Stone Dawn interview with George Manney

June 28, 2012

Stone Dawn interview with George Manney

Stone Dawn live at Bar-X – NE Philly 1969.


Thanks for getting in touch with me. I’m really happy we will write down history of your band, Stone Dawn. Before we do it, I want to ask you a few questions about your background. Where did you grew up and what are some of the memories from your childhood and teen years?
I was born in Philadelphia in 1951. My parents Madeline and Art were musicians and when we had parties, my mom’s band members were always invited, so it was always live music, not a record player at the party for entertainment. 

My mom’s bands played an integral part of my musical abilities as I learned by watching them jam at our house every weekend. American Bandstand played a major role in Rock & Roll in America, broadcasting out of Philadelphia five days a week across the nation with the latest sounds and believe you and me, I was hooked. The 60’s laid out the blueprint for great music then and for later generations and it was the best of times going to concerts paying $3.50. to see The Beatles,  or $1.50 to see the Rolling Stones on Steel Pier,  The Supremes, Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Humble Pie, Faces, Zappa, etc.

Were you or other members of Stone Dawn in any bands? Any releases perhaps?
In the early 70’s I played in a band with former American Dream vocalist, Nicky Indelicato called Bump. We also did a show during that period with Frank Stallone in the Tacony neighborhood of Philadelphia and it was a magical time and the bar was packed. In the mid 70’s Nicky and I stated to play down on South Street in a band called Delirious and those times were just that! That went on for about a year and a half and fell apart. Later in 1979 Nicky and I got together with my former Stone Dawn band-mates, Robb  and Marty and put together the band Snipz. We cut a few tracks in the studio that have not been released but may see the light of day, we shall see. In the 80’s I played with Kenn Kweder, Alan Mann Band, Robert Hazard (‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’) and others. In 1986 I formed the Last Minute Jam Band, Philadelphia’s most prestigious rock jam. This was a weekly residency that lasted ten years and I released two benefit CD’s (1996 – 1998) and one Prism TV show special.
What was the scene in your town?
In the late 50’s, Philly had tons of great jazz clubs and musicians, plus American Bandstand broke nationally in 1957, broadcasting five days a week, three hours a day, making the local dancers on the show such as Bunny Gibson, national stars as well as the local musicians and solo singers like Charlie Gracie, The Orlons, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp and more. It also was the scene of the hottest indie record label, Cameo – Parkway. Don’t forget that Philly’s Swan Records released The Beatles “She Loves You’, and that single was mastered by Philly boy, Emel Corson at Reco Art studio, later to be know as Sigma Sound Studios with Joe Tarsia heading the place in late 1968 with a hit by locals, The Soul Survivors.
In the mid to late 60’s, Philly had a really cool, underground music scene happening with the following bands; Nazz, American Dream, Elizabeth, Sweet Stavin Chain, Mandrake Memorial, Woody’s Truck Stop, Edison Electric Band, Good News, Thunder & Roses, Valentine, Linda Cohen, Keith, Sweet Nothing and our band, Stone Dawn. In fact, our band was the first electric band to play the 2nd fret coffee house on Sansom Street in early 66.
The clubs changed to the new psych-pop sounds and clubs and coffee houses were abound with, Electric Factory, The Trauma, Artists Hut, 2nd Fret, 2nd of Autumn and others. Samson Street became the hippest street in town with mod clothing shops, shoe stores and record shops. In fact most of the bands would hang out at Rittenhouse Square during the day and jam. Later in the evening, we would go and check out one of the bands playing. It was a time of camaraderie among the bands that helped make the scene flourish. One summer concert series at JFK stadium included, The Who, Pink Floyd and others for only $1.00. Of importance was the Atlantic City Pop Festival held  before Woodstock with a better line-up, produced by Electric Factory of Philadelphia. 
Also the Philadelphia Folk Festival was happening in the 60’s as is still going strong today in 2012.
As a teenager in Philadelphia with a cool scene happening, it was like a dream come true. We, Stone Dawn learned from all of the Philly bands but we did march to the sound of a different drum. Trying to explain our sound is difficult for me as our influences were varied to say the least.

