Cover of Blue Ash's "No More, No Less" LP.
Blue Ash was formed in Youngstown, Ohio in the summer of 1969 by teenagers Frank Secich (bass) and Jim Kendzor (vocals). Bill Yendrek (guitar) and David Evans (drums) were recruited later that summer. Legend has it that the band members were expelled from high school because of their long hair; they subsequently used their free time to practice. They played their first live performance at “The Freak Out” in Youngstown on October 3, 1969. They gained a loyal following by playing an endless stream of one-nighters over the next year. In October 1970, Bill Yendrek was replaced by guitarist/songwriter Bill “Cupid” Bartolin. Secich and Bartolin would become the band’s main songwriting tandem.
Blue Ash continued playing 250-300 dates a year throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia, while the Secich-Bartolin songwriting team accumulated an enormous amount of original material. In June 1972, Blue Ash signed a production contract with Peppermint Productions of Youngstown and started recording and sending out demos. In late 1972, the band was signed to Mercury Records. Mercury released their debut album, “No More, No Less” on May 2, 1973, and released their debut single, “Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?)” b/w “Dusty Old Fairgrounds” about two weeks later. This is today’s featured single.
“Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?)” became Blue Ash’s signature tune and gained significant radio airplay, thus exposing it to a far larger audience than those who scored a copy of the first album, whether in its original pressing or on cassette or CD-R (at least before Collector’s Choice Music reissued the album on CD in 2008). The track has all the earmarks of a great rock anthem, starting off with David Evans’ drum beat, followed by a catchy riff by Bartolin. While Blue Ash is generally considered a power pop band, “Abracadabra” sounds more like hard rock in the tradition of such bands as The Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Regardless, the song screams hit single potential which makes it somewhat disappointing that this single did not chart.
The B-side of the single, “Dusty Old Fairgrounds”, is a Bob Dylan cover that is redone as a 1970s rocker. The evocative lyrics (“Well, it’s all up from Florida at the start of the spring/The trucks and the trailers will be winding/Like a bullet we’ll shoot for the carnival route/We’re following them dusty old fairgrounds a-calling”) are well-complemented by Bartolin’s Hendrix-esque guitar playing. The band runs through the song as if on speed, and the two minutes and 49 seconds of the song pass quickly. “Dusty Old Fairgrounds” is a worthy addition to Blue Ash’s body of work.
The single (catalog # is unknown) was released on Mercury Records in May 1973. “No More, No Less” would sell 19,500 copies of 20,000 copies pressed. That the album didn’t fare better can partially be attributed to the fact that around the time “No More, No Less” was being released, Mercury was also releasing albums by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the New York Dolls, and Rod Stewart. Mercury decided that their biggest priority was promoting Rod Stewart’s album, with BTO being a close second. The rest would go to the New York Dolls and Blue Ash, and the label apparently decided that a New York-based band was a safer bet for getting a decent return on their investment, and the Blue Ash release got very little promotion. Mercury released two more singles by Blue Ash before dropping them from the label in 1974. That year, David Evans left the band and was replaced by Jeff Rozniata. It would be another three years before they were signed to a label: Playboy Records, a division of Playboy International. They released a single, “Look At You Now” b/w “Singing and Dancing”, in May 1977; the song became a regional hit in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as Pennsylvania and Ohio. As a result, Playboy decided to release a full-length album. Blue Ash’s second album, “Front Page News”, was released in October 1977, and did relatively well, selling about 55,000 copies. With “Front Page News” generating decent sales and “Look At You Now” hitting #1 in some markets, Playboy was going to allocate $25,000 to fund a tour of Texas. Plans for the Texas tour were being solidified when Playboy International pulled the plug on Playboy Records in 1978. The band forged ahead for a time, even expanding to a quintet with the addition of Brian Wingrove on keyboards and recording some new material. But by 1979 they had called it quits, the band slowly fizzling out as band members concentrated on their day jobs instead. The “No More No Less” era lineup of Kendzor, Secich, Bartolin and Evans reunited in 2003, and there was enough interest in the band to bring about the release of “Around Again” (2004), a 2-CD compilation of previously unreleased material. Bartolin died of complications from cancer in on October 3, 2009 (40 years to the day after Blue Ash played their first gig), seemingly putting an end to the latest Blue Ash incarnation.