the Swampseeds 60s R&B Rockers

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Swampseeds, Jun 18, 2005.

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  1. Swampseeds

    Swampseeds New Member Thread Starter


    I noticed that there were inquiries on the late 60s band, the Swampseeds. One of my friends was a founding member of the band. Since I was also a big fan of the group I found out some information that some may find interesting.

    The Swampseeds were a northern N.J. rock/r&b band. The original members were Dennis Ferrante - vocals and percussion, Jack Santoro - lead guitar and vocals, Tommy Brannick - drums and Richard LePage - organ. After two rehearsals they invited Eddie Leonetti from N.Y. state to join the group as their bass player.

    Because the members of the Swamps had enjoyed previous success in former groups, this band came together like a house on fire and quickly gained a massive local following. Within a short period of time they landed a recording contract on Epic Records in NYC.
    The staff writers that were assigned to the group were Lindzer and Randall. L&R had stacked up many hits with the Four Seasons, the Toys, Bob Crewe, etc. Although they were definitely hit makers, the main rub from the beginning is that the live Swampseeds sound was positively different than the recording sound. The band was known for a really raw, funky, thick soul sound something on the order of the Vagrants, the Rascals and the Vanilla Fudge. Their very first recording was a cover of Wilson Pickett's "Don't Fight It" which very, very few people know about.

    The toured the USA with the Righteous Brothers, American Breed, the Outsiders, Bob Seeger and others. Jack Santoro, guitarist for the Swamps and Bob Seeger almost looked like twin brothers!

    As I understand it, the group was promised that if they did the initial songs that were handed to them they would eventually be able to record their own material and do an album. That promise continued to be put off until the band grew restless in waiting and eventually lost a few of the founding members who went on to other groups.

    The Swampseeds had an incredible live act and were probably one of the best and most creative of the late 60s northeastern groups. They even did a pilot something on the order of the Monkeys series as they were not only multi-talented but extremely, naturally funny on and off stage.

    Richard LePage had worked as an engineer at Les Paul studios in Mahwah, NJ and was a fine pianist. From what I understand he eventually went back to the studio which he loved working at.
    Jack Santoro, although lead guitarist with the group, played quite a few instruments and recorded entire albums by himself doing all vocals, instruments as well as the production work. He was a superb Hammond organist somewhat in the vein of Jimmy McGriff. He had over 3 dozen B-3 organs which he customized and later sold to gospel churches which was his first love in music.
    Tommy Brannick was one of the hardest working drummers on stage and played a dual set of drums. At one time he was going to be a boxer but decided it was easier beating the drums since they didn't hit back.
    Dennis Ferrante went on to be a top flight engineer and has been responsible for remixing most of the Elvis Presley recordings. I believe he has also done some stand up comedy.
    Eddie Leonetti left to join The Soul Survivors group and also produced bands in the 70s and 80s. I'm sorry, but I am unaware of the groups at this time.

    When Leonetti dropped out of the Swamps, fellow N.J. neighbor Tim Bogart of the Vanilla Fudge would sit in with the Swamps when he was not on the road with the Fudge. Eventually Eddie Leonetti's his best friend Jack Douglas took over bass duties. Jack later went on to work with John Lennon and produce Aerosmith.

    I hope this fills in some of the void about a very great group the Swampseeds.
    jeffrey walsh likes this.
  2. andmoreagain

    andmoreagain Forum Resident

    I've been trying to find any information reagrding the Swampseeds since I first heard "Can I Carry Your Balloon" on the radio in 1968. It was a fairly big hit in the Cleveland/Youngstown area, and received a lot of airplay on the Top-40 stations in that area.

    Really appreciate you providing the background information that you did. It's amazing that in this era of reissues, none of their material has ever popped up on anything. It would be great if some enterprising record company would read what you've written, and make an effort to track down band members and get something released.

    It was interesing to learn that Jack Douglas was a member at one time. It was also great to finally learn the names of the members of the band, as well as what they've been up to since the group disbanded.

    Sounds as if they would have been a great live act to see. Never knew they were from the New Jersey/New York area. Considering the great acts you mentioned like the Vanilla Fudge, Vagarants and the Rascals - all from the same general vicinity - I can only imagine how wild their live show must have been.

    Too bad the album plans never reached fruition. As far as I know, only three singles were ever issued on Epic. Been nice to have had the opportunity to hear a whole albums worth of material. Never knew they recorded "Don't Fight It". Do you know if it was ever actually released anywhere?