 Stone Dawn 1968.
Stone Dawn – the basement tapes 1968.
How did you guys meet and got together to form the band?
My first band was actually a duo called The Rocking Beethoven’s with my neighborhood buddy, Robb Snyder in late 1963. Robb played the accordion and I played snare and hi-hat. Our first gig was for an 8th grade graduation.  Both Robb and I were in 7th grade and we were playing for a class of older girls so that was really cool.
As the Rocking Beethoven’s we gradually changed our sound as Robb picked up my mom’s acoustic guitar and I placed a mic in the sound hole as to make it amplified. We started to play in the back alley in a garage called The Cave with the new kid on the block, Marty Ahearn. Marty knew all the words to the Beach Boys so we enlisted him to sing lead for a short time. Robb gave Marty a few pointers on guitar and lo and behold we were now a trio, two guitars and drums. Performing for the kids in our driveway started to take off as we set up a residency in Marty’s garage aka The Cave & performed into the evening. Sometimes the local girls would bring along flashlights as we only had a single light bulb to perform with.
Unfortunately we have no surviving tapes of our 64-65 period.

Stone Dawn – 1970 Manney basement
So tell us the story about the band (where did you play, did you record anything, why did you choose the name Stone Dawn etc.)

Stone Dawn – 1970 Torresdale Ave. – Tacony

At one of our garage gigs at The Cave, a local girl, Penny Stubbs, got up and played guitar and sang a song with us and all of the other kids dug it. Next thing you know she is in the band. Now Robb moved from guitar to bass utilizing one of my mom’s six stringed guitars but playing the lower strings to make up for a bass.

Stone Dawn – 1970 Manney back steps

Again as I mentioned, The Beatles influence lead us to start writing our own songs. Don’t forget, we are only in our teens and still in high school. We got together three times a week at my parents basement to work out our new originals, recording the nights work on a mono Webcore tape deck that my mom owned to better our arrangements, etc. plus learn some of the new hit songs so we could get paying gigs. I would handle the bookings as I learned all of this from my mom.

As our original song list kept growing, we were also influenced by the new sounds from the underground. So I then hit the phones to start booking at the Trauma, Electric Factory, 2nd Fret and more. 
This led to a recording contract in 1969 with Groovey Grooves with one single. We did get some air play with the underground radio station WMMR. More gigs at the Electric Factory as co-founder Larry Magid took a liking to us. The single made some local noise but nothing outside of Philly.
Larry Magid of Electric Factory took to us, and we always helped him with benefit shows and last minute opening act. One that comes to mind was opening for catfish at the Electric factory. Our band did the opening set and as I was walking off stage, I was approached by the road manger of Catfish and he asked if I would sit in with the band until their drummer showed up as he was stuck in a traffic jam across town. I said sure, did part of the set playing more blues style numbers. After their show they asked me if I would be interested in join the band and I said no thanks, I have plenty of work to do with by band, Stone Dawn. That was a mistake to say the least. The band did the opening of a mall with the Grass Roots in 68 that was a thrill. Robb and myself also had the pleasure to play that day with Joe Jeffrey performing his hit, “My Pledge Of Love” as the Joe Jeffrey Group. All of this was done while we were still in high school mind you, so it really did blow our minds.
We then did some demos with Nick Jameson of the American Dream at their place at 3rd and Cherry. We went to New York and pounded on the doors to every record company but were eventually turned down. Our last try in Philly was at Cameo – Parkway, they also passed on us. Mind you, back then you could go to a record company and play them your two track tape in their office on a reel to reel tape deck.

