(By Clay Pasternack – Class of 1968) Amherst High School has long been a source for successful and talent people in the entertainment world (television, movie, radio, and recording). Buffalo’s first Rock N Roll band to achieve success was the Eggertsville-based group, the Tune Rockers. Group members Tim Nolan (bass), Gene Strong (guitar), and Fred Patton (guitar) were from the Eggertsville area, and along with Mickey Vanderlip (drums) and Johnny Cappello (saxophone). The group was formed in 1956 and continued to perform until 1960. Mickey, Tim and Gene attended Amherst High School, with Mickey Graduating in 1957, Tim graduating in 1959, and Gene’ family moved, where he transferred to Sweet Home High School in September 1958, and graduated from there in 1959.
In 1958, the group record an instrumental song named “The Green Mosquito” named for the unique sound created from Gene’s guitar sounded like a mosquito (Gene played a green colored electric) guitar, hence the name “The Green Mosquito”. Because of the current success of the novelty song “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley, the song title was a play on the name of the existing hit record. The group was managed by Dick Lawrence, who was the program director of WKBW Radio, who had (around that time) recently changed formats to the extremely successful “Top 40” Radio format (July 4, 1958). Lawrence arranged for United Artists to release the single once it was recorded. The song reached the WKBW Top 30 survey the week of August 2, 1958, entering at #28, peaked at #4, staying in the KB top 10 for 6 weeks for a 10-week run. Most important, it entered the Billboard Hot 100 on August 25, 1958, peaking at #44 the week of September 22 1958, also for a 10-week run. The songwriting credits for “The Green Mosquito” were credited to WKBW staff members Art Wander (a fixture on the Buffalo music scene for years) and Art Roberts (later a very popular air personality at WLS in Chicago and other markets)
On September 13, 1958, the group appeared on the Dick Clark Saturday Night “Beechnut Show” in New York City. That night the Tune Rockers were the opening and closing act on the show. They shared the show with two current acts heading for stardom: Fabian and (a star many years later) Johnny Nash. The following week they appeared live on the daytime format of “American Bandstand” in Philadelphia. As the record gained momentum across the country, radio station people were introducing the single, and paying tribute to their local origins, as “The Eggertsville Boys”
‘The timing of the success of “The Green Mosquito” was perfect, as the impact of WKBW Radio on both the local area and along the Eastern Seaboard of the US (as well as Canada) became very apparent to the music industry. The changeover to the Top 40 format allowed many people to hear music that may not have already been programmed by other local and regional stations, having far reaching effect on promoting hit songs across the country. As instrumental songs became more popular at this time and continued to do so for many years, The Western New York connect was very apparent. Such records as “Rockin’ Crickets” by the Hot Toddies, The (Rockin’) Rebels AKA The Buffalo Rebels, not to mention the vocal group records “Ballad of a Boy and a Girl” by the Graduates came from the area.
Unfortunately, all but one of the original members of the Tune Rockers is still alive. Mickey is currently living in Boca Raton, Florida, Tim Nolan passed away in late 2019 and just recently, Gene Strong passed away this September (2022). The Tune Rockers were inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 2012, joining Amherst High School alumni John Boylan (1959), Eric Andersen (1961), Andy Kulberg (1962), Jim Ralston (1968),Tom Hambridge (1979), and Chris Trapper (1986).
Our thanks to Rich Sargent of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame (also an ACHS alumni) and Bob Skurzewski, noted music and record industry historian and author, for their assistance and contributions to this document.
The Green Mosquito – YouTube Videos: