“The Sharks” Band was formed on Tuesday, November 25th, 1980 with the auditions of drummer Bob Assini and bassist Mike DuClos. Other members of the band Mike Kelley on keyboards, Jerry Yaroschuck on guitars, Bob
previous band called “Showdown”. Actually, “Showdown” was a band formed from two established working bands called “Moonlight Jamboree” and “Tight Squeeze”. They could not have been more different in musicalstyle, venues they played, and the audience that they would play for.
“Tight Squeeze” embraced the sound of the day such as R&B and the Funk that was popular on the radio. One example was Bob Button dressing up as Dr. Funk. He had a long robe with a hood and sunglasses and as he walked on stage the band would launch into “Play That Funky Music White Boy”. Scary yes, but very entertaining.
“Moonlight Jamboree” on the other hand, wore flannel shirts and blue jeans with converse sneakers and maybe an occasional pair of cowboy boots. They would play country-rock such as “The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band”, the “Flying Burrito Brothers”, “The Byrds”, “Commander Cody”, “Bob Dylan” and their biggest influence “The Band”.
“Tight Squeeze” would play clubs on Central Avenue in Colonie such as the “Papa Bear Lounge” and the “Late and Lazy” in Guilderland. These clubs were thriving in suburbia.
“Moonlight Jamboree” on the other hand would play some of the roughest venues in Watervliet. Such as “Hess’s Grill”, the “Ukrainian Club”, and “Thorny’s Bowling Alley”. The patrons of these establishments looked as if they were right out of a backward village in Appalachia. Dick Danew who ran “Thorny’s” once told me that he would have to put the plumbing back together in the restrooms whenever “Moonlight Jamboree” would be playing. Fights in the parking lot were a normal occurrence. It was in this environment that Tommy D’Ambrose would go down risking life and limb to see his cousin Mike Kelley play and sit in with his Sax to play, specifically, the last song that “HE” wanted to play. Tom was the one who suggested that the horns in “Moonlight Jamboree” get together. Mike was not crazy about that idea, but it was Jerry that envisioned that “Moonlight Jamboree” could sound like “The Band” as featured on the “Last Waltz” and their album “Rock of Ages”, albums that prominently featured a horn section. Jerry and Tommy won the day!
“Showdown” was a band that played mostly cover songs with a few originals which would pop out as something unique and special to a drummer that would watch and listen to them perform at “Harold’s Office”, a popular club on Wolf Road that had plenty of live entertainment each week.
The band wanted to go in a different direction and perform mostly original songs. Mike Kelley would later say to me – “We have a well - that will never run dry”
The first song we ever played as a band was “City Lights” and this was the song that was given to me and Mike Duclos to audition to. The first four original songs that we played as a band were “City Lights”, “Won’t Find What You’re After”, “Go to Your Chair” and “Hole in the Head”.
We rehearsed for 3 months, five to six nights a week as one original song after another was cranked out. The rehearsal space in Mike Kelly’s basement was well insulated. But with a rhythm section and horn section playing through a sound system it was very loud. I remember seeing my drum sticks hit the drum and hearing absolutely nothing. A pair of drum sticks that I had playing in a lounge band for three years were shredded into kindling after just 5 nights of rehearsals. Through this wall of sound, Kandy Kelley became our unofficial Den Mother. Kandy never got tired of rehearsals at her home. She would always have on a pot of coffee or pitcher of iced tea, maybe even a snack for our breaks. She had two small children Geoffrey and Brian that she would put to bed only to have them awakened and bounced around their bunk beds by Tommy and Jeff on break time. On many occasions, Kandy would be joined by Brenda who would often bring her goodies for us to snack on and together the ladies would talk well into the evening. Kandy was so proud of the band and her husband’s creative songwriting, she could sit and hear their songs come together from start to finish over a period of time while sitting in her favorite “Lazy Boy” chair with Roy, the family dog, by her feet.
Finally, on March 5th, 1981, “The Sharks” debuted at Russell Sage College.
For me, as the drummer, it was a disaster. Opening night jitters was an understatement as five hundred college students focused their eyes on a band they never heard before. I forgot the beginning of the songs, the tempo, the stops, and the endings. My job was on the line. Three weeks later we played the second show, a dance for the Colonie High School Class of 1981. The jitters left and the band became a well-rehearsed act. My job was saved.
During this time, we went into a newly built Saint Rose College recording studio and recorded our first four originals. It was a good experience. Later we recorded a SKA version of Petula Clarks “Downtown”, which actually got radio play. It was a good experience especially for what would lie ahead, a possible lucrative and potential recording career.
