When Dunham Records / Daptone producer and musician Thomas Brenneck first heard the close family harmonies of the Sha La...
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When Dunham Records / Daptone producer and musician Thomas Brenneck first heard the close family harmonies of the Sha La Das he had a revelation; he knew he had to get it on tape. Direct from Staten Island, the four Schaldas, father Bill and sons Will aka Swivs, who also toured the world playing keyboard for Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Paul of Paul and the Tall Trees and Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, and Carmine had come into the studio in Brooklyn to record background vocals on Charles Bradley’s 'Victim of Love'.
It was a passion that drove Brenneck from the very beginning. “Hearing them sing together in the studio was incredible”, says Brenneck. He collaborated with Bill Schalda writing songs and applying harmonic sensibilities rooted in doo wop, blues and soul. It wasn’t a stretch for Bill, after all he’d been second tenor when still a teen in Brooklyn vocal group, The Montereys in the 1960s (their 45, Face In The Crowd / Step Right Up on Blast records sells for $500 these days) who would play venues from neighbourhood bars to the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens. “Bill is the genuine article, just like Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones, he came directly from the source,” says Brenneck.
Indeed, Bill Schalda was right there amongst doo wop and r&b groups of the era, singing Moonglows and Flamingos tunes. “You’d go out on the street and constantly hear a bunch of guys singing on the corner, they’d finish playing handball in the schoolyard during the day and then they’d start singing at night,” says Bill. “We were all just guys in the neighborhood in Brooklyn, who gradually found each other.” After their children were born, Bill and wife Linda moved the family across the Verrazano-Narrows bridge to Staten Island.
Growing up, sons Will, Paul and Carmine remember summer nights singing group harmonies on the stoop of their home with their father Bill guiding them. “He would bring us out on the stoop on Staten Island and he would teach us each parts of say, the sesame street song – we were his backing group very early on – that was fun,” says eldest son, Will.
On this, their debut, the talent is harnessed in 11 songs, each tender-voiced delight delivered with absolute conviction combined with musicians that have help define the Daptone / Dunham Records sound including Brenneck, Homer Steinweiss, Dave Guy, Leon Michels, Nick Movshon and Victor Axelrod. “I wanted to take the Sha La Das outside of the doo wop genre,” says Brenneck. “To take the whole vocabulary of doo wop harmony and reapply it to soul - so you get super soulful harmonies along the lines of The Manhattans and The Moments.” From the opening atmospheric guitar strum of Open My Eyes via a walk along the Coney Island boardwalk catching the last glimpse of sunlight at dusk of Carnival to the sublime crescendo of harmonies of the winsome Love in the Wind, each song evokes a deeply personal yet universal yearning that none of us can escape.
Quite simply every song yields magic. There’s something special when a family can meld voices in close harmony. The Everly Brothers had it, The Beach Boys had it, the Schalda's have it.