Stephen Glaser of Wilmington has written a memoir of his days with a biracial 1950s doo-wop group.

These days 75-year-old Stephen Glaser is still working as an insurance executive and active in the congregation at Wilmington's B'nai Israel Synagogue.

Rewind close to 60 years ago, though, and Glaser was "Scott Stevens," a kid from the Bronx with big dreams and his own doo-wop quintet -- one of the few biracial groups of the early rock era.

They even made it -- almost -- on "American Bandstand." (Therein lies a tale.)

"It's been an interesting journey," said Glaser, a Wilmington resident since 2009.

He's now written a memoir of the experience: "White Boy: A Rock and Roll Story," published by SamZan Music ($14.99 paperback). The book is available through Amazon.com and comes in a Kindle edition. Glaser is currently getting the book placed in local stores.

Why "White Boy"? Well, several times -- at the Apollo Theater in Harlem (where the Cavaliers shared a dressing room with Little Anthony and the Imperials) or the Savoy Ballroom, Glaser's was the only white face at the performance.

The Savoy, a once-famous dance hall on Lenox Avenue, had seen better days by the time the Cavaliers played there in 1958, for an audience of maybe 2,500. "We're were singing 'Dance, Dance, Dance,' " Glaser recalled. "All these kids were jumping, and I swear, the floor bounced. The audience was going up and down, up and down. I told the guys, 'We'd better do a ballad next, or the place will collapse."

Not long after that, the Savoy was condemned as unsafe and eventually demolished. "So I guess you can say we brought down the house," Glaser deadpanned.

His ambitions changed a bit after the family moved to a housing project in the Bronx, and his father bought Glaser a portable radio. He'd lie in bed on hot summer nights, listening to classic R&B music. "I was hooked," he said.

Eventually, Glaser, who was good with poetry, teamed up with a friend, Steve Weil, who was good at melodies. They formed a group, the Satellites, in the local community center, practicing in bathrooms "because of the echo" he said. Some of the members were African Americans; Glaser was interested in their singing, not their skin color.

Weil's mother nudged them to try out for "Amateur Hour." They performed, were invited back -- but the eventual winner was a 12-year-old Mexican trumpet player. (Glaser is convinced the staff thought they were too slick and professional.)

Meanwhile, Glaser and Weil quarreled. He dropped out, and the Satellites became the the Cavaliers. For a recording session, Glaser needed a drummer, so he recruited another kid from the housing project named Kenny Kramer. (Yes, that Kramer, who was acknowledged by his friend, Larry David, to be the model for "Cosmo Kramer" on "Seinfeld.")

The band cut some records -- "We were No. 1 in New England," Glaser said -- and were invited to try out for "American Bandstand." They never went on, though -- as Glaser later found out, the show had a policy against airing racially mixed groups. "They'd catch hell from the Southern TV stations," Glaser said.

It was fun, but by 1959, it was almost over. Music styles changed from doo-wop to young crooners; the British Invasion was not far off. Glaser tried for a while to make it as a duet with his brother, but by then, he was married with children. To support them, he went to work, as a buyer for Gimbel's, as manager of a temp agency and an executive with Bank of America before going into insurance. He dabbled in songwriting and even put together a music revue for the Knights of Pythias, but music went on the back burner for years.

Now, however, Glaser sings with the Kava Notes, the choral group at B'nai Israel. He has produced some oldies CDs and even some new music.

Glaser keeps up with the old group. Kramer had him on as a guest on his New York City tour. Jackie Morgan, the group's baritone, became a longtime photographer for Ebony magazine. Another became a hairdresser in Florida. Many have died.

Much of "White Boy" reads like a treatment for "Grease" or "West Side Story." (Once, an irate ex-girlfriend convinced a local street gang to beat Glaser up in a rumble.) For that reason, Glaser's talking to local theater groups to see if "White Boy" could be adapted as a musical.

 

Steven Glaser is now a Wilmington insurance executive, but for a brief time in the 1950s, he was lead singer for a doo-wop band called The Caavaliers that charted regionally. He's written a book. "White Boy," about the experience.