As 1981 went into 1982 the band was getting a reputation as quite a show band with unique originals and a killer horn section that would reinforce the explosive sound of the band. A song called “Please Say Yes” written by Mike Kelley caught the ear of Broadway Blotto. “Blotto” was the most prominent band the Albany area ever produced. They debuted their song “I Want to Be a Lifeguard” on the 1st day of a new upstart cable station called MTV. Broadway and Mike hooked up and began a musical relationship and friendship that lasts to this day.
Blotto would once a year host “Hell Week” which would entail the band traveling from club to club to showcase their act. “The Sharks” horn section became our de facto ambassadors. The horn section was asked by “Blotto” to accompany them during “Hell Week”. Billed as the “Hammerhead Horn Section” they represented us well and would perform “Hell Week” July 25 – 31st, 1982 and later on in July 1983. They also would play the infamous “Toads Place” in New Harford, CT, a club that hosted many influential acts, such as “Billy Joel”, “U2”, “The Rollings Stones”, “Bob Dylan”, “Cyndi Lauper”, & “The Black Crowes” just to name a few. This was an exciting time knowing that someday we could be on a stage debuting our songs. We would not have long to wait.
By the summer of 1981, Mike DuClos left the band due to creative differences. He was replaced by Steve Gilhooley. Steve was with us through our most important and creative time together. He took the time to learn some very creative bass lines that would fit “The Sharks” style.
In 1982 we played over one hundred one-night stands and opened for national acts at the infamous “J.B. Scotts” showcase club. “Little Feat”, “NRBQ”, “Johnny Copeland” and “Matt Guitar Murphy” were some of the main acts we shared a stage with, with many more to follow. Through it all Mike, Jerry, and Bob would continue to write songs that would reflect musical styles that in some cases were ahead of its time. In just one song you would encounter swing, rock, r&b, and ska. The songs had quick-changing horn arrangements and rhythms that were always very danceable.
By 1983 it was time to make a record which eventually would become “Shark Treatment”. This was no small task. Having a record was a big deal and having one produced by Broadway Blotto on the “Blotto” record label would give us national exposure.
The record cost us $4,500 and it included 4 songs – “Please Say Yes”, “My Baby Don’t Know It”, “I’ll Follow You Wherever You Go”, and “I Won’t Be Happy ‘til You Hear Me on the Radio”.
It was the latter that the DJs hooked on to and it received heavy rotation on FM Radio and college radio stations.
On April 8th, 1983 at the “Chateau” Showcase Club, “The Sharks” celebrated their record release. DJs, bands from the area, and Shark fans all celebrated the record and on May 1st, after playing Siena College Mayfest, we thanked the public and our fans with a blowout party at “B.J. Clancy’s”. It was a spectacular celebration that only solidified the bands popularity.
In September of 1983, we played our 3rd annual “Lark Fest”. We went on stage with a crowd of 60,000 people. Til this day, it stands as the biggest crowd that “Lark Fest” ever produced. We also played “Lark Fest” in 1984, 1985, and our last one in 1986. All the “Lark Fests “showcased our original songs we wrote and the recordings we did for the year. We played all the major Albany festivals during the course of these years including the “Tulip Festival” and “Pinkster Fest.”
By the time 1983 came to an end, the band had its own production company complete with voice of the theatre sound system, lights, and a four-man road crew. Jack Nailor was in charge and he was the 8th member of the band as he held down the most important job of being our sound technician. Jack had ears of gold and would work with expertise every soundboard from the “Palace Theatre”, to the “Colonie Colosseum” to every club that the band would play. A true artist he was the toughest and wildest individual I ever knew. He lived life to the max, and when not working with the band he would be cruising on his Harley.
On many occasions, we would call Jack up to front the band. Jack was a good-looking guy and he actually was a good singer and frontman. All the girls in the audience would have their eyes on him as he sang “Wild Thing” by “The Troggs”. He would dance and sway his hips to and fro to the music. The problem was Jack’s bridgework in his mouth. Jack was a street fighter that wreaked havoc on his teeth. On many occasions instead of “Wild Thing,” it would instead become “Wild Ting”. The bridgework containing his front teeth would come flying out as if they were shot out of a cannon, hitting a crowded dance floor. With a panicked look on his face and a mouth that shriveled up like a two-month-old Halloween pumpkin, he would yell to clear the dance floor – and then would scream louder “do not step on my teeth”. God help anyone that would. Once he found them, he poured beer on them for sterilization, and then popping them back in his mouth he would continue to sing and sway where he left off. Mind you, this is all in a time span of 10 seconds. The girls who were mesmerized by Jack a moment before were left stunned. Their fantasy went up in smoke. Jack also became our unofficial bodyguard to our girlfriends and wives. God help any male in the club that would make a pass at them. Jack would always in a very subtle way discourage this kind of behavior.
