An icon of the glory days of Syracuse rock'n'roll - Sam & The Twisters bandleader Sam Amato - died Feb. 17, in Winter Haven, Fla. He was 69.
In 1963, Sam & The Twisters and the Bigtree Sisters backed up Baron Daemon (Mike Price) to wax the biggest hit single ever to come out of Syracuse, "The Transylvania Twist," which was based on the Twisters' song "Fooba Wooba John."
(Listen to "Fooba Wooba John" here!)
Recorded at Mike Riposo's studio downtown, the Daemon 45 rpm disc sold 12,000 copies to become the area's top-selling local record ever.
The Twisters, which later morphed into the Livin' Ennd, featured Sam and Mickey Palumbo on guitars, along with bassist Al Wolf and drummer Jan Fetterley.
Red Dog recalled
The wildly rockin' quartet played all of CNY's top nightspots, including the Red Dog Saloon, Hewitt's, The Brookside, the Fayetteville Inn, the Holiday Bowl, Three Rivers Inn and Dandy Dan's Teen Canteen. One of the group's more memorable gigs was a performance on the roof of the snack bar at the old North Drive-In on Route 11 prior to a screening of the 1964 Beatles' film, "A Hard Day's Night."
While he loved playing his innovative electric guitar licks, Sam also loved driving souped-up cars and motorcycles. He once owned a 1963 split-window Corvette and a Ford AC Cobra, recalled Al Wolf. "Sam took me for a ride in the Cobra on the old Towpath Road to a gig we had at the Brookside before there was any development in that area. At 120 miles per hour, it didn't take long to arrive."
Amato's favorite motorcycle was his Triumph. "Unfortunately he dumped it on Route 81," Wolf said. "With great luck and his protective gear, he escaped with just some scratches."
In 1968, Amato moved to Florida, but he returned here to play with the Twisters at Damon's Restaurant in Cicero on Feb. 2, 2003, after he'd been diagnosed with throat cancer.