    Again, many thanks for providing the information. The Swampseeds may not have been a household name, but it was bands like them that really were the backbone of much of the great music of the 1960's. Their small output has provided me a lot of listening pleasure over the years. If you ever learn anything else, please share it here. The Swampseeds Live!
  3. Frank G

    Frank G Forum Resident

    Extremely well researched, Swampy. I recognize a few names, but didn't know that they were Swampseed spawn. I agree with andmoreagain that it is amazing that tracks have not made it onto CD outside of the Epic 45. Anyone know of any other tracks available by these guys?

    Frank G
  4. Swampseeds

    Swampseeds New Member Thread Starter

    The Swampseeds pt.3

    In leaving my post on the Swampseeds, I omitted some of the notes I had on another sheet of paper which I will leave now.

    When Epic Records released "Can I Carry Your Balloon", the record was cracked first in the Waterbury, CT. market. The owner of the station was well known east coast DJ "Danny Stiles" of Newark, NJ fame. I understand it was Stiles who did the first interview on radio with the Swamps. Years before, Swamps guitarist Jack Santoro worked for Stiles with his group "The Fantastic Fabulons" regularly backing headliners like Jackie Wilson, the Dovells, the Manhattans etc.
    (Fellow Swampers Dennis Ferrante and Tommy Brannick were originally part of "Chips and Company" and they were on the "Tea and Tea Caravan" for Tetley Tea in the mid-60s with quite a few well known acts from that time period.)

    From what I have been told, their first record was for a very small NJ label. The partners of this label decided to dissolve their enterprise before the Swampseeds version of "Don't Fight It" (a cover of Wilson Picketts hit) was ever released. Whatever became of the studio tape is a mystery, however there may be an recording dub of it still in existence and possibly a small amount of footage from a live Swampseed show at an open stadium.

    The last part of the notes that I was able to take have to do with their signature break song. There is a possibility that they recorded it at one of their rehearsals just for the heck of it on a home recorder.
    If there was anything that everyone loved about this band, it was their break song. People would come from all over to hear the Swampseeds just for that tune alone.

    It would have to be described as very hypnotic and strange. I asked founding member guitarist Jack Santoro how it came about. He said while he was living in the southern Florida he would travel deep into the everglades where some of the older musicians would get together to play deep swamp soul music alaTony Joe White, Joe Tex, Little Beaver, etc.

    Way back in the woods, people who lived there would serve homeade moon shine at the jams. Santoro said the first sip he ever tasted knocked him flat backwards off a log as it was almost pure alcohol!
    Picking up some of the fat back music he learned there, he began to fool around with it and mixed some minor chords and thumping beats ala Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. That was the essence that was to become the base of the soul swamp sound he would introduce in the next group he wanted to put together. When the Swamps came together up north, he started playing it at one of their rehearsals. All of the members added their own specialties to it and it melded into a 20 minute show in itself.

    As it took its own form night after night on stage, near mid-section of the tune, Santoro, who was capable of mimicing many voices and sounds introduced all the members of the band as if they were emerging from a graveyard swamp that came to life ‘round midnight.

    Dennis Ferrante operated their echo machines and sound effects so skillfully it was as if a spaceship had landed and all types of insane creatures were racing out of the craft ready to attack. Meanwhile Tommy Brannick, drummer, made absolutely convincing howling wolf sounds in the background that could raise the hair right off the back of your neck.
    Once the end of the song neared, the echo machine was cranked to full blast and Santoro would say, "Remember -- Live spelled backward is ---- EVIL" and then let out one of the most frightening and hideous laughs you could ever hear. It was so scary you almost wanted to run away, but you had to wait till the climax at the end of the song where occasionally they would throw all of their equipment down on the dance floor and fireworks all over the place were ignited. It was really something else to see.

    That's about all that I have at this time. If I can do more follow up I will if anyone else is interested.

    Thank you,
    Lani Wilson
    jeffrey walsh likes this.
  5. Drevitton

    Drevitton New Member

    Rochester, NY, USA
    Swampseeds Info - thanks for sharing

    I remember listening to "Can I Carry Your Balloon" on the radio back in the spring of 1968 while a 4th grader in Rochester, NY. It seemed that the song received reasonable airplay and I thought it was a great pop tune, similar to the stuff that the Rascals, Rustix, Soul Survivors and other blue eyed neo soul bands were putting out at the time. However, through the years I could never find out who sang it or anything else about it (because it never charted on Billboard and apparently only hit 100 in Cashbox!). So after some years of searching for info about it on the internet, I finally learned about the song, group, and their origins. What a relief to find out about this song and group after so many years. I never got the song out of my memory. When I would ask anyone about it and sing some of the lyrics, no one could recall it or they thought I made it up and was totally crazy.....So I really apreciate all of the info that has been shared about the group and the song.

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