The year 1984 would be a very lucrative year for the band. Coming off the success of “Shark Treatment” the band worked constantly. In June of 1984, we would team up with “Blotto” and play at the Colonie Coliseum which was a 3,000 seat theatre in the round with a revolving stage. Some of the acts that played there were “Diana Ross”, “Ray Charles”, “Rodney Dangerfield”, “Pat Benatar”, “Eddy Murphy”, and the “Beach Boys” just to name a few. Our name finally got on a Ticket-tron ticket which is equivalent to a Live Nation ticket. The theatre would be where Shaker High School held the graduations. Collecting my diploma on stage as a Shaker Graduate I would never have dreamed that I would be in a main act playing on this stage. Sadly, this theatre no longer exists – having been demolished in 2012.
In September of 1984, WQBK put on a rock and roll party that would pair us with “Blotto”, “Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band”, and the “Drongos” at RPI Field House. “Root Boy Slim” had a hit on the college radio stations called “Boogie Til You Puke”. It was a hard-rockin' song in the vein of “George Thorogood’s” song “Bad to the Bone”. We played to a sold-out crowd of 7,500 people to much acclaim which further highlighted our past album “Shark Treatment” and a future album that was not yet released. That album would become “Seven Deadly Fins” which was still being produced at the time. We would eventually play all three WQBK rock fests at RPI with acts such as “Marshal Crenshaw”, “Steve Forbert”, and “Gary US Bonds”, all rock legends in their own right.
At the “Chateau” Showcase Club, the band took in $3,000 at the door. We had one thing on our minds and that was to earn enough money to put out a full-length LP. “Seven Deadly Fins” was to be our crowning jewel. Costing over $17,000 to record and produce the album would consist of members of the Schenectady Symphony and international blues player “James Montgomery”. This would all debut in the weeks leading up to the summer of 1985. Again, the album was on the “Blotto” record label with Broadway Blotto producing. “Arm ‘n Arm” became the hit on the record reaching the Number 5 most requested song in the Albany area. This was important because it was a hit on the biggest FM station WPYX-106 in the region. The album art was done by Martin Benjamin an award-winning Time/Life photographer who also did the “Shark Treatment” cover art. The album received rave reviews in international industry magazines. Billboard Magazine highlighted the album and recommended it.
The music industry is cruel and instead of a record company signing us to a contract, Elektra Records threatened to sue us because they signed another band called “The Sharks” that won an MTV battle of the band's contest. I believe we told Elektra Records what they could do with their lawsuit.
Undaunted, the band made all the local papers as a group to watch out for, one that had a promising future. We capped off our album debut opening for “Stevie Ray Vaughan” to a sold-out “Palace Theatre”. We also would be the first band to open the new “J.B. Scotts” Showcase Club that would have headliners for the week consisting of “The Ramones”, “Squeeze”, and “REM”. It was a crowning achievement for a band that began in Mike Kelley’s basement with 4 original songs just 5 years earlier.
By 1986 the band was the darling of the local media and it was in the spring of that year that we were approached by local media personality, David Allan and the two top DJs from PIX-106 to be involved in an Albany Tri-Centennial celebration. David Allan wrote “Let’s Have A Party Albany” and they wanted us to perform the music with a multitude of notable people of the city ending with a music video that would resemble the “We Are the World” video that involved national acts from the previous year.
We recorded it at Saint Rose’s recording studio with more than 50 people singing along with the band. The video was previewed at the new OTB Tele-Theater where several hundred people attended the preview. It then was on WTEN local news for both the afternoon and evening broadcasts for a week. The initial reception was good and the $5,000 raised from the record benefited a local drug treatment facility. We then performed it live on the day of Albany’s Tri-Centennial.
The general public, after a week of hearing the song and video, grew tired of the whole affair and in the end, it overshadowed the original songs that our band had come to be known for. Thirty-four years later the song and video is looked at as a time capsule of the times and features people that are no longer with us. There were many notables in the video but for us, our hearts went out to an 82-year-old piano player who would play at the “Gemini Jazz Café “near Madison and Lark Street named “Fats Jefferson” who Jeff, Tom, Bob Button, and I would sit in with on our nights off or before many of our late-night shows.
“Fats” and his grand piano would turn the café into a New Orleans style café, and with the addition of horns and drums it was instant “Mardi Gras”. He would always say in his raspy voice of how much he enjoyed playing with “Us Boys”. Little did he know – we enjoyed it more.
In 2016 we were interviewed in the Times Union about how the whole affair came about. Various airlines coming into Albany would put the song on their PA system for the passengers arriving to the Capital District. Finally, after 30 years, some respectability.
The rest of 1986 we traveled throughout the New England states and towns in Western New York. We even played the “Haleys’ Comet Ball” at the Schenectady Civic Center.
On December 31, 1986, we played “Bogie”s in Albany for a New Year’s Eve Bash. It would be the last time we would play a rock club with a 4:00 am curfew.
