Sam's passing rekindles rock' n' roll memories

Remember drag-racing on John Glenn Boulevard? How about cruising Route 11 after a meal of Carroll's clubburgers? Or were you more interested in the submarine races along Onondaga Lake Park?

Maybe you were there that summer evening in 1964 when Sam & The Twisters played one of its weirdest gigs atop the snack bar at the old North Drive-In before a screening of "A Hard Day's Night." WNDR radio disc jockeys convinced the band to do the show as a promotion. Sam and the boys played a few of their own tunes and backed up national recording artist Diane Renay who had a smash hit with "Navy Blue."

"She was a knockout," bandleader Sam Amato recalled years later. "I got to spend the whole day with her, which is probably the whole reason I did it. So we did that thing on top of the North Drive-In food stand and it was a disaster. You couldn't believe the mosquitoes!"

'Transylvania Twist'

An icon of the glory days of CNY rock n' roll, Sam Amato died Feb. 17, in Winter Haven, Fla. He was 69.

In 1963, Sam & The Twisters and the Bigtree Sisters backed up Channel 9's 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." Recorded at Mike Riposo's studio down city, the Daemon 45 rpm disc sold 12,000 copies to become the area's top-selling local record ever.

The Twisters, who later morphed into the Livin' Ennd, featured Sam and Mickey Palumbo on guitars, along with bassist Al Wolf and drummer Jan Fetterly, who lived in Liverpool.

A graduate of North Syracuse High School, Sam always said the band was born at Joe's Pizza House in North Syracuse, but the combo really reached musical maturity when Fetterly sat down at the trap set.

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