Rhino Records Co-Founder Harold Bronson Shares A Slice of Record Biz Chicanery With a Heartwarming Resolution
A youTube video stirred the record exec's memory
In September 1967 I was watching the "Upbeat "TV show and immediately connected with a rock band called the Ohio Express performing a song with an infectious “Louie Louie” rhythm. I bought the “Beg, Borrow and Steal” 45.
In preparation for producing for Rhino The Best of the Ohio Express and Other Bubble Gum Smashes (1983), I conferred with Jeff Katz who had co-produced with Jerry Kasenetz hits with the Ohio Express, 1910 Fruit Gum Company, and others.
The problem I encountered was that prior to having hits on Buddah, the Ohio Express were on Cameo, which was now owned by Allen Klein who refused to license to other labels—like Rhino—even if a master, like “Beg, Borrow and Steal” was not available in his ABKCO catalogue.
Jeff enlightened me that the very same master recording had been released a year earlier by “The Rare Breed” on Attack Records, which he and Jerry owned, and I could license that from them. Only recently have I learned there was much more to the story.
The hit version was actually recorded by a group of teenagers from Brooklyn and the Bronx who called themselves the Conquests. Kasenetz-Katz produced the session in December 1965 at Bell Sound Studios. Here’s who played on the record: John Freno, lead singer, lead guitar; Alexander Norbit, bass, vocals; Barry Stolnick, keyboards; Joel Feigenbaum, guitar, vocals; Tony Cambria, drums.
Cameo’s Neil Bogart liked the recording and didn’t want it re-recorded. The Conquests were 16 and 17 years old and not about to quit high school to tour, so the producers needed to find a new group, settling on Mansfield, Ohio band Sir Timothy and the Royals who became the Ohio Express.
The Conquests weren’t under contract, and never received recognition for having played on a Top 30 hit, nor did they receive royalties. I’ve recently discovered a charming modern day recording (with explanation) by original members John Freno and Barry Stolnick performing the song (as a duo) and these many years later you can tell it’s the guys on the record!