In 1987 we continued our relentless touring. In June of 1987, we played on Block Island at the infamous “Captain Nicks” nightclub. We were housed in an apartment directly above the club. The owner, “Captain Nick”, was quite a character. Seated on his throne which was a rocking chair, at the entrance to the club, he would shout abuse at patrons and anybody that was in his space. He was not the most welcoming host and how he ever could run a restaurant/club with this attitude was beyond me. However, the locals loved the guy. Everyone we came into contact with said he had a heart of gold and that he was just misunderstood. Unfortunately, we got his attention thanks to a certain trombone player who got bored and started a full fledged water fight amongst the members of the band and crew. It consisted of throwing wads of wet toilet paper and wet paper towels as we ducked and ran about on the roof of “Nick’s” club. Nick came clomping up the stairs and scolded us as if we were 6 years old telling us to frolic on the beach instead of running around the roof of the club. He said that he understood that we needed to get out our untapped energy, but we needed to be more appropriate on how we did it. Hours later as he was rocking in his rocking chair, we tried to smooth his feathers. We apologized to him for our “Bad Behavior”. He looked at us as if he had no idea what we were talking about or who we even were for that matter. I don’t even think he knew we were the band. But it was enough for him to start yelling at us again. I guess by the time we left the island we would become “Captain Nick’s” converts. We packed the club both nights and rocked well into the night. This behavior seemed to follow us whenever the band would travel and spend multiple nights together. It wasn’t always mischievous – but always with a sense of togetherness. We were like siblings in a large family. Fun times, and mischievous times. Always fun. We would play candlestick bowling in Vermont when we played Mt Snow. We would party late into the evening in our motel rooms when we were in Seaside Heights, NJ. The crew always made sure that we had the necessary spirits to get us thru the evening/weekend.
Mike Kelley would later write a song called “Captain Nick” which is the lead-off song on our” Life is a Carnivore” album. Many of our songs had an auto-biographical twist to them. “Heart Beep” was a homage to Mike Kelley’s wife Kandy who was an EKG Technician, “Tough Guy” was about Jack Nailor, it is his Harley Davidson that you hear on this song. “Stuck in Neutral”, was about Jerry’s brother Bob and whoever else that never left adolescence, or “Little Yittee,” Jerry’s heartfelt song about marrying Judy and her daughter Alisha who is from a previous relationship. Jerry and Judy would call her little Yittee because her small cousins that she grew up with could not say, Alisha.
During the Thanksgiving recess of that year, we recorded our Christmas Album “Shark the Herald Angels Sing” at Tommy’s studio which he called” Imaginary West”. He named this because he loved to go to California. This album was a gift from the band that keeps on giving to us and to others. We did the entire album in a record-breaking 2 days. It had a release party on December 17, 1987, at the infamous punk rock club called “QE2” in Albany, a former “White Castle” hamburger joint. For the next 14 years, we would do an annual Christmas Show in a different venue each year. It was the “Borders Bookstore” Christmas Show that was truly magical. We played “Borders” each year from 1998 to 2001. The Roberts girls along with other band members’ children and extended family friends would join the band on stage all grabbing a percussion instrument and play and sing along with the band. It truly was a magical and uplifting experience and the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season and end the year.
We finished out 1987 by playing Albany’s 2nd annual “First Night” New Year’s Eve celebration. We shared the stage with the “Out of Control Rhythm & Blues” band. We were spoiled. We were done by 12:00 am instead of 4:00 am and could still bring in the New Year with a party at my house.
The year 1988 had us working steady with a goal of making another “Sharks” album. We played all throughout the Capital District and New England, one club after another.
A music event that stands out for the band was performances at the “Beaver Valley Music Festival” in July of that year. It was a three-day festival that had “Sha-Na-Na”, “Del Shannon” (a hero of ours), the “Association”, “Robert Klein”, and the big headliner “John Denver”. The beautiful setting was a large field of rolling hills. The massive concert stage was set up in a natural amphitheater with the crowd seated on a grassy hillside that would surround the stage in a half-circle. The concert promotor was a family man who owned the property, who also wanted to showcase the beautiful setting with a magical three-day weekend filled with comedy and music. The food that he provided the band consisted of steak, lobster, crab, and anything that you could possibly imagine to devour.
Jocko Marcellino of “Sha-Na-Na” used my drums and I got to meet these guys who had a national TV show, countless record albums (which I had a few), and was a band that played at the original “Woodstock”. “Del Shannon” was one of the best acts we saw. He really rocked the place. “John Denver” put on a stellar show and the festival was capped off with the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen. All in all, it was a great weekend.
