinyl. Unfortunately during the final mixing and mastering process, the big live feel that the band was going for was lost and replaced with a slick processed sound that was not a true representation of Alecstar. The band had learned its first big recording lesson. If you want something done quickly and done a certain way…. do it yourself. And that is exactly what they would later do.
In the meantime as the recording process was going on, the need to find a new drummer quickly was ever present. The process would be short one. The new drummer would be former Holly and the New Yorkers drummer Kenny Simpson. Simpson’s double kick drum set and more aggressive style would compliment Mahoney’s latest compositions which were becoming more and more musically challenging. Within a few months of Simpson’s arrival, the band would head back into the studio. Only this time the band would do it themselves. Guided by Bob Yauger of UCA studios, the entire process would take only a few weeks. Produced by Alecstar, the session wound up with two of the bands biggest hits. “So Long To Hollywood” and “Living In Fear” were never released by the band but were released by a few radio stations who put out their own LP’s of local music. A live version of “Hollywood” was recorded by the King Biscuit people at an outside show in Albany for local station PYX106, which would release “Hollywood” on its own album entitled Capital Land Jam. It was an album of local and semi local bands that were the most popular in the Albany area. After its release the public was asked to vote for their favorite band and Alecstar won. The top prize was a couple of thousand dollars worth of equipment. The band never received a thing. The biggest concern however was with the latest member of the band. Trouble was on the horizon and personal problems soon would force Simpson out of the band. Would the “curse of the drummers” ever end? Not just yet.
The process of auditioning another round of drummers was not one anybody wanted to go through. However it needed to be done and done quickly. After a small handful of drummers had auditioned, one quickly stood out. Robbie Spagnoletti was relatively unknown but whose skill as a drummer was apparent. He was quickly offered the job and he accepted. Practice began and the band started to gel once again with their newest drummer. But the curse was not through yet and would strike one more time. Spagnoletti would quit the band before he ever even got to play a beat. Dakota, a band based out of Wilkes-Barre Scranton Pennsylvania, was signed to a label and they too were in need of a drummer. They had previously auditioned Spagnoletti and now they were offering him a chance to play with a signed band and he took the offer. Dakota never went anywhere after that and later on Spagnoletti would become part of the Mark Doyle and Joe Whiting band. Now Alecstar was under immense pressure to find a replacement. It was no secret at this point that some thought Mahoney should have stayed behind the drums. The band was tighter and the flow was even. The band was seamless in every respect. And if they could not do some songs because of the limitations of being a four piece band then it was a price some thought was worth paying. The hunt for what would be the bands last drummer was about to begin.
One of the first to apply for the job was Fred Coury, a Binghamton native who had seen the band many times. He contacted the band when he heard that they were looking for a new drummer. Coury showed up for his audition but when the audition was over the band felt that he did not do his homework and did not offer him the job. They also did not sense that he would necessarily fit into the bands personality. And after all the problems with drummers they wanted the next one to be their last one. Coury did break into the big time a few years later as the drummer for nationally known Cinderella. However, the city of Binghamton had not run out of drummers just yet.
Once, when the band was playing in the Binghamton area, a young area drummer came up to the band and announced that if the band ever needed a drummer, that he was the person for the job. He thought his high energy style of playing would be a perfect fit. His name was Tim Sharp and he wanted to play with Alecstar. When auditions began he was given the chance and ultimately the job. Although nobody in the band ever claimed to be superstitious, they were hiring a fourth drummer whose last name began with the letter S. Was it an omen? Was the curse going to strike a fifth time? Fortunately the bad luck with drummers had finally run its course and Sharp stayed with the band to the end. During Sharps reign with Alecstar they would go into the studio one last time. Wanting to do something fairly quickly but with more appeal than the standard 45rpm in a jacket, the band opted for 45 sized (but played at album speed 33-1/3rpm) flexible vinyl disc placed over a photo of the band. It was unique in its appearance and would be the band's last musical statement.
The fall of 1984 had begun and as with all falls, the end of life for many things. And not long after, the announcement came down from lead singer and songwriter Mahoney, that he would be leaving the band. Nine long years of playing throughout the northeast, Canada and as far away as Florida, had taken their toll on Mahoney. The hopes of landing a record deal had long since faded. The rigors of playing night after night had begun to outweigh the rewards. He had been offered the lead singer and drummer position in a band that was forming in California. For better or worse, it was time to try something else. Following Mahoney’s announcement, Murphy said he too had had enough and would be going to Florida. This time however, would be for good. The last dates were announced and January 19th, 1985 would be the end. It was time to say goodbye.
The last weeks before the band's final night together went as many before them had. The only exception was the very last week during a special farewell party at the Rustic Inn in Herkimer on January 16th It was given by WOUR in honor of Alecstar’s excellence and commitment to their trade. Jerry “The Doctor” Krause was master of ceremonies for the evening and presented each member of the band with a silver cup, a token of appreciation. It was this night that reality really set in. The next two nights were at The Connection in Gloversville. No one really wanted to talk about it but it was apparent that the bond that once held the band together was dissolving and it couldn’t be stopped.
January 19th came and with it a snowstorm. The road crew left earlier than usual as it was a long drive to West Leyden, especially during a storm. The weather did not affect the mood or numbers of the full house that greeted the band upon their arrival. They came to say goodbye and wanted one more night of the brand of rock & roll that Alecstar had given them so many times before. Through the laughter, the tears, the joy and the sorrow the band gave up their best. When it came down to the very last song the band felt it should make a statement and chose The Who’s “Long Live Rock” to make it with. And when the last chord rang and slowly faded away, Alecstar came to its conclusion. The long ride was over. All that was left now were the memories. The ride home was the longest ever. It was a long time before some even wanted to talk about it. But time is a healer of all wounds and the time did finally arrive when everyone accepted the fact that it was over.
The band never got that coveted prize, a record deal, the ultimate reward for any aspiring band. A lesson learned a long time ago is that you can do your best and still lose. It’s not about losing - it’s about doing your best. That is what it all comes down to. Alecstar is a talented and original band, that always gives its best.
CD $10.99 (2005)
Live Then and Now
DVD $13.99 + $4.50 shipping (2005)
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Picture Disc LP (1984) OUT OF PRINT
LP (1979) OUT OF PRINT
New York Flyers - New York Flyers Vol. 1: Best
CD $11.99 (2004, 37 min.) more info
Flashcubes - Bright Lights / Best of
CD $11.99 (1997, 71 min.) more info
805 - End of Light: Best of 1979-1989
Direct Digital Download $9.99
805 - End of Light: Best of 1979-1989
CD $11.99 (2005, 72 min.) more info
Todd Hobin Band - Todd Hobin
Direct Digital Download $9.99 (1978, 42 min.)
Todd Hobin Band - Todd Hobin
CD $9.99 (1978, 42 min.) more info 08/14/08 CURRENTLY OUT OF STOCK.
Please purchase MP3 direct digital download instead.
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