For blocks residents of Todd Estates, Fireside Park , and Brookside could hear rock music emanating from the corner house at 301 Elderfield Drive . Outside, their trademark, a black hearse, awaited to carry Ed, Aubrey, Fred, and Bill to anywhere but a cemetery. Behind their infamous hearse was a trailer that read…
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In the fall of 1965 the local band scene was growing and with it were places to play. The Elkton Armory (Elkton , MD) was one of many locations in the Newark area for regular teen dances. One of those dances that fall was hosted by a group of new comers comprised of Ed Stevenson (Lead Vocals, Drums), Aubrey Fisher, (Lead Guitar), Fred Dawson (Tenor Sax & Organ), Bill Rylander (Rhythm Guitar), and Bobby Walker (Bass). They were rough and loud, a garage band incarnate, playing songs of the day and R&B standards. Ed's father Hugh "Lee" Stevenson took up the role of manager and began booking The Fabulous Pharaohs at every school and fire hall dance he could land. The key to every working band is a devoted manager and there is no doubt Lee Stevenson matched that description.
Stevenson formed his own record label, Three Star Recording, and that winter their first single, "Route 66" c/w "Church Key" (written by Aubrey & Ed) was released. With a single to their credit they began playing at WAMS Radio functions for airplay. Early in 1966 an away gig in Bluefield , West Virginia drew hundreds of spectators who came to see these Philadelphia area recording artists and, while in WV, the Pharaohs appeared on TV's Judy Compton Daytime Show. At the end of the school year, Bobby left the group to further his education at the U of D whereas Bill moved from home to spend more time with the band and took over on bass. That summer The Pharaohs took on a heavy schedule, playing six or seven nights a week at bars, clubs, and dances within a fifty mile radius. But their hearse and trailer also took them as far away as Hollywood where they appeared on the nationally syndicated Pat Boone Show. When school started again the schedule had to go back to weekends to allow for study as Fred was still at Christiana High School and Aubrey and Ed were enrolled at Thompson's Business School . Tragedy struck when Aubrey's brother Jeff, who was being considered as a member, was killed in a car crash.
In the Spring of '67, they recorded their second single, Chuck Berry's "Talking About You" c/w Raiders cover "Sometimes", complete with picture sleeve. Ed was sick and in no condition to sing but the session proceeded and is etched in time on the 45. The following winter, a third single, "Hold Me Tight" c/w "Sometimes I Think About", a Blues Magoos cover, was recorded at Cameo Parkway Recording Studio. But friction between key arranger/songwriter, Aubrey Fisher, and Lee Stevenson over royalty agreements had become irreconcilable and two weeks before the group was to appear on Philadelphia's after school TV dance show, The Jerry Blavatt Show in promotion of their new single, Aubrey left the group. With only a few days to prepare, Gene Quaciari, formerly of New Castle's "The Lynx", assumed the lead guitar spot.
Fred Dawson: "As luck would have it, on the way to do the taping of the show on April 5th, 1968 driving through Marcus Hook, Pa (before I-95 days!) my station wagon, pulling a trailer of equipment died twice and caught fire (manager Huey caught fire too as he was feeding gasoline into the carburetor when it backfired). We found a guy in a bar that would allow us to put the trailer on the back of his car, except his car had very poor brakes. Nonetheless we made it to the show just in time.
As we hurriedly shoved our equipment into the TV station, we had no time to go to dressing rooms to change, so we did so right on stage in full view of the audience of kids. I distinctly remember Blavatt starting the show just as I pulled my pants up and buckled my belt behind my Baldwin Organ. Announcing that he was very upset over the assassination of MLK [which had occurred the day before], he went on and on (as he has a tendency to do) about "guns and violence." After what seemed like an eternity as we all had to endure his endless "bully pulpit," he introduced us in the beginning of the show as his "favorite group"...interesting I thought as he never even heard of us until someone handed him the guest list as the cameras were rolling.
He then introduced us to play....We started off with an Animals song, about thirty seconds into the song, we started our stage antics. Eddie's drum sticks were afire as were the tops of his cymbals, smoke bombs started going off, I took an ax to the top of my organ, one of the Tenyck Amps burst into flames (unplanned!), Bill Rylander on Bass smashed his guitar as did Gene Quaciari, our roadie Les Wilhelm put a smoke bomb in his mouth and lit it (sometimes he confused the smoke bombs with the M-88 firecrackers we used, but got it right this time). At the very end Eddie stood up, ran over to me at the organ and brought a cymbal and stand down into the lid of my organ where half of it stuck. I saw Eddie coming and had the good sense to duck. Good thing, because the other 1/2 of the cymbal went flying over my head. By the time we finished, most of everything had been reduced to rubble and smoke.
During the entire 2 minutes and 35 seconds we were allotted to "play"...I was watching Blavatt out of the corner of my eye. His jaw dropped, mouth opened...went pale...I could see his lips moving very quickly at one of the guys off camera. It was rather apparent that he was not pleased. The smoke was barely clearing as Blavatt started into another tirade. This time he was ripping us to shreds right on his show while the cameras were running! He said that he had never witnessed such a debacle in his entire life...went on and on....how he was going to make sure that we never "worked in this town again" and that he was going to fire the guy that hired us for the show! He was livid!
The Fabulous Pharaohs left the building very quickly and howled all the way home!"
By the 1970s The Pharaohs became a power trio and renamed themselves Mousakis (later Capone). Ed now sat behind a massive chrome Slingerland double drum set, Fred played Hammond B-3 Organ and key bass, while Gene and his Vox Berkley valve amp were replaced by Sam Stipo and a Marshall stack. Their album "Magic Tube" is now a highly prized collectable usually going for more than $150. In the seventies Mouzakis was performing with groups like Chicago, Poco, Seatrain, Dr. Hook, and Jo Jo Gunn and were bringing in as much as $2500.
Today, Aubrey is still in Newark actively writing songs under the name Dusty McCall, Fred leads the unsurpassed 60s/70s band Club Fred on his mighty B-3, Bill Rylander has been doing sound & lighting for the Atlanta Symphony, Ed's whereabouts are largely unknown, Gene Quaciari and Sam Stipo remain among the most talented guitarists in the Delaware area and beyond.
Special thanks to Aubrey Fisher, Fred Dawson, and Monika Bullette for their contributions to this article.
Photo Left To Right: Bill Rylander, Ed Stevenson, Aubrey Fisher, Fred Dawson