This Saturday, December 3rd, join us in welcoming author and singer/songwriter Stephen Glaser. Stephen is one of the original members of the group the Cavaliers, one of the first integrated groups in the 60's and 70s. He will be here from 12 noon to 3:00pm discussing and signing his book "White Boy - A Rock and Roll Story." He will also have CD's available for purchase!

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) —  The 1950’s was an exciting time in the music industry.  You had legends like Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, and Chuck Berry just to name a few.  You also had groups like Bill Haley and his Comets, The Platters, and our Extraordinary Person of the Week, Scott Stevens and The Cavaliers.

“I’ve never written a book before, only written music,” Steve Glaser told WWAY’s Daniel Seamans.

He had never written a book until a different kind of writing delivered an idea in 2015.

“My wife and I go out for Chinese food and opened up the fortune cookie,” Glaser said, “the fortune cookie said ‘you have a charming way with words, you should write a book’.”

Steve Glaser, aka Scott Stevens of The Cavaliers, was the lead singer of a band made up of neighborhood friends.

Steve Glaser, now and then

“This is me with hair, now ya see it now ya don’t. This is John Duff, Jimmy Smith, Jackie Morgan, Lloyd Needleman.”

Their music made the airwaves. Their band made waves, too.

“We became one of the first integrated groups of the 50’s, and that was difficult at best,” Glaser said. “Not only were we one of the 1st integrated groups, the two white fellas in the group were Jewish.”

The ups and downs of their journey can now be found in Glaser’s book “White Boy”.  “White Boy” referring to his time performing at The Apollo, one of many chapters in the 124 page Rock and Roll story.

“We had a tough row to hoe,” Glaser said. “So in the book we tell you about all the things we went through and how we got through things.”

They got through things, like being removed from a scheduled performance on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” show because as this pioneer in the shadows says, you had to be an all black or all white band. Their mix did not mix well with the trends of the 1950’s music industry.

“One of the reasons I wrote the book is because,” Glaser said, “Number one, I thought the story should be told about racial discrimination and anti-semitism and what kids of the 50’s had to go through to be successful in the music industry, the other reason is because I didn’t want to just be dust in the wind.”

A trip down memory lane from his desk in Wilmington dusted off memories he’d forgotten from the years growing up in the Bronx.

“She used to go back into the house because I was making fun of her. Well, while I’m writing the book my cousin says, ‘you know, that kid was Carly Simon’.  There are so many things that are interesting in the book!”

You mixed it up in the music industry, Steve Glaser, singing beautiful color into black and white. And that makes you, ‘Extraordinary’.

SIDENOTE: Steve is currently working on turning the book into play that is expected to take the stage at UNCW in spring of 2018.
And he’s meeting with a producer from Sony Pictures this weekend to talk about a possible movie.
You can find links to his book and music on his website by clicking here.

Rock on, brother!
-Daniel

The first six cuts on this 16-song CD are priceless pieces of New York City-spawned doo wop that ought to have been better known -- there are thousands of pieces of music of which that could be said, but there's something so finely sung, played, and arranged about "Angel";"Bench of Love"; "Dance, Dance, Dance" ; "Play By the Rules"; and"Why Why Why" that its at once glorious and tragic hearing them -- glorious in their performance, tragic in their obscurity. Kenny Kramer, of Seinfeld fame, was the drummer on four of these tracks, and Sam "The Man" Taylor was the saxophonist. The Scott Stevens solo stuff is less impressive, but enjoyable in the context of the group's history.

Join our email list!

Get updates and music from Scott Stevens & The Cavaliers!

Scott Stevens & The Cavaliers!

"White Boy" - A Rock & Roll Story

Buy the book!

The new release "White Boy: A Rock & Roll Story" brings a rich history of an integrated doo-wop band in 1950's Brooklyn and the events that brought Scott Stevens & The Cavaliers face to face with stardom, racism and the realities of life as teenagers in a world where skin tone mattered more than the music.

Get "White Boy: A Rock & Roll Story" on Amazon!