The Durhams

A biography written by Tony Juliano, Second Tenor

In 1964, in a suburb of Philadelphia called Upper Darby, five high school students decided they'd set the world on fire with their singing. They formed an acappella group, and focused on a type of rhythm & blues music, later referred to as "doo-wop". They were white boys,but they wanted to sound as black as possible. They called themselves The Durhams.

The original line-up was: Walt Taylor (lead singer), Jimmy Salzmann (bass), Joey Guardiello (first tenor), Tony Juliano (second tenor), Lou Ferri (baritone). Some-times, they rehearsed at Jimmy's house. After dark, they sang in the stairwell of the Gimbels department store parking lot. The natural "reverb" was pretty cool there. But their favorite practice spot was the Boys Room at Upper Darby High School. The tile walls made it sound like an echo chamber. The sound was both sweet and loud. Before long,
all the kids at school knew about The Durhams.

Soon, the boys were accepted by Relic Records - to be included in their album series called "The Best Of Acappella". One rainy night, the group piled into Tony's '52 Ford, and travelled to Hackensack, New Jersey. Relic Records was run from a record store called The Relic Rack. The proprietor, Wayne Stierle, produced the recordings after hours. Only one microphone was used, with a primitive reel-to-reel mono tape recorder. To get a proper vocal balance, they experimented with who should stand at what distance from the mic, until the test playback sounded right. In one session, with only one take each, 17 songs were recorded. Included was a tune the guys wrote in the car, driving up, called "Seconds Of Soul". It was chosen as the "B" side for their single of "Sincerely" - a fast version of The McGuire Sisters' hit ballad. For a brief while, the #9 spot on the all-time Acappella Chart was held by this 45rpm record by The Durhams.

The Durhams

This photo was shot on the front porch of the Julianos' house. It appeared on the cover of The Best Of Acappella,
Volume 3 (see Discography page). Pictured are: Walt Taylor - lead vocalist (behind), and from the left,
Jimmy Salzmann - bass, Lou Ferri - baritone, Tony Juliano - second tenor, and Phil Corey - first tenor.

Three more tracks from that memorable recording session ended up on The Best Of Acappella Volume 3: "Maureen" , "This Is My Love (Sweeter Than)", and "Don't Say We're Through" (another original Durhams composition). Volume 4 included one more Durhams track called: "I Remember". So, that one trip to Hackensack ended up in 6 released songs. It should be noted that the original line-up were the five vocalists on all the Relic recordings. Shortly after the session, Art Wolfe became the new baritone. Phil Corey became the new first tenor, and he is pictured and wrongly credited on the Volume 3 album jacket. But, to set the record straight, Joey Guardiello sang first tenor & Lou Ferri sang baritone on all the recordings by The Durhams.

With this notable accomplishment in their pockets, the group had the moxie to approach the legendary Philadelphia disc jockey, Jerry Blavat. He was famous for bringing the sound of rhythm & blues to the white kids. To say the least, Jerry Blavat dug The Durhams. Throughout the balance of the  group's career, he featured them often: on his radio show; at his live record hop dances at famous places like "Chez Vous" (a roller rink), and "Wagner's Ballroom"; and eventually on his TV show, Jerry Blavat's "Discophonic Scene" (Jerry's version of American Bandstand, carried on Philly's CBS-affiliate, WCAU & syndicated nationally). This was the circuit, from 1964 to 1966, performed by The Durhams.

Jimmy was drafted. The quartet made one more single recording, but this time with a band. They had rehearsed for months at a West Philadelphia photography studio. There, they were coached by a local black singer named Harold Jenkins, in an effort to perfect their black sound. The result was a 45rpm single, on "Ray-Sel" Records, released in 1967. It featured two original songs: "Girl Of The Night" (written by Phil Corey & Arthur Wolfe) & "Philly Bound" (written by the group).The single enjoyed a very limited printing & distribution in the Philadelphia area. For this last recorded effort, the boys changed their name to "The Uptites". In fact, it was 80% The Durhams.

The Durhams existed for little more than two years, but they are fondly remem-bered within doo-wop and acappella music circles. Google and YouTube searches reveal a number of references to the group. Their now rare recordings can even be purchased online. The Durhams are featured in The Billboard Book Of "American Singing Groups", A History From 1940 To Today, and its subsequent updated revisions by Jay Warner. In this highly regarded publication, there are less than 20 acappella groups spotlighted - of the many thousands that existed in The USA. It's rather significant, that one of those vocal groups selected is The Durhams. 

In subsequent years, here's a brief rundown of how the guys went their separate ways. Walt Taylor, Phil Corey and Arthur Wolfe formed a jazz group called "New Process". Phil was an accomplished artist. He created dramatic fine art paintings. Walt was also drafted. He later sang lead for "Philly Gumbo", a great band, with a New Orleans kind of groove. Jimmy Salzmann founded another acappella group called "Time Was", which for a while included Walt. They recorded and released several CDs, and performed live throughout the Philadephia area. Tony Juliano became leader of RCA/Windsong recording artists, "Johnny's Dance Band" - voted Best Local Band by WMMR-FM's Listener Poll. His band released 3 albums and several singles, and performed at the biggest concert venues in the Philadelphia tri-state area. Such is the legacy of The Durhams.