Throughout 1988 we recorded a great number of songs at the Saints and Sinners Studio at Saint Rose. Many of these songs are unreleased. We worked hard all summer and by September we released our 3rd album “Listen Up” on “Roy Records”. This was different than the last two albums in that the title did not play off the “Sharks” band name. We produced it ourselves and the format we used was different. In addition, we did not use the “Blotto Label”. “Roy Records” was named after Mike’s dog Roy. He would always greet us with an intimidating bark, but he was harmless. Roy had the coloring and face of a German Shepherd but the ears of a Basset Hound with the legs to match. The biggest difference between “Listen Up” and our other records were best described by Greg Haymes who was lead singer of “Blotto” and Times Union Critic. He wrote, “more and more on the album it seems evident that the driving musical force behind “The Sharks” is shifting from the Bob Button – Tom D’Ambrose– Jeff Roberts, 3 Horn players – triumvirate. Songs that are country-influenced are exhibited throughout the album”. Again, we pulled out all the stops even employing 3 lady backup singers for the harmonies on the “Island Song”.
The biggest difference is that we switched the format from vinyl to cassette. In 1988 the music industry was changing. Vinyl was on its way out and CDs were coming into play. The problem was many people including many members of this band did not own a CD player which was fairly expensive at the time. However, everyone had a tape player accompanying their home stereo including a tape player in their car. The tape cassette format was cost-effective and was a safe way to go. Little did we know that the new sound of “The Sharks” would be permanent as Bob Button and Steve would leave the band that Fall after the album was released. It was a huge and surprising blow.
On New Year’s Eve, 1988, Bob and Steve said goodbye to the biggest crowd the “First Night” Festivities ever had. We were the most popular act at the 3rd annual “First Night”.
Bob and Steve played 725 one-night stands with the band. All I can say is that Bob Button was the hardest working person in show business.
The eight years that Bob Button was with the band was the most successful as we averaged 100 shows a year. Our live shows were the band’s lifeblood. We would never meet those figures again. In 1989 we regrouped and ironically just like eight years ago we debuted as a 5 piece band on March 31st. We worked a total of 21 gigs. In 1990 we had 29 gigs. Our lowest productive year came in 1991 with only 16 gigs. We were dying a slow death. Then in 1992 a friend of mine, Jeff Guthrie, of Guthrie- Bell Productions started booking shows for us. We did 50 key shows throughout the area. We were primarily staying in this area and not doing road trips as often. This propelled us to release on October 17, 1992 – “Life is a Carnivore” – it was a play on the title “Life is a Carnival” by our music heroes “The Band”. We scheduled a record release party at the “Chambers” in downtown Albany on the corner of State St and North Pearl St. It was a high-class bar for a rock club. The “Chambers” motif was one of a Judge’s Chambers and was filled with leather, law books, and beautifully crafted wooden panels and molding. I had my doubts about how successful the party would be because it was our first album without Bob and Steve. We decided not to replace either of them. Mike would take up bass duties on his keyboard. Ivan who ran the “Chambers” went all out by supplying a buffet and offering drink specials. He said he was sure the night would be a success. He was right. People started lining up at the door and they formed the line that stretched down North Pearl Street and wrapped around the corner to State Street. It was like old times. People still cared about us. The show was magical and the crowd embraced us. Doug Johnson, harmonica extraordinaire joined us on many songs including “Shake Your Money Maker” which brought the house down.
Riding off the success of “Life is a Carnivore” the band played a number of gigs in 1993. In 1994 with Tommy’s urging we decided to release our first CD. It was a concept album that he always wanted to make. He even thought of the name and wanted it to be called “Sharkoustiks”. “Sharkoustiks” was an 8 song CD done at his “Imaginary West Studio”. With a mix of covers and previously released “Shark” songs, we used mostly acoustic instruments. It wasn’t a new idea. “Nirvana” and other bands were doing acoustic shows on MTV and performing acoustic concerts on national tours.
The artwork for “Sharkoustiks” was done by international artist T.H. Hyndman. Tommy and Mike used drawings of Hyndman’s work to create the Shark's fin image in addition to the TV image on the cover of the album. You can always recognize Hyndman’s work by the small cowboy in his pictures. He called his trademark the “Cheeseburger Cowboy”. I believe Hyndman’s work would later inspire Tommy to use similar logos in his own artwork.
The club scene was changing. There were fewer places to play live music. To save money, club owners were using DJs and at best one or two acoustic guitar players to fill their music needs. Furthermore, the public just wasn’t interested in original music. They would rather hear cover songs from their favorite classic rock stations. Also, the DWI laws were scaring many patrons away. Particularly, the older crowd who fell into the band’s demographics and would be happy just as well staying at home.