Steel Pier flyer
Stone Dawn at the Electric factory archive 1969
Our last attempt at recording, we pooled our money and went to Impact Sound in NE Philly with engineer, Tony Schmidt. I took charge of the production and mixing, my first professional recording project.
During the late 60’s I had a British pen pal and she gave me the contact info for Apple Records, The Beatles new company in London as they were looking for talent to sign to Apple Records. First I sent a letter to Paul McCartney with my bands bio and photos. Within two weeks I got a letter telling me to send our demo to Apple to the attention of one Peter Asher (formally of Peter & Grodon). I thought this was great since I got to meet The Beatles in 1964 in Atlantic City as they were leaving the Lafayette Hotel after their gig and later in 1966 when I saw them at JFK Stadium in Philly, this was a dream come true. After I received the letter, printed on the top in bold was their phone number. I got up the courage to call Apple Records and was blessed to talk to Paul & John on two occasions. 

Letter from Apple Records in regards to my band Stone Dawn.

Well we never did get a contract with Apple, the band broke up in late 1970 and I moved ahead as did the rest of the members of Stone Dawn.

Atlantic City Pop Festival 1969

So you released one single on Groovy Grooves records and I want you to tell me how did you get signed up and what are some of the strongest memories from producing and recording this single?

Back in the mid-late 60’s, music was regional and bands were recording at small studios and their was an abundance of small record labels eager to release new rock bands… thus our one-off single with Groovey Grooves Records in 1969.

A fellow by the name of Bill Hoy a good friend of local DJ Giant Gene Arnold became our Press Agent, found this small record label, Groovey Grooves, they agreed to record a single with our band and release it regionally in 1969. 

We cut the tracks at Baker Sound then located in New Jersey.  Credited to Bill Hamilton Productions, then located at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Bill and our manager agreed that our single should feature Penny on lead vocals. The band selected her two compositions, “Agent promise Blues” and “What You Think Is Right”. We cut the drums, bass and rhythm guitar live. We then added lead vocals, then lead guitar and backing vocals. The mix was done quickly and we had a single ready for release. But, little did we know that our PR guy Bill and the band had to do most of the leg work to get the word out about our single. That was frustrating but also rewarding when I woke up one morning to go to school and on my radio was our single, “What You Think Is Right” blasting out from radio station WMMR! That was the best day of my high school years to say the least.

Contract for Stone Dawn single on Groovey Grooves in 1969.

Is there any unreleased stuff out there?

Yes, a live recording from the Electric Factory with Stone Dawn, the Nick Jameson sessions at 3rd and Cherry, the sessions from Impact Sound from 1970 and a reunion concert in 1972 recorded at the Tacony Baptist Church coffee house. Some of these tracks I am working on for a release later in 2012 as a recording history of Stone Dawn. Will keep you posted.

Stone Dawn – Electric Factory 1970.
On stage lower right is tape deck that they used to record part of their set & later pressed on vinyl.

Thanks for your time!  What occupies your life these days?

My recording band, Clutch Cargo ( www.ClutchCargoMusic.com ) with my wife, Su Tearrs, a wonderful vocalist and songwriter. We just released a benefit single, a cover of the McCartney hit, “Mull of Kintyre” featuring Philly’s R&R pioneer, Charlie Gracie and other guests. Working on my documentary of the history of music of Philadelphia, “Philly Pop Music, The Lost Pioneers” ( www.PhillyPopMusic.com ). I also directed and produced two documentaries, “Pipes of Peace” the story of the worlds first jazz bagpipe player, Rufus Harley and the award winning doc, “Meet Me On South Street, The Story of JC Dobbs” Philly’s premiere rock and roll bar. (www.MeetMeOnSouthStreetMovie.com ) .
Also working on a American Dream CD release of demos produced by Todd Rundgren plus a couple of tracks from the last recording session at Sigma Sound Studios from 1970 on the Philly Pop Music label. Stay tuned.

Thank you Klemen for your interest in our band Stone Dawn and the scene from Philadelphia in the late 60’s.

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2012
  1. The Rock Bat

    :) love the early days/1968 photos...

  2. giant gene arnold

    Very sad that George left this earth very early this month i did play stone dawn on my am underground shows and had them at my dances he was Philadelphia's pop music documentarian and we have been friends for all those years
    I emceed the brotherly love concert george put together and man y shows he was the drummer for including at d scene and with my dear pal charlie gracie may george manney rest in peace

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