“Nostalgia”- HEAR Today, HERE to Stay
by Cate Murway
Basses burbled low, tenors soared, leads wailed, and choruses chanted in harmony in the earliest doo-wop groups as this cutting-edge early rock 'n' roll music captured the atmosphere of the era, a long-ago sound that touches the emotions even today.
Postwar America was an optimistic, confident, enthusiastic society and an economic colossus where people enjoyed increasingly greater wealth and leisure time.
The prosperity and vitality provided the impetus for an exciting high-voltage cultural influence that became popular in the never mild pastels and neon of the 1950s to the early 1960s in the U.S.
Doo-wop, one of the most prominent memories of that era, a style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music was such an integral part of those wonderful, simple, almost magical times that changed music history in America and the world. An impromptu street corner serenade was as close to heaven as you could get, as you listened to the sweet, pure sounds of a close harmony acappella group, combining easy to understand vocals and appealing simplistic words.
“Beneath the stars above
That was a lovely summer night
Remember then, then, then, then, then”
It was Nam first, “Nostalgia” second for Infantryman Antonio [Anthony] Russo II, BHS ’66, who shares his birthday with Harry Haag James (1916 –1983) a popular musician and band leader. Tony enlisted in the Army December of his graduation year. He enlisted so wouldn’t be put in the infantry. The Army sent him to clerical school, then to supply school in VA, and then to Fort Lewis, Washington. Tony went into infantry anyway, the main land combat force and backbone of the Army, beating the bushes with rifles and grenades and he was shipped to Vietnam from March ‘68 until March’69. He admits that he “just wanted to get through the day.”
Job skills he learned as an Infantryman, his MOS- Military Occupational Specialty, such as teamwork, discipline and leadership would help him with any career he chose.
The U.S. deployed large numbers of troops to South Vietnam between the end of the First Indochina War in 1954 and 1973, the longest military conflict in U.S. history.
The result of the war was defeat of the Southern and American forces, and unification of Vietnam under the communist government of the North. On April 30, 1975, the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon fell to the communist forces of North Vietnam, effectively ending the War.
Photos of massacres provoked international outrage and weakened support for the war at home. “We just wanted the country [U.S.A.] to love us, as we’ve loved it. People not only hated the war, they hated us.”
After leaving Vietnam in March, he was shipped to Fort Benning, named for the Confederate Army Brigadier General Henry L. Benning, the home of the United States Army Infantry School. He participated in “war games”, Basic Combat Training, until he set out for home on 3rd Avenue in Bristol in December 1969.
Tony initially returned to J.B. Dove, the meat packaging plant that offered him similar seniority employment upon return from his military service. His next 7 or 8 years employment stop was the US Steel - Fairless Works facility in sheet & tin production.
“Shift work was one week- days, one week 12:00- 8:00. I had enough of that.
You’re not supposed to work through the night. The machines don’t even like to work through the night, they’re always breaking down.”
His late father, Francisco [Frank], Sr. had worked in Kaiser Metal and LaValle Aircraft Corporation in sheet metal. He also had owned a tailor shop with Louis Galzerano’s father and their families have been friends for 3 generations. Other members of his family include his sister, Dialysis R.N., Dorrance Street resident Mary Ann Riccio [husband Ralph “Buster” is a disabled Steel Mill worker] and his late brother Francisco [Frank], Jr., Bishop Egan ’79. His grandfather of whom he is the namesake, Chief of Detectives Antonio Russo I was the 1st County detective. He migrated from the mountainous region of Calabria in Southern Italy. Tony proudly displays his pictures and badges in the Deli.
Tony had sung from about the age of 15, all through H.S.. He joined up with baritone Frank Capone, Trenton H.S. ’70, now a part of “Nostalgia”, who had a group called “Memory Lane”. They were probably the original “Italian Asphalt & Pavement” form of music as they harmonized in the train station parking lot until the Borough Police reminded them that they shouldn’t at such late hours, even though they sounded amazing!
Tony owns an Artist Joe Sagolla charcoaled rendition of “Singing under the Train Tunnel” signed by Joe “Sags” himself.
The endearing sound rose out of teen culture to be heard on street corners, under lamplight or moonlight, drifting out of open basement windows, creating a new type of music that largely supplanted the old forms of Rhythm & Blues and Pop.
Working 5-6 nights a week in Trenton, Bordentown and Flemington got old pretty quickly. Frank Capone went on the road with the original Danny of “Danny and the Juniors”. Tony formed “Memories” with Jimmy “Zazz” Zazzarino and Tommy Heddon, Jukie Sabo and Charles “Kozy” Coles. Zazz and Kozy appeared as peripheral characters in the acappella vocal band hanging out on the street corner in the funny, unpretentious and relentlessly upbeat slum fairy tale Rocky2 movie. He left “Memories” after almost a decade of impressively blending the best of sounds in their unique style. Tony went with the Duprees and the late Michael J. Arnone, Dickinson High School, Jersey City, in 1983 until his daughters, Christina Marie, BHS‘01/BCCC [produced handsome 2-year-old grandson Alex Anthony, who calls him B-Pop] and Amy Nicole, BCTHS ’07 were born.