After the release of “Sharkoustiks”, the live shows again slowed down. In 1996 I took my first vacation to Europe – Ireland. This is notable because when “The Sharks” were running at full steam there was no time for a vacation. When Jeff and Brenda went on their honeymoon in 1986 Jeff was replaced by Jimmy Camadello until they returned. We never stopped for anything. When Jaclyn, Jerry’s daughter was born, Jerry left the club to be with Judy. I remember Jac’s birthday by the name and date of the gig we played. (She is 36 years – we did a doubleheader at the “Bijou” in Saratoga on August 25th and 26th, 1984).
In the 1990s specifically around 1992-1993, we took on a 6th shark. His name was Nelson Rock. It was at a “Sharks” show at the Ramada Inn in Schenectady that we first met Nelson. He was 23 years old. This is where he met his future wife, DeeDee, who also happened to be Kandy’s friend at the hospital. Nelson was quite the fiddle player and it was just a matter of time when he would begin to play with us. It was a perfect fit. In 1992-1993 Jerry and Mike began writing songs again and Nelson can be heard on these. He would eventually join the “Legendary Ramblers” in 2001.
Throughout the last of the 1990s, we would bring other musicians into the fold. We would back up Tom Corrigan, a colleague of Jeff’s and mine who was a teacher at Watervliet School District. He played acoustic guitar at many area venues. Tom moved to North Adams, Ma, and asked if we could be his backup band. There were a number of rock clubs in the area that would love the big band sound. He primarily played the “Rolling Stones”, the “Grateful Dead”, and “Bob Dylan”. Our “Sharks” gigs were getting less frequent and so this was a chance to play some good rock and roll with a good frontman. Tommy Corrigan was a good performer and played well to the crowd. (It was Tom Corrigan who led off Tom D’Ambrose memorial celebration at
“The Hangar” on January 2020).
As the 1990s wore on we played less and less. Then, in May 2001 we debuted “The Legendary Ramblers” at the annual “Bob Dylan Birthday Bash” at Union College Chapel. Playing all acoustic instruments we took on a sound that produced music magic. Jeff was on tuba and pennywhistle, Jerry was on acoustic guitar and mandolin, Tommy on accordion, Mike on guitar, dobro, and banjo. Nelson on fiddle and myself on bodhran and cajon.
We played Dylan’s, “Boots of Spanish Leather” and the crowd and bands participating at the event went wild. We were on to something. We did a WAMC radio show, and with Jeff’s help in the Fall of 2001, we recorded a CD in the Watervliet Elementary School band room using his computer as a studio. Jeff did a fine job engineering the “Legendary Ramblers” Christmas album entitled “Next Stop Christmas Town”. We had it on time for our Christmas concert at Border’s in 2001.
Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall. “The Sharks” accomplished only playing a total of 9 gigs for the year 2001. In 2002 we played 1 gig as “The Ramblers” and ironically it was where we debuted “The Ramblers” one year earlier at Union College Chapel. It was to be our last and final gig together. After 1,000 shows together, and 21 years as a band, “The Sharks” were done.
The band scattered and each member went their own way. Jeff Roberts began to play regularly with “New York Players”. Jerry actually stopped playing and writing music for a period of 6 years before teaming up with Brian Daniels and forming “Big Creek”. Jerry would also start his own business of high-end upholstery. His furniture was displayed on HBO’s miniseries John Adams and is in catalogs as far away as Israel. Bob Button was playing in a number of jazz bands and formed the RPI Jazz Ensemble. Steve Gilhooley joined a band called “Band of Gold”, a 1950’s – 1960’s oldies band. Steve still runs his father’s printing business – “Gilhooley Designs” in Watervliet. It should be noted that he was the one responsible for all the stickers, buttons, t-shirts, hoodies, and posters with our logo on them. It was great to have a printer in the band. Steve was quite the entrepreneur. Bob Assini traveled quite extensively throughout Europe with Annie. He got deeply involved in traditional Irish music. This is where he learned to play the Irish drum, the Bohdran, as well as the bones, and yes, even the spoons. He would visit Ireland an average of 3 times a year just to be able to play with various musicians around the country. He also played regularly with Tommy Corrigan, who would often play the “Red Lion Inn” in Stockbridge on a monthly basis. Mike Kelley played with “The Ernie Williams Blues Band”, the “Luster Kings”, and he would eventually thru the years become a regular member of “Blotto”. Mike’s versatility as a musician was sought out by many bands in the area. Tommy D’Ambrose became “man about town”. He would play his sax with numerous bands throughout the area. He was also involved with different styles of art which he termed primitive art. He was heavily involved with the United Artist Guild in Albany and he developed his own artistic style.
“Fate” has a way of weaving its way into our lives. Or maybe, it was just that you can’t disband a family as if it never existed. One day Mike Kelley called me up and asked if I wanted to play in a new band that he was forming called “Circle of Willis”. It would involve Mike, Nelson, and myself. It would be songs that would be all cover tunes that influenced us as musicians. Every time we played, it was like going on a musical odyssey. I never knew what Mike would be pulling out of his hat. We never rehearsed, we just did not have the time. We performed just enough so that we could be involved with other bands that we played with. But it was during the weeks leading up to St Patrick’s Day that we were the busiest, thanks to Nelson’s fiddle playing. Tommy would always look forward to sitting in with us. He always was looking forward to playing his signature songs. He used to nickname us the “Celtic Thunder”.
