Back in the ‘60s, two bands drew huge crowds every weekend at places like Hanson’s Amusement Park at Harveys Lake and the Sans Souci in Hanover Township.
On Aug. 15, those two bands – Joe Nardone and the All Stars and Eddie Day and the Starfires – will reunite to bring back the good old days at the Irem Temple Country Club in Dallas.
“We used to draw probably 1,000 people every weekend at Hanson’s, and the All Stars were doing the same at Sans Souci,” said Eddie Day Pashinski. “They were the places to be, where you could meet kids from other schools and have a good time dancing and socializing.
“These days, the reunion dances are special because everybody wants to relive those days. People plan their vacations around that date.”
“The reunion dances have become mini class reunions,” Nardone added. “Dallas High School is going to have three tables and GAR gets together too.”
Nardone, who is well known in the area as a concert promoter and founder of the Gallery of Sound music stores, started his band in the early ‘60s. After a few years, they became the house band at the Sans Souci during the summer and the Stardust Ballroom in Wilkes-Barre during the colder months.
The All Stars were so popular they were asked to make a few recordings for national labels. The first, “Caravan Rock,” came out on Madison Records in 1965, while the second, “Shake a Hand,” was released by Red Bird Records in 1967.
“It was an old blues record and many artists have done it,” Nardone said of “Shake a Hand.” “In fact, I had SiriusXM’s Elvis channel on the other day and even he sang it.
“I had heard an up-tempo version put out by Mike Pedecin from Philadelphia,” he continued. “We took that and made it more rock and roll.”
Nardone, who sings and plays saxophone, has been doing reunion shows for about 22 years. This time he will be joined by Jerry Sechleer (guitar), Marty Edwards (keyboards), Tony Rasimas (vocals), Bill Zaremba (drums) and Bob Gryziec (bass).
“Last year was very successful,” he said. “We had to stop selling tickets because we ran out of tables and chairs.”
The Starfires were formed by Roger “Griff” Griffith and Richard “R. Jay” Gumbravich in the late ‘50s. The current version still includes Griffith on bass and vocals and Gumbravich on drums, in addition to Bob Gardner (alto sax, flute, vocals), Pashinski (vocals, keyboards), Charles McCuen (vocals, percussion), Louis Cossa (keyboards) and Sheffie Abrams (guitar).
“Everything came about by happenstance,” Pashinski said. “I was enrolled as a math major at Wilkes College and I worked as a dishwasher at Fred Waring’s Music Workshop for the summer prior (to his freshman year).
“I met Fred and he told me I had a good voice but if I really wanted to make it in music, I should study it. So I changed my major from math to music.”
Pashinski said as part of freshman orientation he was told to stand up in the cafeteria and sing the alma mater. When he did, he impressed one of the other students with his voice and was told about a band that was looking for a singer and piano player. He joined the Starfires in 1963, and they became the house band at Hanson’s and Sandy Beach before recording four songs for national labels Laurie and Bell.
“If all those things didn’t happen, I don’t know who I would have become,” added Pashinski, who taught music and was director of choral activities at Greater Nanticoke Area for 38 years, and has served as a state representative from the 121st District since 2007.
Pashinski said he continued performing locally and regionally until 1982 and then went into band management for around 10 years. A performance with Frank Hourigan and the R.P.M. Old Stars in the early ‘90s started the wheels turning for getting the Starfires back together, which finally happened for the last dance at Hanson’s in August of 2002.
“We don’t want to play every week, that’s impossible,” Pashinski said. “But we like getting together from time to time.
“We may not look the same as we did in the ‘60s, but our hearts and minds are in the right place.”
Brad Patton has been reviewing concerts and writing about music for the Times Leader and Weekender for more than five years. He also hosts a two-hour radio show on 88.5 FM-WRKC (Radio King’s College) every Tuesday at 7 p.m.
IF YOU GO
What: Summer Reunion Dance with Joe Nardone and the All Stars and Eddie Day and the Starfires
When: 7:30 - 11:30 p.m. Aug. 15
Where: Irem Temple Country Club, 70 Ridgway Dr., Dallas
Tickets: $26, which includes pizza, soda and beer
Available: Gallery of Sound (186 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre) or Dymond’s Farm Market and Bakery (251 N. Memorial Hwy., Shavertown)
Note: Tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be available at the door