His subsequent career was as chef at Cesare’s Italian Specialties Ristorante [the closest thing to home cooking!] for over 16 years where he met his fiancée, Carol Jean Fanini, BHS ’75 who is now employed in Mount Laurel, NJ at Fannie Mae Student Loans Collections. Their first “date” was to view the film, “Analyze This”, a comedy about a psychiatrist whose #1 patient is an insecure mob boss.
One of her sons, Peter D. Hill, BHS ’02 and his airplane/jet mechanic wife, Desiree and their children Natasha  & Nicholas  are stationed in South Dakota in the Air Force.
His mother, Wilson Avenue resident, currently an Old Country Buffet in The Court At Oxford Valley employee, Jean Marie [Passaretti] was a great cook, it was “just in the blood”. He still calls his 83-year-old mom for culinary counsel at times. His nephew owned an Italian 15-table and bar take-out /eat-in restaurant, “Russo’s” where his mom [called “Grandmom” by everyone] with perpetually flour covered hands made all the homemade traditional pasta and gnocchi. He worked there for almost 10 years. “Grandmom” out-worked and ran circles around everyone.
Oh, has it gone so fast”
Tony first refurbished and opened the store, which was originally “Morici’s Market” then “Dorrance Street Market” as “Anthony’s Deli & Italian Specialties” store. No sandwiches, no cooking, nothing! “They know me in this town, they didn’t want me to be a grocer, they wanted me to cook!” He kept receiving requests for meatballs and roast pork sandwiches. He still keeps it very simple in there. He is excellent at organizing, systematizing, and managing and has a way of establishing order and maintaining it. AND he continues to make all the food! Tony makes the meatballs himself and the “from scratch” sauce “gravy” and the breaded pan-fried chicken cutlet, as well as the grilled boardwalk sausage. His retail inventory stock that he also uses in meal preparations, includes specialty olive products like 100% extra virgin Marino olive oil and homemade Italian olive salad.
Traditional pasteries and ethereal glazed and frosted or the ultimate rectangular shaped “long john” donuts are stocked on Sunday only, for the people coming out of Church. Nothing is ordinary! He maintains a very positive perspective, never losing sight of an interest in people; a very compassionate, sensitive and charitable man.
Tony provides much of the deliciously catered meals for activity events on the fully air conditioned /heated lower deck historic Bristol Riverboat Queen of Bucks County for Nicky Marino, who offers lunch/ dinner cruises combined with matinee/ evening theatre performances. They also transform the mundane meeting room dinners of corporate and social events to a charming riverboat cruising the Delaware River from Historic Lions Park on the waterfront.
As a member of the versatile “Nostalgia” singers, a ballad group with distinct harmonies who are able to impressively blend the best of sounds, he and baritone Frank Capone, Tony Silvestro [bass singer, who also works at Harris Fuels], Whiting, NJ resident Mickey Kessler [falsetto], and Tony the tenor can boast a depth of talent. Their experience and that talent translate into one of the hottest group harmony artists today. Carol’s son, bass player David P. Hill, BHS ’07 NHS student /Temple U., English major, lead guitar player, Joey Pratico, Jim Ritter on keyboard and Steve Shive on drums provide the music and in its innocence and its quest for harmony, it so beautifully conveys the poetry of inner-city life.
Borough Highway Dept. operator for 33 years, Michael Anthony [Mike] Paleafico, BHS ‘70 was a member of the original acappella group “Democracy” in the mid 70’s. The ensemble recorded tapes and sounded their complex textures [their voices were their instruments] for a segment on a radio show in Yardley, and then in the Sunset View Inn in NJ. They sang unaccompanied songs of the '50s and early '60s with the nearly unlimited pallet the voice provides every Sunday night and “just did it to have fun but they still have that sound and it sounds pretty good.” The late Bobby Genco, BHS ’66 assisted Tony with the music rearrangements. Mike is a member of the Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation, Inc. and willingly provided the much appreciated stagehand duties for the “Nostalgia” presentation where they recently serenaded at the “Lawnchair Lounge” for the “Night of Doo-Wop” in Lions Park. The singers only will be in the Bristol Borough Thanksgiving November 24th parade, then the entire group has a show in Hamilton, NJ in December, and a Bensalem H.S. auditorium Doo-Wop perfomance in March.
The vast majority of Americans are always flirting with comebacks. There are “comebacks” all the time, but only “Nostalgia” can pull the tunes off the way they do.
“Nostalgia” is the wave of the future, an alert to great harmony, wherever it's found!
“Since we have parted now
My mind wanders now and then
Remember then, then, then, then, then
P.S. Tony was happy to be interviewed by the “real newspaper” since Bristol’s Hometown Newspaper, “Bristol Pilot” never forgets Bristol.
Anthony's Delicatessen & Russo Catering
368 Dorrance Street
Bristol, PA 19007
phone / fax 215.788.8255
Monday – Friday 5:30 a.m.- 2:00 p.m./ 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Saturday 7:00 a.m. –1:00 p.m.
Sunday 5:30 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.
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“Remember Then” lyrics by The Earls
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