In 2009 Jerry rang my doorbell. I had not seen him in 6 years. He said he was back writing songs and had hooked up with a banjo player that worked with Judy. He wanted to know if I would play Bohdran and hand percussion with them because it was an Americana roots band. Why Not? In 2010 we were playing Judy’s cousins restaurant “Café Nola”, a New Orleans restaurant and bar in Schenectady, NY. Jerry said to me, “Wouldn’t Tuba Sound Great”? Of course, Jeff was on our minds. He took the band to a new level.
Speaking for my 6 bandmates, “The Sharks” was a band that realized all our dreams. I’m not talking about money or fame – it was much more than that. As a kid, you would listen to records and dream that maybe one day you could make one. The dream would include being in a band that wrote original songs, maybe those songs would get on the radio and you would be considered recording artists. We were a band that had everything. We did not have to leave home to chase our dreams. We had it in our own backyards. We had the musical talent, the creativity needed for songwriting, and the comradeship where we would work together towards the same goals. We did not have to go to NYC, Nashville, Austin, or Los Angles to find our dreams.
We had the support of our spouses, Kandy, Judy, Brenda, Annie, and Gina. They all understood that maybe we would have to postpone a birthday party, an anniversary, or vacations because we were scheduled to play a gig. They never expressed animosity toward any of the members of the band because of this. In fact, Judy was instrumental in getting Jerry back into playing guitar and writing songs by introducing him to Brian Daniels.
Our dreams originated here, with raising our families, being with friends and having all the comforts of home. Our legacy is our music that we would leave behind. No Grammy Award, or any other accolade for that matter, could cement a legacy.
I use to say we were rock stars 45 minutes at a time. We experienced everything a true rock star would experience and then it was back to normalcy the very next day. It was like switching a light switch on and off.
I remember playing on stage to a sold-out “Palace Theatre” hearing the roar of the crowd after our song was finished and looking out to complete darkness - you see nothing. It is like looking in a tunnel as a freight train was coming towards you. The stage lights would blind you as 3,000 fans were looking at you. The next day, you would be back at your day job driving a school bus. I remember the first time I heard our first song playing on the radio. I was on a date and to impress her, I told her, it was me playing drums on that song. She did not believe me. I remember telling her a date I had to work but if she would like, she could come along and watch me. She looked at me as if to say – “Get Lost Loser” until I gave her a backstage pass. I remember when we were playing at a packed college arena and they had security to our dressing room. The security guard would open the door for us. Being with Tommy he started laughing. “Bob, he said, WE are getting the door treatment” and for the next 20 minutes, we would see if the nice fellow would give us more door treatment. He did! He must have opened the door 20 times in a five-minute span. We kept going in and out – he never once complained and always had a smile on his face. I remember sitting at a restaurant and signing an autograph. I was embarrassed not for the fan but for me. Who was I to give autographs? We had our own fan club. Headed by Margo Berch. Margo was our #1 fan and did more to promote “The Sharks” than anyone else outside the band. Years later she was instrumental in helping us with Tommy’s memorial concert. We were just regular guys who wore blue jeans and button-down shirts. All American boys with no funny haircuts.
The band was there when we celebrated a birth, or a marriage, whether it be Brenda and Jeff’s marriage in June of 1986, or Bob and Gina’s wedding in December of 1985. Later we would celebrate our children’s weddings. We were there for unspeakable tragedy, comforting each other would be hard because it was not supposed to be part of the dream.
In 2001, I came home from Ireland and I was told that Jack Nailor had died tragically on the Mohawk River. Jack loved the river and it was ironic that it was that very river that took his life. He was to be married the following month. Other tragedy would hit the band before the first 2 decades of the millennium was up.
Kandy Kelley passed away from cancer in July 2016. She was our biggest champion. Kandy fostered a household full of love and music which influenced her children. Kandy and Mike’s boys, Geoff and Brian, became accomplished musicians in their own right. I am proud to say that they are both well-regarded drummers. What we have instilled in our children has come full circle. We are now supporting them in their bands and they even help out to support ours, at times even playing with our band. In April 2019, Greg Haymes, music critic, lead singer of “Blotto” died of cancer. Greg always wrote “The Sharks” glowing reviews. He was always spot on, understanding what the band was trying to accomplish. In February 2020 our first bass player Mike DuClos died of cancer at age 58. When he joined the band he was about to turn nineteen. He left because he wanted to chase his dream of being a full-time musician. Mike went on to get his degree in music and became an accomplished arranger in NYC. He did make the big times. He became the music director for New York, New York Casino in Las Vegas. In addition, he performed with numerous industry luminaries, such as” Pete Townsend”, “Deborah Harry”, “Cyndi Lauper” and many others. For Mike, his dream came true. In November 2019, we suddenly lost Tommy D’Ambrose from causes unknown. His death hit the band hard because a piece of “The Sharks” sound truly was finished.
In January 2020 a benefit was held in Tommy’s honor. $4,000 was raised for the Albany Center Gallery and Mohawk Humane Society. Bands and fans present and past descended on the Hangar in Troy. Tommy would have loved it.
Tragedy tends to pull loved ones together or sometimes tragedy can pull them apart. Mike and I became nostalgic for the music. When Mike gave me the compilation of most of “The Sharks” music catalog I was thrilled. I forgot many of the songs that were never recorded especially towards the end of “The Sharks” run. They were too good to ignore and perhaps one day we will have an opportunity to resurrect something we began forty years ago.
Mike wrote a song 30 years ago that we never played as a band. He did it by himself on his own recording equipment. It is called “Singing in Your Sleep”. His son Geoff told him that he heard his father singing one night when he passed his parent’s bedroom.
For me, it is the perfect swan song for “The Sharks”. I cannot think of a better way to experience our music, because with sleep, often dreams will follow.
So the question you may ask is just how I knew the band was looking for a drummer all those years ago.
Well believe it or not you have to go back to the year 1971 when a 15-year-old boy had a paper route to raise money to pay for drum lessons. I delivered to a family on my route whose last name was Cerri, who had a son who went to Siena College. My mother worked the rathskeller and snack bar in the college’s Union Center. My mom was always outgoing and would get to know the students she was serving. It was there she met Dave Cerri and they both found out that they lived up the road from each other.
One day Dave was talking to my mom and it came out that Dave was in a band and they were looking for a drummer. Since mom was my biggest fan she blurts out “My son plays the drums”. “You probably have seen him because he is your paperboy”. I don’t know what day it was but as soon as I approached the door to deliver the Cerri’s newspaper, Dave popped out like a jack in the box, and the next thing you know I am in a band.
Now I did not have a driver’s license and by the time Dave found out that I was a drummer I turned 16 and I only had a driver’s permit. Dave would pick me up and bring me to his girlfriend’s house who happened to also be in this band. Her name was Jamie Roberts. Yes girls, your Aunt Jamie.
The first time I met Jamie was the first time that I met her 15-year-old brother, Jeff. He was lying on his stomach, watching TV and with a wave of the hand and a smile - formal introductions were met. Little did I know at the time was how that 15 year old would forever change my life. Jamie told me that her little brother plays the trombone and that he was very good. She really loved her brother.
The first band I was in was with Dave Cerri on bass, Jamie on vocals, Mike Carabis on guitar, and two of Dave’s friends from high school Lyn Cutelle on trumpet and Pat O’Leary on trombone. The band lasted two years before both Lyn and Pat went off to another state to find work.
Jeff at 17 was asked to replace both the trumpet and the trombone and by gosh he did it. By the way, we were big fans of the band “Chicago” and so horns were important. Jeff’s sound was so big, we did not even miss the trumpet.
Mike Carabis, Jeff, and I hung out quite a bit. We were beach bums during the summer of 1975 and 1976 living on bologna sandwiches, a six-pack of Guenther Beer for $ .69 - Grand Union’s brand (which was a grocery store), and potato chips. During this time you could not get Coors Beer in this part of the country. We bombed around in Mike’s souped-up van, and later in his souped-up Pontiac Firebird. (Mike was like a big brother to us – he was 6 years older than me and 8 years older than Jeff).
Even when the second band broke up, we still hung out together because Jeff went to Saint Rose, Mike was a school teacher and I quit college to play music and to sell produce at a fruit market next to “Gus’s Hot Dogs” in Watervliet.
It was on a hot summer day on Grafton Beach in 1979 that I said to Jeff that I needed to get out of the lounge band business. I saw him with “Showdown” and that was what I wanted to do. “Let me know when your drummer wants out”. A year later Jeff approached me with an offer. I owe him big time. He liberated me from the stupid jumpsuits and frilly tuxedo shirts that I was forced to wear on the lounge band/wedding band circuit.
“IF” any of you believe in fate or divine intervention, all you have to do is think about this story and how I got from point A to point B.
I’m writing this to the Roberts Girls – that I now have been in three bands with your father and every band that I have played in alongside him, that band was better for it. Also, any musician that played with your dad was complemented by your father’s performance.
I can truthfully say that your father is the one person who forever changed my life and has had the most positive influence that a friend could give to another friend.
The Sharks at The
Hollow in Albany